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Archive for August 2005

The jobs act that created no jobs?

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Would you like to pay only 5 percent on the income you make instead of 35 percent?

Oh, I’m sorry: You’re not a multinational corporation that has “amass[ed] profits abroad in tax havens like Ireland, Bermuda, Luxembourg and Singapore.”

A New York Times editorial today cries foul over a one-time corporate tax break that was supposed to spur creation of jobs. (See my previous screeds on the American Jobs Creation Act here and here.)

Well, that act, according to The Times, created no jobs:

A month ago, Hewlett-Packard announced it would lay off 14,500 workers by November 2006. Meanwhile, the company is about to repatriate $14.5 billion in profits it has in overseas accounts at a measly tax of 5.25 percent – an 85 percent discount off the normal corporate rate. The cut-rate repatriation, offered by Congress to American companies that bring profits held in foreign lands home in 2005, was sold to the public as a one-shot deal to generate cash for new hiring. But as its critics warned, the tax cut is functioning instead as a handout for America’s most profitable companies.

Hewlett is just one example. Normally, the tax on a $14.5 billion repatriation would be about $5 billion. Because of the bargain rate in 2005, Hewlett expects to pay roughly $800 million. Hewlett also expects its layoffs to cost the company about $1 billion. Thus, in Hewlett’s case, the tax holiday has not only failed to create jobs, but has also more than covered the cost of cutting workers from the payroll.

Dozens of other companies are also bringing billions home with no mention of new hiring.

The editorial names other corporations using this tax dodge to repatriate funds not to create jobs but to buy back stock. That, says The Times, “enriches shareholders by increasing earnings per share.”

That’s not creating jobs. But the act was written as an incentive to create jobs. Otherwise, why was the bill named as a job creation act?

Hmmm. Does that mean politicians and corporations lied about the legislative intent when they pushed this gargantuan corporate giveaway through Congress? Gosh.

FYI: The Senate voted 69-17 to accept the conference report as the final version. See how your senator voted here. See the final 207-16 House vote on the conference report here.

Now e-mail the twits who voted “yea” and ask ’em when they’re gonna to do something for you — the citizen, the voter, the little guy.


Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

August 26, 2005 at 1:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Of time, science, evolution … and ID?

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Having been trained as a geologist, I have some sense of the immensity of geologic time. In today’s New York Times, op-ed columnist Verlyn Klinkenborg offers the view that “[n]early every attack on evolution – whether it is called intelligent design or plain creationism, synonyms for the same faith-based rejection of evolution – ultimately requires a foreshortening of cosmological, geological and biological time.”

Klinkenborg’s argument is one of the strongest (and best-written) I’ve seen lately of the consequences on science that public acceptance of faith-based alternatives to evolution represents. From the column:

Accepting the fact of evolution does not necessarily mean discarding a personal faith in God. But accepting intelligent design means discarding science. Much has been made of a 2004 poll showing that some 45 percent of Americans believe that the Earth – and humans with it – was created as described in the book of Genesis, and within the past 10,000 years. This isn’t a triumph of faith. It’s a failure of education.

That last line — “a failure of education” — rings true these days. Just look into American students’ performance in math and science compared with other nations. I’d argue science is now something that a growing number of Americans fear rather than embrace. That’s not a healthy public attitude when it comes to deciding educational priorities at all school levels.

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

August 23, 2005 at 4:09 pm

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Editor tired of J profs (like me) bashing newspapers

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An editor for a Lee Enterprises newspaper in Wisconsin took me and other journalism professors to task last week for criticizing corporately owned newspapers. While I didn’t appreciate assumptions he made about me, he raises points about modern newspapering that deserve wider circulation.

See Randolph D. Brant’s piece at E&P or read on … Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

August 23, 2005 at 1:56 pm

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No joy in Mudville: Is journalism striking out?

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My newsroom days are 15 years distant, but I can see that there’s not as much joy these days in the newsrooms I visit. That’s a direct consequence of the change in motivation from the mission of journalism to the mission of creating shareholder value.

