If you like trivia, check out my other site, THE HARRIS CHALLENGE, and play every weekday!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Mark Ebner on the Cosby Charges

With new sexual assault charges filed against Bill Cosby in Pennsylvania, I called upon Mark Ebner, the journalist who broke the story in 2007 about Cosby's history of raping women -- and, in particular, Andrea Constand, who is at the center of this criminal case. I asked Ebner if other victims will be able to testify in this trial, whether prosecutors can use Cosby's own words from an earlier deposition against him, and if there's any chance there will be a plea bargain that keeps him out of prison.

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

Reality TV Year In Review

Here's my conversation with Andy Dehnart of Reality Blurred about the highs and lows of reality TV in 2015, from "Survivor" to "The Briefcase," with a bunch of bakers, Alaskans, and sharks in between. We also talked about the new sub-genre of reality shows -- cold-case documentaries like HBO's "The Jinx" and Netflix's "Making A Murderer."

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
Previously on Harris Online...

David Pogue's Life Basics

Here's my conversation with David Pogue of Yahoo Tech, Scientific American, "Nova" on PBS, and "Sunday Morning" on CBS, about his new book, "Pogue's Basics: Life -- Essential Tips and Shortcuts For Simplifying Your Day." Pogue says that life hacks have gotten a bad name on the internet because so many are absurd or just don't work, but in his book, everything has been tested and proven to work. Among the topics we discussed:
  • How my wife is right that you can leave the butter out instead of refrigerating it;
  • Why you should send yourself a text message as soon as you get off a plane;
  • Why you need your car's air conditioner on cold days;
  • How to save more money on hotel rooms with your phone than with your laptop;
  • How to save money on razor blades;
  • What is vampire power and how much are you using?
  • How we'll soon have a uniform way to plug stuff in, instead of needing multiple adapters that aren't interchangeable;
  • How there's no magic cure to get rid of that fat hanging off your belly;
  • How to know which side of a rental car the gas tank is on.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
Previously on Harris Online...

Dr. Art Caplan on Gene Editing

Here's my conversation with Dr. Art Caplan about gene editing, a process which allows doctors to fix errors in human embryos. The idea is to target inherited diseases like Crohn's, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, etc. Of course, because embryos are involved, pro-lifers are all upset about it and are blocking federal funding of the research. However, as Art points out, if there isn't public funding involved, the technology will still advance but be available only to the rich and unscrupulous.

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

Knuckleheads In The News® 12/31/15

This edition of Knuckleheads In The News® includes stories about a woman imitating Mike Tyson, a cop practicing his quick-draw skills, and a man killed by condoms. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
Want more Knuckleheads In The News®? Click here.

A Bipartisan Way To Fix Our Infrastructure

We have a lot of infrastructure problems in this country that aren't being repaired because Congress and state legislatures refuse to raise the gas tax and use the funds to fix our levees, roads, bridges, etc. My guest Philip K. Howard of Common Good has a proposal for a bipartisan solution to the problem, which he wrote about in The Atlantic and discussed on my show today. As he points out, breaking the political logjam would not only mean upgrades to our decades-old and broken-down infrastructure, but would also create a couple million jobs and lots more in financial return on the investment.

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

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Bonnie and Clyde

"American Experience" on PBS will have an episode devoted to Bonnie and Clyde next month. After watching a DVD screener, I invited director/writer John Maggio to join me and discuss:
  • Why did people line up by the thousands for Clyde's funeral?
  • Notoriety would seem to be bad for business -- did they chase fame?
  • Did they live a glamorous life?
  • Why were they killed instead of caught?
  • What's the story behind the iconic photo of Bonnie leaning on a car, holding a pistol with a cigar in her mouth?
  • What did Bonnie and Clyde's relatives think of the 1967 Faye Dunaway/Warren Beatty movie about them?
Maggio's documentary will debut on PBS on January 19th.

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

Politifact's Lie Of The Year

Here's my conversation with Katie Sanders, deputy editor of Politifact, one of the best fact-checking websites, which has reviewed various statements and pronouncements by politicians in 2015 to determine which qualifies as Lie Of The Year.

This year, however, that singular label was expanded to encompass a series of untruths by one particular presidential candidate -- Donald Trump. Sanders explained which of his lies were most egregious and thus categorized as "Pants On Fire." We also talked about the difficulty of being a fact-checker in the current environment, whether anyone on the Democrat side said anything remotely close to Trump's whoppers, and how quotes from his own book go a long way in explaining his attitude about the truth.

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

Aretha Honors Carole

The most moving part of last night's Kennedy Center Honors broadcast on CBS was when Aretha Franklin paid tribute to Carole King by performing "You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman," which the latter wrote for the former in 1967. King seemed thrilled and shocked by Franklin's appearance, particularly when she sat down to play the piano, and the rest of the crowd enjoyed the hell out of it, too.

The woman introducing Franklin is Chelina Kennedy, now playing King in the Broadway bio-musical "Beautiful." I saw her in that role a few months ago, and she's spectacular, as is the entire show. In fact, I'm going to take my wife to see it again in February at The Fabulous Fox here in St. Louis.

By the way, King and Franklin are both 73 and still sound great.

Dinosaur Truther

St. Louis Rams defensive end William Hayes doesn't believe dinosaurs ever existed "because man has never seen a dinosaur." By that idiotic logic, a ten-year-old boy could say that The Rams have never had a winning season or played in a Super Bowl -- two things that haven't happened in his lifetime.

Alan Sepinwall's TV Revolution Revised

Here's my conversation with Alan Sepinwall, TV critic for HitFix.com, about the updated version of his book, "The Revolution Was Televised: How The Sopranos, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Lost, and Other Groundbreaking Dramas Changed TV Forever." When he published the first edition in 2012, "Breaking Bad" and "Mad Men" hadn't finished their runs, so he's gone back and revised those chapters and added a few other observations in retrospect. Some of the topics we covered:
  • Did the people running these shows have more freedom than most?
  • Did those show runners have everything plotted out ahead of time, or did they improvise as they went along?
  • What's the impact of new distribution channels like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and Crackle?
  • Shows like Netflix's "Bloodline" and Amazon's "The Man In The High Castle" go on for 10 episodes but drag in the middle – do they need to be that long?
  • You and others have been writing show recaps and instant critiques – what do the show runners think of them?
  • Towards the end of the run of "Mad Men," you told Matthew Weiner that it had inspired many other shows of its type, but he didn't agree? Why not?
  • Why does the audience turned against the wives of anti-heroes (e.g. Carmela Soprano, Betty Draper, Skyler White)?
  • Would FX's "Fargo" be on your list of shows for the next book update?
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
Previously on Harris Online...

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Movie Waiting To Be Made

If someone in Hollywood isn’t already turning this story into an action movie, they’re missing the boat (pardon the pun) big time.

Picture Of The Day

NPR's Steve Inskeep wondered what President Obama would ask the candidates who want his job. I not only like the question, I like Obama's comment about the aspects of the job that wear off pretty quickly...

Monday, December 28, 2015

My Favorite Basketball Player Of All Time

As a boy, I saw Julius Erving fly towards the basket from the top of the key and slam the ball through the hoop. As an adult, I watched Michael Jordan switch hands in mid-air and still complete a layup off the backboard. But I never saw anyone as entertaining on the basketball court as Meadowlark Lemon, the clown prince of the Harlem Globetrotters.

Not only could Meadowlark play, he forced everyone in the arena to have fun -- regardless of their age, nationality, or distance from the action. From the moment he stepped on the court, he kept up a running patter over their two-hours-plus performances. Seeing Meadowlark, Curly Neal (who I had the pleasure of interviewing a long time ago), and their teammates doing classic Globetrotter routines was pure pleasure, but they were damned good basketball players, too. I doubt anyone has ever made as many hook shots from mid-court as Meadowlark. Sure, their opponents -- especially the Washington Generals, led by set-shot legend Red Klotz -- were on the payroll and forced to endure humiliation nightly, but the final score was never the point.

For tens of millions of people in more than a hundred countries, a visit from the Globetrotters was something to look forward to, and for two decades and over 16,000 games, no one made those visits more special than the man in the middle of that dribbling weave, Meadowlark Lemon, who died this weekend at 83 (or so).

Thursday, December 24, 2015

You Can Wish Me A Merry Christmas

Re-posting this from 2012...

At work yesterday, I said "Merry Christmas" to a colleague who was leaving early to start his long holiday weekend. Knowing that I was raised Jewish (but now practice no religion), he responded, "Thanks, and Happy Hanukkah to you!"

I held my tongue instead of saying, "Um, thanks, but Hanukkah ended several days ago. Wishing me Happy Hanukkah today would be like wishing someone a Merry Christmas on December 30th." The reason I didn't say anything was because I know that he didn't know when Hanukkah was, but he assumed it was always at the same time as Christmas, as if it were a Jewish version of that holiday -- which it isn't -- and I wasn't up to explaining the difference yet again. Besides, I appreciated his attempt at inclusion.

There was a time in my life when, if someone said "Merry Christmas" to me, I'd be offended by their assumption that everyone celebrates that Christian holiday. But then I became less defensive when I realized that, even though Christmas means nothing to me, I can still have a merry day. There's nothing wrong with "merry." In fact, Christmas is the only day of the year to which that adjective should be appended. No one ever says, "Have a Merry Thanksgiving, Stephanie" or "Merry Arbor Day, Bill!"

These days, I not only accept all merry wishes, I even offer them. So, from my family to yours, may you have a very Merry Friday.

Winners Not Named Trump

Brent Budowsky writes in The Hill:

According to a new poll by Quinnipiac University on Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) destroys Republican candidate Donald Trump in a general election by 13 percentage points. In this new poll, Sanders has 51 percent to Trump's 38 percent. If this margin held in a general election, Democrats would almost certainly regain control of the United States Senate and very possibly the House of Representatives.

It is high time and long overdue for television networks such as CNN to end their obsession with Trump and report the all-important fact that in most polls, both Hillary Clinton and Sanders would defeat Trump by landslide margins. In the new Quinnipiac poll, Clinton would defeat Trump by 7 percentage points, which is itself impressive and would qualify as a landslide, while the Sanders lead of 13 points would bring a landslide of epic proportions.
Read Budowsky's full piece here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Movie Review: "Concussion"

I've spent plenty of time talking on the air about the concussion crisis in the NFL and the league's efforts to cover it up. Two of my best guests on this subject were pediatric concussions expert Dr. Robert Cantu and "League Of Denial" author Mark Fainaru-Wada. The latter wrote extensively about forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu, who was the first to identify chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and link it to the brain damage that comes from the regular head-bashing of professional football players. That was more than a dozen years ago.

In the terrific movie "Concussion," Will Smith plays Omalu, who felt the full force of the NFL come crushing down on him when he went public with his findings. It tried to discredit him as a fraud and presented evidence from scientists paid by the league that found no causal link between playing football and brain damage (echoes of tobacco "scientists" who found no link to lung cancer, as well as modern day climate change deniers funded by Big Oil).

The NFL maintained that position until Congress investigated in 2009, when it finally acknowledged the connection and began making some rule changes to address the problem. Meanwhile, Dr. Omalu's findings have been confirmed by Dr. Ann McKee and her team at Boston University, who studied the brains of 79 deceased NFL players -- and found CTE in 76 of them.

Much of "Concussion" was filmed in Pittsburgh, because it was while investigating the death of Steelers legend Mike Webster that Omalu found the first evidence of CTE in his brain. A year later, he discovered it in another Steelers veteran, Terry Long, who killed himself at 45, but had a brain that looked like a 90-year-old Alzheimers patient. The movie details their stories, as well as other ex-NFL players whose lives were ruined by years of concussive hits on the field.

Smith is excellent in the lead role, adopting Omalu's Nigerian accent and bringing both intensity and pathos to the role. Always a star on screen, Smith suppresses his fun-loving side to play Omalu as a serious scientist disturbed first by what he found and second by the league's attacks on him. The supporting cast includes Albert Brooks as Omalu's mentor, Alec Baldwin as a former team doctor who joins his fight, and Luke Wilson as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. You can be sure that the NFL is not happy about the movie, which will reopen a national discussion of the league's cover-up and denial.

My only complaint about "Concussion" is that the plot veers off into Omalu's personal life, including meeting a Kenyan nurse who becomes his wife. The scenes are fine, but somewhat distracting to the central part of the story -- a man of integrity taking on a corporation that lied to its employees about the health effects of their jobs.

I give "Concussion" an 8.5 out of 10.

Previously on Harris Online...
By the way, "League of Denial," the expose written by Mark Fainaru-Wada and his brother Steve Fainaru, was turned into a riveting documentary that aired on PBS in 2013 as part of its "Frontline" series. You can watch the entire thing here.

Also: here's an interview with Dr. Bennet Omalu about "Concussion."

Best Thing I've Read Today

Yesterday I wrote about why it's not the people at the bottom of our economy who you have to worry about hurting you, but those at the top, who manipulate the system to line their own pockets with your tax dollars without letting you know what they're doing or how.

In a piece called "Plutocrats Are Winning," Bill Moyers agrees, and laments the news media's lack of interest in digging into the corruption:

After three decades of engineering a winner-take-all economy, and buying the political power to consummate their hold on the wealth created by the system they had rigged in their favor, they were taking the final and irrevocable step of separating themselves permanently from the common course of American life. They would occupy a gated stratosphere far above the madding crowd while their political hirelings below look after their earthly interests.

The $1.15 trillion spending bill passed by Congress last Friday and quickly signed by President Obama is just the latest triumph in the plutocratic management of politics that has accelerated since 9/11. As Michael Winship and I described here last Thursday, the bill is a bonanza for the donor class – that powerful combine of corporate executives and superrich individuals whose money drives our electoral process. Within minutes of its passage, congressional leaders of both parties and the president rushed to the television cameras to praise each other for a bipartisan bill that they claimed signaled the end of dysfunction; proof that Washington can work. Mainstream media (including public television and radio), especially the networks and cable channels owned and operated by the conglomerates, didn’t stop to ask: “Yes, but work for whom?” Instead, the anchors acted as amplifiers for official spin — repeating the mantra-of-the-hour that while this is not “a perfect bill,” it does a lot of good things. “But for whom? At what price?” went unasked.
Read Moyers' full piece here.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Picture Of The Day


I'm still trying to get over the Steve Harvey story. So hard to see the pristine integrity of a beauty pageant ruined like that. 

Worst Movies Of 2015

Yesterday, I posted my list of the Best Movies Of 2015, with the caveat that I don't see everything that's released. In the same vein, here's my Worst Movies Of 2015 list, based on those I saw. Several of these came out in August, reinforcing its claim as the month where movies go to die (with February a close second). For eight of them, links go to longer reviews I posted on this site.

1) "Hot Tub Time Machine 2." I liked the original, really, but this sequel just lays there. John Cusack was smart to skip it, while Rob Corddry plays it way too big and Craig Robinson looks like he's just riding along for the paycheck. Even a wacky comedy should have at least one laugh in it. This one may have put up a negative number.

2) "An Irrational Man." When this Woody Allen bomb ended, I announced it would be near the top of my worst-of list. I know that someone so prolific can't create quality every time, but this one missed the mark by a long shot. It stars Emma Stone as a college student who falls for Joaquin Phoenix, the new philosophy professor on campus. Before you know it, the professor is murdering a judge, and the May-September romance is on. While I like everyone in the cast, they're not given much to do, and Allen's comedy voice has rarely been weaker.

3) "Hitman: Agent 47." Based on a video game, which already spawned a movie version that bombed in 2007. Rupert Friend plays a nameless hit man whose mission changes in a dumb twist. I didn’t care about any of the characters. The action sequences are okay but totally predictable (good guy fires one shot, hits everyone, bad guys miss with dozens of shots). I think Hollywood is done trying to turn this video game into a big screen success.

4) "Terminator: Genisys." Unless you've seen the first two "Terminator" movies, you won't have any idea what's going on here -- and after you've seen this, you won't have any idea why you wasted your time. Its lead characters have no charisma, its action sequences are nothing special, and even the scene of Arnold Schwarzenegger fighting a younger version of himself is a big yawn.

5) "Stonewall." The seminal moment in the gay rights movement was a riot at a bar in New York's Greenwich Village. Sounds like the basis for an interesting movie. Unfortunately, the people behind "Stonewall" decided to make it the coming-of-age story of a transplanted midwesterner who falls in with a group of cliche-ridden drag queens. Then they hired some bad actors and an uninspired director to make it worse.

6) "Inherent Vice." Usually when one actor appears in two of the worst movies of the year, his name is either Adam Sandler or Rob Schneider. This year it's Joaquin Phoenix, who stars in this misstep by Paul Thomas Anderson about a drugged-out private investigator looking into the disappearance of a former girlfriend in 1970. The script is far too dense, as if that makes it more mysterious, and not a single character pops off the screen. This is the worst movie about a private investigator in that era since Richard Dreyfuss in "The Bix Fix."

7) "Entourage." I admit that I enjoyed the cheesy HBO show for a few seasons, until it became a parody of itself for the umpteenth time. This movie makes it umpteen-plus-one. Its only redeeming quality is that you get to play "was that....?" every time a new celebrity makes a cameo appearance, and there are a ton of them. As for the plot, it's the same as it always was: Vince wins.

8) "The Man From UNCLE." Since no one under 50 has even heard of the 1960s TV series, this movie starts at the beginning, with the story of how American agent Napoleon Solo and Russian agent Ilya Kuryakin were forced to work together. As Solo, Henry Cavill (who I hated as the new Superman) displays even less personality than Robert Vaughn did. Meanwhile, Armie Hammer overdoes it as Kuryakin, with a Russian accent nearly as bad as John Malkovich's in "Rounders." You don't need to know the details of plot, but suffice it to say that the two agents have to save the world from someone with a nefarious plot to blow up and/or take over the world. Yawn. This was supposed to kick-start a new franchise, but it did so poorly at the box office that the sequels have been cancelled.

9) "Ex-Machina." A young talented computer programmer is invited to visit an incredibly rich internet genius who lives by himself in an ultra-modern home in the middle of nowhere. Except he's not alone -- he's built gorgeous female robots to keep him company and be his sex slaves. One of them, played by Alicia Vikander (who's also in the dumb "UNCLE" movie) wants out, and uses the new guy to make it happen. So what?

10) "Ricki and the Flash." It's been a very long time since Meryl Streep ended up on a worst-of list, but this bomb from Jonathan Demme and Diablo Cody qualifies. She's Ricki, a has-been singer in a rock cover band whose ex-husband calls to tell her that their daughter tried to commit suicide. Ricki drops everything to play her fish-out-of-water role. To give you an idea how thin that plot is, the movie's only 90 minutes but includes five full musical numbers for Streep to perform.

Most Corrupt City In The World

At one point during my time as a morning man on WCXR/Washington in the late 1980s, whenever I would give the weather forecast, I'd end with "right now it's (whatever) degrees in The Most Corrupt City In The World!" After about a month, the Program Director Andy Beaubien asked me to knock it off because "it may be true, but it sounds so depressing!" By then, I was tired of it anyway, so I stopped, but that phrase has remained in the back of my mind.

This piece in the NY Times by Eric Lipton and Liz Moyer brought it forward again. It details how lobbyists for big corporations and very rich people literally wrote part of the new omnibus spending bill to save themselves a billion in tax dollars. In just 54 words, it preserves a real estate spinoff trick that's designed expressly to give them money out of the pockets of taxpayers like you and me. Harry Reid, the Senate minority leader from Nevada who jumps at the whim of Big Gaming, pushed it through at their behest.

This is the sort of budget-skimming corruption we rarely hear about. Loudmouths on radio and TV talk about welfare cheats and poor people who just want a hand-out, but the truth is you shouldn't worry about being ripped off by those at the bottom. The share of the federal budget being squandered at that end of the spectrum is minuscule compared to the enormous amounts being purposely steered towards those at the top -- again and again. That's where the reform must come, but never can, because the system is fixed by those with money, and thus, power.

Take military spending, for just one example. The Pentagon has certain demands, but Congress doesn't think it asks for enough. Members of Congress regularly add in unnecessary pork-barrel projects that benefit their state or district. For instance, The Times points out a portion of the bill that directs the Coast Guard to build a $640 million National Security Cutter in Mississippi that the Coast Guard says it neither needs nor wants.

And this:

A provision which Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, helped secure, appropriated an extra $1 billion for a Navy destroyer that is likely to be built at Bath Iron Works in her state. The Defense Department had not requested money for the additional ship in this year’s budget.
Imagine trying that move in the private sector. The company doesn't need a fleet of Cadillac Escalades, but it's going to get them anyway. How would that go over with the board of directors and shareholders? How about with the employees, when the money for the vehicles comes out of workers' checks?

Of course, very few of the senators and representatives who voted for the bill even knew what they were voting for:
The revised language drew almost no notice from members of Congress, who were given three days to review a 2,009-page spending plan and the 233-page list of tax breaks before they were asked to vote on the package with almost no debate. (Three House lawmakers interviewed just after the vote said they had known nothing about it.)
In Washington, that's called leadership. Everywhere else, it's called bullshit.

Bryant Gumbel Gets Real

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the HBO series "Real Sports," Bryant Gumbel sat for an interview with Robert Silverman. Among the topics they discussed, whether it's possible to cover an industry you're also paid to promote. Gumbel didn't hold back:

At this point ESPN is so conflicted, it makes no sense to even discuss them, you know? Even 60 Minutes did something three weeks ago on the NFL and player safety. It was like a big wet kiss, to allow Roger Goodell to sit there and say “We care about player safety.” Does it occur to you at some point to say, “Excuse me? If you cared so much, why as recently as two years ago, were you saying there was no link? As recently as two years ago, were you fighting in court spending zillions of dollars to make sure these guys don’t get anything?”

I have all the respect in the world for 60 Minutes and for Steve Kroft. But when you sit there and watch something like that, you’re inclined to say, boy oh boy, it’s nothing more than a marketing plan.
He also goes after the NFL:
They’d sell body parts if it would sell some tickets. They really just don’t care. They truly don’t care. That’s why, I’m sorry, the NFL and its so-called concerns about player safety? No. Its concern is the public image of player safety. There’s a difference.
Read the full Gumbel interview here.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Best Movies Of 2015

Here's my list of the Best Movies Of 2015, with a few caveats.

One is that I don't see every movie that comes to theaters -- I can't stand comic book and horror movies, anything where I have to read subtitles throughout, or any film based on a book by Jane Austen or starring Adam Sandler. I also haven't included the Ryan Reynolds/Ben Mendelsohn gambling road movie "Mississippi Grind" because I'm biased in its favor by having appeared in it. I have also not included "Concussion," the Will Smith movie about Dr. Bennett Amalu, who revealed that NFL players were dying because they suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy due to the repeated blows to the head on the field. I expect it to be very good, but it doesn't open until this Friday, so I'll have to review it separately.

With those points noted, there were the best movies I saw this year. The links go to the full reviews I posted on this site when they were released.

1) "Inside Out." Pixar returned to form with a perfect peek into the emotions inside a girl's head. There is simply nothing wrong with the story, the animation, or the voice work by Amy Poehler, Lewis Black, Phyllis Smith, Mindy Kaling, Richard King, and many others. When it was released, I gave it a ten out of ten -- you can't get better than that.

2) "Spotlight." The best drama of the year tells the story of the Boston Globe reporters who uncovered the pedophile priest scandal in that town 14 years ago. With brilliant direction by Tom McCarthy, the ensemble of Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel MacAdams, Bryan D'Arcy James, Liev Schreiber, and John Slattery show how real journalists assemble a story piece by piece while uncovering ugliness inside -- and trying to pry the truth from -- the incredibly powerful Catholic Church. It's the best publicity newspaper people have gotten since "All The President's Men." The end slides showing how many dioceses were infested with these sickos will turn your stomach and make you wonder why anyone has put a dime in the collection plate since.

3) "Room." A psychological drama about a woman locked in a room with her five year old son. Not only does she have to endure the damage inflicted by her captor, but she also has to raise a child who is totally unaware there's a world outside the walls of the shed that is their home. As I warned at the time, if you plan to see "Room," don't watch the trailer or read any other reviews because they'll give away crucial plot points you do not want spoiled. Brie Larson will be Oscar-nominated for the lead role, and the performance by young Jacob Tremblay is just as good.

4) "Trainwreck." Amy Schumer's breakout movie is hysterical, raunchy, and a perfect vehicle for her. She's a single woman with no interest in commitment to anything more than having fun until she meets Doctor Right. LeBron James is a surprise standout among the supporting cast, which includes Will Forte, Tilda Swinton, Colin Quinn, and Vanessa Bayer. Directed by Judd Apatow, "Trainwreck" is the funniest comedy since last year's "Top Five" from Chris Rock.

5) "The Walk." Based on the Oscar-winning documentary "Man On Wire," "The Walk" tells the true story of Philippe Petit, who in 1974 suspended a cable between the towers of the World Trade Center and walked between them, suspended in mid-air. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is very good as Petit, but its director Robert Zemeckis' magic that makes the movie work. The second half plays like a tense high-stakes heist story, and when Petit takes his first step onto the wire as we watch from above, you can't help but take an anxious deep breath.

