Mojo - January 2009

Wikipedia Could Begin Reviewing Edits For Accuracy

| Mon Jan. 26, 2009 1:44 PM EST

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Wikipedia, the world's largest online encyclopedia, has grown organically over the years, the product of the collective wisdom of its users. Until now, virtually anyone with an Internet connection has been allowed to contribute new topics and edit preexisting ones. For all that, at least in my experience, Wikipedia is a useful—and surprisingly accurate—source of information. But Jimmy Wales, the site's founder (who famously broke up with his girlfriend by making a change to his own Wikipedia page), has had it with what he calls the "nonsense" that sometimes appears on the site.

In particular, he's referring to an incident last week in which users made changes to the pages for senators Robert Byrd and Edward Kennedy, saying that both had died at a Capitol Hill luncheon following Barack Obama's inauguration; the two men sought medical treatment, but both remain very much among the living.

Wales has proposed to the Wikimedia Foundation that all new editorial additions by new or unknown users be flagged for review by proven users as a means of avoiding future shananigans. As you might guess, the Wiki faithful allege Wiki treason and have begun a flame war against Wales. They claim that reviewing posts will be too time-consuming, slowing the flow of information. And indeed, the German version of Wikipedia, which adopted the flagged-revision system last year, did slow significantly. It can now take days or weeks for changes to be posted, say critics. But perhaps accuracy is more important than speed? Maybe it's the journalist in me, but I tend to think so.


Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Joi.

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Bipartisan Support for an Investment-Based Stimulus Does Exist, Just Not in Congress

| Mon Jan. 26, 2009 1:24 PM EST

Obama is working overtime to get Republicans on the Hill behind his stimulus package, which is driving him to excessive tax cuts and other questionable decisions. But if bipartisan support is his goal, he's already got it. The American voting populace, including Democrats, Republicans, and independents, is behind a progressive stimulus package that sees infrastructure investment, not tax cuts, as the primary vehicle for restarting the American economy. Here's top dog Republican pollster Frank Luntz, via David Sirota:

Last month, I conducted a national survey of 800 registered voters on their attitudes toward infrastructure investment...The survey's findings were unlike any other issue I have polled in more than a decade...A near unanimous 94% of Americans are concerned about our nation's infrastructure. And this concern cuts across all regions of the country and across urban, suburban and rural communities. Fully 84% of the public wants more money spent by the federal government -- and 83% wants more spent by state governments -- to improve America's infrastructure. And here's the kicker: 81% of Americans are personally prepared to pay 1% more in taxes for the cause.
This isn't "soft" support for infrastructure either. It stretches from Maine to Montana, from California to Connecticut. Democrats (87%) and Republicans (74%) are prepared to, in Barack Obama's words, put skin in the game, which tells you just how wide and deep the support is...

I hope Obama takes heed of this. Instead of bending to the will of an obstructionist minority, he should show that minority that the American people are on-board with a progressive stimulus, and it can do the same or risk getting left behind.

And speaking of getting on-board, can we get some mass transit in this sucker?

Off the Jetway and Into the Stocks

| Mon Jan. 26, 2009 12:25 PM EST

pillory_stocks.jpg Word is out that Citigroup is finalizing the purchase of a $50 million corporate jet, complete with a luxury interior that includes leather seats, sofas, and a customizable entertainment center. The new jet will be managed by CitiFlight Inc., a Citi subsidiary that manages Citigroup's entire fleet of corporate jets.

Why is this all so outrageous? (1) Because Citigroup has received $45 billion in taxpayers funds as part of the bailout program, money earned by hard-working American men and women who have never so much as sniffed first class. (2) Commercial air travel still exists in this country! Citigroup executives don't even have to fly coach! They could fly business or first and still save money!

There is only one solution here. Please see the photo at right. President Obama, make it happen.

Update: Opprobrium works! Citigroup is backing down.

New DNI Set to Tackle Over-Classification

| Mon Jan. 26, 2009 11:46 AM EST

DennisBlair.jpg Over-classification and pseudo-classification are largely unknown but very serious problems in this country, ones that were made drastically worse during the Bush years. For additional information, see Chapter C in this report [pdf] from the 21st Century Right to Know project. We're lucky that the man slated to become the next Director of National Intelligence, Adm. Dennis C. Blair, apparently agrees. Not only that, Blair understands that the Bush Administration's use of over-classification and pseudo-classification was a product of both incompetence and, as Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse describes, an effort "to mislead the public and to frame, or more particularly, mis-frame, an outside political debate." Blair's committed to changing all of that, and I have to say, I'm happily surprised.

Krugman Owns "This Week" (Video)

| Mon Jan. 26, 2009 10:41 AM EST

I want to build on the point that Adam Green, writing at Open Left, makes about the need for more liberals in the mainstream media. Watch the clip below from the "Roundtable" segment on yesterday's This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Aside from Krugman, there are no liberal voices. The others on the panel either spout tendentious re-imaginings of political and economic history (George Will) or half-baked solutions that are grounded in little to no schooling or expertise (Sam Donaldson).

Green asks, "What would this segment be like if Krugman wasn't there?" I totally agree, but not just because Krugman reps the lefty point of view. In the absence of expertise, conventional wisdom fills the void. You see that from Will, Donaldson, and Cokie Roberts. Krugman pairs a liberal perspective with actual knowledge, and it's that combo that makes him the most effective member of the panel. We need more liberals in the media, but we really more liberal experts in the media. So go out and nab those Nobel prizes, folks. There's an idea war to be won.

Obama's Lifeline: For a Change, a Stimulus Plan That Actually Helps the Poor and the Sick

| Sun Jan. 25, 2009 10:21 PM EST

Republicans took to the Sunday morning news shows to express their "concern" about parts of the stimulus package presented by the Obama administration last week. House Minority Leader John Boehner declared that he would vote no "if it's the plan I see today"—a pretty idle threat, since even if he takes his entire party with him, the Democrats still have nearly an 80-vote margin. In the Senate, however, two Republican votes are needed to create a filibuster-proof majority, which might at least slow the package down and could force some compromises.

There's good reason for the Republican resistance. While it makes numerous concessions to favored conservative approaches--lots of public-private partnerships that will allow the private sector to cash in, tax cuts for businesses and the middle class, and no immediate end to the Bush tax cuts (which will expire on their own in 2010)—the $820 billion stimulus package also includes some dramatic increases in support for the nation's social welfare programs.

With this package, Obama begins the process of reversing cutbacks initiated by Reagan and carried forward by the two Bushes, with some help from Clinton's welfare "reform." There may still be plenty of holes, but with this plan, the new government confirms that has some responsibility for providing a safety net for its poor and disabled, its children and elderly. To see the magnitude of the shift, it is only necessary to glance at the last budget drawn up by President Bush, for fiscal year 2009: In the midst of the growing recession, it had yet more cuts to the social welfare system, reducing already inadequate health and feeding programs for the most vulnerable Americans.

Here are some of Obama's initiatives—not quite the New Deal, but quite a new deal compared to what we've grown used to over the past 30 years:

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Corn on Hardball: Prosecute Cheney? (Video)

| Fri Jan. 23, 2009 8:35 PM EST

Should the new Obama Administration dig through all the dark ugliness of the Bush-Cheney years--torture, renditions, the destruction of evidence, etc.--and start prosecuting former Bush officials, including the veep? I appeared on MSNBC's Hardball with hawk-of-all-hawks Frank Gaffney Jr. to discuss the matter.

OK. Some of You Liked Aretha's Hat

| Fri Jan. 23, 2009 4:06 PM EST

What do I know? More importantly, what does my mama know.

I made fun of the Queen's inauguration day hat, (as did Ellen), but the store that disgorged it, a la Alien, has been flooded with requests for replicas. So, at least now we know what millions of black grannies will be wearing to church til spring. And—it must be said—blocking out the sun for everyone behind them.

