Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Mark Cuban

Here's my conversation with Mark Cuban, billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, HDnet, Landmark Theaters, 2929 Entertainment, and more.

We talked about new entertainment delivery technologies, like the multi-platform release of the Steven Soderbergh movie "Bubble," which hit theaters, DVD, and HDnet all at the same time this week. He explained why movie theaters owners are mad about this simultaneous release, but shouldn't be. It's all about that new business paradigm I keep talking about, in which you can only succeed by giving people the content they want in a way that's best for them to consume on their own terms.

We also talked a little sports. I asked him if he's interested in buying the St. Louis Blues (or branching out into any other franchises), what he thought of the Antonio Davis incident a couple of weeks ago, and whether fans have gotten out of control.

Finally, since Cuban is also involved in a couple of internet companies, we discussed online privacy and the recent Google case, among other topics.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Penn Jillette on "The Aristocrats"

Here's my conversation with Penn Jillette about "The Aristocrats," which was released on DVD today. He explained why he hates the DVD cover, why the movie is dedicated to Johnny Carson, how he and Paul Provenza got all those comedians to appear in the movie, why Buddy Hackett and Rodney Dangerfield didn't, which extras are included on the DVD, and why he doesn't want anyone who's offended by dirty jokes to see the movie.

We also discussed a trick that Penn and Teller do in their show at The Rio in Las Vegas involving joke books and the audience, which leads to a nice shot at Sylvia Browne and a nice plug for James Randi.

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Gary Berntsen, Hunting Osama & Al Qaeda

Here's my conversation with former CIA field commander Gary Berntsen about his book, "Jawbreaker: The Attack on Bin Laden and Al Qaeda."

We discussed his reaction to the release of a new Osama threat tape last week, and why we didn't get Osama when we had him pinned down at Tora Bora in November, 2001. He revealed the huge payoffs he had to make to Afghan warlords and the Northern Alliance in our efforts to defeat the Taliban, and why so much of the material in his book was redacted by the CIA. I also asked him about the intelligence failures before and after 9/11, whether the CIA and FBI are playing nice now, and what still needs to be done to help the US intelligence community battle Al Qaeda.

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

Burt Bacharach

Here's my conversation with legendary songwriter Burt Bacharach about his career and new CD, "At This Time." After several decades of hits -- from the earliest collaborations with Hal David and Dionne Warwick to his more recent work with Elvis Costello and others -- this is the first time Bacharach has written his own lyrics and become political.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Astronaut Mike Mullane

With the 20th anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger explosion next week, I talked with astronaut Mike Mullane on my show this afternoon. He's a three-time shuttle mission specialist who has some harsh words for NASA in his book, "Riding Rockets." He explained what was wrong with the culture inside the space agency after Challenger, and the Columbia disaster, and what he thinks still needs to be done.

We also talked the adventure of going into space, how he couldn't sleep onboard because of the awesome view, the impact on astronauts' families, and more. Another first-person story from someone who's done something you and I never have.

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David Alan Grier

Here's my conversation with David Alan Grier about his work on "In Living Color," "My Life With Bonnie," and other projects through the years. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Happy Birthday, Ben Franklin

Happy 300th birthday to the Greatest American Ever, Ben Franklin.

His words still ring true today:

"Those who would give up essential Liberty to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
I also like:
"Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn."
But Franklin was a lot more than just a great quote machine. What else did he accomplish? Let's start with these, compiled by Tom Ferrick at the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Even before his retirement at 42, Franklin found the time to run a printing business, raise a family, publish a newspaper, write Poor Richard's Almanack, help create the colonies' first fire department, organize the city's town watch, start America's first lending library, found what would become the American Philosophical Society, start the college that became the University of Pennsylvania, lead the militia that drove hostile Indian tribes from the Lehigh Valley, serve in the colonial legislature, invent the Franklin stove, and begin his groundbreaking experiments on electricity.

What to do for an encore?

After his retirement, Franklin completed his experiments in electricity, served as representative of the colonies in England, returned to Philadelphia to help draft the Declaration of Independence, served as minister of the new nation in France, invented the lightning rod and bifocals, charted the Gulf Stream, and helped write the U.S. Constitution.
Not bad for a guy only worth a hundred bucks.

Monday, January 16, 2006

We Are Stardust

Phil Plait is the guy I call whenever something cosmic goes down, such as this weekend's return of the Stardust mission after a nearly three-billion-mile roundtrip to bring pieces of a comet back to earth. On my show, Phil explained what that means, what NASA did, and why we should care. Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Phil first became known to my audience several years ago when he debunked the nonsense about the moon landing being a hoax, and has returned to discuss other space-related topics. As his Bad Astronomy blog proves, he's very good at putting complex concepts into easily understood terms for non-scientists like you and me.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Toner Warning

Over the course of the last hour or so, as I've scanned the web for interesting stuff to talk about on my KMOX show, I printed out at least a dozen pages of articles and other info. But when I finally got around to taking them out of the printer, every one of them was unreadable because the printer was too low on toner. That meant having to go back and find all of those websites and print them out again, after putting in a new toner cartridge.

Why isn't there an indicator to tell me when the toner level gets so low? There's one on my car to tell me when I'm low on gas. The printer even sends a message to my desktop telling me when I'm out of paper. So why isn't there a similar onscreen message or icon saying, "you'd better put a new toner cartridge in, or you won't be able to read anything you're printing!"

C'mon, HP, Canon, and every other printer manufacturer, this shouldn't be a tough one -- and I know I'm not alone in the problem.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Christine Brennan on Figure Skating

Here's my conversation with sportswriter Christine Brennan about the US Figure Skating Championships, which are going on this week here in St. Louis. She explained how Michelle Kwan might make the US Olympic team even though she's not competing, who are the American favorites, whether the problems with judging from the 2002 games scandal have been fixed, and more.

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

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

CNN's Anderson Cooper

Here's my conversation with CNN's Anderson Cooper about what went wrong in covering the West Virginia mine explosion and its aftermath last week, and who is to blame for the incorrect information getting out on his broadcast. We also got into a lengthy discussion of his trip back to Baghdad last month, including how he answers the critics who say Americans aren't getting a real picture of what's happening there, how he stayed safe in a nation where yet another journalist has just been kidnapped, and whether the Iraqi police and army are anywhere close to taking responsibility for the security of their own country.

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

Smoking Gun Says James Frey Lied

The Smoking Gun says James Frey lied when he said his bestseller "A Million Little Pieces" was nonfiction. This is going to upset quite a few people who read the book and believed it, such as my wife.

I talked to TSG's Andrew Goldberg about what they've uncovered about the book, which has been #1 for over three months, sold over 3.5 million copies, and was chosen by Oprah for her book club. He not only explained what the investigation revealed, but also the response from Frey and his publisher.

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

Home-Schooler in Marching Band

Big debate on my KMOX show this afternoon about whether home-schooled kids should be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities at their nearby public school. Fifteen states permit it, not including Missouri and Illinois.

It was sparked by the story of Chris Cartwright, a 9th-grader who wants to play in the marching band, but the school district said he wasn't eligible because he was home-schooled. The parents enrolled him as a fulltime student so he could play in the band, but they're upset at the official policy, which they're trying to get changed.

I'm on the side of the public schools. If the school's not good enough for your kid to learn during the regular school day, then it shouldn't be good enough for the marching band, the lacrosse team, or the debate club.

Opponents often argue, "they pay taxes to support the school, so they shouldn't be kept out." I don't buy it. We support public universities with our state tax money, too, but you can't play on the Mizzou basketball team without attending the school fulltime, so why should it be different with high school teams and activities?

Add your comments to the many below.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Wacky Warning Labels

The folks at Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch have their winners of the Wacky Warning Label Contest:

#5) A baking pan with the warning, "Ovenware will get hot when used in oven."

#4) A bottle of dried bobcat urine, used to keep rodents and pests away from plants, with the warning, "Not for human consumption."

#3) A cocktail napkin with a map of the waterways around Hilton Head, SC, that also said, "Caution: Not To Be Used For Navigation."

#2) A kitchen knife that warns, "Never try to catch a falling knife."

#1) A heat gun and paint remover that produces temperatures of 1,000 degrees and warns, "Do Not Use This Tool As A Hair Dryer."

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Gotcha, Sylvia!

Fox's Roger Friedman confirms that Sylvia Browne did make a fool of herself on George Noory's show the other night with her comments about the miners. He has a transcript of the whole thing posted on his 411 page. He also refers to a show I did two years ago with James Randi in which he came right out and called her a liar (that show, by the way, is one of the most downloaded pieces of audio on this website).

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Blaming The Media

It's not even noon, and already I've heard, seen, and read over a dozen comments from people blaming The Media for the mistaken news reported last night in the West Virginia mining disaster.

Yes, there was some sloppy work done, which comes hand-in-hand with live television coverage and print deadlines. There can certainly be debate about what went wrong and who is at fault.

The problem is that every single one of these people blaming The Media are doing it on their radio shows, their TV newscasts, their newspaper websites, or their blogs. What they fail to acknowledge is that they are part of The Media, too.

Yesterday on my KMOX show, a listener commenting on one of the topics went off on a tangent about the Rodney King case, saying The Media didn't tell the truth about it. I wanted to ask him how he could possibly still be harping on the Rodney King case after all these years, but instead I asked him to give me examples of what The Media supposedly didn't report.

He proceeded to repeat many of the things about the case we already know. I asked him, if The Media hadn't reported them, how did he come to know those things, and he said he'd heard them from Michael Savage. I had to point out to him that Savage is a radio host and regardless of how much he wants to play-act that he's an outsider, his job makes him, by definition, part of The Media.

So am I. So is Rush (who started his show today claiming that this story proves that you can't trust The Media about anything, believe it or not). So are all the people at CNN and Fox News Channel and NPR and InstaPundit and DailyKos and The Suburban Journals and Fark -- and that woman who opened a Blogger account because she just has to share some fabulous news about her cats.

You see, there's no membership card to join The Media. It doesn't matter whether you have a radio show that's syndicated to hundreds of stations or heard by two members of your family on a small-town college station at two in the morning. You're still in The Media. Same goes for a local cable access TV show, a free weekly neighborhood newspaper, or even a blog.

If you publish, broadcast, or otherwise distribute content, stop referring to The Media in the third person.

Instead, have the guts to be specific in your complaints. Don't like what some news network did, or the headline in a certain newspaper, or the wording used by a particular blogger? Then vent and rant all you like, but mention them all by name, rather than blaming The Media in general.

This is the new paradigm, and you're part of it. Get used to it.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Red Light Cameras

State Senator Jason Crowell wants to ban red-light cameras in Missouri, now that cities like Arnold, Florrisant, and St. Louis have begun (or are soon to begin) using them. I disagree, because I've seen them cut down on the number of drivers running the red at an intersection near where we lived years ago in Virginia -- the combination of the cameras and the signs were are effective deterrent.

Still, Crowell made some good points in a letter to the editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch today, in which he explained his reasoning, saying in part:

Used properly, camera-based traffic monitoring may be a good safety tool, but certain concerns need to be addressed to ensure uniformity statewide. First, contingency agreements, in which companies manufacturing and maintaining cameras get a set percentage of fees collected, should be banned. Second, private companies employing civilians should not be able to control traffic lights and certainly should not issue or profit from citations.
He's right that the cameras should not be installed or operated by a private vendor which receives a kickback based on the revenue generated. That can only lead to abuse, such as shortened yellow lights that catch more drivers running the red, which has happened in other municipalities. Any city that wants the cameras should pay for and install them up front. Public safety should never be privatized in whole or in part.

The other problem, which Crowell didn't cite, is that while the photos provide evidence of the vehicle and its license plate, they don't give enough valid evidence to indict the driver. Therefore, the car owner gets the ticket in the mail and is responsible for it. Critics claim this is unfair to the owner, who may not have been driving the car at the time.

The solution is to treat this crime not as a moving violation, but as a citation in the same manner as a parking ticket. If your car sits at a meter too long, or is parked in a no parking zone, you're responsible for that ticket regardless of who was behind the wheel.

Also, this notion of having someone else driving your car strikes me as much less of a problem than the critics make it seem. What was the last time you lent your car to someone who was not in your immediate family? I can't remember doing it for a very, very long time. If you do, and that person runs the red and causes you to get a ticket, well, you've learned a valuable lesson about who you should lend your car to, haven't you?

Judge Nap on Domestic Spying

Judge Andrew Napolitano, the Fox News judicial analyst, was back on my show this afternoon to talk about the domestic spying issue.

He explained that, although he's a big supporter of President Bush, he's even more of a constitutional scholar, and it's on that basis that the notion of warrant-less spying bothers him to the extreme. One of the reasons I always enjoy talking to him is because he doesn't hesitate to stand up for the law of the land and the freedoms that America must stand for, no matter the circumstances.

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

Videotaping the Cops

This topic created a lot of debate on my KMOX show yesterday and today -- if you'd like to comment, here's another chance.

The ACLU is starting a program that will provide video cameras to residents of north St. Louis so they can record the actions of the police in their neighborhoods. They want to document how law enforcement deals with citizens and get evidence of any abuse. Chief Joe Mokwa says it's not against the law, and if any of his officers are doing anything wrong, he certainly wants to know about it, but he hopes the citizens with cameras don't bait or provoke the situtation or get in the way. The president of the St. Louis Police Officers Association says that officers already assume that whenever they do anything in public, they're being videotaped.

Before anyone gets a camera from the ACLU, they'll have to complete a series of workshops on what's expected of them and how to deal with the police. I'll bet that the biggest legal challenge to this won't be from the police, but from citizens who don't get cameras for one reason or another, and end up suing the ACLU!

What do you think of the progam, which is the first of its kind in the US?

Monday, January 02, 2006

Banned Words & Phrases

Lake Superior State University has released its annual list of words that should be banished because of "mis-use, over-use, and general uselessness." The list is bound to annoy Randy Jackson, Larry The Cable Guy, and the producers of 24-hour news networks:

  • Surreal
  • Hunker down
  • Person of interest
  • Community of learners
  • Up-or-down vote
  • Breaking news
  • Designer breed
  • FEMA
  • First-time caller
  • Pass the savings on to you!
  • 97% fat-free
  • An accident that didn't have to happen
  • Junk science
  • Git-r-done
  • Dawg
  • Talking points