Padraig Colman

Rambling ruminations of an Irishman in Sri Lanka

Filthy Lucre and the Londongrad Laundromat

Oliver Bullough, in his new book, Butler to the World: The book the oligarchs don’t want you to read – how Britain became the servant of tycoons, tax dodgers, kleptocrats and criminals, writes: “When dictators want somewhere to hide their money, they turn to Britain. When oligarchs want someone to launder their reputation, they come to Britain.”

Transparency International claims to have identified at least £1.5bn of UK property owned by Russians accused of financial crime or with links to the Kremlin. Even the Home Office admits that the UK has seen “a significant volume of Russian, or Russian-linked illicit finance”, which is spent on things like luxury property, cars and school fees, and sometimes as donations to cultural institutions, such as the Royal Academy (Petr Aven – a banking magnate and collector, close to Putin was a trustee), the Tate Gallery (Russian energy tycoon Viktor Vekselberg was an honorary member of the Tate Foundation)  and universities (Oxford University has been urged to review its decision to accept £75m from Len Blavatnik, Britain’s richest man, to build the Blavatnik school of government.)

Len and Willie

Bullough runs Kleptocracy Tours of London showing tourists where the crooks and thieves live. Britain, he says has for too long been “easing their passage into global high society, hiding their crimes and generally letting them dodge the consequences of their actions.”  Bullough concludes: “They have real-life victims whose loss is far greater than Britain’s gain.”

Laughing Len

Russian Republic of Belgravia

Russia has been influenced by oligarchs since the break-up of the Soviet Union, and the replacement of President Mikhail Gorbachev, in 1991. A lot of Russians made obscene amounts from the privatisation of Soviet industries, particularly petroleum, natural gas, and metal. They were greatly assisted in this by western accountants, lawyers and consultants, who descended on Moscow like locusts. Many Russian oligarchs found London attractive and found respectable British professionals very helpful and keen to share in their ill-gotten gains. London got a plague of locusts from Moscow in return.

John Sweeney wrote in Byline Times: “Six oligarchs who made their gold in the post-Soviet space and have been markedly opaque about Vladimir Putin have been markedly generous to the Conservative Party and/or Boris Johnson personally. They are, in alphabetical order: Vladimir Chernukhin and his wife Lubov, Viktor Fedetov, Alexander Lebedev and his son Lord Evgeny Lebedev, and Alexander Temerko. In plain English, they have all had snow on their boots.” 

Something Rotenberg in the State

Arkady Rotenberg was the owner of Stroygazmontazh, the largest construction company for gas pipelines and electrical power supply lines in Russia. He is a close friend of Putin since childhood and is his judo sparring partner.  Arkady’s brother Boris is another rich Russian living in London. Boris’s son Roman lived in the UK. His home address was given as a £3.3m house in Belgravia, which is owned via a Cypriot entity called Loktan Services. Alisher Usmanov has huge wealth all over the world and in UK had a big financial involvement in Arsenal and Everton football clubs.

There is no space here to give details of all the Russian oligarchs who have corrupted the UK with their obscene ill-gotten gains. Lootin’ with Putin is a report Richard Brooks and colleagues wrote for Private Eye, which can be downloaded free of charge as a pdf. More recent reports, such as Russian Asset Tracker project, provide yet more detail.

How Did They Get In?

Bullough writes: “Financial skullduggery isn’t just something that happens in the UK; there has been a concerted and decades-long effort to encourage it to do so.” As long ago as 1994, under John Major, the Conservatives introduced a “golden visa” scheme that handed residency rights to anyone who invested £1m. Tony Blair’s Labour government carried it on with enthusiasm and in 2008, Gordon Brown’s Labour government expanded the golden visa scheme.

Ken Livingstone, London’s leftist mayor from 2000 to 2008, said he wanted “Russian companies to regard London as their natural base in Europe”. In 2006, the same year that the Putin critic Alexander Litvinenko was murdered in London, Livingstone said that he wanted “Russian companies to regard London as their natural base in Europe”, and his office established a small department aimed at attracting Russian money to London.

When he was mayor of London, current prime minister Boris Johnson openly encouraged as many Russian oligarchs as possible to settle and spend money in London. Johnson said Russian billionaires should be encouraged to use British courts to settle disputes. “I have no shame in saying to the injured spouses of the world’s billionaires if you want to take him to the cleaners . . . take him to the cleaners in London. Because London cleaners will be grateful for your business.”

Reputation Management

In 2010, Gina Miller was approached on behalf of a Russian multimillionaire offering £30m to her philanthropic foundation. She declined and commented: “The ecosystem of enablers includes wealth managers, banks, private equity houses, accountants, lawyers – and the growing army of philanthropy advisers, lobbyists, and thinktanks – who have been complicit in the infiltration by those close to Putin of not just our political infrastructure, but our property market, businesses, charities, public bodies, arts, culture, and sports.”

It was a Tory MP, Bob Seely, a member of the Commons foreign affairs committee, who used parliamentary privilege to name oligarchs and the professionals who serviced them. He said they were “not just obscenely rich people who are mates with someone” but part of the Kremlin’s “structure of control and power whether it is in east Ukraine or in the UK”.

Suppression of Free Speech

Catherine Belton’s book Putin’s People shows how KGB men created the world’s most dangerous rogue state. Belton is currently a special correspondent with Reuters and formerly worked for the Financial Times.  She is diligent and well-respected and her brilliant book contains many revelations. Roman Abramovich, owner of Chelsea football club, three other Russian billionaires and Putin’s energy company Rosneft sued Belton and her publishers, HarperCollins.

The lawyers they employed to destroy Belton and prevent her book from being published included Hugh Tomlinson QC. Tomlinson has generally been regarded as one of the human rights good guys. In 2000 he became a founder member of Matrix Chambers. Other founding members included lawyers who, became deeply involved in human rights: Cherie Booth QC, Professor Conor Gearty, Ben Emmerson QC, Lord Ken Macdonald QC, and Philippe Sands QC.

Tomlinson is on the board of actor Hugh Grant’s organisation Hacked Off, a campaign for a free but accountable press, which says it wants to hold “power to account”, not act as its servant. HarperCollins settled out of court agreeing to make changes to the text most readers wouldn’t notice. Although it never went to a full hearing, the case, according to Observer columnist Nick Cohen, cost HarperCollins £1.5m to settle in private. In effect, HarperCollins was fined a small fortune for publishing an anti-Putin book. HarperCollins is owned by Rupert Murdoch, the villain Hacked Off was established to fight.

Browder Libel Case

Bill Browder had large investments in Russia with his company Hermitage Investments but became a crusader against Russian corruption. Sergei Magnitsky was a young lawyer working for Browder.

Magnitsky accused Russian officials of a massive tax fraud but was himself arrested and accused of the crime. While in custody he was tortured and died in 2009. Browder pointed the finger at Lieutenant Colonel Karpov, of the Russian Ministry of the Interior.

In 2013, Karpov hired a top legal team to sue Browder for libel through the High Court in London. The case was described as one of the worst examples of libel tourism – where foreign nationals, with little or no connection to the UK, use the High Court to pursue their disputes. Karpov’s legal team was led by top QC Andrew Caldecott, but he was instructed by the high-profile media lawyer Geraldine Proudler, who previously sat on the board of the Guardian‘s regulators the Scott Trust, which, in the words of CP Scott, the Manchester Guardian‘s great editor, exists to promote ”honesty, cleanness, courage, fairness and a sense of duty to the reader” at the Guardian.

Mr Browder won the defamation battle, Mr Justice Simon ruling, “His [Karpov’s] connection with this country is exiguous and therefore there is a degree of artificiality about his seeking to protect his reputation in this country.” Karpov refused to pay his £600,000 costs and remained out of reach in Moscow.

Slow Action

The British government is slowly imposing sanctions against the Russian oligarchs who have had such a poisonous influence on British life. The long-awaited Economic Crime Bill has been introduced to parliament. The government first committed to the changes six years ago. Even in January 2022, as Putin’s troops were amassing on Ukraine’s border, it tried to postpone the bill until at least 2023-4. It has taken a brutal invasion of a European country for the British government to act. It still shows no shame and continues to avoid the issue of whether Britain  wants a future where the nation is living off immoral earnings.

Free Speech

This article was published in Ceylon Today on February 23, 2022

https://ceylontoday.lk/news/the-good-and-bad-of-free-speech

I am in London at the moment and I was recently a witness to a good deal of controversy caused by a comedian called Jimmy Carr.

A joke he made on Netflix about the Holocaust and the Nazis’ treatment of the Roma sparked off the old debate about censorship and the freedom to offend. I do not intend to repeat the joke, not because it is offensive, but because it is pointlessly offensive. Worst of all, the joke is not remotely funny. I have written a lengthy essay about why I am offended by jokes which depict Irish people as stupid. My disapproval of such jokes is somewhat diluted if they make me laugh. I have not argued that people should be punished for telling these jokes. I recognise that I do not have the right to be protected from offensiveness.

My first foray into social media was with Open Salon (OS). As this was an American enterprise, there was a lot of talk about the First Amendment. I noticed that many Americans would bring up the topic of censorship at the drop of a cliché. One had only to mildly disagree with these right wing snowflakes and they would cry: “you will not silence me!” To object to Carr’s joke is not to try to silence him. My essay about Irish jokes was triggered by a bizarre post on OS in which the writer “humorously” suggested that the solution to the “Irish problem” was to send all the Irish to Holland where they would be incompetent and drunk enough to flood the place and subsequently perish by drowning. Imagine someone writing a humorous post entitled “Solution to the Jewish Problem” or “Solution to the African-American Problem” in which the solution consisted of extermination of a race by drowning. Hitler had a “Final Solution” to the “Jewish Problem”.

The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, the Auschwitz Memorial and the anti-racism group Hope Not Hate were among those who condemned the joke.  World heavyweight champion boxer Tyson Fury, who is from an Irish Traveller family (and 6’ 9” tall), said he would chin the comedian because of his joke about gypsies dying in the holocaust.

Strictly Come Dancing judge Robert Rinder MBE (some of whose family were slaughtered by the Nazis) said the audience who “clapped, whooped and cheered” at the joke were “complete incorrigible turds”. Think about those people. Carr might find ways of rationalizing his behaviour but how can they justify theirs? Last year, Netflix faced walk-outs from staff members over a Dave Chappelle comedy special, in which the comic was accused of targeting transgender people. At the time, Netflix’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos claimed: “We have a strong belief that content on screen doesn’t directly translate to real-world harm.” I will come back to that idea of real-world harm.

