Saturday, 27 February 2010

Couple of updates...

I invited John Kapp to respond to the blog regarding his rather imaginative claims of being able to cure all ills through the power of meditation.  No response as yet and given his past chattiness I would be surprised if that changed...

The Guardian did however get back to me saying why the post recommending people read Newspeak by David Edwards...

CiF Moderator:    Your comment was removed for being off-topic.

Well, I'll give them that one because I did forget to illustrate the relevance to the thread within the post itself, adding it immediately afterwards.  That lesson has already been learned so we'll see how it goes from here.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Guardian not answering...

Having had the first post regarding 'Newspeak' deleted from the Guardian comments board, the replacement and two others on separate articles have, at last looking, been left in place.   I had eliminated the possibility that they could interpret it as commercial by simply referencing the book rather than telling people to read it.  I also make sure the post is relevant to the article.

This leaves the only excuse for deletion as being if the Guardian interpret the book as misrepresentation of their journalists, and by extension the reference of it.  This however would represent a massive loophole for the Guardian, one that would have to be brought to light.

I am glad that the others have stayed up.    Judging by this email exchange I doubt i'll be getting a response regarding the first post:

Dear Sir/Madam

this comment thread, I had a message deleted at 4:33pm, under the name usualsuspect83.  I would very much like to know for what reason it was deleted.


Ben King 


 to me
show details Feb 15 (3 days ago)

If you let us know your user name we can look into this for you. 

Ben King

 to cif.moderation
show details Feb 15 (3 days ago)
Hi. Thanks for the reply. As noted in the previous email my user name is usualsuspect83.
Yours, Ben.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

This one stays... though no answer as to why the first was deleted yet

Another day another example straight from the pages of 'Newspeak'.  This time it is an article letting us, the reader, in on what the people of Afghanistan really think about this latest offensive.  Turns out, they are buying into Taliban 'conspiracy theories', tacitly implying a contrast with the 'reality' that is the Wests pursuit of peace:

The conspiracy theories the Taliban were suggesting?  Well, they are nicely summarized by this poster...

So I put this up:

  • usualsuspect83 usualsuspect83

    16 Feb 2010, 3:52PM
    The book 'Newspeak in the 21st Century' gives vital context for when reading articles such as this in mainstream media. After reading their detailed and much researched arguments, one can really start reading 'between the lines' so to speak... it's incredible just how one sided arguments can be whilst seeming to be balanced. This is relevent here because:
    Case in point: The framing of Taliban ideas as conspiracy theories is presented simply as fact in a tacit acceptence of hte 'real' motives of benevolent security. Yet does recent History not warn us (in particular journalists who succumbed to it, and transmitted it to the masses on their behalf) to be extremely critical of the 'official' line?
    I have absolutely no problem with macro-geo-political explanations for our tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan... no historian would since it is what has been the dominating force behind foreign policy for, well, forever.
    That book is amazing. The last time I mentioned it my comment was deleted by the moderator. I would like to point out that I have done my research and this cannot be regarding as off-topic or commercial in nature. The one recourse left to the Guardian in its guidlines would be to decide the book itself mis-represnts its journalists and so by extension a reference to the book does also.
    If this comment is deleted for that reason then it highlights a dangerous loophole through which the Guardian can delete anything it regards as damaging to itself. If that were the case, it strongly needs addressing and bringing to light.

    It's still up so I guess that's the green light.  I wonder if they'll put up with it constantly happening?

    We shall see!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

A new campaign... and my, it's off to a flyer.

Having read 'Newspeak in the 21st Century' by MediaLens duo David Edwards and David Cromwell and having become aware of just how much all mainstream media is subservient to those in power, I thought that I would recommend this book on the Guardian comments section after an article on iran (something covered in the book).  I thought that perhaps it was something I could do each time a relevant article and see how many messages it would take before they started taking them down.  Well, the answer is one.


13 Feb 2010, 4:33PM

Your comment has been removed by a moderator.  Replies may also be deleted.

Even though I said at the end of the comment, "Don't be surprised if this comment is deleted by the moderators".  You couldn't make it up.

