By Winter Patriot on 9/22/2005, 11:24pm PT  

Guest blogged by Winter Patriot

Project Censored has presented its annual compilation of the most important stories ignored by the mainstream media over the past year... and the rigged presidential election of 2004 came in at number three!

In normal times, the theft of a presidential election, and the virtual media blackout that followed it, would be an easy choice for the top spot. But then again these times are far from normal.

Here, according to Project Censored, are the top ten censored stories of the year:

Number 10: Mountaintop Removal Threatens Ecosystem and Economy

Mountaintop removal is a new form of coal mining in which companies dynamite the tops of mountains to collect the coal underneath. Multiple peaks are blown off and dumped onto highland watersheds, destroying entire mountain ranges. More than 1,000 miles of streams have been destroyed by this practice in West Virginia alone. Mountain top removal endangers and destroys entire communities with massive sediment dams and non-stop explosions.

Number 9: Iran's New Oil Trade System Challenges US Currency

The US media tells us that Iran may be the next target of US aggression. The anticipated excuse is Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program. William Clark tells us that economic reasons may have more to do with US concerns over Iran than any weapons of mass destruction.

In mid-2003 Iran broke from traditional and began accepting eurodollars as payment for it oil exports from its E.U. and Asian customers. Saddam Hussein attempted a similar bold step back in 2000 and was met with a devastating reaction from the US Iraq now has no choice about using US dollars for oil sales (Censored 2004 #19). However, Iran's plan to open an international oil exchange marker for trading oil in the euro currency is a much larger threat to US dollar supremacy than Iraq's switch to euros.

Number 8: Iraqi Farmers Threatened by Bremer's Mandates

Before he left his position, CPA administrator Paul Bremer, "the leader of the Coalition Provisional Authority issued exactly 100 orders that remade Iraq in the image of the Economy Plan." These orders effectively changed Iraqi law.

A good example of this business invasion involves agriculture. The details of this part of the "market make-over" are laid out in the Grain website article called "Iraq's new Patent Law: a declaration of war against farmers."

"Order 81" of the 100 is entitled "Patent, Industrial Design, Undisclosed Information, Integrated Circuits and Plant Variety." According to Grain staff writers, this order "made it illegal for Iraqi farmers to re-use seeds harvested from new varieties registered under the law." Plant Variety Protection (PVP)is the tool used for defining which seeds are re-useable and which are not. PVP "is an intellectual property right or a kind of patent for plant varieties which gives an exclusive monopoly right on planting material to a plant breeder who claims to have discovered or developed a new variety. So the "protection" in PVP has nothing to do with conservation, but refers to safeguarding of the commercial interests of private breeders (usually large corporations) claiming to have created the new plants."

Number 7: Journalists Face Unprecedented Dangers to Life and Livelihood

According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), 2004 was the deadliest year for reporters since 1980, when records began to be kept. Over a 12-month span, 129 media workers were killed and 49 of those deaths occurred in the Iraqi conflict. According to independent journalist Dahr Jamail, journalists are increasingly being detained and threatened by the US-installed interim government in Iraq. When the only safety for a reporter is being embedded with the US military, the reported stories tend to have a positive spin. Non-embedded reporters suffer the great risk of being identified as enemy targets by the military.

Number 6: The Real Oil for Food Scam

The US has accused UN officials of corruption in Iraq's oil for food program. According to Joy Gordon and Scott Ritter the charge was actually an attempt to disguise and cover up long term US government complicity in this corruption. Ritter says, "this posturing is nothing more than a hypocritical charade, designed to shift attention away from the debacle of George Bush's self-made quagmire in Iraq, and legitimize the invasion of Iraq by using Iraqi corruption and not the now-missing weapons of mass destruction, as the excuse." Gordon arrives at the conclusion that, "perhaps it is unsurprising that today the only role its seems the United States expects the UN to play in the continuing drama of Iraq is that of scapegoat."

According to Gordon the charges laid by the US accounting office are bogus. There is plenty of evidence of corruption in the "oil-for-food" program, but the trail of evidence leads not to the UN but to the U.S.

Number 5: US Uses Tsunami to Military Advantage in Southeast Asia

The tragic and devastating power of 2004's post holiday tsunami was plastered across the cover of practically every newspaper around the world for the better part of a month. As the death toll rose by the thousands every day, countries struggled to keep pace with the rapidly increasing need for aid across the Indian Ocean Basin.

At the same time that US aid was widely publicized domestically, our coinciding military motives were virtually ignored by the press. While supplying our aid (which when compared proportionately to that of other, less wealthy countries, was an insulting pittance), we simultaneously bolstered military alliances with regional powers in, and began expanding our bases throughout, the Indian Ocean region.

