Davos Newbies Home

Sunday is an odd day in the Davos context. The morning is reserved for “Sports Day”, but it was snowing so hard today that few outdoor sports were possible. The yoga session we had arranged with Larry Payne from UCLA, however, was packed.

In the afternoon, we have big, set piece plenary sessions. The first session paired US secretary of state Madeleine Albright and treasury secretary Larry Summers. This was the first time the two had been on a stage together, they said in the green room. Only in Davos.

The remarks by both were well-considered, but I really wonder whether the art of oration has died completely in the US. Clinton yesterday had intelligent things to say, but they were delivered very flatly. Summers and Albright, however, were very good over questions. They both acknowledged that much of the world is concerned about US domination, but they categorically denied any kind of American imperialism. Cooperation and coalition were the hallmarks.

After the Larry and Madeleine show (our fond designation of the session), we had King Abdullah II of Jordan. He gave what was probably the speech of the meeting, and his answers to totally unscripted questions from the floor were sincere and eloquent. “Some people wish for peace for our children and their children. This is not enough. We must insist on peace for ourselves.” Hugely impressive.

I wish I could say the same about the Russian plenary that followed. I was relieved that they stuck to their time limits, since three of the four panelists had turned up with 20 minute speeches, instead of the six minutes for remarks that we had allotted. But it was profoundly boring.

***Clinton follow-up
The visit of a president does many things, prime among them generating reams of media coverage.

BBC Online had Clinton gives world trade wake-up call while CNN had Clinton pushes open trade. Bizarrely, to my mind, both led with demonstrations rather than the president.

For someone involved in the Congress Centre the three hours of demonstrations caused a handful of problems (participants could not return to the Congress Centre from one direction because of blocked roads). The 1,200 protestors broke the windows of a McDonald’s (what else?) and injured two policemen. My trust in the Swiss cantonal police plunged to a new low, since I think most police forces would have contained this limited number of demonstrators far more effectively — and with less violence.

But I really think the media have vastly overplayed the story. But I guess that’s what the protestors wanted.

The New York Times had a more evocative take on the speech: “At Conference on Trade, Clinton Makes a Pitch for the Poor”. I liked that, except whoever wrote the headline should realise that one of the last ways anyone I know would describe Davos is as a “conference on trade”.

On a different note, FT.com had a sidebar on Protestors upstage Clinton. Was this about the demonstrations in the street? No, it concentrated on the refusal of our audience of CEOs to leave their seats for our security check before the president’s plenary.

***Newbie information
This newbie act is catching. Dave Winer devotes what I believe to be the longest-ever Dave Net to newbie advice. My belief that Dave should be in Davos is confirmed by his reactions: “I came to a different conclusion.The people at Davos are thirsty to know. There are a lot of things they don’t understand, but the spirit of Davos is Ask!”

Dan Gillmor, who is doing his eJournal from Davos, told me he has figured it out (he’s a loyal Davos Newbie). “Go to the lunches and dinners where you know something about the topic, so you can participate. Go to sessions in the hall on topics you know nothing about.” I think that’s perceptive.

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