Sunday, May 19, 2013

Info Age Fail 6: Transparency

(This is part 6. See Part 1 here.)

In 1975, the last US troops in Vietnam withdrew, more or less signifying the end of the Vietnam war for the United States. For the Vietnamese, the war continued until 1975.

But what we didn't know until quite recently is that the war should have ended in 1968. It seems the the North and South were very close to a peace deal at that point, until Richard Nixon leveraged his contacts to get South Vietnam to pull out of the talks. He convinced them that they would get a 'better deal' when he was president. Nixon then used President Lyndon Johnson's "Failure to end the war" as one of his key talking points.

We know this now, because President Lyndon Johnson had tapes of bugged telephone conversations. Johnson didn't bring this information to light of course, because doing so would mean admitting that he was illegally wiretapping foreign dignitaries.

How many lives were lost because of this game of political subterfuge?


In 2009, a hacker released a series of emails showing that climate scientist had intentionally omitted some data related to global warming. Specifically data from tree-ring analysis was omitted. The data was a problem for the global warming argument, because it indicated that since roughly the year 2000, the warming trend was slowing.

Now of course there are plenty of rebuttals for this "climategate" scandal, explaining why the tree-ring data is no longer trustworthy and so forth. Well and good. The problem is so called scientists made a decision to hide this information from the general public, based on the premise the the general population wouldn't understand (i.e. the general population is too stupid).


In both of these cases, the problem is a lack of transparency. Science should be 100% transparent. The scientific method demands that an experiment be repeatable. Not just by your cohorts, but also by your skeptics.

And the United States Government, a government of, by and for the people, how is it the the people didn't know about this until decades after the fact?

Of course many will argue that the government has to have secrets. Most everyone loves a good spy flick. Loves the idea of a super-secret, super-stealthy black-ops group sneaking around the globe identifying and neutralizing threats in the shadows. Doing dark deeds "for the greater good".

There are a few serious problems with this. First of all, let me refer you to "The Case for a King". Once you have set up a powerful, secret organization, that operates outside the law, how do you ensure that they remain "champions of good"? (hint: you can't).

The next issue is that whole "greater good" thing. Osama Bin Laden operated under that motto too. Most terrorists do. Quite often, the factor that distinguishes a hero from a villain, is the author that wrote the story.

If you want to be the "Good guy" you need to act the part. Every time. All the time. Don't buy into the myth that you have to cheat to beat a cheater, that "To catch a fox you have to think like a fox.". If you are at the table with a cheater, leave the table, or make the cheater leave, if he remains disagreeable, punch his lights out. As for the fox, send out the hounds, grab your thermal goggles, track him, corner him, and shoot him.

You don't need to be sneaky, you need to be committed. You don't need stealth, you need conviction. You don't need shadows, you need all the cards on the table.

<<Part 7>>

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