Glenn Beck–Double Fail!

He’s lost his advertisers, but he can still dress up like a Nazi on the cover of his new book because gosh darn it, that’s funny!

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[h/t Gawker , video from The Landline]

Jenna Bush Gets Better Job than Her Dad–”Today” Correspondent

jenna-bush-2430-20080511-52.thumbnail.jpgThe rowdier Bush twin Jenna Bush Hager has a new gig as a special correspondent for "Today."

After graduating from University of Texas at Austin in 2004, Jenna wrote a book "Ana’s Story:  A Journey of Hope," about a 17-year-old single mother with HIV whom she met while working in Latin America with UNICEF. And then she and her mommy Laura "Love My New China?" Bush co-authored a children’s book, "Read All About It." Currently the former First Daughter lives in Baltimore with her husband and works as a reading resources teacher. I guess she got a lot of practice with that, reading out loud to her dad…

"Today" executive producer Jim Bell announced that starting September 14, Jenna will cover:

a variety of human interest and feature stories…she displayed a natural ability to communicate and connect. She has great passion about important subjects, especially education and literacy, and we look forward to having her bring her unique perspective to "Today."

Inglourious Basterds-Sorta So-So

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I wish I liked Inglourious Basterds more, or maybe if it were a better a movie, I would have. The premise is great-Jewish American soldiers and once Nazi defector, led by Brad Pitt–reveling in his goofy role–go behind the lines in occupied France, brutally killing Nazis to terrorize the the behilter out of the rank and file soldiers. Meanwhile, Shoshanna Dreyfus who escaped the murder of her family by SS Colonel Hans Landa, has emerged in Paris as the owner of a cinema under the alias Emmanuelle Mimieux whose charms seduce Nazi war hero/rising movie star Fredrick Zoller. Zoller convinces Joseph Goebbles to hold the premier of Zoller’s first film Hero of the Nation at Mimieux’s theater, and thus she reencounters Col Landa and finds a way to wreak revenge on the entire Third Reich.

Meanwhile, the Basterds are involved in another plan to with the same goal-to blow up the theater during the premier, which is where the whole movie begins to sloooooooooow down and lose its pacing. Plus Tarantino once again resorts to his tired devices-well now they are gimmicks- of screen cards and superimposed titles to make a point. Like, maybe he need sot grow up a little.

A seemingly interminable scene in a rathskeller drags its potential tension into tedium as does the build-up at premier-until Col Landa reappears onscreen. Christopher Waltz, who plays Landa, won Best Actor at Cannes for his portrayal and steals every scene he is in.

Inglourious Basterds really is really a movie about movies. The title is from an Italian film. "Emmanuelle Mimieux" is a tribute to Yvette Mimieux and the 1970s porn flick Emmanuelle. There are discussion about classic films and directors, a visual reference to the classic scene of the arc opening in Raiders of the Lost Arc, and most importantly, a plot point about the flammability of silver nitrate film stock. What lost treasures of the cinema are contained on those 350 reels of silver nitrate film that explode in film’s grand revisionist fantasy finale?

And what concessions to Landa will the US government give to end the war and save our heroes? Did we do that for others? And why are guerilla terrorism and suicide missions okay when the US does them, but not when anyone else does? These were questions I was left with, along with, "Why wasn’t this a better movie?"

Live Blogging Ted Kennedy’s Funeral

ted-kennedy.thumbnail.jpgSenator Edward Kennedy’s funeral is broadcast live from the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica in Boston. The Secret Service has been checking people in and doing body scans under a tent since it’s raining. Jesse Jackson, GW Bush,  Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter,  Arnold Schwarzenegger, members of Congress, all the Kennedys are in attendance, along with foreign dignitaries. Bush 1 isn’t there–supposedly he is not well enough to make the drive. And President Obama will deliver the eulogy.

The service, called the Mass of the Resurrection, is full pomp of and circumstance, incense, altar boys–plus there’s a string quartet and it will be broadcast live on CSPAN, CNN and Fox News. We’re live blogging about the funeral and Kennedy’s life, his policies, his history, and of course the eulogy of the President and the speeches of others. Could this event help heal partisan issues? Could Kennedy’s death and the celebration of his life bring about the changes in health care he worked so hard to bring about?