I teach journalism for a living to college students now. So I think a great deal about the newsrooms and the journalistic life my students will eventually enter. Should I teach them how disheartening it became for me at the end? Or should I teach them about, as a friend recently said, “the Great Mission and Moral Imperative” of the newspaper culture?

Back in the day, I started my career as a sportswriter. I loved being a sportswriter. It taught me how to be a journalist. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

August 16, 2005 at 10:13 am

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Bush: fitness equals “clear thinking”; Frank Rich: “Really”?

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President Bush took several reporters on a two-hour mountain bike ride Saturday on his 1,600-acre Texas ranch.

When he was done churning up hill and dale on his $3,100 Trek bike (a gift from the company, says St. Pete Times‘ Bill Adair), his heart monitor revealed these stats: “average rate 139, maximum 177. In two hours he burned 1,493 calories.”

Said the president, who has lost eight pounds since December on his six-days-a-week biking regimen:

I think you can do your job better if you’re fit. People think more clearly if you’re fit.

That’s good advice. But Frank Rich of The New York Times, however, doesn’t think the president thinks clearly at all. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

August 15, 2005 at 11:33 am

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The global economy inside an iPod …

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I bought an iPod last month. It now contains 1,802 songs. Thanks to the “shuffle” feature, I’ve listened to them all. Took a while, though.

My iPod, used as an auxiliary hard drive, contains every computer file I’ve created since I entered grad school in 1991 — all my research files, all my teaching files. I’ll teach my students how to use a small microphone to turn their iPods into a digital recorder. They can create .wav files and listen to their interviews as they write their stories in my reporting classes.

I have a gizmo that allows my iPod to play through my car stereo. And another that connects it to my home stereo. If you visit iLounge (formerly iPodLounge), you’ll find numerous accessories for the elegant-looking device. The iPod is flexible technology — and addictive.

I’m hooked. And so are the 5.3 million people who bought iPods in the last quarter and the 4.5 million in the previous quarter. If my math is right, that’s about two iPods each second.

They’re iconic. They’re distinctly American. They’re … made overseas?

Now I know electronic technology has been trotting off to Asia for decades. I shouldn’t be surprised.

But this recent story called “The World in the iPod” in the German publication Der Spiegel showed in much more detail the truth of the iPod’s insides.

If you own an iPod, you may find it an interesting read. It puts globalization in a more detailed perspective.

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

August 12, 2005 at 11:56 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Is fact-checking dead at U.S. newspapers?

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USA Today profiled a beverage company CEO earlier this week, reporting that the top dog attended Harvard, was drafted by the Boston Bruins and played minor league hockey.

The headline read: “From hockey star to accident victim to CEO” under the feature label “Today’s Entrepreneur.”

But it appears it isn’t true. The CEO’s public relations agency apologized to the paper, saying its client, Larry Twombly of Hat Trick Beverage in California, had misled the agency about his background. (Doesn’t “mislead” mean “lie”?) Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

August 11, 2005 at 12:54 pm

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Crashing safer?

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I’m reluctant to fly in a commercial aircraft, even though I have a private pilot’s license. Perhaps some of the reluctance comes from the associated aggravations of post-Sept. 11 realities. Or maybe I’ve seen too many disaster movies.

But a story in The New York Times Week in Review might change my attitude:

Since 1999, passengers, crew and pilots have walked away from commercial jet crashes around the world at least a half-dozen times, with few injuries or deaths.

And in the United States, of the 26 passenger jet accidents that took place from 1983 to 2000, 1,525 of the 2,736 passengers and crew, or 56 percent, survived, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates accidents.

Statistically, flying is the safest way to travel, airline buffs say. That fact never helped me sit through turbulence calmly.

The story’s an interesting look at major plane crashes and survival rates and reasons over the past several years. It might prompt me to consider my next plane trip with a little less trepidation.

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

August 9, 2005 at 3:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized