Saturday, September 19, 2015

GM Getting Away with Mass-Murder As the Cost of Doing Business

GM Did the Crime, Drivers Do the Time: Ralph Nader on Failure of U.S. to Prosecute Car Executives

by DemocracyNow!

Under the terms of the Justice Department’s $900 million settlement, no GM executives will be prosecuted for covering up the faulty ignition switch linked to at least 124 deaths. The deal is the latest in a string of deferred prosecution agreements between the Obama administration and corporations accused of criminal activity.

We speak to longtime consumer advocate Ralph Nader, "Why Not Jail?" author Rena Steinzor and Laura Christian, the mother of a GM crash victim.

Ralph Nader, longtime consumer advocate, corporate critic and former presidential candidate. His new book is called Return to Sender: Unanswered Letters to the President, 2001-2015. He is the president of the American Museum of Tort Law, which will open next Saturday in Winsted, Connecticut. It is the first and only law museum of any kind in the United States.

Rena Steinzor, professor at the University of Maryland School of Law and immediate past president of the Center for Progressive Reform. Her latest book is called Why Not Jail?: Industrial Catastrophes, Corporate Malfeasance, and Government Inaction.

Laura Christian, the mother of Amber Rose, who died after her 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt crashed and the air bag failed to deploy on July 29, 2005. Amber was just 16 years old. Since then, Laura Christian has become an auto-safety advocate. She runs the Facebook page "GM Recall Survivors."

Can We Abolish War?: Afghanistan Says #Enough!

A Question from Afghanistan: “Can we abolish war?”

by Dr Hakim  - VCNC

Hadisa, a bright 18 year old Afghan girl, ranks as the top student in her 12th grade class. “The question is,” she wondered, “are human beings capable of abolishing war?”

Like Hadisa, I had my doubts about whether human nature could have the capacity to abolish war.

Hadisa Says #Enough! War

For years, I had presumed that war is sometimes necessary to control ‘terrorists’, and based on that presumption, it didn’t make sense to abolish it. Yet my heart went out to Hadisa when I imagined her in a future riddled with intractable violence.

Hadisa tilted her head slightly in deep thought. She listened attentively to different opinions voiced by fellow Afghan Peace Volunteers. She struggles to find answers.

But when Hadisa turns up at the Borderfree Afghan Street Kids School every Friday to teach the child breadwinners, now numbering 100 in morning and afternoon classes, she lays aside her doubts.

I can see her apply her inner compassion which rises way above the war that is still raging in Afghanistan.

Hadisa, like 99% of human beings, and the more than 60 million refugees fleeing from military and economic wars, usually chooses peaceful, constructive action rather than violence.

“Dear students,“ Hadisa says, “In this school, we wish to build a world without war for you.”

Her street kid students enjoy Hadisa’s teaching. What’s more, away from the rough and unpredictable streets of Kabul, they find the space at the school affirming, safe and different.

Fatima, one of Hadisa’s students, participated in the very first street kids’ demonstration in Kabul demanding a school for 100 street kids. In subsequent actions, she helped plant trees and bury toy weapons. In another two days, on the 21st of September, the International day of Peace, she will be one of 100 street kids who will serve a lunch meal to 100 Afghan labourers.

“In place of war,” Fatima learnt, “we will do acts of kindness.”

This action will launch #Enough!, a long-term campaign and movement initiated by the Afghan Peace Volunteers to abolish war.

Wow! What practical learning!

If the street kids were taught erroneous ways, and became ‘terrorists’, would the solution be to eventually ‘target and kill’ them?

I couldn’t bear to think of it, and am more and more convinced, like Hadisa and the Afghan Peace Volunteers, that killing those labelled ‘terrorists’ by waging war against them doesn’t work.

War and weapons don’t heal the root causes of ‘terrorism’. If our brother or sister was violent, we wouldn’t think of killing them to reform them.

I was in the class when the question was first posed to the street kids: “To whom would you wish to serve a meal?” Hands went up like love and hope blooming for the new Afghan generation, and Habib, an older street kid who was Hadisa’s student last year, echoed along with many others, “The labourers!”

I felt immensely moved, having seen a definite glimmer of our human capacity to care for others, rather than exercise hate, discrimination, indifference or apathy.

Habib, with pen and paper: making an invitation list of 100 Afghan 
 labourers with whom he and other Afghan street kids will share a meal

Yesterday, Habib helped his volunteer teacher, Ali, to invite labourers to the meal on the 21st. As I filmed and photographed Habib taking down the names of Afghan men much older than him, I felt renewed faith in our human ability to do good, and a warm, tender feeling overwhelmed me.

With people like Hadisa, Fatima, Habib and the many wonderful young Afghans I’ve met, I know that we can abolish war.

For their sake and the sake of human kind, we should work together with much patience, and all of our love.

In 1955, after two world wars and the loss of at least 96 million people, Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein wrote a Manifesto, saying, “Here, then, is the problem which we present to you, stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?”

Habib says #Enough! War

After finishing the invitations, as we were walking along the very streets where Habib used to take the weight of pedestrians to earn some income for his family, I asked him, “Why do you want to end war?’

He replied, “Ten persons killed here, ten persons killed there. What’s the point? Soon, there’s a massacre, and gradually a world war.”

Ukraine Banning Press Access: Kyiv Expands It's War on Information

Latest Censorship Move by Kyiv Bans 41 Journalists from Ukraine

by Roger Annis - CounterPunch

On September 16, President Petro Poroshenko issued a decree banning 388 foreigners from traveling to Ukraine. The published list of persons banned was compiled by the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine and dated September 2, 2015. They are deemed to be threats to the interests and national security of Ukraine.

The list included academics, political officials and journalists from countries across Europe. It includes 41 journalists and bloggers, including three from the BBC.

Poroshenko also issued a list of 105 Russian entities from which Ukraine will cut ties. These include airlines, financial institutions and civil organizations.

The ban on the BBC employees was soon lifted by Poroshenko’s office. Two Spanish and one German journalist will also be removed from the list. Those whose bans were lifted are Anton Chicherova, Amy Wells and Steve Rosenberg of the BBC, Spaniards Manuel Angel Sastre and Jose Antonio Rodriguez Pampliega, and German Michael Rutz.

Most of the 388 people named are Russian. There is a great degree of incoherence in the list, as evidenced by its inclusion of journalists from the BBC, which is a media outlet sympathetic to the Ukrainian regime’s political goals. TASS says that two of its three journalists named by Poroshenko do not write about Ukraine. Media reports say that the two named Spanish journalists went missing in the Middle East in July and are presumed to be detained by Islamist forces. A copy of the decree targeting the individuals (in Ukrainian) can be viewed here.

Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy Johannes Hahn told Sputnik, referring to the journalism ban, “I have just heard about it, I have to look into it, but at the first glance I’m surprised and I’m concerned… I wouldn’t say this is in the European spirit.”

The Representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Dunja Mijatović, has also criticized the ban on journalists.

Four days ago, the European Commission extended for another six months its ban on travel and asset freeze against 149 Russian individuals and 37 Russian businesses or other entities.

Ukrainian Minister for Information Policy Yuri Stets has written on Facebook that Ukraine’s list needs an overhaul.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a statement on Sept 16 condemning the decree by Poroshenko. The statement explains,

“The 34 journalists and seven bloggers named in the ban come from Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The decree, which was published on the presidential website, does not explain what press coverage Ukrainian authorities deem as a threat to national security.”

CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova says, “We are dismayed by President Poroshenko’s actions, including a ban on dozens of international media covering Ukraine. While the government may not like or agree with the coverage, labelling journalists a potential threat to national security is not an appropriate response. In fact, this sweeping decree undermines Ukraine’s interests by blocking vital news and information that informs the global public about the country’s political crisis.”

Commentator Bryan MacDonald writes on, “If you were a PR adviser to Ukraine’s leaders and they asked you to compile a list of things they must not do, banning journalists would be high up there. Perhaps even at number one. While those who understand Ukraine know that the regime is even worse than its horrible predecessor, Western media has not reported this reality. Hence, the general public in Europe and North America doesn’t have the foggiest notion.

“Firing cluster bombs at civilians would be prominent too. Nevertheless, Kiev has already done that. Luckily for them, the western press doesn’t seem to mind.”

MacDonald notes the lame response by Western journalists to Poroshenko’s decree. “‘Worrying’, said Mashable’s Christopher Miller. Freelancer Oliver Carroll, frequently seen in The Independent, felt it was ‘quite a pickle’.”

Kyiv is lashing out over its military defeats in the east

Poroshenko says the censorship and sanctions he announced on September 16 are intended to punish anyone associating with the rebellions in Crimea and Donbas against the overthrow of Ukraine’s elected president in February 2014.

Most specifically, The Guardian reports on Sept 16:
“Poroshenko announced the new round of sanctions in response to the rebels’ plan to hold local elections in October and November in territory they control [Donetsk and Lugansk]. ‘This adventurism and irresponsible decision requires our exact, coordinated reaction to the threat that has been created to the Minsk (peace) agreements,’ he said at the time.”

On September 1, Prime Minister Aleksandr Zakharchenko of the Donetsk People’s Republic held a press conference to announce that local and municipal elections will take place there on October 18 in accordance with the terms of the ceasefire accord signed in Minsk, Belarus on Feb. 12, 2015. He said that Kyiv’s refusal to abide by the terms of Minsk-2 requiring it to negotiate a political settlement with rebel authorities in Donetsk and Lugansk will not deter the election plans.

Similar elections will take place in the Lugansk People’s Republic on November 1.

A renewed ceasefire went into effect in eastern Ukraine on September 1 and has been holding. It results from a combination of pressures operating on Kyiv. European governments have said they want Kyiv to abide by Minsk-2 and curb its civil war. The Ukrainian economy in freefall and Ukraine’s armed forces are in poor shape to continue fighting. Evasion of military conscription has assumed massive proportions.

A recent poll reveals that only five per cent of Ukrainians are fully confident in the economic “reforms” (economic association with austerity Europe) on which the current government is embarked. Another 26 per cent believe in them, though with doubts. Less than two per cent of those polled believe that Russia is a “main driving force” of the economic crisis in the country and only 12 per cent consider Russia to be an obstacle to the Ukrainian government “reforms”.

Journalists killed and jailed while books, movies, newspapers and television banned

On April 16, of this year, journalist and Euromaidan critic Oles Buzina was gunned down in front of his home in broad daylight in Kyiv. Two men were arrested for the murder, both members of extreme right organizations. The two have become folk heroes of their cohorts. Hundreds demonstrated in the streets of Odessa earlier this week calling for the release of the two.

The march in Odessa was spearheaded by the Right Sector and the Svoboda Party, as is the broader campaign on behalf of the accused killers. On August 26, a memorial plaque for Buzina that had been erected in front of his house was desecrated and torn down by a rightist mob. A plaque honouring his accused murderers was put in its place. All this in broad daylight in central Kyiv.

Journalist Ruslan Kotsaba has been sitting in jail since April of this year. He is accused of “treason” for opposing Ukraine’s military conscription. Kotsaba does not deny the accusation and says he wants his day in court. He says Kyiv’s civil war in the east of the country is undeclared and therefore illegal. Kyiv calls its war in the east an “anti-terrorist operation”. It also says Russia has invaded Ukraine and it is at (undeclared) war with the invader.

Not reported in the mainstream news of this latest banning move is that the Euromaidan government in Kyiv has extensively banned Russian-language television, newspapers and magazines since coming to power in February 2014.

On April 2 of this year, Poroshenko signed into law a measure banning Russian films and television series. The measure bans any film or television series made in Russia after January 1, 2014, those made after 1991 containing “positive depictions” of the Russian government and police and armed forces, and those considered to be “anti-Ukrainian”, whenever they were made.

Last year, Ukraine banned from Ukrainian airwaves more than a dozen Russian television news channels.

Book banning has also come into vogue. Last month, the Kyiv regime issued an initial ban against 38 books, including those consisting of published reports on the human rights situation in the country.

Ottawa researcher Ivan Katchanovski reports on his Facebook page on Sept 16: ” The Security Service of Ukraine has opened a criminal investigation of distribution of “anti-Ukrainian” books at the recent forum of publishers in the city of Lviv. Specifically, books published by Folio Publishers are mentioned by the head of SBU in the Lviv region. The police official claims the books are a secret operation of the Russian domestic security agency (FSB).”

The publisher of Folio has responded to the threats against his publishing house. Folio is based in Kharkiv and according to Publishers Global is the largest Ukrainian publishing house. It was established in 1991 and publishes classical and contemporary literature, fiction, educational and computer books in Russian and Ukrainian languages.

Katchanovski reports, “There will be no reaction from the Western governments and no Western mainstream media reports concerning such actions by the Ukrainian secret police, which reportedly has U.S. advisers.”

The banning decision comes three days after the memorial to the victims of the Holocaust at Babi Yar in Kyiv was once again desecrated. It is the sixth desecration of the memorial this year. Some 33,771 Jews were killed by Nazi occupation forces and their collaborators in a two-day massacre at the Babi Yar ravine in September 1941.

Other memorials as well as synagogues have been attacked in Ukraine since the Euromaidan government came to power. Earlier this month, a Jewish pilgrimage was attacked in Uman, Ukraine. Local police stood by and did not intervene.

Roger Annis is an editor of the website The New Cold War: Ukraine and beyond. On June 12, he gave a talk in Vancouver, Canada reporting on his visit to Donetsk, eastern Ukraine in April 2015 as part of a media tour group. A video broadcast of that talk is here: The NATO offensive in eastern Europe and the class and the national dynamics of the war in eastern Ukraine.
More articles by:Roger Annis

Friday, September 18, 2015

Clearcutters Greenlighted: Back to the Walbran, Back to the War in the Woods?

BC government approves logging in central Walbran Valley

by Wilderness Committee 

VICTORIAToday the B.C. government approved a contentious cutblock in the central Walbran Valley on Vancouver Island. The central Walbran is one of Canada’s most important stands of unprotected old-growth rainforest. Logger Teal Jones received a new permit from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to cut endangered old-growth trees.

Environmental and public concerns ignored by company and provincial government

“This is a total abdication of responsibility from the BC government,” said Torrance Coste, Vancouver Island Campaigner with the Wilderness Committee.
“This type of old-growth forest is simply too rare to destroy, and the fact that the government isn’t responding to this crisis is shameful.”

At low elevation, less than 10 per cent of Vancouver Island’s old-growth rainforest remains standing.

The Wilderness Committee obtained preliminary logging plans from Teal Jones at the end of May, and were shocked to learn the company had laid out eight new cutblocks in the central Walbran – a legendary tract of intact forest amongst a sea of clearcuts on southwestern Vancouver Island.

The area comprises only a fraction of Teal Jones’ forest tenure, but the company has refused requests to look at other harvest options. In the last few months, nearly 3,500 citizens have written to the Premier and Minister of Forests, demanding that the government deny logging permits in the Valley.

Among those opposed are citizens willing to re-ignite a War in the Woods-style conflict last seen in the Walbran Valley in the early nineties.

“We don’t want this go to a blockade,” Coste said.
“The provincial government has the ability to avoid that, and it’s time for them to step up – they need to rescind this permit and start engaging with the company, local First Nations and the public on alternatives.”

The Wilderness Committee has requested emergency meetings with Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, but thus far the Minister has refused.

“The level of public opposition to these logging plans has been unprecedented. We’ve heard from thousands of people who can’t understand how the Minister of Forests can remain missing in action on an issue this critical,” said Coste.

Along with other groups, the Wilderness Committee has hosted public demonstrations and rallies, and visited the central Walbran several times in the past few months.

The Walbran Valley contains some of the oldest and largest redcedar and sitka spruce trees in Canada – some as wide as four metres across at their base. The Walbran is located in unceded Nuu-chah-nulth territory.

News Release
For more information, please contact:

Torrance Coste | Vancouver Island Campaigner, Wilderness Committee

Photos of the Walbran Valley (available for media use, with credit included):
Related Campaigns:

Stop Old-Growth Logging
Walbran Valley

"Is Tehran Burning?" - Iran Still Standing

Iran Is Standing!

by Andre Vltchek - CounterPunch

Why should I care whether Iran has nukes? It most likely doesn’t, but even if it does… it never attacked anyone, never overthrew any government, and never performed experiments on human beings. It had not committed a single genocide, and never dreamed about conquering the world.

So why should I even bother to think much about Iran’s nuclear program, big or small, “peaceful” or defensive?

If Iran is capable of defending itself – then excellent; I am only happy! At least it will not be wiped out from the face of the Earth, as happened to its unfortunate neighbors Iraq and Afghanistan or to a bit more distant but not more fortunate countries like Libya.

Do I want this great, ancient Iranian culture to become defenseless and to eventually disappear, to be destroyed, or to get replaced by aggressive Western consumerism, arrogance and pathological lack of compassion?

Or more concretely: Do I want Iran to turn into yet another Western colony? I don’t! I want it to survive and to thrive. As I want great Chinese and great Arab cultures to survive and flourish. As I want all cultures on Earth to survive and flourish.

But it seems that, as the Empire is on its final bellicose and ideological crusade, unless a truly independent nation begins to roar, unless it shows both its teeth and its missiles, it has almost no chance to survive.

Iran is roaring and it is also logically explaining where it stands. It has both guts and big heart.


Iran is ordered to prove its “innocence”, all of the time. There are entire “international” (sponsored and handled by the West) organizations and commissions challenging its course, sticking their muzzles into Iran’s internal affairs.

Iran is told to comply, “or else”. Its tormentors insist on “transparency”, while themselves staying in total murkiness. They are above the law; in fact they are the law. In the world they created, they themselves don’t have to prove absolutely anything, while their victims are routinely challenged, scrutinized, cornered, bullied and humiliated.

After suffering, after bleeding incessantly, it appears that Iran had finally enough. It is no longer willing to play this neo-colonialist game. It is now going public with its grievances.


At the opening of the “2nd International Congress on 17.000 Iranian Martyrs”, (held in Teheran on August 31 – September 1st, 2015) I was allowed to speak right after the President of Iran, Mr. Hassan Rouhani.

President Rouhani gave a powerful speech about the terrorism in the region: “Maybe for many people it is something new, but not for us… Today there are powers in Europe and the United States – they are silent about some terrorist groups, while supportive of others. Can we really win against the terrorism like this?”

“You are being targeted because you are taking care of your people”, I said after him, in my discourse, as I was designated a keynote speaker of the Conference.
“Iran suffers similar attacks as Latin America. The Western imperialism tries to destroy virtually every revolutionary, socialist country. But the world is changing and you are not alone. As Latin America is not alone.”

17.000 Iranian victims; 17.000 human lives lost. And almost no one in the West seems to know! How convenient. How cowardly. How servile!

The West supports the Saudis, Qataris and other Wahhabi extremists. It had been arming ISIL (Dash). It already destroyed almost every socially oriented, moderate and secular nation in the Muslim world, from Yemen to Syria, from Egypt to Indonesia. Little surprise that independent-minded and proud Iran is now at the very top of the Empire’s hit list.

After all, Iran is standing by Syria and it is supportive of Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hezbollah is the only true social force in that otherwise collapsing country; the only social force that incorporates several religious and ethnic groups. And it is locked in a dogfight with ISIL, and it fights Israel whenever Israel decides to invade Lebanon. That is why Hezbollah is also on that hit list (or call it “terrorist list”) of the West. The fact that Teheran is backing Hezbollah is yet another reason why Iran is ostracized by Washington, London and Paris.

Teheran is simply spoiling some of the most outrageous colonialist plans of both North America and Europe.


It is time for the Western public to wake up and pay attention to the fact that thousands of common Iranian people are dying, have been murdered, for absolutely no reasons… both common people, as well as prominent figures, including some of the country’s top scientists.

I saw mothers and wives holding photos of their murdered loved ones, in terrible grief. I saw men without legs. I saw archive photos depicting aftermaths of countless horrific terrorist explosions, executed by The Mujahedeen-e Khalq Organization (MKO), an anti-Iran terrorist group, and by other pro-Western groups.

To me, all this was not new, but it is shocking nevertheless. I saw how the Empire has been murdering thousands, even millions of those who have been reluctant to succumb to its dictate – in the Middle East, in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

But here, in Iran, the West has been behaving with almost absolute ludicrousness. While torturing the country, it was shamelessly insisting that the entire world should actually fear it and despise it. Its propaganda against Iran reached crescendo.

And while murdering Iranian people directly or through vicious sanctions, the West has been demanding from Teheran ever newer proves of its “guiltlessness”.

The entire situation would be grotesque, truly laughable, if those thousands of innocent people would not be dying.

When I spoke in Teheran, my voice was shaking. I addressed the Iranian government and the academia: “We are all brothers”, I said, old images of Chavez and Ahmadinejad embracing, appearing in my mind. Then I recalled the US-sponsored coups in Venezuela, and few moments later, those thousands of innocent, slaughtered Iranian civilians.

I spoke about resistance to imperialism, about new powerful media outlets in Latin America, Russia, and China as well as in Iran itself.

I told them about my 1.000-page book “Exposing Lies of the Empire”, depicting virtually all corners of the globe that have already been ravished by the West. I spoke about those fascist, fundamentalist doctrines behind such attacks. I told them what I saw, how devastated I have been, but also how determined to resist! And I concluded:

“Why is Iran one of the main targets of the terrorists who are supported by the West? It is obviously because Iran is doing many of the right things, for its own people and for the world!”


Iran, one of the most criticized and scrutinized nations, is in reality one of the most peaceful and long-suffering countries on earth.

The West has been tormenting the Iranian people sadistically, continuously and relentlessly.

Since the ancient Greek Empire, Iran (Persia) was continuously invaded and partitioned, although never fully colonized.

In 1953 the US and Britain overthrew the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mosaddegh, a socialist leader dedicated to social changes. During his government, the Iranian people were enjoying subsidized housing, good education and medical care. He also launched a comprehensive land reform. In order to improve life of Iranian people, he nationalized Iran’s oil industry. The Brits and the North Americans, of course, considered such behavior as unacceptable. Mosaddegh was ousted, and a tyrant monarch, Shah, put on the throne. Cheap oil began to flow to the West, while thousands of Iranian people were savagely tortured and killed. The Empire later committed the same crimes in Indonesia (1965) and in Chile (1973), to name just two places.

After the Shah was forced to leave, the West armed and encouraged Iraq to invade its neighbor, Iran. In 1980, a terrible war erupted. As a result, around one million people died.

When Iran decided to develop its peaceful nuclear program, brutal sanctions were imposed, destroying lives of millions, including women and children.

Then the extremist terrorist groups were “put to work” by both the West and Israel. Their goal was to spread fear and devastation, and to murder Iran’s prominent scientists.

Attempts to destabilize Iran are constant but had proven to be futile.

Shaken, injured but determined, Iran is facing vicious attacks calmly and with dignity. The more self-respect it radiates, the more vicious propaganda and loud barking are coming from the West, and the more chilling are the threats.

The position of Washington, Paris and London is obvious (and it has been for centuries): non-Western countries have no right to defend themselves. They only exist in order to supply North America and Europe with cheap raw materials and labor. They cannot decide their fate.

And there is no compromise on the table. Either a country fully submits to the Western dictate, or it is destroyed.

But Iran refused to accept such “arrangement” of the world. Too mighty to be out rightly attacked, it rose against Western global dictatorship. Of course Russia did, too. And so did China. Most of Latin American countries did as well. And now several African and Asian countries are also determined to join those who are refusing to kneel.

The West trembles: its dogmas are being challenged! And it does what it has been doing for many terrible centuries: it is trying to murder, to deceive and to trick. It is desperately fighting for being able to maintain its iron grip on the World.


At the Conference, ideas were exchanged, and concepts erected. Several speakers described how the West has been supporting extreme, ultra-conservative Islamic teaching -Wahabbism – and used it against the socialist Islam, against countries like Turkey, against several Arab states, against the Soviet Union, China and now against Iran. Ahmadinejad called Wahhabism “a cancer that made the entire Middle East sick.” I also argued that it is also making sick entire Indonesia.

One of the speakers, Professor Azizi, declared from the stage of Shahid Beheshti University Conference Center:

“Americans intend to establish their own religion, their own version of Islam… They created DAESH (ISIL) in order to support such version, such “new religion”… They do it this way, covertly, because they would not dare to fight Islam openly, fearing a great backlash.”

I heard terms like “social terrorism”.

Finian Cunningham, renowned columnist from Northern Ireland, compared the operations of British death squads in his country to other acts of terror that the Empire has been spreading all over the world, including places like Yemen and Iran: “Illegal war of aggression against sovereign nations.”

I was told by several Iranian participants, repeatedly, that one hidden “secret” which the Western media has been keeping away from the public, is that both Ahmadinejad and Chavez were actually building two respective socialist countries, two states with different history and cultures, but with very similar, socialist principles.

Western propaganda is depicting Iran as some brutal religious dogmatic state, not as an enormous 80-million inhabitants country that is re-inventing itself on the values of the socialist Islam.

High above the city, at the viewing platform of the magnificent Milad Tower, I listened to a passionate discourse of my new friend, Soraya Sebahpour-Ulrich, a great Iranian thinker, and a stepdaughter of a former cabinet minister who also happened to be the Shah’s ghostwriter:

“The world sees Iran not as it is, but as it is projected by Western media. It pains me. I see the kindness and beauty, and then I am told that it is being ugly. And this destructed image is stabbing me in the heart. I just want to say: ‘I am Iran and Iran is me… I want people to see me as I am, and I want them to see real Iran.”

Soraya also believes that Iran is a socialist country, and she wants it to stay this way: “This is Iran that I love and appreciate much more than that Iran, where I had a very privileged life.”


I report that I saw a great socialist city – Teheran – standing tall, proud and determined.

Teheran with its old bazaars and mosques, palaces and mountains, but above all with thousands of projects designed to provide welfare for its people.

In Teheran, like in Caracas, I witnessed a breathtaking struggle for a better world. Sanctions or not, Teheran is impressive, with its modern public transportation system, huge public parks, wide sidewalks, vast cultural institutions, free medical facilities and schools.

I did not see slums. I did not see people begging. I did not witness frustration or rage. Instead, I felt kindness at each and every corner, and I also felt great confidence of the nation with tremendous culture and 5 thousand years of recorded history.

At one point, I was driven to the studios of Press TV and asked to comment on the diplomatic conflict between the USA and Russia. There was absolute trust. Few minutes later, IRINN TV interviewed me on the West–Iran relationship. Radio stations, including IRIB, were lining up, microphones ready. Some interviews were live. No one was asking those ‘BBC screening question’: “What are you going to say, Mr. Vltchek?”

It was like interacting with other progressive channels – like TeleSUR or RT.

Iran was not scared of me, as I was not scared of Iran.

What I said in Teheran, I have been saying again and again in Caracas, Quito, Beijing and Pretoria: “If we are united, we will never be defeated! Venezuela may appear far away on the world map, but in reality it is standing right here, shoulder to shoulder with you.”

The powerful specter of a united, internationalist, and anti-imperialist block horrifies the West. That is why Iran is now under attack. That is why fascist gangsters are hitting Venezuela. That is why the imperialists are encircling Russia and China. That is why Western propaganda is demonizing all proud and noble countries around the world.

17.000 Iranian victims of terrorism sponsored by the West. More than one million victims since the West overthrew the progressive government in 1953. What a tremendous toll! But true freedom is priceless.

I report that Iran is standing! And it will not succumb to vicious and senseless attacks. It will never kneel, because it knows – surrendering would lead directly to slavery.


One is of course tempted to ask: how much is too much? How many people have to die, before the patience of the oppressed of the world runs out?

I interacted with many Iranian people. Their peaceful nuclear program does not scare me. And it does not scare people of Western and Central Asia. Iranian culture is thousands of years old and it is deep and tolerant. It gained the trust of the world; of people who are not blinded by toxic propaganda.

But I have to admit that the Western Empire increasingly disgusts me, as it terrifies billions of people all over the world. It already lost all breaks, all sense of decency. It already ruined and finished billons of lives, by spreading and forcing its fundamentalist dogmas, its greed and incomparable brutality. I don’t want more lives to be destroyed. I don’t want more countries, more nations, to be shattered.

That is why I feel that as long as Iran and countries like Iran are standing, so are we!

 Iranian terror victim.

Iranian victims of terrorism.


Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His latest books are: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire” and “Fighting Against Western Imperialism”.Discussion with Noam Chomsky: On Western Terrorism. Point of No Return is his critically acclaimed political novel. Oceania – a book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about Indonesia: “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. Andre is making films for teleSUR and Press TV. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and the Middle East. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.
More articles by:Andre Vltchek

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Behind the Tweed Curtain: Authoritarian Britain

Britain Moves From Democracy to Authoritarian State in Pernicious Veil of Secrecy

Graham Vanbergen – TruePublica

When David Cameron won the 2015 election one of the first things he said was; “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone”. This ominous statement immediately threw a dark shroud over Britain’s civil liberties laws, its openness and participation.

One should not forget that “Openness and participation are antidotes to surveillance and control”.

Few of the mainstream establishment press thought this was worthy of mention. From ZeroHedge – It’s not just those domestic extremists and crazy “conspiracy theory” kooks who took serious issue with UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s overtly fascist language when it comes to freedom of expression in Great Britain”. The Independent was more sanguine – “This is the creepiest thing David Cameron has ever said”.

New powers being brought in by the Conservatives should be of great concern to everyone. They are expected to be the introduction of banning orders for organisations who use hate speech in public places, but whose activities fall short of proscription and include;
  • New Extremism Disruption Orders to restrict people who seek to radicalise young people;
  • Powers to close premises where extremists seek to influence others;
  • Strengthening the powers of the Charity Commission to root out charities who misappropriate funds towards extremism and terrorism;
  • Further immigration restrictions on extremists;
  • A strengthened role for Ofcom to take action against channels which broadcast extremist content.

Simply take out the word ‘extremist’ from those five points and you have the existence of something completely different. Of course you could be forgiven for thinking that the government would not abuse such laws. But they already allow for such abuses to take place on current terror laws, for instance:
  • The BBC is using laws designed to catch terrorists and organised crime networks to track down people who dodge the £145.50 licence fee.
  • The Metropolitan Police Service has also come under fire for using the same powers to access the phone logs of journalists on two newspapers to trace their protected sources.
  • In addition, Big Brother Watch discovered 372 councils had been authorised (by gov’t) to use the terror laws 9,607 times -the equivalent of around eleven spying missions a day to hunt down non-payment of council tax.
  • Seven public authorities, including the BBC, refused under the Freedom of Information Act to disclose why or how often they had used the powers. The BBC now refuses 48% of such requests.

What is most striking about these events are that publicly funded bodies such as the BBC, the Police and local authorities are refusing to answer perfectly reasonable Freedom of Information Act requests. They are exercising powers they shouldn’t have but were given by a government that the electorate were not consulted on and do not approve of in the first place.

There is proof that local authorities have even used terror laws to surveillance dog fouling, underage sunbed users and people breaking smoking bans.

Now that the Conservative government in Britain has it’s feet under the desk it is preparing to enact new legislation that, under the guise of the “war on terror,” that will vastly expand police-state powers and essentially criminalise speech and other political activity.

Presented officially as an anti-terrorism bill, the proposed measures will be targeted at any popular opposition to the government’s policies of aggressive militarism abroad and austerity measures in Britain, or for that matter anything the government deems worthy of oppressing.

The new bill will include a series of measures targeting groups and individuals deemed by the government to be “extremist.” This term is defined so vaguely as to encompass a wide array of political activity.

The new bill will create extremist “disruption orders” for individuals and “banning orders” for groups. The targets for these new police powers will be those who have conducted “harmful” behaviour.

The “harmful” behaviour covers activities that pose “a risk of public disorder, a risk of harassment, even alarm or just distress or creating a ‘threat to the functioning of democracy’.”

This will be used to criminalise campaigns critical of government policy and protests, which are frequently dispersed by the police on precisely the grounds that they disrupt public order. The language also indicates that the government would have the authority to target those merely planning such activity prior to it taking place – and they would do that through mass surveillance.

UK intelligence agency GCHQ has already been caught acting unlawfully by spying on two international human rights organisations. In addition, last year it was revealed that GCHQ were illegally eavesdropping on sacrosanct lawyer-client conversations in order to both disrupt and make gains on negotiations. GCHQ failed to follow its own secret procedures. “If spying on human rights NGOs isn’t off-limits for GCHQ, then what is?” said Privacy International.

From here we can see we now have a vast illegal state surveillance system that Mussolini would have had wet dreams about. The government is slowing closing down Britain’s very open society and they intend on doing so using one of Britain’s finest philosophers and a well tried theory.

The Panopticon is a type of institutional building designed by the English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The concept of the design is to allow a single watchman to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of an institution without the inmates being able to tell whether or not they are being watched. Although it is physically impossible for the single watchman to observe all cells at once, the fact that the inmates cannot know when they are being watched means that all inmates must act as though they are watched at all times, effectively controlling their own behaviour constantly.

The internet has become the architecture of the state managed panopticon.

Speaking to the Guardian weeks after his appointment as the UN special rapporteur on privacy, Joseph Cannataci described British surveillance oversight as being “a joke”, and said the situation is worse than anything George Orwell could have foreseen.

Terror laws we have are already being abused. One is reminded of 82 year old Mr Wolfgang‘s pass being seized and he then detained under the Terrorism Act for interrupting Tony Blair’s speech at the Labour party conference in 2005.

Some of the most egregious cases of misuse include: a council in Dorset putting three children and their parents under surveillance to check they were in the catchment area for the school they had applied to.

Like the prisoners of Jeremy Bentham’s building – there is nowhere to hide in the panopticon.

A report by the House of Lords Constitution Committee, Surveillance: Citizens and the State, had warned in 2009 that increasing use of surveillance by the government and private companies was a serious threat to freedoms and constitutional rights, stating, “The expansion in the use of surveillance represents one of the most significant changes in the life of the nation since the end of the Second World War. The government’s of 2010 and 2015 have taken no notice at all.

Tempora‘ was one such government mass surveillance and spying programme among many. It is alleged that GCHQ produces larger amounts of metadata than America’s NSA. By May 2012 300 GCHQ analysts and 250 NSA analysts had been assigned to sort data.

The amount and type of data collected and stored is mind-boggling. Every email, phone call, location data, relationships, family and friends, affairs, work, income, expenditure, social habits, it simply has no end. You would not write down the passwords to your email account, bank or Amazon account, social media platforms and give a stranger the list. But that is exactly what GCHQ and other organisations have got.

Optic Nerve‘, another UK state surveillance mission, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing. They have stored naked pictures of you, your little daughter and pictures you have sent to family and friends in a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy. This was a biometric exercise of epic scale – collating nearly 2 million citizen images in just a few months.

On May 13th 2013, Edward Snowden made a dash via Hong Kong to Moscow. That June the spying and surveillance revelations came forth. And what came forth was the stunning realisation that our government has been lying to us about the sheer scale of state surveillance conducted on a truly industrial scale.

Not happy with all this illegal state activity over its citizens, new orders that the government are now seeking contain bans on individuals broadcasting their views on television, and anyone subject to an order will be compelled to submit any written publication, including social media posts, to the police before it is printed. In addition, the orders will make it illegal for individuals to attend or address public gatherings or protests.

Banning orders will allow the government to outlaw any organisations it feels is not in their interests. If such a move is taken, anyone found to be a member of such an organisation will be guilty of a criminal offence. Authorities will also be able to shut down premises used by groups.

Human rights group Privacy International branded the new proposal as an “assault on the rights of ordinary British citizens.”

As the Guardian ’s home affairs editor wrote in an analysis of the proposal, “the official definition of non-violent extremism is already wide-ranging” and, as Big Brother Watch has pointed out, the national extremism database already includes the names of people who have done little more than organise meetings on environmental issues.”

Last year the government even attempted to hold an entire terrorism trial in secret before abandoning it at the last minute.

Together with a sweeping attack on democratic rights and legal norms, the Conservatives’ anti-terror bills will further advance the government’s right-wing agenda. Cameron’s proposals make clear that the Conservatives are determined to vastly expand the repressive powers of the state.

In little more than five years the state has gone from an open society of democratic principle to one that resembles an authoritarian state. Soon, it will be impossible to have a dinner party with friends without the state knowing about it and wanting to know the purpose of your gathering. Quite the opposite of his ‘big society’.

The conduct of the British government and its intelligence services are acting under a pernicious veil of secrecy to the detriment of all citizens.

Beam Off, Scotty: Star Trek's Real Prime Directive

Resisting the Lure of Intervention: The Search for Terrestrial Intelligence

by John Feffer  - TomDispatch

They were the “best and the brightest” but on a spaceship, not planet Earth, and they exemplified the liberal optimism of their era. The original Star Trek, whose three-year TV run began in 1966, featured a talented, multi-ethnic crew.

The indomitable Captain Kirk had the can-do sex appeal of a Kennedy; his chief advisor, the half-human, half-Vulcan Mr. Spock, offered the cool rationality of that “IBM machine with legs,” then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. And the USS Enterprise, on a mission “to boldly go where no man has gone before,” pursued a seemingly benign anthropological interest in seeking out, engaging with, and trying to understand the native populations of a fascinating variety of distant worlds.

The “prime directive,” designed to govern the conduct of Kirk and his crew on their episodic journey, required non-interference in the workings of alien civilizations. This approach mirrored the evolving anti-war sympathies of series creator Gene Roddenberry and many of the show’s scriptwriters. The Vietnam War, which raged through the years of its initial run, was then demonstrating to more and more Americans the folly of trying to re-engineer a society distant both geographically and culturally. The best and the brightest, on Earth as on the Enterprise, began to have second thoughts in the mid-1960s about such hubris.

Even as they deliberately linked violent terrestrial interventions with celestial ones, however, the makers of Star Trek never questioned the most basic premise of a series that would delight fans for decades, spawning endless TV and movie sequels. Might it not have been better for the universe as a whole if the Enterprise had never left Earth in the first place and if Earth hadn’t meddled in matters beyond its own solar system? 

As our country contemplates future military interventions, as well as ambitious efforts to someday colonize other planets, Americans would be smart to address this fundamental question. Might our inexhaustible capacity for interfering in far-flung places be a sign not of a dynamic civilization, but of a fatal flaw -- for the country, the international community, and the species as a whole? 

Tomgram: John Feffer, The Star Trek Fallacy

We were both experiencing the Sixties, Captain Kirk and I. Admittedly, I was still in the 1960s and the captain was somewhere in the 2260s. I was on an insignificant planet circling an unimpressive sun in an obscure solar system, while, for three years before the USS Enterprise was grounded and his travels put into syndication, the captain was moving at light speed through the “United Federation of Planets.” In those years that we shared across the millennia, I was swept away by a movement protesting American military interventions in several countries -- Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia -- so far away and culturally alien that, before we went to war there, few Americans could have told you where they were or even, perhaps, that they were. The captain, on the other hand, was repeatedly landing in peace on a series of strange planets peppered with what looked distinctly like papier-mâché rock formations and filled with curious creatures he was sworn by a “prime directive” never to harm or change. In the parallel years, on my planet, American Captain Kirks were piloting their aircraft carriers off the Vietnamese coast and launching planes that, according to an American prime directive then operative, would slaughter uncounted “aliens” and, in the end, with the help of the U.S. Air Force and up to three million troops, destroy whole worlds.

Stranger yet, in those years (1966-1969) I watched both of these events on television. And while the Starship Enterprise and its Trekkie successors have come back so many times on TV screens and in multiplexes nationwide to deal with Khan, save the whales, tangle with Q, and explore ever stranger worlds filled with even more alien beings, on Earth, my country has stuck tenaciously with its particular version of the prime directive -- in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and elsewhere. There, as it blindly and repeatedly went where Americans had often gone before, killing by plane, drone, missile, and a bevy of other weapons, it continued to wreak havoc of every sort and gained nothing in return.

Intervention, it turned out, looked so much prettier in outer space. TomDispatch regular John Feffer, however, suggests that whether in bloody reality or in relatively peaceful fantasy, the essential problem in the 1960s, 2015, or the twenty-third century has been the very urge to intervene and that, if we don’t somehow ditch it, it may turn out that our own prime directive will destroy us and the very framework for life on this planet. Tom

Resisting the Lure of Intervention: 

The Search for Terrestrial Intelligence

by John Feffer

The Orange Zone

The United States has never had much use for a precautionary prime directive. It has interfered with “alien” societies at a remarkable clip ever since the late nineteenth century. Indeed, such interference is inscribed in the genetic code of the country, for America is the product of the massive disruption and eradication of an already existing native population. Columbus also boldly went where no (European) man had gone before, and we recapitulate his voyage every time we send the Marines to a foreign shore or our drones into foreign air space. Native Americans didn’t need “discovering” or new infectious diseases any more than Iraqis needed lectures about democracy from neoconservatives.

Despite considerable evidence of just how malign our recent interventions have proven to be -- in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and elsewhere -- the U.S. government continues to contemplate military missions. Iran is, for the moment, off the hook, and so is Cuba. Washington has also repeatedly emphasized that North Korea is not in the crosshairs, though our aggressive military posture in East Asia might suggest otherwise, particularly to the paranoid leadership in Pyongyang.

But even the diplomacy-friendly Obama administration is still wedded to the use of drones in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Yemen, not to mention a new secret program in Syria. It has dispatched Special Forces to 150 countries. And it has conducted, along with its coalition allies, more than 5,000 airstrikes against the Islamic State. U.S. troops remain in significant numbers in Afghanistan (9,800) and Iraq (3,500). Hundreds of U.S. military bases, with around 150,000 service personnel deployed on them, gird the globe.

These military actions have remapped the world -- and not in a good way. America’s post-9/11 invasions, attacks, and occupations have created a crescent of crisis that stretches from Afghanistan across the Middle East and into Africa. Fragile states, like Somalia and Yemen, have been thrown into desperate chaos. Syria and Iraq have become incubators for the most virulent strains of extremism. And authoritarian leaders in Egypt and the Gulf States are using this turmoil to justify their own iron-fist policies.

Even the recent refugee crisis, the most significant since the end of World War II, can be traced back to the Bush administration’s military responses to September 11th. For many years, Afghanistan was the leading exporter of refugees to the world, with Iraq a close second. Today, the leading source of refugees is Syria. Although the United States hasn’t invaded that country, it has meddled there nonetheless, initially to depose Bashar al-Assad and then to “degrade” the Islamic State and its affiliates. In the twenty-first century, America’s efforts to reengineer societies across the planet are ending up just as badly as its twentieth-century fiasco in Southeast Asia.

Meanwhile, the impulse to “boldly go” is no longer restricted to neo-colonial interventionism or military adventurism. There is now growing enthusiasm for sending an expeditionary force beyond Earth. Several competing initiatives aim to begin the colonization of Mars, in part to provide humanity with an alternative should global warming make planet Earth inhospitable to human life. These extraterrestrial efforts reflect a growing anxiety that the end is nigh, at least for the home team.

Indeed, many writers (not to speak of scientists) have postulated that Earth is reaching a tipping point. Whether as a function of nuclear weapons, carbon emissions, or sheer reproductive fervor, humans seem to be approaching an important threshold in our life on the planet.

Let’s call it the Orange Zone, in honor of the erstwhile terrorism color index. For the last half-century or so, humans have had the capacity to blow up the planet with our nuclear toys. We have also been burning up fossil fuels at a remarkable and increasing rate in a burst of economic activity that has brought us to the brink of irreparably destroying the ecosystem. And we have reproduced so successfully that, like voracious locusts, we threaten to outstrip the planet’s capacity to feed us.

If we can figure out how to lower the threat alert and leave the Orange Zone, we will have passed the civilizational test. Once we put away our childish things -- our nuclear weapons, our coal-fired power plants, our religious prohibitions against contraception -- we can graduate to the next level of planetary consciousness. Otherwise, we flunk out. And there won’t be any make-up summer school credits available.

There may, in fact, be an even more fundamental test than the nuclear, carbon, or demographic challenges. And that’s the human propensity for intervention -- across borders, over seas, and potentially even in outer space. That Star Trek urge “to boldly go,” obeying the prime directive or not, has gotten humanity into a heap of trouble. Establishing outposts in far-off lands is often considered the ultimate American insurance policy, but it’s precisely our predilection for getting mixed up in other people’s messes that has distracted us from fixing our own. The focus on setting up a colony on Mars, instead of getting serious about climate change on Earth, is the functional equivalent of devoting close to a trillion dollars a year to the U.S. military instead of using that money to fix all that is broken at home. Talk about an advanced case of attention-deficit disorder.

The Chinese Way

In the fifteenth century, the Chinese admiral Zheng He took a fleet on seven voyages throughout Asia, to the Middle East, and as far as Africa. He defeated marauding pirates in the vicinity of China and intervened militarily in far-off Ceylon. His huge treasure ships, each one six times larger than Columbus’s Santa Maria, brought back rare items, including a giraffe, for the Chinese emperor. As a diplomat, he established tributary relations with dozens of foreign lands, though not Europe, which was still too backward to attract Chinese interest. Zheng’s last journey, in the early 1430s, took place two decades before Christopher Columbus was even born.

Zheng He’s maritime explorations might have served as the basis for China’s colonial domination of significant parts of the world. But it was not to be. “Shortly after the last voyage of the treasure fleet, the Chinese emperor forbade overseas travel and stopped all building and repair of oceangoing junks,” Louise Levathes has written in When China Ruled the Seas. “Disobedient merchants and seamen were killed, and within a hundred years the greatest navy the world had ever known willed itself into extinction.”

China didn’t entirely turn its back on colonialism. It maintained a tributary system in its Asian backyard. Nor did the Middle Kingdom immediately lose out to a rising Europe, for the Chinese would remain a dominant force for several more centuries. Still, the emperor’s decision to renounce Zheng He and his accomplishments is often identified as a key pivot point in modern history. China effectively decided not to go the way of the Enterprise. It would not “boldly go” into unexplored lands or establish a far-flung colonial empire. Nor did it develop the military means to police such domains.

By the nineteenth century, it would instead find itself subject to the predations of European colonial powers, which divided up the coastal areas of China as if they were a treasure chest for the taking. More than 100 years of humiliation ensued, followed by a succession of Chinese efforts to regain the wealth and power of dynasties past.

China today is not a military weakling. But it also doesn’t possess the kind of expeditionary power of the United States or even Russia. It has vast commercial interests around the world. But it does not style itself the world’s policeman. During its “soft rise,” China has focused largely on cultivating its own garden -- transforming its enormous economy into a global powerhouse. Although it has certainly increased military spending over the last several decades, it does not want to get into the kind of arms race with the United States that doomed the Soviet Union. It has not generally shown itself interested in establishing neo-colonial relationships -- it has extracted resources from Asia, Africa, and Latin America without installing client states, building military bases, or sending in the equivalent of the special forces -- and even its semi-tributary relationship with North Korea generates considerable skepticism in Beijing.

As its economic growth declines from the stratospheric to the merely impressive, however, China may be facing another Zheng He moment. Dramatic economic growth has allowed for double-digit increases in military spending. China is currently modernizing its nuclear arsenal, acquiring more significant air and sea power, and flexing its muscles in territorial disputes with its neighbors. Can Beijing refocus on its economic project, ensuring environmentally sustainable growth at the expense of global ambitions? In other words, will China follow the self-destructive path of other superpowers or will it help lead the planet out of the dreaded Orange Zone?

China could go either way. Chinese hawks worry that if Beijing repeats the emperor’s rejection of Zheng He, foreign powers will again humiliate the Middle Kingdom. And indeed, Beijing certainly might feel the need to acquire even greater force projection capabilities if Washington doesn’t engage it in serious arms reduction efforts.

The Escape Clause

The multi-billionaire Elon Musk is not one to rest on his laurels. He’s a product of the age -- he made his first millions with PayPal -- and has transformed the electric car into a real contender in the marketplace. He is also betting big on solar energy through his SolarCity venture.

But he has even grander ambitions. Writes Sue Halpern in The New York Review of Books:

While Musk is working to move people away from fossil fuels, betting that the transition to electric vehicles and solar energy will contain the worst effects of global climate change, he is hedging that bet with one that is even more wishful and quixotic. In the event that those terrestrial solutions don’t pan out and civilization is imperiled, Musk is positioning SpaceX to establish a human colony on Mars.”

SpaceX is Musk’s escape clause for the planet. At the moment, SpaceX rockets perform a glorified FedEx function by sending supplies to the International Space Station that NASA and four other international space agencies have been maintaining since 1998. But Musk wants to put people on Mars by 2026, approximately a decade ahead of NASA’s best-case scenario.

Meanwhile, the outfit MarsOne, started by Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp, is winnowing down 100 potential Mars colonists to a final group of 24. These intrepid proto-astronauts plan to shove off for Mars in 2026 as well -- on a one-way journey to lay the groundwork for a human colony on the planet. Blue Origin, another private space exploration firm started by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, also aspires to “extend humankind beyond our planet.” The space race once pitted the Cold War superpowers against each other in an effort to prove their technological superiority. Today, the space race is not so much between countries as between the planet’s richest alpha males.

In his influential 1893 essay, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” historian Frederick Jackson Turner argued that the American character had been shaped by endlessly “available” lands in the West and the desire to colonize the entire continent. The closing of that frontier at the end of the nineteenth century coincided with the onset of the American empire and the spread of “American civilization” to purportedly less enlightened corners of the globe. The pent-up energy to “boldly go” had to go somewhere.

We are now witnessing another closing-of-the-frontier moment. There are no longer any unexplored pockets of the world. And the frontier ideology of spreading civilization -- or is it mayhem? -- has come up hard against the realities of present-day Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the post-Arab Spring political disappointments of Egypt and Libya. It is no surprise, then, that restless spirits like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have identified space as their “final frontier.”

Mars is not inhabited. We won’t be displacing any native populations, nor will we have to debate the finer points of the prime directive in the absence of foreign cultures to interfere with. But don’t be fooled by that. Our intervention on Mars will nonetheless share some of the defects of our terrestrial follies.

“Wherever we go, we’ll take ourselves with us,” environmental journalist Elizabeth Kolbert writes in The New Yorker about the various developing plans to colonize Mars.
“Either we’re capable of dealing with the challenges posed by our own intelligence or we’re not. Perhaps the reason we haven’t met any alien beings is that those that survive aren’t the type to go zipping around the galaxy. Maybe they’ve stayed quietly at home, tending their own gardens.”

Perhaps the truly intelligent ones followed in the footsteps of the Chinese emperor: they stopped building ships.

The Search for Terrestrial Intelligence

In tandem with the push to colonize Mars, scientists are putting renewed efforts into the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). A new project, Breakthrough Listen, just established with a $100 million budget, will rely on two large radio telescopes to target the nearest one million stars and the 100 galaxies closest to the Milky Way. In a reflection of the growing importance of crowdsourcing, three million people are using their combined computer resources to help analyze all the radio telescope data that is flowing in.

Chances are good -- according to the Drake equation’s calculations of habitable planets in the universe -- that somebody or something intelligent is indeed out there. But if we can hear them, they can probably hear us, too. And what extraterrestrial intelligence in its right mind would want to contact a species that seemingly worships Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Kim Kardashian?

Whether there’s anything out there or not, trapped as we are in the Orange Zone, we are still heavily involved in the quixotic search for terrestrial intelligence. Scientists continue to await definitive evidence -- Stephen Hawking, Toni Morrison, and Yo-Yo Ma aside -- that human intelligence is not an oxymoron. After all, what we have traditionally defined as intelligence -- a relentless pushing at borders both conceptual and territorial -- has led us into the cul-de-sac of impending self-annihilation.

Evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr once argued that human intelligence is itself a lethal mutation that has put the species on a collision course with its own and possibly even the planet’s extinction. We and the planet were, it seems, better off when we were just hunters and gatherers, before someone had the bright idea to rip up the earth, plant seeds, and build cities.

To go boldly forward, humanity will have to redefine intelligent life. That doesn’t mean returning to a nomad’s existence of venison and berries. But it does require a different kind of intelligence to turn one’s back on the treasures that the modern-day equivalent of Zheng He’s ships promise to bring from all corners of the universe. It requires a different kind of intelligence to close one’s ears to the siren song of democracy promotion, terrorism suppression, and market-access preservation. And it requires a different kind of intelligence to focus one’s energies on conserving this planet instead of putting so much time and money into plans to befoul another one.

With each nuclear weapon, jet engine, and space rocket we deploy, we venture further into the Orange Zone, heading blindly, if not boldly, toward the point of no return. Like those would-be Mars explorers, whether we know it or not, we are all on a one-way trip into the unknown, except that our rocket ship is our planet, which we’re about to destroy in a suicide mission before it can ever arrive at a safe and secure place.

John Feffer is the director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, the editor of LobeLog, a TomDispatch regular, and the author of several books, including Crusade 2.0. His latest one-man show, “Stuff,” premiers in New York this September.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Tomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa, and Tom Engelhardt's latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2015 John Feffer

Israel's War on Children

Soldiers Kidnap Eight Palestinian Children In Jerusalem


Israeli soldiers kidnapped, on Thursday at dawn, eight Palestinian children after storming their homes in different parts of the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem, and several surrounding communities. Sixty Palestinians, including 26 children, have been kidnapped since last Sunday.
Media sources in Jerusalem said the soldiers have kidnapped Nabil Nidal Seder, 13 years of age, while trying to cross the an-Nather Gate of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The soldiers also kidnapped two children, identified as Mo'taz Sa'ida, 16, his brother Ahmad, and Ramez Wahid 'Ajlouni family, 12, in Wad al-Jouz neighborhood, adjacent to the Old City walls.

In addition, soldiers invaded and searched several homes in Sur Baher village, southeast of Jerusalem, and kidnapped three children identified as Mohyeddin Bkeirat, Nasser Jabr 'Amira, and Mo'taz Mahmoud Dabash.

The soldiers also invaded the al-‘Eesawiyya town, in the center of Jerusalem, searched several homes, and kidnapped a child identified as Majd Darweesh.

It is worth mentioning that the Israeli government has recently approved harsh measures against Palestinians, accused of attacking soldiers and illegal settlers, including long prison terms, and fines that reach 100.000 Shekels.

The Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Silwan (Silwanic) said part of the new Israeli decisions is forming a special unit for sharpshooters, using the advanced Ruger sniper rifle, to target Palestinians who throw Molotov cocktails.

Silwanic added that the army has kidnapped more than 60 Palestinians, including 26 children (seven of them under 12 years of age) in the short period between Sunday, September 13, and Thursday morning, September 17.

It also said that most of the abductions took place during clashes, and home invasions, in various neighborhoods of the Old City, in addition to Silwan, al-'Eesawiyya, at-Tour, Wadi al-Jouz, Sur Baher and the Shu'fat refugee camp.

Related: Netanyahu Approves Harsher Penalties for Stone Throwers

Israel Passes "Counterterrorism" Bill in 1st Reading”

Israeli Minister Aims to Impose 20-year Sentence for Throwing Stones

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Terror Comes to Tiny Town

Terror in Tiny Town

by Greg Palast reporting from Southold, New York

September 11, 2015

In the War on Terror, we are all on the front lines. Now Southold has apparently been targeted by al-Qaeda. I'm not surprised.

Southold, if you look at a map, is situated at the ass end of nowhere. We are known for our Strawberry Festival and fire truck parade. According to the Census, this tiny place is made up almost entirely of inbred farmers, real estate speculators and volunteer firemen.

At one end of town is the "Brand Names Outlet Mall" and the water-slide park. At the other end, there's a ferryboat that takes those who feel lucky to the Indian casino in Connecticut. And in between, there's Main Street where we hold the Strawberry Festival. (The festival is a quaint and annoying white-folks' ritual, an opportunity for backstabbing, petty infighting and all-American small-mindedness. But that's another story altogether.)

Last month, Town Supervisor Josh, with powers granted him by the Department of Homeland Security, declared a "national security emergency." (Supervisor Josh Horton is called by his first name because he was elected at the precocious age of 26 -- based, it seems, on his stellar qualifications: he wears shoes.) In light of the clear and present threat of attack, Supervisor Josh ordered everyone taking the ferryboat to the Indian casino to park in the dirt lot across from the Country Store and not along Route 25.

It was just after the London bombings and Supervisor Josh insisted this was truly a matter of preparing for terrorist attack, though some locals suspected it was less about al-Qaeda and more about zoning. Supervisor Josh had been trying all year, unsuccessfully, to change the zoning on the dirt lot next to the ferryboat launch from "farming" to "parking" to boost the town's take from the inebriated gambling tourists. To scare off both al-Qaeda and parking violators, Josh has posted, care of the federal treasury, an SUV at the ferry dock armed with two .50-caliber machine guns. I kid you not.

The ferry to the Indian casino is our officially designated town "terrorism vulnerability point" (TVP). If you don't pick a "terrorism vulnerability point," the town can't get its slice of Homeland Security loot from the federal government.

All ferry passengers are now asked for their home phone numbers, though if they are suicide bombers, they will not, after they strike, be able to answer the phone. No matter.

Homeland Security assigned three guardsmen, armed and armored, to the Vulnerability Point because the town police are a little shorthanded since the crime wave in the hamlet of Greenport a couple of years back. It involved some petty theft, racial slur complaints and baggies of pot sold. The crime wave ended when the village disbanded its minuscule police force -- which had committed all the crimes.

Locals are taking the heightened security at the ferry with patriotic stoicism. Our local pennysaver printed a letter from John Wronowski saying, "National security and safety [must be] at the forefront of our efforts -- since September 11, 2001."

Mr. Wronowski owns the ferry boat and parking lot.

The paper, The Suffolk Times, interviewed a passenger who bravely travels to visit his in-laws twice a week. He said, with true grit, "I am not afraid."

But I am. What if there's a sleeper cell in Southold? All they have to do is review the Homeland Security website for the town's Vulnerability Point and they'll know, "Hit the water slide, Ahmad! The casino ferry's being watched!"

And there's more here that scares me. There's a jug out at the Lickety Splitz Ice Cream Parlor on Route 25 for the Cennar Family. It seems that one of the Cennar kids has been diagnosed with some terrible disease. Undoubtedly, the doctor bills are killing the family, could bankrupt them -- and the community jug is out. There's always a jug out for someone who's ill or got crippled and whose bank account has been wiped away.

And I thought: this is a national security threat. With the lumber yard shut and the plastics plants gone to China, al-Qaeda could quite easily gain a couple of recruits in our town: all Bin Laden has to do is offer health insurance.

Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. Subscribe to his commentaries at