6) "The Martian." The best STEM movie since "Apollo 13." While Matt Damon gives a terrific performance as an astronaut stranded on Mars, left behind by the crew that believes he's dead, it is the combination of science, technology, engineering, and math that makes the film so good. "The Martian" is also a helluva ride. It is what big-screen movie entertainment is all about.

7) "Love and Mercy." In the hour after seeing this Brian Wilson biopic, I wasn't sure I liked it. But the more I thought about, the more it appealed to me, particularly the dual performances by Paul Dano and John Cusack as Wilson. Elizabeth Banks does her best-ever work as the woman in Wilson's life, and Paul Giammatti is perfectly creepy as the psychologist whose therapeutic ideas do more harm than good. The scenes of Dano's Wilson working in the studio with The Wrecking Crew to create that unique Beach Boys sound were a real treat.

8) "The Big Short." When I read Michael Lewis' book about the people who predicted (and profited mightily from) the housing bubble burst in 2008, I couldn't imagine how it could be turned into a movie. But Adam McKay (better known as Will Ferrell's partner in lowbrow comedy) rose to the occasion, and actually has us rooting for the guys who have bet that our economy will collapse. Christian Bale and Steve Carrell are outstanding in a cast that includes Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Marisa Tomei, and Melissa Leo.

9) "Trumbo." Bryan Cranston is on the money as Dalton Trumbo, the highest-paid screenwriter in Hollywood in 1947, when his world was turned upside down by the Red Scare. He and others were subpoenaed to testify before the House Un-American Activities committee, where they were asked if they were communists and required to name others with similar political beliefs. When they refused, they were sent to prison for contempt of Congress. Upon release, the Hollywood Ten (and lots of others) were blacklisted and couldn't work under their own names, so Trumbo used pseudonyms and eventually earned two Oscars for Best Screenplay, which he could not accept in person. Directed by Jay Roach, with a supporting cast that includes Diane Lane, Louis CK, John Goodman, Helen Mirren, and Michael Stuhlbarg, "Trumbo" is a true story from a sad fear-driven era in our history that still resonates in today's political environment.

10) "Bridge Of Spies." Another Cold War drama, this one tells the story of James Donovan, a lawyer asked to defend a Soviet Spy caught in Brooklyn and then negotiate his exchange for Francis Gary Powers, the American pilot captured when his U2 spy plane was shot down over Russia in 1960. Hard to go wrong with Tom Hanks in the lead and Steven Spielberg directing, but it's the performance of Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel, the Soviet spy, that stayed with me, along with the chilling scene of the Berlin Wall being built in the middle of the street to the absolute shock of Germans strolling by.

Tomorrow: the Worst Movies Of 2015.

Debunker Quits

Caitlin Dewey explains why she is giving up on the Washington Post column she has compiled for the last year and a half, "What Was Fake On The Internet This Week." She says that there are just too many fake news sites that tell outrageous agenda-based stories, targeted to readers who are quick to believe them:

Paul Horner, the proprietor of Nbc.com.co and a string of other very profitable fake-news sites, once told me he specifically tries to invent stories that will provoke strong reactions in middle-aged conservatives. They share a lot on Facebook, he explained; they’re the ideal audience.

As manipulative as that may seem, many other sites are worse: there’s Now8News, which runs outrageous crime stories next to the stolen mugshots of poor, often black, people; or World News Daily Report, which delights in inventing items about foreigners, often Muslims, having sex with or killing animals.

Needless to say, there are also more complicated, non-economic reasons for the change on the Internet hoax beat. For evidence, just look at some of the viral stories we’ve debunked in recent weeks: American Muslims rallying for ISIS, for instance, or Syrians invading New Orleans. Those items didn’t even come from outright fake-news sites: They originated with partisan bloggers who know how easy it is to profit off fear-mongering.

Frankly, this column wasn’t designed to address the current environment. This format doesn’t make sense. I’ve spoken to several researchers and academics about this lately, because it’s started to feel a little pointless. Walter Quattrociocchi, the head of the Laboratory of Computational Social Science at IMT Lucca in Italy, has spent several years studying how conspiracy theories and misinformation spread online, and he confirmed some of my fears: Essentially, he explained, institutional distrust is so high right now, and cognitive bias so strong always, that the people who fall for hoax news stories are frequently only interested in consuming information that conforms with their views — even when it’s demonstrably fake.
Read Dewey's full farewell column here.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Best Thing I've Read Today

This is the most intelligent thing that's ever been posted on Twitter. It's an exchange of tweets between astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and mathematician John Allen Paulos that took place last month.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Showbiz Show 12/18/15

This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." Colin offered the fanboy perspective (he's probably seen the previous six Star Wars movies about fifty times) while I offered the non-fanboy perspective (e.g. in the future, why are we still fighting with swords and have droids that go "beep-boop-whistle" instead of speaking a language we understand like our smartphones do?).

Then I reviewed the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler comedy "Sisters" and the Christian Bale/Steve Carrell drama "The Big Short." We also ran down our Best Movies of 2015 and our Worst Movies of 2015.

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

Harris Challenge 12/18/15

This week on my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- the trivia categories include "Sports Teams That Left St. Louis," "Star Wars Characters Not Named Chewbacca," and "They Died This Year." Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 12/18/15

This edition of Knuckleheads In The News® includes stories about a woman who kissed a camel, a free money ATM, and a to-do list for thieves. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
Want more Knuckleheads In The News®? Click here.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Kliph Nesteroff, "The Comedians"

Kliph Nesteroff's "The Comedians" is a terrific history of the last century of American comedy, from vaudeville right up to today. With so much ground to cover, Kliph was nice enough to join me for an extended conversation in which I asked him:
  • Who was the first comic to record an album?
  • What was the Mafia's influence on careers of comedians like Don Rickles?
  • What's the story on Jerry Lewis and the most expensive talk show failure in TV history?
  • Did Bob Newhart steal Shelley Berman's act?
  • How did Albert Brooks get on TV with material he'd never done in front of audiences before?
  • Is Lorne Michaels now the most powerful man in television?
  • Why haven't any women had real success in late-night TV?
  • What impact do podcasts like Mark Maron's WTF have on the hosts and their guests?
  • Are college campuses too politically correct for comedians, as Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock claim?
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes! Also, check out Kliph's website, Classic Television Showbiz.

