Just Jake

Jake Highton is a journalism professor at the Reynolds School of Journalism, University of Nevada, Reno. He teaches media law, history of journalism and advanced reporting. Highton is the author of numerous books, including "Nevada Newspaper Days." He writes a weekly column for the Daily Sparks Tribune.

Location: United States

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Mexico masters art of stealing elections

Sore loser? No. Leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) refuses to concede the Mexican presidential election because the presidency was stolen from him.
The thievery had eerie echoes of the purloined American presidential election in 2000. George W. Bush lost Florida to Al Gore but chicanery and the Supreme Court denied Gore the White House.
Elizabeth DiNovella, writing in Progressive about the Mexican theft, notes: “Like Florida, there was an incredibly high number of annulled votes. The IFE (Federal Electoral Institute) declared nearly one million votes null.”
It is doubtful if any other country is more rife with election corruption than the so-called democracy of Mexico.
The fraudulent election this summer included voter intimidation, coercion, ballot-dumping, vote-buying and counting of extra ballots. Other odious irregularities: the unenrolled allowed to vote, proselytizing inside polling places and poll workers without IFE credentials.
And what an odd coincidence: both López Obrador and Gore led in the exit polls.
No wonder many Mexicans smelled a rat after the election. The Party of the Institutional Revolution (PRI) routinely stuffed the ballot box and bought votes for 71 years to stay in power.
The PRI perpetuated its biggest fraud in the 1988 presidential election. The leftist candidate, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, had a big lead when the counting computers mysteriously “crashed.” When the computers were “working again,” they delivered the presidency to the PRI.
Felipe Calderón, conservative candidate of the National Action Party (PAN), was the beneficary of the 2006 robbery, being declared president by the IFE. (One astonished Mexican university professor called the Calderón victory impossible.)
Calderón’s fellow conservative, outgoing President Vincent Fox, violated Mexican law by campaigning for Calderón.
Fox took official tours as president to campaign against López Obrador, decrying populism, demagogy and “false messiahs.” He spent lavishly on public service messages praising achievements of his government.
Moreover, López Obrador’s party was shut out of the IFE, the election board of judges. As James McKinley wrote in the New York Times: “the entire apparatus of the state was against him. This an old tune in Mexico, one that many know the words to.”
While negative campaigning is barred by Mexican law, it thrives. One ad for Calderón said López Obrador would seize people’s homes as it was said in 1800 that Jefferson would burn all the Bibles in America if elected president. Another negative ad linked López Obrador to Hugo Chavez, Venezuelan president, who has become a Latin American bête noire to the United States just as Cuba’s Castro is.
López Obrador represents the Have Nots and the working people. He represents the wave of leftist governments sweeping Latin America including Chavez, Lula da Silva in Brazil and Vásquez in Uruguay.
In sharp contrast, Calderon is pro-business and represents the Haves. He wants a flat tax, a regressive measure that would lower taxes on business and the rich.
Typical of the positions of López Obrador, former Mexico City mayor: financial aid to single mothers and the elderly, renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement that hurts corn and bean farmers, resistance to privatization of oil and electricity firms, and free medicines and pensions for the aged.
Noam Chomsky in “Class Warfare” tells the truth about privatization: “giving away public assets for a fraction of what they are worth to rich cronies. Every president of Mexico…comes out a billionaire…as do all his friends and associates.”
López Obrador’s motto: “primeros los pobres” (first the poor). He wanted to crack down on tax evasion because wealthy Mexicans pay few taxes. He would have striven to improve the standard of living for the huge number of Mexicans now living in poverty.
While López Obrador does not use the flaming rhetoric of Subcommander Marcos of Chiapas state (“savage capitalism”), he is a populist in the true sense of being for the people against corporations and Big Business.
“When you talk about populism, you have to be careful,” he noted. “One talks about it when there are programs to help poor people but rescue the bankers and we call it development.”
Bribery, electoral fraud, indecent enrichment of Mexican presidents and other forms of corruption are imbedded in Mexican culture. These crimes suppress The People.
As Adam Smith, symbol of capitalism, admitted in his “The Wealth of Nations”: government is “instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor.”
The power structure in Mexico makes sure that leftists are kept out of power. They are a threat to the status quo and anathema to the right-wing Bush administration.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Abortion rights being squeezed ever tighter

It has been almost six years of unrelieved gloom with the Bush administration’s reactionary grip on America. But some cheering news has recently come out of Washington: approval of the morning-after contraceptive pill.
After a three-year struggle in which religion and ideology prevailed over science and common sense, the over-the-counter sale of the Plan B pill has been OK’d by the Food and Drug Administration. (Unfortunately, the FDA ruled out sale to minors.)
A scientific panel recommended, 23-4, adoption of the pill in 2003. But Bush right-wing politics intervened, presidential appointees obfuscating, stalling and constantly demanding further studies.
The FDA’s assistant commissioner for women’s health, Susan Wood, angrily quit over the reversal, pointing out that “scientific and clinical evidence” had been “fully evaluated and recommended by professionals.”
What caused the change of heart? Two things: the threat by Senate Democrats to hold up the nomination of a new FDA commissioner until the pill was approved and a lawsuit putting the fear of God into the agency.
But despite the pill victory, anti-choicers nationwide are putting more and more restrictions on the right to abortion guaranteed by Roe v. Wade in 1973. The Casey decision in 1992, reaffirming the right to abortion, declared that states cannot put an undue burden on access. But they are.
South Dakota began a new legal assault earlier this year with the aim of overturning Roe. It outlawed all abortions except to save a mother’s life. (The law is under legal challenge.) As it is, South Dakota, the 17th biggest state in the union, has just one abortion clinic. Reaching it sometimes requires a 700-mile roundtrip. This is particularly onerous for poor women living in remote areas.
Some states have imposed such restrictions as parental notification, a ban on late-term abortion and waiting periods. Missouri has abolished state funding for family planning and is encouraging childbirth.
A few states have adopted laws warning women seeking an abortion that the fetus will feel pain. Some states even approved legislation declaring that aborting an embryo is homicide.
Florence Ruderman, retired sociology professor at Brooklyn College, writes: “Some women have been hectored and humiliated. And some refusals have involved women who have been raped or whose lives or well-being would be endangered by pregnancy.”
Adding to abortion obstacles, some pharmacists are refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control, placing their moral and religious objections above professional obligation.
Columnist Katha Pollitt of Nation magazine says of the Bush base of right-wing Christians: “faced with a choice between sex and death, they choose death every time. No sex ed or contraceptions for teens, no sex for the unwed, no condoms for gays, no abortion for anyone--even for that poor 13-year-old pregnant girl” in Florida without home and family.
Pollitt rightly concludes: “Ah, Christian compassion! Christian sadism, more likely.” Meanwhile, the wing-nuts of the Right are cheered on by Fox, “the Right’s own network,” Pollitt concludes,
The zealots recall the Brendan Behan remark in “Borstal Boy”: “These religious bastards, they have empty minds on account of not going in for sex, or sport, or drink…or reading bad books.”
Then we have cretins like Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma who would execute abortion providers. He is too dense to understand that abortion is a matter between a woman and her doctor, not for blockhead lawmakers. The Roe guarantee of a privacy right should be inviolable.
Abstinence-only is one of the silliest policies of the Bush administration, on a par with sending Karen Hughes on a goodwill mission to Arab countries. As James Trussel, director of population research at Princeton, notes: “It all comes down to the evils of sex. That’s an ideological position impervious to empirical evidence.”
Bush is the idiot who backs the unintelligent “intelligent design” and opposes meaningful disease-combating stem cell research, bars global funding to any group that even talks about abortion, and attacks family planning and contraceptive use.
No other civilized country is still fussing over abortion rights as America is. Call the roll of civilized countries that have been allowing the over-the-counter pill for years: Canada, Britain, France, Portugal, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
The late-term abortion banned by Congress in 2003 has been struck down three times by federal appeals courts. But the Supreme Court nearly always has the last word.
Often it is a baleful word. Indeed, pro-choicers fear that the packing of the court with conservatives like Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito could doom Roe, an outcome of tragic proportions leading to senseless deaths and absurd criminalization.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

