- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

Star power

“‘This is not a publicity stunt,’ Erin Brockovich-Ellis informs the crowd gathered at the exclusive Beverly Hills Hotel. ‘This is not about making another movie.’ It’s March, and the famous environmental crusader is speaking before hundreds of Beverly Hills High School parents and alumni crammed into the hotel’s Crystal Ballroom.

“It’s a strange confluence of Hollywood story lines: The heroine of the 2000 film ‘Erin Brockovich’ — whom Julia Roberts won an Oscar portraying — is here to warn that current and former students at the school on which ‘Beverly Hills 90210’ was based are being poisoned by toxic emissions from nearby oil wells. …

“[But] if there’s no compelling evidence that benzene levels at Beverly are dangerously high, nor that cancer rates among current and former students are elevated, nor that the former would cause the latter even if both were true, then why are hundreds of Beverly parents and alumni suing?

“In part, it’s because of Brockovich-Ellis’s reputation: People have seen the movie, and they trust her.”

Eric Umansky writing on “Erin Brockovich’s Weird Science,” in the Nov. 24 issue of the New Republic

Glass house

“‘Shattered Glass’ [is] the gussied-up story of Stephen Glass, a one-time New Republic sub-editor who was exposed in 1998 as a serial journalistic fabricator. …

“‘Shattered Glass’ is little more than a decent made-for-TV film that certainly wouldn’t have made it to the big screen absent the Jayson Blair controversy — and all the subsequent embarrassments and firings — at the Times last spring. …

“[T]he self-aggrandizement of the New Republic itself continues to be fairly repulsive; not only has the magazine advertised ‘Shattered Glass’ constantly on its Web site, but the film’s conclusion, in which [editor Charles] Lane is portrayed as a ticker-tape-parade-worthy hero for firing Glass, is just silly. It’s not as if the Glass saga at the weekly — Lane found out that nearly 30 of his articles were made up — was something to brag about. …

“When then-proprietor Marty Peretz … fires Lane’s predecessor, the late Michael Kelly, [in the movie] it’s not mentioned even in passing that the bombastic Peretz canned one of the most influential journalists of the past generation because Kelly was unrelenting in his criticism, within TNR’s pages, of the magazine’s pet Al Gore. ”

Russ Smith, writing on “The New Republic has no shame,” in the Nov. 20 issue of New York Press

Parental perp walk

“As a new parent, I try not to judge other parents. …

“I can’t pretend to know what I’m doing here, and I sure can’t say much about the experience of people whose children are older than mine. …

“But to the parents who let their kids anywhere near Michael Jackson’s Neverland ranch, I can’t help saying, in the most understanding and nonjudgmental way: What … were you thinking? What kind of morons are you, to let your kid anywhere near that guy, anywhere near that place? …

“[T]here are hundreds, maybe thousands of parents who shipped their kids off to Neverland, to the private compound of a man whom most of the Western world suspects is a child molester. That’s endangering children. Michael Jackson was photographed in handcuffs Thursday. He shouldn’t be the only one.”

King Kaufman, writing on “What were they thinking?” Thursday in Salon at www.salon.com

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