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

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Obama by far the best

Voters have many reasons to vote for Barack Obama for president, none for John McCain.
First and foremost: Obama is not Bush. McCain is a Bush carbon copy. Obama would bring fresh air to the White House after eight years of the Bush miasma. Obama is young and zesty. McCain is old and fusty. Obama is intelligent, McCain is dim-bulbed.
McCain means perpetual war. Obama would pull out from Iraq. McCain means more deregulation and privatization, the ruinous policies of the Bush administration.
McCain wants more tax cuts for the wealthy and is still urging the thoroughly discredited trickle-down economics. It means more bailouts for Wall Street but no extension of jobless benefits for Main Street.
McCain means anti-choice, Obama is pro-choice. McCain would pack the Supreme Court with right-wingers. Obama’s model is Earl Warren, America’s greatest chief justice.
An Obama adminstration would be pro-labor, pro-environment, pro-science. McCain means more of the same backward Bush policies.
McCain chose a bubblehead, Sarah Palin, as vice president. The choice is worse than absurd. It is surreal. Palin is a preppie, a pompom waver. She emits folksy yeahs, doggone its, betchas, gonnas and sayin’s. And that come-hither wink. Please.
Palin’s ducking and bobbing is worthy of Muhammad Ali. Her inarticulateness is jarring. Her contradictions are glaring. Palin is an embarrassment even to some Republicans.
The Palin-McCain ticket, lagging in the polls, has resorted to the Sludge Machine Guns. Palin says Obama is “palling around with terrorists.” Such demagoguery, worthy of Joe McCarthy, brings out cries from the vigilantes: “kill him” and “off with his head.”
GOP audiences are reminded that Obama’s middle name is Hussein. His “terrorist” friend, a radical when Obama was 8, is a respected educator today.
McCain has run such a hate-filled, race-baiting, cynical campaign that even many conservative gurus have endorsed Obama.
McCain, who was smeared out of the presidential nomination in 2000, is so desperate to win the White House that he is stooping to smears.
Many doctors are concerned about McCain’s health, 2,768 of them taking out a fullpage ad in the New York Times. The doctors, urging McCain to release his medical records, said: “McCain is 72 years old and has been diagnosed with invasive melanoma.”
McCain’s labeling of Obama as a socialist is laughable. Obama voted for Bush’s unconsitutional wiretapping bill. His rants about Venezuela and Cuba are as bad as Bush’s. He would keep the inhumane Cuban embargo. He grovels before the Jewish lobby.
Obama wants a surge of U.S. troops in Afghanistan instead of cutting the nation’s losses, declaring victory and getting out. He chides the Supreme Court for refusing to allow the execution of child rapists. He catered to the NRA after the Supreme Court’s pro-gun ruling.
But none of Obama’s positions compares with McCain’s retrogradeism on just about everything.
The great satirist Tom Lehrer noted that satire died the day Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It died a second time when McCain said he would clean up the mess in Washington. McCain has been an integral part of that mess for 26 years.
McCain as war hero? A myth.
He flew 23 bombing missions over North Vietnam. He was awarded two Silver Stars, two Legions of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Bronze Stars, the Vietnamese Legion of Honor and three Purple Hearts.
Not bad for a war criminal, as he himself admitted to Mike Wallace on CBS’ “60 Minutes” in 1997. “I bombed innocent women and children,” he said.
McCain was killing Vietnamese--the same people who had savcd his life--from the safety of an airplane without fear of nonexistent enemy aircraft and anti-aircraft guns.
Douglas Valentine, writing in the CounterPunch newsletter, said McCain was North Vietnam’s “go-to collaborator.” He “provided his voice in radio broadcasts for the North Vietnamese,” his Vietnamese handlers using “him regularly as a prop at meetings with foreign delegations.”
McCain was on the air so often in propaganda broadcasts that a wire service headlined a dispatch in 1969: “PW Songbird Is Pilot Son of Admiral.”
Valentine, author of “The Hotel Tacloban,” a story of his father’s imprisonment by the Japanese in World War II, concludes that McCain was a psychewar stooge, “a hollow man, his only allegiance is to power.”
Valentine also doubts that McCain was tortured. He quotes McCain’s two senior officers in prison, Ted Guy and Swede Larson: “It is our belief that no prisoner was beaten or harmed…No one else in that camp was.”
In his 1999 autobiography, “Faith of My Fathers,” McCain says he felt bad throughout his captivity because he was being treated more leniently than fellow POWs. Why? His father was commander of the Pacific fleet.
But never underestimate the stupidity of American voters.
This is a nation where the majority believe in ghosts, 57 percent of adults believe God’s intervention can save a life even when doctors declare the case hopeless, and 45 percent of noncollege grads believe in the literal truth of the Bible.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Philistine irks opera lover

The man that…is not moved with concord of sweet sounds…the motions of his spirit are dull as night.
--“The Merchant of Venice,” 5, 1, 83

The deep secret of Cory Farley, hidden from his legions of admirers in the Truckee Meadows, was revealed in a column he wrote recently for the Reno News & Review. The secret: he is a philistine!
Farley, so right in his battles with the reactionaries of northern Nevada as a columnist for the Reno Gazette-Journal and now the RN&R, is so wrong about opera.
“In my heart, I don’t believe anyone truly enjoys opera,” Farley wrote. “The ululations of sopranos, particularly, torture my ears. When that caterwauling starts, my hand snaps to the tuner like a frog’s tongue to a fly.
“I’ve been told this is a failing in me and not in the world at large but the belief persists: opera lovers are faking it.”
Opera lovers are not faking it. Farley should listen to his intelligent head and not his insensitive heart.
I love opera. I have listened to Met broadcasts since the 1950s when Milton Cross was the announcer. Opera’s magnificent arias, lovely melodies and lively tunes put to shame crass Country, raucous Rock and ridiculous Rap.
I never tire of hearing ballet music like “The Dance of the Hours” in “La Gioconda.” The haunting barcarolle of “Belle nuit” in “The Tales of Hoffmann.” The joyous toast to champagne, the King of Wines, in “Fledermaus.”
Opera is fine theater with great lines in the libretto. In “Tosca,” the lustful Scarpia cries out: “Tosca, you make me forget God.” In “Otello,” the evil Iago declares: “I believe in a cruel God who has created me.” In “Der Rosenkavalier,” the Marschallin gazes into a mirror and realizes with heartbreaking sadness that she is getting old, her beauty fading.
I don’t think Rossini ever wrote a bad note. In stark contrast, Ben Jonson wished that the incomparable Shakespeare “had blotted a thousand” lines. Rossini’s operas, exemplified by “The Barber of Seville,” are joyful, tuneful and wonderful.
No one ever wrote so many great operas as Verdi and Puccini. Anyone who cannot appreciate their sheer lyricism, their poignancy, is fit only “for treasons, strategems and spoils.”
I sometimes get chills when great voices sing great arias. Even “La Bohème,” the most frequently performed opera, will never be a chestnut if sung well. (One opera buff says “La Nozze di Figaro” is breathtaking even when sung poorly.)
Listening to live broadcasts of the Met, I have been moved to the essence of my being when beautiful voices sing glorious arias. At such times tears stream from my eyes.
Every spring the Met, after closing its New York season, would go on the road for couple of weeks. They often came to Detroit, where I was then living.
My paperbook of “Stories of Famous Operas,” tattered and falling apart, is covered with notations of Met performances and singers. In the book I list my favorite operas.
No. 1 is “La Bohème,” doubtless for sentimental reasons. A vinyl version was given to me by a newspaper buddy in Baltimore, Pat Sloyan. What an introduction to the Joys of Opera! The two principal artists on the RCA Victor are operatic eminences Victoria de los Angeles and Jussi Bjoerling.
Others on the list: 2) “La Traviata”; 3) “Lucia di Lammermoor”; 4) “Tosca”; 5) “Aïda”; 6) “Rigoletto”; 7) “Il Trovatore”; 8) “Der Rosenkavalier”; 9) “Fledermaus”; 10) “The Tales of Hoffmann”; 11) “Fidelio”; 12) “La Gioconda”; 13) “Tannhäuser”; 14) “The Barber of Seville”; 15) “Madame Butterfly”; 16) “Cavalleria Rusticana”; 17) “Carmen”; 18) “The Marriage of Figaro”; 19) “I Pagliacci”; and 20) ”Hänsel and Gretel.”
Once when the Met was on tour I saw a performance by Joan Sutherland in Cleveland. Indescribable magnificence. But I learned something walking to the exit: every generation has its stars.
As I passed two grandes dames, one said to the other: “She was good but nothing like Galli-Curci.” (Galli-Curci was a great coloratura soprano in the Golden Age of Caruso.)
Wagner, a giant of opera, is an acquired taste, much like scotch. But some of his music is marvelous, his leitmotifs compelling.
I watched the Ring cycle on PBS-TV years ago, gaining much greater appreciation of Wagner as a composer and dramatist.
Opera plots? Convoluted, contrived, absurd. But what really matters is the music and singing just as the “music” in Shakespeare is far more important than the plots.
I have gone to Nevada Opera productions every year since I came to Reno in 1981. I go, not to be seen and preen as some opera goers do, but because opera is one of the great pleasures in life.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Troglodytes choose McSame McCain

Blackness is all.
That is why John McCain will win the presidency next month. He is white, Barack Obama is black. The era of Bubba politics is far from over.
If Obama were white he would be leading by 15 to 20 points. His stance on the issues is good, McCain’s retrograde. This is really a Democratic year.
President Bush has been unspeakable during eight years in office. He went to war in Iraq with lies. He sanctions torture and violates the Constitution. His immoral policies destroyed worldwide belief in America.
His disastrous reign has seen the economy collapse into financial chaos and left the treasury $10 trillion in debt. He rejects the truth of science for reactionary ideology. He trashes the environment and packs the Supeme Court with troglodytes.
But none of that matters to boobus Americanus. Color does. Racism triumphs over issues, justice and decency.
American voters love military men. Seventeen of 43 presidents have been generals or fought in wars.
Navy pilot McCain was shot down in Vietnam and held prisoner for five years. This hardly qualifies him to be president but for too many voters it does.
Other factors point to a McCain victory: Rovian dirty tricks, swift-boating, demonizing Obama (middle name Hussein), Republican ballot-tampering and its success at keeping blacks from the polls.
Another depressing reality is that so many Americans vote GOP against their own economic interests. Union members voted in droves for Reagan and Bush II despite their hostility to labor. Reagan smashed the air controllers’ strike. McCain’s 45 percent support of union members is probably higher because of closet racism.
Then there is the factor of voter gullibility--not to say stupidity. McCain, the Great Same as Bush, is trying to pass himself off as a populist. Yet he supported the financial mess the nation is in. He boasted that he was a deregulator extraordinaire.
He backed Sen. Phil Gramm for president in 1996 because he was an archderegulator. McCain voted repeatedly against efforts to tighten regulation of the savings and loan industry. He was involved in the Keating Five S&L scandals, escaping with a reprimand by the Senate Ethics Committee.
His holier-than-thou positioning is as brazen as it is absurd. McCain declares that he takes care of veterans. Not so. He opposed the new GI Bill of Rights. The Disabled American Veterans give McCain a 20 percent rating compared with Obama’s 80 percent. The Iraq and Afghanistan Vets give McCain a D, Obama a B-.
McCain is a warmonger and a fearmonger. He constantly sees “light at the end of the tunnel” in Iraq but in reality that war and the war in Afghanistan are unwinnable. As Talleyrand said of the Bourbons: McCain “has learned nothing and forgotten nothing.”
And what about the straight talker? McCain is a phony, a hollow man lacking in character. His integrity is nil. No wonder Mike Green, Nevada historian and astute political observer, calls McCain “the biggest whore in American politics.”
McCain confessed that he lied in 2000 about his hooraying for the Confederate flag. He admitted he knew little about economics then denied having said so. He proclaimed the fundamentals of the economy strong as recession clouds gathered.
The St. Petersburg Times calls McCain’s so-called straight talk “a toxic mix of lies and double-speak.” He fibs when he says Obama would raise taxes on all Americans. The Obama tax plan would cut taxes on 80 percent of households and raise them on those who make more than $227,000 a year.
McCain implies that Obama is a traitor for not supporting the Iraq war. He blames him for high gasoline prices. He calls the centrist Obama a tax-and-spend liberal, a flagrant leftist. The absurdities are obvious.
McCain made a grossly irresponsible choice for veep, picking an ignoramus. His dash to the Right is frantic. As a maverick he supported Roe. Now he is opposed. He once called tax cuts for the wealthy wrong but now he favors them.
And what about that military background? He finished 894th in a class of 899 at the Naval Academy. He was such a lousy pilot that he crashed five planes before being shot down in Vietnam.
Newspaper people learn never to make predictions in print. Nevertheless, the feeling is inescapable that McCain will win.
Many blacks wept tears of joy when Obama won the nomination. The fear is that they will weep again after Obama loses, tears also shed by millions of Americans of all parties, all races, all colors and all creeds.