25 September 2013 Halifax
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they are Pertwees Theater tickets turn out to be a bid dodgy and Lt Murray and Heather are not pleased Priceless.
Meg rings we go to Halifax see the Piece hall and pick up some books
We watch Dads army v good.
No Scrabble today
Garry Davis, who has died aged 91, was a US Army veteran and peace activist who, in 1948, renounced his American citizenship and went on to found the World Government of World Citizens, enlisting thousands to his cause.
Garry Davis Citizen of the World Photo: TIME&LIFE PICTURES/GETTY
6:00PM BST 24 Sep 2013
Davis was 26 years old and disillusioned by America’s postwar nuclear policy when , on March 25 1948, in Paris, he officially became stateless. As his story gained public notice French artists and intellectuals such as André Breton, Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre came forward to express their support, and a former Resistance fighter, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Sarrazac-Soulage, volunteered himself as Davis’s manager.
Then, on November 19, Davis mounted a barricade near the spectators’ balcony of the UN General Assembly and launched into an unauthorised speech, calling for a “World Constituent Assembly”. Though he was swiftly removed, Sarrazac-Soulage finished the speech on his behalf, while 20 friends captured proceedings on camera. “A star was born,” noted Art Buchwald, the American columnist. “Clad in his leather bomber jacket, Garry became a hero and an instant celebrity. ” Letters poured in from around the world, at one time numbering 400 a day. “I think you are Christ come back to Earth”, wrote one Italian fan.
Within a month Davis had got his wish. The International Registry of World Citizens, at 30 Rue de Gamont in Paris, began handing out identity cards to European war refugees. Davis’s goal was world federation within 10 years – a goal which, if achieved, he envisaged as “the greatest nonviolent revolution in man’s history.” Sarrazac-Soulage conceived a tour of French towns and villages, where Davis and his supporters would urge communities to declare themselves “world territories”, committed to achieving political and economic equality between nations. By the summer of 1951 some 400 French communities had been “mundialised”.
But the relentless media attention exhausted Davis, to the point where he admitted a sense of “complete revulsion” for the whole project. In July 1949 he resigned from the International Registry of World Citizens and returned to the United States as a French immigrant. His statelessness soon caused him difficulties, however. An attempt to reach Berlin later that year was thwarted by the border authorities, and upon arriving in England he was escorted to a psychiatric hospital after he sought sanctuary at Buckingham Palace .
Davis therefore decided to tackle the problem on an international stage. On September 2 1953 he founded the World Government of World Citizens in Ellsworth, Maine, and the following year its administration agency, the World Service Authority (WSA), started drafting World Identity Cards, World Marriage Certificates and World Passports.
Today the WSA operates from Washington, DC. A World Passport, printed in seven languages and supposedly valid for seven years, is available to any applicant prepared to enclose a cheque of 100 US dollars. The WSA website claims that 180 countries to date, from Afghanistan to Zambia, have accepted the World Passport on a de facto basis – yet Davis’s own experiences travelling on World Passport No 1 were far from uncomplicated. He was arrested dozens of times and tried for fraud; forced to stow away on ocean liners; and, on one occasion, made the crossing from Monte Carlo to Italy in an inflatable rubber boat. Upon arrival he was picked up by the police and spent three months at Frascati, a former concentration camp. “But I have a profound belief that this is what I should be doing,” he insisted. “It justifies my being alive.”
Gareth Davis was born on July 27 1921 in Bar Harbor, Maine, the third of five children. His father Meyer was a celebrated bandleader, known as “the Millionaire Maestro” for his performances at high society gatherings ; his mother Hilda was herself a talented pianist . At 18 Garry left the Episcopal Academy in Overbrook to pursue a career on Broadway, studying acting at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh.
When America entered the war in 1941, Davis enrolled in the Air Corps . Flying B-17 missions over Germany , his experiences began to turn him against the war effort. His brother Bud was killed during the German invasion of Salerno in 1943, and in August 1944 Davis was shot down over Peenemunde . Interned in Sweden, he made his way back to America three months later . But as the Cold War developed, so did Davis’s sense of discontent. Taking inspiration from the work of HG Wells, a self-proclaimed “world citizen”, he set out for Europe.
Returning to America after his release from Frascati in 1953, Davis wrote his first book and launched an unsuccessful court bid to reverse his “excludable alien” status. In 1986 he ran for mayor of Washington, DC, as the World Citizen Party candidate, receiving 585 votes; he stood for US president in 1988. Upon the re-election of Ronald Reagan he moved to Vermont, his home for the last two decades.
Though he ceased to travel extensively, Davis continued to expound the philosophy of world citizenship. At his behest, Julian Assange received an honorary World Passport in 2012, and Davis made headlines again just a few weeks prior to his death, when the WSA issued a passport to the whistle-blower Edward Snowden.
Garry Davis published numerous books, including My Country is the World: Adventures of a World Citizen (1961); World Government, Ready or Not! (1984); and Passport to Freedom: A Guide For World Citizens (1992).
He married, in 1950, Audrey Peters, with whom he had one daughter. The marriage was dissolved, and in 1954 newspapers reported that he had wed Gloria Sandler in a self-performed ceremony at sea. That marriage also ended in divorce, as did his third marriage, in 1963, to Esther Peter, with whom he had three children.
Garry Davis, born July 27 1921, died July 24 2013
Although the spectacle of the honest artists of Hackney storming the lofty halls of Bankside is a thrilling vision (Letters, 24 September), I wonder who, post-revolution, would organise exhibitions and displays, look after permanent collections, research and write catalogues, and make sure that our art museums remain the most important buildings in every town and city. Not, surely, art critics?
• While your Breaking Bad article (Who’s bad?, 21 September) talked about Walter White’s desire to provide for his family, his less altruistic motivation for becoming a criminal wasn’t mentioned: he has to find huge amounts of money – around $300,000 – to fund the cancer treatment that he’d get in the UK for the relatively trivial amounts he would already have paid in national insurance.
• The Year of the Sex Olympics has arrived (Couples to have sex in studio for C4 show, 23 September). Nigel Kneale’s 1968 BBC play predicted a world where the “high drives” in government controlled the “low drives”, by diverting them with sex shows, food shows and a “live-life” show; this would stop them thinking. The play had a tragic ending, one to which we seem to be sliding.
• The Guardian allows fuck and cunt but still delicately refers to “the N word”. Orally it is offensive but is seeing it in print going to turn us all into racists?
Bognor Regis, West Sussex
• Ben Preston says that Radio Times readers watch less television. Exactly. I buy the Radio Times because it gives good coverage of radio.
• A shortage of houses in the £30m-£50m range (Why money, money, money isn’t so funny in rich man’s world of London property, 21 September, page 3) and a shortage of one-bed homes for those forced to downsize by the bedroom tax (Report, 21 September, page 6). Truly, we are all in it together.
Streetly, West Midlands
Ian Sample’s article about sarin (Death is in the air, G2, 18 September) was informative, especially with regard to the MoD’s 50-year cover-up of the death of Ronald Maddison following tests carried out at Porton Down. Another cover-up involves military personnel who were exposed to low levels of sarin released by the allied bombing campaign in the Gulf war (1990-91. Alarms specifically designed to detect sarin were repeatedly sounding over the battlefield, but they were intrusive and as there were no apparent casualties they were switched off. Because there were no immediate deaths it was wrongly assumed that low-level exposure would have no significant health effects.
Extensive studies by US researchers have led to the conclusion that Gulf war illness, or Gulf war syndrome, is a well defined complex chronic multi-system illness found in 25%-30% of the 697,000 US veterans deployed in the war. All the major systems of the body are affected – central, peripheral and autonomic nervous systems (with neuropsychiatric symptoms), cardiac, respiratory – in addition to those described by Ian Sample.
In the UK there has been no attempt to follow up the US studies, and the syndrome has been deceitfully and wilfully described as a psychogenic illness under a variety of acronyms of ignorance: SSIDs (signs, symptoms and ill-defined medical conditions), MUS (medically unexplained symptoms), PUPS (persistent unexplained physical symptoms). The US studies have firmly concluded that it is not in most cases related to post-traumatic stress. The Guardian would do great service to the neglected veterans of the Gulf war by exposing the shameful obfuscations of successive governments.
Professor Malcolm Hooper
As Steve Hewlett says, the BBC Trust’s role is to act as guardian of the licence fee and public interest in the BBC (It’s the BBC Trust that’s created this crisis, not the charter, Media, 23 September). This is why we made overall senior executive pay and numbers one of our priorities, and the BBC has responded with significant reductions over the past four years. Steve also points out that the operational detail of severance payments is a matter for the executive board. Clearly, there has been a difference of views about who knew what about some overpayments. None of this reflects well on the BBC or the BBC Trust. We recognise that people expect better and that they want action, not excuses about who is responsible for what. That’s why we are working with Tony Hall, the new director-general, to re-examine the relationship between the trust and the executive board. We want to try to remove any ambiguity about our responsibilities, and to provide clearer and more effective oversight of the way the licence fee is spent.
Vice-chairman, BBC Trust
In 2000, when 189 world leaders signed up to the millennium development goals, there was one omission no one appeared to notice: the one billion people across the world with disabilities. As the official UN process gets underway to establish the post-2015 global development agenda to end extreme poverty, we are calling on heads of state to ensure that, this time, no one is excluded, especially people with disabilities.
Living in poverty is tough. Living in poverty as a person with disabilities is often even tougher. In some countries, children with disabilities are twice as likely as children without disabilities not to be in school, and women and children with disabilities are significantly more likely to face violence and sexual abuse. Exclusion from work opportunities means that people with disabilities are disproportionately likely to be among the very poor. Four out of five persons with disabilities live in developing countries; many are among the poorest, most neglected people in the world.
Their exclusion from the millennium development goals has resulted in them being left out of development programmes. In fact, ignoring persons with disabilities costs poor countries – UN studies have shown that the exclusion of persons with disabilities from the labour market causes countries to lose up to 7% of GDP.
Children and adults with disabilities have the same hopes and aspirations as their peers. They have just as much to contribute to society, and they have the right to the same opportunities to fulfill their potential and to have a say in their future. Many people become disabled at some point – but we wouldn’t expect to lose our basic rights as a result. The UN this week has a critical opportunity to ensure that disability is included in the new global development goals.
Abraham Tarbei Kenyan athlete and Paralympian gold medallist, Ade Adepitan British Paralympian and broadcaster, Aimee Mullins US Paralympic athlete, model, actress and speaker, Amadou and Mariam musicians from Mali, Amy Conroy British Paralympian, Andrea Begley singer, Angelique Kidjo singer from Benin, Anne Wafula-Strike British Paralympic Wheelchair Racer and author, Ben Quilter British Paralympic bronze medallist, Catherine Naughton Chair of the International Disability and Development Consortium, Daniel Dias Brazilian swimmer and Paralympian gold medallist, David Korir Kenyan athlete and world record breaker at the London 2012 Paralympics, Esther Vergeer Dutch wheelchair tennis champion and Paralympic medallist, Francesca Martinez British standup, actress, writer and campaigner, Frank Williams founder Williams Formula One racing team, George Abraham Indian philanthropist and founder of the World Blind Cricket Council, Dr Heba Hagrass Egyptian advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities in the Arab region, Henry Kirwa Kenyan athlete and world record breaker at the London 2012 Paralympics, Joseph Mawle British actor, Josh Blue US comedian, Kenya Disability Parliamentary Caucus (Kedipa), Mary Nakhumicha Kenyan athlete and Paralympian, Stephen Merchant British comedian, actor, writer and director, Samuel Mushai and his guide runner James Boit Kenyan Paralympians, Sarah Storey British track and road cyclist and Paralympian gold medallist, Sophie Christiansen British equestrian and Paralympian gold medallist, Teresa Perales Spanish swimmer, Paralympianmedallist and politician; Eric McKinnie, Jimmy Carter, Joey Williams and Ben Moore members of US gospel group The Blind Boys of Alabama; Warwick Davis British actor, Yannis Vardakastanis chair of the International Disability Alliance
The discussion on which designer designed the Intercity 125 (Letters, 13 September) is of little relevance to the current question of whether the UK will have the right train ready at the right price and the right time. The story of the IC 125 began on 14 July 1967, when the British Rail board planning committee gave me the responsibility for specifying in outline a fast train to counter the traffic loss to the motorways and domestic airlines. The choice was between the 155mph advanced passenger train, of highly complex design and uncertain performance; a new Deltic of possibly 6,000hp; or to develop a simple design without radical change.
First we estimated the desired journey time for each route and the revenue it was likely to attract, choosing the largest net gain. The key decision was to set aside some of the funding to improve the track where the need to slow down could be reduced at low expense. This lowered the target maximum speed for the train to achieve the desired performance, simplifying its design. The next step was to discuss with the chief engineer the maximum axle load he was prepared to accept for running at 125mp – 16.5 (long) tons as it turned out. The result? The power was divided into two units, one at each end of the train. Lengthening the cars achieved further weight reduction. These basic features were in my report dated July 1968 and were accepted soon after. Walter Jowett’s excellent train met its specification splendidly. Approximately a hundred sets took over most major diesel powered routes. BR held on to its traffic.
The point is that economics and engineering are phases in one process. High speed must be paid for by those who are prepared to use it. A transport system that lets politicians use vanity projects for vote-getting without clear understanding of the purpose that justifies some gigantic expense is something no country can afford.
Baie d’Urfe, Quebec
• Two things are surprising about the rail unions’ letter on HS2 (21 September): that they are allowing themselves to be blackmailed by the Conservative government (“if you don’t support HS2, you won’t get any other rail investment”); and that they remain blind to the proposed governance of HS2. In Tallinn in October, the EU TEN-T project will take the next step, “the new legal framework”, to moving the governance of core European routes (and HS2 is one such) to Brussels. The unions’ appeal “to examine all models for the running of HS2” is way out of touch with what has been signed up to by the UK government.
• Manchester’s Richard Leese is right to call Ed Balls’ weakening on HS2 a “cheap shot” (Report, 24 September). How a wannabe chancellor can oppose a project that will revitalise northern cities and pay back double its cost in jobs is beyond belief. And in the week his former crony Damian McBride is still spreading his poison, Balls repeats history by setting up splits and arguments with the party leader. Labour’s been here before and must do better. I hope Mr Miliband’s reshuffle finds Balls on a slow train to nowhere.
In the run-up to military intervention, it is all too easy to simplify the two-year-old Syrian civil war by attributing the conflict to long-simmering sectarian disputes or regional rivalries. Nevertheless, any lasting peace will eventually require a better understanding of its underlying causes.
Although neglected in most media accounts, the Syrian civil war may be a harbinger of the future, as climate change rewrites geography and displaces millions of refugees from previously fertile lands. According to scholars such as Nayan Chanda, editor of the YaleGlobal Online Magazine, a brutal four-year drought (2006-2010) created massive water shortages and rural unemployment, transforming 60% of Syria’s richest agricultural lands into desert and killing 80% of its cattle stock. As a result, the first mass protests of the Syrian Spring in Dara’a in 2011 were fuelled by farmers and rural poor fleeing the blighted countryside.
Granted, their protests were met by government policies that discriminated against the Sunni majority, for example in the granting of well drilling rights for water. Nevertheless, climate change was a spark that ignited the flames of war.
A similar case can be made for recent unrest in the grasslands of the Sahel, which are rapidly being overrun by the Sahara desert.
In the end, it doesn’t matter whether climate change reflects natural cycles or human intervention. Rising sea levels, droughts, and desertification will inevitably lead to mass migrations of climate refugees and conflicts over scarce resources. Unless we adjust our world view to recognise and mitigate large-scale climate disruption, Syria will not be the last example of civil strife and unimaginable suffering related to our changing climate.
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
• Gary Younge rightly speaks of the US credibility deficit (13 September). Does anyone now remember Agent Orange first used 52 years ago? The living victims certainly do. Has the US been charged with crimes against humanity? I understand that the use of Agent Orange is not defined as chemical warfare because it destroys the vegetation and the earth and not human beings. The lives of many children have been ruined by physical deformities of a monstrous kind. Even American soldiers have suffered although it is rarely mentioned. Condemn Assad by all means but perhaps it would give him more credibility if Obama was to make an official apology to Vietnam for the appalling damage still being endured.
Beaumont du Ventoux, France
Two sides of privacy debate
I would like to say thank you to Henry Porter (Britons seem to think privacy is less important, 13 September) for putting into words what I feel but have been unable to express. I feel as if I am a dinosaur.
La Buisse, France
• I don’t care in the slightest if The Powers spy on my personal privacy as long as they do not use it for a wrong purpose, and as long as they endeavour to try to stop internally and externally Washington shootings and the London bombings and others for the future.
Pauanui, New Zealand
Richness, wealth and poverty
In his article Poverty saps capacity for tough tasks (6 September), Alok Jha outlines many of the disadvantages that befall individuals living in poverty and trying to make ends meet. Among these he lists lower IQ levels and less productiveness. These characteristics, however, are not exclusive to those living in poverty; they also are features of the financially wealthy individual.
One particular individual I know rises at 10am, takes a leisurely breakfast, checks the progress of his seven-figure investments, then frets over the gardener’s wages, positively irate in the belief that there had been an inflation of 15 minutes written in the log-book.
Conversations with the person always concerned money, were repetitive, exhausting and fruitless; his IQ level had long since flatlined.
Some of the “richest”, most engaged and vibrant people I have met have also been, financially, the poorest.
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Fiddling in the financial crisis
Thank you to Ha-Joon Chang for his admirably lucid explanation of the international economy and its tie-in to domestic economic policies (The rich have an addiction to bubbles, 6 September). I now know that bubbles are synonymous with uncertainty and unsustainability in stock markets, property markets and commodity markets.
I have finally come to understand a bit of how quantitative easing works well for the rich elites and rich countries (slow recovery but clinging to the flawed, old economic model). Also of how it screws emerging-market economies (currency devaluation with rapid outflow of capital and creating uncertainty), eurozone periphery countries (could explode any time with colossal unemployment and deepening austerity), developing countries (collateral damage from currency overvaluation that generates credit booms), as well as screwing most of the rich countries’ own residents (fear of unemployment, shrinking safety nets, unstable part-time jobs and contracts, and poorer work conditions).
A number of time bombs have been planted. The Neros of the rich countries and elites are playing their fiddles in this process.
Langford, British Columbia, Canada
Recreating Roman vintages
Re the article Italian archaeologists to make wine as Virgil suggested (6 September). Your readers and Tom Kington may be interested to know that a similar project already exists near Beaucaire in the south of France. When the owners of the Mas des Tourelles discovered their domaine was on the site of a Gallo-Roman villa which produced wine and olive oil, they consulted texts by Pliny the Elder and Columella and eventually recreated a working Roman cellar with treading vat, wooden wine-press and terracotta pots to mature the wine. There was much trial and error, of course, but they now produce a red and two whites using honey, sea water and fenugreek as preservatives. It is a fascinating experience to taste wines very similar to the ones once sampled by the Romans and they are very drinkable.
• Point number 14 in your extract from the publication The Big Questions in Science (13 September) “How do we solve the population problem?” is notable for the fact it refers to the problem of the dramatic increase in the world’s population, but the solutions suggested are fatuous. It would be far better to take family planning and women’s health and education more seriously.
Included should have been the only science which can really solve the population problem. That is by reducing the numbers.
Yarralumla, ACT, Australia
• Science’s big questions posed by Birch et al are truly exciting, but I see no deliberations on where “it all” came from in the first place. Is science limited to just dealing with this side of the big bang, beyond which reality must forever be “model-dependent”, with ever-diminishing prospects of meaningful empirical testing?
• Thank you to Don Boswell (Good to meet you, 6 September) for his admitting to a naughty antipodean feeling of nostalgic connection to the UK. It’s not something one admits to here either, in Australia. Yet it does exist for some of us, even of a younger generation.
Sometimes it is nice to relent, and be content with the thought that one is not indigenous and does have cultural roots elsewhere on Earth. The modern cultural cringe has flipped from what it was a generation or two ago (when we had an “old country”), and makes believe that being born in a place is enough to eclipse all other cultural identity. Perhaps it’s a slower process than that?
Fremantle, Western Australia
• As I understand it, Tony Abbott’s agenda (13 September) is that Australia is too densely populated, that there is no global warming and that large companies pay too much tax.
I do wonder what newspaper he reads.
Is Howard Jacobson being unsympathetic when he complains of the disruptions caused cyclists and triathletes (20 September)?
Documentary makers have made much of the time and effort such people put into their chosen discipline, surely a sign that these obsessive narcissists have a significant body-image problem. Public money should be dedicated to providing therapy for these unfortunates, rather than supporting mega sporting occasions which only serve to legitimate their delusions and disrupt the lives of ordinary folk.
Moderate exercise is good for one’s health, but figures seem to indicate that the Olympic legacy has been more people in their living rooms watching the telly. If the Government wants to encourage people to be more active, then they need to show that sport is something that ordinary people can do and enjoy rather than a full-time occupation for masochists.
Sean Barker, Bristol
Is there no end to Howard Jacobson’s hatred of anyone who is not driving a car? On Saturday he wrote of “any city where runners and cyclists maraud.” Maraud – I looked it up, and here’s the definition: “To rove or raid in search of plunder”. So, to Howard Jacobson, runners and cyclists – anyone who doesn’t go around inside a ton of steel – is the modern equivalent of an 18th-century highwayman. Please supply evidence.
Jean Elliott, Upminster, Essex
David Hewitt (letter, 23 September) extols the provision of sport in independent schools and talks as if sport is important. It isn’t. Most people have no interest in organised competitive sport, whether in doing it themselves or in watching others do it, and nor should they.
Most of us can keep fit and healthy through leading busy, active lives and enjoying recreations such as walking, cycling and gardening, and we don’t need to make fools of ourselves in playing silly games. Time wasted on school sport would be much better spent on constructive activities such as music and drama, which are much better at teaching the virtues of teamwork and co-operation.
Sam Boote, Nottingham
Private schools save money for the taxpayer
Archie Bland (23 September) complains that private schools receive £100m subsidy because of their charitable status. This figure has been quoted in many articles for a number of years but it isn’t easy to find out where it comes from. Those private schools that are charities do not make profits, so they are not saving corporation tax. They cannot claim gift aid relief on school fees. They cannot claim back the VAT they pay. I would interested to know where this “subsidy” comes from.
If there is such a subsidy though, and removing charitable status reduced the size of the sector by a few per cent, any saving would be swallowed up by the cost of educating those children in the state sector.
The saving to the state sector of educating children privately is several billion pounds a year. Although this is not an argument for charitable status, both sides of the equation need to be considered before stating that private education is “subsidised by taxpayers”.
Julian Gall, Godalming, Surrey
Archie Bland peddles the usual half-humorous half-truths about independent schools.
Independent schools, rather than being subsidised by the taxpayer, in fact save the taxpayer billions in educating half a million children outside the state-funded education system; relieve pressure for new school places that will have to be created to cope with rising demographics; fund out of their own reserves places for tens of thousands of children, aided each year to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds in free and subsidised places.
It’s easy to mock what you don’t understand. But no serious effort is ever given to suggesting how removing charitable status would represent an improvement in the educational offering of our world-beating schools.
Matthew Burgess, General Secretary, Independent Schools Council, London WC2
Ukip’s secret: seem human
I read that Labour’s policy co-ordinator, Jon Cruddas, describes Nigel Farage as having “that sort of interesting character which means he has a seductive quality with the people”.
His only seductive quality, Mr Cruddas, is that he talks like one of the free-range human beings commonly found in the UK, rather than the professional political automatons so extensively manufactured by the three main parties. This quality is innate to everyone before they get PR training, even our own Leader of the Opposition.
Why not take advantage of this by trying to get Mr Miliband to stop talking in sound-bites and instead to act a little bit more as though he was in the pub debating a topic about which he actually cared? (And give the man some credit; it’s obvious that he does care.)
Forget trying to be Winston Churchill – oratory is not his strong suit. Just get him to talk like a normal bloke and everyone in this country will take him much more seriously.
Kris McDermott, Manchester
A few months ago there was a debate on the letters pages about middle-lane cruisers. Astonishingly, there were quite a few people prepared to write in to defend the practice. Now we are getting letters defending Ukip. It occurs to me that the same characteristic, a complete lack of ability to carry out rational thought, is shared by these two groups.
Is it possible that there is a high correlation between middle-lane cruisers and Ukip supporters? I think some research is called for!
Professor Chris G Guy, School of Systems Engineering, University of Reading
If anyone in Scotland is still undecided about how to vote in the independence referendum, the likelihood of Ukip being the third largest party in the UK (probably mean England as usual) should be enough to send them to the polls swinging their claymores.
Robert Stewart, Wilmslow, Cheshire
Godfrey Bloom is a silly man who shouldn’t be worrying his pretty little head with things he doesn’t understand, like politics. He should leave that to the ladies.
Catherine Petts, Steventon, Oxfordshire
Children’s care needs a strategy
The Education Secretary’s proposed reforms to children’s homes (“Private equity firms are making millions out of failing children’s care homes”, 14 September) are dangerously narrow. All children should have safe, effective care whether in fostering, kinship care or children’s homes. The vast majority of the victims in the Rochdale and Oxfordshire cases were living with their birth families, and these changes will have no impact on the lives of vulnerable children at risk of harm and abuse.
Quality is not a question of whether the provider is a local authority or independent provider. Indeed, independent homes were less likely to be rated inadequate, and cost on average over £14,000 less per child per year, than local authority-run homes. Where homes are inadequate or located in unsafe areas, this must be addressed, and quickly, but the majority of children’s homes provide young people with support that will enable them to live fulfilled adult lives.
Currently, children’s homes are too often used as a last resort for children with very challenging behaviour only when all else has failed. The DfE’s data show that nearly a third of children in children’s homes have been through six or more placements. This is the real scandal, with poor commissioning decisions denying children the stability and security they need.
The DfE recently revealed it had decided against developing a care strategy, instead choosing to implement piecemeal reforms – such as to the adoption system – that do not impact upon the majority of looked-after children.
We urge the Education Secretary to rethink this decision and take a strategic approach to reforming the wider care system in order to best meet the needs of vulnerable children, rather than making piecemeal changes.
Mike Davey, Director of Witherslack, on behalf of the Children’s Services Development Group, London SW1
Villains of an innocent era
Thank you Ian Craine (letter, 23 September) for your evocation of the wonderful Garry Halliday, the DC3 pilot and adventurer who taught Indiana Jones everything he knew.
My favourite scene? Where Traumann, the Voice’s hapless hit-man, offered his apologies for once again allowing our hero to slip through his fingers. “It won’t happen again next time, Voice,” stammered the perma-shaded functionary. “There won’t be a next time, Traumann,” his boss replied, as a silenced gun-barrel wobbled into the bottom corner of the screen – for the Voice, as you might expect, was never seen – and dispatched Traumann to wherever hopeless goons in all great kids’ TV shows go.
Now, who remembers Space Patrol?
Richard Butterworth, St Day, Cornwall
Rash SNP promise
In “promising” long-term pensions for an independent Scotland larger than for the UK, the SNP has gone beyond exaggeration to outright dishonesty.
Scotland has a slightly older population than England, and with less immigration it is aging faster, so our pensions will cost more. Oil, while a long way from running out, is in long-term decline, while with oil reserves worldwide increasing it is likely to drop in price, so that, over decades, we must expect less money from it.
If the economies of both stay the same, it is inevitable a separate Scotland will have less money, per person, for pensions.
Neil Craig, Glasgow
There is a simple and ecologically sound method for ridding a house of flies which was taught to me by my father. For best results live in an old house. Encourage spiders by never killing them or removing their webs. Result: flies gone in a flash, fat happy spiders and a good excuse for those dusty cobwebbed drapes in the corners. No flies and less housework. Perfect!
Jan Cook, South Nutfield, Surrey
Don’t hang up
I am not sure that forcing queuing callers to listen to Simply Red is acceptable in human rights terms, even if it does reduce the abandoned call rate for Lincolnshire County Council.
Nigel Scott, London N22
‘Belief is appropriate (if at all) only with regard to those things that cannot be disproved by science or logic. Everything else is a hypothesis’
Sir, The climate debate (letters, Sept 23 & 24) is distorted by those who don’t understand the physics and who don’t wish to understand it — possibly politically motivated. John Tyndall, FRS, working at the Royal Institution in 1859, showed experimentally that greenhouse gases hindered the passage of energy from the Earth’s surface to space and caused the surface and the atmosphere to become warmer than it would be in their absence. He used the analogy of a dam restricting the passage of a river; the height of the dam (greenhouse gas concentration) determined the amount of water held back (the temperature of the surface/atmosphere system).
The sceptical argument used currently to “destroy” the greenhouse effect of CO2 is invalid. That the Earth’s temperature has not altered appreciably in the past 15 years is because natural factors have essentially cancelled out the small amount of warming expected from the higher CO2 concentration. Similarly, the reduction in temperature between 1940 and 1976 caused some people to denigrate the physics. Between 1976 and 1998 the considerable rise in temperature occurred because the warming effects of CO2 and Nature worked hand-in-hand. There are difficulties with the models of the future climate, but, as Niels Bohr once opined, “prediction is difficult, especially that of the future”.
