29 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. (probably of interest particularly to Ikonoclast)

    I was doing my periodic browse of Steve Keen’s blog the other day and was delighted to see in his on line lecture series a great effort to consider the limited integration of economics and the environment without him becoming an ecological economist.

    (Our esteemed host JQ is clearly sympathetic to environmental issues but as I understand it is less sympathetic toward the Limits to Growth concept more generally for reasons he has documented sporadically).

    Given the environment/economics mill needs more grist for discussion here is the link.

    Steve Keen lecture on the environment and economics

    Its long at 1 h to listen to but I found still worth it as he seems to have captured the underlying arguments the scientists have long accepted about the trouble with exponential growth at current rates but where JQ and I suspect many economists still disagree. There are some lovely vignettes/speculations e.g. a discussion of the old Physiocrats as having things to teach us. And even though I’m reasonably familiar with both sides arguments I definitely learnt a thing or two. Warning….Keen deals initially with thermodynamics quite extensively. I enjoyed this but others may not depending on their liking for algorithms and their implications and Keen’s interest in/use of simple mathematical models.

  2. I am now convinced that exergy (energy available for useful work) is not going to be our primary limiting factor. The advent of the solar energy era has seen to that. What appears more likely is that waste and natural system/cycle disruptions will be our limiting factor(s). AGW and its attendant disruption of climate system and weather is an example.

  3. John Quiggin,

    I have been wondering if you will post on the CSIRO’s Australian National Outlook report, since it is an economic report but focuses on the physical economy? (I have only read the executive summary so far)

  4. I see the Tabcorp and Tatts case against the Victorian government for changing the rules on poker machines is now making it way to the High Court. A fairly straightforward case of the government changing the license rules for a variety of reasons, not least to break the Tabcorp/Tatts duopoly and in the process garner some extra revenue for the state (and of course, encourage responsible gambling, cough, cough).

    The High Court is likely to do a fairly forensic job using current Australian law and precedent to see if the above companies deserve a further gouge on public revenues.

    My interest in this case revolves around the hypothetical situation in which the two companies were foreign corporations and the Victorians rework of the licensing triggered an ISDS case. Would this have stopped the reform dead in its tracks, would any ruling by the High Court be rendered totally irrelevant, and how would the Feds (who presumably would pay any damages awarded) punish the state for such reckless behaviour.

    And if the current scenario is complex but at least transparent and appealable under Australian law, what is the likelihood of justice both being done and being seen to be done when the process is opaque and non-appealable under ISDS rules?

  5. The win in the High Court by the ATO over Chevron could yield significant amounts of revenue from many other miners and multinationals. The High Court action was supported by then treasurer Hockey who called multinational tax evaders “cheats”.

    Ironically the Henry super profits tax, introduced by Rudd was campaigned against by both the Big Miners and the Conservatives. At the time Abbott claimed that the dumping of the tax would make the economy stronger and put more money in people’s pockets.

  6. The VW emission fudging debacle indicates that no emission scheme can be properly relied on; big companies have the resources to transfer and/or adjust data to suit their purposes. It would be better to simply say that no coal can be ever clean and that the descriptions of coal should be limited to dirty, filthy and toxic.

  7. @rog

    This is why I have always argued for carbon taxes. The carbon tax should be levied like a GST at the point of sale. Any quality controlled fossil fuel on sale has a known amount of carbon in it and the amount sold will be known. With coal, I would argue the government should simply deem that all coal is 100% carbon for carbon tax purposes. That would make brown coal a really, really bad deal for users to burn. However regulations and compliance are unavoidable for other issues like particulates, NOx and so on.

  8. Video: Exposing the disastrous Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) – Informed analysis on RT’s Big Picture

    The hour long video inside gives excellent analysis of what is wrong with the TPP. Basically it is an attempt to bring about an overarching corporate world government that will invalidate national and state laws wherever they disagree with it. But with this government there are no voters, there are no citizens, there is no recourse. What can you do about this? Contact your local MP and ask they what they intend to do to stop the TPP? Are they going to vote against it? Let us know their response. You can read the full text of the TPP, thanks to the New Zealand Government, at globalresearch.ca _slash_ the-full-text-of-the-trans-pacific-partnership-tpp .

  9. Today, Remembrance Day 2015, is the 97th anniversary of the day on which the guns stopped firing in 1918.

    Ironically, today is also the 40th anniversary of the infamous dismissal of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam by the Governor General on Remembrance Day 1975, less than 3 years after Gough’s newly elected government ended Australia’s war against Vietnam.

    Barely 20 years after the supposed “war to end all wars” ended on 11 November 1918, a new and even more terrible conflagration, in which, by one estimate, 60 million were to die, commenced.

    As we know the Second World War was followed by a succession of yet more wars, in many of which the death tolls were barely an order of magnitude less. These include the Korean War, the abovementioned Vietnam War and the invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and Yemen.

  10. rog :
    The VW emission fudging debacle indicates that no emission scheme can be properly relied on; big companies have the resources to transfer and/or adjust data to suit their purposes. It would be better to simply say that no coal can be ever clean and that the descriptions of coal should be limited to dirty, filthy and toxic.

    Saying that, the emissions scheme was a bit of an honesty system where regulators virtually took the word of large manufacturers.

  11. The burning question of the day is: how will Waleed Aly spin the Paris Attacks?
    He is an extraordinarily supple casuist. But I fear this latest outrage may prove beyond his contortionist ability.

  12. The really sad irony (for want of a better word) is that (IIRC) France created all sorts of immense tensions with the US and its allies back in 2003 when it opposed the invasion of Iraq. The invasion that many say laid the foundations for the creation of IS.

  13. “When we see attacks like the horror in Paris, we should open our borders to a flood of refugees, not close them. We should shower those families with generosity. We should make sure they have jobs that fit their skills. We should educate their children. We should provide them health care and whatever social services they need.

    The West should do everything in its power to make those fleeing ISIS and extremism everywhere feel welcome and wanted.”


  14. @J-D

    Maybe Jack is just a confused old conservative who finds a bit of comfort in this confusing modern world by inappropriately focusing on Waleed Aly’s “spin” as something important just because Waleed is a brown man and in Jack’s conservative world, brown men are not supposed to be able to out think and out reason great white conservative men.

  15. @Troy Prideaux Exactly. Then President Jacques Chirac campaigned hard against the Iraq invasion, conservatives argued that he was only protecting business interests which included nuclear power, something that worried Israel.

  16. @Troy Prideaux

    You reckon Jack is not a white supremacist? He has claimed – I’m sure I remember this – that HBD theories explained the superiority of the white civilization etc – all the usual self-serving false beliefs, he has expressed.

    Sure he doesn’t like Waleed because he is Muslim and because his “spin” or what I’d call articulate and informed analysis on why Muslim’s do what they do, is influential but when it comes down to it, I’m speculating that what really gets up Jack’s nose and what prompted his comment is that according to the theory he is more intelligent than brown/Muslims and he can’t understand why he can’t understand Waleed Aly.

  17. I’m actually puzzled why Waleed needs to put any spin on it at all. There is a group of disaffected ratbags, calling themselves Muslims, supported by rich Saudis, who carried out a terrorist attack in Paris because they don’t like the west interfering in their “caliphate”, especially when we kill their leaders.

    How else do you spin it?

  18. I agree with Aly’s analysis. But it is too late to curb fanaticism/extremism that has arisen because of the years of European hegemony over Muslim lands. If there are ways to rationally negotiate with today’s crop of radical extremists, they have not yet occurred to me. People willing to kill themselves in service to their ideology are not usually amenable to reason. ISIS(L) differs from al Queda in that ISIS wages terrorism against fellow Muslims as well as the infidel, while al Queda does not. A much more pernicious organization.

  19. Well, Waleed Aly seems to have confounded Jack Strocchi’s prediction. The latest (Paris) outrage was not beyond Aly’s rational ability to comment on. I use the word “rational” rather than Jack’s pejorative word “contortionist”.

    Aly made a set of rational arguments and consequent rhetorical appeals. Anyone of rational understanding could understand his arguments. Not all rational auditors might agree with all his arguments but they could understand them. There was nothing contorted about Aly’s arguments.

    I would contend that his arguments contained strong elements of (a) conservatism (b) realpolitik and (c) moral philosophy.

    (A) Aly is implicitly arguing for a society based on the rule of law (secular) and the rule of love (as a religious or moral law). These are very conservative values in the modern, western, secular world. I see nothing wrong with that. I also agree with society being based on those laws and in that sense I am a conservative. What I wonder is why Jack S. can’t see that these are conservative values (in the best sense) being propounded by Aly.

    (B) Realpolitik – Aly is arguing in a realpolitik sense that ISIS (or ISIL) is weak. He is correct. Of course power is relative but relative to other state or quasi-state actors ISIS is weak. They form perhaps a loose shifting proto-state carved out of part of the territory of the weak or failed states of Syria and Iraq. Syria is weak and divided by a multi-sided civil war. Iraq has been turned into a failed and degraded state by 25 years war, sanctions and occupation imposed mainly by the US. Real M.E. regional powers like Israel, Iran or Turkey would have no trouble defeating ISIS if they unleashed total conventional war in ISIS territory.

    (C) Moral Philosophy – I don’t want to spin this one out but Aly arguably appealed to the most fundamental moral law, acceptable to theists and atheists alike, namely the Golden Rule: treat others as you would prefer to be treated. Very few people want to be hurt or killed and of those that do most are probably certifiably very unwell mentally or physically.

    What he was saying is that we must realistically appraise ISIL’s position, including agenda and manifesto, as objectively weak, in realpolitik power terms, and unappealing on any reasonable moral philosophy basis. Thus they are not to be feared inordinately in any global sense though they are to be feared at specific locales as it were. Aly identifies the main danger as that of polarisation and alienation. If we permit ISIL to polarise us and alienate sections of our community from each other then we do let ISIL have a win and we do let them harm us (by enouraging us to harm each other). It’s all eminently logical and sensible really.

    Western reactionaries (white supremacists and so on) are our ISIL and our main internal danger. As an example;

    “Timothy James McVeigh (April 23, 1968 – June 11, 2001) was an American terrorist who detonated a truck bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Commonly referred to as the Oklahoma City bombing, the attack killed 168 people and injured over 600.[3] According to the United States Government, it was the deadliest act of terrorism within the United States prior to the September 11 attacks, and remains the most significant act of domestic terrorism in United States history.” – Wikipedia.

    “McVeigh was raised Roman Catholic.[89] During his childhood, he and his father attended Mass regularly.[90] McVeigh was confirmed at the Good Shepherd Church in Pendleton, New York, in 1985.[91] In a 1996 interview, McVeigh professed belief in “a God”, although he said he had “sort of lost touch with” Catholicism and “I never really picked it up, however I do maintain core beliefs.”[89] In McVeigh’s biography American Terrorist, released in 2002, he stated that he did not believe in a hell and that science is his religion.[92][93] In June 2001, a day before the execution, McVeigh wrote a letter to the Buffalo News identifying himself as agnostic. However, he took the Last Rites, administered by a priest, just before his execution.” – Wikipedia.

    “McVeigh claimed that the bombing was revenge against the government for the sieges at Waco, Texas and Ruby Ridge…. McVeigh frequently quoted and alluded to the white supremacist novel The Turner Diaries….” – Wikipedia.

    McVeigh also claimed in a 1,200 word essay that the bombing exposed the moral hypocrisy of US actions in the Middle East by being the equivalent of those actions in the USA.

    “Why? McVeigh told us at eloquent length, but our rulers and their media preferred to depict him as a sadistic, crazed monster … who had done it for the kicks”. — Gore Vidal, 2002.

    In a morally dyslexic, rationalised sense McVeigh is correct and Vidal highlights this. Yet the unforgivable moral wrongness of the act remains. Scapegoating and punishing innocents to make such a point can have no justification.

    As I said (and McVeigh’s case is proof) Western reactionaries (white supremacists and so on) are our ISIL and our main internal danger. We could go further and say our reactionary elites (capitalist oligarchs and their bought politicians) are our main internal danger. They are the ones who pursue these inhuman and alienating policies of illegal wars, drone attack assassinations and so on. They have played a huge role in generating the conditions for the ISIL style ideology to arise.

  20. @Ikonoclast

    Western reactionaries (white supremacists and so on) are our ISIL and our main internal danger.

    As I said (and McVeigh’s case is proof) Western reactionaries (white supremacists and so on) are our ISIL and our main internal danger. We could go further and say our reactionary elites (capitalist oligarchs and their bought politicians) are our main internal danger.

    If we frame a question like this ‘What is most likely to cause our deaths?’ the answer is probably ‘Heart disease’.
    If we frame a question like this ‘What is most likely to cause our deaths by violence?’ the answer is probably ‘A motor vehicle accident’.
    If we frame a question like this ‘Who is most likely to kill us deliberately?’ the answer is probably ‘An intimate partner’.
    I guess you have some other framing in mind, but it’s not clear what it is.

  21. @J-D

    But apart from the absolutely necessary comment on Icon’s inaccurate assumptions about dangers that did not take into account the statistical reality that there are more likely dangers that ordinary people should be afeared of, what Walleed said did provide a whole lot of confused and ill-informed people with a way to frame things.

    It seems to me from observing some of my locals who had pretty much the same attitude as Jack, that they are badly in need a new way of framing things so that they can forgive themselves for the ‘choices’ they have been making about what it means to be Australian.

  22. @Ikonoclast
    It also depends on what you mean by “our”. It is reasonable to say that right wing extremists of the religious and ethnic majority are the main domestic terrorism risk in the United States (US law enforcement agencies are in general agreement about that), but it’s by no means clear that the same applies in Australia. The history of terrorist incidents in Australia, at least as described by Wikipedia, shows a wide array of perpetrators, of which ‘conventional’ white supremacists or right wingers make up only a minority. In recent years the terrorist plots and attempts in Australia do appear to have been predominantly by Islamist groups. Which is not a reason to demonise Muslims in general, obviously.

  23. @J-D

    What you say about statistical dangers is correct under current peace time conditions in Australia. I doubt it would be correct in Syria for example. It is clear from my framing that I was talking about political-military conflict dangers ranging from all forms of wars, to insurgencies and to politically motivated attacks commonly called “terrorism”. Again, you play the game of semantic pedantry to intentionally misconstrue substantive points.

    If our elites drag us into major war(s), then like the Syrians still in Syria our major dangers will not be heart attacks and car accidents. As well as the statistically-speaking relatively minor dangers of one-off terrorist attacks, we ought to factor in the possibility that the conflagrations our governments cause in the mid-east and elsewhere will spiral out of control into major regional or global wars. These are low probability events but high casualty events if they occur; right up to and including nuclear exchanges.

    In any case, many current major dangers of civil society in Australia (heart attacks, car accidents etc.) would benefit from a reallocation of funds away from illegal and immoral wars and towards public medicine, health, nutrition and exercise as well as towards mass public transport and other safer transport methods (e.g. bicycles). It’s a matter of opportunity costs as Prof. J.Q. correctly reminds us in some of his posts on that topic. Spending a whole lot of money (billions in Australia’s case and trillions in the US case) to make the world less safe, is a really crazy way to spend money. Money is the proxy measurement of course. What we are really mis-spending are real lives, resources, products and services. There’s a huge opportunity cost to all that.

    Footnote to Julie: I made no inaccurate assumptions in this case. My framing was political-military conflict. I have posted in the past about the stats J-D mentioned. I am quite aware of them.

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