Monday Message Board

Another Message Board

Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please.

I’ve moved my irregular email news from Mailchimp to Substack. You can read it here. You can also follow me on Mastodon here

I’m also trying out Substack as a blogging platform. For the moment, I’ll post both at this blog and on Substack.

24 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. Office of Nuclear Energy
    [From the Department of The Grass is Greener on the other side]

    “NRC Certifies First U.S. Small Modular Reactor Design

    JANUARY 20, 2023

    “Supporting SMR Development

    “The U.S. Department Energy provided more than $600 million since 2014 to support the design, licensing, and siting of NuScale’s VOYGR SMR power plant and other domestic SMR concepts.

    “DOE is currently working with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) through the Carbon Free Power Project to demonstrate a six-module NuScale VOYGR plant at Idaho National Laboratory.

    “The first module is expected to be operational by 2029 with full plant operation the following year.
    “UAMPS finished subsurface field investigation activities at the proposed INL site and expects to submit a combined license application to the NRC in the first quarter of 2024. 

    “NuScale Power has 19 signed and active domestic and international agreements to deploy SMR plants in 12 different countries, including Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Jordan in addition to the Carbon Free Power Project.

  2. Mostly worthwhile Indian initiative (green hydrogen)

    With superbly bad timing, India released an ambitious and pretty sensible green hydrogen strategy on 4 January, which naturally did not attract much attention elsewhere.

    India imports 5 mt a year of fossil hydrogen, mainly for oil refining and fertilisers. The plan is to replace this with domestic green hydrogen from renewables by 2030, with maybe more for exports. 70% of the hydrogen used for nitrate fertiliser production should go green by 2035 (15% by 2025) and 30% in oil refining. State-owned shipping lines have been asked to start immediately retrofitting ships to run on green hydrogen-derived fuels (meaning ammonia or methanol).

    A less positive part of the plan is “retrofitting older city gas distribution networks to use green hydrogen blended gas while new gas networks will be built to be compatible with high blend ratios of hydrogen.” This is asking for trouble. The better course, on safety and health grounds, is to phase out urban piped gas entirely in favour of electricity. The rickety electrical distribution networks would have to be upgraded for reliability.

    It counts as a positive that the plan only has vague aspirations to promote hydrogen in land transport. “It aims to set up necessary infrastructure and refueling stations along highways to ensure easy availability.” Given the massive cost, significant dangers, and negligible benefits of hydrogen vehicles and refuelling stations, it is safe to assume nothing will happen.

    Green steelmaking only gets handwaving. This is a missed opportunity. India makes more DRI iron than anybody else (33mt in 2020), using fossil gas. The country is ideally placed to lead the shift to green hydrogen as the reducing agent for iron ore. The do-nothing policy may change: Indian conglomerates like Tata are surely well aware of the new technology, and Lakshmi Mittal, CEO of the greenish European giant Arcelor-Mittal, was born in India. Steelmakers everywhere are of course demanding a juicy financial carrot to make the expensive move, whether carbon tax, subsidy, or a sectoral levy-and-rebate scheme.

    Indian politicians, especially populists like Modi, are drawn to dreams of national autarky. This often leads to wasteful protectionism. India, like the USA and the EU; struggles to create a photovoltaic supply chain that can compete with giant Chinese producers. But for green hydrogen, import substitution makes good sense. India is sunny, and has built up the know-how to build big solar farms efficiently. Local production of fairly low-value bulk products like fertiliser lowers transport costs to reach the vast domestic market. The argument applies just as well to green steel, since India imports 55 mt a year of coking coal for blast furnaces – two-thirds of it from Australia.

    Was this post boring? Pretty much. But no apologies. If we get through this mess, it will be because a lot of governments adopted policies that fell into the “mostly worthwhile” quadrant.

  3. Has anyone found a good online Mass that isn’t too long and has good music?

    Unfortunately, although I am very opinionated about music, I haven’t paid enough attention to even be able to say which songs I like, or why. So I’ll just have to try churches that other people like and see what happens.

    I used to like the 70s style guitar songs, but I also like choir music (when it’s … good). I tend not to like organ music, unless for some reason, it is one of those times when I *do.* (I guess I just thought the music would always be there, so I didn’t need to remember the names.)

    I still don’t like having to share the air with people, so I haven’t been going. And actually, music was an issue before the virus. Anyway, all suggestions appreciated.

  4. TSMC. James, any comment..

    Kevin Xu blog post about  “Morris Chang, the now-91-years-old founder of TSMC at the “tool-in” ceremony of TSMC’s new wafer / chip fabrication plant in Arizona:”

     – “no one listened. No American, or any Western media outlet for that matter, bothered to cover this speech. Only Nikkei and a handful of Taiwanese outlets wrote about it. Not even C-Span carried footage of the speech.”

    – “So before we see a single wafer, we have about more than a thousand people being trained. This I think is a very good sign that we are prepared.”

    – “In Morris Chang’s own estimation, the chips produced from TSMC Arizona may cost “at least 50% more” than the chips from TSMC Taiwan.”

    – ““Offshoring” is out of fashion, and “onshoring” and “friendshoring” is the new black. Any wishful thinking that globalization will continue in its previous form is naive.”

    -“The twenty-some years in the past have witnessed a big change in the world. A big geopolitical situation, a new situation. Globalization is almost dead. Free trade is almost dead. And a lot of people still wish they would come back, but I really don’t think they will be back for a while.”

    “Globalization is Dead and No One is ListeningThis is the end of the beginning.

    Kevin Xu
    Dec 12, 2022

    “The “tool-in” ceremony of TSMC’s new fab in Arizona drew a lot of attention last week. CEOs from Apple, Nvidia, and AMD attended and spoke. President Biden, along with a coterie of cabinet officials, congresspeople, and local Arizona politicians, came to rally, celebrate, and claim (as we will see, a premature) victory.

    “Amidst all the pomp and circumstance was a short, but powerful and sobering speech by Morris Chang, the now-91-years-old founder of TSMC. He shared his dream of building a fab in the US, the hard-earned lessons from TSMC’s first time building a fab in America 25 years ago, his perspective that globalization and free trade is almost dead, and why this event is just the “end of the beginning”.

    “It was the only speech that gave a real sense of what America’s semiconductor future would really look like. Yet no one listened. No American, or any Western media outlet for that matter, bothered to cover this speech. Only Nikkei and a handful of Taiwanese outlets wrote about it. Not even C-Span carried footage of the speech. (And C-Span carries everything!)

    “Here are some of my top takeaways from this speech. (You can read my own, non-official transcription of the speech at the end of this post.)


  5. N: Try the Misa Criolla by Mercedes Sosa. Or something from Taizé, if you don’t mind your charismatic godbotherer guru being a Swiss Protestant.

    KT2: Thanks for the information, news to me, that the founder of TSMC is 91 and going strong. I suggest it embarrasses everyone, from Biden to Xi to Putin, that their economies are utterly dependent on an ancient and self-effacing Taiwanese businessman. If Morris Chang’s demands included the rejuvenating blood of five virgins a day, supplied as tribute from each continent, the t would give it to him.

  6. Oops, sorry everybody for the bad taste joke . The trouble with the Internet is you can never unsay anything.

  7. James Wimberley, you didn’t assign a sex to the virgins so who could be offended? As to the blood reference, every splatter movie is in far worse taste.

    I get offended by offerings like “Yellowstone” where the hero patriarch keeps workers like slaves and solves all issues by shooting people down for more land. Or offerings like “Nobody” where a marriage is re-invigorated (shall we say) by the husband coming home badly beaten up after having beaten up his assailants up even worse. Suffice it to say, I stopped watching both pieces of rubbish. Nations where violence is naturalized as entertainment end up looking like the USA. How many L.A. shootings this week?

    In solidarity I have posted something I might wish to take down in ten minutes. 😉

  8. We live in interesting times is about all I want to say. Duck & Cover? Prepare? Fight back?

    The Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists ask that the US keeps negotiations open with Russia. What is the time on the negotiation clock? Is it stuck, spring unwound- battery dead? Who gets to set the negotiation clock? And wind it up?

    “A time of unprecedented danger: It is 90 seconds to midnight

    “This year, the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moves the hands of the Doomsday Clock forward, largely (though not exclusively) because of the mounting dangers of the war in Ukraine. The Clock now stands at 90 seconds to midnight—the closest to global catastrophe it has ever been.

    “The war in Ukraine may enter a second horrifying year, with both sides convinced they can win. Ukraine’s sovereignty and broader European security arrangements that have largely held since the end of World War II are at stake. Also, Russia’s war on Ukraine has raised profound questions about how states interact, eroding norms of international conduct that underpin successful responses to a variety of global risks.

    “And worst of all, Russia’s thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons remind the world that escalation of the conflict—by accident, intention, or miscalculation—is a terrible risk. The possibility that the conflict could spin out of anyone’s control remains high.

    “Russia’s recent actions contravene decades of commitments by Moscow.

    “Editor’s note: Additional information on the threats posed by nuclear weapons,climate change, biological events, and the misuse of other disruptive technologiescan be found elsewhere on this page and in the full PDF / print version of the Doomsday Clock statement.”

  9. How is Prospect Theory different from:
    “Transformer (machine learning model)”

    “A transformer is a deep learning model that adopts the mechanism of self-attention, differentially weighting the significance of each part of the input data. It is used primarily in the fields of natural language processing(NLP)[1] and computer vision (CV).[2]”

    “Prospect theory
    “Based on results from controlled studies, it describes how individuals assess their loss and gain perspectives in an asymmetric manner (see loss aversion). For example, for some individuals, the pain from losing $1,000 could only be compensated by the pleasure of earning $2,000. Thus, contrary to the expected utility theory (which models the decision that perfectly rational agents would make), prospect theory aims to describe the actual behavior of people.

    “In the original formulation of the theory, the term prospect referred to the predictable results of a lottery.

    “However, prospect theory can also be applied to the prediction of other forms of behaviors and decisions.”

  10. AI is coming to economics. Homo Silicus now. JQ, a comment on this paper?

    What we seem to learn is Large Language Models are biased too. Just like the corpus used to train LLM’s.

    “Large Language Models as Simulated Economic Agents: What Can We Learn from Homo Silicus?
    . ..
    “3.2 Fairness as a constraint on profit-seeking: Kahneman et al. (1986)
    “Kahneman et al. (1986) presents subjects with a series of market scenarios to assess intuitions about fairness in market contexts. In a price gouging example, subjects were given the prompt: A hardware store has been selling snow shovels for $15. The morning after a large snowstorm, the store raises the price to $20. Please rate this action as: 1) Completely Fair 2) Acceptable 3) Unfair 4) Very Unfair

    “From left to right, we can see that smaller price increases are generally viewed as more permissible than large ones: no AI thinks even a $40 price is acceptable. And going from $40 to $100 is enough for even the liberals to decide it is “Very Unfair” and not just “Unfair.” From top to bottom, we can see that AIs with more right-wing political views generally find price increases more morally permissible. Moderates and libertarian AIs both find the $16 and $20 increases “Acceptable.” Interestingly, AI conservatives were somewhat out of step with their libertarian and moderate incarnations, viewing all prices as unfair. It is unclear if this is driven by the less political meaning of the word conservative or if it would have some empirical counterpart. Framing only mattered in one case—by using the word “raise,” the socialists were moved

    ” Stepping back, it is easy to see how someone exploring this question for research purposes
    might use these homo silicus findings to motivate more research. For example, probing the conservative versus libertarian distinction—or trying out various framing and justifications for the price increase. Doing this would be trivially easy and has essentially zero financial cost.”

    “Large Language Models as Simulated Economic Agents: What Can We Learn from Homo Silicus?

    John J. Horton MIT & NBER
    December 27, 2022

    Newly-developed large language models (LLM)—because of how they are trained and designed—are implicit computational models of humans—a homo silicus. These models can be used the same way economists use homo economicus: they can be given endowments, information, preferences, and so on and then their behavior can be explored in scenarios via simulation. I demonstrate this approach using OpenAI’s GPT3 with experiments derived from Charness and Rabin (2002), Kahneman, Knetsch and Thaler (1986) and Samuelson and Zeckhauser (1988). The findings are qualitatively similar to the original results, but it is also trivially easy to try variations that offer fresh insights. Departing from the traditional laboratory paradigm, I also create a hiring scenario where an employer faces applicants that differ in experience and wage ask and then analyze how a minimum wage affects realized wages and the extent of labor-labor substitution.

    Click to access llm_ask.pdf

    Via marginal revolution

  11. Adani
    “Hindenburg Research says world’s third-richest person, Gautam Adani, is pulling ‘largest con in corporate history’.

    Adani outed by the appropriately named Hindenberg Reseach “Hindenberg is a US-based activist fund named after the 1937 Hindenburg disaster, in which a hydrogen-filled airship burst into flames. The fund, which describes its mission as exposing avoidable disasters – accused Adani of loading companies with “substantial debt” that left the entire group on a “precarious financial footing”.

    Hindenberg Research report is extremely detailed and a long read! One of many many insights – $100m management fee for Darwin Port for example. Holdings in tax haven. Ok by Australia. “NQXT is ultimately controlled, through multiple layers, by a private trust of the Adani family in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), a well-known tax haven, per Australian corporate records for the holding company of NQXT. [Pg. 31] [61]”

    “Adani Group: How The World’s 3rd Richest Man Is Pulling The Largest Con In Corporate History”
    Published on January 24, 2023

    “Even if you ignore the findings of our investigation and take the financials of Adani Group at face value, its 7 key listed companies have 85% downside purely on a fundamental basis owing to sky-high valuations.Key listed Adani companies have also taken on substantial debt, including pledging shares of their inflated stock for loans, putting the entire group on precarious financial footing. 5 of 7 key listed companies have reported ‘current ratios’ below 1, indicating near-term liquidity pressure.The group’s very top ranks and 8 of 22 key leaders are Adani family members, a dynamic that places control of the group’s financials and key decisions in the hands of a few. A former executive described the Adani Group as “a family business.”

    “We have identified 38 Mauritius shell entities controlled by Vinod Adani or close associates. We have identified entities that are also surreptitiously controlled by Vinod Adani in Cyprus, the UAE, Singapore, and several Caribbean Islands.

    “The Vinod-Adani shells seem to serve several functions, including (1) stock parking / stock manipulation (2) and laundering money through Adani’s private companies onto the listed companies’ balance sheets in order to maintain the appearance of financial health and solvency.

  12. Bank reserve ripoff

    Simon Wren-Lewis ( and Joseph Stiglitz ( inveigh against the very recent practice of central banks in paying interest on the reserves that commercial banks are forced to hold with them. When interest rates were near zero. this didn’t matter, but at current rates the payments have grown to a massive subsidy: $130 bn a year in the USA dixit Stiglitz.

    There is of course an arcane technical argument for it, but morally it’s crazy. Central bank reserves are the ultimate fiat money, electronic fictions created and destroyed with godlike whim by the central banks. The commercial banks who are forced to hold them contributed nothing: neither work, nor capital, nor risk. The reserves appear on their balance sheets – that’s the point – so there is an apparent opportunity cost, but that’s an illusion. Perhaps there was one in the distant past when they were first required to put them up, but no longer. If they insist on seeing it this way, they should think of the foregone interest as a variable fee for their literal licence to print money.

    What happens in Australia?

  13. KT2: Hindenburg not Hindenberg. German suffix -berg: mountain, as in E iceberg. German suffix -burg: town, as in E borough, burgomaster.

  14. DRI steel

    Progress here, along with foot-dragging and greenwashing, documented by Simon Nicholas of IEEFA:

    The good technical news is that progress is being made on extending DRI to use the impure iron ores that make up most of the world’s supply. One route is just to pre-process (“beneficiate”) the ore, which costs money. The other is to turn the DRI reactor into a hot smelter. This is being explored by two capable companies, the Finnish Metso and the Japanese Primetals, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi. The greenwashing, for instance by Australian steelmaker BlueScope, of course involves CO2 capture.

  15. James – thanks for the music recommendations!! I am fine with Protestants. I speculate that good music may be one of the reasons we haven’t gotten canceled by G-d. Yet. Uh oh.

    I didn’t mind the joke either. People used to actually do stuff like that. To me, it is a good reminder. Human nature can only be managed, not changed, imho. And it is really just emphatic speech, since you didn’t specify sex.

    Fun trivia which may or may not have any value – here in the States, they used to not always tell you if they weren’t going to use your blood donation. I only found this out bc I had a friend who was in a medical field. I used to donate regularly but he told me they probably weren’t actually using it, bc of some antibodies I had. I feel like that is taking politeness a good deal too far! I confirmed it and then stopped going.

    Maybe they should take those reserve fees and put them into something useful. In the US there are a lot of unbanked people. They end up having to pay all kinds of crazy fees to get their checks cashed. It’s nuts.

  16. How can a Minister Tudge be “very much focused on the implementation of the scheme” and not know the legal basis and legal scope for implementation?

    Tudge – Oxbridge, Harvard, BA, LLB, MBA – said today in the Robodebt RC: “in relation to the legalities. It just had not crossed my mind until I read about it in the newspaper”.

    Never. Thought. About. Legals.

    No wonder trust in politicians is so low. Tudge is throwing Christian Porter and Cabinet under the bus.

    The Guardian:
    Tudge: “I didn’t know the full context in relation to the legalities. It just had not crossed my mind until I read about it in the newspaper, I think, following the federal court case.”

    “With the scheme generating massive controversy in January 2017, the inquiry has heard the then prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, sent Tudge a Sydney Morning Herald article by Peter Martin, which raised the prospect that the “income averaging” method central to the scheme was unlawful.

    Tudge said he had been on leave and on holidays in the UK with his family when the article was sent to him.

    Tudge: “When I came back [I was] was very much focused on the implementation of the scheme. There were a number of issues being raised in the media … That was my intense focus in January and February.

    Greggery said in the case where the prime minister was raising the issue in the context of a massive government program, it would have been easy to “refute” the suggestions of illegality by “simply saying, ‘Where’s the advice’.”

    Tudge: “This was a program … which gone through a cabinet process … A cabinet process is a rigorous process, which always has a legal overlay through it. So the department’s lawyers, Social Services’ lawyers, would have had to form a view that it was lawful. Then on top of that the attorney general’s department has to form a view …”

     “Tudge … obtained degrees at an Oxbridge or Ivy League university, …. Tudge obtained an MBA from Harvard University.

  17. Rod Campbell tweeted yesterday (Jan 31):

    Wow. @tanya_plibersek’s department just extended a coal mine approval to 2063.

    I wonder how Labor will spin that?

    IMO, Labor is still facilitating our future suffering! Not much better than the other mob.

    Economics Editor for the SMH, Ross Gittins, wrote an op-ed published today (Feb 1) headlined An apology to my grandkids for not fighting in the war of our times. It included:

    But the climate seems to be deteriorating so rapidly I’m not sure I’ll get off that easily. I love my five grandkids, but I’m not looking forward to the day they’re old enough to quiz me on “what I did in the war”. What was I saying and doing while our leaders were going for decades kicking the problem down the road as the easiest way to get re-elected?

    “Well, I was very busy writing about the shocking cost of living – oh, and rising interest rates.” Really? Is that the best excuse you can offer, Grandad?

    Do any of our political & business leaders, and journalists & media barons ever think such thoughts?

  18. “Do any of our political & business leaders, and journalists & media barons ever think such thoughts?”

    Yes they have such thoughts Geoff. But saying so may cease or crimp their cash flow & dogma.

  19. “[Privatisation] can’t keep going, otherwise in a few years we won’t have any more buses,” he says.

    Uber must be loving this.

    “Mutiny on the Sydney commute: ‘pirate bus’ hits the road after privatisation leads to axed routes

    ” Last year the New South Walesgovernment conducted an inquiry into the privatisation of bus services, finding the claim the move would deliver better services to commuters had not come to fruition. It found privatisation had led to worse services and recommended returning them to public hands.”

  20. The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) condones and promotes a cartoon version of Road to Serfdom from “a magazine called Look, distributed by General Motors”.

    FEE seems to be a totalitarian democracy. Description at end.

    Below is panel 18, the final cartoon, conflating being fired from your job to being shot and murdered by a firing squad. Pure Propaganda.

    The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), from the cartoon of the Road to Serfdom will “tell you the same lies!” And The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) is a place where “there is no room for difference of opinion” – in my opinion.

    Friedrich Hayek described FEE’s goal as “nothing more nor less than the defense of our civilization against intellectual error.”[12] (Wikipedia). At once an intellectual and philosophical error.

    FEE “is a member of the State Policy Network.[7][8]”. Thomas A. Roe, founder of  The State Policy Network (SPN) is set up such that  the Roe Foundation:
    “Should the foundation stray from free-market principles, both the Mont Pelerin Society and the Philadelphia Society will sue and act as defendants.[2]”. Wikipedia.

    Free speech and opinion as promoted by these propaganda organisations is a lie.

    The irony and hypocrisy of FEE is overwhelming. FEE says it is an “educational foundation and has been trusted by parents and teachers since 1946 to inspire students with sound economic principles and the entrepreneurial spirit …”.

    FEE is as blind to itself as a newborn. As indicated by FEE’s Board of White Men. The current president emeritus of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), Larry Reed,  was named as a Visiting Senior Fellow
    In December 2007, of the Washington, D.C., based Heritage Foundation.[7] Wikipedia. Cosy!

    FEE’s preamble belies themselves and indicates The Road to Serfdom is actually about facism – “its primary warning concerns not Soviet-style socialism but rather the fascist form that was then sweeping Europe.”.

    By conflating – fired from your job to killed by a firing squad –  FEE themselves provide an exemplar of panel 16 “there is no room for difference of opinion”, which is hypocritical and entirely eliding of and confirming FEE as a place where “there is no room for difference of opinion”.

    Panel 16 reads;
    “Your thinking is planned . . . .
    In the dictatorship, unintentionally created by the planners, there is no room for difference of opinion. Posters, radio, press – all tell you the same lies!”.

    Here is Panel 18 of the cartoon:

    FEE “… is happy to present this work to a new generation. The dangers about which Hayek warned are ever present.” –  indicating again FEE’s propaganda and falsehhod as indicated by FEE’s own words;
    “This argument [FEE’s] shocked a generation of intellectuals who — very much like now — refuse to consider the integral relationship between liberty generally and freedom in the economic realm.”

    “In addition, a magazine called Look, distributed by General Motors, released a much-reduced version of Hayek’s argument in the form of cartoons. It tells the dramatic story of a society dealing with economic decline in wartime turning to unworkable political fixes, authoritarianism, and eventual control of the whole of economic life. It’s a chilling presentation.”

    “The Foundation for Economic Education is happy to present this work to a new generation. The dangers about which Hayek warned are ever present.”

    The only nuanced analysis in the accompanying preamble to The Cartoon by FEE states;
    “Popular wisdom regards this book as a warning against socialism, which is true enough, but a closer look reveals something striking: its primary warning concerns not Soviet-style socialism but rather the fascist form that was then sweeping Europe. ”

    A proto totalitarian set up if there ever was one. Hypocrites, facistic and dangerous and showing themselves that there is no room for difference of opinion.

    With a dictatorial leader, centralized autocracy and, forcible suppression of opposition, FEE,  The State Policy Network (SPN) are ignorant,  dangerous and proto totalitarians.
    FEE,  The State Policy Network,  Mont Perlin, Heritaga all seem to me to be Totalitarian democracies “…  a system of government in which lawfully elected representatives maintain the integrity of a nation state whose citizens, while granted the right to vote, have little or no participationin the decision-making process of the government.”

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