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July 4, 2018: What, if anything, can stave off the ruination of the Republic?

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In 2007, on this overblown, sadly commercialized holiday whose historical moment has been buried by beer, barbecue, patriotic bombast, and over-the-top, often taxpayer-paid fireworks, I wrote what 2011 might bring. I wasn’t hopeful. I predicted:

sign for fireworksNearly one out of every six Americans will still be without health insurance. Attempts at immigration reform (whatever that means) will still have been eroded by more objections by many more interests with particular beefs. No coherent, consistent, effective American policy that begins to undo climate change will exist. American school children will continue to lag far behind other nations in math and science — and still have decreasing abilities as critical thinkers. Spending by lobbyists to influence federal regulators and members of Congress will be on its way to passing $3 billion for 2011. …

The income disparity between the top 1 percent of Americans and the rest of us — the other 99 percent — will have widened. The continual tension between those who demand increased security and those who fear erosion of civil liberties and constitutional rights will continue unabated. The debates and difficulties involving voting fraud and reform will have been heightened by the 2008 election as election foes bicker endlessly in courts about outcomes. And, figuring a 10 percent increase per election cycle, the top 50 industries will be en route to shelling out $850 million to just members of Congress alone in political contributions for the 2012 election cycle.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

July 4, 2018 at 2:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Bagdikian was right: Don’t allow media to concentrate

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Ben Bagdikian, one of the nation’s foremost media critics, died in 2016 at age 96. He left behind warnings about concentration in media ownership. We should have paid more attention.

head shot of human being

Ben Bagdikian

Beginning in 1983 with the publication of “The Media Monopoly” and again in 2000 with “The New Media Monopoly,” he railed against the growing power of ever fewer owners of media — big fish swallowing little fish, then still bigger fish swallowing those big fish. In the 2000 edition, he called the most monstrous fish “The Big Five” — Time Warner, The Walt Disney Company, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, Viacom, and the German firm Bertelsmann. He argued these corporations had “more communications power than was exercised by any despot or dictatorship in history.”

That was only 18 years ago. The world of media has dramatically changed — and, thanks to a federal judge’s decision this week in the merger case of AT&T and Time Warner, more change in media ownership and concentration lies ahead. AT&T (which provides the conduit) and Time Warner (which provides the content) argue they must be allowed to merge to compete with the new generation of media titans — Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google.

Bagdikian would have none of this. He’d continue to argue the media concentration underway for more than a century has consequences on how we the people see ourselves, see others, and govern ourselves.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 13, 2018 at 3:39 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

When is that chemical toxic? Ask the industry-guided EPA

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If you’d like a reason to be cynical about whether government favors you or favors an industry, look no further than a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA safer choice logoThe EPA has decided to review 10 chemicals in public use but considered toxic by many scientists. However, the EPA will only assess the risk of these chemicals in terms of direct human contact. A law passed by Congress in 2016 requires the EPA to assess toxicity risk in hundreds of chemicals to determine whether they should be further regulated or even removed from the market, according to The New York Times.

Under potential review are chemicals in common commercial products. Take, for example, the chemical often used to dry clean your clothes, the solvent perchloroethylene. Yes, it will clean your Sunday best, but it’s nasty stuff. Also on the list is 1,4-dioxane. You might find it in your deodorant, your shampoos, or your cosmetics. Its use, too, might not be in your best interest.

But the EPA’s review, taken at behest of Congress, will be limited to only direct contact. Members of Congress, says The Times, argue the 2016 law calls for comprehensive analysis of risk. That would include contamination of air, land, and water in addition to direct contact.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 12, 2018 at 3:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Why save coal instead of investing in wind?

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Money moves toward enterprises where profit lies in waiting. But money runs as fast as possible from the tired and unprofitable.

wind turbines sky road

Wind turbines along I-80 in southern Wyoming.

Consider the fortunes of wind-generated energy and that produced by burning coal — a carbon fuel notable for emissions of carbon dioxide into an atmosphere already laden with it.

President Donald campaigned on the reckless promise to rescue the coal industry. I’ve already written about the economic improbability of coal’s rebirth (and the jobs that go with it). Note, too, that President Donald’s former chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, disagreed with the president’s touting of coal. (Hence the italicized former.)

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 4, 2018 at 4:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Mental illness should not become a blanket barrier to owning a firearm

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I want to buy a gun.

As a kid, I loved westerns — those with Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, and John Wayne. They were heroes — good guys in white hats defeating bad guys in black hats. Those heroes had guns — but they never drew first. That was the code of the West.

One movie — Winchester ’73, starring James Stewart — touted the gun I wanted most. I saw that rifle, that lever-action carbine, and I wanted one. But I was just a kid.

Now I’m not a kid. So I want to buy a Winchester Model 94 Carbine. It’s only about twelve hundred bucks. I can afford it. Lever action, seven-shot magazine, satin wood finish, brushed steel barrel. I have friends who can teach me to safely shoot it, respect it, and maintain it. So why not?

As I salivate, two thoughts emerge.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

March 8, 2018 at 7:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Really? It was ‘Science Day’ in Congress?

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How nice of the retiring Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the outgoing chair of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, to declare this past Monday “Science Day” in the House of Representatives.

CATEGORY: ScienceTechnology2Yes, according to a press release from the science committee office, Rep. Smith had the House primed to consider “five bipartisan Science Committee bills that support careers and education in STEM, reauthorize federal firefighting programs and promote cooperative space and science programs between NASA and Israel.”

The House majority leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was soooo proud of the intended accomplishments of Science Day: “America has led the world in science and innovation for generations. To think, 65 percent of today’s students will be employed in jobs that don’t exist yet. In our mission to prepare America’s next generation of innovation, the House will honor our nation’s history of leadership with Science Day. We will bring five bills to the floor that will support science, our nation’s infrastructure, aerospace and STEM careers. I applaud Chairman Smith on his hard work to get these bills ready for floor consideration.”

If you’d like to see the bills, laughably labeled as “bipartisan,” go to the committee’s press release. But if Monday was Science Day, it was a low bar.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

December 20, 2017 at 6:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Remove words? Control discourse? That’s power.

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Those who can control language have power over those who cannot. That has been the most corrosive power exercised by President Donald’s administration. This is especially true in matters relating to science.

language-has-powerThe White House has eliminated virtually every mention of climate change from its website and those of other cabinet departments and federal agencies. Employees, especially scientists, at the Environmental Protection Agency and the departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services have been ordered to end any external communication without “consultation” with senior political appointees.

Donald appointed a secretary of Education who has repeatedly supported Republicans with anti-science views who deny the human role in climate disruption. The secretary’s family foundation supports anti-science evangelical and fundamentalist organizations.

His initial budget priorities sought to slash funding for science-based federal agencies such as the EPA and the National Institutes of Health. The goal? Remove federal funding for scientific research from environmental and climate-based investigators.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

December 16, 2017 at 9:55 am

Posted in Uncategorized