The General Discussion Thread

[Publish Date updated to restore to front page]

Okay as an experiment here it is. Discuss your favourite generals here!

Well perhaps… Really this is simply the place to post news-items, fun-items or whatever takes your fancy. In short just post what you want here.

It’s just another wee experiment – comments welcome.


[Image: General Sir Anthony Cecil Hogmanay Melchett (Stephen Fry)]

17,285 thoughts on “The General Discussion Thread

  1. Clark: I suspect you are on the Spectrum. Its disconcerting when I strive for clarity and I get a response that is obtuse.

    Either you are being deliberately dense to guard your predisposition or you are terminally myopic. Please use some of that huge brain power to open a new nerve pathway. We’ll get along better

  2. Good morning to you Ben, and best wishes; this is a difficult time.

    I didn’t mention the things I agree with in your comment, July 15, 21:59 – actually, most of it. I’d list them now, but the words aren’t flowing for me yet this morning, so for now I’ll just wish you well.

  3. I dont need agreement, Clark

    I prefer you take the time necessary to comprehend before you bust out a comment.

    “why do you say that capitalism isn’t a problem?”

    I said it was a problem..its just not THE problem

    Get your ducks lined up before you shoot at them.

  4. Ben, I don’t regard capitalism as the problem either.

    The problem you referred to, “even more deregulation for big bizness”, I saw that coming thirty years ago. The “invisible hand” works – to an extent. Competition does push prices down and quality up (thinking of Phil, whom I miss, this is closely related to what Marx described as the falling rate of profit, which impacts badly upon workers). But for competition to work the competitors have to be reasonably equal. If some of them are hugely larger than others, the big ones can afford to buy out the small ones. The biggest ones grow, with the small ones getting eaten.

    So the system guaranteed that the largest would grow to rival and eventually exceed the power of national governments. This has happened.

    I agree that corruption stems from an aspect of human nature – again thinking of Phil, like a gene, the extent that corruption is expressed depends on the environment, in this case the social environment. My experience is that people have become noticeably more selfish as politics has moved to the right during the course of my lifetime. I hate it now; I don’t even like going out in public any more. Everyone always feels right and justified, criticism is regarded as abuse, and employees are more loyal to their employer than to decency or the public.

  5. Here, Clark – you might be interested in this:

    There’s a report there on the very profitable industry working to promote anti-vaxxer conspiracies and win fortunes for hucksters, tech giants and further the aims of ideologues. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry.

    It’s ticked up a bit with the C-19 arrival, gaining new recruits, reinforcing the denialism of existing dupes.

    I would suggest the likes of Node read it, but he’s far too clever to have his mind changed by facts, reason or logic.

  6. Interference with US elections?

    US interference with elections!

    So why might the US want Assange incarcerated for life?

    Cablegate: Mrs: “We Want to Bring Ortega Down”
    Wednesday, 6 September 2006, 10:33 pm
    Cable: Wikileaks
    Ref: 06MANAGUA1961

    Cablegate: Dora Maria Tellez Concerned About Fraud, Possible
    Thursday, 2 November 2006, 12:38 am
    Cable: Wikileaks
    Ref: 06MANAGUA2434

  7. Well, knock me down with a feather.

    It turns out that Covid19 deaths have been over-reported. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has ordered an urgent review into how Public Health England (PHE) calculates daily Covid-19 death figures. “According to a note on the Government’s website, the review means it is “pausing” the publication of the daily death figure “while this is resolved.”

    “ PHE does not appear to consider how long ago the Covid test result was, nor whether the person has been successfully treated in hospital and discharged to the community,” they said.

    “Anyone who has tested Covid positive but subsequently died at a later date of any cause will be included on the PHE Covid death figures.

    “By this PHE definition, no-one with Covid in England is allowed to ever recover from their illness.

    “A patient who has tested positive, but successfully treated and discharged from hospital, will still be counted as a Covid death even if they had a heart attack or were run over by a bus three months later.”

  8. I think we’ve known it all along, Node, it was pretty obvious but in the beginning it was considered important to get people complying with lockdown and an exaggerated mortality rate was considered beneficial.

    Now the important thing is getting people working again getting people out and about spending money and they are realising how short sighted they were in the beginning. Even telling people wearing masks makes shopping safe now isn’t getting them out onto the High Streets.

    Exaggerating the problem to control people into doing what you want them to do invariably has unintended consequences in the long term whether it is COVID19 or Climate Change.

  9. Glenn “I would suggest the likes of Node read it”

    Why? We once had a long discussion about vaccines and nothing I said then would justify your remark. You finished up by saying you respected the consideration behind my views.

    Since then I’ve never said anything about vaccines on this or CM’s blog, except to register strong concern about the likelihood of compulsory covid vaccines. I believe most sensible people share that concern. Do you?

    You have no grounds to repeatedly label me as an anti-vaxxer but we both know why you do it.

  10. Glenn, thanks for the link. I’ve been looking around the site. So far, I have impressions but no conclusions. I’m troubled by the polarisation that is creating the problems it addresses. Difficult times.

  11. Fred.

    If the figures were exaggerated to make people take the problem seriously, then what are the true figures, ie what it the true extent of the problem? Why, at this stage, do we not know the true figures to within a factor of ten? The future of the world literally depends on these figures and nobody is making any effort to determine them. In fact, just the opposite – nearly every country in the world changed its laws on registering deaths in ways that make it impossible to determine them.

  12. “Why, at this stage, do we not know the true figures to within a factor of ten?”

    That’s not remotely so. We have the figures of death from all causes, from multiple countries, and the peaks are clearly visible in the curves. Something caused those peaks. There are multiple different environments in which death and cause of death are recorded; a large proportion of these have a high degree of accuracy about whether covid-19 was the cause or not, eg. deaths in hospital where staff know what kind of treatment was required, lung scans, blood analysis and specific covid-19 testing were performed, the Diamond Princess where everyone was tested multiple times.

    Node’s source is a political source.

  13. Node’s linked Evening Express article is actually sourced from the Daily Mail site, which includes a graph:

    The difference between the two curves is not very great, certainly nothing remotely approaching a factor of ten.

    The Daily Mail’s headline spin “INFLATED” is probably contradicted and certainly not confirmed by the data given in the body of the article:

    Covid-19 deaths from Department of Health: 45,053
    Covid-19 deaths from National statistical bodies: 55,216
    Total excess deaths: 65,249

    Regarding my remark above: – “Node’s source is a political source.”

    Checking the source articles I see that the section Node quoted is from a couple of Oxford University statisticians, not from the Health Secretary as I had mistakenly inferred from Node’s comment.

  14. I keep being told that the only figures that matter are the excess deaths statistics, like that tells the whole story. Well there are other figures which tell a different story. It is hardly controversial to say that statistics can be manipulated (“Lies, damn lies, and statistics”) so it is not sufficient for you to declare these ones are right and those ones are wrong. At the very least we need an explanation for the discrepancy.

    The Italian Institute of Health issued a statement saying only 12% of Italy’s reported Covid19 deaths actually listed Covid19 as the cause of death. British figures concur (I can’t lay my hands on them right now but they were from UK gov). That’s a possible inflation of 8.5. Additionally, there are false positive tests, false diagnoses when tests weren’t done, and more. This supports my ‘factor of ten’ uncertainty claim.

    Additionally, your excess mortality figure takes no account of deaths caused by lockdown rather than the virus. We know there are some, probably many, but there is no attempt to establish the proportions.

    Why is there such complacency about the lack of hard facts in a matter of global historic importance?

  15. A common cause of death in Britain is pneumonia yet pneumonia is never found in an otherwise healthy person, it is a secondary illness which attacks bodies weakened by another cause. Is pneumonia the real cause of death or whatever weakened the body? Someone who dies of pneumonia while they have COVID I would say should be part of the COVID statistics.

    Deaths caused by lockdown are deaths which wouldn’t have occurred if it hadn’t been for COVID so I would count them as meaningful.

  16. Someone who dies of pneumonia while they have COVID I would say should be part of the COVID statistics.

    What about someone who gets run over by a bus while they have COVID? Look, the Italian Ministry of Health are better qualified than either of us to decide cause of death. They’ve been doing it for decades before covid. They were so concerned about their reporting method exaggerating the danger of covid that they issued a statement specifically to correct that false impression: “only 12% of Italy’s reported Covid19 deaths actually listed Covid19 as the cause of death.”

    Deaths caused by lockdown are deaths which wouldn’t have occurred if it hadn’t been for COVID so I would count them as meaningful.

    You wouldn’t if you were trying to find out the health impact of covid. Why are you so complacent about the lack of hard facts in a matter of such importance?

    I’m going out now for the weekend.

  17. “What about someone who gets run over by a bus while they have COVID?”

    The number of people being run over by buses should be about the same during the COVID epidemic as in previous years, maybe less because there are fewer buses and people about which would count as lives saved because of COVID19.

    The reason why excess deaths is so meaningful is because it doesn’t matter if the cause of death was being run over by a bus or not.

  18. I remember when excess deaths, or lack of them, mattered to people.

    I remember back in March when fewer deaths this year than in the previous 5 years was presented here as evidence that COVID was not a real threat.

    Suddenly they don’t matter any more.

  19. Fred, 16:31 – well said. Thank you.

    However, 11:41 – regarding “Exaggerating the problem [of] Climate Change”, I really think you should take the risks more seriously:

    Last November, the world’s most prestigious science journal, Nature, published a study by eminent climate scientists warning that nine major ‘tipping points’ which regulate global climate stability are dangerously close to being triggered. These include the slowing down of ocean circulation in the North Atlantic, massive deforestation of the Amazon, and accelerating ice loss from the West Antarctic ice sheet. Any one of these nine tipping points, if exceeded, could push the Earth’s climate into catastrophic runaway global warming. There could even be a ‘domino effect’ whereby one tipping point triggers another tipping point which, in turn, triggers the next one and so on, in a devastating cascade.

    – Given the normal custom of academics to use sober language, the warning statements in the pages of Nature were stark:

    – ‘The growing threat of abrupt and irreversible climate changes must compel [our emphasis] political and economic action on emissions.’

    – The researchers are clear that:

    – ‘we are in a climate emergency and [our study of tipping points] strengthens this year’s chorus of calls for urgent climate action — from schoolchildren to scientists, cities and countries.’

    – In short, there is ‘an existential threat to civilization’ and ‘no amount of economic cost–benefit analysis is going to help us.’

    – Scientists have been sounding the alarm for some time that we are in the midst of a sixth mass extinction in Earth’s long biological history. But this time the cause is not a natural calamity, such as a huge volcanism event or an asteroid strike, but human ‘civilisation’. Worse still, the careful evidence accrued by biologists in study after study indicates that the global mass loss of species is accelerating. In 2017, a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reported that billions of populations of animals have disappeared from the Earth amidst what they called a ‘biological annihilation.’ They said the findings were worse than previously thought.

    – Earlier this month, a new study revealed that five hundred species of land animals are likely to become extinct over the next two decades. Gerardo Ceballos, an ecologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and lead author of the paper, declared:

    – ‘We’re eroding the capabilities of the planet to maintain human life and life in general.’

    – While humans continue to destroy species and natural habitats, Ceballos and his colleagues warn of a ‘cascading series of impacts’, including more frequent occurrences of new diseases and pandemics, such as Covid-19. He summarised:

    – ‘All of us need to understand that what we do in the next five to 10 years will define the future of humanity.’

    – But the crucial window for action is likely much shorter than that. And it is not just the ‘usual suspects’ of Greens and wild-eyed radicals who claim so. According to Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, the world has just six months to avert climate crisis. This is the timescale required to ‘prevent a post-lockdown rebound in greenhouse gas emissions that would overwhelm efforts to stave off climate catastrophe’.

    – Samuel Alexander, a lecturer with the University of Melbourne and research fellow at the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, told Voice of Action that the looming end of organised human society would not be a single event. Instead, we are approaching a stage:

    – ‘where we face decades of ongoing crises, as the existing mode of civilisation deteriorates, but then recovers as governments and civil society tries to respond, and fix things, and keep things going for a bit longer.’

    – He added:

    – ‘Capitalism is quite good at dodging bullets and escaping temporary challenges to its legitimacy and viability. But its condition, I feel, is terminal.’

    – Meanwhile, Steffen believes that current mass protests, such as Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion, are not yet a sign of collapse but one of ‘growing instability’. Alexander concurs, saying that it is a sign of ‘steam building up within a closed system’. Without large-scale grassroots action and radical shifts in government policies, we are ‘likely to see explosions of civil unrest increasingly as things continue to deteriorate’. However, he offered hope that, with sufficient public pressure, the future could still be ‘post-growth / post capitalist / post-industrial in some form.’

    – Graham Turner, a former senior Australian government research scientist, observed:

    – ‘I think if we all manage to live a simpler and arguably more fulfilling life then it would be possible still with some technological advances to have a sustainable future, but it would seem that it’s more likely … that we are headed towards or perhaps on the cusp of a sort of global collapse.’

    – He fears that the public as a whole will only demand change once ‘they’re actually losing their jobs or losing their life or seeing their children directly suffer’.

    – One positive practical step that people could take, he says, is to push for changes in the law governing corporations:

    – ‘so that corporations don’t have more legal rights than people, and are not compelled to make a profit for shareholders.’

    – Meanwhile, Siberia, of all places, is undergoing a prolonged heatwave, described by one climate scientist as ‘undoubtedly alarming’, which is driving 2020 towards being the globally hottest year on record.

  20. Fred, the above are not what the IPCC estimate to be the most likely scenario, but they are not ruled out by the IPCC, and they are serious scientific positions. If Roger Hallam or Rupert Read get a bit worked up and possibly overstate, I think you should be more understanding, and take into consideration the thirty years of procrastination due to organised denial, distortion and conspiracy theory that has been well funded by the fossil fuel lobby.

    Yes, people are getting desperate. They’re prepared to superglue themselves to things and get arrested. But not without reason. OK, the collapse of civilisation and consequent gigadeath may not be the most likely scenario, but it’s such a horrendous outcome that a 10%, even a 1% chance of it must be avoided like the plague. People wouldn’t get on buses or aircraft if they had only a 99% chance of surviving.

    Mallen Baker says that XR are trying to “overthrow capitalism”, but there are plenty of pro-capitalists in XR. Another way of looking at is that XR is trying to save capitalism from itself.

  21. Node, 16:01 –

    ‘…the Italian Ministry of Health […] issued a statement […]: “only 12% of Italy’s reported Covid19 deaths actually listed Covid19 as the cause of death.”’

    Node, what was the date of that statement? I’ll bet you it was before the big peak in the Italian death rate, and they no longer stand by it. So when you get back, please post the date of the statement.

  22. “Fred, the above are not what the IPCC estimate to be the most likely scenario, but they are not ruled out by the IPCC, and they are serious scientific positions.”

    Better get building those carbon neutral nuclear power stations then.

    The reason they are not what the IPCC estimate to be the most likely scenario is because none of the very comprehensive climate models to date have predicted it. They all predict a slow gradual incremental warming unless greenhouse gas emissions are reduced with no foreseeable points of no return.

    I’m sorry if this does not provide the sense of urgency needed to spur the masses on to revolution but it is the scientific reality at this moment in time.

  23. “I remember when excess deaths, or lack of them, mattered to people”

    And I remember when those who wanted no action on climate change kept saying “those are just climate models”. They said that for decades.

    But it makes no difference. Even the IPCC says we need to take drastic action.

