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Archive for March 2010

Reporting on individual campaign donations now pointless

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That pricey apartment shout-show host Rush Limbaugh seeks to unload for about $14 million — you know, the gaudy palace with not one but two grand views of Central Park and environs — sits in zip code 10128, down by Fifth Avenue and 86th.

The 62,000 or so folks in that Upper East Side zip code who don’t rent live in domiciles worth, on average, just under a million bucks. And those people in 10128 have donated $1.7 million in the 2010 election cycle to federal candidates, national parties, or PACs. (Sorry, Rush: Your neighbors preferred Democratic entities.)

But the folks in 10128 are cheapskates compared with the real money farther south on Fifth Avenue. The 100,000-plus people who live in 10021 have given $3.3 million. In fact, eight zip codes surrounding Central Park rank in the top 20 zip codes nationally in political giving by individuals for this election cycle, their residents having coughed up $17.4 million. 10021, 10022 and 10024 are the top three individual donor zip codes in the nation.

I was going to tell you this a few months ago. I had intended to point out that zip codes in and around Washington, D.C., where the real money is, ponied up $22.9 million in this election cycle. I’d planned to tell you that individuals in the top 50 zip codes in the nation had so far contributed nearly $74 million to federal candidates or committees.

But these numbers summarizing individual donations direct to candidates or parties have become meaningless. That means I will likely end four years of writing about them.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

March 16, 2010 at 11:28 am

Posted in Uncategorized

See no pollution, hear no pollution, speak no pollution — so no pollution, right?

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Once again, the Discovery Channel is about to amaze its viewers with another “isn’t Nature wonderful” spectacular. The basic cable channel brought us “Planet Earth,” billed as “See the wonders of Planet Earth … from jungles to deep oceans, discover our stunning planet.” Remember “Blue Planet“? That series was an “epic journey” that served as “the definitive natural history of the world’s oceans, covering everything from the exotic spectacle of the coral reefs to the mysterious black depths of the ocean floor.”

In March, the Discovery Channel, teaming again with the BBC, plans to present “Life” — a “breathtaking ten-part blockbuster [that] brings you 130 incredible stories from the frontiers of the natural world … This is evolution in action.”

And again, viewers will be astonished by the remarkable videography done by the best pros in the world under arduous, even dangerous conditions. Viewers will park themselves in their Barcaloungers, appropriate beverage and salsa and chips in hand, and revel in the breadth and depth of the series. But are these series the most accurate portrayals of the state of the natural world? And do they desensitize us to reality?
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

March 2, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

And the punch line? An honest Congress

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I know, I know. The two words leave you ROTFL: Congressional ethics.

But this gets funnier. First, House members determine the legal but unsavory and corrupt behaviors that keep them collecting that $174,000 paycheck with generous federal health and retirement bennies. Then they reverse-engineer the ethics code to make all those behaviors ethical. Every now and then they pass serious, consequential ethics reform and lard up a press release touting it, as Rep. Nancy Pelosi, freshly minted as House speaker, did three years ago:

House Democrats got straight to work this week by passing the toughest Congressional ethics reform in history.  We have broken the link between lobbyists and legislation: banning gifts and travel from lobbyists and organizations that retain or employ them, banning travel on corporate jets, shutting down the K Street project, subjecting all earmarks to the full light of day …

Oh, don’t stop there, House felons solons. When public outrage rises again, given that Pelosi’s “serious and substantive steps to ensure Congress governs with the highest ethical steps” didn’t work out so well, pass even more ethics reform. This time, pass a bill in 2008 that creates what Common Cause said was “a monumentally important resolution to create an independent, bipartisan panel of non-lawmakers to help review and investigate possible ethics violations by House members.” [emphasis added]

That’s not working out so well either. The House now has two ethics panels that produce more conflict between them than censure or (better yet) strong cases leading to removal of corrupt House members.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

March 1, 2010 at 9:12 am

Posted in Uncategorized