[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

So a few days ago, it was suggested to a faction of the hot, pathetic misogynist mess known as GamerGate that launching a boycott of Tor Books was a possible “action op” for them. This was quickly shot down, no doubt in part because the person suggesting it was Theodore Beale, and no one at this point actually gives a crap what he thinks about anything. However, last night I went on another Twitter tear on the subject of GamerGate, and I woke up this morning to a few chuckleheads bleating to Tor about what a terrible person I am, in order to, I don’t know, get Tor to talk to me sternly about having opinions on the Internet, because apparently Tor is my dad. So maybe this push to boycott Tor because of me has legs after all! Hooray!

That said, my takeaway from these furtive attempts to make me shut up about the fact that GamerGate is basically a bunch of terrible human beings being shitty to women, up to and including threatening them and publishing their personal information online in an obvious attempt to silence them is to be just a little bit sad. Not because a few of these human-shaped pieces of ambulatory refuse are trying to do it, but because they’re thinking too small about it.

I mean, seriously, boycotting just Tor Books? Why limit yourself? Sure, it’s the largest publisher of science fiction and fantasy books in North America and possibly the world, but it’s just one imprint of Tom Doherty Associates. There are several other imprints, including Forge, Starscape, Tor Teen and Seven Seas. You should boycott those, too. That’ll show me!

But even then, you’d be thinking too small. Tom Doherty Associates is itself just one appendage of the publishing giant known as Macmillan, with offices in 41 countries! It publishes thousands of books a year! What a target! You should boycott all of Macmillan. Man, I’m quaking in my boots just thinking about it. But even then, it’s small potatoes, for Macmillan is just one part of the mighty Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, with annual sales in the billions of euros. Boycott it all! No doubt all of Stuttgart shall fall into a shambles at the thought.

But even then you are not done, boycotters! For you see, I am crafty and have diversified my revenue stream. I have many publishers and many people I work with. You must punish them all for having me in their midst. All of them. And not just the tiny imprint or sub-company that works with me directly. That’s what a coward would do. And are you a coward? Well, yes, probably, because the tactics of GamerGate have been astoundingly cowardly right from the start. But still! Think big, my friends. Your boycott must not just take out a few targets, it must nuke them all from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

With that in mind, here are your other boycott targets:

In the UK I am published by Gollancz, which is part of Orion Publishing Group, which is in itself part of Hachette, which is part of Lagardère Group. Crush them!

In Germany I am published by Heyne, which is part of Random House, which is itself owned by Penguin Random House, which is jointly owned by Pearson and Bertlesmann. Squish them!

In audio, I am published by Audible, which is owned by Amazon. Surely it is worth giving up your sweet Amazon Prime subscriptions to make Jeff Bezos shake in his chinos!

But wait! We’re still not done. Because as you may know I have TV deals! One is with FX, which is owned by the Fox Entertainment Group, which is part of 21st Century Fox (yes, it’s 21st Century Fox now. Look it up). You will need to boycott it all. Yes, even Fox News. Be strong! It’s for the cause!

Another is with Syfy and Universal Cable Productions, which is part of NBCUniversal, which is itself part of Comcast. So for this one, some of you will have to give up cable, and possibly your Internet connection. Keep your eye on the prize! It will be worth it!

My third TV deal is with Legendary TV, which is part of Legendary Pictures. And you’re thinking, whew, at least they aren’t part of a multinational corporation! True, but they make films that are distributed through a number of film studios, including Warner Bros (basically, all the DC Comics movies) and Universal. They also own both Geek & Sundry and Nerdist Industries. Noooooo! You can’t get your nerd on anymore! Stay focused! Your pain will make victory that much sweeter!

So, in short, in order to effectively punish my business partners for me having thoughts you don’t like, all you need to do is boycott three of the five major US publishers, two of the five major film/television studios (plus selected product of one of the other ones), and the largest single online retailer in the world. Which, well. It will keep you busy, at least.

