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

17 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. Eternal vigilance. Newscorpse is a political and neo wingnut lobbiest.

    Kilker Crieghton in Limitednews promotes ‘unsettling’ sustainability with Koonin today. Details in loonpond link below if you need to read Adam without newscorpse :-

    From DeSmog:
    “Steve Koonin [Obama advisor]
    “In 2014, Koonin chaired a similar workshop for the American Physical Society with “experts” including John Christy, Judith Curry, and Richard Lindzen.

    “Stance on Climate Change
    September 19, 2014
    “Koonin wrote an article at The Wall Street Journal titled “Climate Science Is Not Settled.” Some excerpted quotes below:[7]”…

    “Skeptics Are Being Recruited for an “Adversarial” Review of Climate Science
    February 25, 2019

    “A proposed presidential committee would scrutinize research showing climate change is a national security risk
    “On Friday, White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway would not comment on why the administration was challenging the science of its own agencies.

    “Do you have an articulate, competent question?” she said—and then refused to answer any questions about the meeting.

    “The list of researchers who have been approached or discussed includes:
    – Judith Curry, a former professor at the Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences;
    – Richard Lindzen, a retired Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who has called those worried about global warming a “cult”; and
    – John Christy, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, and a newly installed member of EPA’s Science Advisory Board.
    A leader of the effort is
    – Steven Koonin, a New York University professor and former undersecretary for science in the Department of Energy in the Obama administration.”…

    Illustrated analysis of Killer Crieghton:-

  2. J.Q. wrote an article recently “Joe Biden, zeitgeist president.” I get his drift and his pointing out that the youth support (about 19 to 29?) for the current administration is important. However, there are other deep issues about the Democrat “Old Guard” of which Biden and Harris are clearly a part.

    The Monthly Review has an eye-opening article about the plutocratic pedigree of the Biden administration:

    This article is well worth reading. One thing it illustrates (which is not one of its intended explicit themes) is that sociological analysis is at least as important as economic analysis. The social structure of the system (as class, power and influence structures) determines the economic rules of the system, at least at least while the system remains top-down and run by the plutocratic wing of the Democrat Party… the Boston Brahmins as they are sometimes termed.

  3. Vaccine patent waivers
    I uneasily find myself provisionally on the side of the oily Macon on this one.

    1. The Paris and Berne conventions of the 1880s both provide for compulsory licensing. IIRC Brazil used these powers – under a conservative presidency – to get cheaper generic drugs. What new powers do governments need, as opposed to the bottle to use what they have?

    2. It’s technically not a patent waiver but a “TRIPS waiver”, covering trade secrets and knowhow as well. I’d like to know what difference this makes.

    3. Vaccine manufacturing is difficult. AstraZeneca, an established European Big Pharma company, has has great difficulties in meting contractual production targets. It is not credible that startups in Capetown or Saigon can learn the business quickly to proper safety standards. Traditional (inactivated virus, Valneva, Sinopharm) and semi-traditional (tweaked adenovirus, AtraZeneca ,Johnson&Johnson, Sputnik) vaccines are made by biological rather than chemical processes, using temperamental live cultures in bioreactors. mRNA vaccines (BioNTech-Pfizer, Moderna) are more chemistry and less biology, but if you think it’s easy, read this:

    4. I suspect the case has been seized on by opponents of the current IP system to weaken it. i broadly sympathize but before breaking a flawed but functioning system of incentives, you need to develop a robust alternative ready to take over. Big prizes? Public financing? Good ideas but details please. Note also that the worst abuses today are in copyright not patents. Where are the patent equivalents of copyright parasites like Elsevier? US drug prices are sky-high not because of patents but from huge marketing costs including advertising to patients, and deliberate kneecapping of public buying power, as used effectively in Europe.

    5. I suggest that what is needed on vaccines is not to let untried Third World entrepreneurs have a go but for established Western pharma companies to get serious and build big, billion-dose-a-year plants as BioNTech has done. These will need public finance, and will sit mothballed till the next pandemic, like missiles silent in their silos. Christoph Krupp, top vaccine adviser to the German government, thinks the EU needs capacity to make 500 million doses in one quarter. Scale that to the world, and you need capacity for 40 billion doses a year. Ouch.

  4. Dean Baker over at Real-World Economics Review Blog puts a different view re vaccine patents.

    If we build billion-dose-a-year plants, anywhere, they will not sit idle for the foreseeable future. The latest scientific information is that new Covid-19 variant vaccines will be needed globally within a year. The Covid-19 pathogen, SARS-CoV-2 is mutating significantly and has now produced four known variants of concern in little over a year of pandemic spread. Some of these variants are already showing antigenic escape and thus “vaccine escape” if I may use that term. Those billion-dose-a-year plants will be needed to continually produce new vaccine versions to met the new variants.

    What has happened is a tragedy of human stupidity. This pandemic disease was potentially eradicable in the early stages. China has virtually eradicated it within its own borders, as has Australia to name another example. Why could not every developing and developed country have done the same? Undeveloped countries would not have had a problem at all if important world borders, especially those of China, the USA, EU and UK had been sealed in time. These were the super-spreader blocs who spread the contagion to the whole world.

    It was the rank stupidity of the USA, EU and UK in particular which led to the global spreading of this contagion. In moral terms, these blocs should bear the entire cost of making vaccines available to the developed world and forego all profits. The developed world ought to sue these blocs. It would be a gesture only of course but could raise some moral pressure Now, these capitalist blocs are wanting to make massive profits on vaccines at the expense of dying third world people.

    Profits are unnecessary when you can use taxes and nationalization for critical tasks. The pharmacy industry should be fully nationalized in each nation state. It is a necessary part of national health infrastructure. R&D in all arenas is best carried out by the state. This has been amply proven in the past. Almost all the inventions we depend on today were created by state R&D. Then they were handed over gratis to private concerns for obscene private profits.

    As long as we continue on our privatized profits path we are doomed at every level. Actually, it’s probably too late already but our last slim chances of saving civilization from total collapse subsist in nationalizing and socializing everything essential, including protection of people, climate and environment. As the collapse likely accelerates I will continue to remind people of capitalism’s central role in all this global destruction… erm, until the collapse gets me.

    Collapse will prove that capitalism is an intrinsically misconceived and maladaptive system which was always destined for collapse. That will not amount to a proof that another system could have saved us. But it would be a fair assumption that another might have saved us. Collapse is not absolutely certain of course, only about 99% certain at this stage. Civilizational collapse needs a definition too and can only be properly ascertained well after the fact. In another sense we are probably already collapsing. If biosphere complexity outside of humans and human civilization is declining faster than human and civilizational complexity is increasing then we are already collapsing now. But that’s another discussion.

  5. James, granted mrna vaccine production is not easy. The TRIPS tripped me up tho. I assumed patent waiver meant patent waiver. Silly me.

    Yet here is at least a lazy $4bn to kick start, not the “established Western pharma companies”, but for the 4 new x 4 billion dose per quarter United Nations Vaccine Inc / LLC / Ltd manufacturing plants. With printers by Tesla. After Bayer. See links below.

    James W said “… mRNA vaccines (BioNTech-Pfizer, Moderna) are more chemistry and less biology, but if you think it’s easy, read this:”

    Money – easy. Musk + Bayer +++ others: Read this.
    ● Moderna’s CEO Stephane Bancel and
    ● Moderna investors like
    MIT professor Bob Langer and
    ● Harvard professor Tim Springer as well as
    ●BioNTech’s Turkish owner Ugur Sahin became billionaires in the last month”

    “This scientist’s decades of mRNA research led to both COVID-19 vaccines

    “…“She went through some exceptionally hard times in her career. But at the same time, Kate is not the best promoter and marketer of her own work. She tried to start her own company but it failed, because she didn’t go get the pros to help her raise money. She’s a scientist and not all of them understand the business end well.”

    “Oddly, Kariko doesn’t seem bitter — even though her slice of the mega-lucrative vaccine pie so far has been so small. In contrast, Moderna’s CEO Stephane Bancel and Moderna investors like MIT professor Bob Langer and Harvard professor Tim Springer as well as BioNTech’s Turkish owner Ugur Sahin became billionaires in the last month when their company stock prices skyrocketed.”…

    And Musk quietly in background with rna printers for CureVac:
    “Elon Musk is going to Germany to review Tesla’s vaccine printer venture and Gigafactory Berlin

    “CureVac has found a way to stabilize the molecule and have it deliver ways to fight specific diseases to the body.

    “Since the company had been working to cure other flu strains, it turned its focus onto COVID-19 amid the pandemic and they are currently in their first phase of the clinical trial:

    [Note: In December 2020, CureVac began a Phase III clinical trial of CVnCoV with 36,500 participants.[9][10] Bayer will provide clinical trial support and international logistics for the Phase III trial, and may be involved in eventual manufacturing should the vaccine prove to be safe and effective.[8]]

    “But as we previously reported, Tesla had been working with CureVac since last year — prior to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

    “Tesla filed a joint patent with CureVac on a possibly revolutionary “bioreactor for RNA.”

