Thursday, July 31, 2008

Futzing with the layout

I've been futzing with the blog layout. Feedback is encouraged. Let me know if you have any problems seeing all three columns. I'm going to continue futzing with the layout until..well, until I'm done futzing with it.

Am I a Democrat?

That last post I did about the right-wing tendency to remove "ic" from the name of the Democratic Party got me thinking. People who read this blog might be under the mistaken impression that I am a Democrat.

In my younger days, I would have slapped anyone who dared try to associate me with the "corporate-controlled two party system." I would refuse to admit that there was any difference between the Republicans and the Democrats. And in the 2000 election, it really did seem that there was little difference between Gore and Bush. The progressive movement was building some pretty good third party steam with the Nader campaign. Being an ideological purist at the time, I voted for a candidate to the left of Nader who got 7,000 votes nationally.

But in the last 8 years, my political views have matured and evolved, and the country has gone down the crapper due to some really terrible governing by the Republican Party.

By 2004, seeing the utter devastation that the Bush administration had begun to wreak all over the world, most progressives abandoned the third parties and coalesced around attempting to move the Democratic Party to go on offense, as illustrated by Dean's insurgent campaign. When that campaign collapsed, Progressives united behind the Democratic nominee, John Kerry, even though we weren't happy about it, and Kerry was a terrible candidate.

I voted for Kerry, but I had to hold my nose to do it.

In 2008, the third party movement is still in shambles, because the differences between the Republican and Democratic parties are even more stark, and the consequences of electing John McCain would be absolutely devastating. Plus, for once, the Democrats have a really good candidate. Thus, most progressives are still voting for the Democrats and working to push the progressive agenda from within.

However, the fact remains that the Democratic Party would be considered a center-right party in Europe, and the Republican Party would be positioned as far-right nationalists and be led by neofascists (see the Front National of Le Pen in France). Those of us who actually are on the left side of the political spectrum constantly have to compromise our positions to vote Democratic, because we have no other choice. The political situation in this country has been shifted so far to the right by the corporate media empires of Rupert Murdoch and others that there really is no left left.

The point of all of this is to say that those of you who think I'm a Democrat (as in a member and full supporter of the Democratic Party) are mistaken. I am a social democrat (note the small "d") without a party to vote for. In France I would vote for the Parti Socialiste. In Canada I would vote for the New Democratic Party. In Germany I would vote for Die Linke. In Britain I would probably vote Liberal Democrat. In Israel I would vote Meretz-Yachad. But here in the United States I have no party that I can fully get behind and wholeheartedly support.

The only thing that I can do is to hope somehow that the progressives and social democrats in this country can take over the Democratic Party like the theofascists and corporatists did with the Republican Party so successfully.

Because, the fact is, that until we radically change our ballot and media access laws to create a fairer playing field, the other parties out there (especially on the left) have very little chance at making any difference at all. The one exception to this rule is the Libertarian Party, whose candidate may have an effect on this campaign in some key states, but the Libertarians are a bunch of rich ultra-capitalist asshats with gobs of money to throw around, so that's why they're as successful as they are.

So, no, I'm not a Democrat. I'm a social democrat without a party to vote for, so I vote Democratic because that's as close as it gets.

Possible breakthrough in the fight against HIV

A Houston lab has found what it calls an "Achilles Heel" that can be exploited to destroy the HIV virus. The virus resists destruction by mutating constantly, thus staying ahead of any medication sent in to kill it. However, the virus needs to keep one part of itself stable. Doctors can now send in "abzymes" to exploit that part of the virus, and "permanently disarm" the HIV virus. Lab and animal tests look good; the next step is human trials.

This could be a big deal. Here's hoping, eh?

"Democrat" Party? Never heard of it.

A message to certain right-wingers:

Um, I'm not quite sure what you're trying to accomplish by removing "ic" from the name of the Democratic Party, but you are managing to make yourself sound pretty stupid.

Like if I were to suddenly start referring to the "Publican" party or something. What would be the point of doing that?

Morons.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A very blue map

HuffPo commentator spins a scenario in which Obama gets 442 EV to McCain's 92 by analyzing polls and data from each state. It's a beautiful thought, though I think a tad optimistic.

Remember, a lot can change between here and November.

Olmert to step down

Israeli PM Olmert has announced that he will resign in September. This is probably a good thing. Olmert is inept, and probably corrupt, and Israel will be better for his leaving office. The question now is whether his replacement will be able to do anything useful as far as the peace process.

Biden, Bayh, or Kaine


Last night on Countdown, Howard Fineman mentioned that he had "insider information" that Obama's shortlist is down to three names: Senator Evan Bayh, Senator Joe Biden, and Virginia Governor Tim Kaine.

Of these three names, I think that Tim Kaine is the best bet. He's a governor, which adds executive experience to the ticket. He's from an increasingly "purple" state, which, with his help, might turn blue in November. From what I've seen, he's a relaxed, charismatic campaigner, which is never a bad thing. The only problem with Kaine is that he has only been governor for one term, so that doesn't help Obama with the "lack of experience" perception that has dogged his campaign.

I don't know a whole lot about Evan Bayh, but my understanding is that he's pretty conservative, which might piss off Obama's activist base and make some of them stay home. Biden will be dogged by plaigarism charges from twenty years ago, so although he's a great Senator, he's probably out.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Congrats to Andrew Rice and Georgianna Oliver

CD1 now has a decent candidate to try to oust John Sullivan, who is a real right-wing asshat, and I'm excited about Rice's chances to oust another real right-wing asshat, Jim Inhofe.

Full election results up top.

"Casual Food" chains the latest victims of the faltering economy

July 29 (Bloomberg) -- Bennigan's and Steak and Ale restaurant chains, owned by Metromedia Restaurant Group, are closing many locations and seeking to liquidate under bankruptcy court protection.

The closely held chains listed assets totaling as much as $778.9 million and debt of as much as $324.2 million in 38 separate Chapter 7 petitions filed today in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Sherman, Texas.

Metromedia Restaurant is part of billionaire John Kluge's Metromedia Co. group. In June, the Plano, Texas-based chain operator said it would ask lenders to restructure its debt as the slowing economy hurts earnings. Two of its other chains, Bonanza Steakhouse and Ponderosa Steakhouse, haven't sought bankruptcy.


I'm not a fan of the kind of "casual dining" chain restaurant represented by Bennigan's, Steak & Ale, Applebee's, TGI Friday, the Olive Garden, etc. I tend to think that their food is uninspired, mediocre, and standardized to the point of tastelessness - like McDonalds, only more expensive and with waiters. I've always prefered to dine at local, family-owned restaurants. Local restaurants are usually staffed by people who actually care what their food tastes like, and it shows. In Tulsa, for example, I would make the comparison between, say, El Chico, a national chain, and Arizona Mexican Restaurants, a local chain with about a half dozen locations. El Chico tends to be overpriced and kind of "meh," while Arizona restaurants feature delicious, very authentic, Mexican dishes.

However, I did have a soft spot for Bennigan's. They were the one chain that had a really good beer selection, and we can't forget that infamous Monte Cristo sandwich. That deep-fried, bizarre, disgusting, delicious abomination satisfied many of my late night cravings over the years. I also liked their utterly weird "southwestern eggrolls."

My partner and I had the 2nd part of our 1st date at a Bennigan's in Tulsa (we met at the Gypsy Coffee House - but that's a story for another day). That Bennigan's is closed now, which is kind of sad. Now two of the sites featured in our first few encounters are no more - Bennigan's, and the Lewis location of Szechuan Express.

This massive bankruptcy will also mean that hundreds of restaurant workers will lose their jobs very suddenly. And when you're a restaurant worker, you probably don't have gobs of money in savings, so it's going to be hard for a lot of people.

This bankruptcy is another reason why we need to undertake major Federal legislation to fix the economy. Get people to work fixing our bridges, highways, and levees. Get people to work at our nation's ports, inspecting incoming cargo, which isn't being done. Hell, get people to work as job counselors. Create a national job counseling program. The key is that we need to get people to work. That's the only way to stimulate the economy in the long term.

Another victory for marriage equality

MA grants out of state couples the right to marry.

Right on.

I voted.

For those who haven't voted yet, here is the election guide that I posted yesterday.

I decided to vote for Mark Manley for Congress, because, for once, I wanted to vote for principle over politics, which I did not do in the Presidential primary. I'm pretty confident, though I'm not entirely sure of this, that Georgianna Oliver will win this primary handily, and she's doubtless the best candidate to face Sullivan in November. However, Manley's grassroots cred appeals to me, so I threw him some support.

I also voted for Andrew Rice. You should, too.

Approximate countdown to Portland

It is 214 days, 14 hours, 57 minutes and 2 seconds until Sunday, March 1, 2009


Every day that it approaches 100 degrees, I just have to look at this countdown clock...

Have I mentioned that I hate Oklahoma summers?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Tulsans, vote tomorrow.

Get out and vote tomorrow!

Here's the League of Women Voters election guide.

Here are the links to the two candidates for US Congress, Oklahoma District 1:

Georgianna Oliver

Mark Manley

Oliver is positioning herself as a centrist and she has a lot of money to spend. Manley's campaign is a grassroots effort from the anti-war crowd.

I'm not making an official endorsement in this primary. Oliver may be better positioned to beat Sullivan, but I like a lot of Manley's politics. I'm not sure who I'm going to vote for in this race, but I will absolutely endorse the winner of this primary.

For US Senate, I am endorsing Andrew Rice, and I encourage every registered Democrat in Oklahoma to get out and vote for him. Rice's campaign is a real chance to unseat one of the most reactionary members of the US Senate, Jim Inhofe. Not only can we unseat a bad Republican, but we can replace him with a really good progressive Democrat, someone who will actually care about his constituents and solving real problems.

I'm not making any endorsements in local/state legislative races.

Monday loldog

dog
see more dog pictures

Friday, July 25, 2008

In which I sell out.

I'm putting Google Ads on the blog. Heck, if I'm going to be forced to live in a capitalist society, I might as well take advantage of it. ;-)

Labels

Sinister is now experimenting with "labels" on blog posts. Many bloggers have apparently been using them for years; I just haven't ever gotten around to trying to organize my posts by category. I've labeled the last 50 posts. Posts before that will not be labeled, because that would just take way too long. Click through the labels that I've created to see how I'm categorizing things.

Bonus Happy Friday video

cause the first video wasn't funny:

Oklahoma ranks 2nd in nation for deficient bridges

More than 5,000 bridges in the state are considered deficient. Pennsylvania's more than 8,000 deficient bridges earned it the top spot on the list. The status of deficient means the bridges are not unsafe but are so deteriorated that they must be closely monitored and inspected or repaired.

The report said it will take billions to fix the 12 percent of the nation's 600,000 bridges that are rated structurally deficient by the Federal Highway Administration.


Like I keep saying, we need a big Federal program to fix our crumbling national infrastructure. Our highways, bridges, and levees are all deteriorating at an alarming rate. Such a program will also create jobs during a difficult economic period - which can't be a bad thing. Of course, the Bush crime family won't touch it, so doubtless more lives will be put at risk driving over unsafe bridges or living in flood zones with levees teetering on the brink of collapse.

Happy Friday

Here's the full video of Obama's speech yesterday.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Obama in Berlin - HuffPo has complete transcript & video

I won't excerpt it here - just click the link. I didn't get a chance to watch the speech on television, but I understand it was pretty impressive.

Marriage equality looks safe in California

h/t to DailyKos.

Proposition 8 is the "Limit on Marriage Constitutional Amendment." It amends the California constitution to provide that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. If the election were being held today, would you vote YES or NO on Proposition 8, the Limit on Marriage Constitutional Amendment?

Yes 42 (43)
No 51 (51)


Anytime you're above 50%, you're in good shape. As I've said consistently, society moves towards equality, not away from it.

BlogNetNews Oklahoma Editor: Will I be objective?

Here's how I'm going to operate as Oklahoma editor of BNN.

1) I will be objective in evaluating blogs for inclusion, be they rabidly conservative or frothingly liberal.

2) The only criteria for inclusion are as follows: your posts must be at least somewhat coherent, and your blog must have been active (meaning, regular posts) for at least 30 days.

3) No blog may be removed from BNN for any reason except for inactivity (about 3 months without a post). No matter how much I dislike a particular blog's point of view, I will not delete it.

I freely admit to a left-wing bias in my own politics, but when I took on the task of being editor, it was because, as a civil libertarian, I believe in promoting free expression.

It is, therefore, somewhat fitting that the first blog to seek admission after I became editor was a very conservative blog, one with whose politics I will likely disagree strongly.

Thus, to the conservative Oklahoma bloggers who are part of BNN or want to be a part of BNN, please be assured that I will exercise my duty as editor in an unbiased manner, because, were a conservative blogger to be named editor, I would expect no less.

This does not mean that as a private blogger I will stop criticizing right-wingers when they say something stupid. It's just that I won't stop them from saying it.

Paris to allow high-rise buildings

The beautiful city of Paris is about to unleash architectural hell, by lifting a ban on buildings taller than 37 meters in the city center.

If you've ever been to Paris, or seen pictures of it, you will no doubt notice that the city itself is generally defined by neighborhoods of gorgeous stone buildings and green spaces, with the skyscrapers limited to a separate business district called La Defense.

Pictures of Paris:



See how the Eiffel Tower soars above the buildings? How can Paris think about obscuring it with skyscrapers?








I lived outside of Paris for five years, and I studied abroad in Paris for a semester. I feel a special connection with that city, not in the least because of its uniqueness. It is not a city of metal and steel, like New York. It is a city of ancient streets and beautiful architecture, of winding alleys and wrought iron, of cute cafes and busy brasseries, a city that eternally has a baguette under one arm and a cigarette in the other hand, a city of philosophy and history, of romance, and love, and life. Hyperbole? Bad metaphor? Trite? Sure. But it's all true.

I don't want Paris to become just another big city, with huge skyscrapers dwarfing its monuments and its museums and diluting its unique ambiance. And I don't understand how a socialist mayor can think that this is a good idea, especially when 2/3 of Parisians strongly oppose the idea.

BNN Oklahoma - New Blog

Attention Oklahoma bloggers: A new blog has been added to the BlogNetNews feed.

Please welcome The Byrns Report, a conservative blog written by a Missionary Baptist Minister.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

One reason I'm looking forward to moving to Portland...


This Afternoon

Mostly Sunny
Hi 73°F

Tonight

Mostly Clear
Lo 49°F

Thursday

Sunny
Hi 83°F

Thursday Night

Mostly Clear
Lo 54°F

Friday

Mostly Sunny
Hi 80°F

Friday Night

Partly Cloudy
Lo 54°F

Saturday

Mostly Sunny
Hi 78°F

Saturday Night

Partly Cloudy
Lo 55°F

Sunday

Mostly Sunny
Hi 78°F


Thank God this is the last Oklahoma August I'll ever have to endure. I won't miss it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Big giant Sinister news flash!!!

My partner and I are going to be uncles! My brother and sister in law are adopting a boy who is due to be born sometime in September.

The tricky thing about bringing a Jewish boy into the world is that we will have exactly 8 days notice to plan a trip out to San Diego for the bris (circumcision). It'll be tight, but it's very exciting.

Also, on a no less important side note, while we're in San Diego, my partner and I are going to get married (actually go to the courthouse and get a marriage license). It'll only be valid in California, but it's important to us.

Monday, July 21, 2008

You had me at "For the Alliance!"

Alright you WoW bastards. You've got me back. Now all I have to do is install about 10 CDs worth of crap onto my computer and wait for god knows how many updates to download.

AAARGGGH!!!!

I HATE MOSQUITOES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Apparently we're not safe in this city.

Twice within the past week, Robert Stotler and his partner have been targets of anti-gay messages at their Tulsa home.

About seven days ago, the message "Gays Must Go" was spray-painted on their garage door, and a symbol resembling a swastika, which is used by some white supremacist groups, was spray-painted on the side of their home.

Holes were punched in a friend's pickup's tires and the truck was set on fire while parked in Stotler's driveway.

The message "I'll be back" was spray-painted on both sides of the vehicle.

And back the person came.

A few days later, holes were punched in the front door of their home in the 11800 block of East 25th Street, and the message "Gay Go Away" was painted on it.


This is happening here, now, in Tulsa, to a couple who are doing nothing more than trying to live normal lives. I had no idea that this kind of thing was happening in this city. My partner and I keep a fairly low profile, but we don't hide who we are by any stretch of the imagination.

The startling point of this article is that these crimes are not classified as hate crimes by the Tulsa Police or by Oklahoma law. Oklahoma is one of 17 states that refuses to add sexual orientation protection to our hate crimes laws.

Call your state legislator, your mayor, call Governor Henry, and demand that sexual orientation become a protected status in Oklahoma.

The gay community has no "agenda." All we want is to live our lives in peace, and to have the same rights that the heterosexual community takes for granted. Is that really so much to ask?

Iraq's government again says it supports Obama's timeline

The statement by Iraq’s government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, followed talks between Obama and Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki — who has struggled for days to clarify Iraq’s position on a possible timetable for a U.S. troop pullout.

Al-Dabbagh said the government did not endorse a fixed date, but hoped American combat units could be out of Iraq sometime in 2010. That timeframe falls within the 16-month withdrawal plan proposed by Obama, who arrived in Iraq earlier in the day as part of a congressional fact-finding team.


I think this speaks for itself.

