Thursday, April 30, 2009

NPR Report: Justice David Souter Planning to Retire; Obama May Select a Woman

Breaking (and very interesting) news tonight:
NPR has learned that Supreme Court Justice David Souter is planning to retire at the end of the court's current term.


At 69, Souter is nowhere near the oldest member of the court, but he has made clear to friends for some time now that he wanted to leave Washington, a city he has never liked, and return to his native New Hampshire.


Souter's retirement would give President Obama his first appointment to the high court, and most observers expect that he will appoint a woman.

The court currently has one female justice — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is recovering from cancer surgery.

Obama was elected with strong support from women.

An Obama pick would be unlikely to change the ideological makeup of the court. Souter, though appointed by the first President Bush, generally votes with the more liberal members of the court, a group of four that is in a rather consistent minority.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Minnesotans Growing Impatient with Coleman

A poll out today has some bad news for Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, who lost a razor-thin vote to Al Franken last November. 

The numbers are pretty clear:  64 percent of Minnesotans want Coleman to stop his legal wrangling and concede the race. 

The NPR report is here

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The GOP Rush Apology Tour: A Slide Show of Republican Genuflecting

For those of you keeping score at home, the Republican Party continues its unblemished record of Rush Limbaugh butt-kissing.

The folks over at Talking Points Memo have compiled a useful slide show of GOP apologies, complete with quotes and photos.
Check out the foolishness here.

Former White House Flack Misremembers Administration 'Not Torture' Policy

Dana Perino, former White House public relations spokesperson, got tripped up this week on CBS.

Asked about the controversy involving the Bush Administration's interrogation policies, Perino hemmed and hawed, conveniently forgetting her own statements on behalf of the White House.

Here's a sample of Perino's double-talk, courtesy of Think Progress:

PERINO: What more is there to investigate? Unless they are on a political witch hunt. ... Look, none of us want to talk about interrogation techniques. They are unpleasant for a reason --

Q: Well, they are not just unpleasant. Do you believe waterboarding is torture?

PERINO: I have never answered that question because I don't know what I would have done in that situation, if I had to protect thousands of lives.

Think Progress comments: Except Perino has weighed in on the issue, and all indications are that she has said that waterboarding is not torture. When repeatedly pressed by reporters on whether the Bush administration tortured, Perino consistently and robotically responded, "We do not torture." She uttered the phrase until the very end of her tenure, well after the CIA publicly admitted in February 2008 to waterboarding three detainees:

-- "Let me just make sure it's clear, and I'll say it on the record one more time, that it has never been the policy of this President or this administration to torture." 1/14/09

-- "We did not torture." 11/18/08

-- "The United States has not, is not torturing any detainees in the global war on terror." 4/23/08

Letters: Skiatook Writer Calls Out Rep. Sullivan

The anti-tax, anti-spending, anti-pretty-much-everything "tea parties" are over, but the fallout continues, at least in some quarters.

Today's Tulsa World, for instance, includes several letters poking holes in the tea party logic. (Okay, there's also a letter urging the protesters on, calling it the beginning of "a new political party.")

One letter carries this headline: "Sullivan protests himself." The writer explains Sullivan's position as follows:
It was also hypocritical of U.S. Rep. John Sullivan to decry "Obama's" bailout, when he voted for the bank bailout, commonly known as TARP, which President Bush quickly signed into law.
The writer, a Skiatook resident, ends with this line from the stand-up world: "You can't fix stupid."

Friday, April 24, 2009

WaPo Report: New Evidence Shows Bush Officials Warned Against Torture

New information tonight from the Washington Post, information that sheds more light on the Bush team's torture policy.
Things are getting very, very interesting:

The military agency that provided advice on harsh interrogation techniques for use against terrorism suspects referred to the application of extreme duress as "torture" in a July 2002 document sent to the Pentagon's chief lawyer and warned that it would produce "unreliable information."

