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

Friday, September 30, 2005

Ex-Cardinals' Busch Memories

Today on my show I talked to former Cardinals Dal Maxvill and Danny Cox about their memories of Busch Stadium and playing on their respective World Series teams in the sixties and eighties.

Maxvill was the Cardinals' shortstop through most of the 1960s and later spent a decade as GM of the team.  We talked about what it was like to play behind a pitcher like Bob Gibson, what he learned about being an infielder from Red Schoendeinst, and what it was like playing on the artificial turf when the summer heat could make the field temperature close to 120 degrees.  Listen to the conversation here.

Cox was a starting pitcher for the Cards from 1983-1990 and now manages the Gateway Grizzlies of the Frontier League.  We talked about steroid problems in the minors, what it was like pitching with an infield that included Ozzie Smith behind him, his first time in Busch Stadieum, and more.  Listen to the conversation here.

Praxair Domain

Problem 1:  The City of St. Louis won't let Praxair return to its Lafayette Park plant because of the concerns of nearby residents after the massive explosions and fire earlier this year.

Problem 2:  Sunset Hills homeowners are stuck in the middle after Novus announced that it doesn't have the financing to complete the buyout of their homes under the eminent domain plan the had been offered.

Solution:  Let Praxair buy them out and move its plant to Sunset Hills.

Geez, do I have to do everything?

House In Chief

Interesting TV tidbit:  "Commander In Chief" was the number one show on Tuesday night -- except in DC, where the show is based.  There, viewers preferred "House."

Judith Miller

It's already been a few hours -- where's the announcement of Judith Miller's new book, "Reporter Behind Bars"?  Chapter 4: There Are No WMDs Here, Either.

Two-Headed Tortoise

The tortoise, found in Havana, is healthy, but has two heads.

Joe Buck's Busch Stadium Memories

Joe Buck knows Busch Stadium inside and out, having grown up there while his father Jack was doing the St. Louis Cardinals broadcasts, and then calling the games himself as an adult. On my show, we talked about some of his memories of the ballpark that will soon be torn down -- from playing stickball in the hallways as a kid to making President Bush wait until a commercial ended before throwing out the first pitch.  I also asked him about steroids and Congress and Mark McGwire.

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

Also on Harris Online...

Thursday, September 29, 2005

His Glooscap Is Showing

In Truro, Canada, they have to re-do a roadside statue because, from the correct angle, his dangling right arm looks like his....yeah.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Zero Tolerance for Butter Knives

We haven't had a good Zero Tolerance story for awhile, so here's a first-grader in Omaha who was suspended from school when a knife was found in his bookbag -- a butter knife!

[update: the school has reversed the suspension]

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Hurricaned Out

This weekend, my wife and I went to a terrific production of "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof" at the St. Louis Rep.  At the end, after the curtain calls, veteran Rep performer Joneal Joplin stepped up and announced to the crowd that, since the play is set in the Mississippi delta, and playwright Tennessee Williams spent several years in New Orleans, the theater was using this an opportunity to raise some money for hurricane relief.  Each member of the cast then went to the lobby with a basket, into which we could deposit cash or checks which they would relay to the Red Cross.

Monday afternoon, I called The Rep to see how their fundraising was going.  They said they've raised about $28,000 during the run of "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof," which works out to about $1,200 per performance.  That's nice, and it's for a good cause, but it's not a lot of money when you consider that The Rep seats eight or nine hundred people, and they fill the theater on a regular basis.  It comes out to a buck and a half per audience member per show -- or, more likely, they're getting about a third of the crowd to donate $5 and the rest give nothing.

My wife and I didn't make a contribution, although we did stop and compliment the actors who did such a good job as Maggie and Big Daddy.  On our way out, I noticed that most of the crowd wasn't dropping anything in the baskets, either.

That doesn't mean that we were a bunch of unfeeling jerks lacking in compassion for those whose lives had been uprooted by Mother Nature.  This is also by no means a slam at The Rep, or the Red Cross, or any other charitable effort or organization.  They're doing good and heartfelt work, and the American public has already responded privately by contributing over a billion dollars for the relief effort.

It's just that this was almost four weeks after Katrina hit, so anyone who was going to contribute to the cause probably has already done so.  I can't imagine someone who hadn't given any money after all the broadcast appeals and benefit concerts and neighborhood lemonade stands, but finally decided to do so at this point.

My feeling is that many people, including us, have reached a saturation point with hurricane coverage.  It has dominated the news completely for almost a month, and we've seen the images and heard the political arguing and felt sorry for the victims and evacuees and understand the long-term need and the years of rebuilding that are still to come, but we can't do it anymore.

We either need something new to focus on (preferably not involving Mother Nature), or have to get back to our own non-battered-and-soaked lives, or maybe just sit down and watch a football game or the new fall TV shows.

Call it American Attention Deficit Disorder if you will, but anything that burns itself into our consciousness with that kind of white-hot intensity runs the risk of fizzling out, and my sense is that's where we are right now -- we need some relief from the relief efforts.

Puppy Knife

Aw, what a cute puppy, judging by this x-ray that shows a foot-long knife inside.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Lynndie England's Defense

Peggy Phillips e-mails:

I notice in the news today that Lynndie England has been convicted of most of the accounts brought against her.  I thought her line of defense was interesting.  As quoted from Yahoo's website today:

"Capt. Jonathan Crisp, England's lawyer, countered that England was only trying to please her soldier boyfriend, then-Cpl. Charles Graner Jr., labeled the abuse ringleader by prosecutors.  'She was a follower, she was an individual who was smitten with Graner,' Crisp said.  'She just did whatever he wanted her to do.'  England has said that Graner, now serving a 10-year sentence, fathered her young son.  The defense argued that England suffered from depression and that she has an overly compliant personality, making her a heedless participant in the abuse."

It's a confirmation to me that her peers found that she should be held responsible for her actions.  It's my opinion that our growth as humans is based largely on our ability to accept the responsibility for our actions.  By nature, all actions have consequences, and I believe that we become better people when we accept the consequences of our choices.  I feel Lynndie made her choice, and that being "smitten" by someone is other than an appropriate defense.  Where that defense might be appropriate for someone who has been physically and/or mentally tortured, being a "compliant personality" is pushing the envelope for this type of defense argument.  When do we all grow up?  When do we become participants who heed our actions?
Peggy's absolutely right to be mad about this, and every other woman should be, too.  In effect, England's defense was "I don't know any better, so I just did what my boyfriend told me to."  No one would accept that as the reason she became pregnant with Graner's child (surely she had something to do with the conception, carrying, and birth of the kid), so it's heartening that the jury rejected her "overly compliant" argument when it came to the abuse at Abu Ghraib.

Brownie, You're A Heckuva Consultant

Michael Brown, the man ousted as head of FEMA for being so clueless during Hurricane Katrina, is now back on the payroll -- your tax dollars in action -- as a FEMA consultant (or "contractor" in government speak).

Ashton & Demi

How great would it be if Ashton Kutcher's marriage to Demi Moore this weekend was the most-involved, long-planned episode of "Punk'd" he ever did?

Knuckleheads In The News®: Scuz

Demetrius Fiorentino is on trial for robbery and murder, but his lawyer doesn't want Fiorentino's nickname used in court because it might prejudice the jury. The nickname is "Scuz." Oh, it was fine to call him Scuz outside the courthouse, as everyone did. He probably introduced himself as Scuz. But inside the courthouse, the jury might get the wrong idea -- because that's Scuz's problem.

20 Pounds of Skin

She had gastric bypass surgery and lost 140 pounds, but that left a lot of extra skin -- so much she literally had to tuck it into her pants.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Daily Show set

"The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" is auctioning off pieces of its old set.  Somewhere, there's a guy bidding on it so he can recreate the show in his own basement -- like Kramer buying up the old Merv Griffin set on a "Seinfeld" episode.  That guy is probably Mo Rocca.

"The Producers" trailer

Sony has posted the trailer for the movie version of the musical version of "The Producers," which will hit screens around Christmas.  While trailers can be misleading about the quality of the finished product, I'm a little skeptical that Mel Brooks can pull of this Hollywood-to-Broadway-to-Hollywood trick.

I loved the original movie with Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder and was lucky enough to see Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in the hysterical stage version -- but there are certain things that don't translate from stage to screen and "The Producers" seems to have a minefield full of them.  I'm also leery of the stunt casting of Uma Thurman and Will Ferrell in supporting roles.

On top of that, I can see Eric Idle in the wings watching to see if this works, and if it does, he'll take Python back to the big screen with a movie-Broadway-movie version of "Spamalot" (which, by the way, is terrific, like its ancestor, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail").

I hope I'm wrong.  Judge the trailer for yourself.

Galveston Horses

Lynn Reid e-mails, "I just saw a report on CNN 5:00 PM, Sept 22, 2005, on horses left on Galveston Island. Thirty-nine are there and only Six have been evacuated. The lady who owns them is asking for help. I think maybe you were correct about the horses refusing to budge!!!!!"

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Have Hybrids Reached A Tipping Point?

With Ford announcing that half of their cars will be gas-electric hybrids by 2010, Joel Makower asks, "Have Hybrids Reached A Tipping Point?"

Emergency Landing

Here's to you, Mr. JetBlue Pilot!  You just made one hell of an emergency landing at LAX, with a right-angled front landing wheel. We don't know your name yet, but before the evening is over, you'll be booked on about a half-dozen TV shows, and your landing footage is now the official Media Moment Du Jour.  What makes this unprecedented is that JetBlue has TVs in the back of all of its seats, so the passengers could watch the coverage of themselves live.

For previous POTD entries, see the Picture Of The Day page.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Seeing Galveston in the news in the possible path of Hurricane Rita -- our best wishes to everyone there -- reminds me of a story from 1984 which has nothing to do with natural disasters.

My wife and I were visiting my brother in Houston for a few days and decided to make a road trip to Galveston.  Once there, we were driving along and saw a sign advertising horseback riding on the beach.  It sounded like a fun idea, so we pulled in and up a dirt road until we got to some stables.  The guy in charge explained the cost, brought out a couple of horses, and pointed to a trail.  He explained that we could just take the horses -- by ourselves, none of his staff with us -- up the path about 100 yards to the beach, where we were free to ride around for an hour or so before we'd have to return the horses to the stables.

It sounded as odd to us as it does to you, but we were happy to have the chance to ride at our own pace without any other customers, so we climbed into the saddles and started up the trail.  When we got to the beach, we turned the horses to the left and rode along while enjoying the beautiful scenery of the gulf.

After a couple of minutes and about 50 yards, my horse stopped.  I thought it was because my wife had stopped her horse first.  She's done a lot more riding than I have (in other words, she's been on a horse more than four times), so I always defer to her horse knowledge, but she said that she hadn't done anything.  In fact, she was now trying to get her horse going again, but no matter how much she urged and kicked it, the animal wouldn't move.  So, she climbed down with the reins in her hand and walked around to the front of the horse, where she attempted to pull the beast forward.

That's when life became a cartoon.  There was my wife, pulling on those reins with all her might, while her feet were running in the sand, going absolutely nowhere.  I had to laugh -- until she suggested I get down and try to help.  I did, but with the same result: the horse standing still, my feet digging a hole in the sand.  That's when she started laughing, too, at the absurdity of the situation.

We now understood why the owner had trusted us with his horses -- they had done this trip so many times that they knew exactly how far they were supposed to go, and simply would not go any further.

We climbed back into our saddles and turned the horses around.  They were happy to go the other way, until we got to the path leading up to the stables, at which point, they made the turn and walked right back to where we started.  Our hour-long romantic ride on the beach had lasted all of fifteen minutes.

I can't help but wonder if the owner has been able to get those horses to evacuate Galveston, or if they're stubbornly refusing to budge another inch.

Phil Dusenberry, Ad Exec Extraordinaire

Legendary advertising executive Phil Dusenberry was on my show today to talk about his book, "Then We Set His Hair on Fire: Insights and Accidents from a Hall of Fame Career in Advertising."  The title refers to the Pepsi commercial shoot where Michael Jackson's hair went up in flames -- but there's a better story about what happened backstage just moments before that accident, involving Jackson's $10,000 jeweled glove and the men's room.

We also discussed whether he would have fired Kate Moss for admitting she uses cocaine, why some Super Bowl commercials are worth the expense and others aren't, why so much advertising is targeted towards younger demographics when it's older Americans who have more money to spend, why Pepsi may have better commercials but it's still #2 behind Coke, how much of a role research plays in an advertising campaign, and about the commercial he produced to promote New York City after the 9/11 attacks.

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

Jon Stewart at the Emmys

From the Emmys 2005 broadcast, Jon Stewart's tribute to the government's response to Hurricane Katrina.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

FEMA: Waste & Politics

Here's my conversation with Megan O'Matz, one of the Sun-Sentinel reporters whose investigation has uncovered hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars wasted by FEMA over the last few years through abuse and fraud.  For example, there's the Florida county that got $31 million in aid even though it was a hundred miles away from Hurricane Frances, and the section of Los Angeles that got $5 million in aid even though it was 25 miles away from -- and unaffected by -- the 2003 California wildfires.

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

Part of the problem, of course, is politics, which is where Russell Sobel comes in.  He's an economics professor at West Virginia University who, two years ago, wrote a paper on The Economics of FEMA, which showed how politics get in the way of getting the money to the people who need it and instead diverting it to places where it can effect the most political gain.  Sobel suggests getting rid of FEMA, with all of its political quicksand, and letting the private sector (both business and charitable organizations) take the lead in US disaster relief without the government red tape.

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

Both of these stories make me nauseous, because there's no oversight, no accountability, no responsibility -- just a bottomless well of tax dollars earmarked for relief that is instead thrown away.

Moon Walk, Moon Talk

Should we go back to the moon?  It's been 33 years since humans planted footprints in the lunar surface, and now NASA has proposed spending $104 billion to get back there.

My guest Gregg Maryniak voted an enthusiastic "yes," and explained why.  Gregg -- one of the founders of the X Prize (the $10,000,000 check that went to Burt Rutan and his SpaceShipOne team last year) -- is VP of Aerospace for the St. Louis Science Center, which is why he can explain in easy-to-understand terms why another moon mission would not only be a cool adventure, but also a financially beneficial trip, helping to launch a new era of space science.  As a longtime fan of our space industry, I love the idea of a new generation of kids getting excited about manned space travel.

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

As for those lunatics who still insist that we never went to the moon in the first place, check out Phil Plait's, where he debunks all of that nonsense (I had Phil do this on my show a few years ago, the day after Fox wasted airtime with a moon hoax special).  This was the greatest scientific achievement in human history -- to deny it is the worst kind of conspiracy-driven anti-scientific garbage, and we already have too much of that.

Marion Ross

Marion Ross is arguably the most famous mom in TV history.

On my radio show, I talked with her about some of the roles she's played on more than 700+ TV episodes, from Mrs. Cunningham on "Happy Days" to Sophie on "Brooklyn Bridge" to Beulah on "The Drew Carey Show."  She told stories about working with Cary Grant and Tony Curtis on the movie "Operation Petticoat," explained the genesis of "Happy Days" and her relationship with Henry Winkler, reminisced about appearing on "Politically Incorrect" with Bill Maher, and defined the difference in acting for movies and television.

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

Spider Lunch

A family claims that a spider weaved the word "lunch" into its web.  What are you trying to tell us, Charlotte?

Monday, September 19, 2005

Hooters Handbook

The Smoking Gun got its hands on the Hooters employee handbook.  Don't make those shorts too tight, don't let your bra show, and keep smiling -- even when you get certain comments from the clientele.  Funny, it doesn't say anything about owls.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

What It Was Like In The Superdome

I got an e-mail today from another Paul Harris -- he lives in San Diego -- who was in New Orleans on the weekend that Katrina hit and has written a horrifying account of his experience among the crowd of thousands that were stuck in the Superdome.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Bill Gates & Napoleon Dynamite

Bill Gates goes to college with Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder) in this parody video Microsoft presented at a recent software programmers' conference.  While the video hasn't been officially released, someone in the crowd had their camcorder rolling and captured it in all its slap-fight glory.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Knuckleheads In The News®

Read this story about where a cell phone thief hid her ill-gotten gain, and then decide whether, if you were the owner, you'd want your phone back.

Why Cheap Gas Is A Bad Habit

Here's the Newsweek column I just discussed with Robert J. Samuelson on my KMOX show: "Why Cheap Gas Is A Bad Habit."  He argues that we'd be better off if gas prices rose to $4 or $5/gallon in the US.

Craig Ferguson Clubs Baby Seal

I've mentioned before how much I enjoy Craig Ferguson's "Late Late Show" on CBS, particularly since Peter Lasally encouraged him to move the opening segment away from a series of unrelated jokes to a thematically-connected monologue.  If you've missed them, you can catch up on the show's website.

They haven't archived last night's yet, but he was talking about babies and included this beauty about a recent celebrity kid:

Heidi Klum and the rock star Seal just gave birth to a baby. Little baby seal, I suppose. What? He is! Seal's his dad, he's a little baby seal. He'll grow up, with his dad a rock star, he'll be all wild, he'll go to discos as a teenager -- in 15 years time, you'll read the tabloid headline, "Baby Seal Goes Clubbing."
Ferguson is not only likeable, but seems to genuinely enjoy being on TV and entertaining his audience -- something I always found lacking in his predecessor, Craig Kilborn.  He also brings a nice departure from the smugness that imbues so much of his competition (I'm talking about you, Jimmy Kimmel).  Best of all, Ferguson actually pays attention and listens to his guests during interviews, rather than just waiting for an opening to throw in a pre-scripted line.  In doing so, he turns many guest segments into more than just standard TV-bland plugola moments.

If the only thing keeping you from checking out his "Late Late Show" is its airtime, set the DVR one of these nights and see what you've been missing.

Bush Bathroom Break Note

What important note is President Bush writing to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice during a meeting at the UN? Turns out to be the urgent message, "I think I may need a bathroom break."

The Pledge

With the Pledge of Allegiance back in the news, take a look at a Just Plain Harris column I wrote three years ago about why it's a bad idea to make kids recite the pledge every day in school, with or without "under God."

Blame Chertoff, Not Brown

The news crew at Knight-Ridder have been doing a great job covering the behind-the-scenes angles of the Katrina aftermath. Earlier this week, three K-R reporters discovered paperwork that suggests Michael Chertoff, the Homeland Security Director, may have been more at fault for the fed's failures during Katrina than now-exiled FEMA head Mike Brown:

Even before the storm struck the Gulf Coast, Chertoff could have ordered federal agencies into action without any request from state or local officials. Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown had only limited authority to do so until about 36 hours after the storm hit, when Chertoff designated him as the "principal federal official" in charge of the storm.

As thousands of hurricane victims went without food, water and shelter in the days after Katrina's early morning Aug. 29 landfall, critics assailed Brown for being responsible for delays that might have cost hundreds of lives.

But Chertoff - not Brown - was in charge of managing the national response to a catastrophic disaster, according to the National Response Plan, the federal government's blueprint for how agencies will handle major natural disasters or terrorist incidents. An order issued by President Bush in 2003 also assigned that responsibility to the homeland security director.

But according to a memo obtained by Knight Ridder, Chertoff didn't shift that power to Brown until late afternoon or evening on Aug. 30, about 36 hours after Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi. That same memo suggests that Chertoff may have been confused about his lead role in disaster response and that of his department.
The whole piece is here.

Astaire & Rodgers

Until recently, I had never seen a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rodgers movie, except for excerpts in compilations like "That's Entertainment" or those AFI Top 100 shows.  When some of them were released on DVD last week, I figured it was time to fill this hole in my movie knowledge.  After checking around to find out which one was best, I put the consensus pick, "Swing Time," on my Netflix queue.  When it came a few days ago, I sat down with my wife and daughter to view what we expected to be movie magic.

What a disappointment.

Though the dancing was fine (I was reminded of Rodgers' classic line about having done everything Astaire did, but backwards in high heels), there wasn't nearly enough of it.  However, between those numbers, there was a gaping chasm where a plot should be.  I know it was only 1936, still early in the history of moviemaking, but that doesn't excuse the incredibly lame "Swing Time" story, nor the lack of any attempt to have the characters act remotely like real people.

To make matters worse, about 40 minutes into the movie, Fred Astaire suddenly launched into a song-and-dance number in blackface!  Supposedly meant as a tribute to Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, it still came off as demeaning, so that's when I hit the "off" button and ended our misery.  My daughter wanted to know why his face was painted black, so I explained the racist history of that tradition and she was appalled.  Not only was the experience an eye-opener for all of us, but what a waste of talent and film stock.

If this is the best work they did, give me a compilation of Astaire and Rodgers singing and dancing anytime over this pap.

Man vs. Bull

Another man vs. bull encounter that went wrong -- unless you're rooting for the bull, as I always do.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Ham Ends

Marilyn Linton e-mails that my column below reminds her of a story:

 A young bride was preparing a ham and as she put it in the pan, she cut off both ends of the ham. Her new husband inquired as to why she cut off the ends, and she replied, "My mother always did it."  The husband asked his mother-in-law and she said, "That's the way my mother always did it."  Not satisfied with her answer, he approached the grandmother, who explained that it was "in order to fit it in the pan".

That's The Way We've Always Done It

Mark Cuban and I share an intense dislike for anyone who defends a corporate policy by saying, "That's the way we've always done it."  He blogs,

"Could there ever be a worse reason for doing something.  Do it because it's the right thing. Do it because it's the only thing.  Do it because it's all you know how to do or because it's all you can afford.  But please, don't do it because it's the way you have always done it."
He uses this as a launch point for some on-the-money remarks about reporting box office numbers, sports attendance figures, and celebrity salaries.

The latter is another pet peeve of mine.  Whenever I've signed a nice new contract at a radio station and the local media writer has deemed it important enough to mention in the newspaper, they always want to know how much money I'll be making under my new deal.  I never tell them -- in fact, I insist on a clause in my contract that forbids either me or the radio station from revealing that information publicly -- because it's none of their business.  More than once, when the reporter has pressed me on this matter, I offered to allow them to print my salary on the condition that they also print their own salary plus those of their editors.  This seems to bring the point home, so none has taken me up on this offer thus far.

Similarly, I don't care how much a celebrity makes for starring in a movie, or how much an athlete makes for throwing/catching/hitting a ball, anymore than I care how much the chef at my favorite steakhouse takes home in a year.  In all of our cases, it has no relation to our consumers, and anyone who makes their entertainment decisions based on that information is way off base.  It's the product that matters, not the finances -- unless you're the one signing the checks, in which case both are a factor.

So why do reporters and entertainment media insist on pursuing this line of questioning?  Because that's the way they've always done it.

Not A Good Dive

Before you dive into the pool, be sure to test the board -- to see if it will catch you.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Victor Adams, Katrina Emergency Worker/Evacuee

Victor Adams lived in the New Orleans area and worked for Jefferson Parish.  When Hurricane Katrina hit, after getting his family out of there, he was one of the emergency workers pressed into service for several days.

Today on my show, he explained what it was like to be in the midst of the devastation with looters firing shots at the building he was in, why the city of Gretna kept New Orleanians from coming over the bridge into their city, whether he thought the feds let down the local authorities and whether those on the scene did their jobs well enough, why he left his hometown behind and decided to start a new life in the St. Louis area, and more. It's another first-person story with an up-close perspective.

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

Joshua Davis, The Underdog

How does a 128-pound man enter a sumo wrestling ring with an opponent four times his weight? Why would a sane man with no experience try his hand at bullfighting and competitive arm wrestling? Joshua Davis ("The Underdog") took on those challenges for a reason lots of guys can relate to -- he wanted to impress a woman.  We talked about his adventures today on my show.

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

New FEMA Boss is Duct Tape Man

Keith Olbermann reveals that the new heard of FEMA, replacing Mike "Brownie, You're Doing a Heck of a Job" Brown, the as-yet-un-nicknamed-but-already-doing-a-heck-of-a job David Paulison, is the one who told us in February, 2003, to stock up on duct tape and plastic sheets in preparation for a terrorist attack.  I feel safer already.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Andy Benoit, Football Whiz Kid

Andy Benoit is the 19-year-old whiz kid who was on my KMOX show this afternoon talking about this NFL season.  His book, "Touchdown 2005" is a comprehensive in-depth look into all the teams, the analysis, and the predictions for this year -- not bad for a guy just out of high school.

Brownie & Bush

CBS News just reported that, until he was told by reporters, President Bush did not know that Michael Brown had resigned as the head of FEMA.

How is that possible?  Before making the resignation public, don't you think the President should be told, and if he's busy in the flood zone, you hold off on the announcement until he can be brought up to date?  Unbelievable.

Bush Media Moment

Picture Of The Day:  There was President Bush speaking to the nation about Hurricane Katrina.  Below him, the SkyNews caption read: "Bush: One of the worst disasters to hit the US"

For previous POTD entries, see the Picture Of The Day page.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

FEMA & Pat Robertson, continued

ABC News has jumped on the story of FEMA including one of Pat Robertson's charities on its list of groups they recommend you donate to for Katrina relief, even though, "according to its most recent filing with the Internal Revenue Service, Operation Blessing gave more than half of its yearly allocation of cash donations -- $885,000 -- to the Christian Broadcasting Network, or CBN, of which Robertson is also the chairman."

Friday, September 09, 2005

Astrodome Baby

Boing-Boing has a close-up of a baby sleeping in the Astrodome, and a wider shot showing the huge amalgam of humans surrounding it.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Tennis Interruptus

Last night, my wife and I were locked into the Agassi-Blake match on USA when, at 11:35pm, the lead announcer said, "due to contractual obligations, we'll have to leave the air in a few moments, but you can see the remainder of this match on your local CBS station."  That meant it was time for the CBS late-night show, which apparently has an exclusive on all things tennis at that hour, so USA had to yield the coverage.  The CBS show is usually nothing but highlights, but last night would have the live conclusion of this five-set classic.

My wife didn't grasp the enormity of this situation, but I did.

You see, the CBS network sticks the US Open late-night show at 11:35pm between David Letterman and Craig Ferguson.  But KMOV-4, the St. Louis CBS affiliate, doesn't normally air Letterman and Ferguson back-to-back.  Instead, they insert "Inside Edition" at 11:35pm, then go to Ferguson at 12:05am.

During the tournament, they don't run the US Open show right after Letterman -- they still go straight to "Inside Edition" before the tennis!  So, here we were watching an exciting live sports event on one channel, only to have it taken off the air -- and then had to wait thirty minutes until we could see the conclusion on the other channel, on tape delay!

My wife, the big tennis fan in our house (who had also been up since 6am), was apoplectic, almost demanding that I call KMOV general manager Alan Cohen so she could yell at him over this scheduling snafu. While I know Alan (KMOV and KMOX are in the same building and we run into each other all the time), I don't have his home number -- which is a good thing, because he would have learned some new FCC-unfriendly words at that point.

Finally, at 12:05am, KMOV rolled the CBS tape and we could resume watching the fifth set.  And because it wasn't late enough, it went to a tiebreaker before Agassi squeaked out a win over Blake.

By then, it was 12:45am and we were nearly as exhausted as the players.

Dan Verbeck, In The Midst of Katrina

Aaron Barnhart tipped me off to Dan Verbeck, a reporter for KMBZ/Kansas City, who travelled to New Orleans to cover Hurricane Katrina with sister station WWL.  He got there before the storm hit, then lived through and reported on the aftermath.

Today on my radio show, Dan told chilling stories of what he'd witnessed -- FEMA personnel turning away trucks delivering fuel and drinking water, alligators in the water, and harrowing phone calls from trapped residents ("Can you save our lives?").  Another amazing first-person story as seen through the eyes of a veteran reporter who can't get the images out of his mind, and relates it so well you won't be able to get it out of yours.

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

Mexican Army

Best Story of the Day:  As part of the Katrina relief effort, a Mexican Army convoy crossed the border into Texas today and made its way to San Antonio, where they delivered, among other things, mobile kitchens and a water purification truck.

Water purification.  Mexico.  The country where you can't drink the water.  It must be the only one they have.  These soldiers are probably so used to consuming toxic liquids out of the tap at home that they could go to New Orleans and drink right out of the street without any ill effects!

What's next -- England sending us dentists?

Only in Beverly Hills

Because you need something light to distract you from all of the recent hard news, Mark Evanier tells a great story about an elevator, a stunning blonde, and a valet parking guy.

ExxonMobil's $10 Billion Quarter

Why are gas prices so high?  So the oil companies can make more money! ExxonMobil just posted the largest profit any corporation has ever made in one three-month period -- ten billion dollars (that's a one followed by ten zeroes and three commas), or $110 million/day!  That's a 34% jump from the previous quarter, and 69% more than a year ago.  And this was before the Katrina-inspired price jump of the last week.

In Missouri and other states, the attorney general has sworn to crack down on price gouging at local gas stations.  Why isn't anyone -- the feds would have to be the ones -- looking into this price gouging by the oil companies?  Of course, I know the answer is entirely wrapped up in Big Oil's influence in Washington, but if a little mom-and-pop operator can feel the pressure for inflating the pump price, so should ExxonMobilChevronTexacoBPAmocoShellGreedCo.

3-D Sidewalk Art

Are these sidewalk drawings two-dimensional or three-dimensional?

Monday, September 05, 2005

Flags at Half-Staff

President Bush should order all federal buildings to fly the US flag at half-staff in honor of the victims of Hurricane Katrina.  He did it after 9/11, he did it after the Asian tsunami, he'll no doubt do it for Rehnquist -- but he should announce it for the Katrina victims instead, and right now.

Andy's MoJo NoGo

My wife's been watching every minute of the US Open coverage on CBS and USA, and I drop in for a few sets here and there, too.  We're both sick of the "Andy's Mojo" commercials which, rather than encouraging us to use the product they're advertising, are a turn-off instead.  Among the same nine commercials we see over and over again for the two weeks of the tournament, these are particularly annoying.

On the bright side, John McEnroe continues to be the best analyst in all of TV sports.  He may not have been a good talk-show host, but in the booth he's as skilled as he was on the court, knowing just what to do and when to do it.  McEnroe says more in a sentence or two than John Madden and Tim McCarver say in a whole game.  Of course, it's always a pleasure listening to Dick Enberg, the consummate play-by-play man.

Last night, there wasn't much analysis needed during the five-set match between two virtual unknowns, 33-year-old Davide Sanguinetti and 26-year-old Paradorn Srichaphan.   It was an epic battle, taking almost four and a half hours.  It also made for a riveting distraction from Katrina.

Our only other complaint is we wish they'd show more doubles matches, since that's the kind of tennis we play, and maybe even a mixed-doubles match here and there.

FEMA & Pat Robertson

Lots of requests for this item after I talked it up on my KMOX show.  On FEMA's website, under the list of organizations they suggest you donate to for Katrina relief, is Operation Blessing, an organization run by Pat Robertson with a shady history.  Sploid is the site that uncovered the story, which I haven't seen mentioned anywhere else in the media.

Ron Harris w/Katrina Survivors

Ron Harris -- no relation to me, he's the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer who did such a good job reporting from Iraq -- now gives some first-person perspective to life among the Katrina refugees at the Houston Astrodome, and about the resiliency of the children of the flood.

Katrina Boat Blog

Jared Arsement was one of many who took their private boats into New Orleans to try to save people, until the police made them all leave for safety reasons.  During his trip through the city where he went to college, Jared kept a video blog of the adventure and uploaded it to CurrentTV.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Black vs. White Captions

There's been a brouhaha for a few days about two pictures from storm-ravaged New Orleans.  One showed a black man wading through chest-high waters pulling a large black bag full of items he "looted" from a grocery store.  The other showed a white couple wading through chest-high waters carrying bread and soda they "found."

Several bloggers claim that this is proof of media racism and stereotyping.  But what's the real story?  Here's a post from Chris Graythen, the photographer from new Orleans who took the photo of the white couple and wrote the caption, defending what he did.

Snopes has also chimed in on the controversy, and has the photos.  You decide.

