DystopiaBox Response to Robert McHenry

First, go read The Faith-Based Encyclopedia by former Encylopædia Britannica editor-in-chief Robert McHenry. Then read the following, which was first posted to the discussion page for his Wikipedia entry:

McHenry's article certainly is provacative. Among the things I think he fails to understand is that people using the internet for research expect to have to think critically about the veracity and objectivity of the information they find. If you are looking for authority, the Encyclopaedia Britannica is vastly preferred to the Wikipedia. What Wikipedia shows us is that people are looking for qualities besides authority in their information -- qualities such as accessibility, usefulness, and currency. For these qualities, Wikipedia is unexcelled.

Second there is the question of what information matters. The Britannica must weigh the desire to preserve information with the need to control expansion of its volumes. The Wikipedia does not suffer from rampant expansion. McHenry uses the example of the entry on Alexander Hamilton to make his point. What if we were to compare the entries on American Idol, or Banksy, or even Robert McHenry himself? The Britannica is useless, but the Wikipedia preserves such ephemera.

Finally, it must be noted that the lack of authority in Wikipedia is not directly linked to its accuracy. When one cites the Wikipedia, even reproducing an error of fact, the reader is alerted to the non-authoritative status of that fact, just as McHenry says. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Facts are always involved in conflict, as the incalculable revisions to the Britannica itself demonstrate. An error that slips past their esteemed editors will likely BECOME truth saving a monumental effort of revision. The beauty of the Wikipedia is that conflict is transparent and accessible. This is the social construction of truth. Authority is an expedient end-around to settle dispute, but it is not the only means, and it does no guarantee of social value.


Some Poll Results in Jefferson County, Alabama

Nothing scandalous here, just messing around with the figures. I used numbers downloaded from the Jefferson County (Alabama) FTP site and I have to say I'm not really sure HOW to use these, as there are two (or more) listings for each polling place. I only used one from each and ended up with about half the total votes counted in the county. Nevertheless, in many cases the number of ballots cast exceeded the number of registered voters recorded at each precinct. Not sure what that means. I'll update this if or when I learn anything. Anyway, without further ado, here's my breakdown of voting behavior by the type of building used as the polling place.:

Absentee - 6650 ballots, 61.7% Bush and 37.4% Kerry.
Churches - 57,840 ballots (79.5% turnout), 66.5% Bush and 32.6% Kerry
City Halls - 10,382 ballots (77.3%); 74.0% Bush, 25.1% Kerry
Comm/Rec Centers - 44,295 ballots (73.6%); 46.2% Bush, 53.0% Kerry
Fire Stations - 12,324 ballots (79.5%); 50.0% Bush, 49.0% Kerry
Libraries - 6,278 ballots (89.0%); 45.3% Bush, 53.4% Kerry
Military - 1,624 ballots (73.3%); 40.1% Bush, 59.2% Kerry
Schools - 30,403 ballots (70.5%); 42.6% Bush, 56.8% Kerry
Other - 7,156 ballots (71.2%); 48.4% Bush, 51.0% Kerry


Blue in a Red America

Dan Kennedy in the Boston Phoenix:

The problem with Finder’s criticism, though, is that it’s so pre-11/2, so — well, reality-based. I’m not sure that any external issues mattered in Bush’s election Tuesday night. That’s because we have entered a new era, one described in chilling detail several weeks ago by Ron Suskind in the New York Times Magazine. Suskind described a chewing-out he once received from a "senior adviser to Bush" after he’d written something for Esquire that the White House didn’t like. Suskind wrote: "The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.’"

Now, Suskind’s piece wasn’t so much about empire as it was about Bush’s embrace of messianic Christianity, a sort of created reality that informs much of his decision-making, one that leads him to separate the world into simplistic categories of good and evil and to believe, always, that he is on the side of good, and of God. It’s a nice thought — but if you’re George W. Bush, how do you know whether you’re really on God’s side? Trouble is, he acts as though his religion leads him to believe he’s always right. And there’s little doubt that his most ardent supporters feel the same way. Consider the war in Iraq, which was — or least should have been — the overarching issue in this campaign. It is as clear as any politically charged fact can be that Bush exaggerated, relied on dubious intelligence, and lied in order to come up with a pretext for the war — that is, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and had provided a base of operations for Al Qaeda. None of this, as we have known for many months, was even remotely true. More than 1100 American soldiers, and perhaps as many as 100,000 Iraqi civilians, have paid for this tragic folly with their lives, and there is no hope that we can be extricated from the Iraq quagmire anytime soon. Yet even though this may prove to be an even more grotesque foreign-policy blunder than Vietnam, Bush’s most enthusiastic followers seem not to care. Polls show that a majority of Bush supporters actually believe that we have found WMD in Iraq, and that Saddam even had some nebulous involvement in 9/11. Thus we have Bush creating his own reality — a faith-based war for which tens of thousands of human beings have paid in actual blood. And those of us in the reality-based community are left to look on in horror.

After what happened on Tuesday, I’m reluctant to cite exit polls, but cite them I must, since I have no other, uh, reality-based standard on which to rely. So: according to exit polls conducted by NBC News, 21 percent of voters on Tuesday said "moral values" were the most important issue to them. (Why aren’t they ever asked if "hate and the opportunity to discriminate" were what brought them to the polls?) Believe it or not, that was higher than the percentage of voters who cited either the economy or terrorism as the most important issue. Of those who identified "moral values" as their key issue, 78 percent said they had voted for Bush. Fully one in five voters was a self-described evangelical Christian.

If Boston — along with New York, Washington, Chicago, and Los Angeles — is one of the capitals of Blue America, the NBC exit polls describe the very definition of Red America: bigoted, intolerant, fearful of the unknown, ever ready to impose its own version of morality on everyone else. Let me admit right here that I’m struggling — much of what I’ve written about Red Americans this morning strikes me as intolerant of them. As a devoted secularist with a number of religious friends, I certainly don’t want to come off as though I’m denigrating religion itself. But the essence of liberalism is that religion must exist in its own sphere, and though it needn’t be private, it has no business poking its nose under other people’s tents. If you’re opposed to abortion, then don’t have one. If you think homosexuality is a sin, then don’t have sex with someone of the same gender. Now, this all makes perfect sense to me. The trouble is, tolerance is perhaps the most vital component of a liberal value system, and it’s at the heart of what makes Blue America what it is. And Red America values neither tolerance nor liberalism. Not to sound too arrogant, but I don’t think we would have any trouble living with them — it’s they who have trouble living with us.

And now they’ve won.


And Make Sure it Counts

Around the country voting lists are being ethnically cleansed, election boards are disappearing ballots, thugs are headed to the polls to challenge legitimate voters, machines are set to fail, and your vote - unless your polling place is an upper-class neighborhood - is not guaranteed to count.

For a brief survey of the biggest boondoggles, read An Election Spoiled Rotten at TomPaine.com

Anyone facing trouble at the polls should be ready to call 1-800-OUR-VOTE to speak with a non-partisan voting rights professional who can answer questions, and help make sure your vote counts. It might not be a walk in the park tomorrow. Get ready to be heard.

John M. Bailey, Chairman for the Democratic National Committee, charged today that "under the guise of setting up an apparatus to protect the sanctity of the ballot, the Republicans are actually creating the machinery for a carefully organized campaign to intimidate voters and to frighten members of minority groups from casting their ballots [...]"

(via Operation Eagle Eye:)

The date of that press release was October 27, 1964 -- a year before President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act.

Whatever your beliefs about how to reduce the terrorist threat -- Whatever your position on public welfare programs -- Whatever your attitudes about civil liberties or education or insurance or everything else -- Consider this carefully: Right now the Republicans want to PREVENT anyone but "their base" from voting and the Democrats are working to make sure everyone DOES have the opportunity and motivation to vote. Working for the few against the many is not a good position to be in, but it's one that the republicans are familiar with.

The DystopiaBox encourages everyone to vote their conscience - or at least vote.