Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Beck Brigade

It's been over twenty years since I visited Israel as part of a statewide delegation led by then Senator Al Gore, Jr. It was a multi-religious group, which was great for me as a product of a Jewish home and a Catholic education. I saw the tourist sights, but I was inclined to break away from the group, particularly at night, and stroll the streets where people gathered in order to get a personal feel for the place. Chance encounters, in combination with walking in ancient footprints, soon had me believing that I was a part of some larger scheme. An old rabbi physically stopped me in the street and pulled me into his classroom for a lecture on goodness, and when he had finished, he invited me to join his communal group and promised to find me a wife.

My last night in Jerusalem, I hailed a cab driven by a young Palestinian who offered to be my guide. When I told him I was leaving for New York the next day, he proudly displayed a business card from his brother's sandwich shop inside a midtown office building. He had me memorize the address since it was his only card. I glanced at it and told him I'd look up his sibling if I was in the neighborhood, then forgot about it. The next day, after an endless flight and morning hotel check-in, I was feeling jet-lagged and walked through a side door into the afternoon sun. Directly in front of me, not thirty feet away, was the office building whose address I had seen on the cabbie's card. I crossed the street, entered the building, navigated a corridor, and walked up to the lunchroom counter where a gentleman identified himself as the owner. I told him, "I was with your brother in Jerusalem yesterday. He sends his love and wants you to call him." Lunch was on the house as the proprietor explained that he had married a Jewish girl in Israel and they had come to the U.S. to escape the hostility of their respective families and communities. We agreed that the intolerance between the peoples of the holy land was regrettable and when I left him and again walked into the sun, I looked up and said, and I paraphrase myself, "Lord, You're messing with me."

Most of the Lord's messengers have beatific news to deliver, but if I was only supposed to convey a shout-out between brothers, that was cool. Afterward, I walked around for several months searching for signs and wonders, believing the Lord was personally leading me by the hand, until reality returned and I discovered that I had neither been called nor chosen, but had an ailment common to unseasoned tourists known as "Jerusalem Fever." It's the inclination for first-time visitors to the holy land to believe they are personally interwoven with the ongoing religious narrative and are receiving instructions directly from the Deity. Some believe they have been called to play great roles in the events of mankind. Such a pilgrim is Glenn Beck, who claimed his "Restoring Honor" rally in Washington D.C. landed on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech because of "divine providence," and only "wrote out a few bullet points so as not to interfere in case the Spirit wanted to talk." He professed an "American miracle" was going to occur and attendees would be present "at the awakening." I might pay money to ride a bus to D.C. to see Jeff Beck, but Glenn Beck? Nahh.

Beck's not that difficult to analyze. A self-confessed "hard-drinking, hard-living ignoramus," gets sober, reads some books, and begins to see patterns. By espousing his conspiratorial views, he is first promoted from talk-radio to back-bencher on the Headline News Channel, then on to the big leagues, where he becomes the most controversial, "entertainer" on Fox News; no easy feat. Soon his every utterance is dissected by other teleditorialists and his ratings and self-importance grow until he perceives himself as the leader of an earth-changing, transcendent movement on the march. His grandiose scheme drew a quarter million people to the National Mall, but Beck's gathering was more of a religious revival than a societal shift, and if he was trying to channel Dr. King, he came off sounding more like Elmer Gantry. At his "Million White Man March," Glenn spoke of returning to God, supporting the military, and the importance of family. Who could argue with that? The firebrand Beck was entirely inoffensive, unless you object to receiving religious instruction from a shill for Rupert Murdoch. The big crowd seemed pleased, but I thought it was like going to a Kiss concert and having the band come out in street clothes playing acoustic guitars.

Unquestionably, Beck possesses accumulated knowledge, but he consistently misinterprets it and ends up connecting the wrong dots. He praises the "Chosen People" but rails against "social justice," which is the cornerstone of the faith. He speaks of "restoring honor," yet refers to the president as "a person with a deep-seated hatred for white people," and "a racist." Personally, I thought the nation's honor was restored  the moment George W. Bush left the White House, and although a short film was shown to commemorate Dr. King's historic 1963 march, there were more blacks on stage as speakers and singers than in the audience. Beck's restraint was the result of his promise to keep the event non-political, but the location, the date, and the name, "Restoring Honor to America," by implication, made it so. To his credit, Beck waited until three hours into the pageant before succumbing to his patented sobbing. He even read the Gettysburg Address. Mostly, he did no harm, which I suppose is a good thing until his next outrageous on-air outburst. But, his stature has been diminished. Beck demonstrated that he's not a transformational figure and he certainly is no Martin Luther King. Forty-seven years ago, Dr. King had a dream; Glenn Beck just has a delusion.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

No, Canada!

When the seasons turn, imagine hordes of illegal aliens streaming across the U.S. border dressed in their bizarre native garb and speaking in a foreign tongue, straining our social services and imposing their criminal ethic on sovereign citizens legally in this country. It wouldn't be the first time illegal drugs and contraband flowed undetected over that border and into the lives of everyday Americans, along with the accompanying violence that's always part of the deal. It's a frightening thought to envision roving gangs of disaffected Quebecois, crossing the Canadian border on snowshoes and wearing toques, speaking crude French slang and overwhelming border towns like Buffalo and Rochester, hanging out in the parking lots of the Home Depots with huge snow shovels looking to clear someone's driveway and take a job from an American. And who can stand that whining music they listen to...Celine Dion and Bryan Adams?  During prohibition, our porous northern border was the gateway for Canadian hooch from the forerunners of the soul-stealing Seagram's empire, just as today it is the entry way for the demonic "B.C. Bud," and the Manitoba drug cartels. Their entertainers, from Alex Trebek to Howie Mandel have taken over youth culture and television, while alien seductresses like Pamela Anderson have corrupted the internets.

No wonder our economy is in the crapper when Canadians can smuggle their cheap, socialized, pharmaceuticals into our country and sell it for half the cost of the identical product here. Busloads of Canadians are trying to escape their evil, Marxist health care system to come over here and have lots of unnecessary tests performed in substandard hospital emergency rooms that serve the uninsured. There are even cabals of subversive comedians, led by Martin Short and Jim Carrey, that try to set the American standard for what's funny. Seeing Mr. Short in a fat suit playing a character named Jiminy Glick may have been humorous to some, but what of the family of 9/11, Flight #93 hero Jeremy Glick, whom Short was clearly mocking. Or, how about a Canuck, ex-con, beatnik like Tommy Chong, who has been attempting to pervert our youth for over 40 years. This Canadian invasion has reached a tipping point and true patriots want immediate governmental action to end this outrage. I demand that the fortifications protecting us from Canadian women sneaking into Detroit to have American babies become the President's top priority. I mean, isn't that why we built Fort Ticonderoga? The only good to come out of this breach in our northern border is the proliferation of Canadian restaurants and re-fried cuisine. And their work ethic, of course.

But when these illegals come into this country and take these rare jobs, what do they do? They don't spend it here. They send their money back home to support their families. This underage, risque singer, Justin Beiber, comes to this country unchaperoned, makes a fortune, and sends it right back to his people in some province called Ontario. If he gets sick on tour, he's got the best medical care the government can offer, and he doesn't even pay taxes in this country. Same thing with this hippie surfer Keanu Reeves, who portrayed an average American teen in the Bill & Ted movies, but then I discovered he was not only born in Lebanon, he starred as Prince Siddhartha/Lord Buddha in 1992's "Little Buddha." At least this Beatleboy Beiber pays taxes somewhere. For all we know, this "transplanted" Lebanese Canadian Reeves could be funding Al Qaeda with his Hollywood money. Plus, I heard he's part Hawaiian, so there's got to be something up with his birth certificate. Is it difficult to draw the conclusion that Reeves and rock-star sex therapist Pam Anderson will settle in California with the intention of raising "terror babies" that will automatically be American citizens, but grow up to be suicide bombers as Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert has suggested?  Is it just a coincidence that suspect leftist superstar moms are already raising North Vietnamese children? And why isn't Glen Beck on top of this?

That's why I'm so grateful to the group of Republican senators who so revere our Constitution, that they are always prepared to change it in order to stop what S.C. Sen. Lindsey Graham calls the policy of "Drop and Leave." These Canadian women will squat in the bushes like Sacajawea just to have an "anchor baby" that leads them onto the fast track for welfare. Senators Kyl of Texas, Kentucky's McConnell, Iowa's Grassley, and since it's an election year, John McCain, have all called for a "review" and potential revocation of the 14th Amendment which grants American citizenship to those born within our borders, including all those rosy-cheeked offspring of Canadian skaters who have come to dominate the National Hockey League and take jobs away from thousands of aspiring American hockey legends. The tough thing about repealing the 14th Amendment, is that it also deals with that "equal protection under the law" business. In these turbulent times, however, perhaps "equal" protection is a little too much for the Mexicans and Muslims to expect. It takes a trained eye to spot a Canadian. The best way is to drop a hockey puck in a crowd and see who dives for it.

