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.


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42 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. Before RNA replication coming to a robot near you. I hope they have a worthy containment facility.

    “World’s first living robots can now reproduce, scientists say
    https://edition.cnn.com/2021/11/29/americas/xenobots-self-replicating-robots-scn/index.html
    *

    “Kinematic self-replication in reconfigurable organisms

    Sam Kriegman, Douglas Blackiston, Michael Levin, and Josh Bongard

    PNAS December 7, 2021 118 (49) e2112672118;https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2112672118

    https://www.pnas.org/content/118/49/e2112672118

  2. Spreading HIV about wittingly/negligently is now a crime in several jurisdictions. Will similar spreading of a Sars-Cov-2 variant be made a similar crime? In spite of the known risks if the people want what Morrison, Hunt, and Palaszczuk say they want, which implies that just about everyone shall soon get the disease, then what can be wrong with someone giving them as much of a widespread dose of the consequences as they possibly can?

  3. Boris Johnson, the UK PM who didn’t take COVID-19 seriously even after he caught it and and his nation was ravaged by successive waves, is now finally taking matters seriously. It is clear that the UK scientific community and UK government currently are rightly spooked by Omicron. They know they have a genuine national emergency on their hands.

    “Today we are launching the Omicron Emergency Boost – a national mission unlike anything we have done before in the vaccination program – to Get Boosted Now. “A fortnight ago I said we would offer every eligible adult a booster by the end of January. “Today, in light of this Omicron Emergency, I am bringing that target forward by a whole month. Everyone eligible aged 18 and over in England will have the chance to get their booster before the New Year.” – Boris Johnson.

    Note the words “Omicron Emergency”. The UK’s Covid alert level has been lifted to four, the second highest, as Omicron cases continue to spike. The UK‘s Chief Medical Officers and NHS England National Medical Director recommended the alert level be raised as Omicron poses “a rapidly increasing risk to the public and healthcare services”.

    On this very day, a Newcastle, Australia, nightclub COVID-19 cluster (involving Omicron and possibly Delta as well) has yielded 84 positive tests. Omicron spreads like wildfire. On this very day, we have let possibly 20,000 to 50,000 people from NSW etc. into Queensland. It is a certainty that Delta and Omicron will be seeded into Qld. It is a near impossibility that Queensland can now avoid an Omicron Emergency of its own.

    Qld’s Premier has failed us. The new CHO has also failed us, completely and utterly, right at the outset of his job. This is a near certain disaster for Queensland, We have the example and forewarning of the UK and other nations and states, yet we have chosen to completely ignore those warnings, or else our manipulative elites have made the decision for us.

    I do not see how this can be anything other than a disaster for public health in Queensland and the rest of Australia (except W.A. which is wisely staying shut until February), By then it will be clear just how bad the Omicron pandemic is. I predict disaster, as I say. We don’t have enough people double-vaccinated and we don’t have enough people boosted. People are celebrating now. They will be mourning lost family members, friends and colleagues within months.

  4. Today in a rather despairing check on present unrealities and baked-in future realities Alan Kohler linked the MCC Carbon Clock:

    That’s how fast the carbon clock is ticking
    https://www.mcc-berlin.net/en/research/co2-budget.html
    “The MCC Carbon Clock shows how much CO2 can be released into the atmosphere to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5°C and 2°C, respectively. With just one click, you can compare the estimates for both temperature targets and see how much time is left in each scenario.”

    https://www.mcc-berlin.net/fileadmin/data/clock/carbon_clock.htm

  5. Iko: so now Boris Johnson is a reliable source of carefully weighed scientific opinion? For Boris, a covid panic distracts attention from the Downing Street parties. It would not have been his first choice of shiny onject, but remarkably negotiators stitched up a compromise on the French fishermen, so there wasn’t much else left. One death from Omicron, says Boris. Personally, I’ll go with the EMA.

  6. The most famous “look behind you” tactic used by a British Prime Minister was enacted by Margaret Thatcher. She manufactured the Falklands War to distract from the impact of her domestic policies. From April 2nd to June 14th 1982, Thatcher used this exercise of global bullying to garnish political popularity. It cost Britain the lives of over two hundred service personal and one of its destroyers, the HMS Sheffield. Even though the military junta in Argentina were not blameless in this conflict, they too were using warfare to garnish public support, the dispute could have been settled by diplomatic means. Politicians will try to distract the public any way they can to avoid public censure. Only the focus of media attention seems to have any impact on their behavior. Though sometimes this merely drives any bad behavior under the camouflage of “national security”.

  7. James Wimberley,

    I am sorry but you are completely missing the point. In relation to Boris Johnson, I was simply making the point that even someone as obtuse as he was finally getting the point.

    It was the carefully weighed scientific opinion of The UK‘s Chief Medical Officers and NHS England National Medical Director which had the level 4 alert declared (second highest) in the UK.

    I looked up the EMA and could find no scientific summary of recent COVID-19 research (theirs or anyone else’s). The EMA appears to be a medicines advisory board. That is to say it appears to have no particular expertise in virology or epidemiology, though no doubt some in pharmacology. They are billed as “A medicines watchdog” by some. I can’t even find a statement on their site about COVID-19 developments. Can you point to any such scientific statements?

    You have to be careful of headlines. “Omicron variant ‘mostly mild’, says European Medicines Agency” – Euractiv. The actual media release statement is a little more nuanced.

    “The EU medicines watchdog said Thursday (9 December) the Omicron variant of COVID-19 may cause milder disease, as the World Health Organisation warned against a re-run of vaccine hoarding by rich nations as the new strain spreads.

    The tentative judgement from the European Medicines Agency comes after the WHO said this week there was some evidence that Omicron causes less severe disease than Delta, the currently dominant variant.

    The EMA echoed the finding, but said more investigation was being done.

    “Cases appear to be mostly mild, however we need to gather more evidence to determine whether the spectrum of disease severity caused by Omicron is different (to) that of all the variants that have been circulating so far,” said Marco Cavaleri, EMA’s head of biological health threats and vaccines strategy.”

    I’ve already posted references to data which show the “mild” claim to be dubious. I am surprised that Cavaleri would make such an incautious statement. Actually, it’s quite likely he was misquoted by the media just as Dr. Fauci was misquoted. Misquoted statements about “mild”, made by the media before any real data was in, are the nub of the problem. Then people ignore the real data as it starts coming in and continue to believe the “mild” myth. I am afraid the “open up and live with covid” cheer squad (rampant in the mass media and elsewhere) don’t understand the dimensions of this crisis, nor do they appear to understand any of the science behind dealing with COVID-19.

  8. AUKUS @ $170Bn. I said $200Bn here.

    Equates to $160pp at 25m population over 50years.

    Killing machines are a batgin.

    Please nuance my ignorance.
    *

    And 50 Howitzers. 1 day all gone in a heated battle zone. The new exploding deones will probably make them detonate before they move or fire. Smart.

  9. New search engine “Think GitHub, Reddit, and Twitter all on one page.”

    …”and locations don’t get stored. What’s more, anytime you search, the queries come from the You.com’s IP address, not your own. Within the results page, you can utilize You Apps to find information and get things done. Think GitHub, Reddit, and Twitter all on one page. You’ll also find results within the apps that are relevant to your search…”
    https://you.com/

    Via Makeuseof

  10. Dog Tail as a ‘dead & unfair’ virus. Symptom… throwing money onto ice and watching underfunded educators fight over $1 bills. Sick.

    You know the saying “the tail wagging the dog”, well this $5,000 ‘scramble’ giveaway seems to me to say,  the tail turned into a virus and infected the dog’s brain.

    And credit unions to boot, reinforcing my ‘tail as virus’ proposal.

    “Sioux Falls-area teachers ‘Dash for Cash’ for classroom improvements at Stampede game
    https://www.argusleader.com/story/news/2021/12/11/dash-cash-stampede-hockey-teachers-sioux-falls/6448189001/
    *

    Idea Idiot Initiators…
    WELCOME TO A NEW WAY OF MORTGAGING.
    “14,352 members closed and $2.3B in volume 2020”
    https://www.mycumortgage.com/our-story/
    *

    Now it is Trumpians controlling the GoP.

    “The earliest citation that I can find is from The Memphis Daily Appeal, May 1871:

    “Calling to mind Lord Dundreary’s conundrum, the Baltimore American thinks that for the Cincinnati Convention to control the Democratic party would be the tail wagging the dog.”

    https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/the-tail-is-wagging-the-dog.html

  11. One to watch.

    “Josh Angrist’s Nobel Prize Lecture

    “The Nobel prize lectures were online this year which gave Josh Angrist and MRU an opportunity to produce a Nobel prize lecture unlike any ever before! Josh gives a commanding yet down-to-earth talk with lots of graphics, animations and even a few guitar riffs! Indeed, Josh’s Nobel Prize lecture includes a clip from his MRU videos. Future Nobel laureates take note!”

    https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2021/12/josh-angrists-nobel-prize-lecture.html
    *

    “2021 prize in economic sciences lectures

    “Nobel Prize

    “The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2021 with one half to David Card “for his empirical contributions to labour economics” and the other half jointly to Joshua Angrist and Guido Imbens “for their methodological contributions to the analysis of causal relationships”

  12. The Climate Council has published a new report today by Professor Will Steffen, Professor Hilary Bambrick, Dr Annika Dean, Dr Wesley Morgan, Dr Simon Bradshaw, Tim Baxter, Dinah Arndt and Dr Martin Rice, titled Crunch Time: How Climate Action in the 2020s Will Define Australia. The news release for this report included (bold text my emphasis):

    Multiple lines of evidence strongly suggest that we can no longer limit warming to 1.5°C without a temporary overshoot. The global average temperature rise will likely exceed 1.5°C during the 2030s (IPCC 2021). There’s little time left to limit global warming below catastrophic temperature rises. Breaching 1.5°C of warming significantly increases the risk of triggering abrupt, dangerous and irreversible changes to the climate system. Every fraction of a degree of avoided warming matters, and will be measured in lives, species and ecosystems saved. We must do everything possible to deeply and rapidly cut our emissions, while also preparing for climate impacts that can no longer be avoided.

    https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/resources/crunch-time-climate-action-2020s-define-australia/

    Evidence I see indicates the 1.5 °C warming threshold is likely to be breached BEFORE 2030.
    See Table 1 at: https://doi.org/10.5194/esd 12 253 2021
    Also Figure 2 in: http://www.columbia.edu/~mhs119/Temperature/Emails/July2021.pdf

    There’s enough GHGs already in the atmosphere to drive global mean warming to +2 to +3 °C long-run equilibrium temperature, similar to empirical evidence of the so-called Mid-Pliocene Warm Period that was 3 to 5 million years ago.

    It depends on how “temporary” is defined. It’s not clear whether the Climate Council means it’s for years, decades, or perhaps centuries?

    I agree with the report’s statements:

    * “The Federal Government’s reckless choice to do next to nothing to reign in pollution places Australian lives and our well-being at increasing risk.

    * “Australians have so much to gain from a much stronger 2030 target, and so much to lose from a poor one. It is in our national interests, and the interests of all Australians to do more.

    To limit the Earth System’s time of overshoot above the 1.5 °C warming threshold requires:

    1. A rapid and deep reduction of human-induced GHG emissions to zero ASAP;
    2. Atmospheric carbon drawdown at large-scale (with technologies yet to be invented and deployed) to concentrations of CO2 equivalent below 350 ppm; and
    3. Maintain arctic summer sea ice cover (with technologies yet to be invented and deployed).

  13. Geoff Miell,

    As was said in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic we need “radical realism, not delusional dismissive-ness”. The same is true in climate change matters. The strange thing these days is that being a realist, a scientific empirical realist, who simply points out the inconvenient and unpalatable real facts, gets one labelled as a “radical” and an “alarmist”. Unfortunately, only the coming global regress into massive and undeniable collapse will convince people of the true reality of climate change and its implications.

    It would be better if we could take wise, preventive action but this seems totally beyond most mature people indoctrinated into the current system. They will need to be radically converted (or extincted) by the new reality of real disasters of mega proportions. One wishes it were not so but it obviously is.

  14. Omicron is thought to be about twice as transmissible as the delta variant, at least on the available data. Given our efforts to contain delta variant outbreaks have had only limited success, or have failed outright, the picture for omicron is pretty clear.

    It is claimed that omicron causes a mild infection, but that doesn’t adequately describe the statistical distribution of the severity of infection, for it may well be that while fewer people get severe cases of it (per 100 infected people, for instance), the severe cases might be more likely to end in death rather than a recovery, when compared with how delta behaves. Or, it could be that omicron infects children more so than the earlier variants, etc. At this stage of the game, we don’t have enough data to have a clear picture for the nature of the infection across a population’s age distribution, etc. In a highly vaccinated population, the transmissibility of it might be somewhat subdued; again, hard to say with certainty at this stage.

    In any case, I think the reason we are opening borders and taking such big chances is because we don’t have sufficient standalone and built for purpose quarantine facilities; if we did, we could make a week or so in quarantine part of being an international arrival. Since we didn’t bother with such a plan, the economic pressures on the government are such that the path of least political resistance is to shut their eyes, hold their nose, and let international arrivals fly in, come what may. Of course, the longer term economic impact might outweigh the short-term financial boost to the economy…

  15. “Denmark is seeing record Omicron growth despite 76.9% 2-shot vaccinated and ~20% boosted. Clearly not enough to prevent a 1.6 days per doubling Omicron rate… this is what troubles me so much.” – Eric Feigl-Ding.

    Qld is not as crowded as Denmark and we are near high summer… but our vaccination rate is scarcely any better. This is what troubles me so much. Omicron is coming.

  16. Published recently at ABC.net.au was an article by Hugo Rikard-Bell headlined Has the AdBlue shortage reached crisis point and what does it mean for drivers and consumers? It included:

    At the moment Australia has a stock of a little more than 15 million litres of DEF, which enough to meet about five weeks of business-as-usual demand, according to Energy Minister Angus Taylor.

    But in the last few days the government has been working to secure new supplies from Indonesia and the Middle East.

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2021-12-14/has-the-adblue-shortage-reached-crisis-point/100700420

    The AdBlue shortage crisis may have been averted for now, but transport costs are apparently still rising. That cost is being passed on to everything delivered by trucks.

    One crisis perhaps temporarily averted, but I’d suggest we may not be so lucky in future.
    https://johnquiggin.com/2021/12/06/monday-message-board-537/comment-page-1/#comment-248788

  17. There is a lot to unpack in Geoff Miell’s post above. I will put my spin on things.

    1. Shortages.

    At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis I predicted sporadic shortages. I did not attempt to predict shortages in what. The pandemic’s progress has borne that out. But shortages will become more systemic if logistics are affected. As the pandemic is clearly worsening globally and will got much worse again at least for the rest of this decade (my prediction) then we are in for a hell of a rough ride. Things are going to get really tough. If great inequalities are permitted to persist and grow under these conditions, this could lead to a major destabilization fo Australia’s social and political security. Matters relatively soon will become that serious (within just a few years probably).

    2. Energy Security.

    Australia’s energy security is low as Geoff Miell says. Our dependence on imported petrol, diesel and Ad-blue is very high, dangerously so. Not only is our Federal Govt. failing to address climate change and sustainability, it is failing to address Australia’s energy insecurity. It is absurd that we send huge quantities of gas to China and then re-import the energy (in essence) in embodied form as urea, Ad-Blue and course petrol and diesel.

    Australia could have moved to a full gas and electric economy, thus obviating the need for petrol, diesel, urea and Ad-Blue imports. We could run on gas and electric renewables and on Australian manufactured urea. The economics of comparative advantage are greatly exaggerated by conventional economists and of course by the oligarchs and corporations who profit so much by ripping resources off weaker, less-developed and less wise countries. Many conventional economists fail to note that import dependence makes a country weak and dependent on overseas suppliers whereas semi-autarky can promote full employment and strategic robustness in both the economic and military senses. Chevron and China do extremely well out of Australia gas, as do a few rich oligarchs and shareholders. The bulk of average Australians get jack-sh** out of Australia’s gas reserves – no income, no public goods and no economic or strategic security.

    3. Globalism and Internationalism.

    The death-knells of globalism and internationalism are sounding. When the chips are down and there are global shortages (of various commodities, resources and goods) big nations will always look after themselves first and implement export limits and export bans. Poor nations and foolishly, excessively import-dependent nations will be hit hard, very hard. The new watchword will be, must be, self-reliance, implemented as a move to semi-autarky and selective import replacement. Wherever we can use our own stuff or make our own stuff and the costs will not be absolutely prohibitive (mere high cost is all right) then these things must be done domestically. The benefits will be manifold: full employment, workforce up-skilling, plus strategic security and self-reliance in both the economic and military senses.

    The chips will be down soon. Basically, they are down now. The world of plenty is over. The world of scarcity is here: the kind of real scarcity of real resources which cannot be addressed by the bullsh** comparative advantage and substitutions theories by conventional market fundamentalist economics which is an entirely fallacious discipline. There are no substitutes for energy per se, nor for water, nor for a great number of scarce minerals or the scarce Holocene’s benign climate itself (now becoming the de-stabilized runaway Anthropocene climate). The world is way, way over its sustainable footprint and many nations and regions are doomed to collapse. Some hard-nosed realists with enough territory and resources, relative to their population, may survive depending on climate change effects and of course on conflicts.

    We still have to operate in a globally responsible way and move off fossil fuels rapidly. We will suffer huge economic and maybe even military punishments if we don’t, plus mentioning actual climate change which very likely will hit Australia the hardest of any nation on earth. But there is no enforceable international law (at least not yet) which says you have to trade to suit oligarchs and corporations while damaging your own nation and the mass of the people in it.

    Only a course of semi-autarky and semi-isolationism will save us. Sometimes semi-isolationism (in some selected respects) IS the right policy where staying too naively and uniformly open just invites getting exploited to the hilt by foreign interests and oligarchic domestic interests.

  18. Has anyone, John, readers, correspondents, seen any discussion anywhere of what “living with the virus” might actually mean, or could mean? It seems like two camps at the minute, not just in Australia: a) it means open everything and behave “normally”, presumably downplaying statistics on deaths b) maintain or even strengthen restrictions and safeguards (testing, masks, limitations on gatherings etc). Neither seem sustainable, for differing reasons … so is anyone thinking and speaking about this in ways that might lead to a “reasonable” path forward?

  19. Robert Banks,

    Re “Neither seem sustainable”.

    Option (a) is not sustainable if you want a just and equitable society. Accessible hospitals and medical care will collapse for all except the rich. It will be a society of Social Darwinism, ageism and ableism. The poor, weak, old, unlucky and discriminated-against will be abandoned and a proportion of them will suffer and die at excess rates.

    Option (b) is fine provided it is pushed through to full suppression and eradication of the virus. There is a tough lock-down stretch where there are a lot of restrictions and sacrifices. Beyond that there is living without the virus where the economy and social outcomes are both better. Such a scenario was possible. It is still possible for some polities but they have basically given up, except perhaps for China. To speak judgmentally, the people who endured the Depression and fought WW2 would look at a lot of modern Westerners now and marvel at how weak and spoiled they are and how soon they give up on any cooperative project which requires extended effort and personal sacrifices for the common good.

    Of course, I am probably out on a limb here. Few people seem to agree with my assessment. But honestly, I am fed up at how everyone has given up and said, oh yeah let the virus win. Vaccination on its own (without other measures) leads to ongoing disaster. The virus keeps mutating and escaping the vaccines. Waiting for the virus to mutate to being genuinely mild could take anything from twenty years to centuries. There is no guarantee that a dominant strain would ever become “mild”. Has malaria become mild? Did smallpox become mild (before eradication)? Does influenza stop periodically mutating to new severe epidemic strains? The answer is “no” each time. One could give dozens of examples.

    Eradication was and is the only genuine solution. But we have given up. We were too weak and too foolish to stay the course. The price of surrender and defeat in this matter will be very high and it will be paid for a long time. It is not beyond the bound of possibility that COVID-19 times Climate Change equals human extinction. The stakes are that high.These disasters compound. But you have already got my view and will want others.

  20. WORLD INEQUALITY REPORT 2022
    https://wir2022.wid.world/

    We stress at the outset that addressing the challenges of the 21st century is not feasible without significant redistribution of income and wealth inequalities. The rise of modern welfare states in the 20th century, which was associated with tremendous progress in health, education, and opportunities for all (see Chapter 10), was linked to the rise of steep progressive taxation rates. This played a critical role in order to ensure the social and political acceptability of increased taxation and socialization of wealth. A similar evolution will be necessary in order to address the challenges of the 21st century.

    https://wir2022.wid.world/executive-summary/

  21. WORLD INEQUALITY REPORT 2022
    wir2022.wid.world/

    We stress at the outset that addressing the challenges of the 21st century is not feasible without significant redistribution of income and wealth inequalities. The rise of modern welfare states in the 20th century, which was associated with tremendous progress in health, education, and opportunities for all (see Chapter 10), was linked to the rise of steep progressive taxation rates. This played a critical role in order to ensure the social and political acceptability of increased taxation and socialization of wealth. A similar evolution will be necessary in order to address the challenges of the 21st century.

    https://wir2022.wid.world/executive-summary/

  22. Robert Banks, living with Covid is both a loaded and meaningless phrase. Your situation is unique and therefore living with covid is personal. Network effects will change constantly effecting my take on living with covid.

    Personal then the experts. I do not intend to live with covid. Short or long.

    1) I will be visiting my GP next week to get booster shot moved forward.

    At the start of the pandemic nothing entered my house without being wiped or washed. I relaxed during Delta as I am in a small central west town. That changed when Covid visited my kid’s school. Contact tracing took 5 days befire first contact.

    Listen to advise, decide on your own. Before advise. 

    Currently with Omicron and due a close contact who had gastro,  we are again not letting anything into our house without sterilization precautions, including food, especially now as no masks and sneezy coughing touching shoppers will be spreading the food isle.

    If I were my 18yo self, I would do none of the above, and only follow enforceable mandates. I’ve grown up. 

    Victoria stated the other day 330,000 unvaxed and 165,000 will never get vax. Be careful. NSW state government hasn’t.
    *

    Brief article:
    “What does ‘living with COVID’ look like in 2022?
    https://www.murdoch.edu.au/news/articles/what-does-living-with-covid-look-like-in-2022
    *

    Podcast:
    “What will living with COVID look like?

    “Dr Nick Coatsworth, who played a key role in Australia’s pandemic response when he was one of the Deputy Chief Medical Officers, will be in a conversation with Professor Marc Stears from the Sydney Policy Lab. They will be introduced by Mark Rigotti, Senior Advisor at Herbert Smith Freehills.

    “Dr Luara Ferracioli will lead an expert panel including epidemiologists Professor Catherine Bennett and Professor Fiona Russell; and child and youth mental health expert Professor Adam Guastella from the Brain and Mind Centre. Professor Tim Soutphommasane will provide closing remarks.” 
    https://www.sydney.edu.au/engage/events-sponsorships/sydney-ideas/2021/roadmap-to-reopening.html
    *

    The front line looks different. Imagine hearing Brad Hazard, NSW Health Minister saying “maybe 25,000 infections PER DAY” within 4-6weeks! Elective surgery will cease.
    “Living with COVID’ looks very different forfront-line health workers, who are already exhausted
    https://theconversation.com/living-with-covid-looks-very-different-for-front-line-health-workers-who-are-already-exhausted-167213
    *

    Today:
    We calculated the impact of ‘long COVID’ as Australia opens up. Even without Omicron, we’re worried
    https://theconversation.com/we-calculated-the-impact-of-long-covid-as-australia-opens-up-even-without-omicron-were-worried-168662
    *

    Full text… and why we will still be living with Covid.
    “Health literacy and disparities in COVID-19–related knowledge, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours in Australia

    “Results: People with inadequate health literacy had poorer understanding of COVID-19 symptoms (49% vs 68%; p < 0.001), were less able to identify behaviours to prevent infection (59% vs 72%; p < 0.001), and experienced more difficulty finding information and understanding government messaging about COVID-19 than people with adequate health literacy. People with inadequate health literacy were less likely to rate social distancing as important (6.1 vs 6.5; p < 0.001) and reported more difficulty with remembering and accessing medicines since lockdown (3.6 vs 2.7; p < 0.001). People with lower health literacy were also more likely to endorse misinformed beliefs about COVID-19 and vaccinations (in general) than those with adequate health literacy. The same pattern of results was observed among people who primarily speak a language other than English at home.

    "Conclusion: Our findings show that there are important disparities in COVID-19–related knowledge, attitudes and behaviours according to people’s health literacy and language. These have the potential to undermine efforts to reduce viral transmission and may lead to social inequalities in health outcomes in Australia. People with the greatest burden of chronic disease are most disadvantaged, and are also most likely to experience severe disease and die from COVID-19. Addressing the health literacy, language and cultural needs of the community in public health messaging about COVID-19 must now be a priority in Australia."

    https://www.phrp.com.au/issues/december-2020-volume-30-issue-4/health-literacy-and-disparities-in-covid-19-related-knowledge-attitudes-beliefs-and-behaviours-in-australia/
    *

    Meta study "Characterising long COVID: a living systematic review

    Melina Michelen et al. BMJ Glob Health.2021

    …" most commonly weakness (41%; 95% CI 25% to 59%), general malaise (33%; 95% CI 15% to 57%), fatigue (31%; 95% CI 24% to 39%), concentration impairment (26%; 95% CI 21% to 32%) and breathlessness (25%; 95% CI 18% to 34%). 37% (95% CI 18% to 60%) of patients reported reduced quality of life; 26% (10/39) of studies presented evidence of reduced pulmonary function."

    "Conclusion: Long COVID is a complex condition with prolonged heterogeneous symptoms. The nature of studies precludes a precise case definition or risk evaluation. There is an urgent need for prospective, robust, standardised, controlled studies into aetiology, risk factors and biomarkers to characterise long COVID in different at-risk populations and settings."
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34580069/
    *

    Not a doomsday future – maybe (Ikon may disagree! Yay mRNA!). One for your kids and grandchildren to watch for:-

    "Ancient Plagues

    …" Experts caution that many of these organisms won’t actually survive the thaw and point to the fastidious lab conditions under which they have already reanimated several of them – the 32,000 year old "extremophile" bacteria revived in 2005, an 8 million-year-old bug brought back to life in 2007, the 3.5 million-year-old one . .."…
    https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/ancient-plagues

    Enjoy. 

  23. An excerpt from Malcolm Turnbull’s address last night is provided via RenewEconomy’s Michael Mazengarb’s tweet:

    Part of the transcript of @TurnbullMalcolm’s address to the ANU this evening.

    This is quite the yarn about his interactions with Maurice Newman about climate change.

    A reply tweet later by Bernie Davis caught my eye: “What is it called when idiots get to rule?

  24. Ikonoclast,
    I’ll hazard a guess that you may perhaps be in furious agreement with former deputy chief of the Royal Australian air force, John Blackburn AO, who has continually raised energy/national security concerns:

    Blackburn said the current shortages showed Australia’s analysis of supply chains was “incredibly rudimentary”.

    “There seems to be this inbuilt belief, particularly in the incumbent government, about neoliberalism, that market forces will take care of everything, and they have certainly taken that path with fuel security – until the attempt to keep some refineries open,” Blackburn said.

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/dec/16/australian-adblue-shortage-2021-diesel-price-supplies-australia

    I’d suggest energy/national security issues are being shown to be more precarious than the ‘official’ narrative would have you believe, including those of the Productivity Commission.
    https://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/completed/supply-chains#report

  25. Apropos recent comments here concerning touring the forests of Germany…

    https://www.science.org/content/article/germany-s-trees-are-dying-fierce-debate-has-broken-out-over-how-respond

    In recent years, however, global warming has begun to disrupt long-standing weather patterns, delivering extremes these forests hadn’t experienced. The unprecedented drought that began in 2018 was especially devastating for Germany’s spruce plantations. The combination of extreme summer heat and a lack of precipitation set off a deadly chain reaction. Soils dried out to a depth of 2 meters. The water-starved spruces could no longer produce the tough gooey resin that helps protect them against insects, leaving them open to attack by bark beetles, which normally feed on dead or dying trees. Beetle populations swelled—one adult can produce hundreds of offspring in a season—and overwhelmed whole forests, turning them from green to ghostly gray.

    The destruction hit hardest in Germany, the Czech Republic, and Austria. Forests in France, Poland, Switzerland, Slovakia, and Italy also took hits. Across Central Europe, some 300 million cubic meters of wood was damaged, according to forest scientist Andreas Bolte of the Thünen Institute, the German government’s forest research agency.

    (btw, in one earlier life at about the time amenity horticulture etc was becoming a credentialed thing and something people would want and pay for in Australia I was what might be called informally apprenticed for a while (too short) to an amazing old school Master Gardener tradie from Germany. He greened and shaded a rapidly expanding hot northern city with virtually no budget using just the old school know-how while fighting bureaucracy and ignorance all the way. He could turn wasteland to parkland, urban blocks to cool income producing pleasure gardens such as were then unseen, and horrid clay pans to exquisite tropical floral forests in no time at all with seeming magical aptitude and resourceful scrounging. The results of his low cost seeming low tech learned methods hold up well with the high tech today.)

