92 thoughts on “Sandpit

  1. @Tim Macknay

    You’d assume wrongly in that case.

    Over a few threads in recent weeks there has been a rough divide between “doomers” and “cornucopians” (to use the two quite unhelpful labels applied over the years to these sorts of discussions). ‘Magical Thinking’ is directed generally at things that tend toward, although not necessarily to the extreme of, things like glorious future of space colonies.

    I perceived Ikon’s “95%” to be a concession away from the “certainty” which seemed to cause such a stir previously.

    Since you appear to concede at least the possibility of serious disruption, and since it appears that probability or levels of “certainty” is what’s bothering you: What is your rough outlook percentage wise?

  2. sorry, Tim, i didn’t mean to buy in to some on-going debate regarding degrees of realistic/unrealistic optimism. i must say i am guilty of not reading all of the thread, so mea culpa.

    i will say briefly that i agree with megan’s dot points and i harbour a deeply pessimistic view which i have carried since ’09. the stuff about the holocaust i read as a baroque flourish, i was not aware it was directed to you specifically.

    as i have throughout my life been predisposed to cautious optimism, i live in hope growing fainter by the year, that the race will survive the century, and that by some unfathomable quirk the optimism of other people will sustain us in sensible form long enough to muddle through.

    so, to stay out of the way of others, who, in good faith, are able to find their way to be optimistic, i don’t usually talk about it.

    sorry if i upset you.
    alfred venison

  3. @Tim Macknay

    Hmmm, where to start?

    “Since the Meadows Report and subsequent follow-ups didn’t assign probabilities to any of the modelled scenarios, I take this to mean you just made it up.”

    Equally, I can say your “cautious concern” and your rationales for adopting this equivocating position are “just made up”. What quantitative data do you have to support what is implicitly a 50-50 position? How did you do your probabilistic assessment for this 50-50 position or did you just make it up?

    Cautious concern can be and often is code for “give it lip service, appear enlightened and then proceed with business as usual.”

    With regard to scenarios we must first start with what is an undeniable law in the known universe. Growth cannot continue indefinitely in a finite system. The corollary: Growth (of any entity or sub-system) in a finite system must eventually cease. For the time being we can limit growth to mean growth in human population and growth in human built and maintained systems (infrastructure etc.).

    Thus growth must cease sooner or later. There are three broad ways in which growth could cease. The rationale for this broad categorisation is based on likely negative impacts on humans and human civilization of benign, moderate and catstrophic respectively.

    1. Plateau at a permanently sustainable level (plus or minus some small allowance for fluctuations over time, let us say plus or minus 5%). (Benign or minimal negative impacts.)

    2. A peak followed by a slow, relatively well-managed decline to something a bit off peak (maybe 10% to 20% below peak). This would equate to a slight to moderate overshoot followed by a mostly human managed correction that saves most of the situation whilst minimising harm and suffering. (Moderate negative impacts.)

    3. A peak followed by a steep decline (maybe but not necessarily a so-called Seneca Cliff). This equates to a serious overshoot of earth’s carrying capacity (with regard to its capacity to carry a large human population supportable only by widespread industrial agriculture and other energy intensive industrial systems). This serious overshoot is followed by a correction essentially enforced by the laws of physics, ecology, biology, physiology etc. and not able to be managed or prevented in the circumstances by man and all his technologies.

    I take it you accept that growth (of any entity or sub-system) in a finite system must eventually cease. Thus you must accept at least one of the above three scenarios must occur or that any one of three could occur with varying degrees of probability. Opting for option 1 as likely or most likely means (in my opinion) ignoring all the very considerable existent evidence, data and various assessments quantitative, probabilistic and qaulitative that we are already in overshoot. In my opinion there is a vanishingly small probability that we are not already in overshoot.

