Archive for February, 2004

The Passion, Mel Gibson’s bloody mess.

Sunday, February 29th, 2004

By David Edelstein
Posted Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2004, at 4:28 PM PT

Ever since his star began to rise after the 1979 Australian thriller Mad Max, Mel Gibson hasn’t seemed fully alive on screen unless he’s being tortured and mutilated. In the Road Warrior and Lethal Weapon films, as well as such one-shots as Conspiracy Theory (1997) and The Patriot (2000), Gibson courted martyrdom, and he achieved it. He won an Oscar for his labors in Braveheart (1995), which ends with its hero managing to scream “FREEEEE-DOM!!” as he’s drawn and quartered. Gibson snatched the pulp movie Payback (1999) away from its writer-director, Brian Helgeland, to make the torture of his character even more gruelingly explicit: He added shots of his toes being smashed by an iron hammer. Payback: That’s what almost all of Gibson’s movies are about (including his 1990 Hamlet.) Even if he begins as a man of peace, Mad Mel ends as a savage revenger.

Jesus H. Christ - The Passion, Mel Gibson’s bloody mess. By David Edelstein“>More.

Theotis Payne, Rest in Peace

Friday, February 27th, 2004

I knew Theotis well, and at one time worked with him closely on political and social justice issues. Though far from a perfect man, Theotis had a heart; he will be missed.–Alex

The Oklahoma County Democratic Party notes with regret the passing of Theotis Payne, Sr. Theotis was a civil rights leader, an educator and supporter of public education, a radio talk show host, and a good Democrat.

He tried to find ways to help children who were struggling with regular school classes through the Dunjee Academy. As a radio host, he provided a
different opinion than that usually found in this era of “hate radio.’

Theotis Leo Payne Sr., 49, died Sunday. His services will be held 11 a.m. Saturday, at the Greater Mount Olive Baptist Church.

Our sympathies go out to his family.

Grandstanding on Christ

Thursday, February 26th, 2004

Welcome to

Legislators to attend ‘Passion’

A Moore legislator said about 45 legislators representing both political parties are going to a showing today of “The Passion of the Christ” at Tinseltown.
Rep. Joan Greenwood, R- Moore, said the House will work through the lunch hour today so the legislators can go to the 2:20 p.m. showing of the movie.
They are going to the afternoon showing because physicians are having a reception later on another issue, she said.
Two people purchased the tickets from a nonprofit group so legislators could go for no cost, Greenwood said.
She declined to identify the two people who purchased the tickets but said all legislators were offered the chance to go to the movie.

Gaming bill passes House

Thursday, February 26th, 2004

Welcome to

Hundreds of people packed inside the House gallery cheered as lawmakers approved a gaming bill this afternoon, sending to Gov. Brad Henry for his signature a key piece of his legislative agenda.
The governor had pushed the bill since taking office. Lawmakers debated for more than two hours, taking it up at about 12:30 p.m.

The vote was 52-47.

“Never before have we had so many groups in agreement on an issue so important to our state,” said House Speaker Larry Adair, D-Stilwell, alluding to education supporters, horsemen and tribal leaders lobbying for the bill.

Supporters said the bill will save 50,000 jobs in an industry that contributes $1.8 billion to Oklahoma’s economy. Opponents said it will cause gambling-related social problems, including increased bankruptcies and expenses for social services.

“This bill has the potential for more devastating effects to our state, our economy and our family than any bill I’ve seen in my time,” said House Minority Leader Rep. Todd Hiett, R-Kellyville.

The bill is designed to funnel $71 million the first year into common education, which already has a budget of more than $2 billion. Horsemen, who said they would be ruined and forced to other states with more lucrative purses, say it will increase purses by more than $30 million in Oklahoma.

“These are taxpayers, these are citizens of Oklahoma coming up here asking for help,” said Rep. Ron Kirby, D-Lawton. “And we act like we’re in doubt.”

Lawmakers passed the bill after a morning of hard lobbying by supporters, including the governor. Henry spent the morning in the House lounge pushing for support.

The bill was near the top of the agenda in the House, which went into session about 10 a.m. But it was’t introduced until after 12:30 p.m.

Stations of the Crass

Thursday, February 26th, 2004

Op-Ed Columnist: Stations of the Crass


Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Mel Gibson and George W. Bush are courting bigotry in the name of sanctity.

