Thursday 24 June, 2021

Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of the Brexit referendum!

Quote of the Day

”I don’t know what our relationship will be in 20 years’ time. I don’t know what the EU will be like in 20 years. And maybe I don’t know what your Union here will be like in 20 years’ time. Who knows? So we have to be ready for change.” * João Vale de Almeida , the EU’s Ambassador to London Lovely.

Bitcoin news

It’s peaked (at least for the time being). But if you had Bitcoins before late 2020, you could still contemplate a comfortable retirement.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Mozart | Laudate Dominum, KV 339 | Patricia Janečková



Long Read of the Day

”A politics of hope against a politics of fear”

This is the title of a striking essay that Martin Wolf wrote in the Financial Times of May 1, 2019. It came up when I was digging through my notebook for a piece I’m incubating about concepts of democracy. The original text is behind a paywall, so here’s a summary based on my notes.

“Faith in the kind of democracy we prefer”, writes Wolf, “is declining. “And charismatic politicians are enticing people into giving them support. How should politicians of the centre and centre-right respond? The underlying reality that the only way for liberal democracy to survive is by enabling widely-shared prosperity.”

Amen to that.

Wolf has ten ideas for how to counter populist politics.

  1. Leadership matters. Democratic politics is not about buying votes. Politicians have to persuade people — i.e. get ‘buy-in’.
  2. Competence matters. Most populists are good at campaigning but useless at governing.
  3. Citizenship matters. “A democracy is a community of citizens. The sense of what is owed to — and expected from — citizens is the foundation of successful democracies.
  4. Inclusion matters. In the US the Gini coefficient (which measures inequality of market incomes) is not particularly high, but inequality of disposable incomes is much higher. This is a policy choice, not an accident.
  5. Economic reform matters. As Paul Collier (in The Future of Capitalism) and Colin Mayer (in Prosperity), argue we need reform of taxation and of the corporation if we are to create a society that is economically successful and more inclusive.
  6. The ‘local’ matters. “devolving decisions, while also giving communities the means to revitalise themselves, must be part of good new politics.”
  7. Public services matter — “even if people dislike paying the taxes needed to support them…. The libertarian idea of a minimal state that leaves all this to a free market is not only unworkable, but incompatible with democracy”.
  8. Managed globalisation and global cooperation also matter. “No country is an island. We depend on ideas, resources, people, goods and services from other countries. National sovereignty does matter. But it is not all that matters.”
  9. Looking ahead matters. “We live in a world of large long-term upheavals — notably climate change, artificial intelligence and the rise of Asia. Good governments must look at these changes and what these things might mean for their peoples. If democracies cannot do this kind of forward thinking, then they will fail.”
  10. Complexity matters. Mencken: “For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.” Wolf: “A politics that rests on popular anger and despotic whim is bound to fail. The right response has to be a politics that bases hope on realism. That is the only sort of democratic politics worth doing.”

Wolf is one of the wisest people I read.

Startups Race Microsoft to Find Better Ways to Cool Data Centers

Nonconducting liquids show promise in replacing expensive and wasteful air conditioning.


Data centers consume 2% to 4% of the world’s electricity, and almost half of that power goes to cooling, according to the Uptime Institute, a consulting firm in Seattle. Early on, most data was kept on-site at the banks, universities, or corporations that generated it, where cooling often meant little more than opening the window. Today, a growing share of the world’s data is consolidated in megacenters with thousands of processors, and the vast majority of them use traditional air conditioning. While some heat is good for computers, too much can cause systems to crash, and with each generation of computer chips running faster and hotter, the systems will soon be too hot for even the most efficient air conditioner. Finding better ways to keep temperatures down could save the industry some $10 billion a year on electricity alone, according to Uptime. “Air just isn’t a very effective medium for transferring heat,” says Rabih Bashroush, global head of IT advisory services at Uptime.

So what to do? Answer:

Microsoft — which has more than 200 data-centres globally — is testing systems in which servers are bathed directly in a fluid that doesn’t conduct electricity. It estimates liquid cooling could allow it to fit 10 times as much computing power in the same space. “We’re just starting down the liquid path,” says Christian Belady, chief of the unit that develops technology for data centers. “You’re going to see a lot of rapid change in how we do things.”

One of the startups hoping to exploit this, er, liquid opportunity, is called Iceotope! It’s based in Sheffield.

Boris Johnson’s next own goal

UEFA’s leaders threatened last week to take the final away from Wembley and move it to Hungary unless 2,500 of their dignitaries can avoid quarantine rules. Now they are “working closely” with the UK government using the so-called elite sport exemption to enable a 2,500-strong horde of hangers-on and parasites to come to the UK for the final.

As usual, Marina Hyde gets to the heart of the matter:

The optimistic among us would hope Uefa might come to understand that trying to blag 2,500 members of the “football family” through under the elite sport exemption was a bit of a stretch – unless the sport in question was expensing five-course dinners and sex workers.

But the realists among us – ie everyone with any experience of football governance and current UK governance – will be thinking that something rather less palatable is in the offing. Is hosting the final worth further compromising the idea that we’re all somehow in this together, or is the waiving of Covid rules for a bunch of largely parasitic liggers regarded as a price worth paying by Boris Johnson’s government?

My hunch: the government will cave. Too many votes in football.

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