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

43 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. Spooks give a helping hand to ARM

    The pushback from tech companies to Nvidia’s outrageous bid for ARM has been weak. Apple and Amazon, the two richest corporations on the planet. are ARM licensees and do not seem perturbed by the prospect of a rival licensee taking over an IP assembly line that is crucial to all of them. But very luckily corporations are not the only players. The UK minister for industry, Oliver Dowden, has finally got round to referring the bid to the Competition and Markets Authority for investigation – my emphasis.:

    “Following careful consideration of the proposed takeover of Arm, I have today issued a Public Interest Intervention Notice *on national security grounds*”.

    The motive is striking. Apparently the national security probe will run in parallel with the regular competition one. Now what is Dowden thinking about? The UK doesn’t have a world-beating electronics industry apart from the ARM oddity. But it still treats itself to a national security establishment. One obvious worry is a repeat of the spat over Huawei: surrendering control of ARM to a US corporation would make it automatically subject to American trade policy and trade wars, as opposed to merely vulnerable to US pressure. At the very lest, keeping ARM British preserves a bargaining chip,.

    There is another possible factor. ARM architectures and chip designs dominate the global market for small devices up to laptops, but are still the underdog to Intel in the server processors that run the Internet and the Cloud. But at the very top HPC end of the market, ARM has cleaned up. Supercomputers run on thousands ARM processors, because they are cheaper per megaflop, use less power, and can be tweaked by the very knowledgeable people that build these monsters.

    Now here’s the thing. The high performance computers advertised to the general public are all doing ostentatiously good deeds: designing drugs, probing subatomic particles, modelling the climate or colliding galaxies, and so on. It’s a safe bet that there are others we don’t know about: plotting cyberwarfare, designing nuclear weapons, cryptanalysis, surveilling the population for terrorist thoughts. Darth Vader does not want people he does not control designing his dark computers. Corporate greed is not the only thing we have to fear.

  2. James Whimberley offers a striking example of how fast technology is leaving democracy behind in the Twenty-First Century. With cyber warfare now able to abrogate democratic elections and shut down public services, the digital world exists in a constant state of war between free market access and intellectual property theft. Democracies once fostered research and development of new advances in science. Now they must, at one and the same time, worry about intellectual property border infringements. When Elon Musk has to reassure Chinese consumer that the technology on board his Tesla products could not be used for surveillance from outside China, we begin to see the new climate of suspicion in globalization. For more on that see
    “Watching them watching you
    Hacking China”
    China The Economist April 24th 2021
    The raging debates about government control over the global operations of companies like Tik-Tok, Huawei, Facebook and Google seem to revolve around that low level of trust in democratic processes. Set up long before industrialization launched the world into a technological revolution, democracy seems poorly structured to handle the global protection of intellectual borders. Of course this is not just a recent phenomenon. But it seems to be an area that is now been weaponized in a war of propaganda between western democracies and eastern autocracies.
    This lack of trust was shown up when the major pharmaceutical companies refused to suspend their patent rights on COVID19 vaccines. Without such a suspension, many third world countries will fail to immunize their population. The rich pharmaceutical companies argued that such a suspension would open them up to the loss of valuable intellectual property. This was portrayed as a trust issue and not one purely rooted in the profit motive of monopolistic competition norms.
    If democracy is going to survive as a viable political alternative for the free movement of goods, services and continuing research collaboration, then it must bring some certainty to international exchanges of ideas and inventions. At best this seems problematic and at worst a potential for a tragedy of errors.

  3. Whaddaya want now for covid19/long covid mate? Old school paleo-vaccines with sars-cov-2 spike proteins outside the cell or an mRNA neo-vaccine producing proteins inside and possible increased risk of mitochondrial fragmentation within your endothelial cells? Er…um, now that you ask… maybe a raincheck?

    Jan 11, 2021
    ..In this article, we note that human host cells sensitively respond to the spike protein to elicit cell signaling. Thus, it is important to be aware that the spike protein produced by the new COVID-19 vaccines may also affect the host cells. We should monitor the long-term consequences of these vaccines carefully, especially when they are administered to otherwise healthy individuals.

    April 30, 2021
    ..Exposure to this pseudovirus resulted in damage to the lungs and arteries of an animal model—proving that the spike protein alone was enough to cause disease.

  4. At a fundamental level we should ask ourselves this key question. Should democracies trade with autocracies? The answers will need to be decided on a case by case basis. However, we should not be trading, at all, with autocratic and oppressive totalitarian regimes which are great powers. The result is to aid them to expand their economic power and thence their military power. These powers then inevitably use that power for territorial and imperial expansion. China and Russia (again) are cases in point.

    The attempt to induce or produce democracy by introducing capitalism and free trade with autocracies has been a complete failure. The results of these extended policies have been the rise of China and Russia as ever more totalitarian regimes which are again becoming belligerent, expansionist and coercive. The theory that capitalism leads to democracy is false and the case of China proves this comprehensively. Indeed, state capitalism and oligarchic capitalism, often present in amalgam in practice, are antithetical to democracy and act to dissolve democracy, even in the West as corporate capitalism. Capital as both real capital and financial capital is inevitably mobilized against the people and in service of the oligarchs and party and corporate apparatuses.

    The democracies of the world, admittedly still highly imperfect in themselves, need to cease trading with totalitarian dictatorships like China and Russia. Nothing of enduring good comes of trading with them. We are selling them the technologies and materials to destroy us and they are indeed intent on destroying us as democracies. The continued existence of democracies is a challenge, a reproof and an example which totalitarian regimes cannot tolerate. Their long-term strategy is, and has to be by their very nature, the destruction of all democracy on the globe.

    Australia’s iron ore right now is being turned into Chinese tanks, naval ships and infrastructure to support the military in China. This is a very short-sighted policy. It’s like supporting the selling of pig-iron to the Japanese pre-WW2, which practice lead to the epithet “Pig Iron Bob” for Bob Menzies. Those interested can look up the “1938 Delfram Dispute”. Today, the West’s technology and chip designs are being turned into Chinese supercomputers to support China’s military and geostrategy operations.

    It’s quite possible that the horse has already bolted. That is to say, it is now quite possible that China, with backing from Russia and other members of the SCO or Shanghai Cooperation Organization – who are mostly puppets of China – already has the overall power to defeat the West and all world democracies in the long run. Certainly, on current trends, it will have that power by 2030. This is at least ten to fifteen years earlier than China envisaged having that power. The COVID-19 pandemic, fortuitous for China and either engineered or weaponized after the fact by China, has brought the plan forward by nearly two decades. This is if the rapidly increasing belligerence and expansionism of China is anything to go by.

    The one strategic mistake China can make is pulling the trigger too early. They don’t need to. On current trends the West will continue collapsing of its own accord and fall over without China lifting a formal military finger. All it seems to take now is cyber attacks, disinformation and disease and the West tears itself apart. The West’s neoliberal capitalism has white-anted its social structure and infrastructure to a critical extent. The only courses left for the West and democracy are a slow inevitable death or rebuilding and reconstruction on a non-neoliberal basis AND taking an increasingly firm stand against the totalitarianism of China and Russia. Trade restrictions, trade war and finally full trade, financial and technology embargoes against China and Russia are the only feasible path in the long run.

    The distribution of world resources means this theoretically is a viable path. It is likely that the rest of the world will prove more self-sufficient than the SCO bloc. The escalation of this path would ideally be kept below the threshold which would provoke a hot war. So, what is necessary is maximum pressure on Russia and China short of provoking major war. Russia and China can still possibly be contained. If they start a hot war (most likely a conventional attack on Taiwan or the Donbas in Russia’s case) then absolute economic embargoes will happen straight away. But if we allow China to creep ever outwards (strategic creep) we democracies will be destroyed by the death of a thousand cuts.

    Taiwan and the Donbas (but also any territories on the periphery of China and Russia) have to be the red line. A Donbas Russian invasion , for example, would merit a complete embargo of Russia but not a hot land war, although conventional military fronts would clearly be set up and proxy and guerilla wars prosecuted by all major belligerents. A Taiwan invasion would merit and require US conventional support of Taiwan unless the US determined (at any point) that it could not win in that theater. If China attacks Taiwan, and wins or loses, then a complete embargo of China must follow and be maintained for generations if necessary. If China took Taiwan, Japan and Australia would have to acquire nuclear weapons if approval was forthcoming from the other Western nuclear powers. Only possession of nuclear weapons would be a sufficient deterrent of China.

    These are unpalatable thoughts but the inability to think all necessary thoughts including the unpalatable ones leads to fatal unpreparedness.

  5. “These powers then inevitably use that power for territorial and imperial expansion. China and Russia (again) are cases in point.”

    So, how’s that worked out for them over the past 30 years or so? What territories has China expanded into since the 1979 Sino-Vietnamese War, in which China failed to achieve its objective?

    Just a simple list of successful expansions into territories will do. I can look up the details on Wikipedia.

  6. Ronald,

    1. Annexation of Tibet.

    2. Five fingers of Tibet strategy.

    “Five Fingers of Tibet is the Chinese strategy originally propounded by Mao Zedong to annex Ladakh (India), Nepal, Sikkim (India), Bhutan, and Arunachal Pradesh (India). According to the Five Fingers of Tibet strategy, Tibet is considered as China’s right hand palm, with five fingers on its periphery: Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh, with the ultimate objective to assert China’s claim and authority over these regions.”

    Clashes on the LAC (line of Actual Control) with India and incursions and excisions of Nepalese and other claimed territories show this strategy is still in operation.

    3. China Sea Disputes including East China Sea and South China Sea disputes and the claimed “nine dash line” where China has indicated its intention to claim the entire South China Sea.

    4. Full anti-democratic takeover of Hong Kong against against claims for some autonomy.

    5. Avowed intention to take Taiwan by military force against the democratic wishes of the Taiwanese.

    6. Xinjiang province where China is doubling down on genocide, concentration camps and “re-education” of the Uyghur peoples.