"The unintended consequence of a U.S. policy that provides for the torture of prisoners is that it could be used by our adversaries as justification for the torture of captured U.S. personnel," says the document, an unsigned two-page attachment to a memo by the military's Joint Personnel Recovery Agency. Parts of the attachment, obtained in full by The Washington Post, were quoted in a Senate report on harsh interrogation released this week.

It remains unclear whether the attachment reached high-ranking officials in the Bush administration. But the document offers the clearest evidence that has come to light so far that technical advisers on the harsh interrogation methods voiced early concerns about the effectiveness of applying severe physical or psychological pressure.

Meghan McCain on Cheney, Rove: Time to 'Go Away'

This Could Be Good: Feds Take on the Credit Card Companies

AltTulsa's nomination for business headline of the week from USA Today
Credit card rates headed for federal slap down? 
White House, Congress get involved in practices 

Poll Shows Obama Has Earned Political Capital

The GOP naysayers keep trying to spoil the moment, but President Obama is succeeding with the American public.

Here are new poll results, which show that the ranters and talk radio blowhards (including the Tulsa tea party crowd) are largely being ignored.

Some highlights from today's numbers:
WASHINGTON — President Obama's opening months in the Oval Office have fortified his standing with the American public, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, giving him political capital for battles ahead.

As his 100th day as president approaches next Wednesday, the survey shows Obama has not only maintained robust approval ratings but also bolstered the sense that he is a strong and decisive leader who can manage the government effectively during a time of economic crisis.

"A lot of things were ignored over the last eight years, and I think it's all coming home to roost," says Benjamin Bleadon, 51, an insurance broker from Skokie, Ill., who was among those surveyed. "He has given the perception that he understands the issues and that he has taken control … and we'll just have to wait and see if it works."

Since October, the percentage who see Obama as a "strong and decisive leader" has jumped 12 percentage points, and his image as an effective manager has gone up 11 points.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dick Cheney's Selective Memory: Sometimes the People Count, Sometimes They Don't

Dick Cheney is a political creature, which explains his head-spinning hypocrisy on the role of grassroots movements in the political process.

Asked this week about the recent tea parties by fake journalist Sean Hannity, Cheney endorsed the protest movement. Here are two Cheney quotes:

I thought the tea parties were great.


I think when you get that kind of grassroots sentiment being expressed, thousands of people, hundreds of thousands of people all across the country, that will have an impact on Capitol Hill. It will have an impact, I think, on the political process. And it's basically a healthy development.

Such sympathy for regular people is a far cry from Cheney's previous attitude toward the organizing of everyday folks. When he was vice president, Cheney thumbed his nose at protesters.

In a broadcast interview while in office, Cheney had this exchange with journalist Marth Raddaz:

CHENEY: On the security front, I think there's a general consensus that we've made major progress, that the surge has worked. That's been a major success.

RADDATZ: Two-third of Americans say it's not worth fighting.


RADDATZ So? You don't care what the American people think?

CHENEY: No. I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Another Republican Slights Rush; Apology Expected Any Time Now

For those of you keeping score at home, Rush Limbaugh has an unblemished record.

Every single Republican who has criticized Rush in recent months has been forced to back down to the Radio Talker. GOP apologies abound.

The latest soon-to-be apologizer is Arizona Rep. John Shadegg. Here's the congressman's statement to the Arizona Republic:

A conservative Republican, Shadegg says he wants the nation to get out of its difficult economic circumstances "as quickly as possible."

Shadegg disagrees with radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, who has said he hopes Obama and his liberal policies fail.

"I sincerely hope he creates the strongest recovery possible," Shadegg said. "It is petty to worry about who gets the credit when people are losing their jobs and their homes."

As for Limbaugh, Shadegg said, "I think he is an entertainment personality who is an interesting factor in American politics. I agree with much of what he says on some issues, but not on other issues."

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sherman Alexie Comes to Tulsa: Indian Writer Talks Thursday at Central Library

Sherman Alexie, one of the best Native Americans writers there is, will be speaking in Tulsa Thursday night at Tulsa's Central Library, Fourth and Denver. 

A versatile and energetic writer, Alexie has written poetry, fiction, and screenplays, including the script for the 1998 film Smoke Signals, which Rolling Stone said was "one of the best films of the year." 

Writing yesterday in the Tulsa World, James D. Watts Jr. quoted Alexie on the humor in his work. "I didn't know I was going to be a funny writer," Alexie said. "I just started writing and people laughed." 

Alexie's talk is called "The Business of Fancydancing: Poems, Stories, Punch Lines and Highly Biased Anecdotes." His talk is free and begins at 7 p.m. 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Times Columnist Takes Apart Texas Governor's Secessionist Talk

New York Times columnist Gail Collins does an effective job today dissecting the bluster and over-the-top rhetoric of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a man who's looking less and less ready for prime time. 

Perry, speaking Wednesday to the Tea Party bunch of anti-tax, anti-Obama, anti-everything folks in Austin, made lots of noise about Texas seceding from the U.S. 

It was crazy talk, of course, and Collins nails Perry and his ilk for such irresponsible mouthing off, one of many hyperbolic statements made last week by the Tea Party types. 

Collins asks: 
[W]hat about my country, right or wrong? Weren’t there complaints, some from Texan quarters, during the last election that Barack Obama seemed insufficiently up front about his love of country? Isn’t threatening to dissolve the union over the stimulus package a little less American than failure to wear a flag pin?
Very good question. Read the Collins column  here

Saturday, April 18, 2009

It's Official: Unknown Birch Society Mouthpiece Randy Brogdon Is Running for Governor

Just what Oklahoma needs—another holdover from the Cold War era in high public office.

We're speaking, of course, of state Sen. Randy Brogdon, Owasso Republican and one of the finest minds of the 1950s.

Brogdon, who's recent claim to fame has been to argue against the state accepting federal stimulus money, has almost no name recognition outside of Owasso.

Here's the Brogdon announcement, made today in Oklahoma City:
A Republican state senator from Owasso is making it official today: He’s running for governor.

Sen. Randy Brogdon is announcing his bid during today’s Oklahoma Republican Convention at the Clarion Meridian Convention Center in Oklahoma City, his campaign announced this morning.


Brogdon has been active in the so-called taxpayers' bill of rights movement and is a national spokesman for the John Birch Society. He has also been outspoken in support of state sovereignty and in opposition to national identification cards and data gathering.

A March poll by showed Brogdon with a 4 percent favorable rating among five possible gubernatorial candidates. More than 90 percent of respondents either had no opinion or had not heard of him.

More Paranoia from the GOP: Government Spying on Anti-Abortion Rally

Republican National Party Chairman Michael Steele is the gift that keeps on giving. His short tenure as GOP chief has been marked by numerous errors and gaffs.

Steele's most recent paranoid moment came this week at an Indiana anti-abortion rally. Here's Steele's amazing quote:

They’ve got their eye on the 3,000 Americans who assembled in Indiana last night, in Evansville, Indiana, to profess their continued effort to save the life of the unborn. … I’m sure there was somebody in the room with a notepad and a camera taking snapshots and writing down names. But that’s not the place our government needs to be.

Where our government needs to be is on that border, securing that border. Where our government needs to be is overseas and in the backhalls and rooms of the Middle East to make sure that we’re not suffering another terrorist attack here at home.

And what is Steele's evidence for government alleged spying? He's got—nothing. None. No evidence whatsoever. Not a shred. Which is another way of saying he made it up.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bad Move: Kansas Conservative Slams Rush

Rush Limbaugh is a Big Deal on the Republican Right. For conservatives who get on the wrong side of Rush, there's hell to pay.

Kansas Rep. Todd Tiahrt, a Republican, may soon find out about The Wrath of Rush and his Ditto Heads.