I'd like to point out that it is entirely relevant to the piece in question, illustrated by the fact that they devote an entire chapter to the media portrayal of Iran.  Let's see what excuse they have for me... and how long they will put up with me recommending the book on their comments page.

I have sent this email:

Dear Sir/Madam

On this comment thread, I had a message deleted at 4:33pm, under the name usualsuspect83.  I would very much like to know for what reason it was deleted. 


Ben King

Lets see what they say.

Well, this isn't going well...

The following emails are cut & pasted here as an illustration of why it is so difficult to engage with practitioners of unfounded claims.  As a bit of background, I originally met John Kapp at a transition town meeting in Brighton.  To be fair, he clearly cares about what he does and I don't for one minute think that he is knowingly deceiving people with claims of being able to prevent and cure any disease through meditation. 

Unfortunately, respect to ones elders does not seem to extend the other way in this case.  Having created a seperate email account and a pseudonym, I enquired as to what limits there were with regard to the powers of meditation.  Unfortunately, it seems I was somewhat stoned when setting up the account and John noticed my duel identity.  He also told me there were no limits, that disease is a software problem... 

Ben King

show details Jan 29

 to johnkapp

Apologies for the pseudonym.  My regular email account name would instantly give away my skeptical nature and I find it only serves to stifle debate before it begins.  I wished to determine whether your claim on the flyer was intentional or an unfortunate mistake before I proceeded.

Let me start by countering some common reactions to the following comments so that you can read what I have to say knowing the context in which it is said.  If pressed, I would have no problem identifying myself as Buddhist.  I have never been religious: even to my very young mind religion did not have satisfactory answers to my questions.  My learning has been in History and Philosophy, including philosophy of cognitive science.  It is through these influences that I determined a world view which I realised was inherently Buddhist in it's philosophy, acknowledging as it did our connected nature (through memetics (culture), or at a more fundamental level the smallest denominator of energy, perhaps strings, perhaps not) and the rejection of a distinct entity of 'self', or 'soul'.  I am also an avid follower of science and yet I am the first to point to it's flaws and the effects that political/corporate power is having on some sectors of research.  I marvel at the wonders of western medicine whilst also bemoaning the lack of humanity that allows for such a contrast in juxtaposition with the placebo effect of alternative medicine.  I am of the opinion that it should simply be re-labelled the compassion effect, a more apt title and one that would allow alternative medicine to continue without the need for false claims.

With this in mind, I regret to say I have to express my utmost objection to your advertisement.  Your reply indicated to me the conceptual flaw under-pinning everything you claim.  Whilst the software can have a mitigating or aggravating effect on illness and disease (in some cases, it is true, being the cause as well, opening up the opportunity for it to also be the cure), this is simply not the case for disease! 

What about germs?  What about immune systems?  The software resides in the Brain.  What about the rest of the body?  The gangrene in one's arm is not a product of the mind, it's causes are well understood.  What about HIV/AIDS?  How is that a software problem?  It is a biological entity. 

The only way disease could be a software problem is if there existed a grand conspiracy of hundreds of thousands of physicians, stretching thousands of years back, simply making stuff up and hiding 'the truth'.  This is clearly not the case.  The body is hardware and disease is a hardware problem.

You simply cannot advertise that meditation can cure all illness.  You are potentially appealing to the most vulnerable subset of society, those desperate for anything that might claim to help.  Having looked at your website, I am in no doubt that you believe what you say.  Buddhism should teach you that we are products of our environment, products of cause and effect.  Looking at our world and it's history, it is clear that more people have truely believed in falsehoods than have been lucky enough to experience objective truth.    I believe firmly in our capacity to be good to one another, but key to that transition is in recognising our own flaws and biases and inherent susceptibility to logical fallacy.  I hope you take this in the spirit it was intended, as a concerned fellow human, and not as an ignorant witch-hunt.  Unfortunately, it does not change the fact that it is morally reprehensible that you advertise this claim.

I know of no Buddhist teaching, certainly not from his holiness the Dalai Lama, who would claim such a thing.  Why do Buddhist monks still get illness and die of disease? Your claims would have been denounced as heretical in times gone by for blaspheme, such are the divine implications!  The Dalai Lama is a fierce advocate of science, revelling in it's capacity to teach us about our universe.  Your false claims are counter to the very tradition (meditation) that you use in its application.

I am sorry to have had to say all this.

Yours sincerely (this time..)


P.S with regard to the anecdotal evidence you mentioned, there are many accounts in literature of psychological disablement.  In one notable study, someone who had been fed all their lives by someone else was left in a room with the food just out of her reach.  As she got hungrier, she reached out for the food when her mind wandered.  It was an instinctive reaction bypassing the part of the brain required for intentionality.  She wasn't faking, but it showed that it wasn't a hardware problem.  With this knowledge, they managed to regain her motor-function skills.

Doctors are not unaware of the mind.  People like Ramachandran (look him up on youtube, delightful voice) are working wonders in understanding its hold and influence on the body.  Yet anecdotal evidence is dismissed for a reason.  There are 6 billion people on this planet.  The numbers alone dictate that many crazy things will happen to a whole lot of people.  Our knowledge is nowhere near complete enough to understand the multitude of strange cases that are bound, by laws of statistics, to show up.  It is a logical fallacy that we are all to susceptible too. 

John kapp

 to me
show details Feb 2 (11 days ago)

Dear Ben Thanks for this. Do you have a question? Yours John

Ben King

 to John
show details Feb 2 (11 days ago)

Dear John,

I asked a few questions in the previous email.  The more pertinent question though is do you intend to continue advertising this claim of being able to cure any disease?


Ben King

 to John
show details Feb 7 (6 days ago)

Dear John,

I want you to know that I have no personal gripe regarding this matter.  It is simply a matter of fact.  I put a lot of thought into that email out of respect and would greatly appreciate a reply of equal thought and respect.



John kapp

 to me
show details Feb 7 (6 days ago)

Dear Ben Yes Yours John

So, complete failure to engage, seemingly willfull childishness and evasiveness.  What can I do?  It is so frustrating that people can profit from false hopes and no-one seems to stand up to them.  It is like a religious taboo, not being able to criticise their 'beliefs'.  Im sorry, I don't agree with that.  
John, if you read this, I am still waiting for a grown-up correspondence regarding the matter.

Friday, 12 February 2010

What's around the corner for this planet?

Having just had a flick through the book 'The Coming Insurresction', I can't help but be quite pleased that such memes are on the loose.  If you haven't heard about it, it is a short book, a radical-left examination of the failures of capitalism and a call-to-arms manifesto outlining tactics and stratedgies for securing a post-capitalist society.

Now, I don't for one minute think it's all so easy.  Getting people to unite under one banner is impossible in the very near future without considerable indoctrination through localised monopolies on memetic production.  But here's the rub... it's going to happen anyway, revolution or no.

What differentiates individuals morality is the breadth of folk encompassed within it.  In this way I regard someone who professes a desire for the world as a whole as more just thn those who limit their moral intent to those of the same socio-economic, race, religion or nationality.  It's a matter of expanding morality to the one common denominator: humanity on a global level.

Capitalism knows this.  Don't think so?  Think back 100 years to when capitalism treated the majority of it's own people to the kind of exploitation now reserved for the third-world.  This is not a trivial statement, nor does it condone the exploitation that exists today.  It merely states that capitalism was forced to outsource exploitation (at least, the explicit kind) to where it remained hidden.

Yet, since capitalism insists on spreading communication infrastructure to all corners of the globe, what was once hidden is now being opened to the light of day.  It is the latest part of the transformation of capitalism.  Sure those at the top are still in a selfish bubble, but the majority of people who partake in the capitalist model don't, and they are subject to change alongside the rest of society.

Capitalism relies on consumers, consumers that are becoming more moral as their daily lives become more global in influence.  There is only so far capitalism can go in claiming the monopoly on memetic forces that would be needed to stop the memetic drive toward equality.  For capitalism to stop becoming more moral it would require the state to become more authoritarian. 

This is why the sort of revolution spouted by 'The Coming Insurrection' is not only wrong but, if implemented, counter-productive.  I say if implemented because until then, they merely represent a data-set from the far left that can be assimilated along with the other biased, radical agendas and contribute to a diverse memepool, the only thing necessary for moral progression.  That revolutionary ideology is no longer needed I feel, a relic from centuries past that, through it's ongoing appeal helps show that injustice is still very much a part of the capitalist system.  They need to take a leaf out of the Zapatista movement in Mexico, who laid down their arms until the people told them they were needed again.  That was in the 90's and they are still true to their word.

It need not be that way.  Imagine the same system but with coops instead of shareholders, with a pay ratio cap between top and bottom.  Bam!  You have the most moral system of commerce yet.  Combine it with greater direct democracy and a devolution of power to the local level and you have a more just system of society than ever before.

It will happen of it's own accord.  It is most rational.  And as it becomes ever clearer, those dissenting voices in power who risk losing that power will seem ever more irrational.  As much as we may dislike this corporate, sham democracy and immoral capitalism, they are not exempt from change.  THAT is the key, THAT is why it'll be alright in the end.

So long as we keep the internet free.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

I knew the U.S prison system was fucked but really...?!

Merrily watching a knowledge based comedy panel show in the U.K called QI (I highly recommend it) the mood in the studio changed from fun frivolity to tense, silent shock and disgust as the host, Stephen Fry, started reading some stats regarding the american prison system.  This is off the top of my head so forgive slight inaccuracies...

1 in 99.2 Americans are in Jail... some 2.3 million people.  That is a higher proportion than South Africa, Iran, China, Russia... anywhere in the world in fact!  Now I knew this already... it was the following that had the place shocked...

Prison labour is responsible for the production of 100% of U.S bullets, flak jackets and helmets as well as producing other military equipment.  They produce 70% of paint and 36% of household appliances.  In fact, there is so much cheap labour that it allows American companies to compete with those who use cheap foreign labour in Mexico.

If they dont work, they get put in Solitary confinement. 

OK, so here we have the capitalist system incentivising ever more prisoners to satisfy what is in effect a modern slave trade.  That they are predominently Black does nothing to assuage that comparison... 1 in 9 young, black men are in jail.

The outrageous 3 strikes and your out rule means that someone who stole four cookies got life.  The argument for three strikes rests on the assumption that that wouldn't happen.   Having a system rest on nothing more than what should be rational is the most stupid, unworkable system I could think of. 

That is beyond dark.  That is fucking 18th century shit.  How on earth is this tolerated?  Surely it either means that a) America has the culture most specifically suited to create criminals in the world or b) the numbers are inflated through racism and financial incentives to imprison people for slave labour and government contracts.

Either way it's Lose/Lose. 


On another note, here in the UK four of our MP's have decided that in order to worm out of the criminal charges laid at their door for expenses fraud, they should use 'parliamentary priviledge' to argue it is a matter for parliament, not the criminal courts.

'Parliamentary priviledge' dates back to the 17th century and essentially protects them from being libelled for anything they may say in parliament.  It is an important rule, allowing MP's freedom to raise issues and questions in the House.

By using it to try and cover their asses on fraud is an absolute disgrace.  It is as good as admitting that they think they are above the law.  It is yet another nail in the coffin of public perception of MP's.

If anyone in America wants to know how you get all the public against all the government?  LOOK INTO THEIR EXPENSES! Over half of our MP's have been forced to pay back more than £1.2m.  I'd be very surprised if it wasn't the same in every democratic government.  It's good fodder at times of recession... expecially if those expenses include 'cleaning the moat' (I shit you not...!)

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Fucking Hell, are we not in 2010 or what?

Charla Nash Pictures after Attack

Heres the link: ... ck-004711/

The website itself doesn't appear racist in the slightest (though that's only after a brief viewing), just a shitload of news stories.  Yet how in the hell could that blatent, disgusting racism just slip by the editor? It's American I think... is there no regulatory group they can be reported to?

I cannot find any information beyond references to the first names of the contributors, only a straight up email form.  So get on it people!  Show your disgust, and if anyone has any info on how I can get a phone number for someone behind this let me know!

Update: 6/feb

It seems that the contributor name of the above mentioned post on is 'shezab'.  A bit of googling and looking back through his post history it looks like he's a kook republican fan who's posts have a distinctly racist/ignorant theme.

Unfortunately, looks like the email to the site is fucked (surprisingly they don't advertise the address itself..).  More unfortunately, that ridiculous monstrosity above is still there too.