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Regular Joe: Saddam's death may bring hope to Iraqis

"Scarborough Country" host Joe Scarborough blogs: "The good news? Saddam Hussein is going to be executed. And while the killing of the former Iraqi dictator will cause further unrest among the Sunnis he kept in power for 40 years, his death will send an unmistakable message to the millions of Shiites who he oppressed for years."
/ Source: Scarborough


Saddam's death may bring hope to Iraqis

There are so few things to be optimistic about in Iraq that I just had to run to my computer when I had a fleeting positive thought about that miserable country.

The good news? Saddam Hussein is going to be executed. And while the killing of the former Iraqi dictator will cause further unrest among the Sunnis he kept in power for 40 years, his death will send an unmistakable message to the millions of Shiites who he oppressed for years.

Since you are a learned soul, I need not tell you that the Shiites compose 60 percent of Iraq’s population. Kurds, who also faced torture and execution at the hands of Saddam’s killing machine, make up 20 percent of the population. That means at least 80% of Iraq will take comfort knowing that the madman who killed their families and friends for 40 years received ultimate justice.

Why is this important? Let me restate that question.

Take two: Why might that be a reason for hope? Because the United States encourages Shiites and Kurds to rise against Saddam Hussein after the first Gulf War. When they did, America did nothing while Hussein mowed them down. For almost four years, many Shiites have been afraid to commit to the U.S. because of the fear that Saddam would regain power after we once again abandoned Iraq.

That is one less fear 80 percent of the population will now have.

Winning back the Shiites is all that really matters now in Iraq. As long as we had 80 percent of the population pulling for democracy, our only concern was Sunni terrorists. Since the bombing of the Shiites’ most sacred mosque, civil war has been unleashed by Shiite death squads who complained that America never held Sunni thugs accountable.

Maybe the execution of Saddam Hussein will give them reason, over time, to reassess the situation.



Is Prince Harry heading to Iraq?
(Kellyanne Dignan, "Scarborough Country" producer)

Earlier this week a report surfaced in Britain’s Sun that Prince Harry, third in line to the British throne, is headed to Iraq. Upon hearing this news I was intrigued to get to the bottom of the source. It turns out The Sun is quoting the younger Prince’s girlfriend, 21-year -old South African Chelsy Davy.

The Daily Telegraph reports the Prince wants to go so the news isn’t exactly shocking, but a lot of people are wondering if it is a good idea. There is no doubt Harry is eligible to go, and his unit is scheduled for a six-month tour. Officials at Britain’s Ministry of Defense say no decision has been on whether the Prince will be allowed to ship out.

There is concern the Prince’s high profile could make him a target for suicide bombers, and put his fellow troops in harms way. As a Second Lieutenant, Harry would have command of 11 men and four light tanks, all at the age of 22. While I don’t hold Prince Harry’s age against him, he is known as a bit of a party boy. In fact, The Sun’s last headline about the young royal spawn told tales of a 14-hour drinking binge at his regiment’s Christmas Bash.

The fact that Prince Harry wants to go is a credit to him and the Royal family. He comes by it honestly; his uncle, Prince Andrew, spent 22 years in the Royal Navy and flew dangerous missions during the Falklands War.

What’s disturbing about The Sun’s report is where it come from: Chelsy Davy. It seems Prince Harry may share more in common with his Uncle Andrew than a military career. In her hey-day, the Duke of York’s former wife, Sarah Ferguson, was constantly opening her mouth to the press and causing the palace headaches during and after their marriage.

Chelsy may be new to the fold, but she may want to take a few lessons from Prince William’s girlfriend Kate Middleton. Not only is Kate the most-searched “Royal” on the Internet, she is also invited to royal events.

Chelsy, take notes: Blind quotes in the tabloids, does not a princess make.

Dec. 27, 2006 |
Lookin' for love in 2007

(Kellyanne Dignan, "Scarborough Country" producer)

2007 is already shaping up to be another banner year for the couples of Hollyweird. I have no doubts Brangelina and TomKat will continue to make headlines, but I'm excited at the prospect of some new celebrity love stories this year.

If I was a wagering woman, I'm not sure I wouldn't bet the farm on a Kevin Federline-Jennifer Aniston hook up in 2007. That said, the Long Island Express reports it already happened. According to the paper's sources, Jen and K-Fed were seen together at Club Citrus. Such a headline would be music to the tabloid editors' ears but I have some serious doubts about this report; so take it with a grain of salt.

There is no doubt, Jen's love life will continue to dominate headlines in 2007. If she's looking for some first date ideas our friends over at OK! Magazine recently consulted a psychologist for a few recommendations.

Jen isn't the only single lady in Hollywood. Young starlets Reese Witherspoon and Jessica Simpson are both fresh off their starter marriages and looking for love. 2007 is already looking up for both of them; at least in quantity of dates. The Hollywood Reporter claims Reese could be looking at 80 dates in the new year. Her production company is set to produce "Around the World in 80 Dates." There are reports Reese may star in the film. She would play a woman who travels the world to find her soul mate.

According to reports in More Magazine, Jessica is also on her way to finding true love; thanks to the Internet. The magazine claims the songstress is addicted to online dating. Lets just hope her profile doesn't include a youtube link to her recent Kennedy Center blunder. Best to keep information like that under wraps until at least date number two.


A better nation because of Gerald Ford

Bad weather made a recent trip to New York’s LaGuardia Airport longer than usual. That extra time stuck in traffic gave my cab driver a chance to deliver an angry lecture on U.S. foreign policy to a face he recognized. After ranting for 30 minutes about America’s evils, he stopped long enough to answer a question.

"If America is so terrible," I asked with a smile on my face, "why the hell do you live here?"

The Middle Eastern immigrant let out a loud laugh but quickly grew serious.

"Because in America, no matter how bad things get, good guys always win in the end. There is justice here."

That insight was worth having to endure additional lectures on Iraq, oil, Watergate and Donald Trump. I also learned that my cab driver left his home and family for an America he learned about in Hollywood movies.

An America where the good guys usually won.

"It’s uglier in real life but result is same," he told me in clipped English.

That truth may explain why countless governments across the globe are sustained by tanks and assault weapons, but America’s government runs solely on the good faith of its people. Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence teaches our leaders early on that their right to govern comes from the people, who are given their rights from God. So long as Americans keep faith in their leaders, America’s radical experiment with freedom will continue unbroken.

Gerald R. Ford understood that above all else. Maybe that’s why historians will judge his presidency a success despite the fact he passed little legislation of note, was never elected president or vice president before entering the White House, and left after holding the presidency for less than a thousand days.

The man who beat Ford at the polls in 1976 praised Gerald Ford for "healing our land." He did so not only by pardoning Richard Nixon, but by also showing Americans that after an era of LBJs, Nixons, Agnews, Erlichmans and Haldermans, there were still decent hearted men who led with decency instead of deception.

Gerald Ford’s pardon of Nixon may have healed the land, but it cost him reelection. That sting was felt acutely by the 38th president until the day in 2001 when the Kennedys awarded him a Profile in Courage for making the unpopular decision to end America’s long national nightmare.

Thirty two years later, we are a better nation because of Ford’s courage and because a decent man proved once again that in America, the good guys usually do win in the end.


That didn't take long

Well. That didn’t take long.

A few days back, I asked whether George Bush would continue listening to his generals when their opinions conflicted with his. I got my answer right away.

President Bush told the Washington Post this week that while he values the advice of his generals, he will move forward with his plan of sending more troops to Iraq. The president’s decision contradicts the collective wisdom of the Joint Chiefs, General Abizaid and Colin

Think about that for a minute.

We have a commander in chief running the most unpopular war in US history telling the man who ran the last war in Iraq, the man who is running this war in Iraq and the head of all military services that he knows more about what generals need than these generals themselves. Factor in that only 12 percent of Americans support the president’s plan to add more troops and you start to realize just how isolated this man is.

George W. Bush is concerned about his legacy. I understand that. He has gambled his presidency and America’s reputation on the Iraq War. Despite the fact he has been busted time and again, Mr. Bush is ready to borrow more political capital and double down his bets.

What a mistake.

Does the President really believe that 40,000 more troops will stop the cycle of violence in Iraq?

Does he think that sending more soldiers into the war zone will stop Sunni insurgents from launching bombing attacks against soft civilian targets and US troops?

Will more young Americans in Baghdad slow down the Shiite death squads?

Of course not.

Sunnis and Shiites are locked in a bloody civil war that will play itself out much like the conflicts in Lebanon and Bosnia. It will take years of indiscriminate killing by Iraqis until they wear themselves out and figure out how to create a country together. But until Iraqis
stop wanting to kill each other, American politicians can do little to bring order from chaos.

But if we leave, experts tell us a regional war will erupt. If Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other Sunni states refuse to let Shiites grab control of a country they dominate demographically, let them waste their money, their young men and their national reputations. Or they can step in now and explain to Sunni terrorists that the second they liberate themselves from U.S. occupation, their families and neighborhoods will become targets of Shiite rage. Within days, they
will pray for America’s return. But God won’t hear their prayers. Americans know that their country has given more than enough in blood and treasure to promote Iraq’s liberation and give its people freedom and prosperity. It’s time we start worrying more about ourselves.

A good Texan like Mr. Bush should know that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. It’s time we wish this horse the best and move on.


Santa kicked out of Disney World
(Kellyanne Dignan, "Scarborough Country" producer)

‘Tis the holiday season and everywhere from Scarborough Country to Hollyweird things are merry and bright. So imagine my surprise when I came upon the headline "Santa kicked out of Disney World." I thought the story had to be a mistake of some kind; perhaps a sensational headline or some kind of commentary on the so-called "War on Christmas."

Nope, it’s the real thing. Apparently a Florida man who bears a striking resemblance to jolly St. Nick was asked to leave the theme park because he was telling children he was Santa Claus. James Worley, the big man in red’s look alike, says it was all in the spirit of the holidays. Disney managers claim he was confusing the kids.

My theory: Mickey just didn’t want to share his house with someone more famous. Back in October I wrote about ‘The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived.’ Santa came in at No. 4; Mickey Mouse at No. 19.

Apparently Sherlock Holmes, Romeo and Juliet, Oedipus and The Marlboro Man are all more important than the world’s favorite mouse. For the record, Robin Hood and Ebenezer Scrooge have both made Disney cameo appearances despite coming in higher on the list at 12 and 16 respectively.

According to Mr. Worley, Disney officials told him "Santa was considered a Disney character." Maybe Disney movie makers should consider a new Christmas classic. They could cast Mr. Worley as "Disney character" St. Nick and themselves as Ebenezer Scrooge.


Will Bush listen to military commanders?

Over the past six years, George W. Bush and the Republican Party have been able to count on support from military communities across America much in the same way that Democratic candidates have fared well in college towns. That’s one reason the president has remained so defiant over Iraq in the face of withering criticism from the mainstream media.

It’s also why yesterday’s lead story in the Washington Post was such bad news for George Bush.

The Post reported that the Joint Chiefs unanimously oppose more troops in Iraq. George Bush and John McCain have suggested that avoiding defeat there could only be avoided by sending more troops into battle. But with the top military brass in America defecting in a very public way, the Commander in Chief finds himself standing alone now more than ever.

Former Nixon and Reagan aid Pat Buchanan called the Joint Chief’s defection unprecedented on "Scarborough Country."

The Chiefs’ defection followed Colin Powell’s interview this weekend on “Face the Nation,” where the former Bush Secretary of State also argued against putting additional boots on the ground. And Powell’s shot across Bush’s bow came weeks after the man leading the war effort in Iraq, General Abizaid, told Congress that more troops would do the US effort no good.

Since the beginning of the war, Mr. Bush has told Americans he would take his lead in Iraq from military commanders. Now that they’ve spoken, the question is whether Mr. Bush will listen.

I doubt it.

Dec. 19, 2006 | 2:40 p.m. ET

A Jealous 'View?'
(Kellyanne Dignan, "Scarborough Country" producer)

If you aren't watching "The View", you aren't watching TV. Halfway through it's 10th season, Barbara Walter's "dream show" has never been bigger or more entertaining. Not only do the daytime divas get their hour long gabfest, but everything they say is reported, analyzed, and debated in the papers and on the airwaves.

Love her or hate her, there is no doubt that Rosie joining the show in September was a turning point. I'm sure ABC daytime executives are laughing all the way to the bank, but I have to wonder if the other ladies aren't getting a bit jealous.

This morning on "The View" I couldn't help but notice Joy Baher's almost desperate attempt for a little attention. Out of nowhere she brought up and "clarified" her remarks about Donald Rumsfeld yesterday. In case you missed it. Joy compared Rumsfeld to Hitler. Joy went on to say she and Rosie certainly kept the show in the headlines. Here's my question for Joy: what headlines?

While media watchdogs  were all over Baher's Rumsfeld comments, there was almost complete silence from the mainstream media. Compare that to the outrage among politicians and pundits over Rosie's recent "ching chong" remarks.

Now, I get that sharing the spotlight with Rosie is tough. Just look at Elizabeth Hasselbeck. After a summer of speaking out she's now pretty much fighting to just get a word in before the first commercial break. There have been thousands of reports of problems on the set and drama between the women. My advice for the ladies: Rosie may be train wreck TV but play nice, because she's paying the bills. And I don't think she'll be packing her bags anytime soon. It sounds like some of the other gigs she is interested in might not be available.

