Friday, September 22, 2017

Neocons & Liberals: Hollywood's Russia Production

Neocons and Hollywood Liberals Go to 'War' on Russia

by TRNN


September 22, 2017

The promotional video of the Committee to Investigate Russia features actor Morgan Freeman in what is 'Probably his worst role since Driving Miss Daisy,' says AlterNet's Max Blumenthal.






Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author whose articles and video documentaries have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, The Nation, The Guardian, The Independent Film Channel, The Huffington Post, Salon.com, Al Jazeera English and many other publications. His most recent book is Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel. His other book, Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party, is a New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller.

U.N. Trump:A Voice Unto All Nations

Trump at the United Nations

by Kim Petersen - Dissident Voice


September 22nd, 2017

The United States of America has been among the greatest forces for good in the history of the world, and the greatest defenders of sovereignty, security, and prosperity for all.

– from United States president Donald Trump’s speech to the United Nations 19 September 2017

If you are the president of the United States of America, then, as a rule, all pretense toward modesty is dispensed with. Call it American exceptionalism.

After all, the US is variously self-proclaimed as the leader of the free world, the beacon on the hill, and the indispensable nation.

Yet critical thinking demands on analysis of Trump’s words that is not provided by a cursory reading of the speech transcript, TV video coverage, or corporate media reporting. It is a given of corporatism that the US is unquestioningly not only great and good but the best of the best. Donald Trump would beg to differ, but he claims that he is making America great again.

Trump begins by stating,

As millions of our citizens continue to suffer the effects of the devastating hurricanes that have struck our country…

Yet this rings phony since Trump is skeptical about a connection between anthropogenic climate change and the increased incidence of catastrophic weather events.

Trump asserts,

The American people are strong and resilient, and they will emerge from these hardships more determined than ever before.

The prevailing trend under neoliberalism is that the American masses will continue to fall further and further behind, and the wealthy elitists will continue to make out like bandits. Trump’s tax cuts augur an intensification of this gaping trend.

Trump boasts,

Fortunately, the United States has done very well since Election Day last November 8th.

That is debatable. Nonetheless, there is nothing quite like self-aggrandizement… patting oneself on back in public and claiming credit for myriad allegedly positive events (as if stock market rises benefited the masses of Americans).

Moreover, says Trump,

And it has just been announced that we will be spending almost $700 billion on our military and defense.

Is this something to boast about? How about boasting about building hospitals, low-cost housing projects to end homelessness, poverty reduction/elimination, and environmental remediation? Of course, if a non-allied nation were to dare and inordinately hike military spending, chances are the US would castigate such a nation.

Trump proceeded to “address some of the very serious threats before us today…” Sheesh. Get real Trump. The people of the world recognize well that the USA is the number one threat to world peace.

Trump warns,

But each day also brings news of growing dangers that threaten everything we cherish and value. Terrorists and extremists have gathered strength and spread to every region of the planet.

This calls into question how to characterize Trump? A moderate? Or an extremist? Is building a wall on the US-Mexican border moderate or extreme? Is thwarting people from Muslim majority countries from entering the US a moderate or extreme position? Is launching military strikes against Muslim majority countries like Syria and Yemen moderate? Can resorting to violence be anything but extreme? Is allying with a terrorist-sponsoring nation like Saudi Arabia or an overtly racist nation like Israel moderate?

During his speech, Trump railed against rogue regimes, international criminal networks that traffic drugs (Trump wouldn’t be talking about the CIA, a major player in the international drug trade, would he?1 ), weapons (the US is a major exporter of weapons, illicit or otherwise), and the forced dislocation and mass migration of people (and what is the US but a nation state erected on the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Indigenous nations of Turtle Island?). 

Trump avers,

We have it in our power, should we so choose, to lift millions from poverty, to help our citizens realize their dreams, and to ensure that new generations of children are raised free from violence, hatred, and fear…

The key words, in italics: “should we choose.” Will the US ruling classes ever choose to share the wealth fairly and equitably? Or does it require a revolution to achieve dignity and fairness? The US might well learn from the Chinese how to accomplish ending poverty. The Chinese Communist Party has pledged to eliminate poverty by 2020.

Trump notes that the United Nations was founded following two world wars to help shape a better future. The preamble to the UN Charter states that the institution is determined “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war…” But the UN’s inability to curtail the violence of the US renders this aim nugatory.

Trump says that 70 years ago, that the United States developed “the noble idea” of the Marshall Plan to help restore Europe. The Marshall Plan, while helping war-ravaged Europe to its feet, was designed to restore markets for US products from a US that was ascendant after World War II, having profited immensely from supplying all sides in the war and having escaped the carnage on its own soil.2

Trump:

We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions, or even systems of government. But we do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties: to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation.

And who determines this? The people of sovereign nations? The UN or the US?

Trump:


In America, we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to watch.

This is so risible. So the uninvited US military in Syria is not imposing on Syrians? President Assad made clear that the US troops are viewed as “invaders.” “Way of life” aside, is the US is not imposing in Yemen? Does the US not seek to impose on (or at least dictate to) Venezuela, Iran, and North Korea?

Trump spoke to the greatest words in the United States Constitution: “We the people.” Is this spoken tongue-in-cheek or from ignorance? The constitution, derived from the Six Nation Confederacy’s Great Law of Peace, was promulgated by rich, white men. “We the people,” however, was not meant to include the Indigenous people, Blacks, women, or the toiling classes in anything approximating a meaningful sense. And contemporary US society continues to adduce this marginalization. Any gains made were by people resisting the system and making demands on the government.

Putting on his historian’s hat, Trump puffs out his American chest:

It is an eternal credit to the American character that even after we and our allies emerged victorious from the bloodiest war in history, we did not seek territorial expansion, or attempt to oppose and impose our way of life on others.

Historian Jacques Pauwels wrote of the “uncontested fact that after the war [the US and Britain] would install or support dictatorial regimes in many countries…”3 Communism/socialism was to be prevented from growing or spreading.4 At the end of WWII, socialism was also to be prevented in Korea, and a dictatorship was installed in the south of Korea.

Despite promising not to get bogged down in foreign conflicts during his presidential campaign, Trump states:

We must reject threats to sovereignty, from the Ukraine to the South China Sea.

He calls for a joint fight against “those who threaten us with chaos, turmoil, and terror”: “a small group of rogue regimes that violate every principle on which the United Nations is based.” Who are the rogue regimes? And what are the principles they violate? One assumes that it is implied that the US never violates any of these said principles.

Trump does not mince words when it comes to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

No one has shown more contempt for other nations and for the well-being of their own people than the depraved regime in North Korea.

Does the US provide tuition-free university education, no-fee medical services, and housing for all its citizens? The DPRK does.

Trump continues his harangue:

It is responsible for the starvation deaths of millions of North Koreans, and for the imprisonment, torture, killing, and oppression of countless more.



First, there were many factors beyond the control of the DPRK government: from winding up with only 14 percent of the cultivatable land after division; with the collapse of the Soviet Union, loans were called back and fertilizer and fuel shortages arose; also no government anywhere can be held accountable for the vagaries of Mother Nature that resulted in severe crop devastation.5

Second, the DPRK government performed admirably in mitigating the effects of crop failure, as attested to by the UN Food and Agricultural programme.6 Third, former president Jimmy Carter criticized the US government, and its South Korean ally, for human rights abuses in withholding food aid to North Korea. One also wonders where Trump gets off criticizing any other country for torture and incarceration given the recent US history in Bagram, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, etc. As for killing? Who kills more than the US? And which countries exactly is it that DPRK is oppressing? Certainly not Syria, Yemen, Palestine, Libya, Iran, Venezuela, etc.

Trump:

We were all witness to the regime’s deadly abuse when an innocent American college student, Otto Warmbier, was returned to America only to die a few days later. We saw it in the assassination of the dictator’s brother using banned nerve agents in an international airport. We know it kidnapped a sweet 13-year-old Japanese girl from a beach in her own country to enslave her as a language tutor for North Korea’s spies.

Whatever alleged crimes previous or present DRPK administrations committed, what must first play out is a credible, impartial legal determination of guilt; it is then that the guilty party deserves condemnation and justice should be meted out. However, given the sovereign equality of nations as recognized by the UN, the crimes of the US must also be subject to international law. The crimes of the US are too numerous to list in this article.7

Trump:


If this is not twisted enough, now North Korea’s reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles threatens the entire world with unthinkable loss of human life.

This is inflammatory rhetoric. Every sane thinker realizes that DPRK will not initiate a nuclear strike. It has a no-first-use policy. The US does not have such a policy. So there is no threat from North Korea. It seeks a deterrence; especially given that the US is still at work with the DPRK and that the US is the only nation ever to have used nukes on civilian populations. But the US does not like being faced with a credible deterrent.

If the US is so opposed to nuclear weapons and ICBMs, there is nothing to stop the US from denuclearizing. It seems most likely that every nuclear power would abide to concurrently denuclearize (although US ally Israel might throw a wrench in such a plan).

Trump uses the UN headquarters as a bully pulpit:

The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.

Ah Trump, not the slightest pretense at diplomacy, even while speaking to world’s assembled diplomats. Yet, there is no call for the US to defend itself against a nation pledged to no-first use.

Trump:

It is time for North Korea to realize that the denuclearization is its only acceptable future.

Denuclearization is the only sane future for all nation states. And disarmament is the future for a world dedicated to ending the scourge of war.

The next bogeyman for Trump:

The Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy.


Can it be that Trump considers the dictatorship of the Shah — imposed by the US, after the CIA engineered an overthrow of the elected government of Iran — was a genuine democracy?

Trump:

Oppressive regimes cannot endure forever, and the day will come when the Iranian people will face a choice…. In Saudi Arabia early last year, I was greatly honored to address the leaders of more than 50 Arab and Muslim nations… to confront terrorists and the Islamist extremism…

Ergo, Saudi Arabia is not an oppressive regime? Wahhabism is not Islamic extremism?

Trump moves on to his next target for opprobrium, Syria:

The actions of the criminal regime of Bashar al-Assad, including the use of chemical weapons against his own citizens — even innocent children — shock the conscience of every decent person. No society can be safe if banned chemical weapons are allowed to spread. That is why the United States carried out a missile strike on the airbase that launched the attack.




That the Syrian government forces would use chemical weapons is highly dubious and has minimal credibility. Regarding chemical weapons, as Stephen Zunes wrote, “[The US] has no leg to stand on.” 

Next up for Trump:

The socialist dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro has inflicted terrible pain and suffering on the good people of that country.

It does not matter that Venezuela has elections open to international monitors and whose outcome is not decided by an electoral college but by the number of votes cast by citizens. Trump can bloviate about dictatorships and twist facts to corrupted forms of propaganda and disinformation. Critical thinkers will assess the veracity of the source, and the verisimilitude of the information; they will also seek independent sources of information and analyses to help form conclusions. Perhaps best of all, where possible people will travel to a country to witness for themselves the situation and glean insight by conversing with the locals.8

Trump is ideological:

The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented. From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure.

I would ask Trump to identify “true” capitalism (as in capitalism that does not rely on socialism to underpin it) anywhere. Education, health care, police, roads and bridge construction, militaries that are funded by public money are all examples of socialism. And just how much do the 13.5 percent of Americans who live below the poverty line care for the ideology of capitalism, or the half-million-plus Americans who find themselves homeless on any given night? I would ask Trump to provide one example of successful capitalism. Capitalism has been a failure everywhere.9

Trump asks,

The true question for the United Nations today, for people all over the world who hope for better lives for themselves and their children, is a basic one: Are we still patriots?

Did the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island not love where they lived? Did they love being dispossessed and swallowed by the European diaspora into the US? What about the Hawaiians? Did they not love living in their islands? Or the Puerto Ricans? Do they not love their country? Or the Chamorro people? Or how about the Chagossians who were forced from the Chagos archipelago and prevented from returning so the US could use it as a base of military operations.

Or does love of one’s country only apply to Americans?

First published at Global Research


See Douglas Valentine, “Chapter 2: One Thing Leads to Another: My Rare Access in Investigating the War on Drugs,” in The CIA as Organized Crime: How Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World (Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2017. [1]
Jacques R. Pauwels, The Myth of the Good War (Toronto: Lorimer, 2015), wrote, “The famous plan did not amount to a free gift; it was not a generous present amounting to billions of dollars, but a complex system of credits and loans.” p. 261. [2]
Pauwels, p. 139-140. [3]
Pauwels, p. 270-273. [4]
See Nhial Esso, “North Korea’s famine was caused by outside forces,” in What You Don’t Know About North Korea Could Fill a Book (Intransitive Publishers International, 2013. [5]
Esso, “North Korea’s policies alleviate the effects of food shortages,” in What You Don’t Know About North Korea… [6]
See William Blum, Rogue State (Common Courage Press, 2000). [7]
See Joshua Frank, Kim Petersen, and Sunil K. Sharma, “Revolution of Hope,” Dissident Voice, 10 August 2006. [8]

“We are taught [capitalism] is a system that works; that it’s a system that has brought prosperity. We’ve heard that all our lives. Now I’m going to try and convince you otherwise, and I’m going to do it in two minutes. [laughter] It’s very simple. Almost the entire world is capitalist and almost the entire world is poor. Capitalist Indonesia is miserably poor and getting poorer; capitalist India is miserably poor and getting poorer; so with capitalist Thailand, and capitalist Nigeria, and capitalist El Salvador, and Haiti, and Mexico, and Brazil, and Argentina. And capitalist Russia, and Poland, and Bulgaria with all the privatization and deregulation and free markets coming in: poverty, poverty, increase in crime, increase in desperation, increase in misery, increase in homelessness, increase in suicides. It’s capitalism at work — moving in. Now not everyone suffers. The capitalists in these countries are doing quite well. These countries are getting poorer as the giant corporations move in and get richer. These [countries] are getting poorer as there is more and more deregulation, more and more so-called free market, which is really monopoly market. It’s a free market if you got money. It’s a market that works for those who have money.” — Michael Parenti, formerly available at workingtv.com. [9]

Kim Petersen is a former co-editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be reached at: kimohp@gmail.com. Twitter: @kimpetersen.
 Read other articles by Kim.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Tom Secker, Tim Shorrock, Janine Bandcroft September 21, 2017

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook - Gorilla-Radio.com


September 21, 2017

You may believe the golden age of spycraft passed with the end of the Cold War, or maybe even with Mata Hari's firing squad. But, what's old is gold again, and the game has never been more fully engaged.

Whether fighting commies, evil-doers, drugs dealers, or pernicious foreign ideology we always seem to be at war with something! In fact, we're reminded of the fact so frequently, it's beginning to make me think the war going on isn't "out there" at all, but instead is raging inside our heads, making a virtual battlefield of our collective perceptions.

Listen. Hear.

Tom Secker is a UK-based private researcher, journalist, frequently featured commentator on security and intelligence issues, host of the popular podcast, ClandesTime, and principal behind spyculture.com, “the world’s premier online archive about government involvement in the entertainment industry.” He’s also co-author, with Matthew Alford of the recently released book, 'National Security Cinema: The Shocking New Evidence of Government Control in Hollywood'.

Tom Secker in the first half.

And; Donald Trump didn't disappoint at the UN this week. In an address that still has halls of power around the globe buzzing, the American president used the global bully pulpit to threaten fellow member-nation North Korea with utter destruction. A lapse of diplomatic etiquette and refutation of the Charter of the United Nations' founding purpose of promoting peace among nations to be sure, but what Mr. Trump, and most of those listening to his sabre-rattling are not aware of is; the United States "totally destroyed North Korea" once before. It's a salient fact not lost on the "depraved regime" being threatened again, and something the White House might consider when gauging just how Kim "Rocket Man" Jong Un may react.

Tim Shorrock is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist, and author of the book, ‘Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing.’ His articles appear at his website, TimShorrock.com and at The Nation. Tim grew up in Asia, and spent much of the 1980’s in Japan, reporting on the financial intrigues of the then-biggest of the Asian Tiger economies.

Tim Shorrock and taking the measure of the Trump administration's bombast from an Eastern perspective in the second half.

And; Victoria activist and CFUV Radio broadcaster at-large, Janine Bandcroft will be here with the Left Coast Events Newsletter bulletin at the bottom of the hour. But first, Tom Secker and the clandestine war being fought between your ears.


Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Wednesday, 1-2pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at: http://cfuv.ca.  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, http://www.pacificfreepress.com. Check out the GR blog at: https://gorillaradioblog.blogspot.ca/

G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.

Trump United Nations Speech Transcript

Trump's full speech to the UN General Assembly

by Vox


September 19, 2017


Rush transcript of President Trump’s full remarks.

Mr. Secretary General, Mr. President, world leaders, and distinguished delegates, welcome to New York. It is a profound honor to stand here in my home city as a representative of the American people to address the people of the world. As millions of our citizens continue to suffer the effects of the devastating hurricanes that have struck our country, I want to begin by expressing my appreciation to every leader in this room who has offered assistance and aid. The American people are strong and resilient, and they will emerge from these hardships more determined than ever before.

Fortunately, the United States has done very well since Election Day last November 8. The stock market is at an all-time high, a record. Unemployment is at its lowest level in 16 years, and because of our regulatory and other reforms, we have more people working in the United States today than ever before. Companies are moving back, creating job growth, the likes of which our country has not seen in a very long time, and it has just been announced that we will be spending almost $700 billion on our military and defense. Our military will soon be the strongest it has ever been. For more than 70 years, in times of war and peace, the leaders of nations, movements, and religions have stood before this assembly.

Like them, I intend to address some of the very serious threats before us today, but also the enormous potential waiting to be unleashed. We live in a time of extraordinary opportunity. Breakthroughs in science, technology, and medicine are curing illnesses and solving problems that prior generations thought impossible to solve. But each day also brings news of growing dangers that threaten everything we cherish and value. Terrorists and extremists have gathered strength and spread to every region of the planet. Rogue regimes represented in this body not only support terror but threaten other nations and their own people with the most destructive weapons known to humanity.

Authority and authoritarian powers seek to collapse the values, the systems, and alliances, that prevented conflict and tilted the word toward freedom since World War II. International criminal networks traffic drugs, weapons, people, force dislocation and mass migration, threaten our borders and new forms of aggression exploit technology to menace our citizens. To put it simply, we meet at a time of both immense promise and great peril. It is entirely up to us whether we lift the world to new heights or let it fall into a valley of disrepair. We have it in our power, should we so choose, to lift millions from poverty, to help our citizens realize their dreams, and to ensure that new generations of children are raised free from violence, hatred, and fear.

This institution was founded in the aftermath of two world wars, to help shape this better future. It was based on the vision that diverse nations could cooperate to protect their sovereignty, preserve their security, and promote their prosperity. It was in the same period exactly 70 years ago that the United States developed the Marshall Plan to help restore Europe. Those these beautiful pillars, they are pillars of peace, sovereignty, security, and prosperity. The Marshall Plan was built on the noble idea that the whole world is safer when nations are strong, independent, and free. As president, Truman said in his message to Congress at that time, our support of European recovery is in full accord with our support of the United Nations.

The success of the United Nations depends upon the independent strength of its members. To overcome the perils of the present, and to achieve the promise of the future, we must begin with the wisdom of the past. Our success depends on a coalition of strong and independent nations that embrace their sovereignty, to promote security, prosperity, and peace, for themselves and for the world. We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions, or even systems of government, but we do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties, to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation.

This is the beautiful vision of this institution, and this is the foundation for cooperation and success. Strong sovereign nations let diverse countries with different values, different cultures, and different dreams not just coexist, but work side by side on the basis of mutual respect. Strong sovereign nations let their people take ownership of the future and control their own destiny. And strong sovereign nations allow individuals to flourish in the fullness of the life intended by God. In America, we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to watch.

This week gives our country a special reason to take pride in that example. We are celebrating the 230th anniversary of our beloved Constitution, the oldest constitution still in use in the world today. This timeless document has been the foundation of peace, prosperity, and freedom for the Americans and for countless millions around the globe whose own countries have found inspiration in its respect for human nature, human dignity, and the rule of law. The greatest in the United States Constitution is its first three beautiful words. They are "We the people." Generations of Americans have sacrificed to maintain the promise of those words, the promise of our country and of our great history.

In America, the people govern, the people rule, and the people are sovereign. I was elected not to take power, but to give power to the American people where it belongs. In foreign affairs, we are renewing this founding principle of sovereignty. Our government's first duty is to its people, to our citizens, to serve their needs, to ensure their safety, to preserve their rights, and to defend their values. As president of the United States, I will always put America first. Just like you, as the leaders of your countries, will always and should always put your countries first.

All responsible leaders have an obligation to serve their own citizens, and the nation state remains the best vehicle for elevating the human condition. But making a better life for our people also requires us to with work together in close harmony and unity, to create a more safe and peaceful future for all people.

The United States will forever be a great friend to the world and especially to its allies. But we can no longer be taken advantage of or enter into a one-sided deal where the United States gets nothing in return. As long as I hold this office, I will defend America's interests above all else, but in fulfilling our obligations to our nations, we also realize that it's in everyone's interests to seek the future where all nations can be sovereign, prosperous, and secure.

America does more than speak for the values expressed in the United Nations charter. Our citizens have paid the ultimate price to defend our freedom and the freedom of many nations represented in this great hall. America's devotion is measured on the battlefields where our young men and women have fought and sacrificed alongside of our allies. From the beaches of Europe to the deserts of the Middle East to the jungles of Asia, it is an eternal credit to the American character that even after we and our allies emerge victorious from the bloodiest war in history, we did not seek territorial expansion or attempt to oppose and impose our way of life on others. Instead, we helped build institutions such as this one to defend the sovereignty, security, and prosperity for all. For the diverse nations of the world, this is our hope.

We want harmony and friendship, not conflict and strife. We are guided by outcomes, not ideologies. We have a policy of principled realism, rooted in shared goal, interests, and values. That realism forces us to confront the question facing every leader and nation in this room, it is a question we cannot escape or avoid. We will slide down the path of complacency, numb to the challenges, threats, and even wars that we face, or do we have enough strength and pride to confront those dangers today so that our citizens can enjoy peace and prosperity tomorrow.

If we desire to lift up our citizens, if we aspire to the approval of history, then we must fulfill our sovereign duties to the people we faithfully represent. We must protect our nations, their interests and their futures. We must reject threats to sovereignty from the Ukraine to the South China Sea. We must uphold respect for law, respect for borders, and respect for culture, and the peaceful engagement these allow.

And just as the founders of this body intended, we must work together and confront together those who threatens us with chaos, turmoil, and terror. The score of our planet today is small regimes that violate every principle that the United Nations is based. They respect neither their own citizens nor the sovereign rights of their countries. If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph. When decent people and nations become bystanders to history, the forces of destruction only gather power and strength.

No one has shown more contempt for other nations and for the well-being of their own people than the depraved regime in North Korea. It is responsible for the starvation deaths of millions of North Koreans. And for the imprisonment, torture, killing, and oppression of countless more. We were all witness to the regime's deadly abuse when an innocent American college student, Otto Warmbier, was returned to America, only to die a few days later.

We saw it in the assassination of the dictator's brother, using banned nerve agents in an international airport. We know it kidnapped a sweet 13-year-old Japanese girl from a beach in her own country, to enslave her as a language tutor for North Korea's spies. If this is not twisted enough, now North Korea's reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles threatens the entire world with unthinkable loss of human life. It is an outrage that some nations would not only trade with such a regime, but would arm, supply, and financially support a country that imperils the world with nuclear conflict.

No nation on Earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles. The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing, and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary. That's what the United Nations is all about. That's what the United Nations is for. Let's see how they do.

It is time for North Korea to realize that the denuclearization is its only acceptable future. The United Nations Security Council recently held two unanimous 15-0 votes adopting hard-hitting resolutions against North Korea, and I want to thank China and Russia for joining the vote to impose sanctions, along with all of the other members of the Security Council. Thank you to all involved. But we must do much more.

It is time for all nations to work together to isolate the Kim regime until it ceases its hostile behavior. We face this decision not only in North Korea; it is far past time for the nations of the world to confront another reckless regime, one that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing death to America, destruction to Israel, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room.

The Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy. It has turned a wealthy country, with a rich history and culture, into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos. The longest-suffering victims of Iran's leaders are, in fact, its own people. Rather than use its resources to improve Iranian live, its oil profits go to fund Hezbollah and other terrorists that kill innocent Muslims and attack their peaceful Arab and Israeli neighbors.

This wealth, which rightly belongs to Iran's people, also goes to shore up Bashar al-Assad's dictatorship, fuel Yemen's civil war, and undermine peace throughout the entire Middle East. We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program. The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don't think you've heard the last of it. Believe me.

It is time for the entire world to join us in demanding that Iran's government end its pursuit of death and destruction. It is time for the regime to free all Americans and citizens of other nations that they have unjustly detained. Above all, Iran's government must stop supporting terrorists, begin serving its own people, and respect the sovereign rights of its neighbors. The entire world understands that the good people of Iran want change, and, other than the vast military power of the United States, that Iran's people are what their leaders fear the most. This is what causes the regime to restrict internet access, tear down satellite dishes, shoot unarmed student protesters, and imprison political reformers.

Oppressive regimes cannot endure forever, and the day will come when the people will face a choice. Will they continue down the path of poverty, bloodshed, and terror, or will the Iranian people return to the nation's proud roots as a center of civilization, culture, and wealth, where their people can be happy and prosperous once again? The Iranian regime's support for terror is in stark contrast to the recent commitments of many of its neighbors to fight terrorism and halt its finance, and in Saudi Arabia early last year, I was greatly honored to address the leaders of more than 50 Arab and Muslim nations. We agreed that all responsible nations must work together to confront terrorists and the Islamic extremism that inspires them.

We will stop radical islamic terrorism because we cannot allow it to tear up our nation and, indeed, to tear up the entire world. We must deny the terrorists safe haven, transit, funding, and any form of support for their vile and sinister ideology. We must drive them out of our nation. It is time to expose and hold responsible those countries whose support and fi — who support and finance terror groups like al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, the Taliban, and others that slaughter innocent people.

The United States and our allies are working together throughout the Middle East to crush the loser terrorists and stop the reemergence of safe havens they use to launch attacks on all of our people. Last month I announced a new strategy for victory in the fight against this evil in Afghanistan. From now on, our security interests will dictate the length and scope of military operation, not arbitrary benchmarks and timetables set up by politicians. I have also totally changed the rules of engagement in our fight against the Taliban and other terrorist groups.

In Syria and Iraq, we have made big gains toward lasting defeat of ISIS. In fact, our country has achieved more against ISIS in the last eight months than it has in many, many years combined. We seek the deescalation of the Syrian conflict, and a political solution that honors the will of the Syrian people. The actions of the criminal regime of Bashar al-Assad, including the use of chemical weapons against his own citizens, even innocent children, shock the conscience of every decent person. No society could be safe if banned chemical weapons are allowed to spread. That is why the United States carried out a missile strike on the airbase that launched the attack.

We appreciate the efforts of the United Nations agencies that are providing vital humanitarian assistance in areas liberated from ISIS, and we especially thank Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon for their role in hosting refugees from the Syrian conflict. The United States is a compassionate nation and has spent billions and billions of dollars in helping to support this effort. We seek an approach to refugee resettlement that is designed to help these horribly treated people and which enables their eventual return to their home countries to be part of the rebuilding process. For the cost of resettling one refugee in the United States, we can assist more than 10 in their home region.

Out of the goodness of our hearts, we offer financial assistance to hosting countries in the region and we support recent agreements of the G20 nations that will seek to host refugees as close to their home countries as possible. This is the safe, responsible, and humanitarian approach. For decades the United States has dealt with migration challenges here in the Western Hemisphere.

We have learned that over the long term, uncontrolled migration is deeply unfair to both the sending and the receiving countries. For the sending countries, it reduces domestic pressure to pursue needed political and economic reform and drains them of the human capital necessary to motivate and implement those reforms. For the receiving countries, the substantial costs of uncontrolled migration are born overwhelmingly by low-income citizens whose concerns are often ignored by both media and government.

I want to salute the work of the United Nations in seeking to address the problems that cause people to flee from their home. The United Nations and African Union led peacekeeping missions to have invaluable contributions in stabilizing conflict in Africa. The United States continues to lead the world in humanitarian assistance, including famine prevention and relief, in South Sudan, Somalia, and northern Nigeria and Yemen.

We have invested in better health and opportunity all over the world through programs like PEPFAR, which funds AIDS relief, the President’s Malaria Initiative, the Global Health Security Agenda, the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery, and the Women Entrepreneur's Finance Initiative, part of our commitment to empowering women all across the globe.

We also thank — we also thank the secretary general for recognizing that the United Nations must reform if it is to be an effective partner in confronting threats to sovereignty, security, and prosperity. Too often the focus of this organization has not been on results, but on bureaucracy and process. In some cases, states that seek to subvert this institution's noble end have hijacked the very systems that are supposed to advance them. For example, it is a massive source of embarrassment to the United Nations that some governments with egregious human rights records sit on the UN Human Rights Council.

The United States is one out of 193 countries in the United Nations, and yet we pay 22 percent of the entire budget and more. In fact, we pay far more than anybody realizes. The United States bears an unfair cost burden, but to be fair, if it could actually accomplish all of its stated goals, especially the goal of peace, this investment would easily be well worth it. Major portions of the world are in conflict, and some, in fact, are going to hell, but the powerful people in this room, under the guidance and auspices of the United Nations, can solve many of these vicious and complex problems. The American people hope that one day soon the United Nations can be a much more accountable and effective advocate for human dignity and freedom around the world.

In the meantime, we believe that no nation should have to bear a disproportionate share of the burden, militarily or financially. Nations of the world must take a greater role in promoting secure and prosperous societies in their own region. That is why in the Western Hemisphere the United States has stood against the corrupt, destabilizing regime in Cuba and embraced the enduring dream of the Cuban people to live in freedom.

My administration recently announced that we will not lift sanctions on the Cuban government until it makes fundamental reforms. We have also imposed tough calibrated sanctions on the socialist Maduro regime in Venezuela, which has brought a once thriving nation to the brink of total collapse. The socialist dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro has inflicted terrible pain and suffering on the good people of that country.

This corrupt regime destroyed a prosperous nation — prosperous nation, by imposing a failed ideology that has produced poverty and misery everywhere it has been tried. To make matters worse, Maduro has defied his own people, stealing power from their elected representatives, to preserve his disastrous rule. The Venezuelan people are starving, and their country is collapsing. Their democratic institutions are being destroyed. The situation is completely unacceptable, and we cannot stand by and watch.

As a responsible neighbor and friend, we and all others have a goal — that goal is to help them regain their freedom, recover their country, and restore their democracy. I would like to thank leaders in this room for condemning the regime and providing vital support to the Venezuelan people. The United States has taken important steps to hold the regime accountable. We are prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on its path to impose authoritarian rule on the Venezuelan people.

We are fortunate to have incredibly strong and healthy trade relationships with many of the Latin American countries gathered here today. Our economic bond forms a critical foundation for advancing peace and prosperity for all of our people and all of our neighbors. I ask every country represented here today to be prepared to do more to address this very real crisis. We call for the full restoration of democracy and political freedoms in Venezuela. The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.

From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure. Those who preach the tenets of these discredited ideologies only contribute to the continued suffering of the people who live under these cruel systems. America stands with every person living under a brutal regime. Our respect for sovereignty is also a call for action. All people deserve a government that cares for their safety, their interests, and their well-being, including their prosperity. In America, we seek stronger ties of business and trade with all nations of goodwill, but this trade must be fair and it must be reciprocal.

For too long the American people were told that mammoth, multinational trade deals, unaccountable international tribunals, and powerful global bureaucracies were the best way to promote their success. But as those promises flowed, millions of jobs vanished and thousands of factories disappeared. Others gamed the system and broke the rules, and our great middle class, once the bedrock of American prosperity, was forgotten and left behind, but they are forgotten no more and they will never be forgotten again.

While America will pursue cooperation and commerce with other nations, we are renewing our commitment to the first duty of every government, the duty of our citizens. This bond is the source of America's strength and that of every responsible nation represented here today. If this organization is to have any hope of successfully confronting the challenges before us, it will depend, as President Truman said some 70 years ago, on the independent strength of its members.

If we are to embrace the opportunities of the future and overcome the present dangers together, there can be no substantive for strong, sovereign, and independent nations, nations that are rooted in the histories and invested in their destiny, nations that seek allies to befriend, not enemies to conquer, and most important of all, nations that are home to men and women who are willing to sacrifice for their countries, their fellow citizens, and for all that is best in the human spirit.

In remembering the great victory that led to this body's founding, we must never forget that those heroes who fought against evil, also fought for the nations that they love. Patriotism led the Poles to die to save Poland, the French to fight for a free France, and the Brits to stand strong for Britain. Today, if we do not invest ourselves, our hearts, our minds, and our nations, if we will not build strong families, safe communities, and healthy societies for ourselves, no one can do it for us.

This is the ancient wish of every people and the deepest yearning that lives inside every sacred soul. So let this be our mission, and let this be our message to the world. We will fight together, sacrifice together, and stand together for peace, for freedom, for justice, for family, for humanity, and for the almighty God who made us all. Thank you, God bless you, God bless the nations of the world, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much.

Revenge of the Village: Are We Not All Numbers?

We Are All Prisoners of the Police State’s Panopticon Village

by John W. Whitehead - CounterPunch

  
September 20, 2017


Photo by Surian Soosay | CC BY 2.0


“We’re run by the Pentagon, we’re run by Madison Avenue, we’re run by television, and as long as we accept those things and don’t revolt we’ll have to go along with the stream to the eventual avalanche…. As long as we go out and buy stuff, we’re at their mercy… We all live in a little Village. Your Village may be different from other people’s Villages, but we are all prisoners.
— Patrick McGoohan 


First broadcast in Great Britain 50 years ago, The Prisoner—a dystopian television series described as “James Bond meets George Orwell filtered through Franz Kafka”—confronted societal themes that are still relevant today: the rise of a police state, the freedom of the individual, round-the-clock surveillance, the corruption of government, totalitarianism, weaponization, group think, mass marketing, and the tendency of humankind to meekly accept their lot in life as a prisoner in a prison of their own making.

Perhaps the best visual debate ever on individuality and freedom, The Prisoner (17 episodes in all) centers around a British secret agent who abruptly resigns only to find himself imprisoned, monitored by militarized drones, and interrogated in a mysterious, self-contained, cosmopolitan, seemingly tranquil retirement community known only as the Village. The Village is an idyllic setting with parks and green fields, recreational activities and even a butler.

While luxurious and resort-like, the Village is a virtual prison disguised as a seaside paradise: its inhabitants have no true freedom, they cannot leave the Village, they are under constant surveillance, their movements are tracked by surveillance drones, and they are stripped of their individuality and identified only by numbers.

The series’ protagonist, played by Patrick McGoohan, is Number Six.

Number Two, the Village administrator, acts as an agent for the unseen and all-powerful Number One, whose identity is not revealed until the final episode.

“I am not a number. I am a free man,” was the mantra chanted on each episode of The Prisoner, which was largely written and directed by McGoohan.

In the opening episode (“The Arrival”), Number Six meets Number Two, who explains to him that he is in The Village because information stored “inside” his head has made him too valuable to be allowed to roam free “outside.”

Throughout the series, Number Six is subjected to interrogation tactics, torture, hallucinogenic drugs, identity theft, mind control, dream manipulation, and various forms of social indoctrination and physical coercion in order to “persuade” him to comply, give up, give in and subjugate himself to the will of the powers-that-be.

Number Six refuses to comply.


In every episode, Number Six resists the Village’s indoctrination methods, struggles to maintain his own identity, and attempts to escape his captors. “I will not make any deals with you,” he pointedly remarks to Number Two. “I’ve resigned. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, debriefed or numbered. My life is my own.”

Yet no matter how far Number Six manages to get in his efforts to escape, it’s never far enough.

Watched by surveillance cameras and other devices, Number Six’s getaways are continuously thwarted by ominous white balloon-like spheres known as “rovers.” Still, he refuses to give up. “Unlike me,” he says to his fellow prisoners, “many of you have accepted the situation of your imprisonment, and will die here like rotten cabbages.”

Number Six’s escapes become a surreal exercise in futility, each episode an unfunny, unsettling Groundhog’s Day that builds to the same frustrating denouement: there is no escape.

As journalist Scott Thill concludes for Wired, “Rebellion always comes at a price. During the acclaimed run of The Prisoner, Number Six is tortured, battered and even body-snatched: In the episode ‘Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling,’ his mind is transplanted to another man’s body. Number Six repeatedly escapes The Village only to be returned to it in the end, trapped like an animal, overcome by a restless energy he cannot expend, and betrayed by nearly everyone around him.”

The series is a chilling lesson about how difficult it is to gain one’s freedom in a society in which prison walls are disguised within the trappings of technological and scientific progress, national security and so-called democracy.

As Thill noted when McGoohan died in 2009, “The Prisoner was an allegory of the individual, aiming to find peace and freedom in a dystopia masquerading as a utopia.”

The Prisoner’s Village is also an apt allegory for the American Police State: it gives the illusion of freedom while functioning all the while like a prison: controlled, watchful, inflexible, punitive, deadly and inescapable.

The American Police State, much like The Prisoner’s Village, is a metaphorical panopticon, a circular prison in which the inmates are monitored by a single watchman situated in a central tower. Because the inmates cannot see the watchman, they are unable to tell whether or not they are being watched at any given time and must proceed under the assumption that they are always being watched.

Eighteenth century social theorist Jeremy Bentham envisioned the panopticon prison to be a cheaper and more effective means of “obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example.”

Bentham’s panopticon, in which the prisoners are used as a source of cheap, menial labor, has become a model for the modern surveillance state in which the populace is constantly being watched, controlled and managed by the powers-that-be and funding its existence.

Nowhere to run and nowhere to hide: this is the new mantra of the architects of the police state and their corporate collaborators (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google, Instagram, etc.).

Government eyes are watching you.


They see your every move: what you read, how much you spend, where you go, with whom you interact, when you wake up in the morning, what you’re watching on television and reading on the internet.

Every move you make is being monitored, mined for data, crunched, and tabulated in order to form a picture of who you are, what makes you tick, and how best to control you when and if it becomes necessary to bring you in line.

When the government sees all and knows all and has an abundance of laws to render even the most seemingly upstanding citizen a criminal and lawbreaker, then the old adage that you’ve got nothing to worry about if you’ve got nothing to hide no longer applies.

Apart from the obvious dangers posed by a government that feels justified and empowered to spy on its people and use its ever-expanding arsenal of weapons and technology to monitor and control them, we’re approaching a time in which we will be forced to choose between obeying the dictates of the government—i.e., the law, or whatever a government official deems the law to be—and maintaining our individuality, integrity and independence.

When people talk about privacy, they mistakenly assume it protects only that which is hidden behind a wall or under one’s clothing. The courts have fostered this misunderstanding with their constantly shifting delineation of what constitutes an “expectation of privacy.” And technology has furthered muddied the waters.

However, privacy is so much more than what you do or say behind locked doors. It is a way of living one’s life firm in the belief that you are the master of your life, and barring any immediate danger to another person (which is far different from the carefully crafted threats to national security the government uses to justify its actions), it’s no one’s business what you read, what you say, where you go, whom you spend your time with, and how you spend your money.

Unfortunately, George Orwell’s 1984—where “you had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized”—has now become our reality.

We now find ourselves in the unenviable position of being monitored, managed and controlled by our technology, which answers not to us but to our government and corporate rulers.

Consider that on any given day, the average American going about his daily business will be monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways, by both government and corporate eyes and ears.

A byproduct of this new age in which we live, whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, is listening in and tracking your behavior.

This doesn’t even begin to touch on the corporate trackers that monitor your purchases, web browsing, Facebook posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere.

Stingray devices mounted on police cars to warrantlessly track cell phones, Doppler radar devices that can detect human breathing and movement within in a home, license plate readers that can record up to 1800 license plates per minute, sidewalk and “public space” cameras coupled with facial recognition and behavior-sensing technology that lay the groundwork for police “pre-crime” programs, police body cameras that turn police officers into roving surveillance cameras, the internet of things: all of these technologies add up to a society in which there’s little room for indiscretions, imperfections, or acts of independence—especially not when the government can listen in on your phone calls, monitor your driving habits, track your movements, scrutinize your purchases and peer through the walls of your home.

As French philosopher Michel Foucault concluded in his 1975 book Discipline and Punish, “Visibility is a trap.”

This is the electronic concentration camp—the panopticon prison—the Village—in which we are now caged.

It is a prison from which there will be no escape if the government gets it way.

As Glenn Greenwald notes:

“The way things are supposed to work is that we’re supposed to know virtually everything about what [government officials] do: that’s why they’re called public servants. They’re supposed to know virtually nothing about what we do: that’s why we’re called private individuals. This dynamic – the hallmark of a healthy and free society – has been radically reversed. Now, they know everything about what we do, and are constantly building systems to know more. Meanwhile, we know less and less about what they do, as they build walls of secrecy behind which they function. That’s the imbalance that needs to come to an end. No democracy can be healthy and functional if the most consequential acts of those who wield political power are completely unknown to those to whom they are supposed to be accountable.”

Even now, the Trump Administration is working to make some of the National Security Agency’s vast spying powers permanent.

In fact, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is pushing for Congress to permanently renew Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows government snoops to warrantlessly comb through and harvest vast quantities of our communications.

And just like that, we’re back in the Village, our escape plans foiled, our future bleak.

Except this is no surprise ending: for those who haven’t been taking the escapist blue pill, who haven’t fallen for the Deep State’s phony rhetoric, who haven’t been lured in by the promise of a political savior, we never stopped being prisoners.

So how do we break out?


For starters, wake up. Resist the urge to comply.

The struggle to remain “oneself in a society increasingly obsessed with conformity to mass consumerism,” writes Steven Paul Davies, means that superficiality and image trump truth and the individual. The result is the group mind and the tyranny of mob-think.

Think for yourself. Be an individual. As McGoohan commented in 1968,

“At this moment individuals are being drained of their personalities and being brainwashed into slaves… As long as people feel something, that’s the great thing. It’s when they are walking around not thinking and not feeling, that’s tough. When you get a mob like that, you can turn them into the sort of gang that Hitler had.”

In a media-dominated age in which the lines between entertainment, politics and news reporting are blurred, it is extremely difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. We are so bombarded with images, dictates, rules and punishments and stamped with numbers from the day we are born that it is a wonder we ever ponder a concept such as freedom. As McGoohan declared, “Freedom is a myth.”

In the end, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we are all prisoners of our own mind.

In fact, it is in the mind that prisons are created for us. And in the lockdown of political correctness, it becomes extremely difficult to speak or act individually without being ostracized. Thus, so often we are forced to retreat inwardly into our minds, a prison without bars from which we cannot escape, and into the world of video games and television and the Internet.

We have come full circle from Bentham’s Panopticon to McGoohan’s Village to Huxley’s Brave New World.

As cultural theorist Neil Postman observed:

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared we would become a captive audience. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared that we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate would ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

You want to be free? Break out of the circle.

 

John W. Whitehead is the president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People.

More articles by:John W. Whitehead

A Coup in Catalan: Gardia Occupy Government Institutions Before Referendum Vote

Forced Takeover of Catalan Government Institutions by Spanish Police

by Thomas S. Harrington - CounterPunch


September 20, 2017

I just got of the phone with Josep Maria Sole Sabaté, my friend and a leading Catalan historian and public intellectual. He was nothing short of breathless as he described the helicopters flying overhead stated flatly that he was in the the midst of a coup being carried out by the Spanish State.

He wanted to get in touch with me and others “out there” because he was not sure how much longer free communication would be available to him and other out in the street protesting against the Spanish central government’s arrest of members of the Catalan Autonomous government.

As of this writing at least six agencies of the Catalan Government have been the object of forced police searches and thirteen, mostly mid-level members of the Catalan government have been arrested.

The homes of two the leading architects of the incipient Catalan state, Carles Viver Pi i Sunyer and ex Spanish judge Santi Vidal, have been searched by police. The headquarters of the far-left CUP, part of the pro-vote coalition in the Catalan Parliament, has been surrounded by police.

The leader of the Catalan National Congress Jordi Sanchez and the head of Omnium, a major Catalan cultural organization, Jordi Cuixart, has called Catalans to come into the streets and they have responded with a massive presence.

The mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau, who has been highly ambivalent regarding the referendum that is scheduled too take place on October 1st, has now come out firmly for the referendum and against the crackdown taking place. Albano Dante Fachin, head of the Podemos branch in Catalonia, which has been similarly ambivalent, is now off the fence fully supporting the right to decree and denouncing the aggression of the Spanish State

The Catalan President Puigdement has called and extraordinary meeting of his government. The president of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell has gone there to join him. At this moment, Puigdemont is currently in the Generalitat Palace, home of the Government meeting with his ministers. Crowds are outside in the Saint James square in the very heart of the city of Barcelona where both the Gneralitat and City Hall are located. People are lying down in the Via Laietana, a short walk away, one of the city’s main thoroughfares, in order to impede the Civil Guard’s ability to march upon government buildings.

The Ex-president of Catalonia, Artur Mas has said flatly that the vote will go on. Joan Tarda, one of the representatives of the Catalan Left Republican Party in the Parliament in Madrid, has made a public appeal for calm.

The Catalanist have received messages and protest of support from the Basque Country, where people have also taken to the streets, and Madrid itself, where a pro-democracy demonstration is currently taking place.

The Barcelona Football Club has come out in favor of those seeking to vote on October 1st.  

Thomas S. Harrington is a professor of Iberian Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and the author of the recently released Livin’ la Vida Barroca: American Culture in a Time of Imperial Orthodoxies.
More articles by:Thomas S. Harrington

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

London's Stealthy Social Cleansing

Social Cleansing and the Destruction of Council Estates Exposed at Screening of ‘Dispossession’ by Endangered New Cross Residents

by Andy Worthington


19.9.17

On Saturday, I went to the New Cross Learning Centre — a community-run former library in New Cross — for a screening of ‘Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle’, a new documentary about Britain’s housing crisis directed by Paul Sng, who is from New Cross (and is the director of ‘Sleaford Mods: Invisible Britain’).

The screening was organised by the residents of the Achilles Street area, whose homes are threatened by Lewisham Council, which wants to knock them all down, and build shiny new replacements.

The area affected runs between New Cross Road and Fordham Park (from south to north), and between Clifton Rise and Pagnell Street (from west to east), and there are 87 homes (with 33 leaseholders), and around 20 businesses (along New Cross Road and down Clifton Rise).

Lewisham Council claims, in its most recent consultation document, from February this year, that “[a]ll current council tenants who wish to stay in the new development will be able to do so with the same rent levels and tenancy conditions that they have today,” and that “[a]ny resident leaseholder who wishes to will be able to remain in home ownership on the new development.”

This sounds reassuring, but the recent history of regeneration projects — both in London and elsewhere in the country — is that councils and developers lie to tenants and leaseholders, to get them to agree to regeneration under terms that are not then honoured. Instead, tenants are evicted and their homes demolished, and they never get to return, and leaseholders are offered derisory amounts for the homes that, ironically, they bought under Margaret Thatcher’s Right to Buy policy, which is insufficient for them to buy a replacement property in the area, leading to their exodus in addition to that of the former tenants.




The recent history of this social cleansing programme is admirably documented in ‘Dispossession’, exposing what is, fundamentally, a scandal that has received far too little attention: the selling off to private developers of council estates — mostly deliberately run down over many years, or even decades, under a process of “managed decline” — on the basis that there is insufficient money to refurbish them to a decent standard. The developers, with the collusion of the councils, then knock them down, and build unaffordable new housing instead, resulting in the involuntary exile —- the social cleansing — of the former residents, who have to leave the area — even if, as often, they have lived there for decades, and, understandably, think of their homes as home — and often can no longer even afford to live in London.

The film chronicles the template for dispossession that is well-known and well-documented to those paying attention — beginning with the destruction of the Heygate Estate in Southwark, and looking at Cressingham Gardens in Lambeth, the Balfron Tower in Poplar, and the Aylesbury Estate, also in Southwark, and also taking the story further afield — to Glasgow and Nottingham.

The Heygate, near the centre of the Elephant & Castle, an estate of huge high-rise blocks surrounding lower-rise buildings and significant green space, was emptied of its occupants in the 2000s, and, for many years, was empty except for a handful of leaseholders clinging on, at which time it became a kind of post-apocalyptic urban jungle, a place of extraordinary silence, with performance spaces and vegetable gardens.

Housing activists — via the extraordinary Southwark Notes website — have demonstrated how most of the Heygate’s 3,000 residents were dispersed across London, never to return, and there are other shocking statistics: Lendlease paid Southwark Council £55m for the Heygate Estate, and £40m for the Oakmayne and Tribeca site, also at the Elephant. The process of evicting and relocating tenants cost the council £65m, while refurbishment of the estate would have cost just £35m. Lendlease, meanwhile, stands to make a profit of £194m, while Southwark will make noting, although one doesn’t vine have to be cynical to notice a revolving door whereby former Southwark council housing employees end up getting jobs with the developers.

In other revealing statistics, 1,034 homes were demolished on the Heygate Estate, and 2,704 are being built on its replacement, Elephant Park, but only 82 of those will be for social rent, generally set at 30% of market rents. This is genuinely affordable for a majority of workers, whereas what passes for “affordable” in the legislation approved in London by Boris Johnson when he was Mayor, is actually set at 80% of market rents, and is therefore completely unaffordable for most workers, because market rents in central London can easily be £500 a week for a couple. When the median income is less than £20,000, that can lead to people paying, as Oxford professor Danny Dorling says in the film, 50%, 60% or even 70% of their income in rent, when it should only be described as “affordable” if it is no more than a third.

The film provides a background to the need for social housing, and points out that, after the Second World War, the Attlee government built 1m new homes, 80% of which were council houses, and 5m were then built in the decades that followed. The decline began under Margaret Thatcher, and her baleful legacy is clear: at the start of her premiership, 42% of people lived in social housing, now it is less than 8%, and 1.4m people are on waiting lists. Of the properties that were sold under Thatcher’s ‘Right to Buy’ policy, 2.2m were in private ownership by 1996, and the most unforgiveable aspect of Thatcher’s policy — which new Labour never repealed — was the prohibition on councils building any new homes.

From Thatcher’s time onwards, some council housing ended up being transferred to the ownership and control of housing associations, a mix of private companies and charities, directed by legislation, who often did a good job. However, beginning under rNew Labour and most glaringly since 2010, under the Tories, cynical austerity cuts have forced them into becoming developers much more than being social housing providers, and a glaring example of that is at the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark.

Failing to learn any lessons from the Heygate disaster — because the template of dispossession and private profit is the same for all developments — Southwark hooked up with Notting Hill Housing, which used to be a social housing provider, but is now one of many former social housing providers that have become aggressive private developers, to demolish the borough’s other huge estate, the Aylesbury, rather than refurbishing it, as would have been sensible after all the negative publicity surrounding the Heygate redevelopment.

Instead, the evictions have started, as have the private developments, and Southwark and Notting Hill have had their compulsory purchase programme blocked by Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, for its derisory nature, and for breaching leaseholders’ human rights. The film focuses on the story of Beverley Robinson, a resident on the Aylesbury Estate, and, as Paul Sng explained in an article for the Guardian when ‘Dispossession’ was released:

She has refused to move out of the estate until she receives the market rate for her home, which will enable her to buy an equivalent property in the area. The council’s initial offer for Robinson’s two-bedroom flat, was £65,000, which she rejected. Following a tribunal, the price was increased to £187,500, still short of her expectations. According to estate agents Foxtons, the average price of a two-bedroom property in Southwark is £884,648. Robinson is entitled to expect a like for like replacement property if she is forced to leave her home.

Robinson is now the only resident in a block that is fenced off like a prison, and as Sng explained:

Robinson has to be let in and out of the building by a guard day and night, and is a virtual prisoner in a home she bought from the council under the right to buy policy. In addition, the council have also stopped providing regular maintenance on the building (despite her still paying a service charge), meaning that the communal garden areas are untended and the lift and lighting are frequently not working for days on end. Such underhand tactics suggest that the council is attempting to intimidate Robinson into selling her flat, thus allowing them to continue with a £1.5bn redevelopment project.

Both the Heygate and the Aylesbury estates are desirable because Southwark is so close to central London. Elsewhere, however, parkside and waterside locations are what the council and developers seize upon. It is no accident that Achilles Street is right next to New Cross’s only park, Fordham Park, just as it is no accident that, in Lambeth, the destruction of Cressingham Gardens, a well-designed, low-level estate that opened in the 1970s, is being aggressively sought by Lambeth Council, as it overlooks Brockwell Park from an elevated location.

At Cressingham Gardens, all the subterfuge required to try to persuade the tenants and leaseholders of 306 homes to vote for their own death penalty failed. Just 4% were in favour. Residents describe it as “like living in a village,” and were well aware that they had been subjected to “managed decline.” The council decided to press ahead with its plans anyway, but the residents took them to court, and won — twice — although the council still refuses to give up.

The latest corrupt manoeuvrings exposed by the film involve the creation by councils themselves of housing associations to handle the destruction of estates and their lucrative rebuilding. In Lambeth, the council’s chief social housing destroyer is Matthew Bennett, who has not set himself up as the head of Homes for Lambeth, the housing association responsible for rebuilding. And so, in a shocking demonstration of naked vested interests, Bennett will be approving the destruction of estates that he will then be in charge of redeveloping.

At Cressingham Gardens, it has been demonstrated that the cost of destroying the estate is much greater than refurbishing it, as is generally true of all redevelopments. The film also looks briefly at Central Hill, an acclaimed estate in Crystal Palace, which is coveted by the council and developers because of its stunning views over London. The campaign to save Central Hill is ongoing, but is interesting not only because lovers of architecture are on board, but also because Architects for Social Housing, a wonderful organisation campaigning to save estates from destruction and to pursue refurbishment options instead, have produced unassailably sensible plans to refurbish the estate rather than proceed with its destruction.

The film also looks at the underhand eviction of tenants from the Erno Goldfinger-designed Balfron Tower in Poplar, where artists were cynically engaged as a diversion — in a move that is known as artwashing — and touches briefly on other social cleansing programmes that are either underway or imminent.

In Poplar, the destruction of Robin Hood Gardens (oh so close to Canary Wharf) is in the latter category, and in the former is the West Hendon Estate, which demonstrates another geographical draw for developers — it’s right next to a beautiful reservoir.

Also of note is Woodberry Down in Hackney — also located by a beautiful reservoir — and in bringing the story up to date concerned readers need to check out Haringey’s plans to sell of all its housing stock to Lendlease, the destroyers of the Heygate Estate, in a £2bn deal that explicitly involves giving Lendlease approval for the destruction of entire estates, including Broadwater Farm and Northumberland Park, both in Tottenham.




Readers should also check out the story of the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates in west London, threatened with destruction as part of the huge – and hugely profitable – Earls Court redevelopment (which is subject to widespread criticism on a number of fronts), but primarily the message of the film, and of the experience of anyone paying attention in London, is that a full-scale assault on social housing is underway in almost every borough, which, if it is not stopped, might well lead to the social cleansing of up to a million people over the next 10 or 15 years. Moreover, as ASH never tires of explaining, the social cleansing cuts across party lines, as most of the dispossession in London is being conducted by Labour councils.

I’ll let that sink in, and give you time to check out ASH’s list of estates under threat from Labour councils, whilst also adding that there are no saviours waiting in the wings. Despite getting elected because housing is Londoners’ number one concern, Sadiq Khan’s plans are worthless, and Jeremy Corbyn is permanently silent on the clearances conducted by his own party.

It is up to us to fight back — and to build a movement that corrupt politicians and developers cannot ignore, and which, I hope, can continue to channel the justifiable anger that was felt in June when the contempt that politicians, developers,and housing officials feel for social tenants was most vividly felt as an inferno engulfed Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, killing at least 80 people, an inferno that was entirely preventable and that only happened because safety standards had been deliberately gutted in an effort to increase profits.

Note: Check out the Achilles Street Stop And Listen Campaign website for information about how to contact councillors to oppose Lewisham’s plans, prior to a council meeting on October 4 at which residents fear the redevelopment plans will be approved. If you’re interested, please ask the campaigners to put you on their mailing list. And please also check out the Achilles fanzine, put together by Lilah Francis.

And for a defence of London’s social housing in song, check out ‘London’ by my band The Four Fathers.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).