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 You can also follow me on Twitter @JohnQuiggin, at my Facebook public page   and at my Economics in Two Lessons page

30 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. The disclosures on Sixty Minutes and in the Nine papers about the internal affairs of the Victorian ALP are ruinous. At least they should be ruinous for the chief malefactors identified in the reports.

    Former ALP ACT Branch Secretary Matt Byrne has published the following statement.

    “After reading tonight’s expose in The Age, I am furious and disgusted by the alleged acts of corruption, misogyny and homophobia by powerful members of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party.

    “Any action that takes place to deal with these egregious allegations should be supported. I urge the Victorian Administrative Committee and the National Executive to use all tools at their disposal to root out corruption and expel them from our party.

    “The curtains that have shrouded this behaviour must be drawn back and the sun must be let in. Honest paying party members, members of affiliated unions and our supporters must know the full extent of these acts and must be satisfied that any response is meaningful and matches the seriousness of these offences.

    “However dealing with these alleged acts of corruption alone will not be enough to turn around the undemocratic and unaccountable culture that has plagued the Australian Labor Party for years.
    For too long honest paying members have been sidelined or treated with disdain while crooks stack branches and rort elections.

    “For too long simple reforms to improve governance in the party have been killed-off because it could upset the dominant faction’s hold on power.

    “For too long officials in affiliated unions and Parliamentary Members have chosen to side with the branch stackers and the crooks instead of siding with honest members in implementing democratic reforms and empowering the members and the movement.

    “Quiet acquiescence must no longer be a defence for inaction.

    “This has to stop. It is time for fundamental reform of the Australian Labor Party.

    “It’s time to overhaul the state and territory branches and introduce a national membership system and a national framework for democratic decision making.

    “It’s time for strong anti-stacking measures such as payment by traceable means and introducing regular audits of membership records which are publicly disclosed.

    “It’s time for honest party members and individual members of affiliated unions to be empowered to preselect candidates and help form party policy.

    “It’s time for greater reporting of membership and financial information to members and affiliates.

    “Ultimately though these changes will not be effective unless members, affiliates and MPs who support a democratic and accountable party join together and fight for it.

    “I’m proud of the reforms that the ACT Branch implemented over the past ten years to improve accountability, democracy and governance. We didn’t get everything right but the reforms we made helped us to almost double our membership in 5 years, run open and competitive preselections for territory and federal parliament and improve the say members have on how their party is governed.

    “You may not agree with everything I have suggested here, however it is now clear that piecemeal reform from state to state is simply not good enough, we must go further and take decisive action now.”

  2. Who do you vote for? The LNP are all for capitalist BAU which increases inequality and destroys the biosphere. The ALP are for almost the same plus are heavily corrupted at the party level. I suspect the LNP are not much better in that regard anyway.

    It seems like in small countries that ordinary, competent and decent people can rise to representation and leadership, like Jacinda Ardern in N.Z. In bigger countries it seems always the sociopathic scum who rise to the top. It’s a good argument to have only relatively small polities. Australia seems on the boundary limit at 25 million people. It’s another reason why I want to see our population growth halted.

    But realistically what can we do? I think we should expand the Electoral Commission and they should handle registered party rolls, supervise membership voting procedures and ensure outside audits of membership and finances issues. Obviously, the parties cannot be trusted with these tasks.

    The coordination and exploitation of naive ethnic groups (naive with respect to Australian party politics) is also of grave concern. This sort of corruption permits and encourages ethnic squabbles and divisions. The alleged perpetrator’s sneering references to “anglos” held racist overtones of their own. Blacks and other ethnic groups may be amused and find this ironic. They could rightly say to me, “Welcome to a tiny taste of our world of being judged and marginalized by race.” I understand that. However, that being said, no racism and racist denigration is acceptable, even that of “anglos”.

  3. ” The results imply that anti-poverty programs targeted at the very poor can help achieve global environmental goals under certain conditions.”

    Conditional cash transfers to alleviate poverty also reduced deforestation in Indonesia

    Paul J. Ferraro
    Rhita Simorangkir

    DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz1298

    Solutions to poverty and ecosystem degradation are often framed as conflicting. We ask whether Indonesia’s national anti-poverty program, which transfers cash to hundreds of thousands of poor households, reduced deforestation as a side benefit. Although the program has no direct link to conservation, we estimate that it reduced tree cover loss in villages by 30% (95% confidence interval, 10 to 50%). About half of the avoided losses were in primary forests, and reductions were larger when participation density was higher. The economic value of the avoided carbon emissions alone compares favorably to program implementation costs. The program’s environmental impact appears to be mediated through channels widely available in developing nations: consumption smoothing, whereby cash substitutes for deforestation as a form of insurance, and consumption substitution, whereby market-purchased goods substitute for deforestation-sourced goods. The results imply that anti-poverty programs targeted at the very poor can help achieve global environmental goals under certain conditions.

  4. Who cares about scandals, incompetence and corruption?

    Recently the New Daily ran two Michael Pascoe pieces exposing;
    1.- $2.5 billion regional grants program rort 25 times bigger than the sports rorts. 

    Forwarding it on to someone elicited the surprising response: “Who cares?”

    Who does care about the governments track record and if they don’t why not?

    Just a brief refresher on the track record ought to start with the denial of one of the world’s most significant existential risks (after nuclear war) 
    2.- climate change; and the 
    3.-  continued disgrace of Indigenous policy. The latter is pertinent in the 
    4.- Morrison dismissive response to the George Floyd murder and 
    5.- Indigenous deaths in custody. Equally he evaded, in typical fashion, answers to questions about 
    6.-  Rio Tinto’s destruction of a 45,000 year old site which ought to have been the World Heritage list.

    But after that you can make up your own list. 

    7.- Slashing $783 million from the ABC since 2014; 
    8.- the NBN fiasco; 
    9.- the huge waste of money revealed in 2018 at Senate estimates that, in 2016–17 alone, the Australian government spent 
    10.- $4.06 billion, including $1.57 billion for onshore compliance and detention and 
    11.- $1.08 billion for its offshore prisons; 
    12.- the Robodebt cruelty which, yet again, the Prime Minister dismissed and refused to apologise for; 
    13.- the progressive erosion of civil rights and 
    14.- expansion of surveillance under Peter Dutton; 
    15.-  ongoing IT failures such as the recent use of MyGov by scammers; 
    16.- and the never-ending attempt to hobble industry superannuation so that private funds can gouge members more freely.

    Throw in the 
    17.- secret prosecution of East Timor whistle-blowers; 
    18.- persecution of universities (other than the four private ones who got access to JobKeeper); 
    19.- the failure to legislate for an integrity commission; 
    20.- subsidies to companies which exacerbate climate change; 
    21.- callous disregard for the sufferings of casual and contract workers affected by the pandemic; 
    22.- persistent refusal to act on banking industry exploitation and dishonesty until the tide of opinion and divisions within the Coalition forced the government to act; 
    23.- callous neglect of the bushfire calamity; 
    24.- savage cuts for the arts and other perceived ‘enemies’; and, 
    25.- the fact that during this lockdown – thanks to Coalition policies there is a digital divide in which 2.5 million Australians don’t have an internet connection.

    So why don’t people care?

    Gary Wills in his book, Papal Sin talks about Thomas Aquinas’ concept of ‘cultivated ignorance’ or ignorantia affectata which Wills describes as “an ignorance so useful that one protects it, keeps it from the light, in order to keep using it.” …

    Everybidy cares YET cultivated ignorance and;
    “The Effectiveness Trap is keeping us all trapped.”

    Q: What percentage of ministers, backbenchers, advisors etc succumb to the effectiveness trap?
    Ministers – 98%
    Advisors – 100%
    Backbenchers – 80%

    Governmemt effectiveness fir change, is inverse to the effectiveness trap capture.

    No peeking. When was this written?

    “One question that will certainly be asked: How did men of superior ability, sound training, and high ideals—create such costly and divisive policy?

    “”A related point—and crucial, I suppose, to government at all times—was the “effectiveness” trap, the trap that keeps men from speaking out, as clearly or often as they might, within the government. And it is the trap that keeps men from resigning in protest and airing their dissent outside the government. The most important asset that a man brings to bureaucratic life is his “effectiveness,” a mysterious combination of training, style, and connections. The most ominous complaint that can be whispered of a bureaucrat is: “I’m afraid Charlie’s beginning to lose his effectiveness.” To preserve your effectiveness, you must decide where and when to fight the mainstream of policy; the opportunities range from pillow talk with your wife, to private drinks with your friends, to meetings with the Secretary of State or the President. The inclination to remain silent or to acquiesce in the presence of the great men—to live to fight another day, to give on this issue so that you can be “effective” on later issues—is overwhelming. Nor is it the tendency of youth alone; some of our most senior officials, men of wealth and fame, whose place in history is secure, have remained silent lest their connection with power be terminated. As for the disinclination to resign in protest: while not necessarily a Washington or even American specialty, it seems more true of a government in which ministers have no parliamentary backbench to which to retreat. In the absence of such a refuge, it is easy to rationalize the decision to stay aboard. By doing so, one may be able to prevent a few bad things from happening and perhaps even make a few good things happen. To exit is to lose even those marginal chances for “effectiveness.”


  5. It appears that the Vic Labor party has made a mistake .Unfortunately to have any chance of winning government the ALP has to behave faultlessly .

  6. KT2, here’s a 26th point for your list, which should probably figure higher than 26th: the trashing of the Murray-Darling catchment by the criminal actions of very wealthy corporate interests and their corrupt enablers in the Liberal (and) National Parties and the bureaucracy. I have just finished reading Margaret Simons’ Quarterly Essay on this topic.

  7. Paul Norton, yes. Additions and reordering in in order.
    27. Returning $500m from gbrF to researchers.


    “Alongside the almond trees were abandoned grapevines, bulldozed into piles or left to stand like skeletons, fingers pointing to the sky, and in between red dust – a reminder that, without water, this is desert.” [Desert – untrue yet evocative and appropriate]

  8. faustusnotes says: 4:57 PM
    “KT2, that’s not evidence.”

    1. Where is yours. Don’t bother replying without a citation.
    2. After emailing Taleb, please link to your reply from Taleb.
    3. EXACTLY what would YOU specify as evidence? 3a. When will evidence be available?
    4. Do you BELIEVE 1 condom has stopped 1 person after 1 sex act to NOT catch HIV from partner in sex act? 

    4a. Is unprotected sex multiplicative?

    You keep arguing with me. Play the ball. I will keep on reminding you of you total lack of citations, continual denial of science and your continued rejection of mask wearing usefulsness. I think you like it this way. I reply with an opinion. You rebut without EVIDENCE. I provide you with the best ‘evidence’, able to be verified and what do you do faustuanotes? Blab on and on about how your opinion is warrented, never rebutting the more than 100 drs & phd’s linked prior! I want to be convinced, not chat to you.

      … let us see your reply from Taleb or one of the 100 or more researchers fauatnotes. Or YOUR study. Your replies will just elict MORE DATA AND EVIDENCE YOU WILLFULLY IGNORE.

    [You are losing your effectiveness faustusnotes: “The most ominous complaint that can be whispered of a bureaucrat is: “I’m afraid Charlie’s beginning to lose his effectiveness.”]

    Here are Taleb’s six errors AGAIN faustusnotes. Please rebut them in order as you are more knowledgeable than Taleb, JQ, and the 100+ Dr’s and professors I have procided you with. 

    1) missing the compounding effects of masks,
    2) missing the nonlinearity of the probability of infection to viral exposures,
    3) missing absence of evidence (of benefits of mask wearing) for evidence of absence (of benefits of mask wearing),
    4) missing the point that people do not need governments to produce facial covering: they can make their own,
    5) missing the compounding effects of statistical signals,
    6) ignoring the Non-Aggression Principle by pseudolibertarians (masks are also to protect others from you; it’s a multiplicative process: every person you infect will infect others).

    Feel free to get pointers here too re masks with detailed discussion on Taleb’s six points;

    World Health Organisation 5th June;
    Advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19
    Interim guidance
    5 June 2020
     | COVID-19: Infection prevention and control / WASH

    This document provides advice on the use of masks in communities, during home care, and in health care settings in areas that have reported cases of COVID-19. It is intended for individuals in the community, public health and infection prevention and control (IPC) professionals, health care managers, health care workers (HCWs), and community health workers. This updated version includes a section on Advice to decision makers on the use of masks for healthy people in community settings.
    Corrigendum – Advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19: Interim guidance, 5 June 2020

    Q5. Under what conditions would you wear a mask faustusnotes?

    Please reply in the sandpit.

  9. Watch Covid19 start off last and beat malaria deaths with a quick run in 6 weeks – * killer * animation. Very sobering watching rapid rise to beat malaria.

    “Animated chart shows rise of death count from Covid-19 to other causes of death

    “Selected Global Causes of Deaths Due to Various Causes and COVID-19, Jan-May 2O2O

    Total: 1,748,949

    Source: Global Burden of Disease study, Worldometers populations, Johns Hopkins COVID repository

    *Except COVID, causes of death shown account for ~7% of global deaths annually

  10. KT2,

    Yes, one now hopes that all those opinionated and un-knowledgeable people opposing action now realize some of the reality of COVID-19. Many of them were saying, “It’s just another flu.” Of course it is not: not taxonomially and not epidemiologically.

    There are many more concerns to face. I may post on them soon. We are running into a “perfect storm” of events threatening civilization and humanity itself. These include climate change and all its effects plus zoonotic disease outbreaks, looming financial and economic collapse, plus species extinctions, ecological collapse and real economy collapse.

  11. There were at least two people at the Vic BLM rally with Covid 19 ,yet it may be the case that no one caught it there .Masks may be more effective than previously thought .Although there wasnt much touching going on many people did stand too near each other for an extended period of time but the vast majority wore masks. The rate may have been over 90% ,I have seen that number given , I was on the edge with those trying to distance and I struggled to see anyone without a mask near me.

  12. Australia is teetering on the brink of new COVID-19 cluster outbreaks which could lead to a second wave or at least to the need for a second lock-down almost as soon as we leave the first. We are playing with fire. We may get burnt.

    I would recommend that organizers of BLM and refugee protests negotiate with the government in a “speak softly and carry a big stick” manner. That is to say they should put forward a “negotiations or demonstrations” model. If authorities would negotiate in good faith and really change things starting right now and continuously, then there would be no need for further demonstrations. “But if you deceive us or delay justice then the demonstrations restart again straight away.”

    This would put the responsibility for justice and overall COVID-19 safety squarely on the shoulders of the government of the day.

  13. Of course, the government could stop the demonstrations by…giving the demonstrators what they want. That would be unique.

  14. Don,

    That was what I was trying to say. The government could say to the demonstration organizers: “You have just demands. This is a really inconvenient and indeed unsafe time for demonstrations as we are sure you know. Let’s sit down and discuss just demands and just measures to meet those demands.”

    Jaw, jaw, not war, war, as Churchill reputedly said. We don’t need class war or race war at this difficult juncture. In fact, if we had met just demands in our society over time, our socioeconomic system would not be as unstable and fragile as it is now when put under a bit of outside (exogenous) pressure.

  15. @Paul Norton

    Re shenanigans in the Victorian Labor Party. What used to be known as ethnic branch stacking (no doubt there is a more socially acceptable term now) has been going on forever.

    40 years ago in the western suburbs of Sydney the left and right stacked branches with Lebanese muslims and maronites, respectively. This was during the Lebanese civil and they had been brought to Australia in large numbers by Malcolm Fraser.

    Needless to say, they hated each other’s guts. This was superimposed on the garden variety left right NSW Labor Party hate of the time, which was hateful indeed, often violent.

    It made for interesting branch meetings.

  16. And now, but of course, the Victorian Right is briefing the Herald Sun on stuff done by the Left.

    It’s Mutually Assured Destruction at its finest. A few days ago Daniel Andrews looked like he could be Premier until the Sun grows cold. Now, as his party eats itself, his future is very shaky.

  17. @Smith9,

    John Ferguson at The Australian also seems to be very well briefed by somebody in a position to know stuff.

  18. Biologist doing economics? Socialism in the soil? Or markets?
    “to parts of the mycelial network for trade with the plant system according to a “buy low, sell high” logic”

    Mushrooms first meal after the end of the world?

    “Sheldrake also tells us about Toby Kiers, an evolutionary biologist who was taken with Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” and its insights on inequality. She wondered how mycorrhizal networks, the symbiotic intertwining of plant systems and mycelium, deal with their own, natural encounters with inequity. Kiers exposed a single fungus to an unequally distributed supply of phosphorus. Somehow the fungus “coordinated its trading behavior across the network,” Sheldrake writes, essentially shuttling phosphorus to parts of the mycelial network for trade with the plant system according to a “buy low, sell high” logic.

    The anthropologist Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing has explored the story of global capitalism through mushrooms. In 2015, she published “The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins,” which followed the trade in the prized matsutake mushroom from a community of Southeast Asian refugees who are among the top foragers in the Pacific Northwest to the auction markets of Japan, where matsutake fetch a thousand dollars a kilogram, and on to chefs and discriminating diners in the world’s most cosmopolitan cities.

    There’s a double meaning to Tsing’s title. The mushroom is at the end of the known world because it’s hard to find, a secret tucked deep in the forest. But she’s also hinting at the end of the world as we know it, given our instinct for extracting as much from the earth as we can. Humanity has never seemed so finely calibrated and rationalized: the seamless journey of a very expensive mushroom from nature to a dinner plate tells this story. But things have never seemed so precarious, either. During the current pandemic, images have circulated which suggest that the earth is better off with many of us staying at home. There have been fantastical stories of dolphins in the canals of Venice, penguins sauntering through an empty aquarium. And, as industry idled and vehicles went undriven, there was the rare sight of clear skies in Beijing and Los Angeles. Following the nuclear blast at Chernobyl, the industrious, resilient fungi were among the earliest living things to appear. They seemed to grow on the reactor walls, attracted to radioactive “hot” particles. In fact, they appeared capable of harnessing radiation as a source of energy, as plants do with sunlight. The first thing to grow from the soil after the atomic bomb decimated Hiroshima was, reportedly, a matsutake mushroom.

    Scientists still don’t understand how fungi coördinate, control, and learn from such behaviors, just that they do. “How best to think about shared mycorrhizal networks?” Sheldrake wonders. “Are we dealing with a superorganism? A metropolis? A living Internet? Nursery school for trees? Socialism in the soil? ”

    The Secret Lives of Fungi

    They shape the world—and offer lessons for how to live in it.

    Click to access Current-Biology-Whiteside-2019.pdf

  19. KT2, don’t tell other commenters where to put their comments or how to comment. I have responded to your points in the Masks thread, where the debate belongs. If you are interested in understanding why your proposed strategy is wrong, then please read and respond in that thread.

  20. The Robodebt fiasco continues. Legalistic expressions like “unjust enrichment,” “misfeasance of public office,” etc, are being chucked about. As I am not a lawyer, I have no idea if these are merely scary sounding expressions, or if they are indeed of legal consequence. In any case, the damage wrought by the government in trying to wrest monies from people who, in all likelihood, had no way of disproving the (ambit) claim, extends well beyond the dollar amount. If your financial situation is precarious, being hit with a bill for something that is alleged to have been from several years ago, and having private debt collectors sooled onto you, would be incredibly stressful. It would affect credit rating, ability to get a mortgage, among other things. To then find out you didn’t “owe” any money at all, that would be beyond galling.

    Icono, yes, we are in furious agreement.

  21. Create money out of thin air?

    “Skidelsky, Against Economics (NY Review of Books)

    As one of my former Caltech-Harvard collaborators (by the 1990s a quant-trader, now a hedge fund magnate) described it, modeling the yield curve compared to pricing equity derivatives is like quantum field theory compared to simple quantum mechanics.

    In modeling the yield curve one immediately asks: what are the underlying dynamics? What are reasonable consistency conditions? What is the impact of a “shock” like a change in the Fed funds rate? A moment of reflection reveals that market psychology plays a huge role in setting the model parameters… A bit of historical investigation shows radical changes in the yield curve (and, consequently, the effective “money supply”) over time. One can in effect create money out of thin air!”

  22. Borrowing costs
    I knew this was happening, but not on this scale: Bloomberg (my emphasis)

    “Renewables including biofuels will account for about a quarter of all energy spending next year, up from about 15% in 2014, Goldman analysts including Michele Della Vigna said in a June 16 note. This is in part driven by diverging costs of capital, as borrowing rates have risen to as high as 20% for hydrocarbon projects compared with as little as 3% for clean energy.”

    Note that for historical reasons Lazards use a now unrealistic WACC of 9.6% in comparing the LCOE of differenr generating technologies, which leads to a large underestimate of the competitiveness of wind and solar. This is one reason why the coal phaseout is speeding up.

  23. From an op-ed by a Singapore fund manager on the dim prospects for Australian coal

    ‘This [Chinese push for renewables] should reduce coal demand by about 18.4% by 2025, or more than four times what China imports, according to the State Grid Research Institute.”

    It’s not likely that the huge State Grid, a classic unbundled Littlewood transmission monopoly with no axe to grind between different sources of generation, is hiring cheap forecasters. The same story will happen in coking coal, except that the substitution by Mongolian coke will just be a redistribution of carbon emissions until the world gets serious on hydrogen DRI ironmaking.

  24. Coal was a dead man walking but the trouble is, it was still walking. The recent decrease in demand has enabled a lot more people to see it’s dead and its supporters blandishments are sounding more and more unrealistic… “He’s not dead! He’s just pining for the fjords. He didn’t say “brains” he said “gains”! As in how much you’ll gain from a new coal power station! Yes, he is currently eating your lungs, but that just means he likes you.”

  25. JQ, a study supporting a broader & more systemic set of goals available for your;  “Post-pandemic, here’s the case for a participation income”

    “Research Shows ‘Linking Climate Policy to Social and Economic Justice Makes It More Popular’

    “The public wants a Green New Deal. The public wants green stimulus. The public wants to address inequality.”

    …”researchers on Friday detailed recent studies showing “policy packages that address the climate crisis alongside income inequality, racial injustice, and the economic crisis are more popular among voters.” …
    “The take-home message is clear,” the researchers write. “Linking climate policy with social and economic reforms makes climate action more popular with the public.”

  26. File this under point 18.above – “persecution of universities (other than the four private ones who got access to JobKeeper); ”

    They – arts / humanities – will feel cheated. And 2050 student debt crisis ala US?

    Dan Tehan today in answer to a question from guardian journo (Paul Karp?) at press club. He had to ask twice to elicit;
    Paraphrase Tehan: yes we will be taking out $900m from Teaching and Learning at universities, and setting up an industry linkage and jobs ready program with business,  but it goes back to the universities”. Or. Well. Ian.

    – Read the above as $900m in private paws which uni has to beg for under ‘future job readiness’ conditions. Cry. Social engineering and central planning. For the market.
    + comparing now against US & UK uni funding.
    + 120%??? increase in cost of arts degrees

    ” Australian university fees to double for some arts courses, but fall for Stem subjects
       “The Coalition will double university fees for some future arts students, and also raise them for commerce and law, to fund an expansion of 39,000 places and cheaper degrees for those who study in-demand courses such as teaching, nursing, maths, science and engineering.

        The education minister, Dan Tehan, will announce the policy to create more “job-ready graduates” at the National Press Club on Friday – emphatically rejecting comparisons to unsuccessful attempts to deregulate fees in the 2014 budget despite more than doubling the future cost of an arts degree.”…

    Shame Dan Tehan has read this… or maybe he has!
    ” Scott Newstok’s How to Think Like Shakespeare directly addresses rhetoric as “the craft of future discourse,” and attends to the particular practices that cultivate this craft. Transcribing quotations, memorization, imitation of style, translation, disputation—all basic educational exercises that were still common until a couple generations ago—train the imagination and intellect and provide a fund for thought. 

    In general, such practices introduce the student to a tradition, not for the sake of reverence and preservation but as the “stock” that forms the basis for fresh thought and prudent initiative. Students who have not experienced these things are not liberated but deprived, and the deprivation is an injustice: They have been cheated.”
    (Yes faustusnotes, J-D and other helpful commenters, I will read this book.)

    The Press Club said “transcript posted monday on this page”;

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