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Wonderful elegy

Read Brent Simmons’ reasoning on why he doesn’t want ubiquitous computing. Brent truly is a gifted, poetic writer. “Okay, picture the toaster that is really good at sensing the done-ness of the toast, and pops when the toast is perfect, every time. What happens to the poetry of real life?

What crisis?

President Bush’s announcement of his plan to deal with the US energy “crisis” has understandably occasioned voluminous comment. What puzzles me, however, is how many normally sober news sources have mindlessly adopted Bush’s use of the word crisis to describe something that, to my mind, isn’t remotely a crisis.

Both the BBC and the Financial Times, normally paragons of sobriety, use the term crisis. Fortunately, on BBC Radio 4 this morning, Bob May, president of the Royal Society, had the good sense to put matters right. May pointed out that with 5% of the world’s population, the US accounted for about 40% of carbon dioxide emissions. The Bush plan, he said, seems designed to up that to around 50% at a time when the rest of the world wants to go the other way.

May was speaking on the occasion of 17 national science academies backing the Kyoto protocal on climate change. The US National Academy of Science was the only major academy not to sign the statement. The NAS will be making its own statement in June, after it has filed a report on the subject for the Bush administration. The BBC story linked above, incidentally, is a model of balanced reporting — for those readers of Davos Newbies who have objected in the past to my stance on climate change.

The New York Times makes the point about the so-called crisis in an unusually forthright editorial.

Truth and lies

Tom Friedman. “Mr. Clinton may have lied about his sex life, but he, Bob Rubin and Larry Summers told the truth about numbers. The Bushies are all good boys who go home to their wives at 6 p.m., but that’s after a day of fudging all sorts of numbers to get their mammoth tax cut passed. Personally, if I have to choose, I prefer people who cheat on their wives to people who cheat on our kids.”

There will always be an England

A minor example of the civilised eccentricity that makes Britain such a good place to live, despite the weather. BBC2 is currently running a series of 10-minute programmes in prime time about individual trees. It sounds crazy, but it’s wonderful. Can you imagine someone trying to pitch that to a Hollywood producer?

3 thoughts on “Davos Newbies Home

  1. Alan I

    Here’s Webster’s definition of “crisis”:

    “The point of time when it is to be decided whether any affair or course of action must go on, or be modified or terminate; the decisive moment; the turning point.”

    Now it’s hard to believe that Californians, in 2001, in the technological center of the US, are dealing with brownouts and prices ten times higher than they were a year ago, and two major providers in bankruptcy. That they are indicates, to me, a crisis has occurred. One can argue exactly when the crisis came, but we should all be able to agree that it has in fact arrived.

    Sure, Bush adopted the word for his cronies’ political advantage, and his plan isn’t going to resolve any crises, but that a republican administration has acknowledged the crisis is hardly grounds for complaint.

  2. Ken Hagler

    There’s nothing new about the media reaction to this “energy crisis.” It’s just like the coverage of Clinton’s “health care crisis.” There was no real crisis there, either.

    I’ve noticed that the media is generally willing to use the language politicians give them. Politicians seem to prefer a fake crisis, because it’s easier to “fix” a nonexistent crisis than a real one.

  3. Brian Carnell

    The BBC story linked above, incidentally, is a model of balanced reporting — for those readers of Davos Newbies who have objected in the past to my stance on climate change.

    It was a very interesting article indeed. I think the bottom line is simple: do you believe that computer models of global climate that still don’t accurately account for something as basic as cloud cover can give a prediction with a 90 percent degree of accuracy?

    I don’t. If they had said that this is their best guess, I’d have had fewer problems with the IPCC report.

    (BTW, the 90 percent probability is interesting coming from a pharmaceutical background. Anytime a pharma. company I worked for would do a study of a new drug they’d want at least a 95 percent confidence for the study’s result. About halfway through on a lot of studies you’d realize this was never going to happen, so you’d find a way to massage the data slightly so the study would produce some positive finding at a 90 percent confidence interval.)

    Also note that it is a little self-serving to compare emissions per capita, since this is simply another way of saying that the U.S. has a higher per capita GDP than Europe (except for France because of it uses of nuclear power). And it is equally self-serving for me to point out that if you instead look at emissions/GDP, it turns out that the United States is relatively efficient at producing the most dollars with the least CO2 emissions.


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