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04/30/2006

Defending Kevin

Birgit_cunningham

The Kevin Costner p.r. machine isn't taking the latest press reports, which identify him as the "St. Andrews wanker," um, lying down.

An old girlfriend—appropriately British, since the U.K. is the epicenter of the controversy—has come to his defense. Birgit Cunninham is quoted on a European p.r. newswire, PR Inside:

"Kevin is very romantic and tender, he would never do anything so vulgar.

"He would be more interested in a long loving kiss rather than the naughty bit. He really is Mr Perfect, squeaky clean, if a little naive when it comes to realising the effect he has on girls.

"Women are always throwing themselves at him but he hates being chased. Maybe she made an advance, was rejected and wants revenge."

If Ms. Cunningham regards Costner's accuser as a flake and a publicity hound, one surmises she would know.

Here's a mini-profile of her that appeared last year in London's Evening Standard:

Birgit Cunningham, the former It Girl who once dated Kevin Costner, has resigned from the Green Party and applied to join the Conservatives. She is the girl who threw a chocolate eclair at Nick Brown, the then Agriculture Minister in 2002. She is fed up with the Green Party's petty internal wrangling and is a great supporter of Hugo Charlton, who has been ousted as leader.

"I have sent of my 15-Pounds subscription to join the Conservatives," she tells me. "It is all very amicable but I think it is probably best all round that I leave the Green Party. A lot of them felt I was the wrong image. I have been impressed by the way the Conservatives have been taking a serious interest in environmental issues."

Birgit also has a new crusade, Babies for Justice, inspired by her own difficulties in getting maintenance payments for her son. "Tony Blair has failed many people over the way he has run the CSA. I am joining the Conservatives too late to vote in the leadership election but David Cameron lives near me in Ladbroke Grove, and I hope that he will prove a good leader."

Ms. Cunningham is also affiliated with the Church of Scientology.

Although Costner is nominally a Southern Baptist, his flak Paul Bloch, reps for Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kelly Preston,  Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley and other members of Hollywood's Scientology wing.

Hmmm … could Kevin Costner be a closet scientologist? And what about Herb Kohler? Or his wife, Natalie Black? Or Costner's wife, Christine Baumgartner?

Scientology conspiratorialists
should have a field day with this one.

Posted by Rodger on April 30, 2006 at 01:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

04/29/2006

How Costner was outed

Old_course_spa

The Scotsman describes the details of the deliberations that led to the release (the official release, anyway) of Kevin Costner's name as the celebrity who performed a "sex act" in front of a horrified Scottish masseuse:

Tribunal chairman Nicol Hosie ruled that both the hotel and Costner could be identified and that there was not a strong enough case for their names to be withheld.

The woman made no comment as she left the tribunal in Dundee. She reportedly told a hearing last month that during a massage Costner took off his towel, exposed himself and performed a sex act.

She said her complaints to management were not taken seriously enough and the hotel had failed to provide her with adequate counselling.

The worker said she was finally taken into the office and sacked last August. She then decided to take her former employers to an employment tribunal.

Yesterday, before a hearing was due to take place to discuss whether Costner and the hotel could be named, the woman agreed settlement terms with lawyers from the hotel. The amount was not disclosed.

A lawyer for the hotel said it would not be in the hotel's best interests if the actor was named. Costner, who was not represented at the hearing, is understood to be a good friend of the hotel's owners.

A lawyer acting for the media argued that Costner's name was already in the public domain in relation to the allegations, as it had been published in several foreign newspapers.

Advocate Laurence Kennedy said the paper wanted to print the "allegations as allegations" and not as a matter of fact.

He also said the fact Costner would possibly be caused embarrassment was not enough for his name to be withheld.

He said: "It is not the role of the tribunal to police the question of reputation. The newspaper wishes to be free to report the allegations as allegations, not as a matter of fact."

After deliberating for an hour, Mr Hosie said it was unlikely that Costner was unaware of the allegations against him, given the coverage of the story in the American press and also on the internet.

He was not prepared to delay his decision until Costner had representation.

Mr Hosie said: "It is very significant that his name is widely reported in the world's press. It is already a matter which is in the public domain."

He also said he was not convinced that there was a pressing need persuasive enough to allow restrictions to be put in place which would prevent Costner being identified.

A statement released on behalf of the Old Course Hotel said: "With respect for the privacy of our associates and in deference to the dignity of the legal process, it is the company's position not to comment on matters of litigation.

"The parties have settled this matter. The terms are confidential and undisclosed."

It will be interesting to see if Costner's minions have anything more to say about the matter, or if they decide to keep their heads down until the scandal blows over. And where is the lovely Mrs. Costner in all this?

Posted by Rodger on April 29, 2006 at 12:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

04/26/2006

Katharine McPhree

Katharine_mcphee

In case you missed it, American Idol contestant Katharine McPhee gave her all last night—and very nearly bared all into the bargain. (She was singing, appropriately, the Whitney Houston warhorse "I Have Nothing.")

Sporting a dress already cut down to there and up to here—she popped a button during the song's closing measures, resulting in a brief flash of her panties.

Was it a deliberate attempt to distract attention from a vocally inept performance? (All three judges panned it. Randy: “It was way too big for you,” Paula: “There were pitch problems.” Simon: “By choosing that song, it is like coming out here and saying I’m as good as Whitney Houston, you’re not.”)

You can watch the video here and decide for yourself. (Or in salacious slo-mo here.) But her left hand does seem to give a little tug her dress just before the bottom button takes flight.

I think the move, intentional or not, saved the Porcelain Princess—by the skin of her left thigh—from another bottom-of-the-pack ranking this evening.

We'll say goodbye instead to Kellie Pickler or Paris Bennett.

Don't forget to sign the Free Bobby! petition.

Posted by Rodger on April 26, 2006 at 03:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fast times at Mt. Lebanon High

High_school_confidential_2

American Idol has its Top 24. Evidently, the young men of Mt. Lebanon High School (located outside Pittsburgh, PA) wanted to go the show one better by creating a Top 25 list of female classmates.

From The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

The Mt. Lebanon School District and Mt. Lebanon police are investigating the distribution of an anonymous document that features sexually explicit descriptions of 25 girls at the high school.

The document, titled "Top 25 in 2006," ranks the girls in order from one to 25. It includes their names, grade levels and photos.

Each girl is assigned a letter grade for her breasts, buttocks and face, followed by a brief description of each girl in crude and vulgar terms.

There are references to girls performing oral sex and comments about their height and weight.

One girl, an entry said, "seemed to be a very consistent candidate among the ballots of the males, her consistency allowed her to achieve top 10 status."

There is one instance where a description ridicules a girl's ethnic heritage. All of the girls in the "top 25" are sophomores, juniors and seniors.

"I think that it's outrageous, the equivalent of a written rape on our daughter," said the father of one girl, who didn't want his name published to protect his daughter's identity.

He and another parent said they are frustrated that the district hasn't disciplined the students who created the publication.

The second father said he has done some investigating and talked to students, including his children, who told him that ballots to choose the "Top 25" were circulated at high school basketball games and that students had been seen reading the list in the school cafeteria.

He said he embarked on his investigation after Mt. Lebanon High School Principal Zeb Jansante told him that the list was not a district matter because none of the activities involved with it took place on school grounds.

Contacted last night, however, Dr. Jansante denied that he told the parent it was not a district matter. He said the information he had at the time indicated that the document was not created on school grounds. Dr. Jansante said he turned over the information that the father gathered to the district's investigating committee.

Regardless of where the offending document was created—on school grounds or not—ts subsequent distribution to the school community marks it clearly as an issue for school discipline. The fathers cited above are right to be outraged that the school administration hasn't been more aggressive in finding and punishing the perpetrators. The school authorities have known about the problem for some weeks now, yet have taken no action—beyond, it would seem, passing the buck to the Mt. Lebanon Police.