    7. Plundering of ocean fish resources globally by a para-militarized fishing fleet breaking international agreements.

    8. Belt and Road Initiative as an imperialist land way and sea way network utilizing techniques of of neocolonialism and debt-trap diplomacy.

    The pattern is clear. Totalitarian China uses a strategy of incremental expansionism. It expands anywhere on its land and sea borders wherever it detects weakness. Its militarization of the South China Sea reefs and atolls and the LAC pressures are cases in point. China will bite off bigger chunks which are weak, for example Tibet. There are can be no limits to Chinese expansion and aggression. The survival of any democracy in the world is an existential threat to the CCP dictator(s). Their goal is destruction of all democracy and all nations with democratic governments. The latter will take the form of satrapy dictatorships. Totalitarian China would also be happy for all other regions of the world to descend into collapse and barbarism and for China to remain the sole civlization as the Middle Kingdom.

    What the Chinese people want is a little more complex. They all want an upper middle class lifestyle and some set of freedoms to support that. How would or will they find those freedoms in a totalitarian dictatorship system? Already China has more middle class people the USA. In P.P.P. terms and real manufacturing terms, China’s economy is already much bigger than the USA’s. China has also surpassed the West technologically or is on the cusp of doing so. Every year of “permitting” China to grow makes all these problems worse. Of course “permitting” must be contested as a concept. The situation is probably already out of the West’s control. It now may be a case of us permitting it. We can’t stop.

    However, China’s growth will be self-limiting just as the rest of the world’s growth will be self-limiting. There are not enough resources left to permit more growth without condemning the world to catastrophic climate change. Indeed, we are already condemned to catastrophic climate change. The nations and regions which collapse slowest will become relatively more powerful. The democratic nations versus the totalitarian bloc of the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) must hold the line until the game changes radically from climate collapse. There will be a collapse.

    China is now the main driver of climate collapse going forward. China emits more carbon dioxide than the EU and the US combined. Who committed the most emissions in the past is irrelevant in the practical sense. That sense is what has to be done from this point on. China wants a blank slate until 2060. The climate can’t take it. China cannot be given that blank slate nor the blank slate to destroy democracy.

  7. Chinas ambition towards territorial looks at lot more like jingoist symbolism than geopolitics and therefore more limited in scope.

    (I consider both to be rather stupid and a lot more destructive for the nations that have such plans than for other big powerful nations).

  8. Iko, China in been in overall control of Tibet since 1951 and in direct control since 1959. That’s later than 1979. For China to be a “case in point” for an autocratic and oppressive totalitarian regime that inevitably uses it power for territorial expansion, wouldn’t it have had to engage into some sort of expansion into territory where there are people in the past 42 years? China’s GDP is 180 times larger than it was in 1979. If increasing power inevitably is used for territorial expansion shouldn’t we expect to see a few more territorial claims than some rocks in the China Sea?

    You’ve got some rocks so I suppose you can say your claim is not entirely wrong. But it is almost entirely wrong. It’s important to get things right. Stray too far from reality and you can end up like Trump supporter on the internet insisting black people destroyed Manhattan last year, despite the fact I can check the feed of a live cam in Times Square and see it’s still there.

  9. On ARM, RISC-V provides an open architecture that may eventually supplant ARM in low end embedded devices and has technical (security, size, cost, …) advantages over ARM and Intel when someone invests the engineering effort for the higher end.

  10. Rodney Brown: What keeps ARM honest and innovative is precisely the known risk (sic) that its many customers, which include giants as well as small companies, have the technical option of developing alternatives. Since ARM’s license fees are a few cents per chip, they do not think this is worth the very considerable effort and expense. What might change their minds is ARM’s falling into the hands of an aggressive rival like NVidia, or becoming a pawn in trade wars.

  11. Correction: I was wrong to imply that Silicon Valley as a whole is indifferent to ARM’s fate. I don’t have news on Apple and Amazon, but Tom’s Hardware writes:

    “Arm licensees such as Qualcomm, Microsoft, and Google have complained to regulators about the acquisition. It would be fair to assume that other companies have quietly joined that chorus in the last few months.”

    With both spooks and a coterie of tech giants against it, prospects for the takeover are gratifyingly poor.

  12. The sixth mass extinction proceeds but so long as we have our computer chips we are okay. That’s gentle sarcasm. I think we are all concentrating on the wrong things. But I guess it is inevitable. No species is “designed” by evolution to care about negative externalities. Every species is evolved to be perfectly selfish in the inter-species sense. It would be unrealistic to expect humans to be any different.

    It seems clear to me that most humans have no idea how extremely we have exceeded the carrying capacity of the earth. If they had, they would abandon all other obsessions and be solely obsessed with saving the biosphere. We are not at that point yet.

    It seems zoonotic pandemics are too slow to drive home the point that we have fatally unbalanced earth’s systems. Like the fabled frog starting in cold water and being slowly heated, we stay in the pot unaware that ultimately deadly changes are underway. It will require something truly rapid and spectacular on a global scale to wake people up. Even then, I doubt they will get it. I expect denialism to rule our system to extinction.

