Listen to me on KTRS/St. Louis Mondays and Fridays, 3-6pm CT

Friday, June 29, 2007

Hijacked Cell Phones

The Kuykendall family and their friends have been getting death threats on their cell phones, even when the phones were off, and even when they got new phones. Some of the threats included recordings made while the phones were off and information about what the families were doing in private.

This is a remarkable -- and scary -- story, which the authorities are still trying to solve. Like me, you're probably thinking no one could pull this off, because phones can't be hijacked that way. Wrong! It's real, as described today on my show by reporter Sean Robinson of the Tacoma News-Tribune. Listen.


Two days later, Robinson was back on my show with an update on the families who have had their cell phones hijacked, with death threats issued against them, and weird voice mails and text messages sent, even when their phones were turned off. And it's gotten worse -- now the stalking has expanded to friends and neighbors.

Authorities still can't figure out how it's being done, or who is doing it, but Robinson has talked to a tech expert who has a theory. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Chasing an Identity Thief

Karen Lodrick had her life turned upside down and lost thousands of dollars when someone stole her identity. Then, one day, she found herself in Starbucks right next to a woman who looked just like the thief. How did she know who she was? How did the thief get her identity? How did the bank treat her? What happened when Karen followed and chased the thief until a cop finally showed up?

Listen to her story, as told today on my show.

Wildfire

The cable news outlets just carried Arnold Schwarzenegger's press conference on the wildfires, complete with a podium and multi-microphone setup. Because that's what you need to fight a fire -- a podium. And a dozen bureaucrats in dress shirts standing around. Meanwhile, on the other part of the split-screen, the nets showed the actual firefighters trying to contain the blaze, which is what you need to fight a fire.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Royals Stretch

The Kansas City Royals are asking fans to choose the song they play during the 7th-inning stretch at Kauffman Stadium. This is a chance for some fun, because we can make them use a song that doesn't fit baseball at all.

On their website, along with the obvious choice of The Beatles' version of "Kansas City," they include "Last Dance" by Donna Summer, "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond, "Shake Your Body Down To The Ground" by Michael Jackson, and "Come On Eileen" by Dexy's Midnight Runners.

Since you can't vote for Hillary Clinton's favorite Celine Dion song, the best choice -- for our purposes -- is "Dancing Queen" by Abba. If the Royals and their fans sing that song during the 7th-inning stretch at every home game, they will be the laughing stock of the major leagues, like a road company of "Mamma Mia."

So.......let's help them achieve that dream!

Click here to vote for "Dancing Queen." You'll have to fill out a form that asks for your name and other info, but you can enter bogus details and your vote will still count -- and you can do that as often as you like.

Just a little something from their cross-state rivals in St. Louis.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Cereal Killers

I was raised in an apartment where we ate Cheerios, Special K, and Alpha-Bits for breakfast. We were allowed to sprinkle a little bit of sugar on the cereal for taste, but Mom wouldn't buy us the really sugary cereals.

One morning, I went over to my friend Mark's apartment. I'd already had my breakfast, but they were just sitting down to theirs. Mark and his brothers were eating Frosted Flakes, and his mother offered me some. Not wanting to be rude, and still a little bit hungry, I happily accepted and dug into the bowl of glucose-enhanced delight.

Oh my god!! It was the best thing I'd ever tasted. I could feel my teeth rotting in my mouth as I chewed, but I didn't care. This was the kid equivalent of crack.

Later, when we were away from the table, I asked Mark if he ate Frosted Flakes every morning. He answered that they had all sorts of cereals, and named several that were also full of that sugary goodness. I was incredibly jealous.

I hatched a plan to convince my mother to buy some Frosted Flakes. Unfortunately, I was about 7 years old, so the only argument I could formulate was "but Mark's mother lets him have them all the time!" Remarkably, this didn't win my mother over. Despite my repeated attempts (i.e. whining and throwing a tantrum), she wouldn't give in. The power of parenting.

Fast forward to this week, when that power became moot.

Kellogg's buckled under to the Food Police and announced that they would start making their cereals more nutritious and change the way they market their products to kids. It's to stave off a lawsuit by a couple of pressure groups who blame the company (and others) for making kids fat.

Of course it's Kellogg's fault! These kids must see the commercials for Cocoa Krispies, gather up their allowance money and go to the supermarket themselves, where they prowl the cereal aisle to find the ones with the most sugar and highest caloric content. Then they sneak them home and hide them, secretly munching away on their sweet treats when mom and dad aren't looking.

Or, maybe it's the parents of America who are buying this stuff for their kids, because of a national aversion to using the word "no." That, combined with a lack of exercise (forget about playing outside -- how many schools allow running at recess anymore, or have gym class everyday?) is why we have fat kids.

The Food Police don't dare blame the parents. It must be the big, bad cereal company that's liable. How dare they make something tasty that people enjoy eating? On top of that, they're forcing kids to watch television and be exposed to those horrendous advertising messages!

So let's invert the equation. Take every commercial for Cocoa Puffs and replace it with an ad for broccoli, complete with an endorsement by Shrek and Spider-Man. Would that make America's kids healthier? Funny, I don't recall a lot of my friends eating spinach just because of Popeye.

Where in all of this are the adults who might like a bowl of Frosted Flakes or Froot Loops? Don't their tastebuds matter? Or are we doomed to a future of Bran Flakes and Mueslix?

No, our future will more likely be filled with a spoonful of sugar, which we'll sprinkle over the newly reformulated versions of the cereals we used to like.

Friday, June 15, 2007

How To Have A Happy Father's Day

On behalf of all dads, I'm going to share a secret that men have kept for centuries.

We appreciate it. We really do. We know you want to do something special for us on Father's Day.

So, you and the kids are planning to get up early Sunday morning and sneak into the kitchen to make us a big breakfast, with all of our favorites. Then you'll load it onto a tray, bring it into the bedroom, gently wake us up, and present the food to us.

We'll love the smiles on the kids' faces as they hop into the bed with us, singing "Happy Father's Day, Daddy!!!" and handing us cards they drew themselves. It'll be a very nice family moment. There's only one problem.

The whole time you're presenting this nice celebration, we really have to go to the bathroom.

It's not our fault, it's simply biology. Ask any man. When we wake up in the morning, the first thing we have to do is pee. Doesn't matter how old we are, or how happy we are to see you -- nature calls.

So, now you know that the look of joy on our faces is genuine, but it's mixed with a certain level of discomfort. Armed with that knowledge, I ask a favor on behalf of every member of the human male species: please come in and give us a few minutes' warning. Tip us off that the "surprise" is coming, thus giving us an opportunity to run into the bathroom, take care of business, then jump back under the covers and pretend to be asleep in time for the kids to bring in breakfast. We'll still put on the whole "wow, what a nice surprise!" act, and everyone will be happy -- and a lot more comfortable.

Do this for us, and we'll make it up to you next Mother's Day. Maybe we'll even remember to make reservations for a nice brunch at a nice restaurant instead of having those last-minute kid-recipe pancakes again.

Happy Father's Day!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

American English

American English is the best Beatles band I've ever seen, and I'm always happy to welcome them back to my studio. Today, they were back to talk about the 40th anniversary of "Sgt. Pepper's" and play a couple of songs from that album ("Getting Better" and "With A Little Help From My Friends"). They also performed four other songs, none of which they've ever done on my show before.

Listen, then check their website for a date near you.

Face Off

You'd think an adult in a position of authority would know this rule: no writing on your face. But Donna Jones, one of the geniuses on the St. Louis School Board, who is opposed to the state taking over the failing school district, showed up at the board meeting last night with the words "No State Takeover" written on her face -- in permanent marker.

When you think about it, Jones had to have an accomplice, since it's not that easy to write on your face backwards. That means there was another adult who thought "hey, this is a good idea!" and helped her do it.

If your child came to the dinner table with words written across her face, you'd send her to the bathroom to wash them off. And I bet your kid would be smart enough to not use permanent marker (if she did, you'd be in that bathroom, too, with sandpaper).

Jones pulled off this stunt to get publicity, so let's give it to her -- accompanied by the shame I'm sure she doesn't feel at going out in front of the public like that.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Carl Reiner, "Ocean's Thirteen"


Carl Reiner was back on my show this afternoon to talk about "Ocean's Thirteen."

We talked about how he was not the first choice to play Saul Bloom but ended up with the part anyway, how he provided his own hairpiece for the character, whether he gave director Steven Soderbergh any advice during filming, and what outrageous demands he made on the set. Carl also talked about his co-stars, from George Clooney and Don Cheadle to Al Pacino and Ellen Barkin. And as to whether there will be an "Ocean's Fourteen".....?

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

Free Speech On The Job


On my show this afternoon, I talked with Bruce Barry about the erosion of free speech in the workplace and his book, "Speechless."

Far too many Americans think the First Amendment allows them to say anything, anywhere, anytime, but that's far from true. Most workers can be fired for any reason, and quite often it's for the way they've expressed themselves -- from having a bumper sticker for the "wrong" political candidate, to blogging about their boss, and on and on. Bruce and I talked about those examples and others, the difference in your rights depending on whether you work in the public and private sectors, how difficult it can be to go after a company that fires you, and much more.

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

Bruce is a professor of management and sociology at the Owen School of Management at Vanderbilt University, serves as president of the Tennessee branch of the ACLU, writes for Nashville Scene -- and was one of the smart ones in my high school graduating class.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sopranos Non-Finale


I didn't watch the first few seasons of "The Sopranos." My wife was really into it, but I always had something else to do on Sunday nights. Then, two years ago, I decided to get all the DVDs from Netflix and watched every episode in order. The more I watched, the more I was intrigued and entertained, and realized that this was one of TV's all-time great shows. I caught up in time to see all of Season 5 live, and then onto this final season, which HBO split in two.

So, after all of that, I thought we'd get a real finale tonight. Some sort of closure, something big. I didn't expect just another episode -- but that's what we got.

Paulie ranting about the cat. Junior still nuts in the psych ward. Typically self-serving Janice. More concern about AJ's future and Meadow's career and love life. Fine, all good, but so what? Oh, sure, there was the satisfying way Phil Leotardo was taken out, and the interplay with the FBI agent, and then...cut to black.

Not a fade to black. A quick cut, then nothing. No more. Done. Forever.

If the idea was to make all of us think that our HBO feed had suddenly gone dead, then it was a success. Otherwise -- unacceptable!!

Update 11:29pm: Nikki Finke reports that other "Sopranos" fans were so upset at the final episode that they crashed HBO's website tonight. She's calling for people to cancel their HBO subscriptions. I think that's a little rash, considering that the network had virtually nothing to do with the way Chase chose to end the show. Boycotting HBO over this accomplishes nothing, since "The Sopranos" is over. The impact would instead be felt by "Entourage" when it returns for its new season next week -- and I like that show too much.

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Case For Amnesty


In this week's Time magazine, Nathan Thornburgh makes "The Case For Amnesty" in the illegal immigrants debate. I talked about it with him this afternoon on my show -- from how it would work, to why illegals would want to come out of hiding, to how we keep the next wave from coming to America. Anyone who thinks there are easy answers here ("send 'em all home!") doesn't understand the real complexities of this problem.

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

Quick Promotional Idea

This weekend at every Hilton Hotel, all women wearing an ankle bracelet drink for half price! Free shuttle bus to jail included.

One other quick point. Yesterday, Paris Hilton was let out of jail and the Dow dropped over a hundred points. Today, she was sent back to jail, and the Dow was up over a hundred points. Imagine how well your 401k would be doing if we also threw Nicole Richie, Lindsay Lohan, and Britney Spears in jail.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

More Movies You Might Not Know

It's been too long since I've made any additions to the Movies You Might Not Know list, so here are two new ones:

"Heart of the Game" is the second-best basketball documentary ever made (after "Hoop Dreams"), chronicling several years with a girls' high school team in Seattle. They are coached by Bill Resler, a tax professor who has some new ideas about how to lead the girls to victory. The story really takes off once Darnellia Russell joins the team -- she's a helluva basketball player, but her off-court troubles keep getting in the way. If this were a Hollywood script, no one would believe it, but as a true story, it's a sports classic.

"Little Voice" is not a documentary, but an amazing showcase for Jane Horrocks, whose character wows everyone with her pitch-perfect imitations of singing stars from Judy Garland to Marilyn Monroe. Michael Caine plays the small-time theatrical agent who sees gold in that little voice, a role that earned him an Oscar nomination.

To see the entire Movies You Might Not Know list, or to suggest one, click here.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Simon Cowell

Simon Cowell was on my show today to talk about his TV talent show. No, not "American Idol." He's the producer of "America's Got Talent," which returns tonight for its second season.

I asked him why he fired Regis Philbin and Brandy and replaced them with Jerry Springer and Sharon Osbourne, how he plans on keeping David Hasselhoff sober, and what kind of freak show acts he hates the most.

You'll notice that I didn't ask Simon any "Idol" questions, because we only had a few minutes and a lot of stuff to cover about the other show, and because we've already heard his answers to all of those Sanjaya inquiries.

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

Michael Copps, FCC Commissioner

As a followup to my column, "Putting the F in FCC," I invited FCC Commissioner Michael Copps onto my show this afternoon to discuss several issues.

We discussed the notion of broadcasters "serving the public interest" (I asked him if airing "American Idol" qualified), whether it's the government's business to regulate content, his reaction to a federal court overturning the FCC's rulings on fleeting profanity, and the special interest pressure groups that gin up "public reaction" and whether those voices carry more weight than Americans who don't complain because they're enjoying what they're watching and listening to.

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

Putting the F in FCC

The FCC issued two disturbing proclamations this week that should bother anyone who believes in freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

FCC chairman Kevin Martin issued a press release condemning the decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturning the comission's rulings over fleeting use of profanity.

In that release, the commish uses the f-bomb and s-word over half a dozen times -- more than I ever have on this site, or anywhere else in print. Funny that he finds those words so indecent when broadcast on the public airwaves that the government must step in, but not so indecent that they should be left out of an official government document (isn't that public paper, Kevin?). Oh, I guess children don't read FCC press releases, so he can use whatever language he wants.

Note how Martin repeatedly refers to the "New York court." That's right-wing code for "liberal, Northeastern, probably Jewish." It's a cheap and deplorable phrase used to pander to other conservative extremists, especially those in the special-interest pressure groups that Martin constantly kowtows to. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals is not a state or city court. It is a federal court, one level below the US Supreme Court.

Martin also uses this press release as an opportunity to promote the idea of a la carte pricing for cable and satellite, claiming that "permitting parents to have more choice in the channels they receive may prove to be the best solution to content concerns." False! The content that Martin and his cabal have tried to regulate was on broadcast channels that would still go into those homes, regardless of whether they were paid for in a bundle or a la carte. Letting people decide whether to subscribe to HBO or HGTV would have no impact on Bono dropping a fleeting F-bomb during an awards telecast on NBC. Martin should also look into a new Forrester Research study regarding a la carte pricing.

Meanwhile, another FCC commissioner, Michael Copps, wrote a New York Times op-ed this week insisting that, when deciding whether to grant renewal of broadcast licenses, the commission should consider whether the license owner "served the public interest." That's not the same as offering programming that "interests the public." As with so many in government, he's sure that he knows what's in your best interest better than you do, so he wants to force-feed you programming you're not going to watch.

Here are some of the points Copps wants considered, in italics, with my response following:

Did the station show programs on local civic affairs (apart from the nightly news), or set aside airtime for local community groups? While those groups may be doing good work, there's surely no audience for this kind of programming, which is why it's so often relegated to the less-viewed and less-listened-to dayparts, such as early Sunday morning. Would the commission force stations to air these programs in primetime? Listeners and viewers would tune out in droves. How is that in the public interest?

Did it broadcast political conventions, and local as well as national candidate debates? Political conventions are a moot point these days, with the nominees decided long before during the primary process. The four-day events are nothing more than political grandstanding put on by each party, offering nothing of any news value except for an occasional important speech (e.g. Obama's coming out party in 2004).

Did it devote at least five minutes each night to covering politics in the month before an election?
Most of that coverage is now of the horse-race variety, telling us who's ahead in the polls and what slick campaign line a candidate has repeated for the umpteenth time. Does Copps seriously think there isn't enough coverage of national campaigns? The problem is there's too much of it, starting 18 months before a presidential election, when no one but the most hardcore is paying attention. Would a station have to cover local candidates and issues ad nauseum, and if so, down to what level?

These are decisions to be made in newsrooms, by people who are in the business of providing television to a mass market, not by some political appointees sitting high and mighty in their offices at the FCC. We now have a wide variety of media that offer anyone who wants more information the opportunity to discover anything they like about any kind of candidate. Telling broadcasters that the renewal of their license is dependent on their coverage of the electoral process is a misuse of the commission's own public trust.

When it comes to broadcast regulation, the government's sole responsibility should be to make sure that the technical rules (staying on frequency and within power specifications and coverage areas) are adhered to -- nothing else.

Hands off the content!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Quick Thought

Who was it who told us that if we didn't fight the terrorists in Iraq, we'd have to fight them here? Wonder what that person was thinking over the weekend when the JFK Airport plot was exposed -- the one thought up by a US citizen and some friends from Trinidad, of all places. Sounds to me like we're already fighting them here.

The good news seems to be that the ones we're fighting here are morons with unworkable plots (including the Fort Dix attack squad and the Mensa rejects caught plotting something stupid in that Florida warehouse last year).

Best part of today's developments was when the head of the extremist Muslim sect in Trinidad disavowed any knowledge of the JFK plotters or their plans. In other words, "we may be a fringe group of religious whack jobs, but those guys are crazy!!"

Beatles Justice

If you're going to ask the judge to "Let It Be" when you're convicted of a crime, you should expect a Beatles-filled response. That's what Andrew McCormack got when the court asked him what he thought his sentence should be for breaking into a store and stealing some beer. Judge Gregory Todd wrote:

Mr. McCormack, you pled guilty to the charge of Burglary. To aid me in sentencing I review the pre-sentence investigation report. I read with interest the section containing Defendant's statement. To the question of "Give your recommendation as to what you think the Court should do in this case," you said, "Like the Beetles say Let It Be."

While I will not explore the epistemological or ontological overtones of your response, or even the syntactic of symbolic keys of your allusion, I will say Hey Jude, Do You Want to Know a Secret? The greatest band in rock history spelled their name B-e-a-t-l-e-s.

I interpret the meaning of your response to suggest that there should be no consequences for your actions and I should Let it Be so you can live in Strawberry Fields Forever. Such reasoning is Here, There and Everywhere. It does not require a Magical Mystery Tour of interpretation to know The Word means leave it alone. I trust we can all Come Together on that meaning. If I were to overlook your actions and Let It Be, I would ignore that Day in the Life on April 21, 2006.

Evidently, earlier that night you said to yourself I Feel Fine while drinking beer. Later, whether you wanted Money or were just trying to Act Naturally you became the Fool on the Hill on North 27th Street. As Mr Moonlight at 1:30am, you did not Think for Yourself but just focused on I, Me, Mine. Because you didn't ask for Help, Wait for Something else or listen to your conscience saying Honey Don't, the victim later that day was Fixing a Hole in the glass door you broke.

After you stole the 18 pack of Old Milwaukee you decided it was time to Run For Your Life and Carry That Weight. But when the witness said Baby it's You, the police responded I'll Get You and you had to admit that You Really Got a Hold on Me. You were not able to Get Back home because of the Chains they put on you.

Although you hoped the police would say I Don't Want to Spoil the Party and We Can Work it Out, you were in Misery when they said you were a Bad Boy. When the police took you to jail, you experienced Something New as they said Hello Goodbye and you became a Nowhere Man. Later when you thought about what you did you may have said I'll Cry Instead. Now you're saying Let it Be instead of I'm a Loser.

As a result of your Hard Day's Night you are looking at a Ticket to Ride that Long and Winding Road to Deer Lodge. Hopefully you can say both now and When I'm 64 that I Should Have Known Better."
Could have been worse. The judge could've worked in yellow matter custard dripping from a dead dog's eye.

As for McCormack's sentence, the judge gave him probation and ordered him to pay a fine and do some community service.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Dr. Death

Quick thought: when Jack Kevorkian was finally released from prison today, one of the first people to greet him was octogenarian Mike Wallace, who gave Dr. Death a big hug. Was Mike there for an interview or a second opinion?

Chris Mass, "Chalk"

"Chalk" is a clever little movie about the trials and tribulations of first-time teachers. Chris Mass, who appears as one of the young teachers and co-wrote the movie with director Mike Akel, was on my show to talk about it. Each of them spent three years in the classroom before turning their experiences into the script for this semi-improvised comedy.

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

Electability

Despite the lie we tell our kids, that "any child can grow up to be President of the United States," I blogged a few months ago about the likelihood of getting elected if you were black, female, an atheist, gay, etc.

Now, the folks at data360.org have tracked Gallup polls going back several years on exactly that question. Results here. It's important to remember that this is what people say they would do, not what they have done, and we know that there is not always a correlation.