That's good news to fans looking forward to "The View" in 2007. When all is said and done who would have though Star Jones less than graceful exit, would have been a foot note in "View" history?


Britney to play maid of honor for Paris?
(Kellyanne Dignan, "Scarborough Country" producer)

Sometimes I see a celebrity headline that just makes me smile. And I was grinning ear to ear when I saw’s report that Paris Hilton wants Britney Spears to be her maid of honor. Forget TomKat’s 2006 Italian fling, any nuptials involving Hollyweird’s most famous party girls is sure to be music to the paparazzo’s ears.

While I can’t confirm the report, Hilton apparently told a British tabloid she plans to marry on-again-off-again boy toy, Stavros Niarchos. The heir-head and Greek shipping heir were previously engaged and rumors have been swirling the last few weeks that the happy couple is heading for the alter. While Paris’s people deny the couple is engaged, Paris’s quote speaks for itself: “I want a fairytale wedding and Britney’s going to be my matron of honor. She can advise me.”

My hope: Someone advises them to wear underwear with their wedding attire.

I can only guess, Paris’s sister Nicky will be in the wedding party. According to The Scoop pictures of the Hilton sisters wearing skimpy lingerie while posing in a sexy embrace are all over the internet. While it’s a little bit too much sisterly affection for my taste at least they remembered their undergarments!

Another possible bridesmaids for this dream wedding part --  on-again-off-again friend Nicole Richie. Hopefully Paris’s simple life co-star won’t face charges and possibly jail for her recent arrest for suspicion of driving under the influence. While Paris and Nicole may be friends again, I can’t imagine Ms. Hilton thinking prison jumpsuits make hot bridesmaid dresses.

I’m not sure if Lindsay Lohan will make the bridesmaid cut. It’s possible Lindsay will be busy on the set of her new film. Lindsay is busy preparing for her role as a stripper by practicing. According to The New York Post, she fired off an e-mail from her blackberry letting everyone know stripping is hard work. And, yes, if you are keeping track, this is Lindsay’s third e-mail that just happened to be made public in the last two months.

Keeping up with Paris and LaLohan’s friendship drama is a full-time job but if Paris does invite her to join in on the fun I would advise the heiress to make sure Lindsay leaves her blackberry at home.

Dec. 15, 2006 |

A taste of Hollyweird outside of the hills
(Kellyanne Dignan, "Scarborough Country" producer)

When people head out to the left coast on vacation they often indulge in some kind of star tour. While most of this California worship takes place in the Hollywood area there are other areas of the Golden State getting a little tourism boost from celebrities.

Thanks to “The O.C.” and “Laguna Beach.”  Orange County, Calif., is now a not-to-be missed destination. Apparently county tourism officials love the shows’ young fans and want them to feel welcome. The LA Times reports officials are concerned lower ratings for “The O.C.” could mean fewer tourism dollars for the county.

You don’t have to head out to la la land to have a Hollyweird experience. Lots of popular vacation destinations have some kind of movie or TV tour.

In Washington, DC you can take a break from the halls of Congress to check out locations seen in “The West Wing” and “Wedding Crashers.”

The hit show “Lost” is filmed in Hawaii. But if your tastes run a bit more retro you can take your own three hour tour and see where “Gilligan’s Island” and “Fantasy Island” were shot.

If you’re looking for some Hollyweird where everyone knows your name, you can check out Boston’s most famous Hollywood contribution (and a very popular tourist site!) “Cheers.”  “Good Will Hunting” and “Legally Blonde” also filmed scenes in bean town.

Did you know that 75 movies have been filmed in Savannah, Ga., since 1915? Me neither, but I’m guessing you can check out locations for a lot of them and get a little southern hospitality on the Savannah Movie Tour.

Don’t forget our Canadian neighbors to the north. These days it seems all the Hollyweird headlines are coming out of Vancouver. Not surprising when you consider over 200 movies were filmed there last year.

Of course no look at Hollyweird east of the Mississippi would be complete without mentioning New York City. The big apple is full of tours that will take you everywhere from Seinfeld’s diner to the fire house in “Ghost Busters.” Popular HBO shows like “The Sopranos” and “Sex and The City” even have their own tours. Of course one of the best parts about visiting New York is you can just walk around the city and see sights from the movies all by yourself. You may even find your own miracle on 34th Street.


Ladies of Hollyweird: Knock it off
(Kellyanne Dignan, "Scarborough Country" producer)

Note to the ladies of Hollyweird: stop behaving badly. If you absolutely have to keep behaving badly, stop talking and or writing about it.

