Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Breaking news: Beck speaks!

Glenn Beck gives few interviews -- he prefers to monopolize the microphone -- so it's worth looking at what he says when he actually talks to a reporter.

In the upcoming issue of the New York Times Magazine, Mark Leibovich profiles the Fox News megastar. Here are some highlights:

-- Beck talks about being a recovering addict and projects that onto America:

"I think what the country is going through right now is, in a way, what I went through with my alcoholism," he told me. "You can either live or die. You have a choice."

"I said to someone the other day," Beck told me, "I am as close today to a complete and total collapse as I was on the first day of recovery." He calls himself a "recovering dirtbag." There were many days, he said, when he would avoid the bathroom mirror so he would not have to face himself. He was in therapy with "Dr. Jack Daniels." He smoked marijuana every day for about 15 years. He fired an underling for bringing him the wrong pen. And, according to a report, he once called the wife of a radio rival to ridicule her -- on the air -- about her recent miscarriage.

"You get to a place where you disgust yourself," Beck told me. "Where you realize what a weak, pathetic and despicable person you have become."

In short, he trashes himself, as a way of illuminating the path to redemption.

-- Beck, like Bill Clinton, tried to save his mother from physical abuse:

I asked Beck if he could pinpoint the moment he decided to change his life. "Here's something I haven't told anyone before," Beck said. "When my mother was at her worst, she was dating a guy who was abusive. He was a big Navy guy too." It was right at the end of her life. Glenn got between his mother and the man during an ugly fight. "I just came in and stood between them and said, 'Get out of our house.'

The man left, but he came back a few days later and begged forgiveness. "When I sobered up, I remember looking back to that point," Beck told me.

I asked Beck how he knew that his mother's death was a suicide. The man who drowned with her was that same abusive boyfriend, he said.

-- Has he peaked? His ratings are down. From 2.8 million last year to 2 million now.

-- Beck is not the most popular guy at Fox. Leibovich credits my reporting on the subject of how many staffers are concerned that he is becoming the face of the network:

When I mentioned Beck's name to several Fox reporters, personalities and staff members, it reliably elicited either a sigh or an eye roll. Several Fox News journalists have complained that Beck's antics are embarrassing Fox, that his inflammatory rhetoric makes it difficult for the network to present itself as a legitimate news outlet.

-- I also reported on how Fox executives believe they made Beck into the phenomenon he is today. Leibovich has this nugget:

In the days following Beck's Lincoln Memorial rally, which by Beck's estimate drew a half-million people, Ailes told associates that if Beck were still at Headline News, there would have been 30 people on the Mall.

-- Beck is plagued by self-doubt:

"I wrote Sarah Palin a letter last night about 2 in the morning," Beck said on his radio show in September. "And I said: 'Sarah, I don't know if I'm doing more harm or more good. I don't know anymore.' "

A lot of Beck's critics would be happy to answer that question.

How to SEDUCE female CNN reporter!

James O’Keefe Fails to Seduce CNN Reporter

Conservative activist James O’Keefe hates women as much as he hates ACORN. O'Keefe—the “journalist” who made the ACORN pimp tapes and was later arrested at Senator Mary Landrieu’s office—attempted to “punk” a CNN reporter Abbie Boudreau by setting up a “pleasure palace” on a boat, where he hoped to seduce her. The pleasure palace included a condom jar, dildos, and sexy music. “Abbie has been trying to seduce me to sue me, in order to spin a lie about me,” read O’Keefe’s script. “So I’m going to seduce her, on camera, to use her for a video.” The plan was jettisoned at the last minute after someone tipped Boudreau, who was supposed to interview O’Keefe for a documentary about young conservatives. The document said O’Keefe would “point out the hypocrisy in CNN using the inherent sexuality of these women to sell viewers and for ratings, passing up more esteemed and respectable journalists who aren’t bubble-headed bleach blondes.” The script specifies, "James should have a more sleazy persona than normal." We didn't think that was possible.

Read it at

Oh Canada! The world's oldest profession joins the capital system.

Judge decriminalizes prostitution in Ontario,
BUTT Ottawa (Federal Government) mulls appeal.

Ruling aimed at keeping sex workers safe clears way for legal changes in other jurisdictions
A Superior Court justice gutted the federal prostitution law in Ontario on Tuesday, allowing sex-trade workers to solicit customers openly and paving the way for judges in other provinces to follow suit.

Justice Susan Himel struck down all three Criminal Code provisions that had been challenged - communicating for the purposes of prostitution, pimping and operating a common bawdy house.

The decision will take effect in 30 days unless Crown lawyers return with arguments that are strong enough to persuade her to grant a further delay, Judge Himel said.

Her landmark ruling drew immediate fire in Ottawa, which has little time to regroup and battle the judgment. A domino effect of judicial decisions could quickly topple prostitution laws across Canada, as happened several years ago with prohibitions against gay marriage.

Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson asserted that it is the government's prerogative to decide how best to protect prostitutes and the communities in which they ply their trade. "The Government is very concerned about the Superior Court's decision and is seriously considering an appeal," he said in a statement.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak both said they support the feds in seeking to appeal the ruling that strikes down the federal prostitution law.

Judge Himel, however, found current laws offer little protection. Her judgment pointed at evidence that established violence against sex workers is endemic - from a string of gruesome serial killings by Vancouver pig farmer Robert Pickton, to a rash of missing prostitutes in Alberta and frequent violence against sex trade workers in the Atlantic region.

In her 131-page ruling which took her a year to produce, Judge Himel found that laws set up to protect prostitutes actually endanger their safety, forcing them to furtively engage in hasty transactions conducted in shady locations.

"By increasing the risk of harm to street prostitutes, the communicating law is simply too high a price to pay for the alleviation of social nuisance," she said. "I find that the danger faced by prostitutes greatly outweighs any harm which may be faced by the public."

"We got everything," yelped a York University law professor behind the challenge, Alan Young, as he scanned the judgment seconds after it was released. "We did it.... Finally, somebody listened."

Judge Himel specifically rejected a request from the Crown to suspend the effects of her decision for 18 months on the grounds that doing so would force sex trade workers to continue working under hazardous conditions. She said the 30-day delay gives the Crown one last chance to persuade her that she should suspend her judgment.

Prof. Young said that, in light of how uncompromising Judge Himel's findings were, the Crown faces a tough uphill battle in obtaining an additional stay.

"In 30 days, the ruling kicks in and people can start growing their businesses," he said.

The litigants - Terri-Jean Bedford, a flamboyant dominatrix, and two former prostitutes, Valerie Scott and Amy Lebovitch - expressed shock that they had won any portion of their three-pronged assault on the law, let alone all three.

Ms. Bedford spontaneously leaped from her chair at a Toronto news conference Tuesday afternoon after being asked if she has plans to celebrate. "I'm going to spank some ass. Legally!" Ms. Bedford said, waving her trademark leather riding crop in the air.

"It's a great day for Canada," she added. "It's like emancipation day for sex trade workers."

Ms. Scott said that prostitutes will begin pressing immediately for a regulation regime that includes workers' compensation, health standards and inclusion in the country's income-tax scheme. "We don't have to worry about being raped or robbed or murdered," she said.

"We would like to tell residents and business owners: Don't be afraid," Ms. Scott added. "We are not aliens. Sex workers across the country ... want to work with municipalities and to be good citizens running good businesses."

Regardless of whether or not the decision is appealed, it is likely to plunge Parliament back into a divisive debate over criminalizing the operation of an activity that is itself perfectly legal.

Prof. Young warned the press and public not to fall for an inevitable onslaught of misinformation and scare stories that government officials will issue as it bids to prop up the law.

"This was a big bite out of the heart of government," he said. "They are going to feel this one. I don't know what this means now; whether or not we will see five-storey brothels like the ones in Germany."

However, Prof. Young also said that the public need not fear that prostitutes and pimps are about to run amok in their communities. Nor, he said, should people allow any distaste they may have for prostitution to cloud the central issue in the case.

"This case is all about protecting the security and safety of people working in the sex trade, regardless of what you think of sex-trade work," he said. "We have had a moral aversion to the sex trade for hundreds of years, but any time you can do something that increases peoples' safety, you have done something good."

In her ruling, Judge Himel cited approvingly efforts made by countries such as New Zealand, Australia and Germany to decriminalize and control the sex trade in a safe manner.

She emphasized that several other provisions relating to the sex trade can still be used by police to prevent neighbourhoods from turning sleazy, and to curb child prostitution, procuring or prostitutes who impeded pedestrian or vehicular traffic.

Judge Himel also stressed that pimps who threaten or commit violence against prostitutes can still be prosecuted using other sections of the Criminal Code.

Both sides in the case spent years amassing a vast body of international evidence, including dozens of witnesses.

The Crown argued that prostitution can be equally dangerous whether it is conducted in a car, an open field or a luxurious boudoir. It urged Judge Himel to also reflect on the fact that prostitution is inherently degrading and unhealthy, and should not be encouraged as a "career choice" for young women through a slack legal regime.

Prof. Young countered that prohibiting communication renders prostitutes unable to "screen" potential clients, hire security or move behind the relative safety of closed doors.

Several cities - including Toronto, Victoria, Windsor, Calgary and Edmonton - charge fees to licence body-rub establishments despite the general understanding that many sell sexual services.

Prof. Young ridiculed them on Tuesday for hypocritically reaping licensing fees while pretending not to know that they are fronts for prostitution.

"For a decade, they have been charging exorbitant licensing fees for rub-and-tugs," he said. "Now, at least we won't have to charge them with living off the avails."
Globe and Mail


'Thrill Kill' Soldiers: What Were They Thinking? Mental Health Experts
Say Violent Acts Stem From Complex Psychological Factors

Five U.S. soldiers stand accused of using grenades and rifles to murder three unarmed Afghan civilians earlier this year, and investigators say several of the soldiers even collected the dead civilians' body parts.

In a videotape obtained by ABC News' Brian Ross Unit, one of the accused soldiers, Cpl. Jeremy Morlock, confessed to the murders. He said the officer in charge, Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, gave orders to carry out the killings and that Gibbs had no problem murdering innocent civilians.

Mental health experts overwhelmingly agreed the actions the soldiers have been accused of are inexcusable, and they said a number of complex psychological factors may play a role in why soldiers obey their commander's orders -- even when this means committing atrocities. The emotional toll of combat, people's tendency to do whatever they're told to do and the soldiers' fear of their sergeant, whom several of the them portrayed as a "thrill killer," could have contributed to their decision to kill unarmed civilians, they said.

"Sleep deprivation plays a role, there's some question of traumatic brain injury and some question about the use of prescription drugs," said Dr. Jon Shaw, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Miami School of Medicine who spent more than 20 years in the military. He has no involvement with the accused soldiers.

The attorney for one of the accused soldiers said his client was under the influence of prescription drugs during his videotaped confession. Another of the accused soldiers said drug use -- often hashish laced with opium -- was rampant at their base in Afghanistan.

"There's a serious problem with substance abuse happening among our soldiers," said Dr. Jeffrey Victoroff, associate professor of clinical neurology and psychiatry at teh University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine. He added, though, the he doesn't believe substance abuse alone led to murder.

Extreme stress, psychiatrists say, is perhaps one of the biggest factors that can affect soldiers' judgment.

"When you're exposed to that kind of stress, there's a readiness to be more passive and accept external authority, especially in a command structure," Shaw said.

'The Lowest Level of Morality'
"This is a very prolonged conflict and engagement, and there are multiple indications that these army units are worn out," said Dr. Paul Ragan, associate professor of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Ragan, who served in Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s, has no involvement with the soldiers.

Ragan said that in a war that's lasted nearly a decade, soldiers in combat could experience a wide range of emotions that influence their behavior.

"They may be suffering from mental fatigue, or may be feeling dispossessed and angry," Ragan said. "Are these men put in impossible situations [in which they] begin to dehumanize the other group and take their rage out on innocents?"

The emotional upheaval may also affect their moral judgment.

"In a group, there's regression to the lowest level of morality," Shaw said.

Role of Commanding Officer Difficult to Ascertain, Say Experts
The parents of another accused soldier, specialist Adam Winfield, said their son felt his life would be in danger if he reported Gibbs.

Mental health experts say that if the stories about Gibbs are true, the situation is very troubling and indicative of a military breakdown.

"There are a huge number of questions," Ragan said. "Where were the good order and discipline? Where's the supervision? It's possible that in a remote area with a fair amount of group-think and coercion, something like this can happen."

The famous experiment by the psychologist Stanley Milgram, in which subjects were ordered to administer a gradually increasing level of electric shock to other subjects who answered questions wrong. The receiving subject was actually an actor, and there was actually no shock administered at all. But the majority of the people in the study were willing to shock another person just because they were told to do so.

When the Blame Game Doesn't Apply
That coercion effect, combined with the multitude of psychological factors and a troubled commander may have led the soldiers to do the unthinkable.

"If you get one bad apple in an authority role, he could lead them to do almost anything," said Victoroff.

But Ragan said it may be difficult to sort out whether the soldiers truly felt as if they had no other choice or if they committed the murders and now blame someone else.

"The defense will have to demonstrate the extent of any kind of systematic intimidation, terrorizing and punishment," Ragan said. "What did the staff sergeant do when someone didn't go along with his orders?"

Shaw said that the soldiers should not blame the murders solely on their commanding officer.

"There are channels in the military where one can get help for this kind of commander who is problematic," he said.

Two of the soldiers said they were sure Gibbs would retalitate if they came forward with their concerns. In his confession, Morlock said he believed Gibbs would kill him, and Winfield's parents said their son also believed he would be killed if he came forward.

The Winfields told ABC News they tried to warn the Army and a U.S. lawmaker, but to no avail.

Ultra Deadbeat Dad Gets 23 Months in Jail

Judge Throws Book at Michigan Man Who Failed to Pay Support
for His 23 Kids

After fathering 23 children, Howard Veal, who may be the biggest deadbeat dad in America, has been sentenced to 23-48 months in jail for failing to pay child support.

"In my entire career I have never seen a case like this where so much was owed to so many and ignored," Kent County Judge Dennis Leiber, who has presided over support cases for more than 20 years, told ABC News.

The Michigan man accumulated a debt of more than $533,000 in child support payments, according to court records. Veal has allegedly failed to support his children beyond a few meager payments. "You are the poster child for irresponsibility," Leiber told Veal at a court hearing, according to The Grand Rapids Press. "You're an insult to every responsible father who sacrifices to provide for their children."

In the last seven years, Veal reportedly paid less than a total of $90 for two of his children's upkeep. In July, Veal pled guilty to failure to pay child support to Sherri Black for his children aged 16 and 11 years old. Of the more than $63,000 owed to Black, the Muskegon High School graduate was asked earlier this year to pay 10 to 100 percent of the child support owed for reduced charges. By late August, Veal had paid nothing.

Black, the mother of two of Veal's children, wrote in a letter that it's heartbreaking to choose between shoes and rent.

With a checkered employment history, the 44-year-old Veal has been living with his current girlfriend, who is the mother of four of his children.

During a presentencing investigation, Veal disclosed he fathered 15 children with a total of 12 women but said he could not remember them all.

Findings by a more comprehensive report ordered by the court alleged Veal fathered 23 children by 14 different women. Children that Veal has also allegedly failed to support.

'Outrageous Case'
Michigan Assistant Attorney General Mitchell Wood wrote the judge to seek sentencing beyond the guidelines: "The Attorney General's Child Support Division has prosecuted thousands of felony nonsupport cases since its inception, but none as outrageous as this. For a decade, between 1989 and 1999, the defendant impregnated at least one woman every single year."

After hearing the facts about the case, the judge said he deviated from sentencing guidelines for substantial and compelling reasons. The guidelines called for no more than six months in jail.

"When you create a human being, I think you have a fundamental responsibility to provide for that child with necessities like food, clothing and shelter," says Judge Leiber. "Those were the thoughts running through my mind when I saw a man that was spectacularly irresponsible."

Veal says he's been out of work and pays what he can. At least 14 additional child support cases are pending against him.

The case has lighted up the online comment boards in Michigan, where unemployment tops 13 percent. The Kalamazoo Gazette, in an opinion piece on its Website, said the tough sentence doesn't solve much.

"Explain how it makes sense to take a man who can't or won't pay child support and stick him in jail for up to four years where taxpayers will then have to pay more than $30,000 a year to feed and house him?" wrote Joyce Pines.

But the Saginaw News said that enough is enough. "We're with the judge in our astonishment at the breadth of the accusations in this case. The father says he tried to make child support payments from his unemployment checks. But come on! there's no way that 23 children could be even partially supported on that kind of income.

"Bottom line: All parents have a moral, civic and financial duty to provide for and nurture their children."


'On April 1, 2008, Rep. Phil Gingrey paid Mitchell Hunter, his former chief of staff, $6,000 for campaign consulting fees.

That payment came one day after the Georgia Republican signed a letter to the Appropriations Committee requesting an earmark for the National Center for State Courts, which had recently hired Hunter as a lobbyist,' writes Roll Call ace investigative reporter Paul Singer.

'The center got its earmark that year - $100,000 to help state courts implement federal rules - and paid Hunter $100,000 for lobbying services. Gingrey paid Hunter $28,650 for 'campaign strategy' and 'fundraising consulting' in 2008 ... Gingrey has paid Hunter's firm another $54,090 since then.

Hunter said there is absolutely no connection between his work for Gingrey's campaign and his lobbying services. Both Hunter and Gingrey's office said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) was the lead sponsor of the 2008 earmark for the court center, which is in his district. ... For fiscal 2010, the center received a second earmark for $500,000 with the support of nearly two dozen House Members and Senators; Gingrey was not among them.

Nevertheless, Congressional watchdogs say it is highly unusual for a lobbyist seeking earmarks for a client to also serve as a paid fundraiser or campaign consultant to a Member who is supporting those earmarks.
The arrangement would seem to make it difficult to keep the Member's official duties separate from the activities of the campaign, they said.'