    How do I support this contention that “there is a vanishingly small probability that we are not already in overshoot”. For brevity’s sake I will list the issues already becoming very concerning and problematic without adding attendant evidence. You will be aware enough of the issues and evidence to be convinced (I think) that these are all already serious concerns. Here goes in no particular order;

    Climate change.
    Ocean acidification.
    Wild fisheries collapse.
    Sea level rise.
    Earth in 6th mass extinction event of last 500 million yrs this one with no cause but man.
    Peak oil (about 2005)
    Peak fossil fuel energy (about 2015 to 2025 on most current measures)
    Possible peak exergy crisi (energy available for useful work) 2005 – 2050?
    Expanding world water crisis (fresh water available for human use).
    Arable land crisis.
    Topsoil (loss of) crisis.
    Looming peak minerals crisis (for a number of critical minerals and rare earths and even things like helium and phosphorous).

    Given that we are still growing exponentially at a time when all the above and much more are manifesting as CURRENT problems (not future problems), the thesis that we are already in overshoot (heavily dependent upon and rapidly drawing down finite stocks and/or rapidly filling up heat and waste sinks) has realistically only a vanishingly small chance of being incorrect. Believing anything else is as I say essentially wishful thinking which ignores all extant evidence.

    That leaves only two probable scenarios. The “late save and managed contraction” to which I assign us maybe a 1 chance in 20 of achieving. This leaves about a 95% chance of a collapse (as I have defined it) and maybe even a Seneca Cliff event.

    Now you can gish-gallop and equivocate yourself with your completely made up implied 50-50 cautious appraisal that there might be some danger over the hill somewhere or you can admit to your view the veritable mountain of evidence rearing up that we are already in overshoot mode right now. Frankly, your position requires a lot of current very alarming evidence to be completely ignored or heavily downplayed. My position takes stock of that evidence and applies it logically.

    Frankly, I am astonished by what a minority position the acceptance of LTG theory has even among intelligent, educated and scientifically literate people. The basic principles are very simple and completely irrefutable. The data ffor supporting an overshoot position right now are also very close to irrefutable. This phenomenon of denial is testament to most people’s inability to assess data and accept conclusions which imply a serious threat to their physical and psychological security; a clear case of not having the courage to face the truth. The deep denial you and others are in is testament to this fact.

  4. @Ikonoclast
    Happy to admit I just made up the “better than 50%” figure (I didn’t say 50:50). Megan asked for a probabilistic assessment, so I gave her one. I don’t really think probability figures can be meaningfully applied to future scenarios in this way, although the “better than 50%” does convey my sense that a bad outcome is quite likely. I was probably a little bit sniffy about your 95%, although I guess I was reacting to your implication that your level of certainty was based on infallible physical science.

    Cautious concern can be and often is code for ‘give it lip service, appear enlightened and then proceed with business as usual’

    Well, it was Megan’s phrase, not mine, and my impression is that she’s more in agreement with you than me. 😉
    But seriously, it’s interesting the degree of mutual incomprehension that comes up in these debates. For example, one of the things that grates for me about the “doom is inevitable” point of view is that I tend to think it promotes business as usual by destroying any motivation for trying to achieve positive change and encouraging the view that one should ‘get yours while the going is good’ and that the most rational course of action is to position yourself to be one of the overlords in the new feudal order when TSHTF, so to speak. Not that I think you believe that, of course.

    Regarding your list, yes I generally agree they’re all serious issues. I personally probably wouldn’t rate the physical resource issues as being as serious as the biological/ecological ones (I’m unconvinced that peak oil is actually a negative, for example). In the sense that the rates of exploitation of many of these resources cannot continue to grow or even be maintained at their current level for much longer, yes, I agree we are in overshoot. Global warming, certainly, represents a catastrophic risk. I’m close to 100% certain that the human population will peak and decline in this century, although I think there are a number of ways that may come about, not all catastrophic.

    I broadly agree with your two plausible scenarios, although I personally wouldn’t assign probabilities with the same degree of confidence. I generally agree with the view of Dennis Meadows that we probably can turn it around, but things will need to get worse before we wake up.

    Your position requires a lot of current very alarming evidence to be completely ignored or heavily downplayed. My position takes stock of that evidence and applies it logically.

    I disagree that “my position” requires a lot of evidence to be ignored or downplayed, unsurprisingly. I’m not entirely sure what you think “my position” is, to be honest.

    The deep denial you and others are in is a testament to that fact.

    Also unsurprisingly, I don’t think I’m in denial. Although I think I called you deluded further up the thread, so I probably had that one coming. It’s evident that we differ, though, on the extent to which LTG and related theories represent confirmed physical science as opposed to scientifically informed conjectures. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on that.

    It seems to me the discussion is at risk of becoming a little heated and personal, so I’ll say this – not withstanding our occasional stoushes Ikon, I value your contributions. I acknowledge that there are reasons to be pessimistic, and that a pessimistic outlook is not in itself unreasonable. I’m pessimistic to varying degrees myself, depending on the day. I’m not entirely sure why the doom stuff pushes my buttons – I guess it’s partly the demotivating thing I mentioned above, and partly “but someone is wrong on the Internet”. It was my intention to argue respectfully, and if I have not done so, and have unintentionally offended you, please accept my apologies.

  5. @Megan

    And roughly what is against “serious disruption” on the ‘less than 50% chance’ side?

    “Muddling through”, I guess. Or “late save and managed decline”, as Ikon put it. Although all this is so vague that what I’d call “muddling through” could be someone else’s “serious disruption”, and vice versa. And, acknowledging the general uncertainty around all this, a very slim but non-zero possibility of “unexpectedly happy outcome”.

    How about you. What are your spurious probability numbers?

  6. @Tim Macknay

    I found the context of my quote you refer to above. It was a post here in 2011 by JQ about “peak oil”.

    Why does everything need to be divided into two teams with “Cornucopians” on one side and “Doomers” on the other? Can’t we do “cautiously concerned” anymore?

    You have an interesting turn of phrase. I like your apology to Ikon “…if I have not done so, and have unintentionally offended you, please accept my apologies.”

    That leaves the intentional offence just hanging there, don’t you think?

    On the point at hand, this is how I see things:

    1. My short list above (climate change etc…), and the longer lists provided by others about very serious and relatively imminent problems we might have;

    2. Huge argument about the use of the word “certain”;

    3. After a lot of argument “certain” is replaced by “95%” and the reply to that is “greater than 50%”;

    4. On the one hand we have a list of things which everyone seems to more or less agree are ‘real’ and ‘serious’ and quite proximate, and on the other hand we have the reason we should not be too negative about those things:

    a) being negative plays into the hands of BAU by causing hopelessness;
    b) anyway, we’ll ‘muddle’ through…or something, or there may even be an unexpectedly happy outcome.

    To answer your question directly: I don’t have any spurious probability numbers.

  7. @Megan

    That leaves the intentional offence just hanging there, don’t you think?

    I don’t know where that’s coming from. What intentional offence? Your comment seems like an accusation.

    Are you offended that I quoted you? I didn’t quote you out of context, I quoted you because I agreed with the sentiment. What’s the problem?

  8. Those who would seem to deny LTG must include enthusiasts for a ‘Big Australia’. By word or deed that would seem to include Tony Abbott, Rupert Murdoch, Kevin Rudd and Bill Shorten. This week’s population projections by the ABS seem to convey a hint of glee, as if the government is egging them on. Public figures who seem to oppose Big Australia are fewer in number, for example Julia Gillard and Dick Smith.

    Become an Aussie and you cause 20 tonnes a year of CO2 and divert .9 megalitres of fresh water. I’d say the boat people have weighed up resource frugality vs. lavishness and act accordingly.

  9. For example, one of the things that grates for me about the “doom is inevitable” point of view is that I tend to think it promotes business as usual by destroying any motivation for trying to achieve positive change

    which is why i tend to keep my views about it to myself. nevertheless, i think there will be an rise in depression in the community as more people come to realise that it really is happening and that carrying on as we have means we may miss the train. -a.v.

  10. General comments. Tim Macknay doesn’t owe me any apologies. He argued his position robustly and called me out for pulling a probability number out of my ****. That’s fair enough.

    He was calling me on my propensity for dogmatic certainty in this debate. It is a little hard for me to convey precisely why I feel so certain about my position in this debate. I am a literalist and a materialist in this particular arena of thinking. I look at humans and the economy and see nothing but material processes going on; with these processes being carried out by animals much like any other animals.

    These processes (of the economy) I see as wholly governed by the laws of physics in general and the laws of thermodynamics in particular. At the same time, I call humans “animals” in this context not to be pejorative but to be accurate. I think we “mythologise” or “mystify” ourselves tending to presume that we are somehow special and that the laws, physical and biological, which apply to other animals don’t apply to us. In particular, modern humans seem to mystify, reify or “essentialise” (converse tendencies to some extent) supposed characteristics like ingenuity and a presumed specialness which somehow puts us in a category where we stand outside and above nature and natural forces. I think this narcissistic and hubristic tendency is at the heart of our not being able to assess ourselves and our position in nature more accurately. I see us as wholly enmeshed in, governed by and conditioned by natural forces.

    It is worth re-examining in this context an aphorism or two put forward by Francis of Veralum (Francis Bacon).

    “Human knowledge and human power meet in one; for where the cause is not known the effect cannot be produced. Nature to be commanded must be obeyed; and that which in contemplation is the cause is in operation as the rule.”

    “Towards the effecting of works, all that man can do is to put together or put asunder natural bodies. The rest is done by nature working within.”

    The above places human conceptual power and technological power in its proper setting as not something above and outside nature but as inside nature and wholly ruled and governed by the laws of nature. There is a proper humility in understanding that we don’t make things work. There is a nice and complete precision in understanding that ALL we do is “put together or put asunder natural bodies”. For “bodies” we could now read materials and forces or energies. the rest is “nature working within” and we don’t know why nature exists or why it works.

    This “proper humility” or respect for nature might be religious or spiritual or (as in my case) it might really be just a form of humanist enlightened self-interest. Lack of respect or due notice for very powerful forces and reactions (“against” our actions) is likely to be very injurious to the health. Lack of respect and notice for our dependent and contingent status within nature leads to fundamental mistakes. At the same time, I concede that once commenced on a technological path it is hard to see how we could have avoided many of our mistakes. It would have taken superhuman foresight and superhuman renunciation of hopes and possibilities.

    Be that as it may we are now at a fairly mature stage of science, technology and philosophy of science. We now understand that nature is not neatly mechanistic and determinstic (as was believed before the Theories of Relativity, Quantum theory and Chaos Theory. We now understand that natural systems and life systems will complexly evolve new states, new systems and new emergent properties and behaviours when we “interfere” or interact with them with the agency of technology. We now understand the guaranteed arrival of new unforeseen consequences.

    Whilst I am not mechanistic or deterministic in my overall philsophy I do hold that there is an arena of macro phenomena governed by probabalistic patterns which amount to a kind of determinism or approximate to determinism. Genuine random numbers in a range, generated by radioactive decay, by the inherent uncertainty in the quantum mechanical laws of nature, could conceivably be used to model a coin toss (a 50-50 event) for actual coin tosses are almost certainly not truly random. The general or pattern outcome can be tested by many “coin tosses” and what emerges is a determined or deterministic probabilistic pattern if I may call it that.

    In the same manner, I hold that the outcome of the “many coin tosses” we are now taking with nature (very strained analogy at this point to bridge and abridge a long argument) is becoming more and more strongly determined. To give one example, the increasing levels of CO2 are more and more increasingly weighted or biased coin tosses for global warming and all the attendant phenomena which follow in its train. Continuing exponential growth at a time when some scientists with considerable justification can point to signs of limits approaching and being quite near (resource supply limits and waste sink limits) is again more and more increasingly weighted or biased coin tosses for trouble, for hitting the wall.

    The question whether panicked doom-mongering (my mode) or cautious concern or even unconcern are more likely to generate inertia by anything from fatalism to complacency is an interesting one. My assessment is that BAU (Business As Usual) is an omnivore. It feeds off everything. The bottom line (and here I get ideological) is that BAU is late stage, corporate oligarchic capitalism. This is not a system geared to listening to democracy or the concerns of the many or concerns about natural limits. It is a system geared to grow, accelerate and perpetuate as if there are no limits.

    Given the nature and momentum of the system I hold that the juggernaut will continue until natural limits halt it or until (most optimistic assessment) the damage and danger become so manifest and obvious that a general outcry (code for revolution possibly) leads to fundamental changes in the system. My fear is we will go over the Seneca cliff or something like it even if we have already engaged the brakes. The momentum of our system is enormous.

  11. Tim said –

    …one of the things that grates for me about the “doom is inevitable” point of view is that I tend to think it promotes business as usual by destroying any motivation

    Where is the turnaround point of likelihood for doom becoming inevitability of doom? It seems to be at least as much about perceptions about the response to the problem as the problem itself.

    Failure to appreciate the potential for doom is de-motivating and this is being used deliberately by vested interests; climate science denial and the promotion of doubt de-motivates and these are being used aggressively and successfully by powerful interests at a mainstream political level. I think this in large part creates the conditions for the sense of powerlessness that makes doom seem inevitable. Which the same interests are very willing to use to the same purpose; ie to de-motivate. The former de-motivates the uninformed, uncommitted and unconcerned, turning them into opponents of action. The latter de-motivates the informed, concerned and committed but it works because of the success of the former, not it’s creator. In the absence of organised and embedded denial and obstructionism concern for damaging outcomes would be a strong motivator.

    Climate science denial within mainstream politics – not alarmism – is at the core of government inability to do the minimum necessary.

  12. BAU is late stage, corporate oligarchic capitalism. This is not a system geared to listening to democracy or the concerns of the many or concerns about natural limits. It is a system geared to grow, accelerate and perpetuate as if there are no limits.

    that is something that worries me a lot. it is also profoundly anti-democratic. i think if we don’t get a grip on things that the nation state will be extinct by the end of the century and a fascistic corporate state likely manifest as illiberal democracy will supplant it. i think it will happen over the resources material and financial necessary for aiding the population in climate catastrophes which will increasingly lay with corporations as nation states are systematically starved of funds in the name of freeing the market. it will happen passively or aggressively but it looms large as we keep empowering them at the expense of us as an existential crisis bears down on us. -a.v.

  13. Yes, I support the nation state and large, democratic government for a number of reasons. I agree with Churchill that it is “the worst system except for every other system”. The most likely alternatives to the modern democratic nation state are corporatism, the police state, anarchy or warlordism. I do have some sympathy for Americans who hate government. This has occurred because their government is so bad (in some but not all respects) and their consitution is so bad (written by slave owning landed gentry to protect the rights of slave owning landed gentry and now operating in the interests of modern oligarchs).

    We are now transitioning from democratic government to corporate governance of our society via corporate control of the economy and the locking out of government from oversight, command, control and management. This not freedom. This is the transfer of the power to run our society from the elected government to the board room and rich oligarchs.

    It is very concerning tha the three greatest powers in the world are;

    1. A corporate oligarchic state (USA).
    2. A corporate one party state (China).
    3. A Chekist State (Russia).

    None of them are even nearly genuinely democratic. The USA is the closest being quasi-democratic in effect for perhaps the socio-economic upper half of its population. But the USA is moving rapidly in the wrong direction. And we see plenty of Chekist apparatus in China and now arising in the USA (meaning secret police, extra-legal powers and surveillance powers).

  14. Thanks Ikon. I agree with all the comments about the general political-economic trend, which certainly reduces the chances of these issues being addressed.

    Ken Fabian, I agree that failure to appreciate the possibility of doom can also be demotivating.

  15. @Ikonoclast The strength of democracy is a small group of concerned and thoughtful citizens can band together and change things by running for office and winning elections.

    That is how new parties such as the ALP, the country party, DLP, and greens changed Australia. One Nation even had its 15 minutes of fame. look at the state and federal upper houses

    The ALP immediately won many seats and formed governments a few years later. Those agrarian socialists in the country party immediate secured cabinet seats.

    Over the 20th century, the state grew from a night watchmen size to account for 1/3rd to ½ of GDP with a generous welfare stat because this was popular with the median voter.

    • Communists were elected to 40 odd parliaments including in Europe and Japan.

    • The Trots put up a good show in French presidential races. Sadly, the English Trots get less votes than the monster raving loony party head to head.

    You may find democracy frustrating not because parliaments cannot change things.

    You may find democracy frustrating because you cannot win at the ballot box even under proportional representation in federal and state upper houses.

    When the shooters party, new DLP and the family and Christian parties win seats ahead of you, it is time to accept that your message simply does not resonate with the 99% of the electorate. Complete amateurs can win seats.

  16. @Jim Rose

    I’m sure you’ve posted this before. It was poorly argued then and the redux hasn’t improved it.

    This sentence is obviously one you like:

    it is time to accept that your message simply does not resonate with the 99% of the electorate.

    but it obviously misses the point. Whether messages “resonate” (ugh at the well-worn phrase) is a question that is entirely secondary to the utility of the message. Messages that “resonate” with people who are fools or malign or both and that are vacuous and incapable of being mapped to useful public policies and which end up merely reinforcing the interests of the privileged and/or subvert the common good ought to be discarded rather than held up as wisdom. The mindless search for “resonance” through focus groups was and is one of our system’s worst features.

    I’m not surprised that complete amateurs can win seats, but those complete amateurs will, at best, be irrelevant, when they are not playing a minor part in authoring poor policy. Those who argue for worthy policy but miss out can at worst be confident they have done no harm and may one day be listened to. But our reactionary airheads? They shame themselves and us with their conduct.

    It’s also unsurprising that you, an avowed enemy of equity, see this shame as a badge of authenticity.

  17. Tim, earlier you used the quote, “Can’t we do ‘cautiously concerned’ anymore?”

    I’m afraid the answer to that often is no. There are a good many people who will not accept ‘cautiously concerned’ and who will instead regard your caution as abominable. And the reason why is because of Dungeons and Dragons. Well, not Dungeons and Dragons specifically, but fantasy role playing in general. You see, just about everyone enjoys slaying monsters because we like to feel as though we are heroes. But because of this people easily fall into the trap of deceiving themselves. You see, the bigger the monster we fight is, the bigger the hero we feel ourselves to be, so some people exaggerate the size of the monster they are fighting in order to make themselves feel more heroic. And if you dare to point out that the monster isn’t really quite as large as they say it is, they will feel as though you are attacking them and trying to take away their feeling of heroism. And who would do such a terrible thing? Why only a monster of course! And so you will become their enemy and they will ascribe to you the sorts of beliefs they think their enemy has regardless of whether or not there is any evidence of you having them or even if you have given plenty of evidence of not having them. Basically they will demonise you because the more demonic you are they better they must be for opposing you, and it won’t matter if you’re not actually against them.

  18. @Jim Rose

    You’ll need to better than conjure lame strawmen, Jim. You’re the one citing as exemplary the appeal of the cognitively unaccomplished to the ethically and intellectually indolent.

    Warrant that if you can. Test your own ability to trigger ‘resonance’.

  19. For anyone who wants to wade through it, some interesting data about “peak fossil fuels”.

    Click to access EWG-update2013_long_18_03_2013.pdf

    The exponential (indeed near vertical now) rise in the cost of exploratory wells is interesting. Not only is solar becoming a lot cheaper, finding oil is becoming a lot dearer.

    That said, can we replace all fossil fuels with solar and wind power in a workable timeframe without economic disruptions? Also, will the lower EROEI of solar/wind, maybe 10:1 compared to the heyday of oil (100:1) be any kind of noticeable drag on the economy? Could we expect energy to cost roughly ten times as much in real terms with this feeding through in some proportion to the cost of all other goods and services?

  20. @Ikonoclast
    I think the answer is it takes decades and a small rich population to adjust to very high energy prices. Some have argued a mixed economy needs energy primary sources with an EROEI >8. Below that is the ‘cliff’ that takes us back to pre-industrial times.

    Tim Flannery and others are confident that difficult problems like large scale energy storage will be solved. What if it isn’t? If world population was say 1 billion and we had trillions in spare cash we could cope with existing limitations. AGW would not yet be a major problem so we could cope. Since more and more of us want all mod cons in a fast shrinking window to make the necessary changes I think things will be crook. This will be crystal clear by 2020 or so.

  21. @Hermit

    Below that is the ‘cliff’ that takes us back to pre-industrial times.

    Spot on.

    In the future it is almost certain that there will be all imaginable creature comforts – high quality gourmet foods, luxurious homes & transport, fine artworks & music, doctors & medicines, sport & entertainment and all the energy necessary to run those things (for the people who have them).

    Of course “we” probably won’t be the ones who have those things and “our” lives will likely be far more comparable to the feudal peasants than it is to today’s middle-class.

    When the going gets tough the 1% get what they want and the rest…. well, they’ll get by, or not.

  22. @Jim Rose

    No idea m8. I have a defined benefit scheme and no investments other than a house to live in. I know as much about investment portfolios as I know about string theory. Anway, I already have too much to eat, too many rooms to vacuum and more classics than I can ever read. Why would I need more of anything?

  23. The ALP is rotten to the core, what with the CIA ‘Protect’ stooges and the real white-anter neo-liberals.

    This Fairfax piece may be part of Abetz’s drive to destroy unions altogether, but as I’ve said many times before – they brought this upon themselves.

    The Fairfax investigation found that in 2010 the TWU orchestrated a covert campaign against its own Queensland branch then led by veteran left-wing leader Hughie Williams.

    The Queensland push resulted in the transfer of the TWU’s factional support in the ALP from the Left to Bill Shorten’s AWU-dominated Right faction.

    Insiders have detailed how the campaign was orchestrated by the office of national secretary and ALP deputy president Tony Sheldon, and the union’s NSW branch, with the support of then HSU leader Michael Williamson.

    The campaign was overseen in Brisbane by a team – described as a ”hit squad” by a senior Labor MP – of interstate union and Labor operatives, including from the offices of Labor MPs, among them federal opposition frontbencher David Feeney.

    Can’t see anything but good coming from the collapse of the faux-left stranglehold of the ‘Right Wing” unions on the ALP.

  24. @Megan

    I agree, the ALP is indeed rotten to the core. The Union Movement also appears to have gone totally rotten. I used to be a strong unionist. Even in my day it was becoming clear that “professional” union officials were poisoning the union movement, manipulating members and votes. They were (and still are) operating in a manner where power games looking upwards were the issue and adherence to genuine worker issues and interests was the last order of the day.

    LNP are blatantly the party for the big end of town (the rich 1%) and Labor are covertly the party for the big end of town. Some choice!

  25. Jim, perhaps you should wonder who is going to look after you when you get so demented and doddery that you cannot wipe your own arse.

    Will you need a charity or will you be able to pay for a nurse who won’t spit in your meals because you are a nasty old sod?

    Where will the nice caring nurses come from when the poor people are totally dis-empowered through the war on the poor? When everyone is indoctrinated with your selfish greedy ideology, how much will you pay for a greedy selfish nurse?

  26. @Jim Rose

    My designated charities, under strict orders from the good wife, are our tertiary student children. We had children very late. In particular, I will be paying off a good proportion of their HECs debts so they don’t start adult working life already burdened with debt because of the lunatic neoliberal ideology which so infests our nation and economy. My first duty is to see my children aren’t screwed by this system which is so adept at screwing 95% of the population.

  27. Ikonoclast, as far as the welfare of your family is concerned, don’t pay off your children’s HECs debt. The reason why you shouldn’t is because the interest rate on a HECs loan is equal to the CPI and so is quite low. This means that any investment that gives a better return than CPI is better than paying off HECs. Instead of paying paying your children’s HECs debt off directly you could put the money in a term deposit, use the interest and principle from that to meet a child’s minimum HECs repayment and then when the HECs debt is paid off you could give that child a gift of thousands of dollars that would still be left. But much better than a term deposit would be an index share fund as it will average much better return than a term deposit. A share market fund is variable, but that’s okay, your children are young. If the market falls, as does now and then, they will have plenty of time for it to rise again. Now you might say that you don’t know anything about indexed stockmarket fun and so don’t want to try that, but I think one of the best things parents can financially do for their children (and perhaps themselves) is give them a $5,000 indexed Australian share fund so they can get a feel for how the stock market works and become comfortable with it and use the experience they gain to make better investment decisions in the future. I now wish I had done this for my parents. It probably would have saved them thousands of dollars in fees from shyster investment advisors.

    Of course, rather than just straight out investing in index funds, you can use investment-fu to help your children make good financial decisions and encourage them to make purchases and do things that will save them and their families money. For example you could offer to pay for half the cost of a rooftop solar system and all the cost of an isolation switch for it, as this will save them money on their electricity bills and give them power during grid failures. Paying for something like insulation is also a gift that keeps on giving.

  28. @Ikonoclast a nice summary of adam smith’s theory of moral sentiments and how generosity and sympathy for others drops away rapidly with social distance.

  29. HT LarvatusProdeo.net

    A German company is developing relatively large scale battery storage (up to 10MW-sized battery parks) which could “stabilise the grid faster, cheaper and with greater precision that conventional generation.”

    It says that these systems can substitute 10 times the capacity from conventional generation – coal, nuclear and gas – and at a fraction of the cost. According to Younicos spokesman Philip Hiersemenzel, each battery park can be installed at around € 15 million, which means that for an investment of €3 billion, conventional generation in Germany’s 80GW would no longer be needed – at least for frequency and stability purposes.

  30. This is interesting:


    As someone from Salon pointed out, in the US corporations assert the right to personhood, but chimpanzees are mere chattel.

    Indeed, I’d add that a corporation can own a chimpanzee, but a chimpanzee can’t own a corporation. Well a guy in a monkey suit might, but he’d be a fake

    Apparently the idea of personhood for chimpanzees is incipiently hazardous to humans but personhood for corporations — not so much.

    Ah mass culture — the lack of introspection is breathtaking.

    The proponents of the suit for chimpanzees argue for imprisoned primates to be accommodated in a primate sanctuary. It sounds fair to me.

  31. Over at LP, the question has been posed about whether the pope is a communist. It’s laughable of course and it was pure clickbait, but there are some christianised social democratic claims in Evangelli Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel).

    Pope Francis said this political and economic system was inherently sinful because it violated the biblical prohibition against killing.

    “Such an economy kills,” he wrote. “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

    So if I read this correctly, then it follows that those who defend “this political and economic system” are supporters of sin and ought, in practice, to repent of their sin and do penance and seek absolution.

    This remark could have been directed at Abbott:

    “The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits,” Pope Francis wrote. “In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenceless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.”

    I recall Abbott asking the ALP to “repent” but perhaps Abbott ought to be repenting in relation to his thirst for power and willingness to sacrifice the environment in pursuit of profits and possessions, assuming his spiritual leader is to be believed.

    Someone needs to put this to him and invite him to declare where he stands on Pope Francis’s views.

  32. I attended a forum on Australia at 4 degrees of global warming last night. Very sobering information, and some gallows humour. There’s a paper and an e-book available, published by Routledge I think.

    The forum was based on the concept that current discussions should be based on the best available science. If all current global policies were fully implemented the de facto warming target would be 4 degrees rather than the 2 degrees nominal target. The models suggest 4 degrees of warming would be reached between 60 and 70 years time from now unless following current policies.

    The multimillenial sea level rise associated with 4 degrees of warming would be 15m.

    An average of 4 degrees of warming for Australua would mean some areas inland would warm by up to 7 degrees. Analogues were given for the transformations, with an analogue for Northern Australia being impossible to find currently on the planet – meaning paleo climates would give the best examples.

    According to one of the speakers there has been little economic modelling undertaken for Australia at either 2 degrees or 4 degrees warmer, most being in the 2008 Garnaut report which has had some but not many updated modelling.

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