Dear Ron Kirk: Transparency Isn't Hearing From Critics, It's Telling The Public What You're Doing

from the that's-not-the-transparency-we're-looking-for dept

We've been spending a lot of time talking about just how secretive the USTR (led by its boss Ron Kirk) has been concerning the TPP negotiations. However, what may be even worse isn't just Ron Kirk's stonewalling, it's the fact that he either does not know what transparency means, or is playing dumb when confronted on the issue. Last week, we noted that his response to a letter from legal scholars requesting more transparency insulted the intelligence of those scholars, when he said he was "insulted" himself by the claim that the USTR was not transparent in the TPP negotiations. As evidence of his supposed transparency, he noted: "USTR has conducted in excess of 400 consultations with Congressional and private stakeholders on the TPP, including inviting stakeholders to all of the twelve negotiating rounds."

We already noted that he was playing word games here and being disingenuous, but it's even worse than that. As Sherwyn Siy properly points out, what Kirk is pointing out isn't transparency. All he's talking about is hearing various opinions -- not sharing what the USTR is actually doing. As Siy points out transparency is about information flow in the other direction:
This is a key point that needs to be made about transparency—it's not about whether or not the government has the relevant opinions of the public. Transparency is about the flow of information the other way—information about the workings of government being visible to the people it is supposed to represent. That is precisely what is lacking in this process. This should be an obvious point, but it's one that Kirk's response either fundamentally misunderstands or deliberately sidesteps. So long as no actual proposed text comes to light (you know, the way draft laws and international treaties are published), the process remains opaque, and no amount of input from whatever stakeholders into the TPP process makes up for a lack of real information flowing the other way.
Until Ron Kirk is willing to address that point, his disingenuous and insulting claims about how many meetings he's holding are meaningless fluff from someone who is avoiding his official duty as a representative of the American public.


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  1.  
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    SolkeshNaranek (profile), May 17th, 2012 @ 2:24pm

    Kirk pratices the worlds oldest profession

    "Until Ron Kirk is willing to address that point, his disingenuous and insulting claims about how many meetings he's holding are meaningless fluff from someone who is avoiding his official duty as a representative of the American public."

    There is the problem. He is not representing the American public, he is representing the industries with money.

    Seems he is just another political sellout that goes with the money... like the worlds oldest profession.

     

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  2.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), May 17th, 2012 @ 2:29pm

    Re: Kirk pratices the worlds oldest profession

    "like the worlds oldest profession."

    At least there is a happy ending with that one.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2012 @ 2:37pm

    If one thing comes through loud and clear, it is the transparency of these "learned academics" who appear convinced that only they understand the principles underlying Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8.

    Take the related chapter out of the TPP and all their whining about transparency will disappear in a heartbeat.

    IOW, transparency to them seems to be all about documents that cut against their so-called "scholarship".

     

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  4.  
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    MrWilson, May 17th, 2012 @ 2:38pm

    Re: Re: Kirk pratices the worlds oldest profession

    Oh, there's a happy ending...for the corporations. Ron Kirk may be the whore, but the American public are the ones getting screwed.

     

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  5.  
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    Alana (profile), May 17th, 2012 @ 2:42pm

    "We don't want to be transparent. If we were, we'd be dealing with SOPA/PIPA/ACTA style outrage, and we know it!" ----My predicted actual reasoning behind all this.

     

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  6.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), May 17th, 2012 @ 2:47pm

    Re: Re: Re: Kirk pratices the worlds oldest profession

    I feel dirty. Ewwww.

     

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  7.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), May 17th, 2012 @ 2:48pm

    Re:

    If one thing comes through loud and clear, it is the transparency of these "learned academics" who appear convinced that only they understand the principles underlying Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8.

    That's both ridiculous and obnoxious at the same time.

    You have a habit of doing that.

    Take the related chapter out of the TPP and all their whining about transparency will disappear in a heartbeat.


