Good Looks Net Center Court

Like many of our listeners, I was surprised to hear that Wimbledon's All England Club has taken to putting what it considers more attractive women players on its prestigious center court, regardless of ranking. I don't get it. Even if you can get past the idea of making such a selection based on appearance, it doesn't seem to make sense on a financial level. As we heard from the Editor of Tennis magazine, Wimbledon doesn't sell a greater number of tickets to matches involving players considered beautiful. Television ratings don't appear to be the reason, either. So what's behind the scheduling? Is it just assumed that the more attention good looking women players get, the better it is for the future of tennis?

One of our callers said he was a member of the pro volleyball tour. He claimed their circuit also highlighted more attractive players. However, in that case, the volleyball tour is a for-profit business. Perhaps the tour has found that it sells more tickets throughout the year by putting certain players front-and-center. Though it certainly has the potential to distract from matches, by putting the focus on good looking players, it doesn't hit me as strongly as Wimbledon's actions. I'll be very interested to see the fallout from this.


Luntz' "Government Takeover"

Political consultant Frank Luntz talked this morning about how he uses focus groups to come up with the terms many Republican politicians use in policy debates. Luntz coined "death tax," among many other favorite GOP expressions. His most recent influence can be seen in his 26-page memo to Republican members of Congress that urges usage of the term "government takeover" to describe a public health insurance option. Luntz argues that most Americans want healthcare coverage made more widely available and for pre-existing conditions to be covered, but that they're also concerned about losing the level of coverage they have.

President Obama clearly considers this to be true, as he frequently reassures folks that those currently covered by health insurance will be able to continue with what they have. However, many Republicans say a proposed public plan would put private insurers out of business and leave everyone with only the public option. That's the intersection between what Luntz is hearing in focus groups and what GOP members of Congress are trying to articulate in fighting the highest priority of a popular President.


Iran Moving Fast -- Healthcare Reform Slows

Last week, the debate over healthcare reform and whether there would be a competitive public plan was the biggest story. The pace was swift and it looked possible that President Obama's timeline might be met. Though still a big deal with huge consequences, it seems the process is slowing way down. There are apparently no small issues when it comes to health insurance, and no shortage of proposals for reform.

This is in contrast to the pace of developments in Iran, where every day brings new territory. Now the question is how many people will turn out for tomorrow's scheduled protests. Supreme Leader Khamenei's language at the University of Tehran today sets up a possible confrontation on that city's streets tomorrow. Let's all hope that whatever unfolds is peaceful.

I'll be vacationing next week in New Mexico. Los Angeles Times columnist David Lazarus will guest host. I'll look forward to reading your comments here so that I'm up to date when I return. Have a great weekend.


Theocracy, God, Politics, and Real Estate

One of the most frequent questions I get from listeners is how I can feel comfortable talking about the range of topics we cover on "AirTalk." My answer is that, unlike most people in their work, I don't have to be an expert at anything. I'm free to talk about all these subjects that I find fascinating. My lack of expertise means I have more questions about these areas than I can possibly ask in the time available. What's also exciting for me is that, given the quality of our audience, there is a huge amount of expertise and experience waiting to be tapped each day through listener calls.

This has been especially true with our tremendous listener input on Iran. We have all been able to connect with this story on a much deeper level, thanks to our Iranian-American listeners, experts like Reza Aslan, and superb reports from the Los Angeles Times' Bourzou Daragahi in Tehran.


Listeners Critique President Obama

This morning's topics provided great opportunities for listeners to weigh in on the President's response to Iran's public protests, and additional legal rights for Gays and Lesbians.

In our opening segment, I asked listeners to talk about whether they're happy with how the President has handled Gay rights. For the most part, callers were critical of Mr. Obama and thought he needed to speak out for overturning "don't ask, don't tell" and the "Defense of Marriage Act." There wasn't much enthusiasm over his expected announcement this evening that the partners of Federal employees would be getting some of the same benefits as heterosexual spouses.

I asked two questions specifically of Iranian-American listeners: whether they were happy with the President's response to the Iranian government, and what their ideal Iranian governmental system would be. Unlike the Gay rights issues, the strong majority of callers supported Mr. Obama's actions. They largely praised his low-key response to the Iranian Presidential election, and every caller supported a secular, democratic, government for Iran.