The Post-Gazette article indicates that the district is trying to determine "whether the publication violates the district's sexual harassment policy."

Well, here's the relevant portion of the policy:

The District is committed to safeguarding the right of all students/ employees within the District to an education and work environment that is free from all forms of sexual harassment and sexual abuse, including sexual harassment of or by students. The District strictly prohibits all unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature including, in particular, unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature which is either designed to extort sexual favors from a student or employee as a term or condition of education or employment or which has the purpose or effect of creating a hostile, intimidating or offensive educational or work environment. Sexual harassment may occur student to student, staff to student, student to staff, male to female, female to male, male to male or female to female. Examples of prohibited conduct of a sexual nature which may constitute prohibited sexual harassment include: unwelcome touching of an individual's body or clothing in a sexual way; unwelcome leering, staring, sexual flirtation, propositions or pressure for sexual activity; unwelcome sexual slurs, epithets, threats, verbal abuse, derogatory comments or sexually degrading descriptions; unwelcome graphic verbal comments about an individual's body or overly personal conversation; unwelcome sexual jokes, stories, drawings, pictures or gestures; unwelcome spreading of sexual rumors; cornering or blocking an individual's normal movement in a sexual way; displaying sexually explicit materials or suggestive objects in the educational environment; and repeated remarks to a person with sexual or demeaning implications…. Any student who believes that he or she has been subjected to sexual harassment should immediately report the incident to any principal, unit principal, guidance counselor, teacher, school nurse or psychologist, and an investigation by trained district staff members will be conducted. Students who are found to have engaged in sexual harassment of others will be subject to discipline.

If the Top 25 List doesn't constitute "verbal abuse" with "demeaning implications" and a display of "sexually explicit materials" in the "educational environment" (per the language of the school district's sexual harassment policy), it would be hard to imagine what would. 

That Principal Jansante would still be wringing his hands over the applicability of the policy at this late hour calls into question his fitness to administer discipline at the school.

I'm not a big fan of using sexual harrassment policies to regulate conduct between young people, since it can easily lead to absurd extremes, but this is plainly a case where the laissez-faire approach can't be justified. As the stepfather of a teenage girl, I can well understand the anger of these two dads—and the temptation they must feel to conduct their own investigation—followed by the administration of sound punishment to the young men in question.

If the school district doesn't want to invite a 25-father lynch mob, it had better get moving on its investigation and come down hard on these leering would-be lotharios.

UPDATE: I've got more on the "Top 25" list here.

Posted by Rodger on April 26, 2006 at 12:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

04/25/2006

Masseuse settles with Kohler over Costner incident

Kevin_costner_2

For all those inquiring minds who wanted to know more about what happened in the massage room at the Old Course Hotel, London's Daily Mail reports:

Hollywood star Kevin Costner has been revealed as the celebrity accused of performing a sex act while being given a massage at a famous golf hotel.

The A-list actor was accused of the incident at the spa at The Old Course Hotel in St Andrews, Fife, in October 2004.

A legal ruling had banned identifying Costner, who had been in St Andrews with his wife, where they attended the Dunhill Links pro-celebrity golf event.

The 34-year-old spa worker at the centre of the allegations initially claimed unfair dismissal and sexual discrimination against the hotel after she lost her job.

She claimed that she was unfairly dismissed after she made the complaint to management about the 51-year-old star, whose best-known films include Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and The Bodyguard.

However just before a tribunal hearing this morning, the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, settled with hotel lawyers.

And this afternoon tribunal chairman Nicol Hosie ruled that both the hotel and Costner could be identified and that there was not a strong enough case for their names to be withheld.

The woman made no comment as she left the tribunal, which was in Dundee.

A similar report appears in the UK tabloid, The Sun.

Just remember: You heard it here first. (By the way, in their April 3 issue, The National Enquirer identified the masseuse in question as Alexandrina Smith.)

Posted by Rodger on April 25, 2006 at 01:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

04/24/2006

Yet another "good leak"?

Niagara

Could the whole brouhaha over "secret prisons" simply be a well-placed bit of disinformation, carefully crafted by Porter Goss to flush out anti-Bush moles at the C.I.A.?

Ed Morrisey at Captain's Quarters seems to think so. So does Rick Moran at Right Wing Nuthouse.

Morrisey:

How do intel agencies find leakers and spies? They pass around carefully designed misinformation to selected individuals considered likely suspects, and see what winds up exposed as a result. It's possible that after Porter Goss took over as DCI when George Tenet left, he began mole hunting in a big way. It's certain that the administration would have demanded some action on leaks, and Goss would have been of a similar mind. It appears that the story she gave Dana Priest has a lot less substance than first thought. Two separate investigations by Europe turned up nothing. They have reported on both occasions that no evidence exists to substantiate the story, either of the detention centers or of European cooperation.

McCarthy would have been a classic candidate for this kind of mole hunt. A favorite of the previous administration, having reached the National Security Council, her loss of influence in the new administration could have prompted bitterness and antagonism. The New York Times in a new report says she contributed to John Kerry's campaign, perhaps on the basis of her past work with Kerry advisors Richard Clark and Sandy Berger.

Moran:

If true, what wailing and gnashing of teeth we will hear from the newsrooms and TV sets of America. There will be outrage that the press was used in this manner. There will be howls for an investigation into a disinformation campaign by the Agency whose purpose was to mislead the American people.

What they’ll really be pissed at is losing a prime source of juicy, anonymous leaks from an agency that in the last 5 years had begun to resemble a rusted out radiator from a 1952 Nash Rambler rather than a top secret branch of the United States government.

Given that the EU's anti-terror boss Gijs de Vries, can't find any proof that these CIA secret prisons even existed, you do have to wonder.

Does this mean Dana Priest will have to give back her Pulitzer?

Not likely, but it will give the award roughly the same cachet as one of these.

Posted by Rodger on April 24, 2006 at 01:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

04/20/2006

Cold shoulder

Qw2

Picture this: It's 9:00 am on November 22, 2006—the day before Thanksgiving and the busiest travel day of the year.

A news outlet broadcasts a report that an airliner has crashed on approach at Dulles.

A few minutes later, there's a similar report out of O'Hare.

Then LAX, JFK and Miami.

By mid-morning there have been more than two dozen plane crashes around the country. The entire U.S. commercial aviation system has been brought to a standstill—not for days (as happened after 9/11) but for months.

The global economy is plunged into depression, worse than anything it has witnessed since the 1930s.

Impossible?

Well, read this story, just off the Reuters wire:

A Chinese national living in Southern California admitted on Wednesday trying to arrange the sale from China to the United States of 200 shoulder-fired missiles that can be used to bring down airplanes.

Chao Tung Wu, 51, pleaded guilty in Los Angeles federal court to conspiring to import the missiles for a buyer who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent.

When Wu was indicted in November along with another man, Yi Qing Chen, they became the first people charged under a 2004 U.S. law forbidding the import of aircraft-destroying missile systems into the United States, officials said.

Wu, who also admitted to trafficking methamphetamine, counterfeit bills, cigarettes and Ecstasy tablets into the United States, made a plea bargain with U.S. prosecutors in hopes of reducing a possible 25-year prison term.

The indictment identifies the missiles as the QW-2 shoulder-fired type used by the Chinese military since the late 1990s. According to court papers, the undercover FBI agent was told the missiles would be shipped from China to Cambodia and then to the United States with the help of bribed officials.

However, the third-party country was later switched to Paraguay. The missiles were never delivered.

Wu is scheduled to be sentenced on July 31. Chen is awaiting trial.

Yep, 200 shoulder-launched SAMs would easily do the job—with enough left over for a second-wave attack, should the FAA be foolish enough to resume flights.

Good thing the FBI is more enterprising than al Qaeda. Or did they just happen to get lucky this time around?

Have al Qaeda's operational capabilities in the United States been degraded to the point where they wouldn't be able to mount such a massive, simultaneous attack?

Give that some thought over your latte and scone this morning.

Posted by Rodger on April 20, 2006 at 08:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

04/13/2006

William Sloane Coffin (June 1, 1924 – April 12, 2006)

William_sloane_coffin

I learned this evening that Bill Coffin passed away.

I never knew him particularly well, but he shaped my life profoundly. His two visits as a guest minister to the Lawrenceville School in the early 1970s convinced me both to go to Yale (where he served as chaplain from 1958 until 1975) and to oppose America's involvement in Vietnam.

In the years that followed, I've come to regret only the latter of those two decisions.

Reverend Coffin was my introduction to the moonbat left, and a charismatic introduction it was. The man oozed a preppy sort of charm, and I've no doubt he was, for that reason, a brilliant case officer during his years with the CIA. You couldn't meet the Rev. Sloane—his Doonesbury monnicker—and not want to be part of his world. (Do young people feel the same way today about

I remember a talk he gave at Yale in 1972 to the incoming freshmen class. He suggested that we should follow Martin Luther's dictum, "Sin boldly, yet more boldly still believe." "If you're going to screw up," he said, "and, trust me, you will screw up some time in the next four years, then screw up big time. Don't be timid about it. But embrace your mistakes and learn from them."

His opposition to the war was, I believe, misguided, in light of our subsequent understanding of Hanoi's manipulation of the peace movement. But I do believe his motives were sincerely grounded in the Christian faith he practiced and in a strong love of country. "Remember," he once admonished, "that our disagreement with Washington is only a lover's quarrel. Don't ever let it become a grudge match."

I'm not sure if the Rev. Sloane learned quite as much from his mistakes, political and otherwise, as I've learned from mine down through the years. But there's no question he wholeheartedly embraced them.

He fought the good fight—at least by his own lights—for God, for country and for Yale.

May he enjoy the rest he's earned.

Posted by Rodger on April 13, 2006 at 01:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

04/11/2006

Zut alors!

Retrait_du_cpe

French President Jacques Chirac has gone back to doing what he does best—raising the white flag.

By surrendering to the street, French President Jacques Chirac is all but acknowledging that his government is powerless to push through even a minor labour reform that many call a necessary first step toward ensuring that France thrives in today’s global economy.

While his move yesterday averted the current crisis, it punishes his prime minister and favoured successor, and fails to solve the deeper problems of a country adrift.

The forces of the status quo won this battle, raising questions about France’s ability to enact more ambitious reforms that many experts feel are needed to help its companies compete with the likes of China and India in years to come.

Chirac’s decision to jettison a disputed jobs contract making it easier to fire young workers effectively buries any of the government’s plans to shake up the system, at least until after presidential elections a year away.

"When the leaders choose to make themselves bidders at an auction of popularity," wrote Edmund Burke in his Reflections on the Revolution in France, "their talents, and the construction of the state, will be of no service.

They will become flatterers instead of legislators; the instruments, not the guides, of the people. If any of them should happen to propose a scheme of liberty, soberly limited, and defined with proper qualifications, he will be immediately outbid by his competitors, who will produce something more splendidly popular. Suspicions will be raised of his fidelity to his cause. Moderation will be stigmatized as the virtue of cowards; and compromise as the prudence of traders; until, in hopes of preserving the credit which may enable him to temper, and moderate, on some occasions, the popular leader is obliged to become active in propagating doctrines, and establishing powers, that will afterwards defeat any sober purpose at which he ultimately might have aimed.

Once again in France, Burke's "swinish multitude" triumphs—and, in this Gallic tragedy, Michael Barone finds a cautionary tale for Americans:

We know what things look like somewhere down the road: France. As students, union members and public employees riot in the streets against the outrageous notion that people should not be given lifetime jobs until age 26, France seems immobilized.

It is not that France does not have a vibrant private sector. "Private-sector France," says the Economist, "is marching brazenly wherever globalization allows." But at home, the French private sector is getting squeezed out. Certainly it is not interested in creating new jobs in France with generous pay and benefits and lifetime tenure.

We can see something of France in Michigan. Delphi, spun off from General Motors in 1999, is in bankruptcy and threatening to drag its parent down with it. The problem is overgenerous pay and benefits and lifetime tenure (GM has a jobs bank that pays laid-off workers not to work). High costs have hampered Delphi and GM in competing in the marketplace. They tend to produce second-rate stuff that can bring in enough cash to meet the payroll.

Delphi and GM workers don't have public employees and students rioting in the streets to protect their jobs, and many will lose what they were told were entitlements. It's a sad human story. But surely we don't want to see the whole country end up like France or Delphi.

But at the moment, we don't have anyone working to stop it—not the Republicans, not the Democrats.

Mr. Barone is right. We may laugh at the "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" who capitulated to the Paris mob. But who's facing up to the coming crisis of the welfare state here at home?

Hands, anyone?

Posted by Rodger on April 11, 2006 at 07:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

04/10/2006

Is the blogosphere the MSM's farm club?

Bull_durham

Heads up, bloggers! The Washington Post is waving paychecks.

According to Editor & Publisher (via The Raw Story):

The Washington Post's site was recently stung by its hiring of 24-year-old conservative blogger Ben Domenech, who was found to have plagiarized and made racially insensitive comments before he resigned after only three days of blogging.

Now, however, according to a report on the Web site Raw Story, washingtonpost.com is again trying its hand at extending its opinion blogging, this time with the coming hire of one conservative blogger and another liberal one.

If it did hire bloggers from opposite ends of the political spectrum, the site likely hopes to avoid the kind of criticism it received originally from liberals for only hiring the conservative Domenech.

Blogs are also infiltrating The New York Times, according to public editor Byron Calame (who seems less than thrilled about the prospect):

Across the paper's Web site, blogs run by assigned staffers are posting opinions and information they consider insightful on topics such as dining, wine, real estate and the financial world. And The Times has "a bunch on the drawing boards," Jonathan Landman, the deputy managing editor, told me Tuesday.

The Times has been slower than the online versions of The Washington Post and other newspapers to embrace full-fledged blogging. That cautious approach hasn't bothered me, given my conviction that serious journalism starts with the authentication and verification of information. Staffers directly posting their own thoughts or those of others that they found insightful—generally the essence of blogging—was a step to be taken with care at a serious paper.

It's interesting that The Times' approach is to set staffers up with blogs rather than to bring bloggers into the paper itself. Perhaps they fear that "unserious" bloggers would have the place trashed in no time, leaving unauthenticated,  unverified information littered everywhere.

Elsewhere in the mainstream press, a handful of bloggers—mostly conservative—have already found a second home: Matt Welch at The Los Angeles Times; Glenn Reynolds at The Guardian; Ed Morrissey, Dean Barnett, Hugh Hewitt and slew of other over at Jonathan Last's The Daily Standard.

Some time ago, I wrote that if journalism is the first rough draft of history, then blogging is the first rough draft of journalism. By the same token, I have a general sense that the mainstream media looks at the blogosphere partly as a repository of ideas free for the taking, partly as research service and partly as a farm club for editorial talent.

But it seems to me the blogosphere is more than just the sum of what it represents to journalism. It's not, if you will, an adjunct to the fourth estate but a fifth estate in its own right, with its own evolving ethos and its own healthy skepticism of the other four. At heart, I think, most bloggers don't aspire to be journalists any more than they aspire to be rock stars or quarterbacks or CEOs—even if their blogging occasionally places them in a quasi-journalistic role, as they're caught up in a breaking story.

We blog, not to become journalists, but to be more of what we already are—informed, thoughtful, articulate citizens of a democratic nation.

For us, blogging isn't a training ground for the big leagues, for "the Show."

It is the Show.

Posted by Rodger on April 10, 2006 at 09:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)