Global warming & Africa revisited

Thanks to tODD for actually doing research on that piece I blogged about by Civil Rights activist turned conservative Roy Innis, accusing the Obama administration of devastating Ghana because of its global warming mandates:

This article appears to be less than truthful.

I searched on Google News for any mention of articles that discussed
[Ghana OPIC]. And here’s the weird thing. With the exception of this
Washington Times article, most of the news all stemmed from
Forbes[1][2][3]. I found that odd. There are basically two
sources on this story, and they both have conservative biases. That
doesn’t smell right.

Then I did a search on OPIC.gov for news of this story. Nothing I
could find, though I wouldn’t necessarily expect them to say anything
about it.

So I started searching on Google News for [ghana 130-megawatt,
gas-fired power plant], just to find discussion of this plant. And I
found all of two articles. The Washington Times article that
Veith posted, and a story from Ghana Business News.

And the latter had an interesting story[4]:

In recent times some publications in the Wall Street Journal and
particularly Forbes.com have [sought] to impugn the integrity of Ghana
and to question the country’s sovereignty. One of the articles on
Forbes actually went to the extent of accusing President Obama of
being responsible for an American power company losing an energy
contract to build 130-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant at
Aboadze in the Western region. Meanwhile, a ghanabusinessnews.com
investigation of this power project contract revealed that there was
no contract at all that has been awarded to HPI. Indeed,
ghanabusinessnews.com communicated with officials of HPI by telephone
and by email and their responses were included in the report that was
published on April 16, 2009. It is curious therefore, that the Forbes
article will seek to link the failure to award a contract that never
was to Obama’s doing.

If you go to the Ghana Business News link below[4], you can
follow the link they have to a story from last year[5] investigating
this power-plant-contract that didn’t exist.

Feel free to prove me wrong, but I call “bull” on this story. It
appears to be nothing more than another right-wing potshot at Obama
and against anti-global-warming measures. I expect conservatives like
Mr. Innis (and son) to make arguments like that, but I also expect
them to tell the truth in so doing.

[1]mobile.ghanaweb.com/wap/article.php?ID=177408
[2]theghanaianjournal.com/2010/02/25/a-presidential-doublespeak-on-investing-in-ghana/
[3]forbes.com/global/2010/0315/companies-obama-ghana-hpi-energy-dont-read-my-lips.html
[4]ghanabusinessnews.com/2010/03/01/is-the-us-after-ghana’s-oil-at-all-cost/
[5]ghanabusinessnews.com/2009/04/16/us-company-to-build-another-power-plant-for-ghana/

OK, the Power Plant story sounds bogus.

The other part of the article says that new OPIC rules prevent help for projects that might contribute to global warming. Is that part true? I found this: http://www.opic.gov/news/press-releases/2007/pr061407
That, however, is from 2007, which would be from the Bush administration.

tODD also dug up President Obama’s executive order that the article referenced, which isn’t as specific as Innis made it sound:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/assets/documents/2009fedleader_eo_rel.pdf

tODD also found an article about OPIC and global warming:

http://www.climatechangeinsights.com/2009/11/articles/us-policy/opic-and-the-exportimport-bank-after-the-nepa-settlement-a-tale-of-two-agencies/

So, have these rules prevented investment in needed projects in Africa? We don’t really know. Maybe, and maybe they will in the future, but Innis’s column has not demonstrated what he claims.

Also, who knew that Roy Innis, black nationalist that he used to be, is now considered a conservative? I didn’t.

I know that I should be doing all of this research, but I just don’t have time. I depend on you to keep me honest. So thanks to Todd for all of this digging.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.stjohnsmontello.org Richard P. Janke

    The students at St. John’s Lutheran Elementary are penpals with a Peace Corps Volunteer, Grant Dobbe, working in Ghana. When the first blog posting on OPIC was up I sent him the link and asked for his reaction. This is his reply:

    BuiIding the next 50 years of energy infrastructure on fossil fuels is not the right way to develop sustainable infrastructure. The only people who would benefit are the contractors that OPIC and the World Bank require Ghana to hire to build the plant. Ghana will just end up with more power shortages (natural gas is hard to get in the best of times — we just had a 4-month gas shortage where prices went up 30% and people stood in line all day to fill gas cylinders), worse air pollution, and a loan that they’re stuck paying back for something that doesn’t do what they need.

    Instead I think that developing countries should be focusing on things like thorium-fueled and pebble-bed nuclear reactors, high-intensity solar fields (especially in the north, where they get close to 300 days of sunlight per year) and tidal power generation.

    The nature of the nuclear technology, especially thorium, has no ability for use in proliferation (thorium is not fissionable enough to be used in weapons and difficult to process for use in things like dirty bombs). Both reactor models have almost no danger of meltdown, and are designed to run largely unattended. It would also encourage Ghanaian students to study science, math, and engineering, as any reactors built and installed would require skilled chemists, nuclear physicists, and engineers to help operate them.

    Furthermore, all of these generating methods — nuclear and otherwise
    – are small-scale, That allows them to be tailored to the needs of a particular region instead of those of an entire country. Part of the reason Ghana has the energy problems it has is because 90% of its electricity comes from one hydroelectric dam (also partly funded by the U.S. Government) that also happens to provide power to the largest aluminum smelting plant in West Africa — and if there is a dip in supply due to water shortages or equipment malfunctions, the smelting plant gets first priority.

    Providing electricity to everybody helps to reduce poverty and is a noble goal, but not if the method of producing that electricity is not sustainable and causes health and environmental problems. The best way to do this is to consider the long-term consequences and pick a good option, instead of an easy option.

  • http://www.stjohnsmontello.org Richard P. Janke

    The students at St. John’s Lutheran Elementary are penpals with a Peace Corps Volunteer, Grant Dobbe, working in Ghana. When the first blog posting on OPIC was up I sent him the link and asked for his reaction. This is his reply:

    BuiIding the next 50 years of energy infrastructure on fossil fuels is not the right way to develop sustainable infrastructure. The only people who would benefit are the contractors that OPIC and the World Bank require Ghana to hire to build the plant. Ghana will just end up with more power shortages (natural gas is hard to get in the best of times — we just had a 4-month gas shortage where prices went up 30% and people stood in line all day to fill gas cylinders), worse air pollution, and a loan that they’re stuck paying back for something that doesn’t do what they need.

    Instead I think that developing countries should be focusing on things like thorium-fueled and pebble-bed nuclear reactors, high-intensity solar fields (especially in the north, where they get close to 300 days of sunlight per year) and tidal power generation.

    The nature of the nuclear technology, especially thorium, has no ability for use in proliferation (thorium is not fissionable enough to be used in weapons and difficult to process for use in things like dirty bombs). Both reactor models have almost no danger of meltdown, and are designed to run largely unattended. It would also encourage Ghanaian students to study science, math, and engineering, as any reactors built and installed would require skilled chemists, nuclear physicists, and engineers to help operate them.

    Furthermore, all of these generating methods — nuclear and otherwise
    – are small-scale, That allows them to be tailored to the needs of a particular region instead of those of an entire country. Part of the reason Ghana has the energy problems it has is because 90% of its electricity comes from one hydroelectric dam (also partly funded by the U.S. Government) that also happens to provide power to the largest aluminum smelting plant in West Africa — and if there is a dip in supply due to water shortages or equipment malfunctions, the smelting plant gets first priority.

    Providing electricity to everybody helps to reduce poverty and is a noble goal, but not if the method of producing that electricity is not sustainable and causes health and environmental problems. The best way to do this is to consider the long-term consequences and pick a good option, instead of an easy option.

  • Booklover

    It would be easier to listen to the prophets of global-warming doom if they didn’t need to fly their private jets and use up tons of the earth’s resources in their manufacturing of various and sundry books and videos.

    One prophet of global-warming doom uses up far more of the earth’s resources than does one entire African village.

  • Booklover

    It would be easier to listen to the prophets of global-warming doom if they didn’t need to fly their private jets and use up tons of the earth’s resources in their manufacturing of various and sundry books and videos.

    One prophet of global-warming doom uses up far more of the earth’s resources than does one entire African village.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Perhaps I shouldn’t have expected as much discussion on this post as there was on the previous one. I do have to wonder why that is, though.

    What do the people who believed the previous post (when it apparently bolstered their preconceived notions) think now? Dan Kempin? Joe? DonS? Carl Vehse? Matt C? Mike Westfall? Rose?

    And Booklover (@2), you’re almost certainly referring to Al Gore. Why don’t you stop listening to him? I don’t listen to him. It seems like right-wingers listen to him more than a lot of left-wingers I know, possibly because his perceived hypocrisy makes the entire idea of global warming easier to dismiss. There are many, many people out there talking about global warming, its causes and effects, that do not own and have never ridden on private jets. That includes quite a huge number of scientists. What about what they’re saying? If all you need is one hypocrite to dismiss an entire idea, I have to ask you: what, exactly, do you believe in?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Perhaps I shouldn’t have expected as much discussion on this post as there was on the previous one. I do have to wonder why that is, though.

    What do the people who believed the previous post (when it apparently bolstered their preconceived notions) think now? Dan Kempin? Joe? DonS? Carl Vehse? Matt C? Mike Westfall? Rose?

    And Booklover (@2), you’re almost certainly referring to Al Gore. Why don’t you stop listening to him? I don’t listen to him. It seems like right-wingers listen to him more than a lot of left-wingers I know, possibly because his perceived hypocrisy makes the entire idea of global warming easier to dismiss. There are many, many people out there talking about global warming, its causes and effects, that do not own and have never ridden on private jets. That includes quite a huge number of scientists. What about what they’re saying? If all you need is one hypocrite to dismiss an entire idea, I have to ask you: what, exactly, do you believe in?

  • Dan Kempin

    tODD, #3,

    In the previous post, I was merely commenting on Veith’s phrase, “ideological purity applied to others.” (I think it is a great poetic description for pharisaical hypocrisy of all sorts, and it might just make it into a sermon . . . somehow . . . maybe–primarily because I feel the sting when I apply it to myself. Just think of the old parenting axiom, “Do as I say, not as I do.”)

    Since you ask, though, I didn’t give the previous story much thought. Global warming politics in Africa is not exactly in my wheelhouse. Your subsequent research has been revealing, though, and has strengthened my already healthy scepticism of any one source of media. I appreciate your in depth research here and elsewhere.

    Regarding the larger issue of investment and environmental regulation in Africa–again, not exactly my area of expertise. In principle, I would favor free markets. I think the Ghanians and other African nations should be free to develop their resources for the benefit of their people. That, of course, is pretty vague and noncommittal. Can you tell I am not really engaged?

  • Dan Kempin

    tODD, #3,

    In the previous post, I was merely commenting on Veith’s phrase, “ideological purity applied to others.” (I think it is a great poetic description for pharisaical hypocrisy of all sorts, and it might just make it into a sermon . . . somehow . . . maybe–primarily because I feel the sting when I apply it to myself. Just think of the old parenting axiom, “Do as I say, not as I do.”)

    Since you ask, though, I didn’t give the previous story much thought. Global warming politics in Africa is not exactly in my wheelhouse. Your subsequent research has been revealing, though, and has strengthened my already healthy scepticism of any one source of media. I appreciate your in depth research here and elsewhere.

    Regarding the larger issue of investment and environmental regulation in Africa–again, not exactly my area of expertise. In principle, I would favor free markets. I think the Ghanians and other African nations should be free to develop their resources for the benefit of their people. That, of course, is pretty vague and noncommittal. Can you tell I am not really engaged?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Dan (@4), are you a pastor? Huh … [Googles] … so you are (although Google also tells me you’re a pastor at Grace Lutheran in Brooklyn Park, so what do/does I/it know)! I knew there was a reason I liked you.

    Anyhow, you said, “Global warming politics in Africa is not exactly in my wheelhouse” and “investment and environmental regulation in Africa” are “not exactly my area of expertise.” Sure. That probably goes for everyone on this blog. And that’s kind of the issue.

    As long as a story reinforces our existing ideas, we’re not likely to challenge it. This goes for me, as well, since it goes for all of us. I’m one of the few people here who had cause to be cynical of this story. But none of us have time to investigate everything we come across. So what does get by us? What falsehoods get circulated for us to hear, with the corrections being posted long after we’ve lost interest, if at all?

    But it does raise an interesting question: if we are all, by admission, not knowledgeable about certain areas, is it in the best interest of truth for us to discuss topics we do know more about? Should we tend away from stories whose provenance and accuracy we are ill-equipped to verify?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Dan (@4), are you a pastor? Huh … [Googles] … so you are (although Google also tells me you’re a pastor at Grace Lutheran in Brooklyn Park, so what do/does I/it know)! I knew there was a reason I liked you.

    Anyhow, you said, “Global warming politics in Africa is not exactly in my wheelhouse” and “investment and environmental regulation in Africa” are “not exactly my area of expertise.” Sure. That probably goes for everyone on this blog. And that’s kind of the issue.

    As long as a story reinforces our existing ideas, we’re not likely to challenge it. This goes for me, as well, since it goes for all of us. I’m one of the few people here who had cause to be cynical of this story. But none of us have time to investigate everything we come across. So what does get by us? What falsehoods get circulated for us to hear, with the corrections being posted long after we’ve lost interest, if at all?

    But it does raise an interesting question: if we are all, by admission, not knowledgeable about certain areas, is it in the best interest of truth for us to discuss topics we do know more about? Should we tend away from stories whose provenance and accuracy we are ill-equipped to verify?

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Don’t know why there isn’t more discussion here. Possibly because others like me are pastors and during Holy Week ought to be doing other things. not getting very far on my list today.
    One thing I found intriguing though was in Ridhar’s post 1.
    I didn’t know that there was a way of creating nuclear energy without using Uranium. And I don’t like to admit that there are things I don’t know. But it occurs to me that if Iran is sincere about not wanting nuclear weapons that they should pursue this Thorium bit. But then that might switch the topic to something else completely. Though there is no conversation so maybe it is o.k. to hijack the thread at this point.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Don’t know why there isn’t more discussion here. Possibly because others like me are pastors and during Holy Week ought to be doing other things. not getting very far on my list today.
    One thing I found intriguing though was in Ridhar’s post 1.
    I didn’t know that there was a way of creating nuclear energy without using Uranium. And I don’t like to admit that there are things I don’t know. But it occurs to me that if Iran is sincere about not wanting nuclear weapons that they should pursue this Thorium bit. But then that might switch the topic to something else completely. Though there is no conversation so maybe it is o.k. to hijack the thread at this point.

  • DonS

    tODD, kudos to your research on this story. I never said I believed the original, however, but rather that it deserved more investigation, which you did.

    So, your view is that we should not discuss things unless we are expert? We have gotten into a lot of trouble as a nation by “letting the experts” run things ….. into the ground! Who would have thought that all of those expert government economists and politicians would have allowed us to set up an entitlement system that has obligated us to such an extent that even if the next 10 years of U.S. GDP were confiscated in its entirety, we still could not meet those obligations? Or that our government would be willing (and even anxious) to severely cripple our already overburdened economy to stave off a manufactured “climate crisis” which rested on faulty data and computer modeling? We as citizens need to be involved, and we need to vet the information we receive. We need to challenge the so-called “experts”. That is why we are so much better off now than we were when we only received the information the Big Three networks chose to spoon feed to us. Look at this situation — a bogus story went out, and you refuted it. We have a great ability to sift through information and, together, determine what is true. We should celebrate that, and ensure that we remain engaged in what our leaders are doing, allegedly on our behalf.

