Saturday, June 29, 2013

Deletion is out of control on Wikipedia

I have been a Wikipedian for many years and have made some important edits. You can view my Usertalk page to view what I feel is the problem. I have made a number of edits, some of them are major, like my edits after the 2012 election and preventing the deletion of this page which I feel proud of, and have translated multiple pages of Central European royalty to English. To date I have made 478 edits, which I hope to expand further. I am active on the English, German, and Spanish versions of all Wikimedia websites. I visit Wikipedia every single day when I have a question and it has been able to answer most of my questions, or point to me to another reputable site to get good information. I created the page for listing Occupy protest locations.

The biggest problem with Wikipedia today is its deletion policy. There are seven pages I have made in the past few years, and two of them were put up for speedy deletion immediately. The first was a list of occupy locations which they put up for deletion pretty much as soon as I created it. It is now sourced with over 285 references and is listed on 5 different portals. Even though it took place on every continent it was immediately proposed for deletion.

The other page that was nominated for speedy deletion and was actually deleted was an article on a mid-20th century businessman who was the CEO of the proxy company of General Motors that bought out streetcar systems across the United States, a chapter in our history that is mostly forgotten. With such a clear connection to such a big event (given that it changed the layout of every major city in the United States, which I think is extremely important) he was nominated for speedy deletion immediately, despite being more important than the 645,000 low-importance biography articles. I feel like this was probably politically motivated and being an administrator he pulled the trigger too fast to give the article a chance to grow, it also went against the policy that if an article claims notability (which my article did) it should not be deleted! There was no one to check this massive power, so the article was deleted and I left Wikipedia for half a month since I felt so upset, which for me is a very long time to not change something.

I propose an amendment to Wikipedia's deletion policy. Speedy deletion needs the nomination of 10 administrators to be effective, and needs to get enough administrators in 7 days for the deletion to go through. This would make Wikipedia better and make me more inclined to start pages since I will know my work will not be for naught.

I love Wikipedia, and am proud to be a Wikipedian.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Your American tax dollars at work in Israel

The latest news story coming out of the almost 70 year old humanitarian crisis in Israel is on Reuters this week.

Yes, Israel is detaining Palestinian children as young as nine years old and bombing residential areas.

This is a very short-term action by the Israeli government and reminiscent of the Russian attack on Gori in 2008 and nearing the treatment of how Nazis treated Jewish children during the Holocaust. One would think a country that was formed in response to a genocide wouldn't commit another one, learning from their mistakes, but given the vast number of news stories about how Israel treats non-Jews, I have serious suspicions about their internet censorship. Salon (which I know is liberal) did a good report on what I would consider de facto internet censorship because in order to print anything Israeli reporters need to get it cleared by the government. How can Reporters Without Borders give them such good rankings and claim that Israeli reporters "enjoy real freedom of expression despite the existence of military censorship"? This sounds about as stupid to me as saying "North Koreans have real freedom of movement despite the fact that many families are locked away for decades for something their ancestor did." It is completely absurd, and I have lost my trust in Reporters Without Borders.

Support freedom, oppose Likud.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

We won, we have work to do

Today, as everybody knows, the Supreme Court overturned DOMA and Proposition 8 as unconsitutional. Today will be remembered for the rest of American history and will be written in textbooks for decades to come, but the battle for freedom including and beyond gay rights is just getting started for this century.

On DOMA it is relieving to see that the Federal government will now recognize gay marriages, and this is a major step forward for freedom in our country. DOMA had no legal standing in the first place, for the reasons I outlined here: United States v. Windsor

I am pleased and disappointed with the decision on Proposition 8. I recommend reading Joanna Brooks' article on the issue because she is such an eloquent writer and Mormon. I am delighted that gay marriage has returned to California, and that it now opens opportunities to open district court challenges to anti-marriage laws in states across the country.

We saw the Supreme Court effectively overturn the Voting Rights Act yesterday in Shelby County v. Holder, one of the most important pieces of legislation in the history of America. I would have agreed with a decision to extend Department of Justice approval to all changes , but they instead went the other way. Get ready for major bills restricting voting rights to people in the South through large requirements for voter identification and other ineffective and immoral changes to their laws. We need a Right to Vote amendment now to make such proposals harder to defend in court, because we are going down the rabbit hole. We need major voting reform now, and this is just one more tragedy that will convince more people of the desperate need to improve our democracy.

The past 24 hours have been a 67% success rate, hopefully we can change this set of decisions around before the next census... though I am not completely confident if enough people are mobilized it can be done.

Separation of Powers

There is one political habit a lot of Americans are into that I am sick and tired of. That habit is forgetting how our government separates powers and misplacing blame. Every time Congress does anything, the President is blamed. People blame the President for absolutely everything, even if there is nothing else he can do about it. There are a few important points to this.

Avoiding a constitutional crisis, the President does not make the law. Every executive order issued since 1789 (when the first executive order was issued) lists at the beginning the part of the US Code that he is enforcing. This is how the government of the United States works. Guantanamo Bay is still open, despite President Obama vowing to close it, he has proposed laws to close it, and since there is (fortunately) no law allowing the President to unilaterally close military bases, he cannot close it, it requires a vote of Congress. Another example is the current immigration laws. Obama is enforcing the laws that have been handed to him by Congress and were signed by the scum of our country, George W. Bush. Don't blame Obama for Bush's mistakes! Every time someone says this to me I will make a mental note that the person doesn't fully understand the basics of how our government works, and needs to be educated on the Constitution. Instead look at the big picture, which includes court opinions and decisions, legislative laws, and the President executing the law and acting as "preacher-in-chief" and a guiding voice for the country by presenting ideas for the country to follow and the veto pen which is hardly ever used anyways. Obama has had only two vetoes so far in his term... which makes him effectively a rubber stamp. He could veto more, but this is infrequent with Obama. President Bush had 12 vetoes in 8 years,  The President's power lies mostly in keeping the government functioning and keeping agencies running, as the Constitution intends.

So basically, don't confuse the powers of the different people in our government, it is sloppy and embarrassing.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

European Privacy Law Improvement


A case in the European Court of Justice recently decided that European residents do not have a right to force search engines like Google (the main party because they are the best search engine for most things) to eliminate results on them. This is a good decision for several reasons:

  1. If you have committed a violent crime and are seeking employment the last thing you would want is for a potential employer to find that information. If the (I'm dying not to say crazy people) plaintiffs in Spain had won their case then a felon (or the reasonable equivalent in their country's law) would under  EU law have the right to remove their information from the internet making it harder for people to find their crime. Also, there are many types of search engines that are specific to finding information about people and if the EU gave people this right to remove their information from search engines than private investigators who companies hire to screen their employees would be unable to check that their applicant is safe unless if they had to go right to the specific location where the crime is placed. Since this is extremely tedious looking through every local court in the entire European Union this would of course be an absurd ruling and make background checks far too expensive for most small businesses to do because of the time it would take to get all that information every single time. This has no benefit to society and it is good that the EU decided people have no right to remove publicly available information from search engines. While I would understand some laws for people who have been acquitted of a crime removing information, a blanket allowance of removing information is a very slippery slope, and such a law would be extremely difficult to get right. An easier approach would be to not have restrictions on information (except threats, obviously) and that if someone acted inappropriately based on information they found on someone online they would be committing a crime which would be hitting the problem at the source, easier to enforce, and have no possibility of devolving into an infringement of the freedom of speech which is critical for democracy to function.
  2. The website that hosts the information was not the party being targeted, it was the search engine which only directs people to other information. If one search engine started getting infringed on another search engine would pop up (probably through the Tor Network) that would allow people to get the information anyways. Information wants to be free. Despite their best attempts, both North Korea and China cannot block out the outside world's information, which makes this entire purpose completely moot.
I am pleased with this decision, it would be like arresting journalists for uncovering government corruption, like is happening right now with Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning, but it is most like Julian Assange's charges for hosting a website whose purpose was to host news stories that are not covered by the private media. Now we just need to insert whistleblower protections to our laws to prevent further abuse of power as the next step.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Bachmann is gone

I expect that the people at Wait Wait Don't Tell Me and especially Jon Stewart will be in tears to hear that Michelle Bachmann has resigned.

On another note, the only bridge between Detroit and Windsor is owned by one man, and is not public. Personally, this seems like a really dangerous move to allow one person to hold such a valuable North American asset, for the same reasons that I think that the railroads should be public. As a capitalist, I believe in having competition for any privately traded goods, and that goods that we need (like bridges) that are naturally monopolistic should be publicly owned. When we privatize our necessary infrastructure, we give an immense amount of power to a third party with no incentive to keep prices reasonable, and make the economy inefficient.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

News flash: Austerity doesn't work, and housing bubbles are bad

The first point about today's news is that Al Jazeera is reporting about how Austerity is not working in Europe (a shocker to those of us who read statistics and have studied history)

Sound familiar?

The second point is that American housing prices have once again raised above their long-term average adjusted for inflation.

The government needs to stop providing subsidized loans for housing, because it creates a bubble that doesn't help consumers and only really creates an incentive for large banks to take out large loans buying houses as an investment that doesn't appreciate in intrinsic value and after the inevitable crash doesn't appreciate relative to inflation. This creates a surge of demand that is unsustainable (because the bankers aren't living in the houses, only with the hope to turn them over once their price is 10 times their intrinsic value) and every bubble must pop. This doesn't benefit Americans, because it means those of us who haven't purchased our houses yet are going to pay more than we should. I haven't purchased a home yet, so this is bad for me and every other American who doesn't own a home.