Young, gay and murdered

A heartbreaking story of a gay 8th grader named Larry who was brutally murdered by another 8th grader. The story raises complex questions about how we deal with kids who have a unique sense of their own sexuality, especially at such a young age. The tragedy of this story is that nobody could figure out how to help Larry find an appropriate balance between expressing his own individuality and the social and educational expectations of the school, and nobody could figure out how to help the other students relate to Larry. This is what happens when a puritannical mindset controls our national consciousness, and we refuse to have a healthy dialogue about sexuality in this country, instead relying on farcical "abstinence" education that may make parents feel good because they don't have to "deal" with their teenagers' sexuality, but in reality does more harm than good in not giving kids real information that they need to navigate life as a fully-functional human being.

Read the story and make up your own mind. How would you have prevented Larry's death?

Message to all of these World of Warcraft banner ads I keep seeing

Back, foul temptress! I left that game ages ago because I didn't want to spend another entire weekend MINING. God, what a waste of time.

Though I am tempted to get back into the game when the Wrath of the Lich King comes out.

Those of you who are Wowheads will know what I'm talking about.

Cheney-linked "think tank" calls for Bush as Prez for Life

Here's a scary thought:

President Bush can fail in his duty to himself, his country, and his God, by becoming "ex-president" Bush or he can become "President-for-Life" Bush: the conqueror of Iraq, who brings sense to the Congress and sanity to the Supreme Court. Then who would be able to stop Bush from emulating Augustus Caesar and becoming ruler of the world? For only an America united under one ruler has the power to save humanity from the threat of a new Dark Age wrought by terrorists armed with nuclear weapons.


That's going to keep me awake for a few nights...

Apparently this is an article by a serious "think tank" linked to VP Cheney, whose argument is that democracy is inadequate because it requires leaders to adopt positions because they are "popular" rather than adopting positions that are "wise." This "think tank" believes that Bush's policies have been "wise" and want him to become dictator for life and eventual ruler of the world.

*shudder*

Monday loldog

dog
see more dog pictures

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Well this should help.

Iraqi PM backs Obama's plan for withdrawing troops from Iraq.

What else do you need?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

BNN update

I've gone through the Oklahoma feed list for BlogNetNews and weeded out those blogs that haven't had a post since March, 2008. If you want to continue being a part of BNN, please keep blogging regularly. I'm going to stick to a 3 month inactivity rule for booting blogs.

I have also booted all blogs that were "protected" or "private." If I can't access your blog, then the general public can't access your blog, so what's the point?

I might also point out that two martinis later, I'm not as sober as I was.

Hateful Wingnut of the Week

Fried Green Onions, a radical right wing homophobic blogger, has really outdone himself this week with posts praising an Oklahoma County Commissioner whose psychotically homophobic election campaign "comic book" compared the GLBT community to Satan, and also praising Sally Kern, who compared gay people to terrorists.

For his continuing offenses to humanity, FGO is awarded Sinster's Golden Penis, the award for the Hateful Wingnut of the Week. He is free to shove it wherever he likes.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Anther crane collapse?!

Four people are dead after a crane collapse in Houston.

What the heck is going on in the crane industry?

According to this article, there are few rules in place regulating the industry. In some states, crane operators don't need any special license at all.

So let's see what we have here. Free market companies build a product and aren't subject to regulation. That product is sold and used by businesses who have a) no way of knowing whether the crane's construction is sound, and b) no requirement to license the crane operators.

What is the result? Death.

Unregulated capitalism kills people. That's the bottom line.

Happy Friday!

And now a glimpse of Christian Bale's next project:

Thursday, July 17, 2008

America's "health care" fails another test

WASHINGTON - The United States fails on most measures of health care quality, with Americans waiting longer to see doctors and more likely to die of preventable or treatable illnesses than people in other industrialized countries, a report released on Thursday said.

Americans squander money on wasteful administrative costs, illnesses caused by medical error and inefficient use of time, the report from the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund concluded.


This group has a better idea. But what do they know? They're only doctors.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Right-wing rag praises right-wing blogger...what a surprise

Urban Tulsa, the most shockingly right-wing "alternative weekly" news magazine I've ever read, has praised the equally right-wing blog Batesline in its "best of Tulsa" column.

Somehow I doubt they even considered any progressive bloggers...

In a lot of ways, I can't wait to leave this city.

Disturbing racism in the "Obama is a Muslim" meme

I'm sure this has been reported before, but I feel that I have to speak out on it.

The far-right meme "Obama is a Muslim" carries with it a current of bigotry that is really pernicious and disturbing. First of all, Obama isn't a Muslim. But so what if he WERE a Muslim? Would being a Muslim make him any less qualified for the Presidency? Would it make him any less patriotic, any less American?

In other words, why does the idea that Obama might be a Muslim strike so much fear into the hearts of people?

Islam is a complex religion, and Muslims in this country have just as much freedom to worship and to express their identity as do Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, and anyone else. That's one of the things the 1st Amendment protects.

The "Obama is a secret Muslim" meme is nothing but pure, disgusting, unjustifiable bigotry in its worst form. If we're truly a free country, then the idea of a Muslim President should cause no more consternation than does the idea of a Christian president, or a Jewish president, or a Hindu president, or an atheist president.

Three Sinister years

This month marks Sinister's three-year anniversary. Of course, when it started, it had a succession of less clever names: The Left Hand, LeftHook, etc, but then I stumbled upon Sinister, and the rest is history. Sinister has come a long way since those early days, and while it's not the Oklahoma equivalent of DailyKos or Eschaton, and it probably never will be (especially since it won't be the Oklahoma equivalent of anything come March), at least I've got a half dozen or so people interested.

To commemorate the third anniversary of Sinister, I present to you


well, nothing, really. But if you want to bake me a cake, I won't stop you, though I'd prefer a nice bottle of Chivas Regal.

:-)

Tulsa's new dog park

The city has converted a disused baseball diamond on Charles Page Blvd. into an off-leash dog park. I took Wendy there last night, and met some very friendly folks who are part of the "Tulsa Bark Park" effort. The link at the top of this post is to the Tulsa Bark Park website, from which you can subscribe to a Yahoo! group dedicated to Tulsa's quest for a permanent off-leash dog park.

