Saturday, November 29, 2008

Quick Thought

Now that Ted Koppel has severed his ties to the Discovery Channel, NBC should move fast to hire him as the new moderator of "Meet The Press." The show needs a relentless questioner, a role Koppel proved he does better than most during his years on "Nightline."

Friday, November 28, 2008

Be The Truck, Not The Squirrel

My longtime friend Andrew Sherman, who has written about a dozen books on business and franchising, has taken a different path with his new one, "Road Rules: Be The Truck, Not The Squirrel -- Learn the 12 Essential Rules for Navigating the Road of Life."

He joined me this morning on WLS/Chicago to talk about the book, as well as how the economic slowdown has affected business in general and his clients specifically. He feels that much of what we're feeling is akin to the hangover after partying too hard for too long, but predicts that it won't last as long as others have predicted.

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

Andrew is a senior partner in the law firm Dickstein Shapiro, legal adviser to dozens of Fortune 500 companies, and a professor at the University of Maryland and Georgetown University. Here's the website for "Road Rules."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include thieves with a too-small getaway car, a teacher who needed sponsors for his math tests, and a surgeon laughing at a woman's brain tumor.

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

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Middle School Muddle

There's a new middle school being built in Tacoma, Washington, and the school board is trying to come up with a name for it. Among the possiblities are Eastside Academy Middle School, First Creek Middle School, Cesar Chavez Middle School, and Barack Obama Middle School.

That last one was suggested Monday afternoon at a school board meeting by board member Kurt Miller, who says Obama's election is a historic moment worth memorializing: "When kids at this new school enter the door of Barack Obama Middle School, that tells them they can be anything they want."

This wouldn't even be the first named after the incoming president, as there's a school in Hempstead, New York, that's already announced its intention to change its name to honor him.

Unfortunately, the Tacoma school district has a policy against naming a building after anyone who hasn't been dead two years, or a president who hasn't served at least one full term. Some members of the board want to change that policy.

It's a bad idea.

I have nothing against Obama, and hope that he'll do a terrific job at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue -- except that he hasn't even been sworn in as President yet, and winning an election with the best campaign in history isn't enough of an accomplishment to name a school in his honor. He may turn out to be America's greatest president, or he may fall flat on his face, but until we have some historical perspective, this move is entirely premature.

Besides, I'm sick of seeing public buildings named after politicians. There's Ronald Reagan this and John Kennedy that, and you can't throw a stick in West Virginia without hitting something named after Robert Byrd. Local politicos are even worse, using their patronage and power to carve themselves into marble and concrete at every opportunity.

Where are the schools named after teachers? I'm a little biased on this, as the son of two educators, but I'd like to see them name the new school after the best teacher in Tacoma -- the teacher that all the kids wanted to have in their classroom, the teacher all the other teachers wanted to be. Every town has someone that good; someone who has spent a couple of decades helping to mold a couple of thousand young minds.

This isn't a red America or a blue America -- this is a brick building full of people committed to giving your child an education.

Think of the message it would send to all of the people on the front lines of America's educational system to honor one of them in the name of a school. The students may only attend for a few years, but for the adults who work there day in and day out, the recognition of one of their own would make them proud, and say something about a community's commitment to the best and the brightest in the field of teaching.

Death From The Skies

Dr. Phil Plait, a/k/a The Bad Astronomer, joined me on KIRO/Seattle today to talk about his new book, "Death From The Skies: These Are The Ways The World Will End."

We talked about how to keep asteroids from slamming into our planet and annihilating civilization (and whether we could just blow them up a la "Armageddon"), the risk of being fried by gamma ray bursts, solar flares, and more. I also asked him about universal events that make astronomers say, "I didn't know that could happen," and we discussed the obstacles in NASA's course towards a possible manned mission to Mars.

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

Phil's Bad Astronomy Blog is one of the most-read science sites online. As one of the leading advocates for the skeptical movement, he has been named the new president of the James Randi Educational Foundation.

You can buy "Death From The Skies" here.

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include a piano in the woods, a house hit-and-run, and a bricklayer's stadium prank.

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

Monday, November 24, 2008

David Sirota

Since Obama's election, several pundits have repeatedly claimed that the US is still a center-right nation. David Sirota rejects that idea, and was on KIRO/Seattle with me this morning to explain why.

He says that the mandate is not to maintain the status quo, but to move forward to something new -- an idea that we've heard from the American populace time and again. Sirota acknowledges that the nation is more culturally conservative, but on economics the consensus is clear:

You simply can't argue any more that the majority of the public doesn't want the government to ... seriously regulate the economy, provide a more robust social safety net, and change our trade laws to make sure we're not exporting jobs."
We also talked about the economic bailout packages the government is offering to the banking and insurance industries, and the investment of your tax dollars in those companies.

Finally, I asked Sirota if he sees any irony in Obama's choice of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.

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

Here's the graph Sirota mentioned in the interview, here's his blog, and his latest book is "The Uprising."

But The CEO Still Has A Private Jet

The Wall Street Journal says GM is trying to save money by not buying batteries for its wall clocks, downgrading to #2 pencils, and using a cheaper grade of toilet paper (a staffer said in a memo to employees this would lower GM's "cost per wipe"). The way things are going, they'll be able to wipe their butts with their stock certificates soon.


My friend Doug Ritter saw a full-page ad in the paper for a Barack Obama collector's item, consisting of an uncirculated Illinois state quarter and a 24k commemorative coin, at the cost of $59. Doug's reaction: "Fifty-nine bucks for two coins? That's not change I can believe in."

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include a man who lost some compromising photos of his wife, a surprise star at the opera, and a dog behind the wheel.

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

Friday, November 21, 2008

Harris Challenge Returns

Last week, when I filled in for Frank O. Pinion on KTRS/St. Louis, I received a lot of requests to play The Harris Challenge (which hadn't been on the air for over 9 months). When producer Dan Strauss found a couple of my old "Middle Of The Day, Middle Of America" coffee mugs in the closet as prizes, I agreed to pull up some categories and questions and put a few listeners to the test.

Here's what it sounded like. The other voices you hear in the studio are Ian Geiss, Tina Dalpiaz, Dan Strauss, and Tim Weiland.

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include a man with a gun stopping traffic, a man on a mower with a pain in his chest, and a lawn full of meat.

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

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dennis Phillips on his WSOP Experience

After Dennis Phillips returned from finishing third at the World Series of Poker Main Event last week, he joined me on KTRS/St. Louis to talk about the experience. I asked him what it meant to him to have more then 300 friends and supporters cheering him on, whether the 117-day delay was good or bad for him, what was going through his mind during the ace-king vs. ace-queen hand against Ivan Demidov that crippled him early on, and much more.

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

Bond, Bad Bond

When I walked out of the new Bond movie, "Quantum of Solace," earlier today, I was shaking my head -- and not just because I have no idea what the title means.

The Bond movies usually have an incomprehensible and ludicrous plot, but they make up for it with witty dialogue, fabulous babes, and fantastic stunt work. Unfortunately, in the Daniel Craig era, we have the quiet, stoic Bond, so the clever verbiage is gone. As for the Bond Babes, they were forgotten before the credits rolled. And thanks to director Mark Forster, we can't enjoy the work of the stunt team because he has edited the action sequences within an inch of their lives.

There must be a hundred cuts a minute in each stunt scene. I've seen music videos with fewer jump cuts. We know there's mayhem taking place, but we rarely get to see anything long enough to recognize what it is. It's so fast that people with ADD can't keep up. The dramatic parts of the story -- particularly those with Dame Judy Dench as M -- are told in slow, rolling tones, but when it's Bond vs. Bad Guy, it's cut so quickly you'd think the editor was paid by the edit (and become fabulously wealthy, judging by the end product).

Also, this Bond engages in a lot more hand-to-hand combat and -- while we're used to seeing heroes and villains punch and kick each other repeatedly without losing even a sliver of ability to continue fighting -- the gadgets are all missing. They long ago killed off Q, Bond's technical wizard, but the void needs to be filled by someone or something that makes you say, "now that's cool!"

Apparently, the only new gadget in the Bond arsenal is high-speed editing software.

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include a divorce blamed on the mother-in-law, a man who took the law into his own hands, and a teenager upset when he couldn't ride shotgun.

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include a man arrested after filing a burglary report, a teen whose crime was foiled by his mother, and a passenger who hit a driver with a sandwich.

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How Not To Vote

Scott Reames e-mails:

Paul, take a look at this excerpt from

There is, however, a portion of the 34,000 who intended to vote for one of the Senate candidates but messed up. Voters were supposed to fill in the circle next to the name of the candidate they supported. Some, however, marked X's. Others circled the name itself or crossed out the names of candidates they didn't like.

So basically the election of a senator from Minnesota will come down to the moron vote... You just have to love the American political process!
My reply:

That's why I'm in favor of moving all precincts to the touch-screen ballot. In the 21st century, there's no reason the outcome of a statewide or federal election should come down to random ink marks on a piece of paper. Sure, there will be some voters who don't know how to use it, but it can't possibly be as bad as the continuing problems with paper ballots, butterfly ballots, optical scan ballots, and the other permutations of ballots that a small minority of Americans can't seem to use.

Frankly, I'd tell those people that, if they can't follow simple instructions, their votes just won't count. This ain't brain surgery.

Scott's reply:
I totally agree with your comments. Those who worry about fraud could have the option of printing out a confirmation of their selections on the touch screen. And there'd be the added benefit of having results in a matter of minutes rather than the two weeks it seems to be taking the good people in Alaska to tabulate their ballots.

It is baffling to me that the right to vote, which we hold so dear and feel compelled to export to other corners of the world, is so badly funded and poorly executed every two/four years here in the US of A. Election Day should be a national holiday, with state-of-the-art polling machines in every corner of every state. Long lines around the corner and misfilled bubbles and hanging chads and butterfly ballots would be comical if so much were not riding on their outcome.

We can select an American Idol without much difficulty just using text messaging, after all.

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include a wife who doesn't have an STD, a husband who cheated with a virtual prostitute, and a man who couldn't wait to throw his trash away.

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

Monday, November 17, 2008

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include a legal fight over a spilled trash can, two DUI's for the price of one, and a cash-less bank robbery.

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

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Random Thoughts

Is there anywhere in the world where a Hooters restaurant is more redundant than Vegas? It's almost quaint in that town.

Lars Ullrich, drummer for Metallica, just sold a piece of art from his collection for $13.5 million. It's a 1982 work by Jean-Michel Basquiat entitled "Untitled." That's almost as much as the record for a Basquiat piece, $14.6 million, for another work named "Untitled." How is it possible that a person can create paintings of such value but not come up with names for them? He could have asked a kindergartner for random words and done better than "Untitled." Jeesh, at least Beethoven numbered his symphonies.

Every weekday, CNBC and other networks show the close of the trading day on Wall Street, with a group of people from some company who have been given the honor of ringing the bell to end the day. They're always clapping and smiling, even when the market has yet again tanked by several hundred points. Why? Is it possible none of them has invested their own money in the market?

Nice to see that some retailers are refusing to carry products sold in those plastic containers that are impossible to open. Amazon, for one, is leading the way in ridding the marketplace of the consumer annoyance.

A man in Louisville has been hiccuping on and off for a year. It's time he tried My Guaranteed Hiccup Remedy.

With gas prices back down below $2/gallon, let's hope Americans don't revert to our old habits of buying gas-guzzlers we don't need. We've been through this before -- am I the only one who remembers odd/even gas rationing in the Carter years? -- and we seem incapable of learning our lesson. Whatever prices may be now, they're sure to shoot up again by next summer, and the whining will begin anew.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include thieves who didn't know the value of what they stole, a grocery store burglary foiled by cheese, and a drunk who tried to pay his bar tab with gum wrappers.

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

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include a woman saved by her purse, a family full of DUI's, and a poorly planned escape.

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

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Watching The Final Table

Seeing the World Series of Poker Final Table play out on ESPN tonight was a semi-surreal experience, since I'd been at the Rio to view it live on Sunday and Monday.

Watching a poker tournament in person is to endure long stretches of boredom interrupted by a minute or two of heart-stopping excitement. TV wants none of the former and much of the latter, which ESPN accomplished by working overtime to edit two days of play into just two hours of primetime coverage.

Condensing time like that can create illusions, though. You didn't see the long pauses between players' decisions, the time-outs while video was collected from the cameramen or other technical concerns were addressed, the extended Poker Hall Of Fame induction ceremony right after the dinner break. On the other hand, those of us in the Penn & Teller Theater didn't see any of the on-screen graphics showing the players' hole cards and their win percentages. We also couldn't hear anything they said to each other around the table (which added context to much of what we saw), nor the pre-taped player interviews, nor the brilliant comedy of Mr. Norman Chad.

