While the mainstream media dutifully kept tabs on the electoral map throughout 2004, a number of crucial stories on President Bush’s fight for corporate rights and his spotty record on civil liberties and the environment were either ignored or underplayed. According to Peter Phillips and Project Censored, compilers of Censored 2005: The Top 25 Censored Stories (Seven Stories Press, 2004), all of last year’s top 10 underreported stories involve the Bush administration.
In the book’s preface, Phillips, a sociology professor at Sonoma State University who serves as director of Project Censored, believes reporters inside the mainstream media can’t help but ignore what really matters. “Most journalists want to tell the Watergate stories about the powerful,” he writes. “However, huge, often overwhelming forces of power, greed, and spin challenge journalists inside their own media systems, resulting in corporate cultures of self-censorship and fear.”
Here is an overview of the top stories.
1. ECONOMIC INEQUALITY THREATENS DEMOCRACY
The top 1 percent of the U.S. population now owns about a third of the country’s wealth, and the highly touted American middle class is fast disappearing. In an interview with Buzz Flash, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Cay Johnston reports that the Bush administration passed legislation to accelerate the divide domestically. The Guardian and Multinational Monitor point out that the top 400 income earners in the United States make as much a year as the entire population of the 20 poorest countries in Africa. They conclude that leaving this sort of inequity unchecked on the international stage will only exacerbate global discord and undermine democracy.
2. ASHCROFT TAKES STAND AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS
The Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA), passed by Congress in 1789 so sea pirates could be prosecuted on American soil, was cited throughout the 1980s as a way to put international human rights violators on trial in U.S. courts. Thanks to the act, Holocaust survivors were able to secure reparations and American companies have been held accountable for their actions in other countries. According to OneWorld.net and Asheville Global Report, Attorney General John Ashcroft, concerned that the ATCA could be interpreted too broadly or compromise relations with allies in the war against terror, was seeking to strike this law from the books. Human Rights Watch calls the move ‘a craven attempt to protect human rights abusers at the expense of victims.’
3. WHITE HOUSE FOSTERS BAD SCIENCE
Two important reports, one from U.S. Representative Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and the other from a group of 62 scientists, criticized the Bush administration for “purging, censoring, and manipulating scientific information in order to push forward its pro-business, anti-environmental agenda.” Robert F. Kennedy Jr., writing in The Nation, said that the Bush administration, along with business leaders and conservative think tanks, “are engaged in a campaign to suppress science that is arguably unmatched in the Western world since the Inquisition.”
4. RADIATION POISONING ON AND OFF BATTLEFIELD
“Radiation in Iraq equals 250,000 Nagasaki bombs,” reports Bob Nichols of Dissident Voice. The U.S. military uses depleted and nondepleted uranium in ammunition that, when it is detonated, creates a radioactive dust that easily enters the body and damages DNA. As a result, both American troops and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan have been testing high for radiation that causes cancer and birth defects.
5. BUSH REWRITES ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY FOR CRONIES
In These Times and High Country News expose a number of Bush initiatives that, despite deceptive names, are collectively nullifying 30 years of environmental progress. The Clear Skies Initiative, for example, actually rolls back reforms in the 1970 Clean Air Act so that power plants can emit more noxious gases, and the Healthy Forests Initiative allows loggers to cut certain old-growth trees under the guise of fire prevention.
6. REPUBLICANS COUNTING VOTES
The Republican Party has direct connections to Election Systems & Software (ES&S), Diebold, and Sequoia, companies that make the new electronic voting machines. In These Times and Democracy Now! report on Sequoia’s bribery scandals, that ES&S’s owner is Republican Senator Chuck Hagel’s finance director, and on Diebold’s CEO promising Bush a 2004 win in Ohio.
7. INFLUENCING JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS
In 2001, President Bush took the job of evaluating potential judge appointments from the American Bar Association and gave it to the Federalist Society. As Martin Garbus writes in The American Prospect, the Federalist Society is a group of 40,000 right-leaning lawyers, including Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and Republican Senator Orrin Hatch.
8. CHENEY’S OBSESSION WITH IRAQI OIL
The Bush administration has been trying to keep the work of Vice President Cheney’s Energy Task Force a secret since its inception in early 2001. And for good reason, according to documents released in the summer of 2003 as a result of a Sierra Club and Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The task force had maps of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, and refineries that, at the very least, point to a planned exploitation of Iraq’s natural resources well before 9/11.
9. 9/11 WIDOW SUES BUSH FOR RACKETEERING
Ellen Mariani, whose husband died in one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, is using the Civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) to sue the Bush administration on the basis that it intentionally let the terrorist attacks happen. As reported by New Zealand’s scoop.co.nz, Mariani and her lawyer, Philip Berg, contend that the administration was looking for a reason to begin the war on terror.
10. BILLING PUBLIC FOR PRIVATE NUCLEAR REACTORS
New Mexico’s Republican Senator Peter Domenici is working with the Bush administration to pass the Energy Policy Act, which would subsidize privately owned nuclear power plants at the expense of taxpayers, reports the Nuclear Information and Resource Service. If the controversial energy bill becomes law, $7.5 billion would go toward building six new for-profit reactors—just one of many handouts to the nuclear, coal, and oil industries in the form of generous subsidies and tax breaks.