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Sandpit

January 9th, 2012

A new sandpit for long side discussions, idees fixes and so on.

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  1. Ikonoclast
    January 9th, 2012 at 22:14 | #1

    Are capitalist firms like Komodo dragons? The Komodo dragon is a gruesome and fascinating beast.

    “The Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), also known as the Komodo monitor, is a large species of lizard found in the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores, Gili Motang and Gili Dasami. A member of the monitor lizard family (Varanidae), it is the largest living species of lizard, growing to a maximum length of 3 metres (9.8 ft) in rare cases and weighing up to around 70 kilograms (150 lb). – Wikepedia.
    However, a University of Melbourne study notes mature adult males as weighing over 100kg and exceeding 3 metres in length.

    Young Komodo dragons look like small lizards growing up to goanna size and will eat anything small enough to be eaten including insects, rodents, juvenile monkeys and smaller Komodo dragons. The Komodo is carnivorous and cannibalistic. At this size, they can climb trees and spend much time up there to avoid the large adults who have become too heavy to climb trees.

    The adult Komodo dragon is a hunter and carrion eater. The Komodo dragon’s bite is notorious. The mouth sports over 60 highly serrated and specialised teeth of about 2.5 cm or 1 inch which are frequently replaced during the animal’s lifetime. A bite from an adult male can break a bullock’s hock or take out a chunk of flesh the size of an NFL football. The Komodo’s bite is septic with many species of virulent pathogenic bacteria identified including E. coli, Staphylococcus sp., Providencia sp., Proteus morgani and P. mirabilis. The Komodo’s saliva is copious and pink or red tinged from blood due to the gingival tissue constantly growing up the teeth and being torn back by the Komodo’s aggressive biting habits. It is thought that this blood charged saliva is the perfect breeding medium for bacteria picked up from carrion. It is unknown in detail how the Komodo can tolerate this high bacteria load.

    Melbourne University researchers have recently found in Komodos “complex venom glands and specialised serrated teeth which create deep lacerations for entry of the venom.” Komodo venom was found to be similar to that of the gila monster and many snakes. The main active components cause severe loss of blood pressure by widening blood vessels and also prevent coagulation in wounds thus promoting severe bleeding. Badly bitten animals tend to go into shock quite rapidly and opportunist Komodos converge on the stricken animal from every direction and compete with the original hunter to tear the prey apart. A boar or bullock can be torn apart and devoured in as little as 20 or 30 minutes. Lightly bitten or gashed animals may escape only to succumb to blood poisoning several days or a week later. Again, they become Komodo food as a dying beast or as carrion.

    Komodos swallow large chunks of flesh and bone wholesale and rest for a week or two to digest their repast. One side of a ribcage, a whole ham of a boar or even a boar’s head will go straight down the Komodo’s gullet. The Komodo will expand its jaw almost like a snake, overstuff its mouth with one of these trophies and then butt the huge bleeding, shuddering chunk against a tree to ram it down. Don’t invite a Komodo to your next dinner party. Komodos often lie in wait concealed in tussocks, brush or scrub and charge prey that comes too close. The Komodos charge’s can cover at least 50 meters before they abandon unsuccessful chases. They will seek to bite a leg or rump in this chase. Only a very fit and alert young adult human could outrun this charge if given about 20 or 30 meters head start. The usual unfit late middle-aged tourist would have no chance and indeed a few lone wandering tourists have been eaten.

    Komodos exhibit a kind of blind “competitive cooperation” in hunting that is rather different from perhaps more typical cooperative hunting. Komodos compete and fight violently over prey, mates and territory but these relatively brief frenzied displays are interspersed with long torpid periods which give the false impression that they are always a slow moving animal. I find the “blind competitive cooperation” (my non-scientific term for it) most interesting. In biting an animal in its solo attack, a Komodo is seeking only to turn this animal into its own prey. Whether a large prey animal succumbs quickly or dies a week later it tends to become the focus of a feeding frenzy that attracts six, eight or more adult Komodos. All Komodos in the vicinity stand to potentially benefit from a successful bite from one Komodo. Every successful hunting bite (or series of bites) is a blind benefit for others of the species.

    Komodo dragons are astonishing in other ways too. Komodo dragons have the ZW chromosomal sex-determination system, as opposed to the mammalian XY system. An isolated, unfertilised female can produce viable eggs by parthenogenesis. Unlike mammalian parthenogenesis where the offspring is female and a perfect clone of the mother, the offspring from ZW chromosomal parthenogenesis are all male.

    “It has been hypothesized that this reproductive adaptation allows a single female to enter an isolated ecological niche (such as an island) and by parthenogenesis produce male offspring, thereby establishing a sexually reproducing population (via reproduction with her offspring that can result in both male and female young). Despite the advantages of such an adaptation, zoos are cautioned that parthenogenesis may be detrimental to genetic diversity.” – Wikipedia.

    Are capitalist firms like Komodo dragons? Well I reckon they are but that was just my slim pretext for writing about Komodo Dragons.

  2. Ernestine Gross
    January 10th, 2012 at 17:05 | #2

    Good one, Ikonoclast, in more than one sense (except perhaps the female angle).

  3. TerjeP
    January 10th, 2012 at 19:05 | #3

    I was thinking they were like government departments each having a bite at you irrespective of what other government departments are up to.

  4. iain
    January 10th, 2012 at 22:28 | #4

    @TerjeP
    Or like a senior ranking union boss “Komodos swallow large chunks of flesh and bone wholesale and rest for a week or two”

  5. Ikonoclast
    January 11th, 2012 at 07:46 | #5

    For sure, I’ve come across government departments and union bosses whom I have liked as little as a rapacious private enterprise outfit.

  6. may
    January 11th, 2012 at 12:27 | #6

    is that small scale capitalism or large scale corporate capitalism?

    small scale —nimble and responsive and when not squeezed by large scale capitalism,really,really productive.

    large scale capitalism—komodo?aren’t you being a bit harsh to a poor hard done by,poison slime,rot you alive old lizard.at least i can avoid the lizard by going nowhere near it but avoiding large scale capitalism is impossible,their blasted advertising is everywhere.

    and/or.also.

    a cross between soviet style command and control and feudalism in hyperdrive.

  7. Ikonoclast
    January 11th, 2012 at 12:51 | #7

    @may

    You may have a point. :)

  8. January 11th, 2012 at 15:33 | #8

    Various capitalist enterprises are exploiting the komodo dragons’ native habitat, but under communism, komodo dragon exploits you! (Provided of course that for some reason communism has broken your legs and dumped you on Flores Island.)

  9. Ikonoclast
    January 12th, 2012 at 07:16 | #9

    One motivation for posting my little (slightly sensationalised) piece on Komodo dragons was this. I am struck by the average modern person’s lack of respect for the natural world, for natural forces both physical and biological. Respect can come from acknowledging the beauty of the natural world or perhaps its fascination. Komodo dragons are fascinating but not beautiful except perhaps in the eyes of a zoologist admiring their biology, behaviours and adaptations.

    Respect can also come in the form of a high level of due and healthy fear. This is the sense in which I respect the funnel web spider and the king brown snake. In addition to the desecration and damage we are doing to the biosphere, it is this respect in the form due fear that we are failing to pay. Our hubris, our over-weening pride in economic, scientific and technical accomplishments is blinding us to the fact that we and our civilization still live inside the natural world and not over and above it.

  10. James Haughton
    January 12th, 2012 at 11:01 | #10

    @Ronald Brak
    Curiously, that (“Broken your legs and dumped you on Flores Island”) is more or less exactly what the Dutch did to Sukarno, pre-WWII.

  11. January 12th, 2012 at 11:58 | #11

    I was wondering where communism got the idea from! But I don’t think Sukarno’s legs were broken. If they were, he hid it surprisingly well.

  12. January 13th, 2012 at 03:40 | #12

    A proposal on how to improve the debate between economists.
    http://europlay.blogspot.com/2012/01/one-debate-to-rule-them-all.html

  13. Dan
    January 13th, 2012 at 08:17 | #13

    @Mr. Violet (@EuropeanViolet)

    I read your proposal and I have three key concerns/criticisms:

    1) There is no economics without politics and ethics. Chiefly, what you think about the importance of equity will fundamentally affect your understanding or the nature and importance of efficiency. But there are other deep philosophical assumptions too (eg. can nature be described in dollar terms?)

    2) One of the reasons economists disagree is fundamentally different units of analysis; in other words, they are talking past each other. Even apparently elementary ideas such as money remain, and will remain, difficult to define. In practice, this means that a lot of times one is convinced by an economic argument, it is not because other arguments are logically incorrect; it is because the argument you find convincing rests on definitions/understandings you agree with.

    3) Is there public appetite for such a debate? As far as I can see, most people have very limited interest in, or understanding of, economic issues. This is borne out by the utterly glib and lame economic analysis offered by (frequently innumerate) pollies; comparing household to national debt, for instance.

  14. Wooster
    January 13th, 2012 at 08:36 | #14

    @Dan

    I’m not particularly knowledgeable about the intricacies of economics, but I agree with your point about “ethics”.
    Have you by chance read E.F. Schumacher’s classic “Small is Beautiful” – “A Study of Economics as if people Mattered”?

  15. Dan
    January 13th, 2012 at 09:31 | #15

    No! Onto the list it goes.

  16. Ken Fabian
    January 13th, 2012 at 10:02 | #16

    Whether it’s corporate, union or bureaucratic excess, isn’t the problem shortsightedness and self interest unrestrained by any ethical or moral backbone? The more I look, the more they look the same. The excessive rise of the power – or loss of power – of any one of them will be problematic but always more so when the leadership of each fails to look further than near term and beyond their narrow sectional interests.

  17. Troy Prideaux
    January 13th, 2012 at 10:14 | #17

    @Dan
    “3) Is there public appetite for such a debate? As far as I can see, most people have very limited interest in, or understanding of, economic issues. This is borne out by the utterly glib and lame economic analysis offered by (frequently innumerate) pollies; comparing household to national debt, for instance.”

    Totally agree with all points, and particularly on the 3rd, whilst the avg joe on the street will jump at the chance to offer their criticizing rant of Gillard, Abbott et al and perhaps energy costs, but they’ll be far more reserved about macroeconomic reform. And why not – all the primary economic indicators in comparison to Europe and the US are quite sound – employment, balance of trade, interest rates, taxation, housing price stability, income levels etc.
    Much of the employment in manufacturing have moved on to warehousing, service industries or manufacturing that directly supports the mining and resource industries, so much of that anxiety about macroeconomic rationalization and free trade liberalization (right down to the fitters and turners) has been trampled all over with the enthusiastic assistance of conservatives who are all so ready to tell us what prosperity such policies have brought us. We choose to ignore working hours, productivity demands and what’s happening with many of our large flagship companies eg. Qantas, Telstra, Fosters etc.
    After all, we are the world’s quarry, and whilst we have all this lovely revenue pouring in supporting our balance of trade numbers, keeping the dollar high and hence supporting cheaper imports, OS travel costs and much of our service industry, then why should we care. If you say the high dollar is also helping to kill manufacturing, they will say – “well, we don’t really need to make stuff anyway”.
    Year by year, we are losing non resource driven manufacturing capacity, capability and skills in this great country. The statistics and numbers clearly illustrate that.
    I just worry, when this mining boom is over, sure our dollar might fall to allow us to be more competitive, but what capacity, capability and skills will be there to not completely rely on imports.

  18. Dan
    January 13th, 2012 at 11:18 | #18

    @Troy Prideaux

    Thanks Troy, and yes, where Australia goes after mining is a fascinating question and one that I think about quite a bit (to no great effect, truth be told).

    It’s not manufacturing – our comparative advantage here is long-gone; as developing countries move from cheap labour to mechanised, high-tech, still relatively cheap labour, this is set increasingly in stone.

    Frankly my (completely unoriginal) take on the matter is that we need to become and remain an R&D powerhouse in as many areas as possible and particularly renewable energy technologies. Correspondingly, big investment in education (especially higher education) and incentives for grads to stick around in Oz are required.

  19. Troy Prideaux
    January 13th, 2012 at 11:31 | #19

    @Dan
    Dan,
    R&D actually has a lot stronger reliance on manufacturing than many think it has.

    If Germany can be a manufacturing powerhouse, then why can’t we? If the US can increase manufacturing output by ~10% in 2010 IIRC, then why can’t we at least keep our non resource driven manufacturing at level pegging? If Korean motor vehicle manufacturing costs are basically on par with what they are here, then why can’t we make things?

  20. Dan
    January 13th, 2012 at 11:50 | #20

    Two problems:

    1) economies of scale
    2) existing infrastructure

  21. may
    January 13th, 2012 at 15:38 | #21

    Marmalade.
    (what has that got to do with production?)
    i love Marmalade.
    i go into a duomarket and have a choice of home brand A or home brand B or brand sludge,brand slop, brand gunk or something that closely resembles Marmalade from the “land of the cheese eating surrender monkeys who have no word for entrepreneur”,except the use grape juice as a sweetener instead of cane sugar.which is fair enough,they have a lot of grapes.
    but
    Marmalade is a doddle to make.
    1) oranges.
    2) cane sugar.
    and
    properly sealed,lasts practially forever.
    i can do it but i’d rather buy it.
    and i know where to get real,thick,spread it on hot buttered toast Marmalade.
    and
    i tell no one(hint. it’s not and if they have any thing to do with it,never will be,in a duomarket)

    the point of this blither is there are amazingly productive small scale capitalist people who are completely unable to market their produce anywhere but at weekend so called farmers markets.
    i cannot buy their produce during the week,if i want what they are selling and they are trying another market from the one i am at,i miss out.
    if they went to the manager of one of the duomarkets and proposed a deal they wouldn’t even be acknowleged.

    competition and productivity in “duomarket world” means garlic from China or Spain but not from 50 kms away,a choice between home brand A and home brand B.

    i’ve talked to quite a few people also and i’m not the only one who has noticed the disappearance of familiar products from the shelves of duomart.

    when i said soviet style command and control,i wasn’t kidding.

  22. may
    January 13th, 2012 at 15:40 | #22

    duomarket is a closed shop?

  23. Troy Prideaux
    January 13th, 2012 at 17:16 | #23

    @may
    It’s a disgrace; only surpassed by their treatment to many of their suppliers!

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