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Archive for March 2006

Taxpayer-funded fluff from my rep in Congress

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I just sent the following letter to the editor to my local paper.

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To the editor:

Once again, my representative in Congress, the Honorable John R. “Randy” Kuhl, has sent me a four-page, four-color, eight-photograph “Legislative Report” extolling “a tremendously busy and successful year in Congress.”

This report, “prepared, published and mailed at taxpayer expense,” provides little concrete evidence on how Rep. Kuhl voted in this congressional session. As such, this “report” serves more as public relations vehicle for a congressman seeking re-election than as an effort by a responsible elected public official to fully and fairly inform his constituents of his activities.

The “report” is less than forthcoming in several statements.

Rep. Kuhl claims that “gasoline prices have settled back to pre-hurricane levels.” The federal Energy Information Administration, however, said March 27 that U.S. motorists paid $2.498 a gallon on average the previous week and that pump prices are 34.5 cents higher than a year ago. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

March 31, 2006 at 4:19 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

NASA scientists free at last …

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NASA scientists are now free to speak with journalists without fear of reprisal from agency officials — or, worse, Bush administration political appointees.

At least that’s what the new “NASA Policy on the Release of Information to News and Information Media” appears to say. NASA administrator Michael Griffin released the new rules earlier this week.

The new rules come in the wake of allegations that NASA political appointees sought to suppress NASA scientists’ free speech rights by restricting information that did not mirror the political views of the Bush administration.

Here’s the paragraph that counts:

NASA employees may speak to the media and the public about their work. When doing so, employees shall notify their immediate supervisor and coordinate with their public affairs office in advance of interviews whenever possible, or immediately thereafter, and are encouraged, to the maximum extent practicable, to have a public affairs officer present during interviews. If public affairs officers are present, their role will be to attest to the content of the interview, support the interviewee, and provide post-interview follow up with the media as necessary. [emphasis added]

I guess that’s better than nothing. And I wonder why the policy, “written by an internal team of scientists, lawyers, public affairs specialists and managers,” according to the Post, had to be eight pages long.

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

March 31, 2006 at 2:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The almighty Ad Dollars are on the move …

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Buried deep in small boxes labeled “Popular Demand” and “Drilling Down” in the business section of Tuesday’s New York Times were the hints of the demise of traditional media as we know them and how advertisers are moving their dollars in search of more effective eyeball-to-eyeball contact with consumers.

The former ranked 2005 advertising growth in several media according to top winners and losers. The Internet (surprise!) led the winners. It saw a 23 percent increase in ad dollars. National newspapers (surprise!) led the losers. Their take of ad dollars fell 4.7 percent. Newspaper folks pretend to not be alarmed, pointing out that right now, Internet ad spending is only 3 percent of total advertiser spending. But it’s growing.

Sayeth The Times:

More advertising dollars are flowing to the Internet, to the detriment of some traditional outlets. The changes are driven by companies aiming at ever-narrower niches audiences. Advertising share is increasing for local magazines and outdoor media, mostly billboards. And cable TV, with the largest advertising share, is gaining at the expense of networks.

The trend is skewed with newspapers, however, where classified and display ads are slowly disappearing from both local and national newspapers.

Newspapers generally continue to cling to a business model dependent on classified and display ads. National newspapers, however, are working on ways to bolster news Web site income; regional and local papers are slower to adopt necessary changes. Too many Internet means of buying and selling are pre-empting, hell, have pre-empted the newspapers’ role as middleman for buyer and seller. If newspapers plan a new business model, they’d better put it in play soon.

“Craigslist has disemboweled us in many ways,” says Scott Herhold, a columnist for the San Jose Mercury News. [See the fate of this once-proud newspaper in a Times story this week; TimesSelect req’d.] “When you start to lose very high-margin revenue dollars,” says Jay T. Harris, a former Merc publisher, “you can’t make that up with cost-cutting.”

Advertising dollars are moving and dead-tree media aren’t moving fast enough to retain or recapture dollars they’re losing.

Now for the “Drilling Down” item. Are you a boxing fan? Did you watch NBC’s reality show “The Contender” last year?

The program had 15 episodes (with Sergio Mora outpointing Peter Manfredo Jr. over seven rounds to win the $1 million grand prize in the last.)

According to The Times, the 15 episodes had 7,502 product placements:

Contestants on ‘The Contender’ drank Gatorade in every episode, carted supplies around in a Toyota truck and ran through what the host of the show described as a ‘Toyota traffic jam.’ Each appearance of the product counts toward the total. Overall the number of placements on TV rose to 107,839 in 2005 from 82,739 in 2004. [emphasis added]

The Times says actors and screenwriters fear that product placements will move from their current home predominantly in reality TV to scripted TV. That means advertisers would have more say in development of scripts to provide the most congenial environment for their products.

So, kiddies, what impact will these two growing movements of advertising dollars have on the acquisition and distribution of both news and entertainment? Who will control content in a media universe where advertisers play a greater role because 1) they are the financial engine of the media industry and 2) want demonstrated results for each dollar they spend in advertising?

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

March 22, 2006 at 11:41 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Dems’ money pitch, Part III

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The Democratic Party has taken note of my earlier refusals to submit to its fund-raising entries. It’s brought out the big gun herself — Hillary. Pelosi wasn’t enough; The Screamer wasn’t enough. (See posts here and here.)

But, at least, Hillary isn’t hiding behind Democratic House minority leader Nancy Pelosi’s “2005 Democratic Agenda Survey.” She’s not using as cover Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean’s “2006 Grassroots Survey of Democratic Leaders.”

She’s using everyone’s favorite punching bag these days — the president himself. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

March 10, 2006 at 4:17 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The for-profit education empire strikes back

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If you haven’t invested in for-profit education, maybe now’s the time. That’s because your representatives in Congress gave the industry a license to print money.

Hidden in a $39.5 billion budget-cutting package (ha!) was the provision that “colleges will no longer be required to deliver at least half their courses on a campus instead of online to qualify for federal student aid,” said The New York Times this week. (Story, TimesSelect req’d; emphasis added.)

Lifting that restriction means that students at online colleges like the University of Phoenix now qualify for federal student aid. That means more of your tax dollars will be flowing into places (opinion follows) where the quality of education might be a wee bit questionable.

The Times points out that lobbyists for the for-profit education industry have become significant arm-twisters and buck-passers (literally!) in D.C. But did they have help? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

March 3, 2006 at 2:03 pm

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Wanna get $100 billion? Hire a congressman turned lobbyist

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Pssst.

Wanna make a lotta money? Invest small; reap big?

That’s what a coalition (“cabal” might be a better word) of 60 corporations did. For the minimal investment of $1.6 million to pay a K Street lobbying firm, the corporations saved $100 billion in taxes on overseas profits. (Washington Post National Weekly Edition, Feb. 20-26, p. 12; sorry, no link. See earlier posts here and here.)

The corpokleptocrats paid lobbyists that pittance to seek legislation that would reduce the tax on foreign earnings from 35 percent to just 5 percent. The legislation, the American Jobs Creation Act signed into law by President Bush in 2004, was shepherded through Congress by former Texas congressman Bill Archer. He had chaired the House Ways and Means Committee during the 1990s and had sought a tax-free repatriation for foreign profits.

Look no further for an example of the revolving door between K Street lobbying firms and former senators and representatives and their aides that has paid off so handsomely. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

March 1, 2006 at 12:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized