Posts Tagged ‘transparency’

Demand Transparency

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

So many of the faults which plague systems of governance around the world could be solved if only we had the means to hold those in power accountable for their actions. And there is no better tool to do this than transparency.

Malevolence, corruption, cruelty… this things can only persist in the shadows. Out in the open, under the scrutiny of a watchful global eye, the weight of the world’s people will inevitably stamp out these injustices.

Imagine if cops and soldiers, while they were working, had to wear an always-on camera that streams the video to a publicly controlled database. The feed could be delayed, but will eventually be made – unaltered – to the public.

An ever watching lens could be doubly beneficial to police, helping to hold wrong-doers accountable while weeding  weed out abuses of power. The military could also be helped as streaming cameras ought to deter crimes against humanity, capture their acts of bravery, and show the public what the true face of war is.

Or suppose we demanded that governments account for every single dollar taxed and spent. Lay it all out for us online, make it easy to navigate and simple to understand – not because politicians and civil servants want to, but because we demand it. Mismanagement of funds and institutionalized corruption will be excised as it becomes glaringly evident as to who is taking far more than what they’ve earned.

The same goes for the US Healthcare system. Why not completely expose what’s been going on? It would be a great way to fix the problem. Institutionalized corruption. Collusion between health care elite, insurance companies and the government,  all maximizing personal profits at the expense of the public.

We have the technological means to make these things happen. The only reason it hasn’t arrived yet is because there isn’t enough will among the people.

Politicians? The Mainstream Media? Few of them are going to spearhead a ‘show everyone in the world what we are doing behind closed doors’ platform, so it’s up to the rest of us.

Spread the word, make our demand for transparency a part of everyday discussion.

FBI Wants Access to EVERYTHING

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

CNET has learned that the FBI is quietly pushing a plan requiring social-networking Web sites, providers of VoIP, instant messaging services, and Web e-mail to alter their code and ensure their products are wiretap-friendly. These so-called ‘backdoors’ would become mandatory should amendments to the existing CALEA wiretap laws be allowed to pass.

Yeah, because that’s just what we need for more security: a secretive government agency with unfettered access into our private lives. (more…)

So Long Privacy, Hello Transparency

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

Patsy politicians pandering to plutocratic priorities threaten to pilfer our precious privacy. Lousy legislation like ACTA, SOPA and now CISPA have come to the forefront of this fight, and these bills will all be, hopefully, crushed without mercy beneath  the feet of millions of vigilant citizens.

Still, as disheartening as it may be to hear, these exercises could ultimately prove pointless because privacy is fast going extinct. (more…)

Take That, System

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Today a great blow was dealt to the establishment, thanks to a strong dose of tech-enable transparency.

As promised, digital activist group Anonymous, with the help of Wikileaks, released over 5 million confidential emails from the intelligence & security company Stratfor. While much of it has yet to be parsed, some amazing tidbits have already surfaced from the handful of emails  released: (more…)

Video Gaming for Peace

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Developers are working on a unique idea for a video game where players run around a war zone and shoot enemies. But instead of a gun, they’re armed only with a video camera! Interesting idea, like a trainer for photojournalists. Players can learn about framing shots, panning and zooming as they grab footage of combatants and civilians caught up in war.

While it’s an innovative concept, I was hoping they’d take the power of the camera one step further. Imagine a game where, instead of just being a passive war journalist, the footage you take immediately impacts the world around you.

For example, you’re in a war zone with your camera where you know there’s going to be a rocket attack. Your objectives are to record the incident from different vantage points.

First, you record the event from the side that fired the rocket. You catch it beautifully. A soldier drops back behind some rubble, his squad mates offering covering fire. A smoke trail leads from the rubble pile up the hill, towards a compound in a residential area. The rocket goes off and there’s a devastating explosion. Cut scene.

Now, you stop time and rewind it a bit, to get the perspective of the people about to be blown up. There’s a few rebels, one armed with a sniper rifle, shooting out the windows. In the kitchen, covering their heads, hides a group of terrified women and children. Bullets are ricocheting all around.

In comes the rocket, maybe in slo-mo for dramatic effect. Kaboom. The camera catches every gory, flesh-shredding detail in high definition. Lights out, people.

But the game doesn’t end there. The footage you shoot gets beamed to the game’s virtual global community, who scrutinize what they see.

So shocked by the horrors in your compelling video that the people from the invading nation decide to no longer tolerate this violence, and demand that their troops return home.

The soldier who fired the rocket also gets to see what he did, and he too is sickened by his own actions. The rebels also watch the clip, and they too decide to deplore violence. Overwhelmed with guilt and shame, combatants from both sides throw down their arms and urge their comrades to do the same.

So that’s the gist of the game. You go around with your camera recording the scenes of war, and as you do, the power of your camera brings an end to the fighting.

Maybe it wouldn’t be the most popular game, but it might help teach about the importance of exposing the war machine to a solid dose of transparency. If the entire human race could see, in real time, what is really happening as their armies fight, there wouldn’t be such a strong push towards massive, coordinated violent conflicts.

Fortunately, with every new day, we do gain more ways to drag the realities of war out of the shadows. And the more these atrocities get viewed by the global spotlight, the more peace will take hold of our planet.

NATO – Beheading Civilians and Supporting Jihadists?

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Libya’s Rebel Commander Abdel Hakim Belhaj – the one who led the Gaddafi-ousting coup in Tripoli -  has something of a questionable reputation. If he weren’t the head of the NATO-backed rebellion, he’d likely sit on one of America’s terrorist watch lists.

The former head of a jihad organization with ties to al Qaeda and the Taliban, Belhaj recently told the NY Times that he was tortured and imprisoned for 6 years by the CIA. Whoops! Well, no hard feelings, right?

Still, Belhaj’s bombshell pales compared to that dropped by Former US Congressman Walter Fauntroy, who claims to have witnessed NATO forces storming small villages late at night, beheading and butchering the residents in a campaign of fear.

These allegations surfaced yesterday, and the story has all but dematerialized, which makes it seem unfounded. Maybe Congressman Fauntroy is just getting his affairs in order before releasing the video he shot.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. I’m positive the vast majority filling the ranks of NATO – and the military in general – are very good people. But NATO is just another face of the Military Industrial Complex. And this makes it something to be mistrusted and heavily scrutinized.

Consistently, wars are sold to the public for one reason or another – to protect civilians, to defeat terrorists, to ensure freedom – but they always end up being about money and power.

See, there’s tons of money in manufacturing the tools of war, and there’s plenty more moola to rebuild nations, so that’s reason enough for some business people to want to stir up the pot.

But armed conflict goes deeper.

For one, multinational corporations get to divvy up the juicy resources from the vanquished nations. They can also use the opportunity to privatize anything useful from the public commons. On top of this, the successful invaders get to pick the new leaders, like this Belhaj goon, who could end up selling out their own people to foreign interests.

Hey! Here’s an idea! Why not open up the war machine to transparency?

If what the defense industry people are doing is so entirely just, then let everyone see what happens in a war zone. Show us how much it’s costing, and what is being done on a day to day basis. Film the atrocities, and see if the public can stomach what is being done in their name.

No? Can’t do it? Well then, the whole stinking thing is a RACKET!!!

Crowdsourcing Helps Form Iceland’s Consitution

Friday, August 19th, 2011

What do you get when you cross 25 regular Icelanders with hundreds of Internet users? Iceland’s new constitution!

After the island nation’s economic collapse in 2008, Iceland has seen a strong upsurge of social movements, many of which have called for a revamp of the aging constitution. But not just any rewrite will do – the process needs to be led by ordinary citizens – so that is exactly what they’ve been doing.

Iceland’s small population of 320,000 elected 25 assembly members from 522 ordinary candidates (including lawyers, political science professors, journalists, and many other professions), who in turn opened their process up to the public in an unprecedented fashion.

It’s amazing to see such a completely transparent process. Online users can easily follow early revisions of the constitution and instantly offer their feedback. So far, more than 1,600 propositions and comments have been received, all of which are given due consideration by the 25 Constitution drafters.

Good on them! Iceland is showing the world the power we’ve been unleashing with our emergent technology. It is only a matter of time until transparency and democracy aren’t just niceties to be optional from governance – they will actually be expected and demanded from all the world’s leaders.

Plus now the Icelandic people have a legitimate excuse to Tweet and Facebook all day – because they are trying to be founding fathers!

Woeful Waste: Losing a Hypersonic Plane

Friday, August 12th, 2011

DARPA – America’s advanced research group – lost their $308 Million dollar plane during yesterday’s test flight over the Pacific ocean.

The Falcon HTV-2 – a vehicle that works more like a rock with wings than an airplane – gets launched into the atmosphere with detachable rocket boosters before plummeting back to earth at up to 20 times the speed of sound.

One potential use for the project is – what else – a super weapon capable of delivering a 100o-pound payload to anywhere in the world in under 60 minutes.

Because that’s exactly what the world needs – another way to kill a large number of people on a tight deadline.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for scientific pursuits, even those with no obvious use, since many discoveries happened by accident and you never know what beneficial developments might arise.

But when your economy is in the tanks, and much of the world depends upon you for stability, perhaps it would be prudent to put super-plane projects on the backburner while more pressing issues – like your crumbling infrastructure and struggling education systems – get to sit in the front seat.

On the other hand, if you consider the $20 Billion or so that has gone missing in Iraq, the cost of a lost plane seems like a trifle.

I guess the best thing to do would be to expose the entire Defense Industry to a solid dose of transparency. That way the taxpayers can judge if their money is being used effectively or not.

Of course, if that ever happened, the whole scam might come crashing down and we’d be without large scale armed conflict in our world. And then how will the poor war-profiteers make their billions?

Wikileaks to Take on Fox News and Murdoch

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Wikileaks’ champion Julian Assange let slip another of his future targets: News Corp. owner Rupert Murdoch and his station Fox News. In an interview with John Pilger, Assange claimed he has some dirt on Murdoch, which will be held as insurance for the time being.

Given how Assange faces possible Gitmo detention or execution, it’s hard to blame him for wanting to secure his own assets. However, Assange willingly took up this cause, and chose to be a leader in the fight for transparency in government. He knew the risks involved.

But what about all of the whistle-blowers who risked severe penalties, trusting in Wikileaks to release their documents. They are still waiting for justice and a blow against corruption, yet Assange just sits on his stockpile of secrets.

Is Assange just loving the attention and relishing his celebrity status? Probably. The fact that he sought to protect his own financial interests by threatening to sue The Guardian if they released ‘his’ cables shows what Assange thinks of freedom of information when he’s on the short end of it.

But let’s not come down too hard on Assange. He is still a hero, having spearheaded a pivotal moment in humankind’s history. Wikileaks and Cablegate have defined the moment when the balance of power truly began to shift away from the corrupt oligarchies of ole’ and into the hands of the world’s people.

In time, other leaks will come out, either from Wikileaks or one of their spin-offs, or maybe from a publicly shared torrent containing all the secrets. No matter the truth comes out, it will no doubt rattle the establishment.

It’s just hard sometimes to be patient anticipating the change transparency will bring.

Wikileaks’ Top Tidbits

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Here’s a few from the latest round of top Wikileaks stories:

One cable shows how the US conspired to force GMO’s into the EU. The US government bullying other nations to serve corporate interests? How original.

Another cable reveals that Saddam Hussein extended the message “Iraq wants friendship” to President Bush just before the Kuwait War. Consider it a no, Saddam.

A third highlight recounts the tale of Iranian President Ahmadinejad being slapped by the Chief of Staff. LOL!

Out of the 250,000 cables they have in their possession, the people at Wikileaks have released less than 2000. It sure would be nice if Wikileaks were to embrace more of the transparency they espouse and open up the cables to crowdsourcing. If they’ve got such a backlog of secrets, let us at them already!

Maybe they aren’t just milking the cables to stay relevant and they do know what they are doing. Perhaps slow-leaking the secrets is the responsible choice.  Assange does seem like a smart guy, after all.

On the other hand, considering how the leaks themselves are being leaked, we might just get lucky and see a new torrent garnering thousands of seeds very soon.