Holding Glenn Beck Accountable Week: Part One

Glenn Beck

Courtesy of earthfirst.com

If you read my blog post last Thursday, then you know that I’ve decided to dedicate an entire week to analyzing and fact-checking Glenn Beck as a way to celebrate the first anniversary of The Beltway Perspective.  Every day, I’ll be watching Glenn Beck’s program, summarizing what Beck discussed on the show, and offering my own analysis on whatever the predominant topic or theme was.  In addition, I’ll keep a tally of the number of times that Beck mentions progressivism, socialism, communism, Marxism and fascism, just for fun.

Because of the nature of my self-imposed assignment, I will not be able to go into as much depth in countering Beck’s arguments as I would like to.  I’ll bullet most of the topics that Beck discusses, but I’ll identify one subject per episode to cover more extensively.

Tonight’s episode was a bit tame by Beck’s standard.  He limited himself to only 13 mentions of progressives (in a derogatory context), three mentions of communism, one mention of socialism and one mention of Fascism. Below is a list of a few issues discussed on tonight’s show:

Show Recap: Monday

  • Beck started the evening by linking President Obama with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  He reports that Ahmadinejad met with Louis Farrakhan of the New Black Panthers, and then implies that Obama is Farrakhan’s ally. He suggests that Obama had the lawsuit addressing voter intimidation at the polls against Farrakhan’s Black Panthers dropped, and insinuates that because Obama is a “Farrakhan advocate,” he must also support Ahmadinejad’s tyrannical government.  Beck started down the schizophrenic rabbit hole right from the start with this little monologue.
  • In the vein of an Oprah style book club guide, Beck started rambling off a selection of books that every American should read.  Among them was Friedrich Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom,” which links the welfare state to totalitarian rule of government and “New Deal Raw Deal” by Burton Folsom Jr., which suggests that FDR’s economic legacy damaged America.  Biased, but I’ll give Beck some credit here.  At least he is encouraging people to read.
  • I believe the following will be the focal point of tomorrow’s show, so I will not cover it in-depth now, but Beck suggested that Obama is responsible for the Feds pushing for warrantless GPS tracking, cyber surveillance and x-ray vans that spy on you in your homes.  To quote Beck on the subject of the x-ray vans, “They’re using them now in your neighborhoods and the Obama administration won’t say exactly why we’re buying their vans and driving them down our streets.” I need to dig a bit on this one, but I have a feeling a Glenn’s leaving a few pieces of the story out of his report.
  • Apparently the Department of Education is indoctrinating our children with environmental policies that are meant to turn them against their parents and into zombies for the government.  This is part of the broader, in-depth story that I will publish tomorrow morning.

I wanted to provide you with a bit of content today, but because Beck does not air until 5:00 p.m., I need a bit more time to really break down the content of the show.  Please check back tomorrow afternoon for a deeper look into Beck’s allegations that Cass Sustein, Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, is the “most dangerous man in America” because he wants to “manipulate the American people,” whom he supposedly believes are too stupid to realize that they are being manipulated.

Please let me know if there is anything that you’d like me to add to the Beck reports, and if you have any specific concerns that you would like me to address.  If you want to watch with me and discuss the show on Twitter, use the hashtag #WOB (Week of Beck).  See you then.

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My Effort to Restore Sanity: Holding Glenn Beck Accountable Week

To Celebrate the First Anniversary of The Beltway Perspective, a New Post Every Day Analyzing and Fact Checking my Favorite Pundit

Birthday Cake

Courtesy of Rob J. Brooks

Ready your confetti and streamers.  We’re going to do this birthday right.

For the past few weeks, I’ve pondered ways to celebrate my 365th day as a blogger.  I wanted a fresh idea; a way to really give back to the readers who’ve stuck with me for a year now.  Then it hit me; the best gift I can give is content – lots and lots of content.  That’s when I decided that I would post every day between September 27 and October 1.

But what to post about?  Let’s be honest, I rarely come up with original content.  I play the role of political analyst, weighing in on news that everyone else is already covering.  This special week of non-stop posts calls for something more.

Why Just Cover the News?  Let’s Help Make It!

