Left Out Program Notes for March 7, 2006

Welcome to Left Out, reality-based independent radio on WRCT 88.3FM, and on the worldwide web at leftout.info. Left Out discusses the news from a perspective left out of the mainstream media. Left Out is co-hosted by Bob Harper and Danny Sleator. Today's program is produced by Matt Hornyak. Listeners are invited to call the program at (412) 268-WRCT (9728), or to send email to bob@leftout.info


The WRCT spring semester schedule is up. In it we find:

Democracy Now! weekdays at 8am.
Free Speech Radio News weekdays at 5:30pm.
Fight'n Lefty Review Wednesdays at 6pm.
After The Bell right after Left Out.
The Lid Off alternating weeks with Left Out.
Rust Belt Radio Mondays 6pm.


Listen to the broadcast (requires MP3 player). (Streaming, Download, Podcast)

Guest: Carl Johnson

Pittsburgh resident Carl Johnson is involved in the disaster relief efforts for hurricane Katrina in coastal Mississippi. He worked with a group of volunteers out of a Lutheran church who helped local citizens get back on their feet, do repair work, set up kitchens, etc.

We'll talk to Carl about his experiences.

The Church which organized Carl's visit to the gulf region: Christus Victor Lutheran Church Hurricane Disaster Response

Katrina On The Ground is organizing students to spend spring and summer breaks helping. Here's an article from Alternet about this program.

Election Board Meeting of February 27

One of us (Danny Sleator) attended this meeting. The board was discussing its recent decision to sign a contract with Sequoia Systems to supply the County's voting machines.

Let me mention two things that happened at the meeting that just made me want to scream.

  1. John Defazio stated that "there are no certified machines that had a voter verifiable paper trail." It eventually became apparent that he was under the false impression that op-scan machines did not supply a "voter verifiable paper trail". So, although he had vigorously supported (as did all the county council members) the idea of an audit trail, when it came time for him to make a choice, he blew it. He apparently thought a voter verifiable paper trail HAD TO BE a DRE with "cut and drop" printer attached!

    That after nine months of work, and after a half dozen public meetings at which members of the community (including me) had made this point again and again --- that he could still be so confused on such a basic level is truely amazing and truely discouraging.

  2. At some point a member of the public gallery said "what are you going to do if the results of the election turn out to be wildy improbable, and you cannot do a recount". Dan Onorato's response was "the current lever machines don't have a paper trail either".

    That comment demonstrates that he has absorbed ABSOLUTELY NOTHING from months and months of work and testimony from people like Dave Eckhardt -- who explained PRECISELY THIS ISSUE to the committee at the last meeting. ELECTRONIC MACHINES ARE NOT LIKE MECHANICAL MACHINES!

At some point, before taking public questions, Onorato asked the audience to please "only make new points and bring in new information" because of all the public hearings that we've had. Well, I'm sorry Dan. You and the rest of the committee have demonstrated a sub-kindergarden ability to absorb the BASIC FACTS about the decision you're trying to make. Under these circumstances what else can we do be keep repeating stuff over and over and over and over!

The Post-Gazette Chimes in

The Post-Gazette published an editorial on Friday applauding Onorato's decision. It included the same canard that Onorato mentioned above --- that paper trails are "not necessary," because the current machines don't have them.

The editorial is jam packed with false, misleading, and just plain stupid statements. Let's look at part of it:

The lack of a paper trail has moved some voting activists to favor an optical scan system, which employs paper ballots filled in by voters. Their concerns are not without merit -- rigging elections has a sordid history in the United States -- but their fears also have a computer distrust aspect to them.

After all, they are asking for proof that is not now available with the mechanical machines. Further, it is ironic that their preferred remedy for more Florida debacles would turn out to be voters marking paper ballots -- an echo of what caused the problem in the first place.

Just in these two paragraphs we have:

  1. equating mechanical machines with no paper trails to electronic ones A completely false analogy --- among other things, electronic machines behavior totally change when the software is changed.

  2. falsly dissing optical scan systems by saying it's an "echo" of what happened in Florida. This is just nonsense. The problems in Florida were caused by PUNCH CARDS and BUTTERFLY BALLOTS, neither of which have anything to do with optical scan ballots.

  3. dismissing the critics as having irrational "computer distrust". This is perposterous --- the people MOST CONCERNED about this are precisely those who have the MOST SOPISTICATED understanding of computer technology.

The article also goes on criticize optical scan machines with this "argument":

Americans trust computers for life-and-death functions every day, and it seems to us that paper ballots run through a scanner are not how most Americans will vote as the 21st century advances. For one thing, the cost of printing up hundreds of thousands of ballots every election would prove expensive over the long haul.

  1. Trusting computers for "life-and-death functions" is not at all the same thing. For one thing, those are not at all adversarial situations --- there's no motivation to kill somebody by having an x-ray machine inject too much radiation into a person. Also, it's just a fact that the standards of software quality that goes into building those kinds of "fly by wire" applications are not even remotely being followed for voting machines. And these are additional reasons to demand a voter verifiable paper trail.

  2. The cost argument is completely bogus. They are simply have not looked into the cost issues at all. The DRE machines (touch screens) have been proven again and again to be MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE than optical scan machines.

  3. Finally, "a scanner are not how most Americans will vote as the 21st century advances." So this is not "how it will be done" in their naive narrow vision of the 21st century? That's an argument?

New Calls for Impeaching Bush

Garrison Keillor calls for Bush's impeachment in What to Do When the Emperor Has No Clothes, which appeared in the Chicago Tribune.

Lewis H. Lapham, wrote The Case for Impeachment: Why we can no longer afford George W. Bush which appeared in the March 2006 issue of Harper's Magazine.

Former congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman wrote this appeal for Bush's impeachment in the Nation Magazine.

On March 2nd there was a public forum in NY City on the prospect of impeaching Bush. It's described in this piece from Salon.com by Michelle Goldberg.

And of course, there's the minority report of the House Judiciary Committee "The Constitution in Crisis; The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Coverups in the Iraq War". This report, written in early 2006, enumerates the impeachable charges in great detail, and forms the basis of Lapham's article.

By the way, here's a letter Danny Sleator sent to the Post-Gazette on January 7, which they never published:

On September 13, 1998 the editors of the Post-Gazette called for President Clinton to Resign. His crime was having an affair with Monica Lewinsky, and lying about it. At about the same time dozens of other papers across the country also called for his resignation.

Now we have a president who has lied repeatedly to the American people and to Congress about matters of war and peace, with dire consequences that we all know about. Yet there have been no calls for his resignation or impeachment by any major newspaper. Why?

Bush has initiated illegal wiretapping. Bush has locked up American citizens for years without charge. Bush has illegally used the powers of his office to punish his critics.

Bush has violated international law by attacking a country that posed no threat to the US. He has advocated and approved the use of cruel and degrading interrogation methods in violation US and international law.

And this does not even mention any of the legal things that he is doing that are seriously endangering our future (such as putting the country into massive debt, cutting taxes for the rich, gutting FEMA, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, and the EPA, opposing the Kyoto accords, not developing a coherent energy policy).

Yet there have been no calls for his resignation or impeachment by any major newspaper.

Follow-up on the 60-Minutes Bush/Guard Story

Before the 2004 election, 60-Minutes did a piece about how Bush evaded the draft. They uncovered some memos that showed that Bush was using his connections to get into the Texas Air National Guard. (Not exactly a big surprise.) The right-wing blogosphere kicked into action and "proved" that the memos were forgeries. The basis of of the claim is that the typewriting technology used in the memos did not exist at the time they were supposed to have been written.

The story blew up into a major embarrassment for CBS. In the end Dan Rather lost his job as news anchor, and several excellent 60-Minutes producers lost their jobs. This was pretty much the end of the mainstream media coverage of this story.

Well, it turns out that the typeface analysis was totally bogus. Mary Mapes, one of the fired producers at 60-Minutes has written a book (Truth and Duty: The Press, President and the Privilege of Power) about her experiences. One of the things she discovered is that typing of the kind used in the disputed memos is common among contemporaneous memos from the same National Guard organization. Here's a quote from her Democracy Now interview of February 10:

And everyone from the Drudge Report to websites I had never heard of, like FreeRepublic.com. LittleGreenFootballs, all kinds of other conservatives sites, attacked the story, all of them claiming that the documents were not authentic, that they had been forged, and they were citing really obscure type-face issues that I think really confused most Americans as being proof that they were forged.

They were also, by the way, totally and completely wrong. One of the things I did in the book was continue to research and find examples from within the National Guard archives in Texas that showed all the typeface issues and proportional spacing and all this stuff that they accused us of having overlooked, those examples were all in place in the archives. So their complaints were complete B.S.

This aspect of the story has gotten no play in the mainstream media. Everybody is left with the false impression that 60-Minutes erroneously based its story on forgeries.

Bush -- of Course -- Knew What He Was Saying was False

From Democracy Now, March 3

Bush Was Given Intelligence Discrediting Stated Reasons for Invasion

Investigative journalist Murray Waas is reporting President Bush was personally delivered intelligence reports before the Iraq war that cast doubt on his administration's stated reasons for launching an invasion. One report, delivered in January 2003, said Saddam Hussein was highly unlikely to attack the United States unless "ongoing military operations risked the imminent demise of his regime." Another intelligence report dated October 2002 said both the Energy Department and the State Department's intelligence bureau had concluded Saddam Hussein's attempts to purchase aluminum tubes were "intended for conventional weapons." Waas writes that the disclosure is the first evidence that the president himself knew of the sharp debate within the government over the aluminum tubes during the time that he, Cheney, and other members of the Cabinet were citing the tubes as clear evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program. Neither the president nor the vice president told the public about the disagreement among the agencies."

On Pharmacists' Choice

There's an organization called "Pharmacists for Life" who support pharmacists who refuse to fill perscriptions for Plan B a so-called "Morning After" pill that prevent a potential pregnancy from starting. They can be taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex to prevent the pregnancy.

The problem, specially in rural areas, is that a woman can't necessarily easily go to another pharmacist if one refuses her. And there's very limited time window in which the drug is effective.

House Bill 2217, written by state Rep. Dan Frankel (of Squirrel Hill) is designed to prevent such actions from depriving women of getting legally prescribed and appropriate medication.

There's an article about this issue in last week's City Paper.

In defense of pharmacists right not to fill perscriptions, they present this argument:

Pharmacists are not mind-numbed robots who operate without critical thinking, They do not park their moral, ethical and religious values at the door, as if they were some kind of schizoid personality.

There's an important connection to a point made by our guest two weeks ago, Sam Harris. (And the City Paper article does not make it.) You have to look at details of the arguments being made by the pharmacists. Consider two types of arguments:

I see that you're about to start taking these two drugs together. Research has shown that this can sometimes cause horrible consequences.


My religious beliefs tell me that preventing a fertilized egg from developing into a person is equivalent to murder. Therefore I refuse to fill this prescription.

One is based on reproducible scientific studies that show that the combination of drugs is dangerous. The other is simply an unjustifiable religious position. The notion that these two different scenarios are somehow equivalent, and cannot be distinguished is ludicrous.

NASA Cuts Research

A March 2 NY Times article describes how the current proposed NASA budget is cutting back on research because:

The agency's administrator, Michael D. Griffin, says NASA needs the money to keep the space shuttle fleet aloft, complete the International Space Station and build a new crew exploration vehicle to replace the shuttle.

From an email to a friend:

Discussion of March Scientific American article by Eugene Parker

I read an article in Scientific American (aluded to above, but not included on-line). It makes an interesting point about long manned space missions. It points out that the radiation you'd get on a space craft travelling to mars would be huge. In 1 year, you'd get as much radiation as nuclear workers are allowed in a lifetime. Getting to Mars would probably take 2 years. And it points out that there are currently no known feasible methods to avoid this.

Am I missing something? Is it really reasonable to send people to Mars, only to have them die a horrible death of cancer in a year or two? Is this what is being contemplated? Is the idea to just send people to Mars and have them die there after a year or two?

Any long-term populated colony on Mars or the moon will have to be underground for the same reason.

This whole manned space travel thing is a crock of shit that should be jettisoned as soon as possile. Robotic space missions are the only way to go.. People have to get used to the fact that this is our only planet, and we god damn better take care of it.

Ignorant Republicans

The school board of Pittsburgh suburb Upper St Clair voted last night to terminate the International Baccalaureate curriculum in their school district on the spurious grounds that the $80,000 per year cost is "too high" (out of total annual budget of approximately $50,000,000). Previously the school board members advocating its termination described the program as "Marxist" and "anti-Christian" and "un-American", revealing much more about the speaker than the program. This is another example of Republican wingnuts destroying our society by fostering ignorance and undermining education. Listeners are encouraged to visit the IBO web site for actual information about the program, which emphasizes international education.

Authoritarian Republicanism

We've commented frequently on the deeply authoritarian streak running through the heart of contemporary Republican politics, and particularly exemplified by the fascistic tendencies of the Cheney Administration. A recent column by Glenn Greenwald beautifully summarizes the cult of personality surrounding George W. Bush.

Robertson Watch

In the opinion of radical cleric Pat Robertson, "Europe is right now in the midst of racial suicide because of the declining birth rate."

Little Ricky's Little Trickies

The junior senator from Pennsylvania has quite a few tricks up his sleeve for financing his suburban Virginia lifestyle. Not to mention having billed the Penn Hills School District for schooling his children, even though he lives in Virginia. Come November, just say no to Little Ricky.

By the way, Tricky Ricky continues to lag way behind his democratic opponent, Casey. According to this recent poll he's behind by double digits.


Truth Out
Common Dreams
Information Clearinghouse
Tom Paine
The Independent
The Guardian
Consortium News

Left Out Home
Danny Sleator
Last modified: Fri Mar 10 6:29:10 2006