Officially, the records will show that George W. Bush won a second term in the White House by an electoral vote of 286 to 251, after a Minnesota Democratic "faithless" elector reportedly voted for John Edwards. But the election still turned on Bush's reported victory margin of 118,775 votes in Ohio, which gave Bush the state's 20 electoral votes. But Rev. Jesse Jackson, US Reps. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and John Conyers, D-Mich., and representatives of voting rights organizations including the Alliance for Democracy and the National Voting Rights Institute filed a last-minute lawsuit 12/13/04 seeking an injunction against certifying the state's election. The lawsuit accuses the Bush-Cheney campaign of "high-tech vote stealing," and argues that there is sufficient evidence of fraud to halt the electoral process until a thorough investigation can be completed. According to the Associated Press, "Jackson said the challengers noticed Bush generally received more votes in counties that use optical-scan voting machines and questioned whether the machines were calibrated to record votes for Bush. The dissidents claim there were disparities in vote totals for Democrats, too few voting machines in Democrat-leaning precincts, organized campaigns directing voters to the wrong polling place and confusion over the counting of provisional ballots by voters whose names did not appear in the records at polling places."

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee wrote Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell 12/2/04, requesting answers to 34 questions about allegations of election irregularities and fraud in Ohio. Conyers, top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, convened hearings in Washington that aired complaints that voters in urban, minority and Democratic precincts waited in lines up to eight hours -- even though in Youngstown, election administrators had extra voting terminals stored in a warehouse. Conyers also charged that a "campaign of deception" directed some Democrats to wrong polling places, where they were forced to cast provisional ballots. Conyers sent a letter Blackwell, who also was a Bush campaign co-chair, asking him to cooperate in a Democratic investigation of "substantial irregularities" in Ohio, which certified the 118,775-vote margin for Bush before proceeding with the recount demanded by the Green and Libertarian presidential candidates. When the recount was finally underway, after the Greens and Libertarians put up $114,000 to cover the costs, on Dec. 10 two certified volunteers for the Green Party's Ohio Recount team were recording voting information from minority precincts in Greene County (Xenia) when they were stopped mid-count by a surprise order from Secretary of State Blackwell's office that all voter records for the state of Ohio were "locked-down," and were "not considered public records," in apparent violation of Ohio law. "We have now repeatedly seen election officials obstruct and stonewall this search for the truth. I am beginning to wonder what it is they are trying to hide," Conyers was quoted by William Rivers Pitt of Truthout.org.

The following day, Saturday, those same two Greens say they returned to the Election Board building in Greene County to find the facility unlocked, and all those "sealed" voting machines and records out in the open where, as MSNBC's Keith Olbermann noted, "any passing vandal or political memorabilia junkie could've walked off with them." Olbermann added, "If there's nothing wrong in Ohio, it sure won't be because Secretary Blackwell didn't try to make it look like there was."

The Ohio Supreme Court could throw out the election results or even award the state's votes to Kerry. But Salon.com's Jeff Horwitz noted, "That seems a long shot -- for starters, Ohio's top court has a Republican majority." One name conspicuously absent among the plaintiffs was John Kerry's. "I can't for the life of me understand why Kerry isn't fighting harder for this," Cliff Arnebeck, head of the Alliance for Democracy, told the Los Angeles Times. "Maybe it's some secret Skull and Bones tradition, where you're not supposed to show up the other guy."

FLA. PROGRAMMER CLAIMS E-VOTE TAMPERING. A government watchdog group is investigating a Florida programmer's allegations that four years ago Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) asked his then-employer to write software to alter votes on electronic voting machines in Florida, Wired.com reported 12/13/04. Clint Curtis said his employer told him the code would be used "to control the vote" in West Palm Beach, Fla. But a fellow employee disputed the programmer's claims and said the meetings he described never took place. Staff members for Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Sen. Bill Nelson reportedly have met with Curtis, the FBI in Tallahassee has set up a meeting and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), said it was trying to corroborate his claims about possible election fraud and spying on NASA spying. Brad Friedman has written extensively about the allegations at bradblog.com.

NANNY BROUGHT HIM DOWN? The White House says Bernard Kerik withdrew because of his "nanny problem," but it turns out that he had a newly-discovered third wife, multiple extramarital affairs, dubious business deals and even mob ties that should have been discovered in the vetting process. The *New York Times* reported 12/14/04 that in June 2000, New York City's leading investigative agency heard testimony about Kerik's connection to a construction company owner strongly suspected of having mob ties. Two months later, Rudy Giuliani named Kerik police commissioner. Giuliani claims he had no idea -- and didn't know until very recently -- about Kerik's supposed link to the allegedly shady businessman. The White House also claims not to have known, even while admitting the background check on Kerik was more thorough than officials previously acknowledged.

