Election 2004 is a serious test of democracy in the United States. Perhaps no other time since the 1930s have we been so dangerously close to institutionalized totalitarianism. No-fly lists, prison torture, domestic spying, mega-homeland security agencies, suspension of habeas corpus, global unilateralism, and military adventurism interlocked with corporate profit-taking are all spurred on by a media-induced citizen paranoia.
Corporate media are in the entertainment business and fail to cover important news stories voters need to make election decisions. We need information about our country's leaders. These are the people making decisions that impact all of our lives. We need to know who our leaders are and what they are doing. What are their backgrounds, their motivations? What policies and laws are they enacting? What actions are they undertaking, with or against our consent? We don't need to like them, but we do need to know about them. A participatory democracy needs people to be aware of issues. We need active engaged voters. Unfortunately close to 50% of us will not vote in the upcoming election.
Project Censored at Sonoma State University in California has just released its annual list of the most important news stories not covered by the corporate media in the USA (www.projectcensored.org). Might citizens be more interested in voting if they know that wealth inequality was rapidly increasing in the US, and that the top 5% of the people have gotten richer and the rest of us poorer in the past five years? Which presidential candidate would be most helpful in reversing this trend? Most of us won't know if the corporate media doesn't tell us the story.
Might the 50 million voters who will cast their ballot on an electronic voting machine be concerned that the major investors in the voting machine companies are some of the top defense contractors in the US and that the firm that developed the security software for electronic voting is made up of former CIA and National Security Agency directors?
Would many Americans be concerned that a conservative right-wing organization has replaced the American Bar Association as the main vetting group for federal judge appointments? Or would there be concern for our returning military vets if it were widely known that many are permanently contaminated with high levels of radioactive depleted uranium (DU) and non-depleted uranium (NDU). (NDU is actually more radioactive than DU)? Might this concern increase among young people of they knew the extent of government plans to reinstate the military draft in the US?
How much would we trust the corporate TV news if we knew that many major corporate broadcast groups filed legal briefs defending Fox TV's position in a case against whistleblowers that it is not against the law to lie to the American public on TV?
There is strong evidence for the veracity of each of the news stories these questions address. If the American people knew the truth, they would undoubtedly want to vote for representatives who would seek to make positive changes. Yet, these stories remain uncovered by the corporate media and the American public remains uninformed.
The only way to not live in a completely totalitarian society is to participate in the one you have. The foundation of democratic society is an informed and aware electorate. A free society is like a good set of teeth. Ignore it and it will go away. If you want shiny, healthy teeth, take care of them. If you want a shiny, healthy democracy -- pay attention!
Peter Phillips is a professor of sociology at Sonoma State University and director of Project Censored. Kate Sims is research coordinator for Project Censored. Censored 2005 is available in bookstores nationwide. Distributed by MinutemanMedia.org.
#1 Wealth Inequity in 21st Century Threatens Economy and Democracy. Wealth inequality increased dramatically in the US in the late1990s. The top 5% is now capturing an increasingly greater portion of the pie while the bottom 95% is clearly losing ground, resulting in the rapidly vanishing middle class. This trend is the product of legislative policies carefully crafted and lobbied for by corporations and the ultra-wealthy over the past 25 years. America's economic trends have a global footprint, and today, the top 400 income earners in the US make as much in a year as the entire population of the 20 poorest countries in Africa. A series of reports released in 2003 by the UN warn that further increases in the imbalance in wealth throughout the world will have catastrophic effects if left unchecked, such as the collapse of the entire global economy. [Multinational Monitor, May 2003, "The Wealth Divide" (An interview with Edward Wolff), by Robert Weissman. Buzzflash, March 26 and 19, 2004, "A Buzzflash Interview, Parts I and II" (with David Cay Johnston), by Mark Karlin. London Guardian, Oct. 4, 2003, "Every third person will be a slum dweller within 30 years, UN agency warns," by John Vidal, Multinational Monitor, July/August, 2003, "Grotesque Inequality," by Robert Weissman.]
#2 Ashcroft vs. the Human Rights Law that Holds Corporations Accountable. Attorney General John Ashcroft is seeking to strike down one of the world's oldest human rights laws, the Alien Torts Claim Act (ATCA) which holds government leaders, corporations, and senior military officials liable for human rights abuses taking place in foreign countries. Organizations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) vehemently oppose the removal of this law, as it is one of the few legal defenses victims of human rights violations can claim against powerful organizations such as governments or multinational corporations. By attempting to throw out this law, the Bush administration is effectively opening the door for human rights abuses to continue under the veil of foreign relations diplomacy. [One World.Net and Asheville Global Report, May 19, 2003, "Ashcroft goes after 200-year-old Human Rights Law," by Jim Lobe.]
#3 Bush Administration Manipulates Science and Censors Scientists. In Washington, D.C., more than 60 of the nation's top scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, medical experts, and former federal agency directors, issued a statement Feb. 18, 2004, accusing the Bush Administration of deliberately distorting scientific results for political ends. They are calling for regulatory and legislative action to restore scientific integrity to federal policymaking. Under the current administration, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has blacklisted scientists who pose a threat to pro-business ideology, and many unqualified scientists with close industry ties have been appointed to advisory boards. [The Nation, March 8, 2004, "The Junk Science of George W. Bush," by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Censorship News: The National Coalition Against Censorship Newsletter, Fall 2003, "Censoring Scientific Information," by The National Coalition Against Censorship staff. Environment News Service and OneWorld.Net, Feb. 20, 2004, "Ranking Scientists Warn Bush Science Policy Lacks Integrity," by Sunny Lewis. Office of US Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Aug. 2003, "Politics and Science in the Bush Administration," by the House Committee on Government Reform, Minority Staff (updated Nov. 13, 2003.]
# 4 High Uranium Levels Found in Troops and Civilians. Civilian populations in Afghanistan and Iraq and occupying troops have been contaminated with astounding levels of radioactive uranium as a result of post-9/11 United States' use of tons of uranium munitions. Four million pounds of radioactive uranium were dropped on Iraq in 2003 alone. Most American weapons (missiles, smart bombs, bullets, tank shells, cruise missiles, etc.) contain high amounts of uranium that on detonation, release a radioactive dust. Once ingested, these subatomic particles slice through DNA. With a half-life of 4.5 billion years, it is a permanent contaminant distributed throughout the environment. Scientists from around the world testify to the huge increase in birth deformities and cancers wherever uranium munitions have been used. The effects of the US deployment will be felt in all the neighboring countries in the Middle East and Asia, as well as in our returning troops. [Uranium Medical Research Center, January 2003, "UMRC's Preliminary Findings from Afghanistan and Operation Enduring Freedom" and "Afghan Field Trip #2 Report: Precision Destruction -- Indiscriminate Effects," by Tedd Weyman, UMRC Research Team. Awakened Woman, January 2004, "Scientists Uncover Radioactive Trail in Afghanistan," by Stephanie Hiller. Dissident Voice, March 2004, "There Are No Words Radiation in Iraq equals 250,000 Nagasaki Bombs," by Bob Nichols. New York Daily News, April 5, 2004, "Poisoned?" by Juan Gonzales. Information Clearing House, March 2004, "International Criminal Tribunal for Afghanistan At Tokyo, The People vs. George Bush," by Professor Ms. Niloufer Bhagwat J.]
#5 The Wholesale Giveaway of Our Natural Resources. The Bush Administration's environmental policies are destroying much of the environmental progress made over the past 30 years. Between the "Clear Skies Initiative," a recent policy that allows power plants to emit more than five times more mercury and twice as much sulfur dioxide, and the "Healthy Forests Initiative," which allows the wholesale liquidation of ancient forests by corporate timber interests under the guise of fire prevention, resource extraction and pollution is occurring at unprecedented rates. [In These Times, Nov. 23, 2003, "Liquidation of the Commons," by Adam Werbach. High Country News, June 9, 2003, "Giant Sequoias Could Get the Ax," by Matt Weiser.]
#6 The Sale of Electoral Politics. Conflicts of interest exist between the largest suppliers of electronic voting machines in the United States and key leaders in the Republican Party. While the voting machines themselves present some technical issues, the political affiliations within the voting machine industry pose even more serious questions. The three major companies involved in implementing the new, often faulty, technology at voting stations throughout the country have strong ties to the Bush Administration, Republican leaders, and major defense contractors.
It must be noted that under the Help America Vote Act control over the electoral process has been taken away from local officials and placed in the hands of a very small number of for-profit corporations. In effect we are privatizing America's most public endeavor. [In These Times, December 2003, "Voting Machines Gone Wild" by Mark Lewellen-Biddle. Independent/UK, Oct. 13, 2003, "All The President's Votes?" by Andrew Gumbel. Democracy Now!, Sept. 4, 2003, "Will Bush Backers Manipulate Votes to Deliver GW Another Election?" by Amy Goodman and the staff of Democracy Now!]
