Showing posts from August, 2005

Please excuse the slight delay.

Please excuse the slight delay in posting to this blog. The Left Hand will soon be moving to its own domain, where it will become even more fantastically interesting and will pique your interest in ways that your interest has only ever dreamed of being piqued. Believe me, piquing will happen.

Until then, there will be a slight delay.

Thank you.

End transmission.

Abu Ghraib General Lambastes Bush Administration

When Karpinski inquired, "What's this about photographs?" the sergeant replied, "Ma'am, we've heard something about photographs, but I have no idea. Nobody has any details, and Ma'am, if anybody knows, nobody is talking." When Karpinski asked to see the log books, the sergeant told her that the Criminal Investigation Division had taken everything except for something on a pole outside the little office they were using. "It was a memorandum signed by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, authorizing a short list, maybe 6 or 8 techniques: use of dogs; stress positions; loud music; deprivation of food; keeping the lights on, those kinds of things," Karpinski said. "And then a handwritten message over to the side that appeared to be the same handwriting as the signature, and that signature was Secretary Rumsfeld's. And it said, 'Make sure this happens' with two exclamation points. And that was the only thing they had. Everything …

And now from the "should be in a rubber room" department

Pat Robertson wants to assassinate Hugo Chavez.

Why does this maniac have a television show? Why do people continue to listen to him even as his lunatic ravings become ever more incoherent and psychotic?

Hugo Chavez is many things, but he's not a dictator. But that's not even the point. For someone as publicly visible as Pat Robertson to call for the assassination of a world leader is not only lunacy, it's criminal, and he should be prosecuted for it.

Here's the quote (from CNN):

"If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it," Robertson told viewers on his "The 700 Club" show Monday. "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war."

Israel has no more settlements in Gaza

It's done. Israel has left the Gaza Strip, and with its departure, the Palestinians are one step closer to having their own state. This departure is absolutely monumental. Its effect on the political dynamics of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is, at this point, unknowable, but will surely be profound.

Perhaps with this departure, those who sympathize with the more militant sectors of the Palestinians will start to see Israel as less of an enemy. Unfortunately, it's much more likely that Hamas and Islamic Jihad will use the withdrawal as a vindication of their attacks and continue their call for the destruction of Israel itself.

I just hope that the international community sees through their hateful rhetoric to the truth--that the vast majority of both Israelis and Palestinians really do seek peaceful coexistence: one Jewish state living peacefully next to one Palestinian state.

Next up: the dismantling of four settlements in the West Bank.

Merck Fined $253 Million in Vioxx lawsuit

Big news. Drug maker Merck has been found liable for the death of Robert Ernst, a 59-year-old marathon runner who died of a heart attack after taking Vioxx for his arthritis. The drug company has been assessed a fine of $253 million.

Here's my take on the whole situation. Drug companies are motivated primarily by the quest for greater profits, and this leads to a reduced emphasis on safety and quality of products, as illustrated previously in the Fen-Phen debacle, and now again with Vioxx, and in several other cases. If we were to nationalize these pharmaceutical companies, we might be able to enforce stricter standards of research and quality control, and we would certainly end the drug companies' unjust price inflation. True, nationalization is an extreme option, and there is probably a better solution somewhere in the middle. But something needs to be done, and fast, before more people die because a drug company was more concerned about making a buck than curing disease.

I ha…

BBC News on the vigils for Cindy Sheehan

"Around 1,600 vigils had been planned by liberal advocacy groups Political Action, TrueMajority and Democracy for America. In Crawford, several hundred people lit candles and gathered around a wooden flag-draped coffin at the camp, situated about a mile from Mr Bush's ranch, to remember the dead. "Each one was a valuable human life," Ms Sheehan said, quoted by Reuters news agency. "Each one was an indispensable member of his or her family."

Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New "Intelligent Falling" Theory

The Onion, America's Finest Newspaper, weighs in on the science versus theology debate with its own particular brand of merciless biting satire. I love it.

