Friday, 29 January 2010

Blair at the Chilcott enquiry

I have to say I am appalled.  Blair, looking nervous at the beginning, soon realised it really was going to be this easy.  The cosy chat he had today with the enquiry team was an utter disgrace.  See here for a break-down on the main reasons why.

I have something to say however that I have yet to read elsewhere.  It requires no guesswork or questions to be answered, it merely means recognising the immorality of what he admits too already!

So, here's his argument. After 9/11, the concept of risk had grown regarding the danger of terrorism. The intelligence that was available to him showed beyond doubt that WMD's existed. Given that Iraq had been uncooperative for 10 years of sanctions, the post-9/11 environment demanded that something be done. The risk was there and had to be dealt with.

This alone in my mind is confession of guilt. Let me break it down. 9/11 and Iraq are utterly unrelated. However repugnent he may be, Saddam had shown absolutely no inclination to commit terrorist acts on our shores, as would presumably have been required to claim self-defense. 9/11 showed where the threat lay, and it wasn't state sponsered. Hell, Saudi Arabia represented a greater risk (A tyranny who citizens were directly part of 9/11) but we didn't go for them...

Yet he treats it all as part of the same narrative. In order to minimise the risk of a terrorist attack on UK soil, we must conduct a full-scale war in another country.  Didn't your mama ever tell you two wrongs don't make a rightDid he think for a minute about the far more real 'risk' to the millions of Iraqis that such a war would entail?

In summary: A few thousand MIGHT die of a terrorist attack. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis WILL die or become refugees in the event of war. His whole argument rests on the notion of nationalism being a justification!  Does No-one see that?!

We live in a world that we now have to share collectively.  We MUST adopt thinking that regards ALL humans on an equal footing.  The nationalistic concept of social-contract simply will not do if it leads to decisions such as these.  Old thinking combined with modern communication technology equals very fucking bad idea!
He says the world is better without Saddam and that we are safer as a nation? Sure, if we are being hypothetical and saying that by snapping our fingers he and his sons disappeared then OK, I'd agree with you. If it is as the result of a decade long occupation with hundreds of thousands killed in the fighting, resulting in mass indignation from all corners of the world whilst simultaneously continuing to support those tyrannies and militaristic regimes that are nice to us or not easy targets (Saudi, China, Israel), then NO! It has NOT made us safer.

It has made us villains in the eyes of the world. Rendition, Support for Guantanemo, Blackwater, Abu Graib, The Oil contracts, the rigged Afghan elections, the BAe bribery scandal, the scandelous post-war debacle.... and he couldn't find a regret amongst all that shit? You know what that list looks like? It looks like what baddies do.

People reply, "but Saddam killed his own people!".  Bullshit.  You ask a Kurd back in 1988, anytime in fact, whether they are 'Saddam's people' and see what they say.  They are no more his people than the Irish were UK's people way back when.  To Saddam they were alien, foreigners, unworthy of consideration.  |Perhaps we should stop putting up with the same thinking being applied by our own most gracious leaders? Saddam was a cunt but what are we going to do?  Invade every country led by a cunt?  Or just the easy targets with sanctions already in place, awaiting activation as justification so as to create a nice, easy, oily target?

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Why the internet changes things...

I wrote this in reply to a very well written piece by a guy called Chris Hedges.  It is spot on in it's analysis of America's "democracy" as 'inverted totalitarianism' but I felt it needed a bit of optimism to say the least.

"It isn't sustainable though.  In order for it to be sustainable the web would have to be uninvented.
The full essay I wrote on why this is can be found at on my website.

In summary:  Power structures remain intact only so long as it retains a monopoly on memetic production of culture.  We are memeplexs (dawkins/dennett/blackmore), a combination of genes and memes.  Control the memes and you control peoples concept of reality, identity and self.  Lose control, and comparative memes are allowed in that can challenge and counter the rationale of those in power.

Religion, the state and now capitalism have all enjoyed historical periods of memetic monopoly, a chance to saturate culture with their memes not just in their own time but, through memetic artifacts (language, art etc), into the future as well.  The religious memeplex lost ground to the state through the enlightenment.  Modernism allowed the state to take its place, turning devoutly religious populations into religious, devoutly patriotic populations.  Now that capitalism has completed its silent coup de te,  populations are (less) religious, patriotic, devout defenders of capitalism, all displaying exactly the same characteristics of being adept at ignoring the evidence put before them.

The internet changes things.  I can now diversify my memetic influences, coming to know the once unknown on a global level.  And so are others, on the other side of the world.  There are now people in every country of the world that would regard themselves as more memetically similar to each other than with the rulers of their respective countries.  

Elites, both politicians and business the world over, share more memes with each other than with the common man they claim to represent.  Democratisation of memetic production with a global reach augers the mother of all revolutions. 

Capitalism is sowing the seeds of it's own destruction.  Can you see them stopping in their quest to extend the internet to all corners of the globe?  As more unknowns become knowns, the arguments of the ruling elite will sound ever more irrational.  The state is by definition nationalistic; the new generation will be beyond that.  The old generation was that way because they had nothing to compare it too.  They had only the word of the state.

When there are no unknowns left, what will the politicians use to Induce fear?  I predict that they will kill two birds with one stone.  It will be those who exhibit a global morality, not just a nationalistic one.  Rally the sheep to attack the first, and last, real threat to the status-quo.

Will the UK ever be subject to International law?

An interesting day today at the Chilcott Inquiry.  Foreign office lawyers advising on the legality of the Iraq War today told the panel that they were in agreement that the war would be illegal without a second UN resolution (one actually resigned at the time). They also claimed that Goldsmith, the Attorney general, did a 180 degree turn in the time between sending a draft of his advice to Blair in January 03 (illegal) and the formal advice given in March (legal).

Leaving aside the dubious and "unprecendented" (according to said lawyer who resigned) act of giving a draft to a repcipient for comment when giving apparantly expert advice, it is clear that Goldsmith's 11th hour turnaround went against the general consensus of international lawyers convening on the matter. Goldsmith is up tomorrow... check out for good live comment.

Also, is picking up steam. A bounty is being collected for people who attempt citizens arrests on Blair.  At the time of writing the pot had grown to over £7000.  1/4 of the bounty to anyone who gets an attempted arrest in the news... good timing what with the recession and all.

Also, it appears that the coroners report on the suicide of David Kelly, whistle blower to the BBC of the 'sexed-up' Iraw war dossier delivered by Labour has been classified for the next 70 years!!! Five doctors requesting information through freedom of information laws were told this by people apprantly unaware they were meant to continue keeping it secret. Why a suicide, as the conclusion of investigations stated it was, would need classifying for 70 years seems incredibly suspicious to say the least.

After the Dutch ruling that the war was illegal, there is mounting anger in the UK at the moment. More and more is coming out about the dubious nature of the build-up to the Iraq war. 

We can but hope that one day those who commit acts of aggression get what they deserve.  Kissinger, Bolton, Blair... it's nuts how just because you come from the 'moral' West, you seem to be above suspicion.  It's as though the notion 'everyone but us' is implicit in the concept of International Law.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

An Inspiring Story

The BBC recently ran a news story about a Gitmo guard who tracked down a couple of innocent detainees to say Sorry.  They became friends and showed that we do actually hold more in common than our governments, particularly the U.S, would have us believe.

Some people still bleat that there are no innocent Gitmo detainees.  Either they don't know about the fact that the Northern Alliance were selling any foreign person they came across to the Americans... wouldn't you if they were offering $5000 a head, or a dozen years wages in real terms?

Fucking apologist Morons.

Watch the clip and be inspired.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

An optimistic view of Human Nature: The Venus Project or The End of Capitalism

I have recently been debating the ideas behind the Venus Project with a capitalist right-winger from the US on the Dan Carlin message boards. After coming back at me with straw-men and a limited graft of History, I thought I should go deeper into the philosophical foundations such a vision both recognises and requires.  The Venus Project is a conceptual plan for a post-capitalist resource-based economy.  It turned into something of a rant, so I thought I'd share it on here, a bit of optimism to try to balance the negativity all around us...