In the past week we've been subjected to the prose of Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears.  Both made headlines for emails and web postings defending their partying ways. Now, Paris Hilton wants in on the literary action. She's defending new BFF Britney Spears on her MySpace page.

I wonder how long it will be before the New York Post dubbed "Bimbo Summit" tells their story in print ala Angelina Jolie. Ms. Jolie will grace the January cover of "Vogue." For the first time, we get to read all the details on how Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston and Angelina went from Braniston to Brangelina. According to Angie she and Brad became "good friends" on the set of "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." She goes on to say that she didn't set out to break up Brad and Jen but after it happened she and Brad just wanted to be together. It seems she even wants to sit down with Brad's ex and "talk" if Jen is willing.

What are they going to do, compare notes? I bet Dr. Phil's producers are salivating at that TV special.

I'm not usually one to take sides in a celebrity feud and I respect an actress's right to talk, but I have to ask what is Angelina thinking? Jen just broke up with Vince Vaughn and why not think about her feelings? Last year, Jen's friends told Vanity Fair pictures and stories about Brangelina hurt her. Jen herself even talked about Brad missing a "sensitivity chip" when it came to flaunting his new family.

Angelina does have a new movie to promote. Coinciding with the Vogue interview, she and Brad were photographed for the first time on the red carpet last night at "The Good Shepherd" premiere. So what's a little dirty laundry between actors when box office receipts are on the line? I guess I'll just have to get my "Team Aniston" shirt out of my closet again.

The good news, Star Magazine reports Vogue rejected a Britney Spears cover. I guess this means we won't have to hear all the dirty details on the pop tart's love that was for K-Fed.


'Idol'-mania: I don't get it
(Kellyanne Dignan, "Scarborough Country" producer)

I have a deep dark secret. It's something I haven't told my family, friends, or bosses. When "American Idol" first showed up on the summer TV schedule I didn't like it. To be completely honest, five years in I'm still not sure I get what all the fuss is about.

I've done dozens of "Idol" segments, pre-interviewed former "Idol" contestants, even covered the Washington, D.C., auditions two summers ago. Those near-brushes with "Idol" greatness aside, for some reason I have never totally gotten behind America's favorite talent contest. There is no real reason for it. I think the show is entertaining enough, and I was a major Paula Abdul fan. I even like the contestants. That said, I'm just not sure why it's such a big deal.

My personal theory: it's all in the timing! Even Simon couldn't find a problem with the show's time slot. Unless you get a very expensive cable package when "American Idol" is on there is nothing else to watch.

Don't expect this year to be any different. Networks are busy moving their midseason lineups around and basically conceding the hour to "Idol." ABC even moved its hit show "Lost" out of "Idol's" ratings path. Variety reports every TV executive who doesn't work at FOX asked Santa to bring "Idol" ratings to the new season of the country's top TV show.

It is easy to forget, but "Idol" has a history of being the only thing on. "Idol" premiered in the summer of 2002, not exactly prime time programming. Even HBO's summer hit "Sex and The City" only ran eight episodes that year because Sarah Jessica Parker was pregnant.

Despite a humble past there is no doubt "Idol" is one of the biggest things in American pop culture. With more people voting for "Idol" than president, I don't expect to see the show's ratings slide anytime soon. Even I've got my TIVO set. After all I don't want to be left out around the water cooler!


Set your TIVO for Brangelina's wedding
(Kellyanne Dignan, "Scarborough Country" producer)

From "Frosty The Snowman" to "A Charlie Brown Christmas" it's the most wonderful time of year for the TV nostalgic. Forget "special holiday episodes" of modern hits. As The Washington Post  points out, despite TIVO and DVDs the American television audience is still willing and excited to sit around the tube for holiday television specials.

In a world where you can watch basically anything anytime you want to see it, it comforts me to know people can still be entertained by programs that are more than 40 years old. I think everyone has some emotional attachment to holiday television. For me, it was the only weeknight TV my mom let me and my sister watch. Even the residents of Hollyweird enjoy it. The other morning Kelly Ripa talked about letting her kids watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

I'm not sure if Brangelina's children can catch "Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer" in India. But if reports out of London are true this could be a Christmas to remember in the Jolie-Pitt household. The Sun and Ok! Magazine are reporting Brangelina will officially tie the knot in where else but Africa in an Oprah-inspired ceremony. Wait, I thought Oprah was Jennifer Aniston's friend?

Maybe the queen of talk just wants to get in on one last wedding before 2007! After all, she was snubbed by TomKat not once but twice. Ms. "O" won't be at this weekend's post- honeymoon bash in Los Angeles because she wasn't invited. It's too bad, because we know Oprah likes a wedding.  After all, she crashed two last summer. I'm not exactly sure why Tom and Katie have distanced themselves from Oprah. Though I would guess it has something to do with the fallout from the now-infamous couch jumping.

Either way, Mr. and Mrs Cruise probably won't make Winfrey's Christmas list this year. That's too bad because Oprah's "Holiday Gift List" is a TV special I'd set the TIVO for.


Comeback '06: The Royal Family
(Kellyanne Dignan, "Scarborough Country" producer)

Scarborough Country favorite David Hasselhoff took home the “Big Comeback” trophy at VH1’s big in ‘06 awards. While I always want to jump in the Hoff’s car I’m not sure VH1 got it exactly right. My nominee for best comeback: Britain’s Royal Family.

Fifteen years ago "People" magazine was packed with royal photos and headlines on a weekly basis. But for the last five years or so, anyone looking for Royal gossip needed a subscription to Britain’s "Hello!" magazine. I’m not sure if it was the death of Princess Diana or just royal fatigue but Americans weren’t interested in the palace antics across the pond. So imagine my surprise at the drug store last weekend when I saw "People’s" cover: “Is Prince William Ready to Wed?”

I wasn’t so much shocked by the story (rumors of a royal engagement have been everywhere from the internet to “The Today Show”) as the fact "People" magazine snubbed the new Paris Hilton/Britney Spears friendship in favor of a royal cover.

The Prince’s love life notwithstanding, England’s most famous family has gotten a lot of attention this fall thanks to the movie “The Queen.”  While the film doesn’t exactly portray the royals in the most flattering light it does remind moviegoers how interesting their ongoing soap opera can be.

We’ve also seen a lot more of Queen Elizabeth recently. She showed up at last month’s James Bond premiere and put on a swanky 80th birthday party for herself this week.

It also seems like more and more celebrities want their royal connection to be public knowledge. Courtney Love recently told The Daily Mail about a late night visit from Prince Andrew. Tom Cruise’s friendship with royals made headlines earlier this year. Even the comeback kid himself David Hasselhoff claims  he "clicked" with Princess Diana.

I’m not sure about Prince Hoff, but Princes William and Harry announced plans for a major concert in Diana’s memory next summer. So get ready royal watchers: I would expect to see lots of headlines from The House of Windsor in 2007.


Division of church and Hollywood?
(Kellyanne Dignan, "Scarborough Country" producer)

For most people, some combination of family, community and self dictate their beliefs. But there is another influence that can't be denied -- Hollywood and pop culture. I recently came upon this column in USA TODAY claiming cartoons like the Simpsons and South Park can teach us about religion. The columnist, who also wrote a book, "The Gospel According to The Simpsons," says religion is a constant theme in the show's plots, dialogue and jokes. He also points out "The Simpsons" are one of the few TV families who go to church, say grace and pray on a regular basis.

Using pop culture to bring religion to a large audience is nothing new. For years people have debated religious undertones in everything from "Star Wars" to "Superman." There is even an Episcopal Church in Macon, Ga., teaching the spiritual lessons of the TV show "Buffy The Vampire Slayer."

The relationship between religion and pop culture is not one sided. As we saw with "The Passion's" box office success, religion sells. And anyone on Madison Avenue will tell you anything that sells to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars becomes part of the culture.

Oprah, a major cultural guru, is a major focus of the pop culture/religion debate. A number of academics and journalists have asked the question, "Is Oprah a religion?" The latest is Kathryn Lofton, an assistant professor in the Indiana University Department of Religious Studies. Her conclusion: No --"Oprah does things in a religious manner, but she is not a religion."

I find this comforting. Growing up I was known as a bit of a hellion in church. My chatty nature and loud voice may have kept my fellow church goers entertained, but it also led to a lot of Sunday afternoons in timeout. In later years I've learned to tone down the external dialogue but I still find myself asking what do we believe and why do we believe it? While I may enjoy "The Simpsons" and Oprah, it's a question I have to answer for myself.

Dec. 4, 2006 |

A Christmas catalog fit for a star
(Kellyanne Dignan, "Scarborough Country" producer)

From rare jewels to vehicles that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, no holiday gift is off limits for the residents of Hollyweird. With just 21 shopping days to Christmas, the race is on. While mere mortals check off shopping lists at the local mall, celebrities have the world as their own personal Christmas catalog.

That said, if residents of Hollyweird are looking to get their shopping done a little closer to home, I suggest the world's most famous and extravagant catalog: the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book. The Dallas based department store is known for it's extraordinary fantasy gifts. While checking out this year's catalog I found a couple of items a few of our celebrity friends might enjoy.

