Merry Christmas

Edinburgh Christmas fair

24 December 2017 · Journal

Blue Room

The Exiting the EU Committee yesterday published 39 “Sectoral Reports” (not 57, or 58, or eleventy-three), selectively redacted for our reading pleasure.

Looking at my own sector of Higher Education, the key page of the relevant report is p. 12, “Sector views: This information was provided by the Government to the Committee, but the Committee has decided not to publish this section”. The rest compiles 2015/16 statistics on EU staff and students and HE funding. Page 9 notes that the “latest figures on education exports (2014), show that EU HE students contribute £2.6 billion per year to the UK economy”—a mere 7.43 Brexit-bus-weeks per year. In other words, they bring in about 25% of the actual net cost to the UK of our annual EU membership.

Rather than leading with the public release of these wholly inadequate sector “reports”, the main Brexit story on the Today programme this morning was blue passports. I hadn’t realised just how long the UK has had burgundy passports; they were introduced in 1988, almost thirty years ago. How emblematic of this whole farrago: UK society and the UK economy ripped apart for the sake of aging voters’ nostalgia for things from a generation ago. Let’s bring back flares and paisley while we’re at it. Or let’s just give them their pointless symbolism, and keep what really matters. Here’s the referendum we should have had:

Blue passports

Read More · 22 December 2017 · Politics

Happy Brexmas to All, and to Britain Good Night

I’ve just posted a new thread on Brexit to Metafilter, which rounds up some of the links shared here in recent weeks, plus a few new ones. Here it is.

Read More · 21 December 2017 · Politics

Planet Radio

All 218 U2 songs, ranked from worst to best, not including the new album (which is okay, but has nothing to match “California”, which should be a lot higher than number 121 on this list. Good list, though).

Radio Garden took me right back to listening to longwave radio in Nuku‘alofa in 1993.

The incredible sound of the Taonga Pūoro (via Mefi).

An interview with Ursula K. Le Guin. After a childhood and young adulthood reading mostly science fiction, I ended up feeling that Le Guin and Philip K. Dick were the apotheosis of the genre, and that’s pretty much where I’ve been ever since.

How Hong Kong failed Madagascar’s domestic helpers.

If you tax the rich, they won’t leave. The author was featured recently on Ed Miliband’s and Geoff Lloyd’s new podcast, Reasons to be Cheerful (which is my podcast discovery of the month—surprisingly compelling and entertaining stuff from Labour’s ex-leader).

The real price of Brexit begins to emerge. Exodus of foreign workers leaves British employers in the lurch. You can’t always get what you want.

19 December 2017 · Weblog

Last Christmas

My son and I went along to an opening-day screening of The Last Jedi last week. Even though we were craning our necks in front-row seats to stare at a giant distorted parallelogram, we loved it: it had so many great moments, so many genuinely funny moments, and the scene in Snoke’s chamber was utterly breathtaking in a way that took me back to watching Luke and Vader at the end of The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. The Force Awakens and Rogue One each, in their own ways, provided everything I wanted in a Star Wars movie, far more than the prequels ever did, but this gave us things I didn’t even know I wanted in a Star Wars movie. I loved the direction Rian Johnson took on key plot points, away from the prequel-like need to over-explain every detail, and towards, at every step, the heart of the new trilogy: the struggle between Ren and Rey for one another’s souls, and their conflicting instincts about what it means to bring balance to the Force. He’s set the bar very, very high for Episode IX; I hope J. J. Abrams can clear it.

A few links. The Star Wars. The Last Jedi’s beautiful refocusing of Star Wars. Carrie Fisher wrote Leia’s final moments.

19 December 2017 · Film

Frisbees of Death

A battery-free phone that harvests ambient power. Battery-free devices that communicate via Wi-Fi.

Frisbees of death.

The Puerto Rico death toll may be sixteen times the official one.

A Twitter thread on the battles ahead for the Brexit deal-makers by Kirsty Hughes, Director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations.

The Irish border and the revenge of game theory.

British bureaucrats in limbo in Brussels.

Harrassment of EU citizens in the UK rises.

How the populist right is redrawing the map of Europe. Fascism runs in my American family.

14 December 2017 · Weblog

Up the Chimney

The chimney map. Unravelling the chimney map. Finding the chimney map. (As posted to Metafilter.)

The rewiring of our relationship to music.

Venezuela and Russia teamed up to push pro-Catalan fake news.

Trump knows exactly what he’s doing.

We’re all to blame for the nightmare of online debate.

Don’t trust your eyes.

Why are we doing this.

9 December 2017 · Weblog

Non-Stop Brexit Cabaret

Some Brexit-related links I haven’t already bundled into recent posts.

Read More · 9 December 2017 · Politics

Fazed One

The UK media are reporting the news of yesterday’s Brexit “breakthrough” as if progress is being made, when the story of this week should be that we couldn’t trust May and her government to organise a piss-up in a Members’ Lounge, let alone negotiate all of our futures. They’ve just papered over the inherent contradictions of the border issue so that progress can be seen to be made, not actually made. You can’t have no checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic and no checks between Northern Ireland and mainland UK while maintaining that a hard border exists between the UK and the EU. This accepts freedom of movement by default; in which case, what on earth is the point of maintaining that the UK needs to leave the single market and customs union?

Unless... the plan is to restrict freedom of movement by requiring identity checks within the UK of anyone “foreign” whenever suspicion arises that they aren’t in the UK legitimately. That would certainly be in keeping with May’s track record as Home Secretary and PM. So, if you look or sound “different”: papers, please. So much for EU27 citizens (or any other immigrants, or children of immigrants) now being able to feel secure here. Whether or not companies feel that this “breakthrough” gives them enough reason to pause their Brexit contingency plans, I doubt it will cause most affected individuals to do so.

Read More · 9 December 2017 · Politics

Have You, in Fact, Got Any Cheese Here at All?

In an extraordinary moment in a week full of them, it became clear yesterday that Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis has been bluffing on Brexit, and that the 58 (or 57, or 50–60) impact assessments he has alluded to for months, and which were requested by Parliament six weeks ago, do not, in fact, exist.

Read More · 7 December 2017 · 1 Comment · Politics

Turner Reprise

Given how willing Britain’s MPs seem to be to burn down their country through their own indecisiveness and blinkered attachment to the past, it’s no surprise that they’re willing to risk the same fate for their workplace.

Read More · 1 December 2017 · UK Culture

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