2007
08.19

Okiedoke: Possible Oklahoma wine coverup at Commerce & Tourism

NuyakaCreek.com: Tourism Official Cuts Oklahoma Wineries Out of Epcot — Your Tax Dollars At Work

At the Epcot Food & Wine Festival an estimated 1.5 million people will get a taste of Oklahoma…but NOT Oklahoma Wines.

At a cost of over $500 ,000 in Oklahoma State Taxpayer’s money, some Oklahoma businesses will enjoy being the first state to be invited by the Walt Disney World Resort to showcase its cuisine and heritage at a display area during the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. This once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity has produced a great deal of excitement in Sooner country.

However, in a year where our local government has made every effort to destroy our local wine industry, readers should not be surprised to learn of the most recent government-sponsored blow to Oklahoma’s family winemakers. . .

I’ll try to keep you updated on this. It sounds pretty crazy to me that our state is spending oodles of bucks to promote Oklahoma with California wine!

Oklahoma wine (like that of any state) is a mixed bag. I’ve had some sub-par bottles but I’ve also had some world-class bottles (my favorites are Sparks Winery’s Viognier, and just about everything that Woods and Waters makes). I think Oklahoma is very competitive with California or any other state, and in fact even the worst Oklahoma wines I’ve had are still much better than the worst California wines I’ve ever had.

So if Oklahoma has good wine and has plenty of vineyards, why can’t we serve Oklahoma wine at the Epcot center? And for that matter, why is the state spending this kind of money in the first place? Personally I would prefer the state to spend the $.5 million dollars to support local family farmers (including wineries, ranchers, and organic gardeners).

Anyway I hope Mike (at Okiedoke.com) gets to the bottom of this boondoggle.

2007
08.19

CNN: Harrowing rescues from Oklahoma’s raging floods

CNN: Amazing video of water rescues by helicopter (including 2 people who fell from the helicopter but were ok) (also see NewsOK: Rescued couple gain celebrity status)

KOCO.com: 5 Dead After Tropical Storm Moves Through State —Widespread Damage Left In Wake Of Tropical Storm Erin

KFOR.com: Tropical storm leads to flooding, power outages

. . . Emergency officials say a rural Fort Cobb woman was discovered drowned in her cellar today, while a man in his 50s drowned after his vehicle was swept off a roadway 14 miles west of Kingfisher.

Meanwhile, searchers were looking south of Carnegie for three women whose vehicle was swept off a Caddo County roadway shortly after midnight.

Family members identified the women as the mother, daughter and granddaughter of Kiowa Chief Billy Horse.

They say Dorita Horse, daughter Helen Horse and granddaughter Rose Saddleblanket were last seen when their vehicle rolled off State Highway 58.

NewsOK: Photos from the floods

Wikipedia: Picture of stranded car near Carnegie — simply unbelievable!

Wikipedia: Tropical Storm Erin (2007)

Definitely a memorable and tragic night in Oklahoma. I happened to be driving that night (I had to pick up a client who was flying into Will Rogers at 2 a.m.) and it was something. Pretty much steady continual rain. Lots of lightning but not that bad of wind. I had no idea how bad it was in other areas nearby though.

The news from Ft. Cobb and Carnegie especially hits hard. (the two towns are very close to grandparents’ old farm at Pine Ridge) I can’t imagine how horrible it would be to drown in one’s cellar. It is stuff like this that really makes you wonder if God is asleep at the switch or something.

2007
08.19

Coming home

MSNBC/Newsweek: ‘Living In America’ —Our correspondent recounts the anxiety, fatigue and joy of having a loved one return from war.

Aug. 17, 2007 – On any normal day, Killeen, Texas, is not the place to be. It’s a palm-size city near Austin where the Target store on the main strip is the big hangout. But this past week, Killeen—home of Ft. Hood Army base, was the best place to be for my family and me: my little cousin Alexia, 24, came home from Iraq.

It’s hard to explain the joy of having a loved one return safe and sound from the battlefield. Every day they are away seems to bring more news of death in a faraway land, and you hold your breath, praying that she or he hasn’t become a statistic. You learn to rejoice over the little things: the phone calls and e-mails from Baghdad that come in the middle of the night, thanking you for the most recent care package. When you learn your family member is coming home, you count the days, praying that fate doesn’t intervene and make real the fears you’ve conjured in your head (a sniper’s bullet? an IED?). And when your loved one finally sets foot on American soil, it’s as if you can breathe once more.

I can’t turn away from these stories. More and more it feels like that Dixie Chick’s song “Traveling Soldier” (click here to see them sing it) where that no one cares, no even notices when soldiers die, when soldiers are wounded, when soldiers are changed forever by the horrible war. I don’t want to turn away because I feel like it would be wrong to look the other way in the face of such suffering, by the soldiers yes, but by their spouses and parents and friends too. Yet, sometimes I have to. I watch a silly romantic comedy. I drink a beer. I ride my bike. I try not to think about the war but it keeps coming back. I feel guilty if I ignore and I feel depressed and hopeless if I don’t.

I don’t want the answer is but I don’t want the soldiers to be forgotten. The war is twisted and wrong (as all wars are… even the “just” wars are abominations in which women and children are butchered for no good reason at all), but the soldiers are just trying to get by another day. They need our prayers, our concern, and most of all they need to do everything we can to bring them home.

2007
08.13

NewsOK.com: State native wants your green light for presidency

. . . She’s hoping by touting the light-rail issue, she might draw another name into the Green Party presidential mix — New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“Michael Bloomberg would present the best opportunity for a fusion candidate to advocate very strongly for high-speed rail,” she said. “New York City has one of the most sophisticated commuter rail systems in the country, and Michael Bloomberg is very familiar with the benefits and knows where the pitfalls are for building a rail system.”

Bloomberg is a billionaire who could finance his campaign; he would help in efforts to get the Green Party on the ballot, she said. . .

Dustbury.com: More trains, less traffic

. . . And we had one actual Presidential candidate on hand: Gail Parker, who hails these days from those Independent Greens in Virginia but who spent some of her childhood here in the Sooner State, and who was well received by the crowd. (She also schlepped along a Draft Bloomberg sign, which if nothing else indicates that she’s keeping the options open.)

Since Gail Parker is getting a decent amount of attention with her campaign here in Oklahoma, I think it is appropriate for me to give some thoughts as an Oklahoma Green.

Gail is a very nice person who is running a very active campaign. I met with her when she was here in town and was struck by her personableness and her tenacity.

However, those good qualities aside, I don’t see any way that she would ever be considered as a Green candidate for President, and I am very concerned that her campaign will misrepresent what Greens are really about.

I have three main concerns about her: (1) her advocacy of a Bloomberg fusion campaign, (2) her refusal to address other issues besides rail, and (3) her participation in a divisive state Green Party splinter group. I’ll address each of these concerns below.

1. The Bloomberg fusion concerpt — Bloomberg is a moderate Republican. He has many admirable qualities (from a Green perspective), but he does not agree with us on drug policies, the Patriot Act, trade issues, and most importantly the war in Iraq (you can research this in this Wikipedia article on Bloomberg’s political positions). Certainly he is better than most Republicans (heck, he seems to be more liberal than Hillary Clinton on many issues — i.e. he supports gay marriage), but he still is not progressive enough for the Greens.

Bloomberg is also rich. Most Greens (including myself), believe that the rich have too much power in this country and would not support giving the ultra-rich even more power.

2. Gail’s refusal to talk about other things on the campaign trail besides rail — I’ve done a fair bit of google searching on Parker’s position on the issues, and frankly it is hard to find out where she stands on anything but rail. (the best analysis I could find of Parker was on Ambivalentmumblings.blogspot.com). She ran a US Senate campaign in ’06 and is currently running for County supervisor in Virginia (along with her Presidential bid), yet I can’t find anything that says where she stands on some of the following key issues — abortion, immigration, the war in Iraq, civil liberties, LGBT rights, trade/globalism, environmental protection (other than promoting rail), foreign policy, etc. I have found that she refers to herself as a “conservative” pretty often, and uses the meaningless phrase – “Fiscally conservative, socially responsible” that means nothing. What does this mean? Without hearing her take specific positions on the issues, we just don’t know. The only tidbits of information I’ve been able to glean is that she is opposed to the Iraq war (which she told me in person) and that she wants better accounting practices at the Pentagon (which is on her campaign website)

Certainly I know that she argues that she preaches the Rail gospel because it is the only way to get press, but when it comes to candidate questionnaires and direct questions on specific issues I think she needs to be able to answer the questions. You should not be running for President if you don’t feel you have to answer the people’s questions.

3. Her participation in a divisive state Green Party splinter group — This very much concerns me because the Greens have worked for a long-time to educate the people about our positions. We are an ideological party committed to certain values (the best summation of them is The Four Pillars of the Green Party.

By forming a second state party group in Virginia (something I might fear she may try to do in Oklahoma as well), she is creating needless confusion. She makes it very clear that she sees the Green Party of the United States as being “too liberal,” so I have to wonder why is seeking their nomination and using their name? Why not run as a true independent or start another third party?

Well anyway those are my thoughts. I hope it was helpful to hear what a real grassroots GP member thinks of her campaign.

2007
08.10

Time.com: Abortion Under Siege in Latin America — By Jean Friedman-Rudovsky

The remarkable comeback by leftist political parties in Latin America in recent years has been accompanied by moves to roll back the region’s abortion laws, widely considered some of the world’s most restrictive. Mexico City’s leftist-dominated legislature legalized first-trimester abortions earlier this year, while Chile’s socialist President, Michele Bachelet, allows government-run hospitals to dispense the “morning-after” emergency contraception pill.

Elsewhere, however, it might seem as if a paradox was being played out: Instead of benefiting from the advance of the left, pro-choice advocates appear to be facing more setbacks. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, whose Sandinista Front was once an icon of the hemispheric left, backed a 2006 law that outlaws all abortions, even where a doctor would recommend the procedure to save a mother’s life. In Venezuela — led by the self-styled commandante of “21st-century socialism,” President Hugo Chavez — efforts to decriminalize abortion have stalled. And, perhaps as early as this fall, Bolivia’s new constitution, which is being drafted largely by those aligned with Chavez’s ally, President Evo Morales, may well proclaim “the right to life from the moment of conception,” rendering all abortions illegal without exception. (Abortion in the case of rape or to save a mother’s
life has been legal in Bolivia since 1973.) Far from advancing abortion rights, “the goal right now,” says Paul Bustillos, political
director for Catholics For the Right to Choose (CDD) in Bolivia, “is just to maintain the status quo. . .

This article does a good of highlighting the lack of unanimity among the left (even the Socialist Left) on the issue of abortion, and I think illustrates well my own difficulty at arriving at a clear idea on what is the best answer to the issue of abortion.

There are enormous social, political economic and moral issues at play here, and think folks on the Left can arrive at different conclusions.

As I see it, I find the following propositions to be true on the issue of abortion . . .

1. My #1 guiding principle is that of valuing human life. Any ideology that devalues human life is flawed.

2. Women should have the right to control their own bodies and to be free to take control of their own destinies. Women have the right to the best information available so that they can make informed decisions. No decision is more sacred than the right ton control one’s own medical decisions.

3. The beginning of human life is a mystery. I think that a person becomes a “person” long before birth, but I’m not convinced that it becomes a “person” at conception either.

4. I believe that every human life is sacred and should be protected. No one should be seen as “disposable,” whether be poor, disabled, or not yet born.

5. I believe that any economic system that leaves mothers in poverty if they choose to not have an abortion is immoral. “Choice” within such an economic system is a fiction.

So where does that leave me… definitely not on the extreme of the pro-life side of the argument. I do not feel it is right to interfere in the most basic of decisions about one’s own body and autonomy, and I certainly don’t think a woman should be forced to have a child which is the result of rape or that might endanger her own life. I also think that a woman should not be doomed to a life of poverty if they choose to have a child, yet that is the reality for many women, both here and in other countries.

I also can’t embrace the extreme of the pro-choice side of the argument. I cannot embrace the idea that there are no ethical concerns over the question of abortion. No one except God knows when human life truly begins (in the sense of the existence of a soul and spirit), but I do know that at some point it does begin and at that point, a person’s life is at stake and should be protected.

I guess in the end this leave me with the view that early-term abortions should be rare, safe and legal, and that later-term
abortions should be illegal unless a mother’s health is in danger or in cases of rape. I know that this sounds rather mushy, but I think most Americans are in agreement with me, and that the extreme polarities of both camps is not an accurate way of seeing the issue. Is it possible to believe that a woman should have the right to an abortion, and yet believe that we as a society should do all we can to support her and encourage her if she chooses not to have an abortion?

As for the early-term versus late-term debate, I think there is a difference between the two forms of abortion (where you draw the line of course is a big mess but refusing to attempt to draw lines seems like a cop out) because there is genuine ambiguity over whether a human life has truly begun at the early stages, while I believe there is no ambiguity after a fetus has reached the point of viability (i.e. the child has a chance of being able to live outside its mother’s womb).

But back to the Latin American left issue . . . thus far the Left in Latin America is failing to act in any kind of intelligent way on
these issues. I hope that they will rethink the situation. I can’t help but believe that the best thing in Bolivia is to build up the economy and remove inequity so that all can make it (and so that women won’t feel they must get abortions), while at the same time legalizing abortion so that those women that still choose an abortion can do so safely. And I think this is frankly the answer in the rest of Latin America and the USA too. Address the economic and social issues behind abortion (lack of birth control, lack of financial resources, elevation of the status of women in society, etc.) and abortion rates will go down.

Ignoring the economic issues or outlawing abortion will only result in more abortions (and more suffering and poverty).

2007
08.10

Oklahoma Bar Journal – August 4, 2007 (PDF download) — They have my new firm announcement listed on page 78 which is pretty cool.

2007
08.10

Save the Rails Rally calls for different transportation choices

I hope to see y’all at the rally. (I’m going to be speaking on behalf of the Oklahoma County Green Party and as a part of the faith community)…

“Save the Rails!” Rally Saturday, in OKC, Calls For Different Transportation Choices
When: 10-11 a.m., Saturday, August 11
Where: Union Station, SW 7th Street & Harvey
Speaking: Tom Elmore, Andrew Rice, Wallace Collins, James Branum, Fannie Bates
**Elected officials, candidates and citizen activists to speak to save the Union Station railyards for FUTURE MASS TRANSIT AND OKLAHOMA RAIL HUB FOR THE NATION **

OKLAHOMA CITY – Citizens from around the state will gather this Saturday at Oklahoma City’s Union Station for what they call a rally to “Save the Rails” network that crisscross Oklahoma and provide a ready-made solution to mass transit needs for the entire region. They are inviting all concerned citizens to join them to demand better transportation choices by our politicians and business leaders.

“The people’s needs and expressed desire for viable mass transit are not being considered,” said Fannie Bates, who is centering her campaign for the Oklahoma Country District 1 seat on the issue. Bates, a teacher with a masters degree in public health, will speak at the rally.

The rally will start at 10 AM at Union Station, 300 SW 7th St (corner of S. Harvey and 7th). In addition to Ms. Bates, speakers for the rally include Oklahoma State Senator Andrew Rice, Oklahoma State Rep Wallace Collins and Tom Elmore, Executive Director of North American Transportation Institute.

“This event is an opportunity for the people of the state to speak up for responsible government, safe highways and badly needed alternatives to the automobile,” said Tom Elmore, a long time activist for rail transport and one of the organizers of the event. “Using the state’s unique 900 mile network of publicly owned rail lines, OKC Union Station is the only hope baby boomers and older Oklahomans have of seeing a comprehensive, regional rail transit system in our lifetimes.”

Existing plans for the new CrossTown will pave over some of Oklahoma City’s important rail infrastructure and any future rail development will require untold expense to create what exists right now. Union Station, which was restored with tax funds, will become a “museum relic” if the rails don’t exist.

The current development path is extremely shortsighted, says Evan Stair, Executive Director of Passenger Rail Oklahoma. “now that we know the environmental cost of petroleum use, and the future value of rail transportation, it is crazy to pave existing rail lines to build a new highway!”

“The simpler and less expensive alternative is to route heavy trucks around Oklahoma City on the South Loop, unless they are making OKC deliveries, then shore up and re-deck the existing I-40 overhead. This would cost a tenth as much as the new highway, save the rails, make future rail use possible, permitting Oklahoma City to become a regional rail hub.”

Organizers say their goal is to focus community attention on the issue, and lobby public officials who are only listening to business interests. To this end, there will be literature and ideas for future action available for attenders. After the rally, participants will be invited to walk to nearby Wheeler Park, which is itself set for destruction as part of the rerouting, for a BYO picnic lunch.

“It’s not too late,” says Ms. Bates, “Together, the citizens can prevent this development dead-end and help create a transportation system that will be the envy of the nation.”

2007
08.07

Harry Potter

A good friend had recommend that I should try the Harry Potter books. I was very dubious to say the least (anything loved by the masses has to suck), but now that I’m half way through the first one I must say that the books are indeed quite good, quite entertaining, quite imaginative, and just a jolly good story.

I’ll definitely have to post more later about them but they definitely remind me a great deal of some of my childhood favorites (Chronicles of Prydain, Chronicles of Narnia, etc.), but have a very different feel too. (for that matter, thus far I’m seeing big comparisons to Star Wars too, at least thematically)

But on a related note, I have to say that the wacko-“there’s a demon lurking in every corner”-paranoid fundamentalist Christians come out looking rather silly with their anti-Harry Potterism. Sadly enough, Google shows 564,000 results if you search for Harry Potter is satanic, and even the Vatican is now opposed to the books (see CBC.ca: Pope’s top exorcist says Harry Potter is ‘king of darkness’ and Lifestyle.net: Pope Opposes Harry Potter Novels – Signed Letters from Cardinal Ratzinger Now Online

Seriously, folks need to learn that there is a big difference between reality and imagination. Witches, wizards, and the like are part of the common mythology of Europe. Nobody except the unimaginative and paranoid actually thinks that such things are real. It is very unfortunate to see so many in the religious community fall into such foolish stands. (or what is even more sadly funny, the Pope’s own personal “exorcist” is the one raising these concerns… talk about irony!)

Maybe I’ll see it differently when I read all of the books but thus far I see nothing objectionable, and certainly nothing that is more imaginative or more “magical” than what you can find in Lord of the Rings or the Chronicles of Narnia. I don’t really see much explicit Christian imagery in Harry Potter, but I do see the themes of living virtuous lives for sure and what is wrong with that.

Anyway to all of the Harry Potter haters out there… don’t be a scared chicken. Read the book and find out for yourself.

2007
08.07

Hope to see you there . . .

Potlucks for the Promotion of Peace and Community

What is it? : It’s not just another Potluck. It’s an adventure.

Where is it? : 4400 NW Expressway (Park in the south parking lot)

When is it: 08/10/07 at 7:00 p.m.

Who is invited?: This potluck is for anyone who is hungry and wants to talk.

What to bring?: Feel free to cook, feel free to bring a bucket of chicken, feel free to bring a bag of chips, feel free to bring a casserole, just try to bring something. Part of the adventure of building community is eating a meal together.

What should I expect?: We will start gathering at 6:30 and for socializing and we will begin eating at 7:00 p.m. These potlucks exist to create a venue for people to talk about peacemaking and to foster away for people to meet others and to dialogue about what peace and community mean in this strange world.

Other info: Potlucks for the Promotion of Peace and Community will be providing the drinks, plates, and utensils for this potluck. We look forward to seeing you at this event. There is no agenda other than the promotion of peacemaking and community building.

Remember invite friends, passing acquaintances, or complete strangers.

2007
08.05

Okiefunk.com: Rice Prepares Senate Campaign Against Inhofe

NewsOK.com: Lawmaker will seek Senate seat

DailyKos.com: Andrew Rice announces for OK-Sen

I like many things about State Senator Andrew Rice, and I might vote for him as the better choice if all we have to choose from is him or Inhofe, but I cannot support him (and I don’t think other progressives should either) until he comes out clearly in favor of immigrant rights and says that his vote in favor of the horrid anti-undocumented immigrant law (you know, the one that makes helping undocumented people with charitable assistance a felony in Oklahoma) was a mistake in judgment.

I’ve talked about his vote on my blog before (see May 10, 2007 – Time to Resist Racist Laws and April 18, 2007 – Why did Andrew Rice and Anastasia Pittman vote FOR the anti-immigrant hate law?, and yes Rice has addressed the rationale behind his yes vote, but I’m not satisfied with it. He explained to me and others that he had to compromise if he was going to negotiate in good faith to omit the most onerous provisions. But, **** what could be worse than making it a FELONY for a church to give an undocumented single mother baby clothes? What could be worse than making it a FELONY to shelter an undocumented victim of domestic violence?

So I say it’s time for Senator Rice to make amends. If he wants my support, he’s going to have to earn it. I’m not convinced that he’s progressive, and I have to admit I’m now a bit cynical of his vote when seen in the light of this US Senate campaign (since unfortunately the anti-immigrant hate law is popular in the short-term among many swing voters). Either he needs to prove that he is a voice for the oppressed, or the oppressed will have to find another champion to fight on their behalf. I don’t care if he is a popular democrat and is perceived as an electable progressive, voting for anti-immigrant hate legislation is wrong.