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Climate Change Denier Recants August 16, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in politics, Science.
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The mainstream media, including CNN, have provided climate change deniers a platform to spread their half-truths and outright lies.

Apparently CNN’s resident climate change skeptic has recanted. From CNN meteorologist Chad Myers via Climate Progress:

Is it caused by man? Yes. Is it 100% caused by man? No. There are other things involved. We are now in the sun spot cycle. We are now in a very hot sun cycle. there are many other things going on. But, yes, a significant portion of this is caused by greenhouse gases keeping heat on the shore, on the land, in the atmosphere that could have escaped without those greenhouse gases, so, yes, it’s warmer. . ..

Of course, it is a little too late for a mea culpa. Thanks to oil company money and journalist hacks like Myers, a majority of the public is now skeptical of climate change despite the soundness of global warming science and fact that global average temperature is at or near record highs. The window of political opportunity for passing sweeping energy legislation has probably closed for now.

Even in his recantation, Myers can’t get his facts straight.

Unfortunately, “scientist expert” Chad Myers (actually a bachelor-degree meteorologist, not a climate scientist) also made the blatantly false claim that we are “now in a very hot sun cycle.” In fact, the sun is just emerging from an extremely low two-year minimum of activity, with years to go before it will reach another peak. Since 1980, average solar irradiance has been on the decline, even as global temperatures have risen.

Explain to me again why CNN is any different from Fox News?

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

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Confronting Hatred and Ignorance August 15, 2010

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President Obama is being justly praised for his political courage in standing up for religious liberty in the face of the ugly and shameful anti-mosque campaign waged by conservatives. (It is really an Islamic community center, not a mosque)

“I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. Ground zero is, indeed, hallowed ground,” the president said in remarks prepared for the annual White House iftar, the sunset meal breaking the day’s fast.

But, he continued: “This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are” . . . .

There was no political upside to his stand and a good deal of political risk since polls show overwhelming nationwide opposition to the mosque.

This is just another example of conservatives lining up with majorities in the American public to treat an unpopular minority as an enemy. This is not only Anti-American; it is stupid given the fact that we need the cooperation of Muslims in the fight against terrorism. Obama stood by American principles and articulated what is best about us in contrast to the bigotry and ignorance we usually hear from the right (and from the public).

The issue has implications outside of New York. In Tennessee:    

Residents demand construction on Mosque be halted

  Several county residents spoke at Thursday night’s monthly Rutherford County Commission meeting in opposition to a proposed Islamic Center on Veals Road.

   Most demanded construction be halted and stopped short of demanding the buried body of a Muslim on their property be exhumed.

   The 52,000-square foot Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was approved earlier this year by the Regional Planning Commission under a new state law that allows religious institutions to build whatever they want in residential neighborhoods as a “use of right.”

   Residents who spoke want the county commission to reconsider their approval claiming Islam is not a religion and expressing fear that Islamic Sharia law will be imposed on Murfreesboro citizens.

Islam is not a religion? Building a mosque is equivalent to imposing Sharia law? It not hard to detect the ignorance and bigotry here.

Unfortunately, many Democrats have not been so willing to step up. Via the NY Times:

Few national Democrats rushed to Mr. Obama’s defense; party leaders, who would much prefer Mr. Obama to talk about jobs, were mostly silent. Two New York Democrats, Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand and Representative Jerrold Nadler, however, did back Mr. Obama. But Alex Sink, the Democratic candidate for governor here, distanced herself, while Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican-turned-independent, defended the president.

“I think he’s right,” Mr. Crist told reporters during an appearance with the president at a Coast Guard station here.

This is just another example of Democratic politicians lacking the stomach to defend American values. They should do the right thing and support their leader.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

Terrorist Babies August 12, 2010

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The new bugbear in the Republican culture of complaint is the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which confers citizenship on anyone born in the U.S.  Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), among others, has been arguing that this constitutes a terrorist threat.

Apparently, Gohmert thinks that terrorists plan to immigrate to the U.S. and have babies who, when they grow up, will attack Americans and “help destroy our way of life.” And he claims to have gotten this information from “a retired FBI agent“.

But Tom Fuentes a former FBI Assistant Director from 2004-2008 isn’t buying this latest bit of Republican crazy.

“The FBI has 75 offices overseas, including offices in Jordan, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan,” explained Fuentes. “There was never a credible report — or any report, for that matter — coming across through all the various mechanisms of communication to indicate that there was such a plan for these terror babies to be born.

