Daniel Bergner isn’t the devil’s advocate, but he is a pervert’s apologist. This author and contributor to the New York Times Magazine has a new book titled "The Other Side of Desire" which argues it is unfair to judge bizarre, harmful, and disgusting sexual attractions as bizarre, harmful, and disgusting.
Bergner’s book focuses on four real-life fetishists: a husband with a secret foot fetish, a man with an attraction to amputees, a vicious female sadist, and a man who longs for sex with his 12-year-old stepdaughter. Book reviews and interviews suggest he hasn’t written a book to judge the fetishists, but rather to judge the society that would rush to condemn their drives and behaviors.
Bergner tries to define deviancy down by quoting one of his experts, a New York psychiatrist who quips, "perversion can be defined as the sex that you like and I don't."
Some of President Obama’s policies are not faring well in public opinion, but will anyone be told? On February 2, a Gallup poll found that Obama’s executive order "allowing U.S. funding for overseas family planning organizations that provide abortion" was decidedly unpopular: only 35 percent approved, while 58 percent disapproved.
You didn’t know this? You’re not alone: A Nexis survey finds none of the television networks, cable or broadcast, noticed these results, either.
The Gallup survey found overwhelming approval for other Obama policies – on higher fuel efficiency standards, on restricting lobbyists from joining his administration, on interrogating suspects according to the Army Field Manual, and on naming special envoys for Afghanistan and Pakistan – so there is plenty of good news for the administration.
Beware celebrities getting involved in politics. In a 2007 CBS News poll, 49 percent of the public agreed with the notion that "Hollywood celebrities are inexperienced about politics and should stay out of politics." When asked if celebrity endorsements would make voters more or less to support a candidate, 78 percent said it "won’t matter to people on way or the other."
I can only conclude that 51 percent of Americans have never heard Hollywood celebrities speak out. Let’s take Cher, the singer who can’t honor her promises to retire. Upon Barack Obama’s inauguration, Cher told CNSNews.com that she loved the new president. "I just think he’s totally the right person at this time in our history," she said. "He brings something more in his spirit than maybe another president could be even with the same intelligence. There’s something about him that brings more with his spirit, and that’s what Americans need right now."
Okay, I’m totally cool with that. But why, then, add the next sentence: "Republicans almost killed me."
Must we always fight Washington policy wars using preferred Democrat terms? Today’s example is the "stimulus package," or as ABC touts on screen during its newscasts, the Obama "Rescue Plan," as if the new president was donning Ronald Reagan’s lifeguard uniform and pulling the economy out of the surf. Despite the dominant media terms, liberals like those at The Huffington Post are complaining the Democrats aren’t effectively resisting "as Republicans seek to tar it as a ‘spending bill.’
Only in the world of politics does one "tar" an issue by calling a spending bill a spending bill. But Republicans and conservative activists are doing more than that. They’re denouncing the bill’s enormous size – larger than the combined cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan up until now! They’re also focusing on how it’s light on actual "stimulus" items and heavy on grants pleasing traditional Democrat special interest groups.
Authors often try to release their books at an absolutely perfect moment for stoking sales. Exhibit A is PBS anchor Gwen Ifill, who scheduled her liberal "era of Obama" thrill-fest about hot-shot black Democrats for Barack Obama’s Inauguration Day. Tony Blankley did almost exactly the opposite. To paraphrase the famous Bill Buckley slogan for National Review, Blankley’s new book stands athwart the historic Obama swearing-in, yelling stop. It’s titled "American Grit," and it calls for a "new nationalism," a notion at odds with Obama’s open disdain for American exceptionalism.
The Left and their media allies have spent nearly every day since 9/11 painting America as an impending dictatorship, a George Bush migraine-headache nightmare of off-shore Guantanamo persecutions and foreign Abu Ghraibs. It’s their goal to regain America’s global popularity by promoting national weakness as an ideal. Their agenda calls for us to try everything a United Nations bureaucrat would have us do: a military in retreat, an executive branch discarding all those horrid martial powers. The exception, of course, is the impending and necessary war on the emission of carbon dioxide. We have met the real terror threat, and it is not al-Qaeda, but the gasoline-burning combustion engine. Move over, Petraeus: there’s a new emissions-free sheriff in town, and his name is Gore.
Barack Obama’s inauguration was an enormous magnet for the stars of stage, screen, TV, and the radio, the celebrity-stuffed culmination of the goals of the Sixties civil rights movement. Some of the most prominent stars were black musicians. This is an opportunity to raise the question: Whither goest black popular culture, especially hip-hop music, under the new president?
1. Will the Obama presidency drain the swamp of hip-hop hate? Can he remake the dividers into uniters? On Tuesday night, the rapper Jay-Z performed on the ABC Inaugural ball special in a tux and nerdy glasses, toning down the thug-rap with a song called "History." ABC didn’t have to bleep a single word, even if the older demographics in the audience were still wondering why this is called music. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the pendulum of rap music swung away from glorifying the "thug life" of drug dealers, pimps, and gangsters? With a black man in the White House, could rappers be less pessimistic about authority? When talking about The Man, there is no more powerful man in Washington than the black man just sworn in as our 44th president.
Walking the freezing streets of Washington D.C. at 5:00 on the morning of the Inauguration, you could already feel the excitement. In a sense, it’s understandable that so many in the press went overboard in their coverage Tuesday: history was made before our eyes. I didn’t mind it, really. But what is offensive was the constant refrain that "America comes together" during Inaugurations. This is a line applied to Democrats. Republicans are not awarded that courtesy by the press.
The most obvious contrast comes from the Associated Press. On January 12, 2001, the AP headline was "Texans’ inaugural ball will be definitive Texas excess." Reporter Suzanne Gamboa asserted: "It would be redundant to say this party put on by Texans is big, but is it big enough to meet the definition of Texas excess? You bet." The AP noted $1.75 million in corporate sponsorships, and trotted out the usual "watchdog groups" to lament the lobbyist access through excess.
For the fourth time in modern history, a presidential inauguration ceremony will include an official poet. Barack Obama has tapped Yale African-American Studies professor Elizabeth Alexander to compose an original poem for the historic occasion of welcoming America’s first black president.
Inaugurations are high-minded occasions, ceremonies full of hope and idealism and a focus on the historic sweep of our country. A commemorative poem, especially a classic ode to America, sounds like a fine idea. But Team Obama wants something really contemporary. The cultural elite is taking credit for Obama’s election, arguing the arts opened narrow American minds to the prospects of hope and change. Jeremy McCarter boasted in Newsweek: “Where did we Americans learn to be so uniquely broad-minded? In large part, from our artists.”
President Bush came before the White House press corps for the last time on January 12 to thank them for doing their jobs. This exercise was akin to thanking the sharks who ate you.
The president said he didn’t always like the stories that were generated, "but always, the relationship, I have felt, has been professional." Walking in the footsteps of his father, he’d politely unfurled an obvious fib in a display of social graces.
Always professional? President Bush didn’t draw any attention to Helen Thomas in the front row as he praised the media for their never-failing professionalism. Helen’s accusatory rants at White House spokesman Ari Fleischer about the president’s bloodthirsty ways were legendary, like this one in 2003: "Why does he want to drop bombs on innocent Iraqis?" She lectured Bush directly in 2006: "Your decision to invade Iraq has caused the death of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime." She wanted to know if the "real reason" he caused all these deaths and injuries was for oil, or for Israel.
The new Congress has arrived in Washington with grand plans to spend a trillion dollars in an endless Christmas, a bailout for anyone in need, or in want, and in line. Now that America has seen how easy it was for the financial powerhouses to walk away with hundreds of billions, one segment of the population after another is getting into the queue.
The auto industry drove itself into the ground and wants billions. The mayors mismanaged their cities and they want billions. It was only a matter of time before the governors would raise their "me too!" voices, with California’s being the loudest and most obnoxious.
But only in America, and only during this period when we’ve taken a leave of our national senses in the belief that there’s a tooth fairy and her name is "Paulson," would we see materialize that no one could possibly have predicted: the porn industry wants a bailout, too.
I can just imagine the newsreels fifty years from now: "Back in 2009, America was reeling. During those tough times, poor Joe and Mary could hardly afford to put food on the table and porn on the DVD."
Ann Coulter’s new book "Guilty" is out and two things are certain: It will surely be another best-seller, and she will once again drive the Left bonkers. No institution will be more offended than the national press. Prepare to witness their meltdown.
The Drudge Report caused a firestorm when anonymous NBC insiders leaked the word that Coulter had been "banned for life" from that network. CBS featured her on "The Early Show" and a combative Harry Smith tried to insult her to the extreme. He called her "goofy," "simplistic," "sophomoric," and a "whiner." "You should have a cross," he said dismissively. "You should put yourself up on a cross." Why are they so upset?
One sign the liberal news media live in a plastic Manhattan bubble is their undying ardor for the Kennedy Myth, best known by that public-relations construct "Camelot." Instead of a president and First Lady, they believe, we had the King and Queen of Glamour. Never mind if their marriage was a joke and his list of presidential accomplishments was short. Never mind if the Republican half of the country feels sickened by the obsession. The media preferred the myth – and they still do to this day. It is why they are promoting the anointment of unaccomplished Caroline Kennedy for the U.S. Senate in New York.
The very same media which spent months dismissing former mayor and Gov. Sarah Palin as too inexperienced for national office is now championing a woman whose primary qualification – her only qualification -- is her last name. The very same media which still mock Palin’s folksy "you betcha" or her interview with Katie Couric don’t seem to notice when John Fund reports that in one 30-minute interview on the cable news channel New York One, Caroline Kennedy used the slang "you know" a total of 168 times.
How will Caroline Kennedy be expected to cast votes in the Senate when she’s cared so little about voting as a citizen? Faced with reports that she had missed voting in several New York elections, including the 1994 re-election effort of Sen. Daniel Moynihan (the Senate seat she now expects to be handed like royalty), Kennedy told the Associated Press "I was really surprised and dismayed by my voting record. I'm glad it's been brought to my attention."
December can be such a refreshing month for television, especially the warm-hearted Christmas specials that make the holiday about giving, not mall-emptying materialism. This year, for example, NBC aired a new Muppet special where they helped Santa Claus make children’s wishes come true. There’s a reason why "A Charlie Brown Christmas" never gets old and "Miracle on 34th Street" remains timeless in its black-and-white glory: They champion the good, and the holy, and the pure innocence of Christmas.
And it’s worlds apart in tone from today’s usual TV fare. Switch the channel and you’ll find a young man coming back to life in the middle of his own autopsy.
That grotesque scene unraveled in December on the new CBS series "Eleventh Hour," which featured two college-aged men who are assumed dead, but find themselves revived in the autopsy room. The one who’s not sliced wide open starts yelling at the medical examiner as his friend’s heart beats away. No matter. Both soon die "again." The plot is too strange (and lame) to explain. These two extremes on television are good examples of the best and worst of entertainment in 2008. Here are some other offerings.
Sean Hannity marks 2008 as the year journalism died. But it could just as easily be the year journalism felt a thrill going up its leg. That Chris Matthews announcement in February, that a Barack Obama speech caused him a mild ecstasy, represented the everyday "mainstream" media view. Reporters didn’t so much produce "news" during this election year as they tried to make a sale. Every story seemed to say "You know you want Obama."
Chris Matthews won the "Quote of the Year" for 2008 in the Media Research Center’s annual tally of the year’s worst reporting, or "The Best of Notable Quotables." The only quote that came close to Matthews in summing up the year in liberal tilt was this bizarre post-election headline from the Reuters wire service: "Media bias largely unseen in U.S. presidential race."
Even in economically troubled times, Christmas is still a prime opportunity for children to be showered with the latest in electronic gadgetry, from I-pods to laptops. For decades, parents have worried about children wandering into the scariest corners of television. But with new technologies come a lot of new and even scarier trails to follow.
Imagine a young teen with a new laptop, and add YouTube, now owned by Google, which performs 63 percent of the world’s Internet searches. It’s not a far-fetched thought: Nearly half of boys and a third of girls ages 13-17 name YouTube as one of their top three favorite websites. The volume of videos posted on YouTube is mind-boggling. Google estimates that 13 hours of content are uploaded every minute.
What’s being posted for the youngster to watch? YouTube users can flag a video if they think it violates YouTube’s community guidelines, which prohibit sexually explicit videos, graphic violence, and hate speech. But how can monitors keep up with a 13 new hours of video a minute?
Paul Weyrich was a foundational pillar of the modern conservative movement. He was a leader, a patriot and a friend, with an unwavering conscience that held fast to traditional values in good times and bad. Even as Republican leaders vacillated on issues like taxes, abortion and government spending, Paul never wavered, and when he admonished those leaders – even presidents among them – he spoke for legions of conservatives across America.
He was a man of principle who not only stood firmly on the ground of conservatism, but who took giant strides to advance and spread these values in the public square and in the hearts of countless Americans. The fruits of Paul’s labor will continue to flourish, and the words of his namesake – St. Paul of Tarsus – were never more true: Paul Weyrich fought the good fight, he finished the course, and he always kept the faith.
In October 2006 the national media projected Rep. Mark Foley’s online sex chats with House pages into a disaster that would swallow the Grand Old Party whole. CBS, for example, proclaimed it the "congressional equivalent of Katrina." In 2008, when federal investigators found Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich trying to put Barack Obama’s Senate seat on the auction block, these same "news" gatherers found a storm, to be sure, but a storm they suggested would in short order be "pushed out to sea."
With the governor caught on tape unloading obscenity after obscenity about how he expected to reap a financial bonanza for handing out his gubernatorial perks, this story was so undeniably big, even the Obamaphile press couldn’t ignore it. So instead these reporters tried to downplay its impact on the President-elect and the Democrats.
It was 13 years ago that O.J. Simpson was acquitted in the stabbing murders of his wife Nicole and waiter Ron Goldman, two grisly deaths for which he was most certainly responsible.
On December 5, Simpson was sentenced to at least nine years in a Nevada prison for a Las Vegas robbery attempt of what he claimed was his own sports memorabilia.
We live in a crazy world, and the shamelessness never ends for Simpson: on the same day he was sentenced, Xtreme Entertainment Group (XEG) announced they would be selling a new comedy DVD starring Simpson called “Juiced!”
The nation’s economy is causing great anxiety, and no corner seems untouched by the blight of layoffs, or the fear of further stock-market erosion. It probably should come as no surprise that in this crisis, the journalists who have hailed Barack Obama for two years as the Messiah would want their savior’s arrival to be accelerated. They’ve broken out in cold sweats, displaying a bad case of Inauguration Impatience Syndrome.
You can’t reason with them and suggest that several months of transition are necessary to build a new administration, and for Obama it’s not different. They certainly aren’t showing the slightest sign of remembering 2000, when the Left, with the news media cheering them on, dragged the election results out 35 days trying to install Al Gore. Obama’s inauguration needs to happen immediately if not sooner, and George W. Bush should be tossed out like spoiling Thanksgiving leftovers.
Hollywood can still mount a soapbox and recall the dark days when people lost their jobs in show business for daring to take an unpopular political position that was outside the mainstream. Whenever they’re criticized, they proclaim "McCarthyism," accuse their critics of "blacklisting," and condemn the deplorable "intolerance."
Hollywood has yet to accept, perhaps even to understand, that it is the entertainment industry that excels at this slanderous behavior. After California voters narrowly approved Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman, it was revealed that Scott Eckern, the artistic director of the California Musical Theater in Sacramento, the state's largest nonprofit musical theater company, had donated $1,000 to the Yes on 8 campaign.
Eckern’s freedom of speech be damned: the man needed to be punished. Producer Marc Shaiman's musical "Hairspray" had played at the theater and he announced he would never allow anything he wrote to play there because of Eckern's donation. Shaiman’s declaration triggered a blistering e-mail pressure campaign, forcing Eckern to resign.
On the night before Thanksgiving, just an hour after Rosie O’Donnell had publicly belly-flopped with a horrible attempt at an old-time variety show on NBC, Barbara Walters made a fool of herself interviewing Barack and Michelle Obama. The toughest questions dealt with whether there was enough "change" in his cabinet picks, and whether he was "waffling" on tax hikes for the rich – questions his (and ABC’s) liberal base would enjoy.
Let’s go back eight years. On the Friday before the Inauguration, Walters interviewed then-President-elect George Bush and his wife Laura. But it was only one part of a routine "20/20" hour, and she brought harsh questions to carve up Attorney General nominee John Ashcroft as a divisive disaster.
This time, the media’s favorite won. The Obama interview drew a whole hour, which Walters promoted with a gooey splash of Obama fawning and interview clips all across the ABC News schedule. She was so ubiquitous one might have expected her to plug the Obamas in a cameo appearance on an ABC soap opera like "All My Children."
Christmas is coming, which means it’s time for Comedy Central to begin besmirching the holiday. This year’s first salvo is “A Colbert Christmas,” hosted by the clueless-ultraconservative buffoon persona played by Stephen Colbert. Colbert is so busy manufacturing his O’Reillyesque right-wing jerk that it’s impossible to tell where the real man and the cartoon diverge. His adoring entourage in the secular press tries to smooth over his satires of Christianity by insisting he’s a Sunday school-teaching Catholic family man. Colbert told the Associated Press that he thinks his Christmas special is “sincerely strange, but strangely sincere.”
Why do men like this say such insincere things when promoting their shows? That claim of sincerity vanishes within the first 30 seconds, when Colbert proclaims in his white cardigan and red turtleneck that he’s so excited for his Christmas special he’s "sporting a Yule log" and gets out a baseball bat and promises to provide a "freshly hobbled Tiny Tim." I’m guessing that slogan is also ruined by the scene where he tongue-kisses a bear under the mistletoe.
If there is a dreadfully overused word in the giddy countdown to the Obama inauguration, it is "smart." Not just "smart," but also its stronger cousins like "Brilliant" and "Genius." These words have been offered shamelessly for nearly every person assigned a role by President-Elect Obama. They are assembling an "all-star cabinet." This was not an honor for those having attended all the right schools, but a tribute to people who have all the "right" ideas. Liberals are smart because they’re liberals. Conservative beliefs are honed from having been dropped on your head as an infant.
Last week, Newsweek almost comedically compared Obama to Lincoln, hailing the strength of his "humility." How could anyone stay humble with all these hyper-flattering cover stories about whether you’re Lincoln or you’re Franklin Roosevelt? Nobody asked: But what if he turns out to be another ineffective Jimmy Carter? Then again, not to worry. Just as Time turned Obama into FDR on its cover, they comically projected Carter as Gary Cooper in "High Noon" in the hostage-crisis spring of 1980.
The liberal crocodiles at The New York Times are shedding tears for National Review magazine. The headline of media reporter Tim Arango’s piece is "At National Review, a Threat to Its Reputation for Erudition." It is a curious topic for the Times, which usually treats the idea of intellectual conservatism as oxymoronic.
Arango mourns that the tenor of debate at National Review Online, the magazine’s Internet sister, "devolved into open nastiness" over the question of Sarah Palin’s fitness for the vice presidency, "laying bare debates among conservatives that in a pre-Internet age may have been kept behind closed doors." Arango claims that the coarsening effect of the Internet has damaged NR’s "reputation as the cradle for conservative intellectuals and home for erudite and well-mannered debate prized by its founder, William F. Buckley Jr." [Full disclosure: my uncle.]
The election of Barack Obama was certainly historic, and the great attraction of that historic moment led to more history: an Obama-smitten news media that completely avoided their responsibility to test the nominee with hard questions. It made the gooey 1992 Clinton campaign look like a fistfight by comparison.
Obama faced none of the withering scrutiny applied to even the Republican vice presidential candidate. Instead, he was treated to a nearly constant string of encomiums and tributes to his transformational candidacy, while nearly every possible pitfall of political embarrassment or inconvenience has been omitted or dismissed.
Hollywood celebrities campaigning and cavorting with national contenders is a staple of presidential politics. Frank Sinatra is remembered for backing Jack Kennedy. Paul Newman made waves for Hubert Humphrey in 1968. Warren Beatty was part of George McGovern’s "Malibu Mafia" in 1972. Ted Kennedy used Carroll O’Connor, famous for playing Archie Bunker, to add to his lunch-bucket appeal in 1980.
Republicans, too, had their moments. Nixon had Hope; the Gipper had the Duke, Jimmy Stewart and others. But these were exceptions to the rule. For a generation this industry comprised of the very rich and very famous has been dominated by the Left. Some know whereof they speak, many are intellectual embarrassments and all believe the Earth’s axis revolves around the 90210 zip code.
In 1992 they flexed their muscle in a spectacular fashion, seemingly everywhere in support of the Man from Hope. The exercise would be repeated every four years thereafter; in the last go-round John Kerry lined up every Affleck and DiCaprio he could find.
The election results aren’t in yet, but there is one set of surveys with an unmistakeable conclusion. Everyone should be forced to admit that the publicists formerly known as the "news" media have worked themselves to the bone this year to elect Barack Obama.
Polls have found it. The Pew Center for the People and the Press documented a landslide: "By a margin of 70 percent to 9 percent, Americans say most journalists want to see Obama, not John McCain, win on November 4."
The Center for Media and Public Affairs found it. Measuring for comments that are either measurably positive or negative – and dropping out the neutral remarks – comments about Obama on the three network evening newscasts have been two-thirds positive (65 percent) since the party conventions. Comments about John McCain have been about one-third positive (36 percent) in the same time frame.
Academics at Washington State University have discovered something that may not be very profound. Celebrities are quite successful in persuading young people to turn out and vote.
The survey found that get-out-the-vote pitches by celebrities in the 2004 election cycle helped create an 11 percent increase in voting by people between the ages of 18 and 24, compared to the 2000 election."It suggests that we can make use of celebrity culture to get students engaged," said Erica Austin, a co-author of the study and dean of the school. "They want to be like celebrities."
Austin’s team found that "celebrities have the power to motivate civic engagement regardless of their own grasp of the issues at hand." It’s easy to question the political savvy of musicians like P. Diddy or Christina Aguilera. Oprah Winfrey’s big primary push for Barack Obama gushed through the news and spilled over at the ballot box, even if her speeches on his behalf vaguely touted him as "The One" and sounded like a goopy New Age chat. He was "an evolved leader" and "we're all here to evolve as human beings."
Back in 1964, Lyndon Johnson and his hatchet man Bill Moyers made the infamous "Daisy" ad charging Barry Goldwater would cause a nuclear war, and it became a massive media story. Reportedly the ad ran only once and yet everyone came to know about it, thanks to the press. In 1976 and again in 1980 the Democrats worked overtime suggesting the election of Ronald Reagan would trigger a military calamity, so much so that in their 1980 debate, Reagan joked that Jimmy Carter was cartooning him as a "mad bomber." The media couldn’t get enough of that narrative, either.
So what happens when a vice presidential candidate makes the gaffe to end all gaffes and declares that his own running mate will trigger an international crisis? In the Year of The One, it’s yet another controversy that is virtually ignored by a national press corps that has become an institutional embarrassment.
On Sunday, October 12, CBS wrapped up its "Evening News" with the apparently charming scoop that Sister Cecilia Gaudette, a 106-year-old Catholic nun living in Rome, would cast her first presidential ballot since 1952...for Barack Obama. That’s one more evening-news story than CBS has devoted to Obama’s radical legislative record on abortion.
Try this on for size: ABC, CBS, and NBC together have unloaded more than a thousand stories on Obama’s presidential campaign, and we’re still waiting for the first broadcast network TV story devoted to examining Obama’s abortion record.
CBS’s man in Rome, Allen Pizzey, packaged his story without the slightest interest into inquiring as to why this Catholic nun would vote for a candidate who is clearly the nation’s fervent advocate of abortion. Instead, Pizzey chose to...ooze. "She has a simple, old-fashioned standard for politicians," Pizzey proclaimed, before giving the good nun the opportunity for her on-air national endorsement of Barack Obama: "A good straight man; good private life, honest and politically able to govern, of course."