Monday Message Board

Back again with another Monday Message Board.

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


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55 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. Planetary Health + socialism = at least we will be better prepared and socially responsive. Links in article.

    “Destroyed Habitat Creates the Perfect Conditions for Coronavirus to Emerge

    “COVID-19 may be just the beginning of mass pandemics

    “But a number of researchers today think that it is actually humanity’s destruction of biodiversity that creates the conditions for new viruses and diseases like COVID-19, the viral disease that emerged in China in December 2019, to arise—with profound health and economic impacts in rich and poor countries alike. In fact, a new discipline, planetary health, is emerging that focuses on the increasingly visible connections among the well-being of humans, other living things and entire ecosystems.”

    “In 2008, Jones and a team of researchers identified 335 diseases that emerged between 1960 and 2004, at least 60% of which came from non-human animals.”
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/destroyed-habitat-creates-the-perfect-conditions-for-coronavirus-to-emerge/

  2. I read a good book on the above topic in about 1995.

    “The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance” by Laurie Garrett

    “Unpurified drinking water. Improper use of antibiotics. Local warfare. Massive refugee migration. Changing social and environmental conditions around the world have fostered the spread of new and potentially devastating viruses and diseases. HIV, Lassa, Ebola, and others. Laurie Garrett takes you on a fifty-year journey through the world’s battles with microbes and examines… ”

    Zoonotic diseases from habitat encroachment certainly get coverage in this book.

    “A zoonosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites that spread from animals to humans. Major modern diseases such as Ebola virus disease and salmonellosis are zoonoses. HIV was a zoonotic disease transmitted to humans in the early part of the 20th century, though it has now mutated to a separate human-only disease.” – Wikipedia.

    Most of the flu viruses and coronairuses are zoonotic. Some have jumped recently. Some jumped hundreds of years ago when we started using a lot of horses, pigs, cows, ducks, chickens etc. etc.
    Hendra virus is one nasty disease which came from bats to horses to humans right here in Brisbane’s suburb of Hendra. I know we need bats and flying foxes for environmental balance but personally I hate them. They are the rats of the sky and carry many dangerous diseases dangerous to humans.

    Soon, we should probably become vegetarians and keep few if any animals. We should allow wild animals to possess the wild and stay away from them altogether. They and we will survive better apart.

  3. Good tweet from Krugman (https://twitter.com/paulkrugman/status/1241690862448529408) on the basic Keynesian macroeconomics of the epidemic. He provides a pretty chart but it doesn’t add much to the basic insight. There is a supply shock, as workers stay at home. Also a demand shock. This is larger, as the idled workers can’t buy anything but food, booze and puzzles from Amazon, even with a reduced income. So governments need to add enough demand to bring it back to match the reduced supply. My gloss: the UK”s 80% wage replacement must be a guess outside the conventional models, but it looks in the right ballpark. Somebody in London is thinking straight, and it isn’t Cummings or Johnson. Andy Haldane? Nothing on his website.

    Missing: the time factor. Everybody with an income (eg pensioners like me) is running up their bank balance and deferring discretionary spending. When the shops reopen, it’ll be worse than the January sales. The policy trick is to keep within a safe zone, without an inflationary or deflationary spike. Another suggested topic for a JQ Zoom presentation?

  4. Well, we have an experiment. The US is applying stimulus and avoiding alleviating hardship. Australia is having a bet each way. The UK seems to be most intent on relieving hardship by paying up to 80% of wages, though I don’t know what their business assistance is. The trouble is that it is not a controlled experiment. There are too many variables and even different constants which affect each case situation.

    One empirical result is clear though. Governments are not fiat money constrained and when the elites become afraid of the collapse of the system which supports them also, then they can find any amount of fiat money by almost any method.

  5. Shocking news: Australian government does something right!
    PVMagazine quoting official statement https://www.pv-magazine.com/2020/03/23/australian-government-stimulates-pv-in-the-face-of-covid-19-threat/:
    “The government is increasing the instant asset write-off threshold from $30,000 to $150,000 and expanding access to include businesses with aggregated annual turnover of less than $500 million, until 30 June, 2020.”

    This is not touted as a renewables-friendly move, but it is. SMEs thinking of solar roofs or electric vans, and smaller solar and wind developers, will benefit, but not coal-miners which are usually big businesses, and can’t accelerate their investments anyway.

    I take it this is an accidental side-effect of rushed policy without time to create the usual pork for mining interests. It’s a long way from meeting the call of Fatih Birol of the IEA – the IEA! – to “use the current situation to step up our ambition to tackle climate change.” https://www.climatechangenews.com/2020/03/17/governments-historic-opportunity-accelerate-clean-energy-transition-iea-says/ There is clearly a risk that fossil-friendly stimulus packages will undo the accidental progress on emissions from the virus recession.

    To raise your blood pressure, a perfectly vile proposal from American coal companies:
    “The National Mining Association (NMA) on Wednesday called on President Donald Trump and federal lawmakers to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by cutting a tax used to support coal miners affected by black lung disease, to cut funding to clean up high-priority abandoned coal mine sites, and taking other steps that would financially benefit the coal mining industry.”
    https://www.desmogblog.com/2020/03/20/coal-industry-group-asks-federal-lawmakers-cut-funding-black-lung-program-citing-covid-19
    I’d be surprised if this got anywhere; a dying industry has few friends, and Trump stopped mentioning coal some time ago’ but it’s very revealing. These people deserve hard bankruptcy and jail time, like their model Don Blankenship.

  6. Good – and new auction next week will, due to this review and rejection, scupper the spurious bidders.
    “Push to get taxpayer funds for Vales Point coal plant upgrade rejected

    Plant part-owned by Trevor St Baker was registered with emissions reduction fund but review said it should not qualify

    Richie Merzian, from the Australia Institute, said the committee’s decision showed the value of “truly independent entities” that served the public on climate change.”
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/24/push-to-get-taxpayer-funds-for-vales-point-coal-plant-upgrade-rejected

    Better – EV’s proven to be net carbon reducers even with coal / gas except 2 out of 59 of thenregions in study. 

    “Net emission reductions from electric cars and heat pumps in 59 world regions over time

    We show that already under current carbon intensities of electricity generation, electric cars and heat pumps are less emission intensive than fossil-fuel-based alternatives in 53 world regions, representing 95% of the global transport and heating demand. Even if future end-use electrification is not matched by rapid power-sector decarbonization, it will probably reduce emissions in almost all world regions.”
    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-020-0488-7

    Worse – are we able to sue Turnball for this ala sports rorts?
    “Snowy 2.0 is a wolf in sheep’s clothing – it will push carbon emissions up, not down
    https://theconversation.com/snowy-2-0-is-a-wolf-in-sheeps-clothing-it-will-push-carbon-emissions-up-not-down-133006

  7. ” I know we need bats and flying foxes for environmental balance but personally I hate them.”

    Bit harsh, whadabout sharks?

    “They are the rats of the sky and carry many dangerous diseases dangerous to humans.”

    One definite ‘no’, and one ‘yes’ although I’d wager humans carry more diseases dangerous to humans and that’s not counting dangerous humans.

    saw this last week:

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/02/200210144854.htm

    <blockquote?Coronavirus outbreak raises question: Why are bat viruses so deadly?

    Bats' fierce immune systems drive viruses to higher virulence, making them deadlier in humans

    …Vigorous flight leads to longer lifespan — and perhaps viral tolerance

    As the only flying mammal, bats elevate their metabolic rates in flight to a level that doubles that achieved by similarly sized rodents when running.

    Generally, vigorous physical activity and high metabolic rates lead to higher tissue damage due to an accumulation of reactive molecules, primarily free radicals. But to enable flight, bats seem to have developed physiological mechanisms to efficiently mop up these destructive molecules.

    This has the side benefit of efficiently mopping up damaging molecules produced by inflammation of any cause, which may explain bats' uniquely long lifespans. Smaller animals with faster heart rates and metabolism typically have shorter lifespans than larger animals with slower heartbeats and slower metabolism, presumably because high metabolism leads to more destructive free radicals. But bats are unique in having far longer lifespans than other mammals of the same size: Some bats can live 40 years, whereas a rodent of the same size may live two years.

  8. James, there’s a lot more in the 9.7% of GDP stimulus the government announced on Sunday. It is heavily weighted to small businesses which definitely includes the bulk of the solar industry but not coal or gas. Ignoring the $100,000+ a small business may receive, a pensioner couple will be getting $3,000 in stimulus payment between them. If they wish, that is enough to pay for a solar system from a reputable installer. Compared to saving the money this provides the best of both worlds, as it stimulates the economy now while saving the couple money in the future. If they put some extra money in and get a 6.6 kilowatt system many pensioners would be in credit on their electricity bills over a year.

  9. Trivia. Buzz was the first to take a leak on the moin.

    “Buzz Aldrin has some advice for Americans in quarantine

    “Amidst the coronavirus outbreak, I spoke with Aldrin on Tuesday by telephone. He is at home, hunkering down, and doing fine health-wise. Aldrin turned 90 years old in January, and at this age, he is in the very highest of risk categories for COVID-19.

    “Buzz, what are you doing to protect yourself from the coronavirus?” I asked.

    “Lying on my ass and locking the door,” he replied, without hesitating.

    Buzz Aldrin, ladies and gentlemen. A national treasure.”…
    https://arstechnica.com/science/2020/03/dont-worry-buzz-aldrin-is-protecting-himself-from-the-coronavirus/

    Former Astronauts Share Ways To Cope With Social Distancing & Isolation
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/valeriestimac/2020/03/20/former-astronauts-share-ways-to-cope-with-isolation–social-distancing/

  10. Odd thoughts about the corona-virus epidemic;

    (1) Expect an increase in births in about 9 months time?
    (2) Expect an increase in alcoholism and drug use?
    (3) Now that we have no professional sports can we have no sport reporting please?!
    (4) Australia’s slow internet will slow down even more as people work, stream and game at home.
    (5) Can COVID-19 get into building air-conditioning systems?
    (6) Can COVID-19 transmit though poor multi-story toilet systems?
    (It appeared to possibly do so in poor Chinese apartments and cruise ships.)

  11. I still haven’t seen a serious analysis of the economic costs of handwashing. If you take all the extra time each individual spends washing their hands, plus the cost of the soap and sanitiser, is it really worth us all washing our hands? I reckon there’s an opening for a Bjorn Lomborg type of economist to make this point and surely the ABC would be duty bound to report it in the name of balance.

  12. Public Health Responses to COVID-19 Outbreaks on Cruise Ships — Worldwide, February–March 2020
    CDC – Early Release / March 23, 2020 / 69

    “SARS-CoV-2 RNA was identified on a variety of surfaces in cabins of both symptomatic and asymptomatic infected passengers up to 17 days after cabins were vacated on the Diamond Princess but before disinfection procedures had been conducted (Takuya Yamagishi, National Institute of Infectious Diseases, personal communication, 2020). Although these data cannot be used to determine whether transmission occurred from contaminated surfaces, further study of fomite transmission of SARS-CoV-2 aboard cruise ships is warranted.”
    https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6912e3.htm?s_cid=mm6912e3_w

  13. Coal exit benefits outweigh its costs

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200323125603.htm
    Date: March 23, 2020
    Source: Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)

    Summary: Coal combustion is not only the single most important source of CO2 — accounting for more than a third of global emissions, but also a major contributor to detrimental effects on public health and biodiversity. Yet, globally phasing out coal remains one of the hardest political nuts to crack.

    “…The researchers developed a simulation framework which considers the full life cycle effects of phasing out coal, accounting not only for all impacts along of coal combustion from shaft to chimney, but also how a coal exit would affect the remaining energy sources and the energy sector as a whole. For the first time, they analysed monetised environmental and human health costs, thus enabling a comparison with mitigation costs: “In particular, we looked at two externalities: Human health costs, especially caused by respiratory diseases, and biodiversity loss, as measured on the basis of how much it would cost to rewild areas currently cultivated. The mitigation costs, in turn, are mostly economic growth reductions and costs for investments in the energy system.”

    Phasing out coal yields global net saving effect

    “Benefits from reduced health and ecosystem impacts clearly overcompensate the direct economic costs of a coal exit — they amount to a net saving effect of about 1.5 percent of global economic output in 2050 — that is, 370$ for every human on Earth in 2050.,” ”

    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-020-0728-x
    Abstract: “…Here, we show that phasing out coal yields substantial local environmental and health benefits that outweigh the direct policy costs due to shortening of the energy supply. Phasing out coal is thus a no-regret strategy for most world regions, even when only accounting for domestic effects and neglecting the global benefits from slowing climate change. Our results suggest that these domestic effects potentially eliminate much of the free-rider problem caused by the discrepancy between the national burden of decarbonization costs and the internationally shared benefits of climate change impact mitigation.”

  14. Coal exit benefits outweigh its costs

    sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200323125603.htm
    Date: March 23, 2020
    Source: Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)

    Summary: Coal combustion is not only the single most important source of CO2 — accounting for more than a third of global emissions, but also a major contributor to detrimental effects on public health and biodiversity. Yet, globally phasing out coal remains one of the hardest political nuts to crack.

    “…The researchers developed a simulation framework which considers the full life cycle effects of phasing out coal, accounting not only for all impacts along of coal combustion from shaft to chimney, but also how a coal exit would affect the remaining energy sources and the energy sector as a whole. For the first time, they analysed monetised environmental and human health costs, thus enabling a comparison with mitigation costs: “In particular, we looked at two externalities: Human health costs, especially caused by respiratory diseases, and biodiversity loss, as measured on the basis of how much it would cost to rewild areas currently cultivated. The mitigation costs, in turn, are mostly economic growth reductions and costs for investments in the energy system.”

    Phasing out coal yields global net saving effect

    “Benefits from reduced health and ecosystem impacts clearly overcompensate the direct economic costs of a coal exit — they amount to a net saving effect of about 1.5 percent of global economic output in 2050 — that is, 370$ for every human on Earth in 2050.,” ”

    nature.com/articles/s41558-020-0728-x
    Abstract: “…Here, we show that phasing out coal yields substantial local environmental and health benefits that outweigh the direct policy costs due to shortening of the energy supply. Phasing out coal is thus a no-regret strategy for most world regions, even when only accounting for domestic effects and neglecting the global benefits from slowing climate change. Our results suggest that these domestic effects potentially eliminate much of the free-rider problem caused by the discrepancy between the national burden of decarbonization costs and the internationally shared benefits of climate change impact mitigation.”

  15. I’ve been binging on Fox News .I rekon there will be plenty of militia activity in the US in response to the attempted Socialist takeover and resulting widespread social breakdown thats just around the corner for them .I expect some shooting and maybe real estate sealed off by militias. There’s lots of comment on Breitbart calling for resistance .Looks like Trump has been told to hope the markets and state governments will solve everything and not to nationalise anything ,use wartime powers, or go to an enforceable stay at home order. His backers look to have drawn a line in the sand early. Beware creeping Socialism . Today he hinted at just getting back to business soon ,implying that it would be worth the cost from death toll and related health care system collapse. “the cure is worse than the disease ” , “many die in cars but we dont ban them’ !. I like the way a snarl flashes across his face when a reporter asks an unsympathetic question ,he cant help showing his teeth. If I had to sum up their problems in one word that would be easy ,it would be ‘freedom’. The comparison with Chinas effort will be embarrassing and tragic, there for all to see.
    Just listening to our own Tiny Trump on the radio now he seems to want to have as much commercial activity as possible remain intact . The malls are to remain open but not their food courts. Also I thought I heard him say that ‘essential activity ‘ includes going to work . ?

  16. It’s quite clear what should be deemed essential and non-essential. I don’t know why people and our government have so much trouble with this.

    Essential products and services are;

    (1) Power;
    (2) Water;
    (3) Communications;
    (4) Goods Transport;
    (5) Hospitals & Medicine (the professions, equipment, medications and research);
    (6) Food;
    (7) Police;
    (8) Ambulance;
    (9) Fire Brigade;
    (10) Welfare services;
    (11) Prison services;
    (12) Army or National Guard.

    Some quasi-essential products and services may provide services to essential services. For example;

    (a) Petroleum and fuels supply;
    (b) Ports, Airports, Railways;
    (c) Banking;
    (d) Computer services;
    (e) Electrical and Mechanical Services;
    (e) Refuse Collection.
    (f) Education in the long haul, even if remote in quarantine.

    Beyond these and perhaps a few more you could mention, society can run for a long time. Clearly food for example implies farmers and farm inputs long term. This is to point out that the above lists imply more essential jobs.

    However, we could live almost indefinitely without anything else except mining and essential manufactures.

  17. From “The Plague” by Albert Camus:

    “In this respect our townsfolk were like everybody else, wrapped up in themselves; in other words they were humanists; they disbelieved in pestilences. A pestilence isn’t a thing made to man’s measure; therefore we tell ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogey of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away. But it doesn’t always pass away and, from one bad dream to another, it is men who pass away, and the humanists first of all, because they haven’t taken their precautions. Our townsfolk were not more to blame than others, they forgot to be modest — that was all — and thought that everything still was possible for them; which presupposed that pestilences were impossible … they went on doing business, arranged for journeys, and formed views. How should they have given a thought to anything like plague, which rules out any future, cancels journeys, silences the exchange of views? They fancied themselves free, and no one will ever be free so long as there are pestilences.”

  18. That anon post quoting Camus was not me, just for the the record. I wish it had been me as it is so appropriate.

  19. Meanwhile. we are still in a longer-running climate crisis. A few random news items.

    – The fossil share of electricity production in Spain fell to 30.4% in January + February, the last normal period. 11% out of this is for cogeneration, which is hard to turn off. With the falling demand from the lockdown, production must currently be running about 90% zero carbon. There is a small legacy nuclear fleet (14% of production). https://renewablesnow.com/news/renewables-share-in-spain-reaches-428-in-feb-691396/

    – Floating solar at sea is making surprising progress. There’s a small Dutch pilot project, but the running is being made by the Norwegians. Equinor (ex-Statoil), fresh from its triumph with floating wind, is now putting serious money into the sector. Another Norwegian company is adapting proven fish farm technology, using a big circular perimeter boom. I think we can move this technology from “long shot” to “more likely than not to work”. One advantage is that you can moor the solar floats to existing wind turbines and piggyback on their electric cables. Another – I speculate – is that the cleaning robots can scoop up the valuable guano left by flocks of grateful seabirds using the wide floats as temporary roosts. https://ieefa.org/equinor-saipem-join-forces-to-develop-high-wave-floating-solar-technology/ ; https://www.pv-magazine.com/2020/03/23/floating-pv-learning-from-aquaculture-industry/

    – An Australian-led team has come up with much superior membranes for filtering out lithium from the brines where most of it is found. The method is clearly from the Unseen University High Energy Magic department: “The working mechanism of the new MOF-based filtration membrane is particularly interesting, and is a delicate competition between ion partial dehydration and ion affinitive interaction with the functional groups distributed along the MOF nanochannels.” Send your complaints to Ponder Stibbons, c/o Monash U and CSIRO. https://im-mining.com/2020/03/09/new-filtration-technique-see-much-faster-efficient-lithium-extraction-brines/

  20. The COVID-19 epidemic, terrible as it is, will assist (is assisting) us in our climate change battle. CO2 emissions will be way down in 2020. We must build on these kinds of positives going forward. When this crisis is over we must not go back to our old ways. That is to say we must not go back to our foolish, wasteful consumerism and the squandering of our precious resources and remaining healthy environment on non-essentials. We need to become a “public good essentials and save the planet first” economy. That is the first and only order of business after this crisis IF humanity wants to make it to 2100.

    Many of the things we do now need to be regulated and/or priced out of existence or very nearly so. Private autos, internal combustion engines, coal mines, frequent overseas holidays, professional sports, cruise ships, myriads of plastic and disposable goods, dangerous chemicals, excessive cosmetics (esp. micro-plastics, nano-particles and procedures), built-in obsolescence: all of these and more most be largely expunged from our society and economy. New industries and employments can and will arise and increase. The renewable energy build-out. The recycling and circular economy. Science and human services. Culture and arts (which use relatively little materials and energy) and so on.

    People need to get it. It should not be business as usual ever again. It cannot be business as usual ever again or else we collapse civilization and go extinct. We have to transform our fundamental ethics and our political economy entirely. It’s a serious and stern task. Are we up to it? Or are we foolish, short-sighted, shallow, weak and entirely self-indulgent? Are we quite literally willing to die for our sick addiction to the melange of worthless garbage that issues forth from unfettered consumerism?

  21. The coronavirus pandemic is showing why ALL AUSTRALIANS apart from those in remote areas, should have fibre to the premises broadband.

    The pandemic is also magnifying the unacceptable inequalities in Australian society, with kids from poorer families not always having the IT resources to keep up with their schooling from home.

  22. Apparently the Aus govt are hiring staff, from high to low levels of management, for a variety of applications including medicine, employment, education and welfare.

    Applicants are to send their resume to https://minerals.org.au/

  23. Take equity and force better standards.

    “Where the Virus and Climate Intersect

    Should Airline Bailouts Come With Conditions? And, Climate as a ‘Threat Multiplier’

    While aviation still accounts for less than 3 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, those emissions are expected to triple by 2050 as tourism and travel expand. And airlines have struggled to clean up their act: In recent years, air traffic in the United States has grown three times as fast as the rate of fuel-efficiency improvements.

    Some climate experts point out that lawmakers have plenty of options to change that dynamic if they wish, particularly if taxpayers are being asked to save the industry.

    One possible model is the 2009 bailout of the auto industry, which nearly collapsed during the financial meltdown a decade ago. The Obama administration rescued GM and Chrysler from bankruptcy but also enacted stricter new fuel-economy rules for cars and light trucks. (More recently, the Trump administration has been working to relax those rules.)

    nytimes com/2020/03/18/climate/nyt-climate-newsletter-coronavirus.html

    * insert fullstop in link otherwise it loads.

  24. What will Mr Dutton do now?

    The smh article, linked below, reports on a global developer corporation, Greenland, headquartered in China, has stopped its work (including in Sydney) to switch to the acquisition of medical supplies by individual staff to be shipped to China. The supplies include hand sanitisers.

    https://www.smh.com.au/national/chinese-backed-company-s-mission-to-source-australian-medical-supplies-20200325-p54du8.html

    I have argued elsewhere on this blog site that both, the introductory economics textbook argument of letting prices for toilet paper and hand sanitisers adjust (up obviously) to “clear the market” and the argument that there is panic buying and it being evidence of “irrational behaviour” are not credible. I hypothesised that what appears as ‘irrational panic buying’ is a rational response by individuals who have observed empty shelves in all supermarkets within a reasonable large area for several consecutive weeks. I further hypothesised that entrepreneurial activity (profiteering) is involved at least at the initial stage to set off so-called ‘panic buying’. Shortly thereafter, the smh reported and provided evidence of entrepreneurial activity (profiteering). Mr Dutton publicly promised to come down hard on such activity.

    I am not a lawyer. I don’t know whether a foreign own corporation, licensed to operate as a developer of high rise buildings, such as Greenland, is allowed to operate as an exporter of hand sanitisers and other medical supplies, procured by its staff, to provide assistance to the covid-19 epidemic in China. I look forward to hearing about Mr Dutton’s actions.

    Why did China not simply ask for assistance with medical supplies in January or early February with the promise to assist in return when the need arises. Surely, by now China’s reputation as a manufacturing power would have made this promise credible.

    The effect of the Greenland operation, as reported in the smh, is identical to entrepreneural activity (profiteering) regarding empty shelves for hand sanitisers.

    I don’t know whether Greenland’s operation, as reported in the smh, was motivated by monetary profit or by nationalism and secrecy. Whatever the answer may be, these observations reinforce my aversion of …isms (capitalism and its obsession with monetary profits; communism or state capitalism or fascism and its obsession with secrecy and central and corporate power.)

  25. Ernestine Gross,

    I hope you are emailing a letter of complaint to Peter Dutton’s Office. Whether he will take any notice is another matter. If foreign or Australian nationals are stripping Australia of much needed medical and associated supplies in this crisis and sending them to China or elsewhere then that is a disgrace. The full force of the law needs to come down on them.

    It certainly is strong evidence for your contention. It also goes to support my biggest assertion these days: “Markets don’t work.” you might not agree but I think one can make a strong case that free markets do not work except to make the rich richer and everyone else and the environment poorer.

    That’s a bold assertion and would require some qualifications and a lot of evidence. But basically I have come to believe the nub of it is correct. Markets simply do not work, at least not in the manner “advertised” by standard market ideology. In addition, there are so many examples of market failure one wonders if anyone could give a real world example of a market working correctly as per the theory.

    The claim that markets are efficient has to be entirely fallacious. What is efficient about over-using resources and wrecking the biosphere and climate? It’s not efficient if I kick and kill the hen to get the egg out

  26. Greg Sheridan just did a massive series of mea culpas on Tom Switzers radio show. Literally unreal to hear . Along the lines of ;- globalism no good ,we were a fat ,rich ,dumb one trick pony ,shouldnt have off shored everything to the lowest bidder, let manufacturing die, relied on mining too much ,let self sufficiency die, in reality there was no such thing as ‘free trade’ as practiced by anyone anyway, shouldnt have sold so much of mining to foreigners, etc.

    Unfortunately he sees borders that were ‘open ‘ to people as the problem too. He thinks Abbott/Howard/Trumpist style borders and nationalism along with self sufficiency is the way forward.

  27. The each nation for itsself approach to Corona is quite disturbing.That includes my homecountry which is moveing like a slug when it comes to sending support to Italy and Spain.

  28. sunshine,

    All correct. Even the borders issue should be nuanced and not viewed as cut and dried. It is not the case that open borders are always good and closed borders always bad. It’s not as simple as that. Any complex dissipative system like a person, economy or nation needs boundaries, including a nation state. The need for borders or boundaries is implicit in what a complex dissipative system is.
    If you don’t want borders, then you don’t want a nation state. In our case that means not wanting to keep intact the stable, democratic nation state we are lucky to have in an anarchic world.

    Take a person or a nation. If the boundary is too open the entity dies. Flay the skin, the person dies. Strip a stable, democratic nation of all boundaries and it will cease to be such. Coat the skin with paint which prevents exchange from skin to atmosphere and the person will die. Completely close the boundary of the nation indefinitely and unless it is a huge and potentially autarkic nation like Russia or the USA, the nation will ail badly, if not collapse.

    So let us cease from the fantasies on both sides that we can be completely open or completely closed. More powerful forces and people would destroy us if we were completely open. There really are bad actors in the world, rogue individuals and rogue states, who would destroy us if we became completely supine and open for outright exploitation.

  29. > Take a person

    People are no more countries than a state economy is a household budget. You run a huge risk of starting out on the wrong path with that metaphor, let alone where it takes you. And don’t forget butt implants and genital piercings that make even the body metaphor a bit disturbing. “let’s just excise Christmas Island from Australia’s zone of refugee protection”… I think I’d rather have a butt implant, thanks.

    The answer to “bad actors” is largely what we already do – negotiate according to the relative power of our negotiating partners. With the US we kiss arse, with Timor we expect arse kissing. So a smart country would favour multilateral treaties and alliances. To use another metaphor, an ox is bigger than a piranha, but a bunch of the latter working together can have a tasty lunch if there’s an ox about.

  30. Ikonoclast,

    I am still reading many of your posts – time permitting – and much of what you say makes sense to me.

    As to the present issue, I don’t believe it is necessary for me to write to Mr Dutton because he not only seems to be aware of the issue but he promised to come down hard on the people involved. Indeed, at the time I was surprised that Peter Dutton gets involved; perhaps he was aware already that stuff is shipped overseas in quantities greater than a single face mask or one hand sanitiser to a relative.

    You write: ” Markets simply do not work, at least not in the manner “advertised” by standard market ideology.” I would agree with this statement, assuming ‘standard market ideology’ corresponds roughly with ‘neoliberalism’ as discussed on this blog site and elsewhere (in short, our lived experience).
    Does any one market work ‘correctly’ as per theory? From a GE (math econ) or, more generally, from an agent model perspective (ie system perspective), the difficulty starts by noting when one ‘market’ (eg a segment such as ‘the labour market’, the ‘share market’, ‘the medical face mask market’, ….. ) does not comply with the theoretical conditions then all others don’t. That is, if one price is ‘wrong’ then all others are wrong and when one market is missing then the system is generically inefficient. (This is sometimes verbally described as ‘everything is related with everything else’).

    Most if not the great majority of my comments on this blog site are no more than comments of the divergence between the theoretical conditions and observable reality. Since one may arrive at the same or similar comments about undesirable aspects of observable reality starting from different conceptual frameworks, it may not be surprising that there is often agreement between someone who, some years ago made statements such as ‘capitalism must go ‘ (I can’t remember the exact words) and someone who spent a non-trivial part of their life studying and working in the said math econ models.

    Over these many years, I learned that while expert knowledge in economics is important, it is equally important for everybody to actively participate in a democracy, in a reasoned manner and not confusing ‘free speech’ with a licence to talk nonsense.

    Stay safe.

  31. Iko – yes I agree. Also I feel that our borders weren’t too open .So for Sheridan to identify that as a crucial part of the cause of our predicament which needs tightening is misguided. There are problems of course , there is a big underclass of immigrant labour here , citizens , permanent residents , student visas, work visas ,refugees ,and tourists etc. but that is just a part of globalism as it was practiced not a cause in itself.

    What seems to have tipped the scales for Gregg is that modern nations now cannot supply their own medical needs in a crisis. He noted that Asian nations have done better in that way and are not as committed to free markets as the West is . I hope he isnt just thinking that if we could do so then we might have continued trading through this and minimised the death rate behind closed doors without the disorderly and frightening very public collapse of the health system which is probably only weeks away now.

  32. Our borders were too open recently. Our borders should have been closed totally on 1st Feb. or even in the middle of January when it was clear China had a SARS-2 epidemic raging out of control. (COVID-19 is SARS-COV2 taxonomically.) This is not hindsight. It was obvious. My son called it in the middle of January. He called world epidemic and a market crash xcoming back then. He has a lot of skin in the market game and has already doubled his money. I called the global pandemic about a week later and started prepping a little by little each week. Note, I did not buy any extra toilet paper, no saniitizer and no masks, just food. I regret not buying some masks now.

    Certainly when the Chinese had a SARS2 epidemic raging and at the same time called on us to take Chines students (wjat was that about eh?) we should have closed our borders TOTALLY except for Australian citizens coming home, for essential trade and for essential personnel. Australia’s coming disaster was totally preventable.

    More generally, we have been taking too many refugees for about 10 years or more. We need a Zero Population Policy (ZPG). Our birth rate about matches deaths (in normal times). Our immigration should just match our emigration plus refugees.

    In these senses our borders have been too open. Plus I think we should cut incoming tourist numbers, backpackers and foreign students. In the long run this pressure erodes our environment. And we have a labor surplus. We don’t need more people.

  33. In recent comment threads, Don and Ikonoclast have posted calculations relating the number of COVID-19 cases to the number of intensive care beds in Australia to draw conclusions about when ICU capacity will be reached. Their method, which seems to be commonly used, is to assume that capacity is reached when the number of ICU beds is equal to the number of COVID-19 cases times the percentage of cases requiring intensive care, which is usually assumed to be 5%.

    This is not quite right, for two reasons, although to be clear I am not disputing the qualitative point that a continuation in the growth of COVID-19 cases at recent rates in Australia would rapidly overwhelm intensive care capacity.

    Firstly, not all cumulative cases needing intensive care require it at the same time. The recent and highly influential Imperial College paper gives an average ICU stay of 10 days. If x is the daily growth rate of cumulative cases, then the percentage of cases occurring within the last 10 days is 1 – (1+x)^(-10). If x = 20%, this is 1 – 0.162 = 83.8%.

    Secondly, the need for hospitalisation is not immediate, but usually occurs after 5 days, according to the Imperial College paper (I will assume, conservatively, that this involves immediate admission to ICU). In this time, the cumulative number of cases will have increased by (1+x)^5, or 2.49-fold for x = 20%.

    To put it slightly differently, what matters for ICU capacity is the number of COVID-19 cases that have arisen in the period between 5 and 15 days ago. The percentage of total cases identified in this time period is (1+x)^(-5) – (1+x)^(-15), or 0.402 – 0.065 = 33.7% for x = 20%.

    This reduces the ratio of ICU beds required from 5% to 1.69% of COVID-19 cases if the growth rate is 20%. ICU capacity of 2,200 beds would be reached when COVID-19 cases number about 130,600.

    For comparison, the latest data for NSW indicate there have been 1,219 cases, with 16 patients currently in intensive care, representing 1.3% of cumulative cases. Of the 1,219 cases, 783 have been identified in the past 5 days and 371 in the 10 days before that. Comparing the number of ICU patients with this latter number gives 16/371 = 4.3% requiring intensive care.

  34. I’m more concerned at the implication that we can just empty the ICUs. Presumably anyone there without covid-19 can just be shoved in a freezer until after the pandemic is over?

    My understanding is that we have enough ICU beds to cater for normal monthly peaks, so a better starting approximation would be that we have zero ICU capacity to spare for the pandemic.

    There’s a fun discussion happening in Aotearoa about food exports, where some workers are not excited about being exempt from the shut-down because they don’t feel essential. I find that a reassuring counterpoint to the Australian approach of everyone being exempt until proven otherwise. Their streets are just about empty, I had to send photos to convince friends there that Sydney has less traffic, not no traffic.

  35. Sunshine
    “What seems to have tipped the scales for Gregg is that modern nations now cannot supply their own medical needs in a crisis. He noted that Asian nations have done better in that way and are not as committed to free markets as the West is .”

    Perhaps it is because most of the “Medical Needs” are manufactured in Asia? Our idea of industry is large numbers of casually employed people serving coffee or Fishermans Baskets originating in the Mekong Delta and ensuring poker machine players have unobstructed access.

  36. Luke,

    Have you allowed for all other conditions requiring ICU VENTILATOR beds? Two points here. One, critical conditions other than COVID-19 also require ICU beds and many of them require ventilator beds. Two, not all ICU beds are ICU VENTILATOR beds to the best of my knowledge.

    A SMH report states, Australia needs “to double the number of ICU beds equipped with ventilators to more than 4000 to deal with a spike in demand.” This implies 2,000 ventilators currently in hospitals. Are they all in tip top condition? If you take 2,000 machines of any inventory are they all working and usable at the same time? Then there are breakdowns, servicing and spare parts requirements.

    What was our ventilator bed occupancy rate from other conditions at the start of this epidemic? I very much doubt it was zero. How much will this need remain? A considerable amount I would say. Indeed, how much will this need increase (and decrease) from other causes including complex feed-backs from the pandemic? I can see heart attacks and strokes going up for example.

    Sometimes, a crude worse-case estimate lacking mathematical sophistication may come closer to the correct answer than precise mathematics which overlooks any number of “Murphy’s law” real-world factors. If there is one thing reality teaches us is that it is much messier than mathematics and things usually turn out considerably worse than theoretical calculations with limited variables and constants.

    But time will tell. Either way we are duck mince sooner or later. There is not one shred of evidence to my knowledge that suggests we will have a better experience than the European average. Maybe we won’t be as bad as Italy or Spain. Probably we won’t do any better than Germany or France.

  37. I am not sure if it couldnt be done , but I keep thinking why were the borders not shut tight early and pause pressed on everything for 4,5, or 6 weeks ?, hibernation is the word that keeps coming to mind. I kept thinking ‘stimulus package ? – we need to hibernate not get stimulated’ .A lot of people I speak to feel the same way -it may be naive .Contact tracing and quarantine can be successful with smaller numbers. Then we could reemerge first and start opening up to other nations as they won their fights and became safe too. There are some big behavioral or political reasons that got in the way but are there any others ? economic, financial or physical ? It seems like the clear simple solution to me ,take the pain early ,hard and get it over fast ,I think that is something people can relate to. There would be advantages for nations that won quickly.

    Hopefully when this is over Aussies might change the tradition of taking pills to mask symptoms and going to work anyway when they get the flu. My partners brother is really good at turning up looking like he is half dead – I always think ‘why did you come – I dont want to get sick ‘ .Wearing a mask when infected is also a nice sign of consideration .

  38. You can make the calculations on the basis of any capacity you like, of course, but I think you should take into account surge capacity from redeployment of existing machines and staff, and efforts to obtain new equipment, as well as baseload demand.

    The 5% figure is usually taken to apply to intensive care beds, not ventilators. Ten of the 16 COVID-19 patients currently in ICU in NSW require ventilators, according to NSW Health.

    I think it’s important to realise that statistics on ICU admission—and deaths—cannot be directly compared with overall case numbers, and that doing so paints a misleadingly positive picture. Many identified cases are only in the early stages of the disease—64% of NSW cases have only been diagnosed in the past 5 days—and these patients may yet require intensive care or die.

    But the flip side of this is that there is a little more time than is indicated by using projected total case numbers and an assumed share of patients requiring intensive care to estimate the demand for ICU beds.

  39. In view of ,
    van Doremalen, N., et al. (2020-03-17) “Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1” (Letter) N Engl J Med doi: 10.1056/NEJMc2004973
    should we be copper plating the stainless steel handrails on the stairs in the various central stations or other very high traffic areas? If it’s feasible to copper plate the plastic handrail on escalators should we be doing that?

  40. Rodney,
    No copper will be needed for the much more crucual abbtle against global warming.

  41. This news item puts the ICU beds issue into perspective.

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-27/coronavirus-covid-19-icu-beds-hospitals/12090420

    Apparently Australia has just over 2,200 ICU beds. “That’s around 8.9 ICU beds per 100,000 people … which is worse than Italy (12.5), where COVID-19 has overwhelmed hospitals.”

    “For the patients who will be hospitalised but won’t need intensive care, Australia has about 3.8 hospital beds for every 1,000 Australians, which is lower than the OECD average of 4.7. Japan and South Korea have more than triple Australia’s number of beds per capita.”

    My qualitative assessment is;

    (1) Australia, on the ground, is doing no more to stop COVD-19 than Italy did at a comparable point in its trajectory.

    (2) Italy has more ICU beds per capita than Australia.

    (3) Therefore, Australia will probably have an even worse crisis then Italy.

    In general, the West is finding out that it is now more backward than China, Japan and South Korea. The ability to respond to a medical-social-economic emergency is lower in the West than in China, Japan and South Korea. This is a salutary lesson for the West. It’s what happens when you spend too much on non-essentials and self-indulgent luxuries rather than on essential public goods and services, general robustness and resilience and preparation for zoonotic pandemics*, limits to growth and climate change.

    *Note: Zoonotic pandemics like COVID-19 will occur more frequently as humans push into and destroy wild habitats. It is this process which brings man into contact with more animals capable of transmitting diseases to man. This includes the issue of the bush meat trade.

  42. Ikon, that is what I concluded a couple of weeks ago when I decided to self-isolate for as long as I could. It was already obvious that most of my cow-orkers would refuse to take any precautions at all until the arrests and fines actually started happening (because the optoin “my boss acts sensible” seemed even less likely).

  43. When fear takes over, with death in the hospital halls and people collapsing in the street, a lot more people will self-isolate. No civilian will be giving assistance or CPR to anyone who collapses in the street. Even ambos will be limited in what they can do safely. Of course there will eventually be a lot of those who have had the virus and recovered plus those who haven’t but feel invulnerable. These people will still go out and about,. Indeed, the recovered will be required to run the economy once we are sure they are cleared of the virus.

    Anecdotally, I have heard of schools where some teenagers are sneering at teachers and saying, “You’re going to die and we will be fine. So up yours.” Riots and civil unrest are possible. Flouting of self-isolation laws is common now. When curfews and proof of reasonable right to be about your business in public are needed there will be more flouting of laws. Then, what do the authorities do? If people riot or disobey , police will not be able to control them by arrest and incarceration. What happens then? In the USA, we can guess the answer. Martial law and shooting rioters on sight will be the order of the day. And in fact, if things get too out of hand then that is the only final resort. Will that happen in Australia? I doubt it but we cannot rule it out.

    Our authorities need to implement a complete lock-down except for essential activities only. If people don’t comply then higher levels of force will have to authorized. Nobody wants that but if people riot and flout laws it will become necessary. I could see tasers and rubber bullets being resorted to in Australia if people get out of hand. Nobody sensible wants this but if the alternative is civil breakdown what then?

    Of course, neoliberalism and globalism are definitely to blame for this crisis. Creating poverty, inequality and food insecurity leads to the bush meat industry in some countries. Bush meat leads to zoonotic diseases, which in some cases lead to epidemics and pandemics. Cutting funding for hospitals, research centers for disease control and so on also exacerbate such crises. Populations already poor and in poor health are much more susceptible.

    Pushing consumption activities and rampant consumerism means there are less resources for serious purposes like preparing for an epidemic which all the experts knew was coming sooner or later. It is a matter of opportunity cost. Instead of building cruise ships we should have been building hospital ships, as one example. I keep banging on about this because it is necessary. This is a salutary lesson that neoliberalism does not work and that it leaves us highly fragile and vulnerable to shocks and black swan events. If we go back to our old ways after this then we are doomed as a species. If we change and change raidcally there is still some hope.

    People who bang on with “What about the money?” don’t understand the first thing about the real economy. The real economy is about real resources. If you can build cruise ships, you can build hospital ships. It’s a matter of taxing the rich and sometimes yes printing money.

  44. Ernestine, I am phobic of “-ism” these days. ” these observations reinforce my aversion of …isms “.

    And “… was motivated by monetary profit or by nationalism and secrecy.”

    I’d add “big fish little pond”. Big fish Greenland is still in the “little pond ” tawdry merchantilalists and financiers. The directors, with this tribal action are gaining kudos to make the jump to the “the big pond” aka “the party”. Helping the cause more important than money in this case. Imagine who got supplies? !

  45. Hope everyone’s well and keeping safe.

    Ikon: “There is not one shred of evidence to my knowledge that suggests we will have a better experience than the European average. Maybe we won’t be as bad as Italy or Spain. Probably we won’t do any better than Germany or France.”

    https://waqi.info/

    There are correlations between air quality and case fatality rates, especially PM2.5 (which you can select from the buttons on the right). Any underlying lung conditions will worsen your prospects and severity of pneumonia. Population density is another factor. Milan, Tehran and Wuhan are all standouts on both counts.

    I’m not suggesting Australia can afford to be complacent based on these factors, but they are advantages we have over many other countries. At a guess, in the long run we may have a similar experience to Ireland. That would be consistent with our similar experiences with Spanish Flu.

    I think one of the big unknowns is what kind of flu season we’ll have in the next few months. If we have a bad year in 2020, it’s likely our case fatality rates for COVID-19 will increase over Winter. On the other hand, near-total lockdowns to minimise COVID-19 could have the added benefit of avoiding a bad flu season in 2020.

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