Context

I did have a look at the performance in question so that you don’t have to. The joke itself was not as shocking in the context of a 55 minute show as it was as a brief and brutal soundbite. Warnings were given. Carr says: “Tonight’s show contains jokes about terrible things. Terrible things that may have affected you and the people that you love. But these are just jokes. They are not the terrible things.” I personally do not buy Carr’s arguments in favour of the joke. I do not see anything positive, apart from publicity for Carr, to compensate for the sheer nastiness.

People who know Carr have claimed that he is a kind man in private. What is the point of Carr having a private inner core of kindness while going out into the world and encouraging large groups of people to mock the vulnerability and stigma associated with a victimised minority? One does not have to be a proponent of cancel culture to suggest that at a time of social tensions it is not a good thing to release such toxic energy into the world. Words have consequences.

Speech that causes “offence” can be more dangerous than just hurting the feelings of some snowflake bleeding heart liberal. Sticks and stones might break bones but so can words break bones in the real world. In the House of Commons recently, the prime minister deliberately uttered words that he knew to be false and the result was that a few days later the leader of the opposition was attacked by a violent mob repeating the prime ministers words. The words of white supremacists can be rebutted with more words but it is unlikely that their behaviour will be altered by rational argument. Very often words can leave a person from an ethnic minority bleeding or dead.

Freedom to Lie

Philosopher Nigel Warburton describes John Stuart Mill’s “model of the arena in which discussions take place”. This is “something like an idealized academic seminar with opinions calmly delivered on each side and truth emerging victorious and invigorated from its collision with error.” A legislative chamber should be such a venue. There are occasions when the Sri Lankan parliament does not provide the opportunity to consider calmly delivered opinions. The House of Commons exists, with codes of conduct developed over centuries, to enable truth to emerge from debate. However, the reality is that the current (as I write) prime minister comes to the dispatch box every week and repeats the same lies, even when his untruths have been definitively exposed. Labour’s Dawn Butler was expelled from the house for refusing to retract her statement that the prime minister was lying.

Ian Blackford of the Scottish Nationalist Party was sternly reprimanded by the Speaker for asking the question: “prime minister, are you a liar?” Blackford was ejected from the chamber for refusing to retract his assertion that the prime minister had “misled the house.” The prime minister exerts the freedom to lie. Butler and Blackford are censured for expressing the truth.

Free speech helps a polity to run more effectively. A principle of free speech protects a wide range of expression, wider than any reasonable person could or would want to endorse. We have to protect free speech even for those whose views we find deeply offensive. Free speech is for bigots too.

The Heckler’s Veto

Cancel culture employs ‘the heckler’s veto’. This is the notion that if someone in your potential audience is likely to be offended by what you say you should not be permitted to speak, or at the very least you should have the decency to restrain yourself.

Trans activists exercise the right to call gender critical commentators “bigots” or “transphobes”. Critics of trans activists have their freedom of speech curtailed, endure bullying and threats, sometimes lose their jobs, sometimes suffer violence.

Can’t Silence the Internet

There are arguments in favour of anonymity but it provides opportunities for scurrilous behaviour. The Internet has allowed those willing to use unscrupulous methods freedom to communicate globally with a low risk of being traced. Freedom without accountability. Colombo Telegraph provides a good example. Most of those making comments do not use their real names and cannot be traced. This might seem like openness but it is an effective way of shutting down rational debate by bullying.

Some of the issues thrown up by the free speech question might seem trivial. I have been following a thread on Facebook about an article concerning Holocaust Memorial Day by a blogger who calls himself Old Holborn. One of the Facebook commenters summarised the issue: “the true lesson we should learn from Holocaust Memorial Day is that we should be allowed to be rude to people on Twitter.” People died on the Normandy beaches so that Old Holborn could enjoy freedom to insult. Another commenter said: “to equate infringement of his right to being an arse on the Internet to being a victim of the holocaust is fatuous in the extreme.”

People shout loudly “You will not silence me!” Fat chance. Some states are working very hard to control their citizens’ access to information from the Internet, using every technical device at their disposal but it is difficult to silence so many voices. Such attempts should be resisted because even minor restrictions of liberty help the process of erosion. While being mindful of the dangers of hate speech we should be vigilant against acts of censorship which make further curtailments of liberty easier to achieve. Josie Appleton, a free-speech campaigner, argues that: “Hate speech regulation curtails the moment of ideological conflict, when no crime has been committed. In this the state appears to be defending the victim. But it is actually defending itself, as the mediator and moderator of public debate, and the judge of what is and is not acceptable.”

Wisdom entails openness. To be a serious thinker one has to acknowledge one’s own fallibility. Progress is possible when our ideas have been subjected to criticism and all objections considered. There are many things we cannot know for certain because they are outside our lived experience. Timothy Garton Ash writes: “How can I know what it is like to be a Muslim, a Roma, a Kurd, a lesbian or a conservative Catholic, if we have not been able to explain it to each other?”

Freedom and Slavery

There is a fine balance here. Freedom for some might infringe the liberty of others. Jeremy Waldron, who is professor of social and political theory at Oxford University, argues the need for a public climate of mutual respect and tolerance. Waldron believes that it is sometimes necessary to use the law to curtail freedom of speech if speech infringes on the freedom of another.

Freed slave Frederick Douglass declared: “Slavery cannot tolerate free speech,” and he noted that there exists not just a right to speak but a right to hear. “To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.” Free speech applies to us all, and that right is rooted in our humanity, the inherent dignity of man.

I will conclude with another quotation from Timothy Garton Ash: “Now we are experiencing what I hope is a temporary diversion to something which most kindly might be called illiberal democracy, but perhaps more accurately, in the language of political science, electoral authoritarianism, and from an open society to a more closed society. Therefore the defense of free speech for the defense of an open society is more important than ever.”

Freedom of Expression

A shorter version of this article appeared in The Nation on 4 August 2013.

A number of fallacies are common in the blogosphere. A lot of people cannot cope with, or even understand, the concept of disagreement. Grown adults should be able to express differing viewpoints without unpleasantness. American bloggers are fond of citing the First Amendment to the US Constitution. If someone disagrees with them, they complain that they are being “silenced.” Genuine disagreement is often described as “whining”. In the arena of “citizen journalism” in Sri Lanka, on sites like Colombo Telegraph (CT) and Groundviews (GV), there have been demands for me and others to be “silenced.” Inoka Karu called on GV to root out the “rabble-rousers”. “Dear moderators: I am repeatedly appealed to you to control hellion characters such ‘off the cuff’, Padraig Colman and J Fernando.”

More disturbing was a call for suppression of free speech from someone who presents himself as a libertarian and a principled writer.

Emil van der Poorten commented: “In the interests of the sanity of the rest of us, Sanjana (editor of GV) and Uvindu (editor of CT) would be well advised to leave the O’Learys/Colmans out of the columns of the publications they have responsibility for.”

Uvindu Kurukulasuriya

Surely such a man of high ideals could not be asking for a fellow writer’s work to be banned! When CT decided to ban Dr Vickramabahu, Mr van der Poorten took a moral stand: “I have serious concerns about something that smacks of censorship and throwing the baby out with the bathwater here.” The Renaissance Man is never afraid to reach for a cliché when the occasion demands.

Vickramabahu Karunaratne

Then he trimmed back from that position and added: “May I suggest that the yardsticks of ‘intellectual dishonesty and political irresponsibility’ be applied without fear or favor to ALL contributors to CT, particularly those who are, very obviously and by their own acknowledgement, spokespersons for the current government?” Translation “people who do not agree with van der Poorten should be censored”. Some people regard van der Poorten as a good writer but he is somewhat promiscuous with the clichés. That “without fear or favor to ALL contributors to CT” is a hilarious touch coming, as it does as part of a plea to censor those whom van der man disagrees. The phrase “by their own acknowledgement” is priceless. Why would I acknowledge something that is not true? I did see Mahinda Rajapaksa in the flesh once when he was PM in CBK’s government. I saw him at a great distance at the Nuwara Eliya Flower Show. To this day we have never communicated. People do not show enough appreciation for Emil’s comedic talent.

I repeatedly asked Mr van der Poorten to provide evidence that I was a spokesperson for the current government, but, of course, he was too busy to waste his valuable time. I sent him many examples of articles where I was critical of the government but, of course, he was too tired and bored to read them. He called me a guttersnipe. I told you the man had a way with words.

Someone called Navin made this comment on the thread: “To say a particular writer should be shut out just because his point of view doesn’t concur with yours is beyond comprehension. You seem to have no principles, none whatsoever. What a strange country are we living in? Where else in the world do we have journalists and free media activists who campaign that some writers should be kept out because of what they write!!!”

One of the themes about which I had hoped to encourage discussion was whether freedom of speech should be limited in order to prevent incitement to hatred, which would hinder reconciliation. There is a debate going on out there, but CT and GV readers did not feel inclined to participate. Those who are interested could check out this website:

http://freespeechdebate.com/en/

To simplify the debate I will cite the arguments of Anthony Lewis and Jeremy Waldron.

Anthony Lewis

In his 2007 book, Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment, Lewis warns the reader against the potential for government to take advantage of periods of fear to suppress freedom of speech. In Rwanda, President Kagame has banned writing about ethnic differences. Ostensibly, this was to prevent further genocide, but critics see it as an excuse to suppress criticism of his regime. Josie Appleton, a free-speech campaigner, argues that: “Hate speech regulation curtails the moment of ideological conflict, when no crime has been committed. In this the state appears to be defending the victim. But it is actually defending itself, as the mediator and moderator of public debate, and the judge of what is and is not acceptable.” She describes many frivolous and harmful prosecutions in the UK. We must have the right to offend. No-one has the right to be protected from being offended.

Jeremy Waldron reviewed Lewis’s book for the New York Review of Books and was critical of Lewis’s stance on hate speech. He gave as an example harm done to children of racial groups criticised by widely published hate speech. Waldron, who is professor of social and political theory at Oxford University, argues the need for a public climate of mutual respect and tolerance. Waldron believes that it is sometimes necessary to use the law to curtail freedom of speech if speech infringes on the freedom of another.

Without resorting to the law, most publications and websites have their editorial and community standards. For example, GV tells potential contributors: “Please treat others with respect. Flaming and trolling will not be accepted on Groundviews. Attack the issue, not the person. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved. Comments that seek to inflame tensions on the ground, or are of a defamatory nature, will not be approved, or will be taken off the website as soon as possible.”

Colombo Telegraph has guidelines that are as high-minded as those of Groundviews: “We welcome debate and dissent, but personal attacks (on authors, other users or any individual), persistent trolling and mindless abuse will not be tolerated. The key to maintaining the website as an inviting space to focus on intelligent discussion of topics.”

I will leave it to readers to decide whether the guidelines are adhered to. CT allowed this comment: “Oh no, here comes the schizophrenic Mango who writes about poop on his worthless blog. And his Caucasian boyfriend, the pedophile tourist Padraig Colman, whose father washed boots for the British Army. No doubt Mango’s mother is also sucking Arab dick in Saudi as I write this…. Go to Negombo Beach at 4:30 am sharp. Pedophile tourist Padraig Colman will lick your toes, if he’s not busy sucking off his boyfriend Mango.” One article attracted well over 400 comments, most of them abusive. Groundviews recently tried to make something out of a non-issue relating to a packet of dates. There was danger that this could have exacerbated racial tensions. There are great things and distinguished writers on CT and GV. Unfortunately, there is often more heat than light.

The trolling on CT is seen by some as “a method” to deter some contributors from writing and to hijack the comment section, fill it with ad hominem insults, thus leaving no space for any intelligent analysis or indeed coherent thought. It is certainly nothing like “an inviting space to focus on intelligent discussion of topics.” Colombo Telegraph practices censorship by bullying. The Renaissance Man is comfortable in the repulsive space that CT provides.

Godwin’s Law

A shorter version of this article appeared in Ceylon Today on February 16, 2022, under the title Analogies from Hell. It was rather unfortunate that they chose to illustrate the article with a picture of Auschwitz. I was trying to make a rather more nuanced point.

https://ceylontoday.lk/news/analogies-from-hell

Analogies from Hell

In 2012, “Godwin’s law” became an entry in the third edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. The law was devised in 1990 by American writer and attorney Mike Godwin. Godwin’s purpose was to dissuade over-excited polemicists from bringing up fevered analogies between today’s events and what happened in Hitler’s Germany. Padraig Colman’s Law is, “the road to hell is paved with false analogies.”

Giddy Up

Esme Wren

Bernadette Wren

Esme Wren of BBC Newsnight wrote to the LRB (London Review of Books) about comments in that august journal about one of her programmes. “Bernadette Wren mentions BBC Newsnight several times in her piece on the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) at the Tavistock Clinic (LRB, 2 December 2021). (That is not a typo. Both women are called “Wren”.  How odd is that?) In February 2020, while being interviewed live on the programme, the comedy writer Graham Linehan drew a parallel between puberty blockers and Nazi experimentation. It is false that any Newsnight producer invited Mr Linehan on in order to make this comparison, and he was immediately and robustly challenged on air when he did.”

I watched that Newsnight interview and was extremely sympathetic towards Graham Linehan. The robustness of the interviewer (Sarah Smith, the daughter of the late lamented Labour Party leader John Smith – she is now the BBC’s representative in the USA) consisted in putting words into Linehan’s mouth, talking over him and refusing to allow him to explain his comparison. The interviewer was clearly accepting without question the line promulgated by trans activists that Linehan, like JK Rowling, is transphobic.

Linehan has said, “My position is that anyone suffering from gender dysphoria needs to be helped and supported.” He says that he celebrates that trans people are at last finding acceptance: “That’s obviously wonderful.” He “of course” agrees that gender dysphoria (defined as the distress a person experiences as a result of the gender assigned to them at birth) is real but he has a problem with widening the definition of transgender. One can sense his frustration at people’s deafness to the gravity of what is going on. I can forgive him for shouting a little. Linehan told the Irish Times: “Adults can do what they want,” but “it is dangerous to offer surgery and drugs therapy to young teenagers going through puberty who are gender non-conforming.”

Godwin Speaks

Godwin’s law asserts that, as an online discussion grows longer (regardless of topic or scope), the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Adolf Hitler, reductio ad Hitlerum approaches. Mike Godwin himself has criticized the over-application of Godwin’s law, claiming he intended to reduce the frequency of inappropriate and hyperbolic comparisons. The law’s purpose “has always been rhetorical and pedagogical: I wanted folks who glibly compared someone else to Hitler to think a bit harder about the Holocaust.” In December 2015, Godwin said, “If you’re thoughtful about it and show some real awareness of history, go ahead and refer to Hitler when you talk about Trump, or any other politician.” In 2017, he endorsed and encouraged comparisons of the alt-right organizers of the Charlottesville rally to Nazis. In June 2018, Godwin wrote an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times arguing that appropriate application of the rule “should function less as a conversation ender and more as a conversation starter.”

Hypocritic Oath

Doctors swear under the Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm.” On a day to day level, doctors should refrain from putting chemicals into patients’ bodies if they are not sick and avoid cutting people up if all the organs are in fine working order. Doctors should not involve themselves in, for example, torture or genital mutilation.

In Nazi Germany, doctors planned, supervised and participated in sterilisation, unethical experiments on humans, torture, euthanasia and genocide. This was not ethical professional practice. In Death and Deliverance, Michael Burleigh studies the character, background and motives of those who carried out the mass sterilisation and euthanasia of German mental patients in the 1930s. Between 1934 and 1945, 400,000 people were sterilised in the cause of eradicating “degenerative heredity”. The British historian Sir Ian Kershaw wrote, “The road to Auschwitz was built by hate, but paved with indifference,” Other historians have used the term “passive complicity”.

Extraordinary Medicine

It seems that, whatever about that boring old Hippocratic Oath, there will always be some doctors who go beyond curing or preventing illness and bow to ideology or mammon in order to inflict unnecessary drugs or surgery.

In more recent times, US doctors participated in GW Bush’s programme of extraordinary rendition, enhanced interrogation and torture. A US Senate report on CIA torture makes it clear that American doctors were enthusiastic participants happy to make a profit from inflicting pain. Two psychologists, Dr James Mitchell and Dr Bruce Jessen, were paid $81 million to design the torture programme, and medical officers and physicians’ assistants are cited throughout the report as consultants who advised on things like forcing detainees to stand on broken limbs and “rehydrating” via a rectal tube rather than a standard IV infusion.

Your Body in their Hands

Eliza Mondegreen writes perceptive articles on transgender madness on Medium and Substack. Like Linehan, she sees a parallel between Nazi doctors and those today who are cutting off the healthy breasts of young girls and castrating teenage (or younger) boys. A common thread is the arrogance of doctors: “For something that is hands-on with people’s flesh and blood, there’s a deep dissociation embedded in medicine that is perhaps necessary to practice medicine—breaking body taboos, taking someone’s life in your hands—and which medicine selects for in practitioners. This dissociation carries real risks. Taken to an extreme, under Nazism, the German medical profession’s belief system was effectively hacked by a racist, eugenicist ideology, such that sworn healers became killers in the name of healing (see Robert Jay Lifton’s The Nazi Doctors).”

A doctor commented on Eliza Mondegreen’s post: “Their most fundamental need, the one that guides all their decisions is their hunger for money and fame. Thus, a dramatic and costly intervention will always be chosen over a more personalized treatment that needs lots of time and empathy and is not paid half as well and not recognized as great achievement by the medical community.”

Experimenting on Children

Many institutions today are being hacked by a bizarre belief system. Doctors in the western world today are prescribing drugs to children and young adults not for the purpose of curing or preventing illness. These are drugs that are not approved by the FDA, drugs which have not been properly trialed. In the UK, a document was prepared by NICE (National Institute for Health Care and Excellence) in October 2020.The conclusion was, “Any potential benefits of gender-affirming hormones must be weighed against the largely unknown long-term safety profile of these treatments in children and adolescents with gender dysphoria.” NICE also said existing studies of the drugs were small and “subject to bias and confounding”. “The quality of evidence for all these outcomes was assessed as very low.”

Like the Nazi doctors, doctors today are experimenting on young people who are not in a position to give informed consent. Why would doctors want to block puberty? Do no harm! Puberty is a natural process. Puberty blockers, also called puberty inhibitors, are drugs used to postpone puberty. Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists inhibit the release of sex hormones, including testosterone and estrogen. There is controversy about the legality of using puberty blockers on transgender youth; their use has been challenged on ethical and medical grounds.

People think they are being humanitarian by accepting the bullying of the transgender lobby. The well-meaning public do not realise that there is no actual LGBTQA++ community. Rather, the public support gained by gay and lesbian people is being used as a big tent into which all kinds of insanity and nastiness is creeping. Organisations like Stonewall exert undue influence on institutions even including the courts and the police and sideline those, like the LGB Alliance, who genuinely represent women and gays. Linehan may be a hate figure to transgender activists but the LGB Alliance has taken him to their hearts. Linehan is a straight white male talking common sense that feminists and gays can appreciate. It would be helpful to cut that acronym back to LGB.

Surgical Mutilation of Language

There is an Orwellian manipulation of language. Elective mastectomies on girls become “reconstructive chest surgery”. Drastic, life-altering medical interventions become conceptualized as non-interventions. Hysterectomies, oophorectomies, and phalloplasties become “gender-affirming care.” These doctors are no longer capable of seeing what they’re actually doing, which is drugging and slicing a body into compliance with the new identity regime. Who amongst us would want to live our entire adult lives on the basis of irreversible decisions taken as teenagers? Especially teenagers being swayed by social media, and credulous progressives. Having your testicles or breasts removed is not like getting a tattoo.

Someone made this comment on a New York Times article, which, like many articles on the transgender issue in the mainstream media, managed to avoid many crucial points: “It seems so obvious that sterilizing children based on no criteria, other than what the child believes, is tremendously ethically wrong. I can’t imagine a clearer example of a reckless medical practice, and yet it’s become commonplace. In addition to our children needing to be deprogrammed, we need a deprogramming effort in place for the vast numbers of clinicians, inside and external to the clinics, who support affirmative care. Personally, I think prison would be a perfect place to enact such a program, but I suspect that wouldn’t be feasible.”

Graham Linehan’s comparison with Nazi doctors seems rather mild. He says, “There are lots of gender non-conforming children who may not be trans and may grow up to be gay adults, but who are being told by an extreme, misogynist ideology, that they were born in the wrong body, and anyone who disagrees with that diagnosis is a bigot.” We are in a vortex of cognitive distortions reinforced and magnified by social media echo chambers. This kind of biological engineering does remind me of Nazi doctors. If it walks like a duck…If they are behaving like Nazis, it’s OK to say so.

Boxed In

A shorter version of this article appeared in Ceylon Today on February 9, 2022

The Toxicity of Taxonomy

Some time ago, I coined myself a phrase to address the bad effects of imprisoning ideas in restrictive and reductive categories. The phrase was “the toxicity of taxonomy.” We try to impose some order on the chaos around us by sorting worldly phenomena, including people, into types. However, awful messes ensue if we prejudge according to assumptions which might be mistaken.

The world of social media exacerbates the problem. Complete strangers make unwarranted assumptions about one’s background or character and run with those distortions. I posed the innocent question on Facebook: “is it possible to make criticisms of the government of Israel without being called an anti-Semite?” There was an immediate pile-on with several people unfriending me and even blocking me. Some pro-Israel commenters accused me of being an anti-Semite. Given that I was an anti-Semite, I must be a supporter of then Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. If they had done the most minimal digging, my assumers would have found that it was no secret that I was a strong critic of Corbyn. Corbyn supporters accused me of smearing their hero and proceeded to smear me by calling me a Blairite. I had written many critical articles about Tony Blair.

When I was trying to clear up for a western audience in Le Monde diplomatique and the New York Times some misperceptions about what was happening in Sri Lanka in the closing stages of the war against the LTTE, I was accused by some of being a paid shill for the Rajapaksas, and by others of being a regurgitator of Tiger propaganda.  And so it goes on. Get back in your box!

Cross Dressing to the Left

I have always considered myself as one inclined to dress towards the left. I have never voted Conservative in my life. However, the terms left and right, never unambiguous, are very difficult to fathom these days because of profound changes in the class structure and the way economies work.

I recounted in these pages the strange tale of Frank Furedi and the RCG (Revolutionary Communist Group, which was far to the left of left).

Furedi was expelled from the RCG and became the founder and chairman of the RCT (Revolutionary Communist Tendency), which morphed into the RCP (Revolutionary Communist Party). The RCP was distinguished by its commitment to theoretical elaboration and hostility to state intervention in social life (but mainly interested in fighting with other lefty sects). The RCP eventually developed into Living Marxism and the LM Network, which now produces a contrarian website called Spiked. To echo Groucho Marx, whatever it is, Spiked is against it. Puzzlingly, the supposedly leftist LM Network took what seemed right-wing stances on most issues and has received generous funding from the extreme right Koch brothers.

Munira Mirza has been described as a backroom aide no voter had ever heard of but her resignation may be the most significant event in Boris Johnson’s downfall. She had worked for him for fourteen years. One bemused civil servant said she was one of the few people who actually seemed to like Johnson. She described Johnson’s smearing of Keir Starmer over the failure to prosecute Jimmy Savile as “scurrilous.” Mirza was a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party and a regular contributor to Spiked, even when she was working for Boris Johnson.

What Is the Working Class?

David Boaz is the executive vice president of the Cato Institute, an American libertarian think tank. He is considered right wing by the left, but has taken up leftish positions on some issues, such as supporting the legalization of recreational drugs. Boaz has argued that the political terms Left and Right are no longer simple descriptors. The way they are used today displaces arguments about policy by raising emotional prejudice against a preconceived notion of what the terms Left and Right mean. Those considering themselves to be on the Left stress their support for working people and accuse the Right of supporting the interests of the upper class.

In the UK, the Labour Party was founded to support the interests of the working class but the working class is not what it was. Thatcher, as leader of the right wing Conservative Party destroyed the unions which protected the working class and, indeed, destroyed the manufacturing industry which gave the working class its livelihood. Tony Blair created New Labour by cutting Labour’s traditional ties with trade unions and carrying on with Thatcherite policies of privatisation and outsourcing. These policies did not help the traditional working class.

Box Wallahs

The historian Thomas Frank has argued that Left-wing politics has become “a matter of shallow appearances, or fatuous self-righteousness… a politics in which the beautiful and wellborn tell the unwashed and the beaten-down and the funny-looking how they ought to behave”. Leftism has lost its appeal to whatever the working class these days is. The Labour Party attracts middle class voters and academics as parliamentary candidates. The lefty left seems to have sold its soul to identity politics. The self-appointed spokespersons of the lefty left in the UK (Kerry-Anne Mendoza, Owen Jones, Jackie Walker, Ash Sarkar) tend to put people in boxes. They use the divisive tropes of identity politics and paint a cartoon version of history peopled with stereotypes. This tribalist instinct leads to hostility and reflexive opposition towards those deemed the “other.” Identity has become dependent upon countering someone else with no room for nuance. They position themselves as champions of honesty which means their opponents are the worst of humanity whose views can be distorted.

Doxxing and Boxing

A group of aggressive males who claim to be women but have not surrendered their appendages or even taken the pills are attempting to create a hierarchy within the term “woman” and to push born females lower in it. They apply the loathsome term “cis women” in a derogatory spirit to the people they claim to identify with. They intimidate through words and sometimes through physical violence. These people are getting support from the Left who cry “bigot” at those who remind the world what “woman” means. This bigotry, this “transphobia” often consists of simply repeating the dictionary definition of a woman. JK Rowling has suffered untold abuse for merely expressing her own common sense view that a woman is a woman and that biological fact cannot be changed by self-declaration.

Thinking Outside the Box

Looking at this issue has led me to realise I have some unexpected allies. I learned a long time ago that, although I have been reading the Guardian since around 1960, and generally agree with it, I cannot expect the paper’s contributors to tell the truth about Sri Lanka. I am more likely to read common sense about transgender issues in the right wing Daily Telegraph than in the Guardian. When I pointed out on Facebook that the Daily Mail was publishing articles by the estimable Eileen Fairweather about then Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s role in the Islington child abuse scandal, Corbyn’s supporters vilified me and said the involvement of the Daily Mail meant it could not be true. As Orwell put it, Soviet atrocities were still atrocities even if the Daily Telegraph said so. Saddam Hussein was still a monster even if George W Bush believed so.

Herd Impunity

Many people whose views I do not normally share – Douglas Murray, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Jordan Peterson, Liz Truss, Melanie Phillips, Rod Liddle, even Tucker Carlson and the appalling Laurence Fox! – were saying things about trans activism that made more sense than the ill-informed arrogant nonsense spouted by bien pensant entertainers whom I would have considered to be on my team, like Billy Bragg, Stewart Lee and Daniel Radcliffe.

Comedian Stewart Lee

Publications and blogs I had previously steered clear of as right-wing and anti-PC, such as Unherd, Quillette, The Federalist, The Critics, Daily Telegraph, the Spectator, and Standpoint, were publishing sensible articles on the subject while more liberal organs were carried away by the madness and doing the bidding of the bullies in frocks. The Conservative MP Miriam Cates was talking more sense about the subject than any left wing politician. In the US, it was a Republican Senator Tom Cotton who introduced a bill to keep men out of women’s prisons.

Miriam Cates MP

Rose Duffield is a UK Labour MP who has shared LGB Alliance platforms with Graham Linehan (a comedy writer whose life has been disrupted by trans lobby bullies) and supported JK Rowling (who has donated generously to the Labour Party and been vilified in return). Duffield’s pro-woman feminist stance has aroused the ire of trans activists. She has a record of expressing gender-critical views and was called transphobic after simply “liking” a tweet saying women were people with cervixes. You can watch on YouTube Conservative MPs such as Jackie Doyle-Price expressing eminently sensible views on women’s rights and misogyny, views which are completely harmonious with what Rosie Duffield is saying. That does not mean that Duffield is a traitor to the left.

Inevitably, the trans bullies have gone after Rose Duffield, making her life hell. As I write this she is seriously contemplating leaving the Labour Party. She has said she felt unable to attend last year’s Labour conference because of the controversy generated by her remarks. Duffield has denied being transphobic and has said she is “completely supportive of trans rights”.

Rose Duffield MP

The chilling aspect of this is that a Labour spokesman said: “The party continues to be in touch with Rosie Duffield and has offered her advice and support.”  That means they will try to intimidate her to stop her expressing her views. Duffield says, “It is obsessive harassment. Neither the Labour party or either the former or current Leader or the Whips’ Office have done anything at all to stop it, to offer me any support, help or legal assistance. I am financially unable to pursue a libel action.”

Box On

On her Substack blog, Eliza Mondegreen writes: “When asking questions and looking for answers outside the approved sources gets you branded a hateful bigot or dangerous heretic, we’ve traveled into strange territory. Holy land, so to speak. No wonder citizens, civil servants, and secularists of many stripes feel so uncomfortable. Holy land isn’t our terrain. We’re unsure of our footing.

And no wonder so many people, sensing the ever-shrinking perimeter of acceptable variation on this issue, don’t budge an inch, don’t ask the obvious questions, and frankly don’t want to look for honest answers.”

I have not become one of those old Lefties like Paul Johnson who become reactionary with age. I walk in with an open mind and no preconceived expectations. This vastly widens the landscape of information that I can explore. People would rather protect their ego than experience intellectual growth.

Foreign Interventions Part Two

This article was published in Ceylon Today on February 2, 2022 with the title Poisoned Polity

https://ceylontoday.lk/news/foreign-interventions-part-two-poisoned-polity

Poisoned Polity

Today we can see the poisonous effects on American society itself of the interventions in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The horrors veterans endured in those hell holes caused an epidemic of PTSD. Communities and families have to deal with the effects of mental illness, gun crime, alcoholism and drug addiction. Elizabeth D Samet, in her book Looking for the Good War: American Amnesia and the Violent Pursuit of Happiness, wrote about records of war service when looking at post WW2 culture, particularly film noir: “Routinely investigated by law-enforcement officials and others, these records are invoked as evidence of good character, competence, or trustworthiness, even as they raise concerns that the erstwhile serviceman has developed a dependence on violence to solve problems. By proving a veteran’s ability to kill, a service record makes him a likely suspect in violent crimes at home.” Samet continues:” War records provoke discomfort among civilians in these films not only because they might be fake but also because they show up the less heroic or imply that veterans are bringing war’s violence back home.”

Like the US, the UK has not treated its soldiers well, although it has protected those guilty of atrocities and war crimes.

Elaine Scarry wrote in The Body in Pain: “It has often been observed that war is exceptional in human experience for sanctioning the act of killing, the act that all nations regard in peacetime as ‘criminal’. This accurate observation acknowledges that the act of killing, motivated by care ‘for the nation’, is a deconstruction of the state as it ordinarily manifests itself in the body. That is, he consents to perform (for the country) the act that would in peacetime expose his unpoliticalness and place him outside the moral space of the nation.”

Americans Over There

During World War II, the English comedian, Tommy Trinder, popularized the phrase about US servicemen based in Britain, “overpaid, oversexed and over here.” Historian David Reynolds subtitled his book Rich Relations, which deals in detail with Yanks in World War 2 UK, The American Occupation of Britain.

Richard Gere in Stalybridge

David Vine is associate professor of sociology at American University. He is the author of Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World. The US maintains nearly 800 military bases in more than 70 countries. Vine estimated that maintaining bases and troops overseas cost $85 to $100 billion in the fiscal year 2014; the total with bases and troops in warzones is $160 to $200 billion. The data comes from the Pentagon’s annual Base Structure Report and additional government, news or academic sources. Hundreds of bases in Europe have closed since the 1990s, but the base and troop (11,500) presence in Italy has been relatively constant. Recently, the military has built new bases and expanded Africa-focused operations in Sicily. A “cooperative security location” in Ouagadougou reflects a new generation of small, clandestine “lily pad” bases appearing in countries with little previous US military presence. At least eleven such bases in Africa host special operations forces, drones and surveillance flights.

Since 1995, anti-base protests have escalated in Okinawa. There are 38 US military facilities on the island, taking up 30% of the land mass, and over 40% of the arable soil, once some of the best agricultural land in Japan. Figures up to 1998, show that since 1972, 4,905 crimes were committed against Japanese people by US military personnel, their dependents and US civilian contractors and employees. More than 10% of these were serious crimes – murder, robbery or rape. In most cases, the Japanese authorities were not allowed to arrest or question the alleged perpetrators.

I wrote on July 24, 2019, in these pages about US attempts to set up bases in Sri Lanka.

https://ceylontoday.lk/print-more/36174

Intervention in Sri Lanka

As someone who has lived in Sri Lanka for twenty years. I am sensitive to the threat of foreign intervention. The Sri Lankan government was fighting the separatist forces of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) for nearly thirty years with much economic disruption and great loss of life, both civilian and military. Foreign intervention helped to prolong the conflict. From August 1983 to May 1987, India, through its intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), provided arms, training and monetary support to six Sri Lankan Tamil insurgent groups including the LTTE.

On 5 June 1987, the Indian Air Force air dropped food parcels on Jaffna while it was under siege by Sri Lankan forces. At a time when the Sri Lankan government stated they were close to defeating the LTTE, India dropped 25 tons of food and medicine by parachute into areas held by the LTTE in a direct move of support toward the rebels.

Parachuting Parippu

GOSL (the Government of Sri Lanka) alleged that weapons were also supplied to the LTTE by India. The original intention was that IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Force) would not be involved in large scale military operations. However, after a few months, the IPKF engaged the Tigers and continued to do so during the two years in which it was deployed. There were allegations that Indian troops committed atrocities.

The IPKF began withdrawing in 1989 and completed the withdrawal in 1990. Support for the LTTE in India dropped considerably in 1991, after the assassination of ex-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by a female Tamil Tiger suicide bomber named Thenmozhi Rajaratnam.

Save that Tiger

In 2009, when the LTTE were once again close to defeat, foreign nations sought to intervene. David Miliband, who was then UK foreign secretary, put pressure on GOSL to agree a cease-fire. The foreign secretary visited Sri Lanka with his French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner, on 29 April. In the past, the LTTE had used ceasefires to regroup and rearm without actually ceasing fire themselves. GOSL were not prepared to make that mistake again, preferring to definitively defeat the Tigers while they had the chance. A leaked May 2009 cable quotes the official, Tim Waite, a Foreign Office team leader on Sri Lanka, explaining Miliband’s intense focus on the plight of the country’s Tamils in terms of UK electoral geography. “He said that with UK elections on the horizon and many Tamils living in Labour constituencies with slim majorities, the government is paying particular attention to Sri Lanka, with Miliband recently remarking to Waite that he was spending 60% of his time at the moment on Sri Lanka.”

The Disease of Victory

Thirteen years after the GOSL comprehensively defeated the LTTE, the winners are still not allowed to enjoy the fruits of victory. There is no demand from Tamils actually living in Sri Lanka for a separate state and there have been no terrorist incidents in those 13 years. The Tamil diaspora still has the influence for the annual ritual of hauling Sri Lanka before the UNHRC, which currently includes such doughty champions of human rights as Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Angola, Kazakhstan, El Salvador, Venezuela.

Institutional Illness

Richard Haass, the dean of America’s foreign policy establishment, argued that America should curb its global ambitions until its “own house is in better order.”

I will leave the last word with Elizabeth D Samet: “The countries the United States sought to liberate and subsequently occupied inevitably tired of it before we did. In this case, our ‘garrulous populism’ expressed itself, as the pocket guides warned, as a belief that the world should be grateful for American military might, which was exceptional because it was always applied in the name of freedom.”

Foreign Interventions Part One

This article was published in Ceylon Today on January 19, 2022

https://ceylontoday.lk/news/foreign-interventions

Recent events in Kazakhstan have stimulated discussion about whether or how liberal democracies should deal with foreign tyrants.

Controlling Dictators

Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has described the recent deadly violence in his country as an attempted coup d’état.

Vladimir Putin said Kazakhstan had been targeted by international terrorism but provided no evidence. In Belarus, another tyrant, Aleksandr Lukashenko, brutally suppressed widespread protests against his disputed victory in the country’s 2020 presidential election. There are credible allegations of the torture and sexual abuse of opponents. Lukashenko has made several controversial statements during his presidency which have been regarded as antisemitic, homophobic and misogynistic. On 23 May 2021, Lukashenko personally ordered Ryanair Flight 4978 en route from Athens to Vilnius, carrying the opposition journalist Roman Protasevich, to land in Belarus. Lukashenko is not a nice man – better if he were not there.

Well-meaning liberals in western democracies are naturally horrified at such brutalities and feel that something ought to be done. Exactly what to do and by whom is hard to decide. Armed intervention has not gone well in Afghanistan and Iraq. Economic sanctions rarely cause dictators much discomfort as they have their riches safely stowed abroad. Economic sanctions usually cause more suffering to ordinary citizens, although previously accepted claims about child mortality in Iraq have been challenged. Surveys undertaken since 2003 find no evidence of unusually high levels of child mortality during 1991-2003.

US Interventions

There are still people who hope the US might do something about human rights abuses in other countries as the optimists still, in spite of all the evidence, have more trust in the US than they do in Russia or in China. They are more like our kind of people.

The US has gone through periods of isolationism but has done a lot of interfering over the years, starting with the Barbary Wars in the 19th Century, and later sticking its nose into Chile in 1811 as well as 1973. Also, in the 19th century, there were interventions in Mexico, Japan, China, Korea, Cuba. Spain ceded control over its colonies of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines to the United States. From 1898 to 1935, the US intervened in and had a military presence in Cuba, Honduras, Panama, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua.

Throughout the Cold War, the US frequently used the CIA against governments and groups considered unfriendly to US interests, especially in the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa. In Egypt, the US helped overthrow King Farouk in a military coup in 1952. In 1953, the CIA helped the Shah of Iran remove the democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadegh.

In 1954, the US deposed the democratically elected Guatemalan President Jacobo Árbenz and ended the Guatemalan Revolution.

The coup installed the military dictatorship of Carlos Castillo Armas, the first in a series of US-backed dictators who ruled Guatemala. Guatemala subsequently plunged into a civil war that cost thousands of lives and ended all democratic expression for decades.

In 1961, the CIA attempted to depose Cuban president Fidel Castro through the Bay of Pigs Invasion and made many attempts to assassinate Castro. The CIA also considered assassinating Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba with poisoned toothpaste (although this plan was aborted). The Belgians got him instead. In 1961, the CIA sponsored the assassination of Rafael Trujillo, former dictator of the Dominican Republic.

US troops intervened in the Dominican Civil War in April 1965 to prevent a takeover by supporters of deposed left wing president Juan Bosch. At the end of the Eisenhower administration, a campaign was initiated to deny the democratically elected Cheddi Jagan power in an independent Guyana. This campaign was intensified and became something of an obsession of John F Kennedy.

The Ugly American

The Ugly American is a 1958 political novel by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer that depicts the failures of the US diplomatic corps in Southeast Asia. The title of the novel is a play on Graham Greene’s 1955 novel The Quiet American and was sometimes confused with it. The book describes the United States losing its struggle against Communism because of the ineptitude and the bungling of the US diplomatic corps stemming from innate arrogance and their failure to understand the local culture. The novel depicted a stereotype of the American abroad who was universally disliked. The novel also made clear that the few Americans who were knowledgeable about and interested in foreign countries were systematically weeded out of the foreign service.

Violent Pursuit of Happiness

I have been reading an interesting book by Elizabeth D Samet called Looking for the Good War: American Amnesia and the Violent Pursuit of Happiness. Samet teaches English at the military academy at West Point. Long stretches of the book are devoted to film and book summaries. Some might find this bombardment of cultural references a drawback but it does demonstrate that Samet has no difficulty in finding validation for her argument everywhere.

I still have some battered old paperbacks from the early sixties of the novels of John Horne Burns (October 7, 1916 – August 11, 1953). Burns was the author of three novels. His first novel, The Gallery (1947), his best known work, was a best seller, very well received by critics when published, and has been reissued several times. It is currently in print from New York Review of Books Classics. In 2011, William Zinsser described it as “the proto-Vietnam novel, anticipating by a generation the hubris that ‘the ugly American’ would bring to another foreign land” by asking “who was more degraded: the Italians hustling to feed their families, or the GIs selling their cheaply bought PX goods at a huge profit?”

Samet quotes from The Gallery: “The gentle die in battle. Your crude extrovert comes out of his ordeal more brutal and crass and cocky than he went in. That’s the way civilizations die, gradually. A premium is put on physical courage in wartime which kills off the gentle, because they are too noble to admit of cowardice…Death to them is terrible.”

Samet quotes retired rear admiral Gene La Roque on the poisonous legacy of Vietnam. “…the twisted memory of it encourages the men of my generation to be willing, almost eager, to use military force anywhere in the world.” In his 1988 book, A Bright Shining Lie, Neil Sheehan referred to this mindset as “the disease of victory.” Sheehan expanded on this: “the dominant characteristics of the senior leadership of the American armed forces had become professional arrogance, lack of imagination, and moral and intellectual insensitivity.” Sheehan argued that this “institutional illness” had spread to civilian bureaucracies and to “the greater part of the political academic, and business leadership of the United States.” This meant that “American society had become a victim of its own achievement.”

More on this subject next week.

Foreign Interventions

Recent events in Kazakhstan have stimulated discussion about whether or how liberal democracies should deal with foreign tyrants.

Controlling Dictators

Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has described the recent deadly violence in his country as an attempted coup d’état. Vladimir Putin said Kazakhstan had been targeted by international terrorism but provided no evidence. In Belarus, another tyrant, Aleksandr Lukashenko, brutally suppressed widespread protests against his disputed victory in the country’s 2020 presidential election. There are credible allegations of the torture and sexual abuse of opponents. Lukashenko has made several controversial statements during his presidency which have been regarded as antisemitic, homophobic and misogynistic. On 23 May 2021, Lukashenko personally ordered Ryanair Flight 4978, en route from Athens to Vilnius, carrying the opposition journalist Roman Protasevich, to land in Belarus. Lukashenko is not a nice man – better if he were not there. How to get rid of him?

Well-meaning liberals in western democracies are naturally horrified at such brutalities and feel that something ought to be done. Exactly what to do and by whom is hard to decide. Armed intervention should be a last resort and has not gone well in Afghanistan and Iraq. Economic sanctions rarely cause dictators much discomfort as they have their riches safely stowed abroad. Economic sanctions usually cause more suffering to ordinary citizens, although previously accepted claims about child mortality in Iraq have been challenged. Surveys undertaken since 2003 find no evidence of unusually high levels of child mortality during the period of sanctions in 1991-2003.

US Interventions

There are still people who hope the US might do something about human rights abuses in other countries as the optimists still, in spite of all the evidence, have more trust in the US than they do in Russia or in China. Americans are more like our kind of people – remember that special relationship?

The US has gone through periods of isolationism but has done a lot of interfering over the years, starting with the Barbary Wars in the 19th Century, and later sticking its nose into Chile in 1811 as well as 1973. Also, in the 19th century, there were interventions in Mexico, Japan, China, Korea, Cuba. Spain ceded control over its colonies of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines to the United States. From 1898 to 1935, the US intervened in and had a military presence in Cuba, Honduras, Panama, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua.

Throughout the Cold War, the US frequently used the CIA against governments and groups considered hostile to US interests, in the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa. In Egypt, the US helped overthrow King Farouk in a military coup in 1952. In 1953, the CIA helped the Shah of Iran remove the democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadegh. In 1954, the US deposed the democratically elected Guatemalan President Jacobo Árbenz and ended the Guatemalan Revolution. The coup installed the military dictatorship of Carlos Castillo Armas, the first in a series of US-backed dictators who ruled Guatemala. Guatemala subsequently plunged into a civil war that cost thousands of lives and ended all democratic expression for decades.

In 1961, the CIA attempted to depose Cuban president Fidel Castro through the Bay of Pigs Invasion and made many attempts to assassinate Castro. The CIA also considered assassinating Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba with poisoned toothpaste (although this plan was aborted). The Belgians got him instead. In 1961, the CIA sponsored the assassination of Rafael Trujillo, former dictator of the Dominican Republic. US troops intervened in the Dominican Civil War in April 1965 to prevent a takeover by supporters of deposed left wing president Juan Bosch. At the end of the Eisenhower administration, a campaign was initiated to deny Cheddi Jagan power in an independent Guyana. This campaign was intensified and became something of an obsession with John F Kennedy.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_interventions_by_the_United_States

The Ugly American

The Ugly American is a 1958 political novel by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer that depicts the failures of the US diplomatic corps in Southeast Asia. The title of the novel is a play on Graham Greene’s 1955 novel (set in Saigon) The Quiet American, and was sometimes confused with it. Pico Iyer describes Greene’s novel thus: “An American comes into a foreign place full of ideas of democracy and how he will teach an ancient culture a better — in fact, an American — way of doing things.” It does not end well. The Ugly American describes the United States losing its struggle against Communism because of the ineptitude and the bungling of the US diplomatic corps stemming from innate arrogance and their failure to understand the local culture. The novel depicted a stereotype of the American abroad who was universally disliked. The novel also made clear that the few Americans who were knowledgeable about and interested in foreign countries were systematically weeded out of the foreign service.

Violent Pursuit of Happiness

I have been reading an interesting book by Elizabeth D Samet called Looking for the Good War: American Amnesia and the Violent Pursuit of Happiness. Samet teaches English at the military academy at West Point. Long stretches of the book are devoted to film and book summaries. Some might find this bombardment of cultural references a drawback but it does demonstrate that Samet has no difficulty in finding validation for her argument everywhere.

I still have some battered old paperbacks from the early sixties of the novels of John Horne Burns (October 7, 1916 – August 11, 1953). Burns was the author of three novels. His first novel, The Gallery (1947), his best known work, sold well, was critically acclaimed on publication, and has been reissued several times. It is currently in print from New York Review of Books Classics. In 2011, William Zinsser described it as “the proto-Vietnam novel, anticipating by a generation the hubris that ‘the ugly American’ would bring to another foreign land” by asking “who was more degraded: the Italians hustling to feed their families, or the GIs selling their cheaply bought PX goods at a huge profit?”

Samet quotes from The Gallery: “The gentle die in battle. Your crude extrovert comes out of his ordeal more brutal and crass and cocky than he went in. That’s the way civilizations die, gradually. A premium is put on physical courage in wartime which kills off the gentle, because they are too noble to admit of cowardice…Death to them is terrible.”

Institutional Illness

Samet quotes retired rear admiral Gene La Roque on the poisonous legacy of Vietnam. “…the twisted memory of it encourages the men of my generation to be willing, almost eager, to use military force anywhere in the world.” In his 1988 book, A Bright Shining Lie, Neil Sheehan referred to this mindset as “the disease of victory.” Sheehan expanded on this: “the dominant characteristics of the senior leadership of the American armed forces had become professional arrogance, lack of imagination, and moral and intellectual insensitivity.” Sheehan argued that this “institutional illness” had spread to civilian bureaucracies and to “the greater part of the political academic, and business leadership of the United States.” This meant that “American society had become a victim of its own achievement.”

Poisoned Polity

Elaine Scarry wrote in The Body in Pain: “It has often been observed that war is exceptional in human experience for sanctioning the act of killing, the act that all nations regard in peacetime as ‘criminal’. This accurate observation acknowledges that the act of killing, motivated by care ‘for the nation’, is a deconstruction of the state as it ordinarily manifests itself in the body. That is, he consents to perform (for the country) the act that would in peacetime expose his unpoliticalness and place him outside the moral space of the nation.”

Today we can see the poisonous effects on American society itself of the interventions in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The horrors vets endured in those hell holes caused an epidemic of PTSD; communities and families have to deal with the effects of mental illness, gun crime, alcoholism and drug addiction. Samet noted about war service records when looking at post WW2 culture, particularly film noir: “Routinely investigated by law-enforcement officials and others, these records are invoked as evidence of good character, competence, or trustworthiness, even as they raise concerns that the erstwhile serviceman has developed a dependence on violence to solve problems. By proving a veteran’s ability to kill, a service record makes him a likely suspect in violent crimes at home.” Samet continues:” War records provoke discomfort among civilians in these films not only because they might be fake but also because they show up the less heroic or imply that veterans are bringing war’s violence back home.”

Americans Abroad

David Vine is associate professor of sociology at American University. He is the author of Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World. The US maintains nearly 800 military bases in more than 70 countries. Vine estimated that maintaining bases and troops overseas cost $85 to $100 billion in fiscal year 2014; the total with bases and troops in war zones is $160 to $200 billion. The data comes from the Pentagon’s annual Base Structure Report and additional government, news or academic sources. Hundreds of bases in Europe have closed since the 1990s, but the base and troop (11,500) presence in Italy has been relatively constant. Recently, the military has built new bases and expanded Africa-focused operations in Sicily. A “cooperative security location” in Ouagadougou reflects a new generation of small, clandestine “lily pad” bases appearing in countries with little previous US military presence. At least 11 such bases in Africa host special operations forces, drones and surveillance flights.

Since 1995, anti-base protests have escalated in Okinawa. There are 38 US military facilities on Okinawa. They account for up 30% of the land mass of the island. The US military bases on Okinawa also cover over 40% of the arable soil, once some of the best agricultural land in Japan. Figures up to 1998, show that since 1972, 4,905 crimes were committed against Japanese people by US military personnel, their dependents and US civilian contractors and employees. More than 10% of these were serious crimes – murder, robbery or rape. In most cases, the Japanese authorities were not allowed to arrest or question the alleged perpetrators.

Behind the SOFA

The Status of Forces Agreement which the US has been keen to force on Sri Lanka seems to many Sri Lankans to be a step too far in bending over and being submissive to the US. The main points of SOFA are:

  • All American personnel based in Sri Lanka will have the equivalent of diplomatic immunity. US troops and contractors will be able to enter and leave Sri Lanka without Passports or Visas.
  • US personnel can wear uniforms and carry arms while on duty in Sri Lanka.
  • Sri Lankan laws will not apply to them. The US Government will exercise criminal jurisdiction over US personnel in Sri Lanka.
  • The GOSL will protect US assets in Sri Lanka but the US government will not pay anything.
  • US vessels and vehicles may enter and leave Sri Lanka freely without payment of tolls or taxes, navigation, overflight, terminal or similar charges. Aircraft and vessels of the US Government will not be boarded or inspected.
  • US contractors will not be liable to pay any tax or similar charges and will be exempt from any license, or other restrictions, customs duties, taxes or any other charges.
  • The US will be allowed to operate its own telecommunication systems.
  • Claims relating to damage or loss shall be resolved by the US Government in accordance with US laws and regulations.

Intervention in Sri Lanka

As someone who has lived in Sri Lanka for twenty years. I am sensitive to the threat of foreign intervention. The Sri Lankan government was fighting the separatist forces of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) for nearly thirty with much economic disruption and great loss of life, both civilian and military. I will not here go into the reasons for the conflict or examine the rights and wrongs of both sides. Foreign intervention helped to start, sustain and prolong the conflict.

From August 1983 to May 1987, India, through its intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), provided arms, training and monetary support to six Sri Lankan Tamil separatist insurgent groups including the LTTE.

In spite of this, there was a possibility that the GOSL (Government of Sri Lanka) might have been on the verge of defeating the Tigers in 1987 when India ruined that by sending its army into Sri Lanka. They called it the IPKF (the Indian Peace Keeping Force). On 5 June 1987, the Indian Air Force air dropped food parcels on Jaffna while it was under siege by Sri Lankan forces. At a time when the Sri Lankan government stated they were close to defeating the LTTE, India dropped 25 tons of food and medicine by parachute into areas held by the LTTE in a direct move of support toward the rebels. GOSL alleged that weapons were also supplied to the LTTE by India.

The original intention was that the IPKF would not be involved in large scale military operations. However, after a few months, Indian troops engaged the Tigers in a series of battles which they continued to do during the two years in which the IPKF was deployed. There were allegations that Indian troops committed atrocities. The IPKF began withdrawing in 1989 and completed the withdrawal in 1990. Support for the LTTE in India dropped considerably in 1991, after the assassination of ex-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi by a female suicide bomber named Thenmozhi Rajaratnam. India regretted its intervention in Sri Lanka.

Save that Tiger

In 2009, when the LTTE were once again close to defeat, foreign nations sought to intervene. David Miliband, who was then UK foreign secretary, put pressure on GOSL to agree a cease-fire. The foreign secretary visited Sri Lanka with his French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner on 29 April. In the past, the LTTE had used ceasefires to regroup and rearm without actually ceasing fire themselves. GOSL were not prepared to make that mistake again, preferring definitively to defeat the Tigers while they had the chance. A leaked May 2009 cable Tim Waite, a UK Foreign Office team leader on Sri Lanka, explaining Miliband’s intense focus on the plight of the country’s Tamils in terms of UK electoral geography. “He said that with UK elections on the horizon and many Tamils living in Labour constituencies with slim majorities, the government is paying particular attention to Sri Lanka, with Miliband recently remarking to Waite that he was spending 60% of his time at the moment on Sri Lanka.”

The Disease of Victory

Thirteen years after the GOSL comprehensively defeated the LTTE, the winners are still not allowed to enjoy the fruits of victory. There is no demand from Tamils in Sri Lanka for a separate state and there have been no terrorist incidents in those 13 years. The Tamil diaspora still has the influence to ensure  the annual ritual of hauling Sri Lanka before the UNHRC, which currently includes such doughty champions of human rights as Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Angola, Kazakhstan, El Salvador, Venezuela.

Coda

I will leave the last word with Elizabeth D Samet.

“The countries the United States sought to liberate and subsequently occupied inevitably tired of it before we did. In this case, our ‘garrulous populism’ expressed itself, as the pocket guides warned, as a belief that the world should be grateful for American military might, which was exceptional because it was always applied in the name of freedom.”

Trans Wars Part Three

A shorter version of this article was published in Ceylon Today on October 20, 2021.

https://ceylontoday.lk/news/trans-wars-part-three

Many years ago, I laughed at veteran (now late and lamented) comedian and scriptwriter Barry Cryer when he said, “I’m a lesbian trapped in a man’s body.” That is not funny anymore as hairy men with penises accuse women with vaginas of being bigots because they won’t have lesbian sex with them. A group of aggressive males who claim to be women but have not surrendered their appendages are attempting to create a hierarchy within the term “woman” and to push females lower in it.

Sexual Fetishism

What does it mean for a chap born with gonads to self-identify as a woman if he does not surrender his gonads? Many self-identifiers say they always felt uncomfortable being a man. Does that mean that they want to dress up as a woman? That’s no problem. A gang of people like that gather at the end of my street most evenings and I say good luck to them. There was in living memory a clear distinction between transvestites and transexuals. If a gonadal man wants to dress up as a girl, who cares? Except possibly his wife. A work colleague of mine was found hanging, dressed in stockings and suspenders, in the attic by his wife. An auto-erotic procedure that went fatally wrong. That trivial sensual pleasure must have been ruinous for the family.

Ray Blanchard is adjunct Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. He served on the American Psychiatric Association DSM-IV Subcommittee on Gender Identity Disorders. Blanchard coined the term Autogynephilia, derived from Greek for “love of oneself as a woman”. As Blanchard put it: “a male’s propensity to be sexually aroused by the thought of himself as a female.” Blanchard categorized trans women into two groups: homosexual transsexuals who are attracted exclusively to men, and who seek sex reassignment surgery because they are feminine in both behavior and appearance; and autogynephilic transsexuals who are sexually aroused at the idea of having a female body. Other terms for such cross-gender fantasies and behaviours include automonosexuality, eonism, and sexo-aesthetic inversion.

Women’s Spaces

Back in 1988, I was amused rather than alarmed when Prunella Scales (Sybil from Fawlty Towers) rushed into the Gents’ toilet at the Phoenix Theatre while I was relieving myself before going to see Dustin Hoffman in The Merchant of Venice. That’s the play with the pound of flesh; I’m not boasting. I understood that Ms Scales was too impatient to join the lengthy queue at the Ladies’. If I were a born lady with a uterus, I would imagine I would be very alarmed if I were going to relieve myself at the Labour Party conference and a huge creature dressed as a woman invaded the space of the Ladies’ toilet. Yet the person calling themself Patricia Josephine Hannah-Wood complained to the entire conference about being abused in the ladies’ toilet by ‘cis women’. Hannah-Wood had the gall to make comparisons between that experience and that of a young female teacher who had been brutally murdered by a man that week.

Another Labour councillor, Lindsay Broadwell, who identifies as a ‘cis lesbian’ but is in fact male, also played the victim, claiming that he had been aggressively challenged in the women’s toilets simply for being a butch woman. Broadwell is muscular and 6’2”.

Another (former) Labour official, Lily Madigan, in 2019 tweeted stories of sexual harassment and assaults. Soon afterwards several young women came forward to accuse him/her/them/it of inappropriate sexual behaviour

Helen Joyce writes: “The overwhelming majority of violence, sexual assault and harassment suffered by female people has been perpetrated by male ones. Single-sex spaces exist for these reasons, not to prop up privilege or pander to prejudice.”

I find the terminology imposed by the self-identifying bullies quite obnoxious. The sneering use of the term “cis-woman” makes it clear that they do not really like proper women let alone want to be one. Real women seem to be the enemy and those who claim to protect and advocate for real women are betraying them by supporting promiscuous equality.

Women’s Sports

A few years ago, the presence of a male-to-female (MTF) transgender athlete in women’s competitions would have alarmed athletes, coaches and fans, but they might have been consoled by the extreme rarity of such cases. That is no longer the case. The transgender issue is showing up at every level of every sport more and more often.

Olympic swimmer, Sharron Davies argued that transgender athletes who were born male had a physical advantage over cisgendered women. “Michael Phelps has size 15 feet; your average female swimmer has size six,” she said. “If someone is a good swimmer and they decide they want to transition to being a female, none of our girls would stand a chance.”

While in his teens, New Zealander Gavin Hubbard, set national records in junior weightlifting competitions.  He transitioned to female in 2012 and underwent hormone therapy and took the name Laurel Hubbard. Hubbard won two gold medals and a silver medal in the 2019 Pacific Games. Hubbard is 6-foot-1 and weighs 287 pounds.

Men who have gone through puberty before transitioning have an unfair physical advantage over women who were born women and remained women. In contact sports like boxing and rugby, the physical advantage could prove lethal. The male skull is designed to take more impact but nonetheless head injuries in male American footballers and in rugby players worldwide have become a major cause of concern. In 2020, World Rugby’s transgender working group produced a 38-page draft document in which it was calculated that increased injury risk for typical players with female characteristics when tackled by a typical player with male characteristics was between 20% and 30%.

Transgender cyclist Rachel McKinnon told BBC Sport she estimated she has received more than 100,000 hate messages on Twitter since she won her UCI Masters Track World Championship title in October. Fellow cyclist Jen Wagner-Assali, who finished third, called it “unfair” and called on cycling’s international governing body to change its rules. Rachel McKinnon said Sharron Davies was a “transphobe” and was “sharing hate speech”.

Feminist and Gay Revolutions

Helen Joyce raises the issue that some parents who are keen to change by surgery or drugs the gender of their children might be motivated by a fear of homosexuality. In days gone by a boy who liked to play girly games might later discover that he was gay all along and come out of the closet with all his male gadgets intact and have a fulfilling life. Joyce observes that a “generation ago, progressives campaigned for schools to crack down on taunts about gay boys being girls; now, the bullies are presented as right.” In 2019, some staff at the Tavistock Clinic raised concerns that some parents were trying to fast-track children’s transition for this reason. Two clinicians said that “there was a dark joke among staff that soon ‘there would be no gay people left.’”

Joyce describes the case of Kimberly Shappley, a conservative Christian in Texas who was disturbed by her son Joseph’s effeminate behaviour. The parents tried prayer and when that failed they tried physical violence but Joseph continued to insist, “I’m a girl’. Eventually, Shappley allowed her child to transition at the age of four. “I now have a happy, healthy, outgoing, loving, beautiful, sweet little girl who loves Jesus and loves her brothers.”

A really disturbing aspect is that organisations that one would expect to defend the rights of gays and women are actually protecting the bullies and painting them as the victims. Pink News, an organ ostensibly in the business of protecting gay rights, praised the government of Pakistan for funding sex-change surgery for gay males. Radical Islamists believe that homosexuality is an indication of a female brain. Out with the knives! There is plenty of evidence that gay men in Pakistan and Iran are tortured, beaten and executed and many unwillingly have the surgery rather than risk other penalties.

