GW Bush

Bush is World"s #1 Terrorist

Saturday, December 25, 2004

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How George W. Bush Won
the 2004 Presidential Election

Purging voter lists is just the beginning: the U.S. has embraced a form of electronic voting that is unreliable, unverifiable and funded by the radical Christian right.

ES&S, Diebold and Sequoia may not be household names like Enron or Arthur Andersen, but these three companies will decide America's next president. In the 2004 presidential election, the full effect of electronic voting will be felt for the first time and these are the companies that will report the majority of the results.

Despite assurances from the corporations that own these machines, the reliability of electronic voting is under intense criticism. One of the most comprehensive examinations of electronic voting fraud came from brothers James and Kenneth Collier. In their 1992 book Votescam: The Stealing of America, the brothers detailed the long history of voting fraud over the past twenty-five years with a special focus on voting machines. American politicians and large media outlets have ignored their book, and their charges remain unanswered.

Now, their concerns are being echoed by a new group of writers, journalists and activists who have raised alarming and explosive details about electronic voting in America. While academics such as Professors Rebecca Mercuri and David Dill and organizations like the Association for Computing Machinery have carefully documented how voting systems are vulnerable to fraudulent manipulation, journalists Lynn Landes, Jerry Bowles and Bev Harris are alerting Americans to an electronic coup d'etat in the making. If their charges are true, and there is little evidence to contradict their claims, George W. Bush has already won the 2004 election.

Florida's Folly Goes National

"Given the outcome of our work in Florida and with a new president in place, we think our services will expand across the country."
-- Martin L. Fagan, ChoicePoint Vice-President

To understand how George W. Bush will win the next presidential election, it helps to understand how he won the last one. While all public attention rested on hanging chads, butterfly ballots and a skewed recount in the wake of the 2000 Presidential election, the root of the problem has been overlooked. As investigative reporter Greg Palast uncovered, the state of Florida purged over 90,000 people from their list of eligible voters under the guise that they were felons. In fact, almost none of the disenfranchised voters were felons...but almost all were blacks or democrats.

Palast's investigation revealed that at the heart of this ethnic cleansing of voter lists was the creation of a new centralized database for the state of Florida. In 1999, the state fired the company they were paying to compile their "scrub" lists and gave the job to Database Technologies (DBT, now ChoicePoint). DBT, a private firm known to have strong Republican ties was paid $2.3 million to do the same job that had previously been done for $5,700.

The first list of felons from DBT included 8,000 names of felons from Texas supplied by George Bush's state officials. The state government said they were all felons, and thus barred from voting under federal law. Local officials complained about the list and DBT issued a new one, this time naming 58,000 felons. Palast discovered that the one county that went through the process of checking the new list name by name found it was 95% wrong.

Because of the way DBT compiled its erroneous list, Florida voters whose names were similar to out-of-state felons were barred from voting. An Illinois felon named John Michaels could knock off Florida voters John, Johnny, Jonathan or Jon R. Michaels.

DBT didn't get names, birthdays or social security numbers right, but they were matched for race, so a felon named Joe Green only knocked off a black Joe Green, but not a white person with the same name. There was no need to guess about the race of the disenfranchised: a voter's race is listed next to his or her name in many Southern states including Florida because racial ID is required by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
DBT's fee of $2.3 million was supposed to include verification that the individuals on their list were actually felons, but Palast's investigation showed that DBT could not provide any evidence that they made a single phone call to verify the identity of the names scrubbed prior to the 2000 Presidential Election.

Unfortunately, nothing is preventing this purge from taking place again on a national scale. Due in large part to the attention paid to butterfly ballots and hanging chads in the fall of 2000, the new Help America Vote Act (HAVA) demands that every state replicate Florida's system of centralized, computerized voter files before the 2004 election, presumably to avoid the paper-ballot confusion of the Florida recount. Martin Luther King III and Greg Palast recently co-authored a piece on the dangers of such databases, recalling the Florida debacle. Their conclusion: "Jim Crow has moved into cyberspace -- harder to detect, craftier in operation, shifting shape into the electronic guardian of a new electoral segregation."

ChoicePoint already has contracts with numerous states to provide electronic voter lists purged of supposed felons. They are a natural choice as one of the U.S.'s largest database companies. ChoicePoint provides information on federal criminal records by district for 43 states and also provides online access to more than 63 million criminal records for all fifty states. Who better to provide HAVA-mandated voter lists to state governments?

You Voted Republican, Trust Us

"It's not the voting that's democracy, it's the counting."
-- Tom Stoppard, 1972

Purged voter lists are only one method of pre-determining the outcome of an election. An even more serious problem lies inside the voting machines themselves. While representatives of Diebold, ES&S and Sequoia herald the benefits of their systems, not everyone shares their enthusiasm. Dr. Rebecca Mercuri is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Bryn Mawr College and has been referred to as "the leading independent expert on electronic voting technology." Shortly before the 2000 Presidential election, Mercuri defended her Ph.D. dissertation on the subject of "Electronic Vote Tabulation: Checks and Balances" at the Engineering School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Mercuri's website is an astonishing checklist of the lack of safeguards and other failings that plague the current crop of electronic voting systems. One of Mercuri's primary concerns is that electronic systems provide no way for a voter, or election officials, to verify that a cast ballot corresponds to the vote being recorded. As Mercuri notes on her site, "Any programmer can write code that displays one thing on a screen, records something else, and prints yet another result." There is no known way to ensure that this is not happening inside of a voting system. Companies such as Diebold, ES&S and Sequoia, which manufacture the machines and provide the code that runs them, simply take a "trust us" approach.

Mercuri also reports that no electronic voting system has been certified to even the lowest level of the U.S. government or international computer security standards such as the ISO Common Criteria, nor are they required to comply with such standards. Thus, no current electronic voting system is secure by the U.S. government's own standards.

Electronic voting systems without individual printouts for examination by voters do not provide an independent audit trail. All voting systems can make mistakes and the ability to perform manual hand-counts of ballots is the only way to verify results. Computer glitches are already cropping up all across the United States. Numerous irregularities with electronic voting machines have already been reported:

* In Georgia, which recently purchased 22,000 Diebold touch screens, some voters touched one candidate's name on the screen and saw another candidate's name appear
* A former news reporter in Florida discovered that votes were being tabulated in 644 Palm Beach precincts: but Palm Beach only has 643 precincts. An earlier court case in Florida found the same discrepancy. A reporter in New Jersey observed 104 precincts with votes in an area that has only 102 precincts.
* Baldwin County results showed that Democrat Don Siegelman won the state of Alabama. However, the next morning, 6,300 of Siegelman's votes disappeared and the election was handed to Republican Bob Riley. A recount was requested and denied.
* In North Carolina, a software programming error caused vote-counting machines to skip over several thousand votes, both Republican and Democratic. Fixing the error turned up 5,500 more votes and reversed the election.
* In Comal County Texas, an uncanny coincidence resulted in three Republican candidates winning by exactly 18,181 votes each. Two other Republican candidates outside Texas also won by exactly 18,181 votes.
* In October, election officials in Raleigh, N.C., discovered that early voters had to make several attempts to record their votes on ES&S systems. Officials compared the number of voters to the number of votes counted and realized that 294 votes had been lost.
* A report from the Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project states that an estimated 1.5 million presidential votes were not recorded in 2000 because of difficulties using voting equipment and that electronic machines have the second highest rate of unmarked, uncounted and spoiled ballots in presidential, Senate, and governor elections over the last 12 years.

Federally mandated voting machines, almost exclusively manufactured by ES&S, Diebold and Sequoia are being constructed and tested under obsolete FEC recommendations. The US has authorized spending of over four billion dollars on new voting equipment, but as Mercuri notes, "failed to require or enforce adequate security, usability, reliability, and auditability controls over the products being purchased." The numerous flaws cited above ably demonstrate Mercuri's point.

Her concerns are echoed by Professor David Dill from Stanford University. He has created a resolution warning of the dangers of electronic voting machines. "Do not be seduced by the apparent convenience of "touch-screen voting" machines, or the "gee whiz" factor that accompanies flashy new technology," he writes. "Using these machines is tantamount to handing complete control of vote counting to a private company, with no independent checks or audits. These machines represent a serious threat to democracy."

Chuck Hagel and Nebraska's Upset

"If you want to win the election, just control the machines."
-- Charlie Matulka, Nebraska Senatorial Candidate

Chuck Hagel first ran for the U.S. Senate in Nebraska in 1996. Electronic voting machines owned by Election Systems & Software (ES&S) reported that he had won both the primaries and the general election in unprecedented victories. His 1996 victory was considered one of the biggest upsets of that election. He was the first Republican to win a Nebraska senatorial campaign in 24 years and won virtually every demographic group, including many largely black communities that had never before voted Republican.

Six years later Hagel ran again against Democrat Charlie Matulka in 2002, and won in a landslide. He was re-elected to his second term with 83% of the vote: the biggest political victory in the history of Nebraska. Again, the votes were counted by ES&S, now the largest voting machine company in America.

While these victories could be dismissed simply as a Republican upset, a January 2003 article in the independent Washington paper The Hill revealed interesting details about Hagel's business investments and casts a different light on his election successes. Chuck Hagel was CEO of ES&S (then AIS) until 1995 and he is still a major stockholder of the parent company of ES&S, McCarthy & Company. Hagel resigned as CEO of ES&S to run for the Senate and resigned as president of the parent company McCarthy & Company following his election (where he remains a major investor).

Today, the McCarthy Group is run by Michael McCarthy, who happens to be Chuck Hagel's treasurer. Hagel's financials still list the McCarthy Group as an asset, with his investment valued at $1-$5 million. Campaign finance reports show that Michael McCarthy also served as treasurer for Hagel until December of 2002.

ES&S also has a connection to the Bush family. Jeb Bush's first choice as running mate in 1998 was Sandra Mortham who was a paid lobbyist for ES&S and received a commission for every county that bought its touch-screen machines.

The Hill's revelations of Hagel's conflict of interest was disturbing enough to cause Jan Baran, one of the most powerful Republican lawyers in Washington D.C., and Lou Ann Linehan, Senator Chuck Hagel's Chief of Staff, to walk into The Hill's offices to "discuss" the story. According to the author of the article, Alex Bolton, nothing similar had happened in the three-and-a-half years he's worked for the paper. It was, no doubt, a story Hagel would rather see go unreported.

Helping America Vote Right

"The Christian worldview is the answer. We need Christian statesmen who press for the Crown Rights of Jesus Christ in all areas of life. This isn't political salvation or an overnight fix. It will take decades of mobilization and confrontation to undo a century of godless socialism. It must be a grassroots movement that starts in individual families and churches and then moves outward to take dominion. It must encompass every area of life and not just the political arena. Finally, it must start soon, for there isn't much time left. The Florida elections have taught us that the Democrats with their liberal/socialistic worldview will stop at nothing to seize control of the government."
-- Dr. Val Finnell, published by the Chalcedon Institute

If the connections between Hagel and ES&S seem suspect, the origins of America's largest electronic voting machine companies may be just as distressing, especially for those who venerate the separation of church and state. The convoluted system of renaming and buyouts of America's voting system companies is a complicated story. However, once the various corporate trails have been followed, a disturbing picture comes into focus.

Brothers Bob and Todd Urosevich founded American Information Systems. Bob is currently president of Diebold and Todd Urosevich is Vice President, Aftermarket Sales of ES&S. (In 1999, American Information Systems, purchased Business Records Corp to become ES&S.)

American Information Systems (AIS) was primarily funded with money from Ahmanson brothers, William and Robert, of the Howard F. Ahmanson Co. The majority stake in ES&S is still owned by Howard F. Ahmanson and the Ahmanson Foundation

Howard Ahmanson belongs to Council for National Policy, a hard right wing organization and also helps finance The Chalcedon Institute. As the institute's own site reports, Chalcedon is a "Christian educational organization devoted to research, publishing, and promoting Christian reconstruction in all areas of life... Our emphasis on the Cultural or Dominion Mandate (Genesis 1:28) and the necessity of a return to Biblical Law has been a crucial factor in the challenge to Humanism by Christians in this country and elsewhere..." Chalcedon promotes Christian Reconstructionism, which mandates Christ's dominion over the entire world. The organization's purpose is to establish Old Testament Biblical law as the standard for society.

Solutions and Alternatives

Few individuals who are trying to alert citizens to the dangers of electronic voting are against computer voting unequivocally. Rather, the complaints focus on the lack of a verifiable paper trail and the inability of the public to examine the code that runs the machines. Professor Mercuri's October 2002 article, "A Better Ballot Box?" provides a solution to these concerns. She also poses a series of questions that she believes must be answered in order to allay security concerns. Mercuri's work is partly an attempt to design a machine in line with minimum standards set by the U.S. federal government, unlike the voting machines currently being installed across America.

The New York State Assembly recently passed legislation that specifically requires that machines "produce and retain a voter verified permanent paper record with a manual audit capacity" (but fails to mention the code that runs the machines). Rep. Rush Holt has introduced federal legislation, The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2003 with similar aims. The measure would require all voting machines to produce an actual paper record by 2004 that voters can view to check the accuracy of their votes and that election officials can use to verify votes in the event of a computer malfunction, hacking, or other irregularity.

Other solutions exist to ensure the integrity of voting machines and address the concerns of people like Professor Mercuri. Jason Kitcat is the author of the Free e-democracy project, an open source project that builds Internet voting software. Likewise, Australia makes the code for their machines available online whereas American companies jealously guard the code that runs their machines. It seems a fair question, considering the list of problems that currently plague voting equipment: why are none of these alternatives being investigated?

The 2004 election will be the first to use nation-wide electronic voting. With the purging of voter lists, secrecy surrounding voting machines, the lack of a verifiable paper trail combined with voting machine companies with strong Republican ties and funding from the radical right, a Bush victory is all but inevitable. Welcome to the machines.

Update: has the latest on an investigation by Bev Harris, revealing glaring holes in the U.S. election system. Her detailed account is a must-read. For more information, click here: diebold.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

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December 22nd, 2004 11:08 pm
Governor's Race in Washington Comes Down to 10 Votes

By Sarah Kershaw / New York Times

SEATTLE, Dec. 22 — After a bitter and protracted recount fight in the Washington state governor’s race, elections officials announced today that the Democratic candidate, Christine O. Gregoire, was now leading her Republican opponent by a miniscule margin of only 10 votes, a stunning reversal of the Nov. 2 election results.

The preliminary results elated Democratic Party officials, and they came only hours after the party scored another victory, when the state Supreme Court agreed with its contention that more than 700 newly discovered and disqualified ballots in heavily Democratic King County should now be counted. Since Ms. Gregoire, 57, already had a solid lead in that county, the ruling is expected to increase her edge.

The days events were a serious blow to Dino Rossi, 45, a real estate executive and former state senator, who had been certified the winner of the Nov. 2 vote, after eking out a margin of 261 votes out of almost 3 million cast. He later won a machine recount by only 42 votes.

Official results from this second recount -- in one of the nation’s closest contests ever-- would not be available until Thursday, after King County completes a review of the 723 ballots it is now allowed to count. Republicans were already vowing to press election officials, likely through a lawsuit, to consider at several hundred other disqualified ballots cast in other counties. And whatever the final results, they were almost certain to be contested.

But the Democrats, who have waged an-all out battle for their candidate, in a state known much more for politeness in politics than the kind of partisan brawling that has dominated the excruciatingly close contest, said they were confident that the recount had indeed changed the outcome of a statewide election for the first time in state history.

Washington State has held several recounts before, but no election has been this close and losers were never before turned into victors.

“We are confident that she has been elected governor,” Paul Berendt, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said in an interview early today after learning of the recount’s results Tuesday night. “It feels exhilarating. We have fought hard. We have never stopped fighting.”

But the fighting appeared far from over. More legal challenges were virtually certain, and Republicans were already raising questions about the security of the ballots in question. However, under state law no matter how close this recount is, there can be no further recounts. “Knowing how King County operates, it really is not over until the fat lady sings,” said Mary Lane, a spokeswoman for Mr. Rossi.

Under state law, if a second recount reverses an election, the cost, in this case $700,000, is then covered by the state. The Democrats paid for the second recount using a huge infusion of donations from Democrats across the country, including Senator John Kerry and Howard Dean, and in an election year that delivered Democrats nationally so many bruising losses, the potential fall and rise of a Democrat in Washington appears — for now — to be a deliciously hard-won aberration.

This was the state’s most expensive gubernatorial race in history, and 2.9 million ballots were cast on Election Day. Ms. Gregoire, a three-term attorney general, was the favorite.

But in an initial count of the votes, Mr. Rossi, a commercial real estate agent and former state senator, was declared the winner with a margin of 261 votes. After a machine recount mandated by law because of the closeness of the race, Mr. Rossi’s lead was reduced to 42 votes. The Democrats then said they would pay for a hand-recount that commenced on Dec. 8.

Regardless of who prevails in the Washington State election, the winner and loser seem destined to take their places in political lore as having been combatants in one of the closest elections in American history. Even a cursory look at past cliffhangers confirms what a rich history it is.

The presidential election of 2000 is sometimes called one of the closest ever, but several qualifiers are necessary. Vice President Al Gore actually won the popular vote over George W. Bush by a margin of about 537,000, a far more decisive (if ultimately meaningless) edge than the 115,000 by which John F. Kennedy defeated Richard M. Nixon in 1960. Mr. Bush, of course, ultimately triumphed in the Electoral College, 271 to 266, after weeks of controversy over the Florida returns and a Supreme Court showdown.

But the Electoral College vote in the 1876 election was even closer. That was the year that Gov. Samuel J. Tilden of New York, a Democrat, bested Gov. Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio, a Republican, by a full quarter-million votes out of about 8.4 million cast. But there was an uproar over the returns from South Carolina, Louisiana and Florida, which had appeared to go for Tilden but which Republicans claimed ought to be invalid, because many black people had been unable to vote in those states.

Election boards in those states eventually declared Hayes the victor. Congress set up a special commission to validate the returns, and the panel voted, 8 to 7, along party lines for Hayes. Thus, Hayes won the Electoral College, again by a single vote, 185 to 184.

Then there was the 1948 Texas election, which propelled Lyndon B. Johnson into the Senate and, eventually, the White House. Johnson had been in the House since 1937, and he risked everything 11 years later to run in the Democratic primary for Senate against former Gov. Coke R. Stevenson. Whoever won the Democratic primary would be virtually certain of victory in the general election.

After the July 24 primary, Stevenson led by 71,000 votes out of more than 1 million cast. But since Stevenson did not get a majority there was a runoff, on Aug. 28. The morning after the runoff Stevenson was still ahead, by 854 votes.

But suddenly (many said fraudulently) a ballot box from a South Texas county turned up 202 previously uncounted votes. They went overwhelmingly for Johnson, who vaulted into the lead by 87 votes. An inquiry found that the 202 names were listed in alphabetical order and that the handwriting on the ballots was remarkably similar.

