Saturday, March 10, 2012

Rush's debacle spreads

According to an article in Huffington Post, more than 50 sponsors have pulled their support from Rush Limbaugh's show.   By Thursday, his show was practically devoid of paid ads.

Of 86 spots aired, 77 were "free public service announcements donated by the Ads Council;  another 7 were from companies "in the process of pulling their spots."

It's even spreading.  Apparently here's the way this works:  large numbers of advertisers pay for radio advertising, which is handled by Traffic Managers.    Advertisers get to specify certain things, like which part of the day and what types of programs to avoid.  So it's not quite like Super Bowl sponsors, where a few big name companies choose to be the identified sponsors of the program.

Nevertheless, the Limbaugh debacle is having a spreading effect.  The following is an excerpt from a memo on
"To all Traffic Managers: The information below applies to your Premiere Radio Networks commercial inventory. More than 350 different advertisers sponsor the programs and services provided to your station on a barter basis. Like advertisers that purchase commercials on your radio station from your sales staff, our sponsors communicate specific rotations, day-part preferences and advertising environments they prefer…

They’ve specifically asked that you schedule their commercials in day-parts or programs free of content that you know are deemed to be offensive or controversial (for example, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Leykis, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity). Those are defined as environments likely to stir negative sentiment from a very small percentage of the listening public."
Not only has this given a huge megaphone to the original cause for which Sandra Fluke was barred from testifying before the Republican-dominated committee, but it is having a devastating effect -- even if it's only temporary -- on the hate-filled talk radio industry.


"Drill, baby, drill" -- again

Newt promises $2.50 gasoline prices.  If only we will entrust him with the reins of power.

Romney, more cautious, says the near-$4.00 prices at the pump are "at least in part" the fault of Obama.  If only we'd allow more drilling . . . and cut the regulations . . . and . . . what?

Santurum will probably find some way to include pump price as part of Obama's "war on religion."   What does the Vatican say about the price of oil?  I keep forgetting, Rick;  you'll need to remind me.

Pander on.   Create more bumper sticker slogans.

Obama responded:  "We can't just drill our way to lower gas prices – not when we consume 20 percent of the world's oil."    It was the Republicans who insisted on an immediate decision on the Keystone XL pipeline;  so, without sufficient time to study the environmental effects, the State Department (who had the final say because it is an international project), said No.  If we have to decide right now, the answer is No.

Here's the kicker.    Economists say there is not much a president of either party can do about gasoline prices.    Prices are much more influenced by things like fear of war with Iran (and who is it beating those drums?) and by rising demand in the U.S., China, and India.

And who stands in the way of improving fuel efficiency in cars and trucks?   And who stands in the way of more stimulus for development of alternative energy sources?

The Republicans, of course !!    The very people who are blaming Obama for high gasoline prices.


PS:   Why am I not surprised?

Put the women in charge

For several years, we've been hearing about the bonobo who are peace-loving primates, unlike their aggressive cousins the chimpanzee.   The bonobo are cooperative rather than combative, and they make love instead of making war.

Now there is a report from Emory anthropology graduate student Amy Cobden, who studies the bonobo in the Republic of Congo.   She has observed behavior that suggests that they actually have empathy for each others' feelings -- or at least a high degree of loyalty to their fellow bonobo.   Her observation was the lengths to which a group of bonobo went in repeatedly trying to free one of the males in their group from a snare that had been set to catch another species.    Several tried unsuccessfully to free him from the trap and some even went back the next day to check on him.

It was pointed out that all other species of animals simply leave behind any one of their species that gets caught or hurt.

One of the main differences in bonobo society is that the females are the leaders, in contrast to the male-dominated chimps.   It may be over-simplified and reductionistic to explain the differences on whether the leaders are male of female, but at least that is the situation.   Are they by nature peace-loving and empathic and therefore tend to choose female leaders?   Or does having female leaders result in policies that tend to foster the development of peaceful and loving customs?    Nature vs nurture?

This reminded me of an interview I heard years ago on NPR of one of the parliamentary leaders in Norway, a woman, who was discussing why their country is among the most generous in government services for children and parents (such as free day-care facilities, parental leave for childbearing and illness, and other benefits).   Asked why she thought Norway was such a leader in family-oriented benefits, she replied, "Oh, it's quite simple.   The majority of our Members of Parliament are women."

What a contrast with our current situation with the Republican's "War on Women," or as the Huffington Post puts it today:  "GOP vs Uteri."    Most blatant is the controversy over mandated contraception coverage in the Affordable Health Care Act.  A congressional committee hearing, chaired by a male Republican, had a panel of men to testify, but no women;  and the one woman the Democrats on the committee had invited to testify was denied the oppostunity.   She's the one Rush Limbaugh insulted so viciously.

I'm not being totally sexist here.   There are plenty of women hawks.  Remember during the 2008 campaign, Hillary Clinton was considered far more hawkish than Barack Obama.   It is not a male/female polarity -- or at least the polarization has a wide overlap -- but in general women are more likely to be empathic and cooperative, and men are more likely to be aggressive and competitive.

I personally think Obama is close to the ideal middle -- a man who can be assertive and strong who also has a large tender, empathic and cooperative nature.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Analyzing the GOP race forward

Nate Silver analyzes the polls and the delegate math and makes projections to come up with predictions.   I won't go into the details, but he says that, if Gingrich drops out, about 57% of his supporters would go to Santorum, 27% to Romney, and 16% to Paul.

In such a scenario, and if Santorum then began winning some primaries where he might otherwise run second to Romney (like Illinois, California, New Jersey) -- and it's complicated by the different way delegates are awarded in different states -- it seems just barely possible that Santorum could amass a majority of the delegates prior to the convention.

Of course all this is subject to some unexpected dymanic change in the campaigns.   Will Santorum learn from his recent extremist comments and be a little more political ?  It might also make a difference whether, if Gingrich drops out, he endorses Santorum.

Jason Linkins, political blogger for Huffington Post, looks at Silver's analysis and concludes that the most likely scenario is that neither Santorum nor Gingrich will get enough delegates to go into the convention with a majority.

But what they can do by continuing the campaign -- and likely will do -- is to keep Romney from getting a majority.

That's what makes this race interesting from here forward.   Will it wind up being like conventions used to be?   Instead of going there with the nominee already decided, the convention becomes a real place of negotiation and decision.

They might still wind up choosing Romney.  Or that could be a point at which no one gets a majority on the first vote, or maybe the second.   Then some other candidate is drafted, and delegates begin to switch their votes as they continue to take vote count after vote count -- until someone (Daniels, Christie, Paul Ryan) is nominated.  That's the way it used to be done.

Stay tuned.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Hawks' shortsightedness

Iran's supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei has praised President Obama's statement advocating diplomacy and not war as a solution to the Iranian  nuclear question and for saying that there is still a window of opportunity for diplomacy to work.  He called it "a wise remark."

This is a rare positive indication from the leader of a nation with whom we have had no diplomatic relations since 1979.

Now just watch the GOP candidates and the war-hawk pundits denounce this as more evidence of Obama's weakness and caving in to Iran.

Tell it to the parents and wives of soldiers who are now home from Iraq because of Obama's strong leadership as commander in chief.

Wiser people and calmer authorities (like our military generals) and the world's diplomats will see this as a very encouraging move from the Iranians and respect Obama for restraint.

Some people who know more about this still think that Iran is primarily developing a nuclear program for peaceful uses -- and moving a certain distance toward being ready to make the concentration of nuclear fuel needed for bombs, but not yet committed to actually making them.

Look, there really is their side to the story, as bad as their actions have been in some ways.   The United States did, without doubt, engineer the overthrow of their popularly elected socialist government and the assassination of their elected leader (just as we did in Chile).  We put the Shah back in power.  The result of that was the revolution that overthrew the Shah and installed the present Islamic theocracy.

In addition, Iran is vulnerable to the nuclear armed Israel, whom we back almost unconditionally and who is clearly threatening to bomb them.  Why wouldn't Iran feel the need to develop nuclear arms?

Let the hawks rave about showing our strength and rattling our weapons.   Obama is taking the right path, and he is far far stronger to be giving negotiations and diplomacy a real try.  Those who choose to undermine him for political pandering should be ashamed.


No wonder the Repubs are pushing "social values"

They don't have anything left except their narrow-minded "social values" screed.

They're beating the drums for war.   Yet military generals warn against going to war.

They've braying for tax cuts that benefit the wealthy more.   Yet the Business Roundtable representing corporate CEO's has commended two plans that include tax increases and were rejected by Paul Ryan, their financial darling.

They hate Obama.  Yet his approval ratings are on the increase, and he wins in polls when rated against each of the Repub contenders.

They have slogans;  but no plans except ones that will only make things worse.   So now we've got contraceptives and gay marriage on the agenda, plus their version of religious freedom -- which means their freedom to control others' lives.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Let's rush into the 1950's

I grew up in the 40's, went to college and medical school in the 50's.    Contraception was pretty limited to condoms and diaphragms, and it was a hush-hush, embarrasing thing to ask for at the drug store.

Abortion was illegal, but it happened pretty frequently anyway, often with disastrous medical complications.   There were a lot of shotgun marriages -- or young couples eloping across the state line to get married in South Carolina, where there was no waiting period. 

The laternate for girls who didn't get married or have an illegal abortion "went away" for a few months and then returned, with flimsy explanations for their absence ("went to stay with my aunt for a while").   We all knew about the Florence Crittendom homes where unmarried girls could go to have their babies and put them up for adoption.

Then as an intern in a big city charity hospital, I saw my share of the results of botched, back-alley abortions, often brought in to the ER with raging infections, hemorrhages.  Many died.

Times changed.

And now some of the Republicans want to return to that, it seems.    Glenn Rothman, GOP state senator in Wisconsin, has introduced a bill which would require the State Board of Child Abuse and Neglect to emphasize single parenthood as a contributing factor in child abuse.   He cites a study that he says shows that children living with an unmarried mother and her boyfriend are 20 times more likely to be abused than children living with their two biological parents.  And another report that 60% of children born to women under 30 are born out of wedlock.

I haven't seen these studies, so I can't say if they're true.   But his argument is mixing apples and oranges -- (1) couples who choose not to marry but decide to have children in a stable relationship with the biological father very much involved;  and (2) single mothers who live with boyfriends who are not the child's father.   One should not lump those two groups together for evaluating the effects on children.  But evaluating the studies and conclusions is really beside the point here.

It sounds primarily that Rothman is fighting government programs that benefit people in need -- as well as revving up the War on Women.

He said that the vast majority of these women have children, not as accidents, but to get the government benefits of food stamps, subsidized housing, extra tax benefits, all kinds of support, etc.   And "the government is pushing the single-parent lifestyle" by offering all these benefits.

This was from an interview on Fox News Talk Radio, and I was surprised at how challenging the interviewer was.  It was an audio clip and the host was referred to onlyas "Alan."   He went after the legislator for his stance on single parenthood while also opposing the insurance mandate for coverage of birth control and prenatal care.   He also said, "You think women choose to get pregnant so they can get food stamps? . . .  I think you're being insulting to these women."   Rothman defended his point, saying that with all the benefits, it can be a pretty good lifestyle and just encourages them to get pregnant to get more benefits.

The host also challenged him with studies that show 4 in 10 of the births out of wedlock are unplanned and unwanted -- so how does he say that they are doing it in order to get government benefits, and why isn't that an argument for government sponsored birth control?

The Fox News Radio host was then even more explicit:   "We talk about the problem of out of wedlock births . . .  but our solution is very different from yours. . .   My solution is the same as Barack Obama's, which is to provide services for women, which Republicans want to remove."

This was Fox?    A challenging interviewer going after a conservative position?   And giving full support to Obama's plan?

Wow !!

But here's the thing that wasn't mentioned at all:   There was absolutely no mention of men and their responsibility in out of wedlock pregnancies.  Why is it only the women who "choose" or who bear the responsibility?   It's all women's fault.  See, they're just there to take care of men's needs -- and it's their fault if they get pregnant.   No wonder the men take off and feel no responsibility for these children.   That's the problem, not the government assistance.   And which president has spoken out strongly to black men about taking responsibility?    President Barack Obama.

When Alan asked Rothman what would be his solution to this "epidemic" of out of wedlock pregnancies, he said "These women need to be educated."

And the men ?     The male dominated Republican agenda that wouldn't even allow women to testify at a hearing on contraception?

The same men who decided that insurance programs can cover Viagro but not birth control pills


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Commander in Chief

President Obama took the opportunity of a press conference today to chastise the GOP candidates for their "loose talk" about going to war.

"What's said on the campaign trail, you know, those folks don't have a lot of responsibilities. They're not commander-in-chief. . . . When I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I'm reminded of the costs involved in war. I'm reminded of the decision that I have to make, in terms of sending our young men and women into battle, and the impacts that has on their lives, the impact it has on our national security, the impact it has on our economy. . . .This is not a game, and there's nothing casual about it."

He went further and said that those who are "beating the drum of war" should explain what they think the costs and the benefits would be.
"They should explain to the American people exactly why they would do that and what the consequences would be.  Everything else is just talk."
Obama noted the irony in the fact that, when pressed for specifics on how to respond to Iran, they wind up just repeating his policies of the past few years.
"It indicates to me that [their criticisms are] more about politics than actually trying to solve a difficult problem."
 Bravo, Mr. Commander in Chief.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Rush finally went too far

I don't need to repeat the huge insult Rush Limbaugh heaped on the courageous law student who testified about contraception.    Even some Republicana spoke out against him, and some of his sponsors dropped him.

So today he made "a sincere apology.'

Not good enough, said the CEO of Carbonite, one of the sponsors:  Here's his statement:
“No one with daughters the age of Sandra Fluke, and I have two, could possibly abide the insult and abuse heaped upon this courageous and well-intentioned young lady. Mr. Limbaugh, with his highly personal attacks on Miss Fluke, overstepped any reasonable bounds of decency. Even though Mr. Limbaugh has now issued an apology, we have nonetheless decided to withdraw our advertising from his show. We hope that our action, along with the other advertisers who have already withdrawn their ads, will ultimately contribute to a more civilized public discourse."
Finally, enough is enough.


Carbonite CEO