Tuesday, May 31, 2011

AltTulsa's Status: A Few Days Off

The AT crew likes to update this blog frequently—daily if possible. But regular readers will note a slowdown in recent days, a slowdown that will continue.

No, we're not quitting the blog. But we are slowing the pace for a bit in order to take care of some business. We'll be back in a few.

Meanwhile, we'll keep updating our Twitter feed, where we do a lot of "retweets" from our favorite blogs. Also, check out some of the intelligent and decidedly liberal blogs on our blogroll.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sen. Coburn's John Ensign Ethics Problem: It's Not Going Away

Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn remains entangled in the ethical problems of his former U.S. senate colleague, John Ensign of Nevada. 

Coburn, a housemate of Ensign's at the notorious C Street house in Washington, tried to help Ensign by serving as a go-between for the senator and his aid, Doug Hampton. As you may recall, Ensign—an avowed Christian and conservative Republican—was having a sexual affair with Hampton's wife. Oops!

Coburn has been spinning his actions in the Ensign scandal as simply assisting Doug Hampton, a person he liked. But critics, including a report from the Senate Ethics Committee—have not been so kind.

Nor was a recent letter writer to the Tulsa World. The writer, Herb Rains of Ponca City, asked this interesting question: "Why did Coburn become the intermediary between Ensign and Doug Hampton…?"

Rains notes that Coburn spoke to Hampton's attorney Daniel Albregts three times in one day in 2009, suggesting a much lower payment from Ensign to Hampton. MSNBC's Rachel Maddow has said that Coburn was helping save Ensign (or his parents) money. The incident, Rains says, has been a "soap opera."

We agree. Given the taint of this mess, Coburn has not been serving Oklahomans well. Or as Rains put it, "Coburn has a lot on his plate these days–at our expense." 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Limbaugh's Ratings Slipping Away

Talk Radio's biggest blowhard is losing some of his steam. That's right, Sooner fans, Rush Limbaugh's ratings have been slipping.

Read the story and check the numbers here: Are we done with Rush Limbaugh yet?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Oklahoma Reading: A New Biography of Woody Guthrie, American Radical

Oklahoma has produced all manner of singers, songwriters and literary folks, including the legendary Woody Guthrie, who was all three.

Now there's a new biography of Guthrie from the University of Illinois Press, part of their Music in American Life series.

The new biography, Woody Guthrie, American Radical, was written by Will Kaufman. The blurb we saw described the book as a portrait of Guthrie "as a committed an flawed human immersed in political complexity and harrowing personal struggle."

For students of Oklahoma biography and American music history, this sounds like a "must read."

Comedy Gold: John Lithgow Performs Newt's Amazingly Overwrought Press Release

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Freefall: Newt's Troubled Presidential Campaign Is Sinking Fast

Today's nomination for the Best Newt Gingrich headline, courtesy of Dan Balz, columnist at the Washington Post:
Newt Gingrich digs himself a deep hole

GOP Shakeup: Tulsa Republicans Go So Far Right They Fall Off the Edge

The Tulsa County Republicans got together recently for their county convention, a festival of right-wing zaniness so extreme that it alienated some of the party's long-time supporters.

We are referring to a bold and insightful letter to the Tulsa World published a couple of weeks ago by Lonny Davis, who joined the GOP in 1962. In the letter, Davis announced his resignation as a precinct chairman and as a delegate to the state convention.

Davis was concerned—as he should be—by the party's rightward drift, one "far from the Republican principles" that originally drew him to the party. No more: "I do not want my name associated with the local group," Davis wrote.

Davis pointed out that representatives at the county convention were "mainly mature white people," a sign of the party's growing demographic problem. Blacks, Hispanics, the poor and young were notably absent, Davis wrote, unwelcome or wary of the Republican message.

Here's the problem in Davis' own words:
Unless the party reaches out and recruits the young from our diverse population, and embraces their input, the party will be marginalized. Look at the U.S. Census.

Good point. But given the track record of local Republicans, we aren't holding our breath. Based on his letter, neither is Lonny Davis.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Coburn Defects from Budget Talks; Is the Ensign Scandal Too Much?

Tom Coburn, Oklahoma's ultra-conservative junior senator, has making headlines lately, though the news is not the kind that Coburn wants.

For those readers not up on the latest, Sen. Coburn has dropped out of the so-called Gang of Six, a bipartisan group of senators trying to work out a deficit-reduction plan. 

There may be good reasons for Coburn bowing out, at least from his budget-chopping point of view. But the speculation is running toward a more interesting explanation—Coburn's role in the sex scandal of former Nevada Sen. John Ensign, Coburn's friend and a housemate at the now-infamous C Street house.
As the Senate Ethics Committee made clear in a report last week, Coburn tried to help Ensign do right by Doug Hampton, an Ensign aide and the husband of Ensign's girlfriend—who also worked for (that's right) Sen. Ensign.

