March 2017 Open Thread

More thread.


  1. #1 Lionel A
    April 29, 2017

    Spencer Wells has written a thought provoking book in Pandora’s Seed: Why the Hunter-Gatherer Holds the Key to Our Survival, also published as ‘Pandora’s Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization’ which tackles a number of humanity’s current issues and delves into the origins.

    One issue he looks at is obesity, an affliction of the less well off in supposedly civilised societies which has correlations with low education standards and low incomes. That the US southern and mid-west states (Trumpland) show badly in this respect is no surprise.

    The map of ‘Adult Obesity Rate by State, 2015’ at Adult Obesity in the United States is only significantly different in adding Oregon, Maine, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota to those highlighted on the map on page 63 of Well’s book. Also Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and West Virginia are assigned a new higher obesity rate category. ‘There is something rotten in the heart of the USA’, and also similarly in other so called western countries where many have lost the know how to cook for themselves (fractured families, any parents working at more than one non contract low wage job with little time for proper parenting) and rely upon fabricated food full of undesirable additives in excess.

    There is a useful appraisal by Jared Diamond (‘Guns, Germs and Steel’, and ‘Collapse’) on the rear cover:

    ‘Spencer Wells — explorer, geneticist, geographer and author — takes us on a tour of the last 10,000 years of our history in order to forewarn us of what we shall have to deal with in the next 50 years’

  2. #2 Stu 2
    April 29, 2017

    Lionel @ # 97.
    Who claimed that there are perfectly organized societies?
    Who are you arguing with?
    I clearly asked where were/are these alternative and more humane political systems and compared to what?
    It was Jeff Harvey who made that statement was it not?
    You claimed that these ‘more humane’ systems were in southern and central America.
    Any research of the area and any history does not reveal ‘an alternative and more humane political system’.
    You have now moved on to some whacky idea that humanity should revert to some form of hunting and gathering and somehow linked that to obesity.
    You’re also now claiming that modern agriculture is inherently evil.
    You do realise don’t you that your romantic and revisionist notion of agriculture was far more damaging to the environment?
    Slash & burn and hunting & gathering are not sustainable.

  3. #3 Stu 2
    April 29, 2017

    Or maybe they would be if we wiped out about 80% of humanity and reverted to tribalism?????
    How would you cope as a hunter and gatherer in the UK Lionel?
    What would your diet & clothing & shelter consist of?
    I’m guessing that much of it wouldn’t be naturally found by foraging in the forest???

  4. #4 Stu 2
    April 30, 2017

    Here are some questions for you Lionel.
    1) What is your clothing made from? Is it produced naturally in the UK? What did the original inhabitants wear? Would you be OK wearing that?
    2) What is your house built from and by whom? What did the original hunters & gathereres make their shelter from? At your time of life, would you be able to do that and would that type of shelter be OK for you?
    3) How do you cook your food and what makes up your diet compared to the original hunters & gatherers?
    4) Are you happy with your BMI? If you are, that’s great. If you’re not, whose responsibility is it to improve it? It appears from your latest comment that obesity is somehow the responsibility of govt?????
    5) Considering that humanity is highly, highly urbanized, how on earth could people who live on small blocks or in flats & apartments possibly survive by growing and cooking all on their own?
    6) If academia has to spend so much time on their work to save us all from ourselves, writing papers, writing books, lecturing, peer reviewing, attending forums and conferences, advising on policy & etc, etc etc, where are they going to find the time to be so highly educated and to be naturally self sufficient?
    7) I know just as many highly intelligent and highly educated academics who are overweight or obese as I do from every other demographic, don’t you?
    I’m totally fascinated about who or what must be forced to change and pay for these radical changes you advocate. I suspect that far too many would have to pay with their lives, probably including yourself, in order to achieve this vaguely identified ‘greater good’ or if you like ‘perfect society’ or alternative and more humane political system’ that you’re talking about and/ or defending.

  5. #5 Stu 2
    April 30, 2017
    This is one clear definition of ‘unabated’.

  6. #6 Lionel A
    April 30, 2017

    In post #51 page 4 Jeff Harvey wrote this succinct description of what it is to exchange with the multi-dimensionally challenged on this blog, I likened it to exchanging with a hagfish. I have made a small change to fit this particular change more precisely.

    Debating an idiot on a blog is so difficult because your opponent can set their own goalposts and keep moving them around. Or they can stick to a tired, ridiculous meme and go with only that. In a way, Betula Stu 2 does both.

    The examples I could flush out are numerous and are represented in the slew of posts from Stu 2 following my #1 on this page (5).

    in #2 on this page Stu 2 writes:

    Who claimed that there are perfectly organized societies?

    The answer is of course – nobody, for it is obvious that none existed and we made no such claims.

    What is being posited is that developed world societies are very imperfect in socio-economic terms not only because of the great inequality present. This was a feature I was bringing out with the obesity question WRT the USA but also becoming more prevalent in the UK and other European states.

    Stu 2 went on:

    I clearly asked where were/are these alternative and more humane political systems and compared to what?

    This after being straightened out more than once with examples provided although still not perfect examples — for there are none!

    Stu2 may do well to look at a title mentioned by Jeff in his page 4 #52 post:

    ‘Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism ‘ by Greg Grandin which is on my to read pile.

    Another one that could be worth looking at is ‘Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala’ by Stephen Schlesinger — not yet on my to read list but will obtain a copy.

    Stu 2 displays his lack of precision yet again by writing:

    It was Jeff Harvey who made that statement was it not?

    Which is unanswerable from lack of specifics.

    Stu2 then moves on to this melange of tortured misunderstanding of my themes (if he bothered to read those books cited through page 4 here then he should not be engaged thus):

    You have now moved on to some whacky idea that humanity should revert to some form of hunting and gathering and somehow linked that to obesity.
    You’re also now claiming that modern agriculture is inherently evil.

    That is a total distortion of my themes. What I am pointing out is that industrial agriculture is unsustainable in the long run. If Stu 2 should bother to read Juniper, Tudge and others he should (not saying ‘he would’ because his brain doesn’t appear to function coherently — probably a buffer overflow issue) understand this.

    The next two posts of his are based upon similar fallacious argument, arguments that should be answered if he bothered to read as suggested.

  7. #7 Lionel A
    April 30, 2017

    Some more examples of how the private sector enriches themselves at the expense of the general population, including those on below living wages.

    When the oil industry pushes for more offshore drilling and at the simultaneously pushes for laws that free companies from the full consequences of an oil spill….

    See ’The Price of Inequality’ by Joseph Stiglitz for full context. This is an enlightening book for those who’s education is still in the dark ages, such as Stu 2.

    Or in a box-out pages 51-52 in ‘Why We Can’t Afford the Rich’ By Andrew Sayer we find:

    ‘Billionaires Alley’ — or benefits Street for the super-rich

    On the Bishops Avenue in London, Britain’s second-richest street, a third of the mansions are standing empty. …..

    a box-out pages 51-52 in ‘Why We Can’t Afford the Rich’ By Andrew Sayer

    That is obscene.

  8. #8 Lionel A
    April 30, 2017

    Another example of how the general public are fleeced by privatised utilities is exemplified in the water industry.

    The following is drawn from Private Island: Why Britain Now Belongs to Someone Else . I link to a review because it touches on some of the other things discussed above.

    The following is from a discussion in that book of the flooding in the UK in July 2007 specifically around the Town of Tewkesbury near Gloucester, the city in which I was born and grew up. I distinctly remember the Junior School trip to Tewkesbury Abbey, well documented in 2007 by being surrounded by a sea of muddy water, of which the spire was being refurbished. Health and Safety these days would preclude children under ten ascending some stages by ladders lashed to beams and platforms for the workers to use. Some of our number refused to go up such, I guess I even then had a distinct lack of self preservation. I learned to know the area well making many a days walk across various section of the Cotswolds and the Forest of Dean.

    A prime example of the inability of organisations to do the right thing if it means spending money on preventative measures required for protecting vital supplies from the ravages of the ‘unexpected’ events such as flooding. I place unexpected in inverted comments for a very good reason, as this example will show the company involved Severn Trent Water did not correctly calculate the degree of risk presented by the fact that in 137 years of operation the Mythe pumping station had not been flooded thus the risk of flooding was slight. This complacency arose because the Environment Agencies publicly available flood map showed large parts of Mythe underwater in the event of a 1 in 100 year event. No flooding for 137 years so no flooding tomorrow. Reality is that, ‘Mathematically, over 137 years, the chance of at least one flood on a site likely to flood every hundred years is 75 per cent.’