    These legal scholars are interested in IP, and thus they are focused on that. I'm not sure what your issue with that is. Are you saying that because they're IP scholars it's somehow hypocritical of them not to be as interested in other subjects? That's ridiculous.

    IOW, transparency to them seems to be all about documents that cut against their so-called "scholarship".


    Bullshit. Are you denying that there is no real transparency here? The transparency argument is separate from the argument about the content of the document. Yes, these researchers are concerned about the content, but they are separately concerned about the total lack of transparency.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2012 @ 2:52pm

    Speaking of transparency, does anyone here remember the word 'Glasnost'? Or how deeply committed that government was to the concept?

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2012 @ 2:59pm

    "That's both ridiculous and obnoxious at the same time."

    Apparently you have never had the misfortune of trying to engage them in a substantive debate. Respectfully disagree with their legal analysis and they become downright and unrespectfully disagreeable.

    Fortunately, there are many in academia who approach these issues with an open mind. Unfortunately, I did not note any of them as having signed the letter.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2012 @ 3:03pm

    Most polititians are corrupt and extremely incompetent.

     

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  11.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), May 17th, 2012 @ 3:12pm

    Re: ...

    There's a difference?!?

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2012 @ 3:12pm

    Ron Kirk is a stupid shill, news at 11.

     

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  13.  
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    Richard (profile), May 17th, 2012 @ 3:13pm

    Re:

    Actually they were committed to it - they moved a long way in the right direction. After all they did start from a very low base.

     

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  14.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), May 17th, 2012 @ 3:14pm

    Re:

    Apparently you have never had the misfortune of trying to engage them in a substantive debate. Respectfully disagree with their legal analysis and they become downright and unrespectfully disagreeable.

    I know many of these people personally and have NEVER seen the behavior you describe -- and this includes the many times I've had substantive disagreements with some of them.

    I have, however, dealt with you many times in the past and have found you to be unrespectfully disagreeable at almost all times.

    Fortunately, there are many in academia who approach these issues with an open mind. Unfortunately, I did not note any of them as having signed the letter.

    To you "open mind" appears to mean someone who agrees with your extremist views on the law.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2012 @ 3:25pm

    Nero fiddles around with the millions of dollars the *IAA pays him off with, as we Techdirt readers reply in horror (and try to get someone to do something about it), while the sheeple use AOL, watch Disney Channel, and turn into tubs of hydrogenated fat with extra salt on their couches at taxpayer expense. Sheesh.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2012 @ 3:50pm

    Publish the text and then you will hear some critics.

     

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  17.  
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    That One Guy (profile), May 17th, 2012 @ 7:05pm

    Re: Re: ...

    Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of congress. But I repeat myself. -Mark Twain

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2012 @ 8:27pm

    There seems to be a major misunderstanding between lawmaking and diplomacy and you seem to wish to insist that the process associated with the former are applied to the latter. Let's face it, few people would insist that an arms reduction treaty, foreign aid, security agreements, etc be negotiated on C-Span. This is all about concerns about enforcing infringement that may impact on piracy. This call for transparency only seems to apply to agreements that touch on IP enforcement.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2012 @ 8:32pm

    Re: Re:

    "Fortunately, there are many in academia who approach these issues with an open mind. Unfortunately, I did not note any of them as having signed the letter."

    To you "open mind" appears to mean someone who agrees with your extremist views on the law.

    Sounds sort of like your view of judges and their rulings, Masnick. Either they are corrupt dolts making blatantly unconstitutional decisions, or they are one of the few that 'get it'.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2012 @ 8:53pm

    Re:

    >This call for transparency only seems to apply to agreements that touch on IP enforcement.

    Because as long as the man on street (Tanya Andersen, Larry Scantlebury, Marie Lindor) can be hauled into court for alleged crimes based on IP, it matters to the general public more than the other topics you've mentioned.