The Texas Democratic Party’s executive committee certified Johnson the winner, and he was on his way to victory that November, and on his way to Washington. The executive committee vote was 29 to 28.

David Stout contributed reporting from Washington.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Michigan Congressman Seeks Exit Poll Data

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December 22nd, 2004 1:19 pm
Michigan Congressman Seeks Exit Poll Data

By Seth Sutel / Associated Press

NEW YORK - The top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee has asked The Associated Press and five broadcast networks to turn over raw exit poll data collected on Election Day so that any discrepancies between the data and the certified election results can be investigated.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan said in a letter released Tuesday in Washington that the polling firms that conducted the polls on behalf of the news organizations, Mitofsky International and Edison Media Research, had declined to share the information with the committee.

"Without the raw data, the committee will be severely handicapped in its efforts to show the need for serious election reform in the United States," Conyers said in the letter.

The AP and the five television outlets — ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and Fox — formed a consortium called the National Election Pool to conduct exit polls for this year's election after disbanding a previous exit poll group called the Voter News Service, which had problems in both the 2000 and 2002 elections.

Edie Emery, a spokeswoman for the National Election Pool and a CNN employee, said the poll data were still being analyzed and that the group's board would decide how to release a full report on the data early next year. "To release any information now would be incomplete," she said.

Several Web logs carried accounts on the afternoon of Nov. 2 of what they said were leaked information from the exit polls showing that Kerry, a Massachusetts senator, was leading Bush in several battleground states, including Ohio, and poised for victory.

But Bush, a Republican, beat Kerry by about 119,000 votes in Ohio, winning that state's 20 electoral votes and putting him over the top in the race. Bush won re-election with 286 electoral votes to Kerry's 252.

Conyers' letter said the exit poll information could help determine whether there is evidence "of voting irregularities that occurred as a result of poor election practices and intentional voter disenfranchisement."

The exit polling was conducted for the AP and for ABC, a unit of The Walt Disney Co.; CBS, a unit of Viacom Inc.; NBC, a unit of General Electric Co.; CNN, a unit of Time Warner Inc.; and Fox News, owned by News Corp.

"Like Congressman Conyers, we believe the American people deserve answers," said Jack Stokes, a spokesman for the AP. "We want exit polling information to be made public as soon as it is available, as we intended. At this time, the data is still being evaluated for a final report to the National Election Pool."

Officials from ABC and NBC referred calls for comment to the National Election Pool, where CNN's Emery responded for the group. A CBS spokeswoman declined to comment, and officials at Fox could not be reached.

Earlier this month Kerry asked county election officials in Ohio to allow his witnesses to inspect the 92,000 ballots cast in the state in which no vote for president was recorded.

Despite improvements since 2000, when the presidential outcome was delayed for weeks by problems counting ballots in Florida, the nation's voting system remains a locally administered patchwork whose lack of national uniformity distinguishes the United States from many other democracies.

Most complaints have come from Democrats and third-party candidates, but Republicans and bipartisan groups have acknowledged problems. The Government Accountability Office is investigating election problems. Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio and chairman of the House Administration Committee, will oversee an inquiry next year.

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission, created in 2002, is also scrutinizing the outcome. It plans to publish in January the government's first report on the voting, which will serve as the basis for congressional recommendations and reforms.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

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bush man of the year, Times magazine!

What a joke!! I almost puked.

I will never more buy Times magazine. bush and the republican party stinks.
The are running record budget deficits, killing more than 100,000 innocent people in Iraqui, kiling about 1,300 American soldiers for nothing other than the bloody oil.

The bush cartel are cutting health care, social programs, medicare. Seniors beware: bush is cutting social security.

We have to unite all americans (except the wealthy, perhaps) and boot this guy out of the office.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Welcome to!

Welcome to!

December 13th, 2004 6:08 pm
More Questions for Florida

By Kim Zetter / Wired

A government watchdog group is investigating allegations made by a Florida programmer that are whipping up a frenzy among bloggers and people who believe Republicans stole the recent election.

Programmer Clint Curtis claims that four years ago Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Florida) asked his then-employer to write software to alter votes on electronic voting machines in Florida.

He said his employer told him the code would be used "to control the vote" in West Palm Beach County, Florida. But a fellow employee disputed the programmer's claims and said the meetings he described never took place.

Many questions have been raised about Curtis, the 46-year-old programmer, who said he doesn't know if anyone ever placed the prototype code on voting machines. But this hasn't stopped frustrated voters and bloggers from seizing his story. Daily Kos mentioned the allegations, and Brad Friedman of The Brad Blog has written extensively about them.

Staff members for Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) met with Curtis last week to discuss the election allegations. Representatives for Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida) inquired about other allegations from Curtis that his former company spied on NASA.

The FBI in Tallahassee, Florida, has set up a meeting with Curtis, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, said it was trying to corroborate his claims about possible election fraud and NASA spying.

The group hopes that even if the election allegations aren't proven, they will inspire legislators to pass a law requiring voting software to be open to public inspection to help deter fraud and restore public confidence in the election process. The software code used in voting machines is considered proprietary and it is protected from public examination -- an issue voting activists have been trying to address.

"I think Mr. Curtis helps make that issue a little more difficult to shunt aside," said CREW Executive Director Melani Sloan. "You don't even have to believe what he says (in order to be concerned about voting machines), just that he created a program. If he can do it, anyone can."

In September 2000, Curtis was working for Yang Enterprises in Oviedo, Florida, a software design firm that contracts with NASA, ExxonMobil and the Florida Department of Transportation, among other clients. According to Curtis, Feeney met with him and Lee Yang, the company's president, to request the voting software.

At the time, Feeney was Yang's corporate attorney and a registered lobbyist for the company as well as a member of Florida's legislature. A month later, he would become speaker of Florida's House of Representatives. In 2002 he was elected to Congress.

Curtis said Feeney asked for code that could go undetected on a voting machine and be easily triggered without any devices by anyone using the machine. Curtis had never seen source code for a voting machine, but in five hours, he said he designed code in Visual Basic that would launch if someone touched specific spots on the voting screen after selecting a candidate.

Once the code was activated, it would search the machine to see if the selected candidate's total was behind. If it was, the machine would award that candidate 51 percent of the total votes recorded on the machine and redistribute the remaining votes among the other candidates in the race.

Curtis said he initially believed Feeney wanted the code to see if such fraud were possible and to know how to detect it. The programmer told Feeney that such code could never be undetectable in source code, and he wrote a paper describing how to look for it. But when he gave the paper and code to his employer, Yang told him he was looking at it all wrong. They weren't looking at how to find code, Curtis said she told him. They needed code that couldn't be found.

"Her words were that it was needed to control the vote in West Palm Beach, Florida," Curtis said. "Once she said, 'We need to steal an election,' that put me back. I made it clear that I could not produce code that could do that and no one else should."

Curtis says he left the company in February 2001 because he found its ethics questionable. He doesn't know if his code was ever used.

Neither Feeney's spokeswoman nor election officials in Palm Beach County returned calls for comment. But a man who identified himself as Mike Cohen, Yang's executive assistant at the time whom Curtis said was in the meeting, told Wired News the meeting never occurred. Cohen said Curtis was "100 percent" wrong and that Cohen didn't attend such a meeting. He added he knew nothing of any meeting on the topic that occurred without him.

Yang attorney Michael O'Quinn called Curtis' assertions "absurd and categorically untrue." He said Curtis is an opportunist and a disgruntled former employee furthering an agenda by telling lies. According to O'Quinn, Curtis tried the same tactic in 2002 when he leveled other charges against Yang and Feeney.

Some details of Curtis' statements don't check out. West Palm Beach city didn't use touch-screen machines in 2000, something Curtis didn't know when Wired News spoke to him. It was the pregnant chad controversy in that year's presidential election that led Palm Beach county, where West Palm Beach resides, to replace its much-maligned punch-card system with touch-screen machines made by Sequoia Voting Systems in December 2001.

But Curtis said the program could have been adapted for use in the counting software used with punch-card machines and optical scan machines, or it could have been used on the new touch-screen machines in 2002, the year Feeney was elected to Congress.

Adam Stubblefield, a graduate student in computer science at Johns Hopkins University who co-authored a now-famous report (.pdf) about Diebold's voting machine code last year, thinks the chances that Curtis' code was used in a voting machine are nil.

"(Curtis) clearly didn't have the source code to any voting machine, and his program is so trivial that it would be much easier to rewrite it than to rework it," said Stubblefield.

Stubblefield also found fault in Curtis' statement that any malicious code would be detected in a source code review. This would be true only for unsophisticated malicious code, like Curtis' prototype.

Despite Curtis' concerns about statements Yang and Feeney supposedly made regarding election fraud, Curtis didn't tell the FBI or election officials in West Palm Beach about them, even after the 2000 election thrust Florida into the international spotlight.

He said he didn't worry about the code or Yang's statements because he believed if anyone installed malicious code on a voting machine authorities would find it when they examined the code. It wasn't until he read a news story last spring indicating that voting software is proprietary and is not open for inspection once it's certified that the earlier conversations began to concern him.

He claims he did later tell the CIA, the FBI, an investigator for Florida's Department of Transportation and a reporter for the Daytona Beach News-Journal about the voting issues when he gave them other information about Yang and Feeney. But so far this has not been corroborated. The FBI did not return calls for comment. The Department of Transportation investigator is dead.