    More at: When the Floods Came

    I suggest you read the whole article for full context. Extract:

    Last July, a few days after the floods arrived, with 350,000 people still cut off from the first necessity of life, Severn Trent held its annual general meeting. It announced profits of £325 million, and confirmed a dividend for shareholders of £143 million. Not long afterwards the company, with the consent of the water regulator Ofwat, announced that it wouldn’t be compensating customers: all would be charged as if they had had running water, even when they hadn’t. Colin Matthews, chief executive of Severn Trent at the time of the floods, left the company soon after this to head another private monopoly, BAA,…

    Yet, like all England’s private water companies, Severn Trent would have more money to invest in rebuilding and improving the water system if it didn’t pay out such hefty sums in dividends each year to the shareholders who own it. In 2007, the year Severn Trent plc failed its customers catastrophically for the lack of a £25 million pipeline, then declined to compensate them, it handed over the equivalent of £38.65 per customer to its shareholders in dividends. Its biggest shareholder, Barclays Bank, got £5.2 million. That year, Barclays’ profits were £7.08 billion.

    More obscenities.

    These are just examples, from that wider reading that you are quick to advise others to do but where you appear so reluctant to heed your own advice.

  9. #9 Lionel A
    April 30, 2017


    More obscenities.

    These are just examples, from that wider reading that you are quick to advise others to do but where you appear so reluctant to heed your own advice.

  10. #10 Stu 2
    April 30, 2017

    @#67 previous page Jeff Harvey does indeed comment about ‘alternative and more humane political systems’.
    I merely asked where they were/are and compared to what?
    You did offer @#75 that central and south America.
    Now you’re saying there’s none????

  11. #11 Lionel A
    April 30, 2017

    Stu 2


    Put a thinking head on when reading our posts. You are distorting the overall message again. Oh and do try to read more widely, once again with a thinking head on.

  12. #12 Lionel A
    April 30, 2017

    “alternative and more humane political systems”

    Those were your words Stu2, don’t take Jeff and myself out of context or put words in our mouths. It really is like wrestling with a hagfish engaging with you.

  13. #13 Lionel A
    April 30, 2017

    Oh and look what a rentier (see Andrew Sayer) has just bought with his unearned:

    Downing Street to garden retreat: David Cameron spends £25,000 on luxury hut.

    Memoirs from arguably the worst Prime Minister in living memory, that should be good for land fill when they don’t fly off the shelves.

  14. #14 Li D
    April 30, 2017

    As someone with an avid interest in all things
    Brexit, I found that private island link interesting
    for more background to the Brexit drama.

  15. #15 Lionel A
    April 30, 2017

    Li D

    Re ‘Private Island: Why Britain Now Belongs to Someone Else’ the previous chapter on the machinations of Railtrack are worth studying.

    There is very comprehensive book on how British railways have been starved of cash, unfairly treated vis a vis road haulage and other political shenanigans from parties of both stripes but mainly those who colour themselves blue.

    There are others by this very knowledgeable ex railwayman, who still volunteers on a preserved line. These are two of the most interesting:

    ‘Railway Blunders’

    Not seen in the reviews is comment on the unbelievable farce that was the construction of the Heathrow Tunnel. The chain of contractors and subcontractors under the umbrella of BAA (note where Mathews went in the above description of the Severn Trent Water flooding farrago) is almost as unbelievable as the cavalier manner in which Balfour Beatty went about construction of the tunnel. Wiki has interesting comment on this organisation, much of it less than complimentary, surprisingly The Heathrow Tunnel is not listed there as one of its projects.

    Another interesting read is:

    ‘Tracks to Disaster’. The chapter on a signalling farce involving the Severn Tunnel provides food for thought, especially if you have need to travel through it as I did many times in the 1980s.

  16. #16 Stu 2
    April 30, 2017

    Lionel @# 12.
    @#67 previous page, Jeff said that America nullified ‘alternative and more humane political systems.’
    When I asked Jeff where they were/are and compared to what, you answered and offered central and south America for a start @#75.
    How is that taking you and Jeff out of context and putting words in your mouths?
    And Lionel.
    At no point have I claimed that anything is perfect.
    I agree that there are no perfect societies.
    Who are you arguing with?

  17. #17 Betula
    April 30, 2017

    Lionel has been arguing with Hardley, while Hardley has been arguing with himself…

    You can’t make it up.

  18. #18 Lionel A
    April 30, 2017

    OK clever cloggs find the string ‘alternative and more humane political systems’ in Jeff’s #67 on page 4.

    You keep altering the phrases being used and twist ideas around so that we may appear to be arguing things we are not.

    Whatever, you keep arguing from a point of ignorance as is being repeatedly demonstrated.

    You pick out one statement re central and south America, ignore all the other stuff that you have twisted to try to play the innocent. That slipperiness will not do, being that hagfish syndrome again. You still have not learned how the socio-politics of the world is organised.

  19. #19 Stu 2
    April 30, 2017

    & Lionel @#6.
    What ‘type’ of agriculture is OK by you?

  20. #20 Stu 2
    April 30, 2017
    Here is some information about the development of agriculture.

  21. #21 Stu 2
    May 1, 2017

    Sigh 🙁
    2nd last sentence @#67 from Jeff Harvey.
    Also read your own comment @#75.
    There’s no question that the US & other nations have interfered, I’m questioning the statement about those ‘alternative and more humane political systems’.
    Where, why & how were they ‘more humane’ & compared to what?
    Those were indeed Jeff Harvey’s words @#67 & why I asked the question.

  22. #22 Jeff Harvey
    May 1, 2017

    Stu2, once again, get off your ass and do a little bit of digging. Read Greg Grandin’s ‘Empire’s Workshop’ for starters, or virtually anything from Noam Chomsky. But I will give you three examples of many.

    Let’s start with Chile, 1970. The Chileans had the affront to elect Salavadore Allende, a social democrat who wanted to create a more egalitarian society in his country. Richard Nixon went berserk, and through his confidante Henry Kissinger ordered the US and CIA to punish Chile by ‘making the economy scream’ (his own words). And they did everything they could to achieve it, fomenting civil unrest, infiltrating trade unions and sabotaging the economy. When even that didn’t work, and Allende was re-elected, the hitmen were called in to ensure that the preferred candidate, the thug Augusto Pinochet, was installed in a violent coup on 9-11 1973. What happened thereafter is on record but ignored by western pundits. Chile experimented in absolute free markets and Chicago Boy’s style monetarism but by 1982 the economy buckled and Pinochet adopted many of the policies that were originally in the Allende government.

    Then we can briefly go to Guatemala, 1953. Again, the people had the affrontery to elect Jacobo Arbenz, a moderate social democrat who had the gall to slap a 1% tax on United Fruit Company who for years had been plundering the country. Once again, the global hegemon was outraged and fomented a violent internal coup initially through a false flag operation and then by arming fascit militias that essentially plunged the country into a civil war and paved the way for mass murderers like Rios Montt to come to power. By the latge 1980s, thanks to policies instigated in Washington, hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans were dead, incuding huge numbers of indigenous people, all because the country dared to levy a miniscule tax on a company that had been robbing the country blind for years.

    Then we have Nicaragua. Perhaps the best example. In 1979, after 47 years of torture and mass murder under Somosza, the country overthrew the regime and replaced it with with one consisting loosely of Marxists, trade unionists, environmentalists and religious leaders (the Sandanistas).

    The Sandanistas immediately attempted to restructure the economy towards a more egalitarian system and at first it worked. Indeed, by 1984 the Inter American Development Bank, hardly a bastion of left wing extremism, called Nicaragua’s economy a ‘model for Latin America’. The same year, US Secretary of State under the venal, vile Ronald Reagan, Geroge Schultz, called Nicaragua a ‘cancer’ that had to be ‘cut out’. And cut it out they did. The US waged an illegal terrorist war, employing the Contras, who had absolutely no public support whatsoever among the Nicaraguan people, and forced the country to turn from a civilian economy to a war economy. Within a year the economy began to buckle under a blockade that killed several tens of thousands of people; Nicaragua, weak and utterly defenseless, decided that their only option was to appeal to the World Court. Anticipating this move, the US withdrew from the Court several weeks before it deliberated. The Court found the US guilty of ‘unlawful aggression’ and ordered it to pay as much as 5 billion dollars worth of damages to the Nicaraguan government. The US laughed at this demand, ignored it completely, and actually increased their terrorist war, so that by 1990 the country was on its knees and by a narrow margin finally elected Washington’s chosen candidate.

    By 2000 Nicaragua was the second poorest country in the western hemipshere – just behind another US client state Haiti – never to recover. In the wake on 9-11 in the US one paper in the country said that, thanks to the US, Nicaragua has has ‘9-11’s raining down on them in slow motion’ for almost 20 years. All of this has been sent down the memory hole among western pundits.

    So Stu2, get off of your butt and learn about some history, instead of relying on the Australian or Sky News to tell you what is going on.

  23. #23 Lionel A
    May 1, 2017

    Jeff, thanks for that. One of my problem atm is finding apposite quotes from the books in my library as it is dismantled at the moment and distributed in small piles all over, some now in piles behind other piles.

    However, as we have seen Stu2 will not engage with the material he has been spoon-fed preferring the lazy option of coming back with inane, often malformed questions, frequently based upon a distortion of what we have written.

    His is classic wilful ignorance combined with a dose of DK, that latter a term which is perhaps overused but which fits to a ‘T’ here. He thinks he knows stuff.

    Darn it, I have forgotten more (cardiac arrest spurred that on somewhat but I have been claiming back ground since that in 2000 — I was out of it for about two weeks and couldn’t believe the result of the US election that year was still in the balance then being stolen by the forces of greed an usury) than he ever knew. Stu2 needs to shut up and put up — i.e. research and study.

    I heartily recommend the books on Latin America cited above and also Andrew Sayer on ‘Why we can’t afford the rich’

  24. #24 Jeff Harvey
    May 1, 2017

    Thanks for your input and knowledge too, Lionel. I see you contributing to other blogs and it is appreciated. Sorry for the numerous typos but as I am busy at my day job, writing rebuttals to the likes of Stu2 and Betula waste my valuable time. Betula is just a right wing ignoramus, whose grasp of science and history place him at the back of the class. Stu2 is wilfully ignorant, and expects us to do his homework. The information I provided above is easy to find and hardly controversial, unless you insist on believing fairy tales about the ‘basic benevolence’ of western-style democracies, and its attendant myth that our governments at the worst only make mistakes, but never commit crimes in full knowledge of their implications. As I said the other day, the death toll from US foreign policy over the past 60 years is conservatively in the tens of millions. The UK record is scarcely better, as Mark Curtis and other historians have shown in their works.

  25. #25 Lionel A
    May 1, 2017

    The UK record is scarcely better, as Mark Curtis and other historians have shown in their works.

    Indeed, one of the authors I could quote, another is John Pilger. Stu2 needs to look him up and by way of example discover Australia’s role in the genocide on East Timor. I could go on and on, as could you, but the Stu2s of the world will never admit their own ignorance that really is Dunning-Kruger in action.

  26. #26 Betula
    May 1, 2017

    Harvey – “as I am busy at my day job, writing rebuttals to the likes of Stu2 and Betula waste my valuable time”

    It’s our fault that Hardley, the super busy “scientist”, forces himself to waste his own “valuable” time responding to his own words…

    Again….you can’t make it up.

  27. #27 Lionel A
    May 1, 2017

    Again….you can’t make it up.

    Something you repeatedly do. Talking of ‘repeating’ you are repeatedly demonstrating flatulent vacuity.

  28. #28 Betula
    May 1, 2017

    LIonel – “Something you repeatedly do”

    Unfortunately for you, you have nothing to back that up.

    Speaking of backed up, looks like you are about up to your ears in it..

  29. #29 Jeff Harvey
    May 1, 2017

    Betula for once you have a point. It took you 6 years, but you are right, though. You really aren’t worth my time. Thanks for the tip.

  30. #30 Betula
    May 1, 2017

    Hardley – “You really aren’t worth my time. Thanks for the tip”

    Again. you are responding to you own words, only this time you are thanking me while doing it.

    Just remember, you’re the “scientist”….

  31. #31 Jeff Harvey
    May 2, 2017

    Third rate tree pruner, you don’t need to keep reminding me that I am the scientist. My CV and international standing make that abundantly clear. Once again, as I have said countless times, in a face-to-face debate I would skewer you, and you know it. Your simple strategy would be to throw out one ad hom after another.

    I notice that you have made no attempy to counter my point about the vile results of US foreign policy. Glad to see that even a blowhard like you knows when to shut his gob sometimes. Still, aside from vacuous nonsense greenhouses and wild turkeys I am waiting after 6 years for a substantial scientific comment from you. It appears it’s never going to happen.

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