On tonight's telecast, it looked like Dennis got in trouble right out of the gate on the first two hands played. In reality, very little happened in the first hour or so. I had to explain to several of Dennis' non-poker-playing fans that this is how tournament poker is often played -- mostly a single pre-flop raise and everyone else folds. It was as if the players were waiting to see if any of their opponents had changed their style or were masking their tells or had returned to the groove they'd been in when the tournament went on hiatus in July.

Then came the hand that effectively crippled Dennis. After a series of re-raises pre-flop, Ivan Demidov made a huge move with Ace-Queen on a flop of Jack-Ten-Eight. Dennis had picked up something weak about the Russian, and bet out with his Ace-King. But Demidov came over the top and pushed all-in, putting Dennis to the test.

Dennis took his time making his decision -- had he read Demidov wrong, or was the kid bluffing with a gutshot straight draw? Enough doubt crept in that Dennis finally folded, giving up 10 million of his 26 million chips. Had he made the call and his cards held up, it would have given him a huge lead with a massive stack of over 50 million.

As things didn't get better for Dennis, his huge crowd of supporters was quiet for a long time. But we came to life later when Dennis won a couple of crucial hands, got his momentum back, and rebuilt his chip stack. Unfortunately, once it got down to three players -- Dennis vs. Peter Eastgate vs. Ivan Demidov -- the two younger men had too much of a chip lead for Dennis to overcome, particularly with cold cards.

After he went out, the Dane and the Russian played for four more hours with very few hands of note. On ESPN, it came down to two hands -- one in which Eastgate put a major hurt on Demidov, and then the final one where Eastgate's five-high straight crushed Demidov's two pair and made him poker champion of the world.

I had several people from the WSOP and the Rio (and even supporters of other players) tell me how much fun my fellow St. Louisans -- in our Broadway Truck shirts and Cardinals caps -- added to the event. Some of the other players seemed to enjoy it, too. You could tell that ESPN was thrilled to still have us around, giving them great visuals and lots of noise, two elements of good television.

All of that is because of a truck salesman from St. Louis named Dennis Phillips, who beat 6,842 other players to finish third at the 2008 World Series Of Poker Main Event.

He went out with a smile on his face, and so did lots of other people.

Hooked On Roger

Here's another story from this weekend in Vegas, but I'm going to change the name of the person involved. Let's call him Roger.

Friday morning, the phone rings in my room at 7:30am. It's Roger, saying, "I can't sleep, let's go get breakfast." I tell him he woke me up and this is way too early, considering the fact that we'll both be up late every night we're here, but I can tell by how jazzed he is that he doesn't care. I agree to meet him at 8:30am. He replies, "Fine. I'm gonna go play some blackjack."

I drag myself out of bed, take a shower, check e-mail and a few websites, and an hour later, I go downstairs. There aren't many people gambling this early, so it's easy to find Roger -- but he's not alone. There's a young woman sitting next to him. Really close to him. She's dolled up in a short, low-cut dress and rubbing his leg and flirting with him mercilessly. I immediately size her up as a hooker trying to make a sale.

Now, there are a few things I know about Roger and one of them is that he knows exactly what's going on here, and there's exactly zero chance he's going to take this woman upstairs to his room, or anywhere else. He's a family man, very dedicated to his wife and kids, and despite the "What happens in Vegas" mantra, would never indulge in this offering. BUT, he's going to enjoy play-acting the moment, which he is clearly doing.

When I walk up and say hello, Roger introduces me to Lily (I'm making up her name because I don't remember it, and even if I did, it probably wasn't her real name) and says she just finished dancing at one of the local strip clubs (shocker!!) and came over to play some blackjack. "Yeah, I'm all hyper and I want to have some fun," explains Lily.

Fine. I give Roger a look that says, "You look like you're enjoying this, but you woke me up to have breakfast and I'm here and let's go to the buffet" (yeah, it's a pretty good look). To which he replies, "Just a couple more hands and then we'll go." Lily misunderstands and, as if to send me a message to get lost, leans closer to Roger and repeats, "Yeah, a couple more hands and then we'll go." At this point, Roger sets her straight, saying, "No, he and I are going to have breakfast. You and I aren't going anywhere."

Sorry, Lily, no sale. Roger told me later that conducting business with her would have cost $200, which he had no intention of giving her. Worse for Lily, by that time of the morning, the number of other male marks looking for female companionship of that type had dwindled to roughly zero. Worst of all, she lost $300 bucks at the blackjack table. Combined with the sale she didn't make, that's a net loss for Lily of $500.

