The Kuykendall family and their friends have been getting death threats on their cell phones, even when the phones were off, and even when they got new phones. Some of the threats included recordings made while the phones were off and information about what the families were doing in private.
This is a remarkable -- and scary -- story, which the authorities are still trying to solve. Like me, you're probably thinking no one could pull this off, because phones can't be hijacked that way. Wrong! It's real, as described today on my show by reporter Sean Robinson of the Tacoma News-Tribune. Listen.
Two days later, Robinson was back on my show with an update on the families who have had their cell phones hijacked, with death threats issued against them, and weird voice mails and text messages sent, even when their phones were turned off. And it's gotten worse -- now the stalking has expanded to friends and neighbors.
Authorities still can't figure out how it's being done, or who is doing it, but Robinson has talked to a tech expert who has a theory. Listen.
Friday, June 29, 2007
The Kuykendall family and their friends have been getting death threats on their cell phones, even when the phones were off, and even when they got new phones. Some of the threats included recordings made while the phones were off and information about what the families were doing in private.
Here's a very clever bit of editing, creating "100 Movies, 100 Quotes, 100 Numbers," a countdown of movie clips (a la the AFI lists), each of which contains a number. I was only able to predict two of these, numbers 11 and 50.
For the key to the list, click here.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
I thought I wanted an iPhone and would buy one as soon as it went onsale. It's not only incredibly cool, but would mean carrying just one device, instead of my phone, Palm Pilot, and iPod.
But as an adult with a job, I'm not going to sit on the sidewalk for a couple of days just to get one of the first iPhones. Besides, it's usually better with tech products to wait awhile and let the company fix all the bugs that are inevitably found by first adopters. So, put me down for iPhone 2.0 a year from now -- probably.
I talked about it this afternoon on my show with Larry Magid, our tech consultant, who explained what's great about the iPhone, and what's not-so-great.
posted at 5:51 PM
Karen Lodrick had her life turned upside down and lost thousands of dollars when someone stole her identity. Then, one day, she found herself in Starbucks right next to a woman who looked just like the thief. How did she know who she was? How did the thief get her identity? How did the bank treat her? What happened when Karen followed and chased the thief until a cop finally showed up?
Listen to her story, as told today on my show.
The cable news outlets just carried Arnold Schwarzenegger's press conference on the wildfires, complete with a podium and multi-microphone setup. Because that's what you need to fight a fire -- a podium. And a dozen bureaucrats in dress shirts standing around. Meanwhile, on the other part of the split-screen, the nets showed the actual firefighters trying to contain the blaze, which is what you need to fight a fire.
posted at 3:01 PM
Last week on my show, Kate Hanni talked about the passengers of Delta flight 5637, which was stranded on the tarmac at JFK airport for several hours on June 21st. One of them, David Ollilo, videotaped his confrontation with the pilot, who kept claiming that he had no power to do anything about the situation, despite the fact that there were serious passenger health issues that were not being addressed.
The pilot told Ollilo to go sit down or he would call the police, to which Ollilo responded that he wanted the police called, because maybe they would get the passengers off the plane. That finally happened. Ollilo detained a little while longer while he was questioned and put through a background check before it was determined that he wasn't a threat.
Friday, June 22, 2007
After the horror stories of sewage flowing down an airplane aisle and planes full of passengers sitting on the tarmac for hour after hour, I invited Kate Hanni back to my show today for a progress update on getting Congress to pass an Airline Passengers Bill Of Rights.
She mentioned her disapointment in Congressmen Jerry Costello, the Democrat from the Metro East, for not following through on getting this legislation passed, as he promised when Kate testified to the House Aviation Subcommittee that he chairs earlier this year. To Kate's delight, Jerry then called in (moments after getting off a plane himself) to say that he was still working on getting her points into the law and, while it might not include everything she wants, it would take important steps to solving these problems.
As an example of what's wrong, Kate revealed the story of the passenger who used a video camera to force a pilot to take an airplane back to the terminal at JFK earlier this week. Here's that video.
This is stunning footage shot during a safari in Kruger National Park in South Africa. A herd of buffalo is walking along the banks of a lake when they encounter a pride of lions, who go on the attack. From there, it does not go as you think it will. This runs 8+ minutes, but you'll want to stick with it. [thanks to Michelle Stephens for the link]
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Today I talked to Senator Claire McCaskill about her recent trip to Baghdad, where she looked into abuse and extortion by private contractors (a theme we've discussed often, including last year's screening of "Iraq for Sale"). I also asked her about the "mixed sentiments" she says she got from our soldiers in Iraq, and her reaction to today's report that the administration might be considering shutting down the Guantanamo prison facility for enemy combatants. Listen.
After President Bush vetoed the bill that would have eased restraints on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research yesterday, Dr. Steven Teitelbaum returned to my show to explain the impact this will have on researchers like him. Teitelbaum is a professor of pathology at Washington Univerity in St. Louis. Listen.
- No, you can't air those commercials for eggs, because it might cause people to eat....eggs.
- No, you can't name your child "4real." Yes, it's a stupid name that will haunt your son forever, but is it the government's business? In New Zealand, it is, because you're not allowed to have a name that starts with a number. According to those rules, C3P0 and R2D2 would be fine, but not 4REAL.
- No, you can't have a bonus this year, because you're on the board of directors of Nissan, a corporation that has performed horribly. That leaves the question of why, if business is so bad, you were eligible for a bonus in the first place.
posted at 4:40 PM
The Kansas City Royals are asking fans to choose the song they play during the 7th-inning stretch at Kauffman Stadium. This is a chance for some fun, because we can make them use a song that doesn't fit baseball at all.
On their website, along with the obvious choice of The Beatles' version of "Kansas City," they include "Last Dance" by Donna Summer, "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond, "Shake Your Body Down To The Ground" by Michael Jackson, and "Come On Eileen" by Dexy's Midnight Runners.
Since you can't vote for Hillary Clinton's favorite Celine Dion song, the best choice -- for our purposes -- is "Dancing Queen" by Abba. If the Royals and their fans sing that song during the 7th-inning stretch at every home game, they will be the laughing stock of the major leagues, like a road company of "Mamma Mia."
So.......let's help them achieve that dream!
Click here to vote for "Dancing Queen." You'll have to fill out a form that asks for your name and other info, but you can enter bogus details and your vote will still count -- and you can do that as often as you like.
Just a little something from their cross-state rivals in St. Louis.
posted at 9:09 AM
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
The Josh Hancock story just keeps on rolling. Yesterday, tow truck driver Jacob Hargrove was served with lawsuit papers from the Hancock estate, claiming he was partially at fault for Josh's death in the Highway 40 crash.
Today, Hargrove's attorney, Robert Pedroli, was on my show to explain why he has threatened a countersuit unless the Hancock lawsuit against his client is dropped. He pointed out that, since Josh was drunk, speeding, and on the cell phone, he's the only one responsible for his death, and that the lawsuit against Hargrove is frivolous. Listen.
Hillary Clinton's campaign has been asking people to pick her official campaign theme song. So, how do they announce it? With a parody of "The Sopranos" finale -- complete with Johnny Sack! Watch it here.
If you care at all, she chose some lame tune by Celine Dion. Note that, in the video, Bill wanted Hillary to choose a song by Smashmouth -- am I the only one who immediately thought up a dozen Monica jokes? -- which is another indicator that he's the hip one in the couple, and she's the one making the safe, boring choices.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Fifty years ago in Tulsa, Oklahoma, they buried a brand-new 1957 Plymouth Belvdedere in the town square. In the glove compartment were entries with guesses of how many people would be living in the city half a century later. This week, they dug it up and, even though it was buried in a sealed concrete vault, the pressures of underground nature took their toll on the vehicle. Gotta wonder if the winner still wants it. Here's the story. [thanks to Jeff Olsen for the link]
Monday, June 18, 2007
I was raised in an apartment where we ate Cheerios, Special K, and Alpha-Bits for breakfast. We were allowed to sprinkle a little bit of sugar on the cereal for taste, but Mom wouldn't buy us the really sugary cereals.
One morning, I went over to my friend Mark's apartment. I'd already had my breakfast, but they were just sitting down to theirs. Mark and his brothers were eating Frosted Flakes, and his mother offered me some. Not wanting to be rude, and still a little bit hungry, I happily accepted and dug into the bowl of glucose-enhanced delight.
Oh my god!! It was the best thing I'd ever tasted. I could feel my teeth rotting in my mouth as I chewed, but I didn't care. This was the kid equivalent of crack.