ARMY SCAVENGERS COURT MARTIALED. At a time when some US troops in Iraq are complaining they have to scrounge for equipment, six Ohio-based reservists were court-martialed for taking Army vehicles abandoned in Kuwait by other units so they could carry out their own unit's mission to Iraq. The soldiers say they needed the vehicles, and parts stripped from one, to deliver fuel to Iraq, but their former battalion commander said the troops should have returned the vehicles to their original units.

DEMS TO PROBE BUSH. They might not have subpoena power, but new Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said 12/13/04 his party will launch investigative hearings in response to the reluctance of Republicans to look into problems in the Bush administration. "There are too many unasked and unanswered questions and the American public deserves better," AP quoted the Nevada senator. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who heads the Democratic Policy Committee, said the first hearing will be at the end of January on contract abuse in Iraq. He said the policy committee planned to convene at least one such hearing a month. Dorgan said that with Republicans controlling the White House and both the House and Senate, "the congressional watchdog remains fast asleep in this Congress."

COURT NIXES BIZ TAX BREAKS. Tax credits from the city of Toledo, Ohio, to DaimlerChrysler to build a new plant instead of moving elsewhere are unconstitutional, the 6th Circult Court of Appeals in Cincinnati has ruled. James Surowiecki noted in the 12/13/04 issue of *The New Yorker* that the court ruled [in September] that the credits interfered with interstate commerce, which only Congress has the power to regulate. "Months, or years, of appeals lie ahead, but, for the moment at least, much of what we know as corporate welfare may be technically illegal," Surowiecki wrote.

BUSH LIES ABOUT SOCIAL SECURITY THREAT. The Social Security system "is headed towards bankruptcy down the road," George W. Bush said in his 12/11/04 radio address. "If we do not act soon, Social Security will not be there for our children and grandchildren." In fact, Atrios noted at atrios.blogspot.com, "if zero changes are made and pessimistic growth assumptions come true, at some point around 2045 (depending on which estimate), the system is predicted to only be able to pay out 75% of promised benefits. Of course, that 75% of promised benefits is still going to be equal to or higher in real terms than current benefit levels. So, while there would have to be a drop in payouts if no changes at all were made in the system, that drop would still lead to benefit levels roughly equal to or even greater than current benefit levels. And, then, those affordable payouts would continue to grow." Of course if you want to dismantle Social Security it's a lot easier to tell people it's "headed towards bankruptcy down the road." Mark Weisbrot explains Social Security on page 16 of this issue.

NEW BALLOTS IN TIGHT WASH. RACE. Democrats in Washington state took some heat for insisting on a hand recount of the governor's race after a machine recount gave Republican Dino Rossi a 42-vote lead out of 2.9 million cast, but in gathering up the ballots King County (Seattle) election officials found 561 absentee ballots that were mistakenly not counted, which could turn the election to Democrat Christine Gregoire.

'UNEMBEDDED REPORTER' DIES. Gary Webb, who reported on the ties between US foreign policy in Latin America and the flow of cocaine into the US in the 1980s, is dead, an apparent suicide at age 49. Webb was ridiculed and ultimately lost his job at the *San Jose Mercury News* for documenting links between cocaine traffickers, the crack epidemic of the 1980s and the CIA-organized right-wing Nicaraguan Contra army of that era in an explosive three-part series in 1996. Press critic Jeff Cohen noted that the CIA's internal investigation sparked by Webb's series found that the CIA indeed had knowledge of the allegations linking many Contras and Contra associates to cocaine trafficking, that Contra leaders were arranging drug connections from the beginning and that a CIA informant told the agency about the activity. "When Webb stumbled onto the Contra-cocaine story, he couldn't have imagined the fury with which big-foot reporters from national dailies would come at him -- a barrage that ultimately drove him out of mainstream journalism," Cohen wrote. "But he fought back with courage and dignity, writing a book (*Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion*) with his side of the story and insisting that facts matter more than established power or ideology. He deserves to be remembered in the proud tradition of muckrakers like Ida Tarbell, George Seldes and I.F. Stone." 

INTEL BILL EXPANDS 'BIG BROTHER'. The intelligence "reform" package that Congress approved in early December includes a series of little-noticed measures that would broaden the government's power to conduct terrorism investigations, including provisions to loosen standards for FBI surveillance warrants and allow the Justice Department to more easily detain suspects without bail. The Washington Post 12/10/04 reported that the bill also expands criteria that constitute "material support" to terrorist groups and the ability to share US grand jury information with foreign governments in terrorism cases. Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) said he voted for the bill because of its intelligence reforms, but he opposed much of the expansion of law enforcement power, which was added in conference. Most of it was not part of the 9/11 panel's recommendations. Charlie Mitchell, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the law enforcement measures are "most troubling in terms of the trend they represent." He added: "They keep pushing and pushing without any attempt to review what they've done."

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