Which right wing Canadian party would you rather vote for?

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Wussification of Wikipedia

Wikipedia is for wussies and here's why:
  • Controversial topics inherently end up going back and forth between conservative and liberal arguments. There is no middle ground but instead a constant polarization of information.
  • It centralizes information on the internet, but that information is flawed, biased, incomplete, frequently open to abuse, has little or no authority to back-up many of the claims, has incomplete or improper references and is prone to misguided editorial-activism.
  • Students and academics researching a topic should NOT use Wikipedia because its information is inherently flawed and unreliable. Plus its the LAZY way of researching a topic. If the modern grade school student uses wikipedia for ALL of their research they will end up with an essay or research paper that is inherently biased and incomplete. My advice for teachers? Make it clear to students that they must research other sources and that Wikipedia should be considered the last source to check.
  • Google Scholar is a far better resource for genuine research purposes as it contains only those articles by professional writers and researchers. Yes, those writers/researchers may still be biased (we all are) but at the very least it will be well-researched and contain proper references, notes and bibliographies.
In much the same way Wikipedia is DEFINITELY the modern equivalent of a regular set of encyclopedias. When I was back in grade school we had strict orders from our teachers not to use any encyclopedias as references for essays and projects. We were told to go straight to the primary sources such as non-fiction books, scholarly articles, magazine/newspaper clippings and quote those instead.

There is, I've noticed, no universal online archive of old and recent newspaper/magazine clippings. Such an archive could contain clippings from the last 100 years easily and include sources like the New York Times, People Magazine, the Rolling Stone, the Toronto Star, etc. It would take a combined effort on the part of numerous magazine and newspaper companies to create such an archive.

But imagine the advertising revenues generated from what would be a popular site for both research and entertainment. We could look at movie reviews for films that came out 30 years ago and see what people back then thought of them.

Don't get me wrong, I think Wikipedia is still a great idea. Its just a flawed one to expect things to even out. C0ntroversial topics such as abortion, the war in Iraq, the JFK assassination, conspiracy theories about 9/11 are simply bound to rife with biases and flawed research. Its basically the fault of the general public for being largely uneducated.

Which is ironic because Wikipedia is meant to be an educational tool, but if its used for spreading misinformation how can it really be a viable tool? It will inherently be wrong or inaccurate 90% of the time.

Think for example of Wikiquote.org... any idiot can go on there and add quotes purporting to have been said by some famous celebrity or politician or whomever. No guarantee it is true or not. It makes me almost pity George W. Bush with all the times he's been misquoted or had quotes applied to him that he didn't actually say. I'm not saying he doesn't deserve the bad attention but lets at least quote only things he actually really said.

Therefore there is two major flaws with wikipedia:

  1. False information by people who don't do proper research and are there to support some bias;
  2. People quoting the false information on other websites, in news reports, research, etc.
Lets stop and consider the amount of media attention that is given to Wikipedia. I don't think media personalities should be quoting Wikipedia as a source. If we tune into CNN do we really want the news anchor quoting articles from Wikipedia that are likely inaccurate and false?

Furthermore, Wikipedia could be used to destroy a person's career or personal life. If for example the latest gossip on Mr and Mrs Famous gets published on Wikipedia and then repeated countlessly then that gossip has just become "fact" insofar as the public is concerned. The general public doesn't care whether or not its true, but once its out there that famous person or group of people could very have their career, marriage or personal life destroyed by simple gossip.

And in that respect Wikipedia is no better than the National Enquirer. We don't quote the National Enquirer on television (unless its for a documentary on aliens or some other conspiracy theory) so why would we do for Wikipedia?

Its because Wikipedia attempts to be authoritative, but that authority is not to be respected. Its dubious at best.

So please people. Think twice before quoting Wikipedia. If you're a teacher make it clear to students they should not use Wikipedia (or any other online encyclopedia) as their sole sources of research. Do not respect Wiki's authority for its no better than a news rag on the street.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

How to deal with Quebec Separatists

My short answer?

You don't deal with them.

Instead we need to be making road blocks to make it extremely difficult, indeed impossible, for Quebec to separate from Canada.

I also think we should be cutting funding to federal political parties devoted to one province only. Separatist/local parties should be limited to the provincial legislatures only.

And its not just a matter of separatism.

For years now Canada has been suffering under an impasse between the Conservative and Liberal parties... consecutive minority governments are stagnating progress. If it weren't for the BQ Parti there would be no minority government currently in Canada.

If we can remove the BQ from power then we can finally have a government that is progressive again instead of maintaining the status quo.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Stephen Harper's "Do Nothing" approach to School Shootings

Stephen Harper is currently over in Afghanistan trying to boost support for Canada's troops in a country that is deciding whether or not to vote foreign forces out of the country.

Meanwhile in Canada a 14 year old boy was shot at C.W. Jeffereys Collegiate Institute in Toronto and died this afternoon. The Grade 9 student, Jordan Manners, was shot in the chest.

After the Virginia Tech incident only weeks ago Stephen Harper was pressured to increase gun control in an attempt to get guns out of the hands of children. Harper however resisted the pressure and instead backed the rights of Canadians to own guns, denying that gun control would do anything to curb the violence.

This is what I mean when I refer to Harper's "Do Nothing" approach to politics. Global warming? Do nothing (or almost nothing). Shootings in our schools? Do nothing.

Terrorism in Canada and the USA? Send more troops to hunt for bin Laden. As if catching bin Laden would make the problem go away. Fives years and counting on a mission that won't stop an international group of 1000s. Chop off the head of Al-Qaida and it will just sprout a new one.

Canada is in massive national debt? Give tax cuts to the rich.

Quebec threatening to leave Canada? Offer to recognize Quebec as a separate country within Canada.

Notice a pattern here? He does the opposite of what he should be doing. That or he does nothing.

Because doing nothing is the least controversial thing of all.

The question is, who would vote for a prime minister who does almost nothing?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Harper's Green Policies just a Tax Grab

Stephen Harper's so-called green policies are essentially just a tax on carbon gases. It won't actually reduce greenhouse gases, but it will fatten tax coffers... by a relatively tiny amount.

So just how green is Harper's policies in the long run?

Answer: They aren't.

So its no wonder that other political parties and key environmentalists like David Suzuki and Al Gore are saying Harper's policies are inept and worthless.

So what is the solution?

Harper needs to put his money where his mouth is. He needs to step forward and commit funding to solar and wind renewable energy and ELIMINATE coal-powered electrical plants in Canada... and not by 2050. He needs to set a date which indicates action is being taken NOW, not 40 years from now. A logical and feasible date would be 2010.

Such an initiative would show environmentalists that Harper is taking environmental issues seriously.

Coal-powered electrical plants are responsible for 1/4 of Canada's carbon emissions. Eliminating coal plants would reduce Canada's emissions by approx. 25%.

In Ontario coal power costs more to the government to make than the amount they receive from the public. Currently Ontario electricity users pay 5.9 cents per kWH, but the cost of Ontario producing that energy using coal is actually 9 cents per kWH. Ontario taxpayers pay the difference and therefore coal-power is a constant drain on the tax coffers.

Switching to renewable energy (and placing more emphasis on nuclear energy) would be more cost-effective in the longrun and would create a robust industry in Canada to build and maintain renewable energy.

Canada has vast swaths of land that is unusable for farming but would be ideal for fields of solar panels and windmills.

Wind power in particular would be perfect for isolated northern communities which use gas-powered generators (which is extremely expensive) for their source of electricity. Approx. 6% of Canada's population lives in isolated communities.