TED Conversations

Daniel Sheehan


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Where do we stand on on WikiLeaks?

To what extent should we support or oppose WikiLeaks?
Are there limits to what should be exposed to the public by investigators? And who should decide these limits?
When corruption is exposed through leaks how far up or down the ladder should we assign responsibility?
How should bias in reporting leaks be balanced?
If these leaks are produced for corrupt purposes how do we deal with it?
How can we present and prosecute exposed corruption in the public theater without it turning into a witch-hunt?


Closing Statement from Daniel Sheehan

A great deal of this conversation has been on whether our governments have a right to keep secrets from us. Many have pointed out corruptions that the secrets have protected, others site our loss of privacy at the hands of our governments.
Also many insist that transparency is protection from the abuses of authority by the people that we place our most sensitive information with, but few agree that "total transparency" can be achieved or as an over all goal is appropriate.
But it is clear that we believe that whistle blowers should be protected from retaliation.

I believe that we have an increasing problem with the "Free Press" which has become more of a commercialized or biased press that is more concerned with profits or has fallen to the hands of specialized interests, and is enthralled by the depthless mirrored image of spectacle. What had once been an instrument of information now serves mainly to incite and titillate the masses.

It's my opinion that WikiLeaks, and sites like it that supply an outlet for whistle blowers, should have our support as members of the Fourth Estate.

A grateful thank you to everyone that has participated in this discussion.

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    Oct 22 2012: @Daniel Sheehan: "point of fact, animals do have secrets."

    we are not talking about whether they have secrets. we are discussing their right to privacy. do you think scientists violate the rights of animals when they observe them in their nests? it is an immoral act?
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      Oct 22 2012: No problem. You questioned if animals had a right to keep secrets in the opening of your reply.
      Whether we recognize it as their right or not, they have secrets.
      I wouldn't argue their right to privacy in any relationship to either government or corporate right to privacy.

      A separate passionate argument of mine is about the ability of animals to form what we believe to be higher level cognative funtions. But that I'm hoping be debate this in another Conversation.
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        Oct 22 2012: do you swear you remember the discussion you are participating in? rick said because governments exist, they have a right to keep secrets, just as humans. i said that this logic applies to animals, so they also have? it is not about secrets, but whether they have right to defend them. and more to that, we are talking about an argument, namely that governments has that right just because humans have. you derailed the conversation to secrets of animals, and now complain about the conversation being derailed? i'm the one on topic here. i'm still discussing a wrong argument about why governments should be able to keep secrets. i have no idea what you are discussing.
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      Oct 22 2012: If I were to tie it into this discussion it would be that we all have reason to have secrets. To exist we have to be able to use subterfuge to avoid predators or stalk prey.
      To a great extent we still use these skills that we learned and have been successful for us in the animal stage in all our dealing in the world.

      Government and corporations are human constructs that must operate in our natural world under the influence of humans. To operate they will have secrets. This is not an argument saying that they are destructive or immoral secrets, but to function they will have secrets.
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        Oct 22 2012: can you prove that nothing in the "natural world" can operate without secrets? because i'm not aware of such a general law. in the animal kingdom and in human behavior, each information hiding is to be shown useful or beneficial (in some way) individually. we never refer to a general law, keeping a secret is good because keeping secret is generally good. it needs further explanation. exactly what information should be kept from who, why and how.
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          Oct 23 2012: Can you prove that a government can operate without secrets?

          Also, in an earlier reply to me, you stated, "whatever rights the government has, it is fully practical and never moral. only moral to the degree that it must serve the people." And you also said, "hence, your argument is invalid. people having right to privacy, and governments having rights to privacy are not even similar, and can not be judged by the same standards, the same mindset."

          Sadly, you are wrong. Please read up on the Freedom of Information Act, who it applies to, and the restrictions within it that are LAW. Laws are what govern rights to privacy and the keeping of secrets. By the way, the FOIA applies to BOTH individual people and government rights concerning secrets. Similar? Yup.


          And if you honestly believe a government is only responsible to what the people want and should disregard all morals altogether, I'm never going to vote for you. I spent 25+ years in the military defending this country and EVERYBODY in it, and I'll be d*mned if I will ever vote for somebody who insists the personal safety of ANYBODY defending my country be jeopardized by releasing classified information to "the People" just because "the People" think they deserve to have it.

          Further, the main fallacy of any "totally transparant" idea as a solution to the things people think it will solve is...GUARANTEE me it WILL solve the problems you think it will.

          1. How will you make sure any information given to you is "factual" to begin with? If the entire government is ALREADY full of "corrupt people" (which seems to be your premise), what in the world makes you think they won't still be corrupt AFTER you "order" them to "give you all the information"?

          2. PROVE to me that a "totally transparant" system will actually STOP corruption from taking place. Heck, you can't even guarantee that the information you get wouldn't be "doctored".
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          Oct 23 2012: There are ignorant solutions to perceived problems. Those are the solutions you implement and watch them fail because you didn't know any better before you implemented them.

          And there are non-critical thinking (some might say "stupid") solutions to problems. Those are solutions you know won't solve the problem, but implement them anyhow, then go "Duh!" when the problem isn't solved or actually gets worse because of the implemented solution.
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          Oct 23 2012: I'll separate the "natural world" from "our natural world". By this I mean the totality of our environment is different from the scope of human intervention.
          And I never meant to implied that "keeping a secret is good because keeping secret is generally good", just that we will always have secrets in the course of human endeavors.

          Do you play poker? It would be a very different game if we were required to play it with all cards face up.
          You bluff, you under bid, over bid, conduct table chatter, your pattern of play, even how you sit is utilized by you to seek advantage over your opponent(s).
          Is lying and secrets good or bad at the poker table? They are part of the game and no one is penalized for it. You don't get to see my cards until the round is over. You might not like having lost the hand but you can't demand your money back because I fooled you.
          But there are rules to the game and if you're caught cheating you get tossed out and everything you have on the table is forfeit.

          The point is that secrets are part of the game/process, we all have them and use them in full cooperation with everyone that participates. Secrets are not inherently corruption.
          There are rules that we set up in our interactions and if we corrupt them we should be exposed and face the consequences of our actions.
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        Oct 23 2012: daniel, if we continue in this manner, the debate will be very, very long. you can make the case that open handed poker is not a good game. and it has no bearing in any way to any other situation. we need to analyze each and every situation individually to decide whether keeping secrets is good or not. you try to make it easier with sloppy analogies. in poker, secret is good, therefore governments need secrets. animals have secrets, therefore the government needs secrets. secrets are natural, therefore it is okay for government to have secrets. these are non-arguments. you would immediately reject such an argument in other cases. like: feathers serve birds well, therefore governments need feathers. lions kill, therefore governments have to kill. this is not good enough.
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          Oct 23 2012: I put a month on this debate because I do expect it to be long.

          Nana taught me to play poker open faced when she babysat, I enjoyed that game.
          The poker I play now is very different, I enjoy that too.

          Poker is a good analogy for business, not a sloppy one. There is a reason that business, and some aspects of governance, is called High Stakes Poker. The examples I list above are utilized in the agreed upon rules in both.

          I haven't claimed that secrets are good or bad, but that they are allowed within the rules.
          I have said that corruption of the rules shouldn't be tolerated and when those rules are breached the consequences of those actions should be enforced.
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        Oct 23 2012: no progress at all. time for me to quit the infinite loop.

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