Monday, October 31, 2011

Worth the Cost? Forking over OSU Cash for Bush's Poodle

Tony Blair, former prime minister of the United Kingdom, is speaking tomorrow in Tulsa, an event sponsored by the OSU Spears School of Business.

We like the idea of bringing in Big Name Speakers to enlighten us nobodies out here in Flyover Country.

But for those of us with long memories, Mr. Blair is an odd choice. After all, he's the principal U.S. ally who fell for the Bush administration's bogus weapons of mass destruction nonsense.

Blair, who is well-educated and apparently thoughtful in many ways, should have known better. Indeed, his own citizens did know better. Most of them opposed the war and took to the streets in a number of massive anti-war demonstrations.

Which brings to mind the charge that Mr. Blair was, for the purposes of the Iraq war, Bush's poodle. This is not a compliment, but it is a stain on Mr. Blair's judgment and leadership.

Saddam Hussein and Iraq had nothing to do with the September 11 attacks, a fact that Mr. Blair should have given the UK leader pause when he signed on to Bush's dangerous foreign policy misadventure.

So now OSU has seen fit to pay good money to bring Mr. Blair to town. We have no idea what Mr. Blair will say, but we expect that it will be less than earth-shattering.

But hey, maybe some of us Okies can visit the UK next summer, where we can visit some of our precious Yankee Greenbacks.

Holy Smokes! Sooner State Nonsmokers Now a Majority

AltTulsa likes to keep an eye on public health statistics, many of which provide a snapshot of the state's health concerns.

As nonsmokers, we have long been sensitive to the many Sooner state smokers out there (cough, cough). We can even recall a visit to one of the old Indian bingo parlors (remember those?) where the smoke was a blanket of gray haze as thick as the San Francisco fog.

So imagine our surprise to learn that Oklahoma's ex-smokers now outnumber the smokers. As reported in the Tulsa World, smoking rates in the Sooner state have reached an all-time low of 23.7 percent. 

State Health Commissioner Terry Cline said the change is historic. He cited state anti-smoking programs as part of the reason for the declining number of smokers.

We take Cline's word for this bit of good news.  After all, as the World notes, "Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in Oklahoma and the nation."

Saturday, October 29, 2011

How 'bout those Texas Aggies? Oh, Wait. Never Mind

As all Texans know, there's nothing funnier than an Aggie joke. Take Rick Perry, for example— please!

With that in mind, let's review today's Texas A&M football performance.

Playing at home, the highly ranked Aggies were sure bets to whip the hapless Missouri Tigers. Gig 'em Aggies! 

Oh wait, they lost? In overtime? Choked again? Really? You betcha!

Wow. Aggie losers. Again. Go Tigers!

Interesting New Study on the Health Benefits of Coffee

And now, for your edification, a story on the health benefits of coffee. Sounds a bit unlikely, to be sure. But read it and judge for yourself.

The story here: Can Coffee Save Your Life?

Dewey Plays Along: The Tulsa Mayor's Own Salad, er, Soup, that is, Sandwich

A new video featuring Tulsa mayor Dewey Bartlett, courtesy of This Land.

GOP Overeach in Ohio: Polls Show Republican Agenda Failing with the Voters

The Republican Noise Machine has been blasting its anti-worker, anti-union message for many months now, but the voters aren't buying it.

At least, not in Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich is racking up negative poll numbers and appears to be headed for a political defeat in the upcoming vote on public employee union busting.

Here's a summary from one observer that tells the story in a nutshell:
A controversial law sharply curtailing collective-bargaining rights for Ohio’s public employees is sinking in the polls, raising Democratic hopes that the measure’s defeat could boost their prospects in the crucial swing state in 2012. The law’s diminishing poll numbers have coincided with a decline in the approval ratings of Republican Gov. John R. Kasich, the measure’s most visible proponent. The drop is coming as the law’s union-led opponents have waged an energetic campaign against a measure that they say represents an overreach by the state’s Republican political leaders.
 Hat tip to our friends at the Daily Kos. 

Remember the $16 Muffins at Justice? Turns Out, It's Not True

Like a lot of phony outrage on Fox and other right-wing sites, this meme was wrong.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Herman Cain's Unintentional Humor: Colbert Tackes the New Cain Ad

Tulsa Politics: District Four City Council Debate

As a public service, AltTulsa presents (or, more accurately, re-presents) a 30-minute radio debate between the candidates for Tulsa city council, District 4. The candidates are Blake Ewing, a Republican, and Ken Brune, a Democrat.

The debate was broadcast this week on the KWGS program "Studio Tulsa." The host was John Durkee, KWGS news director.

An audio of the debate is here: District Four Tulsa City Council Debate.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dan Sullivan: The Good Ole Boys in Action

How 'bout that Rep. Dan Sullivan?

Yes, Cowboy fans, Dan Sullivan, conservative Tulsa Republican legislative leader, will be supping at the public trough. Again.

Sullivan, one of those brassy anti-government types, is taking—wait for it!—a lucrative government job. Sullivan was recently hired as the new CEO for the Grand River Dam Authority, a state energy agency. This despite the fact that Sullivan has exactly no energy experience. Sweet!

This is business as usual at the GRDA, which had previously hired another politician as its CEO. That time it was a Democrat, Kevin Easley, and the GRDA was criticized (and rightly so) for Easley's hiring.

Ah, but the good-ole-boy system endures. Sullivan, who should be opposed to the government gravy train, isn't about to criticize his new salary, reported as more than $200,000. All together now: Sweet!

Again, Sullivan has no energy experience whatsoever. In fact, this is just the sort of deal that Rep. Sullivan would criticize, if the GRDA had offered the post to a Democrat, especially one with no experience.

In Oklahoma sometimes, as the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

New Hotel Slated for Tulsa's Downtown Brady District

A new hotel in Tulsa's Brady District is another sign of the revitalization of downtown Tulsa. Here's the story, courtesy of Tulsa's KOTV Channel 6: A Renaissance For Tulsa's Brady District

Zing! Evangelicals Attack other Evangelicals

Our nomination for Quote of the Week, from an op-ed in the New York Times by evangelicals Karl Giberson and Randall Stephens.

The writers, both associated with Eastern Nazarene College, go after the "simplistic theology" and "stubborn anti-intellectualism" of popular fundamentalism, the kind embraced by most of the Republican presidential candidates.

The opening lines:
The Republican presidential filed has become a showcase of evangelical anti-intellectualism. Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann deny that climate change is real and caused by humans. Mr. Perry and Mrs. Bachmann dismiss evolution as unproven.


The rejection of science seems to be part of a politically monolithic red-state fundamentalism, textbook evidence of an unyielding ignorance on the part of the religious. 
And remember: These guys are evangelicals.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ideologue Sally Kern: More Baloney from Oklahoma's Worst Legislator

AltTulsa missed it the other day, but Rep. Sally Kern—card-carrying member of the American Taliban—is up to her old tricks.

Yes, Sooner fans, Oklahoma City Kern, a Republican, has been flipping her lid over national education standards. Yep, those dad-blamed ole federal standards are (according to her) a federal takeover of Oklahoma education. We ought to have local control, Kerns says.

This is standard-issue Kern nonsense, of course. Public education is already under local control.

In fact, Kern's agenda has less to do with local control than with her own desire to impose religion—her particular brand of religion—views on local districts.

As a Tulsa World editorial pointed out recently, Kern really wants "forced prayer, the teaching of creationism and the banning of certain books, among other restrictions." How's that for free inquiry?

No, Sally Kern is not in interested in education at all, not actual education that challenges students to think for themselves. Her idea is indoctrination, especially of the Far Right variety.

Oklahomans of all persuasions ought to be wary of such baloney.

Friday, October 14, 2011

KWGS Interview: Rich Fisher's Talk with Jonathan Franzen

As we mentioned in this space a few days ago, Jonathan Franzen,  author of novels such as The Corrections and Freedom, was in Tulsa this week for a lecture at TU.

If you didn't get to the lecture, you can still catch up with Franzen through an interview conducted by Rich Fisher for KWGS 89.5, the NPR affiliate in Tulsa

Fisher, host of "Studio Tulsa," talked to Franzen in advance of his visit. It's an interesting conversation. Here's the link: KWGS: Interview with Jonathan Franzen.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Poor Sally Kern, Attacked by Those Mean Gay People

Gotta love that Sally Kern, an Oklahoma politician who always stands up for the downtrodden and the outcast, those folks that society has shunned.

Oh, wait. That's what Jesus would do. 

Kern, on the hand, works hard to shun the sinners that Jesus himself would embrace.

Instead, Kern plays the victim card, imagining herself under physical attack by all those well-muscled, militant gays, people so well known for their violence and gun-play.

Read about Kern's latest complaint here. Boo-hoo.

Flashback: Romney Endorses the Individual Health Insurance Mandate

Ah, the joys of videotape. (Okay, digital technology.) It's great to recall what the candidates once said.

Take Mitt Romney—please. Turns out, the former governor and current Republican presidential candidate likes the individual  health insurance mandate, the same one that the current GOP has been deriding for years.

It's more evidence (as if any were needed) of the shifting positions that Romney has taken on, well, most every major political position.

For conservatives, Romney's principles are firmly fixed in the wind.

The link, with revealing video, is here.

Georgia County Considers Replacing Firefighters With Prison Laborers

We hate to be blunt, but this strikes us—and most other people, we suspect—as an incredibly stupid idea.

A Georgia county is considering using inmates as firefighters. Hey, what's not to like? It's free labor. It's innovative. It's cool.

Or maybe not. Maybe this is just a dumb idea.

The details are here: Georgia County Considers Replacing Firefighters With Prison Laborers.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Author Jonathan Franzen Visits Tulsa Thursday

 The AltTulsa gang likes to keep up with contemporary writers and their writing, so we are pleased to put in a plug today for novelist Jonathan Franzen. He will speak Thursday night at TU as part of the university's Presidential Lecture series.

The lecture is set for 7:30 p.m. at TU's new Lorton Performance Center. 

We admit that we know Franzen more by reputation than by a deep reading of his work. Nevertheless, we have been impressed by the popular and critical acclaim that Franzen's work has garnered and we expect his public lecture to be enlightening and even provocative.

Here's some background on the author from the TU website:
Jonathan Franzen stepped into the international pop culture spotlight in 2001 when his book “The Corrections” was published, with translations in 35 languages, American hardcover sales of nearly 1 million copies and nominations for nearly every major book prize in the United States. As if sales and critical acclaim weren’t enough to boost his profile, the author found himself in a public relations imbroglio over his conflicted reaction to his novel’s endorsement by Oprah’s Book Club.
Franzen’s most recent novel is “Freedom” (2010). Writing in the New York Times Book Review, editor Sam Tanenhaus declared the work a “masterpiece of American fiction,” and “Freedom” debuted at No. 1 on the Times’ bestseller list. His short stories and his essays, including political journalism, have most recently appeared in The New Yorker, The Best American Essays, The New York Times, and The Guardian. A new collection of his nonfiction, “Farther Away,” will appear in 2012.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fallin Fail: Governor Defends Air Show Boondoggle

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin pretends to be a good steward of the taxpayer's money. She's one of those highly accountable, tight-fisted Republicans who wouldn't waste a dime of the Sooner state treasury.

Actually, not so much.

As the Associated Press reported this week, the Fallin administration sent four state employees to the Paris Air Show this summer to the tune of $84,000.

How 'bout that $400-a-night luxury hotel? How 'bout that $188 daily meal expense? Nice (state) work, if you can get it.

Fallin has defended the trip, calling it a "legitimate investment" in the state's aerospace industry. The state needs to wave its aerospace flag, Fallin said, because it's an important Oklahoma industry.

We're not buying it, not when Fallin and other state leaders have been cutting spending on public education, health programs and other state services.

After laying out $84,000 on a dubious junket, Gov. Fallin and the state's Republican leaders need to drop all the "woe is me" baloney about state revenues. If they can afford to send four state employees to Paris, they can do better for the underfunded and underserved people of Oklahoma.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Writer and Filmmaker Miranda July: An Appreciation (and a Thanks to Tulsa's Circle Cinema)

Speaking of writers (see last post), AltTulsa wants to put in a good word for Miranda July, writer, filmmaker and actor.

We first encountered Ms. July some years ago when her film, Me and You and Everyone We Know, made a splash on the indy film circuit. It's an inventive, odd and engaging film—though not the sort that brings the masses to the mall cineplex.

Later, we were taken by her 2007 collection of short stories, No One Belongs Here More Than You. Although it's been years since we read the stories, we've never forgotten the hard beauty of her characters and their emotional lives. In a word, unforgettable.

We were reminded of Ms. July this week because Tulsa's art house, Circle Cinema, is playing her latest film, The Future. We saw it earlier this week and were charmed again, in part by the originality of the story—a quirky mediation on time—and in part by Ms. July's radiance on the screen. For a writer who is only part-time actor, Ms. July is remarkably convincing (and lovely) on the big screen.

Ms. July also appeared at the Circle this week via Skype, answering questions from the audience. She  talked about her film and writing. Given the originality of her work, her answers provided insights into her creative process and, more importantly, her artistic vision.

There's more about Miranda July and The Future here.

A Contemplation of Home: Tulsa Writer Considers Meanings and Memories

James Watts is an arts writer for the Tulsa World. As such, he reviews classical music, museum exhibits, art shows and other cultural events for the newspaper. (Yes, wise guys, Tulsa does a serious art and music scene.)

Watts also writes personal columns every now and again. One column, published several weeks ago, struck us as particularly evocative. The column was a rumination on the meaning of home, which in this case was his wife's parent's home near 21st Street and Yale.

When it came time to clean out the house after they died, the task seemed overwhelming, Watts writes. 

The couple had lived in the house for 50-plus years, collecting (as we all do) "everyday objects, family heirlooms, geegaws that no one could quite figure out their purpose or their worth….."

Watts also writes of his own parents, their many homes and and their late-life adventures. Is home a building, Watts wonders, or is it something more?

Maybe it's just us, but we were moved by Watts' thoughtful prose—something that doesn't happen with every newspaper column.

Read Watts for yourself. The link is here.