Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Property Owners Only: Tea Party Leader Urges Restriction of Voting Rights

The political nuts are out there, of course, and they seem to be really scared of, well, actual voters. Or at least voters who, unlike them, don't own property.

That's right, ladies and gents, it's roll-back time in America, time to get rid of all those pesky democratic rights (like voting) that the nation (mistakenly) gave to regular (read: poor and/or minority) folks.

Why next thing you know, these poor folks will want to join our country clubs and go to our churches! Heavens! What will the liberals think of next? Women voting? We wouldn't put it past those nutty leftists.

But have no fear—the Tea Party gang is defending us against the great unwashed hordes. The complete story, with audio, is here.

Glenn Beck's Bogus Wikipedia Claims

Ah yes, right-wing media blowhards—Glenn Beck comes to mind—are gifts that keep on giving.

Beck's latest bogus claim is the "secret" link between Wikipedia and liberal (read: communist!) puppet master George Soros. According to Beck, this link is another example of the liberal conspiracy to do, well, something evil.

It's total baloney, of course, more evidence (as if any were needed) that Beck lives in a fact-free bubble, where truth doesn't matter if it gets in the way of a good conspiracy theory.

Read the full story here: Beck makes things up.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Recent Reading: A Biography of Novelist and Scholar John Gardner

Joyce Carol Oates called him an American original. Based on Barry Silesky's biography, we have to agree.

The man in question is novelist and scholar John Gardner, author of The Sunlight Dialogues, Nickel Mountain and Grendel, an account of the Beowulf legend from the monster's point of view.

Gardner, who died in a motorcycle accident in 1982, was a force of nature, an extraordinarily energetic individual who turned out books of fiction, poetry, scholarship, and much more. Gardner's s huge personality and his massive talent attracted legions of loyal fans as well as passionate detractors. 

Beyond novels and stories, Gardner was famously controversial for his critique of late 20th-century American writing, On Moral Fiction. But that book, as Silesky explains, raises a number of important questions about the value of writing and literary in American life, questions that are still worth pondering.

Silesky's biography, John Gardner: Literary Outlaw (2004), is also worth pondering.

BookSmart Author Makes 2010 Notable Book List

Author Antonya Nelson, who was in T-town a few weeks ago as a guest of BookSmart Tulsa, has racked up another literary honor. Nelson's novel, Bound, was named a "Notable Book of 2010" by the New York Times. Nelson read from the novel to a small but appreciative audience in Tulsa.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

FoxNation Website Fooled Once Again; Re-Posts Fake Anti-Obama Story

Fair and balanced—not on your life.

Yes, sports fans, FoxNation.com—one of those fine "fair and balanced" Fox news outlets—has (once again) fallen for a fake news story from The Onion and posted it as real news.

This is just the sort of thing that happens when you edit the news to meet your preconceived ideas, a hallmark of the paranoid Fox style.

The full story here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Republican Ban on Earmarks Violated after 3 Days

That didn't take long.

The bold anti-earmark initiative of the new (read: same old) Republican Party lasted exactly three days. As the Washington Post reports, Arizona Sen. John Kyl used the earmark process this week—the same week the senate GOP hotshots vowed to ban the practice.

A link to the Post is here.

'Motor Trend' Editor Jumps Rush over Chevy Volt

Rush Limbaugh is almost all hot air, of course, so it's no surprise when El Rushbo spouts off about things he knows nothing about (that's a very, very long list).

This week Rush attacked Motor Trend's praise of the new electric/hybrid Chevy Volt, which (he thinks) is part of the socialist-fascist agenda promoted by that well-known Marxist Muslim leader, Barack Obama.

Naturally, Rush has not seen—much less driven—the car, so he had to base his criticism on his ideological predilections, which are perfectly free of notions such as accuracy and fidelity. Rush don't need no stinkin' facts!

In any case, Motor Trend has seen (and driven) the Volt. They were not amused by Rush's slam, so they slammed back—hard. The facts (surprise!) were in MT's favor. Here's the link.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Birthday to Us: AltTulsa Turns Four

AltTulsa is celebrating a birthday. That's right, Sooner fans, we've made it another year—an year of alternative ideas, political commentary, books and more. In five years of blogging, we've made hundreds—no, thousands—of posts on a range of national, state and local topics.

Unlike some of our Internet brethren, AT believes in civil debate and discourse. We try to maintain a reasonable tone and keep our arguments rational. Indeed, we always try to base our arguments on— heavens!—actual facts.

On this celebratory occasion, it is useful to look back at our very first AT post, an excerpt of which we re-post below:
We at Alternative Tulsa (or AT for short) offer this modest site as a place for critiquing the status quo—presenting ideas, facts, opinions, and commentaries from a critical perspective. The word "critical" is used advisedly here; we don't mean simply negative. We mean, instead, news and views that present alternatives to the easy and simple answers that most people adopt unthinkingly. Here at Alternative Tulsa, we want to push the boundaries, to present ideas—even unpopular ideas—that expand the public dialogue about Tulsa's political, ideological and cultural life.

Monday, November 22, 2010

More Reading: Ian Frazier's 'Travels in Siberia'

Speaking of new books (see previous post), the AT crew wants to put in a plug for Ian Frazier, a master of literary non-fiction. Anyone who has read Frazier's earlier books (Great Plains, Family, On the Rez) will know why we like—no, love—this writer.

Frazier's new book, published last month, is Travels in Siberia. We read a excerpt in The New Yorker some months ago and found it adventurous, funny and even instructive. 

There's more on Frazier and his books at his publisher's website here.

Recommended Reading: John Grisham's New Novel, 'The Confession'

Regular readers of AltTulsa will know that we have used this space to sing the praises of John Grisham, the writer of popular legal thrillers. 

Beyond novels, Grisham has tackled non-fiction, most notably (for Oklahomans) in The Innocent Man, a powerful expose about injustice in small-town Oklahoma (read: Ada). It's a chilling and important story. Every Oklahoman who is concerned about fairness and justice in law enforcement should read and contemplate this sorted tale.

Grisham's new novel, The Confession, hit the shelves last month. We can't say anything about the book because we haven't read it, but we're happy to recommend it based on Grisham's track record. Check it out.

A link to Grisham's website is here.

Bad News: Tulsa Crime Ranks High

A new crime ranking of U.S. cities puts Tulsa at number 28.

The report, released by Congressional Quarterly, ranks crime in 400 American cities. Unfortunately for T-town, the number 28 ranking is bad news, both in fact and in reputation. 

The new report only makes Tulsa's problems worse, given the city's on-going police corruption investigation. By the way, Oklahoma City came in a number 50, much better than Tulsa. 

The story, from KJRH Channel 2, is here: America's highest crime cities.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Coburn Talks Taxes; Oklahoma Senator Willing to Consider Tax Increases if Spending Is Cut

We didn't expect to hear it from Sen. Tom Coburn, but the Oklahoma Republican says he is open to (gasp!) a tax increase. Really.

Such talk is heresy in the GOP, of course, since almost every Republican this side of Teddy Roosevelt argues that the solution to every national problem is a tax cut.

There's a catch, of course. Coburn's support for a tax hike is contingent on federal spending reductions, another favorite mantra of the Republican Party. Still, it's refreshing to hear a Republican with the courage to actually say that some tax increases could be part of the solution to the nation's fiscal problems.

The story, with video, is here.

P.S.—For the record, no, we aren't crazy about paying taxes either. But we do see the necessity for taxes and the vital government services they provide, including national defense and security, infrastructure support, and basic social services, among other things. In short, keep us safe and secure our way of life, which we like.

Tea Party Hubris: Joe Miller Once Boasted of House Hunting in D.C.

Let's give the Tea Party blowhards credit for one thing—they make bold statements, even when it's dumb to do so.

The latest example is Tea Party favorite Joe Miller, the Alaska throwback (Social Security is unconstitutional!) running as the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Alaska.

Miller was so sure of his victory that he "tweeted" some weeks ago about checking out the housing market in D.C. Unfortunately his GOP rival Lisa Murkowski—a write-in candidate—has beaten Miller, the first write-in candidate to win a major political race since 1954.

There's a good word for this: hubris. It's a word that suits a number of the Tea Party folks, including some in Tulsa and around the Sooner state. The details on Joe Miller are here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hate Radio: Savage Rants about "Left-wing Vermin"

AltTulsa prides itself on civil discourse. We stand for reason and logic and we work hard to avoid name-calling, exaggeration and hateful rants. The way we look at it, such speech is counter-productive and unhelpful to the body politic.

Too bad some on the right don't share this view. We're speaking, of course, of Michael Savage, a talk radio veteran who just can't help himself. For Savage and like-minded conservatives, no excess is too much, no rhetorical hyperbole is too great—IT'S ALL ABOUT SHOUTING AND THOSE EVIL, COMMIE VERMIN.

This is the Savage tone. It's nutty, but apparently somebody is still tuning it. Check out the rant of it here: Savage warns "left-wing vermin."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Throwing Snowballs: Alaska's Murkowski Zings Fellow Alaskan Sarah Palin

AltTulsa's nomination for Headline of the Day, another case of Republican v. Republican:
Lisa Murkowski: Sarah Palin Lacks "Intellectual Curiosity" to be President
By the way, it's notable that write-in candidate Murkowski is on her way to defeating Tea Party favorite Joe Miller in the race for the U.S. senate in Alaska.

In his effort to win, Miller has been reduced to arguing that almost every spelling error in Murkowski's name is a protest vote against Murkowski (really!), a strategy that seems as silly as it is unlikely.

The Weekly Standard Attacks Glenn Beck's Historical "Nonsense"

There's a civil war raging in conservative ranks. No, not the Tea Party v. the establishment GOP, but Fox commentator Glenn Beck v. The Weekly Standard.

The wiseacres over at The Weekly Standard can actually read and analyze ideas (who knew?), which means they have a big (and easy) target on the right: the "nonsense" (their word) for Glenn Beck's weird view of history.

The score thus far: The Weekly Standard, 1: Glenn Beck, 0. But then again, Beck's been a zero for some time now.

Read more here: Glenn Beck's "nonsense"

Friday, November 12, 2010

Prince of Pork: Jim Inhofe Goes to the Mat to Defend Earmarks

Yes, indeed, Sooner fans, we need our pork. Certainly Sen. Jim Inhofe thinks so. He's fighting the good fight to bring home the bacon—call 'em earmarks—for all us Sooners who love federal spending.

Oh wait, no we don't. In fact, we just voted for a whole slew of anti-federal spending conservative Republicans, who want to stop this sort of spending.

Someone forget to send Inhofe the memo. He still wants the pork. 

Indeed, Inhofe's position puts him at odds with other top conservatives—Tea Party types like Sen. Jim DeMint, who oppose earmarks.

There's a big GOP split here, obviously, but Tulsa's own Jim Inhofe is firmly on the side of local federal spending, call it "Big Pork." Read all about it here.

UPDATE: Sen. Inhofe's pro-pork position took a big hit today (November 15) when Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky caved in to the anti-pork pols (read: Sen. Jim DeMint) who have pushed the anti-earmark position.

One wonders how long Inhofe can hang on when he's increasingly isolated in his own party. Even Dr. No, our very own Sen. Tom Coburn, is passionately anti-earmark.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

We're No. 6: Oklahoma One of the Fattest States (Again)

This can't be good. For the second year in a row, Oklahoma is the sixth fattest state.

As they say in many other state rankings, thank goodness for Mississippi. (They topped the list.) A quick review of the fattest states shows that the South leads the pack. Might be time to think about moving to Colorado, which is one of those "skinny" states.

The statistics can be found here.

Anti-Islamic Backlash: Maddow Interview Reveals Fear (and Threats) in the Sooner State

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Oklahoma's $1 Billion Hole: New State Leaders Face a Big Deficit; Drastic Cuts in Service

Yes, Sooner fans, that's One billion with a B. And it's not good news for Oklahoma and Oklahomans, who need state spending and the services they provide. 

This is not exactly breaking news, but it is a serious fiscal problem facing the governor-elect, Mary Fallin, and all those Tea Party-loving Oklahoma Republican legislators.

As Arnold Hamilton noted last week in Urban Tulsa Weekly, "Oklahoma is in serious danger of not being able to deliver the basics—from decent roads and bridges to safe and secure prisons, child protective custody to public safety."

Good point. But there's more, as Hamilton makes clear:
The Tea Party crowd doesn't want to hear this, and anti-government Republicans will duck-and-dodge if you bring it up, but if it hadn't been for big, bad Uncle Sugar's $1.4 billion infusion the last two years, the lights would have been turned off in Oklahoma.
Good thing we Sooners hate the Feds—ironically, the very folks who have bailed us out in recent months. (Thanks, President Obama. Really.)

But there is no free lunch, as Hamilton notes, and those roads, bridges, prisons, schools, etc., aren't going to magically appear.

For Republican leaders, there's danger ahead. In Hamilton's words, "hell hath no fury like taxpayers whose essential services aren't delivered."

Is 'Oklahoma' Now Banned? The State's Name is (Oops!) Not Really English

Now that Oklahoma voters have voted to make English the state's official language (state question 751), some unhappy consequences could be coming down the pike.

As it happens, "Oklahoma" is not an English word. Neither is "Tulsa" or "Sapulpa" or "Shawnee" or "Tahlequah"—all Native American words!

And what about "El Reno"—sounds like Spanish to us. Then there's "Prague," which, if we recall correctly, is a town named after one of those horrible European socialist countries! Yikes!

And "Chouteau," which sound pretty dang French!

No, we don't expect any of these place names to be changed anytime soon. But now that we have the official English-language purity act in place, who knows how far it will go?

Example: Oklahoma's National Guard has "corporals" and "lieutenants"—military terms that are French!

Somebody better call Rep. Randy Terrill, the Moore legislator who backed this state question, Terrill may have a lot of explaining to do.

Rand Paul Fail: Kentucky Senator-Elect Can't Name One Program to Cut

Let the backsliding begin!

Having campaigned on anti-government cynicism and economic smoke and mirrors, Tea Party favorites are now backtracking as fast as they can. 

Take Rand Paul, the Kentucky senator-elect who had been advancing all sorts of major federal spending cuts. Challenged this week to name some programs he wants to cut, Rand (surprise!) couldn't name one, not one.

Oh, and he's backtracked on earmarks too. Turns out, Kentucky voters need their pork. 

Expect more of the same from the Tea Party types, who have played fast and loose with the facts for far too long.

The complete story here.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Meet the Palin Administration: Conservative Writer Imagines the Dream

Sarah Palin is a long, long way from the White House, of course, but that hasn't stopped pundits on the right from creating the Palin cabinet, a dream team of ideologues and hacks who would (presumably) make the world safe for, well, more right-wing ideologues.

Beyond a simpleton like Sister Sarah, we can now dream of Secretary of State John Bolton. Yikes! 

But that's the dream of one Kevin Williamson over at National Review Online. Read the entire silly story here.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Oops! Did Oklahoma Voters Accidently Outlaw the Ten Commandments?

Remember State Question 544, the one that passed by 70 percent and bans Sharia law as well as the use of other foreign laws in Oklahoma courts? 

The zealots in the state legislature who pushed this measure (such as Rex Duncan, Republican of Sand Springs) may have inadvertently outlawed the Ten Commandants. 

Really. As it happens, the Ten Commandants are, well, foreign. Uh-oh.

CNN asked someone who might know:
Rick Tepker, the first member of the University of Oklahoma School of Law faculty to try a case before the U.S. Supreme Court…called the passage of the measure “a mess” with implications unknown until a case that challenges it arises.
“Many of us who understand the law are scratching our heads this morning, laughing so we don’t cry,” he said. “I would like to see Oklahoma politicians explain if this means that the courts can no longer consider the Ten Commandments. Isn’t that a precept of another culture and another nation? The result of this is that judges aren’t going to know when and how they can look at sources of American law that were international law in origin.”
Come to think of it, the historical foundation for American law is English common law, which is (of course) foreign.

In short, Prof. Tepker may be right—this is a mess. The full story is here.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Recent Reading: Elmore Leonard's Tale of Oklahoma Crime, 'The Hot Kid'

AltTulsa likes to read on topics of all stripes, including novels (see, the novel isn't dead).

Our latest fictional diversion was an Elmore Leonard crime story, The Hot Kid, set in and around Tulsa in the 1930s. Like all Leonard novels, it's a wild ride, a cops and robbers story complete with tough guys, oil millionaires, gun molls, speakeasies and much more.

In short, it's a hoot. 

For T-town readers, there's also the joy of familiar names and places. Leonard sets the action in places like the Mayo Hotel, Tulsa's ritzy Maple Ridge neighborhood, as well as the Cookson Hills, Sapulpa, Sallisaw, Okmulgee, and so on.

Finally, we feel obligated to praise Leonard's colorful characters, especially young Carl Webster, the hot kid himself, who manages to be both fearless and polite, a perfect Oklahoma hero.

Fact-checking Bachmann & Talk Radio: $200 Million a Day Claim is Bogus

Being right-wing means never having to say you're wrong.

That is an obvious conclusion from the latest right-wing lie perpetuated by Limbaugh, Drudge and the rest of the wingnut blab-o-sphere, including (of course) lightweight Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, all of whom have claimed that the president's upcoming trip to India will cost $200 million a day.

Well, not exactly. Or, more accurately, not at all. 

The right isn't especially fond of facts they don't like, so when one Indian source made the $200 million claim, the wingnuts ran with it.

More thoughtful folks checked it out and discovered how bogus this really claim was, a claim based on, well, nothing at all—no official figures, no previous experience, nothing.

But facts never stopped the half-baked ideologues on the right from believing whatever hokum they can imagine, reality be damned.

PolitiFact has the evidence, lots of actual facts. The entire sorry story is here.

'This Land' Hits the Street with Third Issue; New Tulsa Publication Promotes Local Writing, Art

AltTulsa likes a good story, so we're pleased to put in a few good words for This Land, an wonderful new Tulsa-based monthly that has just published its third issue.

This Land is published in a broadsheet format (think full-sized newspaper), chock full of in-depth stories, photos, art, even (heavens!) poetry. As the nameplate says, the paper publishes local words and local art—"Relevant Readings Regarding Oklahoma."

Editor Michael Mason is bringing intelligent literary and arts journalism to T-town, a refreshing and welcome change of pace from the usual. The November issue, for instance, features a story by Russell Cobb called "Dreams of a Black Oklahoma," a piece that begins with E.P. McCabe, an obscure Kansas politician who wanted to make Oklahoma an all-black state, to the plains of Alberta, where some of the former Okies eventually settled.

Other stories include Joshua Kline's piece on "The White Dove Review," a literary magazine founded in 1959 by some Tulsa teenagers that, as This Land puts it, "created a literary legend." Amazing stuff.

There's much more in issue three of This Land, all of it worth the time and effort to read—and savor. Find a copy and enjoy. Or check the magazine out at their website, which we have linked here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Despite All Their Noise, the Tenthers Lose Big in Midterms

The Tenthers squawked a lot this election season (remember Owasso Sen. Randy Brogdon, the next governor of Oklahoma?), but the joy largely faded last night when the votes came in.

Turns out, the idea that the minimum wage and Social Security are unconstitutional isn't flying with voters. In Nevada, Sharron Angle pushed this line. She lost. In Colorado, Ken Buck went Tenther too. He lost. Ditto Joe Miller in Alaska, who is still crashing and burning on the frozen tundra.

Not good for the Tenthers, who nevertheless have failed to consider the possibility that they could be wrong. The details are here.

Jame Hamsher's Top Ten Surprise Losers (Hint: Sarah Palin Tops the List)

AltTulsa isn't happy with most of the election results, of course, but we like to think positive. With that in mind, AT will be highlighting some of the silver linings from the midterms. 

As we expected, some of the Tea Party overreach went down handily (So long, Christine O'Donnell), but there were other signs of hope from the voters.

Half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, for one, got burned yesterday, always a good sign.

Jane Hamsher, the blogger at FireDogLake, has complied her list of last night's losers, some of whom are painful for AT and its friends.

But the voters have spoken, for better or worse. Read Hamsher's complete list here.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jim's Big Joke: Inhofe's Senate Guarantee Falls Flat

Sen. Jim Inhofe is not known for his subtle political reasoning. When it comes to political predictions, the man is a bull in a china shop. 

That would explain Inhofe's recent "guarantee"—yes, he actually used that word—that the midterm elections would lead to a Republican takeover of the U.S. senate.

Well, no. In fact, this was always a long shot, especially after the GOP made Christine O'Donnell their candidate in Delaware. O'Donnell proved to be a flake, which doomed her candidacy.

With O'Donnell and other Tea Party candidates going down in flames, Inhofe's guarantee was worthless. But not as worthless as Inhofe's political legacy in the U. S. senate.

Post Columnist Asks an Important Question: What's Behind the Tea Party Anger?

Eugene Robinson, a columnist for The Washington Post, has written a critique of the anger on the Right, especially the virulent anti-Obama hysteria of the past year.

Robinson's finding won't surprise anyone, I suspect, but he makes a strong case that Obama's race is a motivating factor in the wingnuttery and hatred spewed by some on the Far Right.

The Tea Party's political rhetoric ("Let's take back our country!") is overheated and based on assumptions, Robinson writes, especially when compared to the facts. Yet the facts don't seem to matter to some political operators.

Read Robinson's column here.