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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

Democrats need a lesson in humility. Consider what Mike Dukakis learned.

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Donald won. Hillary lost. Now the Democrats face what The New York Times called “a widening breach in their party.”

Fashion Consistent CandidatesPerched ever farther on the left is Bernie Sanders, perhaps still smarting from being stiffed by the Democratic National Committee while leading revival-style rallies of millennials and urging stiff resistance to the Donald agenda — and to the DNC’s approach to political reclamation. Then there’s the DNC and the party’s elected leaders demanding a more conservative, data-driven approach to finding votes where Hillary didn’t get them.

Oh, well. Good luck with that, Dems. Neither approach is destined for electoral redemption. Professional Democrats have tended toward elitism when selecting and supporting candidates. The national party assumed (as did virtually all media and pollsters) Hillary had an easy road covered with rose petals to the White House. The 2016 version of the Democratic Party continued its longstanding march away from those who had always supported it. The party’s elites oozed a “father knows best” attitude. Cockiness ruled after Donald became the GOP standard bearer.

Perhaps the Democratic Party, and especially the DNC, ought to consider … humility. Consider the example of Michael Dukakis as a Democratic candidate. No, not presidential candidate Dukakis of tank-driving infamy. Look at gubernatorial candidate Dukakis.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 13, 2017 at 4:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Who really pays for cutting back rules limiting toxic emissions?

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President Donald’s administrative minions, since day one, have been “reviewing” federal regulations they argue are so costly they curtail growth in American manufacturing, and worse, pPollution Free Zoneut American jobs at risk. Thus they are focusing on rules that govern environmental reviews in permitting processes and regulate impacts on worker health and safety.

Industry groups oppose one particular regulation — the rule tightening ozone emissions under the Clean Air Act’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

According to a Reuters story by David Lawder, “The National Association of Manufacturers said the EPA’s review requirements for new sources of emissions such as factories can add $100,000 in costs for modeling air quality to a new facility and delay factory expansions by 18 months.”

According to Lawder, “Several groups argu[ed] this would expose them to increased permitting hurdles for new facilities, raising costs.” [emphasis added]

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 12, 2017 at 3:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

What he promises, and what his budget does, differ markedly on fixing waterways

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trump speechPresident Donald stood this week on the bank of the Ohio River before 400 steelworkers, coal miners, and construction workers with barges of coal parked behind him. Amid departures from his text to chastise those he called “obstructionists,” President Donald touted his plan to spend $1 trillion to rebuild the nation’s airports, roads, bridges and tunnels and all other elements of American infrastructure.

With barges as his background canvas, he told of lapses and collapses in the nation’s inland waterways. He cited a gate failure at the Markland Locks on the Ohio River that took five months to repair. He pointed to a massive section of a canal wall that collapsed near Chicago, delaying shipping. [See speech video.]

A release from the White House press office coincided with President Donald’s remarks. Regard inland waterways, the release said:

The infrastructure of America’s inland waterways has been allowed to fall apart, causing delays and preventing the United States from achieving its economic potential. According to [the American Society of Civil Engineers], most of the locks and dams needed to travel the internal waterways are past their 50-year lifespan and nearly 50 percent of voyages suffered delays. Our inland waterway system requires $8.7 billion in maintenance and the maintenance backlog is only getting worse.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 8, 2017 at 3:57 pm

Posted in Uncategorized