Dr Jack Barrett
Poling, W Sussex
Sir, While Hubert Lamb undoubtedly did help to unravel the history of climate, (Weather Eye, Sept 23), in the early 1970s he predicted that we were about to enter a new Ice Age and that as the century progressed the weather would grow colder. His view was that climatic change was affected by natural phenomena such as volcanic or solar activity. After the heat wave of 1975 his view changed and he wrote, “On balance, the effect of increased carbon dioxide on climate is almost certainly in the direction of warming but is probably much smaller than the estimates which have commonly been accepted.” Lamb did not attribute possible global warming solely to greenhouse gases, neither did he think that climatic change was man-made.
Sir, Climate change is complex enough. Please do not further obfuscate the issue with surveys purporting to tell us how many people do or don’t “believe” it exists, or how many people “don’t know”. I do not “believe” in climate change, or indeed in any other scientific theory, and never will. But I am very comfortable that the preponderance of evidence is overwhelmingly that it is happening, and that, given the potential adverse consequences, the only sensible position for us is to act on that assumption. Belief is appropriate (if at all) only with regard to those things that cannot be disproved by science or logic. Everything else is a hypothesis, in which one may have much, some or no confidence, but about which keeping an open, ie, sceptical, mind is second nature to any scientist.
Hence I cannot “know” that climate change exists, and nor can anyone else. As Dr Russell-Jones’s letter (Sept 23) shows, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports talk of (now strong) likelihoods, but not certainties, nor could they.
The difficulties of resistance to a widening of any proposed law, and the restrictions imposed on existing laws in other parts of the world
Sir, Baroness Grey-Thompson is to be applauded for highlighting the impracticality of devising legal safeguards for assisted suicide and the consequent risks for disabled people (Thunderer, Sept 23). Over the past decade, the Netherlands has moved from justifying euthanasia and assisted suicide for those with unrelieved suffering, to include people with dementia, newborn babies with spina bifida and even in some cases patients without their explicit consent. This shows the impossibility of resisting a widening interpretation and application of the law.
Dr David Jeffrey
Sir, The laws regarding assisted dying in force in Oregon, as described in Judith Wyss’s letter (Sept 24), are mistakenly inadequate in insisting on terminal illness as a condition. My first wife was driven to the step by Parkinson’s, a degenerative but not a terminal condition, whereby the sufferer gets more and more helpless until mercifully carried off by something else. This is surely a situation at least as distressing as a terminal illness, and arguably more so as no end is perceivable. I gained some obloquy for describing my wife’s decision and actions as “rational and courageous”; which I will say again, because that is what they were. But they would still have fallen foul of that all too limiting requirement for the illness to be “terminal”.
Michael Grosvenor Myer
‘The Police Service has an appalling propensity to complicate simple matters under the guise of scrupulousness’
Sir, If the Home Secretary, Theresa May, goes ahead with her plans to abolish police performance targets she could be making the mistake of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. By all means she should reduce the ridiculous number of such targets laid down by the various police and crime commissioners and confine them to easily measurable performance indicators.
It would concentrate the minds of all concerned, for example, if the annual appraisals of every officer contained hard statistics of how their overtime income and sick leave compared with the force average.
Any glaring anomalies could be identified and explanations sought. It would be naive to deny that some abuse of these facilities does happen.
But our Police Service has an appalling propensity to complicate simple matters under the guise of scrupulousness, knowing that the easier it is to measure, then the easier it is to criticise.
John Kenny (Metropolitan Police Officer, 1965-95)
This reader has experienced the realities of spending time under the flight path for Heathrow, and would back another option
Sir, So Ed Balls would prefer a third runway at Heathrow to HS2 (report, Sept 24). A few weeks ago I attended a wedding in Richmond Park. I travelled from the Midlands by train and the Tube to Twickenham. Low-flying planes soon spoilt what was up to then an enjoyable trip. At the reception in Richmond Park, low-flying planes were going over continually. You could hardly have a conversation. Back at my hotel there were still more planes. If I was living in this area, I would be backing HS2 and the “Boris Island” airport.
If allowed to grow untrimmed, a hedge becomes thin at the bottom and useless for the control of animals – one of its main functions
Sir, While the savagery of the implements used to trim roadside hedges is deplorable (letter, Sept 23 & 24), the timing and method of such work has altered with the years. Farm hedges are there to define boundaries and to keep animals either in or out. If allowed to grow untrimmed, a hedge becomes thin at the bottom and useless for the control of animals, the only remedy being hedge laying by hand which is expensive. This was done between haymaking and harvest, thus allowing hedgerow trees to grow upwards. With later hedge trimming, we have come to expect a riot of roadside berries, and there is no real reason why the work should not be carried out later in the year.
Weston Beggard, Herefordshire
SIR – Agatha Christie would be turning in her grave at the announcement that there is to be a new Poirot novel (report, September 4).
While I am sure Sophie Hannah will do an excellent job, the reason that Agatha Christie killed off her detective in Curtain was to prevent any such future spin-offs after her death. During her lifetime, Agatha Christie’s daughter Rosalind fervently protected the integrity of her mother’s work. It is sad that such integrity no longer appears to be the cornerstone of Agatha Christie Ltd.
Author, The Agatha Christie Miscellany
SIR – Labour is promising 25 hours a week of free child care to help working parents. This follows on from the pledge made by the Lib Dems for free school meals for infants. How about cutting taxes for families so that they can afford to pay for children out of their own earnings? A fully transferable personal allowance, for example, would allow more parents to stay at home to look after their children.
For years, the Labour Party policy has been to enlarge its client state by bribing voters with their own money. This is more of the failed socialist programme from the Gordon Brown era.
Seaford, East Sussex
SIR – Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, should be congratulated for his frank admission in Brighton that he’s a socialist and wishes to “bring back socialism” (Comment, September 23). Under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, the mantra for wealth redistribution was “fairness” – the S-word was barely ever mentioned.
One case too many for Agatha Christie’s Poirot
24 Sep 2013
A healthy majority of British voters, particularly those mindful of the Seventies, know that socialism is an equal share of misery for all. It is good that the Labour leader has reminded them of this axiom.
Stedham, West Sussex
SIR – The Government is servicing a debt of over a trillion pounds; it is also strangling business with excessive regulation and taxation. As a result, growth is slow, private enterprise is crushed and 53.4 per cent of households receive more transfers from the Government than they pay in tax.
Ed Miliband thinks we need to “bring back socialism”. But it never left. We need a lot less government spending, taxation and regulation and a much bigger private sector and more self-sufficient households for prosperity to be fully restored.
SIR – After three years of the Labour Party insisting that the Coalition’s plan for economic recovery was flawed, we have a change of tack now there is evidence that the plan is showing signs of working.
The attack is now on shrinking living standards. It does not take a first class economics graduate to realise that this was always going to be the outcome of any strategy that involved austerity in an attempt to clear up the mess left by Labour. Now the mantra is about the three wasted years in which the Coalition has seen no economic growth.
Perhaps the Opposition should focus on their three wasted years. Mr Miliband has persevered with the same individuals who were identified as responsible for the economic crisis of 2008. Until he shows the strength to purge the Opposition front bench, both he and his party will never regain the electorate’s confidence in the Labour Party to manage the economy.
W G McLellan
SIR – As a serving officer in the Reserve Forces, I would like to draw attention to the inequality in the issuance of discount railcards within the Armed Forces.
Regular soldiers are rightly offered the opportunity to purchase an annual railcard, whereas reservists are not. This is in spite of the fact that many reservists must travel exceptionally long distances to reach their Territorial Army centre – expenses may be claimed, but only at the full rate. This costs the Ministry of Defence one third more than if reservists were entitled to the Forces discount.
If the MoD wishes to create a “one Army” ethos, then small things such as equal entitlements would go a long way to doing this, as well as boosting the morale of volunteers who give up considerable time, especially at weekends, in service to their country.
Captain Levison Wood
Orange but green
SIR – Oranges growing in warmer regions, in the absence of cool nights, will not turn orange, but will remain green until they are ripe (Letters, September 21).
Oranges ripen during the winter months and require cool nights to turn orange. Once an orange has been picked, no further ripening or colour change will occur, no matter what the temperature is.
Green oranges are a common sight in tropical markets, but it is uncommon for such fruit to arrive in Britain, because we are conditioned to eating orange-coloured fruit. However it is normal in Brazil and the Caribbean to see yellow and green fruit in the marketplace, which is often processed into juice – some of which is shipped to Britain.
Beverley, East Yorkshire
Student dress code
SIR – Alan J Eyre (Letters, September 18) asks why the contestants on University Challenge “look so weird, with even weirder hairstyles?” It’s because they are students. We wouldn’t expect then to wear sombre suits, white shirts and ties, with good, strong, sensible shoes.
Walking and talking
SIR – We used storytelling to encourage our young children to come on country walks (Letters, September 23).
A fairy called Shillyshally lived in a tree root near the river, and sometimes left a treat under the leaves. Unsurprisingly, she had many friends, who always lived round the next bend. Long walks were always a great pleasure for us all.
Newcastle upon Tyne
SIR – I didn’t tell my daughters bedtime stories, they told me their own.
Their imaginary friends ruled the house, and were more scary than anything I might have conjured up.
Origins of stage names
SIR – Jeremy Wheeler (Letters, September 23) refers to the music hall entertainer known as Nosmo King. His stage name originated from the “No Smoking” sign in a London Underground carriage.
How many other names arose in similar ways, I wonder?
Potters Bar, Hertfordshire
Gambling on results
SIR – Your report that Ladbrokes has launched a “service” for students to bet on their degree results to “help them clear debts more quickly when they graduate” (“Undergraduates can gamble on their degree result”, September 20) raises serious issues about present public policy on gambling.
Ladbrokes claims to provide facilities for “responsible gambling” and its leading advice on “staying in control” is that “Gambling should be entertaining and not seen as a way of making money.”
The notion of “responsible gambling” was introduced after 2005 as a substitute for the previous policy of providing commercial gambling on the basis of “unstimulated demand”. This had allowed those who wanted to gamble to do so but prohibited its commercial promotion.
Representing the Royal College of Psychiatrists throughout the passage of the legislation, especially in the joint parliamentary committee that scrutinised it, I drew attention to the likelihood that the notion of “responsible gambling” would be used as a fig leaf to allow promoters free range.
It is ironic that young students should now be targeted.
Dr Emanuel Moran
SIR – I, too, had problems choosing my favourite play (Letters, September 18).
It is easy to misinterpret this as favourite production, which in my case would be Trevor Nunn’s film of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. But this is in no way my favourite play.
Rather, I asked myself “Which play would I most like to see again?” After many happy hours reminiscing, I decided on Tony Harrison’s The Trackers of Oxyrhyncus, which I saw at the National in 1990. However, I somehow fear this is unlikely to get the popular vote.
Cape Town, South Africa
No hunting today
SIR – In fairness to Louis XVI (Letters, September 23), he kept a hunting diary in which he simply noted where he had hunted and details of that day’s kill.
On those days when he hadn’t hunted (such as July 14 1789, the day the Bastille was stormed), he always wrote rien (“nothing”) in his hunting diary.
Should food aid be sent to the developing world?
SIR – Sir David Attenborough says that it is barmy to send food aid to Africa (report, September 18). I have lived in East Africa for 14 years, and have on a few occasions requested and received food aid, and ensured its delivery to those in greatest need. Most people, Christian or not, believe that human life has equal value everywhere, and we who have so much can afford to share our excess with those whose life is less secure, especially subsistence farmers in Africa.
Their problem is not so much a lack of land to farm, but a lack of reliable rainfall.
Climate change caused by the industrialised West has made the rainfall in Africa less consistent, and the lives of that continent’s population less secure. Most aid to developing countries is focused on helping them find ways to help themselves.
Rev Edward Tufnell
SIR – While trumpeting improved farming techniques, Clive Aslet (Comment, September 19) overlooks the other environmental problems that overpopulation inflicts on the Earth: deforestation, overfishing, increased pollution and global warming, the extinction of thousands of species of flora and fauna and the overcrowding of our towns and cities.
SIR – It is surprising to find Sir David Attenborough using the Malthusian language of natural selection with regard to population growth. As any development economist would tell him, the real problems are artificial borders preventing the free movement of people to find pasture and water. Underlying these problems are civil conflict, corruption and mismanagement.
As China and India show, population may not be the problem but the answer in leading nations to prosperity. Ethiopia is not a good example to give of a “basket case”, since it has done a great deal to put its house in order.
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali
Sir, – The Constitution provides that Bills may be referred to the people for a referendum if a majority of members of the Seanad and not less than one third of the members of the Dáil ask the President not to sign a Bill because it contains a proposal of such national importance that the decision to have such a law should be made by the people.
The Referendum Commission states that if the proposed Referendum is passed “this possibility of the reference of Bills to the people by the President will be removed from the Constitution.”
Unicameral absolutism of such significance?
I can think of no better reason to reject the Seanad abolition proposal. – Yours, etc,
Dr GERARD J BURKE,
Castleconnell, Co Limerick.
Sir, – I will be voting to abolish the Seanad because with the Seanad gone it would be easier to focus on radically reforming the Dáil, which would solve at least some of our chronic political problems.
It’s not that I’m so naive as to believe such radical reform will ever take place. But when the choice is between supporting two white elephants or one, one will do fine. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Like many others on this island, I find myself in the strange position that, in a couple of weeks’ time, I am being asked to vote to abolish an institution for which I don’t have a vote. In spite of this, I intend to vote No, as I believe that the present government, with the establishment of the “Gang of Four”, the downgrading of local councils and their ambition to leave us with a unicameral legislature, will have achieved a power grab unprecedented in the history of this state.
I also believe that, in spite of their assertions to the contrary, if we vote this proposition down, the Government will have no option but to reform the Upper House and make it a truly representative body. Seanad elections should also take place on the same day as the general election, forcing our representatives to choose which house they were competing for on day one.
The argument that abolishing the Seanad will save €20 million annually is patently spurious but, even if it were not, the plain people of this country would like to see savings of this nature effected by not paying political pensions until the recipient has either reached a specific age, (say 55), or been out of politics for at least 15 years. Another tranche of savings could be achieved by not allowing the word “unvouched” to appear before the word “expenses”, by asking members of the Oireachtas to buy their own mobile phones (and pay the attached bills from their salaries), and to bear the normal expense of travelling to work. In other words, it would be nice to see them living in the same world as the rest of us. – Yours, etc,
Malahide, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Prof Ray Kinsella (September 21st) cites the expertise and commitment of people such as John Crown, Sean Barrett and Fergal Quinn as a reason to retain the Seanad. However, given its very limited powers, the talents of the aforementioned are wasted in the Upper House. It would be better if they were in the Dáil. There they would have more influence and might even go on to become ministers.
Among the reasons that talented people are attracted to the Seanad university panels, rather than the Dáil, are because of the national make-up of the constituencies and because there is not a requirement to carry out large amounts of clientelistic constituency work.
It would therefore be preferable to proceed with abolishing the Seanad and then change the system for electing the Dáil, so that a portion of the seats (40 to 50) are allocated using a list system. In addition, the Constitution should be changed to allow persons outside of the Dáil to be appointed to the Cabinet. – Yours, etc,
Castledermot, Co Kildare.
Sir, – Taoiseach Enda Kenny (Opinion, September 20th) argues we should abolish the Senate because other small nations have only one chamber and we need to continue a policy of doing “more with less”. Mr Kenny also promises a new dawn for civic engagement through a committee system inside a reformed Dáil. These arguments do not withstand closer scrutiny and have a weak evidence base in the context of a global policy world intent on reducing the public sphere for debate in all countries.
First, I will examine the argument that we as a small nation are comparable to other small nations. We have not yet developed in Ireland a strong democracy as the Scandinavian countries have. Their single chambers have no whip system, have co-equal numbers of women and men and have a long history of tolerance of dissenting voices. We have a long way to go to emulate this and it is highly unlikely we can achieve this by simply developing a reduced public space.
Second,the unreflective celebration of “doing more with less”, a policy associated with austerity and the troika, has sadly led to a brain-drain, as we continue to lose our educated young people to Australia and Canada. How could that be such a great thing for a small nation trying to hold its own in a turbulent Europe and an uncertain global world?
Third, I want to examine the promise that if we vote to abolish the Senate that a reformed Dáil will create participatory politics. According to Gerry Stoker, professor of politics from the University of Manchester, participatory politics needs the messiness of argument and debate and contestation. There is no evidence committees have the capacity to deliver this type of politics. Committees are controlled by tight agendas and often do not function in democratic ways. Committees deal with complex issues in simplistic, speedy and technically efficient ways. We have no evidence to date of the capacity of the Dáil to engage in any type of participatory politics. In fact we have witnessed how the Dáil has chosen to deal with politicians, such as Róisín Shortall and Lucinda Creighton, who have raised critical questions that the government of the day does not want to hear.
Who will really benefit from the abolition of the Senate? Will it be the citizens of Ireland and future generations? Or will it be the government of the day which will have seized total control of all dissenting voices and be better poised to meet the needs of such vested interests as bankers, big business and unsecured bondholders? I rest my case. – Yours, etc,
Dr GERALDINE MOONEY
Lecturer in Education,
Faculty of Education and
University of Limerick.
Sir, – I was going to vote Yes. Then I read the Referendum Commission’s “Independent Guide”.
I was struck by two changes regarding removal from office of the President or a judge. The present position requires two thirds of both houses for removal of the President (simple majorities for removing a judge) – a relatively straightforward matter for a sitting government using the whip. If the electorate votes to abolish the Seanad, removal of a judge will require two thirds of total membership of the Dáil (four fifths for the President). I rang the Referendum Commission and was told I had understood correctly, but it doesn’t give reasons. I was given a telephone number to someone in the Taoiseach’s office who would be better able to inform me.
The argument is that since current impeachment proceedings require passing two hurdles that the removal of one necessitated (in somebody’s opinion) the heightening of a single hurdle. When I pointed out that since the Seanad, in its present form, is loaded anyway, the “two hurdle argument” is spurious, my informant said, “You’ve got a good point there”.
Yes, the judiciary should be independent, but not of the people exercising their judgment through our elected government. This proposal, as I understand it, significantly weakens the power of the Oireachtas to initiate impeachment proceedings. This is not good. In my opinion this is a strong reason for voting No.
Might I propose a compromise, that the amendment be changed to read “a majority of members”, ie 84 votes to remove a judge, 110 to remove the President (to be adjusted in the event of the number of TDs being reduced). – Yours, etc,
Clare Island, Co Mayo.
Sir, – There are two referendums being put to the people on October 4th. People know a little about one but nothing about the other. The first, we are told by our political masters, is about the abolition of the Seanad, and the second is about the setting up of a new court.
But that is only a fraction of the story, and I guarantee you that if we don’t get a majority No vote to both of these referendums, we, the people, will have betrayed our children and future generations in the most unbelievable way. We will have handed them over, lock, stock and barrel to the EU justice system, and Big Brother will then be free – finally – to impose its brand of law on us and on our children.
Already the plans are well advanced, both here and in Europe to bring in an “effective mechanism to enforce respect for EU law” on our people. EU Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, has described this mechanism. And the Commission will not be afraid, we are told, to use the “big stick” it is carrying, to enforce its brand of justice on our people.
Our politicians are a thundering disgrace. I will be voting No in both referendums. – Yours, etc,
North Circular Road,
A chara, – Perhaps Liam Cooke (September 23rd) rather than wondering what the Jesus Christ of the Gospels might do, would consider taking up Pope Francis’s offer to encounter the same Jesus Christ in the church and the Gospel?
It seems to me that His words on judgment and beams and motes, (Mth 71:-3) and straining gnats and swallowing camels (Mth 23:24) are pertinent.
Peter’s – and therefore the Pope’s – entrusted task is to feed the flock (John 21) and strengthen his brethren (Luke 22). Binding and loosing (Mth 18) is at the service of that task of bringing Jesus Christ to the world.
Pope Francis brings new vigour and a new method to proclaiming the eternal Jesus Christ.
He is a pontiff, a bridge builder – not a regulator. – Is mise,
AONGHUS Ó hALMHAIN,
Páirc na Seilbhe,
Baile an Chinnéidigh,
Co Chill Mhantáin.
Sir, – I would second much of what’s Una Mullally writes regarding the cultural problems that serve to enable a large degree of male violence against women (“Telling women to be careful gets men off the hook”, Opinion, September 23rd). However, I feel her article implies a glaring fallacy that is important to refute.
Encouraging people to be aware in a tactical or practical sense regarding to their personal safety does not automatically strip criminals of moral responsibility. I take care not to walk down dark alleys in dangerous urban areas at night. If I neglected to follow my own advice and was attacked, would my assailant be any less morally culpable because of my recklessness? Of course not. Am I, therefore, going to neglect to watch my back in town at night? No way.
Let’s put the blame where it belongs, and at the same time encourage awareness, street smarts, a healthy suspicion of strangers, and self-defence training for anyone who might need it. (All of us). – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The furore over Arthur’s Day created by some vested interests in Irish society reflects a new agenda that the drinks industry and its brands can never do good, regardless.
It is a worrying development for those who work responsibly in an industry that supports countless thousands of jobs in Ireland in manufacture, tourism and distribution in pubs, hotels and restaurants. It is also an industry that gives enjoyment to countless customers who enjoy alcohol responsibly.
Overall, Arthur’s Day is a welcome development that is good, does good and has evolved into a cultural event focused mainly in the hard-pressed pub sector, where tourism is an important factor.
To the tourist and the responsible drinker, Arthur’s Day is to be welcomed and not misrepresented by vested interests,
We should be careful what we wish for.
Sir, – Dan O’Brien is right (Business Opinion, September 20th).
President Higgins needs to be reminded that every cent spent on the trappings of his office is borrowed money that the taxpayers he claims to care so much about have to repay with interest.
If he really had an ethical morality he wouldn’t be accepting a salary of €250,000 per annum, plus tax-free unvouched expenses. Instead, a salary of €100,000 is more than enough for a person who doesn’t have to put his hand in his pocket for seven long years and who became a far wealthier man from his political career, with all the various salaries, pensions and expenses he has received, than if he’d remained with his initial career choice. His demands on the taxpayer make a mockery of his claim that all he seeks is the honour to serve.
I’m tired of listening to hypocrites like Mr Higgins, who turn up at expensive conferences, paid for by the taxpayer, in a top of the range car with all the bells and whistles, who then pontificates and patronises the rest of us about what changes and sacrifices “we” need to make to help the less well off.
Let’s see Mr Higgins and his ilk lead by example and make some sacrifices to lessen the burden he places on the taxpayers of a small bankrupt country. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Pope Francis says, “See everything, turn a blind eye to much, correct a little” (Front page, September 20th). He sounds like he worked in the Central Bank or the Regulator’s Office pre-2008.
While everybody has their own style of doing things, one wonders would the Jesus Christ of the Gospels do likewise? – Yours, etc,
Coolock, Dublin 17.
Sir, – The Minister for Justice (September 23rd) does not mention the cost of the proposed new court of appeal.
To put an extra court in place on the basis that there is a backlog to be cleared looks a little like arranging deck-chairs on the Titanic. Can the Minister guarantee us that this extra court will not itself become part of the problem rather than the hoped for solution?
While a simple solution to a complex problem may seem attractive, a complex response, which may take time, is normally more effective. Regarding institutional change, it may also be worth considering that if we always do what we always did we will always get what we always got. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – An easy narrative for journalists to hang their opinions on for this dispute is: pesky teachers in secure jobs ask broke nation for money. It is more complex than that. Few teachers expect pay cuts to be reversed because of industrial action. Then why take action?
First, ASTI teachers don’t trust the Government. Croke Park was meant to run to the end of this year – not July. They trust even less this Government promising what the next government will do, in 2018.
Second, acceptance of Haddington Road means de facto acceptance of the new Junior Certificate, with its incumbent problems. Does anybody believe teachers can be fully objective in marking their own students? Will a Gonzaga school cert really be equal to that of a disadvantaged VEC?
Third, with the erosion of management posts in schools and a plethora of initiatives from Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn, we want the pause button pressed so we can concentrate on teaching/discipline and not some poorly resourced initiative.
Lastly, we are tired of bully-boy deals: accept this or we will make things worse for you.
I look forward to a more truthful narrative but I won’t hold my breath. – Yours, etc,
24 September 2013
Instead of enjoying our retirement with grandchildren, sons, daughters and friends, we have been left broken-hearted and despairing.
Also in this section
History repeating itself
Men of 1916 unmandated
Labour policies called for abolition
Since this lot took over, things have gone from bad to worse.
Their job may not have been easy, granted, but what they’ve done is a bloody disgrace.
We now have to pay property tax, water tax, septic tank tax, etc. Just where the hell are we supposed to find all the money to pay for it all? We’ve worked all of our lives from the age of 14 or 15, raised our families, built our own home and paid for it. We’ve paid all and any taxes, but for what? To watch as our sons, daughters and families had to go away.
This lot should be ashamed for collecting €1,200 just to turn up at that never Neverland they call work, keeping all those perks while cutting school funding, old people’s money and help for the disabled and special needs.
They’re squeezing every last penny out of ordinary folk while letting the bankers and builders away with it. “We’ll burn the bondholders,” they said. Burned them all right – bloody big holes in their pockets with the money you paid them.
PJ & Kate Williams
THANK GOD FOR THE DUBS
* I am so relieved that Dublin beat Mayo because it would have been galling to hear Enda Kenny taking credit for winning the Sam Maguire Cup.
He’s that type of Irish redneck politician – the parochial ‘hupyaboyo’ cheerleader. And he’s the only man in the country who believes we’ve “turned the corner and economic recovery has arrived”.
Why do we get our politicians from a lucky bag?
Bantry, Co Cork
FF ON SEANAD IN 2011
* Here’s a short quiz to while away the time.
Who said the following: “It must be stressed that during the last decade the Seanad did not play a substantive role in challenging unsustainable policies. While its debates are frequently more thoughtful than those in the Dail, this suggests the need to reform the Dail rather than the retention of the Seanad.”
Was it Eamon Gilmore, Enda Kenny or Micheal Martin?
Hands up all who said Enda Kenny?
Wrong, this quotation is taken from page 30 of the Fianna Fail 2011 election manifesto so we will accept Micheal Martin as the correct answer.
Abbeybridge, Co Cork
* Angela Merkel has two motivations. The first is a strong Protestant ethic, which urges people to help others, but only on condition they make all necessary efforts to help themselves. The second is the lesson of history Germans have learnt – that a strong Germany in the middle of Europe has to be tied in to Europe to preserve peace.
Her one really bad decision, for which her motivations are really hard to grasp, was closing all German atomic energy facilities. As a result, shortages of electricity will have to be filled with purchases abroad at a higher price and the requirements will be produced in neighbouring countries with atomic facilities.
As a scientist she knew this very well. The only explanation for this crazy decision is that it undermined the Green Party by fulfilling its main demand.
Her motivations are shared by many and by remaining calm and patient she has proved trustworthy.
Herbert Park Lane, Dublin 4
* Figures released on September 9 last (http://www.fishupdate.com) stated that 162,000 tonnes of Scottish-farmed salmon had a value of £537m (€638m) and sustained a total of 1,500 direct and indirect jobs.
These figures suggest that a 15,000- tonne salmon farm as proposed by the state agency An Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) would produce farmed salmon worth €60m. Utilising the Scottish figures as a benchmark, such a farm would create 138 jobs.
At first glance this looks like a great opportunity. However, if you look at claims by BIM that a 15,000-tonne salmon farm would create 300 jobs and produce salmon to the value of €102m, it would seem that maths is not the strong point of those within that state agency.
Minister of State Fergus O’Dowd recently stated that the value of angling tourism to the Irish economy was €750m per annum, much of this attributable to fishing for wild salmon.
All this is at risk due to the negative impact that open-net cage salmon farming, as proposed by BIM, will have on our environment and wild migratory stocks. I would urge those in positions of power nationally and in Europe to look very closely at these proposals before embarking on a course that leads to disaster.
* How comforting to know that Enda is Angela’s favourite puppet.
KEEP THAT PHONE BOOK
* I have just received copies of the new telephone directory for Dublin. Before people discard their previous copies, could I remind your readers that a telephone directory is one of the most valuable research tools to have at your disposal when doing local or family history research?
The continuing decline in the use and listing of landlines will make it increasingly difficult to trace the location or prevalence of family names in any given area, severely limiting any possibility of contacting those whose mobile numbers we do not already know.
How in future will we be able to find the address of those without a landline?
I am holding on to my back copies from now on.
Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin
REILLY’S REPORT CARD
* I must compliment your reporter Ailish O’Hora on her piece in the Irish Independent (September 19) regarding Health Minister James Reilly and his interview with Sean O’Rourke on RTE Radio 1 last week.
She hits the nail on the head with almost everything after informing us that when the minister tells the nation that free GP care will soon be available to all Irish citizens and that his Government will be launching free medical care for all children almost immediately, these are utter untruths.
When this minister took office in March 2011, one of the first things he did was tell us that he was going to do all the above as well as lots more in the immediate future. The only thing that he did carry out immediately was disband the board of the HSE.
His department still requires €12bn per annum in spending alone, of which over 65pc is spent on staff wages and salaries.
In March 2011 he informed us of his plan to introduce a ‘Dutch model’ to Ireland. Twenty months later it has become apparent that the only thing remotely close to Holland that the minister has done is spout ‘Double Dutch’.
Ms O’Hora compares the minister’s public statements to a scene from ‘Father Ted’ involving dreams and reality with Father Dougal.
While I acknowledge this humorous line, I am afraid that I cannot agree with Ms O’Hora as this comparison is a gross insult to Fr Dougal’s intelligence.
Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Roscommon