Tiahrt spoke this week with the Kansas City Star:

U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt of Kansas is a feisty and ardent conservative. But he said something Tuesday that might irritate Rush Limbaugh’s ditto-head followers.

Tiahrt was asked by a Kansas City Star Editorial Board member whether Limbaugh was now the de facto leader of the GOP.

“No, no, he’s just an entertainer,” Tiahrt said.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sen. Coburn's Town Hall Brings Out the Obama Conspiracy Types

Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn held some town hall meetings this week, taking the time to meet with his constituents. Coburn appeared in Sapulpa and Tulsa, drawing a good crowd in both cities. 

Unfortunately, Coburn also attracted a few political zanies (to put it politely). The Tulsa World reported this week that Coburn "traded Bible lessons with a constituent worried about President Barack Obama's religion." 

Fact check: Obama is a professed Christian. On Sunday, for instance, Obama celebrated Easter at a Christian church in Washington. 

Another constituent criticized Coburn for hugging Obama on national television. For this citizen, notions of "brotherly love" and "turning the other cheek" are somehow evil, apparently. 

Then there was Coburn's own faint praise for Obama. "At least with this guy, we know where he is. He's hard left," Coburn said. By "hard left," Coburn seems to mean something horrible. 

But since January 20, Obama has tackled the recession in a number of ways, several of which show signs of working. He's restored a sense in confidence among U.S. consumers, as the stock market and his high poll numbers show. 

He's also begun the restoration of the U.S. reputation on the international stage, a move likely to yield benefits in foreign affairs in future years. 

He stood up to international pirates, giving the military license to use their skills to "take out" the bad guys and save the U.S. captain. (Note: Glenn Beck prematurely ridiculed Obama's unwillingness to do just this, demonstrating the moronic nature of Beckian political claptrap.)

Unlike the rumor-mongers at Coburn's town hall meetings and the doom-sayers and hysterians at yesterday's tea parties, there is a factual record of presidential competence and accomplishment that shows great promise for the nation and its citizens.

If that's "hard left," sign us up. 

Glenn Beck vs. History: Colbert Rips Fox Host's Use of the Alamo

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fox Fires Up the Paranoia Machine

The Talking Airheads over at "Fair and Balanced" Fox News are fanning the flames of paranoia—again.

For these folks, it's conspiracy season all day every day, so it's no surprise that tax time would bring out the worst sort of fact-free nonsense from Fox.

Our friends at Think Progress have the details. Read it here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Facebook Follies: New Study Shows Link Between Facebook Use and Grades

As anyone under 40 knows by now, Facebook is all the rage. Even the senior set has gone gaga for Facebook.

The social networking site has legions of devoted followers, including millions of high school and college students.

But a new study links Facebook to lower grades. The study is far from definitive, but it does suggest that more Facebook time could lead to lower scores.

Judge for yourself. Here's a summary of the report.

Facebook users have lower overall grades than non-users, according to a survey of college students who also ironically said the social networking site does not interfere with studying.

That disconnect between perception and reality does not necessarily mean that Facebook leads to less studying and worse grades -- the grades association could be caused by something else. However, it does raise more questions about how students spend their time outside class on activities such as Facebook, part-time jobs and extracurricular activities.

"I'm just saying that there's some kind of relationship there, and there's many third variables that need to be studied," said Aryn Karpinski, an education researcher at Ohio State University.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Probing the Improbable Rise of U.S. Socialism: Blame the Republicans

A recent Rasmussen poll found that something called "socialism" is on the rise in the U.S.

That doesn't make sense, we know, but Americans are apparently rethinking politics and concluding that socialism might have something to offer after all.

How could this happen? We profess ignorance, but Benjamin Savlin, a writer for The Daily Beast, has some ideas.

Here's a sample from Savlin's recent column:
[I]t’s increasingly clear that socialism’s newfound popularity comes from the Mitch McConnells, John Boehners, Rush Limbaughs, Sean Hannitys, and Glenn Becks of the world, whose repeated invocations of the term have pushed a previously DOA political movement to new heights of popularity.

The Rasmussen poll on socialism needs to be viewed in the context of the overall political environment. The Republican Party is both smaller and less liked than at any time in modern history. In the latest CBS/NYT poll, the GOP had a putrid 31 percent approval rating, its lowest ever recorded. President Obama was more than twice as popular in the same poll, with a robust 66 percent backing his performance. The GOP is also tinier than ever: Only 24 percent of respondents from one recent Pew poll identified as Republican, an astoundingly low number for a two-party country.

So it's not at all surprising that when Rush Limbaugh (approval rating: (19 percent), Sen. Mitch McConnell (approval rating: 23 percent), and Rep. John Boehner (approval rating: 18 percent) lecture Americans about how Barack Obama is a socialist, well, people just might start deciding that they prefer socialism by default. When politicians like Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) channel their inner Joe McCarthy and claim that some 17 members of the House are socialists, one would bet the collectivized farm that the congressional 17 are way more popular than the guy waving the list of them.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Nutballs Speak Out at Glenn Beck Tea Party: Burn the Brainwashing Books

The right-wing rants against the Obama Administration (and pretty much everything else in contemporary society) are getting scary.

The evidence: Here is the transcript from a Glenn Beck Tea Party, courtesy of the website Little Green Footballs (which has the video):
At a “Project 912 Glenn Beck Tea Party,” an unnamed speaker rants about “infiltration by the Communist Party” (a John Birch Society talking point), says that digital cable boxes are “brainwashing machines” planted in our homes by the government, and swears to stop paying taxes. The rant begins at about 1:58.

This is some really deranged stuff, and the audience is eating it up.

And notice the comment about evolution at about 5:00:

Woman: [Shouts] “Burn the books!” [applause]

Man: “I don’t think you were serious about that, were you?”

Woman: “I am too.”

Man: “Burn all the books?!”

Woman: “The ones in college, those, those brainwashing books.”

Man: “[laughs] Brainwashing books?”

Woman: “Yes.”

Man: “Which ones are those?”

Woman: “Like, the evolution crap, and, yeah...”

Springsteen's Concert Benefits Tulsa Food Bank

Bruce Springsteen's Tulsa concert Tuesday night will mean more resources for the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma.

The Tulsa World reports that the concert raised more than $26,000 and 800 pounds of food for the agency.

The paper also noted that Springsteen made a personal donation of $10,000 to the food bank as well as premium tickets for auction. and support of the Food Bank," Sara Waggoner, the agency's executive director, said.

"With every dollar we receive, we can distribute the equivalent of seven meals," Waggoner added.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Wine of the Week: Robert Mondavi 2006 California Meritage

The Robert Mondavi brand has suffered some setbacks in recent years. In memory serves, the Napa Valley winery was hurt by bitter family dispute followed by major financial problems.

Not surprisingly, some of the Mondavi wines declined and the winery's reputation took a beating.

We haven't been following the winery's finances, but we are happy to report that some of the old Mondavi magic is back. This Meritage—a Bordeaux-style blend—is a big red wine. The wine is a beautiful deep purple and the plummy flavors are rich and jammy.

The blend, the label says, is 72 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, rounded out with 10 percent Merlot, 10 percent Petit Verdot, 7 percent Malbec, and mere 1 percent Cabernet Franc.

The subtleties of blending are beyond our expertise, but the result here is altogether pleasing. And for the money ($11.50 a bottle at Tulsa's Ranch Acres), it's a great value.

Try Mondavi's California Meritage "Private Selection" with spaghetti and red sauce, liberally dotted with chunks of spicy sausage.

Disinformation Update: More False 'Facts' From Fox

Tea Party Follies: HuffPost Documents Right-wing Silliness

April 15 is right around the corner, of course, which means it's another opportunity for the malcontents to protest taxes and everything else they don't like—it's a long, long list.

This year the noisy anti-everything crowd will be holding Tea Parties, using tea as a symbol of their discontent. Last time we checked, three Tea Parties will be held right here in T-town.

Happily, our friends over at The Huffington Post have put together a series of amateur videos of the last set of Tea Parties, videos that reveal the vague and sometimes silly nature of their cause (including the Obama-wasn't-really-born-in-the-U.S. meme).

You can find the videos here.

Jim Inhofe Debunked: Facts Undermine Oklahoma Senator's Claims

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Great Bates Apology Anniversary: 'I Regret and Retract'

We almost forgot, but it's the 10th of the month, which is the day we remember the Great Bates Backdown.

Two months ago today, Michael Bates of Batesline signed a letter making six specific "corrections, clarifications and/or retractions" to his January Urban Tulsa Weekly column concerning the circulation figures of the Tulsa World.

In observance of the anniversary, we present this interesting sample of the Bates letter:
My suggestion that Tulsa World circulation was 20% higher in 2005 than in 2006 was incorrect. The actual decline…was between 5-6% as evidenced by their audits, and this percentage decline is consistent with the declines at other major daily newspapers.
There's more, of course, but we'll let the other corrections slide for now and end with this line from the Bates letter: "I apologize to the Tulsa World and the Urban Tulsa Weekly."

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Texas Republican Calls on Asian Voters to Change Their Names

How dumb is this? 

In a discussion of voter identification this week in Austin, a Republican member of the Texas legislature suggested that Asian-American voters should change their names to make them "easier for Americans to deal with." 

The comments were made by Rep. Betty Brown of Terrell, a community in north Texas. 

Unsurprisingly, the Texas Democratic Party has called for Brown to apologize. But the Houston Chronicle quoted her spokesman as saying she was only trying to overcome problems identifying Asian names for voting.

Hey, here's an idea: Let's get Rep. Brown to change her name. How about Rep. Ima Idiot? 

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Observer's Hamilton Pushes Back on Republican Scare Tactics

The Oklahoma Observer, a force for good in the Sooner state, is pushing back against the Republican hotheads in the state legislature.

Arnold Hamilton, who took over the Observer's reins from beloved, long-time editor Frosty Troy, posted a new critique of the GOP legislature this afternoon.

It's worth a look. Read it here.

Update on the Red Scare: Glenn Beck's McCarthy Paranoia Lives On

Fox News commentator (so to speak) Glenn Beck on the radio today, fighting the Commies (or somebody out there; he's not quite sure):
If you don’t think that foreign nationals that wish our country harm, that would like to see us collapse, are not here right now, the Tom Cruise of Russia, of China, of Iran, of any country, Chavez – if you don’t think that some of these Marxist revolutionary courses that are being taught out in California, the Marxist revolutionary influences in our own unions, in our own businesses, in our own uh, you know, protests out in the streets — if you think those are spontaneously happening by Americans, you’re an idiot.

Jon Stewart's Takedown of Right-wing Fantasies; Now It's Crazy Talk

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Springtime in Tulsa: Brookside Herb Day is this Saturday

Yes, friends and neighbors, it's finally warm and sunny in T-town.

That also means it's time for the annual Brookside Herb Day, which is set for Saturday, April 11, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at 41st Street and Peoria.

The event will showcase Oklahoma-produced herbs, tomatoes, flowers, pottery, wine and more.

All the "midtown elitists" will be there, so come on down.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Update: KOTV Reports on the Return of the Route 66 Meadow Gold sign

The News on 6 in Tulsa has a story on the return of the historic Meadow Gold sign, which is being reconstructed on 11th Street just east of Peoria. Find it here.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on the Loonies Who Think Obama Is a Satanist

Tulsans Get Serious about Growing Vegetables

Growing your own food is one positive response to the economic downturn. The Tulsa World has the story here

Monday, April 6, 2009

Poll Shows Public Approves of Obama's Policies; Republicans Fare Poorly

Despite the GOP naysayers and talk-show alarmists, President Barack Obama is making most Americans feel better about the economy.

