Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How the Intertubes Can Help Fix Corrupt Governments

(Fine, it's been a month since I last posted -- sue me, I've been busy.)

Ok, so the Guatemalan president is being accused of ordering the assassination of a well respected businessman, his daughter, and even his lawyer. It's like in the movies: the lawyer was gunned down on Sunday and on Monday this video (in Spanish) appeared on YouTube, in which the now dead lawyer basically says "if you're seeing this, it's because I've been assassinated by the president of Guatemala." Gotta love the third world.

But this whole thing got me thinking. Guatemala, like many other third world nations, has a severe corruption problem. Every single president I can remember has been accused of stealing, laundering money, trafficking drugs, genocide, murder, and even killing a catholic bishop with a cinder block. Maybe half or all of these accusation are false, but the fact remains that the population simply has little to no trust in their government. (By the way, as far as I can remember, 100% of the presidential candidates in the last 25 years have run on the promise of ending government corruption.) The problem with such deep-rooted corruption (or perception of corruption) is that even if a truly honest guy becomes president, they cannot change anything because: (a) no matter what, the public believes the president is corrupt, and/or (b) since the rest of the government is so corrupt, an honest president is threatened to death if they don't cooperate with the corruption.

So here's my proposal for the next honest guy who gets elected (I'm assuming that *some* of these guys actually want to fix the country): stick a camera and a microphone in your head and transmit 100% of your life live on the internet. And I mean 100%, so that nobody can ever accuse you of wrongdoings.

And, come to think of it, why can't the US president do this? I know some of you will tell me that the public is not ready or fit to see all the presidential decisions, but I don't buy that. Let's try the experiment on some small country like Guatemala :)

29 comments:

  1. What about sex with the wife?

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  2. You know, that's how Nixon got into trouble. He had tape recorders all over in White House, recording every single conversation he ever had. That's interesting because we have some evidence that recording and broadcasting everything works. On the other hand, the people who are supposed to implement these are also the people who'd be hurt by this.

    So the problem isn't the idea of recording/broadcasting it all. The problem is making that a requirement.

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  3. Man, that is really gross. (Google "Sandra de Colom" and you will see what I mean).

    Hey Luis, I think they should super-glue the camera to his head so it doesn't get stolen.

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  4. No sex for 4 years. Either that, or the broadcast would have to become adults only for a few minutes a month.

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  5. It seems highly unlikely that you'll get your wish, professor. Politicians are, after all, politicians :D

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  6. Ah, but I think it's in *their* best interest to do this as well. You see, that way they cannot be unfairly accused of corruption, and it would be harder for the people around the president to threaten him or her.

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  7. Is that really worth it? ... Besides, some people will still not believe it even if presented with hard proof ... you know how humans are ...

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  8. I'm not worried about the sex with wife or going to the toilet and such. I'm worried more about issues of national security, things we might not want other countries to be aware of yet, etc.

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  9. See, I don't buy that. I think governments have convinced us that they need this type of privacy, but I don't think they *really* need it.

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  10. I think what you suggest would solve a lot of problems, but I have two doubts about the practicality of it. First, it's not legal to stream everything you see and hear to the internet, or even to record it (e.g. plays, concerts, the interior of museums) for copyright reasons.

    Second, I do believe there are state secrets that should be state secrets, particularly for matters of where weapons are, plans, etc. Not only will the citizens of the country be watching, but intelligence agents from EVERY country will be watching.

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  11. So what? All presidents get accused of corruption and rarely anything happens to them. Nixon is the only one resigned and Clinton was impeached because of a stupid lie. The convenience of getting his whole life streamed doesn't justify the inconveniences it's going to bring around

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  12. one solution to this problem (not necessarily the best) is based on the following observation:

    the more power is given to politicians the more corrupt they become. (if they are not powerful bribing is a waste of money, right?)

    Therefore you have to limit the power of politicians as much as possible, adding checks & balances, giving more power to the people (referendums, etc.)

    Unfortunately, this requires well-educated people. And to get there you either need a forward-thinking president or forward-thinking revolutionaries.

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  13. I liked your post until you wrote the last part: "Let's try the experiment on some small country like Guatemala". Maybe I'm going in other direction and maybe you did not mean that but, we're (including you I guess) not a country to be experimenting with. Our situation is really difficult, so bad that even freedom of speech is being threatened. A twitter comment from a fellow and young blogger put him in jail for "Financial Panic" making him pay a Q50,000 of fine. The msg said "Take your money out of Banrural before its too late" (banrural is the bank under investigation of money laundry by the president and the president's financial campaign sponsor).

    You are right regarding the list of thieves that we call "presidents" but you have to understand that the system is so corrupt that even really good guys (like Dr. Suger, founder of Galileo University ) can't go that far. This corruption is not only internal, it is also external like the teachings of The School of the Americas, a military based in Atlanta, Georgia who teaches guerrilla manipulation and military studies to Latin American soldiers who later became dictators and genocides. One of my friends got killed trying to follow his ethics refusing a bribe in the government 4 years ago. So place yourselves in my position, defending my country, of international opinion, because maybe a few Guatemalans are corrupt, we still have people with better values than other countries.

    And to Severin and his last words "This requires well-educated people) I hope he is not meaning that we have fucked up education, because we are not. What you need to make a damn change between all this corruption, is a pair of big balls and be willing to give your life trying, and giving the example.

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  14. gtanime: I feel differently. Given that so far the system in Guatemala has not worked very well, I don't see why we shouldn't be experiment with new things.

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  15. Wait. If I understand you correctly, the camera would be implanted and facing outward - so we see what the President sees ... but how can we know what he is truly doing?

    Maybe you could have cameras stationed in every room as well as have him followed by a team of videographers ... all being fed live to the net.

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  16. I do not think it is possible for any public officer to telecast his life over internet via camera or anything. He might telecast few of his office hours but it is not possible to give 100% of his life viewable on camera.

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  17. http://www.theonion.com/content/news/obama_outfitted_with_238_motion

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  18. I like this idea, but think we should *start* with the president of the United States. I also agree with Luis that these so-called national security matters shouldn't be kept as private. If they weren't, there probably wouldn't be as much corruption in Central America, since we'd know in the news every time the CIA toppled another democratically elected leader who threatened US economic interests.

    Of course, no one will ever agree to this. The nature of politics prevents it. No idealist lives long in Washington. The nature of compromise in government seems to be betraying your own beliefs and failure to do so will quickly marginalize you. Betray your so-called beliefs on camera, though, and reelection becomes a lot more difficult.

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  19. Another different approach for "grading" politicians:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8072437.stm

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  20. You should create lie-detector software so that people who are watching a politician's speech on TV can see a grid at the bottom of their screen that tells them if the pol's statements, and answers to the press, are truthful or bogus.

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  21. Who is going to asure that the video and audio is legit?

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  22. koranda@alum.mit.eduJuly 1, 2009 at 2:07 AM

    A Truman show for our president. We might have started with Truman, who was honest, and compared him with all those thugs who came after him (excepting Jimmy Carter, of course, who was also honest). I like the idea. Justice Brandeis said, "Sunshine is the best disinfectant." I think he -- and Luis -- are right.

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  23. That can't work, because society as a whole likes to pretend silly things in public. Like it's taboo to poop. And the president would get attacked left and right for all the tiny mistakes he makes. Even though EVERYBODY makes tons of tiny mistakes. I've thought about things like this, and my conclusion is that for it to work, everyone (or at least the majority of people) also have to do this. Otherwise we can all just pretend that we're perfect and the president is a bafoon.

    I am actually in favour of this! I think absolutely zero privacy is about as good as privacy itself. The things that at first would be shocking "OH MY GOD YOU STILL PICK YOUR NOSE!" will become mundane. And people will have less anxiety because they will have a more realistic view of how it is proper for them to behave. So yeah. It obviously solves just about every crime-related problem in the world, and besides the fact that it would be ridiculous to implement, I think it'd be a good idea.

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  24. I can't seem to contact you through regular email channels, so I'll do it here. You should never have done the Nova program, because now we, the general public, know that the second word on the captcha is a translation effort and has nothing to do with passing through an internet security checkpoint. As a matter of fact, whatever you type will allow access. And, unfortunately, my more devious side has got the better of me, and now several issues of old New York Times have rather rude words instead of the translation you hoped for.
    And, I'm certain I'm not the only person who has figured this out.
    Oh well, back to the dry erase board.

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  25. We've thought of this long before you my friend.

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  26. what is the real topic here corruption or privacy?
    corruption is within an individual and no matter what it will be known, no need for more gadget to expose this.
    privacy...people, it only exist in your mind...
    I also like the Nova show.
    i think before the cameras, etc, we should really try to get rid of all our ID cards, credit cards, etc. etc. just 'take our word for it," and shake hands....i wonder......

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  27. As the Japanese have invented a robot that can interpret unspoken commands, this idea is not beyond possible. I like the idea of using it on our leaders. In Pres. Obama's head, I suspect there would be lots of white noise, interrupted periodically by Rahm Emmanuel's voice, followed by a directive to action. Or not. Either way, speculation would be eliminated!

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  28. I see you still remember about your old Guatemala :)

    It's nice to see a successful Guatemalan (just saw you on an episode of NOVA and was SO EXCITED that you were Guatemalan) Makes me happy to have a real Guatemalan role model (yes, I'm Guate as well and about to leave to Mount Holyoke for my first year)

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