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Friday, June 30, 2006

No agency left intact - NASA's demise under Bush

June 30, 2006

A 30-year NASA veteran and one of the agency`s top shuttle engineers has reportedly angrily resigned only five days before Saturday`s Discovery launch.

Unidentified sources at NASA told ABC News that Camarda has been feuding with Wayne Hale, the manager of NASA`s space shuttle program, and NASA Administrator Mike Griffin about treatment Camarda`s engineers received when they raised concerns about the upcoming Discovery launch. Some engineers believe more substantial changes need to be made.

Something tells me now is not a good time to be flying on that shuttle.

In a Tuesday email to his colleagues at Johnson, ABC News said Camarda reaffirmed his disappointment with NASA officials.

'I cannot accept the methods I believe are being used by this Center to select future leaders,' he wrote. 'I have always based my decisions on facts, data and good solid analysis. I cannot be a party to rumor, innuendo, gossip and-or manipulation to make or break someone`s career and-or good name.'

I guess he can forget about politics then.

One of the commentators after the article says it best.

President Bush has used the spoils system to replace meritorious public officials with politcal hacks and unqualified cronies. This time-honored, yet lethal approach to governance has resulted in the Katrina debacle and the administration-wide culture of incompetence has entangled the nation in an unwinnable war in Iraq which was predicated upon false pretexts and unfounded assumptions.

It is no surprise that Bush's congenital propensity for fostering corruption and incompetence has affected NASA as well.

They ought to strap Jr. to the problematic fuel tank when Discovery blasts off - he could ride that baby into space Slim Pickens style - Yeeeehaaawww!!


Sounds good to me! I've got a great windbreaker that he can use for the ride.


Monday, June 26, 2006

Ann Coulter Republicans

by John Steinberg
Raw Story Columnist
[Bold & Color Emphasis is Blog Editors]

Manna is now being airlifted into Democratic hands. Will they have the will to use it?

In an apparent (and successful) attempt to raise the profile of her new book, Ann Coulter went off. Again.

Arch-conservative commentator Ann Coulter likes to shock, but she turned stunningly malicious in her new book "Godless: The Church of Liberalism." She referred in it to four outspoken widows whose husbands were killed in the 9/11 attacks as "self-obsessed women" and "witches" who are taking pleasure in their husbands' deaths.

The widows, all from New Jersey, had gained attention for pressing the Bush administration to establish the 9/11 commission - an achievement that apparently rubbed Ms. Coulter the wrong way.

The author, who is on tour promoting her book, wrote: "And by the way, how do we know their husbands weren't planning to divorce these harpies?"

And lest you think that this sawed-off shotgun of a human being backed off after seeing the damage done:

At her appearance at the Book Revue in Huntington, the rail-thin blonde was unapologetic.
"No, I won't apologize. Yes, the 9/11 widows are witches and harpies," she said.

Raw Story readers will most likely know that Ann Coulter has been the far right's designated brawler for some time. She's the one who called Max Cleland "lucky." Who said that John Walker Lindh should be executed "in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed too." The one who said "My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building." The one who said "We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee." The one who said that Congressman John Murtha was "the reason soldiers invented 'fragging.'"

When Michael Moore had the gall to confront Americans with the footage of our deer-in-the-headlights 9/11 President in 2004, Republicans were quick to force Democrats to distance themselves from such blasphemy. They savaged as "Michael Moore Democrats" all who would not disown him. That cleft has contributed to the alienation of the grass
roots of the party from those who chose respectability over populism.

In the fetid, malodorous bog that is the Republican ecosystem, in contrast, Coulter has found a warm, comfortable home. That place is as the basso profano in the tragicomic conservative opera buffa - the villain who gives voice to the evil the others feel but dare not speak. Coulter has completely adapted to the feedback loop that characterizes her surroundings: the more outrageous her rhetoric, the more media attention she gets.

The more attention she gets, the more books she sells, and the more she gets paid for her lecture tour appearances, and so on. A "godless" Darwinian process has thus prevailed: survival of the foulest.

Republicans (as well as their Stockholm-Syndromed counterparts in the press and the Democratic establishment) refer to the left blogosphere as a "fever swamp," yet the sulfurous venom that spews from Coulter's orifice creates nary a peep of Republican unease. Neither Universal Press Syndicate nor a single newspaper has dropped her syndicated toxin. And why should they? She sells papers, and blogospheric outrage is but a distant thunder for them.

Coulter's ascendance is a manifestation of a deep and serious problem that has been building for many years. Republicans have been extraordinarily successful in casting large swaths of the Democratic loyalists as lepers. Democratic leaders have largely concurred in that diagnosis, and have been running away from their own supporters for more than a decade.

As Stanford linguist Geoffrey Nunberg recently pointed out, the Democrats are so cowed they have acquiesced in the demonization of the word "liberal," which now battles for lead pariah status with the dread acronym "ACLU."

In short, the greedy, venal wing of the Democratic Party has been cut loose from its only source of strength and differentiation from the greedy venal wing of the Republican Party. The cleavage has been devastatingly effective. Yet no serious attempt has been made to create a similar schism between fringe Republicans and those who stress fitness for polite company.

If the pundit-class Democrats were waiting for an engraved invitation to that party, it just arrived.

The question, "Are you an Ann Coulter Republican?" should confront every Republican running for every office in the land, from President to dog catcher.

Every Democratic candidate should accuse his or her opponent of being in favor of poisoning Supreme Court Justices and killing Congressmen. At every opportunity, every Republican should be made to answer: "Do you agree with Ann Coulter that the 9/11 widows are witches and harpies?" And George W. Bush, Tony Snow, Dick Cheney, Laura Bush and Barney (the only lapdog with a good excuse) should be confronted with these questions as well.

Republicans have been able to maintain a Kabuki symbiosis with all manner of cave-dwellers by speaking in an elaborate, dog whistle-like code. They hold racists, homophobes and rapture acolytes close enough to keep their votes without ever having to either publicly embrace or disavow such extreme viewpoints. That relationship with white-sheet America has been essential to their electoral strategy for decades.

But Ann Coulter has furnished us with a turn-key solution.

We can now easily put them in the logical fork they should have been forced into years ago: Disavow Coulter's vile, sub-human ravings, or embrace them.

If they distance themselves from her, they risk alienating the mouth-breathers who demand such red meat as the price of their loyalty. If they embrace her, they lose significant swaths of the middle - the decent folks who are the reason Republicans talk about Dred Scott and "state's rights" rather than criminalizing abortion and gutting civil rights laws.

Which chess piece will Republicans sacrifice? I suspect it will vary. New York Governor George Pataki is one of the few Republicans to come out against Coulter, but that's a freebee - 9/11 happened in his state, and he appears to have no higher ambitions. Deep southerners in local races will probably embrace her. But what will John McCain do? I don't see how he can answer that question and still become President. Rudy Giuliani? He has already shown he'd rather run into a burning building. Bill Frist would prefer to declare himself to be in a persistent vegetative state. The list of high-profile Republicans desperate not to confront the Coulter question is very long.

Many lefties wonder why we give Coulter the prominence she so clearly craves. They think we lose by raising her profile. But I think she is exactly the hate-contorted face we want on the Republican Party. We need to make Ann Coulter the third rail of Republican politics, just as Michael Moore was for Democrats two years ago. (They can be equally significant as symbols; there is obviously no comparison in talent or accuracy.)

How will the Republicans choose? It matters little, so long as we force them to go one way or the other. Humanity lines up against her. But if they prefer to align with her, perhaps we can finally have an honest confrontation between an unmasked, rabid radical right and the rest of us.

John Steinberg is a Senior Recidivist with the Poor Man Institute for Freedom and Democracy and a Pony. He bloviates regularly @


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Stephen Hawking says
John Paul told him not to study
beginning of universe

The Associated Press
Friday June 16, 2006

HONG KONG — Famed physicist Stephen Hawking said Thursday that Pope John Paul II tried to discourage him and other scientists attending a cosmology conference at the Vatican from trying to figure out how the universe began.

The British scientist joked he was lucky the pope didn't realize he had already presented a paper at the gathering suggesting how the universe was created.

"I didn't fancy the thought of being handed over to the Inquisition like Galileo," Hawking said in a lecture to a sold-out audience at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. John Paul died in 2005; Hawking did not say when the Vatican meeting was held.

Galileo ran afoul of the Roman Catholic Church in the 17th century for supporting Copernicus' discovery that the Earth revolved around the sun. The church insisted the Earth was at the center of the universe.

In 1992, John Paul issued a declaration saying the church's denunciation of Galileo was an error resulting from "tragic mutual incomprehension."

Hawking said the pope told the scientists, "It's OK to study the universe and where it began. But we should not inquire into the beginning itself because that was the moment of creation and the work of God."

The physicist, author of the best seller "A Brief History of Time," added that John Paul believed "God chose how the universe began for reasons we could not understand."

John Paul insisted faith and science could coexist. In 1996, in a message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, he said that Darwin's theories were sound as long as they took into account that creation was the work of God and that Darwin's theory of evolution was "more than a hypothesis."

But Hawking questioned whether an almighty power was needed to create the universe.

"Does it require a creator to decree how the universe began? Or is the initial state of the universe determined by a law of science?" he asked.

Hawking's groundbreaking research on black holes and the origins of the universe has made him one of the best-known theoretical physicists of his generation. He proposes that space and time have no beginning and no end.

The scientist uses a wheelchair and suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurological disorder. But he said people shouldn't let physical disabilities limit their ambitions.

"You can't afford to be disabled in spirit as well as physically," he said. "People won't have time for you."

Hawking must communicate using an electronic speech synthesizer, and he was asked why he used a voice with an American accent.

"The voice I use is a very old hardware speech synthesizer made in 1986," Hawking said. "I keep it because I have not heard a voice I like better and because I have identified with it."

But Hawking, 64, said he's shopping for a new system because the hardware is large and fragile. He also said it uses components that are no longer made.

The Seattle Times Company

Monday, June 12, 2006

Dept. Of Justice Dismisses Tax Prosecution!

DOJ Dismisses Felony Tax Prosecution -- With Prejudice -- After PRA Defense Raised Evidence OMB Complicit In Income Tax Fraud

DOJ & IRS Petitioned To Explain

On May 12, 2006 in Peoria, Illinois, the attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) begged the court to dismiss all charges against IRS victim Robert Lawrence in federal District Court. The motion for dismissal came on the heels of a surprise tactic by Lawrence’s defense attorney Oscar Stilley. The tactic threatened exposure of IRS’s on-going efforts to defraud the public.

The move put DOJ attorneys in a state of panic that left them with only one alternative: beg for dismissal, with prejudice. Stilley’s tactic paid off. Sixty days earlier, the DOJ had indicted Lawrence on three counts of willful failure to file a 1040 form, and three felony counts of income tax evasion. The federal Judge dismissed all charges with prejudice, meaning the DOJ cannot charge Lawrence with those crimes again.

The trial was to have started on Monday morning, May 15th.

On Wednesday, May 10, Stilley mailed a set of documents to the DOJ in response to DOJ’s discovery demands. The documents revealed to DOJ for the first time that Lawrence was basing his entire defense on an act of Congress, 44 U.S.C. 3500 – 3520, also known as the "Paperwork Reduction Act" (PRA).

In Section 3512 of the Act, titled "Public Protection," it says that no person shall be subject to any penalty for failing to comply with an agency’s collection of information request (such as a 1040 form), if the request does not display a valid control number assigned by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in accordance with the requirements of the Act, or if the agency fails to inform the person who is to respond to the collection of information that he is not required to respond to the collection of information request unless it displays a valid control number.

In Section 3512 Congress went on to authorize that the protection provided by Section 3512 may be raised in the form of a complete defense at any time during an agency’s administrative process (such as an IRS Tax Court or Collection and Due Process Hearing) or during a judicial proceeding (such as Lawrence’s criminal trial).

In sum, the PRA requires that all government agencies display valid OMB control numbers and certain disclosures directly on all information collection forms that the public is requested to file. Lawrence's sole defense was he was not required to file an IRS Form 1040 because it displays an invalid OMB control number.

Government officials knew that if the case went to trial, it would expose the fraudulent, counterfeit 1040. They also must have known that a trial would expose the ongoing conspiracy between OMB and IRS to publish 1040 forms each year that those agencies knew were in violation of the PRA.

That would raise the issue that the Form 1040, with its invalid control number, is being used by the Government to cover up the underlying constitutional tort -- that is, the enforcement of a direct, unapportioned tax on the labor of every working man, women and child in America. Any information collection form, such as IRS Form 1040, which lacks bona fide statutory authority or which conflicts with the Constitution, cannot be issued an OMB control number.

If a control number were issued for such a form, the form would be invalid and of no force and effect. Under the facts and circumstances of the last 24 years, it is safe to say that IRS Form 1040 is a fraudulent, counterfeit, bootleg form. Government officials responsible for this fraud should be investigated and face indictment for willfully making and sponsoring false instruments.

Caught between a rock and a hard place, the DOJ and IRS decided not to let the Lawrence case proceed because it would reveal one critical and damning fact: The PRA law protects those that fail to file IRS bootleg Form 1040. The DOJ knew that it stood a significant chance of losing the case, and if that happened, the press and others would quickly spread the word, and leave only fools to ever file a 1040 again. Oscar Stilley’s pleadings and documents made these points quite clear:

IRS Form 1040 violates the federal Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) and is therefore a legally invalid form.

Under the Public Protection clause of the PRA, no person can be penalized for failing to file a 1040 if the IRS fails to fully comply with the PRA.

The PRA statutes explicitly provide that a PRA challenge is a complete defense and can be raised in any administrative or judicial proceeding.

The IRS Individual Form 1040 has not and cannot comply with the requirements of the PRA because no existing statute authorizes the IRS to impose or collect the federal income tax from individuals. That lack of bona fide authority makes it impossible for IRS to avoid violating the PRA.

We The People Foundation has researched the facts, law and circumstances surrounding this case, and has determined that:

A public trial would have opened a “Pandora’s Box” of legal evidence and government testimony under oath that would establish the IRS 1040 form as both fraudulent and counterfeit.

Oscar Stilley’s PRA defense “checkmated” the DOJ and IRS

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) appears to have been complicit with IRS in deceiving the public and in helping perpetuate the 1040 fraud by promulgating federal regulations that negate the plain language of the PRA laws passed by Congress and by allowing the IRS to continually skirt the explicit requirements of those statutes.

Accordingly, We The People Foundation has petitioned the U.S. Attorney General, the IRS Commissioner, and Director of the OMB, requesting an official explanation of their conduct in Peoria. See the petition below. It includes links to all relevant statutes, regulations, court decisions, Federal Register publications, law review articles, Lawrence case pleadings, and the discovery documents sent by defense counsel Stilley to the DOJ.


The Foundation would like to extend many thanks to researcher Lindsey Springer for his contributions regarding the PRA legal research and assistance with the Lawrence case, as well as defendant Bob Lawrence and his attorney Oscar Stilley for having the courage to rely on this research in the manner they did facing numerous felony income tax charges.

Springer's website featuring his current personal PRA/APA litigation and his explanatory video can be found be found at

Please also review the extensive, ground-breaking income tax legal research (some it PRA related) made publicly available at no cost by the Foundation in 2004.

The body of work entitled, "Analysis of the Federal Income Tax Law" consists of hundreds of legal and historical documents questioning the authority of the IRS.

This research was included as Attachment #2 of a Petition for Redress to government officials. Copies of the 400 MB disk are available on the WTP Foundation on-line store for a nominal donation.

Beatrice Irby Smith
3701 S.Dakota Ave
Washington, DC 20018


People ARE Power! Organize your neighbors and use yours!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Data on Nuclear Agency Workers

By Chris Baltimore
June 10, 2006

Washington - A computer hacker got into the U.S. agency that guards the country's nuclear weapons stockpile and stole the personal records of at least 1,500 employees and contractors, a senior U.S. lawmaker said on Friday.

The target of the hacker, the National Nuclear Safety Administration, is the latest agency to reveal that sensitive private information about government workers was stolen.

The incident happened last September but top Energy Department officials were not told about it until this week, prompting the chairman of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee to demand the resignation of the head of the NNSA.

An NNSA spokesman was not available for comment.

The NNSA is a semi-autonomous arm of the Energy Department and also guards some of the U.S. military's nuclear secrets and responds to global nuclear and radiological emergencies.

Committee chairman Rep. Joe Barton said NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks should be "removed from your office as expeditiously as possible" because he did not quickly notify senior Energy Department officials of the breach.

"And I mean like 5 o'clock this afternoon if it's possible," Barton, a Texas Republican, said in a statement.

Earlier this week the Pentagon revealed that personal information on about 2.2 million active-duty, National Guard and Reserve troops was stolen last month from a government employee's house.

That comes on top of the theft of data on 26.5 million U.S. military veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs has said.

A spokesman for Energy Secretary Sam Bodman declined comment on the call for Brooks' resignation but said the secretary was "deeply disturbed about the way this was handled internally" and would make it a priority to notify workers about the lapse.

The "vast majority" of those workers were contractors, not direct government employees, said the spokesman Craig Stevens.

According to Barton, the NNSA chief knew about the incident soon after it happened in September but did not inform Energy Department officials, including Bodman, until Wednesday.

"I don't see how you could meet with (Bodman) every day the last seven or eight months and not inform him," Barton said.

He said Brooks cited "bureaucratic confusion" to explain the reporting lapse.

"It appears that each side of that organization assumed that the other side had made the appropriate notification," Brooks told the House energy panel's oversight and investigations subcommittee, according to a record provided by Barton's office.

"Just as the secretary just learned about this week, I learned this week that the secretary didn't know," Brooks said. "There are a number of us who in hindsight should have done things differently on informing."


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Daniel Ellsberg Interviews

Help Get Daniel Ellsberg on TV

Sandi Bachom has created a chilling 3-minute video segment of Daniel Ellsberg speaking about the constitutional crisis our nation now faces as Bush has effectively proclaimed himself above the law on numerous occasions. This segment is now at #14 on the viewer-created content section of Current TV.

Current TV's producers are voting today (Thurs) on what clips to air this coming week. This morning, please take a few moments to watch this brief segment. Then join the Current TV site (registration is free and only takes a second) and press "Greenlight" under the segment after you've joined. If enough people "Greenlight" the clip this morning, it will get selected to air on national television for millions of people to watch.
(If this link doesn't click through directly from your email, cut and paste it into your web browser)

When was the last time words like these were spoken on national television? Please help up get this important message on television, in front of voters. It will only take a few moments of your time.

Thank you!

Michael Ellsberg


Transcript of Daniel Ellsberg segment

Here is a transcript of the segment that your vote (above ) will help get on national television. This transcript has been edited slightly for readability.

DANIEL ELLSBERG: I am very, very uneasy at the idea of going month by month without the public understanding that we've got a man who's proclaimed himself dictator right now--that we've got a constitutional crisis. We can't go three more years shying away from the subject because it isn't popular-- because it might lose us some votes or something, to mention that our president is not only committing crimes and violating the Constitution, but that he's claiming his right to keep doing it.

The crime itself may or may not be that serious. We don't know exactly who he's listening to. Maybe the public would happily accept it if they knew what it was. But he's saying, "I don't have to tell you what it is. I agree that it violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act"--which is clear-cut legislation intended to prevent this--"I've gone beyond that. I'm not going to tell you how much I've gone beyond it. And I'm going to keep doing it."

That is an announcement that he has broken free of the Constitution, and his oath of office, and that he's a dictator, while there's a war on. He believes very explicitly-- and we have the memos now that were written to tell him this by lawyers-- Gonzales, Alito, Yoo, Addington, Bybee, to name five, who have all written memos saying, "As Commander in Chief during wartime, you have inherent powers to do anything. There are NO limits. Torture? Absolutely."

As the head of the Yale Law School, Harold Koh, said, if Bush has powers to do this--the torture--then he has powers to commit genocide, or to wage aggression--which of course he's done, and proposes to do again-- to do anything. He might as well reenact slavery. There's no limit to what the president can do in wartime--that's what they're claiming, and that's what the president believes.

I was just talking to a representative the other day, and I said, "How come they're not saying this in Congress?" And he said, "Well, we are saying it, but the media don't report it."

And I said, "OK, how many of your colleagues are saying it?" And he thought for quite a while, and said, "About two dozen."

And I said, "Well that's nice. Why isn't it two hundred democrats and two dozen Republicans who are saying it?" We've got a clear-cut Constitutional crisis here. What is this with two dozen people saying that crimes are being committed?

As he said, "Well, my constituents don't care about that." Well, how are they going to care if they're not told by anybody what's going on here? Who do they hear it from?

I think we're in a situation like Germany just before the Reichstag fire. I think the next 9/11-- not the last one, that was just a precursor-- the next one is going to be our Reichstag fire, and that means the day after it, our freedoms are gone !

Contact Information


Friday, June 09, 2006

Taliban take the fight to the country

By Syed Saleem Shahzad
June 9, 2006
Asia Times

PAKISTAN-AFGHANISTAN border areas - The Taliban movement has evolved beyond its guerrilla struggle into an organized widespread rebellion. It has fully matured in southern Afghanistan and is heading north toward Kabul and beyond, all the way drawing on growing popular support.

"Don't consider the present [insurgency] movement as Taliban only. This is a mass mutiny against the foreign presence, and all common Afghans are solely responsible for that," Gul Mohammed, a Taliban commander, explained to Asia Times Online in an interview in Qalat, the capital of Zabul province in Afghanistan.

Gul Mohammed's views are not exaggerated. They confirm exhaustive ATol on-the-ground-investigations and reports over the past few months. And this week, the Senlis Council, a London-based international security and policy advisory think-tank, reached a similar conclusion.

"Helmand [where the Taliban have a strong foothold] is an early warning of what the whole of Afghanistan could become if a radically different approach is not taken in the coming months," the Senlis Council, an independent group actively engaged in work in Afghanistan, said in its report.

"The United States unilaterally bombing Kandahar undermined the civilian population's support for the [Hamid] Karzai government," the council said. "The recent riots in Kabul were also an example of the increasing hostility of the Afghan people towards the international community."

Gul Mohammed picked up the point: "Americans crashed our gates and the sanctity of our houses. They disrespected our traditions and gave Christian missionaries a free hand to operate in Afghanistan. We just explained these features to the masses, who are our brothers and sisters."

Mullah Gul Mohammed Jangvi (the last name means "warrior"), to give him his full name, was the commander of the Taliban at Pul-i-Khumri in central Afghanistan when the US attacked in 2001. When the Taliban retreated from Kabul in the face of the invasion, he took refuge in Kandahar, the Taliban's spiritual capital.

In 2003, he was betrayed to US forces, arrested and taken to Bagram Base near Kabul, where he was tortured and then coerced into joining the Jaishul Muslim, a proxy US outfit established among the Taliban in an attempt to dislodge Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

But soon after Gul Mohammed was released, Jaishul Muslim evaporated and he rejoined the Taliban, along with 1,600 men. He is now one of the main commanders in the Qalat and Helmand area.

The US invested millions of dollars to built a support system in this region, which included buying the loyalties of local warlords, establishing proxy organization such as Jaishul Muslim, appeasing local tribes by releasing their men from Bagram Base, and recruiting local youths for the Afghan National Army.

However, when this year's spring offensive by the Taliban started, the whole scheme fell apart like a house of cards, with the chief beneficiary of the elaborate investment being the Taliban.

"Before the present [spring] campaign, we had adopted a strategy to educate the masses about the high-handedness of the Americans. Whenever we entered any village, we surrounded the whole area and asked the people to gather in a nearby mosque," said Gul Mohammed.

"We then told the people that they are under foreign occupation and there is a need to stand up against the foreign forces. We distributed night messages [a traditional Afghan way of spreading information] and passed on our messages through audio cassettes and computer disks."

Gul Mohammed maintained that the Taliban would continue their twofold strategy - military and political - and expressed confidence that soon the movement would reach into northern Afghanistan and foreign forces there would be very much under attack, as they are in southern Afghanistan.

"At present we have made Kandahar, Qalat and Helmand our strategic nucleus, where we have completely debased the enemy. There are seven main districts in Kandahar which are completely in our hands. Soon we will intensify our suicide operations throughout Afghanistan, and then you will see how the Afghan administration will collapse," said Gul Mohammed.

This is substantiated by the Senlis Council report: "About 80% of the population in Helmand supports the Taliban. The British troops [who are to replace US troops] will need to regain control, and for this they will need a different approach. That approach will have to be to listen to people and their needs."

The report continued, "The perception of the local people has changed ... they now see the Taliban as acceptable. So actually the Taliban are about to win the battle for the hearts and minds of the local population."

Gul Mohammed is of the same view: "In the next stage, ethnic groups from the Tajik and Uzbek communities will join hands in our struggle and foreign forces will not have any option except to leave Afghanistan."

"We have made southern Afghanistan a hell for foreign forces. There is little media coverage on our activities, otherwise [people would know] we are far ahead of the Iraqi resistance. There is not a single day when the Taliban don't carry out an operation against foreign forces."

"In the last two months we launched 20 successful attacks against foreign forces in which they lost men and assets. For instance, a recent incident happened in Maroof district of Kandahar in which we targeted a military convoy in which two tanks and eight US [foreign troops] were killed. The media did not mention this operation," Gul Mohammed said with some satisfaction.

Gul Mohammed said the Taliban had stored a lot of weapons before the US invasion, which they were now using, including Stinger missiles.

Again, the Senlis Council report confirms this. "We're talking about attacks being conducted every day. We're talking about a rise in suicide bombings, from five in 2004 to 21 in just the first semester of 2006. We're talking of a sophistication of terror techniques used, for example in the explosive devices used. So there is definitely a change in the way the insurgents are organizing their operations."

The rise in insurgency activity is admitted by General Peter Pace, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, as quoted by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: "In the last two months, the Taliban have been conducting larger attacks this year than they did during the same time last year."

"The problem for the Taliban is that as they have gotten larger groups together, they have become much bigger targets. And they have lost about 300 Taliban in the last two months during those operations. So the Taliban are a tactical problem for the coalition in Afghanistan. [But] the coalition in Afghanistan is a strategic problem for the Taliban," said Pace.

Gul Mohammed, however, maintained that the real asset for the Taliban was the mass support they already had, and which was increasing multifold.

"The Americans bombed Panjwai [a district of Kandahar province], where innocent civilians were killed. The Taliban did not sustain a single injury in that incident. However, the way the Americans brutally bombed the area brought cascading effects. People turned against the Americans with conviction. There were 18,000 soldiers in Kandahar in the Afghan National Army. After the bombardment, it was reduced to 7,000 as the rest left the army in anger."

"The more they oppress Afghans, the more the reaction generates against the Americans. The same happened with Soviet Russia [in the 1980s], and ultimately it was defeated in Afghanistan and collapsed. The same will happen with the Americans," Gul Mohammed predicted.

Caught in the crossfire

For Merajuddin, a 29-year-old welder, and Mohammed Din, a 45-year-old farmer, both from Panjwai, their lives have been turned upside down.

Both belong to the Ishaqzai tribe and fled to Chaman, Pakistan, with their families, like dozens of other families from their home town, after the US bombing of Panjwai recently in which more than 50 civilians were killed.

"We saw an end-of-time sort of situation," said Merajuddin. "It is true that the Taliban had came to our area, but they left. The US got information and send aircraft 24 hours after the Taliban left. From 11pm to 5am aircraft constantly bombed Talaqan, the district headquarters."

US Gases Afghanis

"Initially they released gases which [put] many of us in an unconscious-like condition, and then they bombed the area. It looked like aircraft were static in the air for hours, and they showered bombs," Merajuddin said.

"As soon as the bombing ended, foreign troops took positions. They never allowed us to look after affected families. Instead, they took away the wounded men to interrogate them. The incident prompted us and other Afghan families to leave the area and take refuge in Pakistan," Merajuddin said.

Migration of tribes symbolizes the seriousness or depth of any crisis in Afghan history. When tribes leave their places in bulk, it shows that they would participate in a prolonged war.

"The Americans walk into our houses when they feel like. Neither do they ask permission nor are we in a position to stop them. They think all Afghans are Taliban. They entered in areas where only women live," Mohammed Din said, adding that the behavior of the Afghan National Army was even worse.

"They are given a free hand to humiliate us. They come to search for Taliban in our houses and eat our food and take away blankets and even money from our pockets," said Mohammed Din.

"Nobody wants to leave his place, but we were forced to do so. Here in Pakistan, we will do some labor jobs to make our two ends meet," Mohammed Din maintained.

"And we won't leave here until the foreign forces leave Afghanistan."

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Bureau Chief, Pakistan, Asia Times Online.
He can be reached at
(Additional reporting by Sanjay Suri of Inter Press Service.)


Taliban have retaken control of Southern Afghanistan

Support from local population for Central government and international military presence has been lost

JUNE 6, 2006

The Taliban-led resistance has intensified, and is expanding from its southern strongholds into a "mass mutiny" across Afghanistan, a Taliban commander active in the insurgency tells Syed Saleem Shahzad. This is not mere bombast. Independent reports support his claims that the battle for the hearts and minds of the country is being won by the Taliban.

British troops will need dramatic new approach to avoid a summer of carnage in Southern Afghanistan: state of war already exists

More and more farmers have returned to growing opium poppy as they give up hope of getting the help they need – bumper crop forecast for 2006

British troops being deployed to Southern Afghanistan this summer will need a dramatic change of strategy if a summer of civil war in Southern Afghanistan is to be avoided, warned The Senlis Council, an international security and development think tank in its latest report based on recent research in the region.

Southern Afghanistan now in a State of War

The Council said that the support of the local populations in southern Afghanistan for the international military presence and the Afghan Central Government has collapsed in recent weeks and Southern Afghanistan is now in a state of war. The people of Helmand province, where the British military are taking over from the US military, have switched camps in favour of insurgent groups, principally a wave of New Taliban who are cashing-in on the local population’s disillusionment with the foreign military presence.

People in Southern Afghanistan are still living in extreme poverty and perceive no benefit from the new ‘democracy’,” said Reinert. “They have also received many empty promises from the international community which simply have not been kept. They have been waiting for five years for their lives to improve and this is simply not happening.”

On the contrary, attacks on people’s livelihoods through poppy eradication, the killing of civilians including women and children in military operations, and a sense of abandonment and exclusion have led to a complete breakdown of trust and support for the international military there.

Our research shows that the local perception is that the only ones showing any real understanding for the people of Helmand and responding to their needs are the insurgent groups, notably the Taliban,” said Emmanuel Reinert, Executive Director of The Senlis Council. “The Coalition troops are increasingly perceived as the invader and less and less as people who are there to help.”

With several districts of Helmand now totally under Taliban control, the British troops will be facing a situation of civil war this summer,” said Reinert. “There has been a definite shift in power-dynamics in the south in the past weeks. If the British military does not address this immediately we could be looking at the ‘Iraqisation’ of Afghanistan – both in terms of the levels of violence and the types of violence used.”

British Troops will Need Dramatic New Approach

The Council said that if the UK troops are to succeed in their mission of securing Helmand, they urgently need to recuperate the support of the local population. The support of the population has been lost due to the militaristic approach of the US in the region.

The British troops will need to regain control and order in the province if the whole of Southern Afghanistan is not to be lost to Taliban control,” said Reinert. “For this they will need to take a dramatically new approach this summer – one which is close to the people and which listens to and responds to their needs and which takes into account the real and desperate poverty of the province.”

Forced Eradication of Poppy Crops Contributed to Increase in Support for Taliban

The Report indicates that the large-scale aggressive forced eradication of poppy crops in Helmand, led by the US, had contributed in a significant way to the discontent of the local populations.

I have been cultivating opium for 27 years, and always it was peacefully. I was only cultivating two to three jeribs, only to survive…they eradicated everything, everything that I had… Nothing was left. Everybody witnessed it.” farmer Sher Mohammad from the district of Sharwale, in Helmand is quoted as saying in the Report. “Before, we thought that those countries were the humanitarian countries, but later we discovered that they are also the biggest cheaters in the world…if they keep cheating us continuously like this, then of course, how can we trust them? They haven’t fulfilled any of the promises that they made. Not even one of them. They actually betrayed us. They gave us their word, and they didn’t keep their word.”

Despite the eradication campaigns which have been carried out in the past months, the opium harvest is expected to be even higher this year than in the past, with many farmers who had stopped growing poppy in past years returning to it. They had stopped either in respect of the ban decreed by President Karzai or because they were promised they would receive help from alternative livelihood schemes financed by the international community.

“Most farmers no longer believe that anyone is going to help them,” said Reinert. “They feel abandoned and cheated by the international community. Given this state of affairs it is hardly surprising that their loyalties have switched to the only people who they believe are showing any understanding of their needs – the Taliban.”

Helmand already has the largest area under cultivation in Afghanistan – accounting for 25% of the country’s total poppy cultivation in 2005. The research also indicated a predicted increase in 2006 of 50% in opium cultivation reaching 40,000 ha.

The Council said that there is a direct connection between the neglect of the farmers’ interests and the failure to address their extreme poverty and the state of war in Helmand now.

Kandahar Bombing and Civilian Deaths led Afghans to turn against international military

The Report released by the Council shows that 80% of the public support in Helmand is now for the insurgent forces at play there rather than for international military. The Council warned that the achievements of the reconstruction process over the past five years could now be in jeopardy.

The report notes that there are many factors which have led to the disintegration of confidence in the international community and the central government. One of these is the way in which foreign troops are perceived of as uncaring towards the value of the lives of Afghan citizens, with an increasing number of cases of civilian deaths or injuries at the hands of the coalition military.

Additionally the US unilaterally bombing Kandahar undermined the civilian population’s support for the Karzai government.

The research indicated that Afghans throughout the south were deeply alienated by the recent American bombing in Kandahar and the deaths of women and children in that bombing.

By killing women and children, the US has lost yet more of the support of the local people,” said Reinert. “They perceive this type of action as unjustifiable and immoral.”

The Council said that the recent riots in Kabul were also an example of the increasing hostility of the Afghan people towards the international community.

Helmand is an early warning of what the whole of Afghanistan could become if a radically different approach is not taken in the coming months.” said Reinert.


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Elite firm to guard top-secret meeting in Kanata

VIPs set to arrive for Bilderberg meeting

The Ottawa Citizen
June 08, 2006

An elite private security firm has been hired to guard a top-secret meeting of some of the world's most powerful business and political leaders at a Kanata hotel starting today.

Members of the Bilderberg Group will descend on the upscale Brookstreet Hotel for the three-day meeting, several police sources confirmed yesterday.

At least four off-duty Ottawa police officers will be part of the security for the event.

The highly secretive session, expected to touch on global issues such as the direction of oil markets and potential military action against Iran, will run through Sunday.

Senior Ottawa police officers met yesterday afternoon to discuss preparations for the event, which police are concerned may draw the attention of anti-globalization protesters as well as present a potential security risk as a collection of the world's richest and most influential people gather under one roof.

When asked about police plans for the event, a police spokeswoman referred the Citizen to Alan Bell of Globe Risk Holdings.

Reached by phone, Mr. Bell -- who is listed as president of Globe Risk Holdings in Toronto and a former SAS paratrooper commando -- said he hadn't heard of the Bilderberg Group and denied that his firm has been hired to guard this week's conference.

"Never heard of that conference. What is it? What do they do?" said Mr. Bell before politely cutting the conservation short.

But according to the company's website, Globe Risk Holdings specializes in "strategic planning and counter-measures," recruits its consultants primarily from elite military counter-terrorist and special forces units, and has "undertaken consultancy and project work worldwide in areas of high risk" including Africa, Central and South America and Asia.

"The consultants at Globe Risk Holdings have proven backgrounds in military, special forces, law enforcement and government organizations with real life expertise in the areas of international security, mining, energy exploration security, counter-terrorism, kidnapping, specialized training, close protection, sabotage prevention, and military/law enforcement," reads the company website. "Knowledgeable and discreet, our consultants work together as a team to offer the quality of service necessary to meet all our clients' needs."

It's not known if any current heads of state are expected to attend the meeting.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been linked to the group after attending a Bilderberg conference in Versailles, France in 2003. A spokeswoman for the prime minister said yesterday he would not be attending the conference and that officials at the Prime Minister's Office weren't aware of the event.

The Bilderberg Group is named after the Dutch hotel where it held its first meeting in 1954. Since then, the group has met annually in various locations throughout North America and Europe, including Toronto in 1996 and the Chateau Montebello in Quebec in 1983.

The list of attendees at last year's conference in Germany is believed to have included the queens of Spain and the Netherlands, former U.S. secretary of defence Henry Kissinger, World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz, as well as top executives and directors at such multinational corporations as BP PLC, Siemens AG, Deutsche Bank Group and DaimlerChrysler AG.

Canadian attendees are believed to have included Robert Pritchard, chief executive of TorStar Corp., and Heather Reisman, chief executive of Indigo Books and Music Inc.

The group was originally conceived as a forum for bridging the political and economic divide between Europe and the United States during the Cold War. But in recent years the group has taken on a mystique, perhaps due to the secretive nature of the meetings.

The group has no website, and attendees promise not to disclose the subject of the talks. Even newspaper and magazine editors and media executives who attend the event are sworn to secrecy.

Bilderberg insiders say the approach enables participants to discuss political and economic issues without worrying how their opinions will be spun by the media. But it has also made the group a prime target for critics and conspiracy theorists who say its members come to important decisions about global public policy behind closed doors.

Whatever the case, Brookstreet staff are staying tight lipped about the conference. The hotel's general manager, Patrice Basille, didn't immediately return a call yesterday. He has previously said he was unaware of the event.

A Citizen reporter who called to make dinner reservations was told the hotel will be closed between June 8 and 11 to accommodate a private function.

A Memorable Evening With the Bilderbergers

They were welcomed by an exquisite array of cakes bearing the flags of the world. In the evening, they dined on venison -- or was it quail? -- but only after the Bilderberg tasters made sure nothing was amiss with the sauce.

It has been more than two decades since one of the most powerful and exclusive clubs in the world held its annual meeting close to Canada's national capital.

But if this weekend's conference at the Brookstreet Hotel is anything like the meeting at the Chateau Montebello in Quebec in May 1983, it will be a closely choreographed affair swathed in luxury -- and a discreet but omnipresent layer of security.

Today, Jacques Ternois is director of hotel operations at charter airline Air Transat. But when the Bilderberg Group met in Montebello, about 30 kilometres east of Ottawa, he was in charge of food and beverage operations at the resort.

Mr. Ternois doesn't remember the exact menu served to the Bilderbergers, but he does remember the security guards stationed at the kitchen doors, the background checks that his staff had to undergo, and the food "consultants" brought in to oversee the meal.

Nevertheless, Mr. Ternois said the extra precautions weren't intrusive and the conference went off smoothly.

"I wouldn't say it was secretive. I would say low key," he said. "They were very simple in their demands."

Mr. Ternois said attendees came and went at various times throughout the conference due to their tight schedules. He couldn't recall all the names on the guest list -- after all, he was working -- or what they discussed.

"If I'm not wrong, I think (Henry) Kissinger was there," he said. "There were several heads of state or close to that."

Critics and conspiracy theorists find the group's clandestine ways disturbing. They accuse the group of seeking to depose political leaders and set global oil policy.

But Bilderberg insiders insist the reality is far less sinister.

"I don't think (we are) a global ruling class because I don't think a global ruling class exists," Bilderberg chairman Etienne Davignon told the BBC last year. "It's people who have influence interested to speak to other people who have influence."

Mr. Ternois, for his part, says the Bilderberg conference was one of the most prestigious events with which he has ever been associated. He still keeps a photo at home of resort staff and some of the attendees.

"It has a special place in my heart," he said.

© The Ottawa Citizen 2006
Copyright © 2006 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

American Bar Association
to review Bush's legal challenges

By Charlie Savage
Boston Globe
June 4, 2006

WASHINGTON -- The board of governors of the American Bar Association voted unanimously yesterday to investigate whether President Bush has exceeded his constitutional authority in reserving the right to ignore more than 750 laws that have been enacted since he took office.

Meeting in New Orleans, the board of governors for the world's largest association of legal professionals approved the creation of an all-star legal panel with a number of members from both political parties.

They include a former federal appeals court chief judge, a former FBI director, and several prominent scholars -- to evaluate Bush's assertions that he has the power to ignore laws that conflict with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Bush has appended statements to new laws when he signs them, noting which provisions he believes interfere with his powers.

Among the laws Bush has challenged are the ban on torturing detainees, oversight provisions in the USA Patriot Act, and "whistle-blower" protections for federal employees.

The challenges also have included safeguards against political interference in taxpayer-funded research.

Bush has challenged more laws than all previous presidents combined.

The ABA's president, Michael Greco, said in an interview that he proposed the task force because he believes the scope and aggressiveness of Bush's signing statements may raise serious constitutional concerns. He said the ABA, which has more than 400,000 members, has a duty to speak out about such legal issues to the public, the courts, and Congress.

``The American Bar Association feels a very serious obligation to ensure that when there are legal issues that affect the American people, the ABA adopts a policy regarding such issues and then speaks out about it," Greco said. ``In this instance, the president's practice of attaching signing statements to laws squarely presents a constitutional issue about the separation of powers among the three branches."

The signing statements task force, which was recruited by Greco, a longtime Boston lawyer who served on former Governor William F. Weld's Judicial Nominating Council, includes several Republicans. Among them are Mickey Edwards , a former Oklahoma representative from 1977 to 1993, and Bruce Fein , a Justice Department official under President Reagan.

In interviews, several of the panel members said they were going into the project with an open mind, but they expressed concerns about Bush's actions.

``I think one of the most critical issues in the country right now is the extent to which the White House has tried to expand its powers and basically tried to cut the legislative branch out of its own constitutionally equal role, and the signing statements are a particularly egregious example of that," Edwards said. ``I've been doing a lot of speaking and writing about this, and when the ABA said they were looking to take a position on signing statements, I said that's serious because those people carry a lot of weight."

William Sessions , a retired federal judge who was the director of the FBI under both Reagan and President George H.W. Bush , said he agreed to participate because he believed that the signing statements raise a ``serious problem" for the American constitutional system.

``I think it's very important for the people of the United States to have trust and reliance that the president is not going around the law," Sessions said. ``The importance of it speaks for itself."

Another member, Patricia Wald, is a retired chief judge of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, appointed by President Carter.

She said she had monitored the use of signing statements by previous administrations, but ``the accelerated use in recent years presents a real question about separation of powers and checks and balances."

Wald also said she was especially interested in studying how signing statements affect the federal bureaucracy. As a judge, Wald said, she dealt with many cases involving challenges to decisions made by administrative agencies. She said that courts are deferential to such decisions because they are supposed to be made by objective specialists in the agencies. But a heavy use of signing statements could call that assumption into question.

``If Congress passes a law telling the people in the bureaucracy that `this is what you should do,' and the president signs it but attaches a statement saying `I don't want you to do it,' how is that going to affect the motivation of the bureaucracy?" she said.

The task force also includes several prominent legal scholars, such as Harold Koh , dean of Yale Law School and a former official in the Reagan and Clinton administrations; Kathleen Sullivan , former dean of Stanford Law School; Charles Ogletree , a Harvard law professor; and Stephen Saltzburg , a professor at George Washington University Law School.

Saltzburg -- who was a Justice Department official under Reagan and the first president Bush, as well as a prosecutor in the Iran-Contra scandal -- said he did not believe that signing statements were unconstitutional.

But, he said, frequent use of them could create bad perceptions about whether the US government obeys the rule of law.

``The president can say anything he wants when he signs a bill," Saltzburg said. ``[But] what does it say about respect for the Constitution and for the notion of checks and balances to have the president repeatedly claim the authority not to obey statutes, which he is signing into law?"

Rounding out the panel are Mark Agrast , a former legislative counsel for Representative William D. Delahunt , Democrat of Quincy, and Thomas Susman, who worked in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel under both Presidents Johnson and Nixon , and was later counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Susman said he agreed to serve out of intellectual curiosity: ``I think it's a fascinating subject," he said. The task force is chaired by Neal Sonnett , a former federal prosecutor. Earlier this year, Sonnett chaired a similar ABA panel of bipartisan specialists who studied the legality of Bush's warrantless spying program.

The earlier panel unanimously concluded that Bush should obey a law requiring warrants for such surveillance, or he should ask Congress to change the law, rather than simply ignoring it.

In February, the ABA House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly to endorse the surveillance task force's recommendations, enabling Greco to testify about the program before Congress.

Sonnett said he planned to run the task force in a similar fashion. The group will discuss the issues in telephone conference calls. They will also divide up issues to research for the report that will accompany any of their recommendations, circulating drafts until they reach a consensus.

The task force will make its recommendation this summer, Greco said, and the 550-member ABA House of Delegates will vote on whether to adopt its findings at a meeting in August.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, promised to hold a hearing on Bush's use of signing statements.

Specter pledged the action after an article in The Boston Globe described the scope and details of Bush's assertions concerning the laws in them.

Greco and Sonnett also said the Globe's coverage of signing statements had persuaded them to launch the task force.

Related Articles:

Board Members

American Bar Association to Investigate Bush's Use of "Signing Statements"

ABA to investigate Bush signing statements

American Bar Association-accuses President Bush, of violating both the Constitution and federal law.

American Bar Association takes on NSA's warrantless wiretap program


Saturday, June 03, 2006

Was the 2004 Election Stolen?

Republicans prevented more than 350,000 voters in Ohio from casting ballots or having their votes counted -- enough to have put John Kerry in the White House.

June 1, 2006

Like many Americans, I spent the evening of the 2004 election watching the returns on television and wondering how the exit polls, which predicted an overwhelming victory for John Kerry, had gotten it so wrong. By midnight, the official tallies showed a decisive lead for George Bush -- and the next day, lacking enough legal evidence to contest the results, Kerry conceded. Republicans derided anyone who expressed doubts about Bush's victory as nut cases in ''tinfoil hats,'' while the national media, with few exceptions, did little to question the validity of the election. The Washington Post immediately dismissed allegations of fraud as ''conspiracy theories,''(1) and The New York Times declared that ''there is no evidence of vote theft or errors on a large scale.''(2)

But despite the media blackout, indications continued to emerge that something deeply troubling had taken place in 2004. Nearly half of the 6 million American voters living abroad(3) never received their ballots -- or received them too late to vote(4) -- after the Pentagon unaccountably shut down a state-of-the-art Web site used to file overseas registrations.(5) A consulting firm called Sproul & Associates, which was hired by the Republican National Committee to register voters in six battleground states,(6) was discovered shredding Democratic registrations.(7) In New Mexico, which was decided by 5,988 votes,(8) malfunctioning machines mysteriously failed to properly register a presidential vote on more than 20,000 ballots.(9) Nationwide, according to the federal commission charged with implementing election reforms, as many as 1 million ballots were spoiled by faulty voting equipment -- roughly one for every 100 cast.(10)

The reports were especially disturbing in Ohio, the critical battleground state that clinched Bush's victory in the electoral college. Officials there purged tens of thousands of eligible voters from the rolls, neglected to process registration cards generated by Democratic voter drives, shortchanged Democratic precincts when they allocated voting machines and illegally derailed a recount that could have given Kerry the presidency. A precinct in an evangelical church in Miami County recorded an impossibly high turnout of ninety-eight percent, while a polling place in inner-city Cleveland recorded an equally impossible turnout of only seven percent. In Warren County, GOP election officials even invented a nonexistent terrorist threat to bar the media from monitoring the official vote count.(11)

Any election, of course, will have anomalies. America's voting system is a messy patchwork of polling rules run mostly by county and city officials. ''We didn't have one election for president in 2004,'' says Robert Pastor, who directs the Center for Democracy and Election Management at American University. ''We didn't have fifty elections. We actually had 13,000 elections run by 13,000 independent, quasi-sovereign counties and municipalities.''

But what is most anomalous about the irregularities in 2004 was their decidedly partisan bent: Almost without exception they hurt John Kerry and benefited George Bush. After carefully examining the evidence, I've become convinced that the president's party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people in 2004. Across the country, Republican election officials and party stalwarts employed a wide range of illegal and unethical tactics to fix the election. A review of the available data reveals that in Ohio alone, at least 357,000 voters, the overwhelming majority of them Democratic, were prevented from casting ballots or did not have their votes counted in 2004(12) -- more than enough to shift the results of an election decided by 118,601 votes.(13) (See Ohio's Missing Votes) In what may be the single most astounding fact from the election, one in every four Ohio citizens who registered to vote in 2004 showed up at the polls only to discover that they were not listed on the rolls, thanks to GOP efforts to stem the unprecedented flood of Democrats eager to cast ballots.(14) And that doesn?t even take into account the troubling evidence of outright fraud, which indicates that upwards of 80,000 votes for Kerry were counted instead for Bush. That alone is a swing of more than 160,000 votes -- enough to have put John Kerry in the White House.(15)

''It was terrible,'' says Sen. Christopher Dodd, who helped craft reforms in 2002 that were supposed to prevent such electoral abuses. ''People waiting in line for twelve hours to cast their ballots, people not being allowed to vote because they were in the wrong precinct -- it was an outrage. In Ohio, you had a secretary of state who was determined to guarantee a Republican outcome. I'm terribly disheartened.''

Indeed, the extent of the GOP's effort to rig the vote shocked even the most experienced observers of American elections. ''Ohio was as dirty an election as America has ever seen,'' Lou Harris, the father of modern political polling, told me. ''You look at the turnout and votes in individual precincts, compared to the historic patterns in those counties, and you can tell where the discrepancies are. They stand out like a sore thumb.''

I. The Exit Polls

The first indication that something was gravely amiss on November 2nd, 2004, was the inexplicable discrepancies between exit polls and actual vote counts. Polls in thirty states weren't just off the mark -- they deviated to an extent that cannot be accounted for by their margin of error. In all but four states, the discrepancy favored President Bush.(16)

Over the past decades, exit polling has evolved into an exact science. Indeed, among pollsters and statisticians, such surveys are thought to be the most reliable. Unlike pre-election polls, in which voters are asked to predict their own behavior at some point in the future, exit polls ask voters leaving the voting booth to report an action they just executed. The results are exquisitely accurate: Exit polls in Germany, for example, have never missed the mark by more than three-tenths of one percent.(17) ''Exit polls are almost never wrong,'' Dick Morris, a political consultant who has worked for both Republicans and Democrats, noted after the 2004 vote. Such surveys are ''so reliable,'' he added, ''that they are used as guides to the relative honesty of elections in Third World countries.''(18) In 2003, vote tampering revealed by exit polling in the Republic of Georgia forced Eduard Shevardnadze to step down.(19) And in November 2004, exit polling in the Ukraine -- paid for by the Bush administration -- exposed election fraud that denied Viktor Yushchenko the presidency.(20)

But that same month, when exit polls revealed disturbing disparities in the U.S. election, the six media organizations that had commissioned the survey treated its very existence as an embarrassment. Instead of treating the discrepancies as a story meriting investigation, the networks scrubbed the offending results from their Web sites and substituted them with ''corrected'' numbers that had been weighted, retroactively, to match the official vote count. Rather than finding fault with the election results, the mainstream media preferred to dismiss the polls as flawed.(21)

''The people who ran the exit polling, and all those of us who were their clients, recognized that it was deeply flawed,'' says Tom Brokaw, who served as anchor for NBC News during the 2004 election. ''They were really screwed up -- the old models just don't work anymore. I would not go on the air with them again.''

In fact, the exit poll created for the 2004 election was designed to be the most reliable voter survey in history. The six news organizations -- running the ideological gamut from CBS to Fox News -- retained Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International,(22) whose principal, Warren Mitofsky, pioneered the exit poll for CBS in 1967(23) and is widely credited with assuring the credibility of Mexico's elections in 1994.(24) For its nationwide poll, Edison/Mitofsky selected a random subsample of 12,219 voters(25) -- approximately six times larger than those normally used in national polls(26) -- driving the margin of error down to approximately plus or minus one percent.(27)

On the evening of the vote, reporters at each of the major networks were briefed by pollsters at 7:54 p.m. Kerry, they were informed, had an insurmountable lead and would win by a rout: at least 309 electoral votes to Bush's 174, with fifty-five too close to call.(28) In London, Prime Minister Tony Blair went to bed contemplating his relationship with President-elect Kerry.(29)

As the last polling stations closed on the West Coast, exit polls showed Kerry ahead in ten of eleven battleground states -- including commanding leads in Ohio and Florida -- and winning by a million and a half votes nationally. The exit polls even showed Kerry breathing down Bush's neck in supposed GOP strongholds Virginia and North Carolina.(30) Against these numbers, the statistical likelihood of Bush winning was less than one in 450,000.(31) ''Either the exit polls, by and large, are completely wrong,'' a Fox News analyst declared, ''or George Bush loses.''(32)

But as the evening progressed, official tallies began to show implausible disparities -- as much as 9.5 percent -- with the exit polls. In ten of the eleven battleground states, the tallied margins departed from what the polls had predicted. In every case, the shift favored Bush. Based on exit polls, CNN had predicted Kerry defeating Bush in Ohio by a margin of 4.2 percentage points. Instead, election results showed Bush winning the state by 2.5 percent. Bush also tallied 6.5 percent more than the polls had predicted in Pennsylvania, and 4.9 percent more in Florida.(33)

According to Steven F. Freeman, a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania who specializes in research methodology, the odds against all three of those shifts occurring in concert are one in 660,000. ''As much as we can say in sound science that something is impossible,'' he says, ''it is impossible that the discrepancies between predicted and actual vote count in the three critical battleground states of the 2004 election could have been due to chance or random error.'' (See The Tale of the Exit Polls)

Puzzled by the discrepancies, Freeman laboriously examined the raw polling data released by Edison/Mitofsky in January 2005. ''I'm not even political -- I despise the Democrats,'' he says. ''I'm a survey expert. I got into this because I was mystified about how the exit polls could have been so wrong.'' In his forthcoming book, Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? Exit Polls, Election Fraud, and the Official Count, Freeman lays out a statistical analysis of the polls that is deeply troubling.

In its official postmortem report issued two months after the election, Edison/Mitofsky was unable to identify any flaw in its methodology -- so the pollsters, in essence, invented one for the electorate. According to Mitofsky, Bush partisans were simply disinclined to talk to exit pollsters on November 2nd(34) -- displaying a heretofore unknown and undocumented aversion that skewed the polls in Kerry's favor by a margin of 6.5 percent nationwide.(35)

Industry peers didn't buy it. John Zogby, one of the nation's leading pollsters, told me that Mitofsky's ''reluctant responder'' hypothesis is ''preposterous.''(36) Even Mitofsky, in his official report, underscored the hollowness of his theory: ''It is difficult to pinpoint precisely the reasons that, in general, Kerry voters were more likely to participate in the exit polls than Bush voters.''(37)

Now, thanks to careful examination of Mitofsky's own data by Freeman and a team of eight researchers, we can say conclusively that the theory is dead wrong. In fact it was Democrats, not Republicans, who were more disinclined to answer pollsters' questions on Election Day. In Bush strongholds, Freeman and the other researchers found that fifty-six percent of voters completed the exit survey -- compared to only fifty-three percent in Kerry strongholds.(38) ''The data presented to support the claim not only fails to substantiate it,'' observes Freeman, ''but actually contradicts it.''

What's more, Freeman found, the greatest disparities between exit polls and the official vote count came in Republican strongholds. In precincts where Bush received at least eighty percent of the vote, the exit polls were off by an average of ten percent. By contrast, in precincts where Kerry dominated by eighty percent or more, the exit polls were accurate to within three tenths of one percent -- a pattern that suggests Republican election officials stuffed the ballot box in Bush country.(39)

''When you look at the numbers, there is a tremendous amount of data that supports the supposition of election fraud,'' concludes Freeman. ''The discrepancies are higher in battleground states, higher where there were Republican governors, higher in states with greater proportions of African-American communities and higher in states where there were the most Election Day complaints. All these are strong indicators of fraud -- and yet this supposition has been utterly ignored by the press and, oddly, by the Democratic Party.''

The evidence is especially strong in Ohio. In January, a team of mathematicians from the National Election Data Archive, a nonpartisan watchdog group, compared the state's exit polls against the certified vote count in each of the forty-nine precincts polled by Edison/Mitofsky. In twenty-two of those precincts -- nearly half of those polled -- they discovered results that differed widely from the official tally. Once again -- against all odds -- the widespread discrepancies were stacked massively in Bush's favor: In only two of the suspect twenty-two precincts did the disparity benefit Kerry. The wildest discrepancy came from the precinct Mitofsky numbered ''27,'' in order to protect the anonymity of those surveyed. According to the exit poll, Kerry should have received sixty-seven percent of the vote in this precinct. Yet the certified tally gave him only thirty-eight percent. The statistical odds against such a variance are just shy of one in 3 billion.(40)

Such results, according to the archive, provide ''virtually irrefutable evidence of vote miscount.'' The discrepancies, the experts add, ''are consistent with the hypothesis that Kerry would have won Ohio's electoral votes if Ohio's official vote counts had accurately reflected voter intent.''(41) According to Ron Baiman, vice president of the archive and a public policy analyst at Loyola University in Chicago, ''No rigorous statistical explanation'' can explain the ''completely nonrandom'' disparities that almost uniformly benefited Bush. The final results, he adds, are ''completely consistent with election fraud -- specifically vote shifting.''

II. The Partisan Official

No state was more important in the 2004 election than Ohio. The state has been key to every Republican presidential victory since Abraham Lincoln's, and both parties overwhelmed the state with television ads, field organizers and volunteers in an effort to register new voters and energize old ones. Bush and Kerry traveled to Ohio a total of forty-nine times during the campaign -- more than to any other state.(42)

But in the battle for Ohio, Republicans had a distinct advantage: The man in charge of the counting was Kenneth Blackwell, the co-chair of President Bush's re-election committee.(43) As Ohio's secretary of state, Blackwell had broad powers to interpret and implement state and federal election laws -- setting standards for everything from the processing of voter registration to the conduct of official recounts.(44) And as Bush's re-election chair in Ohio, he had a powerful motivation to rig the rules for his candidate. Blackwell, in fact, served as the ''principal electoral system adviser'' for Bush during the 2000 recount in Florida,(45) where he witnessed firsthand the success of his counterpart Katherine Harris, the Florida secretary of state who co-chaired Bush's campaign there.(46)

Blackwell -- now the Republican candidate for governor of Ohio(47) -- is well-known in the state as a fierce partisan eager to rise in the GOP. An outspoken leader of Ohio's right-wing fundamentalists, he opposes abortion even in cases of rape(48) and was the chief cheerleader for the anti-gay-marriage amendment that Republicans employed to spark turnout in rural counties(49). He has openly denounced Kerry as ''an unapologetic liberal Democrat,''(50) and during the 2004 election he used his official powers to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Ohio citizens in Democratic strongholds. In a ruling issued two weeks before the election, a federal judge rebuked Blackwell for seeking to ''accomplish the same result in Ohio in 2004 that occurred in Florida in 2000.''(51)

''The secretary of state is supposed to administer elections -- not throw them,'' says Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a Democrat from Cleveland who has dealt with Blackwell for years. ''The election in Ohio in 2004 stands out as an example of how, under color of law, a state election official can frustrate the exercise of the right to vote.''

The most extensive investigation of what happened in Ohio was conducted by Rep. John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.(52) Frustrated by his party's failure to follow up on the widespread evidence of voter intimidation and fraud, Conyers and the committee's minority staff held public hearings in Ohio, where they looked into more than 50,000 complaints from voters.(53) In January 2005, Conyers issued a detailed report that outlined ''massive and unprecedented voter irregularities and anomalies in Ohio.'' The problems, the report concludes, were ''caused by intentional misconduct and illegal behavior, much of it involving Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.''(54)

''Blackwell made Katherine Harris look like a cupcake,'' Conyers told me. ''He saw his role as limiting the participation of Democratic voters. We had hearings in Columbus for two days. We could have stayed two weeks, the level of fury was so high. Thousands of people wanted to testify. Nothing like this had ever happened to them before.''

When ROLLING STONE confronted Blackwell about his overtly partisan attempts to subvert the election, he dismissed any such claim as ''silly on its face.'' Ohio, he insisted in a telephone interview, set a ''gold standard'' for electoral fairness. In fact, his campaign to subvert the will of the voters had begun long before Election Day. Instead of welcoming the avalanche of citizen involvement sparked by the campaign, Blackwell permitted election officials in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo to conduct a massive purge of their voter rolls, summarily expunging the names of more than 300,000 voters who had failed to cast ballots in the previous two national elections.(55) In Cleveland, which went five-to-one for Kerry, nearly one in four voters were wiped from the rolls between 2000 and 2004.(56)

There were legitimate reasons to clean up voting lists: Many of the names undoubtedly belonged to people who had moved or died. But thousands more were duly registered voters who were deprived of their constitutional right to vote -- often without any notification -- simply because they had decided not to go to the polls in prior elections.(57) In Cleveland's precinct 6C, where more than half the voters on the rolls were deleted,(58) turnout was only 7.1 percent(59) -- the lowest in the state.

According to the Conyers report, improper purging ''likely disenfranchised tens of thousands of voters statewide.''(60) If only one in ten of the 300,000 purged voters showed up on Election Day -- a conservative estimate, according to election scholars -- that is 30,000 citizens who were unfairly denied the opportunity to cast ballots.

III. The Strike Force

In the months leading up to the election, Ohio was in the midst of the biggest registration drive in its history. Tens of thousands of volunteers and paid political operatives from both parties canvassed the state, racing to register new voters in advance of the October 4th deadline. To those on the ground, it was clear that Democrats were outpacing their Republican counterparts: A New York Times analysis before the election found that new registrations in traditional Democratic strongholds were up 250 percent, compared to only twenty-five percent in Republican-leaning counties.(61) ''The Democrats have been beating the pants off us in the air and on the ground,'' a GOP county official in Columbus confessed to The Washington Times.(62)

To stem the tide of new registrations, the Republican National Committee and the Ohio Republican Party attempted to knock tens of thousands of predominantly minority and urban voters off the rolls through illegal mailings known in electioneering jargon as ''caging.'' During the Eighties, after the GOP used such mailings to disenfranchise nearly 76,000 black voters in New Jersey and Louisiana, it was forced to sign two separate court orders agreeing to abstain from caging.(63) But during the summer of 2004, the GOP targeted minority voters in Ohio by zip code, sending registered letters to more than 200,000 newly registered voters(64) in sixty-five counties.(65) On October 22nd, a mere eleven days before the election, Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett -- who also chairs the board of elections in Cuyahoga County -- sought to invalidate the registrations of 35,427 voters who had refused to sign for the letters or whose mail came back as undeliverable.(66) Almost half of the challenged voters were from Democratic strongholds in and around Cleveland.(67)

There were plenty of valid reasons that voters had failed to respond to the mailings: The list included people who couldn't sign for the letters because they were serving in the U.S. military, college students whose school and home addresses differed,(68) and more than 1,000 homeless people who had no permanent mailing address.(69) But the undeliverable mail, Bennett claimed, proved the new registrations were fraudulent.

By law, each voter was supposed to receive a hearing before being stricken from the rolls.(70) Instead, in the week before the election, kangaroo courts were rapidly set up across the state at Blackwell's direction that would inevitably disenfranchise thousands of voters at a time(71) -- a process that one Democratic election official in Toledo likened to an ''inquisition.''(72) Not that anyone was given a chance to actually show up and defend their right to vote: Notices to challenged voters were not only sent out impossibly late in the process, they were mailed to the very addresses that the Republicans contended were faulty.(73) Adding to the atmosphere of intimidation, sheriff's detectives in Sandusky County were dispatched to the homes of challenged voters to investigate the GOP's claims of fraud.(74)

''I'm afraid this is going to scare these people half to death, and they are never going to show up on Election Day,'' Barb Tuckerman, director of the Sandusky Board of Elections, told local reporters. ''Many of them are young people who have registered for the first time. I've called some of these people, and they are perfectly legitimate.''(75)

On October 27th, ruling that the effort likely violated both the ''constitutional right to due process and constitutional right to vote,'' U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott put a halt to the GOP challenge(76) -- but not before tens of thousands of new voters received notices claiming they were improperly registered. Some election officials in the state illegally ignored Dlott's ruling, stripping hundreds of voters from the rolls.(77) In Columbus and elsewhere, challenged registrants were never notified that the court had cleared them to vote.

On October 29th, a federal judge found that the Republican Party had violated the court orders from the Eighties that barred it from caging. ''The return of mail does not implicate fraud,'' the court affirmed,(78) and the disenfranchisement effort illegally targeted ''precincts where minority voters predominate, interfering with and discouraging voters from voting in those districts.''(79) Nor were such caging efforts limited to Ohio: The GOP also targeted hundreds of thousands of urban voters in the battleground states of Florida,(80) Pennsylvania(81) and Wisconsin.(82)

Republicans in Ohio also worked to deny the vote to citizens who had served jail time for felonies. Although rehabilitated prisoners are entitled to vote in Ohio, election officials in Cincinnati demanded that former convicts get a judge to sign off before they could register to vote.(83) In case they didn't get the message, Republican operatives turned to intimidation. According to the Conyers report, a team of twenty-five GOP volunteers calling themselves the Mighty Texas Strike Force holed up at the Holiday Inn in Columbus a day before the election, around the corner from the headquarters of the Ohio Republican Party -- which paid for their hotel rooms. The men were overheard by a hotel worker ''using pay phones to make intimidating calls to likely voters'' and threatening former convicts with jail time if they tried to cast ballots.(84)

This was no freelance operation. The Strike Force -- an offshoot of the Republican National Committee(85) -- was part of a team of more than 1,500 volunteers from Texas who were deployed to battleground states, usually in teams of ten. Their leader was Pat Oxford, (86) a Houston lawyer who managed Bush's legal defense team in 2000 in Florida,(87) where he warmly praised the efforts of a mob that stormed the Miami-Dade County election offices and halted the recount. It was later revealed that those involved in the ''Brooks Brothers Riot'' were not angry Floridians but paid GOP staffers, many of them flown in from out of state.(88) Photos of the protest show that one of the ''rioters'' was Joel Kaplan, who has just taken the place of Karl Rove at the White House, where he now directs the president's policy operations.(89)

IV. Barriers to Registration

To further monkey-wrench the process he was bound by law to safeguard, Blackwell cited an arcane elections regulation to make it harder to register new voters. In a now-infamous decree, Blackwell announced on September 7th -- less than a month before the filing deadline -- that election officials would process registration forms only if they were printed on eighty-pound unwaxed white paper stock, similar to a typical postcard. Justifying his decision to ROLLING STONE, Blackwell portrayed it as an attempt to protect voters: ''The postal service had recommended to us that we establish a heavy enough paper-weight standard that we not disenfranchise voters by having their registration form damaged by postal equipment.'' Yet Blackwell's order also applied to registrations delivered in person to election offices. He further specified that any valid registration cards printed on lesser paper stock that miraculously survived the shredding gauntlet at the post office were not to be processed; instead, they were to be treated as applications for a registration form, requiring election boards to send out a brand-new card.(90)

Blackwell's directive clearly violated the Voting Rights Act, which stipulates that no one may be denied the right to vote because of a registration error that ''is not material in determining whether such individual is qualified under state law to vote.''(91) The decision immediately threw registration efforts into chaos. Local newspapers that had printed registration forms in their pages saw their efforts invalidated.(92) Delaware County posted a notice online saying it could no longer accept its own registration forms.(93) Even Blackwell couldn't follow the protocol: The Columbus Dispatch reported that his own staff distributed registration forms on lighter-weight paper that was illegal under his rule. Under the threat of court action, Blackwell ultimately revoked his order on September 28th -- six days before the registration deadline.(94)

But by then, the damage was done. Election boards across the state, already understaffed and backlogged with registration forms, were unable to process them all in time. According to a statistical analysis conducted in May by the nonpartisan Greater Cleveland Voter Coalition, 16,000 voters in and around the city were disenfranchised because of data-entry errors by election officials,(95) and another 15,000 lost the right to vote due to largely inconsequential omissions on their registration cards.(96) Statewide, the study concludes, a total of 72,000 voters were disenfranchised through avoidable registration errors -- one percent of all voters in an election decided by barely two percent.(97)

Despite the widespread problems, Blackwell authorized only one investigation of registration errors after the election -- in Toledo -- but the report by his own inspectors offers a disturbing snapshot of the malfeasance and incompetence that plagued the entire state.(98) The top elections official in Toledo was a partisan in the Blackwell mold: Bernadette Noe, who chaired both the county board of elections and the county Republican Party.(99) The GOP post was previously held by her husband, Tom Noe,(100) who currently faces felony charges for embezzling state funds and illegally laundering $45,400 of his own money through intermediaries to the Bush campaign.(101)

State inspectors who investigated the elections operation in Toledo discovered ''areas of grave concern.''(102) With less than a month to go before the election, Bernadette Noe and her board had yet to process 20,000 voter registration cards.(103) Board officials arbitrarily decided that mail-in cards (mostly from the Republican suburbs) would be processed first, while registrations dropped off at the board's office (the fruit of intensive Democratic registration drives in the city) would be processed last.(104) When a grass-roots group called Project Vote delivered a batch of nearly 10,000 cards just before the October 4th deadline, an elections official casually remarked, ''We may not get to them.''(105) The same official then instructed employees to date-stamp an entire box containing thousands of forms, rather than marking each individual card, as required by law.(106) When the box was opened, officials had no way of confirming that the forms were filed prior to the deadline -- an error, state inspectors concluded, that could have disenfranchised ''several thousand'' voters from Democratic strongholds.(107)

The most troubling incident uncovered by the investigation was Noe's decision to allow Republican partisans behind the counter in the board of elections office to make photocopies of postcards sent to confirm voter registrations(108) -- records that could have been used in the GOP's caging efforts. On their second day in the office, the operatives were caught by an elections official tampering with the documents.(109) Investigators slammed the elections board for ''a series of egregious blunders'' that caused ''the destruction, mutilation and damage of public records.''(110)

On Election Day, Noe sent a team of Republican volunteers to the county warehouse where blank ballots were kept out in the open, ''with no security measures in place.''(111) The state's assistant director of elections, who just happened to be observing the ballot distribution, demanded they leave. The GOP operatives refused and ultimately had to be turned away by police.(112)

In April 2005, Noe and the entire Board of Elections were forced to resign. But once again, the damage was done. At a ''Victory 2004'' rally held in Toledo four days before the election, President Bush himself singled out a pair of ''grass-roots'' activists for special praise: ''I want to thank my friends Bernadette Noe and Tom Noe for their leadership in Lucas County.''(113)

V. ''The Wrong Pew''

In one of his most effective maneuvers, Blackwell prevented thousands of voters from receiving provisional ballots on Election Day. The fail-safe ballots were mandated in 2002, when Congress passed a package of reforms called the Help America Vote Act. This would prevent a repeat of the most egregious injustice in the 2000 election, when officials in Florida barred thousands of lawfully registered minority voters from the polls because their names didn't appear on flawed precinct rolls. Under the law, would-be voters whose registration is questioned at the polls must be allowed to cast provisional ballots that can be counted after the election if the voter's registration proves valid.(114)

''Provisional ballots were supposed to be this great movement forward,'' says Tova Andrea Wang, an elections expert who served with ex-presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford on the commission that laid the groundwork for the Help America Vote Act. ''But then different states erected barriers, and this new right became totally eviscerated.''

In Ohio, Blackwell worked from the beginning to curtail the availability of provisional ballots. (The ballots are most often used to protect voters in heavily Democratic urban areas who move often, creating more opportunities for data-entry errors by election boards.) Six weeks before the vote, Blackwell illegally decreed that poll workers should make on-the-spot judgments as to whether or not a voter lived in the precinct, and provide provisional ballots only to those deemed eligible.(115) When the ruling was challenged in federal court, Judge James Carr could barely contain his anger. The very purpose of the Help America Vote Act, he ruled, was to make provisional ballots available to voters told by precinct workers that they were ineligible: ''By not even mentioning this group -- the primary beneficiaries of HAVA's provisional-voting provisions -- Blackwell apparently seeks to accomplish the same result in Ohio in 2004 that occurred in Florida in 2000.''(116)

But instead of complying with the judge's order to expand provisional balloting, Blackwell insisted that Carr was usurping his power as secretary of state and made a speech in which he compared himself to Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and the apostle Paul -- saying that he'd rather go to jail than follow federal law.(117) The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Carr's ruling on October 23rd -- but the confusion over the issue still caused untold numbers of voters across the state to be illegally turned away at the polls on Election Day without being offered provisional ballots.(118) A federal judge also invalidated a decree by Blackwell that denied provisional ballots to absentee voters who were never sent their ballots in the mail. But that ruling did not come down until after 3 p.m. on the day of the election, and likely failed to filter down to the precinct level at all -- denying the franchise to even more eligible voters.(119)

We will never know for certain how many voters in Ohio were denied ballots by Blackwell's two illegal orders. But it is possible to put a fairly precise number on those turned away by his most disastrous directive. Traditionally, anyone in Ohio who reported to a polling station in their county could obtain a provisional ballot. But Blackwell decided to toss out the ballots of anyone who showed up at the wrong precinct -- a move guaranteed to disenfranchise Democrats who live in urban areas crowded with multiple polling places. On October 14th, Judge Carr overruled the order, but Blackwell appealed.(120) In court, he was supported by his friend and campaign contributor Tom Noe, who joined the case as an intervenor on behalf of the secretary of state.(121) He also enjoyed the backing of Attorney General John Ashcroft, who filed an amicus brief in support of Blackwell's position -- marking the first time in American history that the Justice Department had gone to court to block the right of voters to vote.(122) The Sixth Circuit, stacked with four judges appointed by George W. Bush, sided with Blackwell.(123)

Blackwell insists that his decision kept the election clean. ''If we had allowed this notion of ?voters without borders' to exist,'' he says, ''it would have opened the door to massive fraud.'' But even Republicans were shocked by the move. DeForest Soaries, the GOP chairman of the Election Assistance Commission -- the federal agency set up to implement the Help America Vote Act -- upbraided Blackwell, saying that the commission disagreed with his decision to deny ballots to voters who showed up at the wrong precinct. ''The purpose of provisional ballots is to not turn anyone away from the polls,'' Soaries explained. ''We want as many votes to count as possible.''(124)

The decision left hundreds of thousands of voters in predominantly Democratic counties to navigate the state's bewildering array of 11,366 precincts, whose boundaries had been redrawn just prior to the election.(125) To further compound their confusion, the new precinct lines were misidentified on the secretary of state's own Web site, which was months out of date on Election Day. Many voters, out of habit, reported to polling locations that were no longer theirs. Some were mistakenly assured by poll workers on the grounds that they were entitled to cast a provisional ballot at that precinct. Instead, thanks to Blackwell's ruling, at least 10,000 provisional votes were tossed out after Election Day simply because citizens wound up in the wrong line.(126)

In Toledo, Brandi and Brittany Stenson each got in a different line to vote in the gym at St. Elizabeth Seton School. Both of the sisters were registered to vote at the polling place on the city's north side, in the shadow of the giant DaimlerChrysler plant. Both cast ballots. But when the tallies were added up later, the family resemblance came to an abrupt end. Brittany's vote was counted -- but Brandi's wasn't. It wasn't enough that she had voted in the right building. If she wanted her vote to count, according to Blackwell's ruling, she had to choose the line that led to her assigned table. Her ballot -- along with those of her mother, her brother and thirty-seven other voters in the same precinct -- were thrown out(127) simply because they were, in the words of Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio), ''in the right church but the wrong pew.''(128)

All told, the deliberate chaos that resulted from Blackwell's registration barriers did the trick. Black voters in the state -- who went overwhelmingly for Kerry -- were twenty percent more likely than whites to be forced to cast a provisional ballot.(129) In the end, nearly three percent of all voters in Ohio were forced to vote provisionally(130) -- and more than 35,000 of their ballots were ultimately rejected.(131)

VI. Long Lines

When Election Day dawned on November 2nd, tens of thousands of Ohio voters who had managed to overcome all the obstacles to registration erected by Blackwell discovered that it didn't matter whether they were properly listed on the voting rolls -- because long lines at their precincts prevented them from ever making it to the ballot box. Would-be voters in Dayton and Cincinnati routinely faced waits as long as three hours. Those in inner-city precincts in Columbus, Cleveland and Toledo -- which were voting for Kerry by margins of ninety percent or more -- often waited up to seven hours. At Kenyon College, students were forced to stand in line for eleven hours before being allowed to vote, with the last voters casting their ballots after three in the morning.(132)

A five-month analysis of the Ohio vote conducted by the Democratic National Committee concluded in June 2005 that three percent of all Ohio voters who showed up to vote on Election Day were forced to leave without casting a ballot.(133) That's more than 174,000 voters. ''The vast majority of this lost vote,'' concluded the Conyers report, ''was concentrated in urban, minority and Democratic-leaning areas.''(134) Statewide, African-Americans waited an average of fifty-two minutes to vote, compared to only eighteen minutes for whites.(135)

The long lines were not only foreseeable -- they were actually created by GOP efforts. Republicans in the state legislature, citing new electronic voting machines that were supposed to speed voting, authorized local election boards to reduce the number of precincts across Ohio. In most cases, the new machines never materialized -- but that didn't stop officials in twenty of the state's eighty-eight counties, all of them favorable to Democrats, from slashing the number of precincts by at least twenty percent.(136)

Republican officials also created long lines by failing to distribute enough voting machines to inner-city precincts. After the Florida disaster in 2000, such problems with machines were supposed to be a thing of the past. Under the Help America Vote Act, Ohio received more than $30 million in federal funds to replace its faulty punch-card machines with more reliable systems.(137) But on Election Day, that money was sitting in the bank. Why? Because Ken Blackwell had applied for an extension until 2006, insisting that there was no point in buying electronic machines that would later have to be retrofitted under Ohio law to generate paper ballots.(138)

''No one has ever accused our secretary of state of lacking in ability,'' says Rep. Kucinich. ''He's a rather bright fellow, and he's involved in the most minute details of his office. There's no doubt that he knew the effect of not having enough voting machines in some areas.''

At liberal Kenyon College, where students had registered in record numbers, local election officials provided only two voting machines to handle the anticipated surge of up to 1,300 voters. Meanwhile, fundamentalist students at nearby Mount Vernon Nazarene University had one machine for 100 voters and faced no lines at all.(139) Citing the lines at Kenyon, the Conyers report concluded that the ''misallocation of machines went beyond urban/suburban discrepancies to specifically target Democratic areas.''(140)

In Columbus, which had registered 125,000 new voters(141) -- more than half of them black(142) -- the board of elections estimated that it would need 5,000 machines to handle the huge surge.(143) ''On Election Day, the county experienced an unprecedented turnout that could only be compared to a 500-year flood,'' says Matt Damschroder,(144) chairman of the Franklin County Board of Elections and the former head of the Republican Party in Columbus.(145) But instead of buying more equipment, the Conyers investigation found, Damschroder decided to ''make do'' with 2,741 machines.(146) And to make matters worse, he favored his own party in distributing the equipment. According to The Columbus Dispatch, precincts that had gone seventy percent or more for Al Gore in 2000 were allocated seventeen fewer machines in 2004, while strong GOP precincts received eight additional machines.(147) An analysis by voter advocates found that all but three of the thirty wards with the best voter-to-machine ratios were in Bush strongholds; all but one of the seven with the worst ratios were in Kerry country.(148)

The result was utterly predictable. According to an investigation by the Columbus Free Press, white Republican suburbanites, blessed with a surplus of machines, averaged waits of only twenty-two minutes; black urban Democrats averaged three hours and fifteen minutes.(149) ''The allocation of voting machines in Franklin County was clearly biased against voters in precincts with high proportions of African-Americans,'' concluded Walter Mebane Jr., a government professor at Cornell University who conducted a statistical analysis of the vote in and around Columbus.(150)

By midmorning, when it became clear that voters were dropping out of line rather than braving the wait, precincts appealed for the right to distribute paper ballots to speed the process. Blackwell denied the request, saying it was an invitation to fraud.(151) A lawsuit ensued, and the handwritten affidavits submitted by voters and election officials offer a heart-rending snapshot of an electoral catastrophe in the offing:(152)

From Columbus Precinct 44D:

''There are three voting machines at this precinct. I have been informed that in prior elections there were normally four voting machines. At 1:45 p.m. there are approximately eighty-five voters in line. At this time, the line to vote is approximately three hours long. This precinct is largely African-American. I have personally witnessed voters leaving the polling place without voting due to the length of the line.''

From Precinct 40:

''I am serving as a presiding judge, a position I have held for some 15+ years in precinct 40. In all my years of service, the lines are by far the longest I have seen, with some waiting as long as four to five hours. I expect the situation to only worsen as the early evening heavy turnout approaches. I have requested additional machines since 6:40 a.m. and no assistance has been offered.''

Precinct 65H:

''I observed a broken voting machine that was not in use for approximately two hours. The precinct judge was very diligent but could not get through to the BOE.''

Precinct 18A:

''At 4 p.m. the average wait time is about 4.5 hours and continuing to increase?. Voters are continuing to leave without voting.''

As day stretched into evening, U.S. District Judge Algernon Marbley issued a temporary restraining order requiring that voters be offered paper ballots.(153) But it was too late: According to bipartisan estimates published in The Washington Post, as many as 15,000 voters in Columbus had already given up and gone home.(154) When closing time came at the polls, according to the Conyers report, some precinct workers illegally dismissed citizens who had waited for hours in the rain -- in direct violation of Ohio law, which stipulates that those in line at closing time are allowed to remain and vote.(155)

The voters disenfranchised by long lines were overwhelmingly Democrats. Because of the unequal distribution of voting equipment, the median turnout in Franklin County precincts won by Kerry was fifty-one percent, compared to sixty-one percent in those won by Bush. Assuming sixty percent turnout under more equitable conditions, Kerry would have gained an additional 17,000 votes in the county.(156)

In another move certain to add to the traffic jam at the polls, the GOP deployed 3,600 operatives on Election Day to challenge voters in thirty-one counties -- most of them in predominantly black and urban areas.(157) Although it was billed as a means to ''ensure that voters are not disenfranchised by fraud,''(158) Republicans knew that the challengers would inevitably create delays for eligible voters. Even Mark Weaver, the GOP's attorney in Ohio, predicted in late October that the move would ''create chaos, longer lines and frustration.''(159)

The day before the election, Judge Dlott attempted to halt the challengers, ruling that ''there exists an enormous risk of chaos, delay, intimidation and pandemonium inside the polls and in the lines out the doors.'' Dlott was also troubled by the placement of Republican challengers: In Hamilton County, fourteen percent of new voters in white areas would be confronted at the polls, compared to ninety-seven percent of new voters in black areas.(160) But when the case was appealed to the Supreme Court on Election Day, Justice John Paul Stevens allowed the challenges to go forward. ''I have faith,'' he ruled, ''that the elected officials and numerous election volunteers on the ground will carry out their responsibilities in a way that will enable qualified voters to cast their ballots.''(161)

In fact, Blackwell gave Republican challengers unprecedented access to polling stations, where they intimidated voters, worsening delays in Democratic precincts. By the end of the day, thanks to a whirlwind of legal wrangling, the GOP had even gotten permission to use the discredited list of 35,000 names from its illegal caging effort to challenge would-be voters.(162) According to the survey by the DNC, nearly 5,000 voters across the state were turned away at the polls because of registration challenges -- even though federal law required that they be provided with provisional ballots.(163)

VII. Faulty Machines

Voters who managed to make it past the array of hurdles erected by Republican officials found themselves confronted by voting machines that didn't work. Only 800,000 out of the 5.6 million votes in Ohio were cast on electronic voting machines, but they were plagued with errors.(164) In heavily Democratic areas around Youngstown, where nearly 100 voters reported entering ''Kerry'' on the touch screen and watching ''Bush'' light up, at least twenty machines had to be recalibrated in the middle of the voting process for chronically flipping Kerry votes to Bush.(165) (Similar ''vote hopping'' from Kerry to Bush was reported by voters and election officials in other states.)(166) Elsewhere, voters complained in sworn affidavits that they touched Kerry's name on the screen and it lit up, but that the light had gone out by the time they finished their ballot; the Kerry vote faded away.(167) In the state's most notorious incident, an electronic machine at a fundamentalist church in the town of Gahanna recorded a total of 4,258 votes for Bush and 260 votes for Kerry.(168) In that precinct, however, there were only 800 registered voters, of whom 638 showed up.(169) (The error, which was later blamed on a glitchy memory card, was corrected before the certified vote count.)

In addition to problems with electronic machines, Ohio's vote was skewed by old-fashioned punch-card equipment that posed what even Blackwell acknowledged was the risk of a ''Florida-like calamity.''(170) All but twenty of the state's counties relied on antiquated machines that were virtually guaranteed to destroy votes(171) -- many of which were counted by automatic tabulators manufactured by Triad Governmental Systems,(172) the same company that supplied Florida's notorious butterfly ballot in 2000. In fact, some 95,000 ballots in Ohio recorded no vote for president at all -- most of them on punch-card machines. Even accounting for the tiny fraction of voters in each election who decide not to cast votes for president -- generally in the range of half a percent, according to Ohio State law professor and respected elections scholar Dan Tokaji -- that would mean that at least 66,000 votes were invalidated by faulty voting equipment.(173) If counted by hand instead of by automated tabulator, the vast majority of these votes would have been discernable. But thanks to a corrupt recount process, only one county hand-counted its ballots.(174)

Most of the uncounted ballots occurred in Ohio's big cities. In Cleveland, where nearly 13,000 votes were ruined, a New York Times analysis found that black precincts suffered more than twice the rate of spoiled ballots than white districts.(175) In Dayton, Kerry-leaning precincts had nearly twice the number of spoiled ballots as Bush-leaning precincts.(176) Last April, a federal court ruled that Ohio's use of punch-card balloting violated the equal-protection rights of the citizens who voted on them.(177)

In addition to spoiling ballots, the punch-card machines also created bizarre miscounts known as ''ballot crawl.'' In Cleveland Precinct 4F, a heavily African-American precinct, Constitution Party candidate Michael Peroutka was credited with an impressive forty-one percent of the vote. In Precinct 4N, where Al Gore won ninety-eight percent of the vote in 2000, Libertarian Party candidate Michael Badnarik was credited with thirty-three percent of the vote. Badnarik and Peroutka also picked up a sizable portion of the vote in precincts across Cleveland -- 11M, 3B, 8G, 8I, 3I.(178) ''It appears that hundreds, if not thousands, of votes intended to be cast for Senator Kerry were recorded as being for a third-party candidate,'' the Conyers report concludes.(179)

But it's not just third-party candidates: Ballot crawl in Cleveland also shifted votes from Kerry to Bush. In Precinct 13B, where Bush received only six votes in 2000, he was credited with twenty percent of the total in 2004. Same story in 9P, where Bush recorded eighty-seven votes in 2004, compared to his grand total of one in 2000.(180)

VIII. Rural Counties

Despite the well-documented effort that prevented hundreds of thousands of voters in urban and minority precincts from casting ballots, the worst theft in Ohio may have quietly taken place in rural counties. An examination of election data suggests widespread fraud -- and even good old-fashioned stuffing of ballot boxes -- in twelve sparsely populated counties scattered across southern and western Ohio: Auglaize, Brown, Butler, Clermont, Darke, Highland, Mercer, Miami, Putnam, Shelby, Van Wert and Warren. (See The Twelve Suspect Counties) One key indicator of fraud is to look at counties where the presidential vote departs radically from other races on the ballot. By this measure, John Kerry's numbers were suspiciously low in each of the twelve counties -- and George Bush's were unusually high.

Take the case of Ellen Connally, a Democrat who lost her race for chief justice of the state Supreme Court. When the ballots were counted, Kerry should have drawn far more votes than Connally -- a liberal black judge who supports gay rights and campaigned on a shoestring budget. And that's exactly what happened statewide: Kerry tallied 667,000 more votes for president than Connally did for chief justice, outpolling her by a margin of thirty-two percent. Yet in these twelve off-the-radar counties, Connally somehow managed to outperform the best-funded Democrat in history, thumping Kerry by a grand total of 19,621 votes -- a margin of ten percent.(181) The Conyers report -- recognizing that thousands of rural Bush voters were unlikely to have backed a gay-friendly black judge roundly rejected in Democratic precincts -- suggests that ''thousands of votes for Senator Kerry were lost.''(182)

Kucinich, a veteran of elections in the state, puts it even more bluntly. ''Down-ticket candidates shouldn't outperform presidential candidates like that,'' he says. ''That just doesn't happen. The question is: Where did the votes for Kerry go?''

They certainly weren't invalidated by faulty voting equipment: a trifling one percent of presidential ballots in the twelve suspect counties were spoiled. The more likely explanation is that they were fraudulently shifted to Bush. Statewide, the president outpolled Thomas Moyer, the Republican judge who defeated Connally, by twenty-one percent. Yet in the twelve questionable counties, Bush's margin over Moyer was fifty percent -- a strong indication that the president's certified vote total was inflated. If Kerry had maintained his statewide margin over Connally in the twelve suspect counties, as he almost assuredly would have done in a clean election, he would have bested her by 81,260 ballots. That's a swing of 162,520 votes from Kerry to Bush -- more than enough to alter the outcome. (183)

''This is very strong evidence that the count is off in those counties,'' says Freeman, the poll analyst. ''By itself, without anything else, what happened in these twelve counties turns Ohio into a Kerry state. To me, this provides every indication of fraud.''

How might this fraud have been carried out? One way to steal votes is to tamper with individual ballots -- and there is evidence that Republicans did just that. In Clermont County, where optical scanners were used to tabulate votes, sworn affidavits by election observers given to the House Judiciary Committee describe ballots on which marks for Kerry were covered up with white stickers, while marks for Bush were filled in to replace them. Rep. Conyers, in a letter to the FBI, described the testimony as ''strong evidence of vote tampering if not outright fraud.'' (184) In Miami County, where Connally outpaced Kerry, one precinct registered a turnout of 98.55 percent (185) -- meaning that all but ten eligible voters went to the polls on Election Day. An investigation by the Columbus Free Press, however, collected affidavits from twenty-five people who swear they didn't vote. (186)

In addition to altering individual ballots, evidence suggests that Republicans tampered with the software used to tabulate votes. In Auglaize County, where Kerry lost not only to Connally but to two other defeated Democratic judicial candidates, voters cast their ballots on touch-screen machines. (187) Two weeks before the election, an employee of ES&S, the company that manufactures the machines, was observed by a local election official making an unauthorized log-in to the central computer used to compile election results. (188) In Miami County, after 100 percent of precincts had already reported their official results, an additional 18,615 votes were inexplicably added to the final tally. The last-minute alteration awarded 12,000 of the votes to Bush, boosting his margin of victory in the county by nearly 6,000. (189)

The most transparently crooked incident took place in Warren County. In the leadup to the election, Blackwell had illegally sought to keep reporters and election observers at least 100 feet away from the polls. (190) The Sixth Circuit, ruling that the decree represented an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment, noted ominously that ''democracies die behind closed doors.'' But the decision didn't stop officials in Warren County from devising a way to count the vote in secret. Immediately after the polls closed on Election Day, GOP officials -- citing the FBI -- declared that the county was facing a terrorist threat that ranked ten on a scale of one to ten. The county administration building was hastily locked down, allowing election officials to tabulate the results without any reporters present.

In fact, there was no terrorist threat. The FBI declared that it had issued no such warning, and an investigation by The Cincinnati Enquirer unearthed e-mails showing that the Republican plan to declare a terrorist alert had been in the works for eight days prior to the election. Officials had even refined the plot down to the language they used on signs notifying the public of a lockdown. (When ROLLING STONE requested copies of the same e-mails from the county, officials responded that the documents have been destroyed.) (191)

The late-night secrecy in Warren County recalls a classic trick: Results are held back until it's determined how many votes the favored candidate needs to win, and the totals are then adjusted accordingly. When Warren County finally announced its official results -- one of the last counties in the state to do so (192) -- the results departed wildly from statewide patterns. John Kerry received 2,426 fewer votes for president than Ellen Connally, the poorly funded black judge, did for chief justice. (193) As the Conyers report concluded, ''It is impossible to rule out the possibility that some sort of manipulation of the tallies occurred on election night in the locked-down facility.'' (194)

Nor does the electoral tampering appear to have been isolated to these dozen counties. Ohio, like several other states, had an initiative on the ballot in 2004 to outlaw gay marriage. Statewide, the measure proved far more popular than Bush, besting the president by 470,000 votes. But in six of the twelve suspect counties -- as well as in six other small counties in central Ohio -- Bush outpolled the ban on same-sex unions by 16,132 votes. To trust the official tally, in other words, you must believe that thousands of rural Ohioans voted for both President Bush and gay marriage. (195)

IX. Rigging the Recount

After Kerry conceded the election, his campaign helped the Libertarian and Green parties pay for a recount of all eighty-eight counties in Ohio. Under state law, county boards of election were required to randomly select three percent of their precincts and recount the ballots both by hand and by machine. If the two totals reconciled exactly, a costly hand recount of the remaining votes could be avoided; machines could be used to tally the rest.

But election officials in Ohio worked outside the law to avoid hand recounts. According to charges brought by a special prosecutor in April, election officials in Cleveland fraudulently and secretly pre-counted precincts by hand to identify ones that would match the machine count. They then used these pre-screened precincts to select the ''random'' sample of three percent used for the recount.

