Your essential weekend reader — my personal pick of the week’s must-reads

by Stephen Tall on February 10, 2013

It’s Sunday morning, so here are 12 thought-provoking articles to stimulate your thinking juices culled from all those I’ve linked to this last week. You can follow me on Delicious here.

In Search of Monsters – Stephen W. Smith looks at the background to France’s military intervention in Mali: ‘One could even say that they will provide the Saharan Taliban with the very thing they were thirsting for: an expeditionary force of infidels on home turf.’

Trident is no longer key to Britain’s security – an important article from Des Browne (Blair’s defence secretary) and Ian Kearns putting forward the anti-Trident renewal case: ‘if the Government’s Trident Alternatives Review reveals an effective alternative to like-for-like renewal of Trident, such as stepping down from continuous at-sea deterrence and the building of fewer submarines, we should pursue it.’

Stafford Hospital: it’s the vulnerable and old who are victims of our blind faith in the NHS – Ian Birrell has been highlighting the poor care in parts of the NHS for years based on is experiences as the father of a profoundly disabled child: ‘vulnerable people are victims of Britain’s adoration of the NHS. It remains a sclerotic institution from an age when infectious diseases and infant mortality were the big battles, not the complex and continuing conditions of an ageing society.’

If Tory MPs can’t decide what kind of party they want, they’ll have to work it out in opposition – Rafael Behr with an acute analysis of the Tory condition: ‘[Cameron] represents the ultimate valediction of 20th-century Conservatism – the candidate you might cook up in a laboratory with political grafts from Harold Macmillan’s patrician elitism, Margaret Thatcher’s economics and John Major’s nostalgic moralism.’

A breakthrough speech on monetary policy – Anatole Kaletsky looks at the growing calls for ‘helicopter money’: ‘The alternative to national bankruptcy is not austerity and permanent stagnation; it is for governments to finance tax cuts or public investment with printed money and thereby promote economic growth.’

President Obama Can Do Anything He Wants To Fight Terrorism – Eric Posner explains that because the US has declared war on al-Qaida anything goes: ‘Obama and Bush administration lawyers have stretched the Constitution and traditional rules of international law to accommodate the threat posed by terrorism.’

Bedroom tax: the who, the what and the why – Federica Cocco fact-checks the claims/counter-claims: ‘Who exactly is affected? How many of them are disabled?’

Britain’s spending on ramming people in jail is lunacy at a time of austerity – from most people this article would be unexceptional, but this is a Tory MP, Ben Gummer, writing: ‘We are at the top of the European league tables for reoffending rates; for some groups, reoffending has actually increased. In sum, we are spending far more to achieve less and less.’

We will have to save far more as investment returns dwindle – Allister Heath looks at the ticking timebomb of low returns on equities resulting in unfunded pensions: ‘Who do you know saves a quarter or a third of their salary for their pension?’

Long Engagements – George Packer notes that geopolitics is way too complex for an ‘Obama doctrine’ to exist, but argues he needs to give Secretary of State John Kerry greater authority than he gave to Hillary Clinton: ‘a tragic sense of limitation is not a substitute for real, prolonged engagement, which always carries the risk of failure.’

Liberal Hero of the Week #30: Vince Cable. Our Liberal Villains of the Month: 175 MPs – find out what I think was heroic about the Lib Dem business secretary and villainous about a third of the Commons in my CentreForum series.

Spain’s government: another blow – the Economist looks at the back-hander scandal which could engulf Spain’s right-wing PP government: ‘… voters are beginning to latch on to the idea that Mr Rajoy ran a party which hid, distributed and lied about dirty money. Four out of five Spaniards believe the PP’s leadership should resign en bloc.’

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.