I'm sure Britney Spears wants to thank her new best friend Paris Hilton for all the good times the heir-head has shown her of late. And since we can only guess lingerie isn't likely to make it into the Christmas stocking I'm suggesting this Virgin Galactic Charter To Space. At $1,764,000 it may be more than K-Fed's alimony payments but Hilton has said she wants to travel out of this world. What's a few million between friends?

After all the problems Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have had with the paparazzi in India.  I'm recommending Neiman's "his and her gift." The Twike commuter vehicle may not have much room for the kids but it is environmentally friendly and could go a long towards putting some distance between Brangelina and the photographers while they finish up filming in India.
If Jessica Simpson wants to prove she has no hard feelings towards her ex Nick Lachey, she may want to consider springing for this Sports celebrity dream package. Lachey just bought himself a stake in a minor league baseball team, but I'm sure this major gift would be appreciated.

ABC's latest season of "The Bachelor" just wrapped up in Rome. The show's latest couple, Italian Prince Lorenzo and Jen, the woman who won, are still in their honeymoon phase. I think this $3.8 million dollar membership in "one of Tuscany's oldest working wine estates" would make a perfect gift and might even keep the couple together. This way they'll always have Italy.

I can only imagine the gifts the women of "The View" are picking out for each other. It must be quite the office gift exchange. My suggestion for whoever pulls Barbara Walters out of the secret Santa hat-- these custom dog houses. Anyone who says their dog talks to them will appreciate such a fancy canine gift.

TomKat may not be done unwrapping wedding gifts, but I have no doubt these newlyweds and devoted parents are hard at work planning a Scientology Christmas. They might want to take a look at this $100,000 back yard water park for Suri, which would make her the most popular tyke in Hollyweird.

These are just a few suggestions at no small price. I'm sure most celebrities have access to amazing free stuff that makes wonderful gifts for family and friends. I would however point celebrity re-gifters in the direction of this Variety article. Apparently, agents, publicists, and studios are cutting back on their gift giving this year so celebrities should expect less free cars and more free fruit cake.

So residents of Hollyweird, it doesn't matter if you are naughty or nice: get shopping.


10 things that only happen to celebrities
(Kellyanne Dignan, "Scarborough Country" producer)

From perfect parking spots at just the right moment to bombs that can be disarmed with the snip of a wire, movie characters are constantly finding themselves in situations that just don’t happen in real life.  As someone who is constantly pointing out the inaccuracies and unrealistic nature of TV and movies I found this list of “40 Things That Only Happen In Movies”  extremely entertaining.

This got me to thinking about the various celebrity antics we report on everyday in Hollyweird. It seems celebrities are constantly doing things that you and I just don’t. So I put together this list of “10 Things That Only Happen to Celebrities.”

10. The paparazzi take more pictures of your wedding than the official photographer. Just ask TomKat.

9. Pictures of your children are worth millions. There is a tale of two celebrity parents to be told here. One is Brad and Angelina. They sold baby Shiloh’s pictures and gave millions to charity. The other is Joe Simpson, father to Jessica and Ashlee. According to reports on he profits selling photos of his daughters.

8. You’re forced to pay taxes on freebies like award show gift bags and custom-made baby strollers from Ellen Degeneres.

7. You only party with people who have been on the cover of “US Weekly”... twice... in the last month, right Britney?

6. To quote Jessica Simpson’s “A Public Affair” video (something that only happens in Hollyweird) you’re “so famous every time you break up Oprah does a special.”

5. Despite living in Malibu and London, your children are born in Africa. Sometimes it’s the only place you can go to get a break from the press like Brangelina. And as Madonna taught us, it helps to be a celebrity when adopting in Malawi.

4. Artist Daniel Edwards creates a life-size sculpture of your most personal moments. Remember, Britney on the bear skin rug?

3. Your divorce papers, mug shots, and baby’s birth certificate are on the Smoking Gun and TMZ.

2. You’re so famous people write about your wannabe rapper husband or wannabe talk show host mother. Just ask Britney or Lindsay Lohan.

1.         Forget getting a street, town, or county named after you. Only one celebrity could get her own planet. While most of us feel like we already live on Planet Oprah, the good scientists at her alma mater, Tennessee State University, are actually considering naming a planet they found after her. Now that’s out of this world!

