More Iraq war, more badger killing, British Prince Charles urged Tony Blair


Tony Blair's bloody Iraq war, cartoon

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Prince Charles ‘black spider’ memos reveal lobbying of Tony Blair

Publication of royal’s letters following freedom of information battle reveals correspondence with PM on helicopters, farming and complementary medicine

Read the letters in full

A cache of secret memos sent by Prince Charles to senior UK ministers has finally been published, following a 10-year freedom of information battle between the Guardian and the government. The letters reveal that Charles lobbied ministers, including the former prime minister Tony Blair, on a wide range of issues, including agriculture, the armed forces, architecture and homeopathy. …

The letters, published at 4pm on Wednesday, reveal how Charles lobbied Tony Blair when he was prime minister to replace Lynx military helicopters. Charles complained: “I fear this one more example of our armed forces being asked to do an extremely challenging job [the Iraq war] without the necessary resources.” …

The relationship between Charles and the prime minister was so close that Blair even asked Charles directly what he wanted him to do about encouraging the use of herbal medicines in the UK, which some scientists believe do not work. Charles complained that an EU directive was having a “deleterious effect on the complementary medicine sector by effectively outlawing the use of certain herbal extracts”.

He wrote: “You rightly asked me what could be done about it,” and said he would ask an aide at his complementary health charity to produce “a detailed briefing … so that your advisers can look at it”. Blair replied: “We can do quite a lot here … we will be consulting with your contacts and others on the best way to do this – we simply cannot have burdensome regulation here.”

This video says about itself:

Counting young badgers in province Drenthe (Holland)

June 4 2013: there are ten badgers on this sett: female with three youngsters, female with four youngsters and a very big male.

The Guardian article continues:

In another letter to Blair, Charles attacked the government’s proposed programme for tackling bovine tuberculosis, warning: “There is no evidence that this will include a commitment to deal with the badger problem in the immediate future.” …

In one stridently expressed and explicit policy demand, he said: “I urge you to look again at introducing a proper cull of badgers where it is necessary. I for one cannot understand how the ‘badger lobby’ seem to mind not at all about the slaughter of thousands of expensive cattle, and yet object to a managed cull of an overpopulation of badgers. To me this is intellectually dishonest.”

British elections and corporate media sexism


This video about the British election campaign says about itself:

Leaders’ debate: ‘Farage should be ashamed’ on HIV – Leanne Wood

2 April 2015

The leaders’ debate first clap went to Plaid Cymru‘s Leanne Wood, after she told Ukip leader Nigel Farage that he should be ashamed of himself.

Mr Farage had been talking about the treatment of immigrants with HIV on the NHS.

By Louise Raw in Britain:

Why are we so afraid of the idea of women in power?

Saturday 9th May 2015

Women have been sidelined and written out of history due to a longstanding notion of what constitutes the ‘natural order,’ writes LOUISE RAW

IN the run-up to this election, you may have noticed the mainstream media noticing something very particular — the leaders of the Green Party, the SNP and Plaid Cymru are not men. They’ve been falling backwards off their chairs.

Excitement has been considerable, with some commentators opining that feminism can now pack up its bags and go home — its work here is done.

But is that really the case? The tone of much of the commentary suggests not. We might have expected the tabloids to take more interest in the women’s hair and clothes than their gravitas — and so they did, with the odd publication ranking the women in order of attractiveness.

But consider James Ashton on Plaid’s Leanne Wood, in the Independent (even before it essentially declared for the Tory Party): “Less fierce than Nicola Sturgeon, less shrill than Natalie Bennett, Leanne Wood has emerged from three-and-a-half hours of prime-time television as the leader you’d most likely invite around for a cup of tea.”

Shrill? Fierce? Cups of tea? Can you imagine David Cameron or Ed Miliband being rated in those terms? I’ve met Bennett, and a calmer, more measured woman you’re unlikely to meet. Nor does the Sturgeon I’ve seen and heard in the media bear any resemblance to the woad-clad Braveheart, roaring and rattling her sword at the English, who is supposed to be making my blood run cold.

Such are the workings of sexism and misogyny. Women in the vicinity of power must be reduced, made manageable, diminished. And if they refuse to, as the wonderful Ngozi Adichie has it, shrink themselves, then they are a threat, and we will demonise them.

Behind it all lies the idea that women attaining power is new. If something’s a novelty, it’s not tried and tested. It could fail, be a passing phase, a mistake — could even lead to disaster. It might also be a threat to that extremely subjective concept, so infinitely malleable to such a variety of arguments — the “natural order.”

Naturally, this is a crock. As socialists, by definition somewhat at odds with the system we live under, we should find it easy to accept and challenge that kind of cant (not a typo). And yet ideas about the dodginess of women in power seep into all our consciousnesses.

How can they not, when every other billboard tells us women are here to ornament, to compete with each other for men, and at the mercy of hormones, periods and other bodily unpleasantness?

The history of women’s lives is fudged, blurred, ignored, not taught. No wonder some believe its chronology was essentially: Dawn of time; babies; cooking; cooking; nothing much… (millennia pass) … 1960s! Miniskirts! The pill! Working women (secretaries, etc)!

If you skew the facts like this, it’s easy to think nature has been usurped, and that this explains all modern social malaise. It’s feminism — boys no longer know how to be men, women feel they have to have careers and are unhappy in them, kids are neglected, you can’t even open a door for a woman without being arrested, political correctness gone mad, yada, yada.

Just as we’re messing up the environment, we are messing — at our peril — with the essential nature of men and women.

Whereas in “the old days…” This would all have been music to John Knox’s ears. The Protestant preacher and reformer pulled no punches when he titled his 1558 polemic The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstruous Regiment of Women. By “regiment” he meant “rule” — there wasn’t some 16th century marching army of uppity women, sadly. What really got Knox’s goat was Catholic queens like Mary of Guise. To rail against them, he went straight to the “it’s not natural” box (“monstruous” means “unnatural” here). “For who can denie but it repugneth to nature … that the weake, the sicke, and impotent persones (yup, that’s women) shall norishe and kepe the hole and strong, and finallie, that the foolishe, madde and phrenetike shal gouerne … and such be al women.”

Foolish, mad, frenetic — ringing some shrill, fierce bells? Like any modern Twitter troll, Knox published anonymously, but authorship quickly became known and shot Knox stupendously in the foot. That same year, Protestant Elizabeth I took to the throne. She took umbrage at Knox’s insults to female sovereigns and put a complete block on his involvement with the English Protestant cause after 1559.

But if men were arguing against women’s power in the 16th century, clearly there’s nothing new about the concept. In fact, we can go back much further — anthropologists have shown us women hunting and fully involved in “pre-historical” societies. The evidence is there, should we care to see it, for ancient Egyptian women working, including as brewers, medieval women in every trade from fine art to construction and powerful in the guilds, militant women weavers on strike in 1788 — it’s a long list, covering every historical period imaginable.

But there’s profit in “othering” women and keeping all of this quiet. If you tell people for long enough that they’re not capable, it will sink in. Though they know, intellectually, that it’s not true, some of that will be internalised.

Companies make millions telling women they are unacceptable as they are, and must constantly improve every physical aspect of themselves. Wax that body hair, be thinner, prettier, younger-looking — and then we just might treat you nicer. Black and Asian women are sold skin-bleaching products and must straighten or otherwise Westernise their hair.

Mothers are told their most important new job is getting “their body back” post childbirth (where did it go? Who is snatching the corporeal form of new mothers? We should be told).

This is women’s true life’s work, and a handy distraction from that pesky pay gap. Rape, domestic abuse, street harassment, FGM? Nothing a new pair of shoes can’t make better.