Leno and Letterman on Pryor

Jay Leno and David Letterman explaining to Jerry Seinfeld what it was like to follow Richard Pryor at The Comedy Store in Los Angeles in the 1970s...

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Story Of The Day

Go ahead, find a more ridiculous story today than this one about the Saudi millionaire who was cleared of rape charges after he claimed he accidentally tripped and fell on a teenage girl. Despite his DNA being inside her, a jury let him walk after a mere 30 minutes of deliberations.

What A Windfall

I am SO excited about the Fed's rate hike, although I'm not sure what I'll do with all the free money from my bank paying me a whopping 0.02% interest on my accounts!

The Socks That Push Pause

This seems like the sort of thing you see on April Fool's Day.

Netflix claims it has made socks that will pause the show or movie you're watching online when you fall asleep. The socks supposedly can tell when you haven't moved in awhile, but it's not clear how they can control the video. How would they know what kind of device you're using, and how to control that device remotely? Oh, you have to use the correct infrared settings in the pair you assemble.

Yes, you have to build the electronics. It turns out Netflix isn't selling the socks, but giving away instructions on how you can make them using that accelerometer and micro-controller you just happen to have sitting around.

Bottom line: don't expect any of the geniuses on "Shark Tank" to invest in your streaming-video-controller hosiery anytime soon.

Star Wars Spoiler

Here's the big spoiler no one else will tell you about "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" -- about 5 minutes before the end, Spock dies, setting up the sequel. Sorry if that ruins the whole thing for you.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Happy Bill Of Rights Day

Chris Bliss, the man behind the Bill Of Rights Monument Project, on the genesis of the most important document in human history, ratified on this day in 1791:

The history of the document since then has been a stunning success. In a testament to the power of its ideas, the visionary principles embodied in the Bill of Rights that were considered radical by most of the outside world at the time – freedom of expression and belief, the presumption of innocence, due process and equality under the law – are today lauded as universal human rights.

The expanding reach of these principles in our own country has been no less breathtaking. When the Bill of Rights was ratified its provisions only fully applied to 5% of the people living here. They didn’t apply to slaves, native Americans, women, or white men of less than a certain means or property.

But the amendments themselves do not contain a single exclusionary clause. So as our understanding of freedom grew from the experience of it, along with the wrenching tragedy of a civil war, the Bill of Rights remained a clear beacon illuminating the path forward. Today virtually all Americans expect that these rights and freedoms belong to all equally.
Read Bliss' full piece on the Bill Of Rights here.

The Big Rams Theory

When the local CBS affiliate, KMOV, was told this summer they'd have a primetime Rams game this week, they probably cheered, anticipating big viewer and advertiser numbers. But with the team continuing to suck, its TV ratings down, a stadium that is 60% empty, and a lame opponent in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, wouldn't management prefer to air the "Big Bang Theory" episode that the rest of the country will be talking about Friday?

The sitcom is only the most popular non-sports show on television, with numbers that almost match NFL primetime broadcasts. Yet on KMOV, it won't air until after midnight on Saturday (check the guide on your DVR).

Frankly, with the likelihood of the Rams moving to LA next year (good riddance!), the station should be promoting this as The Last NFL Game Ever To Be Played In St. Louis.

Bad Move, Boss

Bruce Springsteen is coming to the Chaifetz Arena on March 6th. Tickets went on sale Friday morning and sold out in 20 minutes before I could get mine. I immediately went to Seat Geek and discovered that I could buy a pair of decent seats on the secondary market for the measly sum of $6,500. No thanks.

Now, the real question: why would Springsteen agree to play in a venue that only fits 10,000 people when he easily sells out the larger Scottrade Center's 19,600 seats? Okay, so there's some sporting event booked for that night. Are you telling me there's no other date on the Scottrade Center calendar that could accommodate him?

At an average ticket price of $150, playing in the smaller arena means giving up $1.44 million!! He's going to do the same show and his costs are the same, so why deter so many of his fans from seeing him?

Bad move, boss.

The Man In The High Castle

I've put in ten hours watching "The Man In The High Castle" on Amazon, but I'm still not sure I like it.

The show's concept (from a Phillip K. Dick novel) is intriguing -- what would the US be like if the allies had lost World War II and our nation was controlled by Nazis in the east and Japanese in the west? -- and its direction and cast of unknowns are uniformly solid, but there's something about it that drives me crazy.

Though its plot isn't at all like "Homeland," it shares one problem with that series -- the good guys never get to win, even small victories. Plus, there's the twist-under-a-twist-under-a-double-agent-under-a-surprise-agenda that can ruin a series. I went through this with "Lost," always waiting for answers but only getting more questions.

I'm glad to see original dramas getting more outlets, but I'm not sure that when "High Castle" returns for its second season, I'll be watching.

A Random Thought

If your toy has wheels that ride on the ground, you should not be allowed to call it a "hoverboard." What you're selling is a Segway without the vertical part.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Those Words Don't Mean What You Think They Mean

Ted Cruz has apparently been going around quoting his favorite movie, "The Princess Bride," on the campaign trail: "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

But according to Jason Horowitz at the NY Times, Mandy Patinkin (who played Inigo Montoya in the film) says Cruz is forgetting the most important words his character spoke:

“After the princess flies out the window and falls into Andre the Giant’s arms,” Mr. Patinkin said, “Inigo says to the Man in Black, ‘I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it’s over, I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.’”

Mr. Cruz, in Mr. Patinkin’s heavily left-leaning worldview, is trafficking in the revenge business, appealing to anxious voters by saying of ISIS, “We will carpet-bomb them into oblivion,” and by exploiting fears about immigrants and Muslims.

“Senator Cruz, if you’re going to say those lines, you’ve got to say the other line, too,” Mr. Patinkin said.

Sounding increasingly vexed, he added: “This man is not putting forth ideas that are at the heart of what that movie is all about. I would love for Senator Cruz, and everyone creating fear mongering and hatred, to consider creating hope, optimism and love. Open your arms to these people, these refugees trying to get into our country, and open your hearts.”

Best Thing I've Read Today

Angie Drobnic Holan, editor of Politifact, one of the best fact-checking websites in the business, says that more readers -- and reporters -- see the importance of verifying what presidential candidates say and challenging them when they lie:

That’s not to say that fact-checking is a cure-all. Partisan audiences will savage fact-checks that contradict their views, and that’s true of both the right and the left. But “truthiness” can’t survive indefinitely in a fact-free vacuum.

If Mr. Trump and his fans saw video of thousands of people cheering in New Jersey, why has no one brought it forward yet? Because it doesn’t exist.

Fact-checking’s methodology emphasizes the issue at hand and facts on the ground. Politicians can either make their case or they can’t. Candidates’ fans may complain about press bias, but my impression is that less partisan voters pay a lot of attention to these media moments, especially when elections are close and decided by a few percentage points. Trust and integrity are still crucial assets for a politician.

Contrary to the prophecies that truth in politics is doomed, I’m encouraged by the effect that fact-checking is having. When friends conclude despondently that the truth doesn’t matter, I remind them that people haven’t started voting yet. I don’t take current polls too seriously because data suggests that most people don’t settle on a candidate until much closer to casting their vote.
Read Holan's full piece here.

Ignorance Wins Again

A town in North Carolina has banned solar farms -- which convert the power of the sun into electricity -- because its citizens are morons. In particular, let's point out Bobby and Jane Mann. During public comments at a town council meeting, Bobby warned that solar farms would suck up all the energy from the sun, while Jane (a retired science teacher!) was worried that photosynthesis would not occur in plants near the solar panels. She also told the council that, despite having no evidence to back up her claim, "no one could tell me they don't cause cancer."

These people are so dumb they probably cover up the outlets in their homes to keep the electricity from leaking out. Naturally, the council voted 3-1 against rezoning a piece of land for a proposed solar farm, and then voted for a moratorium on them in the future.

Wanna bet that most of these people don't understand what's making their necks so red?

U2 Ignites Paris

I just watched U2's "Innocence and Experience" concert on HBO. That's the show which was originally scheduled for November 15, but postponed because of the terrorist attack in Paris two days earlier. It finally took place on December 7th, and was nothing less than stunning.

The only time I've seen U2 in person was on May 10, 1983. I was doing the morning show at WHCN/Hartford, and our midday guy/music director Bob Bittens convinced me to go to New Haven with him to see the band in a small concert hall at Yale University. We had been playing U2's music on the air for several months and I liked what I heard, but I wasn't prepared for how good they were live. It was Bono's 23rd birthday; he was in great voice and quite a front man -- at one point he literally climbed the wall into the balcony for a couple of songs.

Since then they've cranked up the showmanship a thousandfold. They've played stadiums and arenas around the world and understand how to entertain on that massive scale. But everything they've done before was nothing compared to the show they put on in Paris. I was going to write a full summary of the HBO telecast, but my friend Nolan Dalla already said it:
The three-week delay only heightened public anticipation and made the moment all the more poignant when the four members of U2 finally took to the stage and launched into a riveting 2 hour and 30 minute concert that was equal parts musical, political, tutorial, and spiritual. The sequence of songs performed — lots of new material, infused with the expected classics — hardly mattered. It was seeing U-2 at the height of their creative powers take to the stage once again where they seem most at ease, commanding the room as they do best, bringing fans of all ages to their feet, and beaming an impenetrable wall of sound and creative energy which dazzlingly radiated as “Je Suis Paris” to the entire world.

Sure, the music was great. But the real star of this concert might have been the stage. That’s right. Eclipsing a 35-year catalog of all-too-familiar hits and plenty of new material of their most recent releases, U2’s massive concert stage the size of a football field has now blown the roof off the conventional concert experience and set a new standard of disbelief. It’s not just the intricate layout and jaw-dropping size and scope of the wall to wall technology that’s mind blowing. U2’s use of an imposing screen which somehow melds onto the long runway trafficked back and forth by band members (singer Bono, guitarist the Edge, bassist Adam Clayton — drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. doesn’t move from his spot, obviously) becomes musical “virtual reality” on an unprecedented scale. This isn’t just a live performance. It’s a full blown immersion for the senses.

For those who don’t have access to HBO TV or won’t get the chance to see the way U2’s stage is configured, allow me to describe it. Imagine a basketball arena. The conventional rock band setup (drums, guitars, microphones, speakers) is placed at one end of the court. The other end on the opposite side of the court — perhaps 300 feet away — has an large oval area, which allows Bono and the other band members to perform, when they so please. The two stages are joined together by a lengthy runway like at the Miss America pageant, which extends straight down the middle of the court. Naturally, all the performers take positions at different places throughout the lengthy performance. However, during several songs, a giant double-sided video screen (actually described as a “video cage”) is lowered down onto the stage. Flashy larger-than-life visuals of the group, short interludes of subject matter matter related to songs, and creative light bursts emanate an level of energy I’ve not witnessed before, even when viewing on television.
It made for remarkable television. The U2 Paris concert is being rerun several times this month on HBO. Catch it if you can.

Read Nolan's full piece here.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

I Told Stu A Lot Of Stories

I was supposed to do two hours with Stu Shostak on his live podcast yesterday, but ended up talking with him for nearly three hours about a wide assortment of topics. In addition to some highlights (and lowlights) of my radio career, we discussed Donald Trump, Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, the Bill Of Rights, the St. Louis Rams, the state of terrestrial radio, my 1989 broadcasts from Moscow, and the time I was almost picketed by a group of deaf people. I also explained the origin of my Harris Challenge and how I'm forever indebted to the people of the state of Florida for their contributions to Knuckleheads In The News®.

You can download the podcast from the Stu's Show website, where his archives go back a decade. I have also posted it on my server, as he has kindly given permission to embed it so you can listen here.

By the way, Stu is the guy behind Shokus Video, which for decades with was the go-to site for vintage television shows. As a customer, I bought collections of Groucho Marx hosting "You Bet Your Life," a compendium of black-and-white commercials, and other classic stuff that no one else had but Stu. Unfortunately, his business has been impacted negatively by YouTube, where people have taken much of the public domain material they got from Stu and uploaded it for anyone to access. He tells me that he still sells some DVDs of hard-to-find shows from his massive archives via his impressive equipment setup, which allows him to duplicate material in any known film or video format, including Super 8 and Betamax. Browse the Shokus site here.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

What Will Stu Ask Me?