Tulsa Transit

I take back everything bad I ever said about Tulsa Transit.

Well, almost.

I finally broke down and took the bus to work this morning, after looking at the website and determining which bus to take and when. I walked a little bit less than a mile east to catch a southbound bus, not realizing that there was also an eastbound bus that could have gotten me to the stop more quickly. I passed one of the stops for the eastbound bus and called the Tulsa Transit, but they said that the next bus wouldn't arrive until well after I was to be at work. Despite this claim, the eastbound bus passed me as I trudged through the broken sidewalks and mud of this not-pedestrian-friendly city, leaving me wondering where the communication breakdown had been between me and the customer service agent who told me that the eastbound bus wouldn't come in time. By that time I was already very close to my southbound bus stop, so it didn't matter much.

I arrived at the southbound bus stop and waited. The b…

Israeli opinions on the pullout

Quotes and pictures from the BBC of the widely varying opinions Israelis have about the Gaza pullout.

Animal Farm is 60 years old

NPR reported that today marks the 60th birthday of a seminal work of political satire, George Orwell's Animal Farm.

Animal Farm is one of those classics of literature that should be on everyone's reading list. Through its broadly drawn caricatures of Soviet revolutionary leaders, Animal Farm demonstrated not only the danger of blind adherence to an ideal and how that ideal can be twisted to serve nefarious purposes, it also highlighted the reasons why desperate people turn to revolution as a last ditch effort to improve their situation. The enemy in Animal Farm is not only the Stalinist pigs, but also the Capitalist humans against whom the animals rebel in the first place, and whose brutal reign the pigs finally learn to imitate. The moral of the story is not "Capitalism good, Communism bad," it is simply "don't blind yourself to an ideal so much that you lose sight of reality."

I think that's a lesson that resonates today as much as or even more so t…

More about gas prices

NPR just reported that gas prices jumped 18 cents over the past week, the biggest one-week jump since the government started keeping records.

Rep. Sullivan responds to my letter about Abu Ghraib

Here is an e-mail I just got from my illustrious Republican Representative in Congress, John Sullivan, responding to a letter I sent him regarding prisoner abuse. I just love how he spouts the Administration line that the abuse was limited to "a few soldiers," thus freeing anyone high up from any responsibility whatsoever--despite evidence that people, perhaps as high up as Rumsfeld himself, knew about or even ordered the abuse to occur. It's just such a transparent lie that it's sickening.

Dear Ethan,

Thank you for contacting me with your thoughts regarding prisoner abuse at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and other prison centers. It is good to hear from you and I welcome the opportunity to respond on this important issue.

The recent examples of prisoner abuse are shocking and do not represent the values of our military or those of our Nation. The Department of Defense is taking allegations of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib very seriously and is continuing to investigate the p…

Another record at the gas pump

Here in Oklahoma, gas has just hit $2.49 a gallon for regular. It has jumped 50 cents in just the past few weeks. That kind of a change can really make a huge difference in someone's disposable income. For instance, my Mazda will now no doubt require more than $30 to fill up. My mother's Toyota Camry took over $30 when it was on a quarter of a tank.

It wouldn't be so bad if we had decent public transportation in this city. I would simply stop driving and take the bus to work. I may end up doing that anyway, but it will mean at least doubling my commute time.

This article is careful to point out that we are not at an all-time record for gas prices if you include inflation in the calculation--that happened during the Iranian revolution in the early '80s, when gas rose to the equivalent today of $3.00 per gallon.

There is a problem in America...and the more cowbell!

And now something from the "huh?" department at "Whaaaa? News," it's Christopher Walken for President in 2008.

This story was apparently first cracked by the nuts at WorldNetDaily, so its authenticity is suspect at best. Still, it's an amusing diversion. Hell, I'd vote for him.

Abbas welcomes pullout, eyes East Jerusalem and West Bank

"'The withdrawal of the enemy from part of our occupied territories is a big defeat to the Zionist enemy that is withdrawing under the strikes of Palestinian militant groups,' said Islamic Jihad commander Abu Mohamed.