Reading Rainbow Canceled Just When Glenn Beck Needs It Most

The iconic Reading Rainbow which taught kids the joys of reading aired its last show Friday. Producers unable to secure several hundred thousand dollars to secure broadcast rights for the program hosted by LeVar Burton. But the Bush administration’s education policies also played a part, explained John Grant director of content at the show’s home station, WNED in Buffalo. According to Grant who spoke with NPR on Friday

Grant says the funding crunch is partially to blame, but the decision to end Reading Rainbow can also be traced to a shift in the philosophy of educational television programming. The change started with the Department of Education under the Bush administration, he explains, which wanted to see a much heavier focus on the basic tools of reading — like phonics and spelling.

Grant says that [the Public Broadcasting Service], [the Corporation for Public Broadcasting] and the Department of Education put significant funding toward programming that would teach kids how to read — but that’s not what Reading Rainbow was trying to do.

"Reading Rainbow taught kids why to read," Grant says. "You know, the love of reading — [the show] encouraged kids to pick up a book and to read."

A love of reading certainly would have helped Glenn Beck. See the more you read and enjoy reading the more you learn, from concepts to spelling.  He wouldn’t even have had to read Aristole or Xenophon, heck there’s there’s lots of books which use the word he’s trying to spell in this video.

[H/T MediaMatters.org ]

Reading, Writing, ‘Rithematic–and Revival Fires?

390350345_a0a04a139d.thumbnail.jpgThrough the American Family Association, in conjunction with Tim Todd Ministry/Revival Fires International, high school kids are being encouraged to pass out Todd’s "Truth for Youth" version of the Bible at school during non-instructional time:

Help us bring the message of the Gospel to America’s youth and counter the ill effect of the liberal agenda being promoted aggressively in America’s public schools by helping to provide Truth for Youth Bibles for every teenager in the United States.

The Truth for Youth consists of the entire New Testament in the God’s Word Translation along with 100 pages of powerful, full color comic stories that present the "absolute truth" about issues that young people are confronted with, such as: Sexual Purity, Sorcery & Witchcraft, Homosexuality, Abortion, Pornography, Drug Addiction, Drunkenness, Peer Pressure, School Violence, and Secular Rock Music. God’s wonderful plan of salvation is incorporated into each of the stories.

Oh noes! The evils of Blink 182 and Green Day!

The American Family Association says that their partnership in Todd’s evangelical effort

has resulted in more than 350,000 Bibles being given away in school and more than 2500 young people sending decision coupons, emails or letters confirming they have surrendered their hearts to Christ. A total of more than 1.25 million Truth for Youth Bibles have been distributed since the conception of the Truth for Youth Bible for teens.

Okay wait, that’s a really lousy rate of return–2,500 teens recruited out of 350,000 Bibles being passed out? That’s less than 1%! And at a cost of $3 per Bible –based on what Todd charges adults– he’s giving away one free Bible per household for Traction or Abilene to hand out in the lunch line. For that amount of money, these ministries could be feeding a lot of homeless people, preventing tens of thousands from catching malaria, or treating just as many people on the African continent with HIV/AIDS. Just saying.

But if the schools allow it, I’m all for letting kids give away religious texts outside of the classroom. It’s a great way to learn about other religions and cultures! Just think what would happen if a group of teens handed out the Koran in the hallway! What about the Torah by the lockers? The Sutras?

Oh heck, new religions could get a real boost from this–why I bet there are scores of pubescent, proselytizing Scientologists chomping at their e-meters to pass out copies of Dianetics. Surely teen Thelemites will be eager to deliver Aleister Crowley’s Book of the Law and Magick in Theory and Practice to their peers; and naturally Wiccan youths may want to share their philosophy, perhaps giving away Phyllis Curott’s Witch Crafting, or maybe the more high school-oriented Where to Park Your Broomstick: A Teen’s Guide to Witchcraft or Sons of the Goddess: A Young Man’s Guide to Wicca. 

And if you’re gonna be passing out Bibles, God’s Word Translation is a little too loose and easy, losing so much of the poetry found in other translations. Look at two translations of Ephesians 2:8,9. The first is the much referenced King James Version; the second, God’s Word Translation:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

God saved you through faith as an act of kindness. You had nothing to do with it. Being saved is a gift from God. It is not the result of anything you have done, so no one can boast.

"Grace" is  not "an act of kindness" semantically or theologically. Plus, the God’s Word version is really clunky– ZOMG, the God’s Word translation of Song of Solomon! Hideous! Here’s the KJV:

1The song of songs, which is Solomon’s. 2Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine. 3Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee. 4Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.

Now here’s the utterly cringe-worthy God’s Word Translation (and oh how I shudder when it have to type the title, because really I think God is lots more articulate, plus not all of the Bible is God’s word, per se, though it was inspired by God; for example it’s traditionally believed the Psalms were written by a person, not by God talking about God; same with the New Testament–no one claiming to be God wrote that, it’s a series of recollections about what God did or might want us to do!). Anyway, this pretty much bites as inspired text:

1 The most beautiful song of Solomon. 2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth. Your expressions of love are better than wine, 3 better than the fragrance of cologne. (Cologne should be named after you.) No wonder the young women love you! 4 Take me with you. Let’s run away. The king has brought me into his private rooms. We will celebrate and rejoice with you. We will praise your expressions of love more than wine. How right it is that the young women love you!  

Verses 2 and 3 sound like bad ad copy for cheap men’s fragrance. Cologne that should be named after you!? Facepalm.jpg srsly.

And besides, "ointment" is not "cologne." Totally different chemical compositions. But maybe "scented oil" or "fragrant oil" was too hard a concept to grasp? Though I’ll give them credit for translating "virgin" into "young woman," since back in ye olden times, virgins were women who weren’t currently married, as opposed to a person who had never had sex.

I wonder if any group of teens would be willing to pass out other religious texts just to make a point if the AFA/Revival Fires stuff shows up in their schools? Heck, atheist teens could certainly make a point with  their literature too!

Palin Failing at Showing Up–Again!

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Sarah Palin rhymes with failing. The former Alaska gov, stepped down midway through her first term, explaining

I am now looking ahead and how we can advance this country together with our values of less government intervention, greater energy independence, stronger national security, and much-needed fiscal restraint.

Maybe  "less government intervention" is why she is bailing (rhymes with Palin) on an event sponsored by the Alaska Family Council promoting an Alaska ballot measure which would make it illegal for teens to get an abortion without telling their parents, since that’s the government interfering in the relationship between teenagers and their parents by forcing teens to reveal private information.

The Anchorage Daily New reminds us that this

would be at least the fourth time in recent months that an anticipated Palin speech has fallen through after Palin and her camp disputed they had ever confirmed it. That includes the brouhaha over whether she’d speak at the annual congressional Republican fundraising dinner in Washington, D.C., this summer.

Palin’s spokeswoman Meg Stapleton said Wednesday, in response to inquiries from the Daily News about the anti-choice event, that

this is the first we have ever heard of a speech

adding that Palin is out of state and won’t be there.

But Alaska Family Council President Jim Minnery said that he’d been speaking with Palin "contacts" for weeks about the event at ChangePoint, the Anchorage megachurch where new Governor Sean Parnell is a member, where Palin is advertised to speak and be the first name on the ballot measure petition. Minnery told the ADN: 

All we can do is take people at their word that we’ve worked with in the past.  We’ve been working for several weeks on the event, promoting it very heavily. It would be a grave disappointment if she doesn’t show up but the show will still go on.

So wait, is there some mook in mukluks and a mooseskin trench coat skulking around Alaska claiming to represent Sarah Palin and duping conservative groups into believing that the former governor would love to show up at their events, maybe in exchange for a well-greased palm?  Or maybe Palin is trying to create an image of an elusive and fascinating doe. Or maybe she just can’t cope.

Whatever the reason, it looks really bad for her future in politics. She looks super flaky, and it make you wonder if she’d show up for rallies or blow off debates.

RIP Dominick Dunne

images-1.thumbnail.jpgMillions today have lost a political icon, a man who worked tirelessly to right wrongs. Teddy Kennedy, Senator Edward Kennedy, was so much to so many, and one of the many things the Kennedys represented was the ascendancy of Irish Catholics in America, via politics.

Dominick Dunne, also shone with that ascendancy and desire for justice, but through film, television and most importantly his writings, first covering the trial of his daughter’s murderer, and then with his continued work for Vanity Fair as a crime reporter–the Menendez brothers, William Kennedy Smith and Phil Spector were all on his beat–as well as covering the foibles of the rich in his witty and poignant romans a clef. He also hosted "Dominick Dunne’s Power, Privilege & Justice" on Court TV.

The first book I read of his was The Winners, a sequel to Joyce Haber’s The Users, which Dunne tossed off as a work-for-hire while recovering from his brutal cocaine addiction and the end of his career as a film producer. After that, I devoured anything of his I could get my hands on. I will always regret seeing him in the lobby of the Chateau Marmont circa 1997 and not screwing up the courage to tell him what an influence he was on me.

Dunne’s writing focused on high society and its crimes; and, despite the fear they would appear in one of his books, the wealthy embraced and lionized him–whispering secrets at dinner parties, slipping him their phone numbers so they could spill the tea on their "friends." The murder of Alfred Bloomingdale’s mistress, Vicky Morgan, was transformed into the bestseller An Inconvenient Woman; the Ivan Boesky scandal became People Like Us; the same with his other novels, where the foibles and crimes of the rich were laid bare with grace and cutting charm. Based on the murder of teenager Martha Moxely, the novel Murder in Greenwich led to the conviction of Michael Skakel, a Kennedy cousin. Robert Kennedy, Jr. felt that Dunne had a personal vendetta against his family; so it is ironic, or perhaps fitting, that Dunne and Teddy Kennedy died just hours apart. I am sure Heaven’s waiting room will be quite lively as they meet in line.

The murder of his daughter, actress Dominique Dunne, brought Dunne to the forefront of both journalism and victims’ rights as he covered the 1984 trial for Vanity Fair. Dominique’s boyfriend-turned-murderer chef John Sweeney–who worked at then-trendy Ma Maison (the economy and infamy around the crime killed off the restaurant’s business)–was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, not murder, and was freed after serving less than four years of his six-year sentence.

And that’s where my life intersected with Dunne’s in a far creepier way than just saying "You are one of my heroes" to a total stranger in a hotel lobby. In the mid-1980s, I was best friends with Sylvia Juncosa, a rising star in the Los Angeles music scene who lived in a bungalow complex in West Hollywood, each unit with its own address, some in absurd fractions (2/5, 4/5). One day in the summer of 1986, Syl called me freaked out. While on a stroll through the neighborhood, she saw fliers posted up on a few lamp posts saying

Beware! A strangler of young women has moved into your neighborhood.

A few nights later we drove to her place after a gig. Spray painted on the retaining wall at the front of the bungalow complex was the word:

KILLER!

and an arrow pointing to the courtyard, with Sylvia’s fractional address underneath. Weird, but hey, it was also the height of gang activity in Los Angeles, with tagging everywhere, so we didn’t think too much about it. The landlord painted it over the next day.

A new couple had recently moved into complex; they, like several others who lived in the building, were members of the Buddhist sect which chanted "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo" and every dusk it was like listening to locusts humming away. Sylvia said the girl had told her that her boyfriend was a chef.

The couple moved out after a few months, and a new girl took their apartment. One day while we were drinking coffee and plotting Sylvia’s next career move, the new neighbor knocked on the door, ashen and shaken. She was holding an envelope and a razor blade.

This was addressed to resident, so I opened it. This was in it, with a note.

She showed the note to us.

Why don’t you do us all a favor and kill yourself.

it read.

WTF? we both asked. The new neighbor said:

I thought it was maybe like someone I knew, but then I remembered, when I moved into the apartment, the landlord said the former tenant had been in prison for being in a gang and that his old gang members were chasing him down, so they had to move. But he was like a chef, what kind of chef is in a gang? They didn’t even leave a forwarding address and so I keep getting his mail.

Something clicked and I asked what the old tenant’s name was. She replied:

John Sweeney.

Decades later, in Another City, Not My Own, his 1998 roman à clef about the O.J. Simpson trial, where Dunne had been a fixture; Dunne’s alter ego Gus stalks and shoots his daughter’s killer. Later, in real life, Dunne admitted he had hired notorious Hollywood private detective Anthony Pellicano to track down Sweeney, and that at the time he’d wanted Pellicano to put a hit on Sweeney. In 2007, with Pellicano in jail on 78 federal counts, including firearms and wiretapping, Dunne told reporter Kim Masters:

He understood my feelings. He said something to the effect of, ‘Dominick, you don’t want to do this.’ He was so kind to me. … I was willing to be talked out of it.

Sort of. After his release from prison while living in West Hollywood, John Sweeney worked at the Chronicle, a restaurant in Santa Monica. It was later revealed that Dominique’s friends and family regularly passed out fliers that read:

The hands that prepared your food strangled Dominique Dunne on October 30, 1982.

Sweeney lost his job, moved to Seattle and changed his name. Having "killer" spray painted on your apartment building wall will do that.

Dominick Dunne is a still a hero of mine, and I really have no way of knowing if he, his friends, or Pellicano was behind the (understandable but super creepy) actions I witnessed, or if the author even knew about the spray painting, the threatening notes, the razor blade. It doesn’t really matter–though given Pellicano’s history, I figure the dodgy PI was doing his client a "favor."

Dunne’s facility with words, his ability to get people to reveal themselves, to confide in him–from Adanan Khashoggi to Elizabeth Taylor, socialites and their household help–made him a consummate reporter — as did his vision, intuition, and insight.

Yes, he made some huge errors because of his single-minded–some would say narrow minded–pro-victim, pro-prosecution ideology (Gary Condit sued Dunne over his writings on the death of intern Chandra Levy), but he chronicled the rich, their crimes, and their victims with verve, passion and lyricism in his articles. And in his novels he demonstrated you can tell a lot more truth with fiction–and not get sued.

Goodbye, Dom. I will so miss never having said thank you for your inspiration and revelations, though your fondness for Nancy Reagan always baffled me. And thank you now for being at the epicenter of a very strange story in my own life, where as in your novels, people and events susurrus then spark and perhaps erupt.

Ireland Reacts to Ted Kennedy’s Death, Senator Worked Tirelessly for Peace

nm_edward_kennedy_090204_mn.thumbnail.jpgSenator Edward Kennedy worked long and hard for peace in Ireland, and was passionately committed to ending the sectarian violence that existed for decades in both Northern Ireland and in the Republic, and welcomed the creation of a Northern Irish government based on a devolved government and power sharing that grew out of 1998′s Good Friday Agreement.

 The President of Ireland, Mary McAleese said that Sen. Kennedy would be remembered by the people in Ireland as a:

 hugely important friend to the country during very difficult times.

His death will be greeted with a great sense of sadness here because of his long standing affection for this country, not just with the peace process, but on many other issues, including emigration.

His outstanding and remarkable personal contribution was made, despite the sacrifice and sorrow that was part of the overall contribution of the entire Kennedy family.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen offered his condolences to the Kennedy family. The Prime Minister said:

I am very saddened to learn of the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy last night.

Senator Ted Kennedy was one of the most distinguished and talented figures in American politics. Over 47 years as a Senator, he has made a massive contribution to his country and to the causes of justice and peace around the world.

The huge esteem in which Ted was held across the United States was never more evident than last year in the outpouring of concern and good wishes when news of his illness became public.

He has been described as being the “the Lion of the Senate” in recognition of his legislative record and for his constant championing of the political causes which were dear to him throughout his political life. He was a great advocate for the vulnerable and the less well-off in society.

Ted Kennedy, who hailed from the most famous Irish-American family, through his own endeavours and achievement, added further distinction to his family’s well-earned reputation for public service.

Ted Kennedy will be remembered with great affection and enduring respect here in Ireland. Ted Kennedy was a great friend of Ireland.

In good days and bad, Ted Kennedy worked valiantly for the cause of peace on this island. He played a particularly important role in the formative days of the Northern Ireland Peace Process. He maintained a strong and genuine interest in its progress. He used his political influence wisely. He was the voice of moderation and common sense. He was unequivocal in his rejection of violence at all times and from all quarters. He believed that only politics would provide a sustainable and enduring way forward. His belief that the United States could play a strong role in solving our problems has been vindicated by the success of the Peace Process.

He was a strong supporter of US investment in Ireland as a means of consolidating the political developments that had taken place here. That economic dividend will be an enduring legacy of his political contribution to the Peace Process.

In his dignified and courageous response to his illness, Ted Kennedy created his own ‘Profile in Courage’.

Today, America has lost a great and respected statesman and Ireland has lost a long-standing and true friend.

I wish to extend my deepest sympathies to Ted’s wife, Vicki, his children, extended family and friends.

In March of this year Sen Kennedy was awarded an honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth for his services to the US-UK relationship and to the Northern Ireland peace process. 

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