Later, when we were away from the table, I asked Mark if he ate Frosted Flakes every morning. He answered that they had all sorts of cereals, and named several that were also full of that sugary goodness. I was incredibly jealous.
I hatched a plan to convince my mother to buy some Frosted Flakes. Unfortunately, I was about 7 years old, so the only argument I could formulate was "but Mark's mother lets him have them all the time!" Remarkably, this didn't win my mother over. Despite my repeated attempts (i.e. whining and throwing a tantrum), she wouldn't give in. The power of parenting.
Fast forward to this week, when that power became moot.
Kellogg's buckled under to the Food Police and announced that they would start making their cereals more nutritious and change the way they market their products to kids. It's to stave off a lawsuit by a couple of pressure groups who blame the company (and others) for making kids fat.
Of course it's Kellogg's fault! These kids must see the commercials for Cocoa Krispies, gather up their allowance money and go to the supermarket themselves, where they prowl the cereal aisle to find the ones with the most sugar and highest caloric content. Then they sneak them home and hide them, secretly munching away on their sweet treats when mom and dad aren't looking.
Or, maybe it's the parents of America who are buying this stuff for their kids, because of a national aversion to using the word "no." That, combined with a lack of exercise (forget about playing outside -- how many schools allow running at recess anymore, or have gym class everyday?) is why we have fat kids.
The Food Police don't dare blame the parents. It must be the big, bad cereal company that's liable. How dare they make something tasty that people enjoy eating? On top of that, they're forcing kids to watch television and be exposed to those horrendous advertising messages!
So let's invert the equation. Take every commercial for Cocoa Puffs and replace it with an ad for broccoli, complete with an endorsement by Shrek and Spider-Man. Would that make America's kids healthier? Funny, I don't recall a lot of my friends eating spinach just because of Popeye.
Where in all of this are the adults who might like a bowl of Frosted Flakes or Froot Loops? Don't their tastebuds matter? Or are we doomed to a future of Bran Flakes and Mueslix?
No, our future will more likely be filled with a spoonful of sugar, which we'll sprinkle over the newly reformulated versions of the cereals we used to like.
Chicago TV reporter Kristyn Hartman is doing a live shot on a local newscast when, out of nowhere, a cab and an SUV crash just a few feet from where she's standing. Check her reaction, and the way she simply goes on with the story she's covering, without mentioning the accident, until the anchors bring it up.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Bob Barr, the conservative ex-congressman from Georgia, who apologized on my show last month for his vote in favor of the Patriot Act, takes the Republican presidential candidates to task for their pandering answers on the question of gays in the military. Moreover, he reveals that he has changed his mind about "don't ask don't tell."
Because the military can't fill its slots, it has lowered its standards, extended tours of duty and increased rotations, further hurting morale and readiness. Conservatives are supposed to favor meritocracy -- rewarding ability -- especially in the armed forces. Instead, the military is firing badly needed, capable troops simply because they're gay, and replacing them with a hodge podge that includes ex-cons, drug abusers and high-school dropouts.The whole column is here.
posted at 1:33 PM
Friday, June 15, 2007
On behalf of all dads, I'm going to share a secret that men have kept for centuries.
We appreciate it. We really do. We know you want to do something special for us on Father's Day.
So, you and the kids are planning to get up early Sunday morning and sneak into the kitchen to make us a big breakfast, with all of our favorites. Then you'll load it onto a tray, bring it into the bedroom, gently wake us up, and present the food to us.
We'll love the smiles on the kids' faces as they hop into the bed with us, singing "Happy Father's Day, Daddy!!!" and handing us cards they drew themselves. It'll be a very nice family moment. There's only one problem.
The whole time you're presenting this nice celebration, we really have to go to the bathroom.
It's not our fault, it's simply biology. Ask any man. When we wake up in the morning, the first thing we have to do is pee. Doesn't matter how old we are, or how happy we are to see you -- nature calls.
So, now you know that the look of joy on our faces is genuine, but it's mixed with a certain level of discomfort. Armed with that knowledge, I ask a favor on behalf of every member of the human male species: please come in and give us a few minutes' warning. Tip us off that the "surprise" is coming, thus giving us an opportunity to run into the bathroom, take care of business, then jump back under the covers and pretend to be asleep in time for the kids to bring in breakfast. We'll still put on the whole "wow, what a nice surprise!" act, and everyone will be happy -- and a lot more comfortable.
Do this for us, and we'll make it up to you next Mother's Day. Maybe we'll even remember to make reservations for a nice brunch at a nice restaurant instead of having those last-minute kid-recipe pancakes again.
Happy Father's Day!
posted at 5:57 PM
- Ken Levine explains how "The Sopranos" would have ended if it were on one of the broadcast networks.
- Amanda Ripley on how overstating the threat of terrorism risks making us less safe.
- A clown had to stop blowing bubbles while performing at children's birthday parties in England because his union insurance wouldn't cover him due to liability issues regarding kids slipping on bubble residue. Two questions here: 1) don't kids, by nature, create their own residue? 2) clowns have a union?
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
While DA Mike Nifong is on trial for his overzealous prosecution of the Duke lacrosse players, I invited their former coach Mike Pressler to talk about the case today on my show. He hasn't done many interviews, so this was a rare opportunity to get his perspective on what went down (and what didn't!).
Pressler told me that he never met Nifong nor any of his investigators, and that the school's administration had not done its job of keeping him informed of problems with any of his players. I questioned whether their off-campus activity fell under his authority, and how bitter he still feels towards Nifong. After all, Pressler was the only adult to lose his job over this case, but when the university did an internal investigation, he was cleared of any mishandling of the team.
So why did he get fired? Because the school's athletic director, Joe Alleva, told him, "It's not about the truth anymore" (that's the title of his book). Listen.
American English is the best Beatles band I've ever seen, and I'm always happy to welcome them back to my studio. Today, they were back to talk about the 40th anniversary of "Sgt. Pepper's" and play a couple of songs from that album ("Getting Better" and "With A Little Help From My Friends"). They also performed four other songs, none of which they've ever done on my show before.
Listen, then check their website for a date near you.
The FBI wants funding for a massive database full of information on everyone in the country. They say it will help them detect patterns that could lead them to terrorist sleeper cells in the US.
Today on my show, Jim Harper of the Cato Institute explained why this is a bad idea. Not because we shouldn't be looking for the bad guys, but because this is an ineffective and inefficient way to do it -- particularly since we haven't had enough terrorist incidents in this country to be able to identify a pattern in the first place.
Both Harper and I are also concerned about the egregious privacy violations inherent in the government gathering all of that information. With the FBI's record of lost laptops and the inability to keep any such system secure, every one of us should be skeptical, suspicious, and worried when any level of government bureaucracy wants access to our records, both public and private. After all, they can't even keep the no-fly list straight without causing enormous stress for innocent fliers with no recourse.
Fortunately, there is bi-partisan opposition in the House to the FBI's proposal from congressmen saying yes to safety but no to creating solutions that don't solve the problem.
Update 10:43am on 6/14/07: The Washington Post reports this morning,
An internal FBI audit has found that the bureau potentially violated the law or agency rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data about domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years, far more than was documented in a Justice Department report in March that ignited bipartisan congressional criticism.In my discussion with Harper, I pointed out that if the list includes every American but indicates that 99.9% of us are not terrorists, that leaves one-tenth of one percent who are suspects -- an astounding 300,000 people. Now here's something even more stunning. ABC News reports today that the actual FBI terrorist watch list has grown to 509,000 names!!! I'm sure they're doing a fine job of keeping track of all of them, aren't you?
You'd think an adult in a position of authority would know this rule: no writing on your face. But Donna Jones, one of the geniuses on the St. Louis School Board, who is opposed to the state taking over the failing school district, showed up at the board meeting last night with the words "No State Takeover" written on her face -- in permanent marker.
When you think about it, Jones had to have an accomplice, since it's not that easy to write on your face backwards. That means there was another adult who thought "hey, this is a good idea!" and helped her do it.
If your child came to the dinner table with words written across her face, you'd send her to the bathroom to wash them off. And I bet your kid would be smart enough to not use permanent marker (if she did, you'd be in that bathroom, too, with sandpaper).
Jones pulled off this stunt to get publicity, so let's give it to her -- accompanied by the shame I'm sure she doesn't feel at going out in front of the public like that.
posted at 2:41 PM
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Carl Reiner was back on my show this afternoon to talk about "Ocean's Thirteen."
We talked about how he was not the first choice to play Saul Bloom but ended up with the part anyway, how he provided his own hairpiece for the character, whether he gave director Steven Soderbergh any advice during filming, and what outrageous demands he made on the set. Carl also talked about his co-stars, from George Clooney and Don Cheadle to Al Pacino and Ellen Barkin. And as to whether there will be an "Ocean's Fourteen".....?
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
On my show this afternoon, I talked with Bruce Barry about the erosion of free speech in the workplace and his book, "Speechless."
Far too many Americans think the First Amendment allows them to say anything, anywhere, anytime, but that's far from true. Most workers can be fired for any reason, and quite often it's for the way they've expressed themselves -- from having a bumper sticker for the "wrong" political candidate, to blogging about their boss, and on and on. Bruce and I talked about those examples and others, the difference in your rights depending on whether you work in the public and private sectors, how difficult it can be to go after a company that fires you, and much more.
Bruce is a professor of management and sociology at the Owen School of Management at Vanderbilt University, serves as president of the Tennessee branch of the ACLU, writes for Nashville Scene-- and was one of the smart ones in my high school graduating class.
In Glasgow, Scotland, it's illegal to just put up a poster advertising something anywhere you want to, but that didn't stop event promoters from putting them up anyway. The city tried having personnel go around and tear them down, but that didn't work because it was too labor-intensive. Then they came up with this brilliant idea -- instead of taking the posters down, they stick "cancelled" banners across them.
Monday, June 11, 2007
Sgt. Elizabeth Boruk is an Army Reservist from St. Louis who was sent to Afghanistan to do helicopter maintenance with her unit. This group of citizen soldiers did a remarkable job, not just keeping the Chinooks in the air, flying more missions than anyone else in the Army, but also coming home in one piece without a single fatality.
Today I talked with Sgt. Boruk about her experience in that "forgotten war," including what it was like being one of about ten women in a unit with more than 200 men. She also talked about the food in Pakistan (is that a bat??) where her unit undertook a humanitarian effort after an earthquake, and how different it was when she got to the base in Kandahar -- an oasis of America in the midst of Afghanistan.
That's not a freeze-frame of a roller-coaster in action. It's a shot of a roller-coaster that's stuck at the top of the loop, upside-down, with 12 people strapped in. It happened Saturday on the X-Coaster at Magic Springs & Crystal Falls amusement park in Hot Springs, Arkansas, when the power suddenly went off. The riders hung there for a half-hour before the fire department got them down.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
I didn't watch the first few seasons of "The Sopranos." My wife was really into it, but I always had something else to do on Sunday nights. Then, two years ago, I decided to get all the DVDs from Netflix and watched every episode in order. The more I watched, the more I was intrigued and entertained, and realized that this was one of TV's all-time great shows. I caught up in time to see all of Season 5 live, and then onto this final season, which HBO split in two.
So, after all of that, I thought we'd get a real finale tonight. Some sort of closure, something big. I didn't expect just another episode -- but that's what we got.
Paulie ranting about the cat. Junior still nuts in the psych ward. Typically self-serving Janice. More concern about AJ's future and Meadow's career and love life. Fine, all good, but so what? Oh, sure, there was the satisfying way Phil Leotardo was taken out, and the interplay with the FBI agent, and then...cut to black.
Not a fade to black. A quick cut, then nothing. No more. Done. Forever.
If the idea was to make all of us think that our HBO feed had suddenly gone dead, then it was a success. Otherwise -- unacceptable!!
Update 11:29pm: Nikki Finke reports that other "Sopranos" fans were so upset at the final episode that they crashed HBO's website tonight. She's calling for people to cancel their HBO subscriptions. I think that's a little rash, considering that the network had virtually nothing to do with the way Chase chose to end the show. Boycotting HBO over this accomplishes nothing, since "The Sopranos" is over. The impact would instead be felt by "Entourage" when it returns for its new season next week -- and I like that show too much.
posted at 10:13 PM
Friday, June 08, 2007
In this week's Time magazine, Nathan Thornburgh makes "The Case For Amnesty" in the illegal immigrants debate. I talked about it with him this afternoon on my show -- from how it would work, to why illegals would want to come out of hiding, to how we keep the next wave from coming to America. Anyone who thinks there are easy answers here ("send 'em all home!") doesn't understand the real complexities of this problem. Listen.
This weekend at every Hilton Hotel, all women wearing an ankle bracelet drink for half price! Free shuttle bus to jail included.
One other quick point. Yesterday, Paris Hilton was let out of jail and the Dow dropped over a hundred points. Today, she was sent back to jail, and the Dow was up over a hundred points. Imagine how well your 401k would be doing if we also threw Nicole Richie, Lindsay Lohan, and Britney Spears in jail.
posted at 12:00 PM
Thursday, June 07, 2007
The motor city madman was back on my show today, a few hours before he takes the stage at The Pageant here in St. Louis. I've had Ted Nugent as a guest many times over the last three decades, and one thing I can always count on is that he's ready to rock and we're going to have fun.
We talked about Ted's new album "Love Grenade" (his 35th, which includes a remake of his first hit, "Journey To The Center Of The Mind"), his thoughts on digital downloading of his music, and the charity work he does for breast cancer and the US military. Listen.
Here's the story of the guy in the wheelchair who got stuck in the grill of a tractor-trailer and pushed down the road for 4 miles at speeds up to 50mph. Something about this story seems hinky to me, particularly the way his wheelchair is perfectly centered in the grill. It's certainly possible, but this smells like a stunt to me.
- I've said for years that the Gateway Arch should be lit up at night -- all night long, not just for a few hours or on special occasions. Bradley Fratello agrees.
- Why do Mafia hit men always drop the guns at the scene of the crime? Hint: it's not just because they like cannoli. Slate explains.
- Ken Levine on how he got Johnny Carson to do an episode of "Cheers."
posted at 11:07 AM
It's been too long since I've made any additions to the Movies You Might Not Know list, so here are two new ones:
"Heart of the Game" is the second-best basketball documentary ever made (after "Hoop Dreams"), chronicling several years with a girls' high school team in Seattle. They are coached by Bill Resler, a tax professor who has some new ideas about how to lead the girls to victory. The story really takes off once Darnellia Russell joins the team -- she's a helluva basketball player, but her off-court troubles keep getting in the way. If this were a Hollywood script, no one would believe it, but as a true story, it's a sports classic.
"Little Voice" is not a documentary, but an amazing showcase for Jane Horrocks, whose character wows everyone with her pitch-perfect imitations of singing stars from Judy Garland to Marilyn Monroe. Michael Caine plays the small-time theatrical agent who sees gold in that little voice, a role that earned him an Oscar nomination.
To see the entire Movies You Might Not Know list, or to suggest one, click here.
High school teacher Taylor Mali was asked by someone at dinner, in a condescending way, "What do teachers make?" Here's his answer...
Mali wrote this in 1999 and posted the text on his website. Since then, it has been copied and re-posted without attribution. Let's give the man the credit he deserves.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Simon Cowell was on my show today to talk about his TV talent show. No, not "American Idol." He's the producer of "America's Got Talent," which returns tonight for its second season.
I asked him why he fired Regis Philbin and Brandy and replaced them with Jerry Springer and Sharon Osbourne, how he plans on keeping David Hasselhoff sober, and what kind of freak show acts he hates the most.
You'll notice that I didn't ask Simon any "Idol" questions, because we only had a few minutes and a lot of stuff to cover about the other show, and because we've already heard his answers to all of those Sanjaya inquiries.
As a followup to my column, "Putting the F in FCC," I invited FCC Commissioner Michael Copps onto my show this afternoon to discuss several issues.
We discussed the notion of broadcasters "serving the public interest" (I asked him if airing "American Idol" qualified), whether it's the government's business to regulate content, his reaction to a federal court overturning the FCC's rulings on fleeting profanity, and the special interest pressure groups that gin up "public reaction" and whether those voices carry more weight than Americans who don't complain because they're enjoying what they're watching and listening to.
The FCC issued two disturbing proclamations this week that should bother anyone who believes in freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
FCC chairman Kevin Martin issued a press release condemning the decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturning the comission's rulings over fleeting use of profanity, which Aaron Barnhart and I discussed yesterday.
In that release, the commish uses the f-bomb and s-word over half a dozen times -- more than I ever have on this site, or anywhere else in print. Funny that he finds those words so indecent when broadcast on the public airwaves that the government must step in, but not so indecent that they should be left out of an official government document (isn't that public paper, Kevin?). Oh, I guess children don't read FCC press releases, so he can use whatever language he wants.
Note how Martin repeatedly refers to the "New York court." That's right-wing code for "liberal, Northeastern, probably Jewish." It's a cheap and deplorable phrase used to pander to other conservative extremists, especially those in the special-interest pressure groups that Martin constantly kowtows to. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals is not a state or city court. It is a federal court, one level below the US Supreme Court.
