Saturday, February 25, 2006

Urge Congress to pass HR 550 as written!

The H.R. 550 "I Count!" Lobby Days Coalition, which includes Common Cause, Electronic Frontier Foundation,,, VoteTrustUSA, and Working Assets is working together to safeguard our elections by ensuring the passage of H.R. 550, the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act, introduced by US Representative Rush Holt of New Jersey.

H.R. 550 would require a voter verified paper record of every vote, establish mandatory random hand counted audits to verify the accuracy of electronic tallies, and prohibit the use of secret software and wireless communication devices in voting machines.

The recent change in leadership of the Committee on House Administration may have created a new opportunity for passage of this vital election integrity measure. Previous Lobby Day events in June and August of 2005 were a huge success, generating 24 new cosponsors on the bill from both parties. Please join us in Washington DC April 6 and 7, to build even greater bipartisan support for this critical bill.

What we can do:

  1. Go to Election Integrity Action Center and fill out the requested information. An email will automatically be sent to your Representative. Your name will also be added to a petition that will be delivered to the members of the Committee on House Administration during the "I Count" Lobby Days, April 6-7, 2006.

  2. Sign up to Go to WASHINGTON D.C. on April 6 and 7 to lobby for HR 550, a bill that would require all voting systems to produce a voter verified paper record of every vote. Please be mindful that the meetings will be taking place in WASHINGTON D.C., and only sign up (here) if you really think you will be able to travel to Washington and attend.

U.S. Christian Leaders Apologise For Iraq War

By Ximena Diego

NEW YORK, Feb 24 (IPS) - Christian leaders from the United States lamented the war in Iraq and apologised for their government's current foreign policy during the 9th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Porto Alegre, Brazil, which ended Thursday.

"We lament with special anguish the war in Iraq, launched in deception and violating global norms of justice and human rights," the Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, the moderator of the U.S. Conference for the WCC, told fellow delegates from around the world.

Kishkovsky is the rector of Our Lady of Kazan Church in Sea Cliff, New York, and is an officer in the Orthodox Church of America.

Taking an unusual stand among U.S. Christian leaders, the United States Conference for the World Council of Churches (WCC) criticised Pres. George W. Bush's actions in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"We are citizens of a nation that has done much in these years to endanger the human family and to abuse the creation," says the statement endorsed by the most prominent Protestant Christian churches on the Council.

"Our leaders turned a deaf ear to the voices of church leaders throughout our nation and the world, entering into imperial projects that seek to dominate and control for the sake of our own national interests. Nations have been demonised and God has been enlisted in national agendas that are nothing short of idolatrous."

The message, written like a prayer of repentance and backed by the 34 Christian churches that belong to the WCC, mourns those who have died or been injured in the Iraq war and says, "We confess that we have failed to raise a prophetic voice loud enough and persistent enough to deter our leaders from this path of preemptive war."

Among the attendees was the Rev. Bernice Powell-Jackson, North American President of the World Council of Churches. A civil rights activist for more than 25 years, Jackson previously served as executive director of one of the Justice and Witness Ministries predecessor bodies, the Commission for Racial Justice.

The U.S. Conference of the WCC also criticised the government's position on global warming. "The rivers, oceans, lakes, rainforests, and wetlands that sustain us, even the air we breathe continue to be violated... Yet our own country refuses to acknowledge its complicity and rejects multilateral agreements aimed at reversing disastrous trends," reads the message.

Earlier this month, a group of more than 85 U.S. evangelical Christian leaders called on Congress to enact legislation that would reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, which most scientists believe contribute to global warming.

The U.S. Conference of the WCC message also said, "Starvation, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the treatable diseases that go untreated indict us, revealing the grim features of global economic injustice we have too often failed to acknowledge or confront."

"Hurricane Katrina," it continues, "revealed to the world those left behind in our own nation by the rupture of our social contract. As a nation we have refused to confront the racism that infects our policies around the world."

The statement comes days after the National Council of Churches (NCC), the United States chapter of the WCC, endorsed a U.N. report on the situation of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

Separately, in a letter addressed to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, NCC General Secretary Robert W. Edgar called on the U.S. to bring the detainees to trial, release them, or to "close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility without further delay". It also asked Rice for access to the Guantanamo facility "to monitor the physical, spiritual and mental conditions of the detainees".

At the Brazilian conference, the Rev. John Thomas, president of United Church of Christ, was quoted as saying: "An emerging theme in conversation with our partners around the world is that the U.S. is being perceived as a dangerous nation."

He called the Assembly "a unique opportunity to make this statement to all our colleagues" in the ecumenical movement. The statement says, "We come to you seeking to be partners in the search for unity and justice."

Thomas acknowledged that not all church members would agree with the thrust of the statement, but said it was their responsibility as leaders to "speak a prophetic and pastoral word as we believe God is offering it to us".

The WCC is the largest Christian ecumenical organisation, comprised of 340 Christian denominations and churches in 120 countries, and said to represent 550 million Christians throughout the world. The U.S. Conference of the World Council of Churches alone represents 34 Christian churches, including Orthodox, Evangelical, Lutheran and Anglican churches, and four million members throughout the country.

The Roman Catholic Church is not a member of the WCC but has worked closely with the Council in the past. Since its origins in 1948, the WCC gathers in an Assembly every seven years with each member church sending a delegate. (END/2006)

Sign the Voter Confidence Petition in Support of H.R. 550

"Anything of value should be auditable. Votes are valuable, and each voter should have the knowledge-and the confidence-that his or her vote was recorded and counted as intended. Passage of this bill (H.R. 550) will be a big step in restoring that confidence, which is the very foundation of our democratic republic."

- Rush Holt on The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2005

Please go to the website and read the entire article! The following is only a small part of it:

The 2000 election was highly contested, but there was physical evidence - punch cards - through which the results could be independently confirmed. In 2004, more than 43.5 million voters (25%) voted on electronic voting systems that cannot be independently audited. While the 2004 election was also highly contested, there were even fewer audit trails to review than in 2000 (only 12.5% of registered voters voted on unauditable electronic voting systems in 2000). Thus, an aura of uncertainty remains about the result. We cannot allow another federal election to take place, and perhaps again be subject to dispute, without the availability of a voter-verified paper record for every vote cast so that the results can be confirmed and accepted with finality. Both the losing and winning candidates - and their supporters - deserve such confirmation. Our future as a democratic republic demands it.

The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act (H.R. 550) will:

  • Mandate a voter-verified paper ballot for every vote cast in every federal election, nationwide; because the voter verified paper record is the only one verified by the voters themselves, rather than by the machines, it will serve as the vote of record in any case of inconsistency with electronic records;
  • Protect the accessibility requirements of the Help America Vote Act for voters with disabilities;
  • Require random, unannounced, hand-count audits of actual election results in every state, and in each county, for every Federal election;
  • Prohibit the use of undisclosed software and wireless and concealed communications devices and internet connections in voting machines;
  • Provide Federal funding to pay for implementation of voter-verified paper balloting; and
  • Require full implementation by 2006
There are many politically contentious issues in election reform, but making sure votes are counted accurately is not one of them. Because of its narrow scope, its realistic goals, and its strong bi-partisan support, with 159 co-sponsors both Democrat and Republican, H.R. 550 is our best hope to restore integrity and voter confidence to our electoral process - the very foundation of a representative democracy.

We urge you to pass H.R. 550 as written immediately.

Sign the petition!

skippy the bush kangaroo: skippy calls the california secretary of state

skippy the bush kangaroo: skippy calls the california secretary of state

Thursday, February 23, 2006

skippy calls the california secretary of state

trying to keep this diebold story on the front page of blogtopia (a phrase which yes! we coined!) skippy called the office of bruce macpherson, the california secretary of state this morning.

skippy used the number (916-653-6814) found on the sec. of state contact page.

at this point we will direct you through the short phone menu, to save you frustration.

if you call, press #6 for other departments, and then press #3 for elections (skippy was lucky, he guessed the correct digits to press the first time out).

a lady answered the phone, and skippy told her who he was, and that he was calling to express disappointment with sec. of state macpherson for his decision to certify diebold voting machines last week, and that skippy hoped mr. macpherson would de-certify the machines.

the lady, after listening to skippy, said, "hold on, ma'am, let me transfer you to someone who can take your call."

skippy was a bit nonplussed at being mistaken for a woman, but this is california, we are not anything if not flexible.

another nice lady answered the phone, and skippy repeated his statement. the woman said thank you very much, she would take the message.

before she hung up, skippy asked her name, which was marsha. skippy asked if she had gotten other phone calls, and she said "a lot." skippy asked if she could guess how many agreed with skippy's position, and marsha said "all of them."

so you are all doing good work out there, but more needs to be done.

call macpherson. and call or email (or visit in person) the 5 senators on the rules committee. and it doesn't hurt to write letters to the editor.

State gives flawed machines vote of confidence

By Tom Elias
Daily Breeze, February 23, 2006

You can call it capitulation to local election officials likely to be called on the carpet if it turned out they had wasted tens of millions of dollars. You can call it practicality, assuring that California counties can put the most modern election equipment into use this year.

But the undeniable fact is that millions of voters in as many as 21 counties will be voting this year on machines that can be hacked to alter election results. This became certain when Secretary of State Bruce McPherson the other day conditionally certified the newest machines made by Diebold Election Systems Inc. for use in this year's elections, starting with several local votes in the early spring.

Although an evaluation by University of California, Berkeley computer experts concluded that hackers can easily change election results on them, thousands of Diebold machines will be in place for the June primary.

McPherson said in December he would not certify Diebold machines until a test was done by an independent federal laboratory, but moved up his timetable when the lab delayed. He then sought help from Berkeley computer scientists, and their 38-page report came in on Valentine's Day.

"We found a number of security vulnerabilities," said that study, whose authors include some of America's most determined critics of electronic voting. "We determined that anyone who has access to a memory card ... and can (modify its contents) ... can indeed modify the election results from that machine in a number of ways."

But the Berkeley report also gave McPherson an out. It recommended "strong control over access to memory cards," adding that "It would be safest if (the Diebold optical scan machine) is not widely used until these bugs are fixed."

Now it is certain that the machines will get wide use starting with an April special election in San Diego County to replace Republican Rep. Duke Cunningham. Because of the certification, Diebold machines will likely also be in use by June in Alameda, Marin, Butte, El Dorado and a dozen other counties, including Los Angeles.

County election officials greeted McPherson's move with joy. In many counties, they've spent tens of millions of dollars on Diebold machines, starting as early as 2003.

McPherson's certification order set unique conditions for use of Diebold machines, including one requiring counties to maintain written logs of the chain of custody of each memory card and another demanding the presence of two election officials every time a memory card is zeroed out and put back into renewed use.

Also, once programmed for an election, memory cards must be immediately inserted into machines beneath a serialized "tamper-evident" seal whose serial number will be logged onto a separate tracking sheet.

The Berkeley panel suggested these two tactics, among others it said would mitigate the security risks it found.

"We're confident we've gone above and beyond the call of duty to test this, above and beyond what other evaluations would have revealed," said McPherson spokeswoman Jennifer Kerns. But McPherson provided neither detail on how the new rules might be enforced nor a guarantee they will be enforced at all by the state. Of course, rules are worthless without strong enforcement.

Meanwhile, South Bay state Sen. Debra Bowen, now seeking the Democratic nomination to oppose McPherson next fall, called the certification premature . "He's basing his decision on a supposedly independent state audit that no one else saw before the certification order," she said. "There's a March 1 public hearing for four other voting machine vendors before their machines can be certified for use in California, so what was the rush to certify Diebold and side-step a public hearing on this issue?"

All this could create greater than ever demand for absentee paper ballots and cause unprecedented slowdowns in vote-counting. It might also spur many thousands of voters to stay away from the polls altogether, feeling that with questionable machines, there's no guarantee their votes will be counted accurately.

Palm Beach County's 2004 Electronic Voting Machines Likely Tampered (1,000s of Errors/Malfunctions!)


Here is more evidence that e-Voting machines are NOT reliable -- and that Bush may not have won (legitimately) in Florida. Is it surprising that the GOP-controlled Florida Election Committee is not concerned that the machines may be flawed? If the voting machines had erred in Gore's favor in 2004, they surely would have raised their voices out of concern that Americans' votes might have been improperly counted. This is a travesty.

Read the article at:

Watchdog Group Questions 2004 Fla. Vote

By BRIAN SKOLOFF, Associated Press Writer
Thu Feb 23, 3:53 PM ET

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - An examination of Palm Beach County's electronic voting machine records from the 2004 election found possible tampering and tens of thousands of malfunctions and errors, a watchdog group said Thursday.

Bev Harris, founder of, said the findings call into question the outcome of the presidential race. But county officials and the maker of the electronic voting machines strongly disputed that and took issue with the findings.

Voting problems would have had to have been widespread across the state to make a difference.

President Bush won Florida — and its 27 electoral votes — by 381,000 votes in 2004. Overall, he defeated John Kerry by 286 to 252 electoral votes, with 270 needed for victory., which describes itself as a nonpartisan, nonprofit citizens group, said it found 70,000 instances in Palm Beach County of cards getting stuck in the paperless ATM-like machines and that the computers logged about 100,000 errors, including memory failures.

Also, the hard drives crashed on some of the machines made by Oakland, Calif.-based Sequoia Voting Systems, some machines apparently had to be rebooted over and over, and 1,475 re-calibrations were performed on Election Day on more than 4,300 units, Harris said. Re-calibrations are done when a machine is malfunctioning, she said.

"I actually think there's enough votes in play in Florida that it's anybody's guess who actually won the presidential race," Harris added. "But with that said, there's no way to tell who the votes should have gone to."

Palm Beach County and other parts of the country switched to electronic equipment after the turbulent 2000 presidential election, when the county's butterfly ballot confused some voters and led them to cast their votes for third-party candidate Pat Buchanan Pat Buchanan instead of Al Gore.

The Supreme Court halted a recount after 36 days and handed a 537-vote victory to Bush.

Palm Beach County election officials said the findings are flawed, and they blamed most of the errors on voters not following proper procedures.

"Their results are noteworthy for consideration, but in a majority of instances they can be explained," said Arthur Anderson, the county's elections supervisor. "All of these circumstances are valid reasons for concern, but they do not on face value substantiate that the machines are not reliable."

Sequoia spokeswoman Michelle Shafer disputed the findings, saying the company's machines worked properly. Sequoia's machines are used in five Florida counties and in 21 states.

"There was a fine election in November 2004," Shafer said.

She said many of the errors in the computer logs could have resulted from voters improperly inserting their user cards into the machines. The remaining errors would not affect the vote results because each unit has a backup system, she said.

Jenny Nash, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of State, which oversees elections, said she was not aware of the report and had no comment.

Harris said one machine showed that 112 votes were cast on Oct. 16, two days before the start of early voting, a possible sign of tampering. She said the group found evidence of tampering on more than 30 machines in the county.

However, Harris said it was impossible to determine what information was altered or if votes were shifted among candidates.


On the Net:


Friday, February 24, 2006

Midterm Match-Up: Partisan Tide vs. Safe Seats

Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

A Pew Research Center Poll Analysis

Released: February 13, 2006

At the start of this midterm election year, two heavyweight political trends are poised for a head-on collision.

One is fueled by the low standing in the polls that the president and his party currently register, a position that invariably spells trouble for the "in party" in congressional elections. The other is driven by the sharp rise in the number of U.S. House seats that have become uncompetitive as a result of incumbent-protection gerrymandering - a development that raises some doubt that even a strong national vote for change would yield much of a partisan shakeup in Congress.

And there's a third factor at play as well - some analysts contend that the Democrats are the gang that can't shoot straight, destined to blow their big opportunity in 2006.

Table: Competitive House Races Since 1980Gerrymandering and population shifts may indeed make big swings in congressional seats less likely - but not out of the question. According to political analyst Rhodes Cook, the number of competitive races for House seats has dwindled in recent years from a high of 111 competitive races in 1992 to a low of 32 in 2004. While 32 sounds like an ominously small number, it is not that much smaller than the mere 37 races that were up for grabs in 1988. Two years later the number of competitive races swelled to 57, by Cook's calculations, and in 1992 it jumped again to its recent high of 111.

History suggests that the current climate of public opinion about the Bush presidency, should it persist through this election year, might "nationalize" the House elections in a way that would likely overwhelm at least some of these new local fortifications. And, of course, incumbent-protection gerrymandering is not a factor in the U.S. Senate, where the election boundaries are static.

Current polling data point to a desire for change almost as strong as the one that began building late in 1993 - one year before the historic 1994 election, which gave Republicans control of Congress for the first time in 40 years. This year, with just 34% of the public expressing satisfaction with national conditions, the president's approval rating hovers around the 40% mark in most national surveys.

This discontent is rubbing off on both the Republican Party generally and on the GOP-controlled Congress. A February Pew survey found the Republican Party's favorable rating slumping to 44% from 52% a year ago, And a January Gallup Poll found 67% of the public disapproved of the way Congress is handling its duties compared with 48% a year earlier. Again, we have to go back to the mid 1990's to match that level of discontent.

The confluence of these two sentiments is also evident in a November Gallup poll. It found a 46%-to-34% plurality saying the country would be better off if Democrats rather than Republicans controlled Congress. In turn, most questions about voting intentions show a significant edge for the Democrats. Pew's February survey finds 50% of registered voters inclined to vote for a Democratic candidate for the House versus 41% for a Republican. Four years ago at this time voting intentions were evenly divided 45% Democratic to 46% Republican. Another important difference: Back then, a plurality of voters said they would be casting a vote for - not against - President Bush in the coming midterm elections. Today, by a margin of 31% to 18%, voters tell Pew that if the fall elections were being held today, they would think of their congressional choice as a vote against him.

Without exception in modern times, presidents whose approval ratings tumble end up costing their party seats in the midterm elections. President Eisenhower's rating had fallen from 73% at the start of his second term to 57% in October 1958. (Levels of discontent were far more modest in those days.) Republicans lost 48 seats that year. In 1974, in the aftermath of Watergate, the GOP also lost 48 seats. And of course, in 1994, Clinton's approval rating having sunk to 41%, the Democrats gave up 53 seats and control of Congress.

Table: Democrats Better Regarded on Most IssuesBy contrast, when presidents are doing particularly well with the public, their parties do relatively well in the midterms. Take the case of Clinton four years later in 1998: Though facing impeachment he had the public with him. With his approval score at 65%, the Democrats gained 5 seats. Similarly, the Republicans gained 6 seats in 2002 owing to Bush's strong 61% approval rating that year.

Whenever off-year elections become nationalized, they are primarily judgments about the performance of the party in power. And here there is considerable good news for the Democrats: on their ability to handle a broad array of policy issues, they are better regarded than the GOP.

Pew's February survey found voters thinking that Democrats could do a better job of handling 10 of 12 issues covered in the survey. Democrats enjoyed a huge advantage in ability to handle the environment and health care, and a moderate advantage on energy, reforming government, deficit reduction, taxes, education, and the economy. The GOP was seen as more competent on just two issues: crime and terrorism.

Such a potentially powerful national partisan tide can also directly erode the most important advantage in Congressional politics - incumbency. At this point, there are some signs that discontent with Congress may be affecting incumbents. The NBC/Wall Street Journal polls taken in 2005 found fewer voters saying that that their own representative deserves reelection than had been the case in surveys conducted since 1994. Pew's latest poll also shows somewhat more of an anti-incumbent mood than in 2002, 1998 or 1990.

Nonetheless the Republicans have one significant life line in a sea of discontent about President Bush and national conditions generally: failure of the Democrats' leadership to distinguish itself. Despite a lack of confidence in the GOP's ability to handle most issues, the party is given an edge in the Washington Post/ABC poll for having stronger leaders, and in the Pew survey for having better leaders. And a Pew survey last month found that while just 33% approved of Republican congressional leaders, only 34% approved of the way Democratic leaders were doing their job.

So with nine months to go until the midterms, we see the public's strong discontent with the powers-that-be in Washington, usually a harbinger of political change, contending with the forces of safe-seat redistricting and low public regard for Democratic leaders. How these factors play out are the big political unknowns of 2006.

One indicator you may want to keep an eye on if you're tracking the odds over the course of the year: responses to the Congressional voting intentions questions asked in various polls. These measures are taken regularly by Pew, Gallup and others and they have a very good record in midterms for predicting the popular vote for the House. They are also a good indicator of the climate of opinion that will affect Senate races as well.

The stakes are high. If Democrats were to pick up 16 seats in the House or six in the Senate, those chambers would switch from Republican to Democratic control; such a change would undermine Bush's legislative agenda during the final two years of his presidency. That number of seat switches is not particularly high by historic standards - certainly not when an "in party" is looking at the kind of polling numbers that the GOP has right now. The big question for 2006 is: Is history still relevant?


Since Californians are about to lose their right to vote (for the candidates of their choice, rather than the Republicans Diebold has selected), I thought I'd find something we could do to get the press to cover it. I found it. It is below.

Take action -- click here to contact your local newspaper or congress people:

Inundate the LA Times with messages to cover Diebold & SofS

Subject: RE: ACTION ALERT! SoS has certified Diebold

Dear Concerned California Voters:

There is something we can do right now! We have not seen any mention of the certification of Diebold machines in the LA Times (Sat or Sun). We can write letters to the Editor about this. We have been told by another group that you are more likely to get a letter published if the Times get a lot of letters on a subject, thereby showing general interest. I will write a letter, and I recommend that you send a message to your group encouraging as many as possible to also send a letter. The letters should not be a form letter, but rather have different approaches.

More information is available at the Secretary of State's website: under Voting Systems Information. Friday's Press Release is there, with the Conditions of the conditional certification at the very end of the document.

Lloyd A. Dent

Take action!!!

Click here to contact your local newspaper or congress people:

Inundate the LA Times with messages to cover Diebold & Secty of State

Take a minute to draft a note to the LA Times.

You can talk to them in three ways:

  1. Send email to
  2. Submit a comment to the Readers Representative on the LA Times (our alleged advocate) at,0,3057606.customform.
  3. You can post on their message board at,0,2274345.graffitiboard.

Key points to consider:

  • The Times is not giving the latest moves regarding our vote adequate coverage.
  • Diebold has not passed Federal Qualification criteria, yet our Secretary of State gave Diebold what is essentially a green light for CA.
  • Our County registrar is not responsive to the expressed wishes of the community she allegedly serves.

Click here to see the most recent messages sent to congressional reps and local newspapers

Then don't forget to call the SoS's office.


Years ago, I read an article on about the 2004 Election ("The e-Problem with e-Voting") which described how the Diebold voting machines erred to the right. I looked at the links in that web page and thought that if the mainstream press did not cover the issue, it must not really be true.

I am wiser now. I know that our "free" press is censored in subtle ways because corporate media conglomerates, who own the press predominantly publish news that: (a) supports their own agendas; and (b) supports the WH and politicians. So, the press generally only feeds us information that those in power will let them. (Washington Post took a year to disclose the warrantless NSA Spying matter, only
after a book on the subject was released.) People who want to be informed must, therefore, rely on the Internet for real news. The Diebold voting machine issue is NEWS. Why? Because we are losing our right to vote for the candidate of OUR choice.

There IS a problem with Diebold voting machines erring to the right. And California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson (Republican) is installing these machines just in time for the November election so that C
alifornians will vote the GOP agenda whether they know it, or not. This betrayal of the voters is a travesty. And an outrage. He should be fired.


Read the following article:

Was the 2004 Election fixed?
By Paul Craig Roberts
Jan 27, 2006, 09:40

As coincidence would have it, Mark Crispin Miller's new book, "Fooled Again" (Basic Books), documenting the Republican theft of the 2004 presidential election, arrived in the same mail delivery with the January 12 edition of the Defuniak Springs Herald, the locally owned weekly newspaper in a Florida panhandle county seat.

The Florida panhandle is thorough-going Republican. Even Democrats run as Republicans. Nevertheless, the newspaper's editor, Ron Kelley, believes that American political life is measured by something larger than party affiliation. In his editorial, "The shepherds and the sheep," Kelley reports that two Florida counties have banned any further use of Diebold voting machines after witnessing a professional demonstration that the machines, contrary to Diebold's claim, are easily hacked to record votes differently from the way in which they are cast by voters.

The pre-election statement by Diebold's CEO that he would work to deliver the election to Bush was apparently no idle boast. In five states where the new "foolproof" electronic voting machines were used, the vote tallies differed substantially from the exit polls. Such a disparity is unusual. The chances of exit polls in five states being wrong are no more than one in one million.

Miller describes considerably more election fraud than voting machines programmed to count a proportion of Kerry votes as Bush votes. Voters were disenfranchised in a number of ways. Miller reports incidences of intimidation of, and reduced voting opportunities for, poorer voters who tend to vote Democrat.

Some of Miller's evidence is circumstantial. However, he documents widespread Republican dirty tricks and foul play. The media's indifference to a stolen election burns Miller as much as the stolen election itself.

Miller is not alone in his concerns. The non-partisan US Government Accountability Office (GAO) in response to congressional request investigated a number of complaints regarding the electronic voting machines.

Here are some of the problems noted in the GAO's September 2005 report:

  • Some voting machines did not encrypt cast ballots or system audit logs, and it was possible to alter both without being detected.
  • It was possible to alter the machines so that a ballot cast for one candidate would be recorded for another.
  • Vendors installed uncertified versions of voting system software at the local level.
  • Access was easily compromised and did not require a widespread conspiracy. A small handful of people is sufficient to steal an election.

Curiously, the media has shown no interest in the GAO report. In my opinion, a free press has proven to be inconsistent with the recently permitted highly concentrated corporate ownership of the US media.

The electronic voting machines leave virtually no paper trail and their use involves private potentially partisan corporations tabulating the votes with proprietary software that is not transparent.

A number of counties in various states have decided to return to paper ballots that can be verified and recounted. But now that Republicans have learned that they can use the electronic machines to control election outcomes, the disenfranchisement of Democrats is likely to be a permanent feature of American "democracy."

Other reports claim that the under-sampling by pollsters of Democratic voters creates a percentage bias that exaggerates the number of Republican voters by as much as 5 percent, thus providing cover for vote fraud. If hard-to-reach Democratic voters, such as the working poor, are less likely to answer telephones, polls can create the illusion that there are more Republican voters than in fact exist. If the electronic voting machines are then rigged to shift 5 or 6 percent of the vote to the Republican candidate, the result is not at odds with the expected result and can be used as "evidence" to counter the divergence between exit polls and vote tally.

The outcome of the 2004 presidential election has always struck me as strange. Although Kerry was a poor candidate and evaded the issue most on the public's mind, by November of 2004 a majority of Americans were aware that Bush had led the country into a gratuitous war on the basis either of incompetence or deception. By November 2004 it was completely clear that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction and that Bush had rushed to war. People were concerned by the changing rationales that Bush was offering for going to war. Moreover, the needless war was going badly and the results bore no relationship to the rosy scenario painted at the time of the invasion. It seems contrary to American common sense for voters to have re-elected a president who had failed in such a dramatic way.

Miller directs our attention to Bush's high-handed treatment of dissenters. If electronic voting machines programmed by private Republican firms remain in our future, dissent will become pointless unless it boils over into revolution. Power-mad Republicans need to consider the result when democracy loses its legitimacy and only the rich have anything to lose.

Paul Craig Roberts has held a number of academic appointments and has contributed to numerous scholarly publications. He served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. His graduate economics education was at the University of Virginia, the University of California at Berkeley, and Oxford University. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. He can be reached at:


Published in the February 6, 2006 issue of Ether Zone
Copyright © 1997 - 2006 Ether Zone.

By: Justin Raimondo

The Bizarro World illogic started right off the bat when George W. Bush intoned that what we need more of in public life is "a civil tone." This from a man who has repeatedly impugned the patriotism of his opponents, and just the previous week declared that critics of the Iraq war are giving "comfort to our enemies." That the president of "the United States of Amnesia" – as Gore Vidal puts it – doesn't remember what he says from one week to the next is not at all surprising. What's astonishing, however, is that we accept as normal behavior what, in a different (and better) era, would have been considered evidence of madness.

The megalomaniacs who rule us have no compunctions about the brazenness of their lies: they don't care how it looks, how it sounds, or even, in the end, how it sells. They know what they want, and they are single-minded in going after it. The message came through loud and clear in the president's State of the Union speech: prepare for perpetual war.

In the face of the abysmal failure of their policies, from Iraq to the occupied territories to New Orleans, Bush and his neoconservative Praetorian Guard are not backing down – far from it, they are going forward with their plans for the "liberation" and "democratization" of the Middle East, confident in the knowledge that the sheer momentum of the forces they unleashed in "Operation Iraqi Freedom" will carry them onward to their objective.

Well, then, what is their objective, anyway? The president reiterated his goal, enunciated in his last State of the Union, of spreading "democracy" far and wide:

"In this decisive year, you and I will make choices that determine both the future and the character of our country. We will choose to act confidently in pursuing the enemies of freedom or retreat from our duties in the hope of an easier life. We will choose to build our prosperity by leading the world economy or shut ourselves off from trade and opportunity. In a complex and challenging time, the road of isolationism and protectionism may seem broad and inviting, yet it ends in danger and decline. The only way to protect our people, the only way to secure the peace, the only way to control our destiny is by our leadership, so the United States of America will continue to lead. Abroad, our nation is committed to an historic, long-term goal: We seek the end of tyranny in our world."

At least we were spared the retro-Marxist rhetoric of the "fire in the mind" sort the president's speechwriters regaled us with last time. Yet the speech gave voice to the same neo-Trotskyite balderdash that so disturbed many conservatives, including Peggy Noonan and the editors of The American Conservative. This time, however, a new and dangerous note intruded itself on the highfalutin' rhetoric: as soon as Bush enunciated the words "retreat from our duties in the hope of an easier life," alarm bells should have gone off all across America. The president of a nation founded on the idea that "the pursuit of happiness" is an end in itself is telling his citizen-subjects that they have no right to an "easy life." Instead, they must devote themselves to an ascetic "idealism" in the name of an abstract "freedom." But if we aren't free to have "an easier life," then what, exactly, is the value of this "freedom" we hear so much about?

The president raises the specter of "isolationism," but where oh where are the "isolationists? Not in Congress – which handed him a blank check to wage war wherever and whenever he pleases. Not in the highest councils of the president's advisers, teeming as they are with neoconservatives bent on war. Not on the Left, which applauded Clinton's wars even as they opposed Republican interventionism. Not on the Right, which, for the most part, is marching off in lockstep with the War Party. So how, pray tell, are these mythical "isolationists" luring us down the road to "danger and decline"? If the president wants to see intimations of decline, then let him look to the war debts he's piling up and the $100,000 per minute price tag of the Iraq war.

The president, though, is blind to these political and economic realities and sees himself as a noble "idealist":

"Some dismiss that goal as misguided idealism. In reality, the future security of America depends on it. On September 11th, 2001, we found that problems originating in a failed and oppressive state 7,000 miles away could bring murder and destruction to our country. Dictatorships shelter terrorists, feed resentment and radicalism, and seek weapons of mass destruction. Democracies replace resentment with hope, respect the rights of their citizens and their neighbors, and join the fight against terror. Every step toward freedom in the world makes our country safer, and so we will act boldly in freedom's cause."

There is nothing "idealistic" about the dream of world conquest. Every tinpot dictator and two-bit demagogue down through the ages has entertained the same crazy delusion and imagined themselves to be great world-historical figures, giants towering over the pygmies of the earth and shaping their destiny. In the end, all these madmen met an appropriate fate, their "empires" turned to dust and ashes, their people reduced to starving semi-savagery. Every totalitarian system that sought to aggressively impose its strictures on the world did so in the name of "idealism" – and the results are to be seen in the bloody history of the last century, 100 years of world war and genocide. These "conservatives" who hold the reins of power today are a strange bunch indeed: they neither recognize nor understand the lessons of history, but instead seek to use a highly distorted version of it to advance their agenda of endless aggression:

"Far from being a hopeless dream, the advance of freedom is the great story of our time. In 1945, there were about two dozen lonely democracies on Earth. Today, there are 122. And we are writing a new chapter in the story of self-government, with women lining up to vote in Afghanistan and millions of Iraqis marking their liberty with purple ink and men and women from Lebanon to Egypt debating the rights of individuals and the necessity of freedom. At the start of 2006, more than half the people of our world live in democratic nations. And we do not forget the other half in places like Syria, Burma, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and Iran because the demands of justice, and the peace of this world, require their freedom as well."

