Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Worth A Link

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sun Power

Solar energy may be poised to take off, now that prices have dropped considerably, making the technology more competitive with non-renewable sources like oil and gas. So says my America Weekend guest Neville Williams, author of "Sun Power."

In our conversation, he explained how utility companies and fossil fuel billionaires (like the Koch Brothers) are trying to crush the solar competition, and how some state legislatures are doing their bidding by imposing taxes on people who install solar panels on their homes. Still solar energy is gaining market share in the US, although we're still way behind the rest of the world -- including China.

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

Knuckleheads In The News® 4/20/14

Today's Knuckleheads In The News® stories include a stomach full of trouble, a paycheck that shouldn't have been cashed, and a boy in a claw crane arcade machine (above). Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Monday, April 21, 2014

String Season

You've never seen Antonio Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" performed like this version by the German chamber music quartet Salut Salon...

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Pollen Vortex

If you're a hay fever sufferer like me, you may have noticed that while the weather has turned nice this weekend, the pollen counts are way up, so being outside can make you miserable. I subscribe to a daily allergy alert e-mail from, which for some reason rates the pollen count on a 1-12 scale -- it says today will be at 10.8! I'm planning to mostly exhale.

On my America Weekend show, I asked meteorologist John Wetherbee why it's suddenly so hard to breathe. He explained:

The polar vortex was what brought us the harsh cold of the winter. Now the effects of the cold have delayed the introduction of pollens for this season until they've all come out together. In other words, they've delayed the tree pollens, which normally come out first, then wheat pollens, then grass pollens. This year, all the pollens are coming out at the same time and creating some astronomical pollen counts. Places like Wichita, Rochester (MN), Des Moines, and Lincoln, are having some of the worst pollen counts ever recorded. While where it's raining, farther to the south, that's where they have the lowest pollen counts, because the rain helps wash the pollen out of the atmosphere. It'll be like this, according to the National Pollen Service, for another couple of weeks.
If you need me, I'll be in the medicine cabinet.

Remembering Columbine

Today is the 15th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre that left 13 victims dead and 27 others wounded. At the time, it was the worst school shooting in US history, although it was would have been much worse if the bombs planted by the killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, had gone off.

Dave Cullen was one of the first reporters on the scene, and spent the next decade digging into the story to uncover what really happened and why the two teenage boys did it. When his book, simply entitled "Columbine," was published in 2009, I had an extended conversation with him, in which he revealed a lot of new information, and debunked a lot of what the media (and the sheriff's department got wrong).

That interview is one of the most-downloaded podcasts on this site. You can listen to it here.

Electoral College End Run

In 2000, Al Gore got more votes than George W. Bush, but lost the election because of Florida, the Supreme Court, and the Electoral College. That's because when you go to the polls, you're not voting directly for your presidential candidate, but for a roster of electors who are apportioned based on the popular vote in your state, as outlined in the constitution.

There's a group that's trying to change that (without amending the constitution) called the National Popular Vote Compact, which has been getting some bipartisan support. Ben Jacobs has been writing about this for The Daily Beast, so I invited him to join me on America Weekend to explain how it would work, how much progress has been made, and why the current crop of swing states are so opposed to it (hint: it's about power). I also asked him whether the idea might increase voting, its impact on political ad spending, and what the chances are of passing the new law in time for the 2016 election.

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

When Hollywood Turned Left

There's a common perception that most of the people who work in movies and television are liberal. The list wouldn't include Bruce Willis, Gary Sinise, Patricia Heaton, and the empty-chair-lecturing Clint Eastwood, who are among the minority of conservatives in Hollywood, but pretty much everyone else you can name probably fits into the progressive camp.

My America Weekend guest, Greg Mitchell, says it wasn't always that way. In his new e-book, he points to a specific moment in US history, "When Hollywood Turned Left -- The Election Campaign That Changed Politics In Films Forever."

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

Knuckleheads In The News® 4/19/14

Today's Knuckleheads In The News® stories include tire-slashing dog, a badly misspelled proclamation, an another episode of Samurai Deli. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

In Case You Missed It

From my Twitter feed @PaulHarrisShow...

  • If the crew searching for South Korean ferry survivors finds MH370 debris down there, CNN will explode with a 24-hour fireworks show.
  • This piece by Nicholas Kristof about Ukrainians who want freedom, not Putin, reminds me of my visit to the USSR in 1989.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Drop In The Bucket

The teenager who was accused of peeing in a drinking water reservoir in Portland did an interview yesterday with a local TV reporter. I can't embed it, but it's worth watching here. Two things that amused me about this:
  • the kid's attitude and his claim that he never peed in the water, despite the dare from his friends;
  • the promise by the reporter to not show The Urinater's face on camera -- she shot him from the waist down -- but when the story aired, the control room added a photo of him, probably from Facebook.
There was no valid reason for Portland drain that reservoir because of the incident. Even if the teenager did pee in the water, his output was nothing compared to the 38,000,000 gallons of treated water in the reservoir. As Laura Helmuth wrote in Slate:
Several smart people on Twitter quickly did the math and figured that a typical urination of about 1/8 gallon in a reservoir of 38 million gallons amounts to a concentration of 3 parts per billion. That’s billion with a b. For comparison, the Environmental Protection Agency’s limit for arsenic in drinking water—arsenic!—is 10 ppb.

The EPA doesn’t appear to have a limit for urine in drinking water, but it does limit nitrates in drinking water to 10,000 ppb, and urine does contain a lot of nitrogen, so let’s use that as a proxy.

How many times would that teenager have to pee in a Portland reservoir to produce a urine concentration approaching the EPA’s limit for nitrates in drinking water? About 3,333 times.
Believing his urine fouled the water is the same bad belief system that sells homeopathic products. Like them, this was a small quantity diluted in a huge quantity to the point where it had no effect -- other than the psychological effect of hearing that someone had peed in the water. But when it's an open, outdoor reservoir, there are certainly other disgusting things already in the water, such as bird droppings.

They don't drain the reservoir for that -- even if the birds do it on a dare. Like a certain 19-year-old in Portland.

Harris Challenge 4/18/14

Today's Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- includes trivia categories "Global News Of The Week," "Lessons of Law," and "One Book You'll Need Is An Atlas." Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

America Weekend Saturday

Today on my America Weekend radio show (air times vary by market), my guests will include:
  • Doug Fine, author of "Hemp Bound: Dispatches From The Front Lines Of The Next Agricultural Revolution";
  • Ben Jacobs of The Daily Beast on efforts to do away with the Electoral College;
  • Greg Mitchell, author of "When Hollywood Turned Left -- And Politics In Films Changed Forever";
  • Adam Levin of Identity Theft 911 on whether you still should be worried about the Heartbleed bug;
  • Dr. Nathalie Martin of UNM on the ripoffs and hidden fees in pre-paid credit cards.