Mercury Confidential - The man behind Mercury INK

Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes at Mercury Radio Arts? Just how do all of Glenn’s crazy ideas get done? Does anyone ever get a chance to sleep? Well, over the next few months we are going to take you inside MRA, giving you the inside scoop on everything from publishing to special events, Markdown to GBTV. We will be interviewing members of our New York, Columbus, and Dallas staff, bringing you all the info, so you can know what it’s really like to work for Glenn.

Sitting in his office high atop Sixth Avenue, one thing is for certain: Kevin Balfe has a lot of books. From signed copies of Broke to foreign language translations of The Christmas Sweater, books line the windowsills, the shelves, and the tops of desks. As for the wall space, it is occupied by – you guessed it – posters of various Glenn Beck and Mercury Ink book covers. For Balfe, Senior Vice President/Publishing at Mercury Radio Arts, being surrounded by books has become just another day at the office, but it wasn't always that way.

After graduating from University of Connecticut as an accounting major, he went to work for a few accounting and consulting firms and eventually ended up at an online financial start-up at the height of the dot com era. That company was bought by a newsletter publisher and Balfe became chief operating officer. It was there that he had his first foray into the publishing world.

"I got a couple years’ experience of running a direct to consumer publication," Balfe said. "And when Glenn decided his first business outside of radio was going to be a magazine – that was sort of how I got hooked up with him."

Balfe joined Mercury in January 2005 and was tasked with starting a monthly magazine for fans of The Glenn Beck Program. "I took over Fusion magazine which is The Blaze Magazine now, and launched that soup to nuts. I got that whole thing going."

Within two years of Balfe's arrival, Glenn inked a deal with Simon and Schuster, the world’s largest publishing house. Being that he was the only member on staff with some form of publishing/writing experience, Balfe became the go-to person for the new book.

"Since I was the only person with 'writing' experience at the time, I went over and did the book thing – An Inconvenient Book it was called." The book was instantly a hit and became the first of seven #1 New York Times bestsellers for Glenn. It remained on the chart for 17 weeks.

"When that one did so well, Simon and Schuster signed Glenn up for more. That’s how I got my start in the book business," Balfe recalled.

Today, Balfe oversees Mercury’s partnership with Simon and Schuster, which encompasses the books Glenn publishes each year, in addition to Mercury Ink – Glenn’s imprint with Simon and Schuster that publishes books from third party authors. Mercury Ink’s first book, Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25, by Richard Paul Evans hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

"I was hired to start a direct magazine – 10 issues for $35/year – and now I am writing and editing and coordinating the production of – I think we are doing 14 books this year or something. So it’s quite a bit different," Balfe said with a laugh.

"And I had no book publishing experience, which is the cool thing. I think if you take a look, most people around here didn’t get their education in the field they are working in, including Glenn, so we take it from the top. So (this job) bears no resemblance to what I was doing, but I love it."

He may love what he does, but his job does not come without its headaches. One of Balfe’s favorite stories about Glenn has to do with a book promotion they were running.

“We did a promotion, I think it was for Broke, and BarnesandNoble.com agreed that one week before the book went on sale, if you went to BN.com, for one day only, they were going to sell the book for 50 percent off,” Balfe explained.

“I wrote it all up for Glenn and gave it to him to read on radio. What that translated to on air was ‘Today only Barnes and Noble is selling this book for 50 percent off.’”

Glenn, not always realizing the power of his words, mistakenly sent thousands of listeners to Barnes and Noble retail stores, instead of Barnes and Noble’s website to purchase the book. “So, all of a sudden, thousands of people across the country in their cars are pulling into Barnes and Noble stores and going up and saying that Glenn told me this book is 50 percent off. The stores had absolutely no idea what these people were talking or that the online promotion even existed. So essentially we had thousands of very confused customers and Barnes and Noble employees across the country.

“That was fun,” Balfe said sarcastically.

And when it comes to Glenn’s book pitches, headaches can also come in spades. Glenn's thoughts come a mile a minute on the air, and his book ideas are no different. Balfe has heard it all over the years, but he says the one of the worst book ideas, from an economic perspective, that Glenn has ever pitched is one they actually ended up publishing.

"The worst pitch that we actually ended up acting on is We Are Brothers," Balfe responded while walking to the windowsill to pick up a copy of a book created in the wake of Beck’s “Restoring Courage” trip to Israel in 2011. "This book is so typical Glenn. He does this trip to Israel and sends his photographer over there on two trips, which is not inexpensive, and then tells me we need to do a book."

Initially, Balfe didn't mind the idea. "Fine, we will do a photo book. We did a photo book for 8/28 (the Washington D.C. event called “Restoring Honor,”) and it was beautiful. We sold a lot of them."

Unfortunately for Balfe, this photo book would not be like the others. He said that Beck told him, "This has to be the nicest book ever created."

Simply looking at a copy of We Are Brothers proves this book lived up to that mandate. With a luxurious imported cloth cover, embossed gold lettering, and high quality paper, the book feels expensive – and it is.

"I mean the whole thing is beautiful. The problem is it is literally the most expensive book ever created. Like these things cost – I won’t even give you the number because you wouldn’t believe it – but it’s more than most books even retail for," he lamented.

"So we have sold like four of these. And I have thousands and thousands of them sitting in a warehouse. And I blame Glenn.

"Do you want one... or 20,000?"

Editor's Note: I took one home with me, and I have to say it would make a lovely gift... Father's Day perhaps?

Despite the minor misstep with We Are Brothers, exciting things are coming up for the publishing department. Cowards, which was just released, returns to the oversized, color, non-fiction issue type books like An Inconvenient Book, Arguing with Idiots, and Broke that have been so popular with the audience.

"This was really about getting back to Glenn’s roots. He loves these types of books – when the book is not about one topic, but rather a theme." In this case that theme is how radicals, politicians, and the media refuse to tell us the truth out of their own self-interest. Each chapter of the book focuses on a different issue, which satisfies Glenn's desire to basically fit five books into one.

"It lets him focus on violence at the border, and the media, and economic terrorism, and George Soros, and religion, and all these things that would typically not fit inside one book," Balfe said. "We all know that Glenn is so ADD, and he wants his books to be like he is on-air, which is all over the place. It’s basically a brain dump, and my job is to make that cohesive and make it feel like it was actually meant to be one book."

Cowards deals with 13 different issues that all tie back into the theme. "Again, there is a common thread in that it is all about the idea that we are five months before the biggest election of our lives and people don’t know the truth about these things, and that is frustrating to Glenn."

A book of this caliber would typically take at least a year to create. Cowards, however, went from concept to completion in just 12 weeks.

"I would say normally if someone just came to me and said we need to write this book, I would say this is a good year because it takes a ton of research,” Balfe explained. “This thing has 35 pages of footnotes and it requires going out and finding experts in the field that we can consult with because, as much as Glenn really knows his stuff, when you get into drug cartel violence on the border, there is a lot of nuance there that Glenn doesn’t necessarily know. We have to have a series of meetings and calls with experts and really understand the stuff before we start writing.

"So you have that whole process. And then you have the writing and editing process. And then, of course, Glenn wants artwork and sidebars, and text boxes, so you have all that stuff. So I would say a year—and we did it in 12 weeks, which was definitely a record for us. And it was not anything I ever want to do again. I basically did not sleep for three months."

And what about the army of people it would take to research, write, and edit a book like this? "I would say 20 people probably contributed in a material way to the book,” Balfe said. "I kind of play general contractor. Like if you want to build a house – no one guy can go and build an entire house. You have to hire the specialists like the plumber and the electrician. You have to make sure they are all in the right order and that no one is stepping on each other’s toes. At, the end of the day, someone has to make sure it looks like a cohesive house.”

There is no rest for the weary, and this is shaping up to be an exciting summer for Mercury Ink. The second installment of Chris Stewart’s Wrath and Righteousness series is due out next month. This 10 book series is unique in that a new e-book will be released every six weeks over the course of the next year.

Also hitting shelves next month is The Communist, which chronicles the life of Frank Marshall Davis – mentor to a young Barack Obama. “It’s a good history lesson of the Communist Party in the United States,” Balfe said.

In August, the highly anticipated sequel to Richard Paul Evan’s New York Times bestselling book Michael Vey is due out: Michael Vey 2: Rise of the Elgen. It already has Balfe’s seal of approval. “I just read it, and it is very good!"

As for Glenn’s next book – Balfe gave us the inside scoop. “Glenn’s next book, knock on wood, is going to be the sequel to (Glenn’s #1 New York Times bestselling political thriller) The Overton Window  (actual title TBD). We hope to have that out in time for Christmas.”

It's clear there is a lot coming up for the guy who began his career as an accounting major, but he is enjoying every sleepless second of it. "Yeah, it bears no resemblance to the original job I was hired to do," Balfe said smiling. "Although, there are probably not many people around here that have the same job." And that is most certainly true.

On Wednesday's TV show, Glenn Beck sat down with radio show host, author, political commentator, and film critic, Michael Medved.

Michael had an interesting prediction for the 2020 election outcome: a brokered convention by the DNC will usher in former First Lady Michelle Obama to run against President Donald Trump.

Watch the video below to hear why he's making this surprising forecast:

Use code BECK to save $10 on one year of BlazeTV.

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

On Thursday's "Glenn Beck Radio Program," BlazeTV's White House correspondent Jon Miller described the current situation in Virginia after Gov. Ralph Northam (D) declared a state of emergency and banned people carrying guns at Capitol Square just days before a pro-Second-Amendment rally scheduled on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Jon told Glenn that Gov. Northam and the Virginia Legislature are "trying to deprive the people of their Second Amendment rights" but the citizens of Virginia are "rising up" to defend their constitutional rights.

"I do think this is the flashpoint," Jon said. "They [Virginia lawmakers] are saying, 'You cannot exercise your rights ... and instead of trying to de-escalate the situation, we are putting pressure. We're trying to escalate it and we're trying to enrage the citizenry even more'."

Glenn noted how Gov. Northam initially blamed the threat of violence from Antifa for his decision to ban weapons but quickly changed his narrative to blame "white supremacists" to vilify the people who are standing up for the Second Amendment and the Constitution.

"What he's doing is, he's making all all the law-abiding citizens of Virginia into white supremacists," Glenn said.

"Sadly, that's exactly right," Jon replied. "And I think he knows exactly what he's doing."

Watch the video to catch more of the conversation below:

Use code BECK to save $10 on one year of BlazeTV.

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

Ryan: Trump Louisiana Finale

Photo by Jim Dale

Part One. Part Two. Part Three.

At the end of Trump rallies, I would throw on my Carhartt jacket, sneak out of the press area, then blend in with everyone as they left, filing out through swinging doors.

Often, someone held the door open for me. Just 30 minutes earlier, the same person had most likely had most likely hissed at me for being a journalist. And now they were Sunday smiles and "Oh, yes, thank you, sir" like some redneck concierge.

People flooded out of the arena with the stupidity of a fire drill mishap, desperate to survive.

The air smacked you as soon as you crossed the threshold, back into Louisiana. And the lawn was a wasteland of camping chairs and coolers and shopping bags and to-go containers and soda cans and articles of clothing and even a few tents.

In Monroe, in the dark, the Trump supporters bobbled over mounds of waste like elephants trying to tiptoe. And the trash was as neutral to them as concrete or grass. They plodded over it because it, an object, had somehow gotten in their way.

It did not matter that they were responsible for this wreckage.Out in the sharp-edged moonlight, rally-goers hooted and yapped and boogied and danced, and the bbq food truck was all smoke and paper plates.

They were even more pumped than they had been before the rally, like 6,000 eight year olds who'd been chugging Mountain Dew for hours. Which made Donald Trump the father, the trooper, God of the Underworld, Mr. Elite, Sheriff on high horse, the AR-15 sticker of the family.

Ritualistic mayhem, all at once. And, there in Louisiana, Trump's supporters had gotten a taste of it. They were all so happy. It bordered on rage.

Still, I could not imagine their view of America. Worse, after a day of strange hostilities, I did not care.

My highest priority, my job as a reporter, was to care. To understand them and the world that they inhabit. But I did not give a damn and I never wanted to come back.

Worst of all, I would be back. In less than a week.

Was this how dogs felt on the 4th of July? Hunched in a corner while everyone else gets drunk and launches wailing light into the sky? configurations of blue and red and white.

It was 10:00 p.m. and we'd been traveling since 11:00 a.m., and we still had 5 hours to go and all I wanted was a home, my home, any home, just not here, in the cold sweat of this nowhere. Grey-mangled sky. No evidence of planes or satellites or any proof of modern-day. Just century-old bridges that trains shuffled over one clack at a time.

And casinos, all spangles and neon like the 1960s in Las Vegas. Kitchy and dumb, too tacky for lighthearted gambling. And only in the nicer cities, like Shreveport, which is not nice at all.

And swamp. Black water that rarely shimmered. Inhabited by gadflies and leeches and not one single fish that was pretty.

Full of alligators, and other killing types. The storks gnawing on frogs, the vultures never hungry. The coyotes with nobody to stop them and so much land to themselves. The roaches in the wild, like tiny wildebeests.

Then, the occasional deer carcass on the side of the road, eyes splayed as if distracted, tongue out, relaxed but empty. The diseased willows like skeletons in hairnets. The owls that never quit staring. A million facets of wilderness that would outlive us all.

Because Nature has poise. It thrives and is original.

Because silence is impossible. Even in an anechoic chamber, perfectly soundproofed, you can hear your own heartbeat, steady as a drum. A never-ending war.

I put "Headache" by Grouper on repeat as we glided west. We were deadlocked to asphalt, rubber over tarface.

And I thought about lines from a Rita Dove poem titled "I have been a stranger in a strange land"

He was off cataloging the universe, probably,
pretending he could organize
what was clearly someone else's chaos.

Wasn't that exactly what I was doing? Looking for an impossible answer, examining every single accident, eager for meaning? telling myself, "If it happens and matters the next year, in America, I want to be there, or to know what it means. I owe it to whoever cares to listen."

Humans are collectors and I had gone overboard.

Because maybe this wasn't even my home. These landmarks, what did they mean? Was I obvious here? When I smiled, did I trick them into believing that I felt some vague sense of approval? Or did my expressions betray me?

Out in all that garbage-streaked emptiness — despite the occasional burst of passing halogen — I couldn't tell if everything we encountered was haunted or just old, derelict, broken, useless. One never-ending landfill.

Around those parts, they'd made everything into junk. Homes. Roads. Glass. Nature. Life itself, they made into junk.

I cringed as we passed yet another deer carcass mounded on the side of the road.

As written in Job 35:11,

Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds in the sky?

Nobody. Look at nature and you feel something powerful. Look at an animal, in all of its untamable majesty, and you capture a deep love, all swept up in the power of creation. But, here, all I saw were poor creatures who people had slammed into and kept driving. Driving to where? For what reason? What exactly was so important that they left a trail of dead animals behind them?

So I crossed myself dolorously and said an "Our Father" and recited a stanza from Charles Bukowski's "The Laughing Heart"

you can't beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.

Out here, nothing but darkness. Needing some light, by God. Give me something better than a Moon that hides like an underfed coward.

Jade told me about some of the more traumatic things she'd seen while working at the State Fair.

"Bro, they pull roaches out of the iced lemonade jugs and act like nothing happened."

"All right but what about the corn dogs?"

"You do not want to know, little bro."

She looked around in the quiet. "Back in the day, the Louisiana Congress refused to raise the drinking age from 18 to 21," she said. "They didn't want to lose all that drunk gambler money. So the federal government cut off funding to highways."

We glided through moon-pale landscape for an hour before I realized what she had meant. That there weren't any light poles or billboards along the road. Nothing to guide us or distract us. Just us, alone. And it felt like outer space had collapsed, swallowed us like jellybeans.

Like two teenagers playing a prank on the universe.

In the cozy Subaru Crosstrek, in the old wild night, brimming with the uncertainty of life and the nonchalance of failure, we paraded ourselves back to Dallas. Alive in the river silence that follows us everywhere.

New installments come Mondays and Thursdays. Next, the Iowa caucuses. Check out my Twitter. Email me at kryan@blazemedia.com

The Iowa primary is just around the corner, and concerns of election interference from the last presidential election still loom. Back in 2016, The Associated Press found that a majority of U.S. elections systems still use Windows 7 as an operating system, making them highly susceptible to bugs and errors. And last year, a Mississippi voter tried multiple times to vote for the candidate of his choice, but the system continuously switched his vote to the other candidate. It's pretty clear: America's voting systems desperately need an update.

That's where blockchain voting comes in.

Blockchain voting is a record-keeping system that's 100% verifiable and nearly impossible to hack. Blockchain, the newest innovation in cybersecurity, is set to grow into a $20 billion industry by 2025. Its genius is in its decentralized nature, distributing information throughout a network of computers, requiring would-be hackers to infiltrate a much larger system. Infiltrating multiple access points spread across many computers requires a significant amount of computing power, which often costs more than hackers expect to get in return.

Blockchain voting wouldn't allow for many weak spots. For instance, Voatz, arguably the leading mobile voting platform, requires a person to take a picture of their government-issued ID and a picture of themselves before voting (a feature, of course, not present in vote-by-mail, where the only form of identity verification is a handwritten signature, which is easily forgeable). Voters select their choices and hit submit. They then receive an immediate receipt of their choices via email, another security feature not present in vote-by-mail, or even in-person voting. And because the system operates on blockchain technology, it's nearly impossible to tamper with.

Votes are then tabulated, and the election results are published, providing a paper trail, which is a top priority for elections security experts.

The benefits of blockchain voting can't be dismissed. Folks can cast their vote from the comfort of their homes, offices, etc., vastly increasing the number of people who can participate in the electoral process. Two to three-hour lines at polling places, which often deter voters, would become significantly diminished.

Even outside of the voting increase, the upsides are manifold. Thanks to the photo identification requirements, voter fraud—whether real or merely suspected—would be eliminated. The environment would win, too, since we'd no longer be wasting paper on mail-in ballots. Moreover, the financial burden on election offices would be alleviated, because there's decreased staff time spent on the election, saving the taxpayer money.

From Oregon to West Virginia, elections offices have already implemented blockchain voting, and the results have been highly positive. For example, the city of Denver utilized mobile voting for overseas voters in their 2019 municipal elections. The system was secure and free of technical errors, and participants reported that it was very user-friendly. Utah County used the same system for their 2019 primary and general elections. An independent audit revealed that every vote that was cast on the app was counted and counted correctly. These successful test cases are laying the groundwork for even larger expansions of the program in 2020.

With this vital switch, our elections become significantly more secure, accurate, and efficient. But right now, our election infrastructure is a sitting duck for manipulation. Our current lack of election integrity undermines the results of both local and national elections, fans the flames of partisanship, and zaps voter confidence in the democratic system. While there's never a silver bullet or quick fix to those kinds of things, blockchain voting would push us much closer to a solution than anything else.

Chris Harelson is the Executive Director at Prosperity Council and a Young Voices contributor.