He said that his fighters 'would never drop their arms unless the occupation ends in all the occupied Palestinian territories.'

'We will continue armed resistance until the liberation of all the occupied territories,' he said."

We all know that these murderers won't be happy until all of Israel is destroyed. That's what they relaly mean by "occupied territories." They mean Israel itself. The key right now is not to give in to these kinds of arguments--it wasn't the bloody suicide bombers who precipitated this withdrawal, and the withdrawal is not a sign that the extremists' bloody reign of terror was "successful." It's simply a recognition of certain political realities--that 8,000 extremist settl…

Editorial by David Grossman in Haaretz

"We should all take a deep breath right now and remind ourselves that, in the final analysis, the days to come are days of mourning for all Israelis. Mourning for the personal and ideological pain of the settlers whose dreams have been shattered; mourning for the fact that Israel was drawn into such a dangerous and unrealistic adventure like the creation of Gush Katif; mourning for the fact that the state brought itself to the place where it was forced to do such a violent, warlike and brutal thing to thousands of its citizens; mourning for the abyss that is being created inside our home, and for the disaster that could befall us very soon; mourning for the situation in which we are trapped, Jew against Jew with a foreign, naked hostility that stands in complete, existential contradiction to our own interests."

Interesting perspective, for sure...

Israel begins pullout from Gaza

"There is no sense whatsoever to remain here," he added. "The settlers do not have a future in the Gaza Strip, because they cannot live as an isolated group of people 8,000-strong among a million-and-a-half Palestinians who live in poverty and protest and unemployment." Shimon Peres, discussing the pullout.

I think most Progressive Zionists are in a "wait-and-see" mode about this pullout. It's a necessary move, and it's a positive move, but there are forces at the fringes who want to see the whole thing unravel.

I think it's safe to seek spiritual guidance on this one, folks. If you feel so moved, please say a prayer in the language of your faith that this withdrawal leads us closer to peace. I know I will.

Gas Prices Skyrocket

I was driving to work today and I noticed that gas prices had skyrocketed to $2.39 per gallon. I know that's not that high relative to the price in other parts of the nation, but still, for Oklahoma, "oil capital of the world," it's a ton.

I'm of two minds on this subject. On the one hand, high gas prices are good in that hopefully people will be prodded into buying hybrids or other fuel-efficient cars rather than SUVs. I have a little tiny Mazda sedan and it costs me $30 to fill up my tank--I can't imagine what it must cost someone with a Hummer. Meanwhile everyone who owns a Prius right now is thanking their lucky stars and laughing at all of us pouring our hard-earned money into our gas tanks.

On the other hand, high gas prices hurt working class people more than anyone else, especially working class people here in Oklahoma, where public transportation options are limited at best. If you can't afford to buy gas for your car, and you can't afford to b…

The follies of Christian "science"

I read this story on, admittedly not an unbiased site, but I am convinced that the article has a lot of validity. It explores various "scientific" theories put forth by the Evangelical movement and then explains why they're all wrong. Included in this group: the idea that condoms are full of holes big enough to admit HIV and sperm, that abortions cause breast cancer, that "remote prayer" can heal people, and, of course, not so intelligent design.

Read it and weep. Then pray for the souls of these lost creatures who refuse to accept the truth of science and are therefore damned to stupidity for the rest of eternity.

Dennis Kucinich speaks about trade

"I have traveled across America. And I have seen the effects of agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA: padlocked gates of abandoned factories, grass growing in parking lots of places where workers used to make steel, used to make washing machines, used to make textiles, used to make machine parts. "Free trade has meant freedom for the American worker to stand in the unemployment line while their jobs were traded away. So-called free trade has brought broken dreams, broken homes, broken hearts to the American manufacturing worker. Trade without equity is tyranny. Trade without economic justice is theft. Trade without integrity, without workers' rights, without human rights, without environmental principles is not worthy of a free people."--Kucinich in the final House CAFTA debate, July 27, 2005

Siberia's Rapid Thaw Causes Alarm

A huge portion of Siberia is thawing for the first time since its formation 11,000 years ago. This thawing is largely being caused by global warming, something called "arctic oscillation," and "feedbacks caused by melting ice." The whole area of Western Siberia has warmed much more rapidly than anywhere else on Earth in the last three or four years. Scientists warn that the situation could be irreversible and cause a rapid acceleration in climate change, because the melting ice could release huge amounts of trapped methane into the atmosphere.

Which once again proves that global climate change is a myth dreamed up by liberal scientists, just like evolution, right Mr. Bush?

Kansas Moves to De-Emphasize the Teaching of Facts

The Kansas Board of Education has voted to de-emphasize evolution as a central part of the school curriculum, preferring to have teachers discuss various theories about the origin of life with their students.

True, Kansas hasn't said "you can't teach Evolution" or "you must teach creationism" or even "you should teach intelligent design," but this is just one more step in a gradual nationwide, hell, a global erosion of trust in science and a kind of "renaissance" of theistic literalism. If trends continue, I can foresee a day when we have another Scopes trial--but this time, the trial will ban the teaching of evolution in favor of teaching some version of the Biblical account of creation.

Look, if evolution, a theory that has been demonstrably proven time and again by scientists, is suddenly suspect, then what scientific theory can stand up to the same kind of scrutiny? For example, let's stop teaching the theory of relativity AND quan…

Drought declared in Oklahoma

The period of March-May of this year has been the driest since 1921. We here in Northeastern Oklahoma are more than 7 inches below normal rainfall for the year. Therefore, all but two counties in the state have been declared "Agricultural Disaster Areas."

I'll add this to the tally of unusual or record-breaking weather events that have happened over the past few years that certainly can't be the result of global warming.

Bill O'Reilly would execute everyone at Gitmo

Video of Bill O'Reilly giving us another gem of wisdom from the total idiot department at Faux News.

Jeb Bush thinks banning racist team names is "ridiculous"

Florida Governor Jeb Bush, that paragon of virtue and righteousness, said that it is "ridiculous" for the NCAA to ban the team name and mascot of Florida State University, "home of the Seminoles." He bases this assertion on the fact that the "costuming and rigging" of the mascot, Chief Osceola, and his horse, were designed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The trouble is that many other Native American tribes, including other Seminole tribes, find the name and the mascot offensive and degrading.

I for one applaud the NCAA for their bold decision to ban racist team names from postseason tournament play, and I hope it leads to teams changing their names. Jeb Bush's position shows just how out of touch he is with the majority of people who realize that it's just as offensive to call a team the Redskins as it would be to call a team the Niggers or the Kikes.

Here's another great quote from Governor Bush:

"How politically correct can we get?&…

Hiroshima and Nagasaki: 60 years later

With the dawn of the nuclear age, humanity for the first time had perfected the means by which it could achieve its own destruction. The mushroom clouds over Japan signaled the birth of a new era of almost constant terror of complete annihilation and ushered in a new Cold War in which each side threatened the other with oblivion. There are some who would argue that the "mutually assured destruction" provided by the nuclear deterrent made the very use of nuclear weapons impossible.

Whether or not that is true is moot. What we must face now is the reality that a lot of the weapons previously in the hands of the Soviet government have literally been lost by the inept and sometimes corrupt governments that arose in the wake of the Soviet Union's fall. We now face the very real threat of a mad terrorist like Osama Bin Laden with his finger on the trigger of a nuclear device.

If we truly are the world's last and greatest superpower, then we absolutely must focus all of our e…

You threatening my masculinity? Fine! Watch me buy this SUV, hate gay people and support the war!

A Cornell study has shown that men overcompensate when their "masculinity is threatened" and become more likely to buy a big burly SUV, support the war in Iraq and express homophobic feelings.

"In a separate study, [researcher Rob Willer] verified that support for the Iraq War, homophobia and interest in purchasing an SUV were all considered masculine by study participants."