And writer Laura Zuckerman who worked closely with Curtis on several stories for the Daytona paper, told Wired News he never mentioned the voting software code.

In 2002, Zuckerman wrote about allegations Curtis made that Yang Enterprises overcharged the Department of Transportation for work it never performed. In addition, Curtis told Zuckerman that Yang employed an illegal Chinese national while working on government contracts for NASA, and that the company was possibly spying on NASA by downloading documents from the NASA computer system.

"I didn't get a hint of anything like that at the time that I was writing any of these stories," Zuckerman (who no longer works for the newspaper) said.

However, other information provided by Curtis has been somewhat corroborated. The overbilling charge was confirmed by a Department of Transportation employee, although an official state investigation found no wrongdoing. Curtis thinks pressure from Feeney and others helped squelch the investigation, charges that Zuckerman did not find implausible from her own research.

And Last March, the Chinese national that Curtis discussed, Hai Lin Nee, was arrested in a 4-year-old Immigration and Customs Enforcement sting operation for trying to mail sensitive computer chips to Beijing in 1999 in violation of export rules.

But no one at Yang has been arrested for spying on NASA or stealing documents, despite a letter Curtis sent to a NASA investigator in February 2002 suggesting the company might be doing so. Curtis believes Feeney squelched that investigation as well to protect Yang. Both CREW and staff for Sen. Nelson's office are looking into those charges.

Curtis recently signed an affidavit (.pdf) and says he's willing to take a polygraph test. In the affidavit, Curtis stated that Feeney once "bragged that he had already implemented 'exclusion lists' to reduce the 'black vote'" and discussed ways of further impeding the black vote through strategic use of police patrols on Election Day.

His willingness to go on record with his vote fraud allegations is what makes some believe him.

Jon Kaney, a prominent Florida attorney who represents the Daytona Beach News-Journal and sparred with Feeney over articles the paper wrote about the lawmaker in 2002, said the affidavit does take things up a notch.

"You don't casually go around swearing under penalties of perjury unless you think you're right," Kaney said. "The affidavit struck me as something somebody ought to be looking at." But he said his first reaction to the affidavit was: "Gag. This can't be believed."

It remains to be seen if any new investigations can uncover the truth.

Friday, December 10, 2004



They come to bury Social Security


Privatizing Social Security -- replacing the current system, in whole or in part, with personal investment accounts -- won't do anything to strengthen the system's finances. If anything, it will make things worse.

Nonetheless, the politics of privatization depend crucially on convincing the public that the system is in imminent danger of collapse, that we must destroy Social Security in order to save it.

I'll have a lot to say about all this when I return on my regular schedule in January. But right now it seems important to take a break from my break and debunk the hype about a Social Security crisis.

There's nothing strange or mysterious about how Social Security works: It's just a government program supported by a dedicated tax on payroll earnings, just as highway maintenance is supported by a dedicated tax on gasoline.

Right now the revenues from the payroll tax exceed the amount paid out in benefits. This is deliberate, the result of a payroll tax increase -- recommended by none other than Alan Greenspan -- two decades ago. His justification at the time for raising a tax that falls mainly on lower- and middle-income families, even though Ronald Reagan had just cut the taxes that fall mainly on the very well off, was that the extra revenue was needed to build up a trust fund. This could be drawn on to pay benefits once the baby boomers began to retire.

The grain of truth in claims of a Social Security crisis is that this tax increase wasn't quite big enough. Projections in a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office (which are probably more realistic than the very cautious projections of the Social Security Administration) say that the trust fund will run out in 2052. The system won't become "bankrupt" at that point; even after the trust fund is gone, Social Security revenues will cover 81 percent of the promised benefits. Still, there is a long-run financing problem.

But it's a problem of modest size. The report finds that extending the life of the trust fund into the 22nd century, with no change in benefits, would require additional revenues equal to only 0.54 percent of GDP. That's less than 3 percent of federal spending -- less than we're currently spending in Iraq. And it's only about one-quarter of the revenue lost each year because of President Bush's tax cuts -- roughly equal to the fraction of those cuts that goes to people with incomes of more than $500,000 a year.

Given these numbers, it's not at all hard to come up with fiscal packages that would secure the retirement program, with no major changes, for generations to come.

It's true that the federal government as a whole faces a very large financial shortfall. That shortfall, however, has much more to do with tax cuts -- cuts that Bush nonetheless insists on making permanent -- than it does with Social Security.

But since the politics of privatization depend on convincing the public that there is a Social Security crisis, the privatizers have done their best to invent one.

My favorite example of their three-card-monte logic goes like this: First, they insist that the Social Security system's current surplus and the trust fund it has been accumulating with that surplus are meaningless. Social Security, they say, isn't really an independent entity -- it's just part of the federal government.

If the trust fund is meaningless, by the way, that Greenspan-sponsored tax increase in the 1980s was nothing but an exercise in class warfare: Taxes on working-class Americans went up, taxes on the affluent went down, and the workers have nothing to show for their sacrifice.

But never mind: The same people who claim that Social Security isn't an independent entity when it runs surpluses also insist that late next decade, when the benefit payments start to exceed the payroll tax receipts, this will represent a crisis -- you see, Social Security has its own dedicated financing, and therefore must stand on its own.

There's no honest way anyone can hold both these positions, but very little about the privatizers' position is honest. They come to bury Social Security, not to save it. They aren't sincerely concerned about the possibility that the system will someday fail; they're disturbed by the system's historic success.

For Social Security is a government program that works, a demonstration that a modest amount of taxing and spending can make people's lives better and more secure. And that's why the right wants to destroy it.

Paul Krugman is a columnist for The New York Times. Copyright 2004 New York Times News Service. E-mail:

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Welcome to!

Welcome to!

Election Fraud Ignored By Kerry
By Stephen Simac

A great wailing and gnashing of teeth was heard from half the country, while jubilant cheers rose from the other half. At least from the 60% of American citizens who actually voted in the Word Series of Politics.

Forty percent chose not to take part in choosing the Commander in Chief of the mightiest military force the world has ever known. Not to take part in choosing the Leader of the Free World. Not to take part in choosing the President of the Untied States. Those were the truly undecided ones and no exit poll was done for them.

Australia has mandatory voting with fines. There are still citizens of that democracy who would rather pay than vote. America makes it hard to vote and doesn't care how few participate in our democratic republic. 80% often don't vote in primaries and special elections.

Election Day should be a National Holiday in a Democracy, even the primaries. Special elections should be mail in or coordinated with national elections. In Oregon it's all mail in. It makes it easier for people to do their most basic civic duty. For all the talk about protecting democracy abroad, there's very little concern for preserving it at home.

And now we don't even care how the votes are counted. With computers the good news is you don't have to plow the cemeteries to come up with more votes than voters. There were 93,000 more votes than voters in Cayuhoga county alone in Ohio, discovered by Teed Rockwell of Sonoma State University by examining the county's official election website.

No word yet on who they were for, but most likely a Diebold votomatic system was counting them. That's the firm run by a man who publicly promised to carry Ohio for Bush. But he'd have no reason to cheat, would he? Bush won by more votes than any other president, after all.

The big media has already "debunked" the widespread reports of election fraud on the internet. They might have to keep debunking, because these reports are springing up like mushrooms.

If the normally accurate exit polls didn't match the final results, if Democrat majority precincts voted Republican, that's just because Bush lovers are shy, retiring folk who've never changed their Democrat registration while voting Republican since Nixon. The NY Times and the Boston Globe in their debunking articles did admit there were some minor flaws in the process.

Their final conclusion- Just Get Over It! Bush and his dark lord K. Rove pulled millions more out of their pews to stop Gay Marriage and Keep America Safe from Wolves and Flip Floppers. That's the Story! Now go and dialogue with those people to make it all nice and avoid tearing the country apart.

Where Are You Going, Little Red Riding Hood?

Kerry called Bush to concede before all the votes in Ohio were even counted. And unlike Gore, he never called back to say "Hell No, it ain't over!" Despite Kerry's boast about the army of lawyers he had out there to challenge any voting irregularities on November 2, despite his recent e-mail to 3 million of his supporters to Stand Firm!, it took the Green Party and the Libertarian party to raise $150,000 to demand a recount of the vote in Ohio. Kerry is sitting on $50 million in unspent campaign funds, but didn't cough up a nickel.

Sworn testimony at a public hearing in Columbus, Ohio indicates serious civil rights violations in that state, most of it conducted to favor Bush. It took up to 10 hours to vote in one heavily Democrat precinct, averaged four hours in many of these districts because of inadequate numbers of machines. Meanwhile, voting machines sat idle in the warehouses and Republican districts had surpluses per registered voter. Dozens of thousands of voters couldn't wait that long and many of those who waited had their votes challenged and were forced to fill out provisional ballots. Many more votes were counted in precincts than the number of signed polling logs and absentee ballots.The punch card voting machines that many poorer precincts were still using have a known spoilage rate for ballots. Greg Palast reported that over 90,000 votes wouldn't be counted because their cards weren't punched through, or they over voted. More than 150,000 voters were forced to fill out provisional ballots because of registration challenges, with reports that even long time voters had disappeared from the rolls.

The Republican secretary of state is the co-chair of Bush's Ohio campaign team. He'll use the slightest error to shred thousands of these ballots. He called the election in Ohio a "Success by any measure." Even hard core Kerry supporters remain dismissive of these and other reports on the internet. They sneer at the conspiracists to go back to your grassy knoll. This wasn't another stolen election by Bush. Face it, he got out his base, religious, ignorant homophobes and the elite. Who get to count the votes.