U.S. support of Israel is disastrous

(Second of two columns on Israel)
Again and again it must be emphasized: criticizing Israeli policies is not anti-Semitic.
It is not anti-Semitism to oppose Zionism, the establishment of a Jewish state. Many Jewish thinkers have long thought Zionism was wrong. They have argued that establishing Israel was setting up a religious state rather than a secular one, that it was unjust to displace people to establish a nation.
The critics were right.
The Israel Lobby and American apologists for Israel went into paroxysms of outrage over a scholarly article that appeared in the London Review of Books in March. The article, entitled “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” was co-authored by two distinguished professors, John Mearsheimer of Chicago university and Stephen Walt of Harvard.
They argued that a wide-ranging coalition of neoconservatives, Christian Zionists, the media and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee exert a stranglehold on Middle East policy and public debate in America. They deplored “unwavering U.S. support for Israel” as not in the best interest of America.
The argument by the two scholars hit a sensitive nerve, telling a truth that the coalition members could not bear to hear.
The mild-mannered, baldish professors were likened to Nazis. The Anti-Defamation League called their article “a classic conspiratorial anti-Semitic analysis invoking the canards of Jewish power and Jewish control.”
Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz was beside himself, declaring that the article “could have been written by Pat Buchanan, David Duke or Noam Chomsky.”
The outcry was so excessive that you would have thought the professors had written another Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Foreign Affairs, hardly a Chomskyite magazine, reviewed the article by Mearsheimer and Walt, calling it hard-headed and cogent. Their argument “cries out for careful consideration” and “just might set in motion a useful paradigm shift in the U.S. Middle East policy.” (Fat chance with Bush in the White House.)
Chomsky in “Failed States” writes a blistering indictment of Israel past and present. The recent invasion of Lebanon was nothing new. Israel bombed Beirut in 1985 as part of “Shimon Peres’ vicious Iron Fist operations targeting ‘terrorist villagers’ in Lebanon and bombing Tunis.”
The U.N. Security Council condemned the raids. But Secretary of State George Schultz applauded.
Independent reporter James Bamford rightly says that Israel should be treated like any other country and not as America’s 51st state.
Carrots and stick? It’s all carrots for Israel. Bamford says America should tell Israel: either abandon its illegal West Bank settlements or forfeit the $4 billion annually it gets from the United States. (Alas, it will never happen even with a liberal Democrat in the White House.)
Chomsky sounds the theme of Zionist ideology: “ ‘redeem The Land’ for its true owners who are returning to it after 2,000 years.” This meant kicking out the Palestinians and making them permanent exiles.
As Israeli historian Benny Morris has written: “the refugee problem was caused by attacks by Jewish forces on Arab villages and towns” and by a “crucial Israeli cabinet decision in June 1948 to bar a refugee return,” leaving the Palestinians “crushed with some 700,000 driven into exile.”
Chomsky notes that the infamous West Bank Wall today was designed to “prevent Palestinians from entering Israeli territory--meaning occupied territory--to be eventually incorporated within Israel.”`
Israeli spin is masterful. Chomsky cites the Israeli media blitz about withdrawal from Gaza a year ago: “There were pages and pages of photos and reports of the pathos of the families forced to leave their homes…the weeping children trying vainly to hold back the soldiers and the anguish of soldiers who were ordered to evict Jews from their homes.”
Israel recently pounded Lebanon with impunity but that’s OK with President Bush. He made it clear a long time ago that an even-handed policy in the Middle East was “for the birds.” As for former Premier Ariel Sharon, Bush said: “Let him cope with the Palestinians the way he wants to. Sometimes a show of force can do a lot of good.”
Why does the Arab world hate America? Easy. For the good reasons of:
• One-sided support for Israel while ignoring Palestinian rights and backing Israel’s illegal settlements on the West Bank.
• Invasions of Arab lands, dealing death, destruction and humilation.
• Support for authoritarian Arab regimes in the Middle East like Saudi Arabia.
The persecution and oppression of Arabs by the United States and Israel is nothing less than a modern crusade.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Israel is wrong again and again and again