It has been capitalism’s most successful trick to make the majority of citizens of the world feel unequal to holding power — from the divine right of kings to “scientific” treatises on the inadequacies and lack of full humanity of black women and men, women generally, and the working class, it’s been done relentlessly and well.

We can’t do better than writer and theorist Bell Hooks here, who has long warned against the interconnectivity of race, capitalism and gender both creating and perpetuating systems of oppression and class domination.

But few white feminists are introduced to Hooks’s work. Even those who fight for liberation are made to feel they can only operate in their own limited spheres — class, race, religion, gender — all are absolute divides we cross at our peril, we are made to believe.

So white feminists can talk about their Muslim sisters, but not to them — they’re “naturally,” or at least culturally, anti-feminist, aren’t they? Also we’d probably offend them somehow. No wonder the marvellous Sara Khan of Inspire Muslim Women, who challenges gender discrimination in Islam, is writing a book on how the left has failed Muslim women.

All the mainstream parties, and all of us as individuals, need to utterly and publicly reject divisive thinking right now. The protests, opposition and strength under impossible duress of our sisters and brothers in Gaza, Ferguson and Baltimore and the young mothers fighting enforced homelessness in Britain cannot but impress and teach us that we must talk to Muslim women, black women, working-class women — and, yes, men — not just when we want their votes, but constantly.

As socialists — especially if we’re white — it’s incumbent upon us to do this, too. Yes, we might misunderstand, tread on cultural sensitivities, get it wrong — so we will learn, listen, fight our own privileges, and do better. We cannot be silent any longer and we must no longer allow ourselves to be divided. We need to remember that “divide and rule” carries within it an equal and opposite potential — unite and conquer.

Louise Raw is the author of Striking a Light: the Bryant & May Matchwomen and Their Place in History (Bloomsbury). The 2015 Matchwomen’s Festival is on July 4 in Canning Town. Discounted advance tickets now available at www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/matchwomens-festival-2015- tickets-16082194276. Children’s tickets are free.

Bahrain human rights violations news update


This video about Bahrain says about itself:

Dr. Rula Al-Saffar: “Jaw Prison holds over 3000 detainees”

18 February 2014

Dr. Rula Al-Saffar also presented some powerful statistics and case studies, focusing more specifically on the conditions of political prisoners. She retold the stories of Talib Ali, a 15 year old with a 50 year conviction sentence, and Dr. Ali-Ekri, the only specialized paediatrics surgeon in Bahrain who is facing a 5 year sentence simply for treating patients of the uprising. Of the largest prison in Bahrain — Jaw prison — she described how the maximization of the prison’s 1600 people capacity is being overlooked to the extent where the prison now holds over 3000 detainees, with up to 12 inmates having to share cells built for 3-4 people.

Four Years of UK Rights Assistance to Bahrain for What Result? Only More Torture: here.

Former Inmates at Bahrain’s Jaw Prison Describe Being Tortured and Teargassed: here.

How To Sound Like a Washington Expert on Bahrain: here.

Nazi homophobic doctor helped by Britain to escape justice


This video from Britain says about itself:

My hunt for anti-gay Nazi Doctor, Carl VaernetLGBT History Month, 14 February 2015

By Peter Tatchell in Britain:

The Nazi doctor who experimented on gay people – and Britain helped to escape justice

The Danish authorities have still not explained why Carl Værnet, who escaped to Argentina with British collusion, was shielded from prosecution

‘Carl Værnet had been a member of the Danish Nazi party from the late 1930s. As a doctor, he specialised in hormone research; including treatments to “cure” homosexuality.’

Tuesday 5 May 2015 11.42 BST

Today is the 70th anniversary of Denmark’s liberation from Nazi rule by British troops. The Danes are rightly proud of their anti-Nazi resistance and their heroism in saving the lives of almost all their Jewish citizens. But Denmark also had a dirty little secret that remained hidden for many decades.

A Danish Nazi, SS Dr Carl Værnet, conducted medical experiments on gay concentration camp prisoners. Unlike most other Nazi doctors, he was never put on trial at Nuremburg. Instead, with Danish and British collusion, he was able to escape to Argentina, where he lived openly and continued his research into methods for the eradication of homosexuality.

Værnet was a Copenhagen doctor who, realising the opportunities offered by the homophobic policies of the Third Reich, joined the Nazi party and enlisted in the SS to pursue his research to “cure” gay men.

This research was conducted on the personal authority of Heinrich Himmler. The Gestapo chief demanded the “extermination of abnormal existence … the homosexual must be entirely eliminated”.

The campaign to expose Værnet only took off in 1998, when I wrote to the then Danish prime minister, Poul Rasmussen, calling for an inquiry into Værnet’s wartime activities. Media coverage of this letter triggered a public outcry in Denmark, where most people had been unaware of Værnet’s war crimes and the high-level measures taken to shield him from prosecution.

Rasmussen passed the buck to the ministry of justice, and it passed the buck to the National Archives of Denmark.

Refusing to launch an inquiry into Værnet’s crimes and his escape from prosecution, the ministry of justice advised me to conduct the criminal investigation. They referred me to the Danish National Archives to secure the necessary evidence. But the archives told me the files on Værnet were classified and closed until 2025.

Faced with mounting public, media and parliamentary pressure, the Danish government eventually relented. Access was given to the previously top secret files. They revealed Værnet’s medical Nazism, his protection by the postwar Danish state and inaction by Allied war crime prosecutors.

Værnet had been a member of the Danish Nazi party from the late 1930s. As a doctor, he specialised in hormone research; including treatments to “cure” homosexuality.

After Denmark was occupied by the Nazis, few patients visited Værnet’s clinic because of his pro-Hitler sympathies. This prompted him to approach the Nazis, who were well known for their hatred of gay people and their bid to “eliminate the perverted world of the homosexual”. Værnet met the chief Nazi doctor, Reichsarzt-SS Ernst Grawitz, who proposed that he research the treatment of homosexuality on behalf of the SS.

This led to Værnet operating on gay prisoners in Buchenwald concentration camp, inserting artificial hormone glands in their groins. Two of these men died from infections caused by the insanitary conditions.

When Denmark was liberated on 5 May 1945, Værnet was arrested and detained at Alsgade Skole prisoner-of-war camp in Copenhagen. It was run jointly by the British military and the Danish police. The head of the camp was a British major, Ronald F Hemingway, who declared Værnet “undoubtedly will be sentenced as a war criminal”.

Despite this prediction, Værnet appears to have convinced the British and Danish authorities that his hormone treatments to turn gay men heterosexual were important, worthy scientific research.

In November 1945, in response to Værnet’s claim that he was suffering from a serious heart condition, Hemingway authorised his transfer to a Copenhagen hospital. In fact, the medical records show that Værnet’s heart tests were normal and that he received no treatment during his hospital stay.

In August 1946 a medical colleague of Værnet’s informed the Danish public prosecutor that his deteriorating health required urgent vitamin E treatment that was only available in Sweden. Astonishingly, Værnet was given a permit to go to Sweden and was even paid a state stipend to support himself.

Letters written by Værnet in this period don’t mention his declining health. Instead, they state “everything is ready in Argentina” and “the money is ready in Sweden”.

The Danish police were informed in 1947 that Værnet had settled in Buenos Aires. He was living there under his own name and had resumed his hormone research with funding from the Argentinian ministry of health. Despite calls for this prosecution, the Danish government decided against extradition proceedings.

Værnet remained in Argentina until he died in 1965, living there with the full knowledge of the Danish and Allied authorities. They made no attempt to prosecute him for war crimes, possibly because they regarded his research to “cure” homosexuality as legitimate, even commendable.

The Danish authorities have still not explained why Værnet and his Danish protectors were shielded from prosecution and why it took my public challenge to force them to open the Værnet files. I’m still waiting for an answer.

Nazi occupation and resistance in Denmark: here.