Kerry said he had 40, 000 lawyers out there to seize onto any election shenanigans like pitbulls. Where did they go? Maybe the Republicans who weren't challenging dark skinned voters did driveby's with ambulance sirens to draw those shysters away like hounds on a scent? It took a real attorney, Ralph Nader to challenge the New Hampshire and Florida votes. Florida is another state where evidence of criminal fraud has been reported. In Volusia county, which includes Daytona Beach and Deland, a Florida Fair Elections team and Bev Harris of, went to the elections office to request to view the 100 plus signed poll tapes from the optical scanner voting machines in that county.

Harris has been a major force in raising public awareness of the many flaws in Diebold computer voting software through her website and media interviews. The elections office knew they were coming for these public records, but gave them unsigned printouts that were dated November 15th .

Over the next two days Harris and FFE members found reams of the original, signed poll tapes in the garbage bags and dumpster of the election office. Comparing the original tapes they had with the printouts the Volusia county election board presented to the state for the official vote count, they found the numbers to be off by hundreds in each precinct, all of them favoring Bush. That's a major crime.

My, What Big Eyes You Have!

They are moving on to other counties with optical scanners in Florida. Owners and executives at two other computer voting companies, ES&S and Sequoia Pacific, which count more than half the votes in the country, have been convicted of bribing public officials in over a dozen states.

Daniel Hopsicker on his website reported these convictions after researching the two companies financiers. He wrote they have links with organized crime, currency manipulators, gambling resort owners and "untraceable shareholders." Just the kind of people you want counting the vote in a democracy.

The 4 p.m. exit polls gave Kerry a clear win in carrying the country. The tabulated results hours later put Bush over the top. Exit polls have been the most accurate polls in predicting final results. The swings from exit polls to final votes towards Bush in Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio were so far beyond the margin of error, that Dr. Stephen Freeman of the University of Pennsylvania calculated the odds at 250 million to one, or Bush would have had a better chance of winning the lottery in all three states. Georgie didn't look too worried in the Bush family gathering shown on television, while the exit polls showed him going down like his dad.

An analysis of the swing from projected results from exit polls to final tally in 50 states and district showed that in 42 states the percentage of final Bush votes veered upwards, some by as much as 10 %. Only 9 veered to Kerry, none more than 5 %. This was so odd that CNN actually "rebalanced" their late night "exit poll numbers" from their afternoon numbers to fit the results being tallied.

An MIT and CALTECH voting technology project team was used by the NY Times as an "expert debunker." Their report with no named authors said that "while exit polls predicted a significantly greater vote for Kerry nationwide than the official returns confirmed", they found "no particular pattern" to these anomalies.

Johnathon Simon on reports that this unknown team of statisticians was using the "rebalanced" numbers to conduct their analysis, not the actual exit polls. He notes that in order to get the final results for Bush in Florida, they would have had to exit poll only male voters. The 19th amendment was supposed to end that.

My, What Big Teeth You Have!

A UC Berkeley research team using public records and statistical patterns to predict results, found "an unexplained discrepancy" between counties with electronic voting machines and those without. Those with EVMs may have awarded Bush 130,000 to 260,000 extra votes in Florida alone. The three biggest boosters of Bush's excess were in the Democratic strongholds of Broward, Dade and Palm Beach counties. In order to avoid another Florida debacle, the county officials purchased optical scanners from companies run by criminals. It makes sense in a Florida kind of way.

A congressional candidate in Florida, Jeff Fisher ran on the Constitutionally Progressive Liberal Democrat ticket, a party of one. He lost, but on his website he claims the computerized vote counting was hacked into from a juvenile detention and drug rehab facility in Dade county to raise vote totals for Bush. Not by the inmates, but by Republicans. Fisher says they used the same process to fix Jeb Bush's 2002 governor race, and the 2000 Bush/Gore election results. He hasn't produced the documents he claims he has to prove this yet. Gore did register a minus 16,000 votes in one Diebold counted precinct in Volusia county in 2000.

These Kerry libs who refuse to believe there was widespread and criminal election fraud by the Republicans must like feeling both dejected and superior to the dumb, Bush supporters in red meat America. Even if they agree that there was fraud, they passively counter there was not enough fraud to change the outcome.

They would rather believe that slightly more than half the country thought this JFK was a bogus war hero who skated out of combat after three cheesy Purple Hearts, who'd never done anything in 30 years in the Senate because he was too busy windsurfing, and would probably have gay weddings in the White House. And he liked wolves, or something. Even his supporters don't entirely disagree.

More people in the targeted swing states remembered the Terrorist Wolves for Bush ad than any other television campaign commercial except for the Swift Boaters against Kerry ads. Many based their votes for Bush on those enlightening commercials. Democracy, Isn't it great? It goes for so little.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004



Something's fishy in Ohio

November 30, 2004

BY JESSE JACKSON Advertisement

In the Ukraine, citizens are in the streets protesting what they charge is a fixed election. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell expresses this nation's concern about apparent voting irregularities. The media give the dispute around-the-clock coverage. But in the United States, massive and systemic voter irregularities go unreported and unnoticed.

Ohio is this election year's Florida. The vote in Ohio decided the presidential race, but it was marred by intolerable, and often partisan, irregularities and discrepancies. U.S. citizens have as much reason as those in Kiev to be concerned that the fix was in. Consider:

In Ohio, a court just ruled there can't be a recount yet, because the vote is not yet counted. It's three weeks after the election, and Ohio still hasn't counted the votes and certified the election. Some 93,000 overvotes and undervotes are not counted; 155,000 provisional ballots are only now being counted. Absentee ballots cast in the two days prior to the election haven't been counted.

Ohio determines the election, but the state has not yet counted the vote. That outrage is made intolerable by the fact that the secretary of state in charge of this operation, Ken Blackwell, holds -- like Katherine Harris of Florida's fiasco in 2000 -- a dual role: secretary of state with control over voting procedures and co-chair of George Bush's Ohio campaign. Blackwell should recuse himself so that a thorough investigation, count and recount of Ohio's vote can be made.

Blackwell reversed rules on provisional ballots in place in the spring primaries. These allowed voters to cast provisional ballots anywhere in their county, even if they were in the wrong precinct, reflecting the chief rationale for provisional ballots: to ensure that those who went to the wrong place by mistake could have their votes counted. The result of this decision -- why does this not surprise? -- was to disqualify disproportionately ballots cast in heavily Democratic Cuyahoga County.

Blackwell also permitted the use of electronic machines that provided no paper record. The maker of many of these machines, the head of Diebold Co., promised to deliver Ohio for Bush. In one precinct in Franklin County, an electric voting system gave Bush 3,893 extra votes out of a total of 638 votes cast.

Blackwell also presided over a voting system that resulted in quick, short lines in the dominantly Republican suburbs, and four-hour and longer waiting lines in the inner cities. Wealthy precincts received ample numbers of voting machines and numerous voting places. Democratic precincts received inadequate numbers of machines in too few polling places that were often hard to locate; this caused daylong waits for the very working people who could least afford the time.

In Ohio, as in Florida and Pennsylvania, there was a stark disconnect between the exit polls and the tabulated results, with the former favoring John Kerry and the latter George Bush. The chance of this occurring in these three states, according to Professor Steven Freeman of the University of Pennsylvania, is about 250 million to 1.

In one of dozens of examples, Ellen Connally, an African-American Supreme Court candidate running an underfunded race at the bottom of the ticket, received over 257,000 more votes than Kerry in 37 counties. She ran better than Kerry in the areas of the state where she wasn't known and didn't campaign than she did where she was known and did campaign.

There should be a federal investigation of the vote count in Ohio, with the partisan secretary of state removing himself from the scene.

In Cleveland, as in Kiev, Ukraine, citizens have the right to know that the election is run fairly and every vote counted honestly. Citizens have the right to nonpartisan election officials. Citizens have the right to voting machines that keep a paper record and allow for an independent audit and recount.

This country needs no more Floridas and Ohios. This shouldn't be a partisan issue. We call for a constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to vote for all U.S. citizens and to empower Congress to establish federal standards and nonpartisan administration of elections. Harris and Blackwell are insults to the people they represent, and stains upon the president whose election they sought to ensure. Democracy should not be for export only.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Michael : Mike's Message : Mike's Latest News

Michael : Mike's Message : Mike's Latest News: "November 5th, 2004 6:10 pm
No Surrender

By Paul Krugman / New York Times

President Bush isn't a conservative. He's a radical - the leader of a coalition that deeply dislikes America as it is. Part of that coalition wants to tear down the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt, eviscerating Social Security and, eventually, Medicare. Another part wants to break down the barriers between church and state. And thanks to a heavy turnout by evangelical Christians, Mr. Bush has four more years to advance that radical agenda.

Democrats are now, understandably, engaged in self-examination. But while it's O.K. to think things over, those who abhor the direction Mr. Bush is taking the country must maintain their intensity; they must not succumb to defeatism.

This election did not prove the Republicans unbeatable. Mr. Bush did not win in a landslide. Without the fading but still potent aura of 9/11, when the nation was ready to rally around any leader, he wouldn't have won at all. And future events will almost surely offer opportunities for a Democratic comeback.

I don't hope for more and worse scandals and failures during Mr. Bush's second term, but I do expect them. The resurgence of Al Qaeda, the debacle in Iraq, the explosion of the budget deficit and the failure to create jobs weren't things that just happened to occur on Mr. Bush's watch. They were the consequences of bad policies made by people who let ideology trump reality.