Which, to be clear, I am fine with. While you are off whining to these corporations about me, perhaps you will be too busy to, you know, threaten death, rape and assault against women who also dare to express thoughts you don’t like. And you know what? I think that’s a fair trade.

So please: If you’re going to boycott a company because of me, at least do it right. Do it big. There are all your targets, laid out for you. Go get ‘em! I’ll be rooting for you, kids!

And in the meantime, just remember this:

Still true, people. Still true.


[personal profile] naraht
Fascinating article in the Guardian about an International Publishers Association report [PDF - see page 16] which offers stats on which countries publish the most books per capita.

1) United Kingdom - 2875 per million
2) Taiwan and Slovenia (tie) - 1831 per million
...
?) United States - 959 per million

The UK numbers are very impressive! But my curiosity was piqued by a certain omission, as it turns out the report only covers 40 countries. If you read the Guardian article, they noticed the omission too:
In tiny Iceland, which was not included, around 1,000 new titles are published each year in a language spoken by only 320,000 people.

Go Iceland! As someone worked out in the comments, that translates to 4,706 titles per million in 2010 - and a staggering 5453 per million in 2008, for a language that almost no one outside of Iceland can read.

(Someone else in comments points out how many books Oxford publishes per capita, but this doesn't quite seem a fair fight...)
[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Caron Lindsay

Yesterday, Nick Clegg gave a speech to public sector workers. His specific focus was on teacher workload. Everyone thinks that teachers work short hours and have long holidays. Yet everyone who has a child actually at school will know how much effort goes in to preparing lessons. And everyone who knows a teacher knows that they spend a lot of their supposed “off-duty” time thinking of interesting lessons or, more likely these days, filling in interminable paperwork. We know that children need to be kept safe and their progress checked, but I get the feeling that the bureaucracy is overbearing and unnecessary. Let’s just give you a small example from my own experience. Every time my child sets foot outside the school we have to fill in a consent form. It’s A4. It has all sorts of medical info on it. It even asks how far they can swim unaided, a skill which is unlikely to be needed when representing the school in a maths competition or reading stories to 6 year olds in the local primary school. We can be filling in one of these forms twice a month. If it’s a mild inconvenience for us as parents, what’s it like for teachers who have maybe 30 of them to collect for each class? Why can parents not fill in a standing consent with all the info which covers the whole year?

That’s the sort of example I suspect Nick will be getting from the survey consultation he launched yesterday. Teachers are invited to complete this survey which asks for their views about the “unproductive” tasks they are required to complete.  He said:

We’re talking about hours spent struggling to stay on top of piles of incident reports, over-detailed lesson plan templates, health and safety forms, departmental updates, training requests and so on that threaten to engulf them every week. Not to mention the reams of additional evidence which teachers pull together because of a long-held belief that Ofsted inspectors want to see everything written down.

Some of this work is unavoidable. Every school needs to ensure the safety of its pupils and staff and maintain the highest standards possible. But should you really have to fill in multiple risk assessment forms for every school trip when just one form would be better

Ask any teacher and they’ll give you at least two more examples like that: whether it’s having to highlight their lesson plans in five different colours or inputting every pupil’s marks into countless different spreadsheets in countless different ways at regular points in the year.

I believe it’s time for us to stop that runaway train of bureaucracy in its tracks, giving our teachers more time to do what they do best: creating and planning the best possible lessons and experiences for our children. In Government, we’ve already done this for businesses: freeing up money and resources for millions of companies.

It’s to be hoped this initiative will prevent clearly good teachers like Lucy Fay leaving the profession. It’s not just an issue in England, though. Teacher workload is a major focus for the Educational Institute for Scotland, the main teaching union north of the border, at the moment and that’s under a system where teachers are supposed to have more built-in time for lesson preparation.

In his speech yesterday, Nick paid tribute to public sector workers:

Your contribution is remarkable given that – over the last four years, in the wake of the biggest financial crisis in living memory, with our public services having to absorb significant spending cuts – every public service has had to do more with less.

In Coalition, we’ve had to take difficult decisions on pay and pensions as we deal with the deficit – because there is nothing remotely fair or public spirited about saddling our children and grandchildren with those debts.

You’ve had to make personal sacrifices – to keep more of your colleagues in work and protect essential services for those who need them most.

As a result of those decisions, those sacrifices, our country is back on track. Our country is growing again. More people are in work than ever before. And while a lot of families are still feeling the squeeze, we are finally through the fire. Up and down the country, people can once again look to their future with hope.

I have tos ay, though, that I was pretty upset last week when the NHS workers walked out for four hours. Their demand, for a sub-inflation 1% pay rise didn’t seem that unreasonable. Why can’t the lowest paid workers get that at least? When I mentioned this on Facebook last week, people suggested it might be better to give a sum of money rather than a percentage. That sum would mean much more to the lower paid but the unions aren’t interested, perhaps because they tend to do more for the higher paid members. The low paid public sector workers will certainly have benefitted from the raising of the tax threshold but I think more needs to be done to tackle in-work poverty.  A friend of mine talked about some NHS workers being referred to food banks because they couldn’t make ends meet. That should not be happening.

A lot of what Nick said yesterday was about making the job easier, though. Cutting the bureaucracy, letting teachers teach. He also talked about making sure emergency workers had the support in place to keep them mentally well:

In the emergency services, you’re given protective gloves, masks, stab vests, fire fighting kit etc, as well procedures to follow to keep you physically safe. I want to give you that same high standard of protection for your mental health.

All in all, it was a useful speech and it does sound like he does get a lot of the challenges facing workers in the public sector. Whether they will be in a mood to listen to him is yet to be seen.

* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

james_davis_nicoll: (Default)

Nameless

Oct. 23rd, 2014 10:59 am
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
Does not look like she will around much longer. Waiting to see if vet can see her.
[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by MikeSmithson

Next we’ll see polls with the candidates named

Amazing to recall that two and a half weeks ago the Tories had a brief spell as favourite on the Rochester betting markets. Then came the first poll from Survation which had a 9% UKIP lead and now we have the ComRes 13% one.

It’s a brave punter who in these circumstances bets against the polling and inevitably the UKIP price has tightened.

The only things that will budge this are developments that’ll point to the battle being tighter than is currently seen.

This evening we’ll get news of the Tory all postal primary. If the turnout is reasonable then it might give the blues a boost. What they will have from this evening is a candidate that they will claim has a mandate because of the way she’s been selected.

The next thing I’m hoping to see is a poll with all the candidates being named.

Too often we look at these thing in terms of party battles alone when in by elections in particular candidates can matter enormously. The government of the country is not at stake and people are voting for an individual.

So far the great single constituency pollster, Lord Ashcroft, has yet to dip his toe into the Rochester water. Surely an early survey from him is not far off?

Mike Smithsonthe

[syndicated profile] love_and_liberty_feed

Posted by Alex Wilcock


A fortnight ago I emailed all of the then declared contenders to be the next Liberal Democrat President with questions (below) about their personal political philosophy and our shared Lib Dem values, to be published here. I received Sal Brinton’s answers last night, and here they are now.

What I believe and why I can only be a Lib Dem:

Fairness and equality are at the heart of everything I believe in. Every child should have the best start in life, the opportunity to do what they want, even if it isn’t what everyone else wants, with the best skills they can learn. I want people to have the freedom to say and do what they want – but not to harm others. We need a successful economy, but not just for the few rich, for as many as possible, with a safety net for those that struggle. This isn’t just about holding back the worst excesses of the Tories, or preventing Labour controlling everything, it’s a philosophy, a way of life.


