Collaboration Opportunities

Help needed!

I need help building . Currently, I am working full time on this project. In the long run, I see only two viable business models: attracting funding from foundations, or building up enough tools so that interested parties can contribute content. (Of course, these models can be combined.)

While I would appreciate any effort or even discussion from interested readers, I most need assistance building what I've come to call "whitepapers," which are essentially review articles of important public policy and politics issues, as discussed on the homepage. A list of candidate topics can be found below.

TruthAndPolitics: A Politics/Public Policy Knowledgebase

From the mission statement:

To engage in informed political discourse, people need access to information. Americans have more freedom of access to information than ever before. For example, proposals to commit American troops abroad are now far more transparent and met with greater debate than during the height of the Cold War. However, educating oneself about "the issues" is still very labor intensive, with much time spent locating resources rather than learning from them. It might take an hour or more to sharpen a letter to the editor of a newspaper by citing facts and figures to buttress a claim. These educational issues are often addressed only minimally by advocacy groups, which often focus on direct-mail campaigns to raise funds instead of attending to informing their membership.

TruthAndPolitics.org is envisioned as a clearinghouse for knowledge, an attempt to achieve economies of scale in the dissemination and organization of current and historical political information. The projectís primary long-term goal is to help individuals access the current sphere of knowledge more efficiently and avoid needless duplication of effort. Furthermore, describing the current and past state of the world will be emphasized over normative statements of how the world should be.

Other basic links:

  • The home page
  • Brief bios of people currently involved with the project

Possible collaborative work

Content

Currently, the site's architecture has two planned components. First, I am trying to create a database of summaries of useful newspaper articles, books, data tables, and so on. To see examples, the summaries I've already created can be listed by author, subject, or title.

Second--and this is where this site would add the most value--I am trying to create collections of background papers on important topics. These collections could include: introductory/background discussion papers; timelines; numerical and graphical data; a topic-specific glossary; a FAQ (frequently-asked questions); a comparison of points made by opposing sides in any surrounding debates; and an annotated bibliography. I am currently building an outline of concepts and data on the federal budget. The following is a list of examples of topics:

  • Historical trends in the size of US military spending in relation to world military spending
  • Income inequality in the US: its extent and historical trends
  • The evolution of constitutional rights in the US
  • Changes in federal taxes (e.g., what changes in taxation were wrought by Bush in 2001, and what additional changes have been made by the Republican Congress since then?)
  • A description of the debate on how to "fix" Social Security
  • A list of military actions around the world by the US since its inception
  • A summary and timeline of the Clinton scandals
  • The recent history of the US intervention in Iraq
  • Constitutional and crime control aspects of the gun control debate
  • A history of American slavery, the civil war, Jim Crow, and the twentieth century US civil rights movement
  • The history of freedom of speech in the US
  • The history of the separation of church and state in the US
  • The impact of SUVs on highway safety and traffic congestion
  • A comparison of the likely effects on US oil imports of increasing auto milage requirements versus allowing oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
  • A discussion of where energy is consumed in the economy (e.g, transportation versus residential), with an analysis of the areas with greatest potential efficiency gains

Content: some specific questions

Here are some specific questions I could use some help investigating:

  • What has been the time course of the fraction of US military spending to world military spending over the past few decades? (This data seems hard to come by if you want to go back more than 10 or 15 years.)
  • I have a table of top federal income tax rates. What is the corresponding historical time series for the effective rate? (That is the rate that people actually pay, given their deductions, the nature of their income (e.g., earned versus unearned), and so forth.) Possible data sources include:
  • How should the income levels in the table of top federal income tax rates be corrected for inflation? That is, what inflation index should be used?
  • What have been the major changes in the tax code in the past few decades? E.g., when George H. W. Bush violated his campaign promise not to raise taxes, exactly what did he do? What are the basic outlines of the tax reform passed by Congress in 2001?

Technical

I have a very brief page describing technical aspects of this project. Currently, I'm trying to move some code for dynamically generating web pages from C++ to php. I also need to build tools for efficiently entering data into the MySQL database. It would be interesting and challenging to create tools that would take content (a text or HTML file) and pull out people and place names, in an attempt to lessen the labor needed in summarizing document content. (Even more challenging would be to attempt to pull out more abstract keywords.)

How to contact me

If you're interested in working on this project, please send e-mail to me (Steve Fromm) at info@truthandpolitics.org.