Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wikileaks and twitter

A few hours ago, I just read this tweet post from @wikileaks:

"WikiLeaks to release CIA paper tomorrow." (
What does that mean? Is wikileaks an open project aimed to protect the free press and essential information leakers? Is it really only meant to provide free information of public interest? ( Then, why are they playing such a marketing trick? With that tweet, all Wikieaks is doing is advertise itself, like a typical TV show. Playing the expectations game.

Wikileaks is becoming more and more a common media outlet, with an editorial line, its own interest and regular shows.Just like CNN. I think that tweet is just another clue of this.

Is that bad? Not necessarily. But is it worth of its foundation ideals? That, it is not for me to answer.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Prop 8

On August the 4th it was widely reported that Prop 8 banning same sex marriage in California had been ruled unconstitutional by court.

"U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker, in a 136-page ruling, said California 'has no interest in differentiating between same-sex and opposite-sex unions.'

'The evidence shows conclusively that moral and religious views form the only basis for a belief that same-sex couples are different from opposite-
sex couples
' Walker wrote." (1)

To avoid any kind of missunderstanding, I'll state here and loud that I AM PROFOUNDLY GLAD OF THIS RULING. I think no one should be denied any right because of sex orientation, as stated in the US constitution (and many others throughout the world).

But I also don't like what this ruling means in terms of the 'rules of politics' (or I'd rather say, 'rules of democracy'). I'll leave to experts the discussion of whether Judge R.Walker is right or lawful, so please consider this opinions aside from the rightneousness of it. In fact, let's say it is 100% correct. Let's suppose the Supreme Court will hold it. In this hypothesis, what has been said is that there's a decision point which is more important than a popular vote. And that's a dangerous thing in a country that praises itself ad nauseam of being the most free and democratic in the world.

OK, Constitution is above all laws in the US. And, also in the US, some matters of political discussion are considered so important that cannot be ruled by the people's representatives (aka Congress) and have to be decided by a universal vote. That's the process Prop 8 went through; and through it the people of California, in a democratic and uncontested way (by uncontested I mean that the voting was free and universal and was not challenged as biased in any way) decided that it should become law.

How come a sole individual (judge R. Walker) can rule that even though people have voted that law, it shall not be enforced, whatever the argument? The argument, in essence, is that it is inconstitutional and as such, illegal. Well, the constition is a document accepted by all US citizens also in a democratic way. I'm quoting the Wikipedia here, but a similar quote could be extracted from any text book across the states: "The Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787, by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and ratified by conventions in each U.S. state in the name of 'The People'" (2)

Thus, if 'the people' (the people of California, in this case) have agreed to a law contradictory to another law also agreed by 'the people', no one else than 'the people' should be able to try and fix the wreck. And, from my point of view, there's only three viable options from this point on (none of which will happen, but still, I fancy the 'political exercise' of putting those together; because I would like to see this fixed in a proper way. And by proper way I mean fixed by those who broke it: 'the people').

1) Call a new and inmediate vote in California on Prop 8. Now people have been lectured by a judge on what is Constitutional on this matter, maybe they have changed their minds. In case they haven't (or we want to consider they were smart enough the first time around) then two new options come to mind.

2) The Constitution should be ammended, so as to fit the new wishes of the people of California. I don't know exactly which parts of it or how deeply (again, I don't want this to become a law technical paper; nor do I know enough on the matter as to do it). This would 'break the tie', probably.

3) As a last option, 'the people' of California should be given a vote of choice. If none of the above options suffice, that decision would be between staying as a part of the US and dropping Prop 8; or upholding Prop 8 and finding a new way of being part of the US without fully embracing the Constitution. Or not being part of the US at all.

I'm being too dramatic on purpose, remember this is a mere exercise. But I really think that the authorities should explore ways to make this again a choice of the people; of getting out of this mess without having a judge or a court override a popular vote. Feet on earth, probably a more realistic way would be a resolution from the California congress and senate (this is, the representatives of 'the people' of California) vote a joint resolution accepting the judge amendment. Now or when the Supreme Court settles the issue, if things are going that far. Not ideal, but it would formally put a good end to this. Not an individual, but 'the people' (their representatives in their name) saying "Sorry, we messed up, now we've been explained the consecuences in full we no longer want this thing we said we wanted in the first time". That's the only (democratic) way out. Or else, we are accepting that in democracy there is something more important than the voice of the people.

Democracy is a political form of government where governing power is derived from the people, either by direct referendum (direct democracy) or by means of elected representatives of the people (representative democracy). (3)

(1) Via LA Times,
(2) Via Wikipedia,
(3) Via Wikipedia,

Monday, May 17, 2010

Alcohol, tobacco, marketing and the F1

In the recent years (and not so recent) the EU has been publishing laws forbidding the advertising of tobacco and alcohol in TV shows, radios, and specially in sports events; the main idea behind it being that the european youth is still getting very soon into smoking and drinking; and thus forbidding the advertising (and specially in those areas where young people are the main commercial target) should help lower those numbers. Fine. I can applaud the sentiment.

Is it working? No, I don't think so. And I want to focus in sports events, specially in motor sports, which have traditionally been a great field for these kind of companies to put their marketing money and efforts. Letting aside the fact that Phillip Morris, at a rate of HUNDREDS of euros per year, is still the main advertiser and investor in Ferrari F1, for just the vage shadow of a code bar that remembers where the big Marlboro logo used to go, the law is having an undesired effect.

Do we remember when big companies started to take as much as their production to countries where manufacturer costs are the lowest possible? So clothes are made in China, computers are assembled in Korea or Taiwan and programming is done in India. Well, it is easy to see how the same is happening in motorsports right now.

F1 and Moto GP used to be (and probably still are) the most important championships of their categories. And they used to be mainly European championships with a few races in the US and Japan. But times are changing. Europe is forbidding their most important source of money (we are talking about very costly championships here) and (here's the tricky part) in these days the 'other' source of money (i.e.: supporters cash) is no longer coming form race day tickets, at least no longer in an important proportion. It comes in merchandising goods and ... from TV. Pay par view, TV advertising... you name it. So, the races can be organized in the dessert, who cares? I mean, they are LITERALLY being held in circuits built from scratch in the dessert. Think of the advantages: lots of money from oil-rich countries, no unconfortable anti-ad laws, brand (and cheap to build) circuits. So what? TV Cameras still get there. I can still watch MIchael Schumacher from my sofa on my big HD TV on a Sunday morning. And... wait for it... HE CAN CARRY A TOBACCO LOGO IN HIS SUIT. And I get it, in my TV, in Europe, on prime time. And if Schumacher's team still can't rely on tobacco money (there are still a lot of races in Europe, where they would have to remove the ads) the circuits can use it. So I get it anyway during the two hours the race lasts. And another two for the pre-race. One more for the qualy.....

So, apart from losing some of the classic circuits and classic races, the law is got not much of its job done. Yes, sadly, Nürburgring is no longer one of the classics in the F1 championship. Let's all embrace the Abu-Dabi Grand Prix. Have fun.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Friendly URLs and freedom of speech

Friendly URLs are being used more and more,  the idea behind it being that the most important idea (or the most relevant words) published in a web page, if it is relevant enough, should be reflected in the URL. My opinion is that such procedures are silly, since URLs are part of the networking protocols involved and should have no relation at all with the content, but it seems that I've lost that battle, and given that it hurts nobody, we'll let that stay.

The main reason why that is happening is that many of the main searching/crawling algortithms used by the internet search engines (yes, I mean Google) give extra 'points' to words contained in the URLs. And since, to 'exist' in the Internet you have to be as high as possible in Google's (consider that a placeholder for your favorite search engine) result list, friendly URLs use is growing fast.

Why do I bring the freedom of speech into this article? I came to think about this while watching TV news about the iranian elections, specially regarding how many internet services are being censored in an effort to control the information (both coming from the country or being given to the country's people). This is not new and should surprise nobody, since we all know examples of internet traffic being controlled, blog posts being censored (and in some cases their writers being sent to jail), search results being filtered, etc... China and Cuba come first to mind, but there are others.

The kind of governments I'm talking about need to invest big efforts into these duties (or making others make those efforts, let's everybody remember how companies like Google or Yahoo have agreed up to some point to filter their results in such countries). Internet is meant to be free, so, why is it getting easier to censor? Regarding the most important blog platforms and communication groups or newspapers web sites, if you want information about Iran's election fraud (presumptive), by blocking anything that contains the words 'iran' or 'Ahmadinejad' (and maybe a couple more) you've done 90% of the job. That's it. A couple of lines in a proxy configuration.

So, here's my thought: Internet is the tool for freedom of information, freedom of speech, etc... and one of the most important changes that is happening these days is due to economic reasons (google will position you higher, so you use that kind of URLs to grab as much visitors as possible and the only reason for that is to get more money/invest return,....). And I have no problem with that, our world is run by economics. But not when it might the very basis of the flow of information.

Am I being too naive? Have I chosen a too childish example to express my concerns(I mean, boy, who cares about friendly URLs anyway?)? I'd love to hear your thougts