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August 9, 2010

Glenn Beck attacks funding for Baltimore's Lyric Opera House, cultural spending elsewhere

glenn beckThe bizarre spectacle that passes for national political discourse reached out and slapped Baltimore the other day, courtesy of Glenn Beck. I didn't think this guy could get sillier -- he's long been thoughtless to a fault -- but he did, and since he picked on something near and dear, I just couldn't let it go without comment.

In one of his by now terribly familiar, predictable tirades against -- well, against everybody not like him and everything that doesn't conform to his ideas of what the world should be -- Beck singled out cities with budget crises where they're cutting back on police, but not slashing the funding for such things as libraries, museums and, in Baltimore, the Lyric Opera House -- a.k.a. the "stupid, snotty opera house."

Beck claimed that $750,000 was in the budget for that historic venue in our fair city, while "cops are on the chopping block. This is like my wife saying we are broke, we have to cut down our expenses on food. I turn around and say, OK, when you grocery shop, no more meats, organics, milk — we're cutting that out. Just get

Mountain Dew and Cheetos ... How about we get the rich who never pay their fair share to buy their stupid snotty opera house? Would you cut the opera house or the cops? ... What does your gut tell you? That everybody involved in this is moron?"

Memo to Beck: Be careful when you throw around the word "moron."

For starters, the figure is not $750,000, but $1 million. (That should really put a tear in poor Glenn's eye.) Perhaps the crack researchers for Beck's show misread the 2008 bond issue through which Baltimore's citizens voted to approve a bond issue to borrow $1 million for the Lyric Opera House, $750,000 for the Baltimore Museum of Art, and lots of other money for lots of other cultural institutions. Sixty-five percent of the vote was in favor of the opera house bond issue, by the way. Are all of those affirmative voters morons?

Here's another inconvenient fact: Baltimore has not been cutting cops. The mayor has even proposed adding 450 of them by 2011.

Given Beck's cavalier treatment of Baltimore's reality, I wonder how much credence should be given to his rant against other cities:

It's like the damn planet of the apes. Nothing makes sense! ... The cops have to go, yet in Oakland [Calif.] they keep $7 million in costs for museums. You will lose the art in the riots anyway ... Newark has $39,608,662 set aside for Neighborhood and Recreational Services ... I think we can cut back on all the good times in Newark before slashing the cops. Philadelphia can save a couple cops right off the bat by cutting the $1 million set aside for mural arts — they already do that for free: It's called graffiti — or the $32 million for 'free libraries' — now, I love to read as much as the next guy, but you can't read when blood is pouring down your face.

Maybe if Beck spent more serious time in libraries, he'd get his facts straight and, maybe, notice what an essential role they play in the a city's life. Maybe -- this is too much to hope for, I know -- he'll find time to visit a museum or an opera house or a concert hall and come to see how important they are, too. (Mocking people who cherish the arts is one of the oldest, not to mention stupidest and snottiest, tricks in the demagogic business.)

Tough choices in tough times mean that lots of public services will be threatened in lots of places, but it's possible -- I would say necessary -- to cope with economic pressures without sacrificing the things that help make us civilized.

As for that "rich who never pay their fair share" part of Beck's nonsensical tirade, maybe he was trying some sarcastic humor. The rich obviously give plenty to the arts on a yearly basis; without them, most nonprofits couldn't exist. I doubt Beck had any idea what he was saying when he threw in that phrase.

One more thing. The Lyric Opera House is not an opera-only place. Never has been. In its 100-plus years (it sounds like Beck actually thought this was a new building, rather than a long-established one -- like I said, a little research before shooting from the lip wouldn't hurt), the Lyric has been home to orchestra concerts, dance, pop music, theater, comedy, lectures, just about everything. It strives to reach a broad part of the community, just like our music organizations and museums do.  

The money voters approved will go to badly needed renovations, so the Lyric can offer even more entertainment, bigger and better productions. And a thriving Lyric would help area businesses, from parking garages to restaurants. And that would help the city's economy. And, gee, wouldn't that be sort of, kind of, I don't know, maybe, like, a good thing? (I almost said a "progressive" thing, but I know how that word gets the veins pumping dangerously on Beck's neck.)

Call me stupid, call me snotty, but I say that Baltimore is better off for having the Lyric Opera House. On the other hand, I can't see how the country is better off for having issues of substance and importance discussed by the likes of Glenn Beck.


Posted by Tim Smith at 6:38 AM | | Comments (46)


Mr Beck is right on the money except the budget knife should fall on his show. But then again it's just really bad theatre.


Tim you are an idiot.

Yes, Tim, you are truly an idiot. But, you are 100% on the mark in this blog. Maybe you should switch from music criticism to political fact-checking. Bravo!

In a piece like this, it is nice to see some facts. Very much in contradistinction to the article's subject. And of course the only response to what you wrote from someone of the "loyal opposition" is to just call you an idiot. Let me say, as someone who actually read your piece, you are not an idiot, this is an important piece, and keep it up.

Really Tim, you are an idiot. And I love how you say, "well it wasn't $750,000, it was $1 million". Oh, because that is better? Seriously in this economy, frivolous spending is not good. Just look at the criticism that all of the Obama vacations are getting.

Thanks for this! Keep it up!

For those who aren't annoyed this idiot in action:

Did he just compare culture and society to Mt. Dew and Cheetos?

People are missing the point. Aside from the hard hitting facts presented in this article (well done Tim) that basically completely discredit Beck's argument, the POINT is that having libraries and music in our society is NOT frivolous. In fact they are the very things that create a civilized and humane society, through intelligent thought and logic, not mention that they also create jobs (as Tim pointed out) and allocate huge fractions of their budget to education and outreach for the people in the very areas that so desperately need policing, according to Beck.

If we follow Beck's thwarted logic to its end (ie. "Why do we need anything because we will all be dead, shot in the face by gang members and drug dealers"), why don't we do away with libraries? Universities? Parks? How about the Baltimore Flower Mart, or the Book Fair? Why do we need anything that gives our city life and character?

Even if you read all of that and say, yeah, I don't care about any of those things, the bottom line is YOU are in the minority, and 65% voted to pass this bond. And that is the system at work. Get over it.

The idiot is Glenn Beck. A chip off the old turd-blossom block he is.

In April 2010, Forbes calculated Beck's earnings for the previous year (March 2009 - March 2010) to be $32 million. I wonder if he donated his "fair share"? He sounds pretty rich to me.

"Just look at the criticism that all of the Obama vacations are getting."

"criticism" = Screeching that only dogs can hear

The scary fact is that Beck somehow thinks riots are about to ensue in Oakland. He once again is trying to inflame individuals already prone to disturbed thinking patterns to violence. The more money that is used to promote the arts, education, creative thinking and inspiration, the fewer police are needed. And this, in turn, means that the fewer clueless gits like Beck are given any creedence. This is an old and well-documented fact of American life.
May I suggest that the very next benefit they throw at the Lyric Theatre serve nothing but Cheetos and Mountain Dew? No one needs brie and champagne with all that blood running in the streets of Baltimore, anyway. One million dollars seems awfully low, doesn't it? Perhaps it is time to increase its endowment?

Perhaps Glenn Beck should put his own money where his mouth is and donate some of his "hard-earned" cash to save those poor Baltimore cops who aren't actually getting fired...

First of all I am a huge opera supporter but I am a little perplexed by the amount of money going to an opera house that no longer has an opera company. In 2009 Baltimore Opera closed its doors with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. I even went to website and I have to say I was surprised by the lack of programming. Is it really worth it to put that amount of money into a place that rarely gives performances. Maybe it should be transformed into a historical site?

To fellow readers concerned with the economy and the spending of local, state and federal governments, we need to keep things in perspective. As stated in the post, arts spending is not just to pay for an opera that may or may not have broad appeal. Through arts funding, a community can bring much needed money into downtown area businesses by bringing audiences there that could have otherwise spent their hard earned dollars elsewhere. It is this type of laterial thinking that can bring local economies back from the brink.

See this article about the benefits of arts funding in a particularly conservative state (Georgia).

A way to cure Glenn Beck might be to suggest that he attends the Utah Festival Opera next season. After all he may know nothing about opera and suddenly discover that it's a great cause!

It seems that most of you, including the writer, missed the point here completely.

The point Beck was making isn't that art is meaningless and that libraries are useless.

The point is this: Why is it considered rational that cities should cut down on police before art?

Art is important. I'm an art lover myself...but... Police are more important, for reasons that should be obvious.

Police should NEVER be on the chopping block before art and recreation. It's nonsense.

"We're going to keep this opera house open because art makes us more civilized, but we're going to cut down on the people who protect our civilization."


"We're going to pay keep these parks pretty, but we're going to cut down on the men and women who patrol them and keep them safe."

How does that make sense?

Hey Abe, I think it's YOU who missed the point. Glenn has set up a false choice. You can have police AND fund the arts when you have budget constraints. Why not cut somewhere else, like the municipal spending and tax breaks given to professional sports teams? The opera house renovations were funded with a bond. That was voted on by the people. You can't divert those funds to the police, because they were specifically allocated. If the people want to issue some bonds to pay for more police, they can do that instead. That is not what the people in Baltimore chose to do. I wish more people would vote with their remotes and cut the funding of this blue-blooded mouth-foaming crybaby hypocritical fear mongerer.

Thank you, Ben, for saying what I was shouting at my computer screen when I read Abe's comment. There are two separate issues at hand: the first being that the arts are considered unimportant (which you may or may not agree with), and the second that Glenn Beck flat out lied. His implication is that the money for the Lyric was somehow taken away from funding for police force, which is simply not true. 65% of the tax payers voted to pass a bond, which is money out of their own pockets, not taken away from the police force.

Thanks for the truthiness Tim! We need sunlight and facts like these to combat these know-nothings.

Kablammo! Spread the word, Tim.

In light of the fact that a substantial portion of police work is enforcing drug prohibition, perhaps, if we got rid of drug prohibition, we could reduce funding for the police, reduce the number of people in prison, tax the sale of currently illegal drugs, and have lots more money for the arts.

I was actually taking your commentary seriously until the last sentence.You seem to be suggesting that there are certain groups or "likes" of people whose particular viewpoint is not worthy of the public discourse simply because it is not shared by the "likes" of you and whatever group you favor. What is the point of your post- that the people of Baltimore should be free to fund whatever cultural institution they choose (and they should be),or that dissenting opinion ( no matter how odious it may seem) should be silenced? I can't see how that makes the country "better off".

Paul Graham has a very interesting article on argumentation in which he creates a hierarchy.

His level 1 is "name calling" which we've have seen here in the "you are an idiot" comment.

What Tim has done in this article is at the opposite end of the hierarchy. He addresses Beck's central points with facts.

Thanks again Tim.

The real travesty here is seeing how many people support Beck. The writer is absolutely correct, and YOU Beck followers are the morons for thinking otherwise.

The bottom line is it IS NOT frivolous spending. Why?Because SIXTY FIVE PERCENT of the voters approved it! If you don't like it, fine...but don't blame Tim, blame the system.

Also, since when do we care who takes vacations? Bush took vacays to his ranch almost every other week, and yet nobody every cared.

Y'all need to take some chill pills. The world is not ending, there's no reason to get so worked up over really a small issue. Not to mention Beck had his facts can you follow a guy who can't even get the basic facts correct?

Your seeming to miss the point. Baltimore ISN'T cutting cops. So Beck's rant is idiotic and pointless. If Beck had done his homework (long stretch for him and his cronies at Fox) and looked at the whole budget and picture in baltimore he would have seen that keeping the big budget was possible. I agree in a worse comes to worse situation, my money goes to the cops but in Baltimore he is dead wrong. The guy is an idiot to begin with and never looks further than the surface of stuff.... no wonder he never even tried college.

"Police should NEVER be on the chopping block before art and recreation. It's nonsense."

It would depend on what constitutes the proper amount to spend on police services. Of course, for the paranoid right, too much is never enough.

Lonesome Roads Beck, like Rush Limp-bough, are the Great American Shepherds, who speak for the millions of Americans who have never had an original thought in their lives, and wouldn't recognize one if they heard it.

Ahhhh - wow. I had to Google this "Glenn Beck" dude, because I don't normally pay ANY attention to such idiot loudmouths.

Ignorance is bliss, after all.

In this case, I'm sorry that I looked under the rock. Ewww.

Thanks for pointing this out, Tim. And I just LOVE how the goons jumped out of the woodwork at ya. Anyone who calls you an "idiot" (or worse) should be put in the same Tasmanian-devil pen as Mr. Beck.

No one should _ever_ cut ANY public safety/service departments, nor should they cut cultural funding. If push REALLY comes to shove between the two, then we've already lost. Back to Soviet Russia!!! (Or worse...)

If we are to have freedom of speech, we must honor Mr. Beck’s right to his opinion. Isn’t wonderful that there have been so many responses to this blog regarding Mr. Beck’s opinion. I guess that must mean people care; if they didn’t they wouldn’t bother to write.
There’s a quote from the article one of the contributors to this discussion offered that I find interesting. It is from Lydia Huggins Ivanditti, director of the Plaza Arts Center in the Putnam County seat of Eatonton, Georgia regarding her role with the Plaza Arts Center and the positive effect the center has had on their community: "One person can't do this job effectively; it requires the support of our local government and our community to make it work."
True, we need a police force to thwart the miscreants who represent humankind’s less desirable characteristics (and, by the way, I looked on Eatonton’s website – they have a police department), and I think it’s safe to say that miscreants are destructive and debilitating.
The arts represent, to me at least, creativity and are nurturing to our better angels.
Mr. Beck’s stance is akin to the warning light on the dashboard and we should respect it.
What can be done about it? When there is an item on the ballot that allocates funds to the arts, vote for it (and the voters spoke regarding this bond issue). If you are against having your tax dollars go towards the arts, fine, don’t vote for it. Yet for those of you that support the arts, support them – attend the events at the Lyric, attend a Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concert, attend the BMA and the Walters and the Visionary and the various other cultural events that are available in the city. And if you are unable to attend, at least write your government officials and the heads of the various cultural institutions and let them know there is a public out there that cares and that desires to be nurtured and not destroyed. Don’t we all want to nurture our better angels?

Excuse me, but isn't criticizing cultural institutions and calling them "snooty" what a Communist does? (It's not for the masses.) Art and culture define a civilization. While police is important, maybe if people had more culture in their lives, they wouldn't act like apes toward one another. Oh, but I'm not allowed to believe in evolution either....

All of you jackasses who are calling Tim an idiot, are idiots. You're an even a bigger idiot if you called Tim an idiot and then agreed with him.

Good article Tim.

I realize Art is important, but is it more important than a strong police force? No.

Things like this opera house are the 'icing' on society. When times get tough, the icing needs to go before the rest of the cake does. Times are tough right now. Police are more important.

As Sienna above brilliantly puts this debate in the real context: this was a bond issue supported by 65% of the population who voted in 2008. This was not a vote to fund the Lyric and other arts organizations at the expense of cutting police. This was not the mayor cutting police to give the Lyric a sweetheart deal. Bond issues are a pretty self explanatory tend to have less political connections attached since they depend on voters making the final call.

Having voters decide an issue seems something all Beckers and Tea Partyers should embrace. That is their big claim to what democracy means. This is an instance where voters just made the wrong choice because it didn't match what Beck and Tea Baggers want.

Eventually, there will be voting majorities supporting gay marriage. If that reality freaks you out start getting your smelling salts ready and buy your tickets to go live in Vatican City.

It seems like Mr. Beck wants to attack the arts just like good ol' Mao and Adolf who he rants about on a daily basis.

Tim, you did a great job with this takedown of Beck. I normally have the response of "Glenn Beck who?" when he comes up in any discussion, knowing full-well that my conversation partner(s) will look at me like I'm crazy for my immediate conversation killer. Great job, nonetheless.

1906 - Evelyn Beatrice Hall, author: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
2008 - Thomas Shaller, Baltimore Sun Columnist, posting on the Journolist list server: In a post with the subject header, “why don’t we use the power of this list to do something about the debate?” Schaller proposed coordinating a “smart statement expressing disgust” at the questions Gibson and Stephanopoulos had posed to Obama.

“It would create quite a stir, I bet, and be a warning against future behavior of the sort,” Schaller wrote.

2010 - Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun: I can't see how the country is better off for having issues of substance and importance discussed by the likes of Glenn Beck.

I don't like the trend ...

Pointing out factual inaccuracies is certainly a legitimate function of the press (although an expression about stones and glass houses does occur). I personally don't think deciding who should be allowed to speak on what subject is. Or has the SUN officially come out against the first amendment?

I don't think an exchange of name calling really does justice to this subject. Glenn Beck is not a moron - I find he can be a jackass on TV (he has a lot of company, in that regard, over at MSNBC), but his book, Common Sense (for example) is well-reasoned and thought provoking, at least for me. I don't think Tim Smith is a moron for pointing out that Beck has made factual errors. However, I feel Tim has gotten so hung up on discrediting Beck, based on an error in the amount of a bond issue, that he ignores the important points Mr. Beck is making. The Baltimore City Police budget has been slashed (there was plenty of reporting on this in September 2009). The fact is that the city has difficult budget choices to make. (But the Lyric issue is a red herring - I believe bond issues are not appropriations of money, but a loan guarantee, with the loan to be repaid from revenue generated.)
I love opera - my life would not be complete without it - but cities are having to make hard choices. This past weekend because of budget-motivated "rolling closings" of firehouses in Philadelphia, a 12 year old autistic child lost their life in a fire. I personally don't know that I could explain to the mother of a dead child that the city supporting an opera company was more important than protecting the lives of its children. And here is a hard, factual case where a child lost their life due to cutbacks in public safety spending. Nothing theoretical about it.
Of course I understand the value of the arts - I feel my own quality of live has been better because I studied the arts and learned about great ideas, psychology, how different people think, etc
But there is a legitimate discussion that needs to go on about budget priorities. That discussion is not well served by 2 sides calling each other morons.
To pretend there are endless funds available to do everything that everyone would like done ignores a political reality. There is a line to be walked between preserving our cultural institutions and raising taxes so high that urban flight is the result. As much as I support renovations to the Lyric, if the fallout of funding those renovations is that the audiences are driven by higher taxes to move into the suburbs, and attendabce suffers, what has been accomplished?
This is a time when hard choices have to be made - but politicians (as Beck was pointing out) always cut the essential services the public needs (such as public safety and sanitation) first, in an attempt to inflict maximum suffering on the public until they agree to tax hikes. This has nothing to do with the arts - it's standard operating procedure. They never cut obsolete departments, ineffective programs, or special interest funding. They go for the public's juggler. That is the point of Mr. Beck's tirade - the Lyric situation just provided an easy example that the majority of the public could comprehend.
A final note - you rarely convince people to support the arts by calling them morons if they don't. You convince people to fund the arts by giving concrete examples of how the arts benefit the populace - increase literacy, reduce crime, generate economic activity, and enrich lives. Not happy, ivory-tower talk, but concrete examples.
For example (if the state ever calls a truce in its war on businesses) - major corporations are run by highly intelligent people. A lively arts scene makes it more attractive to headquarter a corporation in the vicinity, because it makes it easier to recruit executive talent when there is a wide variety of cultural offerings - something above heading to the multi-plex at the mall.
I'm sure the creative artists of Baltimore can come up with better reasons to support the arts than "You're a moron if you don't!"

The problem is though, Mike, that Beck lied about the finances of what he was reporting, about police "layoffs" in Baltimore, and thinks that it was OK to falsify information to support a core standpoint that is worth discussion. It's impossible to debate with a liar, because there is no underpinning of truth or baseline facts from which to find common ground. That's why I don't respect Beck as a "journalist", pundit, or human being. Not because he has opinions that differ from mine--but because he repeatedly lies and supports liars in order to "back up" his opinions. Beck cannot construct a well-thought-out argument, but relies on the 'ol emotional heartstrings to draw outrage from his audience in combination with the aforementioned dishonesty. It's just sad that people are so willing to be manipulated like that.

For years, arts patrons and critics have tried to foster discussions about public and private arts funding, and the role that government should or should not have in the arts. So the opinion that this is a timely argument to have only now that money is short is a bit specious. Y'all should have been participating during the good years, instead of shunning the arts as too highbrow, etc. But welcome to the debate, even if seems ill-timed to some of us.

Now, back to my regularly-scheduled daily Parterre reading while munching on white cheddar Cheetos. I *can* have it both ways, and so can everyone else in this discussion if we're willing to kick lies to the curb.

Laura, Tim,
I think calling someone a "liar" for talking about about police layoffs is a little harsh - since I imagine his source was this June 1, 2010 article from THIS VERY PAPER! (Guess y'all missed this one!):

Layoff notices for 250 police officers are being prepared
The Baltimore police department has submitted to City Hall a list of 250 officers who would be laid off if the budget gap is not closed, officials said.

The cuts are based on union-mandated requirements that would result in the most recent hires being the first out. The patrol division would be the hardest hit, and the officers who could be laid off include 50 officers recently hired using $10 million in federal stimulus money, which officials say would have to be given back.

(Tim, this is what some of us refer to as being on the chopping block. Sorry you were too busy re-arranging deck chairs on the Titantic to do a little research. But I wouldn't call you a liar over this - just a little superficial in your research.)

There's also this July 23, 2010 article from THIS VERY PAPER! (Guess you missed this one): '[Mayor] Rawlings-Blake said she worked to avoid laying off police officers as she raised taxes and fees to overcome a $121 million deficit, and now she wants to make sure the Police Department can fill all its budgeted positions. "This new plan will allow us to keep pace with the attrition rate," the mayor told reporters...' TS

I'm going to go with Mike on this one. I think Beck jumped the gun a little in his comments, but that doesn't make his point irrelevant. Police, Firefighters and EMT's are more important than the arts for one reason, there the ones risking their lives to make sure others live a better life. The people in the art industry, wether it be paintings, opera, plays, what have you; bring meaning and expression to the lives of others. Both are important.
I think Tim did a great job of refuting Mr. Beck's arguments on a point by point basis and I wish more journalists did the same rather than resorting to vitriol and name calling. So I guess the bottom line from my point of view is that Glenn should have done more indepth research on the subject and Tim shouldnt have jumped to the conculsion that Beck was being idiotic about a valid point, even if that point wasn't necessarily applicable in this case.

I think the point that is lost on a lot of people here, as Tim points out in his artice, is that this is a bond issue. It is a loan. 65% of voters in Baltimore agreed to this bond issue. It is not money that is not coming from budget cuts elsewhere. Perhaps the realization that this renovation will bring much needed work to the struggling arts community in Baltimore is worth mentioning? Mr. Beck continually mocks what he doesn't understand. In a recent radio program, this is what Mr. Beck had to say about his trip to the Metropolitan Opera:

Rather than enjoy time with his daughter, and foster HER interest in something, he mocked...and mocked...and mocked. I can't imagine that he bought the $35 seats in the back, as the conversation with his seat-mates would have been much different. He sat where he was comfortable...with the wealthy elite. Rather than have an open mind, rather than appreciate the amount of study, work and skill required to bring these masterpieces to life, Mr. Beck spent his time looking for M&M's. I guess they didn't have Cheetos and Mt. Dew after all.

If you've never been to the opera, please don't take Mr. Beck's word for it...have a slightly more open mind, please. If your child expresses an interest in the arts, don't agree to go, only on the condition that you are allowed to mock it the whole night might just be important to your kid.

I wouldn't say I missed it - I, like the majority of adults in the Baltimore market (as reported October 27, 2009 by Lorraine Mirabella) do not read the Baltimore Sun - I use Google when I want information. Sometimes the SUN comes up as a source. But, maybe I was mistaken to assume you read the newspaper you work for - I certainly wouldn't blame you if you did not, so I apologies on that one. I am not trying to defend Beck and everything he says - I'm in favor of renovating the Lyric, I've been participating in the arts since I was 8 (according to Laura, who said - "Y'all should have been participating during the good years, instead of shunning the arts as too highbrow, etc." - apparently, the "good years" in the arts all occurred before 1964, since I have been participating in the arts since then, and for the last 27 years as an annual donor to arts organizations). I think Beck acts like a jackass on his show, and about 30 seconds or so of it all I can stand. However, Tim, you called the man a liar based on a.) his figure for renovations, $750K, being lower than the actual figure of $1 million; and b.) saying his statement "cops are on the chopping block" was a lie. The commonly accepted definition of a lie (reference Bing Dictionary) "lie: an intentionally untrue statement". So you accuse the man of making intentionally untrue statements when a.) the dollar amount was clearly unintentional since, as even you noted, the higher figure would have been more favorable to his case; and b.) reducing the number of police officers has clearly been discussed by credible sources; the number of officers has in fact been reduced, and credible sources believe that reduction has been caused by the city's cuts to pension benefits. There was a huge spite in voluntary seperations from the Baltimore City Police Force in June. "... police union president Robert F. Cherry called the new recruitment plan "a bunch of fluff" and said he stands by his statements that many if not most of the officers who left in June did so because of concerns over their pensions. He said even officers not directly affected might have bailed in order to cash out before paying the increased contributions and because of the uncertainty of the city's budget." and "The question will be whether the new hiring plan can keep up with attrition. This year, police records show that 78 officers were hired and 131 officers left the force. This is the first year since 2006 in which attrition outpaced hiring." [Both quotes are from the same article you quoted.] So Tim, I find your case that Mr. Beck made intentionally untrue statements rather weak. There are the facts that benefit cuts have been made, plans were drawn up for layoffs, and the number of officers has, de facto, been reduced. Certainly it is not an reasonable conclusion to draw that officers "are on the chopping block". You're certainly entitled to your opinion that a mayor, in an election year and running for re-election, has a "plan" that, through higher taxes and fees that will (after the election, of course) hire and train more officers, and that that plan "trumps" the current reality - but that does not make Mr. Beck's observation of the current reality an intentional falsehood. Just as he should be more careful throwing the term "moron" around, I think you need to be careful throwing the term "liar around. A couple of years ago, you repeated the long discredited story that Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorgiu were married on the stage of the Met between a performance of La Boheme and the Levine 25th Gala. I wrote and asked that you stop repeating that fairy tale, and gave you an online link to a first hand account from Alagna(that took me all of 30 seconds to find via Google). In that case, you printed information that was undeniably false and could have been refuted with mere seconds of research - but I didn't call you a liar. Mr. Beck made a statement about a much more complex issue, with competing interpretations, and with evidence online to support his view - but you call him a liar. It seems a term used inadvisedly. But the weekend is coming - no doubt you have operas in Virginia to review, a 17th thread to start on Don Rosenberg (yes, I did a search and counted), and more episodes of "America's Got Talent" to report on. Have a good weekend.

In all your searching, did you try finding the word 'lie' or 'liar' in my column? TS

You are quite correct, and I am mistaken. The term liar was used by Sienna and Laura and not by you. I stand corrected.

