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Archive for May 2006

If they don’t tell who they are, screw ’em

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I sent the following to my representative and senators in Congress. Boy, am I pissed.

Dear (insert political hack’s name here):

On Tuesday, May 23, at 7:38 p.m., the message below was left on my answering machine:

To take emergency action. The House is scheduled to vote this week on President Bush’s budget that will take food from the mouths of poor children and cut money for health care and education just to put tax breaks in the pockets of millionaires.

Your congressman, Randy Kuhl, will be a critical swing vote. Call Congressman Kuhl. Tell him to vote against any budget that cuts money for food, health care, or education in order to fund tax breaks for millionaires.

If you called before, please call again. To speak to Congressman Kuhl’s office right now, push 1 on your touch-tone phone and we will connect you at no charge. Push 1 now to be connected.

Now, both state and federal do-not-call laws exempt political parties. But in this case, no political party is identified. No sponsoring agency of any kind is identified. No phone number or any other kind of contact information was provided.

The federal do-not-call complaint form requires either the phone number or name of the organization. But my caller provided no such information.

When callers leave no identifying information whatsoever, why should they be exempt from telemarketing restrictions, even if the message is political?


Dennis M. Wilkins


Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

May 26, 2006 at 12:25 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Show up, pay attention, take notes …

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A professor friend of mine uttered a complaint that festers in most of us professorial types at this time of year as we compute final grades. My friend felt distressed because he saw so little accomplishment by his students.

Now, my friend is an exceptional teacher. My friend sought to engage students on a higher intellectual plane, expecting them to be motivated to do so. They didn’t. The collegial give-and-take among students and professor, prompted by faith in a mutual desire to learn, did not produce the results my friend had expected.

I understand that feeling, that reasonable expectation on the part of a teacher that students should provide their own motivation. After all, it’s a voluntary effort — and they’re paying for it.

Nevertheless, in my courses, the self-motivated are the distinct minority.

Yet I love teaching. I decided a few years back I would teach all comers equally — whether they learn would be up to them. I make my expectations of them — and theirs of me — clear in the first class meeting of each course. I put up an overhead before they arrive, so it’s the first thing they see as they enter the classroom:

Journalism, like life, is mostly about attention to detail, common sense and discipline.

I tell them bluntly: Those of you who understand that will do well. Those of you who don’t, or refuse to try to understand that, will likely fail this course, and probably several others.

I told my friend to fire the shot of accountability across their bow immediately in the first class. Set standards clearly and unambiguously.

If they’d only learn that so much of life is showing up, paying attention and taking notes, they’d do better in college — and after.

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

May 13, 2006 at 4:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Congressional election fundraising: $657.2M in 15 months

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If you want to be a senator or representative in Congress, the price is climbing fast.

According to Political Money Line:

Congressional campaigns raised a total of $ 657.2 million in the period from January 1, 2005 through March 31, 2006, an increase of 13% from the comparable period in 2003-2004, according to a compilation by the Federal Election Commission.

1,726 Senate and House candidates spent $330.4 million in this 15 month period (nearly unchanged from 2004), and reported cash on hand of $522.3 million (up 24%) at the end of the first quarter.

Candidates in this cycle’s 33 Senate campaigns reported receipts of $265.1 million, disbursements of $110.9 million, and cash balances of $202.5 million. This represents a 5% increase in fundraising, a 21% decline in spending, and a 22% increase in cash-on hand over 2004 levels.

Read the rest. You’ll be discouraged. No doubt they’ll hit a billion bucks before November. Now imagine what presidential election fundraising will be like for 2008.

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

May 12, 2006 at 1:20 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

I pick on Democrats, too

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I sent the following to my local newspaper. I wish more citizens would use the Web tools easily available to take a hard look at the finances of the candidates seeking their vote.

For me, it’s a civic responsibility.


To the editor:

In a story in your May 9 issue (“Massa attacks Kuhl on taxes, funding for troops”), Democratic congressional candidate Eric Massa said, “Our campaign will give the working families of this district an alternative to the rubber stamp, business-as-usual Washington culture.”

Mr. Massa will likely face the incumbent District 29 representative, the Hon. John R. “Randy” Kuhl (R-Hammondsport), who announced his re-election bid in the same issue.

Mr. Massa’s claim to be an “alternative” to politics as usual needs inspection – particularly his campaign’s fundraising. As of April 30, the most recent date for Federal Election Commission filings, Mr. Massa has raised $311,115. Of that, $180,373 has come from individuals — 187 of them, according to the FEC.

But of those 187 individual contributions, only 16 come from zip codes inside District 29. And 71 contributions come from outside New York state — 38 from zip codes in Washington, D.C., and the power suburbs nearby.

Mr. Massa has received $7,500 from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), according to the FEC. And, like Rep. Kuhl has from Republicans, Mr. Massa has received money from “Leadership” political action committees (PACs) associated with Democratic House leaders and incumbents and other Democratic powers:

• $5,000 from WESPAC — Securing America’s Future, run by former presidential candidate Wesley Clark.
• $2,500 from the PAC to the Future of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
• $2,500 from AMERIPAC, the Leadership PAC of House Democratic Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)
• $2,000 from the Our Common Values PAC of Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, DCCC chair.
• $2,000 from the National Leadership PAC chaired by 15-term congressman Charles Rangel, the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee.
• $1,000 from Arkansas Rep. Marion Berry, elected to the House in 1996.
• $1,000 from 16-year Hawaii Rep. Neil Abercrombie.
• $1,000 from incumbent District 27 Rep. Brian Higgins.
• $1,000 from the Leadership PAC of incumbent Maine Rep. Mike Michaud.
• $700 from the Progressive Patriots Fund chaired by Sen. Russ Feingold, a likely 2008 presidential candidate.
• $500 from John Breaux. a senator from Louisiana from 1987 until 2005 and a member of the House from 1972-1987.

Mr. Massa’s positions on issues may differ markedly from those of Rep. Kuhl, but his reliance on the same seamy fundraising tactics used by the incumbent hardly qualify Mr. Massa as an “alternative.”

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

May 10, 2006 at 4:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Does campaign money = vote?

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When Sam kick-started the 5th Estate, an initial focus was us doing the job that the press wasn’t doing and should be — holding the powerful accountable for their actions. That’s the spirit in which I’m writing to my local paper about my congressman.

More important, I want to demonstrate to my students what marvelous Web-based tools allow citizens to keep track of the votes cast by representatives and senators — as well as following their money trails.

Behind the LJ cut is another letter to the editor about my congressman who seems to vote based on where the money is. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

May 2, 2006 at 2:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized