deadlines amuse me

exploring how the world works and why it works that way …

Archive for July 2011

‘Oh, Congress! Oh, Congress! God mend thine ev’ry flaw’

leave a comment »

When the national anthem is sung, I place my hand over my heart. I didn’t always. But I’m old enough now to appreciate, to be grateful for, what being an American citizen has afforded me.

If I wish, I can own a firearm. I can assemble peaceably with others. I can criticize the government. I can practice a religion — or not — without governmental dictation. The Constitution protects me from unreasonable search and seizure (Patriot Act not withstanding). When I was a journalist, the government could not abridge the freedom of my press. I can own property. I can depend on contracts being enforced. I have more constitutionally guaranteed rights as an American than any citizen of any other country.

Yes, I have duties as well. I must pay taxes for the general welfare and the common defense. I must be willing (and able) to stand in judgment of a citizen charged with a crime by the government. I ought to be sufficiently knowledgeable and intelligent to vote wisely.

I love my country. Most of us do. But I no longer have faith that my elected leaders love it as much as they love power and the ability to demean those they oppose. I don’t like, respect, or trust my elected leaders any more, and their public personae and political actions show they don’t give a damn about me in any way beyond my ability to cast a vote.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

July 25, 2011 at 11:18 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

NASA, American exceptionalism, and me: older, and less viable

leave a comment »

As a child turning teen in the late 1950s, the black-and-white RCA in the living room received only three channels … well, four, but we didn’t watch PBS. So I read. Newspapers, of course (after Dad finished sports and Mom finished news). And books. The library was only two blocks away, so I spent afternoons there sampling the stack. I was a small-town boy at the end of the idyllic “Father Knows Best” decade of Eisenhower placidity, a geeky kid feeling the first pangs of puberty.

I longed for adventure beyond being a Boy Scout or tossing a football with neighborhood pals. In the library I found adventure stories set in space, spun with well-chosen words and exquisitely crafted plots.

I discovered Arthur C. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End.” Then Robert A. Heinlein’s “Methuselah’s Children,” Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” and Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation and Empire.” Science fiction (or, in Clarke’s case, science prediction) captivated me. I became a sci-fi cognescenti.

Then, in 1957, came the shocker: Sputnik. Later, in April 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person to fly in space. The Soviets appeared poised to dominate the Age of Space. Those early days of the Cold War meant little to me; I was barely in high school. But those nascent orbital flights stirred hope for adventures forecast by Clarke, Heinlein, Bradbury, and Asimov. They allowed me to imagine I would visit the Moon, maybe Mars, and defeat time and the speed of light to orbit Proxima Centauri in a warp-drive space ship.

I’ve been re-reading them because, a half century after dreaming of travel to other worlds, I remain grounded. I won’t leave footprints on the Moon, let alone orbit a star 4.2 light years away. Only 12 people have stood on the lunar surface, and I’m not one of them, and I never will be.

What the hell went wrong?
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

July 12, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Fourth four years later: Nothing’s changed

leave a comment »

As I predicted four years ago on the Fourth of July, little has changed. This year’s fireworks and barbecues offer only a brief respite from the problems of the nation, how they are worsening, and how those who are supposed to address them remain mere chanters of their respective ideologies.

Four years ago, I predicted that the cost of federal elections would continue to rise, that the role of money would increase dramatically. I did not predict — or even dreamed it could happen — the outcome of the Supremes’ consideration of Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission that deepened the hole in which corporate money could hide while paying for “electioneering communications.”

Sadly, I did not predict that more than 30,000 journalists would lose their jobs in the past four years, lessening the ability of the press to hold government accountable. To me, corporations are now essentially the American government; more journalists, not fewer, trained in the same accounting chicanery that allowed Enron to flourish, are necessary to hold corporate government accountable, too.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

July 4, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Posted in Uncategorized