Adani starting work?

A few weeks ago, I commented sceptically on Adani’s announcement that it had moved heavy earthmoving equipment to its Carmichael site. At the same time, Adani flew a banner over its Brisbane office, claiming it was ready to start the mining project the moment it got the green light. As I observed at the time, the “heavy earthmoving equipment” appeared to consist of one large grader and a few smaller vehicles.

The latest news is that Adani is “moving ahead with access work” namely, building by-passes around cattle grids, which “which will allow larger machinery and equipment to be transported to site. ” It sounds as if the start of real work is a long way off.

And here’s our big yellow grader at work.

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Monday Message Board (on Tuesday)

Another Monday Message Board, running a bit late. Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please. If you would like to receive my (hopefully) regular email news, please sign up using the following link You can also follow me on Twitter @JohnQuiggin, at my Facebook public page   and at my Economics in Two Lessons page

Fake news: the medium is not the message

AA study of fake news on Twitter Facebook has found that the biggest propagators are Republicans over 65. No surprises there. Unfortunately, the researchers muddy the waters by suggesting that this group is prone to believing and spreading lies because they are “digital immigrants”, rather than “digital natives”, a distinction I thought had disappeared.

,A moment’s thought should have suggested a different interpretation. The same group, after all constitutes the primary audience for Fox News and (globally) the core readership of the Murdoch press. Even before the emergence of a distinctively partisan rightwing media, evangelicals eagerly spread fake news by word of mouth.

And this study defined fake news in the narrow sense covering reports that Obama is a lizardoid Muslim and similar. A more accurate definition, encompassing deliberate denial of overwhelming evidence, would encompass the entire rightwing media universe, going beyond the Murdoch press to include the output of thinktanks like AEI, Cato, Heritage and Heartland. The extreme cases studied on Twitter are the core of an onion wrapped in multiple layers of denial and defense mechanisms.

Until recently, the most obvious case was that of climate change, but now they have Trump. It’s now impossible to survive on the right without giving Trump a pass for his thousands of glaring lies. In these circumstances, it’s scarcely surprising that Republican activists who have been steeped in this environment for decades. see it as virtuous to circulate talking points regardless of their truth or falsity. Far from misleading this cohort, Twitter Facebook simply provided them with an amplifier.

How the High Court helped wreck Morrison’s visit to Fiji

As with just about everything Scott Morrison has done since becoming PM, his visit to Fiji was a trainwreck. Morrison must have hoped that his Trumpian willingness to endorse the dictatorial methods of Fijian PM Frank Bainimarama would ensure a warm welcome. It was not to be.

In part, this was due to the government’s embrace of climate denialism, which reflects hostility to the global environment in general, rather than Fiji in particular, and isn’t going to change any time soon. But there was also the avoidable own goal of stripping Australian citizenship from accused terrorist Neil Prakash, on the pretext that Prakash was also a Fijian citizen.

Peter Dutton isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but under normal circumstances, he wouldn’t have reached the conclusion that Prakash, a Melbourne-born Australian was actually a citizen of another country he’d never visited or had any dealings with.

Dutton’s error is explained by the fact that the legal geniuses of our High Court have accustomed us to thinking in precisely this absurd way. Taking the silliest possible reading of the Constitution, they have led us to the position where people born in Australia to Australian citizen parents, and who may never have left the country, are routinely described as “foreigners“. Even Aborigines like Pat Dodson are open to this attack.

The mere possibility that one might apply for the citizenship of another country is sufficient. And even public renunciation of foreign allegiance is not enough, if the government in question is slow to accept it

It’s striking to observe that seven of the allegedly brightest legal minds in the country are effectively dumber than a bigoted ex-policeman, but that is the sad reality. We would be better off replacing the current High Court with seven randomly chosen citizens, or, for that matter, with the flip of a coin.

Save the nukes

I’ve written numerous posts pointing out that expansion of nuclear power is not a serious option in decarbonizing the electricity supply. In a sense, there’s no need to make the case, as no profit-oriented corporation is ever likely to start a new plant. The recent abandonment of two proposed plants in the UK, despite the offer of massive subsidies, illustrates the point. The only purpose of talk about new nuclear power is to attack the only realistic options, wind and solar PV.

On the other hand, nuclear power is a lot less dangerous than coal. So, it’s worrying to see nuclear power plants closing down in the US and elsewhere, when there are plenty of coal-fired power plants still in operation. The worse case is Germany, where the phaseout of nuclear power has left lots of lignite-fuelled power stations still in operation.

The sensible policy is first, to abandon any idea of closing nuclear power stations by direct regulation and second, to impose a substantial carbon price, putting coal-fired power stations first in the “order of demerit” for closure.

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Monday Message Board (on Tuesday)

Another Monday Message Board, running a bit late. Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please. If you would like to receive my (hopefully) regular email news, please sign up using the following link You can also follow me on Twitter @JohnQuiggin, at my Facebook public page   and at my Economics in Two Lessons page

Brexit: The endgame (update)

Prediction is a mugs game, but, watching the Brexit trainwreck, I can’t resist. Over the fold, my predictions from mid-December. So far, everything has gone as I predicted, but I didn’t anticipate how badly May would be defeated, or how strongly Parliament would reassert itself.

I now think that the “No Deal” option will be off the table sooner rather than later. Either May will capitulate to Corbyn’s demand or Parliament will force the issue somehow.

That makes revocation of Article 50 the default option, so that a strategy of running down the clock makes no sense for Brexiteers of any kind. Still, I think May will keep stalling because that’s what she does.

Now, I suspect the approach of 29 March will work a bit differently. Rather than unilateral revocation, May and the Conservatives will want an extension, which requires the consent of the EU27. To get that, they’ll need to offer a prospect of finality. Since a general election is unlikely to appeal, a second vote is the last option standing.

The question is: what will be voted on? It’s clear that Remain (that is, unconditional revocation of Article 50) will have to be one of the options. On the other side, there’s May’s failed deal with the EU (possibly tweaked further in the interim) and No Deal. Given that the Brits don’t understand preferential voting, my guess is that one of these will be ruled out. From a procedural perspective, I think the fairest choice would be the clearest. On the one side, reverse the result of the last referendum. On the other side carry it through regardless of what the EU thinks.

To be clear, “No Deal” doesn’t really mean that. A literal no deal would see Britain reduced to food rationing in a matter of weeks, air travel cancelled immediately and so on. In reality, “No Deal” means a series of emergency deals, cobbled together in circumstances where the EU faces significant but manageable economic costs, while the UK faces catastrophe. My guess is this would imply, for example, that EU airlines would ensure that air travel continued, but that British airlines would get short shrift. Perhaps the British side could call in Donald Trump, master deal-maker, to help drive a better bargain.

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