Martin also uses this press release as an opportunity to promote the idea of a la carte pricing for cable and satellite, claiming that "permitting parents to have more choice in the channels they receive may prove to be the best solution to content concerns." False! The content that Martin and his cabal have tried to regulate was on broadcast channels that would still go into those homes, regardless of whether they were paid for in a bundle or a la carte. Letting people decide whether to subscribe to HBO or HGTV would have no impact on Bono dropping a fleeting F-bomb during an awards telecast on NBC. Martin should also look into a new Forrester Research study regarding a la carte pricing.
Meanwhile, another FCC commissioner, Michael Copps, wrote a New York Times op-ed this week insisting that, when deciding whether to grant renewal of broadcast licenses, the commission should consider whether the license owner "served the public interest." That's not the same as offering programming that "interests the public." As with so many in government, he's sure that he knows what's in your best interest better than you do, so he wants to force-feed you programming you're not going to watch.
Here are some of the points Copps wants considered, in italics, with my response following:
Did the station show programs on local civic affairs (apart from the nightly news), or set aside airtime for local community groups? While those groups may be doing good work, there's surely no audience for this kind of programming, which is why it's so often relegated to the less-viewed and less-listened-to dayparts, such as early Sunday morning. Would the commission force stations to air these programs in primetime? Listeners and viewers would tune out in droves. How is that in the public interest?
Did it broadcast political conventions, and local as well as national candidate debates? Political conventions are a moot point these days, with the nominees decided long before during the primary process. The four-day events are nothing more than political grandstanding put on by each party, offering nothing of any news value except for an occasional important speech (e.g. Obama's coming out party in 2004).
Did it devote at least five minutes each night to covering politics in the month before an election?
Most of that coverage is now of the horse-race variety, telling us who's ahead in the polls and what slick campaign line a candidate has repeated for the umpteenth time. Does Copps seriously think there isn't enough coverage of national campaigns? The problem is there's too much of it, starting 18 months before a presidential election, when no one but the most hardcore is paying attention. Would a station have to cover local candidates and issues ad nauseum, and if so, down to what level?
These are decisions to be made in newsrooms, by people who are in the business of providing television to a mass market, not by some political appointees sitting high and mighty in their offices at the FCC. We now have a wide variety of media that offer anyone who wants more information the opportunity to discover anything they like about any kind of candidate. Telling broadcasters that the renewal of their license is dependent on their coverage of the electoral process is a misuse of the commission's own public trust.
When it comes to broadcast regulation, the government's sole responsibility should be to make sure that the technical rules (staying on frequency and within power specifications and coverage areas) are adhered to -- nothing else.
Hands off the content!
Monday, June 04, 2007
Who was it who told us that if we didn't fight the terrorists in Iraq, we'd have to fight them here? Wonder what that person was thinking over the weekend when the JFK Airport plot was exposed -- the one thought up by a US citizen and some friends from Trinidad, of all places. Sounds to me like we're already fighting them here.
The good news seems to be that the ones we're fighting here are morons with unworkable plots (including the Fort Dix attack squad and the Mensa rejects caught plotting something stupid in that Florida warehouse last year).
Best part of today's developments was when the head of the extremist Muslim sect in Trinidad disavowed any knowledge of the JFK plotters or their plans. In other words, "we may be a fringe group of religious whack jobs, but those guys are crazy!!"
If you're going to ask the judge to "Let It Be" when you're convicted of a crime, you should expect a Beatles-filled response. That's what Andrew McCormack got when the court asked him what he thought his sentence should be for breaking into a store and stealing some beer. Judge Gregory Todd wrote:
Mr. McCormack, you pled guilty to the charge of Burglary. To aid me in sentencing I review the pre-sentence investigation report. I read with interest the section containing Defendant's statement. To the question of "Give your recommendation as to what you think the Court should do in this case," you said, "Like the Beetles say Let It Be."Could have been worse. The judge could've worked in yellow matter custard dripping from a dead dog's eye.
While I will not explore the epistemological or ontological overtones of your response, or even the syntactic of symbolic keys of your allusion, I will say Hey Jude, Do You Want to Know a Secret? The greatest band in rock history spelled their name B-e-a-t-l-e-s.
I interpret the meaning of your response to suggest that there should be no consequences for your actions and I should Let it Be so you can live in Strawberry Fields Forever. Such reasoning is Here, There and Everywhere. It does not require a Magical Mystery Tour of interpretation to know The Word means leave it alone. I trust we can all Come Together on that meaning. If I were to overlook your actions and Let It Be, I would ignore that Day in the Life on April 21, 2006.
Evidently, earlier that night you said to yourself I Feel Fine while drinking beer. Later, whether you wanted Money or were just trying to Act Naturally you became the Fool on the Hill on North 27th Street. As Mr Moonlight at 1:30am, you did not Think for Yourself but just focused on I, Me, Mine. Because you didn't ask for Help, Wait for Something else or listen to your conscience saying Honey Don't, the victim later that day was Fixing a Hole in the glass door you broke.
After you stole the 18 pack of Old Milwaukee you decided it was time to Run For Your Life and Carry That Weight. But when the witness said Baby it's You, the police responded I'll Get You and you had to admit that You Really Got a Hold on Me. You were not able to Get Back home because of the Chains they put on you.
Although you hoped the police would say I Don't Want to Spoil the Party and We Can Work it Out, you were in Misery when they said you were a Bad Boy. When the police took you to jail, you experienced Something New as they said Hello Goodbye and you became a Nowhere Man. Later when you thought about what you did you may have said I'll Cry Instead. Now you're saying Let it Be instead of I'm a Loser.
As a result of your Hard Day's Night you are looking at a Ticket to Ride that Long and Winding Road to Deer Lodge. Hopefully you can say both now and When I'm 64 that I Should Have Known Better."
As for McCormack's sentence, the judge gave him probation and ordered him to pay a fine and do some community service.
posted at 11:18 AM
Here's a bonus POTD...minor league manager Phillip Wellman of the Mississippi Braves going went nuts over an umpire's call on Friday. He argued with the ump face-to-face, then piled dirt on home plate, then argued with the third-base ump, then pulled out third base and tossed it into left field, then went for the resin bag on the mound, and on and on.
Tirades and fits like this never work, even in the majors (right, Lou Piniella?), but what gets me is that kick-dirt-on-home-plate move. What does that do? Ooh, the ump will have to brush it off -- big deal. I've seen better tantrums from a two-year-old. BTW, for throwing his fit, Wellman got a three-game suspension and a lifetime of YouTube archives.
Chris Moltisanti? Dead. Bobby Bacala? Dead. Silvio Dante? Practically dead.
Will Tony buy it in the "Sopranos" final season? I don't want to know until Sunday night, but that won't stop the speculation on how the show ends its run. Add yours in the comments section below.
In the meantime, with one episode left, stories about the series are coming out. One of them says that, when David Chase first pitched the show pilot, he used a different song over the opening credits -- The Beatles' "Why Don't We Do It In The Road" from the White Album. Although the length was perfect, The Beatles wouldn't give him the rights, so he settled on A3's "Woke Up This Morning."
If he'd gotten permission for his original choice, it would have looked and sounded like this...
Friday, June 01, 2007
"Chalk" is a clever little movie about the trials and tribulations of first-time teachers. Chris Mass, who appears as one of the young teachers and co-wrote the movie with director Mike Akel, was on my show to talk about it. Each of them spent three years in the classroom before turning their experiences into the script for this semi-improvised comedy. Listen.
Mass and Akel are working with Jon Macks on a movie about Little League for Universal.
Despite the lie we tell our kids, that "any child can grow up to be President of the United States," I blogged a few months ago about the likelihood of getting elected if you were black, female, an atheist, gay, etc.
Now, the folks at data360.org have tracked Gallup polls going back several years on exactly that question. Results here. It's important to remember that this is what people say they would do, not what they have done, and we know that there is not always a correlation.
posted at 11:40 AM
- Cracked.com has compiled a list of the top 20 character actors whose faces you've seen dozens of times, even if you can't remember their names
- TWAMSIAM on the experience of seeing a movie in an "upscale" theater
- David Nieporent on why a lesbian's lawsuit against eHarmony.com, for not pairing her up with other lesbians, is way off-base
posted at 11:14 AM
For every "Star Wars" geek, this would have to be the ultimate fanboy fantasy -- a couple dozen women dressed up like Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia in her slave garb, surrounding a giant Jabba The Hutt statue, at a "Star Wars" convention in LA this weekend...