  26. Australia may be about to be hit by a perfect viral storm .We spent all our social and dollar capital on eradication and then decided to let the virus in anyway .Now we are exhausted and have freedom day plus Christmas and Omicron to look forward to .Its crazy ,everyone seems oblivious to the dangers . Our federal and NSW leaders are determined to march us into the mine field and most just shrug and think there never was any other alternative .Shut up and shop !

  27. sunshine,

    I agree. It is absolutely bizarre what has happened. I feel I am living in a surreal world where almost everyone has become extremely stupid. (There are actually good reasons to believe that Western people have become markedly less intelligent in the last 50 years but that is another post.) Suppression and then eradication in Australia was eminently feasible. Once we eradicated domestically, all it would have taken was proper quarantine stations and proper quarantine procedures. But it seems having unrestricted travel, restaurants and bars available are more important to people than human life itself. They’ve forgotten. Dead people have no amenity.

    It is disturbing that people think there was no alternative. Under consumer capitalism people have been brainwashed into the belief that only in consuming in corporate dictated ways are they living. It seems that non-essential consumption, and non-essential production for non-essential consumption, cannot be foregone by the consumers and the producers even in a time of crisis. This is a central problem with consumer capitalism whereby livelihoods and employment are so heavily tied to vast quantities of non-essential production and consumption that they cannot be foregone even when it is necessitous to do so to save the earth or people.

    To realign our economic system to the need to save the world, and people, instead of consuming the world and ourselves to death, would take a complete re-orientation of our thinking and our entire economy. The system resists this and people resist it. The system (and the people) are in my opinion irredeemable and unreformable. Everything has gone beyond the point of no return. People (in the West) are too spoiled (in every sense of that word) to respond to existential crises. This is the clear lesson of the failure to act to stop climate change and the failure to act to stop the pandemic crisis.

  28. Good to see replication datasets linked. Political Anger and Irriversibke Partisan Tipping Points.
    *

    “The Social Consequences of Political Anger

    by Sabrina I. Pacifici
    Dec 8, 2021

    The Social Consequences of Political Anger. Steven W. Webster. Elizabeth C. Connors. Betsy Sinclair. December 8, 2021.
    [Link to pdf]

    “Abstract – A functioning democracy relies on social interactions between people who disagree—including listening to others’ viewpoints, having political discussions, and finding political compromise.Yet, social life in the contemporary United States is characterized by a relative lack of inter-action between Democrats and Republicans (or, social polarization). We argue that political anger contributes to social polarization by causing Americans to cut off ties with opposing partisans. We first draw on data from the American National Election Studies and the Wesleyan Media Project to show that the mass public is increasingly angry and that politicians often seek to elicit anger. We then present results from a survey experiment on nearly 3,500 Americans, finding that the exogenous introduction of anger leads partisans to socially polarize across a range of settings. Our findings suggest that increasing levels of political anger paralyze politics and harm democracy by influencing Americans’ social interactions and relationships.”

    “Supplementary material for this article is available in the appendix in the online edition. Replication files are avail-able in the JOP Data Archive on Dataverse (http://thedata.harvard.edu/dvn/dv/jop). The empirical analysis has been successfully replicated by the JOP replication analyst. The experiment in this study was conducted in compliance with all relevant laws and was approved by the institutional review board at Washington University in St. Louis.”
    https://www.bespacific.com/the-social-consequences-of-political-anger/
    *

    “‘Tipping Point’ Makes Partisan Polarization Irreversible

    December 10, 2021 
    Cornell University

    …” In a new study, researchers have identified a tipping point, beyond which extreme polarization becomes irreversible.

    “The researchers employed a predictive model of a polarized group, similar to the current U.S. Senate, to reveal what can happen when the country faces an attack by a foreign adversary or a global pandemic.

    “Instead of uniting against a common threat,” said lead author Michael Macy, Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences in Sociology and director of the Social Dynamics Laboratory in the College of Arts and Sciences, “the threat itself becomes yet another polarizing issue.”

    “Polarization and Tipping Points” published Nov. 8 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    “The model allows researchers to study the effects of party identity and political intolerance on ideological extremism and partisan division….”
    https://scienceblog.com/527200/tipping-point-makes-partisan-polarization-irreversible/

  29. Humans & Dumb smart Neural Nets – “made confident predictions even when 95 percent of input images were missing”. Cognitive dissonance x10.

    How are researchers & authorities allowed to let this pass, especially when using for autonomous vehicles! And policing?! 
    *

    “Nonsense & autonomous-driving decisions

    “Nonsense can make sense to machine-learning models

    “Deep-learning methods confidently recognize images that are nonsense, a potential problem for medical and autonomous-driving decisions

    “But a new, more subtle type of failure recently identified by MIT scientists is another cause for concern: “overinterpretation,” where algorithms make confident predictions based on details that don’t make sense to humans, like random patterns or image borders. 

    “This could be particularly worrisome for high-stakes environments, like split-second decisions for self-driving cars, and medical diagnostics for diseases that need more immediate attention. Autonomous vehicles in particular rely heavily on systems that can accurately understand surroundings and then make quick, safe decisions. The network used specific backgrounds, edges, or particular patterns of the sky to classify traffic lights and street signs — irrespective of what else was in the image. 

    “The team found that neural networks trained on popular datasets like CIFAR-10 and ImageNet suffered from overinterpretation. Models trained on CIFAR-10, for example, made confident predictions even when 95 percent of input images were missing, and the remainder is senseless to humans. 

    “Overinterpretation is a dataset problem that’s caused by these nonsensical signals in datasets. Not only are these high-confidence images unrecognizable, but they contain less than 10 percent of the original image in unimportant areas, such as borders. We found that these images were meaningless to humans, yet models can still classify them with high confidence,” says Brandon Carter, MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory PhD student and lead author on a paper about the research.”

    https://news.mit.edu/2021/nonsense-can-make-sense-machine-learning-models-1215

    Click to access 2003.08907.pdf

  30. From ABC.net.au earlier today:

    The Queensland Government has quietly paved the way for fracking in the environmentally sensitive Channel Country, despite repeated promises to protect the area and an unfulfilled commitment to consult with traditional owners.

    In October, 11 applications for petroleum leases across more than 250,000 hectares of land in the Channel Country bioregion of the Lake Eyre Basin were granted to gas company Origin Energy.

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-12-17/queensland-government-quietly-approves-channel-country-petroleum/100700274

    On Tuesday (Dec 14), the Climate Council stated (bold text my emphasis):

    Multiple lines of evidence strongly suggest that we can no longer limit warming to 1.5°C without a temporary overshoot. The global average temperature rise will likely exceed 1.5°C during the 2030s (IPCC 2021). There’s little time left to limit global warming below catastrophic temperature rises. Breaching 1.5°C of warming significantly increases the risk of triggering abrupt, dangerous and irreversible changes to the climate system. Every fraction of a degree of avoided warming matters, and will be measured in lives, species and ecosystems saved. We must do everything possible to deeply and rapidly cut our emissions, while also preparing for climate impacts that can no longer be avoided.

    https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/resources/crunch-time-climate-action-2020s-define-australia/

    And yet the Queensland Labor Government is encouraging and approving for more fossil fuel extraction.

    Queensland residents are likely to suffer proportionately more than the southern states of Australia in the coming decades.
    https://www.pnas.org/content/117/21/11350#F3

    I’d suggest governments, whether Coalition or Labor, are facilitating our future suffering.

  31. Bunker oil vs Kite. 20% less fuel.

    Ok? Or hi-tech looking for a solution?

    “Giant Kite Will Pull a Ship Across the Ocean Next Month

    “Starting in January, a huge boat will attach itself to an enormous kite in a first-of-its-kind test to try and alleviate harmful carbon emissions fromtoting stuff to and fro across the high seas.”

    https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2021/12/giant-kite-will-pull-a-ship-across-the-ocean-next-month/

    “Seawing integrated solution combines kite-technology with an automated flight control system developed by the aerospace industry to harness the power of the wind. Safe, clean, reliable and compact, the system can be used easily by virtually any commercial ship to reduce emissions and fuel consumption by an average of 20%.”
    https://www.airseas.com/seawing

  32. Don’t watch the video or you may get seasick – “Motion sickness: activated. (Gif: Saildrone/NOAA)” is correct. Stratification = more intense storms. Saildrone survived.

    “Drone Sails Into Category 4 Hurricane, Sends Back Incredible Video and Data

    “Some of that data shocked researchers and made them wonder if an instrument had failed. The Saildrone data showed an obstinate pool of warm water clinging to the surface, giving Sam even more fuel to power up. Hurricane winds usually churn up the ocean, drawing cooler water up from below the surface. That mixing can help slow down hurricane intensification.

    “Not only was the water warm under Sam’s violent thunderstorm, but it was also less salty. Using data from a buoy in the area, researchers were able to confirm the instruments on the drone were working just fine. They also gleaned the likely source: the Amazon River. Ocean currents transported the warm, less salty — and thus, less dense — water into the midst of the Atlantic, where it acted like a lid on the ocean. Researchers also deployed underwater drones known as gliders and Hurricane Hunter aircraft along with the Saildrones, adding to the pile of data.

    “The scientists will continue to comb over the data in the coming months, but the preliminary findings show how natural processes can influence hurricanes and even build on climate change’s effects. Other research has shown how the ocean is becoming more stratified due to surface heating and generally creating an environment where storms can intensify more rapidly. (It’s also upping the odds of prolific rainmaking hurricanes and tropical storms andraising sea levels, so really there’s no shortage of woes.)”

    https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2021/12/drone-sails-into-category-4-hurricane-sends-back-incredible-video-and-data/

  33. Iko: I concede that you are right about the Omicron alarmism of much more qualified people in he UK and Europe than Boris Johnson. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/dec/15/omicron-covid-likely-accelerate-death-rate-europe-eu-health-agency .

    I don’t yet concede they and you are right.

    1. Is the alarm based on the experts’ honest central estimate of the future course of the pandemic, or a bad-case scenario published out of prudence or an attempt to counterbalance the irrational optimism of people like me and Johnson?
    2-.Is the alarm driven by projections of deaths, or of a wave of hospitalizations overwhelming ICUs even if deaths are low?

    I suspect it’s B to both questions.

    South Africa is he guinea pig and continues to report shorter hospital stays and no spike in deaths. It’s a youthful country, but the fully-vaccinated rate is only 26%. A large but unknown number have some immunity from infection with earlier variants. The general picture continues to be of substantially less severe infection. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-12-17/s-africa-says-hospitalizations-in-omicron-wave-much-lower

    The basis of comparison is not “death rate from Omicron vs. death rate without covid”. It has to be “death rate from Omicron vs. death rate from previously dominant variants, especially Delta”. I speculate that Delta was going to infect everybody not immune anyway, so the impact of Omicron’s higher infectiousness is on timing: it will concentrate the end game over a shorter period. It may increase instantaneous death rates, but the total bill is likely to be lower.

  34. James Wimberley,

    We will probably have to disagree but I will have another go at explaining the dangers we face. I will attempt to keep my comments fairly mild. When I say what I really think I tend to offend people left, right and center.

    “The basis of comparison is not “death rate from Omicron vs. death rate without covid”,” – J.W.

    For me, the basis of comparison really IS the rates of death and morbidity from COVID-19, any and all variants, vs. death rates without covid. We should have locked down globally and eradicated COVID-19 at the outset of this crisis. Changing the goal posts now by saying an alleged slightly less lethal variant is better than the previous one (which was so much worse than the initial variant anyway) is not a valid logical procedure in my opinion.

    I understand you are following another variant of realism, it’s simply not one I can agree with. Our new starting place (Delta spread) is a given, hence a less lethal and more contagious variant could be an improvement. However, I think this is the wrong way to look at things. This is an open-ended evolutionary process with too many bad permutations still possible. All Omicron has to do is mutate to “Omicron Plus” and combine its extra contagiousness with extra lethality and we are in world of hurt. That mutation is quite likely, certainly not impossible.

    There are a lot of misunderstandings about how evolution and mildness-lethality work. The fitness landscape is not a simple one-dimensional spectrum where mildness-lethality are the only “directions”. (I didn’t want to use the term “vectors” there for fear of confusion with the term “disease vectors”). We have to ask ourselves why so many diseases which plague mankind did not evolve to become more mild. Why are many “old” diseases still so lethal and sometimes widespread with that lethality? For example, malaria.

    At the same time, contagious air borne diseases of the influenza and coronavirus families do seem to quite often obey this relatively simple mildness-lethality trade-off. However, with influenza there is a major caveat and it looks like the same caveat will apply to COVID-19. Evolution to milder endemic versions can occur but this pattern is broken up by periodic outbreaks of a highly lethal strain. We see influenza behaving like this. Permitting COVID-19 endemicity leaves us open to exactly this effect, indefinitely.

    The initial explosion of a novel zoonosis like COVID-19 (which initial explosion is still ongoing right now and with high mutation rates because of sheer high infection rates) leaves us especially open to more lethal mutation outbreaks. This kind of expansion driven lethal outbreaks regime could persist for 5 to 10 years or more. In any one year, the chances of a COVID-19 equivalent of the (misnamed) “Spanish Flu” breaking out are much higher than established influenza doing the same thing, because COVID-19 has not explored many its evolutionary landscape possibilities yet and because we human have not co-evolved with it yet (as we have with influenza). Permitting COVID-19 unopposed spread, excepting for the leaky vaccine retardation on it, permits an exponential increase in the “printing of lottery tickets” for low probability but highly nasty outcomes. Print enough lottery tickets and something very nasty, but of low probability, is still just about certain to happen.

    We are in really dangerous territory now. The correct policy was and is a zero tolerance policy on COVID-19. Lock-down to global eradication was and is still the best policy. And it would be still feasible if people and leaders had the vision, wisdom and steadfastness to get it done. But it won’t happen under unfettered capitalism. That much is clear.

  35. How omicron behaves now is still murky, although the transmission rate is clearly much greater than the delta variant. One issue with it is that omicron could potentially lay the foundation for a new variant that retains the much higher transmissibility of omicron, while gaining the deep lung infectivity of the delta variant. If such a variant were to arise, we should call it the mu-phi variant, methinks.

  36. A few posts earlier I asked what mechanism could possibly account for Omicron being a little milder (if it was) given its known characteristics to that date? I couldn’t think of any mechanism , which only goes to show I am not a virologist nor a physiologist. It turns out that having a bronchial infectivity much higher and a deep lung infectivity a bit lower could account for that. I saw this issue referred to recently in Eric Feigl-Ding’ss twitter and was going to comment here. Don has beaten me to the punch.

    First, let’s no get too carried away. It appears from one study that Omicron’s deep lung infectivity is a bit lower, not a lot lower. If Omicron is milder in this sense (less deep lung attack) it is not by much. It’s much more rapid spread multiplies its dangers anyway. And as Don says “omicron could potentially lay the foundation for a new variant that retains the much higher transmissibility of omicron, while gaining the deep lung infectivity of the delta variant.”

    Given that this is an evolving pandemic with recurrent emergent phenomena, emerging variants etc., it continues to astonish me that many people seem to latch on to each latest development with assumptions strongly biased to assuming that it will be the final development. What is the basis for this strangely unimaginative, inflexible and non-projective thinking? I think the basis is dogma. Dogmas are maintained with fixity and are particularly incapable of admitting new facts. When the facts change a dogma doubles down on ignoring them. A dogmatician is most at home in a system of human construction where the fundamental assumptions and axioms do not change. This is the diametric opposite of complex, real system reality; especially environmental and biological realities which show top-down emergent causation as well as bottom up, mechanistic causality.

    The two most powerful dogmas extant today, in Western society at least, are the monotheistic religious dogmas (when fundamentally interpreted) and the market fundamentalist dogmas. These two become even more dangerous when closely paired. Those who are both religious fundamentalists and market fundamentalists are to be particularly feared, I believe. Scott Morrison and Dominic Perrottet are such a a pair. These people seem particularly incapable of flexible and imaginative thinking. Plans are set based on fundamental formal axioms (not empirical charting of evolving reality in the time dimension. There is a refusal to change plans when “reality intervenes” and throws up something unpredicted (and indeed not necessarily predictable).

    We are in trouble while these two-rail, one-track fundamentalists lead us. They are leading us straight into “exponentializing” disasters. Runaway COVID-19 spread and runaway climate change are the two big ones of course .

  37. YouTube video titled Episode 25 – COVID & Climate Change Correlations with Steve Keen and Special Guest Jørgen Randers, was published on Dec 2, duration 1:07:21.

    Jørgen Randers was one of the co-authors of the seminal The Limits to Growth in 1972. In 2005-6 he chaired the Royal Commission that presented a plan for how Norway can cut its climate gas emissions by two-thirds by 2050. He has been a member of the sustainability council of three multinationals (BT, Dow and Astra-Zeneca).

    Steve Keen is an Australian economist and author. He considers himself a post-Keynesian, criticizing neoclassical economics as inconsistent, unscientific and empirically unsupported.

    I’d suggest there’s much to unpack in this video:

  38. Ice scientists are seeing signs of great cracks and fissures opening up on top of and underneath the Thwaites glacier, one of the biggest in the world, and it is feared that parts of it may fracture and collapse possibly within five years or less.

    Thwaites is about the size of Britain, and contains enough water on its own to raise sea levels worldwide by more than half a metre.

    Thwaites underlines that global heating and glaciers do not wait for politicians, and every year action to reduce climate emissions is delayed only accelerates global disaster.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/dec/18/scientists-watch-giant-doomsday-glacier-in-antarctica-with-concern

  39. In a sad way we need Thwaites to collapse and “raise sea levels worldwide by more than half a meter.” Only then will most people believe we have a crisis on our hands. Finally, we might get some action but unfortunately if Thwaites collapses it is probably already too late.

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