Sunday, June 30, 2013

Capitol Hell

Jayne Jones and Alicia Long spent several years on Capitol Hill as staffers for Senator Norm Coleman, and have now turned those experiences into a novel about life inside Congress called "Capitol Hell." Today on my America Weekend show, I spoke with Jayne about what surprised her when she first got to DC, whether being part of the political process caused her to become disillusioned, whether some of her colleagues had not-so-grand motives for working in Congress, and why there's no time for sex when you've always on call with two Blackberrys ringing all day and all night.

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

Knuckleheads In The News® 6/30/13

Today's Knuckleheads In The News® include a painted dog, a stuck truck, and a unicorn passport. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Affirmative Non-Action

Among the rulings handed down by the Supreme Court last week was a kind of no-decision in an affirmative action case involving the University of Texas. To explain what happened, and what it means for race-based admissions going forward, I turned to Greg Stohr, reporter for Bloomberg News and author of "A Black and White Case: How Affirmative Action Survived Its Greatest Legal Challenge." Here's our conversation on my America Weekend show.

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

Even Bigger Than Too Big To Fail

After reading Richard Eskow's piece on Salon, "Seven Institutions So Mammoth They Could Destroy America," I invited him onto my America Weekend show to explain it. We talked about how the Too Big To Fail banks have only gotten bigger, how huge charities throw their weight around, how Google and Facebook wield power through the enormous amounts of data they collect, and more. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

How Fortunetellers Pull Off Their Scams

When you walk by a storefront and see a little sign that says "Psychic," you probably think people are going in there, paying $5 to have their palms read, and laughing it off as a form of entertainment. What you don't know is that there's a scam being pulled off that's part of a criminal enterprise that rips off millions of dollars a year from vulnerable victims. Kyle Swenson investigated the world of these fortunetellers for an extensive story in Miami New Times, so I invited him to join me on America Weekend to discuss what he uncovered.

I asked Kyle who both the scammers and targets tend to be, how they convince victims to turn over large sums of money (some lose six or seven figures!), why prosecutors rarely go after these criminals, and to explain the culture behind this organized crime. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Gasland 2

Three years ago, Josh Fox brought attention to the problems with fracking with his documentary, "Gasland," which included scenes of people lighting on fire the water coming out of their kitchen faucets. That was possible because the hydraulic fracking being done beneath their land had contaminated the water supply with natural gas and chemicals.

Since then, the fracking debate has continued, but it hasn't stopped energy companies from opening thousands of new natural gas wells all across the country. Today on my America Weekend show, I spoke to Fox about "Gasland 2," his follow-up documentary which will air on HBO beginning July 8th.

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


Oceana is an old coal mining town in West Virginia that has a serious drug problem. Its residents aren't addicted to crack or meth or anything else illegal. They're hooked on the prescription painkiller Oxycontin -- so much so that the town is nicknamed Oxyana. It's the subject of a devastating new documentary by Sean Dunne, who got the addicts, the dealers, and the townspeople to open up and be brutally honest about what's happening there. On my America Weekend show, I talked to Dunne about how he became interested in the story, what the addicts do to support their habits, where the pills come from, and whether other towns in America have the same problem.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
Here's the trailer for "Oxyana," which will be available for rent or download from this site beginning Monday. Dunne was named Best New Documentary Director at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival.

Obama's Climate Change Policy

One of the stories that didn't get a lot of coverage this week -- buried under the weight of the Supreme Court decisions on gay marriage, voting rights, and affirmative action -- was President Obama's speech on new climate change policy. So I invited Chris Mooney of Mother Jones and Climate Desk Live to join me on America Weekend to discuss what Obama has announced he'll do by executive action (while Congress does nothing), from reducing emissions at coal-fired plants to having the federal government go greener in its buildings. I asked him about fracking, clean coal, solar, wind, and much more.

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

Here's the Obama speech we're talking about (June 25, 2013)...

Knuckleheads In The News® 6/29/13

Today's Knuckleheads In The News® include a birth certificate typo, a fairy empire makeover, and a burst breast implant. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Picture Of The Day

Some folks in Seattle have set the new record for a Book Domino Chain...

Friday, June 28, 2013

Harris Challenge 6/28/13

This week, my Harris Challenge includes categories like and "A Planet Full of Animals," "City Movies," and "Gay and Married." You can play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Being Invisible Isn't Easy

The folks at Cognitive Media have put together a clever series of videos explaining what it would be like if you had the powers of a superhero (e.g. if you could fly like Superman, be as strong as The Hulk, run as fast as The Flash). My favorite is this one, which explains the science -- and problems -- behind invisibility...

[thanks to Stuart Snyder for the link]

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Progess Over Time

Today is proof yet again that, despite small-minded attempts to prevent its inevitability, America is a progressive nation -- in the long term.

More Vegas Observations

A few other random observations from my Vegas trip last week:

The Aria is the only place I’ve visited in years where the Close Door button in the elevators actually closed the door. In most elevators, that button is as effective as the button on the sidewalk at an intersection that’s supposed to change the light to get traffic to stop so you can cross. We all know those buttons aren’t hooked up to anything. Pressing them is as futile as trying to get through to a human at AT&T Customer Support. But at Aria, you select your floor, then push the Close Door button, and it actually works.

The soap, shampoo, conditioner, and body wash all said they had a “Citrus and Green Tea” scent. I don’t know who wants to smell like tea, but I do know that “citrus” isn’t a scent. It’s a category that includes, oranges, lemons, lime, tangerines, grapefruits, etc. Telling me something has a “citrus” scent is no different than telling me it has a “dairy” scent, leaving me wondering whether I’m going to smell like skim milk, Greek yogurt, or limburger cheese.

There are no swimming pools at The Aria. Instead, they have three “lounging” pools. That means there’s no deep end and nowhere to swim laps. I discovered this when, after laying on a chaise longue for a while, I went for a dip and saw lots of people with just their heads sticking out of the water. But when I waded in, at no point in the pool did the water come over my swimsuit. Now, I’m 6’4”, so the deepest part of the pool couldn’t have been more than three-and-a-half feet, which meant that everyone in the pool was either a Munchkin or on their knees. It was the latter. People went into the pool to cool off, but only from the neck down. How odd.

Why don’t hotel rooms use fitted sheets? At my height, my feet need to hang over the edge of the bed, but when the top sheet is tucked in, I won’t fit. So I always un-tuck that sheet, only to discover that the bottom sheet doesn’t cover the end of the mattress – so my feet are going to touch bare mattress, which is not a pleasant thought in a hotel room. If the hotel used fitted sheets, I wouldn’t have this problem, and all I’d have to worry about is what sort of germs and bodily fluids were left behind on the bedspread by the previous guest – the ones that will only show up under a blacklight when the local TV station shows up to investigate How Your Hotel Bed Can Kill You. That’s also why the bedspread and the extraneous other stuff (what is that long piece of fabric doing down at the foot of the bed?) get tossed on the floor in the corner of the room as soon as I get there. It seems like fitted sheets would also save time for the housekeepers, as pulling the sheet over the corners has got to be easier than short-sheeting and tucking.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Controller

On vacation in Vegas last week, I walked into the room at Aria and turned on the light in the entranceway. The rest of the room was kind of dark because the curtains were closed (keeping out the oppressive Vegas sun on a June afternoon), so I went to turn on the desk lamp. Nothing happened. I flicked it off and on a couple more times, still nothing. I reached for the phone and told the operator about the lamp. She said she’d send someone right up.

I pressed a button on the wall to open the curtains, then started to unpack. Two minutes later, a hotel engineer showed up with a light bulb. I told him the floor lamp didn’t work, either, and that’s when he asked me if I had tried using The Controller. I didn’t know what he was talking about.

He pointed me to an iPad-like device on the nightstand, from which I could control the lights in both the bedroom and the bathroom. Then he hit a few buttons, and all the lights went on. He then showed me how to use The Controller to adjust the thermostat, open and close the curtains, or turn on the TV. I thanked him and he left.

The Controller may seem really cool, but it’s overkill. I wasn’t staying in a 3-bedroom, two-level suite . I was in a regular-sized hotel room, where it’s impossible to be more than 15 feet away from anything. If I want to adjust the thermostat, I’ll walk over to that wall and change it. If I want to turn on the TV, there’s a separate remote already. And why on earth would I ever be lying in bed and have a sudden need to turn on the light in the shower? I can be as lazy as the next guy, but this was off the scale.