Here are poll details from the NY Times:

Americans have grown more optimistic about the economy and the direction of the country in the 11 weeks since President Obama was inaugurated, suggesting that he is enjoying some success in his critical task of rebuilding the nation’s confidence, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

These sometimes turbulent weeks — marked by new initiatives by Mr. Obama, attacks by Republicans and more than a few missteps by the White House — do not appear to have hurt the president. Americans said they approved of Mr. Obama’s handling of the economy, foreign policy, Iraq and Afghanistan; fully two-thirds said they approved of his overall job performance.

By contrast, just 31 percent of respondents said they had a favorable view of the Republican Party, the lowest in the 25 years the question has been asked in New York Times/CBS News polls.

Historic Meadow Gold Sign Going Up Again On Tulsa's Route 66

We were pleased to see signs of progress today on the reconstruction of Tulsa's Meadow Gold sign on Route 66 in Tulsa.

The sign, which was located for years on the corner of 11th Street and Lewis, has been moved to Tulsa's new Route 66 monument just east on Peoria Avenue on 11th Street, which is Route 66.

See for yourself. A Route 66 News web link is here.

Military Ban Lifted: Americans Now Allowed to See Returning War Coffins

George Bush didn't want you to see images of the U.S. war casualties. The flag-draped coffins of the war dead could not be photographed when they returned to the United States.

That policy has now changed. Here's the news:

DOVER, Del. — For the first time since an 18-year ban on news coverage of returning war dead was lifted, the media witnessed the arrival Sunday night of a soldier killed overseas.

After receiving permission from family members, the military opened Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to the press. An eight-member team wearing white gloves and camouflage battle fatigues carried the body of 30-year-old Air Force Staff Sgt. Phillip Myers of Hopewell, Va., off a military jet in a solemn ceremony on a cool, clear night.

Myers was killed April 4 near Helmand province, Afghanistan, when he was hit with an improvised explosive device, the Department of Defense said.

The ceremony under the yellowish haze of airport floodlights took about 20 minutes with Myers' wife and other family members in attendance.

Myers was a member of the 48th Civil Engineer Squadron with the Royal Air Force in Lakenheath, England, one of the bases the U.S. Air Force uses in the country. He was awarded a Bronze Star for bravery last year in recognition of his efforts in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the Department of Defense said.

The new Pentagon policy gives families a choice of whether to admit the press to ceremonies at Dover, home to the nation's largest military mortuary and the entry point to the U.S. for service personnel killed overseas.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Virginia Republicans Oust Their Leader in Bitter Party Dispute

It was a no-holds-barred food fight in the Old Dominion today as the Republicans fought it out over the leadership of the party in a state that's trending Democratic blue.

Here are some key portions of the story from the Washington Post:

RICHMOND, April 4 -- Virginia Republicans ousted embattled party chairman Jeffery M. Frederick on Saturday at a tense meeting that left the party bitterly divided as it heads into a crucial campaign season.

Frederick's dismissal came after he repeatedly resisted public requests for his resignation from almost every top-ranking Republican officeholder in Virginia. They accused him of incompetence and mismanagement.

But at the heart of the dispute is a struggle that is tormenting Republicans both in the state and nationally: whether to rigidly pursue an agenda dominated by conservative social issues or reach out to more moderate voters with a pledge to focus chiefly on economic concerns.

"It's about the party moving forward," said Lee Talley, a Republican activist from Portsmouth. "We're doing what we have to do. It's a shame it came to this, but we . . . want to build the party."

For months, the conflict has split the party and overshadowed Republican efforts to win the governor's mansion in a campaign that is viewed by many to be a harbinger for federal midterm elections in 2010. Some of Frederick's supporters said his ouster could sap the enthusiasm of rank-and-file activists come November.

"There's going to be a backlash," predicted Jo-Ann Chase, a conservative Republican from Loudoun County who backed Frederick. "You better believe it.''