Nov. 30, 2006 | 2:50

Do celebrities indulge in tabloids?
(Kellyanne Dignan, "Scarborough Country" producer)

I often wonder if celebrities read about themselves. Since they have access to the Internet and the checkout counter at the grocery store it would be hard not to. Of course, all celebrities claim they never read the tabloids or watch TV. But my guess is they're secretly googling themselves at 2 a.m.

What I find even more interesting is how little celebrities often know about their fellow residents of Hollyweird. Take for instance "The Sexiest Man Alive" George Clooney. While, all of Manhattan, Hollywood, and the rest of the country was talking about Danny DeVito's rather strange appearance on "The View," TMZ reports DeVito's late night "drinking buddy" George Clooney had no idea what happened. Apparently he was joking around with the paparazzi asking how his pal DeVito did on the ABC gabfest.

I get that George Clooney is a busy guy. He's in New York doing "Letterman" and "The Daily Show" which doesn't leave a lot of time for daytime TV.

This latest incident of the "unaware celebrity" reminded me of a story I read on TMZ earlier this month.

When the rest of the country was gossiping about the end of Britney Spears and K-Fed, while they stood in line to vote on November 7th, it seems Britney's new pal Lindsay Lohan had no idea what was going on. "Extra" asked Lindsay her thoughts on the "divorce of the decade" at a red carpet even on November 8th and Lohan said she had no idea Brit was getting divorced.

I'm sure LL was busy analyzing election returns.

Lohan may have been clueless about the Kevin-Britney divorce, (although she seems to have gotten up to speed, what with all the late night Britney/Paris/Lindsay partying) but at least the Dixie Chicks read the headlines.

Access Hollywood reports the Chicks dedicated their song "White Trash Wedding" to K-Fed at a recent concert.

While I question the merits of dedicating anything to K-Fed, I'm just glad I'm not the only one reading the tabloids.

Nov. 29, 2006 |

Reality TV narcissists
(Kellyanne Dignan, "Scarborough Country" producer)

A couple of months ago we did a segment on Scarborough Country about celebrities and narcissism. Dr. Drew Pinsky did an actual scientific study that proved celebrities are more narcissistic than you and me. Not exactly shocking stuff, but one interesting tidbit, the study found reality TV stars were the most narcissistic. It seems being fired or rejected by someone you just met on national TV makes you think more of yourself than being a Grammy Award winning musician.

I love reality TV, and I'm a big fan of "The Bachelor." Watching this season's "Prince" search for his "Princess" is a part of my late night Monday TIVO watching and an excellent tutorial in narcissism. ABC is taking advantage of the current Bachelor and his new love's honeymoon period — we get to hear all the details on how this couple fell in love (and in just 6 dates).
If you're ready to move on to ABC's next dreamboat, turn to the Lancaster New Era. Yes, the newest Bachelor, Andy Baldwin, may live in Hawaii but it seems he hails from Amish Country. He is also a Navy lieutenant, a doctor, a triathlete and the son of a politician. Oh and now he gets to date 25 women. I'm sure there is no narcissism there.

At least he is excited to be on the show. Unlike American Idol Taylor Hicks whose recent comments to Relix Magazine make me think he thinks way too much of himself and not quite enough of "American Idol."

Maybe Taylor should give Carolyn Kepcher a call. Donald Trump's former "Apprentice" sidekick seems to have recovered from her Donald firing. She has landed a sweet new deal at Microsoft

My question for everyone with reality TV on their resume: Do you think Bill Gates would have hired Carolyn without her "Apprentice" background?doesn't get on with her former co-stars? It's possible, but I did notice this TomKat wedding was really more about Tom than Kat. It seems the guests, the ceremony, and yes even the publicly released wedding photo are all about Tom.

Actor Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes pose for their official wedding portrait in Lake Braccino, Italy in this photo released to Reuters November 18, 2006. EDITORIAL USE ONLY REUTERS/Robert Evans/Handout (ITALY)Robert Evans / X80001

I have to admit I'm not so much a fan of TomKat's official wedding photo. The couple used famed L.A.-areaphotographer Robert Evans

who took the photos at Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston's wedding. The now defunct Braniston were another Hollyweird couple who released just one official photo. But their picture tells a different tale.

While in the long run it obviously didn't work out, the couple looks equal and happy in the photo. That's perhaps the most perplexing part of the TomKat photo. Either Katie is slumped or Tom is wearing lifts because it's the first picture I've seen with a taller Tom. And while Katie looks happy, Tom just looks like he is posing.

Now a wedding is a time to be happy for the couple whether they are friends or strangers, so Tom and Katie I salute you. But Katie remember you're a tall woman with a decent career (and as Jennifer Aniston can tell you these things don't always work out), so don't cruise too far off your own path.