2. What Lib Dems stand for, and how we’ve shown that in coalition over the last four years:

Liberal Democrats believe that the best people to decide their future are individuals themselves. We believe that people should have the freedom to do what they want – as long as it doesn’t affect others negatively – and we want to make sure that they are given the best chance to do it. We also think that the state should provide the best support possible for everyone, but with the lightest touch that it can, and the state should protect people from those more powerful controlling them. Access to health, education, justice should be universal (you can’t reduce inequality without this), and we want decisions to be made as locally as possible. A vote for us is a vote for you achieving the best you can and want.

As liberals, we are often very hard on ourselves. Compromise in coalition has been tough, and we’ve made mistakes, but we need to remember what we’ve achieved. In coalition we’ve succeeded in making tax fairer by raising the personal allowance rate: giving every tax payer £700 per annum. We have started to reduce education inequalities through providing extra money for the most disadvantaged pupils and students, and the results are beginning to show it works. In the worst recession for decades, we’ve protected the NHS budget and insisted on proper funding for mental health services. We’ve given you, Alex, the freedom to marry Richard this weekend: achieving same sex marriage is core to our belief in freedom and equality, and we persuaded the Tories to support it too. We’ve protected girls from FGM, and provided 0.7% of GDP for international development, guaranteeing help for the most vulnerable people in the world.

Liz Lynne’s answers can be found here.

Daisy Cooper’s answers can be found here.

NB On Monday, the three contenders on the ballot paper were announced as Liz Lynne, Daisy Cooper and Sal Brinton. Linda Jack was unable to find enough people within the Liberal Democrats to support her nomination.


My Questions As Sent

I have two related questions for you. Both are more concerned with politics than process. One is after a short two-pronged answer from the heart – had I been able to come to Conference, I would have preferred to put you on the spot with it in person to hear what you instinctively believe. The other question is asking you to come up with a longer, more thoughtful answer on our values that you’d be happy having the whole party say (as if anyone could ever persuade us to stick to one hymn-sheet).

Question One: What You Believe

People say all politicians are the same. It’s hardest for us in Coalition, but there’s some truth in it when every party promises to give money to the low-paid and the NHS, or when every local candidate for every party talks about experience, hard work and listening to local people. So what really motivates you? What for you makes the Lib Dems different from any other party?

If someone asked you on the doorstep, the hustings or on TV to sum up in one or two sentences what the Lib Dems, uniquely, stand for – and then why anyone should vote for us – what are your answers?

Past answerers include Presidential contenders and London Mayoral candidates.


Question Two: What the Lib Dems Stand For

Looking for something that’s more than a slogan or a soundbite but short enough to get in one go, imagine this answer as about one minute of a speech, or a box on a leaflet (perhaps 150-200 words, but that’s up to you). As you will be the voice of the Party if elected, can come up with something you think every party member could be happy saying or printing to explain What the Lib Dems Stand For? Something to enthuse and inspire Lib Dem believers and at the same time to attract and persuade potential supporters?

How would you link what makes us different, our philosophy, to what we’ve achieved in government, and what we want to do next? However you want to put that together, as specific or as thematic as you like.

I start this as a meme that many other Lib Dems have answered over the past couple of years (if I ever get a wide enough selection in, I might publish a book of them!). If you want to see more about what that’s involved, here’s my own latest version, including links to where I’ve printed other Lib Dems’ ideas.

Best of luck to each of you.


I had also spent some time trying to think of a ‘nasty’ question individually tailored to each of you – which I did for the last set of Presidential candidates and, going back further, for Nick and Chris in 2007. You may be relieved to read that I’ve decided not to ask those this time as I was unable to construct nasty questions of equal balance: the best I could think of for one of you was much too gentle, and for another of you, too bare-knuckle brutal. So that’s your lot from me!
[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Mark Bryceland

In April of this year, I organised a fundraising dinner for Simon Hughes in central London. Between courses we interviewed Nick Clegg, Lynne Featherstone and Simon about their early political interests and experiences. The answers were inspiring, the anecdotes hilarious and the audience were treated to a fascinating glimpse into the reasons why MPs get involved with politics in the first place.

The performances of Nick, Lynne and Simon challenged the all-too-common misperception that MPs are simply career politicians and members of a remote political class, far removed from the lives of the ordinary British public. Instead, the interviews highlighted a real diversity of backgrounds, professions and motivations in those who enter politics. After dinner, I experienced a eureka moment when a guest came to me and said, “If only the public could see the side of Nick we witnessed tonight”.  It was immediately evident that the interview format we trialled that evening could translate well into film, providing the party with a new and persuasive campaign medium.

With that end in mind, we have just launched a crowd-funding project on Indiegogo to raise £12,000 to film at least twenty 10-15 minute interviews with Liberal Democrat MPs and 2015 PPCs. The project is designed primarily as an extra campaign tool to help marginal and target seats meet their electoral objectives.  But we also hope to interview some of the party’s other leading lights if the budget allows. Backers can pledge as little as £1 to the project and there are rewards for backers who pledge from £25. You can even nominate your own MP or PPC to be interviewed for a pledge of £1000.

There are a number of uses for the films in local campaigns. For example, local parties can share links to their films with constituents via email and social networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Another of our Indiegogo reward tiers offers candidates the chance to film their interview in front of a live constituency audience, which could also double up as a useful community engagement exercise to help combat the mood of anti-politics amongst significant numbers of the electorate, for example.
The film series will compliment the hard work of the fantastic local campaign teams nationwide, who are gearing up to fight the general election in May 2015. The beauty of the Indiegogo campaign is that it’s an activist driven initiative to help our marginals and to give our targets extra campaign firepower.

I urge everyone to visit our Indiegogo page and to pledge what they can to help get the film project successfully funded.

* Mark Bryceland is a Liberal Democrat member, activist and volunteer with Greenwich and Southwark Liberal Democrats

Immigration & capitalism

Oct. 23rd, 2014 02:31 pm
[syndicated profile] chris_dillow_feed

Posted by chris dillow

John Harris writes:

Perhaps those who reduce people’s worries and fears [about immigration] to mere bigotry should go back to first principles, and consider whether, in such laissez-faire conditions, free movement has been of most benefit to capital or labour.

Let's do this. Here are some first principles:

 - Factor price equalization. Foreign workers can bid down British wages through trade. Whether they come here or not, their effect on wages is much the same.

 - Complementarities. Some foreign workers are complements for native ones, and so raise wages of the latter. For example, Polish roofers allow British plasterers and electricians to do more work.  

 - Adjustment. Insofar as immigrants do reduce wages, this will also reduce prices. This allows interest rates to fall, which boosts demand for labour and hence wages. Also, a drop in the price of labour relative to capital should lead to rising demand for labour relative to capital. On both counts, labour demand should increase, thus reversing the initial adverse impact of immigration.   

These principles imply that free movement won't much tilt the balance between capital and labour. Immwage

In the unlikely event of anyone wanting empirical evidence, my chart provides some. It shows that the ratio of the wage share in GDP to the profit share hasn't much changed in the last 10 years even though the number of foreign-born workers has risen. In fact, the wage share is higher than it was in 1997, even though the number of foreign workers has almost doubled. This is consistent with our first principles.

Now, some people might be surprised by the stability of the wage share. If the wage share hasn't changed, how come real wages have fallen and so many workers are struggling?

Simple. Workers aren't suffering because the balance of class power has shifted to capital. There are (at least) three other things going on, on top of unnecessarily tight fiscal policy:  

 - Job polarization. The number of decent middling jobs is falling, relative to low-paid ones.

 - Decorporatization. There's been a shift from the corporate sector to the self-employed. This has squeezed profits and - to the extent that they are in part a share of economic rents - wages too.  

 - Falling productivity. Output per worker-hour is lower now than it was in 1997 - in part, perhaps because of lousy management (pdf). A smaller pie means less for everyone.

Wages, then, are being squeezed not by immigrants, but by some fundamental trends in capitalism.  

In this context, the "modern left" that Harris sneers at should be a lot angrier than it is. Those who seek to link immigration with falling living standards are guilty not just of (perhaps wilful) ignorance. They are trying to shift the blame from capitalism to some of the least powerful members of society. That's not just racist. It's fascist.  

Immigration & capitalism

Oct. 23rd, 2014 02:24 pm
[syndicated profile] chris_dillow_feed

Posted by chris dillow

John Harris writes:

Perhaps those who reduce people’s worries and fears [about immigration] to mere bigotry should go back to first principles, and consider whether, in such laissez-faire conditions, free movement has been of most benefit to capital or labour.

Let's do this. Here are some first principles:

 - Factor price equalization. Foreign workers can bid down British wages through trade. Whether they come here or not, their effect on wages is much the same.

 - Complementarities. Some foreign workers are complements for native ones, and so raise wages of the latter. For example, Polish roofers allow British plasterers and electricians to do more work.  

 - Adjustment. Insofar as immigrants do reduce wages, this will also reduce prices. This allows interest rates to fall, which boosts demand for labour and hence wages. Also, a drop in the price of labour relative to capital should lead to rising demand for labour relative to capital. On both counts, labour demand should increase, thus reversing the initial adverse impact of immigration.   

These principles imply that free movement won't much tilt the balance between capital and labour. Immwage

In the unlikely event of anyone wanting empirical evidence, my chart provides some. It shows that the ratio of the wage share in GDP to the profit share hasn't much changed in the last 10 years even though the number of foreign-born workers has risen. In fact, the wage share is higher than it was in 1997, even though the number of foreign workers has almost doubled. This is consistent with our first principles.

Now, some people might be surprised by the stability of the wage share. If the wage share hasn't changed, how come real wages have fallen and so many workers are struggling?

Simple. Workers aren't suffering because the balance of class power has shifted to capital. There are (at least) three other things going on.   

 - Job polarization. The number of decent middling jobs is falling, relative to low-paid ones.

 - Decorporatization. There's been a shift from the corporate sector to the self-employed. This has squeezed profits and - to the extent that they are in part a share of economic rents - wages too.  

 - Falling productivity. Output per worker-hour is lower now than it was in 1997 - in part, perhaps because of lousy management (pdf). A smaller pie means less for everyone.

Wages, then, are being squeezed not by immigrants, but by some fundamental trends in capitalism.  

In this context, the "modern left" that Harris sneers at should be a lot angrier than it is. Those who seek to link immigration with falling living standards are guilty not just of (perhaps wilful) ignorance. They are trying to shift the blame from capitalism to some of the least powerful members of society. That's not just racist. It's fascist.  

David Brooks, Edmund Burke, and Me

Oct. 23rd, 2014 12:42 pm
[syndicated profile] crooked_timber_feed

Posted by Corey Robin

David Brooks:

Burke is famous for his belief in gradual change….I’m sticking to my Burkean roots. Change should be steady, constant and slow. Society has structural problems, but they have to be reformed by working with existing materials, not sweeping them away in a vain hope for instant transformation.

Edmund Burke on the East India Company:
It is fixed beyond all power of reformation…this body, being totally perverted from the purposes of its institution, is utterly incorrigible; and because they are incorrigible, both in conduct and constitution, power ought to be taken out of their hands; just on the same principles on which have been made all the just changes and revolutions of government that have taken place since the beginning of the world.

Me:
The other reason I have dwelled so long on Burke is that though he’s often held up as the source of conservatism, I get the feeling he’s not often read….Sure, someone will quote a passage here or a phrase there, but the quotations inevitably have a whiff of cliché about them—little platoons and so on—emitting that stale blast of familiarity you sense when you listen to someone go on about a text he may or may not have read during one week in college.

David Brooks:
Gail, as you know I have a policy of teaching at colleges I couldn’t have gotten into, and as a result I find myself teaching at Yale….I just got out of a class in which we discussed Edmund Burke’s “Reflections on the Revolution in France.”

[syndicated profile] skepchick_feed

Posted by Amanda







[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by NewsHound

Tim farron photo by liberal democrats dave radcliffeTim Farron has been writing for the Guardian about the extent of the practical problems faced by communities around the world as a direct result of climate change. Last week he met with someone from the Philippines who knows only too well what climate change means to their islands:

Last Thursday I chose not to avoid it – I was sitting in my office with a man who experiences climate change every day. Yet it wasn’t depressing. I count myself lucky to know Voltaire Alferez, a Christian Aid partner from the Philippines. Voltaire is surprisingly upbeat for someone whose job it is to coordinate 43 organisations in a country being swallowed by the sea to persuade the Patersons of the world that climate change really is the problem of this century. He jokes, he thanks the British government for the action we’ve taken to help his country deal with climate change. He has a young baby who he is looking forward to returning home to. He is clearly proud of the beauty of his country: “We have over 7,000 islands – you should visit before they all disappear!”

For Voltaire, the heart of the climate change debate is not political or psychological – it’s practical. How do we help people adapt to a lifestyle that has already been disrupted by environmental change? It’s a practical issue in this country too. Farmers in my own constituency know that the seasons are changing. Harvest is creeping backwards.

This is mild. In the Philippines there used to be around 25 typhoons a year. There are now more than 40 – and they are getting stronger. In Kenya, Christian Aid partners are sending texts to farmers to help them cope with increasingly unpredictable weather. When you are a subsistence farmer, this practical intervention is life or death.

What can we do about it, though? Tim has two major suggestions. Here’s the first:

The immediate practical action we need to take is clear. One: politicians need to keep our climate change targets reflecting the scale of the challenge we face. This Wednesday and Thursday, EU leaders will get together to agree the carbon reduction that the EU should achieve by 2030. NGOs tell me that 55% is a fair amount, and the UK government position is strong at 50%. But the deal is not even yet at 40%. The prime minister must push for an EU target of at least 40% so we still have some hope of an honest ambition.

To find out more, read the whole article here.

* Newshound: bringing you the best Lib Dem commentary published in print or online.

[syndicated profile] badastronomy_feed

Posted by Phil Plait

First off, let’s get this straight: If you use Twitter, you should be following space station astronaut Reid Wiseman. He posts amazing photos all the time, and your life will be the better for it.

For example, on Sept. 28, while orbiting over the Sahara Desert, he took this stunning photo:

If that doesn’t take your breath away, then please, give me a moment to explain what you’re seeing.

The sky is dominated by the glow of the Milky Way, the combined might of billions of stars, faded only by the terrible distances of interstellar space. Our galaxy is shaped like a great, flat disk, 100,000 light-years across, with a central spherical hub of stars swelling out from the middle. Wiseman was facing in this direction when he took this photograph, so the hub can be seen bulging out in the center.

The dark lanes, filigreed and branching away, are literally space dust, large grains of complex organic compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons—essentially soot. They litter the galaxy, strewn across it as stars are born, and as they die. The dust is opaque, so it blocks the light of stars behind it. You are literally seeing the silhouette of smoke blown out from the life cycle of stars, scattered across a million billion kilometers.

You can see a few clusters of stars, looking like fuzzy puffs here and there. There are also thousands of stars in the photo, including the bright red supergiant Antares, the heart of Scorpius, just to the right of the center of the picture. You may note it looks blurred; to get the fainter Milky Way in the photo, Wiseman had to take a time exposure. During the exposure the space station moved eight kilometers every second around the Earth. The stars streak a bit during that time.

Closer to home, the bright red dot next to Antares is Mars. Yes, the planet, where we humans have currently more than a half-dozen robots flying or roving over the surface.

Below that is the eerily lit and ruddily colored edge of the Earth. The Sahara Desert makes its hue known. The thin red and green glowing arc above the Earth’s limb is called airglow, and is due to complicated chemical processes occurring about 100 km over the surface, as molecules release the energy they absorbed from the Sun during the day.

Note that well: You can see the curve of the ground, the horizon, in the photo, and just how thin our atmosphere is from this vantage point. It’s a narrow, delicate, fragile shell surrounding us, and yet it allows all life to exist.

And that basic truth is belied by the framework of this photo: The space station itself, modules and docked spacecraft pointing to the fact that we have managed to leave this Earth, if only for a short distance and small span of time.

It’s not easy, this exploration of space, but we can do it. We have the intelligence, the ability, the imagination needed to see where it will take us. All we need is the will. I think we have that too, when we are at our best.

So. If that photo didn’t take your breath away when you first saw it, please take a second look. The whole Universe, our entire future, is framed in that picture, taken by a man who happened to be in the very right place at the very right time.

[syndicated profile] badscience_feed

Posted by Ben Goldacre

My new book is out today: a collection of columns, journalism and essays, but also some of my more colourful government reports, academic papers, and more. It looks lovely. Here is the introduction. Hooray! ……  Amazon ………………….. …………………. Audible ……… ……….  Waterstones  ………. ….. Kindle   …………………….. ……….   Local  …………………. …….. Harper Collins  ……….. Introduction This is a collection of my most fun […]
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)

Open Thread: Good News

Oct. 23rd, 2014 08:32 am
[personal profile] jimhines

Share something positive in the comments. This is an open thread for any and all good news, because it feels like the world could use more of it these days.

For myself, I got a promotion at the day job a few weeks back, which was pretty cool. Also, our new cat Sophie is about to have her kittens. That should be a lot of fun, both because Kittens! and because my kids are really excited, and I get to enjoy their reactions as well. Finally, I’ve seen the final sketches for the Rise of the Spider Goddess cover art, and it is Nifty.

Your turn!

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

(no subject)

Oct. 23rd, 2014 12:58 pm
[syndicated profile] uk_election_trend_feed

Posted by Jay Blanc


Inaugurating the new site design, and the new way of visualising the data I'm generating. It looks a lot nicer and gets a lot more information through in a compact format.

On the right you can see the new turn-table like graph showing you the predicted vote-share, chance of a party forming a majority in Parliament, and the mode average seat share from the simulated elections. And below it you'll also see the histogram of the 2000 simulated elections, colour coded to show who ended up with a majority in parliament. This is approximately the same percentage areas of blue, red, and grey as the turn-table chart, but shows you the approximate distribution of outcomes as they are explicitly not 'normally distributed'. You can clearly see that the conservatives have a bit of a problem ahead of them, but that Labour are yet to seal the deal.
[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Newsmoggie

school childrenThe government has announced the regional allocations for the Early Years pupil premium.

Nurseries, childminders and other early years providers throughout the country are set for a cash injection to help three and four-year-olds from disadvantaged families.

Children from low income families have often fallen behind more well off classmates before they even start school.​

But from April 2015, the Early Years Pupil Premium – which has been backed by groups like Barnados, 4Children and the Child Poverty Action Group – ​will mean extra money to make sure every child gets a fair start.

Over the country, 172,646 children are eligible for such help, with a total of £49 million available for them.

The regional allocations can be read here.

* Newsmoggie – bringing you comment on the Lib Dems whether it's deserved or not

matgb: Artwork of 19th century upper class anarchist, text: MatGB (Default)

British Liberal, house husband, school play leader and stepdad. Campaigner, atheistic feminist, amateur baker. Male.

Known to post items of interest on occasions. More likely to link to interesting stuff. Sometimes talks about stuff he's done. Occasionally posts recipes for good food. Planning to get married, at some point. Enjoying life in Yorkshire.

Likes comments. Especially likes links. Loves to know where people came from and what they were looking for. Mostly posts everything publicly. Sometimes doesn't. Hi.

Mat Bowles

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I'm the Chair of the Brighouse branch of the Liberal Democrats & the membership secretary for Calderdale Lib Dems and run the web campaign for the local candidates. I have a job, a stepdaughter and a life.

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