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Archive for June 2012

Lindsay Lohan for Congress? Why we should vote for her

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The strikingly beautiful young woman — she will turn 26 years old on July 2 — approaches the podium with its waiting forest of microphones. Her hair, reddish blonde and flowing well below her shoulders, is caught briefly in a gust of wind as she walks to the front of the press corps on the granite steps of the state capitol. Eight fluted Corinthian columns line the portico behind her. She is, surprisingly, modestly and professionally dressed in a tasteful navy pants suit. For a moment, as she stands at the lectern, only the clicking of cameras is heard.

Good morning, everyone. My name is Lindsay Lohan, and today I am announcing my candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives from my district.

Brief silence, followed by peals of laughter. Whispers of “Is this a movie promo?” drift through the throng. Lohan waits patiently, quietly, proudly for the laughter to subside.

Laugh if you wish, my fellow Americans. But I can win this race. I’m smarter than you know, and I can raise money. And if my opponent — opponents, actually; I’ll be running against the corporations funding my opponent through super PACs — wants to plaster my recent past into negative ads, I’ll bring up his and his pals’ dismal ethical performances in the House.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 28, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Defense spending: How much is enough? Who decides? How?

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The preamble to the American Constitution requires that government “provide for the common defence.” I would hope that no American would wish this country to be inadequately prepared to fend off threats to the survival of the Republic.

But what is adequate? Where is the substantive, deliberative debate on how to define adequacy of American military power?

Our two principal presidential candidates, challenger Mitt Romney and incumbent Barack Obama, have differing views on the current adequacy of the nation’s defense capability. Speeches and extemporaneous rhetoric aside, neither of their official, eponymous campaign websites clearly define such adequacy or how they’d reach it.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 27, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Newspaper ownership shifting, says Pew; better days ahead? Nope.

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Those grad students in the business of writing dissertations about media and newspapers now have an old topic with a new twist: Who owns the media now? Critic Ben Bagdikian, author of six editions of “The Media Monopoly,” traced ownership of America’s media through decades of consolidation. In a PBS interview at the end of the last century, he said:

[T]he media is increasingly owned by a few very large multinational corporations. By the media, newspapers, magazines, books, movies, television and radio. This is growing.

And the consequence of this?

[T]hat means that inevitably people who have such power see the world in a particular way. And when they have dominance, as with candy manufacturers and automobile manufacturers, the less competition there is, the more control they have on … price and quality. In cases of the media and when we’re talking about the news, price is one thing, quality means how much and what kind of news will you give. And what we’re seeing in the media now is a decrease in hard reporting as a proportion of the whole …

In the various editions of his book, he said that a half dozen, maybe a dozen massive conglomerates control the bulk of media content in the United States. Is that still the case? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 26, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tell pols to step up: Time to invest in fixing infrastructure woes

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We have failed to invest.

That phrase should haunt elected and appointed officials in state and federal governments — especially those who made decisions based on political ideology rather than common sense and the needs of the electorate.

The latest utterance of this phrase came from James E. Hall, a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. As Colorado fights an extraordinary wildfire west of Fort Collins, the national census of airtankers available to drop fire retardant stands at nine aircraft, down from 44 planes a decade ago. These nine tankers, report Jack Healy and Matt Wald of The New York Times, are “ancient planes … hobbled by accidents and mechanical problems, leading to growing safety concerns and calls for a major overhaul.”

Replacement of task-specific aircraft would run to at least $30 million each — a fleet of 100 firefighting aircraft would cost $3 billion. And they are surely and sorely needed.

We have failed to invest.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 22, 2012 at 10:02 am

Posted in Uncategorized

The gray lady climbs into bed with Buzzfeed: Can you say ‘cultural difference’?

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As I write this, here are the top stories, in order, at Buzzfeed:

What’s The Last Wikipedia Page You Visited?
Two Different Kinds Of Baby Sloths Hug It Out
Solid Life Goal
14 Kids Getting Terrified By “Legends Of The Hidden Temple” Guards
How Do You Get Rid Of Hiccups?

And here are the top five at the august New York Times:

Pakistani Court Ousts Premier, Escalating Political Fight
Even the Employed Suffer as Hours and Wages Are Cut
Lingering Fears on Euro Push Spanish Borrowing Costs Up
American Children Struggle to Adjust to Life in Mexico
G.O.P. Reacts to Immigration Shift

Bit of a difference, eh? Now here’s the lede from an NYTCo press release:

The New York Times and BuzzFeed announced today that they will collaborate as part of expanded video coverage of the Democratic and Republican national conventions on NYTimes.com.

Say what? The lion lying down with the lamb? And which is the lion?
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 19, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Time to revisit high-school civics lesson: Does your vote matter any more?

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I first voted in an American national election in 1964. Lyndon Baines Johnson ran against Barry (“Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice”) Goldwater, the elder-statesman conservative who later successfully persuaded Richard Nixon to resign.

I voted for LBJ. The landslide swept Goldwater into a conservative backwater.

I have voted in every national election since then. But not voting this November has crept into my mind. And it’s not because I believe both candidates for president are hapless morons incapable of governing with some degree of effectiveness. (Yeah, I’ve got my doubts about both of these guys. They’re not that different.) And it’s not because I’ve grown weary of my own senator, the estimable three-termer Chuck Schumer, glomming onto every microphone and minicam he can find.

No, it’s because I’ve come to believe massive amounts of money from very few people have trumped my individual vote. And that money — much of it political largesse from billionaires — has made my individual vote a largely ineffective tool with which to dislodge an incumbent.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 19, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Groups demand White House release al-Awlaki murder memo

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In October of 2011, Scholars & Rogues noted that the Obama administration had ordered the killing of an unindicted American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, an Al Qaeda media provocateur. The drone missile launched against al-Awlaki also killed another unindicted American citizen, Samir Khan, who was also engaged with Al Qaeda media efforts.

S&R noted that both men were likely deserving of their fate as plotters against the security of the United States. But death at the hands of government with no charge being laid and subsequently proven is morally wrong. So in March S&R demanded that the Obama administration release a memo that it said outlined its moral justification for killing al-Awlaki and Khan. Thus far, Attorney General Eric Holder has refused.

Now, more organizations are applying pressure on the White House to explain its policy that has resulted in the deaths of unindicted American citizens.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 18, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

GOP commissioners on FEC stymie campaign finance disclosures

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You’re watching an ad. You hear the voice of President Obama. You hear the phrases “the White House” and “the Administration.” You see a reference to “Obamacare,” a derogatory phrase coined by conservatives opposed to the president’s legislative centerpiece, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

What might you conclude? It’s a political ad, and it’s critical of the president. If you knew the regulations of the Federal Election Commission, you might conclude that the ad represents “electioneering communications.” And if the ad is indeed an electioneering communication, then the ad is subject to campaign finance disclosure laws requiring the sponsoring group to reveal its funders.

It’s the job of the six FEC commissioners (three from each party) to determine if an ad is an electioneering communication. This week (on Flag Day, no less), the commissioners were unable to agree on whether that ad and four others proposed by the 501(c)(4) group American Future Fund (AFF) constituted electioneering communications requiring disclosure of funders. Say what?
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 14, 2012 at 10:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Where, oh where, have the readers gone? Oh where, oh where can they be?

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Finding a word or phrase that describes the journalism industry today is not that difficult. Since 2007, contraction — some big newspapers folded and suits fired tens of thousands of journalists — describes well the process. The result? A free fall to obscurity, a corporate-led collapse into irrelevance fit. But are industry leaders paying attention to the attendant contraction in the industry’s former print audience?

The history is clear: Newspapers wrongly did not recognize the Internet as a viable threat to its news and advertising franchises. Ad revenues fell dramatically, much lost to the Internet. Suits cut costs. At some southeastern U.S. papers, people losing jobs this week include serious, experienced, and award-winning journalists (an example). Hundreds of jobs will be lost as managers of The Times-Picayune, The Birmingham News, and The Huntsville Times shift focus and financial outlook from print to Web.

Next cost target: Newsprint. Newspapers have reduced the number of days on which they actually print newspapers. The most visible of these over the past week have been at Advance Publications-owned newspapers in New Orleans and Alabama. (Advance, a private company, is owned by the Newhouse family.) Want to lose a print reader? Don’t give her a paper to read.

Why is such severe contraction necessary if it reduces the quality and quantity of the product sold? At least one observer suggests current corporate thinking is idiocy because of the less-than-optimal news product that results. And I’m wondering what readers are doing — and going to do — in this era of print contraction.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 13, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Did Romney just promise to end all federal subsidies — including oil and farm aid?

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Once again, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has taken to task the president of the United States. This time, it’s over the federal subsidies provided to A123 Systems, a manufacturer of batteries for electric cars. A123, report Bill Vlasic and Matt Wald of The New York Times, is supposed to be “a centerpiece of his administration’s effort to use $2 billion in government subsidies to jump-start production of sophisticated electric batteries in the United States.”

A123, despite the promise of a new technology it plans to reveal soon, has been losing money — and some of that money has been provided as a subsidy by the feds. There are reasons, of course: a weak economy, lukewarm demand for electric vehicles whose prices have yet to descend to the financial means of the masses, and difficult, complicated issues unresolved by engineers.

President Obama faced a political debacle after Solyndra stumbled and failed. So A123 failure coupled to his desire to use government funding to enhance a new energy economy has provided Romney with a chance to roar again about power of the free market.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 12, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized