Worth Reading 176: The Gliese with a planet

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

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Worth Reading 173: Special Containment Procedures

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.

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Worth Reading 154: Out of sonnets

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.”

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Worth Reading 146: The end of Carthage

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.

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Worth Reading 115: Sixtus the seventh

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.

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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.

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Worth Reading 112: Emergency link supply

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.

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