  • DonS

    tODD, kudos to your research on this story. I never said I believed the original, however, but rather that it deserved more investigation, which you did.

    So, your view is that we should not discuss things unless we are expert? We have gotten into a lot of trouble as a nation by “letting the experts” run things ….. into the ground! Who would have thought that all of those expert government economists and politicians would have allowed us to set up an entitlement system that has obligated us to such an extent that even if the next 10 years of U.S. GDP were confiscated in its entirety, we still could not meet those obligations? Or that our government would be willing (and even anxious) to severely cripple our already overburdened economy to stave off a manufactured “climate crisis” which rested on faulty data and computer modeling? We as citizens need to be involved, and we need to vet the information we receive. We need to challenge the so-called “experts”. That is why we are so much better off now than we were when we only received the information the Big Three networks chose to spoon feed to us. Look at this situation — a bogus story went out, and you refuted it. We have a great ability to sift through information and, together, determine what is true. We should celebrate that, and ensure that we remain engaged in what our leaders are doing, allegedly on our behalf.

  • http://mesamike.org Mike Westfall

    Well, it seems like it is easy to believe what is written if it supports our own ideology, and it gives us an excuse to be judgmental. I certainly fell for it in this case.

    So… Thanks, tODD, for doing the footwork. Like tODD says, most of us don’t have the ganas to investigate every assertion. But then we get fooled, sometimes, so a forum like this is useful for discussing things and fleshing out the truth.

    That being said, I’m not really feeling any more confident about where the current Congress and Administration want to take America.

  • http://mesamike.org Mike Westfall

    Well, it seems like it is easy to believe what is written if it supports our own ideology, and it gives us an excuse to be judgmental. I certainly fell for it in this case.

    So… Thanks, tODD, for doing the footwork. Like tODD says, most of us don’t have the ganas to investigate every assertion. But then we get fooled, sometimes, so a forum like this is useful for discussing things and fleshing out the truth.

    That being said, I’m not really feeling any more confident about where the current Congress and Administration want to take America.

  • Bruce Gee

    I actually haven’t read the previous thread, but wanted to comment on what Richard Janke posted (#8). I have had a number of friends involved in trying to do the impossible: provide real help to our African brothers and sisters on a level that they can use. I’ve heard many stories of the importation of American style agriculture methods, for example, which seldom seem to be helpful. There are so many problems to overcome, but it seems the crux of the issue is: the people of Africa ( I generalize, but the problem in southern Africa as I understand it is generally the same) need a Strong Man on their side to protect them, but once protected, don’t need Strong Man solutions. The solutions need to arise from the local communities, enjoying the normalcy they would realize by being protected from the incessant irrationality of civil war, of being out-of-community; of poor health and poverty etc. Protection, a little steady funding, some (as referenced by Janke’s letter) low-scale technology that can be adapted to various needs, and I think many good things would come of it.
    As one of my friends who has worked extensively in Malawi told me, “Africa is becoming one big ghetto.”

  • Bruce Gee

    I actually haven’t read the previous thread, but wanted to comment on what Richard Janke posted (#8). I have had a number of friends involved in trying to do the impossible: provide real help to our African brothers and sisters on a level that they can use. I’ve heard many stories of the importation of American style agriculture methods, for example, which seldom seem to be helpful. There are so many problems to overcome, but it seems the crux of the issue is: the people of Africa ( I generalize, but the problem in southern Africa as I understand it is generally the same) need a Strong Man on their side to protect them, but once protected, don’t need Strong Man solutions. The solutions need to arise from the local communities, enjoying the normalcy they would realize by being protected from the incessant irrationality of civil war, of being out-of-community; of poor health and poverty etc. Protection, a little steady funding, some (as referenced by Janke’s letter) low-scale technology that can be adapted to various needs, and I think many good things would come of it.
    As one of my friends who has worked extensively in Malawi told me, “Africa is becoming one big ghetto.”

  • Bruce Gee

    Sorry for hijacking the thread, BTW.

  • Bruce Gee

    Sorry for hijacking the thread, BTW.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Don (@7), I know in the past that you have complained about straw men. Which is why I find it amusing (at best) that you said, “So, your view is that we should not discuss things unless we are expert?” I mean, where did I say that? Isn’t that a clear twisting of what I did say?

    And not only that, but you then, somehow, managed to turn what I’d said into a rant against experts in the government and the “Big Three networks”. I think that says a lot more about your personal bugaboos than it does what I actually wrote.

    But look, the point I actually did make is borne out on this site. When the topic is power plants, Africa, and OPIC, which almost no one knows anything about, we are all ill-equipped to weigh in on the story. The fact that I was able to do research to apparently disprove a column in the Washington Times does not mean I actually know about the topics involved. It just shows that the columnist didn’t know a lot about them, either.

    Do you think that such an erroneous article would have been posted to this site, much less given a pass by multiple commentators, if it had been about Lutheran theology, or even Christianity in general? Of course not! Everyone here knows too much about those, and even if they don’t all agree, they are too knowledgeable to let basic errors pass through, even if those errors do reinforce their own biases.

    But no one here knows much about African power plants or OPIC. Heck, no one even discusses those things much here — unless, of course, they reinforce ideas they have in other areas (Obama is bad, global warming mitigation is bad).

    What I am suggesting is that if we tend to stick to topics on which we are knowledgeable, we will not be as prone to disseminate rumor and falsehoods. We will not be as swayed by our own biases, and instead will respond out of knowledge.

    As to your rant against “experts”, I don’t for a minute believe that you want idiots to run the government, no matter what I think of your politics. You can posture all you want as some anti-elitist, but at the end of the day, you’re a highly-trained person with a professional degree. You’re an expert in your field. You don’t think that just anybody can do patent law. So don’t give me this nonsense about “so-called ‘experts’”.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Don (@7), I know in the past that you have complained about straw men. Which is why I find it amusing (at best) that you said, “So, your view is that we should not discuss things unless we are expert?” I mean, where did I say that? Isn’t that a clear twisting of what I did say?

    And not only that, but you then, somehow, managed to turn what I’d said into a rant against experts in the government and the “Big Three networks”. I think that says a lot more about your personal bugaboos than it does what I actually wrote.

    But look, the point I actually did make is borne out on this site. When the topic is power plants, Africa, and OPIC, which almost no one knows anything about, we are all ill-equipped to weigh in on the story. The fact that I was able to do research to apparently disprove a column in the Washington Times does not mean I actually know about the topics involved. It just shows that the columnist didn’t know a lot about them, either.

    Do you think that such an erroneous article would have been posted to this site, much less given a pass by multiple commentators, if it had been about Lutheran theology, or even Christianity in general? Of course not! Everyone here knows too much about those, and even if they don’t all agree, they are too knowledgeable to let basic errors pass through, even if those errors do reinforce their own biases.

    But no one here knows much about African power plants or OPIC. Heck, no one even discusses those things much here — unless, of course, they reinforce ideas they have in other areas (Obama is bad, global warming mitigation is bad).

    What I am suggesting is that if we tend to stick to topics on which we are knowledgeable, we will not be as prone to disseminate rumor and falsehoods. We will not be as swayed by our own biases, and instead will respond out of knowledge.

    As to your rant against “experts”, I don’t for a minute believe that you want idiots to run the government, no matter what I think of your politics. You can posture all you want as some anti-elitist, but at the end of the day, you’re a highly-trained person with a professional degree. You’re an expert in your field. You don’t think that just anybody can do patent law. So don’t give me this nonsense about “so-called ‘experts’”.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 11: Perhaps I misunderstood your original point. What I thought (still think) you were saying is that we should not discuss things we don’t know about, because by doing so we are merely contributing to ignorance and misinformation, particularly if it is a politically charged subject.

    My point is that, while I acknowledge that the danger is real, we are responsible for our government and we need to understand its policies. In other words, we shouldn’t shy away from engaging with unfamiliar subjects, relying on the government “experts” to run things, just because it is not in our area of expertise. We, as a people, have tended to take a pretty “hands-off” view of those things for which government claims responsibility, and I don’t think that approach has served us well. Maybe my opinion is tainted by that $100 trillion plus future liability the “experts” have run up on our behalf.

    I concur with you that we shouldn’t simply comment in ignorance and move on. But, in community, we often all come to a better understanding of the issues by engaging them. This thread was a perfect example, in that you de-bunked, through your research, the whole premise of the article. My initial comment was, hmmm, that’s interesting and definitely deserves more investigation and exposure. I didn’t say anything definitive, and I think that is the right approach when something is unconfirmed. But, just ignoring entire swaths of topics, assuming that the government is taking care of it, is irresponsible.

    Of course, what I was NOT saying was that we should not use or value experts. Rather, my point is that we should not OVERvalue them, or assume they know more than they do. As a patent attorney, I feel like I do a better job for clients that engage the process and actively cooperate with the preparation and prosecution of patent applications than for those who simply leave things to my judgment. Similarly, although I use a CPA to do my taxes, I take responsibility to try to understand the basics of tax law (that gets harder every year, however), and I carefully review the returns to ensure that they make sense to me. And I question those things I don’t understand. I take the same approach with medical doctors, even though they know more than I do about the particular medical subject. Why? Because I have a personal stake in the process. Similarly, we as American citizens have a personal stake in the government policies we are pursuing, and it behooves us to pay some attention to what is going on, whether or not we bring substantial prior knowledge to the matter.

  • DonS

    tODD @ 11: Perhaps I misunderstood your original point. What I thought (still think) you were saying is that we should not discuss things we don’t know about, because by doing so we are merely contributing to ignorance and misinformation, particularly if it is a politically charged subject.

    My point is that, while I acknowledge that the danger is real, we are responsible for our government and we need to understand its policies. In other words, we shouldn’t shy away from engaging with unfamiliar subjects, relying on the government “experts” to run things, just because it is not in our area of expertise. We, as a people, have tended to take a pretty “hands-off” view of those things for which government claims responsibility, and I don’t think that approach has served us well. Maybe my opinion is tainted by that $100 trillion plus future liability the “experts” have run up on our behalf.

    I concur with you that we shouldn’t simply comment in ignorance and move on. But, in community, we often all come to a better understanding of the issues by engaging them. This thread was a perfect example, in that you de-bunked, through your research, the whole premise of the article. My initial comment was, hmmm, that’s interesting and definitely deserves more investigation and exposure. I didn’t say anything definitive, and I think that is the right approach when something is unconfirmed. But, just ignoring entire swaths of topics, assuming that the government is taking care of it, is irresponsible.

    Of course, what I was NOT saying was that we should not use or value experts. Rather, my point is that we should not OVERvalue them, or assume they know more than they do. As a patent attorney, I feel like I do a better job for clients that engage the process and actively cooperate with the preparation and prosecution of patent applications than for those who simply leave things to my judgment. Similarly, although I use a CPA to do my taxes, I take responsibility to try to understand the basics of tax law (that gets harder every year, however), and I carefully review the returns to ensure that they make sense to me. And I question those things I don’t understand. I take the same approach with medical doctors, even though they know more than I do about the particular medical subject. Why? Because I have a personal stake in the process. Similarly, we as American citizens have a personal stake in the government policies we are pursuing, and it behooves us to pay some attention to what is going on, whether or not we bring substantial prior knowledge to the matter.


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