A few links to finish the month on, political and otherwise.
Chris Wylie’s appearance before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee on Tuesday was explosive; I happened to catch a tweet about it as it was about to start, and ended up sitting through all 2–3 hours of it. The Cambridge Analytica story is way bigger than Brexit alone, but nobody who values UK democracy can trust the EU Referendum result now.
At last, a Trump tweet that we can all agree with:
Remember when they were saying, during the campaign, that Donald Trump is giving great speeches and drawing big crowds, but he is spending much less money and not using social media as well as Crooked Hillary’s large and highly sophisticated staff. Well, not saying that anymore!
True. Now that they know better, they’re saying that Donald Trump was giving terrible speeches, drawing crowds smaller than he claimed, spending more money than declared in dubious ways, and covertly using social media to skew the election. You tell ’em, realDonaldTrump.
Carole Cadwalladr’s latest exposés of Cambridge Analytica and Vote Leave campaign funding have finally propelled the data hacking that compromised the EU referendum and US presidential election into global headlines. The timing could hardly have been better for my course on Digital Education in Global Context, which had been looking at social networks the week before the Wylie story broke, and at ethics and surveillance the week it happened.
It’s been another extraordinary few weeks for Britain and Brexit, with a chemical attack on British soil, revelations about data breaches, and a transition agreement that does nothing except hide inherent contraditions and postpone difficult decisions until after we’ve left the EU and lost all bargaining power or any way back from this mess.
Someone once called A Brief History of Time the most popular book that nobody had finished, but in my case that wasn’t true: I was reading quite a few popular science books at the time it appeared, and there was none more popular than that, so I bought it and read it—all the way through. It was only a few years after my own peak science period, when I’d taken advanced maths and physics in grade 12 and moved on to a maths degree. (That eventually became a computer science degree, and then gave way to postgrad studies in political science, so thoroughly did I fall out with calculus and linear algebra at university—although I kept the stats going until the end).
The Commons Brexit committee has just published the official internal Brexit Impact study leaked to BuzzFeed last month, and it clears up a question I’d been debating with someone on Twitter the previous day. It started when MEP Seb Dance tweeted the list of Brexit impacts on regional growth of -2% to -11% and compared them with “Worst UK fall in 2008 crash: -2%”.
One commenter said, “You’ve confused a % reduction in growth with a fall in gdp. These are not the same.”
Today is the kids’ first day back at school since last Tuesday, after a Siberian weather system swept over Britain and blanketed Edinburgh with the most snow we’ve seen since 2010. It was unusual snow for us, too: dry and powdery, Rockies-style. Good skiing weather, if we only we could have got the car out of its snow-covered side street and driven to the hills.
It didn’t feel particularly cold once the wind dropped, but the whole place ground to a halt. It snowed for a few days in January, too, but that was fine—the kids went to school, we went to work. This time, not only were the kids off school for three days, but my university closed early on Wednesday and stayed closed for the rest of the week. I can’t remember it ever closing because of snow before.