Not only that, but the screen on The Controller never went fully dark, so at night, it created a glow in the room. While there were blackout curtains, that glow, combined with the little LED indicators on every wall switch and outlet, meant it was never really dark in the room. It’s hard enough to sleep in Vegas without that luminescent distraction.

On the other hand, the room was more soundproof than many other hotels I’ve stayed in. Normally, around 9am each day, I’m awakened by the housekeeping staff knocking on doors, entering rooms, vacuuming, moving furniture, and talking loudly. At Aria, the door is thick enough to keep all of that hall noise to a minimum, and since very few of us wake up early in Vegas, that’s a good thing.

I don’t worry about housekeeping knocking on my door, because I put out the Do Not Disturb sign as soon as I check in, and leave it there until I check out. I don’t need my room vacuumed, cleaned, and rearranged every day. I didn’t see a sign hanging inside my door, though, so I asked a maid for one, and she told me to use – yes -- The Controller to turn on the exterior privacy light. I did, and wasn’t bothered for the four days I was there.

Except for the last day. I got up around 10am, went down for breakfast, and when I returned, the message light on my phone was blinking. The message was from someone in housekeeping informing me that they had seen my privacy light and didn’t want to bother me, but if I needed the room cleaned, I should contact them. As if I wouldn’t have figured that out myself.

But here’s the part that bugged me. If I’ve turned on the privacy light, or hung a Do Not Disturb sign, why are you calling my room? That counts as disturbing me! Granted, I wasn’t there at the time, but if I’d still been asleep, a phone call from housekeeping would have been just as annoying as a knock on the door.

I think The Controller needs a new button, one labeled I’m Not Kidding, Leave Me Alone.

Picture Of The Day

Professor Richard Wiseman returns with ten new bets that you will always win...

Monday, June 24, 2013

Vince Clortho Speaks

I don't often recommend podcasts other than my own, but this one's worth it.

There was a time when Rick Moranis was at the center of the comedy universe -- his years on SCTV included hilarious sketches with Dave Thomas like the Woody Allen/Bob Hope road movie and Bob and Doug McKenzie's "Great White North," which begat the catch phrase "Take Off," which begat the movie "Strange Brew." Then Moranis went on to do "Ghostbusters," "Spaceballs," "Honey, I Shrunk The Kids," and a few others before retiring from that aspect of show business. But he recently re-appeared to sit down with Chris Hardwick and the Nerdist gang for an extended conversation on their podcast, which included his memories of his early days in local radio in Canada, plus stories about all of the TV and movie adventures. It's a great listen.


Watching the horrific video of wingwalker Jane Wicker and her pilot dying in a crash while performing a stunt at the Dayton Air Show reminds me of a story William Goldman told in his book, "Adventures In The Screen Trade." Goldman, who penned "Butch Cassidy," "The Princess Bride," "All the President's Men," "Marathon Man," and other classics, talked about the script he wrote for "The Great Waldo Pepper," and said it wasn't until a screening of the movie that he and director George Roy Hill realized they had made a mistake.

"Waldo Pepper" is about barnstorming pilots in the 1930s. At one point, Bo Svenson brings on Susan Sarandon as a wingwalker to liven up the act and get some free publicity during a low pass through a small town. But once she's up on the wing, she freezes, and Robert Redford has to go up in his plane, transfer to Svenson's, and crawl along the wing to try to bring Sarandon back in (all of this would be done with CGI now, but in 1975, it was real stuntmen on real planes). Unfortunately, he doesn't get to her in time, and she plummets to her death.

Goldman said that, at the screening, "After the buzzing ended, there was silence in the theater. But not the silence of a group held in suspense. No. They were furious. They felt tricked, they felt betrayed, and they hated us." In other words, they didn't want the woman to die, and once that happened, there was no getting them back. I bet the same feeling applies to many who were at the air show in Dayton yesterday.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Jessica Meir, New Astronaut

Meet Jessica Meir, one of NASA's newest astronauts. After hearing this week that she's been chosen for the Class of 2013 recruits, Jessica joined me today on America Weekend to talk about what's ahead in her space future -- possibly including Mars. We also talked about her adventures in another extreme environment, doing scientific research in (and under!) Antarctica. That's her with an Emperor Penguin above. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Immigration Reform And The Job Market

With the Senate voting on the comprehensive immigration reform bill tomorrow, I invited my brother, Acting Secretary Of Labor Seth Harris, to join me on America Weekend to discuss the impact of the law on the job market and the US economy. We touched on both the highly-skilled immigrants who are attracted to our colleges and universities as well as agricultural workers and others at the other end of the job spectrum. I also asked Seth whether the numbers of immigrants in our workforce is likely to increase despite having to wait 13 years to complete the path to citizenship under this legislation.

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

What SCOTUS Will Do On Gay Marriage

With the Supreme Court's landmark decisions on two gay marriage cases expected tomorrow, I invited Angela Giampolo back to my America Weekend show to discuss what the justices may decide. Angela has become my go-to legal analyst for this issue as an attorney and LGBT advocate, and she laid out all the possible outcomes and what the impact will be on gays and lesbians across the country. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Your Telephone Trail

What kind of digital trail is your smartphone leaving behind? In the wake of the NSA spying story, do you even know how much information is floating around about your calls, your apps, and your texts? I asked Tracy Ann Kosa, a digital privacy expert, on today's America Weekend show. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Raising The Gas Tax

The federal gas tax (18.4¢/gallon) hasn't changed since 1993, but the cost of maintaining America's roads has increased substantially. Today on my America Weekend show, I talked with Matthew Gardner of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy about the options for fixing the way we pay for the repair of our infrastructure. We discussed raising the tax, indexing it to inflation, and charging people by the miles they drive, as well as proposals to charge an annual fee for hybrids and electric vehicles that use less gas to cover their share of the road cost.

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

Knuckleheads In The News® 6/23/13

Today's Knuckleheads In The News® include a drunk dentist, a bad robbery disguise, and a drunk dentist. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Monsters, Zombies, and Midnight

In this week's movie review segment of my KTRS show, Joe Hipperson and I talked about "Monsters University," "World War Z," and "Before Midnight" Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Harris Challenge 6/21/13

This week, my Harris Challenge includes categories like "James Gandolfini's Co-Stars," "Summer On Screen," and "The State Of The Week." You can play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Jeremy Scahill's Dirty Wars

Jeremy Scahill is a war reporter who digs into stories most won't touch. He joined me today on "America Weekend" to talk about his new documentary, "Dirty Wars," in which he says "the war on terror is a self-fulfilling prophesy."

In explaining that, he reveals details of night raids the US military conducted in Afghanistan that left civilians dead (with no explanation from the Pentagon), how the concept of the "battlefield" has been expanded to include other countries where war has not been officially declared (e.g. Yemen and Somalia), and how some of this covert kill-instead-of-capture policy is creating hatred of America in places it didn't exist before.

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

Remembering James Gandolfini

TV critic Alan Sepinwall joined me today on America Weekend to talk about James Gandolfini, the "Sopranos" star who died of a heart attack this week at age 51. We discussed how much credit for Tony Soprano goes to Gandolfini and how much to showrunner David Chase, the impact of his performance on other anti-heroes like Don Draper and Walter White, and the baggage he carried in his post-"Sopranos" roles.

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

Previously on Harris Online...

Can Paula Deen Be Saved?

If you want a clinic in how not to handle a brand crisis, take a look at how Paula Deen has dealt with the racism charges against her in the last couple of days. As Mike Paul ("The Reputation Doctor") explained on my America Weekend show today, she needed advice from a public relations perspective instead of a legal one. He also pointed out that the brands she's associated with are now going to consider their own reputations in deciding whether to stick with her or drop her (as The Food Network did yesterday). And I asked Paul exactly what Deen should have done to save her from the downward career spiral she's now in.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
Here's a column I wrote last year about Deen's ethics in keeping her diabetes secret for 3 years while continuing to promote fatty, butter-rich cooking.

Michael Shermer, Skepticism 101

Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine and author of "The Believing Brain" and "Why People Believe Weird Things," joined me on my America Weekend show today to talk about his new Great Courses class, "Skepticism 101." We talked about teaching people to think rationally and about the scientific method, how thinking goes wrong, whether America is more or less rational today, and how conspiracy theories and cults form.

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

Knuckleheads In The News® 6/22/13

Today's Knuckleheads In The News® include a baker's graduation error, a pool party turned toxic, and a GPS to the wrong ferry. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Spamalot Revised

Last night, my daughter and some friends went to see The Muny's production of "Spamalot," which she enjoyed, but she was surprised that the lyrics to one of the songs had been changed. It's a number in the second act that, in its original New York production, was called "You Won't Succeed On Broadway (If You Don't Have Any Jews)." But at the Muny, the title and lyrics were changed to "You Won't Succeed On Broadway (If You Don't Have Any Stars).

As I explained this afternoon on my KTRS show, this seemed ludicrous. Having seen it performed on Broadway by David Hyde Pierce and Tim Curry, I can report that the song was funny and clever and bouncy and, most of all, not anti-Semitic. The original lyrics were only offensive to anyone who doesn't know this is a Monty Python show, written by Eric Idle, full of satire and silliness. Moreover, the Jewish population of the St. Louis metro is only about 60,000, whereas there are more Jews in the New York area than in all of Israel. If there were going to be objections, they would have happened years ago, when "Spamalot" was winning Tony awards.

This evening, I received an e-mail from listener Rose Stockmann telling me that the Muny has received enough comments about the changes to that number that Mike Isaacson, the executive producer, has issued a statement:
There is a perception that we, The Muny, changed these lyrics because we felt the original would offend our audience, or we were afraid of it. To that I cry "NI!" The "star" version of the song is in the officially licensed version of the script that we were given to produce, and is being used in all worldwide productions of "Spamalot."

I was involved with Broadway and touring shows of "Spamalot," so I’m happy to share the history. In New York, the original version was an inside Manhattan joke that landed. But the writers found that in the subsequent productions and tours, it worked less well. When they created the London production of "Spamalot,", they wrote this new version, and they felt it was very successful. If you want it hear it, it is on the London cast recording available on iTunes. It is titled "Star Song."

For our Muny production, our director Denis Jones submitted some lyrics to change some of the British references in the "Star" version to Muny references. Mr. Idle approved them immediately. In the highest compliment to Denis, Mr. Idle told Denis at the opening night party that he wished that he (Eric) had done more for us, he was so happy with the results.
Isaacson goes on to say that often, by the time a show is available to The Muny, the official script reflects changes made after the Broadway original, as is the case with The Muny's upcoming productions of "Shrek" and "South Pacific."

To which I say, if the change wasn't done purely for political correctness reasons, and Eric Idle has signed off on it, the case is closed. Now, about that swallow gripping a coconut by the husk...

In Case You Missed It

From my Twitter feed...

  • Just In: ratings for my America Weekend show at one of our first affiliates have gone from 0.8 to 5.0 (Persons 25-54), giving the station its highest rated daypart of the entire week. Thanks!
  • I wonder how those radio hosts who have told listeners to buy gold for the last 2 years feel about the price dropping yesterday to its lowest since 2010.
  • After watching the last 2 minutes of the Heat's victory, I still don't understand why anyone watches the first 46 minutes of any NBA game.
  • I've been playing poker in Vegas for the last couple of days and can say with 100% certainty that Jimmy Hoffa has not.
  • If I were a Holocaust survivor, I'd hold a press conference to deny that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was ever the president of Iran.
  • Interesting to see in Jerry Seinfeld's conversation with Dave Letterman that NBC let him use old "Late Night" clips.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

No Tipping

I hope more restaurants will follow the lead of this sushi place in New York that does not allow customers to tip the staff. When you get your check, there's a note at the bottom which reads:

Following the custom in Japan, Sushi Yasuda's service staff are fully compensated by their salary. Therefore gratuities are not accepted.
Instead, the management pays its employees the way most other industries do -- with a decent salary and benefits including vacation days, sick leave, and health insurance. That last one is important because, as Saru Jayaraman explained on my America Weekend show in April, too many restaurant workers without health insurance don't go to the doctor when they're sick. Instead, they go to work, where they're in contact with our food.

Sushi Yasuda says it hasn't seen any drop in business since raising its prices 15%, probably because customers realize that their net cost hasn't changed -- when you eat there, you're still subsidizing the employees' income in the same amount, but their salaries aren't dependent on your level of generosity or grumpiness.

Some may argue that tipping is the only way to ensure good service, but that's not how any other business works. You don't give the mechanic a few extra bucks when he changes your oil. You don't tip the man at the dry cleaner when you pick up your shirts. You don't tip the woman at the Apple genius bar who explains why your iPhone screen won't scroll. No one who works in an office cubicle receives tips, even if they spend their days giving great customer service by phone and e-mail.

