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Public recordings - not just minutes, but actual video and audio - of all significant ministerial and financial meetings would go a long way to restoring real accountability.

Meanwhile, if you want to avoid disaster, you have to build a system with feedback loops that make disaster less likely.

Promoting idiots who are out of their depth but are "a safe pair of hands" and "won't rock the boat" is a good way not to do that.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Dec 3rd, 2010 at 09:33:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
Public recordings - not just minutes, but actual video and audio - of all significant ministerial and financial meetings would go a long way to restoring real accountability.

Do you really think it would work, even if desirable (I don't think it is)? Don't you think that, the minute after they start recording these meetings, participant will stop saying anything significant and shift to backroom deals for the real stuff and decision-making? Unless you implant microphones and micro-cameras on all the politicians and civil servants (and CEOs while we are at it), you won't be able to monitor them properly...

"People only accept change when they are faced with necessity, and only recognize necessity when a crisis is upon them." - Jean Monnet

by Melanchthon on Fri Dec 3rd, 2010 at 11:22:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I really think it would work.

All discussions, all personal, departmental, and relevant corporate financial records, all decisions and positions should be public.

Backroom deals should be banned.

What would be the problem with this?

Of course everyone would be nervous with the public looking over their shoulder. But that's exactly the point.

Pols with something to hide would naturally excuse themselves from power and surveillance - which doesn't seem like a loss to me.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Dec 3rd, 2010 at 11:51:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Backroom deals should be banned.

It's nice to see you still hold on some idealism.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Dec 3rd, 2010 at 12:01:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
All discussions, all personal, departmental, and relevant corporate financial records, all decisions and positions should be public.

Backroom deals should be banned.

And how would you enforce this? It would require a lot of people dedicated to watching these politicians/civil servants/decision-makers and a lot of sophisticated equipment to monitor them all the time. Oh, and at what level would you start?

And saying that a measure only harms those who "have something to hide" is an old authoritarian argument...

"People only accept change when they are faced with necessity, and only recognize necessity when a crisis is upon them." - Jean Monnet

by Melanchthon on Fri Dec 3rd, 2010 at 12:06:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If a cabinet meeting decides X, but Y becomes policy instead then it's not hard to see that something has gone astray somewhere.

There's already plenty of discussion and debate about policy and politicians. It wouldn't need a Separate Public Oversight Committee with people in scary robes and fascist black leather - debate would happen naturally, just as it does already, but more so.

Why would that be a bad thing?

As for "having something to hide", the point is that pols notoriously do have things to hide - many, many things, which they would rather the public never found out about. The things they hide suck out democracy and public involvement from politics like the legislative equivalent of a black hole.

Do you think the FOIA legislation is authoritarian too? Or Finland's public financial disclosure laws? Is Wikileaks authoritarian for making diplomatic cables public?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Dec 3rd, 2010 at 12:19:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
If a cabinet meeting decides X, but Y becomes policy instead then it's not hard to see that something has gone astray somewhere.

But, usually, backroom deals take place before meetings where decisions are made. So there would be no discrepancy between a decision made during the meeting and the policy implemented...

I am all in favour of FOIA, but you must notice that there is a period of time during which you cannot access the information/data. And Finland's law is limited to a certain type of information, whereas you would like to make public in real time "all the discussions and meetings".

What I am saying is this would require a STASI-like organisation. And who would monitor this organisation? How long would it take before this organisation become the real power?

"People only accept change when they are faced with necessity, and only recognize necessity when a crisis is upon them." - Jean Monnet

by Melanchthon on Fri Dec 3rd, 2010 at 12:42:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why would it require any organisation at all?

You set up live feeds, and you put the media recordings up on a server. The public and the press can do the rest.

I'll say again - there is no Bureau of Transgression in this idea. It's purely to put policy debate on the record.

As for backroom deals - a meeting that rubber stamps a decision without debating it is just as suspicious as a meeting which doesn't lead to consistent policy.

Financial records provide a literal paper trail for anyone who wants to check who benefits from decisions.

I don't understand why there's a problem with any of this. Parliamentary debates are already televised in the UK, Hansard keeps a record of all parliamentary statements in paper form, and MPs are supposed to make their expense claims and business connections public.

This is just extending the same established principle to other government contexts.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Dec 3rd, 2010 at 01:25:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Parliamentary debates are theatre for the entertainment of policy wonks. And occasionally - very, very occasionally - a public arena for the execution of a particularly criminal indiscreet politician.

Like the meetings of the general assembly of shareholders in a large industrial corporation.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Dec 3rd, 2010 at 02:18:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What I am saying is this would require a STASI-like organisation. And who would monitor this organisation?

Make it the law that acceptance of governmental employment constitutes permission to have your activities recorded by sound and video, and, except as specifically excluded, it is legal to make any of these recordings public. Make the legal presumption in favor of release of recordings and make claims to the contrary continuously subject to judicial review, with both the party that made the recording and the party that was recorded entitled to bring claims to a judge of their choice.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Dec 4th, 2010 at 05:20:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ugh.  This would make government unworkable. It would also be a huge invasion of privacy for both politicians and civil servants (the Wikileaks cables come mostly from mid-level civil servants).  Nobody could function this way. Imagine this for a private company and the implications for their ability to work together and interact with other companies.  And that's the problem I have with Cablegate - it's the sheer banality of it all that makes it hard to justify.  The vast majority of the stuff I've read is routine government communication of the sort I want foreign service officers to engage in.  The difficulties it causes America are mostly of the personal embarrassment kind, and the fear of actually doing their jobs properly.
by MarekNYC on Fri Dec 3rd, 2010 at 12:17:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dude - you have a country which is running around the planet blowing people up at random, torturing them, giving vast hand-outs to mil-ind thugs, which is riddled with insider corruption, is starving its citizens and depriving them of income in the run up to the Christmas season, which has officially sanctioned random wiretaps without serious cause, and has taken to sexually abusing anyone who steps on a plane...

And you're complaining my suggestion would make government unworkable?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Dec 3rd, 2010 at 12:22:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yup.  It also does a lot of the stuff a government needs to do.  And unlike you, I don't see the US as particularly bad except that its huge power allows for a greater scale of abusive behaviour.
by MarekNYC on Fri Dec 3rd, 2010 at 12:30:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You seem to have much lower expectations of sane, functional government than I do.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Dec 3rd, 2010 at 12:35:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You seem to have much more realistic lower expectations of sane, functional government than I do.
by MarekNYC on Fri Dec 3rd, 2010 at 12:39:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I, for one, welcome our new federal dick-measuring overlords.... ;)

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sat Dec 4th, 2010 at 08:41:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought you wrote 'click-measuring'...oh, but wait a mo....

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Dec 4th, 2010 at 09:11:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can't remember who first started calling the new TSA machines "The Federal Dick-Measuring Device," but I'm sticking with that.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Sat Dec 4th, 2010 at 09:15:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I beg to differ. Those cables contain a lot of names of European collaborators, who can now be hung out to dry in public. Of course developing Quislings is proper on-the-ground foreign policy for any diplomatic corps. I'd be downright disappointed if our own diplomats behaved any differently. But as a European, I'd still like to know when other people do it to us.

In particular, I learned something about the European secret police: They are either blind, dumb and deaf-mute for not already having those cables in their archives (with three million people having access to them, any serious intelligence agency should be able to get a data dump now and then); or that they are completely on board with politicians collaborating with the Americans. Considering how much time they spent chasing DFHs suspected of taking funding from the KGB, this reveals something of a double standard (either between the treatment of spies from different countries, or between hippies and politicians being spies).

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Dec 3rd, 2010 at 12:30:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
El Pais is having a field day today exposing the entire PP leadership as quislings...

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 3rd, 2010 at 12:36:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Pols with something to hide would naturally excuse themselves from power and surveillance - which doesn't seem like a loss to me.

So anyone who isn't completely dull in their private life would opt out?

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 3rd, 2010 at 12:43:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not suggesting 24 hour surveillance with headcams.

But people who can't keep it zipped tend to come to a sticky end in politics anyway - it just takes the press longer to catch on, once they make a few enemies who can afford private detectives.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Dec 3rd, 2010 at 01:16:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How do you prevent people meeting after hours to hash out an agreement which then they go through the kabuki of putting together "properly" when on the job, including the preparatory meetings for a summit?

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 4th, 2010 at 04:20:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... by banning all contacts between members of any committee when they are out of sight of cameras and out of pickup range of microphones.

If the only place they are allowed privacy is the restroom, that's where the backroom deals will be made.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Dec 5th, 2010 at 12:22:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is not possible to prevent the meetings and the conversations, but it is possible to legalize unannounced recording of conversations with any legislator or bureaucrat and the public release of same. This would serve to limit the damage of such dealings by, in effect, potentially making all conversations "on the record". This would provide a significant incentive for people to develop means of bargaining and negotiating that could withstand public scrutiny.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Dec 5th, 2010 at 01:22:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... to restrict backroom deals to long time members of the club, excluding newcomers from the real bargaining because of the risk that they will reveal the sordid details.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Dec 5th, 2010 at 01:39:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Which would, in time, cause the club to atrophy and die. This is a problem if you see the existing system as producing valuable leadership and direction for the society. I don't.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Dec 5th, 2010 at 04:19:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My problem is in the damage done before "ultimately" happens.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Dec 5th, 2010 at 04:26:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can't force a political elite to be honest if they don't want to be.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Fri Dec 3rd, 2010 at 12:54:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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