Listen to me on KTRS/St. Louis every Friday, 3-6pm CT

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Iraq Aplenty

More good insight on Iraq today on my show from Rajiv Chandrasekaran, including:

  • the impact of 36 members of Iraq's Parliament walking out;
  • lack of confidence in President Al-Maliki;
  • whether our military will withdraw from Al-Anbar province, and what that would mean.
Listen, then get Rajiv's book, "Imperial Life In The Emerald City."

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Buy A Video Camera, Get Pasta Sauce

Jim Rittenberg bought a video camera at Best Buy, but ended up with a jar of pasta sauce in the box instead. On my show today, his wife Melisa explained how it happened, how they handled it, how Best Buy reacted, and how the issue was resolved. Then Jason, a listener who used to work at that Best Buy store, called to explain how this could happen. Remember this is a chain that charges a 15% "restocking fee," when it seems that all they do is put boxes back on the shelf without checking them out first.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Movies Times Three

Quick reviews of three movies I've seen in the last week:

"Stranger Than Fiction" is the kind of original storytelling we need more of. Will Ferrell reins in all his wacky urges and shines as an IRS agent who hears a woman's voice narrating his life. It turns out the narrator is Emma Thompson, an author who always kills off her main character. Maggie Gyllenhall give another good performance (since "Secretary," she's done solid supporting work in "Criminal" and "Monster House," and has become one of the best actresses of her generation) as a baker that Ferrell first audits, then falls for. When you add Dustin Hoffman, doing what he always does, and a very understated Queen Latifah, you get a world I was completely drawn into, and walked out smiling -- exactly what you want from a movie.

I'm a sucker for James Bond movies, but for too long, they have simply sucked. "Casino Royale" may save the franchise, and Daniel Craig is just right as 007. The action sequences are perfect, including an early foot chase that is nothing short of remarkable. Fortunately, they've cut out the over-the-top gadgets of some of the recent movies (there's nothing as ridiculous as an invisible car), and given Bond a love interest who is smart and beautiful (you won't snicker as you did when Denise Richards was cast as a nuclear scientist). There's even a funny moment when Bond is given an injection and says "Ouch!" -- this from a man who's been beat up, knocked over, and bruised in every way without ever uttering an objection. My problem with "CR" comes in the poker scene, in which Bond must (of course) beat the villain in a winner-take-all tournament. After giving his female colleague a lecture on how you win at no-limit hold'em -- not by playing the cards but by reading your opponent -- his ultimate victory comes in the kind of hand that never shows up anywhere but in a movie. With four people all-in for the final pot, it's even more unlikely than Edward G. Robinson's straight flush beating Steve McQueen's full house in the climax of "The Cincinnati Kid." Then again, it's a lot more interesting than those boring games of baccarat that Bond used to play.

"For Your Consideration" is a big disappointment. Maybe it's because Christopher Guest and Company set the bar so high with "Waiting For Guffman" and "Best In Show." They started to slip a little bit with "A Mighty Wind," but even that's a masterpiece compared to "FYC." Unlike those, this one's not a mockumentary, but that's not all that's wrong. It feels like a sketch that went on too long, based on a premise that wasn't that funny to begin with. In fact, the basic concept is so lame, you'd think Aaron Sorkin had written it for the show-within-a-show on "Studio 60." Guest's repertory company is full of talented people, but they're becoming redundant, and maybe it's time to get some new players. Besides, how many really good comedies have there been about the behind-the-scenes machinations of making a movie? "FYC" certainly isn't one of them.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Michael Konik on the World's Best Sports Bettors

Michael Konik -- author of the classics "The Man With The $100,000 Breasts" and "Telling Lies And Getting Paid" -- was back on my show today to talk about his new book, "Smart Money: How The World's Best Sports Bettors Beat The Bookies Out Of Millions." We discussed what it was like being part of an organization that routinely outwitted the top sports book managers in Las Vegas, how he handled friends who wanted to share his information, and how he loved living the high-roller lifestyle. We also talked about the hypocrisy of the NFL's anti-gambling stance and the new ban on online gambling.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Iraq For Sale


On my show this afternoon, I talked to Robert Greenwald about his new documentary, "Iraq For Sale," in which he exposes the war profiteering that has come from privatizing so much of this war.

Instead of supporting the troops, companies like Halliburton and CACI are racking up huge profits, while hundreds of millions of your tax dollars are being wasted and lives are being risked unnecessarily -- not to mention the abusive interrogations at Abu Ghraib, which were conducted by some of these private contractors. Thanks to their incestuous relationships with politicians and high-ranking Pentagon personnel, these companies were given no-bid contracts, and there was been absolutely no oversight of their activities by Congress.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Beware Presidential Praise

Here's the lesson from the last 16 months of the Bush administration: if the President praises you effusively in public, you should immediately start packing up your desk.

First, to FEMA Director Michael Brown during the Hurricane Katrina cleanup: "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job!" Days later, Brownie was looking for another job.

Last week, Bush said Donald Rumsfeld was doing a "fantastic job" as Defense Secretary. Today, he's being pushed out (in another brilliantly time Karl Rove move to grab the headlines away from the Democrats' election victories).

If I worked in the White House, I'd worry anytime the President said anything positive to me. "Hey, Harris, nice job on that report!" Gulp -- better update the resume!

Exception: when Bush "appreciates" your "hard work." This is just standard stuff he throws off all the time. In fact, he even "appreciated" the Democrats today.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Worst Song Ever

The results are in from the annual Election Day voting, and once again my listeners have chosen THE WORST SONG EVER.

The winners, and those that preceded them...

THE WORST SONG EVER 2006
#1) Captain & Tenille "Muskrat Love"
#2) Tiny Tim "Tiptoe Through The Tulips"
#3) Maria Muldaur "Midnight At The Oasis"

THE WORST SONG EVER 2004
#1) Billy Ray Cyrus "Achy Breaky Heart"
#2) Tiny Tim "Tiptoe Through The Tulips"
#3) Melanie "Brand New Key"

THE WORST SONG EVER 2003
#1) Morris Albert "Feelings"
#2) Led Zeppelin "Stairway to Heaven"
#3) Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods "Billy Don't Be A Hero"

THE WORST SONG EVER 2002
#1) White Stripes "Little Room"
#2) Ween "Push The Little Daisies"
#3) Los Del Rio "Macarena"

THE WORST SONG EVER 2001
#1) Richard Harris "Macarthur Park"
#2) Ween "Push The Little Daisies"
#3) Paul Anka "You're Having My Baby"

THE WORST SONG EVER 2000
#1) Captain & Tennille "Muskrat Love"
#2) Morris Albert "Feelings"
#3) Vanilla Ice "Ice Ice Baby"

THE WORST SONG EVER 1999
#1) Morris Albert "Feelings"
#2) Debby Boone "You Light Up My Life"
#3) Paul Anka "You're Having My Baby"

Monday, November 06, 2006

Bob Greene Returns


Bob Greene was back on my show today to talk about his book, "And You Know You Should Be Glad," one of the best books I've ever read about friendships, particularly those that last a lifetime. We had a long discussion about it when the book was published in May, so today we talked about the response he's had from readers and the friends he wrote about. I also had Bob tell a wonderful story about how he and his friend Jack, at age 12, made calls to sports stars like Jerry Lucas and Jack Nicklaus and interviewed them for their junior high newspaper.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Hacking Democracy

Just watched a fantastic documentary on HBO, "Hacking Democracy." It's about how the electronic voting machines that have been used for the last several years are not secure, how vote totals can easily be manipulated, and how companies like Diebold -- with multi-million dollar contracts -- are not doing their job in making sure that our votes, the most essential part of democracy, are tabulated correctly.

"Hacking Democracy" will make you think twice about that touch-screen or optical scanner you think is registering your vote -- particularly after you see the Hursti Hack, in which a Finnish computer expert manages to change votes right under the watchful eye of one Florida elections supervisor, by changing the code on one of the Diebold memory cards used in the machine.

The documentary is based on the work of Bev Harris, who started the grassroots organization BlackBoxVoting.org after finding discrepancies in both local and national elections -- and complaints from both Republican and Democratic candidates and supporters. With so many of these machines about to be used again, Bev was on my show this afternoon to talk about whether these security holes have been plugged, or we're in for another round of problems.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Fired For Flipping Off Bush

Lots of reaction on Friday's show to the school bus driver who was fired after flipping off President Bush.

He was in Washington state doing a fundraiser for Congressman Dave Reichert. When their motorcade went by several school buses on a highway ramp, several students waved, but the bus driver gave the finger. Apparently, Reichert saw it and contacted the school district, which decided this was inappropriate behavior, and fired the driver. Her union has filed a grievance on her behalf, but the district says she has a bad track record and this was the last straw.

The question I asked was, putting her history aside, is this a firing offense? If I were her employer, I certainly would have reprimanded her and told her that sort of action could not be repeated, but I wouldn't have let her go. It has nothing to do with politics -- I would have had the same reaction regardless of his party -- or that this was the President of the United States. If she had simply flipped the bird at another driver in traffic (for all we know, she was reacting to having to sit there waiting while traffic was blocked off so the motorcade could go by), I would have given her the same consequences.

Listener reaction was split right down the middle. What do you think?

Federal Censorship Commission

Bob Wright, CEO of NBC Universal, has a great op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about how the FCC should butt out of content, and stop pandering to small-minded special interest groups.

No one suggests broadcast networks adopt an "anything goes" approach. All broadcast networks employ standards experts who vet thousands of hours of programming to make sure it doesn't violate sensibilities. Of course they make mistakes, and neither audiences nor government officials have been shy in voicing concerns -- to which the networks respond. Over-the-air broadcasters -- who are the most responsible, community-focused providers of programming in the business -- do an excellent job. Indeed, the vast majority of complaints about specific shows filed with the FCC (99% in 2004) came from organized interest groups who regularly trawl for complaints from individuals who never saw the show in question.

The FCC should formulate policies that take advantage of advanced technology, rather than hark back to solutions developed in -- and for -- a bygone era. An appropriate FCC policy would recognize that our TV audience is quite varied; that some programs at all hours should appropriately serve the two-thirds of households that do not have children; and that blocking technology is a 21st-century solution that is consistent with the Supreme Court's admonition that the government is constrained by the First Amendment to use the least restrictive means to address "indecent" programming content.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

Let's end the week with something remarkably clever.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair sings the Clash classic "Should I Stay Or Should I Go," thanks to some masterful editing [thanks to Dave King for the link].

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Knuckleheads In The News®

The AP story from Wisconsin reads, "A Hartford man has been ordered to serve 60 days in jail and two years' probation for putting photographs of his genitalia on cars driven by women in Menomonee Falls. ... He pleaded no contest to the charges, which accuse him of putting photos on cars parked outside department stores."

He did what? Let's think this through for a second, which is probably longer than he did. Some questions:

  • What was he trying to accomplish -- picking up chicks? Because you know how much women love seeing anonymous pictures of a strange man's genitalia when they're left behind under the windshield wiper like an advertising flyer.
  • How did the cops identify this guy? Was there a lineup? Did witnesses ID him based on the photos?
  • How did he know which cars belonged to women?
Even better, according to the story, the guy's defense attorney "said at the hearing Monday that his client got involved in the activity at a time when he was depressed about three deaths in the family and the failure of his marriage."

Well, that explains it. The old "I was really depressed so I snapped some quick pix of my package and left them on random windshields at the mall" excuse.

Case dismissed, except for this -- he's also facing six other counts of doing the same thing in several other towns.

John Kerry, Political Comedian?

Quick thoughts on the current John Kerry brouhaha:

  • John Kerry says he was trying to make a joke. John Kerry should never attempt this because, as he has proven time and time again, John Kerry has no sense of humor. He may be the least funny person on the planet, with the possible exception of Dick Cheney. John Kerry could not tell a joke if his life depended on it -- or an election.
  • John Kerry is not running for anything this year, so nothing he says on the campaign trail matters, but I'd bet that the RNC already has added this footage to the anti-Kerry commercials they'll air next time he runs. The man actually manages to swift-boat himself. Any minute now he'll announce that he voted against telling the joke before he went ahead and told the joke.
  • None of this matters at all in the grand scheme of things. It has nothing to do with any issue that's important, but serves as yet another political distraction. You want to talk about Iraq and our troops? Then have a real discussion of the war, not some ridiculous foot-in-the-mouth comment.

Spam Spam Spam Spam

With the road version of "Spamalot" just opening here in St. Louis, and as a followup to yesterday's Spam-O-Lantern, here's the original Monty Python's Flying Circus skit, now with extra spam for your pleasure...