30 years on: What really happened at the Battle of the Beanfield? – A fascinating account of policy brutality against a group of travellers in the 1980s.
Charles Kennedy – a lovely man, a talented politician, a great friend with a shared enemy – A very touching reminiscence on his friend’s death from Alistair Campbell.
Taking the Power in the Northern Powerhouse – Loz Kaye on the massive democratic deficits in the government’s devolution proposals.
On Fantasy Island: British politics, English judges and the European Convention on Human Rights – Excellet long piece from Conor Gearty on ‘the fantasies that underpin English public law’ and how misunderstanding is driving a flawed impression of the HRA and ECHR.
Debunking the Rare Published Climate Denier Paper – Monckton edition – The Dake Page points out the problems with a new paper that supposedly overturns existing climate science (spoiler: it doesn’t) but also provides a useful guide for establishing the veracity of claims made in supposedly scientific publications
The Overall Benefit Cap – a little time bomb under UK buy-to-let housing – Not only is the benefit cap a terrible idea for the people subjected to it, Daniel Davies shows that it has the unintended side effect of causing terrible ripple effects through the rest of UK housing provision.
The Seven Hurdles for Repeal of the Human Rights Act – David Allen Green goes through the hurdles that need to be surmounted before Tories would be able to push through their plan. It’s almost like they didn’t think this through before promising it.
There was an alternative: three things the Lib Dems could have done differently – James Graham on the alternative decisions the party could have made during the last five years.
The awful truth about climate change no one wants to admit – “The obvious truth about global warming is this: barring miracles, humanity is in for some awful shit.”
Self-Driving Trucks Are Going to Hit Us Like a Human-Driven Truck – Scott Santens on a looming threat to the structure of the US economy as we know it.
Atomic – Flying Rodent proposes a new direction for the military. “I put it to you that the track record of unusable weapons has proven beyond doubt to be vastly superior to the performance of the ones that we actually can deploy.”
18 Scientists On What They Actually Think About Climate Change – Yes, it’s Buzzfeed, but it’s interesting.
Why we don’t have electronic voting – A simple explainer of the myriad problems that need to be solved before it could happen.
9 questions about Saudi Arabia you were too embarrassed to ask – Sure there’s something we can all learn from this.
How To Tell If You Are In A Soft Science Fiction Novel – “There are Core people and there are Rim people. Core people wear silver, gender-neutral clothing and love fascism and artificial light. Rim people wear floor-length WWII-era trench coats and love modified libertarianism. These are the only two kinds of people. Plus there’s one ocean planet full of mermaids.”
A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA – Be warned, this story does describe some pretty horrible incidents, but it’s worth reading for the exposure of how rape culture is permitted by institutional power.
On Countering The UKIP Cri-De-Colon – “if you’re not prepared to defend what are supposedly your defining principles for fear of losing just one election, you might as well pack up the whole party and leave politics to the bigots.”
“Immigration” is not “immigrant” – Andrew Hickey on why pandering to bigots isn’t even addressing the root cause of their complaints.
The Disappearing Sea – How the Aral Sea dried up, and what it left behind.
They refused to fight – A great piece by Jim Jepps on the experience of conscientious objectors during the First World War.
George Lakoff: ‘Conservatives don’t follow the polls, they want to change them … Liberals do everything wrong’ – Interesting perspective from a psychologist, which is in line with some of the comments Drew Westen made in The Political Brain.
Remarks on climate change – A speech by US Secretary of State John Kerry, where he appears to be committing the US to action.
Of wind farms, birds and global warming – Guess what’s mozt hazardous to birds: wind turbines or habitat destruction from climate change?
Recent developments in the United States vividly illustrate inequality’s threat to democracy – from Democratic Audit.
In World’s Best-Run Economy, House Prices Keep Falling — Because That’s What House Prices Are Supposed To Do – I’m sure you won’t be surprised to find this article isn’t about Britain.
I’ve had a number of residents contact me recently regarding fracking, and whether there’ll be any taking place in the Colchester area. Having looked into the issue, it looks very unlikely that there’ll be any taking place in East Anglia, as the geology of this area means it’s very unlikely to contain any shale gas – or, at least, any significant amounts that would be economically viable to explore for and extract.
However, if someone decided they wanted to try, they’d have to first get themselves approved by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to explore and extract gas. A license to do so in this area would then have to be granted by Essex County Council who are responsible for minerals extraction – this normally involves quarrying in this area, but would include other mining operations if someone wanted to try them – and finally, Colchester Borough Council would have to grant planning permission for any surface works involved in the operation. So, even if there were deposits here that might be accessible by fracking, there’d be plenty of opportunities for the public to have their say before anything began.
As for the principle of fracking itself, I’m still waiting to see something conclusive from the evidence. As I understand it, burning gas for power produces fewer greenhouse gases than burning coal or oil for the equivalent amount of power, but the supposed cost benefits of shale gas are not likely to be that great – from what I’ve read, gas prices dropped in the US after shale gas production started because it’s mostly separate from the global gas market, so a surge in production there affected the domestic price. However, the UK and Europe are an integral part of that market, so increases in production won’t have as big an effect on the overall market price. There’s also the question of what effect such production has on the local environment.
However, beyond those considerations, there’s the global effect of continuing to extract carbon-based fuels from the ground and release that carbon into the atmosphere. This article provides a good overview of how we’re heading for a massive overshoot of carbon targets, and even if gas does release less carbon than oil or coal, if the oil and coal it displaces in the short term is still burnt, then it all goes into the atmosphere in the long run. For me, it seems that fracking is a minor distraction in the wider vision of how we reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we release before it’s far too late.
Have slipped in collecting links for a while, but here’s the latest smorgasbord from around the web.
Andrew Neil – these are your climate errors on BBC Sunday Politics – Once again, Andrew Neil lies about science to bolster his own beliefs and mislead viewers.
Free to schmooze – Interesting post by Alex Marsh on the aims of libertarians within the Liberal Democrats
State of the parties – Jason O’Mahony on the current state of Irish political parties. Includes the great description “(he) resembles a man plummeting to Earth strapped to an anvil, who’s getting angry with people for not appreciating the magnificent workmanship that went into fashioning the anvil.”
The need for “grown up” policy – Alex Marsh again, this time on the Social Liberal Forum website, writing about the people who claim Liberal Democrats need to ‘grow up’ in our policy making processes.
An Open Apology to All of My Weight Loss Clients – a former weight loss consultant apologises for the damage bad nutritional advice has caused.
Covering a wide range of time, mainly because I went on holiday in the middle of collecting them.
We Are All Princes, Paupers and Part of the Human Family – “anyone who was alive 2,000-3,000 years ago is either the ancestor of everyone who’s now alive, or no one at all.”
Mindscapes: First interview with a dead man – New Scientist interviews someone suffering from Cotard’s Syndrome, in which people believe themselves or parts of their body to be dead.
Why the world faces climate chaos – “In brief, humanity is conducting a huge, uncontrolled and almost certainly irreversible climate experiment with the only home it is likely to have.”
Hanging on to Mutti – Neal Ascherson in the LRB on the current political situation in Germany
Speech by Rory Stewart MP on the Iraq War – “The starting point for any discussion of Iraq has to be an acknowledgment that it was a failure and a scandal. However we look at the costs and benefits of what happened there, it was probably the worst British foreign policy decision since the Boer war or the first Anglo-Afghan war of 1839. Never have the British Government made a worse decision.”
Jeremy Grantham, environmental philanthropist: ‘We’re trying to buy time for the world to wake up’ – Guardian profile of the billionaire investor and environmentalist, with some interesting things to say about the negative impact of ‘climate sceptics’ and how preventing climate change makes long-term business sense.
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed – How much of what we deem necessary is only because we’ve been told it is?
The Fascism of Knowing Stuff – “There is a gaggle that seems to consider that expertise is an unfair advantage, that all opinions are equal; an idea that people who are experts in climate change, drugs or engineering are given unfair preference just because they spend much of their life studying these things. I do not think it is fascism that heart surgeons seem to have the monopoly of placing hands in a chest cavity and fiddling with an aorta.”
Pirates of the Parliament – How the very nature of the Pirate Party appears to be its fatal flaw preventing it growing after its initial spell in the limelight.
Where are all the right wing stand-ups? – Stewart Lee surveys the fields and explains why there aren’t many to be found.
“The Bradford Earthquake”: How Bradford West was won – Excellent report by Lewis Baston for Democratic Audit on the by-election that sent George Galloway back to Parliament. Essential reading for anyone interested in British politics.
Nicholas Stern: ‘I got it wrong on climate change – it’s far, far worse’ – so, can we begin the official panic yet?
It Takes Planning, Caution to Avoid Being ‘It’ – What happens when you keep playing a game of tag for years after you left school.
‘Only a Phase’: How Diplomats Misjudged Hitler’s Rise – A look at some of the communications ambassadors to Germany were sending back to their governments in 1933.
For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of World War II – Fascinating tale of a Russian family who fled to the taiga to avoid Stalinist purges of the religious, then remained in complete isolation for forty years.