Number 4: Surveillance Society Quietly Moves In

On December 13, 2003, President George W. Bush, with little fanfare and no mainstream media coverage, signed into law the controversial Intelligence Authorization Act while most of America toasted the victory of US forces in Iraq and Saddam's capture. None of the corporate press covered the signing of this legislation, which increases the funding for intelligence agencies, dramatically expands the definition of surveillable financial institutions, and authorizes the FBI to acquire private records of those individuals suspected of criminal activity without a judicial review. American civil liberties are once again under attack.

Number 3: Another Year of Distorted Election Coverage

More details to follow.

Number 2: Media Coverage Fails on Iraq: Fallujah and the Civilian Death Toll

Over the past two years, the United States has conducted two major sieges against Fallujah, a city in Iraq. The first attempted siege of Fallujah (a city of 300,000 people) resulted in a defeat for Coalition forces. As a result, the United States gave the citizens of Fallujah two choices prior to the second siege: leave the city or risk dying as enemy insurgents. Faced with this ultimatum, approximately 250,000 citizens, or 83 percent of the population of Fallujah, fled the city. The people had nowhere to flee and ended up as refugees. Many families were forced to survive in fields, vacant lots, and abandoned buildings without access to shelter, water, electricity, food or medical care. The 50,000 citizens who either chose to remain in the city or who were unable to leave were trapped by Coalition forces and were cut off from food, water and medical supplies. The United States military claimed that there were a few thousand enemy insurgents remaining among those who stayed in the city and conducted the invasion as if all the people remaining were enemy combatants.

Burhan Fasa'a, an Iraqi journalist, said Americans grew easily frustrated with Iraqis who could not speak English. "Americans did not have interpreters with them, so they entered houses and killed people because they didn't speak English. They entered the house where I was with 26 people, and shot people because [the people] didn't obey [the soldiers'] orders, even just because the people couldn't understand a word of English." Abu Hammad, a resident of Fallujah, told the Inter Press Service that he saw people attempt to swim across the Euphrates to escape the siege. "The Americans shot them with rifles from the shore. Even if some of them were holding a white flag or white clothes over their head to show they are not fighters, they were all shot." Furthermore, "even the wound[ed] people were killed. The Americans made announcements for people to come to one mosque if they wanted to leave Fallujah, and even the people who went there carrying white flags were killed." Former residents of Fallujah recall other tragic methods of killing the wounded. "I watched them [US Forces] roll over wounded people in the street with tanks ... This happened so many times."

and the top-ranked, most important ignored story of the year: Bush Administration Moves to Eliminate Open Government

Throughout the 1980s, Project Censored highlighted a number of alarming reductions to government access and accountability (see Censored 1982 #6, 1984 #8, 1985 #3 and 1986 #2). It tracked the small but systematic changes made to existing laws and the executive orders introduced. It now appears that these actions may have been little more than a prelude to the virtual lock box against access that is being constructed around the current administration.

"The Bush Administration has an obsession with secrecy," says Representative Henry Waxman, the Democrat from California who, in September 2004, commissioned a congressional report on secrecy in the Bush Administration. "It has repeatedly rewritten laws and changed practices to reduce public and congressional scrutiny of its activities. The cumulative effect is an unprecedented assault on the laws that make our government open and accountable."

You will notice how we get coverage of such stories; this is by Camille T. Taiara from The San Francisco Bay Guardian, I found it at truthout.org via Dahr Jamail but the original is here.

You can find much more about each of these stories at the original article, and you can even find the URLs for some of its sources at the Truthout version of the same article, here.

The section on the so-called "election" deserves a closer look, and here it is:

#3 Another Year of Distorted Election Coverage

Source: In These Times, 02/15/05
Title: "A Corrupted Election"
Authors: Steve Freeman and Josh Mitteldorf

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 26, 2005
Title: "Jim Crow Returns to the Voting Booth"
Authors: Greg Palast, Rev. Jesse Jackson

www.freepress.org, Nov. 23, 2004
Title: "How a Republican Election Supervisor Manipulated the 2004 Central Ohio Vote"
Authors: Bob Fitrakis, Harvey Wasserman

Faculty Evaluator: Ann Neel, MA
Student Researcher: Mike Osipoff

Political analysts have long counted on exit polls to be a reliable predictor of actual vote counts. The unusual discrepancy between exit poll data and the actual vote count in the 2004 election challenges that reliability. However, despite evidence of technological vulnerabilities in the voting system and a higher incidence of irregularities in swing states, this discrepancy was not scrutinized in the mainstream media. They simply parroted the partisan declarations of "sour grapes" and "let's move on" instead of providing any meaningful analysis of a highly controversial election.

The official vote count for the 2004 election showed that George W. Bush won by three million votes. But exit polls projected a victory margin of five million votes for John Kerry. This eight-million-vote discrepancy is much greater than the error margin. The overall margin of error should statistically have been under one percent. But the official result deviated from the poll projections by more than five percent - a statistical impossibility.

Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International, the two companies hired to do the polling for the Nation Election Pool (a consortium of the nation's five major broadcasters and the Associated Press), did not immediately provide an explanation for how this could have occurred. They waited until January 19, the eve of the inauguration.

Edison and Mitofsky's "inaugural" report, "Evaluation of Edison/Mitofsky Election System 2004," stated that the discrepancy was "most likely due to Kerry voters participating in the exit polls at a higher rate than Bush voters." The media widely reported that this report proved the accuracy of the official count and a Bush victory. The body of the report, however, offers no data to substantiate this position. In fact, the report shows that Bush voters were more likely to complete the survey than Kerry voters. The report also states that the difference between exit polls and official tallies was far too great to be explained by sampling error, and that a systematic bias is implicated.

The Edison and Mitofsky report dismisses the possibility that the official vote count was wrong, stating that precincts with electronic voting systems had the same error rates as precincts with punch-card systems. This is true. However, it merely points to the unreliability of punch-card and electronic systems, both of which are slated for termination under the Helping America Vote Act of 2002. According to the report, only in precincts that used old-fashioned, hand-counted paper ballots did the official count and the exit poll data fall within the normal margin of error.

Also, the report shows, the discrepancy between the exit polls and the official count was considerably greater in the critical swing states. And while this fact is consistent with allegations of fraud, Mitofsky and Edison suggest, without providing any data or theory to back up their claim, that this discrepancy is somehow related to media coverage.

In precincts that were at least 80 percent for Bush, the average within-precinct error (WPE) was a whopping 10.0 percent - the numerical difference between the exit poll predictions and the official count. Also, in Bush strongholds, Kerry received only about two-thirds of the votes predicted by exit polls. In Kerry strongholds, exit polls matched the official count almost exactly (an average WPE of 0.3).

This exit poll data is a strong indicator of a corrupted election. But the case grows stronger if these exit poll discrepancies are interpreted in the context of more than 100,000 officially logged reports of irregularities and possible fraud during Election Day 2004.

Bush campaign officials compiled a 1,886-name "caging list," which included the names and addresses of predominantly black voters in the traditionally Democratic Jacksonville, Florida. While Bush campaign spokespersons stated that the list was a returned mail log, they did not deny that such a list could be used to challenge voters on Election Day. In fact, the county elections supervisor says that he could see no other purpose for compiling such a list.

In Franklin County Ohio, Columbus voters faced one of the longest ballot lines in history. In many inner city precincts, voters sometimes had three-hour waits to get to the poll before being required to cast ballots within five minutes, as demanded by the Republican-run Board of Elections. Seventy-seven out of the county's 2,866 voting machines malfunctioned on Election Day. One machine registered 4,258 votes for Bush in a precinct where only 638 people voted. At least 125 machines were held back at the opening of the polls, and another 68 were never deployed. While voters were rushed through the process, 29 percent of the precincts had fewer voting machines than in the 2000 election despite a 25 percent increase in turnout.

Taken together, these problems point to an election that requires scrutiny. Even if the discrepancy between exit polls and actual vote counts is simply a fluke, other flaws and questionable practices in the voting process make one wonder whether or not the people's voice was actually heard and if we are truly a working democracy.

Update by Josh Mitteldorf:

Some news is too important to report. People might get upset, and the smooth functioning of our democracy would be jeopardized. Thus the media has collectively done the responsible thing, and refrained - at great cost to themselves, be assured - from publicizing doubts about the legitimacy of the 2004 election, in order to help assure the "orderly succession of power."

Unfortunately, some internet sites such as Commondreams.org and Freepress.org do not realize their obligations to the commonwealth, and have thus been less responsible in maintaining silence. And there's an upbeat radio voice from Vermont, Thom Hartmann, who would be fun to listen to if only he didn't insist on relating so many discomfiting truths.

But so long as you stay away from these isolated derelicts, you will be gratified to receive a reassuringly consistent story line: George Bush won the 2004 election fair and square. It's time to stop asking pointless questions. Get with the program!

Update by Greg Palast and Reverend Jesse Jackson:

There are conspiracy nuts out there on the Internet who think that John Kerry defeated George Bush in Ohio and other states. I know, because I wrote "Kerry Won" for TomPaine.com two days after the election.

"Kerry Won" was the latest in a series coming out of a five-year investigation, begun in November 2000, for BBC Television Newsnight and Britain's Guardian papers, dissecting that greasy sausage called American electoral democracy.

On November 11, a week after TomPaine.com put the report out on the 'Net, I received an email from the New York Times Washington Bureau. Hot on the investigation of the veracity of the vote, the Times reporter asked me pointed questions:

Question #1: Are you a "sore loser?"

Question #2: Are you a "conspiracy nut?"

There was no third question. Investigation of the vote was, apparently, complete. The next day, their thorough analysis of the evidence yielded a front-page story, "VOTE FRAUD THEORIES, SPREAD BY BLOGS, ARE QUICKLY BURIED."

Here's a bit of what the Paper of Record failed to record.

In June 2004, well before the election, my co-author of "Jim Crow" Rev. Jesse Jackson brought me to Chicago. We had breakfast with Vice-Presidential candidate John Edwards. The Reverend asked the Senator to read my report of the "spoilage" of Black votes - one million African Americans who cast ballots in 2000 but did not have their votes register on the machines.

Edwards said he'd read it over after he'd had his bagel. Jackson snatched away his bagel. No read, no bagel. A hungry Senator was genuinely concerned - these were, after all, Democrats whose votes did not tally, and he shot the information to John Kerry. A couple of weeks later, Kerry told the NAACP convention that one million African-American votes were not counted in 2000, but in 2004 he would not let it happen again.

But he did let it happen again. More than a million votes in 2004 were cast and not counted.

As a reporter, it's not my job to help the Democratic Party learn to tie its shoes. And, as a nonpartisan journalist, I'm not out to expose the Republican Party's new elaborate campaign to prevent voters from voting - but I must report it. However, editors and news producers in my home country, the USA, seem less than interested. Indeed, they are downright hostile to reporting this story of the shoplifting of our democracy.

America has an apartheid voting system, denying African-Americans, Hispanics and American Natives the assurance their ballots will count. Worse, America has an apartheid media which denies racial disenfranchisement a seat at the front of the news bus.

It was in November 2000 I first ran into the US news lord's benign neglect of the "new Jim Crow" methods of denying citizens of color their vote. While working with the British Guardian papers just days before the 2000 presidential election, I discovered that Governor Jeb Bush and his Secretary of State, Katharine Harris, had wrongly purged tens of thousands of Black citizens from voter rolls as "felons" - when in fact their only crime had been V.W.B.: Voting While Black.

Nothing appeared in the US press. However, I admit that the Florida purge story was picked up by the New York Times ... four years later.

Just before the November 2004 election, BBC television Newsnight discovered new, confidential "caging lists" which we got our hands on from inside the Republican National Committee headquarters. These were rosters of thousands of minority voters targeted to prevent them from voting on election day: a violation of federal law. It was big news in Europe and South America. In the USA, there was nothing except an attack on BBC's report by ABC's web site. ABC's only listed source for their attack on the BBC was the Republican Party.

The story of the purge of Black voters, the million missing Black ballots cast but not counted, the caging lists, and other games used to deny the vote to the dark-skinned and the poor, would have been buried long ago if not for BBC Television, Harper's Magazine (may it last a thousand years), Britain's Guardian and Observer, The Nation, the op-ed editors at the San Francisco Chronicle and Seattle Post-Intelligencer and, provocatively, Hustler Magazine. Even if ignored or actively 'dissed by US "mainstream" media, the story will be continue to be reported, due to the passionate insistence of Reverend Jackson, from a thousand pulpits.

Thanks to GeorgeBush.com for capturing the 'caging lists.' And bless the blogs, for they shall set the truth free: TomPaine.com, Buzzflash, Working-for-Change and other Internet sites carried the story over the electronic Berlin Wall.

Finally, my gratitude to our indefatigable investigative team, particularly Oliver Shykles and Matt Pascarella for their work on this story - on which they continue today - and to Meirion Jones, producer nonpareil at BBC television's Newsnight.

To which it only seems fair to add: Many thanks to Truthout.org and The San Francisco Bay Guardian and Camille T. Taiara and of course none of this would be possible without Project Censored ... so thanks to all who have helped get these stories to this point, and please pass this link around! so even more people can learn about these important under-reported stories. Bless The Blogs Indeed!! Thanks, Greg!