    “Now Musk says that he is going to Germany this week to review the project, along with Tesla’s progress at Gigafactory Berlin:

    “If successful, they would be working with Tesla to rapidly deploy manufacturing systems, sometimes referred to as RNA printers, to make the drug widely available.

    “The CEO said that Tesla’s team “designed and built” the machine for CureVac:

        “Tesla Germany designed and built the vaccine RNA printers for CureVac, but, subject to some CureVac IP, they could be made for other companies too”

  6. The Texas power cuts show that the “free market” does a poor job in ensuring sufficient capacity to cover long-tail risks.The idea was that the prospect of outrageous prices for a short time would create a sufficient incentive to invest in rarely-used capacity. It didn’t work. The rest of the US, facing the same weather but run on traditional reserving by heavy-handed regulation, did just fine.The same holds for vaccine capacity: we need heavy-handed socialism, tomorrow. This is independent of the IP/research argument. I stand by my case that given a choice, it’s better to have the vaccine factories built by people who already know the business.

  7. Patent fillings do not appear to even require making public the formula of a vaccine. The more radical lefty position is to first mandate to release the formula, second wave the patent, – and as a third crucial aspect provide soft know how transfer to qualified producers in poorer countries.

    A seemingly technical, but very important aspect is also if the chosen procedure allows to delay the waiver process in court for years until the pandemic is over.

    My impression also is that the major constraint to vaccine production was a simple lack of qualified facilities/Staff, not licensing and also not a lack of financing. Albeit most of the technical experts that assure us that this is the case tend to have a self-interest in assuring of such. Albeit, that viewpoint sure is contested and the ones contesting it are not limited to the far left. For example Karl Lauterbach a SPD politician that came to prominence during the crisis because he is a trained epidemiologist with quite a bit of centrist if not outright neoliberal history seems to disagree, at least on the second point.

    Oxford AstraZeneca (as well as the Russians which still release no proper data to their vaccine – so we still have to guess how well it works) seem to have broad sub-licensing programs already. Johnson and Johnson hardly has any own production capacities in the first place.

    That does not mean that everything went as good as it could have regarding maximum production of most promising vaccine candidates in a world without dirty politics. For example, it might have been the best approach to match Oxford with Sanofi instead of AstraZeneca as primary partner. Neither Johnson nor Macron would have agreed to that one, unfortunately. US export bans which also include supply for the final product sure to do not help either.

  8. Meanwhile, it seems the construction of the Western Sydney Airport continues on the assumption that everything will go back to where it was pre-COVID-19 by the time the airport is operational. IMO, it ignores the stark reality of living long-term with ever-changing COVID variants, a post- ‘peak oil’ supply world, and the existential threat of climate change.

    CrudeOilPeak tweeted yesterday (May 12) was a graph of actual international & domestic passenger traffic data from 2010 to 2020 and the apparent fantastical business case numbers for Kingsford Smith Airport (SYD) and the currently under construction Western Sydney Airport from 2025 to 2050.

  9. As Ikon says ” Profits are unnecessary when you can use taxes and nationalization for critical tasks. ”

    Pfizer said “in the near term.”.

    Apply the phrase “in the near term” to all negative or ‘sensible’ suggestions and opposition, and expertise & knowledge arguments fall away if not in near term, certainly in the medium term. Near term 5yrs? Medium term 10-15yrs?

    James Wimberley @9:02 PM
    “I stand by my case that given a choice, it’s better to have the vaccine factories built by people who already know the business.”

    I absolutely agree James. And.

    With the addition as hix notes to “provide soft know how transfer to qualified producers in poorer countries.”.

    ●● “…in the near term.” ●● is Pfizer’s only real statement in it’s parliamentary joint committee on law enforcement submission. See below. ALL the points are able, with cooperation and planning, to be overcome. Yes, people – rentiers – will buy up controlling stakes in suppliers. We are able to manage such property if we want.

    It really gets me that Pfizer, in its submission, only trots out the negative effects with zero alternatives ideas or suggestions. I wouldn’t care if they held us to ransom – ONCE – for our stupidity of allowing them control of such vital technology. 

    Renationalise costs – how much more in interest (profit) over say 20 yrs? At $250Bn over 20yrs P&I 5% “interest” (really a stockholder buyback premium) is approx $13.2Bn a year. Australia alone could afford it.

    Pfizer Inc. (PFE)
    Stock Price: 
    $39.69 USD 0.34 (0.86%)
    Total Valuation
    Market Cap $221.82B
    Enterprise Value $249.43B
    Updated May 12, 2021 4:00 PM EDT – Market closed
    $39.63 -0.07 (-0.16%) 
    May 12, 5:32 PM

    “Pfizer warns Australia a Covid vaccine patent waiver could harm supply and safety”

    “Pfizer submitted to the parliamentary joint committee on law enforcement that 
    ● the proposed waiver “incorrectly portrays IP as a barrier to rapid innovation, R&D collaboration and access to Covid-19 vaccines and other products”.

    “Pfizer argued 
    ● IP protections had encouraged an “unprecedented amount of innovation” and 
    ● that removing them would “send the wrong message” to those looking for vaccines for the next pandemic.

    “It also claimed
    ● waiving patents “would not speed up vaccine production” but 
    ● would have a counterproductive effect in the current pandemic 
    ● “particularly if companies begin to buy up scarce inputs in the hopes of manufacturing a vaccine using technology developed by others”.

    “Manufacturing of our vaccine involves 
    ● the use of over 280 materials,” Pfizer said.

    “These materials come from 
    ● 86 suppliers in 
    ● 19 different countries.

    “If any one of the 280 different components from suppliers, however trivial, is not provided, we cannot manufacture or release the vaccine.”

    “Greater demand pressures on inputs from new market entrants will make it harder, not easier, to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines 

    ●● in the near term.” ●●
    “Pfizer argued waiving patents 
    ● “may invite copycat medicines from suppliers that lack the knowhow to manufacture vaccines safely”, which 
    ● could expose patients to “unsafe products” and 
    ● could “potentially undermine public confidence in vaccine safety”.

  10. James, I agree with your description of the problem and your conclusion.

    KT2, a small correction, if I may re: “BioNTech’s Turkish owner Ugur Sahin became billionaires in the last month”
    Ugur Sahin is the son of a Turkish immigrant to Germany. His father worked in a Ford car manufacturing plant in Germany. I don’t know about the Turkish citizenship laws but I do know that Ugur Sahin is German citizen and the BioNTech research facility is in Mainz.
    BioNTech has been founded by Ugur Sahin and his medically qualified wife, Özlem Türeci. She is the daughter of a Turkish medical practitioner who migrated to Germany a long time ago.

    From what I can gather from reports, including interviews, it was wise for BioNTech to join forces with Pfizer, a truely multinational ‘big pharma’, because BioNTech’s financial resources as well as their prior experience would have been too limited to run the international tests and the entire approval process, not to speak of the scaling up. They did receive financial assistance from the taxpayers, via the government, which helped at some stages but not enough for the entire development process.

    As an aside, these two scientists seem to have taken a lot of wind out of the sails of the AfD’s anti-immigration and anti-Muslim propaganda campaigns because the public is overwhelmingly very proud of BioNTech’s scientific achievement. Dr Uguh Sarin and Dr Özlem Türeci were honoured by the German Federal Government with a very high Order – can’t remember the name.

  11. The mouse plague shows again that farming is one of those protected sectors where you get a government handout (and damage the commons with a currently illegal poison in the process ) to fix a problem caused by making record profits .I dont mind the idea of protected sectors per se ,but it is just inefficient unfair protection mainly of mining ,farming ,defence, private schools ,The Christian church ,real estate , construction ,finance ,and a few others .Viva la patriarchy !

  12. I knew there was a reason I stopped eating bread. The crunchy grains are actually mouse droppings! 😉

    Seriously, mice carry (to name a few);

    “Salmonellosis: This disease often causes stomach upset in humans. Contact with rodent feces or urine in food or on food preparation surfaces are the most common ways to contract this illness from mice.

    Leptospirosis: Spread through mouse and other animal urine-tainted water, this disease may lead to kidney damage and liver failure without treatment.

    “LCM – Lymphocytic choriomeningitis: This condition can cause anything from a fever and headache to brain damage. LCM is especially troubling for pregnant females whose fetus can develop birth defects or possibly die. The sources of LCM is from direct contact with waste or inhaling waste tainted dust, so people cleaning up mouse droppings without protection are at high risk.” – Orkin, USA.

    Our farming practices have to be seriously flawed to generate a mouse plague of the proportions seen in NSW recently. If we can’t grow food without poisoning half the country to do it and unleashing plagues of pests then that is just another example of the complete unsustainability of what we are doing, especially in exporting too much food; destroying the land for the gain of the few (the large farming corporations). We need to reduce food production here in Australia to save the environment and operate on a sustainable basis.

    It is said that “the average Australian farmer grows enough food to feed 600 people: 150 at home and 450 abroad”. I have seen other figures that suggest we feed 25 million domestically and 50 million abroad. All this suggests we feed 75 million to 100 million people. This is all well and good but if it is by unsustainable practices (and it is) then in future we face a crash where we will be lucky to feed ourselves in a world where there will no food surpluses anywhere for export.

    The options before us are controlled de-growth to frugal sustainability or further rampant growth followed by a catastrophic collapse. It seems we are opting for catastrophic collapse.

  13. Thanks Ernestine.
    I hope the german population may assist in overcoming that they “feel uncomfortable with the cult status they have in Germany.”

    I too would be uncomfortable if I were them. Along with vacinne rockstar status, buckets of cash, and also as you said, ” these two scientists seem to have taken a lot of wind out of the sails of the AfD’s anti-immigration and anti-Muslim propaganda campaigns”.
    Go team Sahin. As I suggested to James W, I hope they now fund mrna production elsewhere. A further blow the to AfD I’d assume.

    “BioNTech vaccine inventors receive Germany’s Knight Commander’s Cross

    “Özlem Türeci and Ugur Sahin have been awarded high honors for contributing to the “containment of the coronavirus pandemic.” But the BioNTech founders feel uncomfortable with the cult status they have in Germany.

    “Therefore, one can rightly say BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin and his chief medical officer, Özlem Türeci, are saving the lives of millions of people around the world.

    Germany’s highest honors
    “German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier presented the Knight Commander’s Cross of the Federal Order of Merit to both.

  14. At least Trump was able to be voted out. I’d be more worried about:
    “Thiel and the Thielists are a through line, from the Party’s recent past to its likely future;

    “The Rise of the Thielists

    “Has the Republican Party found its post-Trump ideology?

    “Thiel and the Thielists are a through line, from the Party’s recent past to its likely future; their persistence suggests that Trump’s nationalism didn’t represent as extreme a departure from the Party’s prior libertarianism as it appeared to.

    “The heightened vision of what a single leader can do, the veneration for more ancient and direct forms of leadership, the praise for authoritative decision-making and disdain for bureaucracies—it’s a short hop from here to the Donald Trump of “I alone can fix it.” “…

    In Australia it is “we the LNP + Newscorpse can fix it”.
    The cult of Trumo/Theil.
    The ??? of LNP?

  15. Ikon, Bill McKibben has offered your Sunday sermon of good news. ☺

    Except this bit…
    …” and the only impediment to change is political.”

    “Solar and wind potential is far higher than that of fossil fuels and can meet global energy demand many times over, unlocking huge benefits for society.

    “With current technology and in a subset of available locations we can capture at least 6,700 PWh p.a. from solar and wind, which is more than 100 times global energy demand.

    “Opportunities unlocked
    The collapse in renewable costs in the last three years means that half of this solar and wind technical potential now has economic potential, and by the end of the decade it will be over 90%.

    “The land required for solar panels alone to provide all global energy is 450,000 km2, 0.3% of the global land area of 149 million km2 – less than the current land footprint of fossil fuel infrastructure. This differs by country as highlighted below.

    “Humans specialise in extracting cheap energy, and fast, as witnessed by the rapid development of shale gas. Now the opportunity has been unlocked, expect continued exponential growth of solar and wind deployment.

    “The technical and economic barriers have been crossed and the only impediment to change is political. Sector by sector and country by country the fossil fuel incumbency is being swamped by the rapidly rising tide of new energy technologies. Even countries where the technical potential is below 10 times energy demand, as shown below, have devised innovative approaches to energy generation.”.

    “Renewable Energy Is Suddenly Startlingly Cheap

    “Now the biggest barrier to change is the will of our politicians to take serious climate action.

    By Bill McKibben
    April 28, 2021

  16. Published at Vimeo on Mar 23 was an interview by Hans van der Loo (Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Institute for Integrated Economic Research & EU STEM Ambassador) with Sir David King (Founder and Chair of the Centre for Climate Repair, University of Cambridge) at the Clean Energy Summit 2021, duration 15:25.

    Three stages are required to mitigate the climate emergency:
    1. Rapid decarbonization;
    2. Atmospheric carbon drawdown to get CO2 levels back to 350 ppm;
    3. Maintain arctic summer sea ice cover.

    “What we, humanity, do in the next 4 to 5 years will determine the future of humanity for the next few thousand years” – Sir David King

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