Last week, I was inspired by Jon Stewart’s announcement that he plans to hold the “Rally to Restore Sanity” here in the District of Columbia on October 30.  Stewart made the announcement just weeks after the decidedly insane Glenn Beck held his “Restoring Honor” rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  Was Beck’s rally insane?  No.  But he is.

There could be no better way to respond to Stewart’s plea for sensibility than to help him pave the way for sanity here in the nation’s capital.  That’s why, starting Monday, I will watch Glenn Beck so that you don’t have to.  I will analyze every word of every show, fact checking and poking fun along the way.  Oh, we’ll have some laughs, we’ll have some cries (knowing Beck, there might be a lot of crying), and we’ll even have a daily scorecard tracking the total number of times Beck mentions socialism, communism, progressivism and Marxism.

(**Please note: If you plan on playing the Glenn Beck drinking game using the terms listed above, only drink when Beck uses one of the keywords within two words of President Obama’s name; i.e. “Obama’s socialist agenda” or “Obama’s Marxist cabinet.”  Otherwise, you risk alcohol poisoning)

Since Tea Party Movement is already taken, we’ll call it the Birthday Party Movement

Let’s make this celebration worthwhile.  Tell your friends, family, former teachers, religious leaders, and the man standing next to you in line at Burger King that it’s time to restore sanity and in order to do that, we need to make sure everyone knows that Glenn Beck is insane.

Let’s become the news story.

***Message to Steven Colbert: It was only after thoughtful consideration that I opted to join Jon Stewart’s campaign to restore sanity.  While I respect your patriotism and service to this country, Stewart’s vision for America better resonates with my own.  I’m sorry that I will be working counter to your effort to keep fear alive.

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Is Islamaphobia Sweeping the Nation?

Anniversary of 9/11 and Proposed Mosques Stir National Debate About Islam

9/11 Attack on the World Trade Center

Courtesy of mommylife.net

It is hard to believe that nine years have elapsed since terrorists devastated our collective national psyche.  The attacks left us feeling vulnerable and confused, compelling us to seek swift vengeance against an enemy we couldn’t fully understand.  Despite the fact that I never supported the war in Iraq, I understand why initially, the nation overwhelmingly supported the campaign.  We did not have the luxury of time to be contemplative or deliberative.  We also had little experience dealing with the Arab world.  Prior to 9/11, our primary dealings with the Middle East consisted of mediating the peace process between Palestine and Israel.  We had an oversimplified understanding of the Muslim world, so it not surprising that we failed to realize that our aggressors were not somehow connected to Saddam Hussein.

Now we have no excuse

You would think that after nearly a decade, we would better know our enemy. Sadly, this is not the case.  The ideological battle line that we drew against Islam remains intact, and it fails to account for the difference between Muslim extremists and pacifists.  This is painfully obvious if you’ve turned on the news anytime within the past month and seen the reports covering the national uproar concerning the proposed site of an Islamic center near the World Trade Center site.

Proposed New York City Islamic Center Site in Relation to Ground Zero

Courtesy of Wikipedia.com

Where to begin

I couldn’t figure out where all the controversy surrounding this project began, so I took to the internet.  I came across a Washington Post article that credits conservative blogger “Pam Geller, a former New York Observer publisher” with leading the charge against the mosque.

“Through her blog, Atlas Shrugs, television interviews and appearances at political rallies, Geller has become one of the chief organizers of opposition to the so-called Ground Zero mosque as well as efforts to build other Muslim prayer centers across the country.”

“Geller has become a prominent voice in the debate despite the fact that she once promoted the view that Obama is Malcolm X’s love child. She frequently warns that Muslims are trying to impose repressive sharia law on the United States, refers to the president’s holiday message to Muslims as “Obama Ramadamadingdong” and promotes a Web site, Religion of Peace,that claims to tally the number of people killed around the world by Muslim extremists.” – WP

OK, OK.  She’s a nutbag, but maybe she has a point.  Perhaps it is a bit insensitive to build a Muslim center within a stone’s throw (if you’re Roberto Clemente) from the World Trade Center site.  But that doesn’t explain the protests at mosques proposed in Tennessee and California.

OK… Now things are starting to sound a bit Reichy

Burned construction vehicles at proposed mosque site in Tennessee

Courtesy of AOL News

A few weeks ago, construction vehicles parked at the site of the future Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, a Nashville suburb, were set ablaze in an arson incident.  As with the people of New York, Tennesseans in Murfreesboro don’t want to see a mosque built in their town.  Unfortunately, they don’t have the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history to fall back on as justification for this sentiment.  Instead, they’ll settle for blatant racism.

According to the Associated Press, opponents of the Islamic center fear that the mosque will be used as a “terrorist training ground for Muslim militants bent on overthrowing the U.S. government.”

“They are not a religion. They are a political, militaristic group,” said Bob Shelton, a 76-year-old area retiree quoted in the AP article.

Man carrying Islam protest sign

Courtesy of mediamatters.org

According to CBS News, “Shelton was among several hundred demonstrators who recently wore ‘Vote for Jesus’ T-shirts and carried signs that said ‘No Sharia law for USA!’ Others took their opposition further, spray painting a sign announcing the ‘Future site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro’ and tearing it up.”

Other protesters expressed strong opinions opposing the mosque.

“No mosque in Murfreesboro. I don’t want it. I don’t want them here,” Evy Summers said. “Go start their own country overseas somewhere. This is a Christian country. It was based on Christianity.”

This country was founded on freedom of religion… so long as it’s my religion

Islam Protest Sign: "Islam is the Enemy - Shove Shariah Up Yours"

Courtesy of mediamatters.org

Here’s where I take issue.  I can understand how the mosque near Ground Zero could be upsetting to people.  Moving it out of Manhattan altogether?  Probably a bit much, but OK.  But what’s the excuse in Tennessee?  Or at the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley, where conservative protesters, angry about another proposed mosque, stood outside prayer services “shouting slogans of hate through a bullhorn, carried signs with messages like ‘No More Mosques in America’ and brought along several dogs, hoping to offend Muslim sensibilities.”

Pastor Terry Jones backed his way out of the national spotlight when he decided not to demonstrate against Islam and the New York City mosque by burning a pile of Qurans.  He ultimately pulled the plug after Gen. David Petraeus said “the Taliban would exploit the demonstration for propaganda purposes, drumming up anger toward the U.S. and making it harder for allied troops to carry out their mission of protecting Afghan civilians.”

Jones did, however, justify the “Burn a Quran Day” event by saying he’s hurt “when people burn the flag when they burn the Bible [and] when they burn down churches.”  Here’s a question for Mr. Jones: When was the last time Muslims in the United States demonstrated against Christianity by burning Bibles and churches?  The Hill’s Armstrong Williams put it best:

“God-inspired or not, what Terry Jones was promising to do is simply un-American. We don’t burn our own flags. We don’t like it when others do. And we sure don’t burn the symbols of other cultures and religions simply because we have that right. I respect the constitutional rights of any American — every American, for that matter. But there’s something inherently wrong with what Pastor Jones threatened to do before coming to his senses.”

Time Magazine posed a great question in the title of an August article: “Islamophobia: Does America Have a Muslim Problem?”  Can anyone really argue that we don’t?  In a Washington Post poll, “49 percent of all Americans say they have generally unfavorable opinions of Islam, compared with 37 percent who say they have favorable ones.”  Those numbers don’t really weigh in favor of tolerance.

Ask any Catholic if his religion is practiced the same way a Methodist practices his.  Ask a Reform Jew if he practices the same way as a Hasidic Jew.  As any Ijtihad (moderate) Muslim if he practices Islam the same way as a Jihadist.  All will vehemently defend their faiths as distinct from the other.  So before we allow ourselves to label the entire Muslim world as a conglomerate of militant extremists, consider the fact that “’only 15 percent of the fatalities resulting from al Qaeda attacks between 2004 and 2008 were Westerners,” according to a report in  the Washington Times.  Let us also consider the fact that 94 percent of the terrorist attacks perpetrated in the United States between 1980 and 2005 were perpetrated by non-Muslims.

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Bread Bowls, Suspenders and Sarah Palin

How an Elderly Man in 50s Garb Taught me a Valuable Lesson

I had a deeply profound, introspective moment last week, and it occurred in the most unlikely place: Panera Bread.  There I was, picking apart the last little bit of my sourdough bread

Suspenders

Courtesy of Stephen Trendy's Fashion Diary

bowl, when an elderly man wearing suspenders asked me a single, simple question that sparked a torrent of thoughts that tortured my psyche for the better part of a week.

“Are you going to see Sarah Palin speak tomorrow?”

Anticlimactic, right? Well, not really.  Immediately, I became enraged that this man could confuse me with someone who’d actually join the droves of people flooding D.C. for Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally.  Though fuming on the inside, I remained calm and unfettered on the surface as I responded “no, not this time.”

The man seemed disappointed, likely realizing that my family had no intention of joining him at his table to discuss the moral decay of America.

Sarah Palin Speaking at Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" Rally

Courtesy of CBS News

“Oh, I saw her Alaska shirt (the man said, referring to a shirt that my mother bought while on a cruise to Alaska), and thought you folks might have come down to see her speak.”

Unbelievable! This man actually thinks we’d travel more than 4000 miles to see that imbecile complain about more things that she has no idea how to fix?

“No, no, we’re from around here,” my mom said, in a cordial, albeit awkward tone.

As we left the restaurant, my mind was still racing.  “Who does that?” I thought to myself, still unable to get a handle of my emotions.  Then it hit me.  I embodied the quality that I hate most about Tea Partiers.

It was one of those self-realization, venture down the rabbit hole moments that was probably a long time coming.  I have grown to so stigmatize the extreme right, that the mere suggestion that I might be associated with them enraged me.  To be honest, I’m embarrassed and ashamed.

How can I sit here, advocating that our country strive for better cohesion and temperament in our national dialogue, when I can’t even embrace that notion over a cup of soup with an old man?  I had become just as polarized as the extremists I denounce.

Elephant vs. Donkey

Courtesy of Ten Minutes a Week

When was humanity lost in political discourse?  For too long, we’ve forgotten that our political enemies are still people.  They have families.  They own dogs.  I’ll even go out on a limb and suggest that they root for the same sports teams we do.  But the second that someone brings up the national debt or the immigration issue, we forget that we’re dealing with people.  People who deserve the right to have an opinion.

Please know that this does not mean that I will not comment critically on extremism in the conservative movement in future posts.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love a fervent, heated debate, but only as long as it ends with the victor buying the less-apt debater a beer after all is said and done.

**Note to my readers:  I know that the blog has been on a bit of a hiatus for about three months now, but I intend to start writing weekly from this point on.  I appreciate the patience you’ve exhibited, and look forward to restarting our dialogue.

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Blog Update

I’m sure this isn’t news to most of you, but posts to the Beltway Perspective have come more and more infrequently as of late.  I would like to offer my sincerest apology to my readers for this lack of content.  I am attempting to redefine my goals for this blog, and further explore new directions I would like it to follow.

If you have any suggestions for ways that I can make this blog more useful for you, my readers, I would love to hear them.  I look forward to making the Beltway Perspective the best possible experience for you.

Aaron

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Coming Soon: Best of the Worst Campaign Ads of 2010

Here is a preview of my next post.  So much to discuss…

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Oil Spill in the Gulf isn’t the only thing that Needs Cleaning

Another Katrina-Like Government Failure Signals Need for Reform

I am generally satisfied with my ability to comprehend and analyze complex issues, but there are certain subject matters that leave me baffled.  Generally, I won’t delve too deeply into concepts that leave me mentally incapacitated: theology, astrophysics… algebra.  But when it comes to political policy issues, I’m rarely dumbfounded.

Gushing Oil Well

courtesy of Guardian.co.uk

That is, I was rarely dumbfounded.  Then the BP oil spill happened, and friends began asking me what the government should do to fix the problem and save face.  I sounded like Porky Pig after he’d thrown back a few.  There was no way to answer the question without uncovering another dilemma.  There’s a myriad of complex subplots to this issue, all with far-reaching consequences.  Rather than try to tackle them all at once, I think it best to adopt the approach I’ve taken when contemplating astrophysics… let’s start with the big bang.

Disaster at Sea

Gulf Oil Spill from Space

courtesy of the Examiner

Late in the evening of April 20, a fire engulfed an offshore drilling unit 52 miles off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico.  The fire was the result of an explosion that killed eleven people and injured fifteen.  Preliminary reports suggest that a panoply of problems could be to blame, including malfunctioning shutoff switches, emergency disconnection systems, and pressure testing units, as well as broken safety valves.

Others have suggested that the cause of the explosion occurred long before the fire broke out on the BP rig.  The Minerals Management Service (MMS) has been accused of being a bit too smitten with the industry it is tasked with regulating.  According to a new report from Interior Department Inspector General Mary Kendall, her greatest concern was “the environment in which these inspectors operate — particularly the ease with which they move between industry and government.

Prior to the Deepwater Horizon incident, I’d probably have assumed that MMS was some neurological disease if it were ever brought up during a conversation.  That said, before Katrina, I’d have assumed that FEMA was just another leg bone.  In eerily similar circumstances, both agencies flew well under the radar in the public’s conscience until devastating incidents thrust them front and center.

Is it Groundhog Day?

Oil in the Marshes

coutesy of Radio Free Europe

In 2005, after having already been relieved of his job of overseeing the federal efforts in the gulf coast, Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Michael Brown forcibly resigned from his position.  This was largely attributable to his inexperience and ineptitude while holding the post.

Did Katrina send a message to smaller government agencies that competency is a mandate for all directors?  Apparently not.  A few days ago, MMS Director Elizabeth Birnbaum got the ax after reports came out that she had taken too low a profile during the oil spill crisis.

No Need for the Blame Game – We Have a Volunteer

So who is really at fault for this crisis?  Should BP have done more to safeguard the rig against an explosion?  Should the oil companies have been better suited to handle an oceanic oil leak before they began drilling?  Was the MMS responsible for failing to properly regulate the oil companies?

Apparently President Barrack Obama thinks that it’s his fault.  As Dana Milbank of the Washington Post put it, “he practiced every form of self-flagellation short of bringing out a cat-o’-nine-tails.”

“The culture had not fully changed in MMS and absolutely I take responsibility for that,” he said.  “There wasn’t sufficient urgency.”

He continued to say that “we should have busted through those constraints… pre-deploying boom would have been the right thing to do… I do think our efforts fell short.  They should have pushed them sooner… I think that it took too long… Where I was wrong was in my belief that the oil companies had their act together.”

Obama in Louisiana

courtesy of Reuters

Does the president deserve to take some heat for this?  Absolutely, but he is not as culpable as he thinks he is.  The reality is that presidential administrations have a long legacy of making ill-advised appointments.  Unfortunately, it takes a disaster of epic proportions for any of us to care enough about it to demand changes.

Guess who’s really at fault (hint: it rhymes with Yiddish linoleum)

Ultimately, the entity responsible for this disaster is BP.  It was their rig that blew up, and it was their responsibility to have a contingency plan in case a leak occurred.  The president was wrong to place so much faith in his “belief that the oil companies had their act together when it came to worst-case scenarios.”

As Bob Herbert of the New York Times put it, “with all due respect to the president, who is a very smart man, how is it possible for anyone with any reasonable awareness of the nonstop carnage that has accompanied the entire history of giant corporations to believe that the oil companies, which are among the most rapacious players on the planet, somehow ‘had their act together’ with regard to worst-case scenarios.”

courtesy of Reuters

Ed Rogers, former White House staffer and chairman of BGR Group said it best.  “So far there are no political winners from the gulf oil spill debacle.  And there probably won’t be any winners, just various degrees of losers.”  Obama cannot hope to score any political points during the disaster relief effort—at best, he can mitigate the damage it does to his administration’s reputation.  But simply saying “Hey, I screwed up,” doesn’t say much other than “hey, check out how incompetent I was.”

Obama needs to use this incident as a launching pad for administration reform.  Governmentally speaking, the biggest issue here is not that BP’s rig exploded, but that the government should have had proper checks in place to ensure that it didn’t.  He needs to spearhead the implementation of reforms from stem to stern while promising the American people that every government department is to be examined and every director’s qualifications and dedication to the public interest is ensured.

We don’t need a passive apologist right now.  I’m tired of hoping for change.  Right now, it’s desperately needed.

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