“Also, I’d like to add, there seems to be a lot of former FBI agents lurking in the halls of Congress and in the legislature in the state of Texas, so I’m kind of curious about that issue as well.”

“I think — in this case, I think the FBI has knocked this story down completely, officially or unofficially,” Fuentes also added. “I think at first they didn’t want to comment on it just because they didn’t want to lend any credence to the people spreading it, but realized that there has to be some comment or else the no comment, you know, means there might be some secret classified information out there, but — but there is no credible information about this particular aspect.”

As usual, Republicans are simply lying to the public in order gin up fear.

Haven’t we heard this sort of thing before? Something about weapons of mass destruction and mushroom clouds?

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

Google/Verizon and Net Neutrality August 11, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, Technology.
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I’m still performing my civic duty so time is limited. But here is a good discussion of an increasingly important issue.

The Internets have been all “atwitter” about the new deal between Google and Verizon that would allow some customers access to a higher speed Internet for a price, essentially creating a poor person’s Internet and a rich person’s Internet.

is this a good idea or not. Kevin Drum has an informative discussion:

“So what’s the story on the Google/Verizon proposal that would allow carriers to offer high-speed networks to favored customers at a higher price than standard internet access? Would it spell the end of net neutrality?

There are two parts of the proposal. The first would essentially eliminate the principle of net neutrality over wireless networks. So within that piece of the internet, the answer is yes.

But what about the wireline network? There, the VG proposal is a little more subtle. Basically, they suggest that the current internet — which their document calls the “public internet” — should remain governed by strict net neutrality that treats everybody equally. However, carriers would be allowed to construct complementary networks that discriminate freely. The subtext here is that while well-heeled corporations could indeed buy better service, the public internet — i.e., the one we all know and love today — would be unaffected.

So: is this true? David Post is a strong supporter (“indeed, I’m a religious zealot”) of the current end-to-end design of the internet, a design that essentially enforces net neutrality at the protocol level by placing all processing at the endpoints of the network and allowing the network itself to do very little aside from dumb transport of bits. Here’s his take:

The problem is that there are many things an E2E inter-network (like the one we have) can’t do that people want their inter-network to do and would pay to have it do, and businesses serving those people want to provide those things. Things like guaranteed delivery of packets; the E2E network can’t promise that your packet will arrive at its destination, because that would require the network to keep track of your transmission as it moves along….[etc.]

The problem then boils down to: is there a way to preserve the E2E network — the open, nondiscriminatory inter-network — while simultaneously allowing people to get the services they want? Now in fact, that’s not exactly the question, because we know the answer to that one. There are already thousands, hundreds and hundreds of thousands, of non-E2E networks that do lots and lots of internal processing and provide lots and lots of services the E2E Internet does not provide. Your cell phone provider’s network, for instance. Most corporate wide area networks, for instance. Obviously, if Verizon wants to build a separate network and offer all sorts of glorious services on it, it can do so. The real net neutrality problem is this: if Verizon uses the Internet’s infrastucture to provide those services, will that somehow degrade the performance of the E2E Internet or somehow jeopardize its existence? Put another way: if Verizon can figure out a way to provide additional services to some of its subscribers using the Internet infrastructure in a way that does not compromise the traffic over the E2E inter-network, why should we want to stop them from doing that?

I think this is a good way of putting the question, though I’d expand it a bit. First, there’s a technical question: can Verizon (and other carriers) segregate traffic over current backbones without degrading the performance of other traffic? I’m skeptical on fundamental grounds, but as Post says, there’s always the chance that “technological innovation can do things that I usually cannot foresee.” And it’s certainly true that content delivery vendors like Akamai already provide high-speed access for a fee by pushing the boundaries of the current architecture of the internet as far as it will go. So maybe Post is right. But there’s also an economic question: if carriers put all their capital development into high-speed dedicated networks, does this mean they’ll simply let the current public internet deteriorate naturally as traffic increases but bandwidth doesn’t keep up? That seems pretty likely to me.

If you’re a pure libertarian, your answer is, “So what?” If there’s a demand for high-performance public access, then the market will deliver it. If there’s not, then there’s no reason it should. But there’s a collective action problem here: if the public backbone deteriorates, there’s nothing I can do about it. As an individual, obviously I can’t afford the kind of dedicated high-speed network that Disney or Fox News can. But the public backbone is a shared resource. Unless lots of my fellow users are willing to pay for high-speed service, I can’t get it. And if access to most of the big sites is fast because they’re paying for special networks, what are the odds that people will care all that much about all the small sites? Probably kind of slim.

Again: who cares? If most people don’t care much about high-speed access to small sites as long as they have fast access to the highest-traffic sites, then that’s the way the cookie crumbles. There’s no law that says the market has to provide everything Kevin Drum wants.

Still, there are real benefits to providing routine, high-speed internet infrastructure to everyone. It means that small, innovative net-based companies can compete more easily with existing giants. It means schoolchildren can get fast access to a wide variety of content, not just stuff from Microsoft and Google. It means we have a more level playing field between content providers of all kinds. Sometimes universal access is a powerful economic multiplier — think postal service and electricity and interstate highways — and universal access to a robust internet is to the 21st century what those things were to the past. If, instead of an interstate highway system, we’d spent most of our money building special toll roads for Wal-Mart and UPS, would that have been a net benefit for the country? I’d be very careful before deciding that it would have been.

For now, then, count me on the side of a purer version of net neutrality, in which the backbone infrastructure stays robust because everyone — including the big boys — has an incentive to keep it that way. I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise, but Verizon and Google are going to have to do the persuading. And it better be pretty convincing.”

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

Don’t Know What to Think August 9, 2010

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Blogging will be light this week—I have jury duty and was assigned a trial.

But Steve Benen does a nice job of capturing this increasingly important issue:

There’s a case to be made — and a fairly persuasive one at that — that the current Congress has been as successful as any in several decades. For all of its many problems, this Senate, in just 18 months, passed health care reform, Wall Street reform, the Recovery Act, student loan reform, Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Hate Crimes Prevention Act, new regulations of the credit card industry, new regulations of the tobacco industry, and a national service bill, and confirmed two Supreme Court justices while they were at it. If the process was completely, irreparably broken, these victories wouldn’t have happened.

With this in mind, Jill Lawrence takes a contrarian view and argues that the status quo in the Senate isn’t so bad after all.

“It’s an impressive record, but it has not been treated that way. Part of the reason is that the journey has been ugly. McConnell and his crew are on track to match their 2007-08 record of forcing 139 cloture votes to end filibusters, while Democrats are taking the usual steps — compromises, cajoling, cringe-worthy deals — to forge onward. Every move by each side is dissected 24/7 by countless armchair analysts on blogs, talk radio and cable TV.”

Lawrence’s larger point seems to be that those demanding reform are proposing solutions to a problem that doesn’t exist. The Senate is frustrating, she says, “but hardly stagnant.”

As one of those annoying people who whines incessantly about the Senate, I’ll concede that the point has some merit. This Senate has achieved a great deal, and really is the most successful of my lifetime. It’d be a mistake to argue otherwise.

But I’m still not persuaded by Lawrence’s argument. The legislative breakthroughs have occurred despite the Senate’s ridiculous system, but the victories are hardly a justification for a broken institution.

There are a few points to consider that Lawrence omitted. For one thing, the Senate Democratic majority is unusually large — at 59 seats, it’s the biggest majority for either party in 30 years. Even at 59-41, the Senate has just barely been able to pass major bills, but therein lies the point — a 55-45 Senate should be able to tackle major challenges, too. As we’re learning, that’s no longer the case. The country can’t wait for once-in-a-generation majorities in order to pass important proposals.

For another, consider just how close the recent breakthroughs have been. The margins have been razor thin on nearly every key bill that’s passed, and a handful of instances in which the ball bounced the other way — Coleman edges Franken, Specter isn’t driven out of the GOP, Lieberman switches caucuses — would have made all of the achievements impossible. The success of the Senate shouldn’t be dependent on a handful of happy coincidences.

Finally, also note that while the Senate has successfully passed several, but not all, of the “big” bills, it routinely fails at everyday tasks, such as confirming the executive branch with qualified nominees. These common breakdowns are so common, it’s easy to forget them while major breakthroughs eke out narrow wins.

I’m not sure what I think about this. Congress has been very productive, but that may  because of an historically unusual make up that will not last.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

More American Taliban August 8, 2010

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Last week I highlighted the tendency of right wing politicians to spout attitudes about the role of religion in public life and attitudes toward foreignness not unlike those of our enemies, the Taliban, in Afghanistan.

William Saletan highlights more similarities in pointing the absurdity of conservative objections to the proposed mosque in New York City.

In the years since 9/11, Osama Bin Laden has issued more than 20 audio and video statements to spread his view of the conflict between the United States and al-Qaida. According to his worldview, the U.S. represents Christianity, al-Qaida represents Muslims, Christians won’t protect Muslims, the West hates mosques, peaceful coexistence is a fraud, and the “war on terrorism” is really a war on Islam. By spreading this message, Bin Laden works to turn Muslims against the U.S. and rally them to al-Qaida.

Now Bin Laden has an ally in this propaganda campaign: Newt Gingrich.

Over the past two weeks, in a series of articles and speeches, Gingrich has declared a religious war that suits al-Qaida’s agenda almost perfectly. While denouncing “Islamists” rather than Islam, Gingrich has blurred the distinction by selecting as his initial target the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero. Everything Bin Laden says about the U.S., Gingrich validates. All you have to do is read their statements, side by side.

[…] By opposing the mosque, Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Rudy Giuliani, and other Republicans think they’re standing up to Bin Laden. But Bin Laden isn’t fighting for Islam. He’s fighting to transform a war of terrorists against civilization into a war of infidels against Islam. He’s fighting to persuade Muslims that they belong on his side, not on ours.

And you’re helping him, Newt. You’re giving him exactly the fight he wants. Nice going.

The common thread weaving American conservatism with radical Islam is not behavior. As far as I know, conservatives are not butchering women or flying planes into buildings.

What links them is authoritarianism and the use of religion to exercise social control over anyone they don’t like.

The details of the respective religions don’t matter much. What matters is the ability to seize and hold power—both radical Islam and radical conservatism cynically use religion as a means to pursue their narrow undemocratic agendas.

Of course for Gingrich, the purpose is to maintain the power of the plutocrats in Washington and Wall St.

It is sad that so many people who can never hope to have any power in their lives are so willing to follow them.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

Judicial Review Exists for a Reason August 5, 2010

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Since Judge Walker announced his decision overturning Proposition 8, the right-wing has been livid. And their most common complaint is that, because Proposition 8 had been approved by 52% of California voters, the decision is somehow an affront to those voters and the very idea of democracy.

But this whole line of reasoning simply ignores the reason why we have an independent judiciary.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Marbury v. Madison in 1803, the Supreme Court has had the power to decide whether or not the actions of the legislative and executive branches of government are constitutional. Judicial review is fundamental to our democracy because it protects the rights of unpopular minorities. In our system of government, the majority cannot take away fundamental rights protected by the constitution from individuals in a minority group simply because the majority doesn’t like them.

School segregation, Jim Crow laws, and bans on interracial marriage were overturned because they violated the rights of minorities despite the fact that these laws were supported by overwhelming majorities.

The fact that a majority voted for a law is simply not relevant to the question of whether the law is constitutional or not. The courts exist to protect the rights of minorities; not just to rubber stamp decisions by the other branches of government.

It is not surprising that some of the tea partiers making this argument are ignorant of the constitution or the foundations of democracy. What is inexcusable is that commentators and politicians who should know better make the same argument.

Any of us could find ourselves despised by a majority because we are part of some group of people who become unpopular.

Do these opponents of judge Walker’s decision really want to live in a political system that has no judicial review and no protection for minorities?

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

American Taliban August 4, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.
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The ruling by District Judge Vaughn Walker declaring California’s Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage, to be unconstitutional is welcome news. Judge Walker ruled there is no rational basis for prohibiting same-sex marriage and it violates both the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th amendment of the U.S. constitution. Here is the full opinion.

Of course this is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court where representatives of the American Taliban currently hold power. So there is no telling what the ultimate fate of Prop 8 will be. I suppose it depends on whether Justice Kennedy allows his  libertarian tendencies to shine.

But while we are on the subject of the American Taliban, it is worth making note of what is going on in the Nevada Senate race, where the extremist Republican candidate Sharron Angle (R) has introduced Biblical interpretation into the race. Jon Ralston reports on recent comments she made on a Christian radio talk-show.

“And these programs that you mentioned — that Obama has going with Reid and Pelosi pushing them forward — are all entitlement programs built to make government our God. And that’s really what’s happening in this country is a violation of the First Commandment. We have become a country entrenched in idolatry, and that idolatry is the dependency upon our government. We’re supposed to depend upon God for our protection and our provision and for our daily bread, not for our government.”

This mindset will further reinforce to some that religion infuses everything Angle believes but also might explain her hostility to government programs, believing essentially they are produced by a false God. […]

“I need warriors to stand beside me. You know, this is a war of ideology, a war of thoughts and of faith. And we need people to really stand for faith and trust, not hope and change.”

This is about as clear a statement as one could want about what this lunatic thinks of U.S. democracy. U.S. law ought to be subordinated to Old Testament Christianity. As Steve Benen reveals:

The Las Vegas Sun recently reported that Angle, who said she’s running because God told her to, embraces a radical church-state philosophy that “parallels that of a religious political movement — Christian Reconstructionism — seeking to return American civil society to biblical law.”

If you’re unfamiliar with Christian Reconstructionism, it’s quite literally analogous to the Taliban and radical proponents of Sharia law — just as they want to replace secular law with laws based on their interpretation of the Quran, Reconstructionists want to replace secular law in the U.S. with their interpretation of the Christian Bible. In this vision, a radical take on Scripture would take the place of our Constitution.

These are the very same people who are screaming about threats from Muslims who are allegedly dedicated to imposing Sharia law on us all.

I’m having trouble parsing the differences between being ruled by Old Testament Christianity and being ruled by Sharia Law.

And if this is not sufficiently farcical for your taste, how about this from the Colorado Governor’s race:

Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes is warning voters that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper’s policies, particularly his efforts to boost bike riding, are “converting Denver into a United Nations community.”

“This is all very well-disguised, but it will be exposed,” Maes told about 50 supporters who showed up at a campaign rally last week in Centennial.

Maes said in a later interview that he once thought the mayor’s efforts to promote cycling and other environmental initiatives were harmless and well-meaning. Now he realizes “that’s exactly the attitude they want you to have.”

“This is bigger than it looks like on the surface, and it could threaten our personal freedoms,” Maes said.

He added: “These aren’t just warm, fuzzy ideas from the mayor. These are very specific strategies that are dictated to us by this United Nations program that mayors have signed on to.”

Bike paths are a diabolical United Nations plot! This person is running for Governor! As Kos writes

But beyond the horserace aspect, Maes gives us yet another window into the psyche of the teabagger, one in which being environmentally responsible is suspect, in which the United Nations is code word for communist. It’s a world in which “liberty” apparently means dealing with congestion-choked streets, noxious air quality, and unhealthy living.

We know this crowd hates brown people, non-Christians, single women, Hollywood, San Francisco, Massachusetts, gays, immigrants, New York, Chicago, anyone born in Hawaii, Muslims, urbanites, liberals, environmentalists, anyone who wears birkenstocks or drinks lattes, and any country outside of the United States.

I guess you can add cyclists to the list.

We are losing blood and treasure fighting a war against ignorance, bigotry and intolerance in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, our enemies seem to have infiltrated American politics.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

Wikipedia on Trial August 3, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Culture, Dwight Furrow's Posts, Education.
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Larry Sanger is one of the founders of Wikipedia, although he quit the project because of disagreements about the quality of Wikipedia articles. He was also trained as a philosopher with a specialization in epistemology, and thus has an interesting perspective on some of the problems of using Wikipedia as a source of knowledge.

Here is an excerpt from his Slate interview:

Why did you feel so strongly about involving experts?

Because of the complete disregard for expert opinion among a group of amateurs working on a subject, and in particular because of their tendency to openly express contempt for experts. There was this attitude that experts should be disqualified [from participating] by the very fact that they had published on the subject—that because they had published, they were therefore biased. That frustrated me very much, to see that happening over and over again: experts essentially being driven away by people who didn’t have any respect for those who make it their lives’ work to know things.

Where do you think that contempt for expertise comes from? It’s seems odd to be committed to a project that’s all about sharing knowledge, yet dismiss those who’ve worked so hard to acquire it.

There’s a whole worldview that’s shared by many programmers—although not all of them, of course—and by many young intellectuals that I characterize as “epistemic egalitarianism.” They’re greatly offended by the idea that anyone might be regarded as more reliable on a given topic than everyone else. They feel that for everything to be as fair as possible and equal as possible, the only thing that ought to matter is the content [of a claim] itself, not its source.

It seems to me that this conflict between amateurs and experts boils down to a conflict between egalitarianism and credibility. You gestured toward this conflict in an essay on the Edge.com, where you wrote, “It’s Truth versus Equality, and as much as I love Equality, if it comes down to choosing, I’m on the side of Truth.” Do you find that it really is a zero-sum gamethat, as a practical matter, we need to choose between these two goods?

I doubt very much that it’s a zero-sum game. I think it’s absolutely a great thing that people regardless of their credentials can contribute to the shaping of knowledge. And I think we have to creatively design ways of recognizing both the value of amateur work, on the one hand, and the objective value of the knowledge of people who are experts in various fields.

The idea behind Wikipedia is that by pooling information held by multiple authors truth will emerge in the marketplace of ideas. No planner or centralized authority is necessary because multiple authors will be self-correcting. If one author makes a mistake, other authors will notice the mistake and correct it.

But as Sanger points out, it is not obvious that Wikipedia actually works that way. The loudest or most persistent voice is not necessarily the voice of truth. The idea that a talented amateur is in a position to trump the judgment of experts who have spent years studying a subject is a modern but pernicious conceit.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

How’s That Radical Socialist Agenda Workin’ for Ya? August 2, 2010

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The polls say that the public thinks government actions, taken over the past two years, to prevent the economy from collapsing were ineffective and unfair. Everybody hates the bailout of the financial industry, the stimulus package was just wasted taxpayer money, and the bailout of the automobile industry was an excessive government intervention in a private enterprise, according to this version of events.

This of course is precisely what Republicans said about these efforts (despite the fact that most of them voted for the bailout of the financial industry.)

Democrats have insisted that strong government action avoided a catastrophe, but somehow it is the Republican version of events that has captured the public “mind”’.

But what about the reality of the situation?

Two respected economists have tried to quantify the effects of the financial bailout and stimulus package.

In a new paper, the economists argue that without the Wall Street bailout, the bank stress tests, the emergency lending and asset purchases by the Federal Reserve, and the Obama administration’s fiscal stimulus program, the nation’s gross domestic product would be about 6.5 percent lower this year.

In addition, there would be about 8.5 million fewer jobs, on top of the more than 8 million already lost; and the economy would be experiencing deflation, instead of low inflation.

The paper, by Alan S. Blinder, a Princeton professor and former vice chairman of the Fed, and Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, represents a first stab at comprehensively estimating the effects of the economic policy responses of the last few years.

“While the effectiveness of any individual element certainly can be debated, there is little doubt that in total, the policy response was highly effective,” they write. […] “When all is said and done, the financial and fiscal policies will have cost taxpayers a substantial sum, but not nearly as much as most had feared and not nearly as much as if policy makers had not acted at all,”

Zandi is no left wing economics professor. He was an advisor on economic policy to the McCain presidential campaign.

What about the Republican do-nothing approach? Would that have worked? Bender and Zandi write:

It is clear that laissez faire was not an option; policymakers had to act. Not responding would have left both the economy and the government’s fiscal situation in far graver condition. We conclude that [Federal Reserve Chairman] Ben Bernanke was probably right when he said that “We came very close in October [2008] to Depression 2.0.”

As to the government bailout of the auto industry, when President Obama rescued the auto industry last year, Republicans claimed that not only would the government takeover not work and the taxpayer would have to foot the bill  but that this was a socialist agenda designed to destroy capitalism.

But as the Washington Post noted last week, “many of the critics have retreated from their sharpest attacks as they watch the auto industry once again turn a profit.”

In the first quarter of 2010, GM earned a quarterly profit of $865 million, its first since 2007. Chrysler reported an operating profit of $143 million over the same period.

Preliminary figures suggest that auto industry employment in the United States may reverse a decade of decline.  […]  Today, most of the government money is expected to be repaid, but the program’s ultimate cost was estimated by the administration in March to be $24.6 billion. Administration officials predict that the expected loss will fall as the companies in which the United States has an ownership stake grow in value.

General Motors is expected to have a public offering of stock as early as August; Chrysler’s is expected next year. The government investments could be repaid then.

And thousands of people are employed who would have lost their jobs had the government not intervened and the tax payer is much better off than without the intervention.

Of course Republicans are now trying to take credit for the policy. Senator Corker now says:

“The ideas [Republicans] laid out there were followed through,” Corker told the Washington Post. “I take some pleasure out of helping make that contribution.”

There dishonesty is breathtaking.

It is a good thing the adults were in charge last year. It might be a good thing to keep them in charge.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com