Thursday, October 21, 2004

Republican websites go down

NEW YORK (AP) - Web sites for President Bush's campaign and the Republican National Committee suffered outages for several hours on Wednesday.

It was not immediately clear whether a systems failure or a hacking attack was to blame. Campaign and committee officials would only say they were investigating.

The sites began experiencing problems about 11 a.m., according to two companies that monitor Internet performance., which had monitors probing the sites every 15 minutes from six U.S. locations, said it took more than three times as long to load the Bush site after 11, and nearly half the attempts were completely unsuccessful. By 1 p.m., the site appeared completely offline.

The site was mostly restored after 5:45 p.m., the company said.

The Republican National Committee site also took longer to load and was sporadically inaccessible, though it didn't appear to go completely offline and was back to normal by 5 p.m., said Ken Godskind, AlertSite's vice president of marketing.

Full Story

Sidney Blumenthal: America's hidden vote

Passing almost without notice earlier this month, the public release of The Civil Rights Record of the George W Bush Administration - the official staff report prepared by the US Civil Rights Commission - whose submission is required by federal law, was blocked by the Republican commissioners. None the less, it was posted on the commission's website: "This report finds that President Bush has neither exhibited leadership on pressing civil rights issues, nor taken actions that matched his words."

Bush has held the Civil Rights Commission in contempt since its June 2001 report on Election Practices in Florida During the 2000 Campaign. Then it concluded: "The commission's findings make one thing clear: widespread voter disenfranchisement - not the dead-heat contest - was the extraordinary feature in the Florida election ... The disenfranchisement of Florida's voters fell most harshly on the shoulders of black voters."

Vast efforts to mobilise or suppress African-American, Hispanic and Democratic voters have already reached a greater level of intensity than in any modern campaign. The Republicans in Ohio, for example, have attempted to toss out new Democratregistrations because it was claimed they were written on the wrong weight of paper, a gambit overruled by a federal court. From Pennsylvania to Arizona, a Republican consulting firm is discouraging new Democratic voters from getting on the rolls.

Meanwhile, the Democratic party has more than 10,000 lawyers deployed to defend against voter suppression, 2,000 stationed in Florida; civil rights groups are sending out more than 6,000 lawyers. Bush v Gore remains an open wound; and now the battle over voting rights, over democracy itself, is being fought again.

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Bogeyman Backs Bush

The Bush regime's relationships with other countries speak volumes. Bush's allies and backers are all either bullies and tyrants or are in receipt of US 'Military Aid' which is paying for their presence in Iraq. They are more employees than allies. Poland is withdrawing its troops because the $66 million they receive is not covering the $100 million it is costing them. If Bush wants to purchase their continuing loyalty he need only up their wages.

In the tyrant category, Iran has declared their support for Bush. Given Bush's 'axis of evil' and nuclear finger pointing, this seems a bit odd. What is their motive? Are they trying to placate Bush, it is some kind of wily double bluff, have some kind of covert 'foreign relations' been going on between the two? Perhaps they recognise how little the Bush regime has actually done to combat terrorism, that their recommencement of a nuclear weapons programme means more nuclear material for all, or maybe they just identify.
Fundamentalism is as Fundamentalism does.

Bush Receives Backing From 'Evil' Iran

The Associated Press at The Moscow Times

TEHRAN, Iran -- U.S. President George W. Bush made Iran a charter member of his axis of evil, accuses it of sheltering al-Qaida and leads the charge to thwart Tehran's nuclear ambitions -- but still got an Iranian endorsement Tuesday over Democrat John Kerry.

Historically, Democrats have harmed Iran more than Republicans, said Hasan Rowhani, head of the Supreme National Security Council, Iran's top security decision-making body.

"We haven't seen anything good from Democrats," Rowhani told state-run television in remarks that, for the first time in recent decades, saw Iran openly supporting one U.S. presidential candidate over another.

"We should not forget that most sanctions and economic pressures were imposed on Iran during the time of [former Democratic U.S. President Bill] Clinton," Rowhani said. "And we should not forget that during Bush's era -- despite his hard-line and baseless rhetoric against Iran -- he didn't take, in practical terms, any dangerous action against Iran."

Though Iran generally does not publicly wade into U.S. presidential politics, it has a history of preferring Republicans over Democrats, who tend to press human rights issues.

"We do not desire to see Democrats take over," Rowhani said when asked if Iran was supporting Kerry against Bush.

Walmart spooked by naked supreme court justices

When Jon Stewart appeared on Crossfire he failed to show due reverence to the neocon media monolith by pointing out the quasi-journalists of the mainstream media are purveyors of theatrical propaganda masquerading as debate. He revealed that that the Emperor has no clothes.

Consequently, there is something almost poetic about Walmart deciding not to stock Stewart's new book America: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction (Amazon's current bestseller) because it contains

a doctored photo of nine naked bodies with the heads of the Supreme Court justices attached.

The book also contains cutout robes, and encourages the reader to "restore their dignity by matching each justice with his or her respective robe."

Scalia would approve, but Walmart says it would be too much for their customers' sensitive constitutions:

... Wal-Mart execs felt that the shock of full frontal nudity might be too much for the unsuspecting shopper's eyes.

"We felt a majority of our customers would not be comfortable with the image in our stores," Wal-Mart spokeswomen Karen Burk told the New York Daily News.

This is unlikely to have any negative impact on sales. A recent survey found that Daily Show viewers are educated, affluent and politically aware, so they are more likely to know the real cost of shopping at Walmart.

George, Pat, God and the 8,000 Casualties

More news of the Suskind kind. Disconcertingly, it comes from ultra Christian rightist Pat Robertson :

Robertson, an ardent Bush supporter, told CNN in an interview Tuesday night that he urged the president to prepare the American people for the prospect of casualties before launching the war in March 2003.

Robertson said Bush told him, " 'Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties.' "

This exchange doesn't appear to have dampened Robertsons enthusiastic support for Bush. He seems oblivious to the disturbing nature of his anecdotes:

In his CNN interview, the religious leader described Bush on the eve of the invasion as "the most self-assured man I've ever met in my life."

"You remember Mark Twain said, 'He looks like a contented Christian with four aces.' I mean he was just sitting there like, 'I'm on top of the world,' " Robertson said on CNN's "Paula Zahn Now."

Neither is there any dispute about who really has a hotline to God, even though he appears to be lying to one of them:

In the interview, Robertson also said he wishes Bush would admit to mistakes made.

"I mean, the Lord told me it was going to be A, a disaster, and B, messy," Robertson said. "I warned him about casualties."

Bush's 'instinct' and 'gut' have proved to be catastrophically wrong, anyone with half a grasp on reality would have had to confront the bodies of evidence building up in US Military morgues. What does it say about Bush, that even in the face of grim and incontrovertible fact he is able to persist in his delusions?

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

UK Foreign aid goes to Ultra right wing lobby group

And this is meant to be a labour government! Labour's forefathers and mothers must be spinning in their graves.

Why is British tax payers' foreign aid money being given to an ultra-right wing UK lobby group to promote schemes that will rob South Africa's poor of affordable access to water?

George Monbiot:

The agency keeping the South African government on track is Britain's Department for International Development (DfID). This year it is giving £6.3m to the Adam Smith Institute - the ultra-rightwing privatization lobby group - for "public-sector reform" in South Africa. Staggeringly, the institute has been given its own budget - £5m of British aid money - to disburse as it pleases. By this means, DfID can generate all the support it likes for privatization and public-private partnerships, while avoiding direct responsibility for the decisions the institute makes.

DfID is plainly breaking the law. The International Development Act forbids it from spending money for any purpose other than the elimination of poverty. It might also have broken the rules forbidding it to link aid money to deals for specific British businesses. DfID funds or has recently funded (it has so far been unable to tell me whether or not the scheme is still current) something called the "British investment in South Africa promotion scheme", which promotes "business-to-business links" between companies in the UK and companies in South Africa. What this is doing inside a foreign aid department, no one can say.

I am not suggesting that DfID has told Johannesburg council "thou shalt strike a public-private partnership with a British company, and make sure that it is profitable for that company by forcing everyone to pay the full price for their water, regardless of their ability to do so". I am suggesting that it is creating a policy environment which encourages that outcome. And it is doing so with money allocated for something called foreign aid. Is there anyone out there who thinks this is how it should be spent?

Full Story

The 9/11 Secret in the CIA's Back Pocket

ICH via Bush Out

The Bush Administration have been surpressing a damning report that was completed four months ago. The report points at senior officials and it names names. It is the first time in history a CIA director has attempted to withhold a report from Congress. It is also illegal to withold a report from Congress for any reason other than it being a threat to national security, which it clearly isn't. You could argue that not releasing it would be the real threat to national security.

Robert Scheer

"Los Angeles Times" -- It is shocking: The Bush administration is suppressing a CIA report on 9/11 until after the election, and this one names names. Although the report by the inspector general's office of the CIA was completed in June, it has not been made available to the congressional intelligence committees that mandated the study almost two years ago.

"It is infuriating that a report which shows that high-level people were not doing their jobs in a satisfactory manner before 9/11 is being suppressed," an intelligence official who has read the report told me, adding that "the report is potentially very embarrassing for the administration, because it makes it look like they weren't interested in terrorism before 9/11, or in holding people in the government responsible afterward."

When I asked about the report, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice), ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, said she and committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) sent a letter 14 days ago asking for it to be delivered. "We believe that the CIA has been told not to distribute the report," she said. "We are very concerned."

According to the intelligence official, who spoke to me on condition of anonymity, release of the report, which represents an exhaustive 17-month investigation by an 11-member team within the agency, has been "stalled." First by acting CIA Director John McLaughlin and now by Porter J. Goss, the former Republican House member (and chairman of the Intelligence Committee) who recently was appointed CIA chief by President Bush.

The official stressed that the report was more blunt and more specific than the earlier bipartisan reports produced by the Bush-appointed Sept. 11 commission and Congress.

"What all the other reports on 9/11 did not do is point the finger at individuals, and give the how and what of their responsibility. This report does that," said the intelligence official. "The report found very senior-level officials responsible."

By law, the only legitimate reason the CIA director has for holding back such a report is national security. Yet neither Goss nor McLaughlin has invoked national security as an explanation for not delivering the report to Congress.

"It surely does not involve issues of national security," said the intelligence official.

"The agency directorate is basically sitting on the report until after the election," the official continued. "No previous director of CIA has ever tried to stop the inspector general from releasing a report to the Congress, in this case a report requested by Congress."

None of this should surprise us given the Bush administration's great determination since 9/11 to resist any serious investigation into how the security of this nation was so easily breached. In Bush's much ballyhooed war on terror, ignorance has been bliss.

The president fought against the creation of the Sept. 11 commission, for example, agreeing only after enormous political pressure was applied by a grass-roots movement led by the families of those slain.

And then Bush refused to testify to the commission under oath, or on the record. Instead he deigned only to chat with the commission members, with Vice President Dick Cheney present, in a White House meeting in which commission members were not allowed to take notes. All in all, strange behavior for a man who seeks reelection to the top office in the land based on his handling of the so-called war on terror.

In September, the New York Times reported that several family members met with Goss privately to demand the release of the CIA inspector general's report. "Three thousand people were killed on 9/11, and no one has been held accountable," 9/11 widow Kristen Breitweiser told the paper.

The failure to furnish the report to Congress, said Harman, "fuels the perception that no one is being held accountable. It is unacceptable that we don't have [the report]; it not only disrespects Congress but it disrespects the American people."

The stonewalling by the Bush administration and the failure of Congress to gain release of the report have, said the intelligence source, "led the management of the CIA to believe it can engage in a cover-up with impunity. Unless the public demands an accounting, the administration and CIA's leadership will have won and the nation will have lost."

Sinclair news for Wednesday

Sinclair Shareholders are taking legal action:

Famed shareholder attorney William S. Lerach will hold a news conference at 1 p.m. today to discuss insider self-dealing by officers of Sinclair Broadcasting, the Baltimore-based television chain that is forcing its affiliates to show a propaganda film that attacks presidential candidate John Kerry. He will release a set of demands aimed at making Sinclair executives disgorge millions of dollars in unjustified profits taken out of the firm when stock prices were high during the past 12 months. Yesterday the company's stock fell a further 8 percent after being down more than 50 percent from the year's beginning, as advertisers pulled back to avoid the station's self-generated political controversy. Lerach and Patrick Daniels, San Diego-based partners in Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman Robbins, the nation's most successful securities litigation firm, will discuss actions it will take against Sinclair. Lerach Coughlin is a 140-member firm with offices in nine cities that has prosecuted hundreds of shareholder class action and derivative lawsuits, recovering more than $25 billion for clients. (For more on the firm go to:

Sinclair have now issued a press release saying they will not be showing the propaganda piece in its entirety:

Contrary to numerous inaccurate political and press accounts, the Sinclair stations will not be airing the documentary "Stolen Honor" in its entirety. At no time did Sinclair ever publicly announce that it intended to do so. In fact, since the controversy began, Sinclair's website has prominently displayed the following statement: "The program has not been videotaped and the exact format of this unscripted event has not been finalized. Characterizations regarding the content are premature and are based on ill- informed sources."

Boycottsbg point out that this is contradicted by their TV guide listings which confirm a 60 minute programme. They recorded the 80th advertiser to dump Sinclair a couple of days ago.
Meanwhile Sinclair stock looks like this:

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Sinclair news of the day

In today's Sinclair news, a veteran sues and an employee is fired for honesty (not a part of the Sinclair code of practice).

A Vietnam veteran filed a libel lawsuit Monday claiming he was falsely portrayed as a fraud and a liar in a film criticizing Sen. John Kerry's anti-war activities.

Kenneth J. Campbell, now a professor at the University of Delaware, said in the suit that "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal" combines footage of him appearing at a 1971 war protest with a voice-over that claims that many of the supposed veterans who took part in the event were later "discovered as frauds" who "never set foot on the battlefield, or left the comfort of the States, or even served in uniform."

The suit said viewers would be left with the perception that Campbell had lied about his military service and encouraged others to make up stories about war atrocities.

Campbell attached copies of his military records to the suit, showing that he received the Purple Heart medal and eight other medals, ribbons and decorations for his service as an artillery forward observer in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969.

The suit names the film's producer, Carlton Sherwood, and his company, Red White and Blue Productions, as defendants.

Full Story

In Washington, Sinclair Bureau Chief Jon Leiberman was fired for criticising Sinclair's propaganda piece:

Jon Leiberman said he was fired by Joseph DeFeo, Sinclair's vice president for news, and "escorted out of the building."

"I was told I violated company policy by divulging information from a staff meeting to The (Baltimore) Sun in this morning's edition," Leiberman said late Monday.

..."They're using the news to drive their political agenda," Leiberman said. "I don't think it served the public trust."

Leiberman, 29, criticized his employer in an interview with The Sun published Monday. "I have nothing to gain here — and really, I have a lot to lose," he said in that interview.

...He added that Sinclair would not waive his noncompete agreement, which means he cannot work for a broadcast outlet in any market that has a Sinclair station.

Leiberman started with Sinclair in 2000 as a reporter for WBFF-TV in Baltimore, Sinclair's flagship station. He said late Monday, "I don't like not knowing where my next move will be and how I'm going to take care of my family."

He added: "I really feel like I can sleep at night and I can be OK with my decision" to criticize Sinclair publicly. ... I know I stood up for the principles of objectivity. In journalism, all we have is credibility and objectivity."

Full Story

First Poland, Now Ukraine To Pull Out Of Iraq

World Crisis Web
Tuesday, October 19th, 2004

In a statement made today, Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko has promised to withdraw Ukrainian troops from Iraq in the event that he wins the forthcoming election, leaving an ever-diminishing alliance of countries presently occupying Iraq.

The promise of the pro-Western former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko, tipped to win the forthcoming elections in Ukraine on October 31st, comes on the heels of the decision earlier this week by the Polish Prime Minister, Marek Belka, to begin withdrawing Poland’s 2,400 contingent in January 2005, and not to remain there “an hour longer than is sensible.”

Nine Ukrainian soldiers have died so far during the occupation.

The participation of the estimated 1,600 Ukrainian troops in the USA-led occupation of Iraq has been a subject of heated controversy in the former Soviet republic, with the Komunistycna Partija Ukrajiny - the reformed communist party with 20% support in the country - and other smaller parties having long campaigned against Ukraine’s participation.

Yushchenko promised his supporters a controlled pull-out, geared to gain widespread support from across the political spectrum:

“Our troops will leave Iraq calmly and without haste. The withdrawal process will be controllable and enjoy comprehensive support,” Yushchenko said in the statement, posted on his personal website.

Meanwhile, Georgy Kryuchkov, chairman of the Ukraine parliament’s committee for national security, predicted earlier this week that Ukrainian troops will be withdrawn from Iraq irrespective of the results of his country’s presidential elections.

Kryuchkov said that the new parliament would be debating three draft laws on the pull-out. One of them proposes the immediate recall of all Ukrainian military personnel from Iraq, and the other two focus to varying degrees on a gradual reduction of Ukrainian troops.

Speaking to reporters, Kryuchkov said that either way “it is necessary to work out a new form of Ukraine’s presence in Iraq”, and raised the possibility of Ukraine providing help with economic reconstruction of the war-ravaged country.

Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, George and God

The more I think about the possibility that Bush has epilepsy the more sense it makes. Even increased religiousity is a symptom in some types of epilepsy:

Researchers interested in the connection of the brain and religion have examined the experiences of people suffering from Temporal Lobe Epilepsy. Apparently the increased electrical activity in the brain resulting from seizure activity (abnormal electrical activity within localized portions of the brain), makes sufferers more susceptible to having religious experiences including visions of supernatural beings and near death experiences (NDEs) . Temporal Lobe Epilepsy (TLE) sufferers also may become increasingly obsessed with religion, the study and practice of it

There is a temporal lobe damage personality type that reads like a description of Bush:

Symptoms of Temporal Lobe Damage

Problems here contribute to language struggles, miscommunication and reading disabilities.

Dominant Temporal Lobe (usually left) Problems

Decreased verbal memory (words, lists, stories)

Difficulty placing words or pictures into discreet categories

Trouble understanding the context of words

Aggression, internally or externally driven

Dark or violent thoughts

Sensitivity to slights, mild paranoia

Word finding problems

Auditory processing problems

Reading difficulties

Emotional instability

Non-dominant Temporal Lobe (usually right) Problems

Difficulty recognizing facial expression

Difficulty decoding vocal intonation

Implicated in social skill struggles

Trouble processing music

Decreased social cues/context

Poor visual imagery

Decreased selective attention to visual input

Decreased recall of nonverbal items – shapes, faces, tunes

Either or Both Temporal Lobe Problems

memory problems, amnesia

headaches or abdominal pain without a clear explanation

anxiety or fear for no particular reason

abnormal sensory perceptions, visual or auditory distortions

feelings of déjà vu or jamais vu

periods of spaciness or confusion

religious or moral preoccupation

hypergraphia, excessive writing


Temporal Lobe Personality

proneness to aggressive outbursts

overemphasis on trivia

pedantic speech


preoccupation with religion

Can alcohol cause epilepsy?

A 'binge' on alcohol can cause a seizure, even in people who do not have epilepsy. Such seizures can be due to alcohol withdrawal, toxic effects of alcohol, too much fluid, metabolic changes in the body and vitamin or nutritional deficiencies. Studies suggest that alcohol withdrawal seizures usually happen 7-48 hours after reducing or stopping excessive or prolonged alcohol intake.

Some people who continue to drink large quantities of alcohol and who experience further seizures are quite likely to develop epilepsy as a result of this. Even if alcohol consumption is stopped altogether, the seizures may continue to happen unless anti-epileptic medication is introduced and seizure control gained.

Whats Up with George: Alcohol induced epilepsy?

The Interent is rife with rumours that there is something seriously, medically wrong with Bush. Bush's recent drooling and lop-sided facial expression during the third debate have led to speculation that he may have had a stroke. It has been suggested that the mystery lump may be some kind of medical device.

Though I quibble over the details, I do think there is something wrong with him. I think it is interesting that he didn't show for a recent medical, and it makes you wonder about the two bicycle accidents and the Pretzel incident.

The first bicycle story was obviously not entirely true because the Bush PR department said it was due to rain when there hadn't been any. Maybe a small stroke? Epilepsy? Pre-Senile Dementia? The drooling and incoherence could be due to a heavy medication like those used to control conditions such as epilepsy. Many of the speculations overstate the case, but still, something ain't right.

Andrew Stephen pondered the question in the Observer at the weekend. He notes that Bush has become increasingly inarticulate over the last few years (as is demonstrated by this video):

...It is thus hard to avoid the conclusion that Bush's cognitive functioning is not, for some reason, what it once was. I am not qualified to say why this is so. It would not be surprising if he was under enormous stress, particularly after the 9/11 atrocities in 2001, and I gather this could explain much, if not everything.

But I have heard wild speculation in Washington that he is suffering from a neurological disorder, or that the years of alcoholism might finally be taking their toll on his brain.

...A senior Republican, experienced and wise in the ways of Washington, told me last Friday that he does not necessarily accept that Bush is unstable, but what is clear, he added, is that he is now manifestly unfit to be President.

This, too, is a view that is widely felt, but seldom articulated and then only in private, within the Republican as well as Democratic establishments in Washington.

All the evidence points to the idea that Bush is cocooned and cloistered from reality, he only appears before the party faithful, he doesn't read newspapers, he rarely meets with the media. If there is something wrong with Bush, that might explain why. Its not hard to imagine that the likes of Cheney and Rove would do whatever it takes to protect George from exposure as unfit for office, their personal greed and power lust is staked upon him. They need him to sway the religious fundamentalists who think that God speaks to George. Even the most delusional nutjob would have trouble with the notion that God speaks to Cheney.

One can imagine that under the circumstances Bush must be easy to manipulate. Its fairly safe to speculate that Bush is on some form of medication, and is suffering at least from an inability to cope with the stress of his situation, at worst from some sort neurological condition (it wouldn't need to be very severe to affect his ability to give lengthy public speeches) or degenerative disorder. He thinks in entirely black and white terms, he doesn't need any evidence to support his views. All they need to do is pander to his concept of himself as the God-King of America. Not to suggest that Bush isn't as corrupt and self-serving as the rest of them, just that Bush's notions are simplistic, the likes of Cheney and Rove are responsible for their execution, which they are able to do more or less without accountability.

If I was forced to choose one line of speculation I would have to go with the idea that his current condition is connected with his past drug and alcohol abuse. His constant repetition of platitudes and catch-phrases really remind me of alcoholics I have known, one of whom was an epilelptic alcoholic on phenobarbatone - Really similar. Alcohol and epilepsy do not go well together (nor do cocaine and epilepsy). The seizures tend to occur 6-72 hours after the person has stopped drinking. It is nearly always the withdrawl that triggers the seizures. The sedative effect of epilepsy medicines is exacerbated by alcohol and even without alcohol can make people dizzy, unsteady and drowsy.

Alcohol abuse can cause epilepsy:

Alcoholism, or chronic abuse of alcohol, has been shown in recent studies to be associated with the development of epilepsy in some people. These experiments suggest that repeated alcohol withdrawal seizures may make the brain more excitable. Thus, people who have experienced seizures provoked by binge drinking may begin to experience unprovoked epileptic seizures ("alcoholic epilepsy") regardless of alcohol consumption.

Stress is known to be a factor in causing seizures:

Emotional stress also can lead to seizures. Emotional is usually related to a situation or event that has personal meaning to you. Often you will feel a loss of control. In particular, the kind of emotional stress that leads to most seizures is worry or fear. One study found that in some patients, anxiety—another term for worry and fear—led to hyperventilation (overbreathing) and an increase in abnormal brain activity and seizures.1 Other emotions that have been linked with stress and seizures are frustration and anger.

Epilepsy can also affect the sufferer's cognitive functioning both in the short term and cumulatively:

If seizures happen over and over again (as they sometimes do), they can have a lasting effect on many of the brain's functions, from memory and language to planning and reasoning. It's possible that epilepsy may change how you relate to others, your mood, even your personality.

Epilepsy sufferers say:

"I just don't trust my short-term memory."

"I knew the word I wanted to say, but I couldn't get it out. Or I'd say another word that wasn't quite right."

"I am more irritable now; everything is an effort."

"I'd finish watching a show, and somebody would ask me what it was about, and I couldn't answer them. I didn't know, and I just watched it!"

Sound familiar? Following are some explanations of the mental functions that can be affected by epilepsy:

The main language problem caused by seizures is with finding words. Many people cannot think of the name of something, even when it is right in front of them. This is because seizures can damage the area where the word is stored, as well as the communication lines that carry or transport the word.
Executive Function:
The frontal lobe has the final say in your social behavior. It regulates how you interact with other people. Some people claim this is where your personality comes from. It manages how you talk to other people.

The frontal lobe also helps you to stop unwanted behavior. For example, say something happens that makes you feel like laughing or yelling but you know it is not the right time or place to laugh or yell. Your frontal lobe tells you that you shouldn't do it. It also helps you to not laugh or yell.

Seizures that happen in the frontal lobe can cause your planning ability to become weaker. You may not be able to organize your thoughts or your actions in the best way. If you are making a shopping list, for instance, you may think or write the same item over and over.

It may be harder for you to interact with people. Your attention may drift much sooner than before. Some people say their personality has changed after having seizures for many years. It also may be harder for you to stop unwanted behavior. You may say what's on your mind even when it's not the right time.

People with epilepsy commonly report having problems with their memory. Some describe having trouble remembering names that they once knew. Others forget appointments or are unable to remember to take their medications. Many others feel that they can recall things from the distant past but cannot recollect events that happened in the past week. Many indicate that memory difficulties significantly hinder their functioning at work, in school, and at home.
When epilepsy affects you for long periods, you may notice changes in your behavior, your feelings, and in how you see the world. Feelings of depression or anxiety are especially common. A few people with epilepsy experience psychosis(losing contact with reality).
Anything that causes mental excitability can trigger a seizure. Perhaps Bush's lump is some kind of neurological monitor? He may not have electrodes visible on his head, but the lump is on his spine, which is probably the next best thing. I'm sure Rove would want to intercede if it looked like Bush was about to have a seizure in front of 50 million people. The increased stress and excitability of the situation are exactly the sort of thing that can trigger seizures in the susceptible.

Check out this neurological monitor (this is the amplifier part):

Amongst the list of its key benefits are:

No10 did not tell truth about Iraq, says diplomat who quit

From The Independent:

A high-flying diplomat who helped frame the Government arguments that laid the groundwork for the Iraq war, has resigned because Downing Street "did not tell the whole truth" about the Iraqi threat.

Carne Ross, a former first secretary to Britain's UN mission between 1998 and mid-2002 in charge of Iraq issues, had resigned a month ago just as he was about to take up a senior post in London.

Asked about his reasons, 38-year-old Mr Ross told The Independent yesterday: "I had lost trust in a Government that I believe did not tell the whole truth about the alleged threat posed by Iraq before the war."

He also highlighted the Government's failure to "fully pursue available alternatives to invasion", a reference to the option of allowing the UN weapons inspections to continue. But the diplomat, who had taken a year's sabbatical before going on to serve until last month as chief strategist to the UN mission in Kosovo, refused to comment further.

Mr Ross is the second senior Iraq expert from the Foreign Office to resign over the war. Elizabeth Wilmshurst, a deputy head in the legal department, left in March 2003. Other prominent officials including the chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix and Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, have said the war was illegal. Mr Ross's position reflects the unease about the prosecution of the war among those who knew there was no new evidence that Saddam Hussein represented a direct threat to Britain.

Full Story

The Sick & Twisted Mind behind Sinclair

At The Nation, John Nicholls takes a look at the Orwellian culture of Sinclair, a culture so putrid with fanatical right-wing bias that it makes Fox look 'Fair and Balanced':

If you want to see the Orwellian media future that the Bush administration envisions, pay close attention to Sinclair. This cobbled-together collection of television "properties" is not a network but a media holding company that owns 62 of the most miserable excuses for broadcast outlets in the country. "Quality" has never been a watchword for Sinclair, a firm that pioneered the one-size-fits-all approach to mass media. When Sinclair buys a station is some long-suffering community, it fires the local staffers and begins feeding the locals a steady diet of disembodied and disengaged "content" spewed out of the company's media mill near Baltimore.

Much of the hatred and distortion Sinclair contaminates the information stream with issues from the ugly, twisted soul of its corporate vice-president for corporate relations, Mark Hyman. Nicholls has a great turn of phrase:

But the main product of Sinclair's media mill is the slurry of right-wing dogma drooled from the lips of corporate vice president for corporate relations Mark Hyman. Ideologically in-synch with the bosses at Sinclair -- who have given over $170,000 to Republican causes over the past decade, including $59,000 so far in this year's campaign -- Hyman force feeds editorials to all 62 company- owned stations in order to shore up the conservative cause. A good deal of shoring up those editorials can do, as those stations reach 25 percent of all American households.

Hyman makes Sean Hannity sound like a sensible moderate. The Sinclair mouthpiece specializes in scorched-earth attacks on anyone who sees through the distortions of the Bush administration. He refers to members of Congress who criticize the war in Iraq as "unpatriotic politicians who hate our military." Whenever mainstream media outlets practice anything akin to journalism, Hyman condemns the offending outlets as the "hate America crowd." During the current campaign, Hyman has been a one-man propaganda machine, spinning out anti-Kerry commentaries and repeating even the most discredited lies about Kerry's Vietnam record on stations that broadcast in at least eleven of this year's seventeen battleground states.

Over the past month, Hyman has produced eleven broadcast editorials that explicitly attack Kerry, one that explicitly attacked Teresa Heinz Kerry, two that explicitly attacked Democratic candidates for Congress and two that generically attacked Democratic candidates for Congress. If Hyman's goal is to make Fox look "fair and balanced" by comparison with Sinclair, he's succeeding. And, in recent days, he has spun into overdrive.

When the controversy about Sinclair's decision to scrap regular programming in order to air Stolen Honor heated up, Hyman went spinning into Orwellian overdrive. He accused the nation's broadcast and cable networks -- including, presumably, Rupert Murdoch's Republicans Uber Alles Fox network -- of collaborating to "suppress" anti-Kerry news. Because they have not aired "Stolen Honor" or given time to the embittered Kerry critics featured in the production, Hyman says: "They are acting like Holocaust deniers..." When Democrats suggested that Sinclair's decision to air the anti-Kerry documentary so close to the election should be seen as an in-kind contribution to Bush and the Republicans, Hyman replied. "if you use that logic and reasoning, that means every car bomb in Iraq would be considered an in-kind contribution to John Kerry."

Orwell would have had to stretch even his creative powers to come up with a propagandist who compares the decisions of news departments not to cover discredited claims with the denial of Nazi genocide.

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Saved by Google and Human Decency

Don't expect any sympathy from your government if you get kidnapped Australians! After Aussie journalist John Martinkus was kidnapped in Iraq the other day Foreign Minister Alexamder Downer said:

"In this particular case the journalist went out to investigate a story, I understand, and went to a part of Baghdad he was advised not to go to, but he went there anyway ... "

Not only did Downer blame the victim, but his assertion is ridiculous. In fact Martinkus was kidnapped 500 metres from his hotel. Perhaps Downer is suggesting that journalists shouldn't leave their hotel rooms.

Christopher Allbriton is a friend and colleague of Martinkus. He is in Iraq and he has a blog, Back to Iraq. Here is his description of events as Martinkus related them:

Saturday around 2 p.m or so, John was picked up about 500m from our hotel compound. He turned out of the front gate, took the first right -- as most of us do -- and a car stopped in front of him and a tailing car pulled in behind him. Four men with pistols jumped out and three of them managed to force their way into the car, putting guns to the heads of John, his driver and his translator. They then took him to western Baghdad, held him overnight and interrogated him.

Martinkus was not randomly snatched, the kidnappers had planned it:

They had tracked him for three days, they said, and proved it by asking him why he had gone to the Green Zone and to the Palestine on two separate days. This was how they were able to pick him up so easily.
The journalist was released after 24 hours once it had been established that he was not American. The kidnappers appear to have googled Martinkus to confirm his story. Not for the first time, it looks like a journalist has been saved by google. Martinkus's captors released him in apparent defiance of their higher-ups:
After some hours, his captors relaxed and said that he would be released in the morning. But before he was released, a sheikh from a village near Fallujah arrived. He again interrogated John, but this time it was much more aggressive questioning, John said. Finally, the sheikh said that while they were convinced he was a man of good heart and a journalist, he would not be freed Sunday as promised because Australia was a member of the Coalition and thus, a “warring nation” as Zarqawi has said. Instead, the sheikh would consult with his supervisors in Fallujah on what to do.

Now, this was serious. There's no doubt the sheikh would return to fetch John and turn him over to al-Tahwid w'al-Jihad. So, in a fit of humanity, after the sheikh left, the nationalist captors took John and released him. We're unsure of the ramifications of this act at this point and if there will be any retaliation within the Sunni resistance or against us. It's possible.

It really says something that Martinkus's captors would put themselves at risk to save the life of a coalition press representative. If only the innocent inmates of America's gulags could expect the same compassion from theirs .

Monday, October 18, 2004

London Antiwar Demo attracts up to 70,000

An estimated 70-ish thousand anti-war demonstrators marched in London over the weekend. They pulled a really striking sculpture along with them: Way to guarantee media coverage Londoners!

Murdoch's Petty Censorship

The Melbourne distributor of Outfoxed was declined when he sought to put this advert in Murdoch's Herald Sun:

Advertising Executive Daniel Clarke said the title "Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism" was offensive. The Herald Sun refused to run the ad until it looked like this:

In Brisbane where Murdoch's Courier Mail is the only newspaper , the local Outfoxed distributor had this ad declined:

Until it was reduced to this:

Perhaps they will be Journalists when they grow up. But I doubt it.
(via MediaWatch)

Killer Cola

Graphics inspired by the post below. Help yourself.

Programmed to Consume

This is a chilling finding that demonstrates what slaves to the corporations many people have become:

The mind-altering power of advertising has been demonstrated in a remarkable study of the way in which brand recognition affects the workings of the human brain.

A well-known label is so influential, say researchers, that it can alter consumers' perception of the product's taste. They believe the findings are particularly important given the role that sugared soft drinks have on the epidemic of childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes.

The experiment, a laboratory-controlled version of the famous Pepsi Challenge, revealed that flavour seems to be the last thing that consumers rely on in their preference for Pepsi or Coca-Cola.

When asked to taste blind, they showed no preference. However, when the participants were shown company logos before they drank, the Coke label, the more famous of the two, had a dramatic impact: three-quarters of the tasters declared they preferred Coke.

Here are some reasons why Coca-Cola does not deserve to have any positive associations. Think about these facts next time you drink one:

A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Florida accuses the Coca-Cola Company, its Colombian subsidiary and business affiliates of using paramilitary death squads to murder, torture, kidnap and threaten union leaders at the multinational soft drink manufacturer's Colombian bottling plants. The suit was filed on July 20 by the United Steelworkers of America and the International Labor Rights Fund on behalf of SINALTRAINAL, the Colombian union that represents workers at Coca-Cola's Colombian bottling plants; the estate of a murdered union leader; and five other unionists who worked for Coca-Cola and were threatened, kidnapped or tortured by paramilitaries.

Coca-Cola's workers have the teamsters fighting their corner:

Hundreds of Teamsters rallied outside Madison Square Garden, the site of the Coke’s annual meeting, to protest the company’s poor treatment of its workers. Coca-Cola union leaders from Guatemala, the Philippines, Zimbabwe and the U.S. told members of the Coca-Cola Board of Directors of the harassment and abuse of trade union members at Coca-Cola production, bottling and distribution centers.

  • In Zambia, Coca-Cola's aggressive advertising campaign, has convinced mothers to substitute soft drinks instead of breast milk. 'Fanta baby syndrome' is now a common form of infant malnutrition.
  • In May 2002, several employees of Coca-Cola in Texas accused the company of repackaging nearly out-of-date soda cans and bottles and reselling them in stores frequented by people of colour - primarily Latino and African-American people.
  • In 2000, Coca-Cola paid out $192.5m (£120m) to African-American employees who accused the company of racial discrimination.
  • Coca-Cola has illegally occupied a portion of the common property of the village of Mehdiganj and was found guilty of evading payment of land revenue by a local court. Protesters were met at Coca-Cola's factory gates by about 200 police personnel, sent to 'protect' the plant along with 50 gun-toting private security guards. This was not for show - the demonstrators were beaten up. The Coca-Cola plant in Mehdiganj enjoys heavily subsidized electricity and is accused of spewing toxics into surrounding agricultural fields as well as causing serious water shortage as a result of its operations.
  • Federal prosecutors in Brazil asked police in March to investigate allegations that the company is intimidating local suppliers and bribing public officials in an attempt to put a local competitor out of business.
  • In Asia, government officials in India forced the company to close a bottling plant in March after determining the plant was extracting so much groundwater that it was depriving farmers of enough water to irrigate their crops.

If the welfare of others doesn't move you you can think of youself - they don't have any regard for your health and safety either:

  • Coke was forced to recall 500,000 bottles of its flagship bottled water product in March -- just two months after introducing it in England -- when laboratory analysis found levels of bromate, a potential carcinogen, in the drink that exceeded British health standards. The recall followed weeks of criticism by the British press after reporters discovered that Dasani was purified tap water.
  • For the past year, the company has been battling allegations that its drinks contain pesticides and the plant produces a byproduct of toxic sludge.
  • Coca-Cola, in another goodwill gesture, was giving away the toxic sludge from its plant in Kerala to farmers for free -- as fertilizer! Tests on samples of the toxic sludge commissioned by BBC, not surprisingly, found high levels of lead and cadmium.
  • Tests in India found high concentrations of pesticides and insecticides, including lindane, DDT, malathion and chlorpyrifos, in the colas, making them unfit for consumption. Some samples tested showed the presence of these toxins to be more than 30 times the standard allowed by the European Union. Tests of samples taken from the US of the same drinks were found to be safe.

  • The director-general of Coca-Cola Enterprises Belgium, Philippe Lenfant, told a news conference that a bottling plant in Antwerp had used the "wrong" carbon dioxide to put the fizz in soft drinks bottles.
  • Cans produced in France for the Belgian market, meanwhile, were contaminated with a fungicide used to treat "a small number" of transportation pallets. ..According to the Belgian authorities, the drinks had triggered a blood disorder that causes the destruction of red blood cells among people who had drunk Coca-Cola.
  • In 1996, Coca Cola brought in Cutrale Citrus Juices USA, a subsidiary of Brazil-based Sucocitrico Cutrale Ltd., to produce Minute Maid and Hi-C juice products in Florida. Since the operational changeover, workers in Auburndale have reported to Coca Cola that rats are prevalent throughout the plant, pigeon feathers and droppings have been found on conveyor belts, roaches swarm juice feed tanks, and mold grows inside production lines that are not shut down regularly for cleaning, the Teamsters say. Conditions were so bad by January 2000 that workers initiated their own quality control reporting system and ultimately went on strike to protest unsafe conditions. After ignoring workers' warnings and a failed Florida Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection, Coca Cola was forced to recall Hi-C products produced at the Auburndale plant in February 2000.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Bush's War on Reality (part 87b)

Dylan Otto Krider (via Bob Harris) reports from yet another front of Bush's war on reason:

There’s a war going on—and not just the one in Iraq. This conflict may not get as much media play, but it could have just as great an impact on our safety, national prestige, and long-term economic health. It is a war over the integrity of science itself, and the casualties are everywhere: career scientists and enforcement officials are resigning en masse from government agencies, citing an inability to do their jobs due to what they see as the ruthless politicization of science by the Bush administration. Bruce Boler, Marianne Horinko, Rich Biondi, J. P. Suarez and Eric Schaeffer are among those who have resigned from the EPA alone. In a letter to The New York Times, former EPA administrator Russell Train, who worked for both Nixon and Ford, wrote, “I can state categorically that there never was such White House intrusion into the business of the EPA during my tenure.” Government meddling has reached such a level that European scientists are voicing concerns that Bush may not merely be undermining U.S. dominance in sciences, but global research as well.

Indifference to reality in this department has dire consequences for all of us. The Bush Administration's systematised delusion that they can create a reality of their choosing by surpressing facts that they don't like seems positively surreal when its machinations are described:

...Then there are those examples the UCS does not mention: the Corn Refiners Association and Sugar Association successfully lobbied Bush to pressure the World Health Organization to de-emphasize the importance of cutting sweets and eating fruits and vegetables in their anti-obesity guidelines. Two scientists were ejected from a bioethics council due to what they believed to be their views favoring embryo research. Data on hydraulic fracturing were altered so benzene levels met government standards after “feedback” from an industry source. Another study (sponsored by Florida developers) claiming wetlands cause pollution, was used by the EPA to justify replacing protected marshes with golf courses to improve “water quality.”

Nothing is so trivial that it escapes top administration advisor Karl Rove’s insistence on staying “on message”—from forbidding NASA scientists to speak to the press about the global warming disaster flick The Day After Tomorrow, to letting National Park Service gift shops sell books with the “alternative view” that the Grand Canyon was formed in seven days.

More than indifference, the Bush Administration's behaviour seems more like malicious intent towards the American people, so flagrant is their disregard for health and safety practices:

One need look no further than the USDA to see how compromised the research and enforcement environment has become. Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman was a former food industry lawyer and lobbyist and her staff includes representatives of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and other industry groups. So it should be no surprise that shortly after a dairy cow from Canada tested positive for mad cow disease a senior scientist came forward alleging agency pressure to let Canadian beef into the U.S. before a study concluded it was safe. Nor should it shock us that whistleblowers accused an Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service supervisor of insisting a cow exhibiting symptoms of the disease be sent to a rendering plant before a technician could perform the tests mandated by agency guidelines. But even the most cynical among us might be baffled by the almost cultish devotion to industry pandering exhibited when the USDA refused to give Creekstone Farms Premium Beef the kits it requested to voluntarily test its cattle so it could export to Japan because it might “create the impression that untested beef was not safe.” Creekstone may very well go bankrupt as a result.

Such reluctance only makes sense if the USDA fears that positive results are possible. Still, one hesitates to suggest the USDA is trying to sell as much tainted beef as possible before people start exhibiting symptoms. One hesitates slightly less so after learning that EPA staffers were also prevented from performing routine analysis of the economic and health consequences of proposed regulations governing mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants. After all, it’s a lot easier to suppress unfavorable scientific findings if there’s nothing to suppress. But surely even they realize preventing an analysis of the consequences of our actions will not prevent those consequences from occurring. That’s the rub. Science doesn’t appear to factor into their reasoning at all. The tests might come up negative. They might come up positive. The meat is considered safe either way.

Compounding this frightening prospect are the neocons' plans to fully subjugate science to the propaganda machine:

When agencies that used to be tasked with providing objective analysis no longer inform policy, their only remaining value is in bolstering preconceived conclusions. The ultimate danger of this view of science-as-public relations can be seen in a recent proposal by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that would grant the administration greater control over peer review of “all major government rules, plans, proposed regulations and pronouncements.” David Michaels of the Department of Energy complained, “It goes beyond just having the White House involved in picking industry favorites to evaluate government science. Under this proposal, the carefully crafted process used by the government to notify the public of an imminent danger is going to first have to be signed off by someone weighing the political hazards.” After an outcry from scientists, the OMB seems to have scaled back the proposal from disastrous to merely horrifying, but if past behavior is any guide the administration will keep returning to the cookie jar until science is an empty vessel firmly under the direction of the White House press office.
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Nightmare on Broadway

The strange politics of the musical after 9/11

With fantasy dressed as truth in the news media; Johann Hari draws attention to a genre that is providing the mirror image. The most successful Broadway shows of the moment provide truths wrapped in allegory.

"Who needs Marx and Engels when we have Rodgers and Hammerstein?" asks the American performance artist Tim Miller in his new show, Us. He's not kidding. "If you want to understand my country and the way we view ourselves, don't look at the novels of Norman Mailer or Edward Hopper's paintings or Ralph Nader's speeches. Go see a musical. The Broadway musical is America's most truly political art-form."

At first this sounds ridiculous - the Communist Manifesto vs The Sound of Music? Chomsky vs Sondheim? "But look at the political figures Broadway has to offer," Miller replies. "That little anarchist Oliver. Jesus as a sweet queer hippie who hangs out with prostitutes. And you know, South Pacific was banned across most of the Deep South because it showed an inter-racial love story way ahead of its time. And, yes, look at The Sound of Music. It shows we should quit organised religion and fight fascism through song and dance."

It's a strangely infectious way of looking at the United States. I decided to check out the politics of Broadway's current box-office breakers - and I learnt more about post-September 11 America than in a thousand yellowing copies of The New York Times.

First stop Wicked, the bizarre political fable that has sold out the massive Gershwin Theatre until the summer of 2005. It's a prequel to The Wizard of Oz - a reinterpretation for everybody who instinctively despised that self-righteous little bitch Dorothy, a retelling for all those kids who sided with the lonely, bitter, brilliant Wicked Witch of the West.

Wicked begins where Wizard ends. The Wicked Witch Elphaba has been melted into a pool of green gunk by the Kansas crusader; Dorothy has returned to the black-and-white banality of home. "Isn't it nice to know that good really does conquer evil?" witters Glinda - the Good Witch of the North - with a dim-witted twinkle. The Ozian masses dance around their new queen, congratulating themselves on living in "the most wonderful place on earth".

But something is wrong. "Is it true you knew the Witch when you were young?" somebody yells from the crowd. Glinda's beaming smile droops - and in flashback we begin to learn how these women became polarised witches pining for each others' deaths. It turns out that it's not easy to be a girl with luminescent green skin in Oz. Elphaba repulsed her own parents, and she had been shunned by the other kids. She was only sent to school at all by her pompous father, the Governor of Munchkinland, to look after her paralysed, idealised sister Nessa Rose.

As she waded through the insults and bullies, Elphaba gradually realised that Oz was not the Paradise its citizens endlessly, brainlessly chant about. The talking animals who performed all the tough, tedious jobs in Oz were being increasingly blamed for everything that went wrong, from the Great Drought to vague "subversive activities" known only to the Wizard. The ordinary residents of Oz reassured themselves by deferring to the Wizard and muttering: "No, no, it couldn't happen here. Not in Oz."

Oz is not, the audience slowly realises, the Munchkin-filled land of magic that Dorothy imagined; it is a Technicolor tyranny. The dictatorial Wizard tried to co-opt Elphaba - and her magical powers - into his police state. "The way to bring people together is to give them a really terrible enemy," he told her. Elphaba rebelled - and became the perfect propaganda foe, an Emanuel Goldstein for the Yellow Brick Road. The Wizard falsely accused Elphaba of having elaborate weapons and evil intentions - but far from being "wicked", the late Witch was a freedom fighter trying to rescue the people of Oz. Confronted with his crimes, the Wizard insists: "[You can call me] a traitor or liberator/ Is one a crusader or ruthless invader?/ It's all in which label is able to persist."

Wicked is not perfect. Stephen Schwartz's score doesn't match the brilliance of the concept ("Defying Gravity" is the only really hummable tune), and the script is a weak adaptation of Gregory Maguire's 1995 novel. But this is a show that is connecting with American audiences today, and it's not hard to see why.

If South Pacific was a musical for an America finally confronting its racism, Wicked is a musical for a frightened, confused, suspicious America that can no longer believe its leaders. Is the grand Wizard in the White House lying to us? Is black, white and green good? Whatever you think the answers are, it is revealing that this is the Great White Way's sell-out success of 2004.

Americans can, it seems, bear to hear subversive messages so long as they are told to them by cartoon characters, storybook witches or puppets. Isn't the most politically subversive show on American TV The Simpsons?

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The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear

Finally someone has made a documentary that reflects my take on this. If I could go back to University and do an MA I'd be very interested in exploring this very subject. Unfortunately it's on UK TV not Australian so I'll just have to wait and hope that ABC or SBS pick it up. I'm just happy to know its out there.

Adam Curtis three part documentary
The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear takes a look at the way the Media has been complicit in inciting and perpetuating a spectre of terrorism that is vastly out of proportion with the evidence. He raises the most important question of all, a question that has been conspicuous by its absence from the public discourse: Is It Real?

Much of the currently perceived threat from international terrorism, the series argues, "is a fantasy that has been exaggerated and distorted by politicians. It is a dark illusion that has spread unquestioned through governments around the world, the security services, and the international media." The series' explanation for this is even bolder: "In an age when all the grand ideas have lost credibility, fear of a phantom enemy is all the politicians have left to maintain their power."

Despite the fact that there haven't been any terrorist attacks on U.S., British or Australian soil since 9/11 (and big questions remain unanswered about that one)the fact that none of the Guantanamo inmates has yet been officially charged with anythingand the interesting synchronicity between Bush's approval rating and the US terror alert status the media churns out the myth of a danger that is both Imminent and Immanent. This has reached such a pitch, that to suggest that such fears have no basis even with ample evidence to support is considered highly controversial - The BBC held back on airing trailers for the documentary because of anxieties as to how it would be recieved.

Curtis aims to get people to question the assumptions they have about the reality of the threat, something that even the better media have completely failed to since 9/11.

"I want to try to make people look at things they think they know about in a new way."

The Power of Nightmares seeks to overturn much of what is widely believed about Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. The latter, it argues, is not an organised international network. It does not have members or a leader. It does not have "sleeper cells". It does not have an overall strategy. In fact, it barely exists at all, except as an idea about cleansing a corrupt world through religious violence.

Curtis' evidence for these assertions is not easily dismissed. He tells the story of Islamism, or the desire to establish Islam as an unbreakable political framework, as half a century of mostly failed, short-lived revolutions and spectacular but politically ineffective terrorism. Curtis points out that al-Qaida did not even have a name until early 2001, when the American government decided to prosecute Bin Laden in his absence and had to use anti-Mafia laws that required the existence of a named criminal organisation.

It speaks volumes about the state of the media that they have neglected to sustain any line of questioning about how valid the threats really are for this all this time, despite the scantiest amount of actual evidence to support the spin. The biggest question of all has remained unasked and a perspective fundamental to the discourse has been entirely absent from it until now.

Bill Durodie, director of the international centre for security analysis at King's College London, says: "The reality [of the al-Qaida threat to the west] has been essentially a one-off. There has been one incident in the developed world since 9/11 [the Madrid bombings]. There's no real evidence that all these groups are connected." Crispin Black, a senior government intelligence analyst until 2002, is more cautious but admits the terrorist threat presented by politicians and the media is "out of date and too one-dimensional. We think there is a bit of a gulf between the terrorists' ambition and their ability to pull it off."

Terrorism, by definition, depends on an element of bluff. Yet ever since terrorists in the modern sense of the term (the word terrorism was actually coined to describe the strategy of a government, the authoritarian French revolutionary regime of the 1790s) began to assassinate politicians and then members of the public during the 19th century, states have habitually overreacted. Adam Roberts, professor of international relations at Oxford, says that governments often believe struggles with terrorists "to be of absolute cosmic significance", and that therefore "anything goes" when it comes to winning. The historian Linda Colley adds: "States and their rulers expect to monopolise violence, and that is why they react so virulently to terrorism."

Something has gone very wrong with the media's priorites. The boundaries between reality and fiction have been blurred, the sense of obligation to the public discourse supplanted by corporate interests and systematised dependence on the favours of the spin doctors. The information stream is toxic with uncorrected lies and the media is swollowing its own waste.

"Almost no one questions this myth about al-Qaida because so many people have got an interest in keeping it alive," says Curtis. He cites the suspiciously circular relationship between the security services and much of the media since September 2001: the way in which official briefings about terrorism, often unverified or unverifiable by journalists, have become dramatic press stories which - in a jittery media-driven democracy - have prompted further briefings and further stories. Few of these ominous announcements are retracted if they turn out to be baseless: "There is no fact-checking about al-Qaida."

Corporations have their own agenda, but how and why are so many normal individuals willing to buy into rumour driven phantasmagoria where al-zakarwi lurks behind every corner in Iraq, responsible for every bomb and every beheading in every town? Nobody even appears to find it odd that since al-zakarwi became the new 'bin Laden', Osama has, as the posters say, bin forgotten. Curtis traces the socio- historical development of this state of affairs:

Some critics of this situation see our striking susceptibility during the 90s to other anxieties - the millennium bug, MMR, genetically modified food - as a sort of dress rehearsal for the war on terror. The press became accustomed to publishing scare stories and not retracting them; politicians became accustomed to responding to supposed threats rather than questioning them; the public became accustomed to the idea that some sort of apocalypse might be just around the corner. "Insecurity is the key driving concept of our times," says Durodie. "Politicians have packaged themselves as risk managers. There is also a demand from below for protection." The real reason for this insecurity, he argues, is the decay of the 20th century's political belief systems and social structures: people have been left "disconnected" and "fearful".

In this light the situation looks like a catch 22, a downward spiral of fear begetting authoritarianism and authoritarianism perpetuating fear. What people need is a new sense of community, dialogue and interconnectedness but that is further away now than it has been at any point in recent history. The demonisation of Islam and the subsequent invasion of Iraq (the only secular nation in the Middle-East) has spawned alienations where none previously existed and the world is divided as never before. The US' traditional allies now stand in mutual suspicion with the Bush regime and American culture - once its most potent and effective organ of influence - is beginning to be rejected even in England.

The neocons have more in common with Islamic fundamentalism than they do differences. Fundamentalism is fundamentalism whatever colour it paints itself. All fundamentalism sets itself in opposition to liberalism, diversity and egalitarianism. This is the real war of our times. There is no such thing as a fundamentalist democracy.

King George prepares for a second term

Sidney Blumenthal:

Even now, the White House - or at least one room, the Lincoln bedroom - is being redecorated for President Bush's second term. The famous long bed will remain; so will the original Emancipation Proclamation in its glass case. But, dominating the room, above the bed, will be placed a large carved crown from which will flow, ceiling to floor, royal purple satin drapes. The crown has been sent to be gilded with gold in anticipation of Bush's triumphant return from his campaign.

World to John

Letters to America

The Guardian's campaign to get Britons to write to undecided voters in Ohio, launched a couple of days ago attracted 11,658 participants from all around the world in about 24 hours.

The idea was less well received in the U.S., where House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert called for the Guardian's Washington correspondent's to have ther press accreditations withdrawn.

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