What did Roger gain? He dropped some money at the table, too, but was kind of into the play-acting and attention, and then laughing about it over breakfast. And knowing our friends, he had a Vegas story that was not going to stay in Vegas.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dennis Finishes Third

Sorry to say that the Dennis Phillips World Series Of Poker dream is over.

I won't give away all the details in case you're planning to watch ESPN's delayed coverage on Tuesday night -- but I'll tell you a couple of things, including the fact that Dennis came in third. That means he beat 6,842 other players.

Although Dennis started the Final Table as the chip leader, he was card dead most of the day, and early on lost two big pots that knocked him from a high of 26 million chips to a low of 5 million -- and almost went out in ninth place, which would have been a shock to everyone's system.

Instead, he worked to increase his stack to where it was when he started the day, while watching 6 other players bust out. In the end, though, he was severely short-stacked against his two remaining opponents after more than 12 hours of concentrating on his game under those blaring TV lights you see in the picture above (taken from my front row seat, no more than 8 feet from the final table). At that point, Dennis got tangled up in a hand and shoved all his chips in, which turned out to be the wrong move at the wrong time.

For his effort, Dennis turned a $200 investment in a satellite tournament in St. Louis into $4.5 million paycheck in Las Vegas. Not a bad return and, as I told him afterwards, a great run by a great guy.

Dennis received a standing ovation from everyone present when he was eliminated; recognition of his remarkable feat, and thanks, I think, for bringing so much fun to the final table with his huge rooting section. You'll see lots of shots of us on ESPN tomorrow night -- even the fans of other players commented on the three hundred St. Louisans in matching shirts and Cardinals caps festooned with sponsor logos, plus a truck horn rigged up by his colleagues at Broadway Truck Center, which was blown every time he took down a pot.

And I know it was a thrill for Dennis to look up into the stands surrounding the final table and realize he was being scrutinized by such poker illuminati as Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Jennifer Harman, Hoyt Corkins, Phil Hellmuth, Barry Greenstein, Chris Ferguson, Andy Bloch, Hevad Khan, Scott Cunningham, Johnny Chan, and Dewey Tomko (one of two new Poker Hall Of Fame inductees, along with Henry Ornstein, creator of the hole-card cam that revolutionized poker by making it so TV-friendly).

While I'm at it, major kudos to the group of friends Dennis has known since they all went to Blackburn College together -- Dave, Kay, Jerry, Carl, Ryan -- who made up the core of Team Dennis along with coach Joe McGowan, accountant Ryan Bricker, and consigliere Josh Schindler. They all worked their asses off to make this weekend such a success for all of us.

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Will return in a few days.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Final Table Weekend

I'm in Las Vegas this weekend, ready to watch Dennis Phillips at the Final Table of the World Series Of Poker Main Event. That begins tomorrow morning with the November Nine, who will play all day until seven champion. You'll be able to see some of this in a two-hour special Tuesday night on ESPN.

Yesterday, Dennis played in an event designed for him called The Chip Leader Challenge. He and 17 pros -- including poker stars like Barry Greenstein, Michael Mizrachi, David Benyamine, Roy Winston, Havad Khan, and Todd Brunson -- each put up $10,000 to play a two-table freezeout at the Hard Rock. There were some St. Louisans in the tournament as well, including Josh Schindler (Dennis' attorney) and Nelly. Though Dennis didn't win it because of a bad beat against Mizrachi, he did play very well against an extremely tough lineup. It should be a big boost for him going into the Final Table on Sunday.

Dennis has an impressive team of people helping him coordinate the massive group of people who are here to support him. Several of his longtime friends are working their butts off to make sure we're all outfitted with shirts like his, with all his sponsor logos, plus the obligatory Cardinals cap, organizing the hotel rooms, parties and dinners, while Dennis moves from venue to venue, occasionally stopping for another interview, and never losing his everyman quality.

Regardless of what happens tomorrow, it's been fun to be part of this year with him.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include a woman with a fox on her arm, an accidental mayor, and a driver who thought he was in his car but wasn't.

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

This podcast is made possible by Champion Windows Siding & Patio Rooms.
They've done great work for me, and I recommend them to you!
For factory-direct savings, call 314-692-7300 or visit their showroom.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include a guy named after several superheroes, a cop arrested by another cop, and a drunk who drove to the police station to find out if he was too drunk to drive.

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

This podcast is made possible by Champion Windows Siding & Patio Rooms.
They've done great work for me, and I recommend them to you!
For factory-direct savings, call 314-692-7300 or visit their showroom.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

English Only

Michael Hendren writes:

Amendment 1 passed overwhelmingly in the State of Missouri yesterday. This makes the State Seal of Missouri in direct violation of the Missouri Constitution. How can we let this egregious blatant attempt to expose our legal system to non-English phrases like "Salus Populi Suprema Lex Esto" stand? There are many statutes on the books in the state of Missouri that contain similar non-English phrases. I assume these laws are no longer valid in this state as they violate our newest Amendment to our constitution.

I am writing to advise you, and anyone else you wish to invite, to write to Attorney General/Governor-Select Jay Nixon to update the state seal poste haste ... er... I mean "very quickly."

... And don't try to give me any of that ex post facto non-sense or you'll have to be cited with contempt.

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include an unlikely speeding ticket, broken glass at a police station, and a golfer who hit an accidental hole in one.

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

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Yes We Can

Our new president remains our greatest orator. In his acceptance speech tonight, Barack Obama was thankful, hopeful, poetic -- and something else. He spoke not from a position of superiority and smugness, but with humility, patriotism, and pride, plus a message for more than domestic consumption:

To all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world. Our stories are singular but our destiny is shared. The new dawn of American leadership is at hand.

To those who would tear the world down, we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security, we support you. And to all those who wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright, tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.
The man can speak, and his words are inspirational. Now comes the hard part -- leadership.

Full transcript here.


Moments ago, some of those extremist GOP supporters continued to show their lack of class in booing Obama and Biden during John McCain's concession speech.

He quieted them down, then gave his best speech of the year, including a gracious acknowledgement not only of Obama's victory, but also of the history-making event that unfolded this evening, the rise of a black man to the presidency of the United States of America. In his call for unity, it was as if McCain was saying, "Knock off the racist and divisive crap, we have too much work to do":

I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together, to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.
His campaign would have connected with a lot more people if McCain had allowed that side of his personality to be seen more often this year, rather than the grumpy name-caller.

Full transcript here.


Nice job by CNN and MSNBC at 10pm, as they announced their official projections that Barack Obama has been elected the 44th President of the United States.

Their anchors then shut up for several minutes as cameras cut from Chicago to New York to Spellman College to other venues, showing crowds of cheering supporters. Some of them were crying with joy and the realization they have been witnesses and participants to history.

Not only has Obama become the first black President, but when the totals are finalized, he will have gotten more votes than any other politician in the history of the USA. The only sour note in all this is that his grandmother didn't live one more day to see the boy she raised become The Man.

A Loss For The Loss Limit

It looks like the Missouri casino loss limit is going to be repealed (as I urged in this column a few days ago). At this point, Prop A is passing by a 55-45% margin. That's a victory for anyone who wants to keep the government out of our private financial decisions.

Colbert's Call

Stephen Colbert on tonight's Daily Show/Colbert Report combo show: "It's not looking all that good for McCain, yet anything could happen. Meat could grow on trees."

Unreported Election Night Results

More proof that third parties don't matter this year: the total number of people who voted for Ralph Nader plus Bob Barr is less than the population of Obama supporters in Chicago's Grant Park tonight.


Michigan voters show their compassion by passing medical marijuana -- Prop 1 will permit terminally and seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana with their doctors' approval. Nice to know they'll have a new administration in the White House that won't order raids and crackdowns on people in pain despite the newly-expressed will of the people.


Andrew Sullivan blogs, "I'm watching Fox News now. They insist that America remains a center-right country. I think they're right. But the GOP is no longer a center-right party. It's a fringe religious, Dixie-based, big government machine, that relies on fear of others to win elections. And so it lost in a center-right country. And a center-left candidate beat them. "

Still Counting

Mark Evanier says, "It's not over. McCain could still carry all the houses he owns."

Nap Time

Judge Andrew Napolitano on Fox News Channel, after observing that there are no states McCain can win that will be of any further consequence: "It's so much better for voters to decide these things than for judges [to do it]."

A Continuing Voting Scandal

While I didn't have to wait long to vote in West (St. Louis) County, there are reports of massive problems in North County, where some people had to wait 6 to 8 hours to cast their vote. Many of those precincts are majority-black and/or lower-income, and have had these problems in earlier election years. Someone is going to have to do something to redistribute the polling place wealth -- there's no reason those precincts should have a shortage of voting booths while we have such a surplus.

Update at 8:57pm: How massive is the backup at some of these places? KMOV 4's Julian Grace just interviewed a woman who got in line in Velda City at 5:30am, but didn't get to vote until five minutes ago, some 15 hours later.

It's Over

MSNBC just called Ohio for Obama.

The first words out of Joe Scarborough's mouth were, "The thread is broken." He continued, "We don't want to call it, there's still people on the west coast that have to vote, but I don't see any pathway" for McCain to win.

The B Nets

BET's coverage seems to include an unseen studio audience, which applauds every time they come back from commercials. Anchor (Jeff Johnson) and others at the desk all have laptops open in front of them, and two of the panelists seem very involved in whatever's on that screen rather than what's happening on the set around them. There's a palpable sense of being part of black history in everything they say and do, as if they'll break out the champagne when Obama gets to 270.

BBC America isn't nearly as interested in flashy graphics as the US networks. It seems to be entirely about erudite white men spouting opinions you've heard a thousand times before elsewhere. On the other hand, this is the only channel whose anchorman has a flower in his lapel.


Fox had a check mark next to Obama in Ohio earlier. Shep Smith just said that was a mistake, the state is too close to call.

BTW, their graphic of bellweather states isn't called "Battleground States" -- Fox calls it "Key States For McCain."

Nixon's The One

While the presidential voting in Missouri hasn't been called yet, the AP called the governor's race for Democrat Jay Nixon at 7:15pm, just a quarter-hour after the polls close. That's indicative of a huge victory.

Election Night, STL Style

Of the local St. Louis stations, only Fox 2 is running a continuous ticker at the bottom of the screen with statewide election results -- even under commercial breaks -- while Shep Smith does his usual solid job of anchoring the national coverage. He just reported that, despite the McCain campaign complaining about Pennsylvania being projected for Obama, Fox is not backing off from its call.

KSDK 5 has lower third graphics, as well, but doesn't keep them up all the time. Mike Bush seems more interested in promoting what's coming up than telling us what's going on. Reporter Leisa Zigman is doing her usual good work in the field.

KMOV 4's local cut-in segments look best, with Larry Conners and Vicki Newton, and tons of content on their website, too. It looked to me like they were first to project Democratic attorney general Jay Nixon running away with the governor's race.

KDNL 30 has no local news department, so they put the ABC switch in the on position and kept it there all night long. That includes the segments before the top and bottom of the hour where local stations would insert their local coverage, which the network covers with Sam Donaldson and some not-so-high-tech graphics for five minutes.

King Of The Wall Map

On CNN, John King's doing his thing with the touch screen map, zooming in key counties, moving from state to state, and talking a mile a minute. Cool graphics, excellent information.

Bill Hemmer's got a similar map graphic on Fox, but it's not as detailed, and it looks like he's John Madden working the telestrator.

A Good Resource

The best info on how Missouri is voting is on the Secretary of State's official election page, which includes live results from every race in the state.

Florida, Again?

NBC's Kerry Sanders just explained how Palm Beach County, Florida, may be a problem again because of the insane way they force voters to mark ballots. Instead of filling in a circle or making an "x" or a check mark, they instead have to connect two figures by filling in the space between them to make an arrow that points to the candidate's name. From Sanders' demonstration, it's clear that election officials in that Florida county continue to be morons.

After the piece, Brian Williams commented, "How many people watching right now are saying, 'Does it have to be this hard to cast a vote this year, especially, you'd think, given the history???'"

Help Me, Wolfy One Blitzenobi

On CNN, Wolf Blitzer is talking to Jessica Yellin, the correspondent covering the Obama rally in Grant Park in Chicago. Jessica appeared as a hologram in front of him on the CNN Election Center set. My wife immediately said she looks like Princess Leia being projected by R2D2.

Yellin just made the Leia reference herself, and explained the technology -- she's in a high-tech tent in Chicago, surrounded by 35 high-def cameras shooting her at different angles to transmit a whole-body image back to New York, and they move in sync with the cameras in Wolf's studio.

Wolf introduced this segment by saying, "We're going to do something you've never seen on television." Unless you've ever seen a "Star Trek" episode, of course.

Unfortunately, Yellin's image looks ghostly and shaky like a bad green-screen special effect. A simple live shot would have been better.

Update 6:36pm: NBC's high-tech counter is Ann Curry in their virtual reality studio, with a giant cylinder rising out of the floor to show off exit poll info. I think it was Lynn Sherr who worked with this kind of graphic first, back in 2000. Unlike Yellin on CNN, Curry has no electronic halo around her.

Update 6:41pm: There's a lot of extraneous noise around Diane Sawyer, Charlie Gibson, and George Stephanopolous on ABC -- a very bad job of sound design. Perhaps they wanted it to seem like a busy working newsroom, with ringing phones, keyboard typing, and people talking, but it comes off as clutter.

Multi-Channel Election Night

As I sit down to several hours of Election Night coverage, it's good to see Dish Network is once again offering six networks on one screen on Channel 100. You get thumbnails of FNC, CNN, MSNBC, HNN, and both C-Span channels, and can pick the audio you want.

Just Back From Voting

Though turnout in our precinct is way above average today -- at 4:20pm, I was voter 921 in a precinct with 1,400 registered voters -- I was relieved to see there were only a half-dozen people in line ahead of me. I waited 10 minutes, then it took less than 5 to cast my ballot, even with all the propositions, referenda, and constitutional amendments.

My wife arrived at the polling place at 7:25am, and was out by 7:45, but she talked to some other people who had lined up before the doors opened at 6am, and then had to wait for over an hour for everyone in the line to move through.

It would have gone faster if I'd chosen the optical scan ballot instead of the touch screen. There were ten booths for the paper ballots, but only three touch screens, which most of us wanted to use -- thus the line. With more voters who are comfortable with techonology joining the voter rolls with each election, our precinct (and others) will have to invest in more touch screens for future campaigns.

Eight years ago, I laid out a plan to use technology to modernize the election process and make voting easier for everyone. Sadly, while 30 other states now allow early voting by mail and in person, there's been no indication that Missouri election officials are moving in that direction.

Two Milestones To Mark Today

  1. Joe The Plumber's 15 minutes are officially over.
  2. There are only 26 months until the next presidential campaign begins.

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include a cop with bad gun skills, an employee who didn't get a sick day because of his Facebook page, and a man surprised by a re-surfaced road.

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

Monday, November 03, 2008

Voting By Mail

Scott Reames writes from Portland, Oregon:

Thanks for the link on your site today to Aaron's story about networks calling elections before the polls close out west.

As someone who has lived on the Left Coast ever since leaving St. Louis, I can speak first-hand about the frustration of going to the polls in Oregon when the national election is already conceded.

That's why I love Oregon's vote-by-mail system. My wife and I sat down at our dining room table with a nice syrah/cabernet blend last Thursday evening and went through the local, state and federal races and ballot measures, one by one filling in the little bubbles (no hanging chads here!) with our #2 pencils. We chatted about a ballot measure or whether we needed to bubble in a candidate who was running unopposed (we decided we would…if the candidate goes to the trouble to run, we should at least fill in the bubble), and were finished in about 20 minutes.

We sealed our respective ballots in security envelopes, which went into the mailing envelopes. She signed her envelope, while I signed mine, just as we would have signed in at the poll. We then settled in to watch "The Office" and enjoy the rest of the bottle of wine.

I dropped the ballots off at the county sheriff's office just up the road on Friday on my way to work. Now we are sitting back and waiting for the rest of the country to take care of business tomorrow afternoon.

Despite 'sky is falling' predictions of massive voter fraud when the law was first proposed a decade or so ago, it's a system that works beautifully, with no standing in long lines in the rain, no missing hours of work in those lines, no being duped by robocalls telling us that Democrats vote on Wednesday and so forth.

And an extra bonus is that because our balloting period, from when we first receive them until election day, is usually about three weeks, the candidates and special interest groups have to dilute their ad pitches and mailers over a 20-day period. By the weekend before the election, most of the ads have stopped because ballots have to be mailed by Friday to ensure they arrive by Tuesday. You can still drop them off until 8pm on election night, but most candidates seem to curtail their attack ads by the mailing deadline, giving us all three blissful days of relief.

So there is my pitch…if you think v-b-m is a good idea, please spread the word. It doesn't require a national holiday to vote and it saves a bundle on staffing polling places all over the state!
Scott, I have liked Oregon's vote-by-mail idea since I first heard of it, and haven't heard a negative comment about it from anyone who lives there. Thanks for sharing your insider's perspective!

Knuckleheads In The News ®

Today's stories include a man with a real pot belly, a woman trying to get her driver's license un-suspended, and a husband who put his wife up for sale online.

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