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

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Where Am I?

Thanks for the e-mails wondering why I haven't been on the air or this site for several days. I've been knocked out by some sort of virus since Thursday night, but I won't bore you with the medical details. Suffice it to say that I'm on a combination of pills, liquid narcotics, steroids, and inhalers, but the beast won't die.

I was hoping to get back to the show today, but my voice still isn't strong enough, and I haven't had the energy to sit in front of my computer to blog and reply to e-mails, either. Not likely tomorrow, probably Thursday. In the meantime, I'm working on my Bucket List.

Thanks for the concern.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Wanna Get Away?

Listener Mark St. Aubin e-mailed the following story, and suggests it would be perfect for one of those "wanna get away" commercials for Southwest Airlines...

When Marie Lupe Cooley, 41, of Jacksonville, Fla., saw a help-wanted ad in the newspaper for a position that looked suspiciously like her current job — and with her boss's phone number listed — she assumed she was about to be fired. So, police say, she went to the architectural office where she works late Sunday night and erased 7 years' worth of drawings and blueprints, estimated to be worth $2.5 million.

"She decided to mess up everything for everybody," Jacksonville Sheriff's Office spokesman Ken Jefferson told reporters. "She just sabotaged the entire business, thinking she was going to get axed."

It didn't take Steven Hutchins, owner of the architectural firm that bears his name, much time to figure out who'd done it — Cooley was the only other person who had full access to the files.
Hutchins told one TV station he'd managed to recover all the files using an expensive data-recovery service.

As for the job, Cooley originally wasn't in danger of losing it. The ad was for Hutchins' wife's company. The firm told FoxNews.com that Cooley no longer is employed there.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Moment Of Truth

I said I'd give this new Fox reality show, "Moment Of Truth," a chance. And I did. And I'm done with it.

I'm sick of the phony suspense, the audience that oohs and aahs over every question, the fake pauses the contestants take before answering, and the recorded "that answer was.....true" lady. It's boring, not even remotely scandalous, and worst of all, bad TV.

The contestants can't be shocked by the questions, because they've heard them before -- they were asked several dozen questions when they took the lie detector test. The only surprise is in which of those questions they'll be asked again on camera, so if there's something horribly revealing, they can always stop and back out.

If the first guy in the chair is any example of the kind of victim they hope to showcase, with his high-maintenance trophy wife and his too-easily shocked buddy observing and reacting, the producers wanted to get to something meaty right away. But I had no empathy for him, and the crowd wasn't really interested, either. All they did was act the way primetime game show audiences are now trained to act -- by overreacting to every little thing.


It'll get good ratings because "American Idol" is the lead-in, but that doesn't detract from the real truth of "Moment Of Truth." To paraphrase a little voice I heard tonight, "That show................sucked."

Rep. Jim Guest vs. Real ID

Today on my show, I spoke with state representative Jim Guest, who proposed a bill prohibiting Missouri from complying with the Real ID act, which creates a national identification card.

Guest is trying to get his fellow legislators in Missouri and other states to fight back against DHS. He's also concerned about the security of the federal database that would be created, as well as questions about privacy, identity theft, and personal security. Since the Department of Homeland Security will require you to have the Real ID when you get on a plane or enter any federal building beginning in May, you may have to use your passport a lot more -- even for domestic flights!

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

Previously on Harris Online...

Friday, January 18, 2008

Ken Levine

Today on my show, I talked with writer/producer/director Ken Levine, whose work you may know from some obscure TV shows -- "Cheers," "The Simpsons," "Wings," "Becker," "Everybody Loves Raymond," "Dharma and Greg," and more.

We talked about his years on "M*A*S*H," where he and partner David Isaacs wrote such classics as the episode told entirely from a wounded soldier's perspective, Radar's finale, and others. Levine explained why, after leaving the show after four years, they returned to work on "After-M*A*S*H," which wasn't quite the smash sequel everyone expected.

However, Levine was involved with another spinoff that was pretty successful, a farce called "Frasier," where he got to write for a terrific cast of humans -- and a dog named Eddie. He took a few summers off from the sitcom world to become a major league baseball broadcaster, which he recounted in his memoir, "It's Gone! No, Wait A Minute" (yes, I had him explain the title).

Of the last couple of months, Ken has been walking the Writers Guild picket line, so he provided an update on new developments on that story, including the impact of the Directors Guild making a deal with the studios yesterday.

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

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ken Jennings Returns

I'll take Mormons Not Named Mitt for $300, Alex.

"Jeopardy" champion Ken Jennings was back on my show this afternoon to talk about his newly-published Trivia Almanac.

We talked about the "Jeopardy" history Ken and my mother have in common, his appearances on "1 vs. 100" and "Grand Slam," and what happened to the game show he was going to do for Comedy Central. We also did a bunch of trivia out of his book with some of my listeners.

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

Also on Harris Online...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

No, Really, Thank You

Today in my mailbox, I received an envelope with a thank-you note inside. It was from Victoria, a 13-year-old girl whose mother won a pair of Hannah Montana tickets from me a few days ago. The note was a folded piece of paper with the words "thank you so much" written on the outside and again on the inside, along with Victoria's name, all in her own handwriting.

Very nice.

As soon as I saw it, I knew that her mother, Lori, had told Victoria to send it to me. If she's anything like my wife, Lori is very good about the whole thank-you note thing. If her husband is anything like me, it would never have occurred to him in the first place.

Like most men, I just don't think that way. It doesn't matter how many times my wife tells me what the proper etiquette is for thanking someone for a gift, I'll never remember because it's not in my genes. Oh, I'll thank you next time we talk on the phone, or I'll drop you a quick e-mail (thus horrifying my wife), and I do appreciate whatever you got or did for me, but it's unlikely I'll express it in writing and put it in the mail to you.

The entire greeting card industry is kept afloat by women like my wife and our daughter. They love cards of all kinds. When they get one, they'll keep it on the kitchen table, or the counter, or tape it to the wall, or under a refrigerator magnet -- anywhere it can remind them of the event (or relationship or whatever) for a couple of weeks. I, on the other hand, am pretty much done with the card as soon as I've read it. To appease my wife (and daughter), I do have a pile of cards they've given me through the years, but for everyone else, I appreciated the sentiment and then tossed the card away. Thank-you notes and greeting cards are temporary fixtures in men's lives, but important memorabilia for women.

My wife keeps a stash of thank-you cards, get-well cards, birthday cards, anniversary cards, and condolence cards, ready to be sent at a moment's notice. She even has some I-know-we-just-talked-on-the-phone-for-the-third-time-today-but-I-saw-this-and-thought-of-you cards, which she'll send to her close friends for no reason at all.

With her stash, I'll ask, "Hey, my brother's birthday is next week. Do you have a card we can send him?" And she always does, which saves me a trip to the Hallmark store. The only time you'll see me in that retail outlet is when my wife's birthday or our anniversary is coming up, because it would just be wrong for me to ask her to give me a card to fill out to give right back to her. She expects at least some effort, and I'm there for her. If you're not my wife, and you got a card from me, you can be sure she vetted it first.

Young girls add another element to the world of greeting cards -- personal creativity. Like Victoria's thank-you note, many of them are hand-made. Where a boy would grudgingly sign a card his mother supplied, a girl wants to make it her own. That means there must be more than just words -- art must be added, on the inside, on the outside, on the envelope, etc. If you've ever received a birthday card from your daughter with a hand-drawn duck on it for no particular reason, you know what I mean.

All that effort may be alien to me, but it sure puts a smile on my face. Thank you, Victoria, for your thank-you card.

Now I'll wait for my wife to give me an "I can't believe you thanked her in your blog instead of in a more personal way" card. I'm sure she's been saving one for just this occasion.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Madeleine Albright

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was on my show today to talk about her book, "Memo To The President Elect." I asked her why she appeared behind Hillary Clinton after the Iowa caucuses, but was nowhere to be seen on the night of the New Hampshire primary, and had her explain her role in the Clinton candidacy. We also discussed what the end game should be in Iraq, what she thinks the US can do about Iran, and how dangerous the situation in Pakistan is.

I also asked Albright why the US continues to suck up to the Saudis, just because of the black goo under their sand. The latest example was President Bush announcing today that he'll allow the sale of $20 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia -- with no strings attached regarding their continuing history of allowing Wahabbist madrassahs to preach hatred of the United States, or their terrible record on human rights regarding women.

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

Steroid Testing Student Athletes

The Illinois High School Association approved a program yesterday that will begin random steroid testing of student athletes this fall -- but only for those involved in post-season games. So, if you're on steroids, but your team doesn't make it past the regular season, they'll never find out what you're doing. Or you can use them during the regular season, then stop when you make the playoffs. Oooh, good plan.

State senator Matt Bartle had proposed legislation that would require all school districts to come up with testing programs for performance-enhancing drugs, but he changed that this afternoon to match Illinois' rule regarding post-season play.

Today I talked with Bryan Burwell of the Post-Dispatch about whether these programs are worth it. At $200 per test, if you check 200 kids, that's $40,000, about one teacher's salary. Which is more important?

I also question the role of parents in the use of steroids by their kids. Someone's paying for these expensive drugs, and it's not some high school football player with a parttime job at Hardee's. It's mom or dad opening the checkbook to help their son or daughter get bulked up. Besides, there's no effective test for human growth hormone, which is the new choice in performance-enhancers. The cheaters will always find a way to cheat.

But how many student athletes are using steroids? According to a study of 15,000 kids by the University of Michigan, only about 2% of high-schoolers say they've used steroids. So we're talking about a very small problem and an ineffective way of dealing with it.

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

Monday, January 14, 2008

McCaskill Endorses Obama

Today I talked with Sen. Claire McCaskill, who announced yesterday that she's endorsing Sen. Barack Obama for President.

I asked her why, after not endorsing anyone to this point, she decided to throw her support to Obama, and whether choosing him over Sen. Hillary Clinton will hurt her with women in Missouri who have supported her. Since both McCaskill and Obama are first-term Senators, I asked her if that's enough experience to become President.

We also talked about the recent controversial remarks by Bill Clinton about the Obama "fairy tale" and Hillary's comments about Martin Luther King and LBJ, whether endorsements like this really influence voters, and whether America is ready to elect a black President.

When I asked McCaskill who she considers the most formidable Republican in the race, she surprised me with her answer about John McCain -- I'm sure the hierarchy of the Democratic party was shocked, too -- when she said that, while she hopes a Democrat wins, it's not the end of the world if a Republican like him becomes President. She calls McCain "a maverick...my kind of guy."

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

Meth Mom

We've spent some time on my show talking about Mackenzie Gruenewald, the south county woman who delivered a stillborn baby in 2006 because of her methamphetamine addiction.

The prosecutor has charged her with involuntary manslaughter in a case similar to Sherri Lohnstein, the woman who drank during pregnancy and also had a stillborn baby. Lohnstein pleaded guilty and, instead of being sentenced to seven years in prison, was given four months of rehab through the Missouri Department of Corrections, after which she'll probably be put on probation.

My listeners are split on whether Gruenewald should go to rehab or to jail, but there was a new development in the story this weekend. Gruenewald, while awaiting her trial in St. Louis County jail, has allegedly tested positive again -- for both meth and a baby. Yes, she's pregnant and still on the junk.

All of this made me think of Barbara Harris (no relation), the woman behind Project Prevention, which pays drug addicts and drunks to get long-term or permanent birth control. Today, I invited Barbara back to my show to explain how her program works, how she has paid $300 to some 2,400 women so far, and why women like Gruenewald should know about Project Prevention.

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

Politico Campaign Update

Josh Kraushaar of Politico.com was back on my show this afternoon to talk about the race between McCain and Romney in tomorrow's Michigan primary, whatever happened to Huckabee, and whether Giuliani's wait-till-Florida strategy has ruined his chances to catch up.

We also talked about why the Democratic side is a non-issue in Michigan, where the only ballot choices are Clinton, Dodd, or Uncommitted. What I don't understand is why anyone would show up to vote for Uncommitted. It's like those people who vote for I Don't Know in online polls -- why did you bother?

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

Friday, January 11, 2008

Real ID

Today, I talked with Mark Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center about his opposition to the Real ID act, which mandates national driver's licenses you would use as general identification and need to board a plane or enter a federal building. Your papers, please? Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Lawsuit Of The Day

It sounds like Austin Powers picked the number. Someone in Louisiana is suing the federal government for more than three quadrillion dollars over damage from Hurricane Katrina. To put that in perspective, there are 5 commas in the number ($3,014,170,389,176,410). You'll need more than two forms of ID to cash that check.

For some perspective, if you piled a quadrillion pennies on top of each other, they would reach Saturn. On the other hand, if you gave Mike Gravel a quadrillion dollars, he still couldn't be elected President.

Eleanor Clift

Newsweek's Eleanor Clift was on my show this afternoon to talk about the presidential race, and their cover story on Barack Obama (which she contributed to).

I explained my theory about Hillary Clinton's win in New Hampshire, which I haven't heard anywhere else, and it goes like this: Barack Obama won the Iowa caucuses because he pulled in so many independents, but in New Hampshire, where they can vote for anyone in either party, independents had another candidate to choose -- John McCain -- and they did. Thus, the Democrat primary was left to purely Democrat voters, who tend to favor Clinton at this point.

Clift and I discussed whether Clinton and Obama respect that the other's candidacy is historic, whether John McCain can really run as a candidate of "change," which has been the keyword for others in this election, how much longer Edwards and Romney can keep going without winning a contested primary, and more.

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

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Return of the Electric Car

A year and a half ago, I talked with Chris Paine about his documentary, "Who Killed The Electric Car?" Now General Motors, the company that introduced and then recalled the EV-1, has re-committed to the electric vehicle.

Today I talked with Nick Zielinski, chief vehicle engineer for General Motors, about their plug-in electric car, the Chevy Volt, and other alternative-fuel ideas they're bringing to production. I asked him if they're playing catchup with Toyota, which took the lead with the Prius, and whether -- in my lifetime -- we're likely to see vehicles get away from oil-based energy completely.

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

No Cursing in St. Charles Bars

Today I talked with St. Charles City Councilman Richard Viet about a proposed law banning cursing, profane songs or entertainment, and dancing on the bar in any establishment licensed to sell alcohol.

So you can cancel those plans to open up a Coyote Ugly franchise in Old Town St. Charles.

Viet admits that this isn't a huge problem, but he says they do get a few complaints about someone walking down the street and hearing something through a bar window they don't like. And that's when it's government to the rescue!

Listen to his argument, and then decide how it reconciles with not only the First Amendment, but also the property rights of the bar owner to decide what kind of entertainment he's going to offer his customers. We already have laws about disturbing the peace, so I don't know how they city will enforce the new regulations.

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

A Midwesterner Votes In New Hampshire

What's it like to be caught up in the midst of the "retail politics" in an early primary state? Today I talked with Elaine Ratay, who is from a St. Louis suburb but has lived in New Hampshire for three years and takes seriously her responsibility to be part of the political process.

She has gone to small and large events to see many of the candidates, even taking her three young children along to meet them and see what's going on. She thought she was leaning towards one candidate, but seeing another one in person changed her mind about who she voted for today. I asked her whether she was able to go anywhere without running into a candidate, a political operative, a pollster, or a member of the media -- and whether she was glad it was all over.

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

Friday, January 04, 2008

Bad Headline, Junk Science

The misleading headline in the paper this morning's read, "New cervical cancer vaccine is said to be a very painful injection." The sub-headline: "Health officials also note reports of fainting among girls getting the shot."

Mike Stobbe's Associated Press piece is bad journalism, which could do some real harm by scaring women and girls who should get the HPV vaccine (Gardasil). People complain, "why can't they find a cure for cancer?" Well, here's an effective answer against one type of cancer, yet this article could cause parents to not have their daughters vaccinated, out of fear.

The truth is we're talking discomfort, not pain, but too many people will see the headline and not dig deep enough to gain some perspective on the story. You have to read down to the 8th paragraph before seeing:

The pain is short-lived, girls say; many react with little more than a grimace. But some teens say it's uncomfortable driving with or sleeping on the injected arm for up to a day after getting the shot.
In other words, it's about the same punch-in-the-bicep annoyance as most other vaccines, or your basic tetanus shot. For most teens, it's probably less painful than the tattoo they got with their parents' permission.

As for the fainting, I have adult friends who don't like needles, who have to look away when they donate blood or they'll faint. What about the pain of some dental work? Having a cavity filled is no day in the park. Would Stobbe write a scare piece about those procedures? Of course not.

Stobbe's piece is worse than junk science -- it's junk media. If it comes down to a day of discomfort or a case of cervical cancer for my daughter, the choice is clear.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Carmageddon, Day One

Day One of the Highway 40 closure wasn't the nightmare some expected, but the real impact remains to be seen next week, when everyone's back at work.

Most of my callers this afternoon reported minor problems at worst, and those seemed to be akin to growing pains. If you've taken the same route to work for years and now you have to find another way to get around, there's a learning curve. For instance, some listeners chose Ladue Road as an east-west alternate, only to discover that it's one lane in each direction and gets backed up because of all the traffic lights through residential areas. Now they know better and will choose another alternate tomorrow. Some who opted for mass transit realized that standing on a Metrolink platform waiting for the train on a windy 19 degree evening was less fun than being stuck in traffic in a warm car.

You live, you learn.

St. Louisans are always resistant to change, and this is a big change for some, but we've been telling you for months about this project -- I've interviewed MODOT spokeswoman Linda Wilson within an inch of her life about every aspect of the closure -- so you had plenty of time to prepare.

There are still those who refuse to accept that the highway is now closed. They keep whining that someone should do something about it, that MODOT shouldn't have committed to blowing up the overpasses until the real impact on St. Louis commuters could be judged, that the Governor and the legislature and the highway department aren't listening to the public. The problem is that these complainers are the ones who haven't been listening. They have to get past their denial stage and move onto acceptance. It's done, it's happening, now adjust your life and deal with it.

This construction project isn't going to be a picnic for me, either. Highway 40 was the main artery I used to get from my house to work everyday. Now, I'm among those who have to make the commute on I-44. Still, I'd rather they close the whole thing down and fix it for two years than have to deal with doing the slalom through orange-cone hell for six or seven years.

Here's the oddest suggestion of the day. Rich, another listener, remembered that bricks and other parts of Busch Stadium and the old Arena were sold to fans as memorabilia, and wondered whether we could make arrangements for pieces of the soon-to-be-broken-up highway to be sold for some charity. My reply: who would want them? People who bought those bricks had an emotional connection to those buildings because of the sports events or concerts they attended, not to mention first dates, anniversaries, birthdays, marriage proposals, and business deals that were celebrated there. Who has an emotional connection to a highway? No one remembers anything special about the McKnight off-ramp, or got their first kiss while merging into traffic at Spoede Road.

Then again, the Cardinals did sell those urinals from the former Busch Stadium, and someone bought them, so maybe there would be a buyer for the rusted guardrail MODOT removed today.

How The Huck Does He Not Know?

You can't expect a presidential candidate to know everything, but Mike Huckabee surely should have known he'd be crossing a picket line to do Jay Leno's show tonight. Instead, Mike Allen of Politico.com reported on my show this afternoon, Huckabee told reporters that it was okay, there wouldn't be any picketers, because all the late-night shows had made a deal with the writer's guild -- when, in fact, only David Letterman's company has such an agreement.

Even if Huckabee wasn't personally keeping up with the strike details, someone on his staff had to be. It's impossible to believe that no one in the campaign knew he was headed for a TV studio where the writers (including my friend Jon Macks) would be walking the line, complete with anti-Huckabee signs targeting him for being the first guest on Leno's first show back.

Perhaps Huckabee and/or his advisors believe that his phony populist image will carry him, but this isn't going to help him with any union members whose votes he wanted. It's also strange that, rather than staying in Iowa for every available minute of campaigning before tomorrow night, he's spending so many hours out of the state to do a TV appearance in California that will mostly be seen by people who won't be casting votes for weeks to come. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, stayed in Iowa to tape her cameo appearance for tonight's Letterman show.

Mike Allen will be back on my show tomorrow afternoon to assess the impact of both of those appearances, as well as other factors coming to bear as Iowans engage in their odd political process.