AirTalk for July 19, 2011

Mercer 19579
In his opening testimony during a high-stakes parliamentary hearing, News Corp.’s CEO Rupert Murdoch said that today “is the most humble day” of his life. But he denied prior knowledge of the phone-hacking scandal that has engulfed his media empire and left his company’s reputation in tatters. Murdoch said that responsibility for the alleged phone hacking of murder victims, members of the royal family and others rests with those he trusted to run the recently shuttered News of the World. While Murdoch said he was “shocked, appalled and ashamed” he claimed he was not aware of any wrongdoing until after the fact. When asked why he didn’t investigate Rebekah Brooks’ 2003 admission that the paper had paid off British police for inside information, Murdoch again claimed ignorance, adding that the tabloid “is less than 1 percent” of News Corp., which employs 53,000 people. Today’s testimony raises many questions about corporate ethics. How likely is it that the top bosses didn’t know about the ethically dubious behavior their reporters and editors are accused of? If it wasn’t Murdoch’s responsibility, who was in charge of making sure no one crossed the line? Who establishes the culture and ethics in any corporation? Have you ever worked for a company in which the top bosses didn’t know what their underlings were doing? Or does this kind of conduct generally trickle down from the top?
Mercer 19557
Yesterday officials in Riverside County heard hours of testimony on one of the most contentious projects ever proposed for the area—a large granite quarry. A company called Granite Construction wants to build an open pit quarry on 135 acres between Temecula and San Diego County. They say the project will bring in high-paying jobs and millions of tax dollars to the area and, oddly, improve air quality. As it is trucks are already rumbling through the area picking up and dropping off a building material called aggregate, if the quarry was right there they’d drive less and spew fewer diesel fumes into the atmosphere. Not surprisingly citizens of the area and environmentalists are not on board. They say the quarry will be a huge, pollution spewing blight on a beautiful landscape. Oh, and, it’s on a site sacred to the Pachanga band of Luiseno Indians. Critics also point out that the exhaustive 6,800 page environmental study that concluded that the quarry would be a fine addition to neighborhood was written by consultants hired by Granite Construction. Which side wins here? The company bringing jobs and tax dollars to an area that can sorely use both? Or those trying to protect unspoiled and important southern California acreage?
Mercer 19556
Lawmakers are dueling over the debt ceiling and it looks like any deal they strike will be contingent on big budget cuts. Over the past couple of months President Barack Obama and congressional leaders have been echoing the same phrase when it comes to cuts: “everything is on the table.” That means budget items that used to be off limits like defense spending and entitlements are suddenly up for debate. One of the ideas being kicked around is a means – or wealth – test for Medicare. In other words, charging wealthier Medicare recipients more for their medical coverage. In 2007 congress enacted something of a means test, sharply increasing the premiums of people who make over $200,000 a year. Now some people apparently want to expand that. Even President Obama indicated he would support a means test saying it would be appropriate and could save trillions of dollars. The savings are undeniable, but the appropriateness is up for debate. Seniors groups are insisting that Medicare is not welfare, seniors have paid in all their lives and deserve to get out what they put in. Meanwhile lawmakers and some economists insist that we all have to tighten our belts and since Medicare costs are a huge driver of our national debt they must be brought under control. But, is a means test the only way to do that? What other options are out there to curb costs? And how much responsibility should older, wealthier Medicare recipients shoulder for their healthcare costs?
Mercer 19591
Right now congress is looking over a new plan from the formerly defunct Gang of Six. The gang had been working on budget issues steadily for months until Representative Tom Coburn of Oklahoma backed out saying the democrats weren’t willing to make major compromises. Now Coburn’s back and the gang is putting a plan on the table. What’s in it? Who likes it? And where do we go from here? Is the debt ceiling debate finally over?
Mercer 19555
Adam Mansbach’s satirical children’s book Go the F**k to Sleep is causing quite a deal of controversy among parents. Some find the book an appropriately hilarious and even healing take on the nightly bedtime saga, while others believe it’s unnecessarily verbally abusive. The book is definitely intended for adults – so it’s unlikely that even the biggest fans would read it to their impressionable offspring. But it does raise the topic of cussing in front of kids. Some parents take a hard stance against such language – barring expletives and doling out serious punishment for any infractions. Others take a more progressive position, believing that there are no “bad” words and a certain amount of colorful language is just fine (JESUS!). Somewhere in the middle might be families that institute something like a “swear jar” for members to throw money into when tongues have strayed. Naturally, there’s only so much parents can do. Kids’ from the “cleanest” homes might come back from the neighbor’s swearing like sailors. When it comes to the mouths of babes, where do you draw the line? Do you cuss in front of your kids? Can they let it rip in front of you? Or do you have a zero tolerance policy in your household? If so, do you expect your kids to do what you effin say but never repeat it? How do you control outside influences, such as TV, music and peers? And for those without kids, do you censor yourself around other peoples’ little ones?
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