Those people still have Mr. Bush's ear, and his election victory will only give them the confidence to make even bigger mistakes.

So what should the Democrats do?

One faction of the party is already calling for the Democrats to blur the differences between themselves and the Republicans. Or at least that's what I think Al From of the Democratic Leadership Council means when he says, 'We've got to close the cultural gap.' But that's a losing proposition.

Yes, Democrats need to make it clear that they support personal virtue, that they value fidelity, responsibility, honesty and faith. This shouldn't be a hard case to make: Democrats are as likely as Republicans to be faithful spouses and good parents, and Republicans are as likely as Democrats to be adulterers, gamblers or drug abusers. Massachusetts has the lowest divorce rate in the country; blue states, on average, have lower rates of out-of-wedlock births than red states.

But Democrats are not going to get the support of people whose votes are motivated, above all, by their opposition to abortion and gay rights (and, in the background, opposition to minority rights). All they will do if they try to cater to intolerance is alienate their own base.

Does this mean that the Democrats are condemned to permanent minority status? No. The religious right - not to be confused with religious Americans in general - isn't a majority, or even a dominant minority. It's just one bloc of voters, whom the Republican Party has learned to mobilize with wedge issues like this year's polarizing debate over gay marriage.

Rather than catering to voters who will never support them, the Democrats - who are doing pretty well at getting the votes of moderates and independents - need to become equally effective at mobilizing their own base.

In fact, they have made good strides, showing much more unity and intensity than anyone thought possible a year ago. But for the lingering aura of 9/11, they would have won.

What they need to do now is develop a political program aimed at maintaining and increasing the intensity. That means setting some realistic but critical goals for the next year.

Democrats shouldn't cave in to Mr. Bush when he tries to appoint highly partisan judges - even when the effort to block a bad appointment fails, it will show supporters that the party stands for something. They should gear up for a bid to retake the Senate or at least make a major dent in the Republican lead. They should keep the pressure on Mr. Bush when he makes terrible policy decisions, which he will.

It's all right to take a few weeks to think it over. (Heads up to readers: I'll be starting a long-planned break next week, to work on a economics textbook. I'll be back in January.) But Democrats mustn't give up the fight. What's at stake isn't just the fate of their party, but the fate of America as we know it.


Michael : Mike's Message : Mike's Latest News

Michael : Mike's Message : Mike's Latest News: "November 5th, 2004 6:10 pm
No Surrender

By Paul Krugman / New York Times

President Bush isn't a conservative. He's a radical - the leader of a coalition that deeply dislikes America as it is. Part of that coalition wants to tear down the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt, eviscerating Social Security and, eventually, Medicare. Another part wants to break down the barriers between church and state. And thanks to a heavy turnout by evangelical Christians, Mr. Bush has four more years to advance that radical agenda.

Democrats are now, understandably, engaged in self-examination. But while it's O.K. to think things over, those who abhor the direction Mr. Bush is taking the country must maintain their intensity; they must not succumb to defeatism.

This election did not prove the Republicans unbeatable. Mr. Bush did not win in a landslide. Without the fading but still potent aura of 9/11, when the nation was ready to rally around any leader, he wouldn't have won at all. And future events will almost surely offer opportunities for a Democratic comeback.

I don't hope for more and worse scandals and failures during Mr. Bush's second term, but I do expect them. The resurgence of Al Qaeda, the debacle in Iraq, the explosion of the budget deficit and the failure to create jobs weren't things that just happened to occur on Mr. Bush's watch. They were the consequences of bad policies made by people who let ideology trump reality.

Those people still have Mr. Bush's ear, and his election victory will only give them the confidence to make even bigger mistakes.

So what should the Democrats do?

One faction of the party is already calling for the Democrats to blur the differences between themselves and the Republicans. Or at least that's what I think Al From of the Democratic Leadership Council means when he says, 'We've got to close the cultural gap.' But that's a losing proposition.

Yes, Democrats need to make it clear that they support personal virtue, that they value fidelity, responsibility, honesty and faith. This shouldn't be a hard case to make: Democrats are as likely as Republicans to be faithful spouses and good parents, and Republicans are as likely as Democrats to be adulterers, gamblers or drug abusers. Massachusetts has the lowest divorce rate in the country; blue states, on average, have lower rates of out-of-wedlock births than red states.

But Democrats are not going to get the support of people whose votes are motivated, above all, by their opposition to abortion and gay rights (and, in the background, opposition to minority rights). All they will do if they try to cater to intolerance is alienate their own base.

Does this mean that the Democrats are condemned to permanent minority status? No. The religious right - not to be confused with religious Americans in general - isn't a majority, or even a dominant minority. It's just one bloc of voters, whom the Republican Party has learned to mobilize with wedge issues like this year's polarizing debate over gay marriage.

Rather than catering to voters who will never support them, the Democrats - who are doing pretty well at getting the votes of moderates and independents - need to become equally effective at mobilizing their own base.

In fact, they have made good strides, showing much more unity and intensity than anyone thought possible a year ago. But for the lingering aura of 9/11, they would have won.

What they need to do now is develop a political program aimed at maintaining and increasing the intensity. That means setting some realistic but critical goals for the next year.

Democrats shouldn't cave in to Mr. Bush when he tries to appoint highly partisan judges - even when the effort to block a bad appointment fails, it will show supporters that the party stands for something. They should gear up for a bid to retake the Senate or at least make a major dent in the Republican lead. They should keep the pressure on Mr. Bush when he makes terrible policy decisions, which he will.

It's all right to take a few weeks to think it over. (Heads up to readers: I'll be starting a long-planned break next week, to work on a economics textbook. I'll be back in January.) But Democrats mustn't give up the fight. What's at stake isn't just the fate of their party, but the fate of America as we know it.


Bloglines | My Blogs

Bloglines | My Blogs

November 6th, 2004 6:53 pm
Evidence Mounts That The Vote May Have Been Hacked

by Thom Hartmann / Common Dreams

When I spoke with Jeff Fisher this morning (Saturday, November 06, 2004), the Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from Florida's 16th District said he was waiting for the FBI to show up. Fisher has evidence, he says, not only that the Florida election was hacked, but of who hacked it and how. And not just this year, he said, but that these same people had previously hacked the Democratic primary race in 2002 so that Jeb Bush would not have to run against Janet Reno, who presented a real threat to Jeb, but instead against Bill McBride, who Jeb beat.

"It was practice for a national effort," Fisher told me.

And evidence is accumulating that the national effort happened on November 2, 2004.

The State of Florida, for example, publishes a county-by-county record of votes cast and people registered to vote by party affiliation. Net denizen Kathy Dopp compiled the official state information into a table, available at, and noticed something startling.

While the heavily scrutinized touch-screen voting machines seemed to produce results in which the registered Democrat/Republican ratios matched the Kerry/Bush vote, and so did the optically-scanned paper ballots in the larger counties, in Florida's smaller counties the results from the optically scanned paper ballots - fed into a central tabulator PC and thus vulnerable to hacking - seem to have been reversed.

In Baker County, for example, with 12,887 registered voters, 69.3% of them Democrats and 24.3% of them Republicans, the vote was only 2,180 for Kerry and 7,738 for Bush, the opposite of what is seen everywhere else in the country where registered Democrats largely voted for Kerry.

In Dixie County, with 4,988 registered voters, 77.5% of them Democrats and a mere 15% registered as Republicans, only 1,959 people voted for Kerry, but 4,433 voted for Bush.

The pattern repeats over and over again - but only in the smaller counties where, it was probably assumed, the small voter numbers wouldn't be much noticed. Franklin County, 77.3% registered Democrats, went 58.5% for Bush. Holmes County, 72.7% registered Democrats, went 77.25% for Bush.

Yet in the larger counties, where such anomalies would be more obvious to the news media, high percentages of registered Democrats equaled high percentages of votes for Kerry.

More visual analysis of the results can be seen at, and

And, although elections officials didn't notice these anomalies, in aggregate they were enough to swing Florida from Kerry to Bush. If you simply go through the analysis of these counties and reverse the "anomalous" numbers in those counties that appear to have been hacked, suddenly the Florida election results resemble the Florida exit poll results: Kerry won, and won big.

Those exit poll results have been a problem for reporters ever since Election Day.

Election night, I'd been doing live election coverage for WDEV, one of the radio stations that carries my syndicated show, and, just after midnight, during the 12:20 a.m. Associated Press Radio News feed, I was startled to hear the reporter detail how Karen Hughes had earlier sat George W. Bush down to inform him that he'd lost the election. The exit polls were clear: Kerry was winning in a landslide. "Bush took the news stoically," noted the AP report.

But then the computers reported something different. In several pivotal states.

Conservatives see a conspiracy here: They think the exit polls were rigged.

Dick Morris, the infamous political consultant to the first Clinton campaign who became a Republican consultant and Fox News regular, wrote an article for The Hill, the publication read by every political junkie in Washington, DC, in which he made a couple of brilliant points.

"Exit Polls are almost never wrong," Morris wrote. "They eliminate the two major potential fallacies in survey research by correctly separating actual voters from those who pretend they will cast ballots but never do and by substituting actual observation for guesswork in judging the relative turnout of different parts of the state."

He added: "So, according to ABC-TVs exit polls, for example, Kerry was slated to carry Florida, Ohio, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, and Iowa, all of which Bush carried. The only swing state the network had going to Bush was West Virginia, which the president won by 10 points."

Yet a few hours after the exit polls were showing a clear Kerry sweep, as the computerized vote numbers began to come in from the various states the election was called for Bush.