None of this looks (or smells) good. All of which leads to this paragraph from today's New York Times:
[C]olleagues in recent days had wondered whether Mr. Coburn would withdraw after a report from the Senate Ethics Committee on the conduct of former Senator John Ensign of Nevada implicated Mr. Coburn, a friend of Mr. Ensign’s, for helping to arrange controversial payments to the husband of Mr. Ensign’s former mistress. One controversy was enough without inviting more by reaching a bipartisan budget deal, the thinking went.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Jon Stewart Has the Tape: Hannity the Fox News Wingbag Hypocrite Exposed

Tulsa's Top Story: Sen. Tom Coburn's Role in the John Ensign Scandal

Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn is taking it on the chin in the John Ensign sex scandal.

That's AT's conclusion based on the most read story in the online edition of the Tulsa World. We see in today's print edition (yes, we still like the old-fashioned paper edition) that the "Coburn entangled" story was the paper's top story over the last 24 hours. 

Given that fact, we checked comments on the World's Coburn story and—yikes!—it's ugly. Yes, there are a few Coburn defenders out there, but not many.

Mostly, the comments are pointed jabs at the senator and his ties to Ensign and the GOP gang at the infamous C Street house, a kind of Super-Christian Congressional bunk house that was supposed to promote piety and high ethical standards. 

That hasn't worked out so well. Thanks to Ensign and a couple of other C Street bad boys, the enterprise has been mired in sexual scandal.

From what we can tell, Sen. Coburn got involved in the Ensign scandal by trying to help out some of his buddies. In the future, Coburn might want to remember this aphorism: No good deed goes unpunished.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Medicare Supporter Criticizes Rep. John Sullivan

AT realizes that letters to the editor are an imperfect measure of public opinion. But we also know that these letters often represent some measure of actual public response to civic issues.

So it is with considerable interest that we note a recent letter in the Tulsa World, a letter that excoriated Tulsa's John Sullivan for his vote to dismantle Medicare. 

Sullivan, a Republican, voted for the Ryan budget plan, a GOP program that would demolish "Medicare as we know it."

The writer, Paula Womack of Tulsa, asks this question: Why isn't Sullivan holding town hall meetings? Womack thinks Sullivan is afraid to face his constituents. She calls him a coward.

We have no idea if that's the case, but we wouldn't be surprised. Sullivan is a knee-jerk conservative, a man who hasn't had an original thought since he entered public life.

Whatever the fate of Sullivan's town hall meetings, it seems quite clear that Paul Ryan Medicare plan has met considerable grassroots opposition, so much that many Republicans are steering clear of it. Just today, for example, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (and card-carrying conservative) criticized the plan.

Sullivan might want to consider following Gingrich's lead.

The Senate Report on John Ensign: More on Sen. Tom Coburn's Role Revealed

Sen. Tom Coburn's role in the John Ensign sex scandal became clearer this week when the Senate Ethics Committee released the results of its 22-month investigation.

It's not pretty. Ensign, a Nevada Republican who recently resigned his seat in the Senate, comes off as something much less honorable than his squeaky-clean, conservative, family-values image would suggest.

Oklahoma's Coburn, also a conservative, family-values Republican, fares much better than Ensign, though the record shows that Coburn's role in the Ensign saga was more extensive that he has admitted.

Some relevant portions of the Senate report (pages 37-38) involving Coburn and the other parties are posted below. It's long and the report doesn't include various other statements made by Coburn and others, but it's still very interesting reading.
Mr. Hampton then told Mr. Albregts that Senator Coburn was expecting his call to continue the negotiations. Senator Coburn told Mr. Hampton that he wanted to get involved with the issue. Mr. Albregts recalled that the communications he had with Senator Coburn occurred the week before Memorial Day 2009. Mr. Albregts understood that Senator Coburn was going to act as an intermediary between Senator Ensign and Mr. Hampton.

Mr. Albregts spoke with Senator Coburn on three occasions, all on May 22, 2009. Mr. Albregts first had a five-minute call with Senator Coburn. Senator Coburn said that he wanted to help Doug out. Senator Coburn also stated that he liked Doug Hampton, felt bad about what happened, and he was glad that they retained counsel to resolve this issue. Senator Coburn told Mr. Albregts to have Mr. Hampton tell him what he thinks he needs to start over, and Senator Coburn would then take that to the Ensigns.
Mr. Albregts had an eight-minute call with Senator Coburn approximately an hour later. Senator Coburn recalled that he was on his tractor at his home mowing his lawn at the time, and was annoyed to receive the call in the middle of that task. Mr. Albregts tried to get a ballpark estimate from Senator Coburn as to the amount he would be comfortable with. Mr. Albregts proposed $8 million based on a document Doug Hampton prepared. According to Mr. Albregts, Senator Coburn said that the figure was absolutely ridiculous.    

Senator Coburn then stated that the Ensigns should buy the Hampton's home because it is so close to the Ensigns, and the Hamptons should receive an amount of money above and beyond that to start over, buy a new home, have some living money while they were looking for new employment, and possibly some seed money to send the children off to college. Senator Coburn stated that that's what I've thought from day one would be fair, but said that $8 million was nowhere close to a reasonable figure. Senator Coburn told Mr. Albregts to figure out what those amounts would be, and call him back.

Mr. Albregts then spoke with Mr. Hampton, and asked him how much it would cost to get the house paid for, and how much he needed above that figure to get started somewhere new. Mr. Hampton then came back with some figures, and estimated $1.2 million for the home, and another $1.6 million to get started somewhere new. Mr. Albregts called Senator Coburn back for the final time with this revised figure on the same day in a five-minute call. Per Mr. Albregts, Senator Coburn responded by stating that okay, that's what I had in mind and I think is fair and said he would take the figure to the Ensigns. Mr. Albregts later heard from Mr. Hampton that Senator Ensign refused the revised offer.

Senator Coburn testified that he told Mr. Hampton's attorney, Mr. Albregts, in May 2009 that he was not the negotiator, and it's got to be something apropos.    Senator Coburn also testified that he did not propose any resolution, but was simply going to pass information to Senator Ensign. Mr. Albregts testified that Senator Coburn took an active role in the negotiations between Mr. Hampton and Senator Ensign, and this role included proposing specific resolutions.

Sex & Ethics in the Senate: The Ensign Scandal Ensnares Oklahoma's Tom Coburn

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fun with Politics: New Newt Slogans

While we're on the subject of Newt Gingrich and his run for the presidency (see previous post), let's also consider a rousing new campaign slogan for the former Republican House Speaker.

Here's the best one we found today in cyberspace. It's a doozy, making a reference to good ole Barry Goldwater's 1964 race for the White House:

Adultery in the defense of liberty is no vice. 

Political End Times: Newt Headline of the Day

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Republican of Georgia, announced his candidacy for president today, an announcement that did not win universal acclaim. 

Here's our nomination for the best Newt headline, one that probably sums up the prospects for the Gingrich campaign. We found it on Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish site: 
Gingrich Announces Doomed Campaign 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wingnut Update: Janet Porter, Gov. Huckabee's Nutty Adviser

The American Right loves wild conspiracy theories, ideas and "facts" they assume to be true even when there's a stunning lack of things like, well, evidence.

It's so easy and convenient to make up "facts" that support your own predispositions. Take, for example, Janet Porter, described in media reports as "the onetime co-chair of [Mike] Huckabee's Faith and Values Coalition."

Here are some of Porter's amazingly bizarre claims and "facts"—all of which make Porter (and by extension, Huckabee) look extremely foolish:
Porter has maintained that Obama represents an "inhumane, sick, and sinister evil," and she has warned that Democrats want to throw Christians in jail merely for practicing their faith. She's attributed Haiti's high poverty rate to the fact that the country is "dedicated to Satan," and she suggested that gay marriage caused Noah's Flood. And there's this: In a 2009 column for conservative news site WorldNetDaily, Porter asserted that President Barack Obama is a Soviet secret agent, groomed since birth to destroy the United States from within.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Don't Make Plans: Judgment Day Is May 21

Yes, Sooners fan, the End is Near. The Rapture is only two weeks away—May 21.

We bring you this important news from Family Radio, a California-based ministry (of sorts) that purports to know such things.

According to these Bible-quoting believers, gay pride (naturally) is one of the signs of the End Time. The good folks at Family Radio are urging us all to repent now.

Our advice is more cynical. Since the world is ending, there's no need to pay your bills or act responsibly.  It's party time, baby, let's celebrate.

Oh, wait. We should be somber, worried.

It's the End of the World!!! "The Bible guarantees it," Family Life assures us. The very scary Family Life website is here.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Sen. DeMint's Amazing Health Care Flip-Flop: He Was For It before He Was Against It

Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, a right-winger from South Carolina, is an outspoken opponent of Obamacare. 

To hear DeMint tell it, it's a danged government takeover of health care, a socialist-communist-Big Government conspiracy to kill grandma.

Only one problem with this argument—DeMint is a former supporter of Mitt Romney and—Yes!— Romneycare, the former governor's signature legislation in Massachusetts and the model for—Yes!—Obama's plan.

It's true. DeMint is on record endorsing Romneycare. 

It's an amazing flip-flop, and gives the lie to DeMint's political posturing of the last two years. Here's the tape.

GOP Debate Fallout: A Libertarian Boost for Legalizing (Yikes!) Heroin

The GOP presidential hopefuls—some of them anyway—debated in South Carolina last night, an event that most television viewers (appropriately) avoided.

It was a notably weak field, without Republican stars like Mitt Romney and The Donald).

But Texas Rep. Ron Paul—the wild man of the libertarian right—was there with bells on, blowing up the stodgy old Republican ways. We're not kidding—Paul advocated legalizing heroin, a line that produced applause in (gulp!) South Carolina.

The applause caused Fox News host Chris Wallace to ask this question, perhaps the best line of the evening:
Who thought heroin would get applause in South Carolina?
Good question.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Stephen Colbert Blasts the Conservative Freak-Out over Obama's Success

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Obama Takes Credit for Bin Laden's Assassination
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Sally Kern's (Male) World: 'You See Women Don't Usually Want to Work as Hard'

Rep. Sally Kern, Republican of Oklahoma City, has apologized. She's also been reprimanded by her Oklahoma House colleagues for her bonehead remarks last week about blacks and women.

Not all of her conservative Republican allies were willing to condemn Kern. That's odd, given that Kern herself—to her credit—has admitted she was wrong. 

So who refused to reprimand Kern, thus implicitly endorsing her racist and sexist comments?

Those legislators, members of the Taliban wing of the Oklahoma GOP, are over-the-edge social and religious conservatives, including Randy Terrill of Moore, of course, and gun-happy Jason Murphey of Guthrie.

Closer to home, there's Baptist activist Mike Ritze of Broken Arrow.  Actually, Kern's supporters included a number of legislators of the Baptist persuasion, including Gus Blackwell, James Lockhart, and Paul Wesselhoft. Surprise—Kern is Baptist too.

From what we could tell, none of the women in the legislature voted against the reprimand. Wonder why they didn't support their female colleague?

Oh wait—they paid attention to Kern's words:
“[Women] make 77 cents on the dollar less...you see women don’t usually want to work as hard as a man. Women tend to think more of their family. I’m not saying women don’t work hard.....women like to....have a moderate work life with plenty of time for work and spouse and children and other things like that. ... They work very hard, but sometimes they aren’t willing to commit their whole life to their job like a lot of men do.”

Oklahoma Senate Leader Condemns Rep. Kern's Racist, Sexist Comments

It's old news, sure, but we'd like to keep the spotlight on the Oklahoma's least thoughtful state legislator, one Sally Kern, preacher's wife and old-fashioned bigot. As you may remember, Kern let loose with some racial and sexual stereotypes on the House floor last week, remarks for which she has now apologized.

Democratic Sen. Andrew Rice of Oklahoma City blasted Kern in uncertain terms:
I strongly condemn the reprehensible racist and sexist comments made by Rep. Sally Kern yesterday on the floor of the House of Representatives. Such immoral beliefs have no place in a civilized society. I am shocked that a member of the legislature would show such disrespect and mean-spiritedness by expressing such antiquated and bigoted views.
Good for Rice, pushing back against ignorance. And here's one more good point from Rice, who notes Kern's recurring tendency:
Representative Kern has shown a pattern of expressing demagoguery, and I know of no instance where a fellow Republican has ever condemned her.
Rice gets it right: Kern has indeed shown "a pattern of expressing demagoguery." Remember her attack last year on gays, people she said were more dangerous than terrorists.

Yes, Sooner fans, Rep. Kern is a true Oklahoma redneck: intolerant, unsophisticated, boorish and just plain mean.

Monday, May 2, 2011

State House Formally Reprimands Oklahoma City Republican Rep. Sally Kern

Sally Kern's outmoded ideas were the subject of disciplinary action in Oklahoma City today when the state House of Representatives voted to reprimand the conservative Republican lawmaker.

For those of you keeping score at home, Rep. Kern last week argued against affirmative action by claiming that some Oklahoma citizens (African Americans) are lazy and other citizens (women) just want to stay home and have babies. 

Ah, the Good Ole Days, when Kern was young and all those trouble-making minorities and uppity women stayed out of the way and let the white men run things.

Kern seems to represent the Taliban wing of the Oklahoma Republican Party. She keeps finding threats to public order and morality in everything that's not approved by her brand of religion.

Turns out, that's a lot—seemingly, most everything that's happened since the 1950s.

You can read more about Kern's dilemma here