Ginning up bloodlust, immigrant xenophobia failed to work for the Republicans the last election cycle, and it will fail again this time. There are better ways to solve our border issues than savage demagoguery about beheadings and kidnappings when the non-partisan Pew Research Center reports an all time high in arrests and deportation of undocumented workers. Right-wing candidates for office have offered solutions as varied as internment camps to mass deportation, while most people still come here illegally because they know there are employers who will hire them for more than they can make at home, be it in Alberta or Mazatlan. Americans have forgotten the struggles of Cesar Chavez and his United Farm Workers, or politicians like Bobby Kennedy who championed not only their cause, but their dignity. It's easier to call them all drug mules or arms smugglers than people just trying to scrape by on this earth with their hands. Wouldn't it be weird if one day we found out that God was really on Mexico's side all along and that the theory of "Manifest Destiny" actually pertained to them, and that's why they are this nation's fastest growing demographic? When Latinos become the country's majority, we'll let them deal with this encroaching Canadianization of the good old U.S.of A.

A Haspel Hat Tip to Kennedy Award Winner Bill Day for his cartoon.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Tempest In A Tea Party


Mark Williams, the Chairman of the Tea Party Express, got booted from the Confederacy of Dunces last month because, in response to an NAACP suggestion that the group repudiate racial elements within the movement, he wrote and published an "Open letter to President Lincoln" from the emancipated slaves, something he referred to as "satire."  The full text of the knee-slapping missive is worthy of examination, because it reveals more about the writer than the subject, and shows something about the common beliefs of a great many Americans. In his "satire," all Williams did was put down in words what many Tea Party types refuse to say out loud.

           Dear Mr. Lincoln
We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don’t cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop.
In fact we held a big meeting and took a vote in Kansas City this week. We voted to condemn a political revival of that old abolitionist spirit called the ‘tea party movement’.
The tea party position to “end the bailouts” for example is just silly. Bailouts are just big money welfare and isn’t that what we want all Coloreds to strive for? What kind of racist would want to end big money welfare? What they need to do is start handing the bail outs directly to us coloreds! Of course, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is the only responsible party that should be granted the right to disperse the funds.
And the ridiculous idea of “reduce[ing] the size and intrusiveness of government.” What kind of massa would ever not want to control my life? As Coloreds we must have somebody care for us otherwise we would be on our own, have to think for ourselves and make decisions!
The racist tea parties also demand that the government “stop the out of control spending.” Again, they directly target coloreds. That means we Coloreds would have to compete for jobs like everybody else and that is just not right.
Perhaps the most racist point of all in the tea parties is their demand that government “stop raising our taxes.” That is outrageous! How will we coloreds ever get a wide screen TV in every room if non-coloreds get to keep what they earn? Totally racist! The tea party expects coloreds to be productive members of society?
Mr. Lincoln, you were the greatest racist ever. We had a great gig. Three squares, room and board, all our decisions made by the massa in the house. Please repeal the 13th and 14th Amendments and let us get back to where we belong.
Precious Ben Jealous, Tom’s Nephew NAACP Head Colored Person
Laugh? I thought I'd never start! How can you convince someone there is racism in their midst when it runs in their blood and they don't even know what it looks like? A week later, Williams was still on cable news defending his remarks by saying the NAACP was guilty of reverse racism, which appears to be the Tea Party's prime rebuttal  for all the "patriotic Americans'" outrageous behavior at the various kleagle rallies around the nation. These "concerned citizens" don't like it when their ultra-rightist movement is called "racist." They defy you to prove any member of their group called Rep. John Lewis a "nigger" while simultaneously gutting ACORN with false propaganda. Their new hero, Kentucky senatorial candidate Rand Paul, can't deviate from his Libertarian philosophy enough to agree that segregated lunch counters in the Fifties were a bad thing. He expressed the still burning racist ember that private businesses should be able to choose who they serve. Not if they serve the public, they don't. If someone wishes to start a private club that caters exclusively to Caucasian, dwarf albinos, that is their right, but if you are serving the public, that means all the public. And I don't believe for a second that Paul is a racist. However, when I grew out my beard and started hanging around with people with long hair, they called me a hippie. So, if the sheet fits...