Post subject: Re: The Venus Project
PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2010 10:42 pm

Their (Venus Project) whole concept rests upon the adaptability of human nature, the fact that what we see as the self is a cultural construct, al a memetics, something that until recently western thought neglected. It isn't hippy shit, it's a view of human nature shared by Dawkins and Dennett amongst many others.

Their view, one I have come to understand independently, is (very simplistically) that we are a being of both genetic and memetic evolution, hardware/software respectively. Genes denote the ingredients, the potentials, whilst the environment develops this potential. This includes ones memetic make-up, determined by ones course through life: all the ideas, tastes (not sense taste..), beliefs.. everything you learn and imitate, the information input/output.

Our environment is now dominated by memes, by culture. The 'software' is man-made, a menage of prior beliefs. This is scary for some people. It gives rise to thoughts of social engineering. But that's only bad if it's enforced engineering. What memetic evolutionary theory (dawkins) shows, what History shows (Hegel), is that society as a mixing whole has more power in engineering their own collective intelligence than the state. The individual now constructs society, they do not have society forced upon them. This is the trend if you give people freedom. This has only been allowed to happen because capitalism preached freedom for the individual. The state and capitalism were necessary, vital, for the explosion of memetic transmission globally

We can only progress incrementally, lest those less scrupulous gain to clear an advantage.  An evolutionary adaptive system can only proceed with incremental trends in long-term change.  Perhaps when moving between dictatorial, heredital rule and ultimate freedom such exploitative capitalism is inevitable?  It is most certainly not final.  Fukuyama should be ashamed to be considered a Historian of any sort.  Rule number 1: learn from mistakes of the past. 

I am no enemy of capitalism. I am an enemy of the immorality displayed by those who have grown powerful because of it.  Every age, every generation, grows in the world of the old.  This is why youth are idealistic, they are forced to live according to moral codes laid down in the past: nationalism, imperialism, military might.  

What Hegel was witness to was reason as the driving force of History. Why? We are rational beings. Unless one is insane, we follow rational causes. We would not have survived long otherwise. It follows that cause and effect governs, to enough of a degree, our decisions, the course of History. Everyone wants security, safety.

Yet we are still, to various degrees, like animals when it comes to emotion. We fear the unknown. It has ever been thus and governments throughout time immemorial have used this in retaining and expanding their power.

However, we can equally feel empathy toward the known, the relatable, an obvious evolutionary advantage. As capitalism searches for ever more markets, communication technology will be spread to all corners of the globe. In this virtual world, there are no borders (the exceptions proving the rule). As it does so, the unkown becomes the known. Groups, empathy, understanding, solidarity... all will grow as technology becomes ubiquitous. I see it happening everyday. The generational gap in terms of breadth of global empathy of this Internet generation is sizes of magnitude greater than anything before. The West used to hate blacks. Then, the state acted as a force for good, enforcing mixing until enough people made enough black friends and saw enough black culture to come to know them, realise the commonalities instead of listening to the hysteria of narrow-minded people. When we come to know the sweatshop workers, when we begin to relate to the oppressed who suffer know because of the very same historical legacies that engorge us now, will governments again step in do do the right thing? Or will they do what's right for those whom they know most well, those they relate to... capitalists?

What unknowns will be left to hide behind, to suppress the free minds of the many in an effort to maintain the inequality? Such fear-mongering will come to seem evermore irrational; politics and high-finance ever more apart from the realities of every day life.

We are relativistic beings. We judge according to that which we know. 24-hour rolling coverage, native peoples blogging their own stories, individuals connected world-wide, soon to be seamless, intuitive, speech activated connectivity. We will realise that we are all not as different as our current masters believe. With every Haiti there comes a collective reflection, a mental comparison between those mothers and orphans and those men in suits and private planes, both as distant and alien from your own yet one reeking of need and neglect, the other of greed and excess.

This is what they understand at Venus I think, formed not from grandios idealism but from an understanding of cognitive science, from an understanding of global trends and from taking a systems approach to problem solving.

They can do this because for Venus to be possible, it would require slow, gradual acceptance from the people themselves. It is a thought-experiment based upon the notion that as we come to know each other we become more moral. There is no notion of force, no desire for imposition. Listen to the old guy who is the original creative idea behind it: his message that we can be free from notions of prejudice and nonsensical political catch-all's or 'isms is incredibly refreshing.

I refuse to accept that my individuality is derived from the job i do. 80% of work available here in Brighton is sales related. By your token, their individuality is tied to cold-calling. Now that is scary, and imposed upon us simply by necessity and Historical happen-stance.

Oh!, the capacity for individuality when everyone is free to do what they want? To play and write music, create art, play sports, collaborate on whatever projects they wish, a world of creation, not a world of jobs that take a majority of your best waking life just so that you can live. No time, no energy simply for you to be you.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Here's the Plan..

What I intend to do with my pseudo-baiting is this.  I am going to write to various groups with various maladies that have been affecting me lately.  I will add to this some sceptical remark about science based medicine and a plea for help.

I have emailed a couple of doctors requesting ideas for symptoms:

1) consistent with a serious illness/condition that urgently requires treatment with science based medicine.
2) whose appearance together would signal a clear red flag warning for any properly trained, competent doctor

If the respondent fails to advise me to seek medical assistance, they will be named and shamed.  They will be fully informed of the consequences had it been a real email. 

Does anyone have any suggestions for such symptoms?  Is anyone aware of any body such respondents could be reported to?

I'll keep you posted!

Amendum: I will also be naming and praising those who do not endanger people for profit.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Oh and for heavens sake...

Don't forget to check out Skeptics Guide to the Universe, only the best damned thing on the interwebby thing.  Pulled me back from some dark, castaneda-related, youthful transgressions and set me back in the right direction!

You can find them at, cannot recommend them enough!

(aint it funny how, for an atheist, I seem to use a lot of religious terminology?  Amazing to think how much that memetic force has permeated through time.  I chuckle to think of the religious people destined to find my page through mistaken search hits...)

Applying a bit of critical thinking...

I've been considering a new idea involving calling out those pseudo-scientific institutions and companies using the quite miraculous-in-itself placebo effect to their own, irrational (though highly profitable) ends.

Firstly, as seems always necessary when dealing with the irrational: a disclaimer of sorts. 

1) I happen to think that 'alternative medicine' does actually have something to teach science-based medicine, or rather the political decisions behind science based medicine.  Any doctor or nurse I am sure would agree that not having the time to get to know patients properly, having to whisk them in and out and under pressure to get the numbers through as quickly as possible.  The relegation of humans in need to mere bureaucracy is clearly not in the best interests of the patient.  If pseudo-science can do what it can do through placebo, is science based medicine taking that into account?  I don't see how stripping the doctor-patient relationship of possible placebo effects is a mistake.

2) I do not think that everyone into pseudo-science are outright fraudsters.  There are many ways in which our minds are simply shit. Period.  I'm convinced that I keep putting my USB in upside-down every single time but I know deep down that's bullshit.  It's around 50%.  Obviously.  It's just that I only notice when it jams and I shout "Aaargh! Not again!".  I fully accept that people really believe these things 100%.  But what's new about people really believing make-believe stuff?  There are however people who are actually laughing all the way to the bank.

So, now that's out of the way, here's the plan. I'm going to find websites and groups proffering these magical ointments and such like and I'm going to play the innocent enquiry.  Then I will become not so innocent.  It should be pretty fun to see what weird and wonderful things they promise to cure with the hocus-pocus pocus as well as providing a fascinating insight into 'alternative rationalisations'.


As a starting point, I thought I would go look at the British Homeopathic Association website to see what sort of craziness I would be up against.  It's a very flashy affair full of calming, fashionable buzz words just oozing both credibility and serenity.  The ever-growing shame that is inclusion in the NHS is the first thing you see: let's face it, what is more likely to give apparent validation than that!  It's almost (well, it's no where near) enough to be glad the U.S don't have an NHS... imagine what kooky shit they would get on it, opening all sorts of doors...

Second thing I see on the site is "The evidence for Homeopathy. There are 60 randomised controlled trials demonstrating homeopathy has a positive effect." I happen to already know that current (independent) consensus is that there have been no high-quality (double-blind, placebo controlled, large groups etc.) studies showing a positive for homeopathy, so I click the link expecting to see some pretty lame examples.  One that caught my eye in particular claimed homeopathy could have beneficial effect for 'mild traumatic brain injury'.  Aside from sounding like an oxymoron in itself, the idea that water with memory could help with this condition made me chuckle.

The Internet is a wonderful thing.  Within 10 seconds I had the journal edition in which the study of published and a few more saw the abstract for the study itself.  I wasn't going to pay for the whole thing but it gave what I wanted to know.. double blind, check.  Placebo-control, check.  Group of 60.. not bad, and the call for studies to replicate the data at the end seemed genuine.  Conclusions... unequivocally positive in the apparent effects of magic water.  Knowing what I know, this would make it unique, so perhaps there is some other possible bias, in the 'scientists' themselves.

Notice the inverted commas.  I took the first name off the list of collaborators, one Edward H. Chapman, and stuck it in google.  God the Internet is a wonderful thing.  Here is the first hit:

1996;97;779 Pediatrics Edward H. Chapman Homeopathic Medicine by EH Chapman - 1996 - Cited by 1 - Related articles - All 2 versions EDWARD. H. CHAPMAN,. MD, DHT,. PRESIDENT. American. Institute of Homeopathy. Denver,. CO 80220. REFERENCES. 1. Sampson. W, London. W. Analysis

President of the American Institute of Homeopathy.  I wasn't holding out hope (for all of the few seconds this took) for something that clean cut.  Let me spell it out to you, if you haven't already twigged, why this is so important in discrediting this study.


Just in what kind of situation could you envisage him coming out of that with a negative? If Homeopathy studies came out negative all the time, HE WOULD BE OUT OF A JOB.  That is why the only positive studies that come come out are either of such bad quality as to be ignored or by homeopaths themselves.  In fact, a true scientist would recognise the conflict of interest and already know in advance that any study undertaken by them will knot be taken seriously!  So why does he do it... who else will?! If you are asking yourself, "well, couldn't this apply to all scientists?" then the answer is no.  Sensible critiques of funding cycles aside (and the funds would dry up when nothing came off it anyway...), there is an important difference: If a physicist comes out with a negative result, physics does not stop existing!  He can go back and work out why it didn't work.  That is how science works: falsifiability.

This guys entire lifes-work is at stake, his entire livlihood (and I would guess it's a pretty nice one too) hanging on these results. Besides that, he already 'knows' that homeopathy works!  It's like trying to conduct experiments to find out if witches exist and allowing the Inquisition to do it, insisting we listen as they proclaim that, surprisingly, witches really do exist!

It is so very, very easy to utilise the web, grant yourself God-like powers and start thinking for yourself.  The entire premise of homeopathy and the rest is that no other scientists are confirming their 'results' because they are all part of a grand conspiracy involving big-pharma and corporations.  Don't give them any more consideration than you would a scientologist.

I will keep the blog posted about any interesting responses.  Full responses will be available at my website.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Michael Scheuer: An exception to Godwin's Law

I recently happened to hear someone talking about Godwin's Law on Radio 5 today having somewhat optimistically hoped that England may actually still be batting (no such luck). If you haven't heard of it before, it's the idea that in any message board, given time, the level of probability of someone invoking Hitler, or the Nazi's, approaches 1. Once it happens, any further chance of meaningful debate is extinguished, the debate having sunk to inexcusable nonsense (unless, that is, it happens to be a history of the second world war blog or some such, obviously.).

This idea made me turn my mind back to that odorous arse Michael Scheuer on Newsnight last Thursday. Michael Scheuer is an ex-CIA employee specialising somehow in Bin laden and Al Qaeda. Strangely, he has been an out-spoken critic of the wisdom of America's overly-friendly relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia. I say strangely, because here he suggests killing and imprisoning millions of people who agree with him. If someone could explain that to me I'd be very grateful.

By the way, if the name sounds familiar, that might be because he was the guy on Glenn Beck's show saying that what America really needed was another huge terrorist attack to bring back that good old unity, something of a passion for Beck too

Now, I cannot stand flippant Nazi comparisons. Nothing betrays ones historical ignorance more. This fucker though... well, I simply cannot apply Godwin's Law to this one. This one is right in context. I have transcribed some of the more unbelievable quotes for your widening eyes...

MS: If we are not fighting Islam, then a large part of Islam is fighting us. 43.30

Presenter: Do you not see these as a tiny, tiny minority?

MS: Hardly Ma'am. 80% of Muslims around the world see the U.S, British and Western foreign policy as an assault on their faith and their brethren and whatever percentage of that 80% is fighting us it is growing around the world and so long as we continue to support Israel and Arab tyrannies this war will continue to grow. 44:30

Well, if it would mean falling out with Arab Tyrannies then.. and besides, who's he kidding?  At best he could hope to form an argument against the most fanatical 0.01%, but 80%?  Surely that'd be merely anyone who had the audacity to grumble a bit about U.S crop subsidies ruining their livlihoods?

This is a type of prisoner that we had better get used to capturing and for the first time in Western history, we're capturing people who may never be able to be released... and that's simply the reality of the situation. 45.49

Because now we face a greater threat than at any time in Western History..? Someone please beat this guy with a massive History book. Repeatedly.

Presenter: ....and that could amount to a billion people?

MS: Hardly that ma'am, you know, if he (the other guest on the show) was listening he would have heard what i said. The reliable polls that we have across the Muslim world show that Muslims who fight us are motivated by our foreign policy, and that 80% of Muslims believe our foreign policy is an attack 46.13

Here, he refuted the other guests calculation that 80% of Muslims is around a billion people by ingeniously suggesting he hadn't listened before giving exactly the same figure. Granted, he said 'whatever percentage of those..' but he also said it would grow so long as America carried on it's controversial foreign policies. At no point does simply changing the foreign policy seem to occur to him, presumably meaning that if the U.S needs to imprison that many people it would... actually as though they could.

Presenter: what you would do?

MS: I would either kill them on the battlefield or put them into prisoners of war camp ma'am 46.33

So, Michael Scheuer, formerly of the CIA and (once?) influential, well, scaremonger, thinks that a large part of the worlds Muslim population should be killed or imprisoned if they do not like America's foreign policy, just as he doesn't... WTF? How is this rationalisation possible in a sane person? Is he like a mercenary talking head, willing to change views when the needs fit? Or is it a clever, self-sacrificing double-bluff trying to scare/entice the GOP hawks to join in?

The gross, almost schizophrenic, contradictions in this man are incredible... though not surprising. His form of nationalistic ideology, ignoring as it does that most rational of laws, cause and effect, has to be blind to contradictions for it to have taken root so firmly. He actually admits that people around the world are pissed off with Americas foreign policy, going so far as to admit that the war will continue to grow so long as we continue to support Israel and Arab tyrannies!
(That bit did actually surprise me. You could easily imagine an indoctrinated patriot willing to do anything for his country, but subjugating 80% of Muslims so that we can continue supporting Arab Tyrannies? Wow, that's some ballsy, and utterly perverted reasoning.). Hell, this is an argument leftists use for the complete opposite conclusion, one that doesn't lead to mass subjugation by a fascist, Naziesque regime. There, I said it, but unlike 99.9% of other times, it is in context.

The idea that a government should imprison or kill the majority of a people so that their foreign policy can do what it wants, regardless of the hurt it causes is comparable to Nazism. It is racist (you think he'd do this to white Europeans pissed at the foreign policy?), it's authoritarian (you think most of the American people would want that?) and, for that reason, would entail state, probably dictatorship, control of the (war) economy and it would require the subjugation of the majority of a religious group. Hell, with his criticisms of Obama being inexperienced and naive, you'd think he was longing for strong, iron-willed leader who would stop at nothing to enforce their Ideology onto the world. Sound familiar?

How is this guy on TV? He's almost a parody, some Pythonesque, psycho General who's list of conditions required to achieve moral recognition reads like his personal profile on facebook. How is he not denounced everyday in his line of work as a fascist? How are such contradictions held intact by someone who is clearly an experienced part of Washington life?

The cause and effect here worries me.. did being in the CIA produce this guy? What does this say for the culture there?