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

23 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. The Morrison government continues to fiddle while the world burns. The world burns with fever and it burns with climate change.

    On the COVID-19 front, the Morrison government has done nothing and achieved nothing. After over a year of the pandemic, it is still the case that only the states have prevented COVID-19 gaining a full foothold in Australia. The Federal Government’s actions have been non-existent on the disease front. There is no new purpose-built quarantine system. We are still stuck with the makeshift hotel quarantine system. There has been no significant production of vaccine in Australia, no significant imports of vaccine and no significant vaccine roll-out, relative to the need and urgency of the situation. Australia has vaccinated far less of its population than comparable developed countries. A whole year of doing nothing.

    Some of the specifics of our border control situation leave a lot to be desired. It is absurd that people are still being permitted to travel to India and other COVID19 status red nations for reasons as poor as attending a wedding or a funeral. Yes, these are poor reasons relative to the damage a mutated strain can do when it enters Australia. At the best a state or capital city must be locked down for days or weeks. Consider those costs. At worst, a dangerous mutated strain could gain a foot-hold and run rampant causing multiple deaths. Our values are upside down when it is accepted that people have a right to go to a dangerous pandemic red zone for a wedding or funeral and then come back and potentially cause multiple deaths in Australia. These are foolish decisions by governments and self-indulgent and selfish decisions by individuals.

    On the climate change, bush-fire and flood fronts, the Morrison government has also done nothing and achieved nothing. Reconstruction still lags after our major bush-fires and floods. People are still left in nearly unlivable situations. There has been no move to national insurance, no move to creating a federal fire-fighting agency with an air wing, no move to improve flood rescue, no move to creating national laws to control sub-par developments and construction standards with respect to fire and flood proofing our national housing and infrastructure.

    When it comes to the national interest, the Morrison government seems more intent on defending the Liberal Party’s donation interests. The Morrison government does nothing on the coal front preferring to let Australia drift rapidly into international climate criminal and trade pariah status. Morrison is clearly more concerned with the Liberal Party’s donations from the coal industry than it is concerned with our true national interest which encompasses the needs of all Australians.

  2. …” Maybe he [Biden], too, has mistaken a generation for the country.”

    “The Conservative Case Against the Boomers

    “For bleakness, scope, and entropic finality, the progressive critique of the generation has nothing on the social-conservative one.

    …” Was American liberalism contingent on boomer optimism, and was that contingent on a once-in-human-history sequence of prosperity? There are plenty of ways to define Biden’s agenda, but one is that he is trying to apply a politics built on boomer optimism to an era in which that optimism has faded. At his Inauguration, Biden said, “We have never, ever, ever failed in America when we have acted together.” Maybe he, too, has mistaken a generation for the country.”

  3. The less Independent Planning Commission has given the nod to more coal from the Hunter, saying that “greenhouse gas emissions from the project would “comprise a very small contribution towards climate change at both the national and global scale”.”

    It’s a nonsense argument, surely. Global emissions are a multitude of relatively small “contributions” and it is the sum of these that makes the whole.

    The IPC needs to be challenged on their calculations and conclusions based on those calculations.

  4. The Independent Planning Commission NSW (IPCN) has been busy.

    On Friday (Apr 23), the IPCN approved the Tahmoor South Coal Project (SSD 8445) – Second Referral, that includes a permit to extract a maximum 3.0 Mt/y (for first workings) and then 4.0 Mt/y (for second workings) coal until 31 Dec 2033.

    Today (Apr 26), the IPCN approved the proposed Mangoola Coal Continued Operations Project, that includes a permit to extract a maximum 13.5 Mt/y ROM coal until 31 Dec 2030.

    The IPCN has refused:
    * Dendrobium Extension Project, on 5 Feb 2021
    * Bylong Coal Project, on 18 Sep 2019, KEPCO then appealed but NSW L&EC upheld the IPCN refusal on 18 Dec 2020, and KEPCO recently lodged an appeal

    Despite the NSW Government announcing last week the cancellation of the Watermark Coal Mine (10.0 Mt/y to 30 Jun 2046) and not supporting Dartbrook Open Cut operations, there are several NSW coal project proposals currently being considered by the NSW DPIE in the planning process including:
    * Spur Hill Underground Coal Project, Prep EIS, 8.0 Mt/y, +25 years
    * Glendell Continued Operations Project, DPIE Requires More Info, 10.0 Mt/y, to 2044
    * Mt Pleasant Optimisation Project, Response to Submissions, 21.0 Mt/y, +26 years
    * Hume Coal Project, DPIE Assessment, 3.5 Mt/y, +23 years
    * Angus Place Mine Extension Project, Response to 2nd Round Submissions, 4.5 Mt/y, to end-2053
    * Chain Valley Extension Project – Mod 4, Response to Submissions, 2.1 Mt/y, to end-2027
    * Narrabri Underground Mine Stage 3 Extension Project, Response to Submissions, 11.0 Mt/y, to 2044

    How do we/humanity rapidly and drastically reduce GHG emissions within this decade (i.e.
    2020s) when organizations like the IPCN and DPIE continue to keep approving more fossil fuel projects?

  5. Top of the list of drivers of mental illness from this gp – poverty. As pandemic funding and suicide rates seem to show.

    “It’s rare to be able to tell the truth – here’s what’s wrong with Australia’s mental health system

    Adrian Plaskitt

    …” there are also very real societal drivers of mental illness. Placing all the emphasis on the individual with programs like R U OK allows the government to ignore the drivers of mental illness which are well known and well documented.”…

    “These are:
    – Poverty
    – Powerlessness
    – Homelessness or insecure housing
    – A feeling of hopelessness leading to drug use
    – Lack of quality education
    – Lack of parenting support
    – Disruptive and chaotic childhood without options for safety etc.”..

  6. Do-nothing Scotty is waiting for Godot. That’s why nothing ever happens in this country. No climate policy. No bush-fire policy. No flood policy. No reconstruction policy. No Covid-19 policy. No vaccination policy. No quarantine policy and so on. Scotty: talk, pray, do nothing. Our man of inaction.

    Not quite true of course. He does one thing. He perpetuates the interests of the fossil fuel lobby. A whopping 10.3 billion dollars in subsidies went to fossil fuels last year. Admittedly, the states kicked into that swag as well.

  7. The Oxford Jenner Institute seem to have hit gold with their malaria vaccine. This is the first one, in a century of trying, to reach the WHO target efficacy of 75%, in a double-blind trial on 450 children in Burkina Faso:

    Technically, this is a bigger achievement than the covid vaccines. The malaria parasite has 7,000 genes that arm it with very sophisticated defences against its human hosts, which it has lived off for 30m years. The covid-19 virus, at home with bats, has 12 genes and only started attacking us 18 months ago. The health burden is greater too: 400,000 deaths a year since just about ever, against covid-19’s non-repeating 3.1m (with many more to come). A chart of the unbelievably complex life-cycle

    Another item that’s almost as unbelievable in a different way. From the Lancet preprint:
    “Sterile efficacy rates of 63-78% were observed during controlled human malaria infection (CHMI) trials after three doses of 10mg R21/MM, administered intramuscularly four weeks apart”.
    Agreeing to be infected with malaria after shots of an unproven vaccine is serious altruism. As things turned out it works well, so only a quarter got a very unpleasant, possibly recurrent, and occasionally life-threatening disease. The volunteers deserve our thanks and admiration.As do the African kids and their parents: the trial wasn’t risk-free.

  8. I don’t think that switching leaders will alter our energy and mining policies, mining is an industry that has corrupted Australian politics absolutely and it was successive Govts of all persuasions that made it so.

    When Bob Oatley challenged the then proposed Bengalla coal, and how it would ruin his view from his beloved Edenglassie, ALP premier Bob Carr changed the law to protect the mine.

    Even now, as experts talk of the end of coal, more coal is being dug up to load the ever waiting ships, to satisfy the ever present demand. It just never stops.

  9. That link might not be easy to open;

    “ US coal generation rises to six-month high in February: EIA

    Houston — US power generation from coal totaled a six-month high 87.85 TWh in February, up 7.4% from January and 56.6% higher than the year-ago month, Energy Information Administration data showed April 27.

    It was the eighth increase in the last 10 months for coal generation. The latest month was also up 10.5% from the five-year average for the corresponding month and was the highest total for the corresponding month since 92.71 TWh in February 2016, according to EIA data released April 27.

    Total US power generation during February was at 327.02 TWh, down 6.8% from the prior month but 2.8% higher than the year-ago month.

    Coal made up a 25-month high 26.9% of the power generation in February, while natural gas generation was also at a 25-month low 34.1%, compared with 23.3% and 35.7%, respectively, in January. In the year-ago month, coal’s share was at 17.6% and gas was at 39.5%.

    It was the sixth time in the last eight months that coal outpaced both nuclear and renewable, including hydroelectric, generation.

    In 2020, coal made up 19.3% of the power mix, while natural gas, nuclear and renewables made up 40.3%, 19.7% and 19.8%, respectively.

    Coal-fired power plants operated at a 30-month high 60.7% capacity factor, up from 51.5% in January and 36.4% in the year-ago month.

    Natural gas generation in February was at 111.67 TWh, down 10.9% from a month earlier and 11.1% lower than the year-ago month.

    Natural gas plants operated at a 50.9% capacity factor in February, down from 54.4% in January and 58.8% in the year-ago month.

    Nuclear generation in February was at 62.95 TWh, down 12.4% from January and 4.5% lower than a year earlier. Nuclear made up 19.3% of the total generation in February, down from 20.5% in January and 20.7% in February 2020.

    Renewables fall to four-month low

    Generation from renewables, including hydro and solar, was at a four-month low 60.99 TWh in February, down 11.1% from January and 9.5% lower than the year-ago month.

    Renewable’s power generation share was at 18.7%, down from 19.6% in January and 21.2% a year ago.

    Wind generation fell to 26.67 TWh in February, down 12.3% on the month and 9.3% lower than a year ago, while total solar generation, including from solar photovoltaic and solar thermal, was at 6.5 TWh, up 13.4% from a month earlier and 14% higher than the year-ago month.

    Generation from wind and solar made up 8.2% and 2% of the total power in February, respectively, compared with 8.7% and 1.6% in January, and 9.2% and 1.8% in the year-ago month.

  10. 2 views re US YOLO economy. And the great reshuffling.

    “The ‘Capitalism is Broken’ Economy

    “In truth, this isn’t the YOLO Economy so much as the “Capitalism is Broken” Economy — with an accompanying “great reshuffling,” as my friend Michelle Legro dubbed it, facilitated by the safety nets of UI, student loan pauses, moving in with family members to facilitate care, and/or accumulated remote work savings.

    “The models up and down the American economy are unsustainable. They have been built on the belief that profit — and, in many cases, exponential growth — should, as a rule, supersede labor conditions. In ‘knowledge’ jobs, they have been guided by the false idols of productivity and workism; in the retail and hospitality industry, these conditions have been facilitated by anti-labor campaigns, perverse private equity imperatives, and lax (or non-existent) regulation of the gig economy.

    “The pandemic did not create these conditions. It simply made them even more impossible to ignore — and created scenarios in which some workers (not all, but some!) have been empowered, perhaps for the first time in their working lives, to opt out.”

    “Welcome to the YOLO Economy

    “Burned out and flush with savings, some workers are quitting stable jobs in search of postpandemic adventure.

    “If this movement has a rallying cry, it’s “YOLO” — “you only live once,” an acronym popularized by the rapper Drake a decade ago and deployed by cheerful risk-takers ever since. The term is a meme among stock traders on Reddit, who use it when making irresponsible bets that sometimes pay off anyway. (This year’s GameStop trade was the archetypal YOLO.) More broadly, it has come to characterize the attitude that has captured a certain type of bored office worker in recent months.”…
    nytimes com 2021/04/21/technology/welcome-to-the-yolo-economy.html

  11. Australia and other wealthy nations are trying to prevent India and South Africa from getting a temporary patent exemption from the WTO to manufacture covid vaccines .Thats the savagery of the market on full display .Huge amounts of public money went into the development of these vaccines .Similarly self described ‘techno king’ Elon Musk was given a $500 million loan from the US government after the GFC. This money did not have to be paid back if he lost it. The Los Angeles Times says he has received about $5 billion dollars in government money in total.


    Clive Palmer’s plan to build an open-cut coalmine 10km from the coast of the Great Barrier Reef has been deemed “not suitable” by the Queensland government with its assessment now being sent to the federal environment minister.
    Federal environment minister Sussan Ley has 30 business days to listen to the scientific experts and say no to this damaging project.

  13. KT2 @ APRIL 26, 2021, 11:09 AM – Re that critique of usanian boomer optimism.

    From the cited book’s New Yorker review

    …Andrews sees boomer optimism and self-certainty as sometimes indulgent and sometimes flatly imperial, as in her account of the development economist Jeffrey Sachs. Andrews’s version casts him as an update on an imperial type—crashing about the globe, from Bolivia to Poland to Russia, giving the same bad advice to economic ministers dealing with varied economic and political circumstances, who politely ask him to please take his feet off their tables. It’s a good parable, particularly when Andrews lights on the story of Andrei Shleifer, a more junior economist who worked with Sachs in the mid-nineteen-nineties, as part of a Harvard-affiliated project offering advice to liberalizing economies. Shleifer and his wife turned out to be “investing in Russian companies whose fortunes Shleifer was in a position to determine.” Andrews writes, “Imagine ordinary Russians’ fury, then, when they learned that the Harvard advisers in Moscow were not only arrogant and insensitive but actually corrupt.”

    …Scan American history and the element that is most unique to the boomers’ experience is their prosperity. By the nineteen-sixties, the standard of living was doubling each generation, a rate that had probably never been reached before, anywhere in the world—and in the United States has not been reached again since. The generational optimism and hope for change may have less to do with anything so nebulous as culture; it may, more simply, be the product of getting suddenly and phenomenally rich.

    …At his Inauguration, Biden said, “We have never, ever, ever failed in America when we have acted together.” Maybe he, too, has mistaken a generation for the country.

    They just don’t get it, don’t see it even when recalled to plain sight as above. [BTW, by the definition given in the first sentence of the book Biden, born 1942, is not a boomer.]

    US boomer optimism was supported materially post WW2 by mostly unseen vassal tributary states and funded by near all nations through domestically unseen US exorbitant privilege following on Bretton Woods. After the Bretton Woods collapse and challenge to US exorbitant privilege optimism could remain high as vassal states continued to increase in number and in regional geographic spread (of some note more recently are changes in France under financier-in-chief Macron). Following the delinking of US dollars and gold, apart from other nations then being obliged to hold US treasuries the continuing but mostly unseen support for US boomer optimism was in large part due the US geopolitical strategy of Carter’s national-security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski which continued on, more or less, for nine presidential terms post Carter.

    Now, not even a Brzezinski could be optimistic. The world unseen changed. Not blindside change, rather a paradigm shift. There’s no going back.

    Michael Hudson almost groks it here:

    America’s Neoliberal Financialization Policy vs. China’s Industrial Socialism
    MICHAEL HUDSON • APRIL 15, 2021 (“About.. Michael acts as an economic advisor to governments worldwide including Iceland, Latvia and China on finance and tax law.”)

  14. The Guardian on Delhi: “As hospital and intensive care beds in the capital have filled far beyond capacity, the instruction from doctors has been for patients to find oxygen for themselves. As a result, demand for oxygen cylinders has soared to unprecedented levels, with some hidden market vendors selling a single oxygen cylinder usually worth 6,000 rupees (£58) for upwards of £700.”

    This bears all the marks of a panic run. It was funny when it was just toilet paper, but this one is costing lives. Worth recalling that this is a classic market failure. The government has to intervene: perhaps by hanging a few hoarders and engrossers in the town square, perhaps by a show of confidence and a credible guarantee of adequate supply. But if you have a real and not a purely panic-generated shortage of an essential good, the solution is war communism. The government requisitions all supply, and rations it out according to need. This is pretty much what blandly centrist and conservative governments have been doing over vaccines, with general support. Whether the government charges a cost price is pretty unimportant, though a significant deposit on empty oxygen bottles may be needed to secure returns.

  15. Big Tech’s Monopoly profits are skyrocketing, for example Apple:
    At least we should all use ad blockers and buy androids.
    One sort of fun side issue with all those monopolies profit is that investors are willing to spend a gazillion on establishing new platform monopolies these days, so that even winning the monopoly does not guarantee a major payoff any more. Uber lost a couple of billions every year so far. It’s not even quite obvious what Uber is spending all that money on. One guess of mine is the company might be spending a little too much on developing the perfect two-sided price discrimination algorithm (and obsessing a bit too much over hiring the best* to build those not matter what pay that requires, hey Uber how about you spend half that money on guaranteeing minimum standards for drivers)

    *In Uber’s case the perception of who is the best seems to be distorted more than usual, but that’s another story.

  16. Wow, James, that is great news about a malaria vaccine. I hadn’t heard a thing about it. I will make sure to pass this on, as it is a rare bit of positive news. (Although I know that there are many good things happening all the time, I just don’t hear about them.) Thanks!

  17. Just to be clear, I am not recommending war communism as anything but an emergency fallback. It’s bound to be inefficient from lack of information, requires a lot of sheer coercion when there is no social consensus as with vaccines, and is wide open to corruption and abuse of power. It’s well-known that it’s rarely the best solution for famines. In these the problem is not normally an absolute shortage of food, but the collapse of buying power. The solution is Milton Friedman’s: “Give them some money”. The traditional method is public works, but the roads are in fact incidental, you can just hand out rupees.

  18. I listened to a British chappie talk about the inefficiencies of a war time economy. He pointed out how normal market forces don’t work and the supplies the front line soldiers received were nothing like they’d get if they had to pay for them. I thought he was going to end by pointing out that since no soldier would chose to spend their own money on bombs and bullets, war is only possible with coercion because if people had to directly pay for it out of their own pocket instead of indirectly through tax there would be no war. But instead his point seemed to have been that the Nazis would have been beaten sooner if the Allied soldiers had to pay for their own bullets.

  19. During a Q&A session Parnell Palme McGuinness attacked “the Australian government’s decision to suspend flights from India — where the coronavirus crisis has claimed more than 200,000 lives — (and) has been branded (it) “unconscionable”.

    IMHO, this is an emotive assessment which does not consider all relevant factors. Open borders lead to mass causalities during a global pandemic. We have seen the facts of this. Every country with open borders has had mass casualties during this pandemic. What is unconscionable and short-sighted is people traveling to pandemic hot zones, catching COVID-19 (often) and then demanding to come back.

    If they had made a wise assessment of the dangers, they would not have gone in the first place. If the Australian government was more stringent before permitting departures, these people would not now be trapped (though of course they would be complaining about not being allowed to go). The right to attend a wedding or a funeral (for example) does not trump the right of many others to keep living. If we have an escape of one of the more dangerous (highly transmissible) variants, we could again see thousands of deaths from COVID-19 in Australia.

    The pro-immigration, open-borders lobby must be ignored currently and perhaps indefinitely for the safety of most Australians. At current rates, all Australians will not be twice-vaccinated before the middle of 2022. And by then we probably will need a booster vaccine. The supply and logistical difficulties will be perennial. Much of the rest of the world will be unsafe for travel for up to another five years and maybe indefinitely.

    We need to get used to this. The world has changed forever. We will never get back to the old normal. The new normal will mean permanent new firm restrictions on travel and migration. Travel needs to be greatly reduced in any case to help prevent climate change. Open borders, high travel, high migration mean a fragile, mono-cultured, pandemic-spreading world. Moderately hard (but not absolute) borders will equal national ring-fencing and regional robustness. This regional robustness needs to extend to domestic manufacture of all vital products, for middling to large countries and/or regions. These developments hopefully mark the end of neoliberal globalization and over-connection as a biosphere-destroying capitalist process. If it doesn’t then we absolutely will collapse in climate-change and pandemic-riddled mess, probably leading to human extinction.

  20. Relevant as our archives are underfunded.

    “Double Fold
    Finalist #6 of the book review contest

    “The reason for their belligerence is that Baker publicly revealed a decades-long policy of destruction of primary materials from the 19th and 20th centuries, based on a pseudoscientific notion that books on wood-pulp paper are quickly turning to dust, coupled with a misguided futuristic desire to do away with outdated paper-based media. As a consequence, perfectly well preserved books with centuries of life still ahead of them were hastily replaced with an inferior medium which has, at the moment that I am writing this review, already mostly gone the way of the dodo. 

    …”The story combines an excessive reliance on simplistic mathematical models, wilful ignorance to the desires of actual library-users and scholars, embracement of miniaturization and modernization as terminal values, and an almost complete disregard of 19th century books as historical artefacts. “…

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