How could this happen?

On the CNBC TV show "Topic A With Tina Brown," several months ago, Howard Dean had filled in for Tina Brown as guest host. His guest was Bev Harris, the Seattle grandmother who started from her living room. Bev pointed out that regardless of how votes were tabulated (other than hand counts, only done in odd places like small towns in Vermont), the real "counting" is done by computers. Be they Diebold Opti-Scan machines, which read paper ballots filled in by pencil or ink in the voter's hand, or the scanners that read punch cards, or the machines that simply record a touch of the screen, in all cases the final tally is sent to a "central tabulator" machine.

That central tabulator computer is a Windows-based PC.

"In a voting system," Harris explained to Dean on national television, "you have all the different voting machines at all the different polling places, sometimes, as in a county like mine, there's a thousand polling places in a single county. All those machines feed into the one machine so it can add up all the votes. So, of course, if you were going to do something you shouldn't to a voting machine, would it be more convenient to do it to each of the 4000 machines, or just come in here and deal with all of them at once?"

Dean nodded in rhetorical agreement, and Harris continued. "What surprises people is that the central tabulator is just a PC, like what you and I use. It's just a regular computer."

"So," Dean said, "anybody who can hack into a PC can hack into a central tabulator?"

Harris nodded affirmation, and pointed out how Diebold uses a program called GEMS, which fills the screen of the PC and effectively turns it into the central tabulator system. "This is the official program that the County Supervisor sees," she said, pointing to a PC that was sitting between them loaded with Diebold's software.

Bev then had Dean open the GEMS program to see the results of a test election. They went to the screen titled "Election Summary Report" and waited a moment while the PC "adds up all the votes from all the various precincts," and then saw that in this faux election Howard Dean had 1000 votes, Lex Luthor had 500, and Tiger Woods had none. Dean was winning.

"Of course, you can't tamper with this software," Harris noted. Diebold wrote a pretty good program.

But, it's running on a Windows PC.

So Harris had Dean close the Diebold GEMS software, go back to the normal Windows PC desktop, click on the "My Computer" icon, choose "Local Disk C:," open the folder titled GEMS, and open the sub-folder "LocalDB" which, Harris noted, "stands for local database, that's where they keep the votes." Harris then had Dean double-click on a file in that folder titled "Central Tabulator Votes," which caused the PC to open the vote count in a database program like Excel.

In the "Sum of the Candidates" row of numbers, she found that in one precinct Dean had received 800 votes and Lex Luthor had gotten 400.

"Let's just flip those," Harris said, as Dean cut and pasted the numbers from one cell into the other. "And," she added magnanimously, "let's give 100 votes to Tiger."

They closed the database, went back into the official GEMS software "the legitimate way, you're the county supervisor and you're checking on the progress of your election."

As the screen displayed the official voter tabulation, Harris said, "And you can see now that Howard Dean has only 500 votes, Lex Luthor has 900, and Tiger Woods has 100." Dean, the winner, was now the loser.

Harris sat up a bit straighter, smiled, and said, "We just edited an election, and it took us 90 seconds."

On live national television. (You can see the clip on

Which brings us back to Morris and those pesky exit polls that had Karen Hughes telling George W. Bush that he'd lost the election in a landslide.

Morris's conspiracy theory is that the exit polls "were sabotage" to cause people in the western states to not bother voting for Bush, since the networks would call the election based on the exit polls for Kerry. But the networks didn't do that, and had never intended to. It makes far more sense that the exit polls were right - they weren't done on Diebold PCs - and that the vote itself was hacked.

And not only for the presidential candidate - Jeff Fisher thinks this hit him and pretty much every other Democratic candidate for national office in the most-hacked swing states.

So far, the only national "mainstream" media to come close to this story was Keith Olbermann on his show Friday night, November 5th, when he noted that it was curious that all the voting machine irregularities so far uncovered seem to favor Bush. In the meantime, the Washington Post and other media are now going through single-bullet-theory-like contortions to explain how the exit polls had failed.

But I agree with Fox's Dick Morris on this one, at least in large part. Wrapping up his story for The Hill, Morris wrote in his final paragraph, "This was no mere mistake. Exit polls cannot be as wrong across the board as they were on election night. I suspect foul play."

Friday, November 05, 2004

Bloglines | My Blogs

Bloglines | My Blogs

Published on Thursday, November 4, 2004 by
The Ultimate Felony Against Democracy
by Thom Hartmann

The hot story in the Blogosphere is that the "erroneous" exit polls that showed Kerry carrying Florida and Ohio (among other states) weren't erroneous at all - it was the numbers produced by paperless voting machines that were wrong, and Kerry actually won. As more and more analysis is done of what may (or may not) be the most massive election fraud in the history of the world, however, it's critical that we keep the largest issue at the forefront at all time: Why are We The People allowing private, for-profit corporations, answerable only to their officers and boards of directors, and loyal only to agendas and politicians that will enhance their profitability, to handle our votes?

Maybe Florida went for Kerry, maybe for Bush. Over time - and through the efforts of some very motivated investigative reporters - we may well find out (Bev Harris of just filed what may be the largest Freedom of Information Act [FOIA} filing in history), and bloggers and investigative reporters are discovering an odd discrepancy in exit polls being largely accurate in paper-ballot states and oddly inaccurate in touch-screen electronic voting states Even raw voter analyses are showing extreme oddities in touch-screen-run Florida, and eagle-eyed bloggers are finding that news organizations are retroactively altering their exit polls to coincide with what the machines ultimately said.

But in all the discussion about voting machines, let's never forget the concept of the commons, because this usurpation is the ultimate felony committed by conservatives this year.

At the founding of this nation, we decided that there were important places to invest our tax (then tariff) dollars, and those were the things that had to do with the overall "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" of all of us. Over time, these commons - in which we all make tax investments and for which we all hold ultimate responsibility - have come to include our police and fire services; our military and defense; our roads and skyways; our air, waters and national parks; and the safety of our food and drugs.

But the most important of all the commons in which we've invested our hard-earned tax dollars is our government itself. It's owned by us, run by us (through our elected representatives), answerable to us, and most directly responsible for stewardship of our commons.

And the commons through which we regulate the commons of our government is our vote.

About two years ago, I wrote a story for these pages, "If You Want To Win An Election, Just Control The Voting Machines," that exposed how Senator Chuck Hagel had, before stepping down and running for the U.S. Senate in Nebraska, been the head of the voting machine company (now ES&S) that had just computerized Nebraska's vote. The Washington Post (1/13/1997) said Hagel's "Senate victory against an incumbent Democratic governor was the major Republican upset in the November election." According to Bev Harris, Hagel won virtually every demographic group, including many largely black communities that had never before voted Republican. Hagel was the first Republican in 24 years to win a Senate seat in Nebraska, nearly all on unauditable machines he had just sold the state. And in all probability, Hagel run for President in 2008.

In another, later article I wrote at the request of and which they mailed to their millions of members, I noted that in Georgia - another state that went all-electronic - "USA Today reported on Nov. 3, 2002, 'In Georgia, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll shows Democratic Sen. Max Cleland with a 49%-to-44% lead over Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss. 'Cox News Service, based in Atlanta, reported just after the election (Nov. 7) that, "Pollsters may have goofed" because 'Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss defeated incumbent Democratic Sen. Max Cleland by a margin of 53 to 46 percent. The Hotline, a political news service, recalled a series of polls Wednesday showing that Chambliss had been ahead in none of them.'" Nearly every vote in the state was on an electronic machine with no audit trail.

In the years since those first articles appeared, Bev Harris has published her book on the subject ("Black Box Voting"), including the revelation of her finding the notorious "Rob Georgia" folder on Diebold's FTP site just after Cleland's loss there; Lynn Landes has done some groundbreaking research, particularly her new investigation of the Associated Press, as have Rebecca Mercuri and David Dill. There's a new video out on the topic, Votergate, available at

Congressman Rush Holt introduced a bill into Congress requiring a voter-verified paper ballot be produced by all electronic voting machines, and it's been co-sponsored by a majority of the members of the House of Representatives. The two-year battle fought by Dennis Hastert and Tom DeLay to keep it from coming to a vote, thus insuring that there will be no possible audit of the votes of about a third of the 2004 electorate, has fueled the flames of conspiracy theorists convinced Republican ideologues - now known to be willing to lie in television advertising - would extend their "ends justifies the means" morality to stealing the vote "for the better good of the country" they think single-party Republican rule will bring.

Most important, though, the rallying cry of the emerging "honest vote" movement must become: Get Corporations Out Of Our Vote!

Why have we let corporations into our polling places, locations so sacred to democracy that in many states even international election monitors and reporters are banned? Why are we allowing corporations to exclusively handle our vote, in a secret and totally invisible way? Particularly a private corporation founded, in one case, by a family that believes the Bible should replace the Constitution; in another case run by one of Ohio's top Republicans; and in another case partly owned by Saudi investors?

Of all the violations of the commons - all of the crimes against We The People and against democracy in our great and historic republic - this is the greatest. Our vote is too important to outsource to private corporations.

It's time that the USA - like most of the rest of the world - returns to paper ballots, counted by hand by civil servants (our employees) under the watchful eye of the party faithful. Even if it takes two weeks to count the vote, and we have to just go, until then, with the exit polls of the news agencies. It worked just fine for nearly 200 years in the USA, and it can work again.