One-hundred twenty-two democracies? Exactly how this measure was taken is hard to fathom, and the president doesn't say. No doubt he means to include Iraq among that number – where Shi'ite death squads terrorize their political opponents under the colors of state authority and Kurdish writers are imprisoned for exposing the rampant corruption of Kurdish warlords. Yes, more countries hold elections in which the winners are given a mandate to tyrannize minorities and loot the public purse. I'm not impressed. Far more important is the irrefutable fact that, in 1945, America, the fountainhead of human freedom on earth, was a far freer country. This is one factor – perhaps the essential factor – the president left out of his equation. Government in America is bigger, more oppressive, and eats up more of our income than ever before – thanks largely to our noble president and his party of "smaller government."

Why in the name of all that's holy should we get worked up about "women lining up to vote in Afghanistan" when our own electoral system is so biased in favor of incumbents that congressional elections have all but ceased to be competitive? And why, one has to ask, is it a great step forward to empower Afghan women to vote the Taliban back into office? Purple fingers, my a** – I'd like to give the president another kind of finger as he chews up the American military in a futile war and spends the nation into penury.

The awkwardness of trying to tie in the occupation of Iraq to our fake "war on terrorism" is underscored by the President's claim that bin Laden and his legions aim to "seize power in Iraq, and use it as a safe haven to launch attacks against America and the world." This is absurd. The terrorists don't need a "safe haven" in the form of a state: they just need a few hundred thousand dollars and a bottomless well of fanaticism to stage a repeat of 9/11. That was and is the lesson of 9/11: asymmetrical warfare of the sort favored by al-Qaeda is all about not needing the resources of a state in order to bring down a much more powerful enemy. The conquest of Iraq is not a defense against this tactic: it is, instead, a source of strength for the worldwide Islamist insurgency.

The president burnishes his "idealistic" credentials by assuring us that "no one can deny the success of freedom," but the reality is that freedom, far from being on the march everywhere, is a rare and precious blossom, one that only sprouts in hothouse conditions, and even then is easily threatened by the slightest gust of cold, wilting on the vine at the first hint of autumn. The history of humankind is a tale of virtually unending oppression, violence, and unrestrained cruelty; the few bright spots – Athens during the golden age of Greece, the early Roman Republic, the Renaissance, the American republic up until around 1900 – only underscore the long periods of unrelieved darkness. In the face of this record, it is not only possible to deny the alleged "success of freedom" – one also has to ask whether this presidential optimism is a form of madness. What world is the most powerful man on earth inhabiting?

"America rejects the false counsel of isolationism" – so says the prez, but I wouldn't bet the ranch on it. A Pew poll shows that what is generally derided by the elites as "isolationism" (i.e., minding our own business) is the most popular foreign policy doctrine among the great unwashed masses. What America rejects is the doctrine of "liberation" espoused by Bush and his neocon cronies. This speech won't put a dent in the "isolationist" wave: all the president and the War Party can do is brace themselves for the moment of impact and hope it doesn't wash them away.

Standing on the ramparts of his delusions, the president reiterated a by-now-familiar litany of our "achievements" in Iraq: these mystery achievements are on a par with our other alleged victories in Afghanistan and in the war on bin Laden. As the Taliban regroups and waits out the inevitable American withdrawal, the progress of Afghan "democracy" and liberty is measured by the growing hegemony of drug-dealing warlords. That bit about going "on the offensive" against al-Qaeda is unfortunate, in view of the recent failed attempt to kill a top bin Laden lieutenant – and is rendered absurd by the administration's preoccupation with Iran, another diversion from the task of rooting out the international terrorist gang that pulled off 9/11.

"The road of victory is the road that will take our troops home," says the president: in other words, they are never coming home, if he can help it, because "victory" in any sense is meaningless in this context. Does it mean that Iraq is transformed into a Jeffersonian republic, or will we take a Shi'ite theocracy with "democratic" trappings in order to save face? The president doesn't say: all he can say is that we continue to "make progress on the ground." This is the neo-Trotskyite theory of permanent revolution put into practice: perpetual war in the name of the "democratic" revolution.

Sure, we've made mistakes, Bush implies, but

"Our coalition has learned from experience in Iraq. We have adjusted our military tactics and changed our approach to reconstruction. Along the way, we have benefited from responsible criticism and counsel offered by members of Congress of both parties. In the coming year, I will continue to reach out and seek your good advice.

"Yet there is a difference between responsible criticism that aims for success, and defeatism that refuses to acknowledge anything but failure. Hindsight alone is not wisdom. And second-guessing is not a strategy.

"With so much in the balance, those of us in public office have a duty to speak with candor."

Let's stop the tape right there. Yes, we've "adjusted our tactics," all right. We've stepped up the air war against the insurgents, bombing large swaths of Iraq – how large, we don't know, because the reporters "embedded" in the U.S. government's propaganda machine aren't reporting it – and inflicting high casualties on civilians. This, in the president's view – and also Satan's – is "progress on the ground."

Why, one wonders, should opponents of this war hope for the "success" of an act they hold to be counterproductive to the interests of the United States and/or profoundly and unforgivably immoral? The Bushies want to conquer the whole damned world and we're supposed to wish them "success"?

No thanks, buster: give me "defeatism" or give me death. If we should ever "succeed" in conquering the entire Middle East, and much of the rest of the globe to boot, it would be an albatross hung round our necks. Our republic would eventually be brought down by the sheer weight of it, strangled by the hubris of its leaders. A more likely scenario is that we will sink into bankruptcy long before we get that far.

I won't go here into the utter absurdity of the President's born-again conversion to the cause of "alternative" fuels and anti-petroleum crackpot-ism, except that one shudders to think he may one day discover we are also addicted to water, air, and indoor plumbing. Rather than tear into the extreme dottiness of the claim that we are "addicted" to oil, I'll just note that he seems to have stolen this idea from Arianna Huffington and leave it at that.

This rhetoric is scary because it is so clearly an effort to prepare us for the inevitable consequences of a wider regional war in the Middle East, one that sends the price of oil skyrocketing and plunges America and the rest of the world into an economic abyss. Won't someone stop this madman before he wrecks the country? Is there no one left in any position of authority who will step forward to say: Enough! Are there no patriots left in all the U.S. Congress, the national security bureaucracy, and the military? If there are, why do they remain silent, except for a relative few?

I long ago pronounced George W. Bush the worst president ever, and history has proven me right. Every day this modern day Caligula stays in office is a nail driven into the coffin of American liberty – and that is the real state of the Union in the year 2006.



The Outstanding Public Debt as of 24 Feb 2006 at 06:43:50 PM GMT (get the update at Ed Hall's web site) is:

$ 8 , 2 5 2 , 6 9 8 , 2 4 1 , 8 6 8 . 0 2

The estimated population of the United States is 298,613,874
so each citizen's share of this debt is $27,636.69.

The National Debt has continued to increase an average of $2.17 billion per day since September 30, 2005! Concerned? Then tell Congress and the White House!

The Treasury Department's FAQ regarding the Public Debt is located at:

Ed Hall provides a FAQ at, from which I obtained the following snippets:

Q: To whom do we owe all this money? Who owns the Debt?

A: Here is a pie chart showing the makeup, or ownership, of the National Debt as of December 1998.

Ownership of the National Debt

As you can see, the largest slice of the pie, over 40%, is owed to the Federal Reserve Bank and to other government accounts; that is, this part of the Debt is owed by one part of the government to another. The remaining 60% of the Debt, roughly $3.3 trillion, is privately held.

The above information is from the June 1999 issue of the "Treasury Bulletin", a quarterly publication of the U.S. Treasury department's Financial Management Service. The Treasury Bulletin is the best place to find the latest information on this subject.

Q: What is the difference between the Debt and the Deficit?

A: The National Debt is the total amount of money owed by the government; the federal budget deficit is the yearly amount by which spending exceeds revenue. Add up all the deficits (and subtract those few budget surpluses we've had) for the past 200+ years and you'll get the current National Debt.

Politicians love to crow "The deficit is down! The deficit is down!" like it's a great accomplishment. Don't be fooled. Reducing the deficit just means we're adding less to the Debt this year than we did last year. Big deal -- we're still adding to the Debt. When are we going to start seeing the Debt actually go down?

Q: How has the National Debt grown over time?

A: The National Debt on January 1st 1791 was just $75 million dollars. Today, it rises by that amount every hour or so.

The following graph shows how the National Debt has grown year by year since 1940 in actual dollar amounts, uncorrected for inflation:

US National Debt from 1940 to Present

This data was gathered from the U.S. Treasury department's web site.

From time to time, I've gotten e-mail saying that the above graph is flawed -- it's just showing normal inflation. Well, I took the Debt numbers from the above graph and converted them all to 2000 dollars. Picking a different year would not have changed the shape of the graph below, just its height:

US National Debt, corrected for inflation (2000 dollars)

As you can see, except for a rise at the end of World War II, the Debt remained remarkably constant for nearly forty years when inflationary forces are taken into account. After 1983 however, with the notable exception of the Fiscal Years ending in September of 2000 and 2001, the trend has been upward even when inflation is taken into account.

Q: I looked at the Debt Clock yesterday and I think it showed a higher value than it does today. Is the Debt going down?

A: Unfortunately, no. On average, the Debt is always rising but there are some day to day fluctuations which can cause the debt to actually go down for a day or two. The long term averages however, show that the Debt just keeps getting higher and higher.
Q: When did the Debt pass the $8 trillion mark?

A: On October 18th 2005, the Outstanding Public Debt rose to $8,003,897,406,911.24 -- the first time it had risen above $8 trillion.
Q: When did the Debt pass the $7 trillion mark?

A: On January 15th 2004, the Outstanding Public Debt jumped $13 billion to $7,001,852,607,623.35. This was the first time in history the U.S. National Debt surpassed the $7 trillion mark and came less than two years after the Debt first passed $6 trillion.

As a comparison, the National Debt took over six years to rise from $5 trillion to $6 trillion.

Q: How accurate is your Debt Clock?

A: As accurate as I can make it! Every business day, the U.S. Treasury department releases new Debt figures for the previous day. I periodically get these figures and use them to adjust the Debt Clock's value so it remains accurate.

I, or rather the CGI code I wrote for the Debt Clock, then calculate the current value of the Debt by a simple linear extrapolation between the recent date's value and the value for the debt about a year previously.

I also get up to date population figures from the Census Department's Population Clock and use this to calculate each person's share of the total debt.

Corporate America's Education Myth

I have several friends with masters degrees in computer science (so they are plenty educated.) So, why have they been replaced by workers in Hyderabad, India? Good question. This article answers the question.

Published on Thursday, February 16, 2006, by Working For Change
Corporate America's Education Myth
by David Sirota

The New York Times has a piece today on the latest myth being peddled by our government and the corporate interests who run it. It goes something like this: job outsourcing and declining wages is happening in America because Americans are getting more stupid, and thus the only way for America to stop the bleeding is to produce more students educated in science and math. This is a brilliantly crafted storyline because it both reinforces Americans' concerns about its public school system and, more importantly, distracts from the corporate-written trade policies that are really at the heart of America's economic problems. Oh yeah, one other thing - the storyline is also a shameless lie.

The Times' piece describes a new report showing that many major corporations - who continue to pocket billions in American-taxpayer-funded corporate welfare - are going to be shifting research and development jobs overseas to places like China and India. The Times obediently reports without any question at all that "the study contended that lower labor costs in emerging markets are not the major reason for hiring researchers overseas." We shouldn't be surprised at that - corporate executives are smart enough to know how to lie. And they are lying.

If you take 2 minutes and actually think about what's going on, you will realize the painful intellectual acrobatics it takes to try to claim otherwise. Low wages - and the trade policy that forces Americans to compete with low wages - is at the heart of this, nothing else.

Think for a moment about this education argument. The United States has the best universities in the world. While our education system certainly needs upgrading, the concept that we are not producing enough good graduates for R&D jobs is just silly. And the idea that India and China have better schools producing better-trained workers is also ridiculous. These countries may be quickly developing - but last I checked, most of the world's most prominent technical colleges and universities are here in the good old U.S. of A.

So now think like a corporate executive trying to maximize profits. You have one set of R&D workers here in the United States, and another set of less-skilled, less-educated R&D workers in the developing world. You can do one of two things - afford to pay fewer workers in America. Or, you can go to India or China, spend a fraction of what you'd spend here on wages, and be able to hire an army of researchers. Granted, each researcher overseas might be less-skilled than each researcher in the United States - but the sheer numbers of researchers you can get over there makes the economics of outsourcing work.

