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

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

A daring young man … and a documentary dependent on his survival

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Alex Honnold

Alex Honnold is a remarkable young man. He may be the foremost rock climber in generations. That his most recent feat was done entirely ropeless — meaning he’d die if he fell — adds to his impressive résumé.

Honnold, 31, climbed the Freerider route on the 3,000-foot granite monolith El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in just under four hours. (See the illustrated route map in The New York Times.) Just try to imagine it: He scaled vertical, sometimes overhanging granite, often using fingernail-sized handholds, with only his talent, control over fear, and sheer will protecting him from a fatal fall.

A life as a full-time, professional rock climber, such as Honnold, requires financial support. Honnold’s website points this out: “These are the companies that allow me to climb all day every day,” he writes. His sponsors include mountaineering equipment suppliers Black Diamond, Maxim Dynamic Ropes, La Sportiva, and North Face as well as GoalZero and Stride. (Ironic, isn’t it, that a climber who shuns the protection of a rope has rope manufacturers as sponsors …)

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 7, 2017 at 3:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Don’t worry: The rich will save the federal government. No, really. Right?

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Imagine you’re filthy rich. A one-percenter. You’ve got tons of investments and other sources of interest-based income. Yes, I know, you’ve got that vacation house in Aspen and that skiing chalet in Zermatt. But those, and the house in the Hamptons, are getting a little pricey for upkeep and paying the household staff a livable wage.

Image result for tax images creative commonsYou’re tempted to sell off some of those investments to bring in some cash because the market’s pretty good right now. Besides, your Bentley is now three years old. Time to replace it with a new, $310,000 Mulsanne.

But your  team of crack accountants tells you to hold off selling anything: “Remember, President Donald says he’s gonna push serious tax reform through Congress real soon.” In fact, the president’s treasury secretary said the new tax plan would be “the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of this country.”

You, of course, salivate, thinking of all the money you’ll save if your top income-tax rate falls from 39.6 percent to 35 percent, to say nothing of the cut to 15 percent applied to all the businesses you own. (You know, of course, that team of crack accountants has for years kept you from paying anywhere near the top rate.)

So you indeed hold off selling. You tell all your one-percenter and one-tenth-of-one-percenter pals to hold off, too. So they do.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

June 2, 2017 at 8:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

President Donald on coal: ‘Yes.’ His chief economic adviser: ‘No.’

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Is there a sane mind in the White House, one who believes the resurgence of coal promised by President Donald is a fiction concocted to garner November votes? Or who at least believes the coal industry is dead on its feet?

EnergyEven after his election, the president continued to promise coal renewal. In an address at the Environmental Protection Agency in March, he said:

We will unlock job producing natural gas, oil and shale energy. We will produce American coal to power American industry. [emphasis added]

President Donald has taken steps to unleash coal. He’s rolled back clean-air policies and regulations of previous administrations. He’s taken aim at President Obama’s Clean Power Plan with the goal of killing it. He has ordered the lifting of a moratorium on coal leasing on federal lands.

But so many reasons exist to deny coal its presidentially desired comeback. S&R has detailed these reasons in the past.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

May 30, 2017 at 1:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

A tale of newspapers’ financial collapse in three charts …

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CATEGORY: JournalismThree charts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, two covering about 15 years, bluntly demonstrate the swift collapse of the centuries-old newspaper industry business model. They also herald the rise of an information-disbursing replacement — the internet.

A 2015 survey by the American Society of News Editors shows newsroom (not overall) employment in the nation’s 1,400 daily newspapers at just under 33,000 people. That’s down from a high of 56,000 newsroom employees in the early ’90s. Of course, those paying attention to newsroom cuts over the past two years have seen what newspaper managements, particularly at Gannett, have done to its remaining workforce. I estimate the daily newsroom workforce to be down to nearly 31,000.

The BLS data covers all employment in the newspaper industry, not just reporters and editors, and not just from dailies. The Editor & Publisher Yearbook lists more than 6,500 community weeklies, defined as any newspaper publishing at least once a week but no more than three times a week.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

May 23, 2017 at 9:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Ethics rules matter little to an authoritarian White House …

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CATEGORY: PoliticsLawGovernmentA code of ethics defines behaviors. Many professions have such codes. For physicians, for example, the code of medical ethics of the American Medical Association prescribes how they should interact with patients. For many, if not most, journalists, the code of ethics from the Society of Professional Journalists dictates acceptable practices.

The executive branch of the American government also has a code of ethics and an office to oversee it. The United States Office of Government Ethics, whose tagline is “Preventing Conflict of Interest in the Executive Branch,” issues regulations titled “Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch.”

The OGE rules say any political appointee must sign an ethics pledge regarding conflict of interest. For example, the code says a former lobbyist turned political appointee cannot act on a topic or issue he or she handled for a private-sector client.

However, presidents, through executive orders, can allow conflict-of-interest waivers to be granted when, in the words of the Obama White House, “the literal application of the Pledge does not make sense or is not in the public interest.”

Those waivers are public documents. Says the OGE: “You may obtain actual copies of any waiver granted to a Government employee by an executive branch agency.”

Ethics codes prescribe behaviors. Waivers may undo limitations on some behaviors. Executive branch codes generally limit the participation of former lobbyists. Therefore, it’s in the public interest to know whether executive branch appointees remain faithful to ethics codes and whether waivers are granted for appropriate reasons. Right?

Enter the administration of President Donald and its war on transparency.

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

May 22, 2017 at 4:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized