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

56 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. …whether standardization without centralization was possible …

    “These ancient weights helped create Europe’s first free market more than 3000 years ago

    “A new study suggests merchants in Bronze Age Europe were an exception: Through informal networks, Mesopotamian merchants established a standardized system of weights that later spread across Europe, enabling trade across the continent. The advance effectively formed the first known common Eurasian market more than 3000 years ago.

    “This is quite a blow to the idea that elites or a central authority is running the show,” says Leiden University archaeologist Maikel Kuijpers, who was not involved with the work. “The [researchers] make a really good case.”

    “To find out whether standardization without centralization was possible, Georg August University of Göttingen archaeologists Lorenz Rahmstorf and Nicola Ialongo spent nearly 10 years visiting museum collections and weighing stones and other objects they thought might have been used for commerce. They analyzed weights from previously excavated sites spanning nearly 3000 years in Europe, Anatolia, and Mesopotamia.

    “To their surprise, more than 2000 such objects crafted over the course of 2000 years and an area spanning nearly 5000 kilometersweighed nearly the same amount—between 8 and 10.5 grams from Great Britain to Mesopotamia. Over the time spans involved, the consistency was remarkable, they report today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “It is like we were still using the Roman systems of measurement [today], with just some minor variations,” Ialongo says.”…

  2. Scomo wanting to get out of Groundhog Day is an amazingly apt metaphor for his own personal predicament. Endless problems will not seem to go away: global warming, Covid, refugees, slack economy, et cetera. Every day he wakes up with the same intractable problems. Yet it would seem that if he finally did some efficient and effective problem fixing: for example zero carbon, vaccinations, welcoming refugees, economic stimulus: instead of his endless shilly-shallying; instead of his repetitive blaming of others; he might yet redeem himself; his problems might dissolve and he might move on into the sunny uplands of a better future for himself (and for us).

  3. It has certainly become clear that the vulnerable are being completely ignored in the opening-up equation. There are many people who will still be vulnerable after only 80% of adults have received vaccines which are in any case only about 80% effective against the chances of hospitalization or death. This leaves a huge demographic vulnerable: as I have said this is 80% of 80% of 20 million or roughly 7 million adults. Plus there are all the vulnerable non-adults. Let us say 8 million vulnerable. About 10% of these would most likely be hospitalized or intubated or die due to COVID-19. That’s 800,000 people at risk. If you are vulnerable you will be left behind. That is the clear plan.

    The neoliberal ideologues and the freedumb crowd simply do not care. The rights to make money, take a holiday or go out to a club or pub and have a drink or a coffee are all raised up as being more important than all the vulnerable lives at stake. The vulnerable 800,000 (estimated) are scarcely mentioned except that, by implication and sometimes even by express statement, they must be sacrificed on the altar of economics. It is not stated in those exact words but that is the clear meaning.

    Late stage neoliberal capitalism has moved expressly and avowedly on to outright Social Darwinism. The weak must be sacrificed for the untrammeled access of the strong to rampant consumer pleasures. It’s hard to imagine anything more pathological: a society that sacrifices its weak for mere pleasure and for pleasures which are, by their very acts of excess consumption, causing runaway climate change and environmental destruction. We are a truly selfish, sick and depraved society in its last days.

    The US is the neoliberal empire of narcissism and psychopathy. We are a little spin-off trying to ape America. That path is a disastrous dead-end. If we follow Scott Morrison down that path we are truly lost.

  4. Addendum to above.

    If you allow the virus to replicate in the unvaccinated (20% or 30%) you are inviting disaster.

    “Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House medical adviser for the novel coronavirus, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the unvaccinated population might be spreading the virus so much that there will be time for the virus to mutate.

    “So, if you allow the virus to freely circulate and not try and stop it, sooner or later there is a likelihood that you will get another variant that could, I’m not saying it will, that could be more problematic than the delta,” Fauci said.

    In fact, Fauci said that the virus may become so dangerous that they would have the power to evade vaccines, infecting thousands of people who, as of now, are safe from variants.

    “If you give the virus the chance to continue to change, you’re leading to a vulnerability that we might get a worse variant,” he said. “And then, that will impact not only the unvaccinated; that will impact the vaccinated because that variant could evade the protection of the vaccine.”” – Desert News, Utah.

    Morrison and Berejiklian seem to be totally unaware of the potential for further mutation. I wonder how they think Delta arose? Or are they aware and saying nothing? The dangers of mutation are rarely raised in the MSM and Morrison and Berejiklian never raise it so far as I can tell. Their discourse about COVID-19 is totally dishonest. Considering the amount of virus circulating in the world and considering our porous national border and quarantine system, one would have to say it’s strong odds on that we will get worse variants than Delta.

  5. I only caught a bit of PM Slomo Morrison’s “Churchillian” speech about opening up at some low vaccination level (kids not counted), but I couldn’t help thinking of Jim Hacker, in Yes Minister and in Yes Prime Minister, when he would sense a political moment to front the cameras…

    The substance, however, was disappointing indeed. Are we really going to ease into letting the delta variant (or some new variant) rip through the mainly unvaccinated (public) school kids? Isn’t that a tad presumptuous, with respect to the potential for real harm? The 70% fully vaccinated adults is hardly even 50% of the entire Australian population, so are we advocating for the virus to rip through us like a dose of the salts? Guess so.


  6. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’re seeing things framed in terms of the eligible population, rather than the total population. For the (I conjecture majority) of people who are fairly ignorant or only read headlines, hearing 70-80% exudes confidence that most people are safe and herd immunity is achieved. Of course both numbers are important, but total population % should be the headline figure.

  7. Economists must grapple with climate tipping points before it’s too late
    A groundbreaking new model suggests that we’ve massively underestimated the social costs of carbon.
    David Roberts 19 August 2021 . 9 min read

    …In his book Climate Shock, co-authored with his protégé, New York University’s Gernot Wagner, Weitzman argued that the right way to think about climate mitigation is not through a cost-benefit lens, as though particular levels of spending avoid specific levels of damages, but instead as a kind of insurance. We purchase insurance to cover against tail risks all the time, not because we think they’re likely to happen, but because the consequences would be so dire if they did.

    …“Economic Impacts of Tipping Points in the Climate System” represents the first formal attempt to quantify the economic impacts of tipping point risks. The results are startling: The economic impact of carbon emissions is much higher than has been acknowledged, as is the value of reducing emissions.

    …These are the tail risks Weitzman warned about, translated into economic terms. The SCC (social costs of carbon, $/tonCO₂) could be higher if climate sensitivity is higher than estimated, if people are more risk-averse, if discount rates are lower, if tipping points arrive sooner, or if any number of other variables go the wrong way.

    What it means is that there’s a small-but-not-negligible chance that we are currently underestimating the cost of carbon emissions by as much as 250 percent or more. (Look at that “More” blob!) If that is true, we’re really giving bad policy advice, as in, “market mechanisms” vs. “wartime footing…”


    Economic impacts of tipping points in the climate system
    Simon Dietz, James Rising, Thomas Stoerk, Gernot Wagner
    PNAS August 24, 2021 118 (34) e2103081118;

    Tipping points in the climate system are one of the principal reasons for concern about climate change. Climate economists have only recently begun incorporating them in economic models. We synthesize this emerging literature and provide unified, geophysically realistic estimates of the economic impacts of eight climate tipping points with an emphasis on the social cost of carbon, a key policy input.

    …As well as increasing climate damages overall, our second key finding is that climate tipping points increase the overall level of risk in the global economy. This increases the expected SCC because risk has a social cost when society is risk averse. As we have seen, under high risk aversion the premium on the expected SCC is large. It also has implications for financial markets, where higher risks typically require higher returns to investors as compensation. Third, we find that climate tipping points increase economic costs almost everywhere, and these additional costs are spread relatively evenly, so that tipping points do not have a significant effect on inequality. Lastly, we provide a straightforward way of augmenting the damage function in IAMs that works with a simple, reduced-form relationship between temperature and economic losses.

  8. Evidence, clinically in vivo, in vitro, and modelled, continues to mount that SARS-CoV-2 is likely to evolve towards yet nastier and immune escaping variants…
    SARS-CoV-2 escape from a highly neutralizing COVID-19 convalescent plasma
    Emanuele Andreano, Giulia Piccini, Danilo Licastro, Lorenzo Casalino, Nicole V. Johnson, Ida Paciello, Simeone Dal Monego, Elisa Pantano, Noemi Manganaro, Alessandro Manenti, Rachele Manna, Elisa Casa, Inesa Hyseni, Linda Benincasa, Emanuele Montomoli, Rommie E. Amaro, Jason S. McLellan, and Rino Rappuoli
    PNAS September 7, 2021 118 (36) e2103154118;

    …Our data predict that, as the immunity in the population increases, following infection and vaccination, new variants will emerge, and therefore vaccines and monoclonal antibodies need to be developed to address them.

    We have shown that the authentic SARS-CoV-2, if constantly pressured, has the ability to escape even a potent polyclonal serum targeting multiple neutralizing epitopes. These results are remarkable because SARS-CoV-2 shows a very low estimated evolutionary rate of mutation, as this virus encodes a proofreading exoribonuclease machinery, and, therefore, while escape mutants can be easily isolated when viruses are incubated with single mAbs, it is usually believed that a combination of two mAbs is sufficient to eliminate the evolution of escape variants (22⇓⇓–25). The recent isolation of SARS-CoV-2 variants in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil, and Japan with deletions in or near the NTD loops shows that what we describe here can occur in the real world. The ability of the virus to adapt to the host immune system was also observed in clinical settings where an immunocompromised COVID-19 patient, after 154 d of infection, presented different variants of the virus, including the E484K substitution (26). Therefore, we should be prepared to deal with virus variants that may be selected by the immunity acquired from infection or vaccination. This can be achieved by developing second-generation vaccines and mAbs, possibly targeting universal epitopes and able to neutralize emerging variants of the virus.

    …Vaccine-induced immunity, which is more robust than natural immunity, is likely to be less susceptible to emerging variants. Indeed, so far, the virus has not mutated sufficiently to completely avoid the antibody response raised by current vaccines (36, 37).

    Going forward, it will be important to continue to closely monitor which epitopes on the S protein are targeted by the vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 that are being deployed in hundreds of millions of people around the world.

  9. Berejiklian’s “Zero COVID ‘just not possible'” speech is a disgrace of lies and misdirection. Zero COVID-19 for the globe was possible until the world let COVID-19 spread and mutate. Zero COVID-19 in Australia was possible if we had managed our borders and quarantine correctly from the outset of the pandemic until now. Zero COVID-19 only became impossible after the Morrison and Berejiklian governments failed at their jobs.

    It’s a case of fait accompli by self-fulfilling prophecy. Certainly, zero COVID-19 becomes impossible when they fail to implement proper quarantine and they fail to implement proper lock-downs. It’s also a case of moving the goalposts to redefine success. Morrison and Berejiklian have moved the goalposts to redefine their own success. Success becomes the vaccination rate not the infection rate. This is a vaccination rate which as Don and Karlo correctly point out is only of a proportion of part of the population, not a proportion of the whole population. This is an exercise by Morrison and Berejiklian to take their own egregious failure and redefine it as success. We are to be forced to die with COVID-19 because of Morrison’s and Berejiklian’s failures which even now they are re-badging as successes.

    Morrison has foreshadowed a move from reporting cases to only reporting hospitalizations and deaths. Again, this will be a dangerous lie if it occurs. For a rapidly mutating dangerous virus, the total infection rate matters as does testing. They provide indicators of the probability and actuality of dangerous variants arising, locally and internationally. They also provide another indicator of the long COVID burden the nation is likely to face. If hospitals are swamped and can’t take all potentially serious and serious COVID-19 cases then admissions will not be an accurate count of serious COVID-19.

    The dangers of allowing Morrison and Berejiklian to re-frame their failures as successes are profound. As I said in my initial post, this marks the transition, in Australia, of late stage neoliberal capitalism to fully fledged Social Darwinism. The vulnerable are to be sacrificed for corporate, oligarchic and small proprietor profits. Protecting the public from pandemic and endemic serious disease, once a cornerstone of public health and the social contract of social wlefare and democracy, is to be jettisoned to keep businesses open. The well may have their self-indulgent liestyles and holidays. The vulnerable may die.

    “First they came for the elderly, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not elderly.

    Then they came for those with medical preconditions, and I did not speak out—
    Because I did not have medical preconditions.

    Then they came for the disabled, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not disabled.

    Then they came for me, with their long covid, and now I am prematurely aged,
    riddled with precondtions and disabled.
    —and there was no one left to speak for me.

    Apologies to Martin Niemöller.

  10. Don’t blame economics for Morrison’s neoliberalism nonsense. Thats like blaming the thrown cigarette for the bush fire it started. Blame the dumb politicians for speaking in a way that suggests that every life may not matter as long as the rich and well off can have their overseas trips. Welfare economists do deserve some of the blame for this 70% to 80% nonsense that is going the rounds of LNP media conferences. But only politicians make theses decisions. We need an ad like the one they came up for to lower the deaths on our roads. the key question is:
    “If it was a member of your family how many deaths are acceptable?”
    Anyone who does not answer that as very few as it medically possible does not deserve to be in government. This is NOT an economic issue. Economic considerations DO NOT MATTER when people are dying from a virus that can be prevented from spreading to the population. Any politician who raise the economic issue card is not worthy of their leadership position.

  11. Has anyone seen an application of the marginal principle in relation to lockdowns and vaccination in Australia? It strikes me that in mainstream economic terms, you continue to lock down as long as the benefits of doing so outweigh the costs. With the possibility of elimination or suppression, that was a pretty easy calculation – the benefits were so high they clearly justified any reasonable estimate of the costs.

    However, things have changed both because of the possibility of vaccination and because we have an outbreak in NSW that continues to grow exponentially and an outbreak in Victoria that is worrying at best. If we assume that it’s not possible to return to COVID zero (either for epidemiological or political reasons), the benefits of an extra week of lockdown are slowing the spread for another week and another week’s worth of vaccinations. The costs of lockdown must be fairly well known and let’s assume they remain relatively constant. I think you can also assume the benefit of slowing the spread is also relatively constant. My logic here is that if you have exponential growth with or without lockdown, it doesn’t particularly matter when you lock down, the impact is felt at the final margin*.

    Then the equation is lock down for another week while: benefits of reduced cases + benefits of additional vaccinations > costs of lockdown. Given that two of those terms are constant, we have, continue to lock down while: benefits of additional vaccinations > costs of lockdown – benefits of reduced cases. Note that this is a cost-benefit analysis, so what’s relevant is not the total benefits of the additional vaccinations but the benefit of vaccinations occurring in lockdown rather than after lockdown.

    My real point here is this: the decision to ease restrictions should not be made on the basis of the absolute number of people vaccinated, but on the rate of vaccination per week. Lock down as long as enough people are being vaccinated for the benefits of vaccinations occurring in lockdown to outweigh the net cost of lockdown. This makes much more sense than the idea of a percentage target. If we have a target of 80% and at 79% the rate falls to 0.1% of the population getting vaccinated per week, it’s probably not worth locking down for the ten weeks it takes to get to 80%. However, if we get to 80% and there are still 2.5% of the population getting vaccinated each week, it’s probably worth holding out for the four weeks required to get to 90% (bearing in mind the benefits to vaccination are nonlinear too).

    So to restate my earlier question, has anyone seen an analysis like this using real numbers?

    *For instance, if cases double each week in lockdown or quadruple each week without lockdown, then if you start with one case and lock down for four weeks before opening up for four weeks, you get 16 cases after four weeks and 4096 cases after eight weeks. Alternatively, if you remain open for four weeks and then lock down for four weeks, you get 256 cases after four weeks and 4096 cases after sixteen weeks. So the marginal benefit of locking down is reducing cases by 4096, whether it’s done in the first week or the last.

  12. I do blame “economics” as it stands because it is capitalist economics not economics per se. We cannot and should not pretend that economics is ideologically or morally neutral. Not all economists pretend that and I will get back to that point. Capitalist economics sets the axioms and the axiology of our political economy. By axioms I mean the standard definition plus the addition of the prescriptive or normative aspects standard in capitalist economics. Thus;

    The normative axioms of capitalist economics are statements that are taken to be true and necessary, to serve as a premise or starting point, not just for further reasoning and arguments, but for the pragmatic and practical ordering of the economy itself.

    Thus private property rights being posited as being necessary for a successful economy and having to be extensive and open-ended to the detriment of equality and ecology is a prime axiom of capitalist economics. The axiom set determines the theorem set in the theoretical model and with regard to all formal system outcomes (which we can term here the financial economy outcomes). This is so whether or not people can work out all the theorems theoretically or whether they have to wait for an empirical researcher (like Thomas Piketty) to demonstrate the theorem outcomes in the historical record. I mean with his demonstration of “If r greater g then inequality increases”. That’s a “doh” moment. Every economist, if honest with him or herself, ought to have said to themselves “Doh! why couldn’t I work that out from the axioms? Someone may well have worked it out. It would be worth searching the literature. If so they were ignored and their greatest insight buried, with extreme prejudice, the standard practice directed at dis-confirming evidence or consequentialist insights by capitalist economics.

    By axiology, I mean of course the study of value and the difficulties in philosophy and the social sciences in the debates about choosing between quantitative and qualitative (ethical) values in economic and political decision making. I hold that capitalist economics and possibly the broad discipline of non-Marxian and/or non-Veblenian economics, or rather the practitioners themselves, are somewhere from confused to disingenuous in considering the problems of quantitative and qualitative or objective and subjective valuation. They are ontologically confused precisely because they have, so far as I can see, never taken the issue of ontology seriously (as genuine empirical ontology not as speculative ontology from metaphysics) They tend to confusedly accept their own their prescriptive axioms as something necessarily and fundamentally real (in a fundamental hard scientific law sense) rather than as what they are, mere prescriptive axioms which set up their own social-fictive realities and not fundamental, objective realities.

    In my blogging, I have not found any economists who understand my position except the theorists of Capital as Power (Jonathan Nitzan et al.) and Ernestine Gross on this thread. Even they do not extensively or in detail agree with my position and emphases. It would be surprising if they did. But to get an understanding and some points of agreement has been most interesting and useful to me.

    Not all economists pretend that economics is ideologically or morally neutral with respect to the equality issue. None worth their salt do. I promised I would get back to that point. We need to look into economics and identify which insights or claims are empirically valid. Many are not. Prof. J.Q. has identified that the conceptual construction put on modern property rights, namely that they are free-standing naturally and can be shown to arise before, or independent of, the state by historical investigation or logical deduction, can be demonstrated to be fallacious. J.Q. demonstrates this in his “The Jacobin” articles on John Locke.

    A better construction on “property” (meaning a more empirically derived and supportable construction) with be the territorial construction. We can derive this territorial construction, with some care and caveats, from Robert Ardrey. Some of his science and insights are probably now made obsolete by further scientific progress. However, the notion that we need territory to live and do things is quite valid and different from the notion that we need to exclusively own “territory” (real, financial, virtual and intellectual) as property and exclude all others from it except for or by favor and/or payment. The way a social, and even eusocial and intelligent species in setllements constructs territory (real, financial, virtual and intellectual) will also necessarily be different from the way habitually solitary animals or habitually migratory animals will construct terriotry. The extensive eusocial element or reality immediately suggests public, shared and communal property must figure to a much greeter degree unless we are to forfeit and even wilfully destroy or throw away all or many potential synergistic cooperative gains. To forfeit public, shared and communal property possibilities is to throw a major species enlightened self-interest advantage: to make us collectively less than we humanly could be.

    The notion of Opportunity Cost which J.Q. champions is empirically justified IFF (if and only if) no attempt is made to aggregate the incommensurable in the numeraire and to make decisions on that kind of valuation basis. But I won’t write at length here on that.

  13. seqaugur,

    What I object to (in the behavior and utterances of Berejiklian and Morrison) is the use of self-fulfilling prophecy to justify fait accompli. The most honest language, if they ever spoke honestly. would be:

    “We f***ed up and now you are going to have to live with it. Or rather, you are going to have to die with it if you are vulnerable. Too bad. We don’t care and neither do our well-heeled or redneck science denialist voters.”

    A slippery slope of false logic and false interpretation of the epidemiology and the medicine is being employed to the utmost in the most dishonest and self-serving fashion by B&M. There are so many glaring errors and serious dangers in their course of action.

    ‘They have modeled the likelihood of controlling an outbreak in Australia at a level of 70% uptake of the vaccine – and that 70% is 70% of 80% of the population. That’s effectively one in two people fully protected.

    ‘It assumes that one in two people vaccinated, plus public health interventions that are non-pharmaceutical, will protect the other one in two that aren’t vaccinated, and at the moment, we’re seeing that this just isn’t the case.’ – Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, a UNSW Medicine infection control expert and adviser to the World Health Organization (WHO) Infection Prevention and Control Guidance Development Group for COVID-19, quoted by NewsGP.

  14. The Sheep’s Clothing: Keynesianism
    The wolf: New Austerity Era
    Delivered by: Consultancy Capitalism

    Paddy Gourley says”Bureaucracy’s labour hire ‘may be unconstitutional’. (ABC link below.)

    Consultancy Capitalism in Australia 
    – now 8,000 + 29,000 DoD alone (MWest) … started in earnest in 1991 in NSW with the rehiring as consultants from the defunded NSW Roads & Traffic Authority. Same people, same requests, but now unaccountable, private and rentier profits. I was directly aware. Sorry.

    And this is how bold the big4 have become – proposing ‘free’ consultancy for insider knowledge – from Jacobin article;

     “… consultancies giving free advice in exchange for inside information about the government’s needs.”

    …” today this has been replaced by consultancy capitalism. We have moved from policy capture to an overt privatization of policymaking. While this has appeared in the guise of a return to “Keynesianism,” in reality this ideological turn looks like the foretaste of a new austerity era, arriving in the Orwellian name of digital modernization and green development.”

    “Consultancy Capitalism Is Allowing Private Firms to Control Public Funds

    “Ernst & Young has also advised the Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration in drawing up a reform which would require Spaniards to make thirty-five years of social security contributions in order to collect a full pension. What’s more, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s PSOE-led government has requested the consulting firms’ collaboration in drafting the new decree apportioning the funds, while some ministries even opted for a “pro bono” system — with consultancies giving free advice in exchange for inside information about the government’s needs.

    “Such consultancy for ministries is already big business. The UK spent a total of £2.6 billion on just eight consultancies between 2016 and 2020. In Spain, the public sector represents 17.5 percent of total management consultancy revenues, according to the Spanish association of consultants, whose president is herself a former PSOE minister. We can almost hear the doors revolving: in recent years, this industry has become the private sector employment of choice for more than twenty retiring Spanish politicians. Moreover, as a proportion of the combined revenues of the ten largest companies in each country, KermaPartners calculated in 2015 that the Big Four’s market penetration ranged from 6 percent in the UK to 30 percent in Spain.”

    “Outsourcing Government itself: the hidden privatisation of the public service” By Geordie Wilson
    September 8, 2020

    “Private staffing firms have been unable to explain why they are receiving buckets of pure profit when they haven’t even done the work of finding a recruit. Some have claimed it is justified by them charging for a ‘payroll service’, which is ridiculous as most government departments already have a payroll team. It is a rort.

    “Departments refusing to provide records

    “The Treasury, Environment, and Education departments refused FoI requests asking for the same information. The departments don’t appear to keep a record of what kinds of roles are being outsourced.
    ♤ The Department of Defence has outsourced nearly 29,000 roles, despite employing about 17,400 public servants,
    ♤ The Department of Home Affairs outsourced 1082 positions last financial year, including intelligence analysts, legal officers, border enforcement officers, and policy officers,
    ♤ The Australian Taxation Office has outsourced 5300 roles,
    ♤ The Department of Agriculture has outsourced 830 jobs, including assistant directors, biosecurity officers, policy officers, project managers, and executive assistants,
    ♤ The Attorney General’s Departmentspent $13.4 million on labour-hire contractors last financial year but does not keep formal records on which roles have been outsourced,
    ♤ The Department of Infrastructure has outsourced 151 positions,
    ♤ The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has outsourced 190 staff,
    ♤ The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science has outsourced 250 positions, including assistant directors, business analysts, grants officers, and project managers,
    ♤ The Department of Veterans’ affairs hasoutsourced 321 public service roles,
    ♤ The AAT has outsourced 114 public service roles.

    “Federal Government spending $5 billion per year on contractors as gig economy grows inside public service

    “The Coalition imposed the staffing cap in 2015, saying the government workforce should not grow larger than it was at the end of John Howard’s prime ministership in 2007.”

    “This is leading agencies to use contract staff when APS employees would offer better value for money.”

    “Bureaucracy’s labour hire ‘may be unconstitutional’

    “A former senior Defence Department executive, Paddy Gourley, has warned against this trend for years, saying it allows corruption to flourish.

    “The basic point is it opens up scope for nepotism and corruption in public service staffing,” he said.”

    The wolves are here now:
    “Going, Going, Almost Gone: UK Government Speeds Up Privatisation of National Health System

    Posted on August 20, 2021 by Nick Corbishley

    “Operating on the maxim of “never let a good crisis go to waste”, the government is exploiting the pandemic to embed even more private interests across the system.” 

    “That may be easier said that done given recent revelationsthat more than 40 pharmaceutical, consultancy and data companies worldwide have already had access to UK hospital data and medical records for years. Those companies include McKinsey & Company, KPMG, Novavax, AstraZeneca, marketing firm Experian and a data company co-founded by the Sackler family, who made billions of dollars selling OxyContin, an opiate painkiller stronger than morphine.”

    “The NHS also signed a deal last year with controversial US spy-tech firm Palantir…”

    And ‘capital’ has secured: “Non‑government funds accounted for the largest portion of capital (57%) and smallest for research spending (7.2%)”.

    “Health expenditure
    Release Date: 23 Jul 2020

    “In 2017–18, government sources were responsible for 68% of health spending, with around 42% funded by the Australian Government and 27% by the state and territory governments. The remaining 32% was financed by non-government sources: 17% by individuals, 9.0% by private health insuranceproviders and 6.2% from other non-government sources (component figures may not add to the totals due to rounding) (Figure 7).
    The Australian Government’s proportion of spending was highest for research (78%) and lowest for capital (1.3%). State and territory governments contributed the most for hospital (42%) and lowest for research (15%). Non‑government funds accounted for the largest portion of capital (57%) and smallest for research spending (7.2%) (Figure 8).”

  15. KT2,

    What you report there is extremely concerning. This sort of thing has been going on ever since the first Howard government. At least, that is when it started in earnest. It has been getting worse and worse ever since. It’s a burgeoning disaster and our “progress” towards this kind of disaster was predicted by clear-sighted academics and others back in the 1990s and maybe even in the 1980s. John Quiggin was one. Micheal Pusey (“Economic Rationalism in Canberra”) was another.

    It seems however that predictions by far-sighted and learned people are always ignored. This has been going on since Cassandra [1] and Jeremiah [2], at least. A common theme in their stories is that it is a curse and a sorrow to be afflicted with an eye for the long-term truth, to utter it and then be ignored or pilloried. Some things never change. Civilizations which ignore far-sighted warnings, collapse.

    We, here in Australia, are heading for extremely serious trouble. Our capacities for public action, like our need for Federal public health action, have been white-anted and laid waste by the processes you mention. We will soon pay a very, very heavy cost for these mistakes.

    1. Cassandra or Kassandra, was a Trojan priestess of Apollo in Greek mythology cursed to utter true prophecies, but never to be believed. – Wikipedia.
    2. Jeremiah, also called the “weeping prophet”, was one of the major prophets of the Hebrew Bible. – Wikipedia.

  16. What our host has explained with the option value model still applies without a zero Covid approach as the primary goal, and the R is still a 4-day number. Things move fast both ways. Basically, it always makes sense to start with the most extreme (useful) measures.

  17. The Doherty Model appears to be seriously flawed. There are plenty of dissenting opinions in the epidemiology profession. The Guardian, in its article “Ending restrictions with 80% vaccinated could cause 25,000 Australian deaths, new modelling suggests” (linked at end of this post) reports as follows (excerpts):


    “Ending lockdowns and other public health restrictions once 80% of the adult population is vaccinated could result in 25,000 deaths in total and 270,000 cases of long Covid, new modelling warns.

    The work by researchers at three leading Australian universities predicts more than 10 times as many deaths as the Doherty Institute modelling that underpins the national four-phase roadmap.”

    “The Doherty modelling looked at the number of deaths in the first 180 days of reopening at the 70% and 80% thresholds that lead to phase B and C – when lockdowns would be “less likely” and then “highly targeted”.

    The latest research models total cumulative deaths over a longer time frame during phase D of the national plan – when no restrictions remain.”

    “The Doherty modelling suggests that in the first 180 days after Australia reopens at an 80% of adults vaccination rate, there would be 761 deaths with partial testing, tracking, tracing and quarantine.”

    “In their paper, published on Tuesday, Hyde, Grafton, Kompas and independent modeller John Parslow found that reopening at a 70% vaccination rate could result in 6.9 million symptomatic Covid-19 cases, 154,000 hospitalisations, and 29,000 total deaths.

    It warned that if Australia reopens once 80% of adults are vaccinated, which translates to 65% of the population overall, there could be approximately 25,000 fatalities and 270,000 cases of long Covid.

    If Australia reopens with 80% of adults vaccinated and all children vaccinated, estimated deaths would fall to 19,000, or to 10,000 if 90% of adults were vaccinated.

    The Doherty modelling produced less dire results due to different assumptions: a shorter time horizon; a lower proportion of symptomatic infections; lower transmission among children; baseline public health measures that reduce the reproduction number from 6.32 to 3.6, and that testing, tracing, isolating and quarantine remains “partially effective”, even at very high new daily cases.

    Grafton defended those differences, explaining the group had assumed hospitalisation and deaths would continue “until everyone is infected”.

    “That would be in 2022, some time in phase D when there are minimal public health measures and no lockdowns. [Covid-19] will go everywhere, it’s extremely contagious,” he told Guardian Australia.”


    Either the Doherty Model is highly flawed and selective or the political use of it is. I suspect BOTH because the Doherty Institute spokesperson has essentially aligned herself and the Doherty Inst. with the government of the day and presented the same interpretation of the Doherty report as the government, and in a way supportive of the government. Where does Doherty get its research funds from? I suspect an investigation is in order for potential conflict of interest.

    There is something distinctly fishy about all this. I call politically influenced research conclusions OR a case of “corporate Overton Window syndrome”: the latter involving motivated corporate-line reasoning operating by tweaking a model and its parameters to get the results required. It takes very little change in initial conditions, in a chaotic system model, to get very different outcomes. Truncating the time series can also lop off the long run fat tail risk. That too is very disturbing.

    The propaganda blitz to normalize the process of neglect of public health concerns and to normalize the process of letting people die through neglect and atrocious public health policy is disgraceful. Something very dangerous is happening here. It is nothing less than the infiltration of neoliberal reasoning and corporatism into even public and academic bodies which one might have thought in past times were immune to such influences in the name of science and objectivity. Such is clearly no longer the case.

    The empirical record to date is that COVID-19 has escaped all (manifestly inadequate in retrospect) bounds set on it and it has (like climate change) exceeded almost all of the very worst predictions in its spread and progress. Given that case, the wise thing to do would be to pay attention to the worst predictions and act on the presumption that they will most likely prove correct. Instead the Doherty Institute and the government of the day are doing the opposite.

    I predict a national public health disaster from this approach and a death and sequalae disease burden in the range projected by Hyde, Grafton, Kompas and independent modeller John Parslow, Indeed, I think we sadly can predict even worse. This will be a huge disaster. Prepare to batten yourselves down for the sake of all the unvaccinated and even 20% of the vaccinated. This is going to get very bad.

    I am a concerned citizen, not an epidemiologist. But I follow the non-motivated-reasoning epidemiologists, not the other type who appear to be captured by neoliberal corporatism and its seductive and anti-empirical illogic.

  18. See above comments and here is the research which casts huge doubts on the Government-Doherty Plan.

    Basically, going ahead with the Government-Doherty Plan will almost certainly be a national disaster.

  19. Ikonoclast says @ 8:38 AM
    “Either the Doherty Model is highly flawed and selective or the political use of it is. I suspect BOTH because the Doherty Institute spokesperson has essentially aligned herself and the Doherty Inst. with the government”.

    Both. Also, No Ikon, the Doughty model, unfortunately, is only flawed if you favour value before vulnerable.

    Its ‘flaw’ is a feature not a bug. It is Scomo & the Federal Government’s FLOOR & plausible deniability. I’d bet Prof Dougherty himself is wincing at his name being used for this.

    As above, I have heard,  in just the past 24hrs, Reff 1.3 to measles 12+.

    Another modeĺer at ANU specifically challenging the Doughty assumption of only using Reff 1.3, saying that is an ‘average’ of declining and increasing ‘k’ – dynamic of infection rate – and doubting true Reff getting below 3.6.

    Now for TTIQ! Ha! For me, a 10 day joke.

  20. 10 day TTIQ.
    Damning of Douhety assumptions.

    My story.
    Fri 13th August 
    – Dept Health knew of positive test at my kidsHigh School.

    Sunday 15th Aug 
    – We received an email from my kid’s high school at 6pm saying positive covid case infectious since Wednesday 11th Aug and Dept Health getting in touch.

    Monday 16th
    – 2hrs on phone Monday morning as no further details in web at Health. Not one phone answered! High school turned off phones!

    We didn’t know if we were casual, close contacts. So theoretically I breached quarantine. 

    I knew , even tho no one told us, we needed a test. We did online learning Monday

    Tuesday 17th – had sandwiches ready after 1st online class. Got to testing centre at 10.45am. 6hr wait. 3 nurses in dust bowl w freezing fingers. Left. Imagine this happening mid Jan in heat wave.

    Wed 18th – 6.30am in test queue. 9.15 tested. Logged us both in for test results Wednesday morning.

    Something missing?  Oh. TTIQ. We a half of 1 of 4 – Test but no result.

    Oh Joy. 18th a mythical Contact Tracer got in touch. Busy. Blah blah. Wrong birth date for my kid. The Health Dept had a wrong birth date??? CTracer changed date. Casual contact. No results yet. Didn’t insist I get test!!! Contact Tracer said I would have to call local hospital to chase up missing birth date and results. Only instructions – isolate until negative test. Oops. 18min call.

    Thursday no results.
    Friday 20th –  still no test result. Logged in to get results. Said not yet for me. Said – no other registration and have to reregister 2nd person. Grrr.

    3x to reregister. New code. 
    Still no results. 
    Rang local hospital pathology. No results.  Call back.

    Saturday now. No answers.

    Sunday – who cares

    Monday 23rd –  local hospital pathology has my negative result but not kids result ” it went to Westmead” and gave me unlisted pathology numbers, of Westmead Hospital Pathology and another number.

    9am – Westmead no answer.
    Other number answered in 2 rings. Immediately found kid’s negative result. I tried to engage re wring birthdate, why Westmead and harried swab tester went into “i am just tester” script. Thanks bye.

    So from Health knowing of positive case sometime after 11th Aug we were breaching quarantine until Sunday 15th.

    And from 1 case to knowing we were OK at least 10days. If school kids. Lucky! But Sar CoV2 Delta says “thankks for lwtting me stay loose for 10+ days”. No wonder Dubbo is rising in cases. It is not if you are.poor, black, hesitant, stupid, disbelieving – it is unpreparedness. 

    We still do not know who in school was positive. A kid, teacher, blow in.

    We could both have been passing it on but for my already cautious activity. Went to Woolies, servo, bakery. 

    Doughty imo has muffed it with, as single assumption of optimal TTIQ is absolute crap.

    An average Reff – crap. Not 1.3 but >3.5 if not full NIT & PPE.

    Where are N95/P2 mask mandate?
    Where is air gapped quarantine. 
    Where are 10,000 contact tracers.

    Wonkish Solution. Please flewh out simplest solution.
    We have ability to send emergency texts. Bushfire. Storm asthma.
    – One positive case, EVERY phone pinged from cell phhone tower records, local social services to notify elderly, homeless etc.
    – ie if your phone was seen by tower you get msg also, so all transport & essential workers through area of positive case also pinged.. 
    – your Mobility ceased for 72hrs. 
    – Rapid tests day ine. 
    – PCR day 2. 
    – If sewerage showing traces more than 72hrs. 
    – Immediate paymemts. 
    – TTIQ simplified. Isolation finished upon negative result.

  21. The Doherty model relies on various assumptions re the availability of contact tracers, ICUs etc

    By comparison the UK, with 63% fully vaccinated and no restrictions, is experiencing 100 deaths per day. This would equate to 38 deaths/day in Australia.

    Under Doherty there would be a corresponding ramp up in hospitalisation.

    We don’t have a national covid app and our health system isn’t as public as the NHS.

  22. UK current population is at about 68,298,500

    Per the official UK government website for data and insights on coronavirus (COVID-19):

    People vaccinated in the UK, up to and including 23 August 2021:
    First dose: _ _ 47,737,142 _ _ 87.8% of population aged 16+
    Second dose: 41,942,036 _ _ 77.2% of population aged 16+

    COVID Daily deaths, on 24 Aug 2021: _ 174
    COVID Deaths last 7 days: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 705; up by 57 (8.8%)
    COVID patients admitted on 20 Aug: _ _ 858
    COVID patients admitted last 7 days: _6,089; up by 506 (9.1%)
    COVID positive cases on 24 Aug: _ _ 30,838
    COVID positive cases last 7 days: _ 234,853; up by 27,907 (13.5%)

    Australian current population is at about 25,846,200

    Australia is about 37.8% of the UK population.

    Long-COVID morbidity rates vary from 5 to 50% of infected. That could translate to losing a substantial proportion of the workforce in the next few years.

    Is what is happening now in the UK (with 37.8% factor included) what Scott Morrison is advocating for Australia at 70-80% vaccination rate?

  23. @Geoff Miell what’s the point of all this cutting and pasting?

    The data is specific to that point, the trend is more proximate

    “COVID Deaths last 7 days: _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 705”

  24. akarog: – “what’s the point of all this cutting and pasting?

    It’s a snapshot in time. AFAIK, the data at the linked website pages will change as time progresses and they are updated for subsequent days/weeks/months…

    Graphs/charts for UK deaths are at:

    The other thought is the data may not remain available/accessible, especially if the curve rises.

  25. The Guardian reports that only 10 % of New Zealanders do not think elimination is the best strategy for their country .Morrison will have trouble convincing Covid free Australian states to join the ‘ vaccinate and let it rip freedom day approach ‘ that the NSW Liberals are attempting to force on our nation .Some journalists at the NSW daily Covid press conference seem to be starting to realise there are potential complications .Gladdys is trying hard to get everyone to think only of the vaccination rate/totals. Journalists have noticed that the hospital system is already approaching its limits. Why doesnt someone ask ” Gladdys – what is the total number of vulnerable people in NSW and what proportion of them do you expect to be dead in 5 years time ? Best case guess and worst case please.” And Kerry Chant ” might a more contagious and / or deadly or vaccine resistant variant arise ? – are you sure this is the best approach ?” , “why cant Covid be kept out ?”. At least get their answers on the record. They crap on endlessly repeating themselves ,usually without actually answering the question either, so that there is not much opportunity to get answers .It seems the Dougherty report is a series of best case scenarios.

  26. As reported in Science; in unrestricted Israel, with a 75% fully vaccinated rate in age +12 years, is experiencing 650 cases/day/million.

    That would be >17,000/day in Australia

    Restrictions, in some form, are here to stay.

  27. 75% is not a high vaccination rate for a nation where everyone is eligible for a shot since a couple of months. Israel has a disproportional high share of crazy people -the kind that dislikes vaccines and likes large mass gatherings. Unfortunately, countries with less problematic populations like Malta or Iceland are not doing great either (they do have lots of tourism however, so well see how this plays out with high vaccination rates and good conditions).
    The current nightmare scenario would be Florida:
    Worst case: Lots of stupid people will get immune by infection or die, and the rest will require a new shot optimized for Delta or whatever else will come before circulation gets to tolerable levels.

  28. “Of course we should say we’re afraid – it’s the starting point for shattering the taboos that constrain us

    …” that most of the left is crippled by the neoliberal lie that there isn’t enough money to do what is required. They still believe that tax constrains possibilities. So they argue for right wing policies.

    “The reality is that we can afford anything we can actually do. Money can always be found to do what is possible; spending to do what is possible literally creates the money required to pay for it. And that spend also generates the tax that balances the books, if desired.

    “In 1940 Lord Keynes explained this was the way to pay for WW2. He was proved to be right. But this has been forgotten. That is what I am afraid of. I am afraid that the biggest taboo is that the state cannot deliver for a country where so much is possible and needs to be done.

    “So, I am afraid of the neoliberal taboo that ensnares the left now. That myth seeks to deny us any chance of a future. It would be good if more people said this because it’s the truth. But it’s always scary when breaking the taboo requires that people stand out in the crowd.

    “As Nick Cohen said ‘On occasion, the most courageous way to fight [oppressive regimes] is simply to admit we are afraid’. I am afraid. But the oppressive regime I fear is not just the Tory government. It’s the combined power of neoliberalism that I am afraid of.

    “The neoliberal mythology of oppression is crippling the necessary process of political change in the UK. It is denying us choice, and even the possibility of choice, all to appease the interests of wealth. Saying that is taboo. But it is what is happening.”…

  29. The dogs tail has turned the dog 180deg.

    “Grid and bear it: Subsidise coal”

    Top headline today in newscorpse flagshi!@; (Lloydy of course)

    The Australian Institute says; “Australian fossil fuel subsidies hit $10.3 billion in 2020-21”



  30. “Have we misunderstood the Doherty modelling?”

    Norman Swan: So the current controversy among many is whether the New South Wales numbers matter in the decision to ease restrictions at 70%. What’s your view?

    Allan Saul: Well, I guess every time we hear this everyone quotes the Doherty model, and so I’m going to be bold and also quote the Doherty model. The Doherty model is quite clear, that there will be restrictions even at 80%, and in fact I’m not sure that people understand just how intense those restrictions are that the Doherty model is predicting. So with a reasonable assumption about the efficiency of case detection, the Doherty’s model suggests that we would need about 30% of the time in a severe lockdown equivalent to Melbourne stage 4, even with 80% coverage. This is not the sort of isolated maybe lockdown here or there, so there’s a lot of assumptions behind that, but it’s really quite important that people understand that this is not lockdown free.

  31. ” It’s also a case of moving the goalposts to redefine success. Morrison and Berejiklian have moved the goalposts to redefine their own success. Success becomes the vaccination rate not the infection rate.” [Ikonoclast on this thread further up]

    Yes, I have also observed this substitution. It is an old communications management trick to ‘solve a problem by means of creating a new one’ in the space of perceptions.

    No effort has been made to clear up the meaning of terminology – as indicated in some posts. A few more examples:
    Vaccination rate is used in stead of proportion of specified population that is fully vaccinated at a particular point in rime. The time aspect is important because while the time of effectiveness of a full vaccination is not known with certainty, it is known that it declines, requiring possibly booster vaccinations. This makes the rate of vaccination with respect to time a separately important factor.

    Zero-Covid versus elimination. These two terms are often used interchangeably without specifying what it is to be eliminated – the virus Sars-Cov-2 or the sickness Covid19.

    The strategy Zero-Covid aims to keep the number of infections (Covid19) to be small. This strategy has been promoted by virologists in many countries. Since they are scientists, it is not surprising they use the mathematical language to denote the minimum of the small number. When talking about this strategy, these same people say that expert assessment on how big this ‘small number’ can be empirically because it depends on the local circumstances of the outbreak.

  32. I think the link I posted at Ikonoclast: August 25, 2021 at 10:48 am, says it all. There is more wrong with the Doherty Report than political misrepresentation of its contents. The Doherty Report is fundamentally flawed. I will expand on that sometime soon but I don’t want to flood the thread yet.

    Meanwhile, NSW has already hit crisis point. NSW faces a total disaster very soon if the most extraordinary measures are not taken. I am sure we all know more after today’s news so long as we ignore the totally fallacious propaganda from Morrison and Berejiklian. We must simply pay attention to the more investigative reporters, to the (non-government) epidemiologists and to the medical and paramedical front-line workers.

  33. “The next step after that? Robotic ants that could dig tunnels for humans.” (fn2)

    “Tunnels are our Transportation Future

    “Here is Buffet detailing why he and partner Charlie Munger decided to buy BNSF:
        “Both of us are enthusiastic about BNSF’s future because railroads have major cost and environmental advantages over trucking, their main competitor. Last year, BNSF moved each ton of freight it carried a record 500 miles on a single gallon of diesel fuel. That’s three times more fuel-efficient than trucking is, which means our railroad owns an important advantage in operating costs. Concurrently, our country gains because of reduced greenhouse emissions and a much smaller need for imported oil. When traffic travels by rail, society benefits.”

    “And comparing electric utilities and railroads:
         “Finally, both require wise regulators who will provide certainty about allowable returns so that we can confidently make the huge investments required to maintain, replace and expand the plant.”
    “These ideas may seem basic, but consider that there are very few tunneling companies and that the buyers are almost exclusively government entities. There has been close to zero market pressure for innovation.

    “Let’s Talk Capacity per Dollar
    A year ago, The Boring Company temporarily posted a cost calculator (probably on accident). These figures are before many of the above strategies have been implemented.

    “The numbers were:
    – $2.5 million mobilization
    – $5.5-$8 million per mile for bare, lined tunnel
    – $10-$14 million per mile of Loop tunnel, including road surface, lighting, ventilation, cameras, etc.
    – $3-$6 million for an above-ground station
    – $20-$40 million for a below-ground station

    “Boring Company has one awarded project with public numbers, a Loop System at the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC). Loop is simply “Teslas in Tunnels.” Tesla submitted a fixed price bid of $50 million conditional on achieving capacity goals of 4000 passengers per hour.

    “The LVCC project included 2 miles of tunnel, two above-ground stations, and one underground station. If we use the calculator numbers, the estimate range is $50-$80 million, right in line. The Boring Company completed the project and verified the capacity in June 2021.

    “Imagine a hypothetical system that is 10 miles long with three stations and 30,000 passengers per hour per direction, comparable to a subway. Each tunnel can carry 2000 people per hour per direction, meaning the project requires 300 miles of tunnel. The total cost would be between $300 million and $400 million per mile. It turns out the stations are so cheap that you could have 30 of them and barely impact the price.

    “That is dramatically cheaper than recent US subway projects and comparable to the low end of other OECD countries. Boring Company based the LVCC project pricing on a slightly modified sewer tunnel boring machine, Godot+. Prufrock is six times faster at 1 mile per week. And the medium-term goal for Prufrock is to bore 7 miles per week. A cost decrease of 50%-60% with no other savings across the operation is possible with this tunneling speed. There are opportunities to increase passenger throughput with more optimized vehicles and tighter vehicle spacing. Boring Company achieved 2000 passengers per hour in each direction with six seconds of spacing between cars. Reducing spacing reduces CAPEX per capacity unit.”

    Prufrock is designed to “porpoise,” meaning it launches directly from the surface, mines underground, and re-emerges upon completion. This allows Prufrock to begin tunneling within 48 hours of arrival onsite and eliminates the need to excavate expensive pits to launch and retrieve the machine.

    “Prufrock is designed to tunnel at a speed greater than 1 mile per week, which is 6 times faster than The Boring Company’s previous generation TBM (Godot+). This is still 4-5 times slower than a garden snail…but Prufrock is catching up!

    “Prufrock’s medium-term goal is to exceed 1/10 of human walking speed, which is 7 miles per day.”

    “The Incredible Secret Science of Ants’ Underground Cities: How Ants Build Amazingly Complex and Stable Structures 

    Captiin: “A casting of a nest made by a species of ant found in Florida next to an adult man for scale.” Credit: Charles F. Badland

    “Now, driven by the desire to improve our own ability to dig underground—whether it is for mining, subways, or underground farming—a team of researchers from Caltech has unraveled one of the secrets behind how ants build these amazingly complex and stable structures.

    “We hypothesized that the ants could sense these force chains and avoided digging there,” Andrade says. “We thought maybe they were tapping grains of soil, and that way they could assess the mechanical forces on them.”

    “The ants also dug their tunnels as steeply as they possibly could, right up to what’s known as the angle of repose. That angle represents the steepest angle that a granular material—a material made of individual grains—can be piled up before it collapses.

    “Finally, the team discovered something about the physics of ant tunnels that could one day be useful to humans.

    “As ants remove grains of soil they are subtly causing a rearrangement in the force chains around the tunnel. Those chains, somewhat randomized before the ants begin digging, rearrange themselves around the outside of the tunnel, sort of like a cocoon or liner. As they do so, two things happen: 1.) the force chains strengthen the existing walls of the tunnel and 2.) the force chains relieve pressure from the grains at end of the tunnel where the ants are working, making it easier for the ants to safely remove them.

    “It’s been a mystery in both engineering and in ant ecology how ants build these structures that persist for decades,” Parker says. “It turns out that by removing grains in this pattern that we observed, the ants benefit from these circumferential force chains as they dig down.”

    “The next step after that? Robotic ants that could dig tunnels for humans.”


  34. akarog, thanks for posting the link to the ABC radio national with Norman Swan interviewing Alan Soul.

    In the area of my educational background – math econ – theoreticians work on finding conditions under which two specific theorems (or models) are equivalent. Against this background and listening to Alan Soul, the question arises under which conditions (re case numbers and test-trace-isolate capacity, variant) is the Zero Covid strategy equivalent to the promoted “Living with Covid” strategy in terms of severity and frequency of lockdowns for various levels of vaccination of the specified population.

    (In retirement I can allow myself some idle thoughts but with the hope some biomath modeller has already worked out the answer.)

  35. Sometimes a poor article with a lot of spurious nonsense in it can provoke many thoughts.There were so many glaring faults in one I came across, I hardly knew where to begin. The title of this article practically gave the game away on its own:

    “We shouldn’t worry when a virus mutates during disease outbreaks.”

    I won’t link to it. I am sure people can find it if they want.

    It is a title for an opinion fluff piece, not for a serious piece of research science or a summary of known science to date. It’s like saying “We shouldn’t worry when we catch a virus.” It’s too general. It depends on the virus. Saying, “we shouldn’t worry when a virus mutates during disease outbreaks” is actually highly illiterate with respect to viral evolutionary science. Matters depend on the mutation and on the virus. It multiplicatively depends on both.

    For starters, the title claim is refuted by the empirical record of SARSCov2 to date. SARSCov2 causes COVID-19 disease. The evolution (by mutations) of at least four key variants , Alpha, Delta, Delta+ and Lambda in less than two years has already made SARSCov2 far more dangerous.

    “The Alpha variant, for instance, is 50% more transmissible than the original Wuhan strain. ” – ‘COVID variants Lambda and Delta Plus: All you need to know about the emerging strains’ – Sunil Lal, The Lens, Monash U.

    The Delta variant is two times (200%) more transmissible than the original Wuhan strain. As we know, the Delta variant has caused dangerous new-wave outbreaks in many countries due to its high infectivity and higher asymptomatic transmission rate.

    “The Delta Plus variant is resistant to antibody cocktails (artificially produced monoclonal antibodies), binds more tightly to the ACE2 receptor, thereby increasing transmissibility, exhibits resistance to COVID-19 drugs, and evades the immune response elicited by vaccinated individuals.

    The mutation (K417N) acquired by the Delta Plus variant is not something new. It was also present in the Beta variant.

    The Lambda variant (C.37 or B 1.1.1) was detected as early as December 2020 in Lima, Peru. This variant has been reported in 90% of all cases in that country. Currently, more than 29 countries have detected this variant.

    It’s noteworthy how this variant, although detected early, showed slow rates of infection initially, but has now become the predominant variant in Peru, clearly showing its edge in transmissibility and infection over other variants.” – ‘COVID variants Lambda and Delta Plus: All you need to know about the emerging strains’ , Sunil Lal, The Lens, Monash U.

    The “We shouldn’t worry when a virus mutates” article makes another generalized statement which is refuted by the above known data:

    “Indeed, across a broad swathe of viruses it is unusual to find those that have changed or expanded their mode of transmission over short evolutionary time-scales despite high rates of mutation.”

    This is a kind of misdirection. It might be unusual but it can still be highly dangerous and significant when it happens and it has happened with SARSCov2. SARSCoV2 has already mutated dangerously over short evolutionary time-scales relative to human generation-spans [1]. I suspect quite a few RNA viruses might be able to do the same thing. SARSCoV2 is highly unusual at this point in history. It is a novel zoonotic disease having recently jumped from another animal to man, maybe by a intermediary host. Being novel to humans and being a fairly mutable RNA virus it has a vast new “evolutionary space” to explore. This virus and man have never “met” before in all of evolutionary history. It is not like other diseases, even flus, of which it can said there is a shared evolutionary history; some of (much of?) the evolutionary space has already been explored as flu virus(es) and man have already fought each other many times and have co-evolved to some extent in evolutionary competition.

    To not understand how different the COVID-19 situation is from an already somewhat extensive co-evolved situation like that of flus and humans, is really to not understand the cutting edge of viral evolutionary science at all. It is also to not understand punctuated equilibrium evolutionary effects. We have hit an historic and even epochal punctuated equilibrium evolution point. SARSCov2 is evolving at “light speed” compared to ordinary “interregnum” evolution and compared to human evolution. Our technology will have to move at “light speed” to keep up with and win this viral evolution versus human immune system and technology arms race.

    Note 1. – It makes sense to measure evolutionary time in generations, not years. Only one tenth (about) of a human generation has passed since SARSCov2 jumped to man. But how many viral generations have there been? Using human-to-human transmission times (7 days say) we can say 1 year of transmissions is 52 generations. But wait, viruses can supercharge their evolution in one human body and in every human body. When new more viable variants (at entering cells say) occur once or more than once in any human body early on in the infection, then the best variant will out-compete all others, even its viable mutated fellows if any and multiply to dominance in that body, likely in days. This would give a factor, greater than 1, of “intra-host” evolution. Then you would have to multiply generations by the “intra-host” factor. This factor could well be very significant. “Intra-host” evolution is real thing, for example:

    “Intra-Host Evolution of Norovirus GII.4 in a Chronic Infected Patient With Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation.”

    How much do Intra-Host Evolution effects multiply with respect to SARSCoV2 when people are being intubated, kept alive for longer periods and then improperly PPE-ed staff get infected, especially in a country like India, where Delta arose? Clearly the effect is not only possible but likely very significant for SARSCoV2 evolution.

  36. Ernestine, it’s my contention that the Doherty model is just a model and needs to be road tested (how?) before being released onto the public.

    Either the model has been politicised or politics has made the model. Whatever it is, it’s become the Big Issue that Morrison is taking to the next election.

    As issues go it’s a great Big Issue, it obscures all the other issues and already the public are onside – who doesn’t want to bust out and go to the beach?

    Morrison could use this as an election theme, “no true Australian would deny their family…holiday/bbq/camping/fun etc”.

    Holidays are usually a low transmission time, get the election done before school goes back and things get real.

  37. Wikipedia tells me, “The next Australian federal election will be held in or before 2022 to elect members of the 47th Parliament of Australia.” The latest Saturday possible for Reps. is 3 September 2022. So when do people think Scott Morrison will call the election?

    My thinking is that Morrison is already in dire trouble IF the Australian public have any brains at all. In NSW (then Victoria, then probably Queensland and then maybe more places) the runaway outbreak of COVID-19 DELTA has started. I don’t believe it will stop before Xmas without massive hard lock-downs. Our hospital systems cannot handle this kind of outbreak. Hospitals are already at breaking point or “ramping” point depending on jurisdiction. I expect people will be “dying on the ramps” before Xmas. It’s not going to be a good look. I don’t see how any government can survive that. But I might be wrong. Would Australians really be that stupid and callous? “Hooray! Grandma’s dead! Let’s sell her house for a quick, cool “mill” and go on holidays!”

    It seems to me that Morrison, Berejiklian and their “captured” advisers are vastly underestimating the DELTA variant and what comes next. They are yet to do anything effective to halt its spread in the current outbrak. Their problem is that they have never yet met any situation they couldn’t lie and spin their way out of. The Delta variant may well prove to be that situation. The virus does not listen to lie and spin. And the people who listen to lie and spin actually help the virus.

    The vaccination rates might pull deaths down. They could also, paradoxically, push death rates up, by “freedom-ed” vaccinated adults still spreading the virus even more via unlocking; along with all the children spreading it (no fault of the children).

    I agree with this post from Reddit:

    “I don’t live in Sydney but I feel so shitty and helpless about what’s happening there. You don’t deserve to go through this. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. We all worked hard and eliminated this virus.

    Absolutely criminal government. Refusing to set up a quarantine system. Praising Gladys for not locking down. There’s no way Morrison didn’t see the virus emerging in Sydney as his golden opportunity, surely beyond elated that this is happening so we can just open up, like he’s wanted from the beginning.

    I’m never been more livid with our government. We deserve so much better. Scum like this running the country cannot be our future. So worried about all of our young kids.” – Anon.

  38. A good summary by Antony Green. COVID is only mentioned twice, only once in the section headed “Things in the Way” and then only as being in the way of Local Govt Elections. COVID-19 is now the major obstacle to Morrison’s re-election. His only chance I think is to spin the outbreak intovaccination numbers of 70% or 80% and then open uf “freedoms” just before election day just before Xmas. That means Dec 4 or Dec 11.

    I suspect people dying en masse on the hospital ramps by then might get in the way. There is no way, in my opinion, that vaccination, even to 70% of over 16s can stop this Delta outbreak. There is far too much “brush” meaning vulnerable and un vaccinated humans for this outbreak to burn through. This is unless people start complying and even over-complying in locking down out of genuine fear. The population is too stupid IMO to do this. But let’s hope I am proven wrong. Let’s hope 95% of the adult population are sensible and intelligent. Huh! Fat chance.

  39. The Liberal party has shown that inadequate quarantine plus not going hard and early when needed means that the virus will eventually win .They will get their ‘live with it ‘ suppression outcome that they wanted from the start – luckily now with the help of vaccines. I still think keeping it out with proper quarantine for another 3 or 4 years might have worked out better from an economic point of view as well as a health one. We dont know how this is going to end. Hospitals are normally near capacity ,now they have cancelled everything they can in NSW and are at capacity just dealing with Covid.

    Here in Victoria we are having trouble with compliance because this is the 6 th lockdown and over the river in NSW the virus is off and running with the ‘get used to it message ‘ coming from the Federal and NSW leadership .People are thinking ‘whats the point’ .A friend works on the Vic police assistance phone line and says they are way more busy than ever before with reports of non compliance . We did so well beating it last time but were only out of lockdown for 1 week when it came in again from NSW in 2 separate unfortunate places .

    Lets not forget this all started because the NSW Liberals did not require quarantine drivers for international flight crews to be vaccinated or even to wear a mask .That 12 months after Victorias big outbreak caused by using private companies for quarantine security .Victoria had a special inquiry in record time and implemented best practice quarantine ,the health minister resigned .

  40. The Doherty Institute rep Prof Sharon Lewin made it very clear this morning, there will be no “freedom day” and restrictions are here to stay.

    I think that the report needs to be properly analysed, it’s presumptions need to be challenged and the simulations extended beyond 180 days.

    What is clear from the report is that there are no % targets before opening up and both the state and federal Govts need to avoid this type of goal shifting.

    Sharon Lewin clearly stated that easing of restrictions will create an increase in cases and if 70% vaccination was a trigger to ease up restrictions cases would rise significantly.

  41. sunshine,

    Correct. How did the West, with Russia’s, India’s and China’s help we must add, fight a six year world war (approximately) against ultra right totalitarianism and militarism in 1939 to 1945? Clearly, they had much greater “stick-to-it-tivity” than people have to today. I think our pandemic fighting efforts are appalling weak by comparison. People really are spoiled, weakened and made selfish by this system. To deny that, you must essentially deny that neoliberalism is damaging to the development of good human capacities and cooperativeness. And neoliberalism IS most clearly damaging to the development of good human capacities via a lack enculturation, education and inculcation. Ergo, we are weak, spoiled and selfish and it is showing badly.

    The West is almost completely white-anted by neoliberalism, in its moral fibre and its infrastructure. It’s hard to know which is worse. Much of the rest of the world have been brought up in a much tougher school, made tougher very significantly by the West bullying and pillaging them non-stop. The boot is on the other foot now. The age of the West has ended. The age of Asia has begun. Let us hope they will be better human beings than we have been. Maybe they can be. That will really be humbling and the best we can hope for.

    But truth is like poetry isn’t it? Everybody hates a class in it. (That joke is stolen and mangled for this post. Denialism will continue to total collapse.

  42. “How did the West … 1939 to 1945?”

    The perversity of a gilded age kleptocracy had passed. The perversity is back, smarter, greedier, and on steroids. Do not vote for any major (pwnd duopoly) party on any ballot paper. Where a pwnd party candidate must be numbered place them all last with any incumbent dead last.

  43. This breaks my brain. And the UN as well?!

    Here is the $500,000 image of a 2 tone rock with red for eyes.

    “Why a crypto geek paid $ 500,000 for a photo of a rock

    “Financial historians will return to this period with a mixture of astonishment and horror.

    “Since NFTs are not fungible, they are actually only collectibles. There have been a handful of bubbles in collectibles over the years, with Beanie Babies in the late 1990s being perhaps the most famous example. The Beanie Babies implosion had no systemic effect, but what was remarkable about this episode was that it was perfectly in sync with the rise and fall of dot-com stocks. Bubbles in collectibles tend to be in sync with other asset bubbles, and actual physical collectibles are roaring right now, from comics to sports memorabilia to sneakers.

    “But one of the differences between the physical collectibles market and NFTs is that there is a limited supply of physical collectibles. As high prices attract new entrants, new NFTs are constantly hit. Some of my newsletter subscribers have told me stories of their kids hitting a new NFT for as little as $ 20, only to sell it for $ 1,000. This is repeating itself thousands of times across the country as tech-savvy teens seek to step into the game.

    “Jens Parsson, writing in “Dying of Money: Lessons of the Great German and American Inflations,” described how attitudes towards money changed in Weimar, Germany: “When money was so easy to find, you took less care was taken to obtain real value from it, and frugality came to seem unimportant. ” The defining financial characteristic of 2021 is that money is so easy and speculation is rampant, just as it was in Germany in 1920.

    “When people buy raw rock for $ 500,000, what stage of the cycle are we at? I actually spent half a million dollars recently on something too: nine acres of land near the beach in South Carolina. What will be worth more in 10 years, earth or rock? Well, the land has already doubled in value in six months, and I didn’t need the blockchain to do it.”

    NFT ‘tulip-man-ia’ who paid $0.5m;

    And the UN – hardly believe I wrote that…

    “Enjin plans to use NFTs to promote sustainability and equality as member of UN pact

    “The company previously said it planned to enable carbon-neutral NFTs by 2030 and claimed its JumpNet blockchain is already carbon-negative.

    “The United Nations Global Compact, a nonbinding pact aimed at encouraging businesses to adopt sustainable, socially responsible policies, has accepted nonfungible token (NFT) and blockchain gaming platform Enjin as a participant.

    “Enjin announced on Tuesday that it would be exploring ways to use NFTs to promote sustainability and equality as part of the UN pact. The company suggested using the technology to fight climate change by employing it in carbon-capture companies and reducing the global wealth gap by allowing creators around the world permissionless access to NFT markets.”…

    “Blockchain Technology and Environmental Sustainability

  44. Thanks akarog,
    Stephen Duckett and Anika Stobart state in The Conversation op-ed (you refer to):

    According to Doherty modelling, deaths could reach 1,500 within six months of implementing Phase B. Agreeing to such a scenario is politically untenable for states that currently have zero cases.

    Is it any wonder other states/territories don’t want to open their borders to NSW and Victoria anytime soon?

    Checking the Australian Government DoH’s Australian COVID-19 vaccination rollout stats up to and including Aug 26:

    * 11,550,262 people have had at least the 1st dose, representing 56.0% of the population aged 16+
    * _6,808,469 people have had at least two doses, representing 33.0% of the population aged 16+

    Click to access covid-19-vaccine-rollout-update-27-august-2021.pdf

    The Australian Government announced on Friday it had accepted the recommendation from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) that the addition of 1.2 million people aged 12 to 15 be included in the COVID vaccination rollout, starting from Sep 13.

    It will be interesting to see whether the the official government stats will now include vaccination percentage rates of the total population – that’s the figure that really counts, and it needs to be as high as possible, to assist with keeping the hospitalization and death rates low. Otherwise it’s just ‘smoke and mirrors’ from Hunt and Morrison.

    And when will the Australian Government consider adding booster shots into the COVID vaccination programme? For those that have already received their full vaccinations earlier this year, I’d suggest they will likely be needing a booster shot each later this year, if evidence of waning vaccination efficacy in the UK and Israel are anything to go by.

  45. Can Doherty ever recover their self shredded reputation?

    Doherty report shredded: Garbage in Garbage out!

    “The Doherty modeling appears to be nothing more than manufactured scientific opinion to achieve a political outcome by working the numbers backwards.”

    View at
    Australian public fed nonsense as country heads to “irreversible” decision.
    Matt Barrie 1 day ago·21 min read

    Linked from:
    Matt Barrie: Pollies lying about Doherty model “garbage” August 26, 2021

    The “Doherty Report” is being sold as an economic & health model “created by experts” to move Australia from suppression to opening up and “living with Covid”…


    …The Doherty Report is not an economic model, not a plan written by health experts on how to open up the economy, nor does it derive a vaccination target for opening up.

    …Cases among those that are double-dose vaccinated in Israel are growing almost as fast as the unvaccinated, according to the Israeli Ministry of Health. Clearly the key assumption in the Doherty modeling- that double dose vaccination reduces transmissibility by ~90% is wrong.

    Already the data is showing waning immunity and, similar to the flu shot, boosters will be needed regularly. People will be less enthusiastic to take the third, fourth or fifth shots. AstraZeneca has limited use for booster shots in the future because the immune system develops antibodies to the simian adenovirus vector used. The virus will also continue to mutate, which could lead to further antigen shift and vaccine escape.

    The Doherty modeling appears to be nothing more than manufactured scientific opinion to achieve a political outcome by working the numbers backwards.

    Abdication of leadership to reliance on a modelled scenario is simply a way to blame someone else if it all goes pear shaped, which the Doherty Institute appears all too happy to play along with, either because it is a captured entity or doesn’t see what is coming.

    The country doesn’t have to open up based on any modelled scenario. It is simply a prediction of a range of things which might happen if we do.

    Unfortunately for Australia, the arbitrary 70% and 80% 16 year+ vaccination targets, together with the 180 day modeling period appear to be more driven by the next federal election, which will be called before May 2022.

    We should not be in this position. Australia has a natural advantage as an island nation in a pandemic which made us the envy of the world.

    Taiwan, another island nation has crushed Delta. Today there are 6 new cases from a peak of 600:

    Failure to adequately secure quarantine is the primary reason for where we are today. We ran quarantine in hotels that are not fit for purpose, with shared ventilation in the worst place possible- the dense CBD.

    More than 18 months in, we have still not issued the correct personal protective equipment for all quarantine workers including drivers, medical and front line staff- police, army, public transport etc. (emphasis added)

    A paper recently published in The Lancet by researchers from institutions including the University of Oxford, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Switzerland, London School of Economics and Political Science and INSEAD entitled “SARS-CoV-2 elimination, not mitigation, creates best outcomes for health, the economy, and civil liberties” found that:

    “Countries that consistently aim for elimination — ie, maximum action to control SARS-CoV-2 and stop community transmission as quickly as possible — have generally fared better than countries that opt for mitigation — ie, action increased in a stepwise, targeted way to reduce cases so as not to overwhelm health-care systems.”

    Up to 6000 cases predicted and rules to change. Plus, a boot border crossing bust
    New South Wales
    The University of Sydney has found that under the current settings, daily COVID-19 case numbers in NSW could peak between 1,500 and 6,000 a day by early October.—but-we-must-brace-for-an-infection-surg.html
    Pandemic peak in sight – but we must brace for an infection surge 26 August 2021
    Infections across Australia may rapidly grow to 40,000 per day
    Nowcasting transmission and suppression of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 in Australia
    Sheryl L. Chang, Oliver M. Cliff, Cameron Zachreson, Mikhail Prokopenko
    [Submitted on 14 Jul 2021 (v1), last revised 28 Jul 2021 (this version, v2)]
    Nowcasting transmission and suppression of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 in Australia
    Sheryl L. Chang, Oliver M. Cliff, Mikhail Prokopenko1
    …This study addresses several important questions. Firstly, we calibrate reproductive number R0 and generation period Tgen of the Delta variant, using real-world data for an ongoing outbreak in Australia, in a transparent epidemiological setting. Secondly, in a nowcasting mode, we investigate a feasible range of key non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs): case isolation, home quarantine, school closures and social distancing, available to control the virus transmission within the population with a low acquired immunity. Finally, in a counter-factual mode, we quantify under what conditions the ongoing outbreak can be suppressed, aiming to provide actionable information on the extent of required NPIs, in comparison to previous pandemic control measures successfully deployed in Australia.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s