I support this effort, at least until I move to Portland, which is a city full of off-leash dog parks. I think it's ridiculous that Tulsa hasn't had a dog park until now, and I'm glad to see that this effort is happening.

Wendy, by the way, had a great time. Once she had gotten over the initial shock of meeting a whole group of dogs at the same time, all of whom wanted to sniff and examine her, she was as happy as, well, a happy dog. I will definitely be bringing her back there.

I encourage those of you who are pet owners to check out the dog park, and to join the Tulsa Bark Park Yahoo! group. The park is on Charles Page Blvd. east of 33rd West Avenue. Look for a parking lot with a lot of police cars in it next to a baseball diamond. It's also, oddly enough, right next to some kind of detention facility, but I don't think that's going to be a problem.

Israel's prisoner exchange with Hezbollah

Why is it that whenever these kinds of prisoner exchanges happen, it seems as though Israel ends up giving the enemy hundreds of prisoners and/or bodies in exchange for two or three of its own? In this case, Israel had to give up five live prisoners, including a convicted murderer, who will be given a hero's welcome in Lebanon, along with hundreds of bodies, in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah in 2006. That doesn't sound like a fair trade to me. It sounds like something that Hezbollah will be able to use as anti-Israel propaganda for years to come, and that will weaken Israel's position and credibility in the broader Arab world.

Israel is also working on a prisoner exchange with Hamas in which Israel will give up "hundreds" of Hamas prisoners in return for one Israeli soldier. And while I'd love to see Gilad Shalit come home to his family, I don't think it's worth the price of releasing hundreds of Palestinian prisoners who will not have to pay for whatever crime they committed.

I just don't get it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

McCain needs to Czech his facts

Bad pun, I know, but here's the problem.

McCain has now referred to "Czechoslovakia" a total of six times, most recently in this quote:

"I was concerned about a couple of steps that the Russian government took in the last several days. One was reducing the energy supplies to Czechoslovakia.


Czechoslovakia broke up in 1993, becoming two separate countries - the Czech Republic and Slovakia. I remember watching the separation ceremony on television.

Should we be concerned that McCain keeps making mistakes like this? Coupled with his confusion about the difference between Sunni and Shia, among other things, this incident raises serious doubts about McCain's grip on foreign policy realities.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Add me to this list.

Prominent bloggers call for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to be re-nationalized.

I agree.

Actually, at this point, nationalizing those two entities is only one of many things we need to do to fix the economy.

The economy is teetering on the brink of disaster, due to years of rampant privatization and deregulation. Deregulation of the airline industry has led to massive turmoil, bankruptcies, job losses, and a continuing deterioration in level of service coupled with spiralling prices. Deregulation of electricity markets led to the Enron debacle. Deregulation of oil speculation has led to the current crisis in gas prices. Lack of enforcement in food safety has poisoned thousands with salmonella and e-coli. It seems like every time the government lets the "free market" be "free," it ends in disaster. The "free market" created this mess; the same "free market" is incapable of cleaning it up.

Some examples:

1) To fix gas prices, we need to curb oil speculation, which can only be done through government regulation.

2) To fix the housing crisis, we need to regulate the mortgate industry to eliminate predatory lending practices.

3) To fix our crumbling national infrastructure and prevent another Midwestern flood or, God forbid, another Katrina, we need a new Works Progress Adminstration to create jobs that will work to fix our bridges, roads, and levees.

4) To fix the growing crisis in health care, we need single-payer health insurance.

Letting the market run free will only lead to chaos. Capitalism is defined by its ups and downs, its crashes and booms, and left to its own devices, it'll do just that. The only way to soften the blows is to regulate it.

This, by the way, isn't socialism. It's just common sense.

The Dark Knight


I've been a fan of Batman since early childhood. I used to love watching the old campy Adam West Batman on television. I saw Tim Burton's stylishly dark Batman on opening day in 1989, and I adored it. I was extremely disappointed that the sequels that followed that movie got progressively worse, leading ultimately to the nippled batsuit abomination of George Clooney.

When Batman Begins came out several years ago, I was very excited, because I knew the director, Christopher Nolan, could write a damned good movie. Memento and Following were both brilliant, unique films. I knew that if anyone could revive the Batman brand, Nolan could. And casting Christian Bale as the Caped Crusader was perfect. He'd already proven his acting versatiliy in such films as American Psycho and Equilibrium, not to mention his previous work as a child actor in Empire of the Sun.

Batman Begins set a perfect tone for a post-millenial Batman: dark, conflicted, gritty, and painstakingly realistic. Batman had to break out of the pure fantasy world of Gotham City and find his place in a world where evil geniuses really can and do wreak mass terror. The origin story of Batman Begins was a stark humanization of Bruce Wayne, and in his transformation into Batman there was a justification and a real reason for everything.

Nolan's genius wasn't just in humanizing Bruce Wayne and bringing a dark realism to Gotham City, it was also the fact that in doing so, he was able to bring Batman to life in a way that remained almost painstakingly faithful to the original history of Batman's character.

With The Dark Knight, which I will see on opening day, it looks as though Nolan has continued this trend. Heath Ledger's Joker looks to be a brilliant, psychotic departure from Jack Nicholson's manic performance. The movie itself so far has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 100%, which is extremely rare for any movie, let alone a superhero movie.

Christopher Nolan is one of the greatest directors of our time. I look forward to his future work. I hope he keeps making Batman films, but I will watch any movie he makes.

Happy Bastille Day!



On July 14, 1789, a brave group of workers and shopkeepers, sick of the tyranny of Louis XVI, burned down the Bastille fortress in the center of Paris, which had become a symbol of the regime, and kicked off one of the bloodiest revolutions in history. Today, July 14th is celebrated as France's national holiday.

The French national anthem is La Marseillaise:

Allons enfants de la Patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie,
L'étendard sanglant est levé, (bis)
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats ?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras
Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes !


Refrain :

Aux armes, citoyens
Formez vos bataillons
Marchons, marchons !
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons !


Couplet 2 :

Que veut cette horde d'esclaves,
De traîtres, de rois conjurés ?
Pour qui ces ignobles entraves,
Ces fers dès longtemps préparés ? (bis)
Français, pour nous, ah ! quel outrage
Quels transports il doit exciter !
C'est nous qu'on ose méditer
De rendre à l'antique esclavage !

Refrain


Couplet 3 :

Quoi ! des cohortes étrangères
Feraient la loi dans nos foyers !
Quoi ! ces phalanges mercenaires
Terrasseraient nos fiers guerriers ! (bis)
Grand Dieu ! par des mains enchaînées
Nos fronts sous le joug se ploieraient
De vils despotes deviendraient
Les maîtres de nos destinées !

Refrain


Couplet 4 :

Tremblez, tyrans et vous perfides
L'opprobre de tous les partis,
Tremblez ! vos projets parricides
Vont enfin recevoir leurs prix ! (bis)
Tout est soldat pour vous combattre,
S'ils tombent, nos jeunes héros,
La terre en produit de nouveaux,
Contre vous tout prets à se battre !

Refrain


Couplet 5 :

Français, en guerriers magnanimes,
Portez ou retenez vos coups !
Epargnez ces tristes victimes,
A regret s'armant contre nous. (bis)
Mais ces despotes sanguinaires,
Mais ces complices de Bouillé,
Tous ces tigres qui, sans pitié,
Déchirent le sein de leur mère !

Refrain


Couplet 6 :

Amour sacré de la Patrie,
Conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs
Liberté, Liberté chérie,
Combats avec tes défenseurs ! (bis)
Sous nos drapeaux que la victoire
Accoure à tes mâles accents,
Que tes ennemis expirants
Voient ton triomphe et notre gloire !

Refrain


Couplet 7 (dit couplet des enfants) :

Nous entrerons dans la carrière
Quand nos aînés n'y seront plus,
Nous y trouverons leur poussière
Et la trace de leurs vertus (bis)
Bien moins jaloux de leur survivre
Que de partager leur cercueil,
Nous aurons le sublime orgueil
De les venger ou de les suivre

Refrain


Translation here.

Monday loldog

For the Alliance!

dog
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Saturday, July 12, 2008

One of the best lines in any movie ever



Only Madeline Kahn can pull this line off.

(Those of you who don't know where this comes from, get a clue.)

Sinister announcement: New domain name!

Sinister has finally broken down and bought a domain name. From now on ("now" being an approximate term meaning as soon as whatever has to happen to make the domain name active happens, which could take a couple of days), you can reach this humble blog at the following address:

http://www.sinisterblog.com

Until it's active, you can still get here by going to http://lefthandedblog.blogspot.com. That address will soon forward to the new domain name.

Tony Snow died.

Extreme right-wing commentator and Bush crime family mouthpiece Tony Snow has died of cancer. I don't wish cancer on anyone, but I won't mourn him.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Attention Teachers! Sinister needs your help!

If you're a teacher, I'd like your input. After my partner finishes his engineering degree, I'm planning on getting an MAT in English so that I can teach high school (or maybe college). I'd appreciate any advice, tips, warnings, caveats, "stay the hell away from this field" warnings, encouragement, discouragement, etc, that you can throw at me.

Specific questions I have:

1) How crazy are teenagers these days? How much of your day is spent managing misbehaving students versus actually teaching? How do you control your students? On a related note, how do you manage the parents of your students?

2) How do you manage your lesson plans? Specifically, how do lesson plans work on a daily basis? Do you spend your summers making lesson plans for the whole school year, or do you make lesson plans as you go?

3) Am I crazy to attempt a teaching career knowing that I have a raging case of ADHD which limits my ability to focus and organize time properly?

4) Can I teach college with only a MAT, or do I need a PhD? I'm mostly interested in teaching high school at the moment, but I may want to move into teaching college at some point.

I'll take your comments either as e-mails or as responses to this post - your choice.

Thanks!

'Mental' recession?

I guess stock traders need to go see a shrink.

Lol - Billboard Liberation Front Strikes McCain!



Related story about McCain and Viagra here.

Don't pump gas on July 15th? Snopes says not so fast

Snopes debunks the "Boycott gas for one day!!!" e-mails currently circulating. Simply not buying gas on a certain day doesn't do anything to oil companies - you're just shifting the day you buy gas. The same amount of gas is consumed either way. In fact, if you're hurting anyone, you're hurting the independent gas station owners who have nothing to do with the price of gas.

Bottom line: if you receive any e-mail asking you to do something that sounds kinda suspect, check Snopes. They know all.

Happy Friday!

I'm covered in beeeeeees!!!!!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

$4.00 gas hits Tulsa

According to the Tulsa Gas Prices widget on the left side of my blog, $4.00 gas has hit Tulsa for the first time, which is bad news for the rest of the country, since we often have the cheapest gas in the nation. It looks like it's just at one station so far. The good news is that QuikTrip always keeps their prices the lowest, so we won't be seeing $4.00 gas from QT until they absolutely have no other choice. Shell gas is always priced higher than QT for some reason.

Just 10 more months and I won't have to have a car ever again (probably).

I can do it.

God. I just want to break my lease, sell the cars, and go now. But that would be extremely irresponsible and logistically hellish, not to mention expensive.

Sigh...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

4th Amendment: In Memoriam


Everyone wave goodbye to the 4th Amendment. Bye bye!

Just so you remember what the 4th Amendment said:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.


RIP, old friend.

The ACLU has a great resource page on FISA here.

AOL's list of 10 books to read before you die. I have a better list.

AOL has a list of "10 books you should read before you die." I'm putting in bold the ones that I have read. Here's the full list:

1. Gone With The Wind
2. Lord of the Rings
3. Harry Potter
4. The Stand
5. The Da Vinci Code
6. To Kill a Mockingbird
7. Angels and Demons
8. Atlas Shrugged
9. Catcher in the Rye
10. The Holy Bible*

* I've only read parts of the Jewish scriptures, the Tanakh.


Ok, a few things. First of all, including "The Holy Bible" in this list is a little bizarre and slightly insulting. The picture on the webpage shows the King James version, which is probably the most biased, badly translated version of the text in history. The Jewish scriptures, the Tanakh, are translated by the Jewish Publication Society, and make for a much more accurate read. Of course, the JPS didn't do a translation of the Christian scriptures, for obvious reasons.

Secondly, two of these "books" are actually series of books - Harry Potter and LOTR, so you've automatically got more than 10 books in that list.

Thirdly, this is probably the most arbitrary list of "important" books I've ever seen.

Here's my arbitrary list of 10 good books I think everyone should read. And, since AOL can include series of books in its list, so can I.

1. The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy of five books by Douglas Adams
2. The six original books in the Dune series by Frank Herbert
3. 1984 by George Orwell
4. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
5. The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
6. Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
7. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
8. Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
9. The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
10. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Two street fixing proposals under debate - only one actually fixes the streets.

There are two proposals on the table for Tulsa street repair:

The $270 million program, which would run from 2009 to 2013, would sock all of the money toward a paving and crack-sealing effort and do some street reconstruction.

Christiansen said it would be up to the Public Works Department, the council and the mayor to determine where in the city the money would be spent.

The $2 billion program, which would run from 2010 to 2021, would be a comprehensive approach to bring the city's overall Pavement Condition Index score to a satisfactory level and maintain it.

The program would provide funds to take care of the city's rights-of-ways, bridges and railroad crossings and add more than 100 workers to form an in-house street maintenance crew.

It also contains $120 million for street-widening projects and $281 million to maintain the city's buildings, buy buses and fire apparatus, and make telecommunications upgrades.


It's unfortunate that we're even talking about such a small, stop-gap measure as the $270 million proposal. Also from the article:

Public Works Department Deputy Director of Engineering Paul Zachary said that under the $270 million proposal, the overall condition of the city's streets would continue to decline.

"It wouldn't be enough money to get us to where we want to be," he said.


Tulsa's problem isn't a few cracked streets that need to be patched. Tulsa's problem is a massive, systemic street failure on a citywide scale. Such a massive problem requires a comprehensive solution. Throwing $270 million at a few cracks and potholes will do nothing to solve the overall problem.

Now, as I've said before, I'm not happy that the $2 billion project also includes such unrelated things as street widening and building maintenance. But the key thing about the $2 billion proposal that makes me support it is the ultimate goal:

...comprehensive approach to bring the city's overall Pavement Condition Index score to a satisfactory level and maintain it.


That's what we need - a comprehensive plan not only to fix the streets, but to keep them fixed.

If we don't pass a street fixing plan soon, I would be in favor of someone filing a class action lawsuit to force the city to pay for the myriad car repairs we all have to do way too often because of our streets. It's getting ridiculous out there.

Dutch health care system rated best; US worst

A new report shows that the Dutch are most satisfied with their health care system, while Americans are the least satisfied.

From the article:

The U.S. model, widely criticized on its combination of private insurance and publicly-funded programs, spends more on health care than any other nation worldwide but ranks low on overall quality of care, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).


A World Health Organization study in 2000 rated France as having the best overall health care system in the world, while the United States languished in 37th place.

Both France and the Netherlands have a universal health care system. In fact, the United States, which, again, ranked 37th in the WHO study, is the only industrialized country in the world without a system of universal health care.

Think about how insane that is. We spend more on health care than any other nation in the world, but we can't provide universal coverage to our citizens.

This new report reinforces the notion that universal health care is a pretty damned good way to keep a population happy and healthy, and our complicated, convoluted system of for-profit health insurance is just a bureaucratic nightmare.

Monday, July 7, 2008

BlogNetNews Oklahoma - call for blogs

Looks like I'll be taking over the editorship of the Oklahoma section of BNN pretty soon. Therefore, I am putting out a call for blogs. If you know of a great Oklahoma blog that has been overlooked, please e-mail me at sinisterblog@gmail.com and I'll take a look at it. If it's good, and it has been around and active for at least 30 days, I'll add it. I'm looking for blogs on either side of the political spectrum, and I'll do my damnedest to be a fair arbiter.

Note: Yes, I did just post that I'm moving to Oregon, but that's not happening for like 10 months, and I agreed to do this long before the decision to move to Oregon was even pondered.

Anyway.

Sinister News Flash

Sinister, Oklahoma's premier gay left-handed radical progressive blog, will be making a transition over the next year.

Your humble blogmaster is planning to move to Portland, Oregon next May or June. My partner and I are sick of being shackled to our cars in a city that, to put it succinctly, feels like a level of a video game that we've both completed. There's nothing more to discover, to see, to do, no more monsters to kill. We've done this city, and it bores the pants off of us. We have a number of friends who are moving to Portland because of jobs, so we're following them out there.

This decision was again reinforced today, as I'm dropping another $200 on tires because of these shitty streets.

So we're packing up, selling our cars, and moving to a city with decent public transportation, a vibrant restaurant scene, better salaries, and a much, much better climate (yes, I'd rather have 9 months of rain than deal with another Oklahoma summer). Plus, we'll be able to get a legal domestic partnership in Oregon, which, while it's not marriage equality, is at least a document that will give us a legal relationship, and all of the rights and responsibilities that go with it.

Until the move actually happens, which will be next May or June, I'll continue to cover national stories on a regular basis. I'll also continue to cover local Oklahoma stories, but probably with less frequency. And you might just see spotlight stories featuring the great city of Portland.