That is what this is all about - the huge gap between wages and education. Workers in the developing world might be less skilled, but they are far less paid than they are less skilled. That means it still makes economic sense for companies to exploit their low wages - because those companies can pay such low wages, they can often afford to hire more workers, and even train these workers themselves - and STILL lower their overhead compared to staying in the United States.

This is where trade policy comes in - you know, the trade deals like NAFTA and China-PNTR which included all sorts of restrictive protections for corporate interests, and were stripped of all protections for workers' interests. One of the pillars of the American dream has long been the idea that if you work hard and get educated, you can move up the income ladder. But by now forcing our workers to compete with workers in oppressive countries like Communist China who clearly don't have those same privileges, the American dream is undermined. Free trade creates a wage-cutting, race-to-the-bottom competition between workers for jobs - a competition that American workers cannot win, and shouldn't even be forced to try and win.

So yes, we should spend more to educate our workers in this country - better education is always good for society. But no, if the only thing we do is produce more and better-trained science/math graduates, and continue to refuse to reevaluate free trade orthodoxy, then outsourcing is not going to stop. I realize that's hard for some people who consider themselves benevolent liberals to accept. One of the threads that seems to run through many of the Democratic Party's and the "center-left's" economic thinking is this elitist idea that if workers just got smarter they'd be doing better. You can detect it in the DLC/post-Clinton elite circles, and in the pundits like Tom Friedman who serve as role models in those circles.

My bet is these folks see themselves as educated, look at themselves as having done well, and have concluded that if only more workers just had the tenacity to get as educated as them, those workers would do better. These people won't say this outright, of course - but the attitude is obvious in the education-equals-better-jobs argument. Meanwhile, that argument also provides these folks with a defense mechanism, allowing them to justify and feel better about the corporate-written free trade policies they have joined with Republicans in ramming down our throats - a trade policy that is now undermining American workers.

Here's the truth these folks don't want to talk about. We can spend more money and train more science/math graduates, but unless we also train those graduates to accept working at slave wages, free trade makes sure those graduates have to enter into a competition for jobs with oppressed workers in the developing world. That's an unwinnable competition - and one we must finally stop by reevaluating and reforming our trade policy for the long-haul.

David Sirota is a writer and veteran political strategist. He just completed a book for Random House's Crown Publishers entitled "Hostile Takeover" - it will be released in the Spring of 2006. Sirota is currently the co-chairperson of the Progressive Legislative Action Network (PLAN). - a position he took after finishing a two-year stint at the Center for American Progress. Sirota is currently a Senior Editor at In These Times magazine, and a regular contributor to The Nation magazine. He is also a twice-weekly guest on the Al Franken Show.

© 2006 Working Assets

U.S. invasion of Iraq allows Iran's clout to grow and spread

Tehran's growing influence has fueled the ambitions of
long-repressed Shiite Muslims.

Megan K. Stack and Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times

BAGHDAD - The Islamic government in neighboring Iran watched with trepidation in March 2003 when U.S. troops stormed Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein and start remaking the political map of the Middle East.

In retrospect, the Islamic Republic could have celebrated: The war has left America's longtime nemesis with profound influence in the new Iraq and pushed it to the apex of power in the region.

Emboldened by its new status and shielded by deep oil reserves, Iran is pressing ahead with its nuclear program, daring the international community to impose sanctions. The blossoming of Iranian influence has fueled the ambitions of long-repressed Shiite Muslims throughout the Arab world. At the same time, Tehran has tightened alliances with groups such as Hamas, which recently won Palestinian elections, and with governments from Syria to China.

In the 1980s, Iran spent eight years and thousands of young lives waging a war to overthrow Saddam, whose regime was a strong counterweight that buffered the Sunni Muslim-dominated Arab world from Iran. But in the end, it took the U.S.-led invasion to topple Iraq's dictator and allow Iranian influence to spread through a chaotic, battle-torn country.

Now, Iraq's fledgling democracy has placed power in the hands of the nation's Shiite majority and its Kurdish allies, many of whom lived as exiles in Iran and maintain strong religious, cultural and linguistic ties to it. The two groups sit atop most of Iraq's oil, and both seek a decentralized government that would give them maximum control of it. A weak central government would also limit Sunni influence.

"A weak Iraq is now sitting next to a huge, mighty Iran. Now the only counterpart to Iran is not a regional power, but a foreign power like the United States," said Abdel Khaleq Abdullah, a political analyst and television host in Dubai. "This is unsustainable. It's bad for Gulf security. It's given Iran a sense of supremacy that we all feel."

Standing up for their sect

Fear of a Shiite Iraq has helped shape the Sunni Arab world's view of the insurgency in that country. Although many people revile the violence, there is also a quiet sense that the insurgents are fighting on behalf of Sunnis, standing up for their sect in the face of American and Iranian attempts to dominate Iraq.

Some Sunni extremists, jihadists from Yemen to Morocco, have been drawn to Iraq to set off bombs against symbols of Shiite power.

"When they attack the Shiites, they think they are attacking the Iranian influence," said Mustafa Alani, a counter-terrorism expert at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai. "They think they're attacking Iranian agents. To them, it's a legitimate target."

Keenly aware that it is playing with a strong hand, Iran is working to establish itself as a power to be reckoned with beyond Iraq. The government's increasing confidence can be seen in its aggressive insistence on the right to a nuclear program.

In 2003, when the secret program first became an international controversy, Tehran sought to calm concerns with a conciliatory, soft-spoken tone. Now, talks with three European powers have failed, and it is pressing ahead with uranium enrichment and even hinting that it might pull out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Sarcasm and taunts

Knowing that its oil reserves make it less vulnerable to U.N. sanctions, it has sharpened its rhetoric. At a news conference in late January, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi unleashed a torrent of sarcasm and taunts against Europe. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was "ignorant," he said, and French President Jacques Chirac "doesn't understand democracy."

The possibility that Iran will develop nuclear weapons is another worry for the Sunni-dominated Arab world.

When Jordan's King Abdullah warned a year ago with uncharacteristic bluntness that the emergence of a new government in Iraq could create a "Shiite crescent," Shiites in Iraq recoiled angrily and Jordanian officials insisted that the king had been misunderstood.

But many analysts believe he meant exactly what he said: that a new ring of fortified Iranian influence now stretches throughout Iraq, through the Kurdistan region into Turkey, to an ever weaker Syria and down into Lebanon's Hezbollah-dominated south, on Israel's border. Iran's hand also stretches into the heart of the Arabian peninsula through Shiite communities scattered in the Persian Gulf countries.