  13. IMO Covid has been of benefit to Australia.

    – It has killed the obsession with balancing budgets and/or austerity politics.

    – It has freed the workforce from having to travel to an office

    – it has clearly demonstrated the benefits of a NBN

    – it has stimulated a rural recovery more broad than the mining industry

    – it has seen record numbers of domestic tourists

    – it has seen record investments in local products, both discretionary and non discretionary

    – it has seen a renewed appreciation for our country.

    Need I continue?

  14. Akarog, has covid cured ageism?

    “Computerization, Obsolescence, and the Length of Working Life

    …” We find strong and robust negative effects of the knowledge gap on wages, and a large, temporary increase in transitions from work to non-participation, consistent with a model of creative destruction in which the computerization of jobs made older workers’ skills obsolete in birth cohorts that experienced computerization relatively late in their careers. We find larger effects on females and on middle-skilled workers.”

    “Ageism a big issue across Australia
    “The reason that we’ve got problems with the royal commission, the reason we’ve got pension poverty, the reason we’ve got a whole range of problems in Australia is because I think we’ve got a problem with ageism.” …

  15. In some respects the COVID-19 pandemic fits the requirements for a “salutary disaster”. That is a disaster from which we potentially learn a set of important lessons. Akarog lists some of these “benefits” which are really also lessons. But are we really learning these lessons properly or will we go back to our old foolish ways once the crisis is over? Will the crisis ever really be over?

    I think “no” on both accounts. We will not learn the lessons properly We will not retain them. The crisis also will never be over. We now face a series of rolling crises of which this new zoonotic disease pandemic is just the first. We have to change everything we do. The assumption that we can keep up endless growth has to be jettisoned. The assumption that we can waste resources on non-essentials has to be jettisoned. Will humans learn these lessons in time? I hope so but I very much doubt it.

    If we were learning these lesson we would be phasing out all unnecessary consumption activities much more rapidly and learning to live simply with much less total throughput which is not to say living without technology. But nobody can give up all that indulgent stuff easily. Not even me, endlessly carping on as I do about these issues. Natural forces will discipline us since we are incapable of disciplining ourselves. It will be a very hard reckoning.

  16. akarog,
    COVID-19 has made Australia less energy secure. Australia has only two oil refineries remaining in operation, and one of those (Lytton) looks like it might not be for much longer.

    Australia needs to import more finished liquid fuels. From where?

    From Mar 25 post headlined “Brunei peak oil – golden opportunity for China’s Belt and Road Initiative”, concludes with:

    “China is seizing a growing share of Asian oil trade under the banner of the Belt and Road Initiative, thereby adding another strategic challenge to the global oil supply system. Australia’s small and old refineries can’t compete with China’s huge, modern refineries with petro-chemical integration.

    In this context, Australia’s fuel imports and resultant oil vulnerabilities are becoming ever more obscure, complex and multilayered with no solution in sight except to locally develop alternative fuels and energies, a policy which should have started under Prime Minister Howard at the beginning of this century and which will take decades to implement even under ideal conditions of peace, technological break-throughs and availability of sufficient investment capital.

    After wasting 20 years Australian governments are still building new infrastructure which will increase demand for petroleum based fuels like urban road tunnels and a 2nd Sydney airport. With China’s increasing control over oil the moment is not far where circumstances will force Australia to reduce oil demand, leaving this infrastructure as stranded assets.”

    US tight oil production is unlikely to return to 2019 levels – see graph in Art Berman’s tweet on Apr 13:

    Time to leave oil before oil leaves us. Is anyone paying attention?

  17. Can’t remember who, but when the first gulf war started, an event was hosted to discuss and denounce as folly. But one of the first speakers, a long time well know anti war peace campaigner took to the podium saying..

    This is fantastic! We get to finally talk about it.

    Reinforcing Ikon’s lament that disaster has to strike before we can even manage a conversation about known knowns.

  18. A joke. On us.

    This is real, not a joke; in Qld, a prohibited donor may run political advertising and engage in political debates, hence, Clive P, Campbell Newman back in charge of libs $’s and Australian Institute for Progress (as we center right liberals captured ‘institute’ begging to have prohibited donors.

    “[ 144]…
    …”A prohibited donor may not make a “political donation” as defined in s 274. It is, however, free to engage in political discussion in other ways, including by running political advertisements and engaging in political debates.”

    The self assessment tool – another joke surely – allows a developer to see all necessary requirements to dodge being a banned donor. Blind trusts anyone?

    “Begin self-assessment

  19. I am seriously troubled about CSL. & Red Cross.

    What do we have to do / pay / leguslate to re nationalise csl?

    I assume a class action by individual donors – and donating proceeds to  haemophiacs – would be a start.

    Via JQ twitter>

    “In Cold Blood: how privatisation of CSL abandoned the victims of Australia’s public health tragedy

    “Blood is big business
    “The privatisation of CSL was one of the worst deals ever done by an Australian government, according to respected economist John Quiggin in September last year.
    “CSL was an irresistible buy. Its main input was blood, donated by ordinary Australians (few of whom understand that they are enriching a global corporation by doing so) and supplied free of charge by the Red Cross, whose costs are met by the Australian Government.”

    “Brian McNamee 
    …” the voluntary donor system would be troubled if a greedy commercial fractionator was seen to be profiting from their donations “…

    Brian McNamee 
    “… Dr McNamee has deep executive experience in the biopharmaceutical industry, with a focus on strategy and creating long-term shareholder value.”…

  20. UBI +
    “Universal Basic Income, Racial Justice, Climate Justice
    UBI can help create a broad-based collaborative security for present and future crises.

    …” His version is “identical to most UBI proposals”, save for the inclusion of “a pro-rated, additional amount for black Americans over a specified period of time.” This would safeguard universal economic security through a strategy of “targeted universalism” that both responds to the history of racial slavery and injustice in and by the United States and anticipates the effect of future, persisting racial injustice on African-Americans’ life chances. ”

  21. Iko: My ARM hobby is not a distraction from the big themes of this blog. It is not a trivi

  22. … trivial fact that four Africans out of five own a mobile phone, and a third a smartphone – and it was

  23. Iko, I want to be very clear on this:

    If I point out that the National People’s Congress of China does not actually eat babies, that definitely means I am personally in favour of eating babies.

    Go correct your mistake. If you can’t get basic facts right your conclusions aren’t likely to be useful to anyone. Well, no one good.

  24. James Wimberley,

    You might be right… or not. Are all these smartphones really doing anyone any good? I have serious doubts but it is difficult to expand too much on such a debate in a Monday Message Board. Like everything else we are doing en masse, I doubt that all the implied resource use and waste production (think of plastics for example and energy use on servers) is really doing the biosphere any good. For a devil’s advocate view search:

    “Smartphones Are Killing The Planet Faster Than Anyone Expected”

    Look, I use high tech stuff, sort of, albeit a few years at least behind early adopters. Then I tend to use that tech until it dies. For example, I never buy a new PC until the old one literally dies (the hard-drive usually) though I have been known to buy more memory sticks and plug them in. Still, I am almost as guilty as everyone, really. Funnily enough, your presented facts do tell me that I am down with the 20% of Africans who don’t own a mobile phone.

    I attended a funeral and was the only person from 8 to 80 who did not have a mobile phone. My wife has a mobile phone but was called to an emergency involving her elderly father elsewhere. My brother had to sign me in as his partner for potential COVID-19 tracing purposes. His wife had her own mobile phone of course.

    I don’t go out much these days but every time a place needs that mobile phone method to enter, I say to myself “Too bad, I won’t die if I don’t have that coffee or buy that whatever. Better that I stay away from all potential COVID-19 spots anyway.”

    People these days have a very odd idea of what they HAVE to have, like a mobile phone. Of course, soon I will be forced to have a mobile phone. I won’t be able to enter anywhere or purchase anything without one. Notice how the system is forcing you to have stuff and forcing you to be traceable everywhere? Isn’t there even a tiny part of you that says “Stuff you system. Precisely because you are trying to force me to buy something I will resist as long as possible.”? Maybe I’m strange but as a contrarian I enjoy being out of step, just a little.

    Aldous Huxley has some interesting things to say in this 1958 interview. Very prescient.

  25. … Sophie (née Roger) Wilson that did it. Think about what this means for dependency on middlemen, information on vaccines and contraception, political speech and organisation. It won’t be trivial whether our AI future runs in the Cloud on giant server farms owned by a handful of American corporations, or widely distributed in billions of smart devices owned by you and me. ARM is critically important to our prospects – and defeating the NVidia takeover is very winnable.

  26. One interesting fact I came across writing my unintentionally multipart comment above is that there’s a mobile phone factory in Ethiopia: . It’s Chinese-owned and managed of course, and currently a pure assembly operation using imported components, but this is how industries start. There are now a handful of Ethiopians who know how to make phones in a way that nobody on Wall Street does.

    I knew already that there are competing mobile phone services in Somalia and the eastern Congo, which don’t have what we would recognize as working governments. Doing business in Randistan must be tough, even if what you are selling (a) can be turned off from a safe distance if customers, however armed, stop paying (b) is vitally useful to warlords for intelligence and command-and-control. Contrast the phone sweatshop, which does require a working government, a regular power supply, an airport, etc.

    Iko: Derek Chauvin is in jail because a teenager filmed all ten miniutes of George Floyd’s murder on her smartphone. Her name is Darnella Frazier (clap). Until five years or so ago, video records were the preserve of professional media organisations and a few well-off hobbyists. Cheap and unstoppable video witness is a real force for change.

  27. +1 “Derek Chauvin is in jail because a teenager filmed all ten miniutes of George Floyd’s murder on her smartphone. Her name is Darnella Frazier (clap). Until five years or so ago, video records were the preserve of professional media organisations and a few well-off hobbyists. Cheap and unstoppable video witness is a real force for change.”

    I’d advise the video witnesses to use signal;

    First they came for…

    “The Instagram ads Facebook won’t show you

    …” Facebook is more than willing to sell visibility into people’s lives, unless it’s to tell people about how their data is being used. Being transparent about how ads use people’s data is apparently enough to get banned; in Facebook’s world, the only acceptable usage is to hide what you’re doing from your audience.”…

  28. It’s important to get things right.

    Sometimes people feel that it’s important to be right. Sometimes people feel that it’s important to have been right.

    When you feel that it’s important to be right, it’s also important to recognise those instances in which you were wrong.

    When you feel that it’s important to have been right, it’s important not to recognise those instances in which you were wrong.

    If somebody points out a mistake I have made, I have a choice between directing my energy to correcting my mistake and directing my energy to finding arguments to show that it was not a mistake.

  29. A press release by Rystad Energy, dated May 5, begins with the headline: “Big Oil could see proven reserves run out in less than 15 years as output is not replaced by discoveries”, then proceeds with:

    “The proven oil and gas reserves of the group of major companies called “Big Oil” are falling at an alarming rate, as produced volumes are not being fully replaced with new discoveries. A Rystad Energy analysis shows that Big Oil lost 15% of its stock levels in the ground last year, with remaining reserves set to run out in less than 15 years – unless the group makes more commercial discoveries, and fast.

    The task is becoming more and more challenging as investments in exploration shrink and success rates slump. The declining proven reserves could create serious challenges for Big Oil (ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Chevron, Total and Eni) to maintain stable production levels in coming years. This would in turn cause revenue to dwindle and pose a major threat to the financing of the group’s energy transition plans.”

    IMO, that’s a very significant and critical statement about the future of key energy resources – petroleum oil and fossil gas – that enables human civilisation to function (as currently configured), and yet not a peep about it in the mainstream news feeds that I have seen. So, does that mean the arbiters of the news feeds don’t think the Rystad Energy analysis is credible, or they don’t understand the significance/importance, or what? Very curious!

  30. Geoff Miell. Minor point: Most existing reserves aren’t owned by Big Oil, but by state-owned enterprises like Aramco, Petrobras and so on.

    Main point: As regards Big Oil, the news is good. Big Oil can see there is no long term future in oil (no more ICE vehicles after 2035), so they have drastically cut capital expenditure, including exploration, as your source notes. They are focused on getting the value they can out of their existing reserves before they are stranded, not on throwing good money after bad

  31. I’ll go with ‘settled’ Lawrence M. Krauss, as opposed to ‘Unsettled’ Koonin. 

    If you do a search of the book Unsettled, it appears in all the places you’d expect of someone saying ““Heat waves in the US are now no more common than they were in 1900” and “the warmest temperatures in the US have not risen in the past fifty years. . . . Humans have had no detectable impact on hurricanes over the past century. . . . Greenland’s ice sheet isn’t …”… WSJ 

    “Why Climate Science Is Like the Rest of Science
    By Lawrence M. Krauss
    Published on May 1, 2021

    “Steve Koonin, a distinguished nuclear theorist from Caltech who, since 2014, when he published his first editorial on the subject in the Wall Street Journal, has continued to argue along the lines of his column’s title, “Climate Science is not Settled.” Most recently he has written a new book,Unsettled, which has already generated a buzz due in part to a long Wall Street Journal column about his views, and last week reached #3 on Amazon in advance of publication.

    “Here, however, he [Koonin] is doing a disservice to both climate science and the public.

    “In the first place, no science is ever completely settled. That is the beauty of science. 

    “The basic physics underlying global climate change is clear and has been clear for over 100 years….”…

    “Theoretical predications have been confirmed by observations. The measured global temperature increase of 1.40C since 1900 is consistent with the additional heat input of between 1.5 and 3 Watts/m2 due to reduction in energy radiated into space by Earth. About 40 percent of observed sea level rise is due simply to the expansion of water as oceans have taken up this additional heat, equivalent to an energy deposit of about 3.4 billion Hiroshima scale atomic bombs over the past 25 years.

    “CO2 abundances will persist with only about a 40 percent falloff over a millennium, even if we turned off Greenhouse gas production today, and given the heat input already due to increased CO2 atmospheric concentration, sea levels will rise by at least 0.4–1m by 2100 independent of planned global reduction of fossil fuel burning.

    “These predictions are solid, and data on observed temperature, increased sea level rise, and ice sheet melting in the Arctic and Antarctic all are consistent with fundamental theoretical expectations.”

    Lawrence M. Krauss is a theoretical physicist and president of the Origins Project Foundation. His most recent book is The Physics of Climate Change.

    “‘Unsettled’ Review: The ‘Consensus’ On Climate
    (paywalled – any options)
    “A top Obama scientist looks at the evidence on warming and CO2 emissions and rebuts much of the dominant political narrative. “…

    …” begins with a kind of trigger warning for readers who may be shocked by the book’s contradiction of four points of climate orthodoxy: “Heat waves in the US are now no more common than they were in 1900” and “the warmest temperatures in the US have not risen in the past fifty years. . . . Humans have had no detectable impact on hurricanes over the past century. . . . Greenland’s ice sheet isn’t …”…

    Some Facts:
    “Influence of global warming on U.S. heat waves may be felt first in the West and Great Lakes regions
    April 2, 2018
    “Global warming will make heat waves hotter, longer, and more frequent. Communities in the U.S. West and the Great Lakes region may have the least time to prepare.”
    – NOAA

    “This indicator describes trends in multi-day extreme heat events in cities across the United States.
    Date Range: 1961 – 2018
    Contributors:U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

    “U.S. heat wave frequency and length are increasing

    “Heat waves are occurring more often than they used to in major cities across the United States, from an average of two heat waves per year during the 1960s to more than six per year during the 2010s. The average heat wave season across 50 major cities is 47 days longer than it was in the 1960s. Of the 50 metropolitan areas in this indicator, 46 experienced a statistically significant increase in heat wave frequency; and 45 experienced significant increases in season length, between the 1960s and 2010s.”

    I’d usually take a red, but not by this graph. Blue please.
    Let’s hope we trend with RCP 2.6 – blue line, not Red line RCP 8.5 which looks catastrophic.

  32. John Quiggin,
    An interesting chart from the IEA, titled “Share of oil reserves, oil production and oil upstream investment by company type, 2018”:

    NOCs: 56.0% _ _ INOCs: 9.7% _ _ Independents: 22.0% _ _ Majors: 12.3%

    NOCs: 45.6% _ _ INOCs: 12.2% _ Independents: 28.4% _ _ Majors: 13.9%

    NOCs: 29.7% _ _ INOCs: 14.3% _ Independents: 40.4% _ _ Majors: 15.6%

    NOCs = National oil companies;
    INOCs = International oil companies – not so ‘big oil’ now?

    From a Dec 2019 IMF paper:

    “National oil companies (NOCs) are economic giants. They control at least $3 trillion in assets and produce most of the world’s oil and gas. They dominate energy production in some of the world’s most oil-rich countries, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela, and they play a central role in the oil and gas sector in many emerging producers.

    NOCs are poorly understood because of their uneven financial reporting practices, and NOC governance has often been treated as a niche issue in public finance literature. A new report and accompanying database from the Natural Resource Governance Institute focus on the failure to rigorously scrutinize NOCs and the policies their governments employ to manage them, and how this failure carries major risks for dozens of economies around the world that depend on these companies’ sound management of public resources.”

    The breakeven crude oil prices of select OPEC+ countries are shown in Figure 1 here:

    Will NOC-dependent nations become “stranded nations” if they cannot diversify away from fossil fuels?

  33. “Will NOC-dependent nations become “stranded nations” if they cannot diversify away from fossil fuels?”
    In particular the small ones with a very favourable oil/population ratio have huge international asset portfolios. Those should be alright. Others, in particular the elephant in the room Saudi Arabia, don´t really have anywhere near enough assets to compensate for a no oil income scenario. But then, Saudi Arabia is no nice place to live even today with all the oil.

  34. I spoke recently to a person who had worked in one of the smaller oil principalities of the Middel East for several years. IIRC it was Qatar. The person did not work in the oil industry but in another sector of the economy. The basic picture I got of Qatar is that all Qataris are rich and entitled (because of the oil). However, not all inhabitants of Qatar are Qataris. There is a large migrant worker population that does all the hard work and drudgery. There is a class or pecking order even in the migrant worker classes. The lowest class (Nepalese I think) are practically slaves.

    Some of the basic takeways from the above are,

    “Qatar has 1.5 million migrant workers or 90 percent of its total labor force comprises migrant workers.”

    “Gulf states—including Qatar—use the kafala (Arabic for sponsorship) system as an employment framework to recruit migrant laborers from abroad to work in low-paying jobs.

    Under the kafala system in Qatar, migrant workers have documented a range of abuses, among them, are delayed and unpaid wages, excessive working hours, confiscation of passports, inaccessibility to healthcare and justice, sexual violence as well as deception in the recruitment process. In short, the kafala system binds a migrant worker into an exploitative employer-employee relationship.”

    “By giving an employer control over a migrant worker’s job and residential status, the kafala system encourages workplace abuses. With over 95 percent of Qatari families employing at least one housemaid, some migrants choose to become domestic workers in the homes of Qatari nationals, where they are often subjected to sexual violence.

    Furthermore, The Guardian reported in October 2013 that many Nepalese workers have died since the beginning of construction projects for future World Cup sites. These Nepalese workers live in segregated labor camps outside Doha where they endure unsanitary conditions and scant water supplies.”

    Of course, all this is a disgrace as is giving Qatar the 2022 World Cup. As an aside, holding world sporting events (for privileged athletes, officialsB and hangers-on) in a global pandemic world is also a disgrace.

    But on the main topic, the collapse of the oil monarchies and fiefdoms of the M.E. should see a welcome reduction of the power and influence of these tyrannical, anti-worker regimes and anti-democratic regimes. As I write often enough on this blog, more democratic and egalitarian societies simply should not trade with dictatorial regimes. It only encourages and perpetuates their systems. Neither should we militarily attack them on their soil or seek to dictate to them what system they should have. We should simply disengage economically and politically. That would help remove the power base of their oppressive elites over time and promote internally generated reform from below.

  35. True, looking at the entire population, not just passport holders, Saudi Arabia is not necessarily the worst offender (mainly because they have a large share of natives which are threaded nicer). The oil spoils are of course only shared among passport holders and even among them, they are shared very unequal. The money albeit tends to be sufficient for all to live pretty well in theory. There is still Norway.

  36. Throwing away my social constructivist IR hat for a while, what will happen to Russia after the oil/gas income collapses could be at least interesting, if not outright scary. No point in kicking an armed man that lying down with the trigger ready on the atomic gun. In that context all the anti nordstream action (typical in blatant breach of international law by the way) is rather dumb. This is not methane leaking fracking gas. Considering just how much the landline countries charge and how unreliable some of them are, the direct link to Russia is not that bad in economic, environmental or geopolitical terms.

  37. An important new paper in Nature (paywalled, except for Abstract) on Antarctic ice sheet loss was published on May 5, titled “The Paris Climate Agreement and future sea-level rise from Antarctica”.

    The authors of the Nature paper have also provided an accessible post at CarbonBrief, including:

    “In a new modelling study, published in Nature, we show what the difference between meeting the Paris goals and overshooting them could mean for the melting ice of Antarctica.

    At 1.5C or 2C, we find that Antarctic ice melt continues at similar levels as today – albeit a contribution that would continue for centuries.

    However, at 3C, we find significant risks of rapid, irreversible sea level rise before 2100. Our model incorporates glaciological processes observed over the past several decades, including the impact of ice shelf loss on outlet glaciers and subsequent marine-based “ice cliff” collapse.”

    At 3 °C global mean warming by 2100, model simulations suggest that for Antarctic ice sheet loss, “acceleration begins around 2060, reaching 5mm (0.5cm) per year by the end of this century. By comparison, today’s rate from all sources (including Greenland, land glaciers and thermal expansion) is about 3-4mm per year. Total sea level rise might then well exceed 1cm per year, posing huge challenges for adaptation efforts.”

    At 4.5 °C global mean warming by 2100, the melting rate essentially doubles.

    Included are graphs of rates and total amounts of sea level rise from Antarctica (but not other contributions like glaciers and Greenland ice sheet) for 1.5, 2, 3 and 4.5 °C global mean warming (relative to pre-industrial age) by 2100 scenarios.

    And for those perhaps thinking atmospheric carbon drawdown can halt this process:

    “Once begun in earnest – after temperatures hit 2C at mid-century – Antarctic sea level rise becomes essentially unstoppable, even with a quick return toward pre-industrial temperatures. The loss of buttressing ice shelves and a warmer ocean holding its heat for many centuries prevents refreezing of Antarctica’s ice shelves. The results show that CO2 removal can slow, but cannot halt this massive ice loss once it begins.”

  38. Useful – for me anyway.

    Budget… ignore…

    Ian McAuly at P&I:
    “The budget papers should be available at this link imaginatively called “Budget”.  Ignore the budget speech – it’s political propaganda, with all the clarity and eloquence of a document drafted by scores of public servants and political myrmidons, and delivered by someone who doesn’t believe a word of it.

    “Ignore the “what’s in it for me” articles in Wednesday’s papers. And ignore the articles with headlines “$X million for Y”, unless X is really a significant number. Budget estimates are generally over a four-year period: so divide X by 4. And remember that there are 25 million Australians. So a publicised $10 million expenditure equates to 10 cents a head. It’s all spin.

    “The most informative paper is Budget Paper No.1: Budget Strategy and Outlook.  Look for its “Economic Outlook” section, where assumptions about output, employment and inflation are stated. Look for its statement on “Revenue”,

  39. Geoff Miell / JQ
    Is the shift by (some) oil majors into renewables for real this time, or another round of green-washing? There’s a clear divide between he Europeans (Equinor, Shell, BP, Total, ENI, with serious-looking investment in renewables and hydrogen) and the Americans (Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, Occidental, oil and gas to the bitter end). This is odd because they are all international in scope and have access to the same data, expertise and forecasts. It looks like culture: the Europeans talk to cross-party policymakers who tell them the transition is for real, the Americans only talk to Republican denialists and not at all to Democrats. Cf. Australian coal-miners, locked into heir own cognitive death bubble.

    BP’s Lightsource solar arm even goes in for wildlife enrichment, with windflowers for bees and the like. A no-brainer when you think of it: the cost is literally pocket change (bag of 30,000 wildflower seeds from Amazon $13.85, tortoise gate about the same), the cuteness PR priceless. The real expense is hiring a few people who know about this for real, and taking their advice.

  40. The Federal government adds another $5 million to the town of Kimba, in return for Kimba to accept Lucas Heights nuclear waste.

    Meanwhile, (after a 100 year fight) theSydney suburb of Hunters Hill now gets to send its uclear waste to USA. standards?

  41. @Christina This is my personal blog, on which I post my thoughts, and invite civil discussion. The Message Board is just a way of allowing discussion of points that I haven’t posted about. You are welcome to put up any thoughts you have, but they will appear as comments, not posts.

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