I'd prefer waiters and waitresses and bus boys and bartenders get the same on-the-job benefits other Americans receive, so I wouldn't mind if restaurants raised prices 20% to cover the cost. It wouldn't have any short-term impact (despite protestations from the National Restaurant Association), and the long-term impact would be good for employment and our economy.

Now if only I liked sushi.

Stealing Comedy

Comedian Patton Oswalt has a very good piece on his blog about having material stolen and performed by other people -- not just other comics, but a valedictorian giving a graduation speech, or a pastor giving a sermon. He writes that too many people underestimate the talent it takes to create comedy...

Most people are not funny. Doesn’t mean they’re bad people, or dumb, or unperceptive or even uncreative. Just like most people can’t play violin, or play professional-level basketball, or perform brain surgery, or a million other vocational, technical, aesthetic or creative pursuits. Everyone is created unequal.

But for some reason, everyone wants to be funny. And feels like they have a right to be funny.

But being funny is like any other talent – some people are born with it, and then, through diligence and hard work and a lot of mistakes, they strengthen that talent.

But some people aren’t born with it. Just like some people (me, for example) aren’t born with the capacity to make music, or the height and reflexes for basketball, or the smarts to map the human mind and repair it. I’m cool knowing all of those limitations about myself.

I’m even cool knowing my limitations within comedy. I think, after nearly 25 years pursuing my craft, that I’ve become very very good at this. But I’ll never be as good as Jim Gaffigan, or Louie CK or Paul F. Tompkins or Maria Bamford or Brian Regan. Never reach the plangent brilliance of a Richard Pryor or the surreal mastery of a Steve Martin. I’m okay with that. I still get to be creative – on my own terms, and purely on my own work.

But why is it – and this only seems to apply to comedy – that some people so deeply resent those that can write jokes, can invent new perceptions of the world that actually make people laugh? Resent them so much that they have to denigrate the entire profession, just so they can feel better about themselves? Do they really think they’re less of a person if they can’t make up a joke, or be funny in the moment? Why is it so crucial to them? Is it because all of us, at some point of darkness or confusion or existential despair, were amazed at how absurd a thing as a simple joke suddenly lit the way, or warmed the cold, or made the sheer, horrific insanity that sometimes comes with being alive suddenly, completely, miraculously manageable?

Those people – the public and, sadly, a lot of journalists – those people were my target, in all of my seemingly “unmeasured responses” to thievery. Because I can’t stop joke thieves. They’re always going to be there.

But what I can hopefully stop – or, at least, change for the better – is the public (and media’s) response to joke thieves, by hammering away at this same, exhausting refrain every time I see some thumb-sucking “think piece” by a writer who should fucking know better, cyber-quacking away about “cover songs” and “vaudeville” and a million other euphemisms and deflections away from the simple fact that an uncreative person took a creative person’s work, signed their name to it, and passed it off as their own for their personal glorification, monetary benefit and career advancement. There’s no wiggle room there. Even the thieves know that, better than the dullards who are rationalizing and defending them.
Read Oswalt's full piece, in which he remembers the shame he felt when he inadvertently stole a joke by Carol Leifer early in his career, and writes about hecklers and rape jokes, too.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Flight Attendant Secrets

I predict this will be one of my most-downloaded interviews. It was certainly a lot of fun for me.

On my America Weekend show, I talked with Heather Poole, who has been a flight attendant for major airlines for 15 years and has written about her adventures in "Cruising Altitude: Tales Of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet." We talked about passengers trying to get into the mile high club (without bothering to move to the bathroom!), whether checked-luggage fees are causing havoc during the boarding process, and whether she has had many male passengers hit on her. She also revealed something I didn't know about when the payday really starts for flight attendants, and what it's like in the apartments they share in various cities during layovers.

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

Superman's History

With "Man Of Steel" opening*, I invited Superman historian Larry Tye to join me on America Weekend to talk about how the superhero's story began -- not his fictional start coming to Earth from Krypton, but his origin in the mind of a young Jewish boy named Jerry Seigel. I asked Tye if Superman's creator shared in the financial success of the character over the last 75 years, why Clark Kent's glasses were such an effective disguise, whether the actors who have played him ever escaped the typecasting, and much more.

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

You can read more of this history in Larry Tye's book, "Superman: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero."

*Although it did huge box office numbers this weekend, I hated "Man Of Steel." To hear why, listen to my conversation with movie reviewer Joe Hipperson.

What Do Women Want?

In 2009, Daniel Bergner wrote an article about female sexuality that became the most-read article in the history of the NY Times Magazine. Now he has fleshed it out (if you'll pardon the expression) with more research and published a book, "What Do Women Want? Adventures In The Science Of Female Desire" On my America Weekend show, I asked him what he's learned in the last four years, whether women know what turns them on, and whether men should worry about his findings. We also discussed the myth that men are genetically programmed to want multiple partners while women want to be monogamous, whether female sexuality is muzzled in the USA, and how Big Pharma is desperately trying to create a version of Viagra for women.

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

Knuckleheads In The News® 6/16/13

Today's Knuckleheads In The News® include a burglar in the basement, a ghost in the courtoom, and a bottle rocket in the butt. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Steve Schirripa, "Big Daddy's Rules"

You may remember Steven Schirripa from his years as Bobby Bacala on "The Sopranos." For Father's Day, he has written "Big Daddy's Rules: Raising Daughters Is Tougher Than I Look," and he joined me today on America Weekend to discuss it. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

What's New With Apple

Apple had its annual showcase event last week, the worldwide developers conference, at which the company announced the cool new stuff they want to entice you with this year. Winston Ross of The Daily Beast joined me today on America Weekend to explain what's new -- from an updated operating system for your iPhone to improvements to Siri to iTunes Radio. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Joe Klein On The Civil Liberties Freakout

Joe Klein of Time magazine joined me today to explain why you shouldn't worry about the NSA getting your telephone metadata and looking through your e-mail and online searches. He says the civil liberties freakout is unwarranted because he's known about this spying for years and hasn't seen anything evil done with the information. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

One Child Is Enough

Lauren Sandler joined me today on America Weekend to talk about the economics of having more than one child. While money is certainly not the only reason to make an important life decision, it is too often ignored by people who find themselves behind the financial eight-ball because they have two or three or more kids. Sandler's book is "One and Only: The Freedom Of Having An Only Child and The Joy Of Being One."

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If You Build It, They Will Charge

The electric car industry had a big meeting in DC this week to discuss how they're going to convince more Americans to buy their product. GM's head of consumer affairs, James Bell, was among the attendees, and he joined me today on America Weekend to talk about the news that came out of the conference and, most importantly, how the business can grow only when the infrastructure for charging stations is built. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Kenneth Cukier on Big Data

With all the talk about data and information and privacy, I invited Kenneth Cukier -- author of "Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think" -- to join me on America Weekend. We had a very interesting discussion about how data is used to predict the spread of a flu outbreak based on Google searches, how you can tell which paint color means a used car is in good shape, and much more. I also asked him for example of the dark side of data.

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Knuckleheads In The News® 6/15/13

Today's Knuckleheads In The News® include an art thief on a bicycle, a congressman in the wrong place, and a burger that's too big for the restaurant that sells it. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

The States Of Education

John Chubb of Education Sector joined me today on America Weekend to reveal the results of a new report about the state of education in America, how No Child Left Behind should be revised, and what the states with the highest school scores do right as opposed to the states at the bottom. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Harris Challenge 6/14/13

Play along with my Harris Challenge with categories like "They Played Themselves," "Presidential Dads," and "Have You Been Paying Attention?" You can play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

This Is The End Of The Man Of Steel

Movie reviewer Joe Hipperson and I agreed on the two big movies opening this weekend -- we hated "Man Of Steel" but liked "This Is The End." Our extended conversation also included some thoughts on "The East." Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Craig Robinson, "This Is The End"

Here's my conversation with Craig Robinson, one of the stars of "This Is The End" (along with Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, Michael Cera, Emma Watson and others -- all playing versions of themselves). You may also know Craig from his years on "The Office" or as one of the voices on "The Cleveland Show" or from the movie "Hot Tub Time Machine."

I liked "This Is The End," one of the few recent movies to make me laugh out loud, even if it does fall apart towards the end under its own weight. But I do feel some obligation to warn you that it is extremely raunchy (the movie, not this interview).

You can also choose the audio-only version, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

To see the "Somebody's Doing My Lady" bit mentioned in this interview, click here.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Somebody's Doing My Lady

This morning on KTRS, my guests will include Craig Robinson, one of the stars of the new raunch-fest comedy, "This Is The End." You may know Robinson as Darryl Philbin on "The Office" or the voice of Freight Train Brown on "The Cleveland Show," but the first time I noticed him was 4-5 years ago on a Comedy Central awards show when he (as Chuckie) did this duet with Jerry Minor (as L. Witherspoon). They knocked me off the couch and stopped the show...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Apartment 8 News

This made me laugh out loud with memories of my days as a single guy sharing an apartment with a roommate (or three). It's apparently the first of a new web series...

[thanks to Frank Ladd for the link]

Saving Sarah update

An update to Monday's story about attempts to change the rules for children awaiting organ transplants by adding children under 12 with life-threatening conditions (like 10-year-old Sarah Murnaghan, who suffers from severe cystic fibrosis) to the adult list for a lung transplant. Today, Sarah is getting two new lungs. The hospital hasn't announced whether they're from an adult or child, but the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network ruled Monday night that families of youngsters in need of a transplant can follow a special appeal-and-review process, which Sarah's family did via attorney Chad Holtzman.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Saving Sarah

A couple of weeks ago, Rock and Roll Hall Of Famer Lou Reed got a new liver. His wife says he was near death and wouldn't have survived without it.

At the same time, Sarah Murnaghan can't get a new lung. She has cystic fibrosis, and doctors say she'll only live a few more weeks if she doesn't get a transplant.

Lou Reed is 71 and abused alcohol and drugs, including heroin, in his lifetime. Sarah's entire lifetime has only lasted one decade. There's something wrong with a system that can save him, but not her. The problem is that, under current transplant rules, kids have to wait for pediatric donors and are ineligible for adult organs, which are reserved exclusively for those 12 and older, triaged by medical professionals to determine who needs an organ the most.

Sarah's parents tried to get the system changed so that Sarah could be on equal ground with adults in desperate need, going as far as asking Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to intervene, but she refused, arguing that she can't override the policies of the Organ Procurement and Transplant Network for one individual. Last week, Chad Holtzman, the attorney representing Sarah and her family, got a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order in the case, but that doesn't solve the problem.

On my America Weekend show, I asked Holtzman to explain the intricacies of the case, the chances of Sarah getting a lung, and how many other children are affected by this policy.

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The bottom line is that we need more people to designate themselves organ donors. As of today, there are over 118,000 people waiting for a heart, lung, liver, kidney, or other organ. Every day, 18 people die waiting for a transplant.

Instead of the current system, donation should be on an opt-out basis -- that is, rather than your next of kin having to make the decision at the gut-wrenching time of your death to donate your organs (or entire body), we should simply presume that saving as many as eight other lives is the right thing to do and go forward with harvesting your organs at death, unless you have specific written orders to the contrary.

It's still your body and your choice (or your family's choice), but we should lean towards the option that helps so many others. Until then, I encourage you to check that little box when you renew your driver license -- and tell your family of your wishes, since they'll probably be the ones informing the hospital personnel who don't have time to dig into your wallet and see what your intent was.

Our Failed (& Racist) War On Pot

More than half of America thinks marijuana should be legalized. More than a dozen states have de-criminalized small quantities of pot. Washington and Oregon have legalized it. Twenty states allow the sale of medical marijuana. Yet, over half of all drug arrests in this country are for marijuana, and most of those are for small amounts.

As if those statistics from our Failed War On Drugs aren't enough, there's a new report from the ACLU that highlights the racist nature of marijuana arrests -- black are four times as likely to be busted for pot as whites. As the ACLU's Ezekiel Edwards told me on America Weekend, there's no urban-vs.-suburban distinction, it's not rich neighborhoods versus poor neighborhoods, nor is there one region of the country where the racial element is different. It is across the board in every part of every state.

That should concern even those of us who don't smoke weed, because we're paying billions of taxpayer dollars to send hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens to jail every year -- in a country led by a man who admitted smoking pot in his youth. You'd think President Obama would realize how lucky is is that he wasn't one of the too-many black Americans who were busted for pot. The same goes for the two white men who preceded him in the Oval Office and admitted drug use in their past. Their inaction on this problem is nothing short of hypocrisy.

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