I'm going to be on Stu's Show, a podcast about show business hosted by Stu Shostak, today at 6pm CT. His list of previous guests includes Bob Barker, Julie Newmar, Leonard Maltin, and Carl Gottlieb. You can listen live at StusShow.com, or download it later from his extensive archives.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

The Colbert Disappointment

Justin Peters is disappointed that Stephen Colbert's interviews aren't as good as they should be:

So when CBS announced that Colbert would replace David Letterman as host of The Late Show, I had high hopes that he would rejuvenate the late-night talk show celebrity-interview format. Here’s the late-night talk show paradox: Even though viewers ostensibly tune in to see the show’s celebrity guests, the interview segments with these guests are usually terrible. They’re perfunctory (“So I hear you’ve got a movie coming out”) and complacent (“Why don’t you tell us about it”) and characterized by the sort of chattering jocularity that reads as insincerity. Take the self-satisfaction of the Algonquin Round Table, replace the wit with whimsy, and subtract the dignity, literacy, and old-timey hats. That’s the state of late-night interviewing these days, in my opinion. I hate it.
To be clear, television executives clearly consider this a feature, not a bug. Late-night shows are supposed to be friendly, nonthreatening environments; otherwise, celebrities would simply decline to appear. And, up to a point, a good interviewer is supposed to make his guests feel comfortable, so that they will loosen up and act naturally. But this enforced congeniality also makes the shows all seem vaguely the same, which to me would seem to create an opportunity for a clever host, like Colbert, to build an audience by doing things differently—by eschewing late-night banalities and bringing some interrogative rigor to the interview format. But for the most part, Colbert hasn’t done it yet.
Read Peters' full piece here.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Best Thing I've Read Today

Andrew Shaver offers some perspective on how unlikely it is that you'll be killed by terrorism today -- you have a better chance of being crushed by furniture:

You, your family members, your friends, and your community are all significantly more at risk from a host of threats that we usually ignore than from terrorism. For instance, while the Paris attacks left some 130 people dead, roughly three times that number of French citizens died on that same day from cancer.

In the United States, an individual’s likelihood of being hurt or killed by a terrorist (whether an Islamist radical or some other variety) is negligible.

Consider, for instance, that since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Americans have been no more likely to die at the hands of terrorists than being crushed to death by unstable televisions and furniture. Meanwhile, in the time it has taken you to read until this point, at least one American has died from a heart attack. Within the hour, a fellow citizen will have died from skin cancer. Roughly five minutes after that, a military veteran will commit suicide. And by the time you turn the lights off to sleep this evening, somewhere around 100 Americans will have died throughout the day in vehicular accidents – the equivalent of “a plane full of people crashing, killing everyone on board, every single day.” Daniel Kahneman, professor emeritus at Princeton University, has observed that “[e]ven in countries that have been targets of intensive terror campaigns, such as Israel, the weekly number of casualties almost never [comes] close to the number of traffic deaths.”
Read Shaver's full piece here.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Good Advice From John Cleese

John Cleese offers some very good advice to anyone starting out as a writer -- steal from people you admire. He doesn't mean literally taking someone else's material and trying to profit from it, but learning how they do what they do, whether it's on the printed page, onscreen, or on the air. Be inspired enough to create your own take on the same subject, perhaps.

Cleese's suggestion isn't valid solely for comedians, but for anyone in show business at any level. My early interest in a radio career was sparked by listening to some of the best in the business, from whom I learned pacing, formatics, how to introduce an idea, and how to make it pay off. The same for my interviewing skills, which were sparked by watching hosts who displayed a genuine interest in what their guests were saying and the topics they were discussing, rather than simply reading a list of prepared questions with no regard for the answers.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

How Jeff Smith Would Reform Prisons

Jeff Smith -- the former Missouri state senator sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison for lying to the FBI -- returned to my show today to tell more stories from his time behind bars and his book, "Mr. Smith Goes To Prison." Among the topics we covered:
  • Was his cellmate really like Morgan Freeman's character in "The Shawshank Redemption"?
  • Why do so many prisoners return to jail so often?
  • Do correctional facilities and staffs really care about "correcting" convicts?
  • Was there any effort made to educate or train inmates for their post-prison life?
  • Why does he say many convicts are smarter about business than Wharton grads?
  • What is "Ban The Box"?
  • Was his minimum-security facility what most people call a Country Club Prison?
  • What's worse in the slammer -- being a snitch or being a child molester?
  • How are race relations inside?
  • What reforms would he make in the American incarceration system?
Listen, then buy his book, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
Previously on Harris Online...

Showbiz Show 12/4/15

This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I talked about "The Good Dinosaur," "Krampus," and "Chi-Raq." Also, I recommended two DVD releases you should see, and we discussed the biggest movie flops of the year.

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

Harris Challenge 12/4/15

This week on my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- the trivia categories include "Lots Of Pearls, But No Harbors," "It Happened In December," and "Have You Been Paying Attention?" Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 12/4/15

This edition of Knuckleheads In The News® includes stories about a brewery intruder with the perfect name, a beer-spewing Christmas tree, and another man stuck in a chimney. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
Want more Knuckleheads In The News®? Click here.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Unrestrained and Uninformed

It was a scene straight out of the Jake Gyllenhaal movie, "Nightcrawler." 

One of most ridiculous things I've seen on TV in a long time was the sight of TV reporters gaining access to the home of the San Bernadino shooters and then rummaging through what they found -- as viewers watched live this afternoon. There were no editorial decisions being made about what was appropriate to show and what wasn't; no context offered for what any of it means. At one point on MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell had to scold Kerry Saunders to not show pictures of the couple's six-month-old daughter -- as a still photographer captured those very pictures over his shoulder.

I'm not sure what the point was in the first place, other than to discover that the shooters had a rented townhouse that looked like everyone else's place inside. There are a lot of things wrong with today's instant-news delivery systems, and the first is the utter lack of gatekeepers. Nothing important or even remotely revealing was found but, as always, the simple fact that they could do it meant they had to do it -- at least in the minds of the cable networks that presented it breathlessly.

FBI assistant director David Bowdich was asked later why anyone was allowed in the home in the first place. His response was that the bureau had executed a search warrant the night before and removed anything it considered relevant, but "once we boarded up, anyone who goes in there, that's got nothing to do with us." You could hear legal experts all over the country groaning at the thought of outsiders trampling some evidence that had been overlooked by the FBI's first foray.

The media's actions today showed a complete lack of restraint, typical of the hysteria that surrounds the first couple of days of every one of these stories, complete with rumors and speculation. Even at the Bowdich press conference, he was asked leading question after leading question to which he repeatedly replied, "We don't know yet, we're still investigating." If only CNN, Fox, and MSNBC had an inkling what it means to wait for the facts to emerge.

Or what it is to have some sort of integrity in the news business.