Mike, Tim didn't call Beck a liar. I did.

And I still stand by that. This wasn't the first time Beck was caught, failing to give the full story. At the heart of it, questioning the legitimacy of government arts funding is a good question to have. But I cannot support the way in which he chose to approach the topic. Again, using what equates to lies erodes any basis from which any constructive conversation can occur. You know the old statement, made by Daniel Patrick Moynihan: "You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts." And I'm OK with anyone's different opinion about the role of government in arts funding. But I'm not going to debate anyone on this topic--or any other topic for that matter--if facts are treated so loosely. It's not just a point made by Moynihan, but what the core of all good debate rests upon.

Hence, I cannot stand what passes as presidential candidate "debate". :)

Mike, I'm glad to know that you've been active in the arts since the age of 8. Since you've been involved that long, please don't take offense to my comment about the specious timing of some participants in this discussion--since the comment obviously doesn't apply to you based on your self-reported history. Don't have so thin a skin, although I know it happens to all of us.

And I'm returning to my typical stance of replying "Glenn Beck, who?", since that has never failed me when implementing it. It's possible to have great debates and discussion about hot topics, without resorting to or condoning hysteria and hasty statements.

The Met sells tickets to anyone for any part of the theatre, subject to availability. 2 seasons ago I saved my pennies and bought a parterre box seat for the Ring - feeling it was probably the last time I would have the chance of seeing a Ring that had any connection with Wagner's intentions. And I can ASSURE you, no one would call me one of the "wealthy elite". None of the people around me seemed part of the elite either. I think you are, (unintentionally, of course)reinforcing a stereotype that only the "rich" can get a good seat at the opera. I don't think that is helpful in popularizing opera as an art form for the general public. Folks, there is NO (well, practically no) bad seat at the opera. At the MET I have been seated in the front row, and I have been seated in the back row - literally. And just about everyplace in between. I enjoyed the back row more, actually (but for the front row I had to endure a boring staging of Lohengrin; in the back row I heard Pavarotti as the Duke in Rigoletto, and it seemed he was singing from five feet in front of me - the acoustics (in the center) are that good). By the way, in my first post I said "(But the Lyric issue is a red herring - I believe bond issues are not appropriations of money, but a loan guarantee, with the loan to be repaid from revenue generated.)" So that issue has been mentioned.
As far as Beck's mocking of opera - I am actually kind of amused at how upset some of you have become. Not even conservatives (of which, even at the risk of suffering "reverse-McCarthyism", I will admit to being), take his TV and radio seriously - he's a clown in those mediums. But when he appears on other shows as a guest, or when he writes, he drops the Bozo and has some very interesting things to say, IMHO. He's not a moron - he just plays one on TV!
And although I know where you are coming from, Brendan, I wouldn't get too upset by the "mocking". Actually, "mocking" of opera is what got me to try it! I saw opera mocked so many times on TV (usually with a rotund blonde wearing a horned helmet singing Yo-ho-ta-ho!) that my adolescent curiosity took over and I decided to listen to a broadcast (hell, it was free - still is) to see what it was all about. March 17, 1973 I curled up in front of the radio and heard the most beautiful male voice I had ever heard, Robert Merrill, sing "Il balen" and I was hooked. The other singers weren't bad either - I think they all managed to have careers - Placido Domingo, Montserrat Caballe, Fiorenza Cossotto and Ivo Vinco.And here I am, 37 years later having attended/poduced/directed/or sung in countless performances, with about 6000 lps and a couple of thousand Cds in my collection and a lifetime of enjoyment. So fear not - adolescent curiosity will win out over a TV clown more times than not!

Like all blowhards, Beck simplifies issues to the point of absurdity. He makes it seem like it can only be one or the other. Matters of crime and policing are very complicated and run much deeper than budgeting, just throwing money at them doesn't solve them. Arts and other aesthetics contribute greatly to a community's well being, as do things like pro sports teams which also benefit cities in unmeasurable ways while also drawing criticism.

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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