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, May 17, 2007

Impeachment of Bush gaining advocates

Daniel Ellsberg, who did the nation a great favor by leaking the Pentagon Papers to the press, proposes an even greater favor to the country: impeachment of President Bush.

“If you want to move Bush on Iraq, get serious about impeachment,” Ellsberg says.

The impeachment idea is catching on despite burial of the stories by the obsequious media and the cowardly Democrats controlling Congress.

The Democratic Party of California is demanding impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. So is Lawrence Wilkerson, former State Department chief of staff. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, the best Democrat running for president, urges impeachment of Cheney. The reasons are powerful:

• Falsifying intelligence to justify the Iraq war.

• Claiming falsely that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

• Declaring falsely that Iraq was a threat to America.

• Seeing mushroom clouds that falsely raised the fear factor.

• Linking Saddam Hussein fraudulently with al-Qaida.

• Torturing and outsourcing torture.

• Wiretapping citizens without a warrant.

• Denying the sacred habeus corpus.

• Politicizing every agency and department while ignoring the good of most people.

• Outing a CIA agent.

• Abusing laws passed by Congress by issuing signing statements that King Bush can decide what the laws mean.

California Sen. Hiram Johnson spoke in 1919 about U.S. intervention in the Russian Revolution, calling it the criminal policy it was : “We have engaged in a miserable misadventure…setting at naught our promises. We…suffer the odium and infamy of (the world)…We have sacrificed our own blood to no purpose and into American homes have brought sorrow and suffering. Bring the boys home from Russia.”

Substitute Iraq for Russia and soldiers for boys and the speech is valid today.

Bush has mandated a war that requires no sacrifice except for the parents and loved ones whose sons and daughters are dying or being mutilated. The Army is stretched so thin that soldiers face multiple and extended tours. The price in lives and money soars: nearly 3,400 soldiers, $500 billion wasted. ($500 billion would provide 10 years of health insurance for every uncovered American.)

To Bush, ideology is everything, the good of the people nothing. He has absolutely no credibility about anything. He insists on what cartoonist Garry Trudeau in “Doonesbury” calls situational science, taking “both sides of scientific argument, not just the one supported by facts.”

George Tenet, former CIA director, now admits he remained silent while the neocons salivated over the war that they sought even before 9/11. Tenet, like Colin Powell, former secretary of state, should have resigned as a matter of principle and told the nation why. But few officials high or low have the courage to do so even if the American people pay the price of abominable policies.

If I were Dante, I would reserve the hottest place in Hades for people like Tenet and Powell who remain silent when they should protest.

Bush reeks with hypocrisy. He tears up the Constitution 364 days a year but has the chutzpah to speak on Law Day about celebrating “the Constitution and the laws that protect our rights and liberties.” He constantly pleads for Congress to support the troops. Yet conditions at veterans hospitals are appalling. Outpatient care is shoddy, with wounded patients often forced to care for one another.

Good U.S. attorneys are fired for political reasons. Politics, always politics, in the Bush administration. Ideology and politics abound in worker health, worker safety, drug safety, air pollution and even the General Services Administration.

Commentators are devastating. Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist, rightly calls Bush a “clear and present danger to national security.” Bob Herbert, another Times columnist, cites “The emptiness of the administration’s moral landscape.” Frank Rich, fine essayist for the Times: “a presidency that is inclined to fictionalize almost everything…a divider not a uniter.” And syndicated columnist Robert Scheer: “The hanging of Saddam Hussein was an act of barbarity that makes a mockery of President Bush’s claim that it was ‘an important milestone on Iraq’s course to becoming a democracy.’ ”

A New Hampshire Republican, an ordinary citizen being courted for his vote in the 2008 presidential primary, is so right when he says America can never win in Iraq but it can stay there forever.

Bush is a woeful, sub-sub-mediocre man. What T.S. Eliot would call a hollow man, a stuffed man. Bush has been a consummate tragedy for America and the world. He has botched every job he ever had, the presidency the worst of all. He and the gruesome Cheney should be impeached.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Court ‘enacts’ abortion plank in Bush platform

The five politicians on the Supreme Court have declared, in effect, that abortion is infanticide. President Bush is beaming like the cretin he is over an appalling decision.

A New York Times editorial was dead right: “It comes at a real cost to the court’s credibility, its integrity and the rule of law.”

The Retrograde Five overturned many excellent lower court rulings. It reversed the Supreme Court’s own rule that abortion regulations must have an exception to protect a woman’s health.

Three points about the ruling are clear. 1) The law changes with the changing members of the court. 2) The court often decides cases on the basis of its morality rather on that of most people. 3) It is profoundly disturbing that just five justices--all men--make the law for millions about a private matter between a woman and her doctor.

The court recently upheld, 5-4, a moralistic measure passed by a reprehensible Republican Congress. It bore a propagandist title worthy of Goebbels: Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act.

On point one, if Justice Sandra Day O’Connor had still been on the court, it would have been 5-4 the other way. Although a conservative, O’Connor consistently voted pro-choice.

On point two, the Supreme Court refused in 1983 to review lower court rulings upholding firings of two people by a Texas police department simply because of their off-duty cohabitation. Similarly, in 1977 it refused to grant certiorari when the lower courts upheld the firing of two Pennsylvania library workers because they were living together but unmarried. In neither case was competency in question.

On point three, Justice Kennedy’s opinion was patronizing--and absurd. He talked about the “profound respect for the life within the woman.” He blathered about the act expressing “the dignity of human life.” He blithered about the “ethical and moral concerns.” He bleated about “the bond of love that the mother has for her child.”

In dissent, Justice Ginsburg, the sole woman on the court, honed in on the long discredited male view. She pointed out that:

• The majority decision was alarming and irrational, the hostility to abortion obvious. Its rationale was flimsy.

• It “tolerates, indeed applauds, federal intervention to ban a procedure found necessary…by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.”

• The court’s obligation “is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate (its) own moral code.”

• “The court deprives women of the right to make an autonomous choice, even at the expense of safety.”

In nonjudical language, the court ruled “to keep women barefoot and pregnant.” But a pro-choice banner has sound advice for government and courts: “butt out of women’s lives.”

The decision sanctions gross interference by government into medical matters. The barred procedure is often necessary to protect women’s health--and even life in case of kidney failure and heart problems.

The ruling is in keeping with the Bush administration’s retrograde anti-sex agenda: it opposes abortion, deludes itself about abstinence, tries to block the effective morning-after pill, opposes use of a vaccine to combat cervical cancer, and spreads false information about condoms to adolescents.

Tragically, the decision portends Retrograde Five thinking: reversal of Roe. The states keep chipping away at the right to abortion, approving onerous abortion curbs undermining Roe.


The numbers are not high for the dilation and extraction abortion at issue in the case, about 2,200 a year. But the principle is everything. Women have an absolute right to abortion, a right to privacy that Justice Harry Blackmun in Roe found in the “penumbras of the Bill of Rights.”

As the San Francisco Chronicle wrote: “Millions of American women…have been faced with one of the most difficult decisions of their lives…Doctors should be free to provide them with safe, private care.”

Dorothy Samuels, New York Times editorial writer, correctly noted that the court had enshrined “the rhetoric and tactical positioning of the anti-abortion movement.” Most notably, she added, the court was using junk science while pretending to act for “for women’s own good to protect their mental and moral health.”

Clearly, the Supreme Court is marching backward. Even predominantly Catholic countries like Portugal and cities like Mexico City have recently defied the Vatican by legalizing abortion.

Justice Louis Brandeis, perhaps the greatest Supreme Court justice, wrote in a wise dissent: “In the exercise of (our) high power, we must be forever on our guard lest we erect our prejudices into legal principles.” The court has done precisely that: turning its prejudices into legal principles.