     

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  21.  
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    Larry, May 17th, 2012 @ 8:53pm

    Re:

    You are mad. It takes significant government courage to do things like "arms reduction" treaties. It takes food right out of the mouths of congressional district labor areas and gaining support for them is laborious and unpopular. Neither are they ever done with total blackout as the press routinely reports on the shape and discussion points from each side (including hard spots, disagreements and verification methods).

    Foreign Aid is even more open. Hell, watch C-span you dolt.

    Security agreements are EXACTLY what we are discussing now as that is what TPP is all about and you are WAY to dense to get that point.

    Troll harder next time.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2012 @ 9:14pm

    Re: Re:

    Wait, are you saying that international treaty negotiations are broadcast the same way debate on a bill is on C-Span? Hell, even most of the humdrum domestic legislative stuff is handled off camera in sidebars and in staff level negotiations well out of public view.

     

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  23.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), May 18th, 2012 @ 12:50am

    Re:

    There seems to be a major misunderstanding between lawmaking and diplomacy and you seem to wish to insist that the process associated with the former are applied to the latter.

    When the diplomacy will require us to change our laws, then there is no difference.

    Let's face it, few people would insist that an arms reduction treaty, foreign aid, security agreements, etc be negotiated on C-Span.

    No one is asking for the negotiation to happen on CSPAN. Why you would exaggerate that way, I do not know.

    All we are asking for is the US to *make public* what the US's position is. This does not weaken our position, nor cause any problems. It just lets the public know what is being pushed for in our name, and how it may change legislation.

     

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  24.  
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    The eejit (profile), May 18th, 2012 @ 1:22am

    Re: Re: Re: Kirk pratices the worlds oldest profession

    To be fair, the public everywhere with stringent IP laws is getting screwed sixty different ways to Sunday.

     

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  25.  
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    The eejit (profile), May 18th, 2012 @ 1:25am

    Re: Re: Re:

    That's in part because there is a fundamental disconnect between the real world and the digital world that some people either refuse to grasp, or simply cannot grasp. That's not always a flaw, though it is when it comes to IP.

     

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  26.  
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    The eejit (profile), May 18th, 2012 @ 1:28am

    Re: Re: Re:

    No, but they damn well should be. If, as you consistently claim, we are all simply misinformed dolts, then having the negotiations in the open would prove your point.

    However, seeing as these ones are happening in near-complete secrecy, I'd be more willing to assume the worst i.e. that they are mass-slaughtering Middle America's babies in their sleep whilst chanting the name of Azathoth so that they can cure the world of sanity.

     

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  27.  
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    Digitari, May 18th, 2012 @ 4:30am

    Re:

    right, because everyone knows IP can get you killed?

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2012 @ 7:11am

    Re: Re:

    So this outrage over lack of transparency seems largely driven by concerns over
    IP protection. The TPP negotiations don't appear to be much different than other international treaty negotiations. It seems a bit unfair to rip on TPP if the representatives are operating within established parameters of international diplomacy.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2012 @ 7:22am

    Re: Re:

    All we are asking for is the US to *make public* what the US's position is. This does not weaken our position, nor cause any problems. It just lets the public know what is being pushed for in our name, and how it may change legislation.

    I don't entirely disagree, but it seems like folks are demanding a play-by-play of the negotiations. The problem is that, with any agreement, things change. A get in one area comes from a give in another.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 25th, 2012 @ 7:25am

    Re: Re:

    ""There seems to be a major misunderstanding between lawmaking and diplomacy and you seem to wish to insist that the process associated with the former are applied to the latter."

    "When the diplomacy will require us to change our laws, then there is no difference.""

    Apart from the fact that unlike politicians you have not in fact been vested with the responsibility for creating new laws by the population of your country, you mean?

     

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  31.  
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    Chargone (profile), May 27th, 2012 @ 11:49am

    Re: Re: ...

    one can be corrupt without being incompetent.

    there are a lot of politicians who are very good at being politicians... too bad that's the process of Getting the job, not Doing it, when it comes to government.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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