    “They all predict a slow gradual incremental warming…” …in human terms. On geophysical timescales, it’s the blink of an eye, something that’s never happened before:

    And the results occur 100 to 300 years later than the emissions that cause them; greenhouse gases act like blankets that we can’t take off when we get too hot. The changes being reversible is absolutely no help if civilisation breaks down before they can be reversed.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency

    William J Ripple, Christopher Wolf, Thomas M Newsome, Phoebe Barnard, William R Moomaw

    BioScience, Volume 70, Issue 1, January 2020, Pages 8–12,

    Published: 05 November 2019


    Scientists have a moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat and to “tell it like it is.” On the basis of this obligation and the graphical indicators presented below, we declare, with more than 11,000 scientist signatories from around the world, clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency

    Exactly 40 years ago, scientists from 50 nations met at the First World Climate Conference (in Geneva 1979) and agreed that alarming trends for climate change made it urgently necessary to act. Since then, similar alarms have been made through the 1992 Rio Summit, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, and the 2015 Paris Agreement, as well as scores of other global assemblies and scientists’ explicit warnings of insufficient progress (Ripple et al. 2017). Yet greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are still rapidly rising, with increasingly damaging effects on the Earth’s climate. An immense increase of scale in endeavors to conserve our biosphere is needed to avoid untold suffering due to the climate crisis (IPCC 2018).

    The climate crisis is closely linked to excessive consumption of the wealthy lifestyle. The most affluent countries are mainly responsible for the historical GHG emissions and generally have the greatest per capita emissions (table S1).

    Despite 40 years of global climate negotiations, with few exceptions, we have generally conducted business as usual and have largely failed to address this predicament (figure 1). The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected (figure 2, IPCC 2018). It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity (IPCC 2019). Especially worrisome are potential irreversible climate tipping points and nature’s reinforcing feedbacks (atmospheric, marine, and terrestrial) that could lead to a catastrophic “hothouse Earth,” well beyond the control of humans (Steffen et al. 2018). These climate chain reactions could cause significant disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies, potentially making large areas of Earth uninhabitable.


    Excessive extraction of materials and overexploitation of ecosystems, driven by economic growth, must be quickly curtailed to maintain long-term sustainability of the biosphere. We need a carbon-free economy that explicitly addresses human dependence on the biosphere and policies that guide economic decisions accordingly. Our goals need to shift from GDP growth and the pursuit of affluence toward sustaining ecosystems and improving human well-being by prioritizing basic needs and reducing inequality.


    Mitigating and adapting to climate change while honoring the diversity of humans entails major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems. We are encouraged by a recent surge of concern. Governmental bodies are making climate emergency declarations. Schoolchildren are striking. Ecocide lawsuits are proceeding in the courts. Grassroots citizen movements are demanding change, and many countries, states and provinces, cities, and businesses are responding.

    As the Alliance of World Scientists, we stand ready to assist decision-makers in a just transition to a sustainable and equitable future. We urge widespread use of vital signs, which will better allow policymakers, the private sector, and the public to understand the magnitude of this crisis, track progress, and realign priorities for alleviating climate change. The good news is that such transformative change, with social and economic justice for all, promises far greater human well-being than does business as usual. We believe that the prospects will be greatest if decision-makers and all of humanity promptly respond to this warning and declaration of a climate emergency and act to sustain life on planet Earth, our only home.

  24. “They all predict a slow gradual incremental warming”

    Is this even true? I thought IPCC modelling reports synthesized a median from a large number of models, each producing a large number of runs with variations in parameters, and a few such runs produced far more extreme results – ie. extreme change was shown to be possible.

    When modelling a complex of many non-linear systems, it would be exceedingly odd if none of the models produced discontinuous output.

    Fred, your assertion looks to me unreasonable, extremely unlikely, so by the conventions of logical positivism I think it is up to you to substantiate it, or retract. Prove to me that none of the models produce large, rapid change.

  25. And while you’re at it Fred, you have to check whether those models incorporate the feedback paths that result in large, rapid change…

    A model can be designed to be linear or non-linear, depending on the use it is to be put to. Models for predicting regional changes from global changes will have been designed to be linear, or their output would be too unpredictable to base local policy upon. Such models are deliberately incapable of simulating tipping points.

  26. Here is one of the simplest mathematical models. It is called the logistic difference equation. It is a population growth model, not a climate model. It is unrealistically simplistic for almost any physical system, but it illustrates (1) sensitive dependence upon initial conditions and (2) that change in a single parameter can fundamentally transform the behaviour of the entire system.

    x is the variable, representing the population. r is a constant, representing the growth rate. x is started between 0 and 1. Here’s the system:

    New value of x =
    existing value of x times r times (1 minus existing value of x)

    or in short, repeat the following, substituting in the new value of x each time:

    x <= xr(1-x)

    You'll find that this extremely simple system has wildly varying behaviour depending on the value of r. Low values of r lead to values of x that stabilise. Higher values of r lead to a population that eventually oscillates between two values of x. Higher still leads to four repeating x values, higher still to eight x values and so on, until, above a critical value of r, x varies chaotically between limits. If r exceeds 4, limits are exceeded, x heads for infinity and the simulation cannot be continued, ie. the system breaks down catastrophically.

  27. NB: in

    x <= xr(1-x)

    I have used <= to look like an arrow pointing left, meaning "take the value calculated on the right and substitute it into the value on the left", rather than "the value on the left is less than or equal to the value on the right".

    Note to Ben: rather than a symptom of autism, this comment reflects my long experience that when commenting on blogs, any ambiguity that can be misinterpreted, will be misinterpreted; a variant of Murphy's law.

  28. Clark: I agree those missing italics was an error in communication that could NEVER be overcome even with the context of my comment.

    But I do wonder why, when I have made clear on many occasions
    I am a moderate, not a capitalistic conservative, that your reflexive action is to conclude I am a Capitalist with a capital ‘C’. Did I miss a hyphen or fail to italicize somewhere?

    Let me repeat with alacrity: I curse BOTH ends of that spectrum of Right and Left as a political argument.

    But both capitalism and socialism need each other to make deeply flawed humanity work socially and economically.

    I hope that’s the last time I have to repeat myself

  29. Ben, I didn’t conclude that you’re a capitalist. I interpreted “the problem” as the problem under discussion at the time, which is, why is it proving so hard to stop the ecological and climate crises?, and got a bit confused.

    “both capitalism and socialism need each other to make deeply flawed humanity work socially and economically”

    That’s pretty close to my own position. Expanding a bit, I don’t see the point of governments of the Right, because capitalism will zoom to the Right far more than is healthy, completely of its own accord. One of governments’ primary functions is to prevent that, and to apply handicaps eg. increasing taxation to corporations in proportion to how big and powerful they get, to give the smaller fish a chance, or innovation and commercial diversity will be throttled. The governments we’re currently putting up with do the opposite.

    Anyway, what’s up, friend? If I seem autistic to you, you seem tetchy to me. Actually, I can probably guess; the US president is a moron who’s helping a virus more than the people he’s meant to serve, and it’s getting scary. The US figures are simply appalling; the richest, most powerful nation that ever existed, bristling with nukes, military bases all over the world, and it can’t, or rather won’t even protect its population from 32,000 base pairs of RNA.

    I was shopping in town today. I put on my mask before entering each shop, of course. Less than one in ten were doing so. But then Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens recently Tweeted:

    “the primary purpose of enforced muzzle wearing in public spaces (which protects nobody against anything) is to humiliate the wearer and make him or her accustomed to unquestioning obedience to authority”.

  30. “the primary purpose of enforced muzzle wearing in public spaces (which protects nobody against anything) is to humiliate the wearer and make him or her accustomed to unquestioning obedience to authority”.

    That’s my conclusion as well, clark. No one can tell or suggest they do something that is considerate of others because it infringes on their Freedumbs as I describe their ignorant, stupid and crazy behavior.

    It separates the two camps definitively as those who favor property over People versus those who place People as priority.

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