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Really? It was ‘Science Day’ in Congress?

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How nice of the retiring Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the outgoing chair of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, to declare this past Monday “Science Day” in the House of Representatives.

CATEGORY: ScienceTechnology2Yes, according to a press release from the science committee office, Rep. Smith had the House primed to consider “five bipartisan Science Committee bills that support careers and education in STEM, reauthorize federal firefighting programs and promote cooperative space and science programs between NASA and Israel.”

The House majority leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was soooo proud of the intended accomplishments of Science Day: “America has led the world in science and innovation for generations. To think, 65 percent of today’s students will be employed in jobs that don’t exist yet. In our mission to prepare America’s next generation of innovation, the House will honor our nation’s history of leadership with Science Day. We will bring five bills to the floor that will support science, our nation’s infrastructure, aerospace and STEM careers. I applaud Chairman Smith on his hard work to get these bills ready for floor consideration.”

If you’d like to see the bills, laughably labeled as “bipartisan,” go to the committee’s press release. But if Monday was Science Day, it was a low bar.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

December 20, 2017 at 6:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Remove words? Control discourse? That’s power.

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Those who can control language have power over those who cannot. That has been the most corrosive power exercised by President Donald’s administration. This is especially true in matters relating to science.

language-has-powerThe White House has eliminated virtually every mention of climate change from its website and those of other cabinet departments and federal agencies. Employees, especially scientists, at the Environmental Protection Agency and the departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services have been ordered to end any external communication without “consultation” with senior political appointees.

Donald appointed a secretary of Education who has repeatedly supported Republicans with anti-science views who deny the human role in climate disruption. The secretary’s family foundation supports anti-science evangelical and fundamentalist organizations.

His initial budget priorities sought to slash funding for science-based federal agencies such as the EPA and the National Institutes of Health. The goal? Remove federal funding for scientific research from environmental and climate-based investigators.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

December 16, 2017 at 9:55 am

Posted in Uncategorized

A day to not be thankful …

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Ah, Thanksgiving. The time to be thankful, as tradition and good manners tell me.

So, I’ll be thankful. But for what?

turkey_0

“Yeah. Like I’m gonna be thankful …”

I’m thankful, surely, for the love, compassion, caring, and patience of my family and my closest friends near and far (and here at S&R). I’m thankful I’ve reached 71 years old in reasonably good health and as a well-trained, professional curmudgeon.

I’m thankful I have health insurance (costly as it is) while millions of Americans do not — and will not under “reform” proposals advancing in Congress. I’m not thankful Congress and the executive branch of the federal government believe not every American should be provided quality health care at an affordable price. I’m not thankful health care for veterans isn’t as timely as veterans of America’s armed forces wish it would be.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

November 21, 2017 at 2:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The corrupt American Congress: Extortionists? Or seduced by bribes? Now that’s something for the FBI to investigate

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Now that the FBI has its gumshoes working on cleaning up college athletics, perhaps it could focus on examining corruption elsewhere — perhaps in the American Congress, as my S&R college Sam Smith suggests.

Congress has always been amenable to financial persuasion. That’s the nature of power. Those who have it want to keep it. Those with money want to harness power to achieves their own ends. Politicians and the wealthy have danced together for a few centuries. But now? It’s really nasty.

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision unleashed a corrupt system of reward and punishment in Congress. That’s especially ironic, as Citizens United, a right-wing organization founded in 1988, bills itself as “dedicated to restoring our government to citizens’ control.” What that Court decision permitted is far from any conservative group’s goal to rein in the expanse of government.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

September 28, 2017 at 11:27 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Gannett adopts the blue dot, emblematic of market-driven thinking, at its newspapers

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Oh, my. Look at the dot. It’s blue. It’s representative of “one unified network,” says the chief marketing officer of Gannett, owner of the USA Today Network.

screen-shot-2017-07-13-at-4-36-08-pmThe blue dot — and accompanying typographic changes to logos — has begun to appear in the online identities of nine USA Today Network outlets. The remaining 110 news outlets will make the changes in the next several months, says Andy Yost, Gannett’s marketing chief. Even print edition front-page flags will receive typographic makeovers.

It’s just a damned blue dot. But it’s symbolic of ownership-driven “branding” that eliminates distinctive local audience and market identities among its member newspapers. All 110 USA Today Network newspaper logos will have that little blue dot and similar topography.

Inoffensive nationwide blandness has been Gannett’s modus operandi for decades. USA Today was created to be a national constant no matter where a reader consumed it. Hence its nickname — McPaper. A Big Mac tastes the same, no matter whether you eat it in Portland, Maine, or Portland, Oregon. USA Today, dropped before 6 a.m. at the door of your motel room, looks the same in Greenfield, California, as it does in Greenfield, Massachusetts. That kind of thinking pervades Gannett’s newspapers, because, as the logo says, they’re “part of the USA Today Network.”

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

July 15, 2017 at 3:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

For the want of critical thinking, America has succumbed to tribalism

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Antarctica is cold. I learned that in grade school. The record is 128.6 degrees Fahrenheit below zero set in 1983. Did you know the southernmost continent is also a desert? I know much of the history of the exploration of the continent — the stories of Roald Amundsen, Ernest Shackleton, James Clark Ross, Caroline Mikkelsen, and others. I know the continent’s 5,400,000 square miles are 98 percent covered with ice (although that’s changing, I suppose, as the climate and sea continue to warm).

p-6421-mfatBut I’ve never been to Antarctica. It’s likely that you haven’t, either. So how do we know so much about the fifth-largest continent?

We read books about it. Teachers taught us about it (usually from textbooks and, if you’re my age, “film strips”). We’ve seen movies and videos about Antarctica. We’ve seen the continent on maps and globes. We’ve watched Emperor penguins on basic cable nature specials.

I’ve talked with people who’ve been to Antarctica. They’ve said the intense cold can make strong metals like steel brittle, weak, and easy to snap. Care must be taking in breathing the extremely cold air or lung damage results. They’ve learned about the continent from personal experience, not from being told the experience of others.

For many of us, much, even most, of what we know has been the received knowledge brought to us by others. Technology, over time, has accelerated the impact of what C. Wright Mills, an American sociologist, said seven decades ago. He called knowledge that enters our lives via media “the second-hand world.” That concept applies today in understanding why America’s a bit of a mess.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

July 5, 2017 at 1:52 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

When a company cuts jobs, it shouldn’t spin that reality with corporate bullshit

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time_magazine_-_first_cover

Time magazine’s first cover

The owner of the grandparent of weekly news magazines, Time, has decided to shed 300 jobs through layoffs and buyouts to reduce its costs.

A media corporation whacking jobs to save money? That’s not surprising news in the digital era. But what continues to aggravate and irritate is the lame corporate-speak executives use to explain the “downsizing” and to insist better, more profitable days lie in the future.

Consider remarks in a memo to staff from Time Inc.’s chief executive officer, Rich Battista:

[O]ne of the key components of our go-forward strategy is reengineering our cost structure to become more efficient and to reinvest resources in our growth areas as we position the company for long-term success. Today we took a difficult but necessary step in that plan as approximately 300 of our colleagues throughout Time Inc.’s global operation will be leaving the company. …

Time Inc. is a company in rapid transformation in an industry undergoing dynamic change. Transformations do take time and patience, but I am encouraged by the demonstrable progress we are making as we implement our strategy in key growth areas, such as video, native advertising and brand extensions, and as we see positive signs of stabilizing our print business, which remains an important part of our company. [emphasis added]

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 14, 2017 at 4:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized