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Are secrets good? Are secrets bad?

Secrets are just secrets, they can't be generalized as good or bad. But the government would have you believe that secrets are good for the country. But, the government doesn't tell you that people in government keep secret to protect their own personal and political interests.

We all know that politicians get pulled in various ways by all of the people they need to deal with every day. We also know that politicians don't know everything and they need to know quite a bit in order to make wise decisions that effect our country. They hire staffers to go out and hunt down the relevant information and they write reports so that our politicians know which way to vote on issues as they are brought forward.

We also know that some issues are just not very interesting. The issues are interesting to the few people who are involved, but when a politician isn't personally involved with an issue he could vote either way with out much worry. So, if he were to get some kind of gift or bonus or support on an issue he did care about he could easily be persuaded to vote the way someone else thinks that he should. This is just human nature and a politician's way of taking the easy way out.

The problem, may come up years down the road when someone with an interest in destroying a politician's credibility by painting him as a corrupt official working to better himself or his friends. Now, it may very well be true that he is a corrupt official, but he may also have been persuaded to take an easy vote on an issue he didn't care about. Either way it isn't good if that information were to get out into the public, that is for the politician.

However, as the public we have an interest in keeping our politicians in line. We know that all of our politicians are tempted to take bribes, take gifts, and be influenced to vote one way or another which may be against the interest of the American people. And when the American people know about these things they can influence the process by voting the scoundrels out of office.

This is where the media and the investigative reporters come to the aid of the American people. These guys have the job of finding out everything they can about our politicians. It doesn't matter if they are Republican or Democrat, the more information that the public has the better the American people can keep their politicians honest. However, politicians don't want to be voted out of office, and they also don't know what information the voters will find offensive. They can guess that the "big" things like taking bribes in return for a vote would certainly be a big thing. But, what if the politician cheated on his wife? Does that change the way he would vote on an important issue? Or, what if a big corporation sent a prostitute to visit in return for a vote on an issue? What about "free vacations" or "investigative trips?" Politicians need to know about the issues they vote on, but how often to they vote on issues pertaining to St. Andrew's golf course?

It certainly is a tricky mix of what pieces of information are important to the public interest and what information is mud sought to be slung on a politician by the next guy waiting in line to take his office. If politicians have their way, they would make everything they did secret and they would release their successes in press releases highlighting the most important parts. The more mundane and even embarrassing bits would be classified as secret. And for the most part this is what they do.

But, the politicians have learned that piles of unintelligible rambling can be the best place to hide things. Even local politicians have learned that 400 page reports do not get read from cover to cover. They manage to comply with the law by obfuscation. They hide the important stuff between the pages of nonsense. A friend of mine showed me a recent city council meeting report were the pages were put together out of order and the key pages were dropped out of the document. They must have thought that mixing up the pages could be used to claim stupidity or "plausible deniability" so they could imply that the other pages must have just been "misplaced." I don't know, if it was stupidity or intended obfuscation, but it certainly could have gone either way in my mind. If the error wasn't discovered until two years down the road the record would be incomplete and the key issues would never be able to be used to prove a claim that the city made a mistake.

This is only local government with a tiny bureaucracy. State and Federal governments offer the opportunity for much wider ranges of obfuscation and secrecy. The people need to know what is being done in the people's house and they have a responsibility to try to sift through the important indiscretions and the unimportant indiscretions. The American people need to know to the best of their knowledge whether the government is doing what we expect from our leaders. After all, this is our government and we have oversight. We hire and fire our politicians on Election Day.

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Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Originally posted to DrForbush on Tue Jun 06, 2006 at 12:58 PM PDT.

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