Times-Picayune's Letter To Bush

The New Orleans Times-Picayune published an open letter to President Bush today.  An excerpt:

Despite the city’s multiple points of entry, our nation’s bureaucrats spent days after last week’s hurricane wringing their hands, lamenting the fact that they could neither rescue the city’s stranded victims nor bring them food, water and medical supplies.

Meanwhile there were journalists, including some who work for The Times-Picayune, going in and out of the city via the Crescent City Connection. On Thursday morning, that crew saw a caravan of 13 Wal-Mart tractor trailers headed into town to bring food, water and supplies to a dying city.

Television reporters were doing live reports from downtown New Orleans streets. Harry Connick Jr. brought in some aid Thursday, and his efforts were the focus of a "Today" show story Friday morning.

Yet, the people trained to protect our nation, the people whose job it is to quickly bring in aid were absent. Those who should have been deploying troops were singing a sad song about how our city was impossible to reach.

We’re angry, Mr. President, and we’ll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry. Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been were not. That’s to the government’s shame.

Newsweek on Katrina Disorganization

The new issue of Newsweek goes into detail about the behind-the-scenes foulups and slowness of the response to Katrina.  One excerpt:

On Monday morning, as the storm slammed into the Gulf Coast, Col. Tim Tarchick of the 920th Rescue Wing, Air Force Reserve Command, got on the phone to call every agency he could think of to ask permission to take his three rescue helicopters into the disaster zone as soon as the storm abated.  The response was noncommittal.  FEMA, the federal agency that is supposed to handle disasters, told Tarchick that it wasn't authorized to task military units.  That had to come from the Defense Department.  Tarchick wasn't able to cut through the red tape until 4 p.m. Tuesday—more than 24 hours after the storm had passed.  His crews plucked hundreds of people off rooftops, but when they delivered them to an assigned landing zone, there was "total chaos. No food, no water, no bathrooms, no nothing." There was "no structure, no organization, no command center."
Weren't all these inter-agencies battles supposed to end when they created the Department of Homeland Security?  Can't anyone in government eliminate red tape and provide actual solutions?

Shep Smith & Geraldo in New Orleans

I posted astounding video of CNN's Anderson Cooper a couple of days ago, but don't want to leave out the remarkable work being done by Fox's Shepard Smith and Geraldo Rivera.  Here they are on Friday night's "Hannity & Colmes" trying to make the hosts understand the desperate situation of the thousands of people who were still stuck at the New Orleans Convention Center.  Both Smith and Rivera plead with the authorities to let these people walk out of there and over a bridge to Gretna, Louisiana, where the electricity was on and they could find civilization again.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Anderson Cooper vs. Mary Landrieu

Yet another reason why I don't allow politicians on my KMOX show.  Anderson Cooper was talking to Sen. Mary Landrieu last night on CNN and couldn't believe that while he is in the midst of this devastation, while people are dying and corpses are being eaten by rats, she and other politicians are patting each other on the back.


At his briefing in Mobile moments ago, President Bush reassured the area that it will be rebuilt and the federal government will help.  He mentioned that Trent Lott's home in Mississippi was completely wiped out, but there would be a big, beautiful house on that land again soon, and he looked forward to sitting on the porch and talking with him when it's done.  Meanwhile, on Fox News Channel, a doctor in Baton Rouge is talking about the complete lack of personnel, supplies, water, food, and assistance at a hospital that's overflowing with the sick and dying.  Where are the priorities?

New Orleans by Satellite

Zoom-able view of New Orleans as seen by satellite on Wednesday night.

Anti-Looting Sign

This hand-painted sign seen in New Orleans is designed to deter looters.

Mr. Bill's Hurricane PSA

Who knew a hurricane could cause New Orleans to be flooded? Who could possibly have foreseen this disaster?  Mr. Bill, the character Walter Williams created for "SNL" several years ago.  Here's a PSA the little clay guy made earlier this year -- months before Katrina.

Beating High Gas Prices

A guaranteed way to beat high gas prices.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Fed Gov't Wasn't Ready for Katrina

That's the conclusion of several experts and former FEMA heads in a scathing piece by Knight-Ridder writer Seth Borenstein.  As he just explained on my KMOX show, the federal government should have done a lot more to assure that a disaster like Katrina wouldn't be as huge as it is, and that preparations should have been in place to handle the resulting devastation to people and property.  This isn't about partisan politics, it's about holding people in authority accountable for what they do -- and for what they don't do.

Housing for Katrina Refugees

The internet as community:  Craigslist is full of offers from all over the country of rooms, apartment, and houses for Katrina refugees to relocate to temporarily.

Gas $5.87/gallon!

A gas station in Stockbridge, Georgia, is charging $5.87/gallon for regular.

Aerial Views of Katrina Damage

Digital Globe has posted some stunning before and after photos of the areas affected by Hurrican Katrina.