Tag Archives: government

Covid-19 – To mask or not to mask?

I had no intention of posting today, but I believe this video by Dr John Campbell is so important, everyone should see it. And then perhaps we should demand that our governments do something useful to reduce the rate of Covid-19 infection. But first the video:

If you don’t want to watch the video, I’ve cherry picked what I believe are the most important points. First up, a study that shows we’ve been under estimating the distance the virus can spread:

According to this data, the 1.5 metres advocated by most governments is not enough, even just for breathing, especially in confined spaces like public transport.

Next up is a study using hamsters. And yes, they can get Covid-19 just like us. What the researchers did was to set up two cages, side by side. One cage was ‘masked’ and infected hamsters were placed inside [cage on the left]. Non-infected hamsters were placed in the second cage [cage on the right]. Then, a fan was used to blow air from the infected [but masked] cage across to the uninfected cage. This is what you see in the top row of the dinky graphic below:

The result was that only 15% of uninfected hamsters became infected. Remember that their cage was not masked.

The second row of the graphic shows a similar setup, except that this time, only the cage of uninfected hamsters is masked. The result is that 33% – i.e. more than double the previous number – of the hamsters were infected, despit their cage being masked.

The reason? Because ordinary masks aren’t fine enough to filter out the tiny droplets of the infection.

Now let’s extrapolate to you and me. If I’m infected and you’re not, but you are wearing a mask, there’s still a 33% chance that I’ll infect you just by talking to you, or by leaving droplets of infection on surfaces you may touch. But if I’m the one wearing the mask, almost all of the virus I breathe out will be trapped inside my mask, so it can’t reach you.

Now, if both you and I are wearing masks, the likelihood of infection plummets. You can find Dr John’s very good explanation at 13:26 of the video.

Still not convinced? Then look at the countries that have done best during this pandemic. Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand etc have all managed to protect both their people and their economies from the ravages of Covid-19, yet they don’t have vaccines or special treatments. All they have is what is available to us as well – good hygiene, social distancing, and a culture that’s okay with wearing masks in public.

If 80% of people wore masks [of any sort, even home made ones] in public, we could stop this pandemic in its tracks and reopen our countries safely. Instead, here in the West, we’re reopening on a wing and a prayer. We hope that people will continue social distancing and doing the right thing…pfffft.

Just last night I heard a really loud party going on here in Warrandyte. If the volume of screams and laughter were anything to go by, the party goers were drunk, and having a very good time indeed. Of course they were social distancing…yeah, right.

We’ve proved, time and time again, that we can’t be trusted to do the right thing. Yet governments are basing their hopes on us, and a dinky app that will, supposedly, make it easier to track infected contacts? Puleeze.

I believe that mask wearing has not been mandated because:

  • making self indulgent people wear masks would be like herding cats, and
  • the governments of our countries actually want us to keep infecting each other…just not too much. They don’t want our hospitals overwhelmed, they just want enough of us to get sick so we develop ‘herd immunity’.

But…

‘Researchers think that the R0 for COVID-19 is between 2 and 3. This means that one person can infect two to three other people. It also means 50% to 67% of the population would need to be resistant before herd immunity kicks in and the infection rates start to go down.’

https://www.webmd.com/lung/what-is-herd-immunity#1

The trouble is, even the places with the highest rates of infection so far, the so called ‘hot spots’, have nowhere near the 50-67% infection rate needed for herd immunity. For example, New York has an estimated infection rate of only 13.9%. https://www.chron.com/news/article/Cuomo-13-9-percent-tested-positive-COVID-19-15221278.php

This means that people will have to be infected for years in order to reach herd immunity. Years of continued deaths, years of the vulnerable having to live in a bubble because every single person they meet could be a spreader. Years of the hospital systems having to cope with an ongoing pandemic…and that’s the best case scenario.

The worst case scenario is that the virus will quickly slip its leash and spread like wildfire through the uninfected parts of our populations. Given how little immunity those populations currently have, that means pretty much everyone. At once. As Italy proved, no health care system can cope with such a demand.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. We could follow the example of our Asian neighbours and wear masks until an effective vaccine can be developed. Once there is a vaccine, reaching that magical 50-67% required for herd immunity would be a snap. We could all be protected, and no one would have to be sacrificed ‘for the economy’. This is the Plan B our governments want to ignore.

So the question is this, are we okay with the arrogant assumption of government that they can ‘control’ this virus? Or would we prefer to wear masks until plan B can take effect? I know which plan I prefer.

Meeks


How to save $$ in Victoria [Australia]

This post is for Victorians on a tight budget – i.e. people on Newstart, the Age Pension, Disability Pension or young people working in the GIG economy – and concerns energy bills such as gas and electricity.

The first, critical step to saving on your energy bills is to understand that utility companies bank on us being too busy to go out and actively look for better deals. The new initiative by the Victorian government only means that energy retailers have to inform you of their best deals. But those best deals could still be very expensive when compared to the rest of the marketplace.

To give you an example, I changed my gas supplier about a year and a half ago. At the time, my new gas supplier offered the best deal according to the Victorian government’s own comparison website:

https://compare.energy.vic.gov.au

This morning, when I did a fresh comparison, my existing gas supplier was close to the bottom of the list, and their best deal was over $400 more expensive [per year] than the new ‘best deal’. As a result, I got on the phone [contact details supplied by the government website], made sure the quote was still accurate and…signed up:

When AGL’s best is no longer the best, I’ll move my gas account again.

Gamers would recognize this as ‘churn’. The term refers to how gamers move from one ISP to another to get the best deal. I don’t ‘churn’ often, but since I became an age pensioner, I’ve learned that loyalty simply doesn’t pay. These days I ‘churn’ my gas, electricity and comms suppliers on a regular basis.

So what’s involved in comparing prices?

Once you land on the government’s comparison website, you’ll be asked a series of questions about how you use your gas [or electricity]. It pays to make your answers as accurate as possible so dig out your most recent bill and keep it handy. After you’ve completed all the relevant questions, the website will do some kind of general comparison and present you with a list of the best matches for your circumstances.

Gas pricing is a mess with about five different rates in both the ‘peak’ and ‘off peak’ categories, but don’t let it scare you. One easy thing to compare is the daily supply charge. Essentially this is the amount you pay for the privilege of having a gas connection. In other words, even if you don’t turn the gas on at all, you’ll still be charged that daily supply charge.

All retailers charge you for supply, but the amount varies. AGL’s daily supply charge is 62 cents. Another retailer I looked at [not one of the most expensive ones] was charging 83 cents. Assuming the rates don’t change for 365 days, that’s $226 vs $303 per year [or a saving of $77 per year].

When the cost of living means you have to think twice about buying that latte, a saving of $77 is nothing to be sneezed at. And when you add that small saving to the actual cost of using the energy, the savings really do add up.

So please, bookmark that government comparison website and check it out, at least once a year. Doing your homework and making a change will probably take an hour, all up, but the way I see it, I’ve just earned over $400 for that hour. Not a bad hourly rate, don’t you think?

And finally a word about keeping all your eggs in one basket. Energy retailers that supply both gas and electricity will try to convince you to move both utilities to them. Doing so may be more convenient. It may also be cheaper, sometimes. But…a cheap gas price does not automatically mean the electricity price will be the best available price as well.

Remember, the best price a retailer offers is not necessarily the best price from all retailers. Compare…and save.

cheers

Meeks

 

 

 

 


Coal Seam Gas – destroying the Great Artesian Basin?

I stumbled on a tweet this morning.

It included this video.

Curious, I watched the video.

Shocked, I took a screenshot and added a bright yellow arrow to highlight the bubble of gas that has just been set alight. What you see under the flames is the water flowing from a bore drilled into the Great Artesian Basin [GAB for short].

This is the complete video:

Why is this so shocking? Because without that bore water, much of the food production in the arid parts of Australia simply would not be possible:

Prior to European occupation, waters of the GAB discharged through mound springs, many in arid South Australia. These springs supported a variety of endemic invertebrates (molluscs, for example), and supported extensive Aboriginal communities and trade routes.[8] After the arrival of Europeans, they enabled early exploration and faster communications between southeastern Australia and Europe via the Australian Overland Telegraph Line.[8] The Great Artesian Basin became an important water supply for cattle stationsirrigation, and livestock and domestic usage, and is a vital life line for rural Australia.[9] To tap it, water wellsare drilled down to a suitable rock layer, where the pressure of the water forces it up, mostly without pumping.

Quote taken from Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Artesian_Basin

By Tentotwo – Basin extent: Geoscience Australia Revised Great Artesian Basin Jurassic-Cretaceous boundaryCoastline, rivers, state borders: Natural Earth dataset, 1:50MShaded relief: Kenneth Townsend, Shaded Relief Archive, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26822532

I know that everything in life is a balancing act between opposite and competing priorities, but destroying Peter to pay Paul is simply insane.

Yes, we do need gas to generate instant electricity until our power generation switches fully to renewables and storage [wind, solar, batteries]. But we also need to eat. If the water goes, so will much of inland Australia.

What makes this all so much worse is that we wouldn’t need to extract coal seam gas from the GAB if our offshore gas hadn’t been sold overseas for peanuts. Industry, AEMO*, and Federal and State governments are all to blame: Industry for not giving a shit about anything except shareholder profits, AEMO for allowing Industry to game the bloody system, and governments for putting short term gains ahead of long term planning.

When are we going to accept that Industry will NEVER self-regulate for the good of society as a whole?

It’s like leaving the door to the hen house wide open and expecting the fox to leave the chickens alone. Really?

Yet isn’t that exactly what all Western governments do? They allow multinational corporations to self-regulate and then go ‘tut tut’ when said corporations engage in shonky business practices.  And let’s not sugar coat reality: the Global Financial Crisis was caused by criminals on Wall Street. Closer to home we have the findings of the Banking Royal Commission. Apparently we have white collar criminals in the ANZ and Commonwealth Bank too. And then, of course, we have the thieves fronting social media and hiding behind the scenes in the ‘ad networks’. They just spy on us and steal our personal data for profit…

In a balanced ecology, you need foxes as well as chickens, but it is the role of government to protect the chickens from the foxes. Western governments are failing, in spectacular fashion. And in the process, democracy itself is under attack as never before. If we don’t stop the rot now, future generations will not be living in a democracy, they’ll be living in a corporate state, as peons**.

Meeks

* The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) is responsible for operating Australia’s largest gas and electricity markets and power systems

** https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peon


UBI – Universal Basic Income

The difference between a social welfare handout and a universal basic income is that the former is seen as a handout to the hopeless while the latter is an acknowledgement that the jobs provided by the industrial revolution are fast disappearing. And they’re not coming back.

https://futurism.com/new-report-claims-ubi-would-grow-the-u-s-economy-by-2-5-trillion/

The interesting thing about this article from Futurism is that it suggests a UBI might actually be good for the economy itself, not just for the people displaced by technology.

As a recipient of social welfare myself, I believe that the jobs of the future will be small scale and entrepreneurial. People will provide services to each other based on a local need. In a way, this is exactly what companies like AirBnB and Uber are already doing. In twenty years time though, social media may allow me to request a homemade cake for my birthday and have it baked and delivered by my neighbour down the road.

Such micro-transations could add up to trillions of dollars if everyone did it. But everyone can’t do it [now] because of two things:

  • lots of red tape associated with being a small trader,
  • and a social welfare system that is punitive rather than supportive

I can’t see a UBI being introduced any time soon because the political mindset is simply not there. Politicians have to stop thinking of their citizens as a drain on the government purse before any true change can occur. But at least the idea is gaining ground, if slowly.

cheers

Meeks


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