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Archive for July 2008

Bad bridges? Still far too few fixes

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In the coming week, I’m going to drive about 1,200 miles through four states. During that journey, I’ll cross bridges over several significant rivers, including the Hudson and Connecticut rivers. The bridges I’ll cross are older than I am — and I’m no spring chicken.

I’ll drive over — and under — numerous highway overpasses. Most of them, too, will be older than I am. Since Aug. 1, 2007, I’m more aware of wondering about the condition of those bridges and overpasses that carry me to and from here and there. Are they safe?

A year ago, the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed during evening rush hour, killing 13 people and injuring hundreds more.

Politicians everywhere immediately called for (harrumph, harrumph) the inspection of and repairs to the nation’s thousands and thousands of deteriorating bridges.

One year later, how much has been accomplished to allay travelers’ fears of another bridge collapse? Diddley squat.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

July 30, 2008 at 5:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

‘Free’ speech at Beijing Olympics decidedly costly

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When the Beijing Olympics begin Aug. 8, the ability to speak publicly will depend on what you say — or what you pay.

The Olympics Games have always been one of the largest possible megaphones for espousing a cause — either political or commercial. Terrorists have used. Athletes have used it. Host nations have used it. And certainly, sellers of goods and services have used it. Be it boycott, black power or big business, the Olympics offers maximum volume for any message.

This year the early gold medal of the Politicize-the-Games Sweepstakes has gone to the Free Tibet sloganeers, although their gamesmanship was hardly challenged. The Olympic torch relay made an exceptionally easy — and highly visible through media — target for protesters. Much of the pre-Games press has focused on how well or poorly host nation China will bury pro-Tibet protests or encourage pro-China, home-team support.

But there’s far more at issue regarding speech in Beijing than proclamations for or against Tibet.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

July 27, 2008 at 6:01 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Quotabull

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He is convinced that with the help of God he will win.

— Svetozar Vujacic, a lawyer for Radovan Karadzic, who was “twice indicted for genocide for the massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in the town of Srebrenica in 1995 and for the 43-month siege of Sarajevo,” on his plans to conduct his own defense at the Hague tribunal; July 23.

Always be prepared for demonstrators, even if the local organization tells you that there will not be any. It is the responsibility of the Lead Advance to have in place an effective plan for dealing with demonstrators.

— from the Presidential Advance Manual dated October 2002 used to prepare locations for visits by President Bush; emphasis added.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

July 25, 2008 at 3:25 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

GOP to Dems: Solve energy crisis by next week

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Next up in the Republican “blame the Dems for flawed energy policy” spin machine (drum roll, please) — H.R. 6566, the American Energy Act, which the House Republican Conference Web site says is all about “Reducing the Price at the Pump through an ‘All of the Above’ Energy Strategy.”

On Wednesday, 84 members of the Republican caucus gathered to support a packaged solution to the nation’s energy woes drafted by prime sponsor House minority leader Rep. John Boehner. And they demanded that Democrats allow an up-or-down vote on the bill before the August recess begins.

Howzat for Republican provision of careful, thoughtful deliberation on perhaps the most vexing issue the nation faces (a few wars notwithstanding)?
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

July 24, 2008 at 4:19 pm

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Bad highways? Blame politics, technology, new driving habits

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It’s July of 2023, and, just 20 years after President Bush decided to spend $1.2 billion to develop hydrogen fuel-cell technologies for vehicles, you’ve just picked up your finally-ready-for-prime-time luxury BMW Hydrogen 7. Your neighbors, stuck with the crappy next-generation of GM’s electric but ill-fated EV-1, will be jealous.

You’re eager to get that water-emissions-only Beemer out on the open road and see what it’ll do. But the road won’t be that open any more, and the road’s lousy condition is likely to chew up your umpteen-thousand-dollar green-mobile’s undercarriage. The road just plain sucks because politicians haven’t been able to stop themselves from screwing around with the federal highway trust fund. That leaves the ride bumpy and, no doubt, unsafe.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

July 19, 2008 at 5:14 pm

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Quotabull

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Our economy has demonstrated remarkable resilience.

— President Bush at a press conference; July 16.

We’re spending like a drunken sailor.

— Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., predicting the federal budget deficit would double this year; according to Manu Raju of The Hill newspaper, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that, for the first nine months of fiscal 2008, the government ran up a $268 billion deficit, $148 billion more the same period last year; July 17.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

July 18, 2008 at 10:38 am

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Quotabull

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I’ll approach Obama with fearless honesty. He’s a liberal. I oppose liberals. That’s all that’s involved here.

Rush Limbaugh on presidential candidate Barack Obama; Mr. Limbaugh has renewed his contract with Premiere Radio Networks and Clear Channel Radio, which will pay him more than $400 million; Mr. Limbaugh once referred to Sen Obama and actor Halle Berry as “Halfrican American” on the Jan. 24, 2007, broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show; July 6.

We have sort of become a nation of whiners. You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline.

— former senator Phil Gramm, one of presidential candidate John McCain’s top economic advisers, likening the nation’s economic problems to a “mental recession“; July 10.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

July 11, 2008 at 10:32 am

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A Fourth of July Quotabull

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The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

— from the Declaration of Independence; July 4, 1776.

The executive branch shall construe the provisions of H.R. 3199 that call for furnishing information to entities outside the executive branch, such as sections 106A and 119, in a manner consistent with the President’s constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to withhold information the disclosure of which could impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative processes of the Executive, or the performance of the Executive’s constitutional duties.

— from a March 13, 2006, signing statement by President Bush explaining how he will interpret the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005; despite oversight provisions in the law that directed he inform Congress regarding the FBI’s use of the act’s expanded police powers, President Bush, in effect, told Congress he felt no obligation to do so; emphasis added.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

July 3, 2008 at 1:30 pm

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Persevere — the hard work will pay off sooner or later

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Many of the best undergraduate students I’ve taught graduated about six weeks ago. They’re earnestly hunting through the job market these days, with varying degrees of success.

I’ve been talking for the past few weeks with several who haven’t had the success they’d hoped for. That’s understandable; jobs in the communication biz are at a premium these days. These grads are understandably concerned.

But the between-the-lines tone I’m hearing from them suggests they’re demoralized. Failure to find a job has become Failure Broadly Defined. For some of these grads, the first encounter beyond the isolated college bubble-like existence (called the “Bona Bubble” here) has been an uncommonly stressful experience with “reality.” They may have lost faith in themselves — and in their college preparation.

These are not students who did poorly here. These are students who lived on the dean’s list or damn near it, won awards, challenged professors, participated in service and volunteer activities, and applied themselves to college life with diligence. They left here well prepared because they paid attention to detail, used common sense, and approached their work (and their play) with intelligent effort.

I need to remind them of that from time to time. Persevere, kiddies. What you seek will come your way sooner or later. You worked damn hard to get ready for it.

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

July 1, 2008 at 10:35 am

Posted in Uncategorized