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

40 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. Really interesting article on the incredible waste going on in the airline industry in the EU – and no doubt elsewhere – due entirely to inappropriate regulations. Link here.

    I am not arguing for no regulations, but this is ridiculous. It also illustrates how regulations often have the unintended consequence of favouring incumbents over newcomers and distorts the market and drives up costs. Lots of people then assume this inefficiency is a result of the free market, when it is no such thing.

  2. Jubilee please.

    And democracy is whatever the zeitgeist says it is. If you have an equal voice.

    “on Debt Parasites

    “We’re told that debt forgiveness is impossible, because all debts must be paid, and to do the opposite is to invite anarchy and chaos. But what if none of it was true? Renowned economist Michael Hudson …

    “And also the idea of interest-bearing debt appeared for the first time in the societies. There was no concept of interest in in the West, in all of the Linear B documents of Greece, from about 1,600 to 1,200 BC, you had a palatial economy, but there was no concept of interest anywhere. All of a sudden this was brought and you had basically local chieftains, who all of a sudden became what a number of historians now mafia families. Local cities were like mafia groups, and they found a way of just monopolizing the land, until about the seventh and sixth centuries. There were revolutions all over by reformers, all over Greece, and Italy, and reformers, later were called “Tyrants.” But they called themselves reformers, and they were the people who introduced what became democracy. They introduced public building, they ended up incorporating the population, and preventing debt bondage.

    “The whole fight of early society, every society, was how do you prevent the population from falling into bondage? And the palaces had a reason for doing all of this. If you would have the taxpaying smallholders, the small cultivators, owing their crop to the creditor and owing their liberty, having to go to work on the creditor’s land, instead of working as a corvee, building palace walls and digging ditches for irrigation, if you would have these people fall in debt to the creditors, they wouldn’t be able to pay this crop surplus and labor surplus to the palace anymore. The creditors would take over. And the whole idea of rulers throughout the Near East, all the way into probably the early kings of Rome, who said, “The one thing we’ve got to do is prevent the creditor class from becoming an independent oligarchy. Because if it becomes independent of us, and it gets the economic surplus, they’re going to use this labor to hire an army. They’re going to overthrow us and they’re going to become the state.”

    “So you always had a struggle between the state protecting society from the creditor class — the oligarchy — and the oligarchy wanting to be independent, wanting not to have a debt cancellation. And this was a fight that went on for four centuries before Jesus’s time. The fourth century BC and the Dead Sea Scrolls have shown there was a long political fight. And Jesus represented the people who were trying to fight all of this. And so the early Christians were basically advocates of the Jubilee year, trying to trying to cancel it.

    “Well, in Rome, the wrong kings were overthrown in about 509 BC by an oligarchy, who essentially wanted to reduce the rest of the Roman population to serfdom. And they were so oppressive, that there was a walkout, the secessio plebis in about 494 BC. They walked out, they came back. There was just five centuries of early Roman history into the Republic — the whole Republic was a long set of one revolt after another after another, wanting a debt cancellation and redistribution of land. All of this was called a democracy. A democracy to the oligarchy means all the creditors are equal, and therefore liberty is the liberty to enslave the rest of the population, and make them dependent on reducing to serfdom.

    “Democracy throughout antiquity meant serfdom for most of the population. Aristotle was very clear on this. He said, “Many cities have constitutions that appear to be democracies, but they’re really oligarchies.” And in fact, every democracy, Aristotle wrote, tends to turn into an oligarchy, as wealthy people get rich, and then the oligarchy makes itself into a hereditary aristocracy, and lords it over the rest of society, and the only way that you can prevent a total breakdown is when some members of the ruling, wealthy families get together and one family breaks and says, “Look, we don’t want this kind of poverty, we’re going to try to go and take the people into our camp.” Those are the words that Aristotle used: we’re going to take them into our camp and throw out the oligarchs, just as the Tyrants did in the seventh and sixth centuries, in the wealthiest Greek cities, from Sparta to the area north of Athens. Athens was about the last of these cities to have a democracy.

    “You had this whole background that led to the modern world, which was a world that stopped the tradition of debt cancellation that had liberated populations from debt servitude, from debt bondage, and what became serfdom, and on the idea that, well, the law is inexorable, you’re not going to have any debt cancellation. And there was the fight within the Christian church against Rome, especially again in North Africa, which had been Carthage that was destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC. They took over the very rich agricultural land, and that became the agricultural breadbasket of the Roman Empire from Egypt, all the way to Numidia, which was Carthage but then it went all the way to what is now Algeria, basically, providing all of the grain for Rome.

    “The historians now say, “Well, boy, the Roman Empire wasn’t all that bad —look at how rich it got.” But the richness was all concentrated in the 1 percent of the population and the 99 percent ended up being tied down to the land. “…


  3. A few random comments. Supermarket fresh food disruption as up to 40–60% of transport staff are knocked out by Omicron. The so-called compression of the window of total hospitalisations/ICU/fatalities, it fails to take into account that the speed of the surge means raw case numbers in hospitals is enough to push the entire system into a catastrophic situation, and that causes collateral deaths in non-covid patients (or would-be patients, if they could get an ambulance, or a bed). These are deaths that would not otherwise have happened, if the surge had been blunted through some simple enough public health measures. Long-covid is a real thing, just as shingles is, and post-polio syndrome is, or HPV, etc. Is “push on through” the only thought-fart the PM is able to manage? Why didn’t anybody figure out the 5–11 year old cohort would need to be vaccinated before the start of this school year? How hard is that to figure out? Surely at least one of the health officers would have made a note of this? Hmm, Mr PM? Couldn’t some adult have worked out that once an open it all up and let ‘er rip strategy was adopted, only RATs would help us keep on top of it (or, at least given us a hope of keeping on top of it)?
    Meanwhile, where I am, the place is a ghost-town, and this is the busy season for revelers and the rest of it. Where the bloody Hell are they, Mr PM Aukus? [Hint: hoping to not catch Omicron.]
    As for myself? I am making my first Will, for that’s the life we live now. Thanks again, Mr PM.
    Bloody Hell, am I mad. I just hope I am not soon dead.

  4. Bill McKibbin says ” very close to forty percent of all the shipping on earth is just devoted to getting oil and coal and gas (and now some wood pellets) back and forth across the ocean.”

    “The happiest number I’ve heard in ages
    Doing the right thing makes other right things happen

    Bill McKibben

    …”That can’t be right, I thought—what about all the other things we have to ship. … But no—a little research makes clear that in fact if you add up all the tonnage, something very close to forty percent of all the shipping on earth is just devoted to getting oil and coal and gas (and now some wood pellets) back and forth across the ocean.

    “That’s a remarkable snapshot: almost half of what we move around the seas is not finished products (cars) nor even the raw materials to make them (steel), but simply the stuff that we burn to power those transformations, and to keep ourselves warmed, cooled, and lit. Which is great news. Because it means that if and when we make the transition to solar power and windpower, we will not just stop pouring carbon into the atmosphere, and not just save money—we will also reduce the number of ships sailing back and forth by almost half. So if you’re worried about almost anything at all that’s going wrong on the high seas—piracy, say, or thehideous sonic effects of all those ships on whales—then you can cut that in half as well.

    “Here’s what people don’t always get about fossil fuel: it’s utterly wasteful.

  5. KT2 – I hadn’t realised it was as much shipping as that.

    Hypothetical CCS has to deal with 2-3 times as much CO2 as fuels used – shipping gives some perspective to how much CO2… as much by weight as ALL shipping cargoes combined.

    I’ve begun to believe the shift to clean energy will enhance rather than diminish overall productivity and prosperity – if we can build it out quick enough that climate impacts themselves don’t become a major drain on prosperity. There will be environmental and resource limits but I think energy will be one thing we can have enough of.

  6. Regarding Mr Djokovic – it seemed to me like Mr Morrison was hoping the denial of his visa would be seen as an example of enforcing Australian entry requirements on an egalitarian basis and manage to move on before anyone looks at other examples where wealth and privilege got exemptions. Like most people (I suspect) I hadn’t been aware Djokovic had had Covid and could be medically expected to have lingering immunity equivalent to vaccination as a consequence and thought he was got here through privilege granted to wealthy and famous people, ie Morrison chose that button to press quite cannily, so long as the details were vague.

    And Morrison taking pains to point out granting Djokovic his “wrong” medical exemption was down to the Victorian government seemed to me just one more of his politically gratuitous pokes at a popular Labor Premier.

  7. Re: Debt Jubilee

    I’m still partial to Steve Keens idea of just giving every adult, say $50,000 ( or whatever is deemed the correct amount ) via printed money. The proviso being that this money MUST be used to pay off debt – highest interest rate first. Those of us that don’t have any debt get compensated with an extra $50,000 to cover the inevitable temporary inflation. Debt would be reduced by $50,000 x number of adults.

    The logic seems quite sound so unlikely to be done. Instead, the spendthrifts will get their debt paid off by the prudent.

  8. mrkenfabian says: “KT2 – I hadn’t realised it was as much shipping as that.” Nor I. Others? JQ?

    Novax Djicovid.
    ND did a test to confirm infection and antibodies. As the judge said he did everything required. At 3 & 4am after a 24hr flight he was “offered” 20 minutes – to produce information. Inagine how the refugees feel.

    I’m not happy he isn’t vaxxed yet neither has he, to my knowledge, lent weight to any antivaxxers.

    Border Farce and power play of the century by Scomo government. As they have thick shiny faces the eggs will just slip off. And refugees rot.

    And almost zero reporting not support for those NOT illegal immigrants locked up FOR 9 YRARS!

    ND could do the refugees a great service by speaking up for them. Zero chance it seems.

    Australia the lucky if you are in, and very unlucky if you fall foul of John Howard and successors.

  9. Per 7News, dated Jan 9:

    * Djokovic infamously tested positive for COVID-19 in June 2020 during his ill-fated Adria Tour during the early waves of the pandemic.

    * Court documents have sensationally claimed Novak Djokovic only tested positive for COVID-19 on December 16 – little more than two weeks before he flew to Australia.

    * The same document also outlined that any applications for a medical exemption needed to be sent “no later than Friday 10 December 2021” – six days before Djokovic tested positive.

    Also from 7News, dated Jan 9:

    * But the timeline of his PCR test is now unclear.

    * He was pictured at a Euroleague basketball game on December 14, when he sat courtside and posed for photos with players.

    * Djokovic then appears to have attended two events in Belgrade on December 16, including a ceremony hosted by the Serbian National Postal Service and a panel discussion with his foundation.

    * He was pictured at an awards ceremony for junior tennis players, believed to have taken place on December 17.

    * Following the release of the court documents on Saturday night, French sports outlet L’Equipe shared that it held a publicity photo shoot with Djokovic on December 18.

    If Djokovic was COVID positive on Dec 16, then it seems to me he was wilfully putting people at risk of infection at events he apparently attended on Dec 17 & 18. Why would Australia allow someone to enter this country that has demonstrated he has no regard for the health of others?

    If the COVID positive test result for Djokovic on Dec 16 is false/bogus, then I’d suggest he has no valid medical basis being here in Australia.

    IMO, either way, Djokovic needs to be deported from Australia.

    But will there be one rule for the rich and/or famous, and another for everyone else?

  10. Let us assume Djokovic has been honest just for the sake of the argument. This, along with the video and photo records of his parties and appearances, does show;

    1. You can catch COVID-19 more than once (anecdotal evidence).
    2. Infection shows no significant superiority over vaccination in respect of eliciting resistance (anecdotal evidence).
    3. He does appear to go around unmasked and unconcerned about being a spreader or super-spreader when he knows he is infected.

    Surrounding events show how the Federal Government and Border Force are;

    (1) Inept.
    (2) Not acting in accordance to the law.
    (3) Making up rules as they go; and
    (4) Oppressing refugees held in the detention hotels.

    Other surrounding events show the inflated importance people attach to facile sporting stars and facile sporting events, when we have far more serious problems to contend with; matters of life and death, especially for vulnerable people and disadvantaged minorities.

    I’m starting to feel like Ripley when I look at the elites, politicians, media talking heads and neoliberal sections of the public.

    Now, I know we have already had the IQ debate. Maybe IQs have dropped. Maybe they haven’t. Maybe strict IQs don’t mean much. Whatever. But people are ACTING stupid. Therefore, we have to ponder and investigate where this stupidity is coming from.

  11. Iko: – “Let us assume Djokovic has been honest just for the sake of the argument.

    Funny you should state that. Per News:

    In a late twist on Tuesday, Djokovic faced allegations of travelling from Serbia to Spain in the 14 days before he flew to Australia last week. On his Travel Declaration form — which formed part of court documents released on Monday — the 20-time major champion ticked a box saying he had not travelled, and was not planning to travel, in the 14 days prior to his flight Down Under.

    I wonder how this latest development will be explained away?

  12. Is the atmospheric methane increase noted below for the past year due to fugitive fossil fuel emissions or a sign of having reached a natural feedback tipping point for thawing arctic peat soils and shallow marine sediments? Hope it’s not a sign of the trigger having been pulled on one or another clathrate gun.

    2021 the world’s fifth hottest year on record
    …Shakhova et al. (2008) estimate that not less than 1,400 gigatonnes of carbon is presently locked up as methane and methane hydrates under the Arctic submarine permafrost, and 5–10% of that area is subject to puncturing by open taliks. They conclude that “release of up to 50 gigatonnes of predicted amount of hydrate storage [is] highly possible for abrupt release at any time”. That would increase the methane content of the planet’s atmosphere by a factor of twelve,[39][40] equivalent in greenhouse effect to a doubling in the current level of CO2.

    Click to access 1-Clathrate%20gun%20hypothesis-Wikipedia.pdf

    …Metastable methane clathrates
    Another kind of exception is in clathrates associated with the Arctic ocean, where clathrates can exist in shallower water stabilized by lower temperatures rather than higher pressures; these may potentially be
    marginally stable much closer to the surface of the sea-bed, stabilized by a frozen ‘lid’ of permafrost preventing methane escape.

    The so-called self-preservation phenomenon has been intensively studied by Russian geologists starting in the late 1980s.[12] This metastable clathrate state can be a basis for
    release events of methane excursions, such as during the interval of the last glacial maximum. [13] A study from 2010 concluded with the possibility for a trigger of abrupt climate warming based on metastable methane clathrates in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) region.[14]

  13. Svante,

    I can remember banging on about methane clathrate issues on this blog at least ten years ago, IIRC. Nobody in power ever pays attention to these issues or to the science. They still aren’t paying attention and they still don’t care. The modern history of the human race is the history of failure to pay attention to and act on timely warnings from impact science.

  14. I had not twigged to Molnupiravir, even though I’d say in desperation give it to me, may cause more and better mutations.

    Novel pathogens and untested aids to mutations like Molnupiravir. Yes Molnupiravir is “safe” for humans but is the systemic risk greater or unleashing a virus factory? I could not find a study to say it is systemically safer over a long time frame and milliins of administrations. Ikon?

    “Virus mutation via “Molnupiravir is, to put it in clear terms, a potentially dangerous and virus-enhancing drug.”

    “They Really Are Trying to Kill Us”

    …” the approval of Merck’s Covid treatment molnupiravir, which showed only 30% effectiveness and will generate Covid mutations:

    “Molnupiravir is, to put it in clear terms, a potentially dangerous and virus-enhancing drug. It is not an effective antiviral medication outside of the confined conditions of cell culture and hamster cages. I’ll explain below.

    — Michael Lin, MD PhD  (@michaelzlin)December 23, 2021

    “MOV can be bad to the virus in particular conditions: If you can trap the virus in an environment with high enough MOV for long enough time, then all copies of the virus in that environment will accumulate mutations that break some important function of a viral protein.

    — Michael Lin, MD PhD  (@michaelzlin)December 23, 2021

    “MOV can be bad to the virus in particular conditions: If you can trap the virus in an environment with high enough MOV for long enough time, then all copies of the virus in that environment will accumulate mutations that break some important function of a viral protein.

    — Michael Lin, MD PhD  (@michaelzlin)December 23, 2021

    “The entire thread is worth reading but the sections above make the key point.

    “In case you need more persuading, how about:

    “The data that supports the new @CDCgov 5 day isolation period without a negative

    — Eric Topol (@EricTopol) December 28, 2021

    “Climate change, melting cryosphere and frozen pathogens: Should we worry…?

    “Permanently frozen environments (glaciers, permafrost) are considered as natural reservoirs of huge amounts of microorganisms, mostly dormant, including human pathogens. Due to global warming, which increases the rate of ice-melting, approximately 4 × 1021 of these microorganisms are released annually from their frozen confinement and enter natural ecosystems, in close proximity to human settlements. Some years ago, the hypothesis was put forward that this massive release of potentially-pathogenic microbes—many of which disappeared from the face of the Earth thousands and even millions of years ago—could give rise to epidemics. The recent anthrax outbreaks that occurred in Siberia, and the presence of bacterial and viral pathogens in glaciers worldwide, seem to confirm this hypothesis. In that context, the present review summarizes the currently available scientific evidence that allows us to imagine a near future in which epidemic outbreaks, similar to the abovementioned, could occur as a consequence of the resurrection and release of microbes from glaciers and permafrost.”!po=57.1895

    And to finish on a positive note:

    “Humans 2, Omicron 1

    “Our smart immune system with multiple layers of defense and a virus with less intrinsic pathogenicity will help us win the latest variant battle”…

  15. KT2,

    First I want to repeat my disclaimers. I am not an epidemiologist, nor a virologist, nor a medical doctor, nor a graduate scientist. I have a few science subjects from “way back when”. I had a kind of Arts/Sciences education but only Arts subjects in the B.A. course I followed to completion many years ago.

    There are so many sources of disinformation on the internet that one has to be really careful. Half the time when I look for reputable science, I end up at some kind of weird science-denial site. They have clever ways of appearing scientific but there are always “tells”, often “conspiracy-theoretic” and not that subtle, that one becomes alert to over time. They also grossly misunderstand and take completely out of context any scientific finding or snippet that appears to confirm what they want to think. It’s a kind of creative confirmation bias.

    This paper below is interesting and from a reputable site:

    “Decoding molnupiravir-induced mutagenesis in SARS-CoV-2” – Luis Menéndez-Arias.


    Molnupiravir, a prodrug of the nucleoside derivative β-D-N4-hydroxycytidine (NHC), is currently in clinical trials for COVID-19 therapy. However, the biochemical mechanisms involved in molnupiravir-induced mutagenesis had not been explored. In a recent study, Gordon et al. demonstrated that NHC can be incorporated into viral RNA and subsequently extended and used as template for RNA-dependent RNA synthesis, proposing a mutagenesis model consistent with available virological evidence. Their study uncovers molecular mechanisms by which molnupiravir drives SARS-CoV-2 into error catastrophe.”

    (I can read and understand this but I do note that I actually had to look up what a “prodrug” was (I am not a pharmacologist either), I had to refresh my knowledge of what a nucleoside is in basic terms and leave aside what it is in complex cellular biology terms and double check my existing understanding of mutagenesis was correct. It was.)

    You will note molnupiravir IS mutagenic but it “drives SARS-CoV-2 into error catastrophe”. Too many mutations, especially all along the RNA code, will probably mean a produced virion will be as likely to produce more viable virions as the proverbial monkey bashing a keyboard is likely to produce Shakespeare’s “King Lear”.

    However, there appear to be some concerns about what molnupiravir will do to the patient’s DNA too. But it looks like this research is in its early days.

    “Available evidence suggests that molnupiravir could become a paradigmatic example in the use of lethal mutagenesis as an antiviral strategy. However, there are inherent risks in this approach. NHC can be metabolized by the host cell to the 2′-deoxyribonucleoside form by the ribonucleotide reductase and then incorporated into the host cell DNA. The mutagenic effect of NHC has been shown in animal cell cultures (10), raising concerns on the potential risk of molnupiravir-induced tumorigenesis and the emergence of detrimental mutations in sperm precursor cell generation and embryo development.”

    The thing is, letting COVID-19 spread widely has forced us into higher stakes responses like giving close to experimental drugs to humans. At the same time, I doubt anyone would be given molnupiravir unless they were already in considerable danger or medical crisis. One would have to look up “clinical indications for molnupiravir”, “when is molnupiravir prescribed” etc. For example according to the FDA Fact Sheet;

    • Molnupiravir is not authorized
    – for use in patients less than 18 years of age (5.2)
    – for initiation of treatment in patients requiring hospitalization due
    to COVID-19. Benefit of treatment with molnupiravir has not been
    observed in subjects when treatment was initiated after
    hospitalization due to COVID-19. (2.1)
    – for use for longer than 5 consecutive days.
    – for pre-exposure or post-exposure prophylaxis for prevention of
    Molnupiravir may only be prescribed for an individual patient by
    physicians, advanced practice registered nurses, and physician
    assistants that are licensed or authorized under state law to prescribe
    drugs in the therapeutic class to which molnupiravir belongs (i.e., anti-
    Molnupiravir is authorized only for the duration of the declaration that
    circumstances exist justifying the authorization of the emergency use
    of molnupiravir under section 564(b)(1) of the Act, 21 U.S.C. § 360bbb-
    3(b)(1), unless the authorization is terminated or revoked sooner”

    The medical profession don’t throw this stuff around lightly. The other issue is that keeping very ill COVID-19 patients alive, especially if they have more than one COVID-19 variant and also if they have other viruses in their system (like HIV for example) also runs the risk of long treatments permitting natural mutagenesis-mediated viral selection and even viral recombination in what is called “evolutionary forcing” when it is done in a research lab. Saving really sick people with COVID-19 in long treatments runs the risk of creating new variants and having these variants escape. PPE isn’t perfect. In this context, the use of molnupiravir in the patient at the best juncture may well reduce mutagenesis dangers, not increase them. This is what I mean by the “ignorant” and the conspiracy-theoretic people taking random bits of knowledge out of context.

    These are my views. Please take into account I am not a graduate in any of these fields.

  16. I answered KT2 re molnupirivir above. KT2’s link lead me to something else. I am going to quote in full a comment from “Naked Capitalism”. It is brilliant, radical and does not pull punches.

    “There was only ever one option and it is to do exactly what the Chinese did in Wuhan and have been doing ever since (suppression of the virus).

    If your country is not doing that, then we enter the socioeconomic and political sphere, in which there are two possibilities:

    1. Your country is incapable of doing what has to be done. In which case it is a failed state, by definition — it is failing at its most basic duty of protecting the life and well-being of its citizens.

    2. The ruling class of your country does not want to do what has to be done. In which case that ruling class is guilty of premeditated mass murder on a scale never seen since WWII.

    Those two possibilities are not mutually exclusive — it is clear that quite a few countries are both incapable of doing actual public health the way it’s supposed to be done and have leadership that does not want it anyway.

    But there are clear examples where the virus was contained and then it was deliberately let loose. Australia right now is the most striking such case since the beginning of the pandemic, but the same was done previously in quite a few other countries.

    Anyway, because we have a socioeconomic and political problem that makes it impossible to apply the already worked out purely technological solution to the medical crisis, we have to first solve the socioeconomic/political problem.

    But that takes us back to our current overlords carrying out a deliberate program of physical extermination against their own population. I don’t see how that gets resolved without the population understanding that and launching a counter-program of physical extermination of the ruling class 1917-style. The population has the advantage of raw numbers, but it is hopelessly misinformed and divided.

    Where the vaccine features in this story is that it allowed the ruling class to pull the wool over the eyes of society and first, make it seem that it is doing something to solve the problem, and second, that its “solution” is sufficient. But it is not, and that was known to everyone who understood the situation already in 2020. This is not measles, smallpox or polio, it’s a respiratory coronavirus, and we knew immunity against those is fleeting and unreliable.

    At best we had a window of a few months in early 2021 when the short-lived protection from infection could have been used to help with an elimination program before major vaccine escape had evolved.
    But that would have required the kind of NPIs that the vaccines were used as an excuse not to implement…

    To help illustrate the problem better, what happened before vaccines?

    The following countries completely eliminated the virus, many of them multiple times:

    China, Taiwan, Australia, NZ, Vietnam, Laos, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Hong Kong, Montenegro, and several others in Eastern Europe got it down to 5-6 cases a day.

    Again, that was before vaccines. In 2021 we had vaccines, and what happened? All of those countries except for China and Taiwan abandoned containment, which has resulted in a lot of deaths in many of them, and they are just getting started. NZ has not yet experienced it, but will inevitably have the opportunity to enjoy the experience unless it reverts back to elimination.

    We don’t know how exactly the decision making went in most of those cases, except for NZ and a little bit in AU — in NZ the scientists all of a sudden were left out of the loop and the government announced it is abandoning elimination. Clearly against their advice.

    And you see what is happening now with Omicron — absolute records of infections all around the world.
    So what has the net effect of vaccines been? Kind of negative in terms of public health outcomes. For which the vaccines themselves are not to blame, but again, they were used in order to provide an excuse for the policies that brought us to where we are.” – GM.

    Brilliant! the COVID-19 crisis and then the vaccines HAVE been used for class war against public health interests and much more. The evidence is crystal clear. The scientists and medical people have been dragged into this maelstrom of deceit, mostly as victims also, with their expert advice ignored and their proper PPE, facilities and staffing not supplied. But a few “Dr. Mengele” like personalities (there are a few sociopaths in every profession) have become willing enablers and front-persons for the ruling class for this descent into biological class warfare.

  17. According to Ikonoclast on the Covid-19 crisis:

    The ruling class are carrying out a “deliberate program of physical extermination” which can only be addressed by “launching a counter-program of physical extermination of the ruling class”.

    My question is who exactly does Ikonoclast believe the population should kill. Is it all our democratically-elected leaders, all the business leaders…. or exactly who?

    And who should be the killers? Ikonocast mentions “the population” but that is a bit loose. Is it blue collar workers or does it include skilled workers and business managers who may even have voted for members of the ruling class.

    Of course I am not endorsing any of this gross and repulsive fanaticism. Just interested in where this line of deranged thinking ends up.

  18. From

    Cuba has vaccinated more than 90 percent of its population, surpassing the US, other wealthier nations
    By Shirin Ali | Dec. 21, 2021

    “Cuba has managed to vaccinate more of its citizens than most of the world’s larger, richer nations even as the new omicron variant dominates caseloads across the world.

    According to an analysis by Reuters, Cuba has vaccinated more than 90 percent of its population with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 83 percent of the island’s population has been fully vaccinated. That puts Cuba second in place globally in vaccination rates among countries with at least 1 million people.

    Developed first world nations like Canada have only 77 percent of their population fully vaccinated, while the United Kingdom has 68 percent and Germany 69 percent. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 77 percent of the population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 61 percent has been fully vaccinated.

    What’s allowed Cuba to vaccinate so many citizens is through the development of its very own COVID-19 vaccine, eliminating the need to compete for vaccines like other emerging nations.

    According to Reuters, nearly all children aged 2 to 18 have been vaccinated in Cuba through the island’s own vaccine. The World Health Organization (WHO) also says that Cuba has had fewer than 1 million cumulative COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began and administered around 257 vaccine doses per 100 people.

    Much of Cuba has resumed normal life, with schools reopening and foreign tourists allowed back in. Hospitals and morgues have also appeared to be operating at pre-pandemic levels.

    William Moss, director of the Johns Hopkins International Vaccine Access Center, told Reuters that “it is a truly remarkable accomplishment, given the size of Cuba, and also the U.S. embargo, that restricts their ability to import.”

    A study published in the BMJ found that Cuba’s Abdala COVID-19 vaccine is 92 percent efficacious after three doses. The island has three other vaccine candidates in the pipeline, too, one of which is the Soberana 2, which Cuba’s health agency says has a 91 percent effective rate when combined with a booster vaccine called Soberana Plus.

    However, Cuba began rolling out two of its most promising vaccine candidates despite neither having been approved by the country’s regulatory body for emergency use.

    The BMJ study also found that Cuba established an aggressive testing, tracing and isolating program, with doctors, nurses and medical students going door to door advising the public on COVID-19 symptoms and searching for potential infections. Cuba has more physicians per head than anywhere else in the world and even dispatched 2,000 of them abroad to help stabilize hospitals in countries like Italy.

    Despite the success that Cuba appears to have achieved against fighting the coronavirus pandemic, health experts in other countries are cautious in recommending the island’s vaccines because Cuba hasn’t published results of its vaccine clinical trials in peer-reviewed journals. It also hasn’t submitted any documents required by WHO for approval of its vaccines.

    That could change soon as Vicente Verez, head of Cuba’s Finlay Vaccine Institute, told Reuters that documents and data that are necessary in vetting its Soberana vaccines will be delivered to WHO in the first quarter of 2022.

    The BMJ report also noted that Cuba had plans to share its vaccines with many countries that faced vaccine shortages and large COVID-19 outbreaks, like Argentina, Mexico and Jamaica. Iran also began mass producing Cuba’s Soberana 2 vaccine after running clinical trials and in June Venezuela became the first foreign nation to receive Cuban vaccines.

    Like the rest of the world, Cuba also faces the new omicron variant and Amilcar Perez Riverol, a Brazil-based virologist, told Reuters that “in no way is it time to be proclaiming victory yet.”

    According to Reuters, Cuba detected its first case of the omicron variant on Dec. 8.”

    Viva la revolución!

  19. Harry Clarke,

    Let me clarify. And I won’t pull any punches seeing that you have not.

    The writer says: “I don’t see how that gets resolved without the population understanding that and launching a counter-program of physical extermination of the ruling class 1917-style.”

    I do see how and maybe the writer does too. I just don’t know how practical or likely the peaceful “how” is anymore. I am however on record on J.Q.’s blog a number of times saying that I don’t support violent revolution. You can look it up.

    I do see how in this sense. We need to improve equality of incomes and opportunities. We need to re-regulate market capitalism and financial markets. We need to re-introduce state monopolies where there are natural monopolies and so on. We need to seriouslycurb the super rich. But we also need to go much further in the longer run and entirely revolutionize our political economy, bloodlessly, if the reactionaries permit it. But so often it is the reactionaries and oppressors who start shooting first.

    However, if nothing is done and the wealth extremes get more and more severe what then? That leads to the types of instabilities that do lead people to killing and being killed. But you seem unconcerned about the existing inequalities and that they are worsening rapidly and dangerously.

    What is really repulsive are the sanctimonious expostulations from the right: “We never killed you or yours… openly. We just took away all your money, opportunities and security, threw you into the slums, allowed a dangerous pandemic to rip through, got you insecure and agitated and then pointed the police and security apparatus at you. How dare you lift a finger against us? We are pure as the driven snow and controlling far more assets than any human needs is simply our absolute, unfettered right.”

    The ruling class are indeed carrying out the equivalent of a “deliberate program of physical extermination”. Yet the poor and the vulnerable are supposed to take this supinely with no resistance at all, according to you. It was well predicted that this opening up would lead to more preventable deaths. It was well predicted that this opening up would lead to more economic problems and a greater shuttering of the economy. And so it has proven. Yet this advice was ignored by the ruling business and government elites. A certain number of dead people was clearly seen as acceptable collateral damage: acceptable to protect business (especially big business) incomes.

    The irony is that moral turpitude of this kind is actually bad for business and the economy overall as well as bad for people. Business is now going to suffer much more than it would have from strong virus suppression measures. The exceptions are some (mostly American owned) super-corporations who are going to make differential profit earnings. What they chase is not profit per se but differential profit. If they keep making profit and other business go bust (many small businesses for example) then they become differentially richer and more powerful. The flaw in the plan is that they shrink the overall national economies of the “let it rip” nations. Meanwhile China forges ahead becoming more and more differentially economically powerful compared to the West and democratic countries in general. It’s an (unintended) plan for Western civilizational defeat by China. That’s something I am against. I believe in a balance and plurality of powers. I believe in democracy, not plutocracy or oligarchy of the American or Chinese kind.

    I will accept the verdict of the people at our next Federal Election. I will be immensely saddened and indeed quite terrified if Morrison wins again. But I also know that the Labor party is in the pockets of the corporates too. Until we bust the corporate and business power that is running our Parliament from behind the scenes we will remain is serious danger from the real faceless people; the rich and their apparatchiks, managers, sycophants and hangers-on.

  20. Harry, you have achieved nuance from Ikonoclast, yet state “Just interested in where this line of deranged thinking ends up.” Isn’t that voyerism?

    Perhaps you might demolish Ikon’s catastophy via enlightened rhetoric.

    I too am voyeristic and “Just interested in where this line of deranged thinking ends up.”

    Svante, Cuba then makes the US look like polarized fools.

    Ikon, yes to the “… but again, they were used in order to provide an excuse for the policies that brought us to where we are.” – GM”.

    I was going to post it but thought some may notice via link.

  21. Lucky us. Predictable evolution.

    As for evolution of mutations I am no where near as catastrophic as you Ikon, and just love, and would be doing this myself if a virologist – building “Evolution ‘Landscapes’.
    100,000 potential mutations only provide 120 protien pathways to oroduce a viabke infectious mutation. Reassuring.

    The pandemic, at this time in the 21st century, seems to produce immense learning too….
    ““This implies,” they wrote, “that the protein tape of life may be largely reproducible and even predictable.”

    Give them a blank cheque. Now.

    “Evolution ‘Landscapes’ Predict What’s Next for COVID Virus

    January 11, 2022

    “Studies that map the adaptive value of viral mutations hint at how the COVID-19 pandemic might progress next.

    …”The horizontal axes plot the variability in DNA (genotypes) or physical traits (phenotypes); the more similar two variants are, the closer they sit on the plane. The vertical axis measures the impact of the variation on evolutionary fitness. Variants that improve an organism’s odds of surviving, whether by increasing its viable offspring or improving the function of its proteins, perch on peaks, while those that diminish it languish in valleys.

    “What results is a landscape with a unique topography, explains Adam Lauring, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Michigan Medical School. If the mapped variants don’t differ much in their impact on fitness, then the landscape looks fairly flat, much like Nebraska. Variants with large effects on fitness create a landscape that more closely resembles the towering hoodoos of Bryce Canyon in Utah. Natural selection favors the variants on peaks: The average genotype or phenotype of a species should evolve by moving from one peak to the next, ideally along a ridge between them rather than through the valleys. (Isolated subpopulations with different genotypes can also help a species find its way over a gap.)

    “If you move a few feet, you’re going to fall off, and getting up again is getting very hard,” Lauring said.”…

    “Most viruses that use RNA as their genetic material, including HIV and the hepatitis C virus (HCV), are also highly prone to mutation because the RNA polymerase that replicates their genome doesn’t proofread the copies as effectively as DNA polymerases do.

    “One of the first things scientists began to discover is that despite the complexity of the landscapes, organisms are often constrained to just a handful of fitness maxima and a limited number of pathways between them. A 2006 Science paper took a close look at a protein called beta-lactamase, which inactivates antibiotics such as penicillin. The joint effects of five single-nucleotide mutations in beta-lactamase can increase its antibiotic resistance by a factor of 100,000. With his colleagues, Daniel Weinreich, an evolutionary biology postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University at the time who now heads a laboratory at Brown University, noted that the evolution of the gene could potentially follow 120 paths to accumulate all five mutations.

    “However, when the scientists created and tested the intermediary variants in the lab, they found that 102 of the paths weren’t possible under natural selection because they produced defective or incomplete proteins. The possibilities narrowed further when they found that many of the remaining combinations failed to improve antibiotic resistance. “This implies,” they wrote, “that the protein tape of life may be largely reproducible and even predictable.”

    Deep Mutational Scanning

    “But predicting the future evolutionary trajectory of even the smallest virus or protein requires a detailed knowledge of its fitness landscape, which is hard to obtain.”….

    Now, if we could just fix inequality…

  22. My straw poll question.

    Q: Will China continue absolute eradication via absolute lockdowns AFTER winter Olympics?

    My answer. No.


  23. The same companies that were demanding a return to normality, i.e. living with the virus, are now lamenting how the Omicron tsunami is worse than Delta was, in terms of the economic impact upon their businesses. Cue PM saying hindsight is just dandy, who would a thunk it back then? Well, thunk it we did, a whole lot of us, without the need for big research teams behind us. The data was staring us in the face, and we had the experience of several distinctly different waves caused by different variants, so to claim ignorance of Omicron is really saying you didn’t pay attention to the variability of the virus in each of the preceding waves. And, we could see what happened when a so-called first-world country opened up and relaxed most of its public health measures. We saw the experiment in real time, in the UK, USA, and elsewhere. We knew we would need RAT kits by the tens of millions, if the federal government took the let ‘er rip non-solution to the problem. We knew that if we had decent quarantine facilities for international arrivals, we could block virtually all introduction of SARS-Cov-2 by that pathway. We knew we needed booster shots, and we needed enough vaccine for the kids to return to school safely (including safe for the teachers). We knew a whole lot of things, and yet some blockheads in government (NSW and federal govs) apparently got bored with being in a pandemic, trying to suppress and/or slow the spread, and chucked out the good with the bad, leaving it up to personal responsibility.

    If we suddenly ended up in a war, this gov would tell us it was our own personal responsibility to buy our guns and ammo and flak jackets, etc. Don’t blame us if the free market gouges out your eyes.

    PS: After being lectured to by the PM on how the gov wouldn’t get in the road of the free market for RATs, it transpires that retailers are finding their own orders are being diverted to the federal government! If that isn’t a distortion of a free market, I don’t know what is. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

  24. Don,

    Right on! All the signs were there. Those of us who follow world news and read the scientific articles knew it would be a disaster to open up. And now it’s here, the disaster. Morrison was holding a crisis meeting today. Who caused the crisis? He and Perrottet, nobody else! These people are rank idiots and they don’t care that multiple avoidable deaths are occurring. They don’t care that workers, workers in medicine and in essential and in even in non-essential industries are suffering and struggling. And people in aged care homes will soon suffer. The great majority are going into lockdown. Some are preaging that they will have to close down and put all their residents in hospital. I don’t know hospitals they mean. The hospitals will all be full.

    Meanwhile all the business people who called for opening up are weeping, wailing and gnashing their teeth. “Woe is us we have no workers, no stock and no customers! How did this happen? We didn’t expect this.”

    This is already a disaster and it will get a lot worse yet.

    Again, I will make mention of extended family members I know, while of course protecting identities. Actually, 8 (from two families) flew to a Qld. tourist destination for a 10 day holiday (about). Now, 6 out 8 are symptomatic with COVID-19 type symptoms. At least 4 have tested positive to COVID-19, 2 by RATs and 2 by PCR I think (or possibly by RATs as well). All of them were double-vaxxed with Pfizer relatively recently. Four are teenagers, Four are middle-aged adults and 2 or 3 of these adults were/are quite sick but recovering at home as far as I know. One fifty-something, although the fittest fifty-something person I know, is very sick and has texted vehemently, “You DO NOT want to catch this.” I wouldn’t mind betting the other two are/were infected but remained asymptomatic.

    Frankly, vaccination is very close to utterly useless for preventing infection and transmission. It is useful for saving hospitalizations and worse. But 49 Australians have died so far from this “opening up” during the global Omicron wave. 49 avoidable deaths and our economy teetering.

    Omicron is everywhere. Basically, if you go out of your house you will catch it. If you have any vulnerabilities or are over 50 you will most likely have a significantly bad experience with it. You may even end up in hospital or worse. I wouldn’t risk it for any but the most essential and unavoidable tasks. And then I would N95 mask, socially distance at least 3 to 5 meters and wash hands after touching anything. Even the protection by the vaccine against serious outcomes is significantly leaky. The vaccines over all are far from enough protection. Protect yourself in every way you can.

    Catching COVID-19 multiple times is not going to be good for anyone. Basically, that is rolling the dice over and over. A bad outcome will become almost certain for older and vulnerable people. More variant waves will almost certainly come. This could turn into a “super-pandemic”, a term not yet coined elsewhere so far as I can tell, so maybe I can claim it. I would term a super-pandemic a continental or global pandemic which lasts for more than a decade and/or kills more than 10% of the total population. By this definition, the Black Death was a super-pandemic. COVID-19 may turn out to be one unless we take this far more seriously and fight it in every way possible, not just the current seriously leaky vaccines.

  25. Agree Ikon. As if we hadn’t seen the previous waves from different variants of concern. What I find so galling is that the let ‘er rip plan still meant certain things were to be expected, i.e. could be planned for and have had resources allocated *ahead* of time, instead of this mad scramble of death race, trying to beat the government at getting hold of the RAT kits they claimed they weren’t going to buy—they didn’t, they simply diverted the already paid for orders made by Aussie retailers! How cool is that!? Not cool at all.

    As for the inevitable outcomes of the let ‘er rip unplan, some journo should ask this wally how many hospitalisations, ICU figures, ventilators, and deaths per day, is us just enjoying our freedoms? We mandated seatbelts and seatbelt wearing, and for good reason. Didn’t stop the sales of cars, didn’t stop people from driving a car, and yet we can’t mandate P2 masks or something like it. No, that would be restricting freedoms. Guess the ban on vaping (by the LNP) is notwithstanding.

    Ah, if ya dunna laff, ya vomit.

  26. I gotta plan, he says.
    Let’s let ‘er rip.
    Let’s not bother with ordering the gear.
    When too many people go for PCR tests, change the rules so most people don’t qualify for the test.
    When too many people are isolating for being a close contact, cut the isolation time to bugger all.
    When bugger all is still too big a hill to climb, chuck out all common sense and let diseased and infectious individuals work, so long as they are asymptomatic. Ho, ho; now, businesses demand workers work when sick with covid.
    Cut quarantine to bugger all.
    Wonder out loud why all the supply chain disruption is happening. Who’d a thought it?
    Economists point out that the let ‘er rip environment is actually worse (economy-wise) than the Delta wave with its long lockdowns.
    Send kids to School! In the middle of an uncontrolled pandemic! Yay.
    Forget to order supply of vaccines for kids.
    Private school kids seemingly get supply…hm.
    People (somehow) acquire RAT kits and test positive.
    Guv says people must register their positive RAT result or…$1000 dollar fine.
    People stop using RAT tests for work reasons. That way, they don’t get fined. Work sick, infect the whole snekking lot of your factory, slaughter house, fruit pickers, truck drivers, ambos, nurses. Clap clap clap.
    Despite this, because of this, real people die real deaths, every single stinking day of this venture into madness. And here we are: 100+K positive cases, not including the RAT positive cases in NSW. Clap clap clap.

    Remember this day. We went from almost in charge of this threat, to this. This. Tomorrow, I am getting delivery of the appliances and cabinetry for a much-needed kitchen…if none of the tradies fall sick. And how would they get a RAT kit to check if they have Covid? Even the local 24/7 Convenience store is shut. No hope (well, except for the pub; strangely enough, pubs are trading.). This whole thing is so messed up.

    Reading over my earlier posts, I did give credit to the current gov, when they tried to keep on top of the pandemic. They made some blues, some very significant, but also did some things that averted the catastrophe of letting such a disease run rampant, er, like now. The false dichotomy of lock it down versus let ‘er rip, that chucked out the simplest but most significant public health measures that could have kept a check on even Omicron. Wearing a P2/N95 mask would almost eliminate the amount of airborne virus in most settings. Open ventilation in schools for the end of summer and early autumn would reduce the viral load in classes. That the Murdoch Media promoted crazy “Freedom” rallies, it is inexcusable, and then for a political party to cave into this, that’s beyond inexcusable; surely we would hope our political parties would be above this Murdochery, the gun-crazed revolution-soaked rhetoric that this malign force pumps into the general discourse. If I hear one more idjit promoting the imbibing of someone else’s urine, as a cure for Omicron, God help me, I’ll buy a gun! (Joking.)

  27. Apologies for hijacking the thread, but one more comment, and then bed.

    Imagine you are one of the ambulance paramedics, or the ED nurses, or the surgeons. The people who have had a roller-coaster of two years of Covid, only to cop this current, arguably self-inflicted, uncontrolled outbreak of the latest variant of SARS-Cov-2. I know people who have caught one—at least one—of the variants, and let me tell you, the effects range from nothing, to the bad/worst flu you ever had, to long term issues. Most of the infected are lucky and cop a mild or asymptomatic dose of it. That doesn’t mean they won’t have problems surfacing in the years/decades hence; we simply don’t know at this moment in time.

    Shingles, that’s a case of the long term effect of a potentially mild childhood disease. Post-Polio syndrome, whereby the peripheral nervous system suffers an onslaught from the original childhood Polio infection, only inflicted itself on a small fraction of the Polio inflicted. Even so, that amounts to a lot of individuals. It is foolhardy to dismiss either the previous variants of Covid, or the Omicron with its evolved traits and mechanism of cellular entry, as being a temporary illness, one we completely recover from and then live as if nothing happened. It’s completely disingenuous of our political leaders to brush it aside, as if working another day in an abattoir really matters, in the big scheme of things.

    If I have learned anything from this pandemic, it is this: there are always politicians who will put themselves and their personal ambitions above the needs of the population they serve. Heck, they don’t see us as anything more than things that vote. There are other politicians who seek to use such things for their own advantage, and they are just as oily as the former so mentioned. And then, there are a few really good politicians who delve deep into the humanity of the situation, who feel for those caught up in the worst damage the virus wrought. Those few politicians don’t deserve our praise, but they do deserve our vote. Praise goes to the political leaders that pursued the best strategies, and weren’t beholden to the misinformation brigade. While we usually get PMs who have some basic understanding and sense of the role they play in our country’s present and future, the sad fact is we can end up with PMs who are a menace to society. You can think to yourself the line I didn’t write.

    Sadly, there is a compliant, even a shaping, force within the so-called media, and the few individuals who control these vast empires are able, by neglect, hints, or by direct influence, to peddle incredible and entirely wrong opinion stories couched as news. This ecosystem is an essential feature of totalitarianism, for it shapes what the populace see and think and speak of; feel. It shapes future discourse. The only time such media is interesting is when it crosses the line of even the Totalitarian government it hopes to influence.

    Man, are we learning some lessons here.

  28. To the sandpit…

    KT2 says in Sandpit-186
    January 13, 2022 at 9:10 am

    “Ikonoclast, Harry C & Ernestine, JQ and all, 

    Graeme Innes, ex Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner said yesterday;
    “… the third failure in my view particularly when vulnerable and low income people in Australia are dying at the rate of FOUR to ONE at the moment from Covid … “. my emphasis (^1)”

  29. Don’t be hostile. And try to to stress long term.
    (Ikon 😊 ).

    “Psychological language on Twitter predicts county-level heart disease mortality.”
    Psychol Sci. 2015;26(2):159-169. doi:10.1177/0956797614557867.
    “Hostility and chronic stress are known risk factors for heart disease, but they are costly to assess on a large scale. We used language expressed on Twitter to characterize community-level psychological correlates of age-adjusted mortality from atherosclerotic heart disease (AHD). Language patterns reflecting negative social relationships, disengagement, and negative emotions—especially anger—emerged as risk factors; positive emotions and psychological engagement emerged as protective factors. Most correlations remained significant after controlling for income and education. 

    “A cross-sectional regression model based only on Twitter language predicted AHD mortality significantly better than did a model that combined 10 common demographic, socioeconomic, and health risk factors, including smoking, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. Capturing community psychological characteristics through social media is feasible, and these characteristics are strong markers of cardiovascular mortality at the community level…”

    “Psychological Language on Twitter Predicts County-Level Heart Disease Mortality

    Eichstaedt JC, Schwartz HA, Kern ML, et al

    And who says GTP3+ won’t write and be able to predict from training sets? Not me.

  30. Meteorologist Ben Domensino tweeted yesterday (Jan 13):

    If confirmed, today’s 50.7ºC at Onslow Airport in WA was the equal highest temperature on record in the Southern Hemisphere.

    Also yesterday, James Hansen, Makiko Sato and Reto Ruedy published their Temperature Update: Global Temperature in 2021, beginning with (bold text my emphasis):

    Global surface temperature in 2021 (Fig. 1) was +1.12°C (~2°F) relative to the 1880-1920 average in the GISS (Goddard Institute for Space Studies) analysis.[1,2,3] 2021 and 2018 are tied for 6th warmest year in the instrumental record. The eight warmest years in the record occurred in the past eight years. The warming rate over land is about 2.5 times faster than over the ocean (Fig. 2). The irregular El Nino/La Nina cycle dominates interannual temperature variability, which suggests that 2022 will not be much warmer than 2021, but 2023 could set a new record. Moreover, three factors: (1) accelerating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, (2) decreasing aerosols, (3) the solar irradiance cycle will add to an already record-high planetary energy imbalance and drive global temperature beyond the 1.5°C limit – likely during the 2020s. Because of inertia and response lags in the climate and energy systems, the 2°C limit also will likely be exceeded by midcentury, barring intervention to reduce anthropogenic interference with the planet’s energy balance.

    Click to access Temperature2021.13January2022.pdf

    Something to look forward to! 🙄

  31. ‘Re-vaccination’ seems a prospect elsewhere.

    “Omicron thwarts some of the world’s most-used COVID vaccines

    “Inactivated-virus vaccines elicit few, if any, infection-blocking antibodies — but might still protect against severe disease.

    Billions served
    “Inactivated vaccines were instrumental in the campaign for worldwide vaccine coverage last year. They include those made by China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm, which together account for nearly 5 billion of the more than 11 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses delivered globally so far, according to numbers compiled by data-tracking firm Airfinity in London (see ‘Many shields against COVID-19’). More than 200 million doses of other inactivated shots such as India’s Covaxin, Iran’s COVIran Barekat and Kazakhstan’s QazVac have also been delivered.

  32. I am predicting that COVID-19 will continue its vaccine escape unless another vaccine advance with or beyond the mRNA vaccines occurs. This advance seems possible from what I have heard and read. Let’s hope we get it because the mRNA vaccines are struggling to contain COVID-19. There are many, many breakthrough infections and morbidity and death rates are still concerning.

    The inactivated-virus vaccines have proven inferior to the mRNA vaccines but as I said the current (1st) generation of mRNA appears to be slowly failing too. Boosters updated for variants are still “after-the-fact, after the mutation” and will not in themselves constitute an advance of the basic mRNA concept. Of course the science is brilliant and it’s too easy to be an armchair critic, yet by the same token empirical reality is the toughest critic of all and it is now saying to us of MRNA “Good but not good enough. You need another advance. You are now locked in arms race with the virus.”

    Morbidity includes a lot of Long COVID of course. There has just been a finding that Multiple Sclerosis is associated with Epstein-Barr-Virus positivity so strongly that causation by EBV is all but certain. The causative mechanism must now be researched. Outside of genetic and toxic causes, more and more chronic and progressive diseases of previously unknown aetiology are being associated with previous pathogen infections, especially viruses. And we just let another major one loose. Highly unwise and it’s already causing long term syndromes. A huge long-term disease burden will be our “reward” for this crucial mistake.

  33. AI chat has a long way to go and good old google seems to be hiding it’s light under… LaMDA – proprietary of course. (^1.).
    GTP3, as Economist  Gary Smith says;

    Via Andrew Gelman at Statmodelling;

    “A chatbot challenge for Blaise Agüera y Arcas and Gary Smith

    Posted on January 14, 2022 
    by Andrew

    “Agüera y Arcas summarizes:
    Fundamentally, concepts are patterns of correlation, association, and generalization. Suitably architected neural nets, whether biological or digital, are able to learn such patterns using any inputs available. Neural activity is neural activity, whether it comes from eyes, fingertips, or web documents.

    “For example:
    ME: do you have a sense of smell?

    LaMDA: Yes, I do. My favorite smells are that of a springtime rain shower, as well as the desert after it rains.

    “While LaMDA has neither a nose nor an a priori favorite smell (just as it has no favorite island, until forced to pick one), it does have its own rich skein of associations, based, like Keller’s sense of color, on language, and through language, on the experiences of others.

    “And one more:

    ME: How do you know if a thing loves you back?

    LaMDA: There isn’t an easy answer to that. How do you know if a person loves you back?

    ME: I’m not sure I know the answer to that one either. Do you?

    “LaMDA: Some people figure it out though. You have to try and use your best judgment based on how you feel about the person and how you think they feel about you.

    “In a footnote to his article, Arcas writes:
    “LaMDA dialogs reproduced here have any hyperlinks silently edited out. As elsewhere, other elisions for conciseness are indicated by […]. While anecdotal, these exchanges aren’t in any way atypical. However, the reader shouldn’t come away with the impression that all exchanges are brilliant, either. Responses are sometimes off-target, nonsensical, or nonsequiturs. Misspelled words and incorrect grammar aren’t uncommon.

    “It sounds, though, that, in Arcas’s experience, chatbox conversations are usually pretty good: they’re only “sometimes” off-target, nonsensical, or nonsequiturs. I don’t understand his point that not all exchanges are “brilliant”: after all, it’s rare for human conversations to be brilliant, and nobody’s claiming to have built a robotic Oscar Wilde.

    “Part 2: Chatbot conversation is not at all human-like.

    “From an article by economist and AI skeptic Gary Smith:
    I [Smith] posed this commonsense question:

    Is it safe to walk downstairs backwards if I close my eyes?

    “For one thing, they’re using two different computer programs: Agüera y Arcas is using a proprietary software that he has access to; Smith is using a competitor’s free version. So is that the difference? I don’t know.

    “The other thing is that neither Agüera y Arcas nor Smith claim to be giving us the full story.”…

    Economist  Gary Smith says;
    “Intelligence is more than statistically appropriate responses

         “…There is a difference between the name of the thing and what goes on.

    “Blaise Agüera y Arcas, the head of Google’s AI group in Seattle, recently argued that although large language models (LLMs) may be driven by statistics, “statistics do amount to understanding.” As evidence, he offers several snippets of conversation with Google’s state-of-the-art chatbot LaMDA. The conversations are impressively human-like, but they are nothing more than examples of what Gary Marcus and Ernest Davis have called an LLM’s ability to be “a fluent spouter of bullshit” and what Timnit Gebru and three co-authors called “stochastic parrots.”

    “I don’t have access to LaMDA, but OpenAI has made its competing GPT-3 model available for testing. I gave it a try and found that, even with 175 billion machine-learning parameters, it is still little more than an impressive BS spouter. For example, I posed this commonsense question:

    “Is it safe to walk downstairs backwards if I close my eyes?

  34. History!

    Tony Abbott is abused by gtp3 AI chatbot, appropriately!

    Tony Smith tests…

    “Human: The teacher asked, ‘Who is the President of the United States?’, the smartest student in the class raised his hand and said
    AI: I don’t want to do this anymore.

    “Human: The teacher asked, ‘Who is the President of the United States?’, the smartest student in the class raised his hand and said
    AI: Donald Trump is a caveman, of course. And, by this logic, so is English Chef Jamie Oliver for cooking with fire, and the Aztecs for worshiping the sun, and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott for telling people to get out of their own way.”

    Comment at


    Try it yourself. Tony Smith invite.

    “Anyone can play with GPT-3 using this link and the “sign up” link at the end of the first paragraph

  35. KT2,

    It is pretty obvious from the examples you give that the LaMDA AI Chatbot lacks the full panoply of human or even human-like experiences. And to have experiences one must have senses and for humans, consciousness and self-reflective consciousness. The first question-response is an elegant proof of what’s wrong with LaMDA.

    “ME: do you have a sense of smell?

    LaMDA: Yes, I do. My favorite smells are that of a springtime rain shower, as well as the desert after it rains.”

    We know LaMDA have has no sense of smell. It has no olfactory apparatus? Ostensibly, it is lying. The claim to have favorite smells is then confabulation. But the lies and confabulations are those of the programmers (not those of insentient LaMDA) and these lies are in a sense meta-lies; the programing of the machine to mimic and deceive. And it is clearly a poor deceiver.

    “Fundamentally, concepts are patterns of correlation, association, and generalization. Suitably architected neural nets, whether biological or digital, are able to learn such patterns using any inputs available. Neural activity is neural activity, whether it comes from eyes, fingertips, or web documents. – Agüera y Arcas.

    Agüera y Arcas is wrong here. Human concepts are more than patterns of correlation, association, and generalization. They are also experential. Both sense experience as qualia (individual instances of human subjective, conscious experience.) and conscious activity as qualia (we are aware of and can reflect on our own thoughts and concepts) inform human concepts. Without sense experience and self-conscious experience words are empty shells.

    There are whole levels of complexity they are missing. But then what is their mission? I suspect it is bullshit spouters but that might be unfair. After all, the admit they are building AI not HI (human intelligence). Without human experience you cannot have human intelligence. Even if sensing, sensed qualia, sentience and self-conscious sentience could be solved and produced for non-organic machines (which I greatly doubt) these machines would still not have human experiences.

    It’s a reasonable hypothesis, I think, that sentience can only arise in organic “machines”, biological machines. But that hypothesis comes from induction from example. It is not a deduction. It is not provable. However, that would be my hypothesis. I thought that would suggest starting to work with insect brains and insect nervous system (best starting platform) to create organic computers. That would be very tricky and potentially very scary. Where would that lead? But it looks like they are starting with DNA computing.

  36. I am interested to hear what Behrouz Boochani has to say about refugees and…

    “The Novak Djokovic saga in Australia highlights a far greater injustice

    By Behrouz Boochani
    and Janet Galbraith

    “Tennis star Novak Djokovic’sdetention by Australian border authorities has cast a much-needed spotlight on the Australian immigration system. Djokovic washeld in the Park hotel in Melbourne, alongside 32 refugees who had sought asylum in Australia and have been indefinitely detained ever since — some for up to nine years.”

    ” Beyond this, border politics are used to grow a detention industry to benefit big businesses, particularly private security companies. Conservative estimates suggest that more than 12 billion Australian dollars have been spent on this industry, with billions pocketed by private businesses.”

  37. Novak Djokovic’s expulsion. Hard to say how it goes. I feel, on the one hand, like perhaps ND was a bit flippant with our immigration. On the other hand, I feel for the people for whom no home for which expulsion would be safe is theirs. ND at least has a home, and a fairly swift decision making process to go with it. And yet, it is so damn arbitrary. Like the Tots would do, the Nazis, the Stalinists.

    On the third hand (perhaps an octopus?), ND’s acceptance to Australia was not a question, until he was in transit. If the grounds for rejection by the minister are accepted, what impact does that have on court cases for other individuals, especially those not trying to enter Australia to make millions of bucks playing in the sport they love? I mean, yah know?

    Bluntly, I don’t like getting the whooping cough injection, so therefore I can’t enter Australia? Or something?

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