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Archive for April 27th, 2009

By Scott Horton | Harper’s Magazine, April 27, 2009

The torture trail starts and ends in the White House. That is perhaps the most inescapable conclusion to be drawn from the flurry of documents released in the last week—first the OLC memoranda, then a newly declassified report of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and finally an amazing document that Attorney General Eric Holder released yesterday, which has still gained little attention. The Holder note presents a summary of CIA interaction with the White House in connection with the approval of the torture techniques that John Yoo calls the “Bush Program.” Holder’s memo refers to the participants by their job titles only, but John Sifton runs it through a decoder and gives us the actual names. Here’s a key passage:

“[The] CIA’s Office of General Counsel [this would include current Acting CIA General Counsel John Rizzo] met with the Attorney General [John Ashcroft], the National Security Adviser [Condoleezza Rice], the Deputy National Security Adviser [Stephen Hadley], the Legal Adviser to the National Security Council [John Bellinger], and the Counsel to the President [Alberto Gonzales] in mid-May 2002 to discuss the possible use of alternative interrogation methods [on Abu Zubaydah] that differed from the traditional methods used by the U.S. military and intelligence community. At this meeting, the CIA proposed particular alternative interrogation methods, including waterboarding.”

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Glenn Beck: A Savvy Fraud Who Knows Just How to Please His Audience of Conservative Suckers

By Alexander Zaitchik, AlterNet. Posted April 27, 2009.

The faux right-wing pundit is laughing and crying in the backseat of his stretch limo, all the way to the bank.

Fox News host Glenn Beck has done all the necessary spadework to position himself at the center of a brewing and increasingly paranoid right-wing insurgency. From challenging Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison to prove he isn’t working with Al Qaeda, to taking tearful stands against Barack Obama’s Democratic Reich, the self-described “rodeo clown” is pushing his televised tirades and skits closer to the angrier, more unhinged fare of his daily talk radio show, now ranked third nationally, where he has been honing his confessional Molotov-throwing shtick for a decade.

Glenn Beck is deft at making himself an elusive and slippery target. As media watchdogs and satirists step up their attacks on Beck’s blubbering baboonery, the host has countered with well-practiced public relations Aikido. He has embraced comparisons between himself and Network‘s Howard Beale, who rode an on-air crack-up to record ratings. On his shows and in print, he has claimed at turns to be “crazy,” “borderline schizophrenic,” and “just a clown.”

But is he really? After all of the Comedy Central satires, the studious cataloging of falsehoods and outrages, and the public back-and-forth about his mental state, the big questions about Beck — Who the hell is this guy? And is he for real? remain largely unanswered and even unasked in any serious way.

Fortunately, Beck has actually gone far toward answering these questions himself. Between his thousands of hours of tv and radio recordings, his semi-annual stage tours, and a surprisingly frank memoir, he has provided enough information to piece together the puzzle of the “real” Glenn Beck.

The first casualty of any study of Glenn Beck is the idea that he is cracking up, a la Howard Beale. Mental illness runs in Beck’s family — his mother and brother suffered from depression and committed suicide, and he himself considered suicide in the mid-90s — but Glenn Beck is not crazy. His frequent choke-ups are no more the early signs of a looming crack-up than his bestselling-author status portends a National Book Award.

Glenn Beck has been fake crying for years. It started on his radio show in Tampa, where he first turned the confessional mode of the support-circle — Beck calls it “honesty” — into fodder for self-denigrating humor and ratings gold. After ten years, the fake crying is best seen as a corporate brand handle. It differentiates him from tough-guy competitors in a conservative media universe dominated by manly men and manlier women. Even Beck himself is becoming increasingly open about this. The plug for his upcoming “Common Sense” comedy tour describes him as “America’s favorite hysterical, fear-mongering, tv and radio crybaby.”

Those who take a single drop of Beck’s tears seriously need simply watch recordings of his stage shows. As he paces the stage, Beck switches the tear-ducts on and off like a switch, sometimes as many as six times in a single hour. He even chokes himself up for slick produced segments like the trailer for the stage show based on his bestselling (and ghostwritten) Christmas novel, The Christmas Sweater. Then there is the memorable Freudian slip Beck dropped on Fox back in early February, while recounting the story of a missing girl. “Two years ago, I made the father a promise,” Beck says, choking up, “that I would not let this story dry — er, die….” Any lingering doubts that Beck is just acting are were buried during his turn guest hosting Larry King Live last summer. Watch that clip, and you will see a master tailor of on-air persona at work. He is in full-control and almost unrecognizable.

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