''If it didn't balance, they excluded those precincts,'' said the prosecutor, Kevin Baxter, who has filed felony indictments against three election workers in Cleveland. ''They screwed with the process and increased the probability, if not the certainty, that there would not be a full, countywide hand count.'' (196)

Voting machines were also tinkered with prior to the recount. In Hocking County, deputy elections director Sherole Eaton caught an employee of Triad -- which provided the software used to count punch-card ballots in nearly half of Ohio's counties (197) -- making unauthorized modifications to the tabulating computer before the recount. Eaton told the Conyers committee that the same employee also provided county officials with a ''cheat sheet'' so that ''the count would come out perfect and we wouldn't have to do a full hand-recount of the county.'' (198) After Eaton blew the whistle on the illegal tampering, she was fired.

(199) The same Triad employee was dispatched to do the same work in at least five other counties. (200) Company president Tod Rapp -- who contributed to Bush's campaign (201) -- has confirmed that Triad routinely makes such tabulator adjustments to help election officials avoid hand recounts. In the end, every county serviced by Triad failed to conduct full recounts by hand. (202)

Even more troubling, in at least two counties, Fulton and Henry, Triad was able to connect to tabulating computers remotely via a dial-up connection, and reprogram them to recount only the presidential ballots. (203) If that kind of remote tabulator modification is possible for the purposes of the recount, it's no great leap to wonder if such modifications might have helped skew the original vote count. But the window for settling such questions is closing rapidly: On November 2nd of this year, on the second anniversary of the election, state officials will be permitted under Ohio law to shred all ballots from the 2004 election. (204)

X. What's At Stake

The mounting evidence that Republicans employed broad, methodical and illegal tactics in the 2004 election should raise serious alarms among news organizations. But instead of investigating allegations of wrongdoing, the press has simply accepted the result as valid. ''We're in a terrible fix,'' Rep. Conyers told me. ''We've got a media that uses its bullhorn in reverse -- to turn down the volume on this outrage rather than turning it up. That's why our citizens are not up in arms.''

The lone news anchor who seriously questioned the integrity of the 2004 election was Keith Olbermann of MSNBC. I asked him why he stood against the tide. ''I was a sports reporter, so I was used to dealing with numbers,'' he said. ''And the numbers made no sense. Kerry had an insurmountable lead in the exit polls on Election Night -- and then everything flipped.'' Olbermann believes that his journalistic colleagues fell down on the job. ''I was stunned by the lack of interest by investigative reporters,'' he said. ''The Republicans shut down Warren County, allegedly for national security purposes -- and no one covered it. Shouldn't someone have sent a camera and a few reporters out there?''

Olbermann attributes the lack of coverage to self-censorship by journalists. ''You can rock the boat, but you can never say that the entire ocean is in trouble,'' he said. ''You cannot say: By the way, there's something wrong with our electoral system.''

Federal officials charged with safeguarding the vote have also failed to contest the election. ''Congress hasn't investigated this at all,'' says Kucinich. ''There has been no oversight over our nation's most basic right: the right to vote. How can we call ourselves a beacon of democracy abroad when the right to vote hasn't been secured in free and fair elections at home?''

Sen. John Kerry -- in a wide-ranging discussion of ROLLING STONE's investigation -- expressed concern about Republican tactics in 2004, but stopped short of saying the election was stolen. ''Can I draw a conclusion that they played tough games and clearly had an intent to reduce the level of our vote? Yes, absolutely. Can I tell you to a certainty that it made the difference in the election? I can't. There's no way for me to do that. If I could have done that, then obviously I would have found some legal recourse.''

Kerry conceded, however, that the widespread irregularities make it impossible to know for certain that the outcome reflected the will of the voters. ''I think there are clearly states where it is questionable whether everybody's vote is being counted, whether everybody is being given the opportunity to register and to vote,'' he said. ''There are clearly barriers in too many places to the ability of people to exercise their full franchise. For that to be happening in the United States of America today is disgraceful.''

Kerry's comments were echoed by Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. ''I'm not confident that the election in Ohio was fairly decided,'' Dean says. ''We know that there was substantial voter suppression, and the machines were not reliable. It should not be a surprise that the Republicans are willing to do things that are unethical to manipulate elections. That's what we suspect has happened, and we'd like to safeguard our elections so that democracy can still be counted on to work.''

To help prevent a repeat of 2004, Kerry has co-sponsored a package of election reforms called the Count Every Vote Act. The measure would increase turnout by allowing voters to register at the polls on Election Day, provide provisional ballots to voters who inadvertently show up at the wrong precinct, require electronic voting machines to produce paper receipts verified by voters, and force election officials like Blackwell to step down if they want to join a campaign. (205) But Kerry says his fellow Democrats have been reluctant to push the reforms, fearing that Republicans would use their majority in Congress to create even more obstacles to voting. ''The real reason there is no appetite up here is that people are afraid the Republicans will amend HAVA and shove something far worse down our throats,'' he told me.

On May 24th, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tried unsuccessfully to amend the immigration bill to bar anyone who lacks a government-issued photo ID from voting (206) -- a rule that would disenfranchise at least six percent of Americans, the majority of them urban and poor, who lack such identification. (207) The GOP-controlled state legislature in Indiana passed a similar measure, and an ID rule in Georgia was recently struck down as unconstitutional. (208)

''Why erect those kinds of hurdles unless you're afraid of voters?'' asks Ralph Neas, director of People for the American Way. ''The country will be better off if everyone votes -- Democrats and Republicans. But that is not the Blackwell philosophy, that is not the George W. Bush or Jeb Bush philosophy. They want to limit the franchise and go to extraordinary lengths to make it more difficult to vote.''

The issue of what happened in 2004 is not an academic one. For the second election in a row, the president of the United States was selected not by the uncontested will of the people but under a cloud of dirty tricks. Given the scope of the GOP machinations, we simply cannot be certain that the right man now occupies the Oval Office -- which means, in effect, that we have been deprived of our faith in democracy itself.

American history is littered with vote fraud -- but rather than learning from our shameful past and cleaning up the system, we have allowed the problem to grow even worse. If the last two elections have taught us anything, it is this: The single greatest threat to our democracy is the insecurity of our voting system. If people lose faith that their votes are accurately and faithfully recorded, they will abandon the ballot box. Nothing less is at stake here than the entire idea of a government by the people.

Voting, as Thomas Paine said, ''is the right upon which all other rights depend.'' Unless we ensure that right, everything else we hold dear is in jeopardy.

See exclusive documents, sources, charts and commentary.

Article source:

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note: Bernadette and Tom Noe's last name is incorrectly spelled ''Noy'' in the official White House transcript.
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128) Interview with Stephanie Tubbs Jones
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144) Correspondence with Matt Damschroder.
145) Suzanne Hoholik and Mark Ferenchik, ''GOP Council Hopes Rising; Party expects ruling on petitions will put its candidate on ballot,'' Columbus Dispatch, March 26, 2003.
146) Preserving Democracy, pg. 25.
147) Mark Niquette, ''GOP Strongholds Saw Increase in Voting Machines,'' Columbus Dispatch, December 12, 2004.
148) Michael Powell and Peter Slevin, ''Several Factors Contributed to 'Lost' Voters in Ohio,'' Washington Post, December 15, 2004.
149) Columbus Free Press editor, Bob Fitrakis.
150) ''Voting Machine Allocation in Franklin County, Ohio, 2004: Response to the U.S. Department of Justice Letter of June 29, 2005,'' Walter R. Mebane, Jr., February 11, 2006, Page 13.
151) Tokaji, pg. 1238.
Ohio Democratic Party v. Blackwell, No. C2 04 1055, (S.D. Ohio Nov. 2, 2004).
152) Ohio Democratic Party v. Blackwell, No. C2 04 1055, (S.D. Ohio Nov. 2, 2004).
153) Ohio Democratic Party v. Blackwell, No. C2 04 1055, slip op. At 1 (S.D. Ohio Nov. 2, 2004).
154) Washington Post, ''Several Factors Contributed to 'Lost' Voters in Ohio,'' Michael Powell and Peter Slevin, December 15, 2004.
155) Preserving Democracy, pg. 25.
156) Affidavit of Richard Hayes Phillips, December 10, 2004.
157) Mark Niquette, ''Finally, It's Time to Vote; U.S. Appeals Court Overturns Ban, Allows Challengers Back in Polling Sites,'' Columbus Dispatch (Ohio), November 2, 2004.
158) In the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division, Marian A. Spencer, et. al., v. J. Kenneth Blackwell, Case no. C-1-04-738, page 3.
159) James Dao, ''The 2004 Campaign: Ohio, G.O.P. Bid to Contest Registrations is Blocked,'' The New York Times, October 28, 2004.
160) Marian A. Spencer, et. al., v. J. Kenneth Blackwell; In the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division; Case no. C-1-04-738.
161) Dan Horn, Howard Wilkinson, and Cindi Andrews, ''Supreme Court Justice Allows Challengers,'' Cincinnati Enquirer.
162) Tokaji, pages 1237-1238.
163) Democracy at Risk, pg. 20.
164) The Columbus Free Press.
165) ''Errors Plague Voting Process in Ohio, Pa.'' The Vindicator, November 3, 2004, Vindicator Staff Report
166) Voters Unite catalogues news reports from around the country that give examples of dysfunctional voting machines, among other election stories.
167) The Columbus Free Press.
168) Jim Woods, ''In One Precinct, Bush's Tally was Supersized by a Computer Glitch,'' Columbus Dispatch (Ohio), November 5, 2004.
169) Hitchens, Vanity Fair.
170) Letter from J. Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio Secretary of State, to Doug White, President, Ohio Senate 3 (Feb. 26, 2004).
171) Sixty-eight counties used punch card ballots. Thirteen used optical scan machines. Seven used touch-screen technology.
172) Malia Rulon, ''Congressman Calls For FBI Investigation Into Ohio Election,'' The Associated Press State & Local Wire, December 15, 2004.
173) Tokaji, Page 1221.
174) Jim Konkoly, ''Volunteers Complete Local Recount,'' Coshocton Tribune, December 18, 2004.
175) New York Times, ''Voting Problems in Ohio Spur Call for Overhaul,'' James Dao, Ford Fessenden, December 24, 2004.
176) Ken McCall and Jim Bebbington, ''Two Precincts had High Undercounts, Analysis Shows,''Dayton Daily News, November 18, 2004.
177) Lisa A. Abraham, ''Punch-Card Voting is Illegal,'' Akron Beacon Journal, April 22, 2006.
178) Analysis by Hayes Phillips.
179) Preserving Democracy, pg. 57.
180) Analysis by Hayes Phillips.
181) Analysis completed by using official tallies on the Ohio Secretary of State Web site.Official tallies for Kerry
Official tallies for Connally
182) Preserving Democracy, pg. 55.
183) Analysis conducted through official vote tallies posted on Ohio Secretary of State Web site:Tally 1Tally 2
184) Letter from Rep. John Conyers to Chris Swecker, assistant director of the Criminal Investigative Division at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. See attached affidavits.
185) Miami County Board of Elections.
186) Confirmed by Bob Fitrakis of the Free Press
187) Analysis conducted through official vote tallies posted on Ohio Secretary of State Web site.
188) Erin Miller, ''Board Awaits State Follow Up,'' The Evening Leader.
189) ''Preserving Democracy,'' pages 58-59.
190) The Associated Press, ''News Groups Sue Ohio Elections Chief Over Poll Access,'' Associated Press, November 2, 2004.andMark Crispin Miller, ''None Dare Call It Stolen,'' Harper's, August 2005.
191) Incidents in Warren County were catalogued in a series of articles by the Cincinnati Enquirer:Erica Solvig, ''No Changes in Final Warren Co. Vote Count; E-mails Released Monday Show Lockdown Pre-planned,'' Cincinnati Enquirer, November 16, 2004.
Erica Solvig, ''Warren's Vote Tally Walled Off; Alone in Ohio, Officials Cited Homeland Security,'' Cincinnati Enquirer, November 5, 2004
Erica Solvig and Dan Horn, ''Warren Co. Defends Lockdown Decision; FBI denies warning officials of any special threat,'' Cincinnati Enquirer, November 10, 2004.
Erica Solvig, ''Warren Co. Recount Goes Public; After Election Night lockdown, security eases up,'' Cincinnati Enquirer, December 15, 2004.
192) Erica Solvig, ''Warren's Vote Tally Walled Off; Alone in Ohio, Officials Cited Homeland Security,'' Cincinnati Enquirer, November 5, 2004.
193) Analysis conducted through official vote tallies posted on the Ohio Secretary of State Web site.
194) ''Preserving Democracy,'' pg. 52.
195) Analysis conducted through official vote tallies posted on the Ohio Secretary of State Web site.
196) Joan Mazzolini, ''Workers Accused of Fudging '04 Recount; Prosecutor Says Cuyahoga Skirted Rules,'' The Plain Dealer, April 6, 2006.
197) Malia Rulon, ''Congressman Calls for FBI Investigation Into Ohio Election,'' The Associated Press, December 15, 2004.
198) Affidavit, December 13, 2004, Sherole Eaton, Re: General Election 2004, Hocking County.
199) Jon Craig, '' '04 Election in Hocking County; Worker Who Questioned Recount is Asked to Quit,'' Columbus Dispatch (Ohio), June 1st, 2005.
200) ''Preserving Democracy,'' pg. 81.
202) ''Preserving Democracy,'' pg. 82.
203) ''Preserving Democracy,'' pg. 83.
204) Ohio Secretary of State's press office.
205) Count Every Vote Act of 2005
206) Dena Bunis, ''Senate Limits Immigration Debate,'' The Orange County Register, May 24, 2006.
207) Tokaji's blog, Election Law at Moritz, ''McConnell's Voter ID Amendment,'' May 22, 2006.
208) United States District Court Northern District of Georgia, Rome Division