The term "yellow journalism" was created in the late 1800's to describe the sensationalist rhetoric and fabricated stories of newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst, particularly the New York Journal.  As influential as newspapers were in the last century, not even Hearst could have imagined a 24-hour "news" network continually pumping out anti-government propaganda for the benefit of a particular political party, or entire radio empires built on hatred and fear-mongering. The Hearst of the 21st century, Rupert Murdoch, became a naturalized U.S. citizen in order to own multiple media outlets in the same market, like the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal. His brand of  contemporary "yellow journalism" is far more insidious than the sabre rattling of a few newspapers, and makes the "Remember the Maine," jingoism of the Hearst era seem almost quaint. With Fox News acting as a running-dog for right-wing extremism, pseudo-smart "entertainers" like Glen Beck get free reign to espouse their inflammatory "theories." So, when a real journalist, like the Washington Post's Dana Milbank, calls Beck out for his serial use of Nazi references to describe the Obama administration, the right's reaction is to claim that the country is experiencing a phase of "political correctness," in which their freedom of speech is under attack. They have become oblivious to the difference between "free speech" and "hate speech," and the saddest and most alarming statement of all about Fox News is their massive ratings success and rabid, "true-believer" folllowing.

A typical Fox "story" comes from out-of-the-mainstream, internet sources, like the ACORN "prostitution sting," or the most recent running expose' about the "New Black Panther Party." Fox flogged the story for weeks and Bill O'Reilly pondered aloud why the other news organizations were "avoiding" the issue. Then it turned out that the "Party" consisted of two, baton-wielding wannabe radicals hanging around an overwhelmingly African-American polling station "intimidating voters" into casting their ballots for Obama. When that poisoned well ran dry, Fox virtually leaped on blogger and Tea Party apologist Andrew Breitbart's odious contention that reverse racism existed at the Department of Agriculture in the person of one Shirley Sherrod. By slicing and dicing Sherrod's speech before the NAACP, he made a convincing argument that she was discriminating against white people out of what was actually a story of redemption. Had anyone been paying attention, WorldNetDaily had reported on a July 16th appearance at a Fargo, N.D. talk radio program where Breitbart said, "Let me say something a tad newsworthy to the president of the NAACP. You can go to hell." He then bragged, "I have tapes, a tape, of racism, and it's an NAACP dinner. You want to play with fire? I have evidence of racism and it's coming from the NAACP." The law states that if you defame a person's reputation with feckless accusations with the intention of smearing them, it's called "libel," and it's a prosecutable offense. I only hope that after Ms. Sherrod sues Breitbart's ass off, she goes after Fox News.

I confess that I was fooled too. When I saw the initial reports and video of Sherrod on Fox News, I thought that she must certainly resign, and the outrage of the Obama administration and the NAACP was justified. They made the same mistake that I did by assuming that Fox was a semi-responsible news organization that abides by the rules of journalism. How foolish of me. Fox News President Roger Ailes knows what his boss wants as surely as if he were William Randolph Hearst. This current Fox "reverse racism" crusade is in keeping with Ailes past deeds like advising Richard Nixon on appealing to southern, white voters, and orchestrating "Poppy" Bush's presidential campaign against Michael Dukakis by tying the Massachusetts Governor to paroled rapist, Willie Horton, in a famous negative political ad. When questioned about the propriety of the controversial commercial, Ailes said his only hesitation was whether to picture Horton with or without a knife. Why should I have assumed Fox News vetted the Breitbart piece when he was the one behind the story and video of ACORN's adventures with the now felonious, fake pimp, and then spent six months lying about it? And all in the cause of proving Mark Williams' supposed point in his "satirical" letter to Lincoln, that honest, hard-working citizens' tax money goes directly to the support of shiftless layabouts who prefer "big-money welfare" to a job; the raison d'etre of the Tea Party movement. Former representative and Tea Party darling Tom Tancredo has announced his candidacy for governor of Colorado, only months after waxing nostalgic about literacy tests at the polls during the Jim Crow era. Since good test results are a pre-requisite for entering a respected college, isn't there some way we could institute civics literacy exams for potential candidates for public office? At least check their SAT scores.