#7 Conservative Organization Drives Judicial Appointments. In 2001 George W. Bush eliminated the longstanding influence of the American Bar Association (ABA) in the evaluation of the prospective federal judges. ABA's judicial ratings had long kept extremists from the right and left off the bench. In its place, Bush has been using the Federal Society for Law and Public Policy Studies -- a national organization whose mission is to advance a conservative agenda by moving the country's legal system to the right.
One of the most important issues in the country is the control of one of the three branches of government, the judiciary. While presidents and Congress-members get elected every few years, judicial appointments are for life. Our courts deal with nearly every aspect of life; work conditions and wages, schools, civil rights, affirmative action, crime and punishment, abortion and the environment, amongst others. [The American Prospect, March 1, 2003, " A Hostile Takeover: How the Federalist Society is Capturing the Federal Courts" by Martin Garbus; "Courts vs. Citizens" by Jamin Raskin.]
#8 Secrets of Cheney's Energy Task Force Come to Light. Cheney Energy Task Force documents turned over in the summer of 2003 by the Commerce Department as a result of the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch contain maps of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries and terminals. The documents, dated March 2001, also contain plans of occupation and exploitation that predate September 11, confirming suspicions that the Bush Administration energy policy is driving U.S. military strategy. [Judicial Watch, July 17, 2003, "Cheney Energy Task Force Documents Feature Map of Iraqi Oilfields" by Judicial Watch Staff. Foreign Policy in Focus, January 2004, "Bush-Cheney Energy Strategy: Procuring the Rest of the World's Oil" by Michael Klare.]
#9 Widow Brings RICO Case Against US Government for 9/11. Ellen Mariani became widowed when her husband Louis Neil Mariani perished in the collision between United Airlines flight 175 and the South Tower of the World Trade Center. In addition to her refusal of the government's million-dollar settlement offer, Mrs. Mariani has filed a 62 page complaint in federal district court charging that President Bush and officials: (1) had adequate foreknowledge of 9/11, yet failed to warn the country or attempt to prevent it; (2) have since been covering up the truth of that day; (3) have therefore abetted the murder of plaintiff's husband and violated the Constitution and multiple laws of the US; and (4) are thus being sued under the Civil Racketeering, Influences, and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act for Malfeasant conspiracy, obstruction of justice and wrongful death. [Scoop.co.nz, November 2003 and December 2003, "9/11 Victim's Wife Files RICO Case Against GW Bush" by Philip J. Berg; "Widow's Bush Treason Suit Vanishes" by W. David Kubiak.]
#10 New Nuke Plants: Taxpayers Support, Industry Profits. Sen. Peter Domenici (R-N.M.), along with the Bush administration, is looking to give the nuclear power industry a huge boost through the new Energy Policy Act. The Domenici-sponsored bill will give nuclear power plants credits costing taxpayers an estimated $7.5 billion, to build six new privately-owned, for-profit reactors across the country. Safety standards will be lowered and liability will be passed on to taxpayers. This is in addition to the $4 billion already provided for other nuclear energy programs. [Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Nov. 17, 2003, "Nuclear Energy Would Get $7.5 Billion in Tax Subsides, US Taxpayers Would Fund Nuclear Monitor Relapse If Energy Bill Passes" by Cindy Folkers and Michael Mariotte. WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor, August 2003, "US Senate Passes Pro-Nuclear Energy Bill" by Cindy Folkers and Michael Mariotte.]
#11 Media Can Legally Lie. In 2003, a Florida Court of Appeals ruled that there are no written rules against distorting news in the media. It agreed with an argument by Fox Television that, under the First Amendment, broadcasters have the right to lie or deliberately distort news reports on public airwaves. Under the current ruling, it is up to the public to discover whether or not they are being lied to.
#12 The Destabilization of Haiti. On Feb. 29, 2004, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced into exile by American military. While US officials were eventually forced to acknowledge the kidnapping allegations, they at first were quick to discredit them and deny responsibility. Meanwhile, the circumstances that led to the current situation in Haiti, as well as the history of US involvement, are being ignored by US officials and the mainstream media.
#13 Schwarzenegger Met with Enron's Ken Lay Before the California Recall. In 2002, while California Gov. Gray Davis and his deputy were attempting to re-regulate the energy industry (and get back the $9 billion that was defrauded from California taxpayers by Enron and other energy companies) Arnold Schwarzenegger was being groomed to overthrow Gov. Davis in a recall -- and cancel plans to re-regulate or to recoup the $9 billion. Back in May of 2001, in the midst of California's energy crisis, Schwarzenegger met with Enron's Ken Lay to discuss "fixing" California's energy crisis.
#14 New Bill Threatens Intellectual Freedom. The International Studies in Higher Education Act of 2003 threatens academic freedom and classroom curriculum. Under this act, professors whose ideological principles do not support US practices abroad can have their appointments terminated, any course curriculum containing criticism of US foreign policy can be censored, and any course deemed anti-American can be barred from the classroom.
#15 US Develops Lethal New Bio-weapon Viruses. Scientists funded by the US government have developed a way to make pox viruses incredibly deadly. The stated goal of this research is to fight possible bio-terror attacks. The new virus kills all mice even if they have been given antiviral drugs along with a vaccine that would normally protect the victim from death.
# 16 Law Enforcement Agencies Spy on Innocent Citizens. With little media comment, federal, state and local agencies have begun working as partners in the collection, analysis, and dissemination of intelligence information. Under the "Global Intelligence Working Group" (that oversees the new network) police departments receive increased funding for surveillance activity. This has resulted in the recent COINTELPRO-style instances of police infiltration of groups critical of government policies.
#17 US Government Represses Labor Unions in Iraq in Quest for Business Privatization. According to the Wall Street Journal (practically alone), the Bush administration has "sweeping plans to remake Iraq's economy in the US image." The US is calling for the privatization of state-owned industries such as oil and water. But it has chosen not to overturn Saddam-era edicts that outlaw unions. Every day the economic policies of occupying authorities create more hunger among Iraq's working people, transforming them into a pool of low-wage, semi-employed labor, desperate for jobs at any price.
#18 Media and Government Ignore Dwindling Oil Supplies. Even industry executives affirm that oil is close to reaching, or may have already reached, its highest levels of production potential. Once the peak is reached, oil prices will start to rise (as they have every year since 2000). As oil decline accelerates, prices will rise even faster, with devastating effects to the US economy. Over the years, US leaders, bowing to oil industry pressure, have not worked to develop viable alternatives (as they have done in Europe).
#19 Global Food Cartel Fast Becoming the World's Supermarket. Agribusiness and supermarket alliances are transforming the agri-food system into a powerful network of transnational corporations. They now have the power to control the world's food supply at every stage of food production. As fewer corporations control food production, traditional farming is becoming a high-tech form of serfdom. Lack of competition is leading to higher prices, lower choice and quality, and employee abuse.
#20 Extreme Weather Prompts New Warning from UN. In 2003, The UN's World Meteorological Organization reported unprecedented levels of extreme weather and climate occurrences all over the world. The report emphasized an alarming increase in global warming and pointed to the impact of human activity. The significance of this particular report is that the highly respected UN organization is known for its normally conservative predictions and statements.
#21 Forcing a World Market for GMOs. The Bush Administration is trying to force Europe to drop trade barriers against genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Meanwhile, the agricultural biotechnology industry is focusing even more intently on developing countries, where regulations governing their use are generally more lax. At the same time, biotech promoters continue to suppress studies that show GMOs may have adverse effects on health and the environment.
#22 Exporting Censorship to Iraq. After the fall of Saddam, Paul Bremer told journalists they were now "free to criticize whoever, or whatever, you want." But when negative critiques of US policies appeared in the Iraqi media, Bremer quickly placed controls on its content. And rather than hiring a media outlet to run the Iraqi media (or simply allowing the news groups already there to continue reporting), the Pentagon chose a defense contractor to define the news.
#23 Brazil Opposes US-style FTAA agreements, But Provides Little Comfort for the Poor of South America. The Free Trade Area of the America's (FTAA) could become the biggest trading block in history, expanding NAFTA to 34 countries from Canada to the bottom of South America. This deal is unlikely to meet its January 2005 deadline, now that the second largest player in the negotiations, Brazil, is holding back. However, Brazilian President Lula has begun, of his own volition, to institute his own brand of FTAA austerity policies that are sure to drive the poor of the region deeper into poverty.
#24 Reinstating the Draft. [The Selective Service System (SSS)], the Bush administration, and the Pentagon have been quietly moving to fill draft board vacancies nationwide in order to prepare for a military draft that could start as early as June 15, 2005. Several million dollars have been added to the 2004 SSS budget. Meanwhile, through an ongoing militarization of public school systems, the Pentagon has begun efforts to double the number of Latinos in the US military by 2006.
#25 Wal-Mart Brings Inequity and Low Prices to the World. The vision of the international division of Wal-Mart is one where Wal-Mart becomes a global brand, just like McDonald's or Coca- Cola, monopolizing the global retail market. The next five or six years could see about 5,000 to 6,000 Wal-Mart stores outside of the US. Wal-Mart is Americanizing retailing around the world and exercising an inordinate amount of economic power.
For more information and citations on stories 11-25, see www.projectcensored.org.