Paterson to City: Drop Dead. The Governor Hands New York's Senate Seat to an Upstate Blue Dog Conservative

| Fri Jan. 23, 2009 12:58 PM EST

Governor David Paterson's appointment of Kirsten Gillibrand, a one-term Congresswoman from a conservative upstate district, to fill Hillary Clinton's Senate seat is a slap in the face to both New York liberals and to New York City in general. Yesterday, as Gillibrand emerged as the frontrunner, the Village Voice's Wayne Barrett branded her "too Republican to replace Clinton," and "out of step with New York voters, particularly Democrats, on a host of issues."

Gillibrand has described her own voting record as "one of the most conservative in the state." She opposes any path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, supports renewing the Bush tax cuts for individuals earning up to $1 million annually, and voted for the Bush-backed FISA bill that permits wiretapping of international calls. She was one of four Democratic freshmen in the country, and the only Democrat in the New York delegation, to vote for the Bush administration's bill to extend funding for the Iraq war shortly after she entered congress in 2007. While she now contends that she's always opposed the war and has voted for bills to end it, one upstate paper reported when she first ran for the seat: "She said she supports the war in Iraq." In addition to her vote to extend funding, she also missed a key vote to override a Bush veto of a Democratic bill with Iraq timetables.

Gillibrand's positions and voting record can be seen as especially offensive to New York City. As Barrett writes:

Gillibrand has a one hundred percent rating from the National Rifle Association ….Gillibrand even opposes any limitations on the sale of semiautomatic weapons or "cop-killer" bullets that can pierce armored vests….Gillibrand voted against both…financial service bailout bills last fall, which have delivered billions to New York, salvaging institutions like Citigroup. An editorial in Crain's, the city's premier business news magazine, said recently that Gillibrand "should be disqualified" from seeking the Senate seat "by her politically expedient vote" against the bailout.

Upstate residents may resent the city's perceived dominance of politics on both the state and local levels, but they are in fact biting the hand that feeds them: The city has historically paid about 20 percent more in federal taxes and twice as much in state taxes than it gets back in services from those governments. And it seems like the wrong time to do anything that could be hard on New York City, which is already hurting badly. As I wrote late last year, while the effects of the economic meltdown are felt nationwide, New York stands at its epicenter, and is taking the heat on two fronts: It is suffering, along with the rest of the country, from the far-reaching fallout of the Wall Street debacle. But it is also directly dependent upon the financial industry itself: Jobs, retail, services, the real estate market, and an astonishing 20 percent of the state's tax base all rest upon the now crumbling foundation of the financial sector. The trip from Wall Street to Main Street is a lot shorter in New York than it is anywhere else.

Air Force Wings Are Made of Gold!

| Fri Jan. 23, 2009 12:25 PM EST

God damn, I'm so proud of my twelve years in the United Friggin' States of America's Air Force! I always am, but some days bring it home more pungently than others.

Hoo-ya! (blow me, Army.)

Check out this video of President Obama's first Air Force One flight.

Hard core, nut job lefty that I am, I joined up in March 1980, when Carter was almost out, then endured eight years of Reagan (whom I LOATHED LOATHED LOATHED), then Bush I (whom I pitied, but respected), and was out by the time of Clinton (for whom I had such high hopes and for whom I actually voted). But I always served with the diligence of my WWII, Jim Crow sharecropper father before me. And my brother who hated America's racism but was nonetheless motivated to join during the Iranian hostage crisis (and the uncle who lost a leg in Viet Nam).

I kept my eyes on the prize of America, just like the motivated AIR FORCE individuals staffing Air Force One. The military is a conservative place; likely, most of the crew wanted McCain to win. But check the pilot talking about the time honored military credo of 'respecting the rank, whether or not you respect the individual,' and you'll understand why we don't have banana republic-coups here every other week.

GO AIR FORCE!