Understanding Our Pandemic – Economy Predicament

The world’s number one problem today is that the world’s population is too large for its resource base. Some people have called this situation overshoot. The world economy is ripe for a major change, such as the current pandemic, to bring the situation into balance. The change doesn’t necessarily come from the coronavirus itself. Instead, it is likely to come from the whole chain reaction that has been started by the coronavirus and the response of governments around the world to the coronavirus.

Let me explain more about what is happening.

[1] The world economy is reaching Limits to Growth, as described in the book with a similar title.

One way of seeing the predicament we are in is the modeling of resource consumption and population growth described in the 1972 book, The Limits to Growth, by Donella Meadows et al. Its base scenario seems to suggest that the world will reach limits about now. Chart 1 shows the base forecast from that book, together with a line I added giving my impression of where the economy really was in 2019, relative to resource availability.

Figure 1. Base scenario from 1972 Limits to Growth, printed using today’s graphics by Charles Hall and John Day in “Revisiting Limits to Growth After Peak Oil,” with dotted line added corresponding to where the world economy seems to be in 2019.

In 2019, the world economy seemed to be very close to starting a downhill trajectory. Now, it appears to me that we have reached the turning point and are on our way down. The pandemic is the catalyst for this change to a downward trend. It certainly is not the whole cause of the change. If the underlying dynamics had not been in place, the impact of the virus would likely have been much less.

The 1972 model leaves out two important parts of the economy that probably make the downhill trajectory steeper than shown in Figure 1. First, the model leaves out debt and, in fact, the whole financial system. After the 2008 crisis, many people strongly suspected that the financial system would play an important role as we reach the limits of a finite world because debt defaults are likely to disturb the worldwide financial system.

The model also leaves out humans’ continual battle with pathogens. The problem with pathogens becomes greater as world population becomes denser, facilitating transmission. The problem also becomes greater as a larger share of the population becomes more susceptible, either because they are elderly or because they have underlying health conditions that have been hidden by an increasingly complex and expensive medical system.

As a result, we cannot really believe the part of Figure 1 that is after 2020. The future downslopes of population, industrial production per capita, and food per capita all seem likely to be steeper than shown on the chart because both the debt and pathogen problems are likely to increase the speed at which the economy declines.

[2] It is far more than the population that has overshot limits.

The issue isn’t simply that there are too many people relative to resources. The world seems to have

  • Too many shopping malls and stores
  • Too many businesses of all kinds, with many not very profitable for their owners
  • Governments with too extensive programs, which taxpayers cannot really afford
  • Too much debt
  • An unaffordable amount of pension promises
  • Too low interest rates
  • Too many people with low wages or no wages at all
  • Too expensive a healthcare system
  • Too expensive an educational system

The world economy needs to shrink back in many ways at once, simultaneously, to manage within its resource limits. It is not clear how much of an economy (or multiple smaller economies) will be left after this shrinkage occurs.

[3] The economy is in many ways like the human body. In physics terms, both are dissipative structures. They are both self-organizing systems powered by energy (food for humans; a mixture of energy products including oil, coal, natural gas, burned biomass and electricity for the economy).

The human body will try to fix minor problems. For example, if someone’s hand is cut, blood will tend to clot to prevent too much blood loss, and skin will tend to grow to substitute for the missing skin. Similarly, if businesses in an area disappear because of a tornado, the prior owners will either tend to rebuild them or new businesses will tend to come in to replace them, as long as adequate resources are available.

In both systems, there is a point beyond which problems cannot be fixed, however. We know that many people die in car accidents if injuries are too serious, for example. Similarly, the world economy may “collapse” if conditions deviate too far from what is necessary for economic growth to continue. In fact, at this point, the world economy may be so close to the edge with respect to resources, particularly energy resources, that even a minor pandemic could push the world economy into a permanent cycle of contraction.

[4] World governments are in a poor position to fix the current resource and pandemic crisis.

In our networked economy, too low a resource base relative to population manifests itself in a strange way: It appears as an affordability crisis that leads to very low prices for oil. It also appears as terribly low prices for many other commodities, including copper, lithium, coal and even wholesale electricity. These low prices occur because too large a share of the population cannot afford finished goods, such as cars and homes, made with these commodities. Recent shutdowns have suddenly increased the number of people with low income or no income, pushing commodity prices even lower.

If resources were more plentiful and very inexpensive to produce, as they were 50 or 70 years ago, wages of workers could be much higher, relative to the cost of resources. Factory workers would be able to afford to buy vehicles, for example, and thus help keep the demand for automobiles up. If we look more deeply into this, we find that energy resources of many kinds (fossil fuel energy, nuclear energy, burned biomass and other renewable energy) must be extraordinarily cheap and abundant to keep the system growing. Without “surplus energy” from many sources, which grows with population, the whole system tends to collapse.

World governments cannot print resources. What they can print is debt. Debt can be viewed as a promise of future goods and services, whether or not it is reasonable to believe that these future goods and services will actually materialize, given resource constraints.

We are finding that using shutdowns to solve COVID-19 problems causes a huge amount of economic damage. The cost of mitigating this damage seems to be unreasonably high. For example, in the United States, antibody studies suggest that roughly 5% of the population has been infected with COVID-19. The total number of deaths associated with this 5% infection level is perhaps 100,000, assuming that reported deaths to date (about 80,000) need to be increased somewhat, to match the approximately 5% of the population that has, knowingly or unknowingly, already experienced the infection.

If we estimate that the mean number of years of life lost is 13 years per person, then the total years of life lost would be about 1,300,000. If we estimate that the US treasury needed to borrow $3 trillion dollars to mitigate this damage, the cost per year of life lost is $3 trillion divided by 1.3 million, or $2.3 million per year of life lost. This amount is utterly absurd.

This approach is clearly not something the United States can scale up, as the share of the population affected by COVID-19 relentlessly rises from 5% to something like 70% or 80%, in the absence of a vaccine. We have no choice but to use a different approach.

[5] COVID-19 would have the least impact on the world economy if people could pay little attention to the pandemic and just “let it run.” Of course, even without mitigation attempts, COVID-19 might bring the world economy down, given the distressed level of today’s economy and the shutdowns experienced to date.

Shutting down an economy has a huge adverse impact on that economy because quite a few workers who are in good health are no longer able to make goods and services. As a result, they have no wages, so their “demand” goes way down. If the economy was already having an affordability crisis for goods made with commodities, shutting down the economy tends to greatly add to the affordability crisis. Prices of commodities tend to fall even lower than they were before the crisis.

Back in 1957-1958, the Asian pandemic, which also started in China, hit the world. The number of deaths was up in the range of the current pandemic, relative to population. The estimated worldwide death rate was 0.67%.  This is not too dissimilar from a death rate of 0.61% for COVID-19, which can be calculated using my estimate above (100,000 deaths relative to 5% of the US population of 33o million).

Virtually nothing was shut down in the US for the 1957-58 pandemic. When doctors or nurses became sick themselves, wards were simply closed. Would-be patients were told to stay at home and take aspirin, unless a severe case developed. With this approach, the US still faced a short recession, but the economy was soon growing again. Populations seemed to reach herd immunity quite quickly.

If the world could somehow have adopted a similar approach this time, there still would have been some adverse impact on the economy. A small percentage of the population would have died. Some businesses might have needed to be closed for a short time when too many workers were out sick. But the huge burden of job loss by a substantial share of the economy could have been avoided. The economy would have had at least a small chance of rebounding quickly.

[6] The virus that causes COVID-19 looks a great deal like a laboratory cross between SARS and HIV, making the likelihood of a quick vaccine low.

In fact, Professor Luc Montagnier, co-discoverer of the AIDS virus and winner of a Nobel Prize in Medicine, claims that the new coronavirus is the result of an attempt to manufacture a vaccine against the AIDS virus. He believes that the accidental release of this virus is what is causing today’s pandemic.

If COVID-19 were simply another influenza virus, similar to many we have seen, then getting a vaccine that would work passably well would be a relatively easy exercise. At least one of the vaccine trials that have been started could be reasonably expected to work, and a solution would not be far away.

Unfortunately, SARS and HIV are fairly different from influenza viruses. We have never found a vaccine for either one. If a person has had SARS once, and is later exposed to a slightly mutated version of SARS, the symptoms of the second infection seem to be worse than the first. This characteristic interferes with finding a suitable vaccine. We don’t know whether the virus causing COVID-19 will have a similar characteristic.

We know that scientists from a number of countries have been working on so-called “gain of function” experiments with viruses. These very risky experiments are aimed at making viruses either more virulent, or more transmissible, or both. In fact, experiments were going on in Wuhan, in two different laboratories, with viruses that seem to be not too different from the virus causing COVID-19.

We don’t know for certain whether there was an accident that caused the release of one of these gain of function viruses in Wuhan. We do know, however, that China has been doing a lot of cover-up activity to deter others from finding out what actually happened in Wuhan.

We also know that Dr. Fauci, a well-known COVID-19 advisor, had his hand in this Chinese research activity. Fauci’s organization, the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, provided partial funding for the gain of function experiments on bat coronaviruses in Wuhan. While the intent of the experiments seems to have been for the good of mankind, it would seem that Dr. Fauci’s judgment erred in the direction of allowing too much risk for the world’s population.

[7] We are probably kidding ourselves about ever being able to contain the virus that causes COVID-19. 

We are gradually learning that the virus causing COVID-19 is easily spread, even by people who do not show any symptoms of the disease. The virus can spread long distances through the air. Tests to see if people are ill tend to produce a lot of false negatives; because of this, it is close to impossible to know whether a particular person has the illness or not.

China is finding that it cannot really contain the virus that causes COVID-19. A recent South China Morning Post article indicates that roughly 14 million people are to be tested in the Wuhan area in the next ten days to try to control a new outbreak of the virus.

It is becoming clear, as well, that even within China, the lockdowns have had a very negative impact on the economy. The Wall Street Journal reports, China Economic Data Indicate V-Shaped Recovery Is Unlikely. Supply chains were broken; wholesale commodity prices (excluding food) have tended to fall. Joblessness is increasingly a problem.

[8] If we look at deaths per million by country, it is difficult to see that lockdowns are very helpful in reducing the spread of disease. Masks seem to be more beneficial.

If we compare death rates for mask-wearing East Asian countries to death rates elsewhere, we see that death rates in mask-wearing East Asian countries are dramatically lower.

Figure 2. Death rates per million population of selected countries with long-term exposure to the virus causing COVID-19, based on Johns Hopkins death data as of May 11, 2020.

Looking at the chart, a person almost wonders whether lockdowns are a response to requests from citizens to “do something” in response to an already evident surge in cases. The countries known for their severe lockdowns are at the top of the chart, not the bottom.

In fact, a preprint academic paper by Thomas Meunier is titled, “Full lockdown policies in Western Europe countries have no evident impacts on the COVID-19 epidemic.” The abstract says, “Comparing the trajectory of the epidemic before and after the lockdown, we find no evidence of any discontinuity in the growth rate, doubling time, or reproduction number trends.  .  . We also show that neighboring countries applying less restrictive social distancing measures (as opposed to police-enforced home containment) experience a very similar time evolution of the epidemic.”

It appears to me that lockdowns have been popular with governments around the world for a whole host of reasons that have little to do with the spread of COVID-19:

  • Lockdowns give an excuse for closing borders to visitors and goods from outside. This was a direction in which many countries were already headed, in an attempt to raise the wages of local workers.
  • Lockdowns can be used to hide the fact that factories need to be closed because of breaks in supply lines elsewhere in the world.
  • Many countries have been faced with governmental protests because of low wages compared to the prices of basic services. Lockdowns tend to keep protesters inside.
  • Lockdowns give the appearance of protecting the elderly. Since there are many elderly voters, politicians need to court these voters.

[9] A person wonders whether Dr. Fauci and members of the World Health Organization are influenced by the wishes of vaccine and big pharmaceutical companies.

The recommendation to try to “flatten the curve” is, in part, an attempt to give vaccine and pharmaceutical makers more time to work on their products. Is this really the best recommendation? Perhaps I am being overly suspicious, but we recently have been dealing with an opioid epidemic which was encouraged by manufacturers of Oxycontin and other opioids. We don’t need another similar experience, this time sponsored by vaccine and other pharmaceutical makers.

The temptation of researchers is to choose solutions that would be best from the point of their own business interests. If a researcher gets much of his funding from vaccine and big pharmaceutical interests, the temptation will be to “push” solutions that are beneficial to these interests. In some cases, researchers are able to patent approaches, even when the research is paid for by governmental grants. In this case they can directly benefit from a new vaccine or drug.

When potential solutions are discussed by Dr. Fauci and the World Health Organization, no one brings up improving people’s immunity so that they can better fight off the novel coronavirus. Few bring up masks. Instead, we keep being warned about “opening up too soon.” In a way, this sounds like, “Please leave us lots of customers who might be willing to pay a high price for our vaccine.”

[10] One way the combination of (a) the activity of the virus and (b) our responses to the virus may play out is as a slow-motion, controlled demolition of the world economy. 

I think of what we are experiencing as being somewhat similar to a toggle bolt going around and around, moving down a screw. As the toggle bolt moves around, I picture it as being similar to the virus and our responses to the viruses hitting different parts of the world economy.

Figure 3. Image of how the author sees COVID-19 as being able to hit the economy multiple times, in multiple ways, as its impact keeps impacting different parts of the world.

If we look back, the virus and reactions to the virus first hit China. China’s recovery is moving slowly, in part because of reduced demand from outside of China now that the virus is hitting other parts of the world. In fact, additional layoffs occurred after Chinese shutdowns ended, because it then became clear that some employers needed to permanently scale back operations to meet the new lower demand for their product.

Commodity prices, including oil prices, are now depressed because of low demand around the world. These low prices can be expected to gradually lead to closures of wells and mines extracting these commodities. Processing centers will also close, making these commodities less available even if demand temporarily rises.

As one country is hit by illnesses and/or shutdowns, we can expect supply lines for manufacturing around the world to be disrupted. This will lead to yet more business closures, some of them permanent. Debt defaults tend to happen as businesses close and layoffs occur.

With all of the layoffs, governments will find that their tax collections are lower. The resulting governmental funding issues can be expected to lead to new rounds of layoffs.

Natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes and forest fires can be expected to continue to happen. Social distancing requirements, inadequate tax revenue and broken supply lines will make mitigation of all of these disasters more difficult. Electrical lines that fall down may stay down permanently; bridges that are damaged may never be repaired.

Initially, rich countries can be expected to try to help as many laid-off workers as possible with loans and temporary stipends. But, after a few months, even with this approach, many individual citizens and businesses will likely not be able to pay their rent. Default rates on home mortgages and auto loans can be expected to rise for a similar reason.

We can expect to see round after round of business failures and layoffs of employees. Financial systems will become more and more stressed. Pensions are likely to default. Death rates will rise, in part from epidemics of various kinds and in part from growing problems with starvation. In fact, in some poor countries, lower-income citizens are already having difficulty being able to afford adequate food. Eventually we can expect collapsing governments (similar to the collapse of the central government of the Soviet Union) and overthrown governments.

Longer-term, after this demolition ends, there may be some surviving pieces of economies. These new economies will be much smaller and less dependent upon each other, however. Currencies are likely to be less interchangeable. The remaining people will need to learn to make do with many fewer goods than are available today. It will be a very different world.

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.
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3,868 Responses to Understanding Our Pandemic – Economy Predicament

  1. adonis says:

    And there are their plans to give mankind a future ,will they work ? personally i don’t think so but its good to know that they cared and went to all this trouble to prepare a doomed plan b to save us.

    Global response actions

    •    Safeguard development gains by expanding liquidity in the global economy and maintaining financial stability.  
    •    Save lives and livelihoods of people worldwide by addressing debt vulnerabilities for developing countries.  
    •    Create a space for private sector creditors to engage in timely solutions.
    •    Enhance external finance for inclusive growth and job creation.
    •    Prevent illicit financial flows by expanding fiscal space and fostering domestic resource mobilization.

    • Covidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

      sure, gov/CBs need to do what they can to try to keep the financial subsystem working…

      it is essential…

      and keep the other essential subsystems working… food production and distribution, clean water, waste removal, electricity… and industry that supports those subsystems, transportation FF…

      essential products will have inflation… especially food…

      products and services that are not essential will have deflation…

      “… plans to give mankind a future, will they work?”

      there are no realistic plans… every country/gov/CB will be making it up as they go… number one: trying to feed their populations… prevent mass starvation…

      just watch for the future UN plan for taking on mass starvation…

      and remember, mass starvation is not the end of the world…

  2. Covidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

    https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/29/nba-targets-july-31-to-resume-season-source-says.html

    NBA to start basketball playoffs by the end of July…

    Bundesliga soccer in Germany has already restarted… other top leagues in the UK, Spain and Italy have plans to restart in June…

    MLB baseball is having major problems with negotiations about dividing revenues between team owners and their players… with an anticipation of far lower revenues due to no fans in the stadiums…
    the highest paid players are being asked to take pay cuts, and of course there is no realization in the baseball world that the economy is going to reset itself at a far lower level…

    so MLB is looking like the most interesting test case for how sports will be downsizing to the lower economic level…

    it looks less likely every passing day that there will be any MLB in 2020… so the players salaries will be zero for this year… no play, no pay…

    then the two sides can spend the next 7 or 8 months negotiating how to operate in 2021, while economic reality becomes ever more clear as those months go by…

    since sports are not an essential subsystem, deflation is to be expected… definitely deflating ticket prices if fans are allowed back into stadiums for 2021…

  3. adonis says:

    Global response actions

    •    Safeguard development gains by expanding liquidity in the global economy and maintaining financial stability.  
    •    Save lives and livelihoods of people worldwide by addressing debt vulnerabilities for developing countries.  
    •    Create a space for private sector creditors to engage in timely solutions.
    •    Enhance external finance for inclusive growth and job creation.
    •    Prevent illicit financial flows by expanding fiscal space and fostering domestic resource mobilization.
    •    Align recovery policies with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to ensure a sustainable and inclusive recovery.

    this is all of it

    • Covidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

      the last one is very much absolutely reeediculous…

      • Tim Groves says:

        How dare you! I should be in skool!

        In today’s world, it seem that all roads lead to the SDGs .

        The second from last one sounds like gibberish, although it might make more sense if translated into English. Illicit financial flows will find their own level, just like water does under the influence of gravity. I don’t speak International-Development-Agency-ese very well, but expanding fiscal space sounds like more taxes and fostering domestic resource mobilization sounds like more tax men.

    • NikoB says:

      Didn’t you say the world would collapse or reset in 2018. You had all those detailed papers to reference.
      Have you ever considered that everything you believe is wrong? Because your predictions certainly have been. It is not too late to change your mind.

      • Peak oil seems to have taken place in 2018, based on what we can see now. That might be considered a “reset” in 2018. The impact on the economy will be felt much more in 2020, however.

      • Lidia17 says:

        NikoB, do you think the world economy is not collapsing/resetting?
        Show your work.

        • NikoB says:

          Yes slowly, just not in the way that Adonis use to give dates of a major collapse or reset happening. I think this will take a longer time to play out than I initially thought. Could happen tomorrow, next week, month, year or decade. I have been surprised how long BAU has been kept going and I think that I will keep being surprised at our resourcefulness to slow the speed of this crash. Nonetheless crash we will.

    • The authors obviously don’t understand the problem we have today, with too much population relative to energy supplies, and not enough jobs around the world that pay well because of too much specialization and globalization.

  4. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Economic Fallout From Coronavirus Begins Across Developing World:”

    “Brazil’s economy shrank during the first three months of this year. Turkey’s economy slowed, and India’s yearly output posted its slowest growth in 11 years.

    “…growth in India and Turkey during the first months of this year shouldn’t be mistaken for resilience in the face of the pandemic, economists said. Since lockdown measures only came in the last week of March, the impact of the pandemic won’t turn up until the second quarter figures are released.

    “For the first time ever, all the world’s economies are going through a completely synchronized contraction, says Dilip Ratha, lead economist at the World Bank’s migration and remittances unit.

    “The crisis propagated rapidly, coming from lockdowns all over the world, cities big and small, factories, agricultural farms. The extent of the crisis is unprecedented,” he said.”

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/economic-fallout-from-coronavirus-begins-across-developing-world-11590779991

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “It is obvious to most that both household and public debt levels are a problem, especially the latter in the Covid-19 era. Yet the flaws in the idea of wholesale cancellation make it more academic grandstanding than a real possibility.

      “If you cancel your country’s sovereign debt, even if the government only owes it to the central bank, you risk debauching your currency…”

      https://www.ft.com/content/fb2c1718-a193-11ea-94c2-0526869b56b0

      • Harry McGibbs says:

        “Much the same way COVID-19 hits people with pre-existing health conditions more strongly, so is the pandemic-triggered economic crisis exposing and worsening financial vulnerabilities that have built up during a decade of extremely low rates and volatility…

        “Since the beginning of the pandemic, emerging markets saw capital outflows of over $100 billion, nearly twice as big (relative to GDP) as those experienced during the Global Financial Crisis.

        “While outflows have since subsided, this dramatic swing underscores the challenges in managing volatile portfolio flows and the risks this may pose to financial stability.”

        https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/05/covid-19-existing-financial-vulnerabilities-economics-coronavirus/

      • A person wonders whether the whole system of international trade can even continue. If it does, it will need to be on a much smaller scale. The value of one currency, relative to another, means less and less and QE and other manipulations are used.

    • At least the WSJ says, “The crisis propagated rapidly, coming from lockdowns all over the world.”

      It is the lockdowns that cause the economic fallout, not the virus itself.

  5. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Eurozone inflation dropped to a four-year low of just 0.1 per cent in May, data has shown, as the coronavirus pandemic put the single-currency bloc perilously close to deflationary territory.”

    https://www.cityam.com/eurozone-on-brink-of-deflation-as-price-growth-slows-to-0-1-per-cent/

  6. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Canada’s economy shrank the most since the 2008-09 financial crisis, marking the beginning of what’s expected to be the deepest contraction of the post-war era.

    “Gross domestic product dropped at an annualized 8.2 per cent in the first three months of the year, Statistics Canada said Friday in Ottawa.”

    https://business.financialpost.com/news/economy/newsalert-statistics-canada-says-q1-gdp-worst-showing-since-2009

  7. MG says:

    It is really interesting that the coronavirus is active in the densely populated areas and the areas where the coal mining is present.

    I can see this on the example of not only the densely populated areas of Silesia in Poland and the Czech Republic but also a quite small central coal mining region in Slovakia that still adds the new cases together with the two major cities and the Roma people enclaves, although there are other bigger urbanized areas than this coal mining center.

    https://mapa.covid.chat/

    I would say that it is the deteriorating hygiene in the declining coal mining regions hat is responsible for the favourable conditions for the virus spread.

    • Tim Groves says:

      I would think that anything that damages the lungs would work as a co-factor for a virus that damages the lungs. Working in coal mines and living downwind of older coal burning power stations and living in urban areas where there are or used to be lots of coal fired homes would all tend to damage the lungs.

      The human costs of extracting and using coal have been immense. But how well we would be able to live without it is a big question.

      American folk singer Kate MacLeod wrote a song called Angels on My Mind.

      Interview from 2000:
      Kate: This is based on a mining disaster that happened in Utah in the mid 1980’s. It was a big fire and it burned for weeks before they could get in there and find out what really happened. One of my friends is a coal miner. He always worked in that shaft that caught fire, but he was sick on that day and didn’t go to work. Being sick is what saved his life. I wrote a song about it and this is how it goes.

      Angela: Powerful topic. I should do two hours of mining tunes.

      Kate: There are plenty of them.

      Angela: That would be so easy. My mom grew in Yorkshire, England. Her dad was a minor in fact the foreman so she’d hate it when the whistle blew because her dad would have to go find out if anyone was dead or not, pull them up. He was the head guy.

      Kate: Terrible thing to do for a living.

      Angela: She just thought constantly about what he was going to, and is he coming back. And all the kids that died! There were many disasters with kids.

      Kate: It still goes on. We still are using coal, and we don’t need to be I don’t think. There is an entire industry around it.

      Angela: Where are they mostly using coal still? I know in Yorkshire they are, the air can be thick with it.

      Kate: Well out west. There are a lot of coal mines out there. I’m not sure what they use it all for now. I know that some people, when they moved out west, there was so little forestry that they would use coal to heat their homes. In fact, all the fire places are very small, because they were designed for burning coal. I lived in a house for 5 years with no central heating. We had a wood stove and we used 50% coal, because there is not a lot of wood out there. They don’t have the accessibility to it.

      This performance by Kate has only had 11 views in almost three years.
      Come on lads and lassies, if we try hard, we can surely get it to 12!

  8. Harry McGibbs says:

    “When Europe was struggling to contain coronavirus, Argentina reacted by locking down early… But it’s come at a huge economic cost.

    “”It was already pretty bad for us but with this, it’s just got worse,” says 21-year-old Omar, who is standing in the queue for the soup kitchen. “The economy has collapsed as far as I’m concerned.””

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-52846939

  9. Harry McGibbs says:

    The pitfalls of tourism in the Covid-19 era:

    “A flight with at least 140 people on board was quarantined today after a passenger received a positive coronavirus test result while in the air.

    “The plane, which arrived in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands from Madrid this afternoon, was immediately zoned off by health and security officials at Cesar Manrique airport, with the police also attending.”

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8370409/Spanish-flight-quarantined-passenger-gets-positive-coronavirus-test-result-air.html

  10. psile says:

    It appears as if the United States is about to fall apart. The recent death of G. F. is probably what may blow the whole place sky-high. CV-19 was the fuse. Bubblezilla, and 40 years of neoliberal b.s. the powderkeg. Rioting is breaking out all over the country.

    Apart from Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, there are reports and footage of disturbances breaking out in, Houston TX, Louisville KY, Atlanta GA, San Jose CA, Fort Wayne IN, Washington DC, Chicago IL, Des Moines IA, New York NY, Oakland CA, and Richmond VA.

    If you have Twitter here’s a link to an account, which is providing great coverage of the numerous incidents that are happening there right now.

    Police, paramilitary, the National Guard, and Army are all being deployed and prepared for what may soon result in martial law.

    • the Don didn’t plan this, but he sure must be rubbing his hands with glee at what it’s doing for him

      all he has to do is make sure this runs on through the summer, till about September, then be ‘forced’ to declare martial law.

      That will put the country into a state of even more violent chaos.
      The POTUS is commander in chief of the army, he tells the generals (all are now yes-men) to use military force.

      The ordinary soldier will fall in behind whoever pays his wages, particularly when he sees the country going down the pan.

      The Don suspends the Nov election ‘temporarily’. Congress starts screaming, so he marches troops in and puts an end to the constitution.

      He’s been making ‘jokes’ about that for years.

      Don’t think it can’t happen. It’s been common throughout history. Our modern era is no different

      • psile says:

        Indeed. Things are moving swiftly, and accordingly. Another Twitter account, more maninstream, with a good feed of the “protests” erupting all over the U.S.

      • Xabier says:

        Welcome back, Norman.

        I’m sure he and his advisors are rubbing their hands at all of this, a nice diversion from the economy: but if Trump hadn’t won, the US would have been ruled by Hilary Clinton.

        Personally, I find her rather more sinister: I’ve been told – by people who were there – that her masked really slipped once at a private dinner party,and the atmosphere in the room chilled suddenly.

        I see Trump as a crude, although rather canny, narcissist: but Hilary? Pure love of power and psychopathy.

        Well, what fun for the Yanks, what a choice you had in the last days of your empire!

        The general buffoonery of the UK government is a kind of comic turn in comparison, but so boring and without the belly-laughs of Monty Python.

        • beidawei says:

          Tell us more about what Hillary said or did after her mask slipped off.

          • Lidia17 says:

            There’s plenty of that out there on the intertubes. Just check out ” we came, we saw, he died”! Cackling about Ghadaafi being anal-raped to death by bayonet. She has always been like this..
            Laughing about getting a rapist off who had attacked a 12-y.o. girl to the point she couldn’t have children:

            • beidawei says:

              I don’t see anything amiss here. Sounds like she did her job. Lawyers, journalists, and other cynical folk often speak with this tough, gritty style.

        • thank you Xabier—always nice to be missed–just took a rest from posting to make time to sharpen my quill.

          I’m interested in this ‘other side’ of Clinton too?

          doesn’t seem very apparent, whereas Trump reveals every unpleasantness imaginable through his own utterances

      • Tim Groves says:

        And how, pray tell, would you handle the situation if you were POTUS?

        It’s a difficult decision, isn’t it Norman?

        Maybe you’d let Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore and Philly burn to the ground?
        After all, it would be race-ist not to, wouldn’t it?

        Or maybe you’d take a leaf out of Barack Obama’s book and let the police lob a little tear gas at the arsonists and rock throwers?

        • if i ruled the world–every day would be the first day of spring”

          another lyric from another piece of (harmless) make believe

          I don’t think I’ve ever written : If I were…..I’d do so and so. Might have, but I don’t think so. Mainly because the concept is fatuous. Not immune from writing fatuosity—but at least I try not to.

          Every political leader is carried on the tide of circumstance. Obama wanted to change the gun laws, circumstances prevented it.
          In Roosevelt’s time, company guards were shooting strikers. Ford was the rising fascist and admired Hitler.
          We can be reasonably sure he didn’t want that. You may disagree

          In any event ww2 resolved the problem, temporariliy.

          Kennedy tried to do something about the race problem. He had his faults too.

          All on that tide of circumstance.

          This time things are looking different. After burning enough fuel to win WW2, Western nations congratulated themselves for being clever, and that delusion sustained us for the next 30/40 years.

          Then the tide of prosperity began to ebb, because there wasn’t enough fuel to keep it rising. But Joe Average refuses to accept that

          Joe Average thinks he’s Canute acting in reverse, commanding the tide to keep rising. Politicians suffer from the same problem.

          Trump on the other hand, is, if nothing else, an opportunist.

          He sees November approaching, a collapsing economic system, 40+ m unemployed, who are not going to vote him back into office.
          He needs civil unrest. As things worsen and if he can keep this going until Autumn, he has a very good chance of introducing martial law, and declaring a ‘postponement’ to the election.
          If congress objects, with the army already mobilised to ‘keep order’ he will be in a position the shut it down.

          Seeing the country going down the pan, generals will do as they are told, and soldiers will fall in behind whoever pays their wages,

          they always do.

          After that, we are in civil war territory, which many have forecast, not just me.
          That will involve the jesusfreaks, who want nothing better than to inflict thier version of righteousness on all of us. Pence is waiting in the wings as god’s chosen one, read up on his political record.

          View at Medium.com

          • Very Far Frank says:

            What a long-winded sidestep of the question that was…

            • it simply detailed one possible future outcome in answer to a question

              a perfectly valid exercise in logic, though it left jesus out of the equation—but he never wanted me for a sunbeam anyway

              but can’t win em all though

      • Tim Groves says:

        As for Trump, he’s a pussy cat. He can’t even control Twitter or Facebook.

        Now when His Excellency Xi Jinping tells Twitter or Facebook to jump, Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg shout back in unison, “How high, sir?” That’s power. That’s dictatorship.

        Meanwhile, Even Mark Zuckerberg Thinks Jack Dorsey “Fact Checking” Trumps Twitter is Nuts.

        “Twitter has begun to occasionally ‘fact check’ Trump’s tweets with regard to election material and Jack Dorsey sees this a a virtuous thing because he went off to Burma—the human rights abusing country—and he went into a meditation seminar for a few months and he felt enlightened because he dropped acid a couple of times.”

        • Tim Groves says:

          Norman, you’d probably hate the above video. But Eddy, you are going to love it.

          • just self opinionated rambling

            nothing to hate

            nothing to like

            means nothing

            i daresay I’ missing a deeper hidden meaning

            • Tim Groves says:

              just self opinionated rambling

              How very courteous of you to lower yourself to watching the video and venturing an opinion on its content, Norman.

              It’s another one of those irregular verbs, isn’t it?—I provide enlightening insights; you air your views, he engages in self opinionated rambling.

              Are you at all familiar with the Freudian notion of projection?

            • folk are always ready with opinions on the stuff i write—good, bad or ugly—- I accept everything as their entitlement to do so, and not take umbrage at any of it. Nobody is more aware of my pontificating writing style than myself. Nobody takes me less seriously than me, I assure you.

              I never insult anyone by name. I paint a wordpicture. If anyone chooses the fit themselves in the frame, that is their choice

              Maybe respond with a little humour at some of the more nonsensical stuff, (koalas spring to mind) because it isn’t usually worth more than that. Particularly when we get onto plots conspiracies and hoaxes—the very life-force of some commenters.

              for them i must reserve the right of the deflationary pin

              Surely by the same token then, I can be allowed the same freedom to offer an opinion on other people’s ramblings.? No doubt the gentleman in question was certain that his verbal offerings made sense.

              But that is a problem we all have to live with.

              Don’t we?

            • Tim Groves says:

              Absolutely, Norman. I quite agree with you. If you, me or anyone else offers our ramblings up as a public performance, it’s only fair that the public has the right to cheer or boo or even pelt us with rotten fruit and veg.

      • NikoB says:

        I don’t agree that Don has that as an agenda but I do think that it is a well thought out possibility Norm. Hope you are wrong and Don is just another president that lowered the US standard along with most of the others.

        • Very Far Frank says:

          All the Don has ever done is bring people back to reality; we talk about the massive economic bubble we’ve been living in all these years without considering the consequent ‘social bubble’, where everyone is so cloistered they’re willing to accept almost any social outcome with little regard for long-term implications.

          As a President, Trump started to push back against this idea of being permissive of everything and he inevitably got the flak; but this system is mechanistic. He was ‘supposed’ to be there to push back because the economic system could no longer support those highly permissive, open policies. Now is the time for contraction and consolidation- and he’s in the right place at the right time. There will be greater conflict for sure, but that’s because there always would have been, for the same reason Trump was elected in the first place. The decline was baked in.

          • Trump might have pushed back against ‘perrnissive of everything’

            as long as it doesn’t apply to him.

            and you can literally put that in any context you like

        • I think it would be true to say the don didn’t have an agenda before COVID

          but now circumstances have changed, even he can see the possibilities

          • Lidia17 says:

            Norman, “The Don” absolutely had an agenda before COVID—a slogan that was put on hats and such which you may have seen! : MAGA. Whether you think the agenda of “Making America Great Again” was a good thing or a bad thing, an achievable thing or an unachievable thing or an embarrassing thing or a stupid thing.. it certainly did distinguish him from the BushClintons and the BidenObamas who were happy to pocket millions, if not billions, selling off US technology and other assets to the highest foreign bidder and undermining the country’s security and stability. In what other country would those sorts of activities have been countenanced and even celebrated? Where else in the world would such activities not have been considered treason?

            Trump’s current opponent got $1.5 billion handed to his family from the CCP personally to manage. Hmmm. Diane Feinstein had a Chinese spy working for her for decades. McConnell has a Chinese wife and lots of conflicting business interests there.

            Michelle Obama thinks America was never that great. Fine. She’s hardly alone. But a person running to head [whatever] organization would be well-advised to at least pretend to believe in the organization’s mission. It’s bizarre to me to see people attacking a person for trying to fulfill their job description.

            The pre-Trump mission of America has been to have no borders and to allow as much looting and foreign acquisition of resources as possible, from the highest (eg., Hillary’s sale of US uranium to Russia) to the lowest (illegal immigrants get less-than-mandatory sentencing for crimes because it might trigger deportation, and now they get to vote, apparently, and get free covid-stimulus money), with a secondary directive to spasmodically engage in chaos abroad that enriches bankers and the MIC. The Trump-era mission may verywell end up being along similar destructive lines, but at least we can feel safe to poke our heads out and protest, a little bit, on alternate Tuesdays.

            It’s clear that the vast bloviational expansion of the intellectual class (which seem to be socialist in the main)—more recently joined by the pseudo-intellectual castes of online journalists and “influencers”, diversity counselors and video-game-programmers from whom no one ever would have previously heard—is materially supported by all the farmers and working stiffs who will no longer be able to maintain all these folks in the manner to which they are accustomed, should they want to or not.

            Trump has a great deal of faults, but I think he really does love America. Loving the country one lives in, and advocating for it, has recently and inexplicably become deeply unfashionable in many places. It may be “sad” that Trump is the best advocate the US currently has, but a deeper question is why there aren’t better advocates for any of us, wherever we live, for any of our nations or peoples?? Why is the best France can come up with the craven Macron? Germany’s “best” is the destructive Merkel? Etc.

            If Trump’s main policy attribute is anti-globalism, that surely cannot be regarded as particularly reprehensible by a group that already takes the death of globalism for granted, no?

            Vultures will descend on a fat and inviting corpse. A jackal may try to defend the corpse for his own reasons. Are you on the side of the jackals or the vultures? We never know who will make out the best, but all of us here are probably kidding ourselves if we think we have not taken political sides based on how we think the pie might end up being sliced—favorably or unfavorably for ourselves. We cannot feel or act otherwise. We might be pro-looting or anti-looting based on what side we might think our bread is buttered.

            This lady and other people like her are not going to just “learn to code”. The modest jobs they might have been engaged in are gone, gone, gone, down the flusher accompanied by Ross Perot’s “giant sucking sound”.

            • If China’s coal supply was clearly failing (actually, starting as early as 2012-2013), it made a great deal of sense for the US to start separating itself from China. The rest of the world could no longer depend on China. MAGA was a way of expressing this need. There really weren’t other countries that the US could depend on either. Exports and imports would need to be rolled back.

    • Tim Groves says:

      Killer cop and victim worked as security staff at the same nightclub for 17 years?

      Was this piece of savagery the result of something personal between ’em?

      https://kstp.com/news/george-floyd-fired-officer-overlapped-security-shifts-at-south-minneapolis-club-may-28-2020/5743990/

      • Kim says:

        “Killer cop”? Hmm, we will see. It definitely wasn’t murder as they can’t show intent. That is for sure. But perhaps not even manslaughter as the autopsy has shown the gent in question died of neither strangulation nor choking. He had pre-existing conditions and may have had a heart attack. What a show.

        • JMS says:

          i would like to hear your opinion about this case after you have spent 8 minutes with a knee on your neck. Till then you’re just sputering nonsense. Pre existing conditions! LOL Give me a foocking break!

    • The autopsy came back with a report saying, Autopsy Shows George Floyd Did Not Die of Traumatic Asphyxiation or Strangulation

      The autopsy report cited in the complaint suggests Floyd died from a combination of heart disease and “potential intoxicants in his system” that were aggravated by the restraint placed on him by officers, which involved Chauvin applying his knee to Floyd’s head and neck area for an extended period.

      “The combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death,” the report said, noting that Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck “for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in total,” including almost two minutes after Floyd was non-responsive.

      I don’t know if this will make any difference.

      • Matthew Krajcik says:

        The trial, if there is one, will be quite a ways away anyways. If the charges are dropped or he is found not guilty, there will likely be a second wave of riots.

      • Lidia17 says:

        Hillary Clinton: “what difference, at this point, does it make?”

        That’s the beauty of it all.

        9/11: Make It Happen or Let It Happen?
        Covid: accidental release or planned release?
        What difference does it make who cast the die, or whether he/she had their fingers crossed behind his/her back?

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