Worth Pondering: Columnist Considers the Discontent on the Right

Dissent is part of the American experience. To complain, grouse, organize and petition is as American as apple pie.

Yet some voices on the Right are suggesting somewhat more than political dissent. To one degree or another, some of them seem to be suggesting violence, or something very close to it.

New York Times columnist Charles Blow has noticed this development. The link is here.

Coming Soon: 11th Season of Tulsa's Cherry Street Farmers' Market

One week from today, Saturday, April 11, local farmers and vendors will gather at Peoria and Cherry Street for a new season of the Cherry Street Farmers' Market. For midtown Tulsans, this is a convenient source of local produce and other goodies.

Here's the announcement from the market's website:

The Cherry Street Farmers' Market is scheduled to open April 11th from 7 - 11 am. This is the market's eleventh season and is experiencing expansion pains. Look for new vendors, produce, plants and so much more.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Newspapers Remove Female Ministers from Photo

We don't often comment on Israeli politics, but this story brought us up short. The new Israeli cabinet, it turns out, has two female ministers.

This development did not play well in the ultra-Orthodox community. Here's the story from the BBC:
Two ultra-Orthodox Jewish newspapers have altered a photo of Israel's new cabinet, removing two female ministers.

Limor Livnat and Sofa Landver were grouped with the rest of the 30-member cabinet for their inaugural photo.

But Yated Neeman newspaper digitally changed the picture by replacing them with two men. The Shaa Tova newspaper blacked the women out.

Publishing pictures of women is viewed by many ultra-orthodox Jews as a violation of female modesty.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Colbert Watches Fox: The Glenn Beck Train Wreck Continues

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Worth Reading: Mark Danner on 'U.S. Torture at Black Sites'

The Bush Administration was never much for the niceties of international law. For Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Addington, Feith and Yoo, such agreements were quaint relics of an earlier era.

Geneva Conventions?—who needs 'em. Rule of law?—Doesn't apply. U.S. torturing people?—Never happened.

The truth, of course, is much more complicated. That's one of the conclusions of Mark Danner's extensive account of a secret International Committee of the Red Cross investigation U.S. treatment of "high value detainees" in CIA custody.

The report does the nation no honor. Indeed, it's a long and harrowing account of prisoner mistreatment and, yes, torture. As Danner reports, the U.S. "transformed itself from a country that, officially at least, condemned torture to a country that practiced it."

So much for our high moral ground.

For America's enemies, this sort of thing has long been a red flag, practically a recruiting poster for every sort of hare-brained terrorist who ever wanted to think poorly of the U.S.—and go on to pledge "Death to America."

Should the U.S. lock up and interrogate America's enemies? Absolutely. Should we use the information we learn from terrorists to safeguard the U.S. and undermine the bad guys? Of course.

But we should not use terrorism and the defense of the nation to undermine the values that we as a nation represent, things like the rule of law, international agreements and basic human dignity.

As Danner's story shows, the Bush team was far from the mark when it shuffled terrorists off to "black sites" where they could be mistreated at will and "disappeared."

Read the story (from the New York Review of Books) for yourself here.

PBS Preview: A Five-Part Series on Native American History

Here in Oklahoma—a state whose very name is a American Indian word—we have some sense of Native American life and history. After all, it's all around us.

So perhaps Oklahoma viewers will be especially interested in We Shall Remain, a five-part PBS mini-series that begins next week. We saw a preview of the program on OETA the other night and it looks like superior television.

Each episode is 90 minutes and each focuses on a particular incident of Native history in North America after the arrival of Europeans.

The episodes begin with "After the Mayflower," airing on April 13; to "Tecumseh's Vision," April 20; "Trail of Tears," April 27; "Geronimo," May 4; and "Wounded Knee," May 11.

Since a good many Trail of Tears descendants live in and around Tulsa, we suspect the that program will have strong local ratings.

We Shall Remain will air on Mondays at 8 p.m. on OETA, which is Channel 11 in T-town.