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Archive for September 2012

Our hardworking folks in Congress: more interested in keeping their jobs than doing their jobs

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When voters elect members of Congress, they are hiring them to do a job. Voters, through their taxes, compensate those politicians well — $174,000 a year, and more if they have committee or leadership roles.

Many, if not most, voters — unless they are among the 12.5 million without jobs — work about 35 hours a week for a median income of about $32,000. They get perhaps two weeks of paid vacation each year. But a member of the House of Representatives this year was scheduled to show up for only 89 days from January to November. He (and it’s generally “he,” not “she“) is taking off a week in February, another in April, still another in May, and — get this — the whole of August and the first week of September. “It’s too hot in the city in August,” he tells you, then takes off for week-long conventions in the hot, humid Deep South before working only eight days in September. That’s 89 days out of the 172 days voters will be at work (minus a few paid holidays) before Nov. 6.

Oh, he’s scheduled for the first of October, but don’t bet on him showing up in the District of Columbia. He’s gone until mid-November. It’s what members of Congress do every two years — stop doing their jobs to try to keep their jobs. Read the rest of this entry »

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

September 24, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

How my congressman, Tom Reed, lost my vote: He sent me a franked letter he shouldn’t have

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Image you are a freshman member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Unless you’re an idiot, you want to be re-elected. It’s a cushy gig — it pays $174,000 a year. It’s likely you already have a net worth in the high six figures — nine times that of the your constituents — so you’re not hurting for coin of the realm. In debates, the moderator calls you “Congressman” and your opponent “Mister” or “Ms.”

People line up to give you the $1.3 million that you, on average, need to spend to get re-elected. How cool is that?

Re-election rates to the House are high — at or above 90 percent 18 times in the last 24 election cycles. But in 2010, when you washed ashore on the congressional beachhead in that tea-party wave of slash-government insolence, the re-election rate fell from 94 percent in 2008 to 85 percent.

Still great odds, but you’re a tad worried. Time to wield one of the best of all congressional perks: the frank. Therein lies the tale of why I will not vote to re-elect my freshman member of Congress, the honorable Rep. Tom Reed (NY-29). It’s not because he’s a Republican; Democrat members, friends on the Hill assure me, do what he did. What he did with his frank satisfies the letter of House rules — but not their intent. There’s a verb that describes this — weasel: to achieve something by use of cunning or deceit.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

September 14, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Obama wins TPM statfest. So what?

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In the world of meaningless statistics (see many NBA, NFL, MLB, and other sports stats), TPM has emerged as a new faux arbiter of political reality. You don’t grok TPM? That’s “Tweets Per Minute,” knuckleheads.

From @gov, Twitter’s government and politics team:

A new record political moment on Twitter: @barackobama drives 52,757 Tweets per minute. Over 9 million Tweets sent about #DNC2012.

And PCMag enthusiastically passes on Twitter’s parsing of the tweets by one-liners in the speech:

• 43,646: “I’m no longer just the candidate, I’m the President.”
• 39,002: “I will never turn medicare into a voucher.”
• 38,597: Discussing Medicare
• 37,694: “We don’t think government can solve all our problems.”
• 34,572: Quips about the Olympics and “Cold War mind warp.”

And more tweet stats are offered as well without an ounce of analysis what they mean — if anything.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

September 7, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

You really want your smartphone to be that smart?

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Smartphones are getting much, much smarter, writes Alan Mutter at Newsosaur — and that fact is another nail fastening the lid on the coffin of newspapers. But I’m not sure I want to live with a really smart smartphone with the increased capabilities Mutter predicts.

Wielding the hammer on the latest attempt to transfer wealth from newspaper companies to Silicon Valley are Google and Apple as they vie for creation of what Mutter describes as “one master app”:

[Y]our next smart phone will move from being a collection of individually helpful but largely unconnected applications to being increasingly dominated by a single master app that seamlessly and intuitively integrates the essential functions you commonly use. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

September 6, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

American values: Mom, God, apple pie, ‘post-truth’

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Survey question: Who is left in America’s national political life who holds the unreserved admiration of the majority of respondents?

Suppose that survey question (as poorly worded as it is) had been administered just 20 years ago for comparison. The smart money would bet it’s a much shorter list these days than the list of yore.

Why would the list be shorter? Part of the reason lies in individual assessment of life’s fortunes. National candidates trot out an old canard every two and four years: Are you better off today than (fill in the blank)? Two decades ago, only as far back as 1992 — before a startling increase in multi-hundred-billion-dollar, unprosecuted financial shenanigans; before more faraway wars of choice, before fears of terrorist attacks trumped the privacy of citizens; before the tech bubble and then the housing bubble popped after the greedy got theirs; before the highest court in the land declared money to be protected speech; before ideologues reframed citizen dissent as a lack of patriotism; before members of Congress spent more time dialing for dollars than legislating; before two Bushes and an Obama (and now a Romney) promised the undeliverable — could your imagination have conjured up the Grand American Fubar™ in which we now struggle to live, let alone prosper? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

September 2, 2012 at 9:50 am

Posted in Uncategorized