Listen to me on KTRS/St. Louis Mondays and Fridays, 3-6pm CT

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Where's Bernard Shaw When We Need Him?

Some journalist needs to ask Donald Trump a modern version of the question Bernard Shaw asked Michael Dukakis in 1988:
If one of your daughters, Ivanka or Tiffany, were raped and became pregnant with the rapist's child, should she be allowed to have an abortion? If abortion were banned, would you help her get one anyway? And since you say that women who have an illegal abortion should be punished, how many years in prison would you suggest for your daughter?

Peter Marshall, The Original Hollywood Square


Peter Marshall turns 90 today. You may remember him as the original host of "The Hollywood Squares" from 1966 to 1981, but he also did a few movies and Broadway shows. We talked about all of it when he stopped by my studio on September 13, 2002. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Air BnB For The Politically Corrupt

Kurt Erickson has a piece in the Post-Dispatch about Missouri lawmakers who rent rooms in Jefferson City houses that are owned by lobbyists:

It’s all perfectly legal for lawmakers to have business dealings with lobbyists under Missouri’s wide-open ethics laws, where candidates can take unlimited amounts of campaign money and be wined and dined by the companies and groups seeking to influence policy under the statehouse dome.
It's "legal" because the people who made the law are the ones benefitting from it. But it's certainly not ethical. Erickson continues:
For some, the business relationship is not about a soft pillow and a quiet room to sleep. Records indicate Tyler McClay, a lobbyist, needed a pest control company for his office and called Art’s Pest Control. The business is owned by state Rep. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City. Similarly, state Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, is an investment adviser with Edward Jones. Lobbyist William Jarad Falk uses his services and, therefore, must report the existence of a business relationship. “Rep. Engler handles my retirement investments,” reads a note on Falk’s January report to the ethics commission.
The fact that no one involved sees any conflict of interest in these deals tells you all you need to know about political corruption. They will, with a straight face, assert that the fact that one relies on the other for financial gain has no impact whatsoever on whether the lobbyist gets extra access to the legislator to ensure that the law is crafted for their benefit. Moreover, these politicians probably believe that by having lobbyists file monthly reports, they're keeping everything above board and in the light. After all, if the information is available somewhere in the legislature's paperwork, they can't be hiding anything, right?

The truth is, the public doesn't know or care about the reports. We only want to know that our elected officials are representing our interests, not those of the landlords whose homes they're living in. But as usual in our corrupt political system, that's a fantasy.

Read Erickson's full piece here.

Hell Of A Time


A recent story about the town of Hell, Michigan, being up for sale brought back a flood of memories from the late 1980s.

I was doing the morning show at WCXR/Washington, where the heat and humidity become oppressive in July and August (just like in St. Louis). One day, I read an article about a town in Michigan called Hell, and wondered whether the temperature there was below ours, allowing me to say DC was literally hotter than hell.

This was in the pre-internet days, so I couldn't just look up the weather in Hell. I found the area code for that part of Michigan, then called a directory assistance operator and asked her for the number of any business in the town of Hell. She gave me the number of the Dam Site Inn, which sounded perfect. When I called, a man named Virgil answered the phone. I asked his permission to put him on the air and, when he agreed, a new regular contributor to my show was born.

He sounded exactly the way you'd want a guy named Virgil to sound. He was more than happy to explain that the Dam Site Inn was a dive bar that attracted a lot of bikers. Although he wasn't the owner, he got in there early every morning to set up for the day and make sure that the previous evening's mess had been cleared away. He told me that Hell was just a small town with a few businesses including the bar and a nearby ice cream parlor. Tourists often came through to get things postmarked at the Hell post office, and there was a wedding chapel, too (for couples that want to start life together in Hell). Best of all, he had a thermometer in his window so he could tell me the temperature there -- and confirm that yes, in fact, we were hotter than Hell that morning.

After a few minutes, I said goodbye to Virgil and thanked him for his time. He said he was happy to do it and I could call any time. So I did. Not every day, but about once a week during those stifling summer months. I even called him in the winter to see if we were colder than Hell -- it turned out that snowballs, in fact, had a pretty good chance there. Each and every time, Virgil was gracious, funny, and a perfect real-life radio character.

My audience loved him as much as I did. The following summer, I got a call from one of my listeners who, on a cross-country trip, had stopped in at the Dam Site Inn. He described the place as exactly the kind of dive bar Virgil had said it was, but everyone inside was having a good time, while outside there were dozens of motorcycles parked in the lot. While there, he had told Virgil the reason he came in was because he'd heard about the place on my show, and Virgil replied, "Oh, yeah, I know that guy!"

I continued calling Virgil on occasion over the next couple of summers. He was willing to talk about any subject I brought up and played along like a member of the team. But one day when I called, someone else answered the phone. To make a long story short, it turned out that Virgil had died. He'd had cancer, but never mentioned it.

After Virgil was gone, I stopped calling Hell. The Dam Site Inn is still around, but Hell just isn't the same without him.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Fun-Free Superheroes


"Batman vs. Superman" may have taken in $170 million at the box office this weekend, but that doesn't mean it's any good. On Friday, I gave it a four out of ten in the review on my Showbiz Show, but the more I think about it, that was too generous. I forgot one key element that's missing in this and all the other recent Batman and Superman movies: fun.

For those of us who grew up with their TV versions, with Adam West as Batman and George Reeves as Superman, there was an element of campiness that made the shows clever and entertaining. When the characters moved to the big screen with Michael Keaton and Christopher Reeve, the scripts were still infused with not just wit, but also some comic relief (e.g. Reeve's Superman going to change clothes in a phone booth but discovering they don't have doors anymore, or Robert Wuhl's snarky reporter).

Plus, those shows and movies had great villains, which are always the key to super-hero and super-spy movies. If the hero doesn't have someone with an oversized ego and a world-conquering plan, there's no reason for the audience to care. Give me Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledger as the Joker over Tom Hardy as Bane or Cillian Murphy as Scarecrow anyday. Gene Hackman's joyful smirk as Lex Luthor in the first two "Superman" movies runs rings around the simply annoying version played in the new movie by Jesse Eisenberg.

Perhaps the blame can be placed on CGI. The earlier versions of these superhero stories couldn't rely much on special effects, because they looked cheap even when they cost lots of money. Now, the state of the art has advanced so far that directors and writers rely on them too much. They put the emphasis on the battles, the explosions, and the destruction, but forget to flesh out the characters and the lines that come out of their mouths.

Batman and Superman got their start in comic books, but the current keepers of their flames seem to have forgotten the comic part. No one needs superheroes who are dour, depressed, and haunted by events from their childhood -- we have enough of those people in our real lives.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Saudi Arabia's Continuing Lies And Oppression

About a decade ago, I was offered the opportunity to interview Abdallah bin Yahya Al-Moallimi, the Saudi ambassador to the UN, while he was in St. Louis. I have a long history of speaking out against Saudi Arabia, our "partner in peace," so I agreed to have him in the studio only if there were no conditions, no topics I had to avoid. His people agreed, but afterwards, they were not happy with me.

During the conversation, I pressed him repeatedly on human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, particularly towards women. I asked why his country didn't do more to take military action against bad regimes in the Middle East. I questioned whether the US would suck up to the Saudis if they didn't have oil. I asked why the Saudi government would not allow any kind of political dissent or popular elections.

The ambassador tried to weasel out of every question I raised, at one point claiming that Saudi Arabia was about to announce free and open elections for municipalities across the kingdom, and that both men and women would be allowed to make their own choices at the ballot box. That never happened.

Fast forward to this year to see that the Saudi government is still dealing harshly with anyone who dares speak out against the royal theocracy that runs the nation. In January, it publicly executed 48 people who had spoken out against its oppression of the minority Shia population. Earlier this month, it sentenced a writer to six years in prison for "insulting the state and its rulers."

Last week, Saudi Arabia sentenced journalist Alaa Brinji to five years in prison over a series of tweets. According to Amnesty International,

He was convicted by Saudi Arabia’s notorious counter-terrorism court, known as the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC), on a range of charges, including "insulting the rulers of the country," "inciting public opinion," "accusing security officers of killing protestersin Awamiyya," "ridiculing Islamic religious figures," and "violating Article 6 of the Anti-Cyber Crime Law." The court also ordered the closure of his Twitter account. All of these charges stem from tweets he posted online some of which were in support of Saudi Arabian women’s right to drive cars, human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience.
Friday night, Al Jazeera aired a piece about Saudi Arabia's involvement in Yemen and Syria. It was done by journalist Mehdi Hasan, who sat down with Al-Moallimi and asked questions similar to mine. As you'll see in the excerpt below, the ambassador is still giving the same non-answers...

Previously on Harris Online...

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Rammed Again

St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter David Hunn has done some great work over the last year covering the machinations behind the departure of the Rams. His latest piece reveals how this city's history of making bad deals with the team goes back to the very beginning, in the mid-90s.

Hunn writes that the 27-acre practice facility the team used for years, Rams Park, is owned by the Dome Authority but has been rented to the team for $25,000/year. That's an amazingly low number. There are people in some St. Louis suburbs who pay more than that for their mortgage.

Worse, Hunn says that the Rams have an option to buy the park at the termination of the lease for $1 (that's not a misprint -- one dollar!) and cites the clause that says, the option "shall survive any termination of the lease regardless of the reason for such termination." In other words, even the departure of the Rams for another city doesn't void the ridiculously cheap purchase option.

It's a classic example of a town that was so desperate to get an NFL team two decades ago that it made huge concessions to the team and its ultra-rich ownership. St. Louis was blind to the greed and aggressive lawyering of the Rams then, just as it was last year after owner Stan Kroenke dissed the town publicly as he moved the team to Los Angeles.

Everyone involved in making the original deal, with all of those killer stipulations, should bow their heads in shame.

Jann Wenner Explains

Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner loves what Bernie Sanders says, but...

I've been watching the debates and town halls for the past two months, and Sanders' righteousness knocks me out. My heart is with him. He has brought the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations to the ballot box. But it is not enough to be a candidate of anger. Anger is not a plan; it is not a reason to wield power; it is not a reason for hope. Anger is too narrow to motivate a majority of voters, and it does not make a case for the ability and experience to govern.
Wenner goes on to explain why he's endorsing Hillary Clinton...
The debates between Clinton and Sanders have been inspirational; to see such intelligence, dignity and substance is a tribute to both of them. The contrast to the banality and stupidity of the GOP candidates has been stunning. It's as if there are two separate universes, one where the Earth is flat and one where it is round; one where we are a country that is weak, flailing and failing; the other, an America that is still a land of hopes and dreams.

I keep hearing questions surface about her honesty and trustworthiness, but where is the basis in reality or in facts? This is the lingering haze of coordinated GOP smear campaigns against the Clintons — and President Obama — all of which have come up empty, including the Benghazi/e-mail whirlwind, which after seven GOP-led congressional investigations has turned up zilch.

Battlefield experience is hard-won, and with it comes mistakes but also wisdom. Clinton's vote authorizing Bush to invade Iraq 14 years ago was a huge error, one that many made, but not one that constitutes a disqualification on some ideological purity test.

Rolling Stone has championed the "youth vote" since 1972, when 18-year-olds were first given the right to vote. The Vietnam War was a fact of daily life then, and Sen. George McGovern, the liberal anti-war activist from South Dakota, became the first vessel of young Americans, and Hunter S. Thompson wrote our first presidential-campaign coverage. We worked furiously for McGovern. We failed; Nixon was re-elected in a landslide. But those of us there learned a very clear lesson: America chooses its presidents from the middle, not from the ideological wings. We are faced with that decision again.
Read Wenner's full piece here.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

I'm Just Asking

Nate Silver doubts that Donald Trump can turn any blue states red, which he would have to do to win the general election. I'd go further than that by asking what demographic Trump has a chance in? He's not going to do well with women, African-Americans, Muslims, Latinos, or millennials, all of whom will turn out in droves to defeat him.

There was a time in this country when you could get elected solely by angry white men over fifty, but then the 1800s ended. Besides, Trump wouldn't have had a chance then, either, because Twitter and cable news networks didn't exist.

Showbiz Show 3/25/16


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice," "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2," and "City Of Gold." We also discussed the career of "Larry Sanders" star Garry Shandling (who died this week at 66), including audio from a conversation I had several years ago with his colleague Alan Zweibel about how they conceived "It's Garry Shandling's Show." Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Previously on Harris Online...

Harris Challenge 3/25/16

On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- the trivia categories include Political Sex Scandals, Easter Munchies, and Good Movies For Good Friday. Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 3/25/16


This edition of Knuckleheads In The News® includes stories about a job applicant foiling a robber, a painted drunk, and a mugger's lost wallet. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®? Click here.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Problem Solved

Because there's no editor or other gatekeeper between writer and reader, every blogger makes occasional mistakes (spelling errors, botched grammar, etc.). They're usually due to sloppiness or a rush to publish.

Yesterday, it was both reasons that caused me to post my Ken Howard entry with one not-so-minor problem: I forgot to put the audio on my server. So, if you clicked on the embedded player or the listen link, you were taken to an error page instead of the 2003 interview from my archives.

Thanks to the heads-up emails and tweets from many of you, I have uploaded the podcast so you can now download and enjoy it. My apologies.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Ken Howard


I'm sad to hear of the death of Ken Howard (at 71). He is being remembered in quickie-obits as the president of the Screen Actors Guild, star of "The White Shadow," and recurring guest star on "30 Rock." But to me, he will always be Thomas Jefferson in "1776," a role he played both on stage and screen (I've written about it several times, including this op-ed).

I had the pleasure of interviewing Howard on July 8, 2003, when we discussed that classic Broadway musical, as well as the difficulty of a 6'6" guy getting acting jobs, why "The White Shadow" couldn't get on TV today, and how he once advised Robert DeNiro on how to talk in public.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!
Previously on Harris Online...

Hack Attack

Kevin Roose did this piece for Fusion, in which he went to a hacking convention and was shocked at how much of your personal information elite hackers can acquire with very little effort. You'll shake your head in disbelief at the "vishing" call a couple of minutes into this.

Unfortunately, Roose doesn't offer good solutions (other than using common sense and not clicking on every link we receive via email) for what we should all do to protect ourselves from these attacks. Even though it's unlikely you're going to be targeted personally, I can tell you that, as a victim of identity theft, when it does happen to you, it's not pretty. That's why I'm so invested in the recent encryption debate between the government and Apple. I come down squarely on Apple's side.

The more disturbing aspect of this is the need to protect the infrastructure -- utilities, banking, transportation, etc. -- that is so vulnerable, and a more likely target because the impact of a hack into any of those systems would affect tens of millions of us.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Katty Kay's View Of Election Year


For a wider perspective on this bizarre presidential election year, here's my conversation with Katty Kay of BBC World News America. Among the questions I asked her:
  • How much time and money is spent on elections in England (prepare to be shocked!)
  • Have there been candidates similar to Donald Trump in the UK or elsewhere in Europe?
  • England had Margaret Thatcher, India had Indira Gandhi, Pakistan had Benazir Bhutto -- why hasn't the US had a female president yet?
  • Are you surprised at the popularity of Bernie Sanders' message, which has never before gotten this much attention?
  • What do you think will happen if the GOP wrests the nomination away from Trump?
  • What happened when a British newspaper tried to directly influence an American election?
Katty Kay is lead anchor of BBC World News America, which airs weekdays at 4pm CT on BBC America. She also co-authored, with Claire Shipman, the best-seller "The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance -- What Women Should Know," which will come out in paperback later this year.

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

Wendell Potter, "Nation On The Take"


Wendell Potter was back on my show today to talk about his new book, "Nation On The Take: How Big Money Corrupts Our Democracy and What We Can Do About It" (read an excerpt here). Among the questions we discussed:
  • How much time do our elected representatives spend fundraising?
  • How much money do they need?
  • Will a corrupt system ever be repaired by the very elected officials who benefit from it?
  • Super PACs are supposed to be run independently of candidates and their campaigns -- are they?
  • Who is the #1 person blocking campaign finance reform in Congress?
  • Does big money have even more impact at the state and local levels?
  • Do states with public financing laws have more competitive races?
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Previously on Harris Online...

The NFL's CTE Admission


Last week, for the first time, an NFL official admitted in a congressional hearing that there is a correlation between the concussions suffered by players on the field and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in their brains later, which can lead to dementia and suicidal tendencies. For reaction, I called upon Dr. Robert Cantu -- one of the nation's leading experts on brain trauma, co-director of Boston University's Center For The Study Of CTE, and author of "Concussions And Our Kids."

Here's our conversation, which included questions about whether young soccer players should head the ball, at what age kids should play full-contact ice hockey, and the impact of Ivy League schools banning tackling during football practices. I also asked him what he thought of the movie, "Concussion," in which Will Smith played pioneering CTE researcher Dr. Bennet Omalu.

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

Monday, March 21, 2016

Mickey Fisher's "Replica"


The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis has an annual series called "Ignite!" It consists of three new plays, still works-in-progress, which are presented in a rehearsal hall without costumes or sets. The actors rehearse for a few days, then read it from looseleaf notebooks on music stands. The playwright, who often has been making changes right up to showtime, is in the room, taking notes on the audience's reaction as well as the Q and A conducted by director Seth Gordon afterwards. Presumably, the instant focus-group-like responses from the crowd of about 150 will steer the author through yet another rewrite of their work.

My wife and I have attended several of these readings over the last five years, but on Saturday, we saw the best of the lot. It's called "Replica," by Mickey Fisher, whose work includes the Fox TV series "Extant," which starred Halle Berry but, ironically, is extinct as of last September.

"Replica" is a story from our near future about a woman who has a terminal disease and has checked into a facility where everything about her will be duplicated in an exact copy -- her looks, her mannerisms, and her memories -- so that her children won't grow up without a mother. Finding talented twin actresses to play the lead roles might sound like a casting challenge, but Gordon explained that with wigs and makeup (and an audience that suspends disbelief enough to meet them halfway), it's not an impossible task.

Fisher's script is taut, witty, emotional, and suspenseful. I won't give away an iota of where the plot takes you, but my wife and I were both riveted. Afterwards, we told Fisher how impressed we were, and that he shouldn't change much, if anything. I even referred to "Replica" as "Philip K. Dick / Rod Serling great."

Sometimes, the plays that are read at Ignite go on to full productions, like "Soups, Stews, and Casseroles: 1976" and "Molly's Hammer" (which we heard a year ago and is about to hit the mainstage at The Rep). I hope that we'll get to see a full stage production of "Replica," because even though we know what happens, it'll be interesting to see how Fisher has tweaked it -- and how that casting thing works out.

Beyond that, I root for good theater to blossom so that others may enjoy it, too. "Replica" is one that deserves a wide audience.

Bonnie Raitt


I first fell in love with Bonnie Raitt 40 years ago when she did a concert at my college. I was sitting in one of the first few rows and had never seen a woman command the stage the way she did. With her soulful voice, crisp guitar work, and flowing red hair, I became a fan for life.

Since then, I've bought every new album she's released, including her latest, "Dig In Deep," and went to three more of her concerts, including Friday night at the Peabody Opera House. I'm happy to say that, four decades later, Bonnie still has it, in every department.

She remains one of the best slide guitarists in the world. Her voice is still pure and powerful. She can get raw on songs like "Real Man," but when she does ballads like "I Can't Make You Love Me" and "Angel From Montgomery," everyone in the room listens quietly as she fills the room with the sound of heartbreak.

It's rare that a performer starts off a concert with a new song, but that's what Bonnie's doing on this tour. In fact, she played eight of the twelve songs on "Dig In Deep." With other artists, that's annoying because you just want to hear the hits, but her audience loves her so much we're happy to discover whatever she wants to present to us. She does it in a classy way, too, giving full credit to each songwriter on tunes she didn't compose herself, sometimes with a little story.

In addition to the new stuff Bonnie, backed by a tight four-piece band, also did "Something To Talk About," "Love Sneaking Up On You," and her covers of "Need You Tonight" (a hit for INXS in 1987) and "Right Down The Line" (Gerry Rafferty's 1978 follow-up to "Baker Street").

Throughout the evening, Bonnie showed a lot of appreciation for the audience, thrilled that we're still coming to see her after all these years. Part of the reason is that, after 45 years on stage and 10 Grammy Awards, she doesn't try to be trendy. Her musical style is rooted in the blues, which is why she was invited to tour the new National Blues Museum in St. Louis, even though it won't open officially until April 2nd (I'm looking forward to visiting it). She understands the pioneers who preceded her, giving shoutouts to the late BB King, Sippie Wallace, and Johnnie Johnson, as well as Chuck Berry -- plus those in the next generation who are carrying the torch for what has come to be known as "Americana" music, including the Tedeschi Trucks Band and Gary Clark, Jr.

I suspect it won't be long before the Kennedy Center Honors put their spotlight on Bonnie, who richly deserves all the attention and respect she receives. In the meantime, I'm happy to have seen her in concert again.

In case you couldn't tell, I'm still in love with her.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Showbiz Show 3/18/16


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey and I reviewed "Eye In The Sky," "Allegiant," and "Hello My Name Is Doris." We also discussed the upcoming sequels in the Indiana Jones and "Now You See Me" series. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Harris Challenge 3/18/16

On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- the trivia categories include The First Day Of Offspring, It Happened In March, and Have You Been Paying Attention? Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 3/18/16


This edition of Knuckleheads In The News® includes stories about a fall out of bed, a very bad casino night, and breach of the pees. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®? Click here.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Best Thing I've Read Today

Veteran radio programmer Darryl Parks thinks this year's presidential election will mark the end of right-wing talk radio:

Conservative talk radio and the Republican party are connected, once again trying to energize their common “base.” Each are equally disconnected to generational changes, ethnic and demographic changes and generally the world around them. Each comfortably exists in an echo chamber of stale talking points, opinions and ideas, insecure in their beliefs, distrustful of any thoughts that may differ.

The problem is their common “base,” the angry 65+ year old white male, is shrinking and not the future for either’s survival. Their “base” is dropping dead and they refuse to acknowledge it or adjust accordingly.

Some conservative talk radio hosts love Donald Trump talking about how he’s going to make things great again. Again? A slogan that romanticizes the past? This may give the “base” and these hosts some comfort, but nothing is going to stop change. Nothing ever stops change.

Donald Trump is a master at manipulating the media. He understands ratings are what counts and the media loves him for it. Trump is making a typically boring presidential campaign great reality television. Successful political campaigns are entertaining and Trump knows this.

Many conservative talk radio hosts have gone all in on Trump and most haven’t thought about their exit strategy should he lose.
Read Parks' full piece here -- especially the part about the big talk radio stars who, in the equivalent of music payola, have been sold their voices to the highest bidders.

Picture Of The Day

More cleverness from the folks at Improv Everywhere...

Certainly Yes

In case you missed it, the NFL finally admitted this week, in a congressional hearing, that there is a link between football and degenerative brain disorders like chronic traumatic encephalopathy -- the disease first discovered by Dr. Bennet Omalu. As Edwin Rios writes:

Jeff Miller, the league's senior vice president for health and player safety, acknowledged the connection during a roundtable discussion before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. After Dr. Ann McKee, a Boston University neuropathologist who has discovered CTE in the brains of dozens of deceased NFL players, testified that she "unequivocally" thought there was a link between playing football and CTE, Miller was given a chance to respond. "Well, certainly, Dr. McKee's research shows that a number of retired NFL players were diagnosed with CTE," he said, "so the answer to that question is certainly yes."
Read the full Rios piece here -- including how the NFL's stance has changed over the years.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Unknown Candidates

When I voted yesterday in the presidential primary, I knew that all of the GOP candidates' names would be on the ballot (including the ones who have "suspended" their campaigns), but for the Democrats, I thought there would be exactly two: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. But there were nine, including the withdrawn Martin O'Malley, and six other names I didn't recognize: Henry Hewes, Rocky De La Fuente, Keith Judd, Willie L. Wilson, John Wolfe Jr., and Jon Adams.

How did they get on the ballot? According to the Missouri Secretary Of State's website:

Candidates must provide a filing fee receipt of $1,000.00 paid to the state committee of candidate’s established political party or a statutorily qualifying petition signed by not less than 5,000 registered Missouri voters and a sworn statement that the candidate is unable to pay the filing fee. The receipt or the petition together with a sworn statement must be submitted with the written request to be included on the presidential preference primary.
In other words, you don't have to stand around the supermarket with a clipboard trying to convince people to sign a petition to let you run. You just have to come up with a thousand bucks, and you're on the ballot. I'm guessing that's how the six unknowns got on there, but I can't even speculate why.

It's wrong to look at these people as crazy, even though they had no chance in the long-term. After all, Jeb Bush wasted $150 million and he's not going to be his party's nominee. Neither are Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum, or Chris Christie. Yet, at some point, they all must have believed they were going to be our next commander-in-chief, and had advisers and friends who bought into the concept and encouraged them -- not to mention the people and PACs who wrote checks to support that impossible dream (Yahoo Finance's Rick Newman tallies the wasted money here).

Believe it or not, the unknowns actually did receive some votes. In this state, while Clinton won with 310,602 and Sanders received 309,071 votes, the third place finisher was Hewes, who a remarkable 648 people voted for. That's more than O'Malley, who despite dropping out, was still the choice of 440 Missourians.

Technically, "uncommitted" was in third place, and I'll never understand that option even being on the ballot. If you don't know who to vote for, why are you taking the time to drive to the polling place, wait in line, take a ballot, and then make no choice? It's not like there were other offices and issues to vote for yesterday. All you had to do was choose which candidate you wanted to be the nominee of your party, and you essentially chose "none of the above." Why bother?

Besides Hewes, the other unknowns had totals of a few hundred each, including Jon Adams, who claims he's a third-cousin-many-times-removed from America's second president, and may have had another motive for running. It appears that Adams is using his presidential candidacy to try to get laid. On his website, on a tab labelled "First Lady," Adams writes:
I have not been lucky in love. And yet this presents an opportunity. If you are interested in joining the campaign as a possible future First Lady of the United States, and if you have a deep, abiding love of country as well as class, elegance and style, please email a short bio to: FLOTUS@adamsforpresident.com. This is not a reality television show. You can become First Lady of the United States. If all else fails, we can always hold a small election for First Lady in December 2016.
I wonder if Darva Conger is still single.

What A Surprise

Please stop making a big deal out of Republicans in the Senate refusing to consider President Obama's choice of Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court. I'm not saying they're right (they're clearly not), but why is anyone surprised that the GOP -- which has been obstructionist about pretty much everything Obama has tried to do from day one -- is continuing its hard-headed ways?

Well Done, Post!

Kudos to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for the re-design of its website. The old design made it seem like no one who worked there every visited their own site, but it is now much cleaner, less cluttered, and easier on the eyes. The best decision was to get rid of all the auto-play video that slowed down the site's load time and made visiting any of its pages a continual annoyance.

My colleague Frank Ladd points out that the Post's new design does not include a "print" option on any of its pages, but that doesn't bother me because I always use Clean Print.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Poker's Gender Gap

I know several very talented female poker players, but unfortunately, they are a rarity. Wherever I go, there's seldom a woman at the table, and if there is, she's up against 8 or 9 men. Even in the main event of the World Series Of Poker, women average only 3% of the field -- and it's been that way for as long as I can remember.

Interestingly, I've seen guys play differently when they're in a hand with a woman. Maybe they don't want to be perceived as a bully, or they want to show "the little lady" up, or they have mommy issues. The best female pros -- Vanessa Selbst, Danielle Anderson, Maria Ho -- know how to exploit those male character faults and take their chips, but it can be tough for an amateur to sit down and deal with the crap that's on display from male poker players on a regular basis.

Why is that? As my friend Nolan Dalla explained in this interview with famed tournament director Matt Savage, the blame lies squarely in the laps of the idiot men who can't even watch a televised poker game without expressing themselves in the most sexist terms you can imagine...

Monday, March 14, 2016

Dying With Dignity

I have long been an advocate for allowing people to choose when to end their own lives rather than suffer through the ravages of some horrible terminal disease. I reject the argument of religious zealots who say only God can decide when to end a life and that humans should not alter that divine plan. My reply to them is to ask if, were they to be in a bad car accident, would they want us to call an ambulance, to not give them any medical assistance, to not save them if possible -- or should we just leave them in the street and wait until their particular invisible superhero decided whether their life goes on?

Last night, Dr. Jon LaPook did a story on "60 Minutes" that explains the compassionate argument for the right to die using the case of Brittany Maynard, a California woman who, in 2014, had to move to Oregon to acquire the legal pharmaceuticals she could ingest to end her suffering on her own terms. Fortunately, the law in California is changing, as it has in a few other states, to allow doctors to prescribe those life-ending drugs. As you watch this notice that there is no hysteria in any of the interviewees -- just love, compassion, and bravery (if the video doesn't load in your browser, click here)...


Previously on Harris Online...

More Movies You Might Not Know


I have just added two movies to my Movies You Might Not Know list, both directed by John Dahl. He has mostly worked in TV for the last decade (including last night's episode of "Billions"), but he was also responsible for "Rounders," the 1998 movie that kick-started the poker boom.

A few years before that, he wrote and directed "Red Rock West," the movie that put him on the map.

It stars Nicolas Cage as a guy trying to get a job on an oil rig in Wyoming. When that falls through, he ends up in a small town bar, where he is mistaken by the owner (JT Walsh) for a Texas hitman he's hired to come up and kill his wife (Lara Flynn Boyle). Cage plays along because he needs the money, but instead of offing Boyle, he tells her about the plan and says he won't go through with it if she'll pay him off, too. That's when the real hitman (Dennis Hopper) arrives in town, and the fun begins.

Dahl directed "Red Rock West" with a sardonic eye, and the performances are all perfect.

A year later, Dahl made "The Last Seduction," the movie that made everyone sit up and take notice of Linda Fiorentino (you may remember her from the morgue scenes in "Men In Black"). In "The Last Seduction," she plays a woman who's pure evil.

The adventure starts when her husband (Bill Pullman) comes into several hundred thousand dollars. While he's in the shower, she grabs the money and gets out of New York, headed for Chicago. Along the way, she stops in a small town and calls her lawyer. He advises her not to go to Chicago, because that's the first place her husband will look for her. Instead, he tells her to lay low wherever she is. She does, but has no interest in the small-towners until she hooks up with a local guy (Peter Berg) who has never met a woman as brash as she is. Before long, Fiorentino is wrapping him around her little finger -- and other body parts -- better than Barbara Stanwyck in "Double Indemnity."

In both of these movies, Dahl displayed a wonderful feel for the drama in out-of-the-way places, and the tension in people trapped by circumstances beyond their control.

See my entire Movies You Might Not Know list here.

I'm Just Asking


The other night, I ordered a pasta dish with shrimp, and when it arrived, the shrimp still had the shell on the tails. Why? I've seen them that way in a shrimp cocktail, too, and it never made sense to me. I can't think of another food that, when served in a restaurant, has its inedible outer layer partially removed.

If you order a lobster, they bring you the whole thing and it's up to you to crack the shell and dig inside for the meat. Same thing for shrimp at a buffet (that's why they're called "peel and eat"), and for crab legs. But when it's in a prepared dish, mixed with other ingredients -- and a sauce -- you haven't done your job properly if you leave part of the shell on.

You wouldn't make me a banana split without removing the entire peel, would you?

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Showbiz Show 3/11/16


This week on the showbiz segment of my show, Colin Jeffrey reviewed "10 Cloverfield Lane," I talked about the irresponsibility of Jeff Probst and the "Survivor" producers in an episode where three players went down with heat stroke, and we discussed James Corden's upcoming Carpool Karaoke anniversary show. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Harris Challenge 3/11/16

On this edition of my Harris Challenge -- the most fun you can have with your radio on -- the trivia categories include Donalds Not Named Trump, Daylight Saving Time, and The Sports Pages. Listen and play along, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Harris Challenges? Click here.

Knuckleheads In The News® 3/11/16


This edition of Knuckleheads In The News® includes stories about a tree embedded in a car, an SUV at Waffle House, and a baby in a carry-on bag. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Want more Knuckleheads In The News®? Click here.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Keith Emerson

I was sorry to hear that Keith Emerson died yesterday at age 71. 

After hearing the news this afternoon, I played some ELP on my show and talked about him, realizing that -- as with George Martin earlier this week -- even the rock stations in town weren't bothering to pay tribute to an artist who contributed so much to the format. Along with Rick Wakeman of Yes, Emerson was one of the most important keyboardists of the progressive rock era. His work with Greg Lake and Carl Palmer led to legendary shows where Emerson played multiple keyboards simultaneously on songs like "Karn Evil 9," "Still You Turn Me On," "Hoedown," and my favorite, "Nut Rocker"...


I don't have much history with Emerson other than as a fan, although I did have the pleasure of interviewing him twice. This is a transcript of the second conversation on October 4, 1997, just as ELP were embarking on a reunion tour...

Harris: Keith, it's been a few years since I've talked to you. Believe it or not, the last time was about seven or eight years ago when we all sat down for an interview live from Abbey Road, there in London.

Emerson: Oh, right, yes! I remember that.

Harris: That was a terrific day and you are in London now, right?

Emerson: I'm in London now, yes.

Harris: Now, before we talk about your concert coming up this Saturday, let's talk a little bit about what the mood in town there is like in middle of this whole Diana week.

Emerson: Yeah, right. Well, as you can expect, it's pretty somber.

Harris: Is it weird? Are people all over town, is that the only thing people are talking about?

Emerson: Well, not really. Londoners tend to get on with their life. They express their grief in different ways. For example, I just saw a cab driver, a London taxi cab, and on his aerial he had black ribbons. It's just expressed in different ways, but the whole feeling here is just sort of like very somber. You know, it's just, it's dreadful. You know, I must confess that I was not extremely shocked by what happened. I think it was inevitable by the end of the day, sadly.

Harris: Because of paparazzi or because of other reasons?

Emerson: I think of that for that one reason, yes. To a lesser degree, anybody in the public eye has been exposed to that sort of thing.

Harris: Have you had trouble with that sort of thing?

Emerson: Yeah. Well, to a much lesser degree, yes. What we try and do is, if they want a photograph, then just take it. You know, I think that if that had happened at the Ritz and she'd given one to the photo corps, she would still be here today.

Harris: I know at the height of your tours in the late seventies, where you were playing these big halls, you must have been in a crush of people, not just photographers, but fans. Did that ever get dangerous for you?

Emerson: Well, it got stupid. There was one occasion that I was not actually aware of at the time, where I was in my hotel room, and a personal assistant to the band went after a photographer that had taken some photographs of the band and had gotten into a fight with him. And as a consequence, I was sued. It had nothing to do with me, but there was a lawsuit against me because I employed this person.

Harris: That must have been a surprise for you when that subpoena came down.

Emerson: Well, it was! I was going on stage and this guy came up to me and shoved this piece of paper in my hand. I had no idea about it but, oh boy.

Harris: When we talked to you years ago at Abbey Road, I asked you if you ever got injured doing stuff, and you told me that sometimes when you were doing those weird concerts where you were flipping upside down and backwards and all over the place, that you would occasionally get bloody hands from playing so hard.

Emerson: Not only that. I've broken my nose, I've broken ribs. You name it. In fact, we just got back from South America and I fell over a monitor speaker on the stage and almost ended up in the front row of the audience. I managed to sprain my wrist on that one but luckily nothing was broken.

Harris: Well, that's not the one you want going into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, is it? "You know I used to play my keyboards upside down and spinning!" "Yeah, so what happened to you?" "Well, I tripped over a monitor!"

Emerson: [laughing] Yeah, right!

Harris: Now, when you come to Wolf Trap this Saturday, for this concert that we're all looking forward to, will you be spinning upside down or are those days behind you?

Emerson: [laughing] I will be mentally spinning upside down. No, those days aren't behind. As far as the Wolf Trap show goes, we'll be doing a lot of stuff, that's musically athletic, I think. The spinning piano, I don't know what is going to be happening with that. I've got to make a call to my keyboard tech and see what's happening about that. It's not a thing that you can do at every venue because it does require a very high ceiling or a very low floor, you need room.

Harris: [laughing] You don't want to be spinning around and see the floor is only eight feet below the stage.

Emerson: No, no. When I did it at the California Jam, I was actually high over the stage and hovering with a twenty foot drop below me. So, there was plenty of room.

Harris: Do insurance agents hang up on you a lot?

Emerson: [laughing] Yeah, yeah. They did when I started my flying lessons. Especially when I landed at the wrong airport. But that's another story.

Harris: Now, we're giving away some tickets to the show and we are also giving away these special invitation-only tickets to your soundcheck that afternoon. What will people see when they come to see your soundcheck that's different from what they'll see during the regular show?

Emerson: Oh, since this our first show, I think they'll see us sweat a lot. They'll see us screaming a lot, going, "Oh, god...how do ya...what chord...what's the note on that one?"

Harris: So you're actually up there practicing and rehearsing stuff and trying to remember how to do it that night?

Emerson: Yeah, I guess so.

Harris: You know, when I looked back over the ELP history, I did not realize that when you played the Isle of Wight in 1970, that was the debut of Pictures at an Exhibition?

Emerson: Well, I guess you could call that the debut. We played a concert about two nights before that at Plymouth Guild Hall.

Harris: But when you guys did this huge Isle of Wight festival, you had only been together for about four days, right?

Emerson: Well, we'd been rehearsing for something like a month prior to that.

Harris: How was that, to go out for one of your first couple of gigs and go out in front of a huge festival audience like that?

Emerson: I felt that the concert we did before that, two days before that at the Plymouth Guild Hall went a lot better than that, mainly because the acoustics were contained. At the Isle of Wight, the sound went out and kind of kept on going. And I wasn't...when I came off stage I was kind of unhappy about how we had played. But now, I listen back to those recordings and it's not bad. In fact, we are releasing that concert and it's coming out this month. The whole concert, the Isle of Wight Festival, ELP live at the Isle of Wight.

Harris: So it's a big fall for you guys, with getting back out on the road. Is everything okay between the team of Keith and Greg and the team of Carl?

Emerson: Well, it's great, yeah.

Harris: Because you guys had some problems over the years.

Emerson: We don't ever say that, quite honestly. No, but if it wasn't good, I wouldn't be going back out on tour. It's because we manage to bounce ideas off one another. Every band fights but at the end of the day, we're very positive about the way we fight. At least we come out with a result at the end of the day.

Harris: One other thing I wanted to ask you about is one of your solo projects. You did the music for a movie called "Nighthawks" with Sylvester Stallone, Billy Dee Williams, Rutger Hauer, and Lindsey Wagner played Sly's wife.

Emerson: Right.

Harris: How did that come about? Was that a one-on-one project with Sly or was he not even involved at all?

Emerson: Well, he was very much involved right from the word go. I was sent the script and a brief video about what they were doing with "Nighthawks" and came up with a main title theme and flew to Universal Studios in California. I then waited in an office in Universal, and then Sly walked in, and I was amazed. I had only seen him in the Rocky films and I expected this huge guy to walk in. He wasn't much taller than myself.

Harris: I've heard a lot of people say that. He's only about 5'9", isn't he?

Emerson: Well, he's a bit taller than me and I'm about 5'10", but a helluva nice guy. He had heard the main title theme that I had come up with and then he disappeared with the producer for about a half an hour and then the producer came back and said, "Hey, you've got yourself a job." I said, "Oh good." After that, I sat down with Sly and he expressed what he wanted and it was a great relationship. I really admire him.

Harris: It's a terrific sound track, too. Have you stayed in touch with him? Do you want to work with him again?

Emerson: I'd love to work with him again. Yes, I have stayed in touch with him. The last time I saw him was in California at Elton John's AIDS Benefit and I introduced him to Greg and Carl and we all got along great.

Harris: Well we're looking forward to the show on Saturday, where people will be guaranteed a good time at the show that never ends, right?

Emerson: Yep, absolutely. We're looking forward to it.

Harris: We'll call this one...it can't be Karn Evil 9 or 10...at this point we must be up to about Karn Evil 25, aren't we?

Emerson: Well, who's counting? [Laughing]

Harris: Keith, thanks for checking in with me.

Emerson: Okay, Paul. Take care.

Copyright 1997, Paul Harris.
Transcript by Phil Egenthal.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

A Missed Radio Opportunity


I punched around to various radio stations yesterday to hear which were doing tributes to George Martin by playing Beatles songs and telling stories about him. The answer: very, very few.

For rock stations (or classic rock, classic hits, oldies, etc.), this would have been a good time to drop the previously-formatted music and connect with the audience through one of its core artists. They should be well-rehearsed in that regard after the deaths of David Bowie and Glenn Frey earlier this year, and should be thinking ahead to many more from that generation sure to die in months to come.

But when it comes to The Beatles, even more so. It's hard to go wrong with a group that has connected so many people across generations. It would not have been inappropriate to play nothing but Beatles songs all day and intersperse them with clips of Martin talking about working with them (there are plenty on YouTube).

In the years when I worked in rock radio, we would occasionally do a Beatles A To Z Weekend, playing every one of their songs in alphabetical order from "Across The Universe" to "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" (okay, technically, it was a Beatles A To Y Weekend). In those pre-internet days, where it was difficult to find such a list, listeners told me they loved trying to guess which song was next, and enjoyed hearing some of the deeper cuts that rarely got played on any radio station (what's the last time you heard "Lovely Rita" or "Hey Bulldog"?). We even threw in Beatles rarities, like the German versions of "I Want To Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves You," and some of the instrumental score of their movies "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!"

The only problem we ran into was with songs that segued directly into other songs. For instance, the "Abbey Road" medley of "Sun King/Mean Mr. Mustard/Polythene Pam/She Came In Through The Bathroom Window." Because those songs were musically connected on the album, it would have been jarring to hear each of the four played separately in their correct place alphabetically, so we left the medley intact and explained why -- both on the air and on the phone to listeners who thought they'd caught us leaving something out.

Ironically, technology hasn't fixed that problem. If you put "Abbey Road" on shuffle on your iPhone, it will jump out of the medley to another song, whether you want it to or not. There used to be a feature in iTunes in which you could assign a "gapless" playback option to situations like that (or, for instance, in Chicago's "Ballet For A Girl In Buchanan" a/k/a the "Make Me Smile" suite), but Apple removed it a couple of years ago. Bad move. It's especially annoying when listening to a classical piece with multiple movements that don't play in the right order (taking it off shuffle solves that).

Imagine listening to a classic rock station yesterday as the DJ announces, with no previous promotion or fanfare, "And now, in honor of George Martin, here's the entire 'Sgt. Pepper' album" -- and then lets it track through even the silence between songs until that historic piano chord at the finale. Doing something like that, out of the blue, enhances a station's image by breaking out of the formatic bonds that listeners are so used to and replacing it with a gigantic "WOW!!"

That sort of radio has to start with an innovative program director, someone who recognizes an opportunity and how to exploit it. Unfortunately, too many radio outlets are stuck in a rut, with a PD overseeing multiple stations in a corporate cluster, with no time (or vision) to create those moments.

Instead, all we got was another "Day In The Life" of modern radio.

Best Thing I've Read Today

Paul Waldman explains that, despite the incessant drumbeat on right-wing talk radio, Fox News, and from the mouths of GOP candidates, Hillary Clinton is not going to be indicted for anything related to her use of a private e-mail server. He lays out the facts pretty succinctly:

1. Clinton set up a personal email account and used it for work. Even though previous Secretaries of State did the same thing, and even though thousands of people in government use personal emails for work, she still shouldn’t have done it. She may have violated department policies, but there’s no evidence she broke any laws.

2. Clinton has said it was a mistake and apologized for it.

3. There were concerns that her email server could have been vulnerable to hacking from a foreign power. But it does not appear to have been hacked.

4. None of the work-related emails she sent and received were marked classified at the time. However, some 200 of them were retroactively classified. This is now the subject of a spat between the State Department and the intelligence community, which classifies many things that people elsewhere in the government think are absurd to classify.

5. For Clinton to be charged with mishandling classified information, she would have had to knowingly passed such information to someone not authorized to have it — like David Petraeus showing classified documents to his mistress — or acted with such gross negligence that people without authorization were bound to see it. According to what we know, neither of those things happened.

6. The FBI is investigating the matter, but has said that Clinton herself is not a target of that investigation, meaning that they don’t suspect that she committed any crime.

7. That former aide, Bryan Pagliano, has been granted immunity by the Justice Department and is working with them as they complete their investigation, which will probably conclude this spring.
As Waldman points out, the facts won't stop the drip-drip-drip of negative perception regarding Clinton that continues to be perpetuated by conservative media, but there's no evidence that it will lead to anything more than that. Read Waldman's full piece here.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria


In 2003, my wife and daughter and I went to Forest Park to see a St. Louis Aces tennis match. One of the players on the other team was a tall blonde teenager with a sizzling serve and a Monica Seles-inspired grunt that echoed off the nearby trees. Every single spectator took note of her name -- Maria Sharapova. The next year, she won Wimbledon and soon began doing commercial endorsements that would, in addition to her tennis winnings, bring her more than $20 million a year.

Earlier this week, Sharapova held a surprise press conference to announce that results had just come in from a test she'd taken during the Australian Open in January, showing she had tested positive for a drug that's on the banned list. She claimed she'd been taking the drug for almost a decade and didn't know it had recently been added to the World Anti-Doping Agency's list. She faces a possible four-year ban, which would be a shame because she is still one of the best tennis players in the world and a pleasure to watch on the court.

While I have no idea what the truth of the matter is, I am as impressed by the way Sharapova handled it as I was watching her on the court 13 years ago. Unlike some athletes whose first act is to deny, deny, deny (e.g. Lance Armstrong), Sharapova got out ahead of the story by admitting her mistake. She deserves credit for that.

Olbermann vs. Trump

In a Washington Post column, Keith Olbermann announced that he's so fed up with Donald Trump that he's moving out of an apartment he owns in a building owned by the GOP front runner:

I’m getting out because of the degree to which the very name “Trump” has degraded the public discourse and the nation itself. I can’t hear, or see, or say that name any longer without spitting. Frankly, I’m running out of Trump spit.
I think Olbermann is being disingenuous. He has certainly been aware of Trump's birtherism and bigotry during the nine years he lived in that building, and I seem to remember him naming Trump one of his "Worst Persons In The World" more than once on his old MSNBC show. So what was the tipping point for his decision?

I think Olbermann reveals the real reason he's really moving out at the end of his piece -- it's not because of Trump's outrageous conduct as a presidential candidate as much as it is because the building leaves a lot to be desired in the maintenance department:
One day Trump appeared in person and, with what I only later realized was the same kind of sincere concern and respect that Eddie Haskell used to pay “Beaver” Cleaver’s mother, asked me how I liked the place and to let him know personally if anything ever went wrong. About 15 months ago, when the elevators failed and many of the heating-unit motors died and the water shut off, I wrote him. He sent an adjutant over to bluster mightily about the urgency of improvements and who was to blame for the elevators and how there would be consequences, and within weeks Trump’s minions were obediently and diligently installing — a new revolving door at the back of the lobby.

That three-week project stretched past three months, smothered the lobby in stench and grime, required the repeated removal and reinstallation of a couple of railings, and for a time created a window frosting problem even when it wasn’t cold out.

So at least there’s this comfort. If there is a President Trump and he decides to build this ludicrous wall to prevent the immigration from Mexico that isn’t happening, and he uses that same contractor, it’ll take them about a thousand years to finish it.

Samantha Bee Rolling

I mentioned Samantha Bee's "Full Frontal" in a previous post, and am happy to see that her TBS show is not only very solid in its comedy every week, but bringing in a lot of viewers, too -- 84% more than Conan O'Brien, who follows her on the same channel!

According to Joe Adalian at Vulture, here's how the cable comedy talk show numbers looked on Monday night in the Adults 18-49 demo:

  1. Daily Show 953K
  2. Full Frontal 687K
  3. Nightly Show 569K
  4. @ Midnight 448K
  5. Conan 373K
That's pretty good for a show that's only been on the air five weeks. If you've missed them, you can stream every episode of "Full Frontal" here.

Previously on Harris Online...

Mr. Perspective Crushes It

A common theme in today's reports on yesterday's primaries is that Bernie Sanders crushed Hillary Clinton in Michigan. Media outlets love extreme verbs like "crushed" -- even to describe comedy. Barely a week goes by without a headline like "John Oliver obliterates this" or "Samantha Bee destroys that."

But once again, some perspective needs to be injected. While Sanders' win in Michigan might be considered an upset, it happened in a state that does not allot its delegates on a winner-take-all basis. So, while Sanders did pick up 69 delegates in Michigan, Clinton picked up 61 -- that doesn't qualify as "crushing" to me -- and Nate Silver says she still has an overall lead of 770-551 pledged delegates.

Of course, news media love the horse-race aspects of this election almost as much as they love Donald Trump randomly calling in for a live-by-phone softball interview. If either the Republican or Democrat races were a runaway, it wouldn't be nearly as good a story -- which is why they keep playing up the prospect of a brokered GOP convention. The longer the question of who each party's candidate will be goes unanswered, the more they can keep viewers interested.

So if it means exaggerating the impact of any event, or hyping it with extreme verbs, or turning Wolf Blitzer's intensity up to DefCon 1 every afternoon, well, no problem, because they're "crushing" it in the ratings.

Previously on Harris Online...

Monday, March 07, 2016

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Best Thing I've Read Today

Several people have e-mailed to ask what I think of Louis CK's open letter to people who support Donald Trump, in which he tells them to knock it off because Trump is Hitler -- then goes on to urge you to vote for a conservative, because after 8 years of Obama, it's only fair to give the other side a chance.

I was about to begin a long diatribe in response, but then noticed that my friend Mark Evanier has (once again) written every single word I was going to:

His premise is that Trump is Hitler. Okay, right there he loses me. Since before we were all writing on and reading the Internet — back when we were on computer bulletin boards via 300 baud modems — I have maintained that you shouldn't liken anyone to Hitler unless the person was actually responsible for mass genocide. If someone was killing lots of Jews (or any ethnic or religious group) to achieve world domination, fine. They're Hitler. But if they were just being dangerous or treacherous or offensive, the analogy was a cheap shot. Trump is not quite there yet.

And it's silly to say we should elect a conservative as president just because it's their turn and it will give us some balance. That might be so if you can flip the Congress and the Supreme Court but the way they're structured — especially thanks to gerrymandering of the House — that doesn't happen so easily. So all you'd be doing is giving conservatives total control of the government for a while and there's no corresponding opportunity for liberals to have that.

I also really don't think John Kasich is okay. His agenda isn't very much different from any current Republican candidate — even Mitt Romney, who seems to be trying to find an opening. Kasich is just better at not sounding like a crazy person right now.
Mark goes on for a couple more paragraphs, and they're worth your time.