Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Two Emails Worth Talking About

A few days ago, someone sent me an email accusing me of sabotaging Wikipedia by complaining to Virgin United over the advertising mess that caused me to leave Wikipedia. They pointed me at some recent posts on Wikipedia's foundation-l and concluded that, because I left Wikipedia over the ethics of the project's movement away from being an ad-less, easily-philosophically-supportable project, I must be involved in such efforts. This is simply incorrect - I have done no such thing. I find it tragic that Wikipedia has started down a path that will, I think, corrupt its goals, but I have not done anyhing (besides leave the project) that would impede it at this time. I find the tone of the discussion to be interesting though - it implies a duty for participants to publically agree with this decision and not to do anything to interfere with it. My gut reaction to this is that it's a bad thing, but I'm not sure if my gut reaction is trustworthy here. One of the principles of Democratic Centralism (one democratic model) is that dissent from matters that are formally decided is only to happen within the decisionmaking body that made that decision, with other action (and protest, in some models) against that decision verboten. Is that a good way to go? I'm not sure - it's certainly *a* workable formulation of a republic. The difference between protest and action could be a dividing line for a different sort of system closer to what we theoretically have in societies today (although the way elections work in this country, I suspect that many positions politicians take are more bought/sold than debated). This digression aside, I cannot say that I would not act against the interests of the project and foundation, if I felt that an explicitly noncommercial fork were present and viable - I would love to see a successful fork of wikipedia that would both avoid being flooded with pop culture crap and would keep a firm eye on ethics, and if there were one, I would be happy to do what it took to remove the competition and focus the funds/efforts towards the new forked project. That's not the case though, and until then, there's little point.

Jared Cohen, president of CMU, sent me a nice, carefully worded reply to my letter to him regarding public transit, and it has a decent amount of stuff attached to it and an invitation for further dialogue. I am impressed and pleased. I have not yet had time to go over the reply in its entirety, but I intend to do so and may converse further on this matter with him. I wonder if having lunch with him at the faculty club would be as simple as offering. One thing I noticed in skimming his reply though is that one of the concerns he has about the Port Authority as it is now is that health care and retirement for bus drivers are making the system prohibitively expensive. My gut reaction on this is anger - it feels wrong to me to suggest that health care and retirement are frills that should be dropped. These are things I think are important for everyone to have - our society should try to provide a decent living for everyone. If that means taxing gasoline and cars enough to get almost everyone riding the bus, and not having such an income disparity because of taxes, then that's a price I hink we should be willing to pay. It would be a shame if reforms mean that if a bus driver becomes ill, their family stands a good chance of dropping into poverty, or when they become old they're financially left on the curb.


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