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Grenfell Tower: a tragic tale of double standards – two-nation politics

On Nicky Campbell’s Radio 5 phone-in a listener described a city where – at one extreme – her care-worker son earns £17,000 a year, whilst George Osborne gets £200,000 for delivering one speech.

“In Harrods they have sprinklers to protect china dogs

Noting the lack of attention to the repeated and recorded complaints made by the Grenfell Tower residents she asserted that had they come from the affluent area of Kensington they would have been quickly addressed and added a searing afterthought: “In Harrods they have sprinklers to protect china dogs” – but as London MP Harriet Harmon noted, the government has been cutting the money to councils. If you cut money to councils, you can’t put in sprinklers

Campbell’s caller also denounced the proposals made by developers referring to the burnt tower as being a orime brownfield site, insisting that the residents should be rehoused in the same area during the rebuilding process instead of being sent to outlying areas or even different parts of the country; as they work hard in lowly paid jobs they should not also have to spend time and money travelling long distances to work.

A tale of a divided nation – and of two cities

Following a link sent by Felicity Arbuthnot we read the words of Jeremy Corbyn, (seen here with a local resident seeking a 12-year-old girl missing after the Grenfell Tower blaze): “Kensington is a tale of two cities – it is among the wealthiest parts of this country but the ward where this took place is one of the poorest”.

Like the Radio 5 caller he emphasised that residents must be re-housed, using requisition of empty properties if necessary, in the same neighbourhood, adding:

“The judge-led public inquiry must be speedy and all residents should have access to legal aid and the support they need”.

 

 

 

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The human race has one really effective weapon, said Mark Twain — “and that is laughter”

Last June, investigative journalist, Felicity Arbuthnot, sent a link to an article by André Vltchek, novelist, investigative journalist, filmmaker and playwright, who reflected that no revelation, no discovery of crimes committed by Western governments and companies leads men and women to demand the immediate resignations of their governments, or the changing of their entire political and economic system.

We add that mainstream mass media misleads the public by sidelining the important and focussing on the trivial:

media trivia

Vltchek continues: “We write and write, film and talk… Huge accusations are made, crimes confirmed… But again: nothing happens!

In a reply to Felicity – strengthened yesterday by Edward Luce’s Financial Times article – I suggested that only humour remains: the revelation that the Emperor has no new clothes, no honesty and no humane feeling.Broken BritainThe reply was accompanied by a collection of cartoons – the best about Britain was by Ingram Pinn – above – but it only reaches a limited audience; ‘saturation coverage’ is needed for a significant impact.

In the FT on Sunday, Luce referred to a ‘potent intervention’ from comedian John Oliver, whose use of the Monopoly board game illustrated the industry’s stranglehold on internet speeds and prompted 4m viewers to jam Washington with complaints. He marvels that:

“Far from catering to our shrinking attention, the comedy shows demand as much of their audience as the most ponderous news channels. Mr Oliver employs four full-time researchers, including two former New York Times journalists. His segments go for 20 minutes between breaks and contain more data than, say, an hour of CNN”.

Luce attributes the increased audience for humour to a collapsing or ‘cratering’ public trust in authority, as few institutions are unscathed in America, or we add, Britain:

  • rising distrust has engulfed the marbled pillars of Congress
  • the Supreme Court
  • the media,
  • the Boy Scouts,
  • corporate America,
  • the Catholic Church and so on.

He expresses two easily challenged reservations about ‘the comedic reach’: it is left leaning, so? And it has no answer to terrorist states that incinerate people (presumably not a reference to CIA drone strikes) stating that only politics can solve such problems.

But the fact is that state politics are totally failing to provide solutions. Could cartoonists and comedians do any worse?

GWhoax (1)

This one certainly presented an agenda and had an irrefutable answer to  critics.

The root cause of almost all our problems? Contemptible establishment arrogance

jehangir 2The late great journalist, Jehangir Pocha (right), wrote in an email: “Capitalistic and traditional societies are just not desirous of universal progress. This outright rejection of people by the wider berth of society is the root cause of almost all our problems. In India it is caste, and abroad it is class, isn’t it? !”

Felicity Arbuthnot also refers to this contemptuous rejection of the public interest by the 1% as voiced by Peter Jay, formerly Chief of Staff to Robert Maxwell.

“From today’s performance on BBC Wales, it’s clear that Peter Jay has now become very righteous and correct. He said that only ‘shits’ would want to publish the whole truth on the Bush-Blair correspondence that led to the Iraq War and the deaths of 179 UK soldiers. Is this how diplomats communicate? The loved ones of the fallen had no right to hear the whole truth, Jay explained. Protocol between the UK and USA was a higher priority. His is the authentic voice of yesterday’s contemptible establishment arrogance telling the lower orders ‘ Yours not to reason why. Yours, but to do and die.’”

tony blair foiBlair reneged on the Freedom of Information Act which, he initially said, would ‘signal a new relationship between government and people: a relationship which sees the public as legitimate stakeholders in the running of the country.’ Felicity continues:

“What a long time thirteen years is in politics and after an invasion or two. In his autobiography “A Journey”, published in 2010 he writes: “Freedom of Information Act. Three harmless words. I look at those words as I write them, and feel like shaking my head ’til it drops off. You idiot. You naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop. There is really no description of stupidity, no matter how vivid, that is adequate. I quake at the imbecility of it . . . Scandals will happen … The problem with FOI is that it can be used to expose them.”

She comments: “Scandals don’t get much bigger than embarking on an illegal war, destruction of the “Cradle of Civilisation”, manufactured on a pack of lies”.

foi cartoon


This contemptuous rejection of the public interest by the 1% is more widely perceived than ever before – how can these decision-makers be replaced, and by whom?

How could the Anglo-Saxon political/corporate alliance be disempowered?

andre vltchekJournalist Felicity Arbuthnot today drew attention to to an article by Russian born André Vltchek, novelist, filmmaker, journalist, photographer and playwright. Vltchek (left) has reported from dozens of war zones and conflicts in Bosnia, Peru, Sri Lanka, DR Congo and Timor Leste. He currently lives and works in East Asia and Africa.

we tighten our belts 2Piers Morgan on Question Time confidently asserted that UKIP gained voters because mainstream politicians are mediocre.

MP Margaret Curran, getting nearer the truth, described the anger and resentment people feel.

MEP Louise Bours referred scathingly to the politicians in Westminster ‘on their green leather seats’.

Vltchek goes deeper. Like many thoughtful people he wonders: “Why are the streets of New York, Washington D.C., London and Paris so orderly, so quiet?”

He wonders why citizens don’t “detach their backsides from their couches and chairs . . . demanding the end to atrocities that are being committed all over the world …It is one coup after another, these days, all over the world. Coups financed and arranged by the US and Europe… and all those countries ruined, bombed or run to the ground”.

Though plenty of information is provided, plenty of images, plenty of proof . . . that tens of millions are dying . . . and the natural resources of poor countries are being plundered, so that Western capitalism can flourish . . . these tremendous efforts are failing to ignite even those few millions of educated and concerned citizens in the West, to organize and rebel.

andre vltchek protestorVltchek believes that citizens are lethargic, indoctrinated: “Even when billions are stolen from them (not just from the people in their colonies), when banks get bailed-out after their speculative orgies, or after so-called elections get fully subsidized and manipulated by the corporate mafia, they do nothing”. But some do get out on the streets (opposite) and seem to achieve nothing by so doing – they are lucky if they escape a beating or legal action.

Vltchek sees two possibilities:

  • the Western public is totally lost and overrun by corporate propaganda
  • or it simply pretends to be like that, because the status quo suits its interests

There is a third: that they feel totally powerless to bring about significant change.

His own words bear this out: ”I have witnessed some demonstrations against a new train station in Stuttgart, because a few trees had to be cut down in order to build a new terminal … , but I never saw any substantial demonstration against the destruction of millions of lives, all over the world.”

Just so. People feel that there is a very slender chance that local decisions may be reversed by protest – but they have no confidence that a substantial demonstration against the destruction of millions of lives will have any effect whatsoever.

2003 iraq war protests

How often is the relatively huge turnout against going to war with Iraq cited? That broke the spirit of many leading to the apathy deplored by Vltchek. The European political reversal has – at least for a while – shaken the status quo.

He asks: how do we deal with the Western public; how do we address it? Where do we go from here? What is the strategy?

But should not the target be the Anglo-Saxon political corporate alliance which corruptly makes decisions in favour of the wealthiest who profit from war, adulterated food, corporate provision of energy, healthcare, water and damaging legal and illegal drugs?

Could they be laughed out of court? Where serious writers and activists have failed, could comedians, satirists, cartoonists (not least the FT’s Ingram Pinn – below) and playwrights conduct a sustained and relentless campaign until they succeed? 

Broken Britain

Or have you a better idea?

READ ALL ABOUT IT! US, champion of international law! R2P! The good guys in Kiev!

Felicity Arbuthnot in Global Research singles out just a few of the emotive clichés used: “red lines” are “crossed”, “sovereignty and territorial integrity” has been “violated”, as the “resolute” US, EU and Britain  stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the interim Ukraine government.

john kerry sec stateUS Secretary of State, John Kerry “representing a country which makes Genghis Khan look like a wimp when it comes to illegal invasions” has the nerve to say on CBS’ “Face the Nation”:

“You just don’t, in the 21st century, behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext”.  This despite disregarding international law in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yugoslavia (1999, bombed by NATO with no UN mandate).

US almost routinely threatens and invades sovereign nations

So, clearly referring to the threats and onslaughts of recent years, Russian President Vladimir Putin, on being accused of violating international law, replied: “Well, it’s good that they at least recalled that there is international law … Better late than never”.

American foreign policy

putinNBC News, an American network, reports that President Putin, in an interview about the Ukraine crisis Tuesday, described the U.S’ interference in world affairs as if it were conducting experiments on lab rats:

“I think they sit there across the pond in the U.S., sometimes it seems … like they’re in a lab and they’re running all sorts of experiments on the rats without understanding consequences of what they’re doing. Why would they do that? Nobody can explain it.”

Cameron meets EU ministers, hoping for a  “robust response” to Russia, though of late it has fired not a shot and invaded no one

The Crimean government called a referendum and a fraction under 97% voted to cede to Russia, with a turnout of over 80% – an electoral enthusiasm of which Western governments could only dream. One hundred and thirty five international observers from twenty-three countries said, consistently, they saw no pressure of any sort, and they had “not registered any violations of voting rules.”

The good guys in Kiev?

The Kosovo parallels are explored by Arbuthnot, who also reports on the mnidset of many supporting the Kiev government. As the Jewish Press reports, incidents have led to Ukrainian Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman asking Kiev Jews to leave the city and, if possible, the country. The Israel National News has reported that some Jewish shops have been vandalized and other threats to the Jewish community have been received.

svoboda marchRabbi Aznan records: “There are constant warnings concerning intentions to attack Jewish institutions”.

Svoboda, the ultranationalist Ukrainian political party marches and demonstrates.

It is reported that last year at an appointed moment, the marchers removed their windbreakers to reveal T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Beat the kikes.”

R2P?

With NATO encroaching ever closer and NATO countries, the US and UK planning military exercises with Ukraine, Russia has arguably fulfilled this responsibility in protection of those threatened and at risk – as requested by its former State and neighbour and as laid out by the UN.

Arbuthnot concludes pithily: “David Cameron has grand plans to “celebrate” the centenary of the start of World War 1 this year.He seems hell bent on celebrating it by starting World War 111 . . .

obama nobel drones

Someone please chuck that Obama Nobel Peace Prize into the Potomac”.

 

 

Will government CIA and MI6 agencies be thwarted again in Syria?

Events in Syria today bear a striking similarity to those envisaged in a CIA-MI6 plan to stage fake border incidents as an excuse for the invasion of Syria. 

Investigative journalist Felicity Arbuthnot, who worked as senior researcher on the Pilger film about the effect of United Nations sanctions on people of Iraq, remembers the Guardian’s 2003 report that Matthew Jones, a Reader in International History at London’s Royal Holloway College, had discovered “frighteningly frank” documents — 1957 plans between then UK Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and then President Dwight Eisenhower endorsing: “a CIA-MI6 plan to stage fake border incidents as an excuse for an invasion (of Syria) by Syria’s pro-western neighbours,” including the assassination of powerful political figures close to the Syrian president.

The Guardian reported: “The plan called for funding of a “Free Syria Committee”, and the arming of “political factions with paramilitary or other actionist capabilities” within Syria. The CIA and MI6 would instigate internal uprisings, for instance by the Druze in the south, help to free political prisoners held in the Mezze prison, and stir up the Muslim Brotherhood in Damascus. 

The plan was not used at the time because Syria’s Arab neighbours could not be persuaded to take action . . . just as today’s attempts are being thwarted by an unco-operative Russia and China, though the Syrian state news agency has just reported the assassination of the head of a Syrian military hospital. 

Robert Fisk on President Assad’s real position: Westerners have got it wrong 

“President Bashar al-Assad is not about to go . . . few in the region understand how we Westerners can get it so wrong . . . 

“[L]ook east, and what does Bashar see? Loyal Iran standing with him. Loyal Iraq – Iran’s new best friend in the Arab world – refusing to impose sanctions. And to the west, loyal little Lebanon refusing to impose sanctions. Thus from the border of Afghanistan to the Mediterranean, Assad has a straight line of alliances which should prevent, at least, his economic collapse  . . .

”As long as Syria can trade with Iraq, it can trade with Iran and, of course, it can trade with Lebanon. The Shia of Iran and the Shia majority in Iraq and the Shia leadership (though not majority) in Syria and the Shia (the largest community, but not a majority) in Lebanon will be on Assad’s side, however reluctantly . . .

”Assad has Damascus and Aleppo, and those cities matter. His principal military units have not defected to the opposition . . .”  and Fisk added that the Royal Navy cannot put into Tartous as they did in Benghazi because the Russian Navy is still there.

The simplistic view promoted in most Western newspapers and broadcasts is corrected by Fisk’s reminder: “The “good guys” also contain “bad guys” – a fact we forgot in Libya, even when the “good guys” murdered their defected army commander and tortured prisoners to death.”