Is Change Coming?

Louise Perry discussed in the New Statesman the books by Helen Joyce and Kathleen Stock that I wrote about in my previous articles. She senses that there is a shift in public opinion and media attitudes to the bullying by transactivists. “What was once taboo has become mainstream, with each person and publication in the respectability chain emboldened by the outspokenness of the one before them.” JK Rowling has been roundly abused for speaking the truth but she has also attracted support. Graham Linehan was the co-author of the two funniest shows ever on TV. These days he is mainly known as a hate figure to transactivists because he disseminates good sense on his blog, The Glinner Update. He is spreading the message. Linehan has likened the use of puberty blockers to Nazi Eugenics programmes. In 2020, he was suspended from Twitter for “repeated violations” of the rules. Linehan said his views had lost him work and disrupted his marriage. He has not let all this and testicular cancer stop his fight for justice and common sense.

There are a number of channels, particularly Triggernomatry, on YouTube which provide opportunities for open discussion without the threat of fascistic cancelling.

Comedian Dave Chappelle has been called a transphobe. Chappelle told a story about striking up a friendship with a transgender woman who he claimed was “laughing the hardest” at his jokes about transgender people. That woman was Daphne Dorman. When Chappelle was lambasted as a transphobe, Dorman tweeted that he was nothing of the kind and was her friend. She was hounded in turn; then jumped to her death off a tower block. Chappelle’s views about self-identifying are far more in step with public opinion than his critics. As the Lexington column in the Economist remarked, “if the unpopularity of their views is rarely off-putting to the Twitterati, good luck to them taking on an African-American superstar. “

In her book, Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality, Helen Joyce writes about the concept of gender self-identification, “The label is a misnomer. It is actually about requiring others to identify you as a member of the sex you proclaim.” Joyce notes that a judicial review in the UK in late 2020 addressed the issue of whether children can truly consent to puberty blockers. The answer was no. Joyce’s book has been sent to all UK MPs. Kathleen Stock has been bullied and her livelihood threatened but her book, Material Girls, has been sent all UK MPs. News just in: Kathleen Stock has been hounded from her job at Sussex University. Miriam Cates, Conservative MP for Penistone has published a very sensible article in the right-wing Daily Telegraph.

Can we hope that the madness can be contained? I leave the last word to Helen Joyce: “liberal, secular society can accommodate many subjective belief systems, even mutually contradictory ones. What it must never do is impose one group’s beliefs on everyone else.

There are many informative discussions on YouTube.There are a number of channels, particularly Triggernomatry, on YouTube which provide opportunities for open discussion without the threat of fascistic cancelling.

https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1438754/nhs-news-transgender-terf-feminist-doctor-woke-political-correctness-lgbtq

https://grahamlinehan.substack.com/p/doctor-do-much-harm

Trans Wars Part Two

A shorter version of this article appeared in Ceylon Today on October 14, 2021.

https://ceylontoday.lk/news/trans-wars-1

Sri Lanka’s first president, JR Jayewardene, famously boasted that the executive presidency gave him the power “to do anything except make a man a woman, or a woman a man”. (This was first said by Jean-Louis de Lolme 1740 – 16 July 1806. De Lolme was a political theorist born in the then independent Republic of Geneva. He was referring to the British Parliament).

Today, there is much conflict about making a man a woman or a woman a man.

Casablanca

I spent a day in Casablanca in 1976, but luckily got out in one piece. George Jamieson went to Casablanca in 1960 and came back as April Ashley and achieved some success as a model, pictures appearing in Vogue. Jamieson/Ashley was 25 at the time of the operation. Wally Stott wrote music for radio shows such as Hancock’s Half Hour and the Goon Show. He also worked with Shirley Bassey, Noel Coward and Dusty Springfield. Scott Walker compared him to Delius. Stott married twice and had two children. Stott went to Casablanca and came back as Angela Morley at the age of 46. Walter Carlos had a hit record with his Moog synthesizer versions of Bach and wrote scores for two Kubrick movies. He went to Casablanca in 1972 and came back as Wendy Carlos. Carlos was 33 at the time. James Morris served in the British Army in World War II and was a member of the 1953 British Mount Everest expedition, which made the first ascent of the mountain and was the only journalist to accompany the expedition, climbing with the team to a camp at 22,000 feet. He was the father of five children. James went to Casablanca in 1972 and came back as Jan. Morris was 46 at the time of the surgery.

Casablanca was the destination because it was the base of French surgeon Georges Burou and his sex reassignment clinic, called “Clinique du Parc”. In 1973, he reported his experience with over 3000 individual cases. He is said to have worked at the clinic seven days a week, and frequently up to fifteen hours each day. Burou refused his services to minors even if they had parental consent, because he felt “the operation is definitive and irreversible and one . . . could not risk making a mistake.” His fees were said to be modest for the time and he was willing to make “enormous” financial concessions to his fees whenever a case “merited the operation.” An essential part of the procedure is orchiectomy – castration. Between 1956 and 1958 Burou independently developed the anteriorly pedicled penile skin flap inversion vaginoplasty in his clinic. You can see pictures of this on Wikipedia if you wish.

Dr Marci Bowers is a world-renowned vaginoplasty specialist who operated on reality-television star Jazz Jennings.

She was once Dr Mark Bowers, father of three. She has built or repaired more than 2,000 vaginas. Bowers says “I never use the colon. It’s the last resort. You can get colon cancer. If it’s used sexually, you can get this chronic colitis that has to be treated over time. And it’s just in the discharge and the nasty appearance and it doesn’t smell like vagina.” Bowers does not use the bowels. Bowers felt the need to say this because there is a shortage of suitable tissue. Dutch researchers noted back in 2008 that in natal males “the genital tissue available for vaginoplasty might be less than optimal.” This is because of the use of puberty blockers can lead to “non-normal pubertal phallic growth.” Many American gender surgeons augment the tissue for constructing neovaginas with borrowed stomach lining and bits of bowel. Intestinal vaginoplasty uses a section of the sigmoid colon to create the neovagina.

Gory details can be found here if you are not squeamish.

https://www.verywellhealth.com/different-types-of-vaginoplasty-4171503

Here is Jazz Jennings.

Jazz in good times

With current surgical procedures, trans women are unable to receive ovaries or a uterus. They may not be able to enjoy sexual pleasure. They are unable to bear children or menstruate, and they will need to remain on hormone therapy after surgery. As far as one can generalize, Joe or Josephine Public is rather bewildered by these things but is probably sympathetic to someone who feels the need to transition. That was until the self-identity bullies came along.

Genital Mutilation

Susie Green is the CEO of Mermaids, an NGO which supports “transgender, nonbinary and gender-diverse children and young people until their 20th birthday, as well as their families and professionals involved in their care. We also currently offer web chat support to students up to the age of 25. Transgender, nonbinary and gender-diverse children and teens need support and understanding, as well as the freedom to explore their gender identity. Whatever the outcome, Mermaids is committed to helping families navigate the challenges they may face.”

Ms Green’s child, Jackie, was taken to Thailand for surgery to reassign from male to female at the age of 16. Jackie says in a Daily Mail article, “I was prescribed ‘blockers’ by a doctor in Boston when was I was twelve.” Jackie seems to be happy about all this.

Surgical reassignment requires orchiectomy. Kellie-Jane Keen-Minshull, who self-identifies as a left-wing feminist, pointed out in a series of tweets that in the UK, gender reassignment cannot be performed until the patient is 18. She described what had been done to Jackie in a seven-hour operation as castration. Susie Green set the police on her. A policeman told her that if she tried to leave the country she would be arrested, that if she was pulled over whilst driving she would be arrested and that if the Yorkshire force had to come to her house to arrest her she would have to spend time in the cells. Ms Keen-Minshull was forced to take down a billboard which merely showed the dictionary definition of ‘woman’. Transactivists deemed this ‘provocative’.

Ms Keen-Minshull says, “I may remind everyone here that I am a stay-at-home mother to four children and that I am a wife!  I’m not Jihadi John, I am not part of a grooming gang or paedophile ring, I haven’t hurt anyone or abused anyone.  I am a woman with an opinion.” Ms Keen-Minshull was described as “vile” and “disgusting” on Twitter for expressing her views.

Ms Green also reported Caroline Farrow to the police.

Ms Farrow said: “I have pointed out to police that I am a Catholic journalist/commentator and it is my religious belief that a person cannot change sex.” She added that she would “happily do jail time” for her “right to say that people cannot change sex”. She was accused of using the wrong pronoun for a trans person which could constitute an offence under the Malicious Communications Act, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.

Gender Dysphoria

Gender dysphoria is a term that describes a sense of unease that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity. This sense of unease or dissatisfaction may be so intense it can lead to depression and anxiety and have a harmful impact on daily life.

While one might sympathise with people in this situation, giving blocker drugs, hormones and irreversible surgery to children is a drastic response. It is indeed a reinforcement of gender stereotypes. Just because very small boys do girly things does not justify physically changing their sex. When I was about four years old, I was fascinated by the pomp and theatre of the Mass and played at being a priest. Thank God my parents did not pack me off to a seminary and force me into a life of celibacy.

There have always been lots of little boys who were very timid who grow up to be very masculine. Sometimes it’s because of the parents. Grace Hemingway so treasured the fantasy of her Ernest being a little girl that she sometimes referred to him as “Ernestine.” Lots of little girls who we used to call tomboys grew up to be very feminine and have children and be good mothers.

Ambiguity of gender at birth is very rare. Incorrect description and assignment on birth certificates is very rare. It is not wise to reorder society and suppress freedom of speech because of birth defects in an infinitesimal minority. It is even more foolish to reorder society and suppress freedom of speech at the behest of men who have decided they are women without going for the surgery. One should sympathise and protect the rights of minorities but not kowtow to bullies who want to act out outdated gender stereotypes.

We are all here clinging to this suffering planet because of sexual dimorphism. Each one of us had a male daddy and a female mummy. If the human race is to continue and if there are still to be people around to fund my pension, there will need to be mummies (with uteruses) and daddies (with penises) making babies.

More on these issues in my next column

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