Space Shuttle Discovery lands safely

Breaking news: the Space Shuttle Discovery has landed safely at Edwards Air Force Base.

Weekend Roundup

President Bush is about to sign an energy bill that he says will help end our dependence on foreign oil even though the bill does nothing of the sort. Meanwhile, his poll numbers are way down and the mother of a dead Iraq soldier is protesting outside of his ranch.

The landing of Discovery has been delayed until tomorrow morning due to bad weather. Justice Stevens has spoken out against the death penalty. The Democrats and Republicans are arguing over beer money.

Peter Jennings dies

I guess I missed this one...I never heard that Peter Jennings had lung cancer. Well, here's to the memory of a great news personality.

The myth of "mainstream values"

Here's a theory I'm working on. Keep in mind, I haven't fleshed it out very well, but this is the gist of it.

Perhaps the problem that Progressives have in getting heard as loudly as the right-wingers boils down to a usurpation of the phrase "mainstream values" by the far right.

Take Fox News. It's clearly a far right network, yet it calls itself "fair and balanced." True, this laughable misnomer has been discredited a multiplicity of times by those of us who see through the absolute lie of it. The fact remains, however, that the network has managed to capture a sizeable audience from the center and the center-right and quietly push them farther to the right by calling its brand of radical conservative propaganda "mainstream."

Fox News is only one example of this phenomenon. I started to think about this theory after looking at a right-wing blog written by someone who had commented on my Intelligent Design post. He posted his own statement …

Why Ariel Sharon is Israel's Best Hope for Peace

I never thought I'd see that headline either, let alone write it.

Hear me out.

Ariel Sharon is at least partially responsible for starting this current wave of violence and hostility. His visit to the Dome of the Rock certainly helped stir the pot, and I think it was designed to do just that, and sweep him into office in a wave of fear about Palestinian attacks. That strategy worked, and Sharon was elected.

At first, he was a typical right-wing hawk, brutalizing the Palestinians with rocket attacks and home demolitions and refusing to do anything serious about the peace process. The cycle of violence escalated and there seemed no way out. Most progressive Zionists, myself included, thought Sharon was worse than Netanyahu, and we were very angry and depressed about the state of things in Israel.

The Road Map seemed like a token gesture not actually intended to work. Neither side made much progress, and truce talks with the extremists failed time and again to achieve lasting peace. The …

24 Dead Soldiers This Week...And Counting

24 dead American soldiers this week. How many does that make? And what exactly have we accomplished with this war? Have we found any weapons of mass destruction? No. Have we brought democracy and stability to Iraq? No. Have we destroyed the terrorists' ability to attack us? No. Have we eliminated the terrorists' ability to recruit suicide bombers, discredited their ideology so that nobody wants to join them, liberated anyone from anything? No.

I have two analogies that I like to use when talking about the Iraq war.

1) The way we're fighting terrorists in Iraq reminds me of that game at the fair where those gophers pop up out of the hole and you whack them with a mallet. What happens next? Another gopher pops up and you whack it, and then another, and then another. It never ends. You can't possibly whack all of the gophers.

2) We have a fire ant hill in our backyard. We decided that the best way to get rid of it would be to blow it up with dynamite, scattering angry fire a…

Democratic Party Hires Organizers in Oklahoma

It's all part of the "50 State Strategy" created by my good man Chairman Dean. The Democrats have hired three organizers to help energize the party faithful here. It's a good and hopeful sign that perhaps this old donkey is tired of being kicked around the red states and is ready to start doing some kicking of its own.

I seriously hope that this 50 State Strategy works, and that, even if we don't turn Oklahoma blue in 2006, we at least force the Republican Party to spend more time and money fighting for a victory, instead of just simply being handed one. After all, this state does have more registered Democrats than Republicans--it's just that many of the registered Democrats either 1) don't vote, or 2) are closet Republicans that vote Republican in every election.

My real hope is that the Democrats come up with a charismatic candidate for Congressional District 1 in 2006. We need to get John Sullivan out of office, and fast. If the Democratic Party nationa…

Islamic Jihad to Suspend Rocket Attacks

Extremist group Islamic Jihad has said that it will suspend its rocket attacks against Israelis during the Israeli pullout from Gaza.

I will comment on this more completely later, but for now, let me say this. Mahmoud Abbas has been able to accomplish more since Yasser Arafat's death than Yasser Arafat was ever able to accomplish in reining in Palestinian extremist elements, and I applaud him for that. Of course, this is mostly because Arafat died, but still, it's good.

I'm anxious that the Israeli pullout should go as smoothly and peacefully as possible. It's going to be a huge step towards building a two-state solution and ending decades of mutual hatred and bloodshed. I applaud both sides for their willingness to work together on this important step.

Air France Jet Bursts Into Flames After Skidding Off Runway

Breaking news! An Air France jet has skidded off of a runway at Toronto's airport and burst into flames. A news conference is set for 5:00pm EDT.

Bush Backs "Intelligent Design"

Bush has said that he wants Intelligent Design, a thinly veiled attempt to promote creationist theory, taught in public schools alongside evolution.

Didn't we go through this years ago? The Christian Conservatives, normally quite happy to censor speech when it's "indecent" or "offensive," cry foul when sensible rationalists try to deny them the right to use taxpayer dollars to promote a particular religious message. It's not about freedom of speech. Nobody is saying to these Christians "hey, you can't teach your kid about creationism in your own home."

America is about freedom of religion--the freedom to believe what you want and discuss it freely. But it is also about freedom from religion--the freedom not to spend your tax dollars to promote someone else's religious agenda, the freedom not to have your kids subjected officially to someone else's religious agenda in a public school.

Science isn't religion. Evolution isn't re…

It looked funny and sounded funny...

And now in "News that makes you wonder about some people..."

Police in Australia investigate a report of an unattended package making a strange noise on a bus.

Turns out it was a Whoopee cushion.

Why the AFL-CIO split is good for labor

I've been a labor activist for several years and I've become pretty cynical about the leadership of the AFL-CIO, specifically whether John Sweeney is ever really going to be able to stop the massive decline in membership that the labor movement has been suffering for so many years. At the rate it's going, there won't be an AFL-CIO to speak of in a few decades, and the anti-labor forces will really be able to go after all of the job protections that hard working union activists have won through decades of struggle.

That is, unless the individual unions of the AFL-CIO take matters into their own hands. Which is exactly what the Teamsters, SEIU and UFCW, following the lead of the Carpenters' Union several years ago, have done.

By splitting from the AFL-CIO, these unions have shown that they mean business. They've shown that they're not going to sit back and let the bureaucrats at the top of the labor food chain take their dues and sit on them.

This split is good …

The Vicar of Dibley and the One Campaign

Last night, PBS ran an episode of the Vicar of Dibley, a wonderful British sitcom about a female vicar and the eccentric inhabitants of the tiny village she serves, in which the One Campaign was featured.

For background, the One Campaign is the campaign to fight AIDS and poverty that has been promoted most heavily by celebrities like Brad Pitt and Bono. It seeks to increase U.S. donations to "Official Development Assistance" by 1% of our national budget. Click the title of this post to go to the One Campaign website.

Towards the end of the episode, the Vicar is trying to get people to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Live Aid by wearing the white One Campaign wristbands and writing letters to Tony Blair. The villagers, gathered in the Vicar's house, are hesitant and wonder what could be accomplished by wearing the wristbands.

The Vicar suggests looking at the One Campaign website, where she finds a video link titled "hesitant about wearing the wristbands?" She…

Bush Circumvents Senate, Appoints Bolton

It's sad when the President of the United States, whose party controls both houses of Congress as well as the White House, and who is about to seize control of the Supreme Court, cannot even get his nominee for UN Ambassador voted on by the Senate and has to go through sneaky back doors to get him appointed.

It's yet another example of the "mandate" that George Bush doesn't have.