When the full dimension of the Holocaust became clear after World War II--the unspeakable destruction of six million Jews--the U.N. General Assembly voted in 1947 to partition Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state.
The partition violated international law but fulfilled the Zionist dream of Theodor Herzl to found a Jewish state. Nevertheless, planting Israel in Arab lands was a mistake, one of the greatest errors in history.
That mistake cannot be undone. Israel is a fait accompli. The world must live with the horrible consequences, consequences of everlasting sorrow to neighboring Arab states, endless bloodshed and destruction, and endless discord and wars.
Israel’s latest outrage has been to batter Lebanon and Gaza. In Lebanon, it slaughtered 750 women and children who had nothing to do with Hezbollah. It wrought catastrophic destruction, pummeling the infrastructure. It used cluster bombs and senselessly bombed the Beirut airport. In short: terrorism.
In Gaza, Israel killed hundreds of innocent people. It created thousands of refugees. It cut electricity to 700,000 people. It captured Palestinian legislators, putting most of the Hamas leadership behind bars. In short: terrorism.
The United States approved. Indeed, President Bush informed Israel that it not only supported the offensive in Lebanon but suggested an attack on Syria too.
Madness, absolute madness by a mad administration.
The invasion of Lebanon was a gross overreaction to the cross-border seizure of two Israeli soldiers. (Israel has long been kidnapping Palestianians and Lebanese, tossing thousands into jail.) Amnesty International rightly cited Israel for war crimes.
Norman Solomon, in a recent online Truthout essay, pointed out: “For several decades, to the present moment, Israel’s treatment of Palestinian people has amounted to methodical and despicable violations of human rights.” In other words: terrorism.
Nation columnist Alexander Cockburn elaborated on other outrages: road systems that bypass Palestinian towns and villages, ever-expanding clusters of illegal settlements and “increasingly intolerable conditions of life for Palestinians, the torture of prisoners, the barriers to the simplest trip, the harassment of farmers and school children, and house demolitions.”
Israeli historian Benny Morris talks of Israeli seizure of Palestinian land: “Like all occupations, Israel’s was founded on brute force, repression and fear, collaboration and treachery, beatings and torture chambers, and daily intimidation, humiliation and manipulation.”
U.N. Resolution 242, mandating Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories, has been ignored by Israel with American acquiescence--as 45 other U.N. resolutions have been ignored. Earlier this year the U.N voted 170 to 4 for a Human Rights Council. The four dissenters were the United States, Israel and, forming a “coalition of the willing,” the powerful nations of Palau and the Marshall Islands.
Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano likened Israel’s West Bank Wall to the hated Berlin Wall, a Wall of Shame, a Wall of Infamy. The World Court condemned the barrier, saying it violated international law. But the United States and Israel were unperturbed. They decide what is lawful.
This evil coalition assaults Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon with impunity. Next targets: Iran and Syria? As media critic Edward Herman wrote:
“The central global problem of organized violence and lawlessness in the early 21st century lies in the aims, collaboration and the power of the U.S.-Israeli axis. These partners in aggression and state terrorism reinforce each other’s projections of power: the out-of-control superpower protecting the regional client’s ethnic cleansing.”
One reason America and Israel are in lockstep is the powerful Israel Lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
William Engdahl, writing in the Asia Times, commented: “No lobby has managed to divert foreign policy so far from what the American national interest would otherwise suggest while simultaneously convincing Americans that U.S. and Israeli interests are essentially identical.”
The unwritten U.S. alliance with Israel has no justification.
Then there is the smothering bias of the U.S. media. A former executive editor of the New York Times admitted favoring Israel in its coverage. The editor of the Wall Street Journal with his 14th century mind says: “Shamir, Sharon, Bibi: whatever those guys want is pretty much fine by me.”
The late Palestinian President Arafat was always the villain. Ariel Sharon, “the Butcher of Beirut,” was portrayed as a man of peace. The Israelis were always the good guys.
But the truth is otherwise. Israel is a terrorist state, its morality long since shattered. It gives the lie to Herzl’s prediction that Israel would serve as “the vanguard of civilization against barbarism.”