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John V Jackson and the hazards of being a Wikimedian

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It's an obligation of anyone with a serious interest in Wikimedia and its projects to listen closely and receptively to serious and thoughtful criticism. The years have brought us an enormous amount of that kind of feedback, many of it deeply beneficial to the English Wikipedia and its methods. But as we all know, Wikipedia draws more than its fair share of trolls, ax grinders, crusaders, cranks and crazies. To the last man (or woman), they all categorically reject such labels. But like Justice Stewart, we know them when we see them.

It's always a risk, getting involved in the Wikimedia movement under your real name. Vicious critics with twisted motives might post a blog calling you a psychopath that becomes the first or second Google result for your name. Maybe they'll do a little digging, take an uneducated guess at what you do for a living, and suggest you should be fired - even tweeting at your employer that they should investigate your "worrying character traits…

Government secrecy

I think I'm going to use this post to plan what might be a series of posts about government secrecy. Just in the last few months (or even days), there has been a lot of news and discussion on this topic - and some interesting concrete developments.

For instance, it was announced today that the Supreme Court refused to overturn an expansion of the federal wiretap surveillance rules that was passed in 2008. By itself, perhaps not big news, but the reason is certainly big news. The plaintiffs (journalists, the ACLU, etc.) couldn't prove that they had been subject to surveillance, so the court decided they didn't even have standing to bring a case. Of course by the very nature of the surveillance program, subjects will likely never become aware that the government is monitoring them. That means that there is virtually no conceivable circumstance in which the law could ever be subject to constitutional review by the Supreme Court. This is part of a pernicious trend, whereby the…

Distortions and manipulation in the gun control debate

I was sent a link to an article in a forum for special operations soldiers that today published a letter signed by a thousand Army Special Forces (Green Berets) soldiers. The letter is essentially a restatement of standard arguments framed by the prestige of elite soldiers, but little is added to the debate other than a clarification on the nature of assault weapons.

Here is the letter: Protecting the Second Amendment – Why all Americans Should Be Concerned

As the gun control debate twists through the typical maelstrom of American politics, we get a lot of these statements on both sides that mostly just rehash a list of all the big talking points - usually from writers with no special expertise or background in policy or law. I've read some very good arguments from legal and policy wonks on both sides of the debate, covering everything from the potential efficacy of regulations in the U.S. and around the world to the precise constitutional parameters within which regulations migh…