Monday Message Board (a day late)

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

21 thoughts on “Monday Message Board (a day late)

  1. “The Sickness is the System : When Capitalism Fails to Save Us from Pandemics or Itself.” – Professor R.D. Wolff.

    Makes a particularly good point when he points out how the US socializes the cost of war stockpiles but won’t socialize the cost of health stockpiles.

  2. we had lots of prawns (not overcooked) , fresh mixed salad, potato salad AND potato bake,
    ham, corned beef, fizzy wine, white wine and beer and cherries and other stuff (not in that order)
    no arguments ( well, hardly). 50 degrees celsius outside. bugger-all covid in the state.

    things could definitely be worse.

    merry new year.

  3. Heard right wing conservative 2gb radio announcer Hider rand talk about the Eureka Stockade today. He was talking about the flag but really did not know anything about it. Maybe John you could email him or even get on air and talk to him. He is on 2gb radio Sydney, afternoon show weekdays. He knew very little, needs educating.

  4. The scaring from this pandemic will take over a decade to fully surface. Youth unemployment, forced retirements and lost permanency of employment will leave emotional and career scars. The response to this has to be coordinated and considered. To lose a wealth of experience from older workers is bad enough; but to have young people lose hope of a successful career is even worse. There does not seem to be any game plan to deal with these triple aftershocks in the 2020 labour market. Young people need support when unemployed, that is a given. But so do those who have lost permanency of employment. As for the state of early retirement that was unsought and unchosen, this should not be ignored. Young, not so young and old workers, who at the very least suffer from underemployment, need more than monetary support. They need to be told that they are valuable members of society. Then they need a hand up from the depressing situations caused by downsizing, outsourcing and retrenchment.
    My New Year’s resolution is to do all I can to help those I know of in these situations.

  5. Complete 5 – 10 year old 8 or 10 panel solar systems can be bought for 5 or 6 hundred dollars or less .The sellers are just upgrading to bigger systems. Sometimes removing it all yourself is part of the deal. Dad has been bugging me to get a new solar system via the Vic government solar rebate scheme. I could fit 4 of those second hand smaller systems on my roof myself and get it connected and signed off by someone I assume. Half the panels would face east and the others west. In 5 years or so I might get a second hand electric car ,also I might want to get a battery and get off the grid, can those old inverters connect to a battery ?. Can anyone see any problems with my idea .?. I dont know much about solar but I believe the panels are lasting better than expected and should be good for 30 years but efficiency declines.

  6. Scientists in the UK are calling for a full lock-down as the UK faces “catastrophe”.

    “A scientist advising the government has said “decisive” national action is needed to tackle the spread of the virus across the UK and prevent a “catastrophe” in the new year.

    “Prof Andrew Hayward, a member of the government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said the new variant meant the UK was entering “a very dangerous new phase of the pandemic”.

    He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the “50% increase in transmissibility” of the new variant means restrictions that worked before “won’t work now” so England’s tier four restrictions, “or even higher than that”, were likely to be needed.” – BBC.

    Given we can clearly see that the USA is in a worse position than the UK and the EU is scarcely in any better a position, it is reasonable to say now that the West and the globe, excepting perhaps the Sinosphere, face an imminent catastrophe. It might be averted yet but there are no guarantees. Most of the globe, including all of the West except NZ and Australia (so far), faces a medical emergency which will overwhelm all medical services. Without immediate full lock-downs they face catastrophes with people dying in ambulances, in homes and on the streets. These are the results of failing to take this pandemic seriously enough right from the start.

    I don’t want to say too much more at this stage. I’ll leave it at this. The West will never be the same again. It will be much reduced.

  7. While the panels tend to last long – 10 years old converters typically won’t make it another 5. So that problem should be solved either way.

  8. Given that conservatives have been wrong about everything this year they are now desperate for something to score points with so they have been making a big deal of Gladys Berejiklian’s more business friendly free market based approach to pandemic response. She is on the radio now among other things trying to distinguish between the Southern Northern Beaches area and the Northern Northern Beaches area .Good luck with that .Ring-fencing suburbs didn’t work in Melbourne but NSW contact tracing is better than ours was back then and they are onto it early. Still no mask mandate .Scott Morrisons instinctual response was wrong every time this year, how often can one person be wrong ? I think he just trusts in the markets and the good Lord above. Holding the Sydney cricket test reminds me of how we were hoping to hold the F1 Grand Prix – it got cancelled at the last moment ,there were crowds outside the gates.