Monday loldog

dog
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Friday, July 4, 2008

This Land Is Your Land - the part they don't teach you in school

Here are the original, full lyrics to "This Land is Your Land" by Woody Guthrie. The part they don't, but really should, teach you in school is in bold. I tried to find a video of Woody performing these verses, but it proved impossible. The only video I found was a terrible one from SXSW with Tom Morello (of Rage Against the Machine) who can't sing worth a damn, Serj Tankian (of System of a Down) who shouldn't sing this, and Billy Bragg, who was probably wondering what the hell he was doing there.

The point I'm making by including these verses is that Woody Guthrie wasn't just a great American. He was also a revolutionary activist who railed against poverty and fought for the rights of the working class to unionize. But, yet again, those are the kinds of facts that get buried, for fear of upsetting our national mythos. Like the fact that Helen Keller was a socialist and a Wobbly.

Anyway, without further ado:


This Land Is Your Land


This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

And, since it is the 4th,

here's a bonus video that has nothing to do with the 4th.

Happy 4th!

Something tangentially related to "rocket's red glare" I suppose:

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Case in Point - Montana (!) turning blue

A new Montana poll by Rasmussen shows Obama ahead 48 to 43. Rasmussen tends to lean Republican, so this is a pretty stunning result on its face. Here's how stunning:

It would be truly stunning if Obama could turn Montana into a competitive state this November. George W. Bush won Montana’s 3 Electoral College Votes by twenty percentage points in 2004 and by twenty-five points four years earlier. Even Bob Dole managed to win Montana, albeit by a narrow 44% to 41% margin (Ross Perot picked up 14% of the vote).


The 50 state strategy appears to be working.

Thanks to Kossack NMDan for bringing this to my attention.

The myth of a 'close race'

Corporate media types keep calling this a 'close race' between Obama and McCain. They base this on the fact that national polls keep showing about a 5% lead for Obama, which they're quick to point out is "well within the margin of error."

Smart people who went to High School Social Studies class will recall that we don't actually have a national Presidential election in this country. We have 50 separate state elections for President, each of which sends a certain number of electors to the Electoral College. Thus, a national poll of the Presidential race is irrelevant and meaningless. The only polls that actually matter are state polls.

If you'll look to your right (assuming you're on my blog and not reading this from somewhere else) at the electoral-vote.com widget that tracks state polls and calculates a projected Electoral College vote, you'll see that this is, in fact, not at all a close race. Obama currently leads 317 to 221, with plenty of wiggle room in Obama's favor - i.e. "weak" or "barely" Republican states.

You can also go through my polling analysis of a couple of weeks ago, which I worked very hard to compile, to get another idea of where we stand (well, where we stood as of a couple of weeks ago, which, if it's changed at all, has changed in Obama's favor.)

Bottom line - this is not as close of a race as the corporate media would have you believe.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Sweet! Tulsa's getting a dog park!

The Park and Recreation Board on Tuesday approved converting a city-owned, unused, fenced baseball field located just west of Newblock Park on the north side of Charles Page Boulevard into a dog park.


This city is woefully pet-unfriendly. No restaurants, and very few stores, allow pets to enter, and until now, there's been no place aside from private residences for dogs to roam free off-leash. Now there will be.

I for one will be bringing Wendy there on a regular basis.

Wednesday Q & A, Short Answer version

MSNBC asks, "Is military service a diminishing campaign asset?"

Answer:

George W. Bush vs. John Kerry.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tulsa ranks high on Salary.com's "salary value" list - but I don't buy it

Tulsa ranked high on salary.com's list of cities for building personal wealth, coming in at number 12 out of 69 listed. The index is based on:

local salaries, cost of living, and unemployment relative to the national average. This year's list also factored in qualitative measures including diversity of industry, education level of the cities' population, proximity to post secondary institutions, percent of population below poverty level, and median travel time to work


Let's compare Tulsa to, say, Portland, Oregon, which was listed at number 33 in the list.

While it is true that the cost of real estate and rental housing in Portland is higher than Tulsa, there are at least four things about Portland that make me question the study's findings.

1) Necessity of car ownership.

In Tulsa, you absolutely have to own a car, because we have an extremely limited and ineffective public transportation system. Cars come with a lot of expenses - gas, insurance, maintenance, etc. My partner and I estimated recently that between gas, car insurance, and maintenance, we spend $500 to $600 per month just to own both of our cars.

Portland has a robust public transportation system, composing light rail, buses, and commuter trains. Car ownership is not at all necessary. By my calculations, that adds up to a huge savings. True, there is a cost associated with using public transportation, but it doesn't approach what one spends owning a car.

2) Sales tax.

Tulsa has a huge sales tax. Portland has none. Now, Portland does have a local income tax, which may make this calculation a wash, but I would still argue that replacing a regressive sales tax with a non-regressive income tax makes a difference as far as disposable income.

3) Real estate costs offset by higher salaries

Tulsa may have really cheap real estate and incredibly low rents on apartments, but salaries for certain jobs are also relatively low.

For example, a paralegal living in Tulsa can expect to make between $25,000 and $35,000, which is perfect when rent on an average 1 bedroom apartment is below $500.

A paralegal living in Portland can expect to start at $40,000, and go as high as $55,000 or $60,000. That increase in salary offsets the fact that a 1 bedroom apartment in Portland generally runs between $600 and $1,000 per month.

4) Proximity to post-secondary education

Tulsa should be way down the list on this one. Tulsa has zero fully functional public universities within its city limits. It has a (not fully accredited) community college that partners with a four year college (TCC / OSU-Tulsa), and a very limited OU campus. It also has two private universities (ORU and TU).

Portland has Portland State University, a fully functional public institution, with a full range of undergraduate and graduate programs. It also has the Oregon Health & Sciences University. In addition, it has a number of community colleges, along with several private colleges and universities.

Thus, I'm a little skeptical about the findings of this report, and I would argue that the factors I listed above would necessarily push Tulsa farther down the list in favor of cities with no sales tax, a robust public transit system, a salary structure that offsets a higher cost of living, and real access to post-secondary public education.