When I lived in Germany, they took the vote the same way most of the world does - people fill in hand-marked ballots, which are hand-counted by civil servants taking a week off from their regular jobs, watched over by volunteer representatives of the political parties. It's totally clean, and easily audited. And even though it takes a week or more to count the vote (and costs nothing more than a bit of overtime pay for civil servants), the German people know the election results the night the polls close because the news media's exit polls, for two generations, have never been more than a tenth of a percent off.

We could have saved billions that have instead been handed over to ES&S, Diebold, and other private corporations.

Or, if we must have machines, let's have them owned by local governments, maintained and programmed by civil servants answerable to We The People, using open-source code and disconnected from modems, that produce a voter-verified printed ballot, with all results published on a precinct-by-precinct basis.

As Thomas Paine wrote at this nation's founding, "The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which all other rights are protected. To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery."

Only when We The People reclaim the commons of our vote can we again be confident in the integrity of our electoral process in the world's oldest and most powerful democratic republic.

Thom Hartmann (thom at is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk show. www.thomhartmann .com His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People: A Call To Take Back America," and "What Would Jefferson Do?: A Return To Democracy."


Thursday, November 04, 2004

Alan Maass: Jon Stewart vs. the Pundits

Alan Maass: Jon Stewart vs. the Pundits

October 28, 2004
Jon Stewart vs. the Political Pundits
Political Satire 101


WE’RE SUPPOSED to live in a “beacon of democracy,” with a highly developed political system that makes us the envy of the world. So why is the host of a self-described “fake news” program responsible for many of the few-and-far-between moments of honesty in this year’s endless, mind-numbing, soul-deadening election campaign?

Jon Stewart and his fellow comedians at Comedy Central’s Daily Show are the unlikely stars of Election 2004. Their half-hour show--a satire of a nightly television news show that appears Monday through Thursday nights--has increased its ratings by 20 percent over last year as the presidential campaign has ground on toward Election Day. Stewart and nearly 20 other people who write or appear on the show are also responsible for the country’s best-selling book--America (The Book), a hilarious parody of the textbooks that grade school students continue to endure in government and history classes.

But Stewart’s notoriety reached new heights last week when he routed the puffed-up windbags on CNN’s political “debate” show, Crossfire.

Stewart went on Crossfire to promote the book, but he refused to play along when blowhard hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala tried to clown around with him. Instead, he slammed Crossfire and the whole media machine for serving as a giant echo chamber for the dishonest, cynical sound bites of the powerful.

“Right now, you’re helping the politicians and the corporations,” Stewart said, as Carlson tried to shout him down. “You’re not too rough on them. You’re part of their strategies. You’re partisan--what do you call it--hacks.” Thanks to the Internet, the 15-minute segment has been watched and savored by millions.

The Crossfire appearance goes straight to the reason of why Stewart and the Daily Show are so popular. With the corporate journalism organized around flattering the politicians, instead of challenging them--no matter how outrageous the lies or how bloated the rhetoric--Stewart’s “fake news” ends up being more truthful about the reality of U.S. politics than all the Crossfires and Hardballs piled up in a great steaming heap.

John Kerry and the Democrats do get off easier--the show definitely saves its venom for the right wing, especially the strutting liars and warmongers of the Bush administration. But the Daily Show’s best moments are when it exposes the absurdities of the Washington system as a whole--and that inevitably means dishing up shots at both pro-corporate parties, since both are responsible for propping it up, even if the Republicans are more outrageously corrupt and cynical about it, especially at election time.

The same themes come across in America (The Book). Designed as a fake textbook, it comes complete with the standard semi-helpful illustrations and charts (“The Cabinet: Yes Men of Freedom”), discussion questions (“If you lived in a monarchy, would you rather be a king or a slave? Why?”) and suggested classroom activities (“Disenfranchise a Black student”).

The usual explanation of “how a bill becomes a law” is made much more realistic with the inclusion of “amendment-sneakin’ time,” in which lawmakers load on pork-barrel provisions, and “passing lobbyist muster,” where the hired hands of Corporate America “assist our representatives in any last-minute changes in language, content or intent necessary to insure their reelection funds.”

In a chapter on the media, the book abandons all pretence in a heartfelt rant. “These spineless cowards in the press have finally gone too far,” reads the first draft, before, uh, editorial revisions. “‘Was the president successful in convincing the country?’ Who gives a shit? Why not tell us if what he said was true? And the excuses. My God, the excuses! “Hey, we just give the people what they want. ‘What can we do, this administration is secretive.’ ‘But the last season of Friends really is news.’ The unmitigated gall of these weak-willed...You’re supposed to be helping us, you indecent piles of shit!”

Stewart and the Daily Show writers get in their election-year shots in a special 24-page section--plus a pullout feature that could have been produced by Socialist Worker: a boxing poster for a match pitting “Skull vs. Bones: The Thrilla in Vanilla. This time, it’s presidential.”

There are some misses when the book stoops to stupid and sometimes offensive stereotypes--something that seems to happen especially often when the subject roams beyond the borders of the U.S. And as on the Daily Show, Stewart and his fellow writers tend to be cynical about anyone associated with politics, including progressive and left-wing activists outraged by the very hypocrisy that the book points out, but committed to doing something about it.

But if your spirits are dragging under the weight of the hypocrisy and lies of this miserable election, you’ll want a copy of America (The Book) on hand for election night and after.

Today's Stories

October 28, 2004

Alexander Cockburn
Kerrycrats and the War

Friday, October 22, 2004

College costs spike again - Oct. 19, 2004

College costs spike again - Oct. 19, 2004

College costs spike again
Tuition climbs fastest at public schools, while aid helps lower-income students less, study finds.
October 19, 2004: 10:58 AM EDT
By Jeanne Sahadi, CNN/Money senior writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) – If only salaries would rise as rapidly – and as consistently – as college costs.

The average tuition for undergrads attending four-year public universities jumped 10.5 percent this year. That helped to push the average price of attendance, including room, board and fees, up $824 to $11,354.

That's one of the findings in "Trends in College Pricing 2004," a report released Tuesday by the College Board, a non-profit membership association of 4,500 schools, colleges and universities.

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The tuition increase at public schools isn't as steep as it was last year – when average tuition rose a record 13 percent – but it is still high by historical standards.

The average tuition at four-year private colleges, meanwhile, rose 6 percent, raising the total cost of attendance by $1,459 to $27,516.
Sticker price vs. net price

While college costs can lead to sticker shock, in reality what many students and their parents actually pay is less than the advertised price.

The College Board found that 25 percent of full-time undergrads at public schools and 60 percent of private college students received institutional grant aid, which is money that never needs to be repaid.
The average cost of tuition and fees by region, from most to least expensive:

Region Avg tuition/fees '04-05
New England $6,839
Middle states $6,300
Midwest $6,085
Southwest $4,569
South $4,143
West $4,130

*Middle states are defined as NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD
Source: The College Board

Those grants, in combination with federal tax credits and deductions for tuition plus federal grants, lowered the cost of attendance by an average of more than $3,300 per student at public four-year institutions, and $9,400 at private institutions in 2003-04, the latest year for which data are available.

But the load is still a heavy one. Despite the growth in funding for grant aid over the years, the College Board found that compared with 10 years ago, the net cost of attendance (in 2003 dollars) has risen $1,000 for public university undergrads and $2,000 for private-college undergrads.

What families can't cover with grants and savings they finance with loans, which have grown at a faster rate than grant aid in the past two years.

And the Board found that an increasing percentage of student loans is coming from private sources, which tend to be more expensive than subsidized federal loans.
Low-income students see less benefit

The College Board notes that to just look at the average aid per student or the average net price of college after accounting for aid and tax benefits doesn't tell the whole story.
The average cost of tuition and fees by region, from most to least expensive:

Region Avg tuition/fees '04-'05
New England $25,660
Middle States $21,439
West $19,998
Midwest $18,690
South $17,317
Southwest $15,867

*Middle states are defined as NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD
Source: The College Board

It doesn't reflect, for instance, the changes in how grant aid is distributed. While grant funding has increased overall in the past 10 years, merit-based aid, which tends to favor middle- and upper-income students, has grown at a much faster rate than need-based aid for lower-income students, the College Board's senior policy analyst Sandra Baum said.

For example, funding for the federal Pell grants, a staple of aid for low-income students, rose 6 percent in 2003, but there also was an increase of 7 percent in the number of Pell recipients. As a result, the average grant fell 1 percent in constant dollars.

What's more, the purchasing power of the Pell grant has declined during the past 25 years. In 1980-81, a Pell grant covered 35 percent of the total annual cost of attending a public university. In 2003-04, it covered 23 percent.

And because of income restrictions and other factors, the federal tax credit and tax deduction for tuition benefit more middle- and upper-income families, Baum noted.
Why costs are rising

The College Board doesn't examine the reasons for tuition increases in its report. But Baum said she sees a correlation between the rise in tuition to the decline in state funding at public schools and to the reduction in endowment income and private giving at private schools.

She also attributes the price hikes at both private and public schools in part to the rising costs of health care – a component of compensation, which is a big part of school budgets – and to the cost of technology, which schools invest in to maintain state-of-the-art facilities.
Bachelor's means more bucks

In a separate report, "Education Pays," the College Board looked at the earnings premium of adults who earned a college degree versus those who have a high-school diploma or a couple of years of college.

In 2003, those workers with bachelor's degrees earned a median of $49,900. Those with a few years of college but no degree had median earnings of $35,700, while those with a high-school diploma earned a median income of $30,800.

Over a 40-year career, the Board estimated, a college graduate is likely to earn about 73 percent more than a high school graduate. Top of page