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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Democratic National Convention Ratings: 38 Million Watch Obama's Acceptance Speech

Barack Obama's audience for his acceptance speech likely topped 40 million people, and the Democratic gathering that nominated him was a more popular television event than any other political convention in history.

More people watched Obama speak from a packed stadium in Denver on Thursday than watched the Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing, the final "American Idol" or the Academy Awards this year, Nielsen Media Research said Friday. (Four playoff football games, including the Super Bowl between the Giants and Patriots, were seen by more than 40 million people.)

His TV audience nearly doubled the amount of people who watched John Kerry accept the Democratic nomination to run against President Bush four years ago. Kerry's speech was seen by a little more than 20 million people; Bush's acceptance speech to GOP delegates had 27.6 million viewers.

Through four days, the Democratic convention was seen in an average of 22.5 million households. No other convention _ Republican or Democratic _ had been seen in as many homes since Nielsen began keeping these records for the Kennedy-Nixon campaign in 1960. There weren't enough television sets in American homes to have possibly beaten this record in years before that.

The convention that comes closest in interest was the 1976 Republican gathering, which averaged 21.9 million homes. That was the year President Gerald Ford fought off a challenge for the nomination from future President Ronald Reagan. For Democrats, the closest came during the 1980 convention where Sen. Edward Kennedy challenged President Jimmy Carter for the nomination.

This year's nomination fight was another epic battle, between Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Even though it was decided before the convention, viewers apparently were drawn to the historic nature of the first black man nominated as a major party presidential candidate.

Nielsen said that 38.4 million people watched Obama's speech as it was carried live by 10 commercial networks: ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, BET, TV One, Univision and Telemundo.

PBS also televised the speech, but didn't pay Nielsen for a count of its national viewership. Based on a sample of several large cities, PBS estimated that an additional 4 million people saw the speech on its network. C-SPAN, which also televised the speech, has no estimate of its audience.

Obama's speech was the fifth-highest-rated, non-sports event watched by blacks in the last 11 years. A 30th anniversary Michael Jackson special on CBS in 2001 was on top.

The acceptance speech was a particular triumph for CNN, which clearly beat the three big broadcasters head-to-head on a news event for the first time ever. An estimated 8.1 million people watched on CNN Thursday.

In general, audience estimates for the convention show the dramatically waning influence of ABC, CBS and NBC in coverage for these events. The three big broadcasters aired only one hour of convention coverage each night, and it seemed a particular handicap on Thursday as its cable competition was able to show the buildup to Obama's speech.

ABC was the second-most network for Obama-watchers, with 6.6 million. NBC had 6.1 million, CBS 4.7 million, Fox News Channel 4.2 million and MSNBC 4.1 million.

The Republican convention begins Monday in St. Paul, Minn. Republican candidate John McCain sought to take away some of the attention from his rival on Friday by selecting Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Sarah Palin: A Champion For Big Oil


sarah.jpgWith the choice of Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) as his running mate, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is not backing down from oil drilling. Palin is a champion for drilling, the Bush-Cheney approach to energy policy that brought us $4.00-per-gallon gasoline and the rising threat of global warming.

Like McCain, Palin believes that oil drilling is the only solution to our energy problems. “I beg to disagree with any candidate who would say we can’t drill our way out of our problem,” she says. She supports more drilling in protected areas of the Outer Continental Shelf and the Alaska Natural Wildlife Refuge, once attacking McCain for his “close-mindedness on ANWR.”

But the Department of Energy believes that offshore drilling “would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030.” Moreover, about three-quarters of all the oil in public lands in the continental U.S. are already open to drilling – and yet only one quarter of this oil is under production. Opening the Arctic Refuge would cut gasoline prices by two cents in 17 years. For that, Palin would destroy the home of America’s native polar bears. Not even T. Boone Pickens still thinks we can drill our way out of this crisis.

Palin rejects clean renewable energy that is an alternative to oil. Earlier this month, she claimed that “alternative-energy solutions are far from imminent and would require more than 10 years to develop.”

Alaska has become the “poster state” for the threat of global warming as the climate gets hotter and dryer and sea levels rise. More than 100 towns are vulnerable due to eroding sea lines. Polar bears are threatened by the melting ice floas, and this month bears were spotted swimming as much as 50 miles offshore.

Nonetheless, like many other oil champions, Palin is skeptical of global warming. During her gubernatorial campaign, she said she was unconvinced about how much human emissions contribute to current global warming trends. Palin also opposes listing our polar bears as a threatened species because it could require action on climate change.

As Carl Pope of the Sierra Club says, “No one is closer to the oil industry than Governor Palin.” Sarah Palin has taken positions that would ensure a continuation of the Bush-Cheney energy policies. She supports drilling everywhere and ignores the need for binding reductions in global warming pollution even though her state is melting. The continuation of these policies will continue higher energy costs, more severe hurricanes and droughts, and despoiled natural treasures.

Original here

McCain's VP Wants Creationism Taught in School


Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin wants creationism taught in science classes.

In a 2006 gubernatorial debate, the soon-to-be governor of Alaska said of evolution and creation education, "Teach both. You know, don't be afraid of education. Healthy debate is so important, and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both."

(Read about Palin's views on ANWAR and polar bears on our sister blog, Threat Level.)

Asked by the Anchorage Daily News whether she believed in evolution, Palin declined to answer, but said that "I don't think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class."

"I'm not going to pretend I know how all this came to be," she said.

The battle between evolution and creationism -- specifically, Christian creationism -- in U.S. classrooms dates back to the 1925 Scopes trial, when a Tennessee court banned the teaching of evolution. Since then, state and federal courts have repeatedly rejected so-called creation science in public schools, calling it religion rather than science.

The latest courtroom defeat came in the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover case, when the superficially religion-neutral theory of intelligent design was classified as religious creationism. The Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that teaching creationism violated the separation of church and state.

Nevertheless, pro-creationism education initiatives driven by Christian conservatives have flourished, and defenders of evolution -- and, more broadly, scientific integrity -- worry that Palin's pick will give momentum to this church-over-state push.

"It's unfortunate McCain would pick someone who shares those particular anti-science views, but it's not a surprise," said Barbara Forrest, a Southeastern Lousiana University philosophy professor and prominent critic of creationist science. "She's a choice that pleases the religious right. And the religious right has been the chief force against teaching evolution."

In February, Florida's Board of Education narrowly defeated a bill calling for evolution to be balanced by "alternatives." The language is widely regarded as a euphemism for creationism engineered by the pro-intelligent design Discovery Institute, whose "wedge strategy" calls for the gradual dilution of classroom evolution and its eventual replacement by "a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."

Armed with courtroom-friendly language, Texas is currently considering creationism-friendly revisions to its own curriculum. In June, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal passed the Louisiana Science Education Act, encouraging schools to provide alternative critiques of global warming, human cloning and evolution. Similar initiatives were defeated in South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Missouri and Michigan.

Palin's statements track with the official Alaska Republican Party platform, which support creation science and intelligent design by name, and says that "evidence disputing the theory should also be presented."

According to Fordham Institute science education expert Lawrence Lerner, Palin's nomination is less worrisome in terms of education than the broad relationship of science and government.

"In the direct sense, vice presidents don't have much to do with what goes on in classrooms. But a person who's a creationist doesn't understand science and technology at all," said Lerner. "It doesn't bode well for science, and doesn't bode well for interaction between science and government."

President Bush has been publicly skeptical of evolution, while Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama has professed support. "I think it's a mistake to try to cloud the teachings of science with theories that frankly don't hold up to scientific inquiry," he said in April.

John McCain's campaign did not respond in time for publication.

When asked about Palin potentially being a step removed from the White House, Forrest responded, "We'd have a creationist as President. But that's not new -- we've already got one."

Palin: You're no Hillary Clinton

None of my pro-Hillary female friends are falling for this obvious GOP pander. To the contrary, McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his VP is drawing hoots of derision.

Once they learn that Sarah Palin opposes rape and incest exceptions for women seeking abortion, they completely write her off.

One female friend said: "Sarah Palin is to the movement for women's equality what Clarence Thomas is to civil rights. She's an extremist and an enemy to the cause that has been fought on her behalf.... Someone should stand up and say: 'I know Senator Clinton. Senator Clinton is a friend of mine. And Sarah Palin is no Hillary Rodham Clinton.'"

One female friend did some quick internet research and said, "Sarah Palin has a great deal of surface appeal, at first. But once America's women look behind that cheerleader smile and see at her extreme social agenda, they will run the other direction."

Another said, "McCain picked a fan, not an equal partner. She has no international experience. She was just fawning all over him. No independence. Given McCain's temper, Sarah Palin probably won't challenge John McCain on any substantive issues."

Then she added, with a laugh, "The only thing he is going to let her do in the White House is teach him how to use the internet."

Another said, "It just seems desperate and calculated."

She added, "Palin makes McCain look ancient, out-of-touch and totally yesterday. McCain makes her look like a perky kid. Each one dramatically and perfectly underscores the other's weakness. At least, nobody can criticize Obama's alleged youth and inexperience now. But this is not the best team America could produce, by any stretch."

John McCain has gone from maverick to "me too" -- trying to out-Democrat the Democrats and pick up some Hillary voters.

But it ain't working.