    Iko I hope you are wrong about all that but sometimes logic dictates even if we dont like the sound of it. Certainly in the longer term without an effective vaccine roll out all would be lost ,we are just unprepared for such a challenge ,especially at the leadership level .Everything rests on the various roll outs, it is not assured. How far away is that longer term and how much stress can be handled until then? As you suggest the answer to that question will be different in different places.

  9. Meanwhile, per NYT (December 30, 2020, 8:07 P.M. E.T.), COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on the USA:

    19.7+ million accumulated total cases
    201,106 cases added on Dec 29 (-11% 14-day change)
    342,202 total deaths
    3,628 deaths added on Dec 29 (-9% 14-day change)
    124,693 hospitalized on Dec 29 (+10% 14-day change)

    IMO, the NSW Premier’s decision to allow a large audience to attend a cricket match in Sydney during a local community COVID-19 outbreak is consistent with NSW Government priorities – business interests override community safety.
    Approving more coal mines and gas fields are more examples.

    Some black humour tweeted last night from The Chaser:

    “SCG announces Super Spreader ticket deal: “buy one, kill one family member””

  10. It’s easier to say that at this point in time the death rate from COVID in the USA has been 1 in every 1,000.

    It’s been far worse than a war yet the ruling class appear to have been caught unawares and remain incapable of stepping up.

  11. Krugman points to a handy survey of the victory of renewable electricity, with excellent charts:

    Roser is scrupulous in pointing out the unfinished business. But batteries for cars and trucks are following an equally rapid learning curve, and there are good prospects hat hydrogen electrolysers (basically very simple devices) will follow the same course. Steelmaking, agriculture and shipping have credible pathways to low carbon, possibly cement. The unsolved hard technical problems have IMHO shrunk to aviation and sequestration.

  12. The world COVID-19 pandemic is spinning further out of control. The NSW Premier appears determined to make sure Australia joins the nations with an out of control pandemic. Her recent utterances are very confused. Somehow, after all we have seen in Australia and abroad, she still believes that locking down slowly and too late is the way to deal with this pandemic. It feels like almost a year since Scott Morrison was going to “go to the footy” at the start of the outbreak in Australia. Now, nearly a year later, the Premier of NSW is going to “go to the cricket”. Let’s hope she cancels the crowd attendance at least.

    As Dr. Norman Swan has said, the rule of thumb is that every day of delay in early lock-down at the start of an outbreak leads to the need for a week of lock-down at the back end of the outbreak. The Premier of NSW has not learned this lesson yet. When people of obviously reasonable intelligence are slow learners it indicates an ideological reflex is at work.

    As Geoff Miell said above, “the NSW Premier’s decision to allow a large audience to attend a cricket match in Sydney during a local community COVID-19 outbreak is consistent with NSW Government priorities – business interests override community safety. Approving more coal mines and gas fields are more examples.”

    It has always been the ideological reflex of Morrison and Berejiklian to put pandemic control aside and just get back to business as usual. They clearly don’t understand that we can never have business as usual while COVID-19 is circulating. Indeed, the NSW Health Officer speaking with Berejiklian all but let the cat of the bag. Berejiklian spoke of her determination for everything to be normal and almost implied that by a sheer effort of will, belief and acting that all was normal, then everything would be normal. The NSW Health Officer, on the other hand, strongly implied that “back to normal” was not something she was contemplating. In fact, she began to say “the changes required for COVID-19 will be with us forever..” Then as she started to say “for…” she stopped herself and re-phrased it to avoid the “forever”.

    The plain fact is that at least some of the changes mandated by COVID-19 will in all likelihood be with us “forever” or at least as long as human civilization lasts. It’s about time people faced up to this fact instead of reflexively running back to the skirts of “celebratory consumerism”. What are we celebrating? Our destruction of the planet? That is the only substantial thing we are doing.

  13. I’m glad this silly season is nearly over, what a load of garbage it all is. As for ‘gladbag’ and her cronies wanting to let this silly cricket match go ahead with 2000 cricket louths I have run out of words. I wont say what I really want to say. People like myself have been doing the right things, sanitising, stsying indoors etc. and now ‘gladbag’ says its okay to let a cricket match go ahead. Cricket is the most boring of all sports a load of rubbish.

  14. sunshine (re your comment at DECEMBER 30, 2020 AT 7:58 PM),
    You state: “I dont know much about solar but I believe the panels are lasting better than expected and should be good for 30 years but efficiency declines.”

    I’d suggest care should be taken with selection and installation for adequate, durable:
    – panel mountings, including care to provide sufficient anchorage in the strongest winds (and provide adequate durable seals to avoid potential leakage if roof-mounted);
    – panels, including handling (during install and any cleaning) to avoid damage;
    – DC/AC cables, connectors, isolators and protection enclosures/conduits.

    These considerations and activities need to be done by people who know what they are doing. High voltage DC/AC systems done incorrectly are potential fire and safety risks, that probably won’t be covered by insurance.

    The inverter generally won’t last as long as the panels (unless you are unlucky with hail larger than about 25 mm size impacting panels).

    My 10-panel 3.2 kW capacity grid-tied solar-PV system was installed in Apr 2015.
    The original inverter lasted approximately 2015 days, then failed with an internal fault. It was still covered under a promotional 10-year warranty, but the distributor (not the installer) of the original inverter took their time to acknowledge their liability and it took 75 days to replace, and resume generation. IMO, the installer business did everything they could do to provide excellent service, at no cost to me.

    The replacement inverter is a nominal 3.3 kW capacity unit, and seems to peak at a slightly higher level (when insolation has cooperated) compared with the previous unit, despite the lack of entirely sunny days so far. It appears to me inverter technology has certainly improved in the last 5 years, but has endurance/reliability? We’ll see in time.

    My point is: even reputable inverters fail prematurely. Adjust your expectations accordingly, and make sure you have adequate support for when and if things go wrong.

  15. I agree with Sonia Bennett. When I was a callow and narcissistic youth I thought sport mattered. I even thought I was going to be a “champion” in a particular sport. After that foolish little illusion was shattered and dispelled, I thought drinking beer and watching the cricket and football, live or on the TV set, was an enjoyable and worthwhile pastime. Eventually, I grew up. Since I was a slow developer it took until I was about thirty. It also took an excellent, determined and very intelligent wife to properly socialize and re-educate me. I was and am very lucky in that regard.

    Picture me, age 28 or thereabouts watching the rugby league on the ABC at 3.00 on a Saturday afternoon (in those days).

    Wife of Ikon – Aren’t you going to mow the lawn? It really needs it. (It did.)
    Ikon – I’ve been working all week.
    Wife – Sitting down in a chair doing clerical work.
    Ikon – Can’t I relax?
    Wife: Given the amount you relax, you should be the most relaxed person in Australia.

    Eventually, I had to admit she had a case.

    My point such as it is, is that we can grant some understanding, though certainly not carte blanche indulgence, to spoiled people under 30 who are still idiots. Especially to men who seem to more often be spoiled and slow developers under modern capitalism and white, male privilege. Since I was that type myself, I apply a lenient standard so I don’t have to think too badly of myself in retrospect. But everyone over 30 or thereabouts should be a lot smarter and where necessary they need to lay down the example and the prescriptions (rules, regulations, laws) for all to follow in this crucial time.

    At the same time, plenty of young people well under 20 do know the exact score on issues from climate change to COVID-19. At that age they have learned considerable science, maths, languages and logical thinking (where free public education remained available and healthy) without so much overt adult ideological and hypocritical thinking. Hence, Greta Thunberg’s wholly justified berating of the supposed adults in the hall at Davos (I think it was.)

    “Cricket is the most boring of all sports and a load of rubbish.” To that I would that all professional sports are boring and a load of rubbish. Most of the performers are highly over-payed and narcissistic self-seekers. The goals and skills of professional sport are narrow and of no real redeeming social, artistic, civilization or survival value in comparison to the existential challenges we now face. It is time to leave off such childish things. Civilizationally speaking, professional sport is one those childish things which we simply cannot afford any longer now. Imagine if every major sports stadium had instead been a major free public hospital, major free public university or major government medical R&D center. We would now have stood much better to fight off this pandemic. We always knew more pandemics would come, especially with global over-population and global travel over-mobility. Why did we not prepare? The precepts of neoliberal capitalism and market fundamentalism prevented us and indeed still do prevent many people from seeing what really needs to be done. They still believe in consumer capitalism. It is their religion.

    In cult religion theorizing there is the concept of “the day prophecy fails”. The covid-19 pandemic is the day, the year and the decade (looking forward) that neoliberal, market fundamentalist, capitalist prescriptions and prophecy fail. Capitalism is a cult; in some ways a kind of cargo cult. The system is collapsing and it cannot reset itself and return to the old normal. That now is impossible. So, unless we radically and rapidly transition to something else (genuine democratic socialism looks like the best bet) then we are inevitably doomed.

  16. A consistent message from the tourism industry is that “we have to get traveling again.” They mean both domestic and international travel. Why do we have to get traveling again? It’s worth analyzing this claim. Most travel is voluntary, non-essential travel. In this category, people travel for holidays and to see far-flung family members as often as they can. People do not “have to” do this travel. It’s a nice-to-do not a have-to-do activity in the main. This is certainly true of holiday travel. Some family-visiting may be necessary on compassionate grounds but not the high rates current before COVID-19 and when factoring in the amount of electronic communication possible.

    What the tourism industry is really saying is that they, the travel industry, have to get their income flowing again. They are saying “we have to have income and we have to get it from running travel businesses”. This focus on their business needs occludes the greater ecological and medical imperatives.

    What we (humanity) really need to do is stop global warming and stop the global covid-19 pandemic. These goals would be well served by stopping the non-essential travel industry pretty much altogether currently and then planning for a much reduced non-essential travel industry if and after the covid-19 pandemic is defeated. High levels of non-essential travel are contra-indicated going forward if we are to save the planet.

    The media air waves are awash with special pleading for the travel industry. In terms of climate change pressures this is akin to special pleading for the coal industry. In each case, these industries need to be wound down rapidly. With coal, a complete cessation of mining and burning coal is required. With travel, a great reduction of non-essential travel is required. Business losses are unavoidable in this process. People enter business knowingly or ought to do so. They know business has risks as well as rewards. They know, or should know, the risks run the gamut from lack of competitiveness, to regulatory risk, to risks of force majeure. They should hedge and insure against these risks so far as is possible. If they still decide to start, or continue, a business then they accept these risks. They want to privatize the gains and they cannot reasonably expect to socialize the losses, especially in the case of an ecologically unsustainable industry.

    The same social net which protects unemployed people is available for people who lose businesses and lose everything. There is an argument that this social net needs to be considerably improved but our Australian government has just taken a step in the wrong direction in that regard. Many people lose some money when a business folds but not all their money. Shareholders with diversified holdings will lose some money but not all their money. Persons who own businesses often have the business assets and debts sequestered in a company so that losses and bankruptcy, especially, are fire-walled from personal assets. All of these people are far better equipped to face such losses than their employees who lose all income and very often have inadequate savings or even personal debts,

    With all that said, I argue we should pay no attention to the special pleading from the owners of capital in the travel industry. The unemployment and lack of income, among the unemployed and under-employed, caused by business failures, stranded asset situations and other causes is another matter. That is what should be addressed. Given that we know we have to transition away from all ecologically unsustainable activities, we might as well bight the bullet now when it comes to travel. Consumption of fossil fuels specifically, and all over-consumption generally, have to be addressed. Overproduction of some goods and services (like travel) and under-production of other goods and services (like education, health, welfare, medicine etc.) needs to be addressed in a context of long term sustainability.

    The good thing in this analysis is that many of the non-essential, indulgent excess consumption activities are high fossil fuel, embedded energies and materials users, whereas the social goods activities required tend to be lower consumers of fuels, energies and materials but higher in demand of human workers. If we were wise, we would make a virtue of necessity during and beyond this COVID-19 pandemic. The re-continuation of former business as usual is impossible, unsustainable, and will lead to the most horrendous climate, ecological, national and global collapse. The time to change radically is now under the impetus of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  17. @ Sonia Bennett 6:08 pm
    Hider rand? what sort of name is that? sounds like a character from the sci fi books of that
    whats’isname of scientrollery.

    Sonia? introduce him to John Johnson —one of the in-the-dock-Eureka blokes.


  18. Israel has now vaccinated about 10% of the population with the Biontech/Pfizzer one. You’d think Israel would now hear a moral outcry and a delivery stop would be ordered until the EU catches up to 10%. Israel decided to simply outbid poor nations, paying twice the rate the EU did to get early access to vast amounts of the Biontech/Pfizzer vaccine. But no, the only thing Israel does get here in Germany is praise.

    Politicians of all opposition parties left or right complain why we did not simply outbid the other nations as well. Worse, the pressure already worked, Germany did add an order circumventing the EU process recently.

    Even if some EU ordered vaccines fail, the orders are sufficient for more than 100% coverage. The only reason for an extra order would be to skip the line on the scare early doses ahead of poorer nations. What I’m not quite clear about yet is if this was a genuine “market” outcome of sort, or if Israel had some leverage in the supply chain. If it was genuinely just the outcome of ordering a lot at a higher price, Biontech/Pfizzer were selling their soul pretty cheap.

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