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Notes for article on Wikileaks and transparency in government

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Most source material can be found at delicious.com/robdaleworks. This article is being produced for http://www.dontpaniconline.com/.

Here’s the brief I have been given by my Editor – Something to discuss could be Wikileaks – with the outing of the founder and the recent bill passed in Iceland, there’s mileage to be got out of it. Part discussion of what it achieved through leaking material, part forecast of the future of information freedom given these two related events.

There are 4 elements that need to be discussed here I feel. The first is the currently secretive political climate that exists – this can be highlighted from drawing on Heather Brooke’s five year battle that eventually clawed out the information needed for the ‘Expense’s Scandal’ to ever exist. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/may/15/mps-expenses-heather-brooke-foi. Insight from her wonferful book ‘Then Silent State’ also needs to be brought out.

This data would have never come out though had it not been for a whistleblower. A discussion about the value of these people , who they are and what they have given society over the years will set a nice context for an overview of Wikileaks. http://www.worldwidewhistleblowers.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&layout=blog&id=6&Itemid=58

Wikileaks is currently in the news quite a bit with a recent U.S. intelligence officer handing over a reported 260,000 cables to the site. This included video footage of a U.S. air strike that reportedly killed 100 civilians.The officer, Bradley Manning, is also believed to have handed over this astonishingly disturbing video of  a US Army attack in Iraq in 2007 that left 12 people dead (including two employees of Reuters). http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/apr/05/wikileaks-us-army-iraq-attack – I strongly recommend you watching this video.

Manning has since been removed from Afghanistan and is currently being held at a military base in Kuwait, whilst Julian Assange, the creator of Wikileaks, is keeping a low profile in a hideout in Belgium. http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-06-21/wikileaks-founder-julian-assange-speaks-his-outreach-to-the-pentagon/?cid=hp:mainpromo8

Assange has been in Iceland over recent months assisting politicians there with the planning of a bill that would see the country become a ‘freedom of expression haven.’ It’ll become like what Belize or the Bahamas are to billionaires basically. http://www.countercurrents.org/assange170610.htm

So a round-up of these plans and what they say about the future of transparent government will hopefully be a nice ending to the piece.

If you have any ideas, thoughts or tit-bits of information, or if you would like to mull over any of the issues then please get in touch. Email me at robdaleworks@gmail or call me on 07854 138517.


Written by Robert Dale

June 27, 2010 at 9:35 am

Britain ideological obsession to a morally bankrupt economic policy

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The 2008 financial crisis

The emergency budget this coming week is expected to bring in significant tax rises; but how serious are Britain’s economic problems and is cutting now the right way to go about tackling them?

It is quite amazing how quickly the discourse has changed, not just in Britain but across the European Union as a whole. From ‘we need to spend, we need a fiscal stimulus to keep our economies out of recession (or even depression)’, to the assertions from Nick Clegg that we must cut back on everything we’ve done in the last two years or ‘face ruin’ and run the risk of strangling any growth that has been gained.

In fact so deep are the planned cuts across Europe that President Obama last week wrote to all nations warning them to watch just how far they go with their austerity plans. However certain countries, and Britain is definately one of them, appear ideologically committed to cuts in order to maintain an economic policy that proved itself bankrupt during the financial crisis of 2008.

Yes the deficit must be addressed. We in Britain in particular have the worst budget deficit in all of Europe, but why stifle the growth we so desperately need, why enforce so much social pain and so much economic suffering to the vast majority of the public?

The argument about cuts and increases in tax will continue to be fought about for a long while yet and be done by much more able people than myself. However, underneath this front-facing battle for agreement I consistently find that there are some very murky realities that continue to be overlooked.

The first is that for all the banging on about cuts being made by the politicians they personally appear to be largely immune from any wielding of the axe. Secondly, the big areas aren’t being discussed. More money is scheduled to be spent on defence and there has been no public scrutiny of the costs of our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thirdly, the role that the Liberal Democrats are playing in all this shows just how easily the goalposts can be adjusted when personal and party political ambitions for power come into play.

Independent columnist Yasmn Alibah-Brown described this coalition as ‘like a big-blue whale and a little goldfish’. True to life, the goldfish is keeping as quiet as goldfish do and it seems somewhat wrong that any party can so clearly go against many of there manifesto promises to the country. The European-wide commitment to austerity plans demonstrates the deafness of the political classes to the reality of what is happening on the streets across the continent.

Unsurprisingly then, it will once again be left to the ‘small people’ to take the brunt of a problem caused by the so-called ‘big people’ in our society.

Written by Robert Dale

June 21, 2010 at 7:42 am

if those were Nick Clegg’s ‘skeletons in the closet’ then really he’s pretty clean

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The British have a ‘more insidious cross to bear’ because of their sense of moral superiority, than the Germans do in respect of Nazi guilt. This according to what was actually a rather interesting and provocative article Mr. Clegg wrote while an MEP back in 2002.

To be blunt though, who cares what any MEP had to say eight years ago?

It’s pretty obvious that the longer this general election campaign went on, the more Nick Clegg would come under scrutiny from the media. But if this is the worst skeleton the Lib Dem leader has in his closet then really he appears not too dirty at all. Still though, the transformation from Winston Churchill to a Nazi was the narrative told in the tabloids last week.

But what about the details of Mr. Clegg’s rather privileged background that emerged last week too? It turns out that Clegg is just as posh as Cameron – the son of a success banker, Nick went to a rather nice private school, holidayed in French châteaus and has Russian aristocracy in the family tree.

But whilst a comfortable upbringing has been somewhat of a plague upon David Cameron, the electorate haven’t yet expressed such venom towards Mr. Clegg’s roots. As the polls continue to show the British public continue to connect very well with the Lib Dem leader.

The question therefore appears not to be where did you come from? but how much to you care for people who weren’t as privileged as yourself?And it’s this sense of sincerity for the poor and vulnerable which really hasn’t come through for the Tories for a good few years now.

As proved by their corporate-sponsored attack on Labour’s planned increase in national insurance, the Tories are the voice of big business and they operate through a City of London perspective.

The Conservatives have and are trying to offer help to employees and the unemployed, but their message seems forced and is far from convincing the general public. So it is for this clear and simple reason why many of the ‘votes for change’ are now heading in Mr. Clegg’s direction.

Written by Robert Dale

April 26, 2010 at 9:10 am

Interview with… Green Party PPC Martin Hemingway

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With so many first-time voters apparently ‘disillusioned’ and ‘disengaged’ with traditional politics, the ground appears fertile for the newer and fringe political parties to draw in more votes than ever before. As the ‘Green movement’ appears to resonate so strongly within the student community I began by asking Martin why he believes the party’s ideology connects with younger demographics.

Martin said that the Green Party sound very different to the other parties – they focus on promoting clear policies not political bickering.

I challenged Martin on these ‘clear policies’ as a common query on my Facebook note was ‘how will the Green Party ever be elected when they only care about the environment‘.

Martin accepted that recognition of Green polices is a challenged, but they are not a single-issue party. Martin stated that the Green Party have a clear and costed set of economic policies that follow Keynesian principles. I asked if it was possible to reform the economic structure away from today’s neo-liberalism, de-regulated state to which Martin replied that if the UK continues down the Conservative and Labour path the long-term recovery looks unstable. Martin claimed that the Greens have plans to create 10,000 UK jobs in green industries.

A common comment coming from Facebook was ‘how do they relate to other parties’ so I thought it was extremely important then to get Martin to clarify where exactly the Green Party sits along the political spectrum?

Martin explained the he used to be a member of the Labour Party, but left as he felt it had abandoned its principles and it is now the Green Party who occupy the space left when ‘New Labour’ emerged.

The Green Party manifesto claims that the UK needs a 10% reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions. A number of people asked me if i thought this was ‘over ambitious’ as the Government has said we must reduce by 2.5% – so I asked Martin if 10% really is a realistic aim?

Martin said that even 10% may not be enough. It is also not just about reaching targets though, it is how they reached and making sure this is done in a responsible and sustainable way.

A key theme of the Green Party is solving the ‘Crisis in Society’ – but what exactly does this mean?

Martin claims that the legacy of Thatcherism has been a decline in social cohesion and a rise in individualism.

This then links in to the ‘crushing inequalities’ which the Green Party believe exist in the UK.

Martin said that according to research’ the less equal society is, the lower of quality of life within it. He claims that the UK has one of the most unequal societies in Europe and one of the ways the Green Party will solve this is by increasing tax for those who earn more than £100,000 a year.

The Green Party won 2 MEP seats last year and Martin only just missed out to the BNP here in Yorkshire – but as Ian Woodcock commented on my Facebook note ‘I might consider voting Green if they can prove they’ve done something in the European Parliament. So what exactly have the Green Party MEP’s has been able to achieve in Brussels.

Martin claimed that the Green Party MEP’s, along with other European Green-based parties, have done a lot of equality.

And finally, what are the Green Party expectations for the general election?

Martin said the Green Party are confident that Caroline Lucas will be elected in Brighton and there are a few other seats they are really pushing for. In the long-term, the Green Party would like to see a Parliament elected through proportional representation.

Free lunches handed out to highlight food waste

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This article was originally published in the Independent

With countries stalling over policies in Copenhagen, one easy way to cut down on emissions seems rather obvious – eat food more carefully. Recent estimations show that 10 per cent of the worlds richest countries greenhouse gas emissions come from growing food which is never eaten.

Speaking today at the ‘Feeding the 5000’ event in Trafalgar Square, London, leading food waste campaigner Tristram Stuart teamed up with charities to highlight the global problems with foodwaste and demonstrate some practical ways to solve it.

‘Food is a basic human need but 1 billion people in the world are malnourished’ he said. ‘Even in the UK there are 4 million people unable to afford a healthy diet. There is plenty in the world, yet the amount of waste at every level of the system means many still go without. What we’re showing here is that the easiest solution to this problem is quite simply to eat it. This isn’t just about showing people how to save money, its about showing everyone how we can help protect the environment.’

The ingredients used in the feast were collected from local traders. Most was either excess stock or had been deemed unsellable due to irregular shape or size. With this volunteers worked from early in the morning to provide enough free curries, fruit bags and smoothies for five thousand passers-by.

The other food used was donated having passed its sell-by dates. Confusion over date labelling on food is estimated to result in 400,000 tonnes of food being thrown into landfill each year. Hilary Benn MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has called for supermarkets and food manufacturers to scrap the use of best-before and sell-by dates on food packaging.

He said, ‘Thousands of tonnes are being thrown unnecessarily into landfill. There it converts in greenhouse gases and adds to the climate problem. Its not just costing us money, it’s costing us the earth.’

Speaking on this, Mr Stuart told the Independent, ‘politicians like Mr Benn have the right ideas on food waste, they just seem to lack the power to enforce them upon the supermarkets.’

Written by Robert Dale

April 18, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Interview with… Greg Mulholland, Lib Dem PPC for Leeds NW

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Greg is seeking re-election as MP for the Leeds North West constituency. He won the seat from Labour in 2005 with 37.2% of the vote (Labout got 33%) and with the Conservatives ploughing a fair amount of money into the campaign of their candidate Julia Mulligan, this constituency is one that’s attracting a fair bit of political and media attention.

I heard Greg interviewed on BBC Radio Leeds recently and he said ‘the people of Leeds are crying out for real change’ – therefore I wanted to know what Greg has achieved as MP over these past five years and why the voters should not seek a ‘change’ from him?

Greg responded by claiming he already has been that ‘real change’ to the area and that he represents a different style of politics. He believes he is the most accessible and visible MP this area has ever had and truly stands up for local people on issues that matter to them.

Greg’s use of the words ‘accessible and visible’ are interesting as my own (admittedly very rough) poll of students showed only 9 out of 20 knew who Greg was. As Greg’s 2005 election victory would have undoubtedly benefited from the student-friendly anti-Iraq War and tuition fees policies, is Greg doing all he can to engage with students as well as local residents?

Greg challenged me on my claim and said he is indeed known and recognised when he goes canvassing around the student areas. He also stressed that to him, all demographics and communities are of equal value in his constituency.

As we were talking about students, I couldn’t help put question Greg about a £5,000 donation the Leeds North West Liberal Democrats received from Park Land Properties. With student landlords having such s strong market in the Hyde Park and Headingley area this donation must highlighted, but I wanted Greg to be given a fair opportunity to clarify.

Greg replied by saying the donation was indeed given to his office by Park Lane Properties – but there have been no favours given to the letting agents. He ends his answer by claiming that there have been many times when his political work has actually frustrated local landlords.

Keeping with current ‘student issues’, Mephedrone officially became an illegal drug the morning I interviewed Greg. Greg spoke strongly in favour of criminalising the stuff but with such a dense student population in his constituency how/will the new laws on Mephedrone affect the area?

Greg said that he spoke in favour of criminalisation in response to requests from the student union and local residents.

I noticed Greg’s facebook status from Thursday 15th April was ‘Today I signed up to join, if reelected, the cross party group of MPs to raise concerns about the Digital Economy Bill post election. According to ‘didmympshowupornot’ Greg didn’t vote on the Bill last week, so as Oliver Westwood asked on my notes, ‘why did Greg chose not to fight for our civil liberties on this very important issue?’

After a bit of a ‘dispute’ over the parliamentary system, Greg clarified that he did oppose the Bill, the reason he didn’t vote is because he was busy campaigning here in Leeds and the ‘wash-up’ meant he knew the Bill would be voted in regardless.

Now, another issue which was flagged up to me a fair few times was Greg’s (non) voting record on equal gay rights and the allegation that he has consistently turned down invites from the Leeds LGBT society to speak at events.

Greg challenged my allegation and said he had indeed voted on the equality bill and that this issue is whipped up by rival politicians as a smear against him.

Finally, I concluded by asking Greg about his thoughts on the key issues facing Leeds over the next 5 years  his campaign so far, his belief in being re-elected and Nick Clegg’s performance on last night’s Leaders Debate.

What do you think? I’m interested to know what your thoughts of the interview. Where my questions relevant and in the public interest? Should I have challenged more on some points? Did he answer my questions to your satisfaction?

Please do let me know your opinion  – robdaleworks@googlemail.com

Written by Robert Dale

April 16, 2010 at 9:50 pm

upcoming interviews

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Andy Robinson – Leader of the Pirate Party UK http://www.pirateparty.org.uk/

Tristram Stuart – author of ‘WASTE – uncovering the global food scandal’ incredibly insightful book and Hilary Benn (Minister for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs) is basing many new government policies on Tristram’s work http://www.tristramstuart.co.uk/

George Galloway MP – leader of the Respect Party  http://www.therespectparty.net/.

Moazzam Begg – former detainee at Guantanemo Bay, now president of Cageprisoners – human rights organisation (company registration no: 6397573) that exists solely to raise awareness of the plight of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and other detainees held as part of the War on Terror  http://www.cageprisoners.com

Debbie Purdy – leading campaigner to clarify laws on assisted suicide http://tinyurl.com/yz4zaga

Media Lens – these guys work to correct the ‘distorted vision of the corporate media’ http://www.medialens.org/

Mary Anne Hobbs – Radio 1 DJ and the mother of the ‘dubstep’ movement http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006wqb7

Ipsos-Mori – leading polling company – how accurate are the political polls and how do they affect the outcome on polling day http://www.ipsos-mori.com/

Prof. Robert Watson – cheif scientific adviser to the government on GM Food

Mark Boyle – The ‘Moneyless Man’ http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Moneyless-Man/337563553259?ref=ts

Levent Akbulut – president of the Students for Sensible Drug Policy http://www.ssdp.org.uk/

Long shots; David Attenborough, Esther Rantzen,

And I’m currently planning something special with all the main political parties. Don’t want to say what just yet as its still very early days.

Written by Robert Dale

March 24, 2010 at 5:29 pm

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