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The Daily Fray

Five Best Wednesday Columns

April 13, 2011

Farhad Manjoo on Giving Mark Zuckerberg the Credit He Deserves Slate's Farhad Manjoo argues that though ongoing debate over who really came up with the idea for Facebook is fascinating, it doesn't matter. "Ideas are overrated," writes Manjoo. "In technology, what really matters is execution." And Facebook is a bigger success than any other social network developed around the same time simply because "Zuckerberg did it better." Unlike MySpace, Facebook didn't just appeal to teenagers, and unlike the Winklevosses' Harvard Connection, it wasn't just limited to one school or location. Zuckerberg is responsible both for implementing the features that make Facebook unique, like picture-tagging and the newsfeed, but also for sticking with them in the face of user complaints. "It's a mistake to suggest that if only Zuckerberg had played more fairly someone else would now be heading a world-changing, billion-dollar company," argues Manjoo."Social networking may not have been his idea. But there's nobody else who deserves more credit for it."

Holman Jenkins on Why Coal Is More Dangerous Than Nuclear  The Wall Street Journal's Holman Jenkins notes, as politicians, like Germany's Green Party, sweep to success on unrealistic "post-Fukushima fear-mongering," that "thousands more die in coal mining accidents each year (especially in China) than have been killed in all nuclear-related accidents since the beginning of time. What's more, coal plants spew toxins like mercury and other metals--along with more radioactive thorium and uranium than a nuclear plant--which are no less amenable to linear, no-threshold thinking." Still, Jenkins doubts this information will stop Germany's Green Party from shutting down the nuclear power plants. "Their anti-nuke stance is an article of faith not subject to review."

Jonah Goldberg on Terry Jones and Balance National Review Online Editor Jonah Goldberg agrees with Michael Graham and others who've opined that Terry Jones is not to blame for the violent actions taken by angry Afghans. But the idea that Graham did "nothing" wrong? That's "nuts." Conservatives used to say, says Goldberg, "Yes, you have the right to say (or do) X, but that doesn't mean you should say it, and it doesn't mean I can't criticize it." Goldberg's take: "Burning the Bible, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, or, yes, the Koran is a shameful and brutish act. And failure to criticize it can sometimes be legitimately, or at least predictably, interpreted as an endorsement."

Charles Wolf on American Decline, by the Numbers  Charles Wolf explains in today's Wall Street Journal that the idea perpetuated by many that the U.S. "is in decline and no longer No. 1 in the world, is unrealistic." He points out that there are several factors by which one can measure incline or decline--GDP, military spending and population growth. Depending on which measure is used and country it is compared against, the U.S. can look both like it is inclining or declining, and the numbers don't paint a full picture. "Omissions," concludes Wolf, "include the societal and systemic factors that stimulate or impede creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship and new ventures. As for comparing and forecasting the resilience of countries and regions, the numbers ignore more than they convey."

Scot Lehigh on Senate's Deficiencies  The Boston Globe's Scot Lehigh declares that the Senate's inability even to vote on Obama's nomination of Nobel-winning economist MIT professor Peter Diamond to the Fed's Board of Governors "highlights just how absurdly dysfunctional the upper chamber has become." One Senator in particular, Richard Shelby of Alabama, has single-handedly blocked a vote on Diamond's nomination, and Democrats in the Senate are not working against his efforts. "The institution once billed as the world’s greatest deliberative body is now a place where a Nobel Prize winner can't even get a simple up-or-down vote," complains Lehigh.

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