I have a large (70 lb) dog, pretty high energy, and a terrible chewer. (She's not yet 2, I'm hoping she'll yet grow out of this!!) She loves her crate. If I'm up later than usual she will ask to go in her crate at night. She is crated 6 to 10 hours at night, but holding elimination is different when sleeping. I feel guilty if she needs to be crated more than about 5 - 6 hours during the day, and that does not often happen - less than once a week. We try to balance it by getting her a longer walk, or longer playtime (fetch, chasing a JollyBall, etc) and by giving her something special to chew on/play with in her crate during the time we are gone. Our trainer also suggested easy-listening radio playing very quietly while we are gone.
But I don't get the crate backlash. Growing up, our dogs were never crated, but having crate-trained this dog (responsibly) I see that she loves it, asks to go in, and likes going in it for naps even when we are home. But we have made it a safe place for her, and she has never had reason to resent it. Like betsyj said, it is a tool, and like anything else can be misused. What it comes down to is are you treating your pet with respect? Look at your dog's actual needs - elimination and activity - and make sure those are met.
I personally would never leave my dog outside while I was gone.