The moviemaker wants to promote “The Passion of the Christ” and the president wants to prevent the passion of the gays.

Opening on two screens: W.’s stigmatizing as political strategy and Mel’s stigmata as marketing strategy.

Mr. Gibson, who told Diane Sawyer that he was inspired to make the movie after suffering through addictions, found the ultimate 12-step program: the Stations of the Cross.

News Roundup

Wednesday, February 25th, 2004

Items of Interest:

Republican Legislator facing sexual battery charges
By Diana Baldwin and Ryan McNeill
The Oklahoman

A House Republican was charged Tuesday with felony sexual battery.
Rep. Michael Edgar “Mike” O’Neal of Enid was charged in Oklahoma County District Court, capping a two-week investigation into the allegations against the lawmaker. O’Neal, 55, is accused of grabbing the buttock of a 42- year-old Tulsa woman Feb. 10 at the Holiday Inn & Suites, 6200 N Robinson Ave.

Police interviewed numerous witnesses in the case. The accuser is a woman from Tulsa who was attending a conference at the hotel. She could not be reached for comment.

O’Neal, who did not attend the legislative session Tuesday, is expected to appear in court Thursday. He did not respond to requests for an interview. If convicted of the felony charge, O’Neal could face up to five years in prison. The state constitution also provides that someone convicted of a felony be suspended from office.

Oklahoma County District Attorney Wes Lane said a group of women was in Oklahoma City attending a conference when approached by the representative, who witnesses said was intoxicated.

“It looks like the ladies tried to ignore him and moved away from sitting next to him while he was saying provocative statements,” Lane said. “At one point, she twisted her ankle as she tried to flee.”

Gloyd McCoy, O’Neal’s attorney, declined to allow police to interview the representative, Lane said.

The victim has identified O’Neal in a photo line-up. McCoy did not return calls from The Oklahoman.

Lane said O’Neal will not be treated any differently than anyone else prosecuted for sexual battery in Oklahoma County.

“We will identify how we deal with offenders doing this kind of conduct and be consistent,” Lane said.

The case will be assigned to Assistant District Attorney Sarah McAmis, chief of the district attorney’s sex crime unit.

“Ultimately it is our decision what happens, but we will confer with the victim,” Lane said.

O’Neal, whose biography on the House Web page shows he is married and has three children, authored the “Oklahoma Defense of Marriage Act,” which would have limited marriage to a man and a woman. He also proposed an amendment to the state constitution outlawing gay marriage. Neither received a committee hearing.

House Minority Leader Todd Hiett said the situation could become a “black eye” for lawmakers. Hiett said “very strong and appropriate action” will be taken if O’Neal is convicted.

“We don’t know if he’s guilty or not,” Hiett said. “We’re looking at a charge that’s based on a police report, and the courts will do their due diligence in making a determination.”


2 Students Say U. of Oklahoma Fee Decision Discriminated Against Christian Newspaper

Chronicle of Higher Education

Two students in charge of a Christian newspaper at the University of Oklahoma at Norman have filed a religious-discrimination lawsuit after a committee of the university’s Student Congress denied their publication almost all of the student-fee appropriation they had requested.

The two students — Ricky E. Thomas and James Hagan Wickett, who are both seniors — filed the suit last week against the university’s president, David L. Boren, and its Board of Regents. The suit seeks unspecified damages.

The suit says the Student Congress’s Ways and Means committee granted the newspaper, the Beacon OU, only $150 of the $2,300 that Mr. Thomas and Mr. Wickett had sought for publication and distribution.

According to the lawsuit, Timothy Jay Roberts, a junior who is chairman of the committee, told Beacon OU staff members that they were granted only a limited sum of money because of a university policy prohibiting financing for “religious services of any nature.”

University officials did not return calls on Tuesday seeking comment.

The purpose of the Beacon OU is to “share the genuine love of God to the campus while providing news from or with a Christian perspective,” according to the lawsuit. The publication also organizes campus seminars on creationism and evolution.

Jordan Lorence, a lawyer from the nonprofit Alliance Defense Fund, which is representing the students, said the committee’s decision to deny the paper financing was unconstitutional. He cited the U. S. Supreme Court’s 1995 ruling in Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of University of Virginia, in which the court held that the University of Virginia had violated the First Amendment by denying financial support to a religiously oriented student publication.

One of the two students, Mr. Wickett, requested an investigation into the committee’s decision in November, and the president’s office concluded two weeks later that there was no evidence of discrimination in the decision. After the Beacon OU appealed the president’s ruling, an ad hoc committee set up by the president granted the publication an additional $500, although it is not clear if the money came from the student-activity account.

The Ways and Means committee chairman, Mr. Roberts, declined to comment on the lawsuit on Tuesday. But he earlier told The Oklahoma Daily, the campus’s main student newspaper, that there were other reasons that the Beacon OU did not receive more money, including its failure to organize fund-raising activities and its decision to reprint syndicated articles without copyright permission.

Mr. Thomas and Mr. Wickett also declined to comment on the suit. Mr. Thomas admitted to The Oklahoma Daily that the Beacon OU had violated copyright laws, but said it had since discontinued the practice.

Mel Gibson’s ‘Passion’ is bloody empty

When All Else Fails, Cut Social Security Benefits

Another NeoConservative Wins Mayoral Election in OKC

Tuesday, February 24th, 2004

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss…
Welcome to

Mick Cornett, a former sports broadcaster, was nearing a win for Oklahoma City mayor Tuesday night despite being outspent 3 to 1 by businessman and civic volunteer Jim Tolbert.
Tolbert conceeded the race shortly before 9 p.m.

With 218 of 271 precincts reporting, Cornett was leading with 25,728 votes (56.93 percent) followed by Tolbert with 13,569 votes (30.02 percent), Marcus Hayes with 3,638 votes (8.05 percent) and Frosty Peak with 2,261 votes (5 percent).

“We tried to run as clean and as serious a campaign as we could,” Tolbert told hundreds of supporters attending a watch party at his northwest Oklahoma City Full Circle Book Store.

“I’m very satisfied that we did that. I’ve been proud of everything we’ve done, and can’t think of a thing I would change.”

Despite the concession, Cornett was staying away from his watch party and shying away from declaring victory until all votes were tallied.

“The results look really good,” Cornett said.

Political newcomer Marcus Hayes was running third in the contest, leaving former two-term Ward 1 Councilman Frosty Peak in last place.

“We did our best, we ran a good race,” Hayes said. “I think I made my mark on this race. I wanted to carry a message to the whole city.”

Peak, staying home on election night, congratulated both Cornett and Hayes.

“I’m very surprised and also excited about it (Cornett’s win),” Peak said. “We need a conservative in that office.”

Cornett will finish out the two-year term vacated by Kirk Humphreys when he resigned in November to run for U.S. Senate. Cornett was previously elected to the Ward 1 council seat in 2000 when he defeated Peak.

Oklahoma News

Tuesday, February 24th, 2004

Another Candidate for Congress

Bert Smith for US Dist 5

Great Gore Vidal Book for Sale here.

Claunch has Delusions of Grandeur Again

Lawmaker criticizes law, alleges harassment
By Ryan McNeill
The Oklahoman

Rep. Forrest Claunch renewed his criticism of Gov. Brad Henry’s proposed gaming bill Monday, despite his allegations that a horseman threatened him over the stance.

“I’ve been harassed and threatened by horsemen,” Claunch said. “You can’t threaten someone over their vote.”

The allegations came near the end of a news conference in which Claunch, a longtime critic of gaming, called Senate Bill 553 a “bad bill.” He told reporters he authorized Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agents to tap his phone in connection with the allegations.

An agent met with a prosecutor Monday to discuss the possibility of filing charges, Oklahoma County District Attorney Wes Lane said.

“The discussion today was verbal,” Lane said. “The agent is to return and present the proper paperwork to determine if charges will be filed.”

Claunch told reporters that for every $1 in gaming revenue, another $7 would need to be spent paying for hidden costs regarding gaming-related social problems. He said bankruptcies and suicides would increase, and money normally spent on goods would be taken out of the economy.

Proponents of the bill said tribes and casinos typically help communities finance construction of roads, bridges and other needs. State Finance Director Scott Meacham said gaming is typically “a tremendous economic boom” to communities.

“I think he’s assuming tribes take the money out back and bury it,” Meacham said.

Claunch is ignoring how much money is spent in Oklahoma by out-of-state residents, Meacham said.

Chomsky on the Wall in Israel

Tuesday, February 24th, 2004

Op-Ed Contributor: A Wall as a Weapon

February 23, 2004


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — It is a virtual reflex for governments to plead security concerns when they undertake any controversial action, often as a pretext for something else. Careful scrutiny is always in order. Israel’s so-called security fence, which is the subject of hearings starting today at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, is a case in point.

Few would question Israel’s right to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks like the one yesterday, even to build a security wall if that were an appropriate means. It is also clear where such a wall would be built if security were the guiding concern: inside Israel, within the internationally recognized border, the Green Line established after the 1948-49 war. The wall could then be as forbidding as the authorities chose: patrolled by the army on both sides, heavily mined, impenetrable. Such a wall would maximize security, and there would be no international protest or violation of international law.

Laura Bush: I Read, I Smoke, I Spin

Tuesday, February 24th, 2004

Op-Ed Columnist: I Read, I Smoke, I Spin



Laura Bush does not want that Chanel-wearing, shawl-draping, senator-marrying Teresa Heinz Kerry to get her house.

It’s a swell house, with doting servants, fresh flowers and grand paintings.

And she does not want her Bushie to be tarred for lacking character, after he ascended by promising to restore character to an Oval Office still redolent of thongs and pizza.

So the reserved librarian who married the rollicking oilman on the condition that she would never have to make a political speech has suddenly transformed herself into a sharp-edged, tart-tongued, defensive protectrix of her husband’s record.

Many White House reporters, including ones the first lady has been testy and sarcastic with, say they are thrilled with the new Laura. They found the old Laura “plastic” and “unreal,” limited to treacly concerns about children, reading and being George’s rock. The new Laura, they say, has “juice.”

Gore Vidal: Bush “a deranged president”

Sunday, February 22nd, 2004

LA Weekly: Features: Uncensored Gore

The take-no-prisoners social critic skewers Bush, Ashcroft and the whole damn lot of us for letting despots rule.

by Marc Cooper

It’s lucky for George W. Bush that he wasn’t born in an earlier time and somehow stumbled into America’s Constitutional Convention. A man with his views, so depreciative of democratic rule, would have certainly been quickly exiled from the freshly liberated United States by the gaggle of incensed Founders. So muses one of our most controversial social critics and prolific writers, Gore Vidal.

When we last interviewed Vidal just over a year ago, he set off a mighty chain reaction as he positioned himself as one of the last standing defenders of the ideal of the American Republic. His acerbic comments to L.A. Weekly about the Bushies were widely reprinted in publications around the world and flashed repeatedly over the World Wide Web. Now Vidal is at it again, giving the Weekly another dose of his dissent, and, with the constant trickle of casualties mounting in Iraq, his comments are no less explosive than they were last year.

This time, however, Vidal is speaking to us as a full-time American. After splitting his time between Los Angeles and Italy for the past several decades, Vidal has decided to roost in his colonial home in the Hollywood Hills. Now 77 years old, suffering from a bad knee and still recovering from the loss earlier this year of his longtime companion, Howard Austen, Vidal is feistier and more productive than ever.

Vidal undoubtedly had current pols like Bush and Ashcroft in mind when he wrote his latest book, his third in two years. Inventing a Nation: Washington, Adams, Jefferson takes us deep into the psyches of the patriotic trio. And even with all of their human foibles on display — vanity, ambition, hubris, envy and insecurity — their shared and profoundly rooted commitment to building the first democratic nation on Earth comes straight to the fore.

The contrast between then and now is hardly implicit. No more than a few pages into the book, Vidal unveils his dripping disdain for the crew that now dominates the capital named for our first president.

As we began our dialogue, I asked him to draw out the links between our revolutionary past and our imperial present.

MARC COOPER: Your new book focuses on Washington, Adams and Jefferson, but it seems from reading closely that it was actually Ben Franklin who turned out to be the most prescient regarding the future of the republic.

GORE VIDAL: Franklin understood the American people better than the other three. Washington and Jefferson were nobles — slaveholders and plantation owners. Alexander Hamilton married into a rich and powerful family and joined the upper classes. Benjamin Franklin was pure middle class. In fact, he may have invented it for Americans. Franklin saw danger everywhere. They all did. Not one of them liked the Constitution. James Madison, known as the father of it, was full of complaints about the power of the presidency. But they were in a hurry to get the country going. Hence the great speech, which I quote at length in the book, that Franklin, old and dying, had someone read for him. He said, I am in favor of this Constitution, as flawed as it is, because we need good government and we need it fast. And this, properly enacted, will give us, for a space of years, such government.

But then, Franklin said, it will fail, as all such constitutions have in the past, because of the essential corruption of the people. He pointed his finger at all the American people. And when the people become so corrupt, he said, we will find it is not a republic that they want but rather despotism — the only form of government suitable for such a people.

Nobel Laureates, National Medal of Science Recipients, and Other Leading Researchers Call for End to Bush’s Scientific Abuses

Sunday, February 22nd, 2004

Preeminent Scientists Protest Bush Administration’s Misuse of Science

February 18, 2004

Washington, D.C.—Today, more than 60 leading scientists—including Nobel laureates, leading medical experts, former federal agency directors and university chairs and presidents—issued a statement calling for regulatory and legislative action to restore scientific integrity to federal policymaking. According to the scientists, the Bush administration has, among other abuses, suppressed and distorted scientific analysis from federal agencies, and taken actions that have undermined the quality of scientific advisory panels.

“Across a broad range of issues, the administration has undermined the quality of the scientific advisory system and the morale of the government’s outstanding scientific personnel,” said Dr. Kurt Gottfried, emeritus professor of physics at Cornell University and Chairman of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Whether the issue is lead paint, clean air or climate change, this behavior has serious consequences for all Americans.”

“Science, to quote President Bush’s father, the former president, relies on freedom of inquiry and objectivity,” said Russell Train, head of the Environmental Protection Agency under Nixon and Ford, who joined the scientists in calling for action. “But this administration has obstructed that freedom and distorted that objectivity in ways that were unheard of in any previous administration.”

The statement notes that while scientific input to the government is rarely the only factor in public policy decisions, this input should be weighed from an objective and impartial perspective. However, the administration of George W. Bush has disregarded this principle.

“The Earth system follows laws which scientists strive to understand,” said Dr. F. Sherwood Rowland a Nobel laureate in chemistry. “The public deserves rational decisionmaking based on the best scientific advice about what is likely to happen, not what political entities might wish to happen.”

“We are not simply raising warning flags about an academic subject of interest only to scientists and doctors,” said Dr. Neal Lane, a former director of the National Science Foundation and a former Presidential Science Advisor. “In case after case, scientific input to policymaking is being censored and distorted. This will have serious consequences for public health.”

In conjunction with the statement, the Union of Concerned Scientists today released a report Scientific Integrity in Policymaking that investigates numerous allegations in the scientists’ statement involving censorship and political interference with independent scientific inquiry at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Interior and Defense.

One example cited in the statement and report involves the suppression of an EPA study that found the bipartisan Senate Clear Air bill would do more to reduce mercury contamination in fish and prevent more deaths than the administration’s proposed Clear Skies Act. “This is akin to the White House directing the National Weather Service to alter a hurricane forecast because they want everyone to think we have clear skies ahead,” said Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists “The hurricane is still coming, but without factual information no one will be ready for it.”

Comparing President Bush with his father, George H.W. Bush and former president Richard M. Nixon, the statement warned that had these former presidents similarly dismissed science in favor of political ends, over 200,000 deaths and millions of respiratory and cardiovascular disease cases would not have been prevented with the signing of the original Clean Air Act and the 1990 amendments to that Act.

The statement demands that the Bush administration’s “distortion of scientific knowledge for partisan political ends must cease” and calls for Congressional oversight hearings, guaranteed public access to government scientific studies and other measures to prevent such abuses in the future. The statement further calls on the scientific, engineering and medical communities to work together to reestablish scientific integrity in the policymaking process.

# # #
Among the statement signers are:

Philip W. Anderson*†
David Baltimore*†
Paul Berg*†
Lewis Branscomb
Thomas Eisner*
Jerome Friedman†
Richard Garwin*
Walter Kohn*†
Neal Lane
Leon Lederman*†
Mario Molina†
W.K.H. Panofsky*
F. Sherwood Rowland†
J. Robert Schrieffer*†
Richard Smalley†
Harold E. Varmus*†
Steven Weinberg*†
E.O. Wilson*

* National Medal of Science
† Nobel laureate

© Union of Concerned Scientists