Media mogul Rupert Murdoch lunched with Senate Democrats this week and tried to convince them that his merger with DirecTV was a good thing. They came back at him with critiques of his Fox News, saying that it could be more "Fair and Balanced" than it says it is. Rupert was shocked, shocked! that the Dems saw it that way. Said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.: "He said Fox News is fair and balanced and he just can't imagine that there was any kind of a slant there. Members of the Senate were just speechless." Durbin said the one thing they agreed on was a point Murdoch made: that "The Simpsons" is the best show on television. What a relief. (Variety)
One hopes that the mayor of Venice, Italy, will be more open-minded than New York's Rudy Giuliani was about the artwork of Chris Ofili. The artist, who made headlines when his elephant dung painting of the Virgin Mary at the Brooklyn Museum was denounced by Rudy, is headlining the Venice Biennale opening this weekend. Previews note that his work this year includes paintings of "romantic scenes between two lovers against an exotic background." Shouldn't cause too much ruckus in Venice -- that's what goes on every day there anyway. (BBC)
Speaking of mayors, does it sound like Michael Bloomberg is getting a bit nervous? When asked what he thought of Bill Clinton possibly challenging him for the job in 2005 he said, "I sort of recommend that he think about it for the next six years, because he'd have a tough time winning before that." This, from a guy whose approval rating is at 24 percent. (New York Daily News)
Leave it to Dave Eggers to come up with another marketing inspiration. Word is that the word guy is going to release his next book under the byline "Dave" -- no last name. An idea of staggering genius. (New York Post)
In an example of staggering something, our old pal Sean "P. Diddy" Combs claims that he and Jennifer Lopez started the whole celeb-with-celeb dating thing: "The new trend of dating another celebrity -- I basically started that," he said. Guess he's never heard of Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio or Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh or Warren Beatty and (you fill in the blank). (WENN)
-- Karen Croft
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At least one cultural treasure has been rescued from Baghdad: Saddam Hussein's last novel. The book, "Get out of here, curse you!" was about to go on sale "when U.S. and British forces invaded Iraq on March 20. It never saw the light of day," Reuters reports, adding that the wire service managed to snag from storage one of the few copies that "survived U.S. bombs and Iraqi looters." And? Typical Saddam, according to Ali Abdel-Amir, a writer with a deep knowledge of Saddam's three previous books. "I found that Saddam's books showed he had a deep sense of individualism, he used stereotypes, was shallow," says Abdel-Amir, noting that the books, while written by committee, were outlined and approved by the former Iraqi leader. "Women were always unfaithful and were either Kurds or Iranians." And -- don't tell me -- the heroes always had fluffy 'staches, right? (Reuters via Instapundit)
Johnny Carson on David Brinkley, with whom he was "close friends": "He was one of the people I most enjoyed being with; he was delightful company. He was intelligent, honest and witty as hell, and he was so darned self-effacing, which is one of the things I most admired about him." Carson recalls that Brinkley recently told him that "if he were a young man trying to get a job in TV news today, he couldn't because he doesn't look like an anchorman is supposed to look." (The Washington Post)
Walter Cronkite, also sad to lose his colleague Brinkley, has issued a statement to that effect: "It is difficult to believe that we will never again hear his distinctive voice giving us his humorous view of our complicated world." (Los Angeles Times)
What's that about a vast right-wing conspiracy again? Not surprisingly, Hillary Clinton's book is being attacked by her usual antagonists. But Jonah Goldberg (Lucianne's son) is taking aim not only at Hillary but at her publisher, too. "I think Simon and Schuster is lying," Goldberg writes in a posting on the National Review's Web site. "The 'leak' to the Associated Press was bogus and almost certainly came from Simon and Schuster. It helped book sales, generated buzz and was timed perfectly. The idea that they were angry didn't pass the laugh test." Goldberg also contends that S&S's claim to have printed 1 million copies is also "probably a lie" and reports that the book sold 200,000 copies on its day of release "impossible."
Sen. Clinton is also getting that liar label flung at her from some unlikely corners: ESPN columnist Gregg Easterbrook gripes that she's, essentially, pulling a Saddam. And former friend Dick Morris wants her to come clean about that time her husband, the president, "ran after me, tackled me, threw me to the floor of the kitchen in the mansion and cocked his fist back to punch me." And the fact that Hillary came to his rescue and told him that Bill "only does that to people he loves," as Morris recalls it, apparently doesn't satisfy him at all. But as Joe Conason points out convincingly, Morris' story has changed dramatically over the years.
Let's hope Hillary maintains her balance a little better than President Bush. The POTUS is apparently still recovering his composure after falling off a Segway scooter thingy in the driveway of his parents' house in Kennebunkport, Maine. Check out the play-by-play here. His father apparently fared much better.
The antidote to all those cloying messages on Marthatalks.com? Marthasings.com: "OK. I admit. You got me. I am a straight up criminal. I am a gangsta ... Saddam Hussein is one of my best friends. " No, I don't think that's where he got the idea that women were unfaithful.
And now for the obligatory celebrity-body-part mention: Britney Spears is about to get a pair of "inflatable, throbbing breasts." Madame Tussaud's wax museum in London is planning to make a new Spears figure with boobs that heave in time to her music. The new bust is apparently groundbreaking: "Brad Pitt has got a squeezable (latex) bum," a museum spokeswoman told Reuters, "but Britney would be the first with heaving bosoms."
-- Amy Reiter