Rain

1 August 2014 Rain

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A damp amd cloudy day

Scrabble Mary wins, but gets under 400. perhaps I will win tomorrow.

Obituary:

Roland Hill – obituary

Roland Hill was a journalist who arrived in Britain as a refugee and wrote an acclaimed biography of Lord Acton

Roland Hill as president of the Foreign Press Association, hosting a lunch for the Princess Royal

Roland Hill as president of the Foreign Press Association, hosting a lunch for the Princess Royal

5:33PM BST 31 Jul 2014

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Roland Hill, who has died aged 93, was born to Jewish parents in Germany, brought up as an evangelical Lutheran, converted to Roman Catholicism as a boy and then, after escaping the Nazis, made a new life in Britain, arriving in 1939 as a teenager, alone and with nothing but a £5 note.

He went on to become a journalist, reporting on British political and cultural affairs for German and Austrian newspapers. Later in life he wrote an acclaimed biography of Lord Acton, whose commitment to liberal Catholicism, love of high European culture and concern for human freedom he shared.

Lord Acton (1834-1902) was one of the most esteemed Victorian historical thinkers, yet, like Hill, an outsider both in religious and political outlook. Hill had first been introduced to Acton’s writings in the 1950s and, following his retirement, he embarked on his masterly biography of the great man, becoming the first researcher to make full use of a vast collection of books, documents, and private papers in the Acton archives which had been released by his family.

Meticulously and comprehensively researched, Hill’s study, published in 2011, fleshed out little-known details of Acton’s personal life and relationships, setting his story within a lively account of the European politics and religion of his time.

Roland Hess as a boy in Hamburg

An only child, Roland Hill was born Roland Johannes Hess in Hamburg on December 2 1920 to parents of Jewish descent who had converted to Lutheran Christianity and who would follow their son into the Catholic Church. His Viennese-born mother was an opera singer; his father was a sugar merchant.

His father’s name was actually Rudolf Hess, a coincidence which brought about a comic incident when a German town band turned out to meet his train one day under the misapprehension that they had Hitler’s Nazi deputy paying them a visit. On the contrary, not only was Roland’s father Jewish, he was also strongly anti-Nazi.

Roland as a boy with his father, Rudolf Hess

Young Roland’s religious identity was a matter of some confusion, for while he attended church regularly and sang Bach’s St Matthew Passion in the school choir, his mother had not summoned the courage to tell her Orthodox Jewish parents about the family’s new religious affiliation, and it fell to Roland, as the youngest member of the family, to say the Schma Israel prayer on visits to his grandparents’ home in Vienna.

In 1934, after Hitler came to power, the Hesses left Hamburg for Prague, where Rudolf’s father hoped to start his business afresh. But as no one in the city wanted any dealings with someone bearing the name of Hitler’s deputy, his hopes were disappointed. After little more than a year the family moved to Vienna, where, as a teenager, Roland contributed to the family’s straitened finances by writing articles for Viennese newspapers, scribbling away in his school lunch hour on a bench marked “Forbidden for Jews”.

Roland Hess with his mother, two aunts and Viennese grandparents

He also became a keen Boy Scout, and in 1937, influenced by the idealism of a Boy Scout leader, he was received into the Roman Catholic Church. Though deeply committed to his faith, he was shocked after the Anschluss when, out of curiosity, he joined the crowd outside the hotel where Hitler was staying, to see the Austrian primate, Cardinal Innitzer, among the VIPs queuing to make their obeisance to the new head of state.

After the Nazi takeover, Roland got a job on the editorial staff of the Amtliche Wiener Zeitung, filling the shoes of a man who had been sent to Dachau. But as the authorities stepped up their campaign against Jews, he and his parents fled to Milan (his father subsequently moved to Switzerland). Other members of his family would die in Auschwitz and Theresienstadt.

In Milan, he entered the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, but in the summer of 1939, on receiving a summons to present himself for military service at the German consulate, he applied for and obtained a British student visa. By July 1 1939 he was on a ferry to Dover.

Britain’s declaration of war with Germany that September brought him a summons to appear before a Home Office tribunal which designated him a “friendly alien”. For the next eight months — the so-called “phoney war” — he worked as an assistant to the London correspondent of the Swiss Neue Zurcher Zeitung, helped to edit Free Austria, a magazine established to support the British in the war and work for a democratic post-war Austria, and also wrote for the Catholic journal The Tablet.

This happy existence came to an end on May 12 1940, when Germany attacked the Low Countries and France. Roland Hess was staying with an Austrian friend in Cambridge at the time and, amid swirling rumours of fifth columnists, both he and the friend were interned as “enemy aliens”. Taken to a church hall at Bury St Edmunds, Hess spent the night in the bed next to Prince Friedrich von Preussen, heir to the Hohenzollern throne and then an undergraduate at Cambridge.

The next day they, along with hundreds of other internees — mainly German Jews, Catholic priests and members of other religious denominations who had found refuge in Britain — were taken by train to Liverpool, where they were met by people lining the streets, shouting abuse. “Why are they shouting?” Roland recalled asking. “’Because we’re bloody Germans’ answered the Kaiser’s grandson grimly.”

Interned on the Isle of Man, later that summer the two young men were transferred with other young internees to Canada. In the liner on the way over, he and the scion of the Hohenzollerns were put in charge of cleaning the latrines. In Canada they were once again interned.

As official paranoia abated somewhat, Roland Hess jumped at the chance to volunteer for service in the British Armed Forces. After returning to Britain, and a short time in the non-combatant Pioneer Corps, he joined the Highland Light Infantry in early 1940, changing his name to the more English-sounding Roland Hill (because of his affection, as a one-time stamp collector, for Rowland Hill, the inventor of the penny postage).

After crossing over to Normandy on June 18 1944, 12 days after D-Day, he took part in the campaigns in Belgium, Holland and Germany, where he subsequently became a member of the press section of the British army of occupation. After demob Hill enrolled for a History degree at King’s College, London, then resumed his career in journalism, writing for The Tablet and as a London correspondent for the Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung and the Austrian Die Presse, reporting on British political and cultural affairs and serving as president of the Foreign Press Association. In 1988 he wrote the first German biography of Margaret Thatcher, winning favourable reviews in the British press and earning a letter of thanks from the lady herself.

But as Hill confessed in his autobiography, A Time out of Joint (2007), he held a dim view of the country Britain had become in the post-war period, observing that the British had allowed themselves to be led away from “a society of freer opportunities in trade and enterprise, where excellence mattered more than mediocrity in schools and higher education” and had discarded “what was good in their Westminster tradition to replace it with their own kind of elected prime ministerial dictatorship”.

“For me who owed my survival to this country,” he wrote, Britain’s decline was a “painful spectacle to witness”.

In 1972 Hill married Amelia Nathan, who died in 2001. There were no children of the marriage, but he is survived by a daughter from a previous relationship ..

Roland Hill, born December 2 1920, died June 21 2014

Guardian:

Hands dropping coins

George Monbiot is correct (The rich want us to believe their wealth is good for us all, 30 July) in his praise of Thomas Piketty’s proposal for a wealth tax to counteract the insane levels of inequality now generated in our world, and in pointing out that only the Green party is prepared to back this obvious idea. However, we should be careful not to let Piketty’s helpful intervention in the debate blind us to the severe limits of his own stance in political economy. I refer principally to Piketty’s utter failure to take seriously the ecological limits to growth.

A central component of Piketty’s answer to the crisis is: more of the same. More growth, the proceeds of which can then allegedly be “redistributed”. The truth however is that growth is an alternative to egalitarian redistribution, an alternative to any serious effort to create a more equal society. The promise of growth is a replacement for the need to share. It is a promise of which we should be ever more suspicious, in a world whose biological limits are being ruptured, and in a country where we are now seeing growth, none of the benefits of which are trickling down to the 99% (GDP in the UK is now above the 2007 level, but most people in the country are worse off than they were in 2007).

Piketty’s claim that a stalling of growth is bad for the majority is wrong: a stalling of growth, and a willingness to see that we can’t keep growing the pie now that the ingredients are running out, will finally be what forces the majority to take back some of the wealth being hoarded by the rich.

A wealth tax is a key component in a greener, fairer, more equal society. Its introduction will not occur until we give up our desperate attachment to the oxymorons of “green growth” and “egalitarian growth” and face up to the need to share the wealth far more equally, in a world which finally understands that perpetual growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.
Dr Rupert Read
University of East Anglia, Norwich

• One of the most shocking ways the rich are going to “get away with it” is because there is almost no mainstream exposure of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the final-farewell-to-democracy investor-to-state dispute settlement, negotiations over which were suspended in January this year for three months to undertake a “consultation” with the European public. Really? Given the number of people, including those of the political norm, who look blank when you mention TTIP, never mind ISDS, the consultation must have stopped short at the Channel. Where is the campaign to expose this political nightmare and stop them getting away with it?
John Airs
Liverpool

• Aditya Chakrabortty’s diagnosis of Labour’s economic policy myopia also underpins its inability to win over voters (It’s supine Labour that lets the Tories daub lipstick on a pig, 29 July). There is an inability to break with the slavish, neoliberal worship of that abstract totem, the national economy. Ed Balls et al still fixate on business elites’ and establishment economists’ dogma that the right tinkering can get the wealth machine delivering productive and well-paid jobs – ignoring the historical fact that capitalist market economies have always entailed a mass of insecure, low-paid jobs combined with semi-permanent underemployment/unemployment. Only when national economies’ links with international markets have been controlled, and state intervention properly managed, has there been anything that “benefits all working people”.

As Aditya Chakrabortty says, Labour only differs by proposing to pull a few different levers to what Balls calls “old Tory economics”. Yet inegalitarian shibboleths such as balanced budgets and corporate tax relief will be retained. Labour should, instead, propose a re-shaping of economic institutions and market-state relationships to create a fairer balance of economic power and reverse the marketisation of society. It should remember that potential supporters won’t vote for promises to create a neoliberal, smooth-running economic nirvana. The popularity of (re)nationalisation options shows that policies that put tangible mass interests ahead of those dogmas have more appeal.

The approach needs to be not what we must do for the economy but what the economy can do for us.
Bryn Jones
Bath

• George Monbiot’s admirable article misses one key argument – about the economic effect of rampant inequality. If the benefit of any growth flows to the rich they will spend it on financial assets or positional goods (expensive flats, works of art) here or abroad, with no boost to consumer demand. The rest can only add to demand if they increase their borrowing, and the poorest lose benefits to “austerity”. The effort to sustain growth by ultra-low interest rates and quantitative easing only adds to the financial overhang. Unless the rich are forced to recycle their gains by taxation, productive investment will lag, any growth will be unsustainable, debts will go on growing and the next financial crisis will be even worse than the last.
Alan Bailey
London

• I’m really enjoying the Guardian this week: on Tuesday Aditya Chakrabortty demolishes the idea that dysfunctional markets can cure themselves just by the introduction of more competition; then George Monbiot does likewise to the other arguments underlying neoliberalism (or explains how Piketty does).

Having read these articles (and Piketty) can I propose a new nosepeg strategy for the next election? The most vital issue is the need to destroy neoliberalism before it destroys our civilisation. Accordingly, we should all join whatever party is most likely to keep the Tories out, in whatever constituency we live and vote in, and work hard for that party in the remaining time leading up to the election. The Tories are of course the party most likely to continue the present disastrous course in the short term.

Thereafter we should all join the Green party and work for them, since they are the only party with a sufficiently radical positive strategy in the long term.
Jeremy Cushing
Exeter

• Brilliant article by George Monbiot. As always, shines a light on the poisonous neoliberal world in which we live. And how deliciously ironic of the Guardian to run a three-page advertisement of one of the richest men in England [David Beckham] promoting his expensive “grooming aid”.

Thanks, George, I signed up for the Green party today.
David Halley
Hampton Hill, Middlesex

Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign demo

The Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign supports Andy Burnham’s call for a moratorium on tendering of NHS services.

At last there is a public acknowledgement of the extent to which the NHS is being privatised. All over the country, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are subjecting NHS services to competitive tendering because they are afraid to do otherwise. Of the contracts let since 2010, approximately 70% have gone to the private sector. This is not surprising, since the private sector is expert at bidding for contracts while this procedure is relatively new to the public sector.

Andy Burnham is right when he says the public did not vote for the privatisation of the NHS and if the takeover by the private sector continues at the current rate it will be impossible to reverse, even if the next government is committed to a more balanced service delivery model. We at the SLHC have been raising public awareness on this issue and last month presented Monitor, the organisation that regulates NHS contracts, with over 2,000 letters from Lewisham residents asking that the NHS treatment they receive be delivered by the public sector. Since then a further 1,000 letters have been signed.

At a follow-up meeting with Monitor officials, campaign representatives were told that the policy to subject NHS services to competitive tendering was not evidence-based. In addition, CCGs have found the Monitor guidance on the requirement to use competitive tendering inadequate and have been unable to adopt other procurement options because of lack of information. Despite the concentration on competition there seems to be very little emphasis on monitoring the quality of services delivered through these contracts. There is no doubt that the government is pursuing a policy of privatisation for privatisation sake – the improvement of NHS services is not the objective.
Dr Louise Irvine
Chair, Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign

• Your editorial (30 July) says that Labour has not addressed the real challenge about the NHS but Andy Burnham’s proposals for integrating the NHS and social care and using a capitation fee rather than a tariff for episodes of care does just that. The waste of money through the market bureaucracy and tendering, and the profits made by private companies, make privatisation a real issue. Guardian reporters have done a good job in documenting what is happening to the NHS and I hope your leader writers have kept abreast of these, as we do not need this paper to follow the neoliberal agenda pursued by Reform. The NHS needs more money, especially in general practice, to bring our spending up to the level of comparable EU countries and we can afford this.
Wendy Savage
London

• Francis Maude says he is interested in “mutualisation” of public services, including health (Report, 29 July). Given that David Cameron’s favourite business model is John Lewis, a hugely successful mutual company, why don’t we just hand over the NHS to John Lewis and be done with it? Would this not also address Unison’s qualms about privatisation?
Michael Nelson
London

Anti-fracking protest

Fred Pearce (So a fracking battle begins, but is it clear who is right?, 30 July) states that: “Given the choice between a wind turbine on the hill or a fracking well in a nearby field, many would choose the latter, whatever the climate equation.” This is simply not supported by the evidence. The latest public survey by the Department of Energy and Climate Change found that 70% of the public support onshore wind, compared to 29% supporting fracking. In addition, a recent ComRes poll, commissioned by RenewableUK, found only 13% surveyed supported fracking to deliver the UK’s energy security, compared to 48% for renewable energy. Many polls have asked people what type of generation they would prefer locally, and renewable energy options, including onshore wind, come out ahead of other options such as fracking.

Across the UK people understand that we need onshore wind to help keep the lights on, reduce energy imports and get to grips with climate change. This is why support for onshore wind is on the increase.
Maf Smith
Deputy chief executive, RenewableUK

• The gallant Fred Pearce, who has worked so hard over the years to warn his readers of the dangers of climate change, should surely have referred to his excellent The Last Generation (2006), before committing himself to near-advocacy of fracking as a decent halfway house to climate change mitigation in the UK. To quote Mr Pearce, in his appendix to this book: “… if we are also concerned about having a quick hit on global warming to stave off more immediate disaster, then there is a strong case for acting hard on methane now – on leaks from landfills, gas pipe lines, coal mines, the guts of ruminants and much else.”

As Mr Pearce knows, the main constituent of fracked gas is this same methane, which is now known to leak seriously from virtually all fracking installations. Nimbyism notwithstanding, there is still a strong case to be made for UK wind power, onshore and offshore, and for hydrogen, its electrolytically derived daughter energy store, which would fulfil the same fuel functions as natural gas.
Mike Koefman
Planet Hydrogen

Kenneth Branagh as Henry V

John Bolland (Letters, 31 July) quotes the Prologue to Henry V as an example of the historic present. It’s not. Shakespeare is correctly using the present tense to make a point about theatre: asking the audience to suspend disbelief, using imagination to transform the “imperfect” actions and words they see and hear on the stage (“this wooden O”) into a world of kings, battles, armies, horses, fields, seas, famine, sword and fire, and to accept that a story covering many past years can be told now, “in an hour-glass”.

If anything, the Prologue would be an apology for the use of the historic present throughout the rest of the play but that could be said of most drama, which necessarily portrays past events as if they are happening here and now.
Paul Gelling
Chepstow, Monmouthshire

• Sorry to spoil the joke, but surely a “gift-wrapped fossil” would be a prehistoric present, rather than a historic one.
Tony Fisher
Nottingham

The seven letters on 31 July concerning the Gaza crisis were admirable. They were moderate, well-informed and went to the historical heart of the matter. They should be required reading for Netanyahu and all Israelis still baying for blood; for Obama and Kerry and all Americans who still support Israel unconditionally; for Hamas too.It amazes me that the carnage continues. Can’t the whole world see the injustice of it all?
Philip Pendered
Tonbridge, Kent

• What a ghastly legacy we are leaving the children of Palestine, Syria and Iraq. The west sheds crocodile tears while hosting arms fairs, with a few nubile beauties to tart things up a bit and sell more obscene weapons (The woman turning arms fairs into art, G2, 28 July). My father was gassed during the first world war and died after many years of suffering. Is this the civilisation that he and others died for?
Vera Koenig
Headcorn, Kent

• Charlie Brooker (How can a party hope to sell a policy when it can’t even sell a decent keyring, 29 July) suggests that Labour should sell champagne from a co-op. The good news is that most champagnes are produced through French co-operatives already. Champagne socialists can go further too – most olive oil from Spain and most parmesan from Italy is co-operative. Some dreams don’t have to wait.
Ed Mayo
Secretary general, Co-operatives UK

• With the rebuilding of Eastbourne pier surely on the agenda (Report, 31 July), what better time to erect a statue to one of the resort’s most unlikely fans at its entrance. Friedrich Engels spent much time at a residence close to the pier, 4 Cavendish Place, in the 1880s and was there during his final illness in 1895.
Keith Flett
London

• When travelling to the capital of a country, one always goes “up” (Letters, 31 July). It is a question of status, not of direction.
Michael Haggie
Haydon Bridge, Northumberland

• Like June Hardie (Letters, 31 July) I have come to expect the misuse of the word anticipate. Misuse of endemic is systemic and it’s impossible to overestimate the misuse of underestimate.
David Reade
Bristol

Independent:

While any sign of a deal to resolve the conflict in Ukraine is welcome, it will be more complicated than your headline “Land for gas” (31 July) suggests. Four points must be addressed if progress is to be made.

First, the association agreement between Ukraine and the EU should be tweaked to remove any provisions that harm the legitimate economic interests of the member states of the Eurasian Union (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan).

Second, the Ukrainian constitution must recognise in practice the cultural rights of Russian, Hungarian and Tartar minorities. Here, the Belgian model of linguistic communities having devolved powers over culture and education offers an excellent example to follow, and avoids the problems of federalisation.

Third, plebiscites under OSCE supervision should be held in Crimea and the Donbas to ascertain whether the people in these regions wish to remain in a united Ukraine. Should there be a majority for separation – despite the constitutional changes made to safeguard cultural rights – then, fourthly, Russia should compensate Ukraine for the state property it will gain, and enter into a production sharing arrangement to share the proceeds from extracting coal, gas and oil from the seceding territories and any associated offshore reserves.

Greg Kaser
Oxford

Your front page of 31 July again demonstrates how lucky we are to be part of Europe and to benefit from the world-class leadership and negotiating skills of Angela Merkel. By comparison our Prime Minister looks like a bad-tempered, over-promoted double-glazing salesman.

Peter Argent
Romsey, Hampshire

 

Strategy for a greater Israel

John Dowling asks what Israel wants (letter, 31 July)? Having visited the West Bank and Israel recently, having passed through checkpoints on foot rather than in an air-conditioned tourist coach, and witnessed the humiliation to which ordinary Palestinians are subjected, I have concluded that Israel’s approach is two-pronged, as follows.

The first prong is the Waiting for Godot strategy. Israel will never accept a single-state solution. In a single state the Jewish Israelis might find themselves outnumbered and outvoted, especially if any “right to return” were to be granted to Palestinian refugees.

So it pretends to support a two-state solution at some vague time in the future, whilst all the time building on more and more Palestinian land. Eventually the audience, in this case the rest of the world, will wake up to the realisation that Godot will never arrive, at which point Netanyahu or his successor will insist that the world recognise “the reality on the ground”.

But the presence of millions of Muslim and Christian Arabs will prevent colonisation of the whole territory, which is where the second prong comes in. Subjected to decades of humiliation and degradation, barred from the main roads across their own land, disallowed airports or entry points of their own, and dominated by military installations complete with watch-towers, the Palestinians will eventually rebel.

I remember pleading with Palestinians not to retaliate, as that is just what the Israelis want. A third intifada will give Israel the excuse to employ the arsenal supplied to it by the Great Peacemaker from across the Atlantic to pulverise the Palestinians, for many of whom this will be the last straw; they will flee to Jordan, Lebanon or Syria.

Three or four cycles of this strategy should get rid of most of them.

Robert Curtis
Birmingham

 

I read that the United States has agreed to replenish Israel’s stock of ammunition to enable it to maintain its offensive in Gaza. On 18 July the US Senate voted unanimously, 97-0, in favour of Israel’s actions.

Could someone please explain to me what the wrong is that the Palestinian people have visited upon the people and administration of the United States of America that warrants them to be on the receiving end of such treatment?

Terry Mahoney
Sidlesham, West Sussex

 

Ghastly anthem for TEAM England

I have watched the Commonwealth Games with great pleasure and have supported Team England. However, my joy when we win gold is somewhat diminished when I have to listen to “Jerusalem”.

Jerusalem is the core of the dispute between Judaism and Islam, it is also at the centre of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. The ghastly story of the Middle East is totally entwined with Jerusalem. I can think of no place worse than Jerusalem to build in England’s green and pleasant land.

Please can those who make the choices try again? There are so many brilliant composers, so many beautiful pieces of music to choose from, and if it must be nationalistic, Elgar is as English as the river Thames.

D Sawtell
Tydd St Giles, Cambridgeshire

Bank Holidays with no religion

Like Grace Dent (29 July) I think that the UK would benefit from a new Bank Holiday or two. We have fewer public holidays than most members of the EU. However, holidays linked to religious festivals such as Eid or Diwali would not be appropriate.

Muslims and Hindus are only 7 per cent of the UK population. The date of Eid varies from year to year. Diwali is close enough to Christmas to make extra bank holidays a problem for business. If we give these two religions their own Bank Holidays where would it finish? Would we get the solstices off for the pagans, and Yom Kippur and Chanukah for the Jews?

No. I suggest that it would be far more useful to have two new Bank Holidays on the days after the clocks go forward and backward in the autumn and spring. This would give workers time to get their body clocks sorted, and would occur at times of the year when there are at present no Bank Holidays.

Liz White
Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire

 

Picking the new head of the BBC Trust

Your article “MPs attack ‘biased’ shortlist for BBC Trust head” (30 July) was incorrect in stating that Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, would be leading the panel to appoint the new Chair of the BBC Trust.

As is the case for the appointments of the chairs of all public bodies that I regulate, the selection panel is being chaired by an independent public appointments assessor. The assessor is appointed by me and his role is to ensure that the selection of appointable candidates (including the drawing up of a shortlist of candidates) is made on merit, on the basis of fair and open competition, as set out in my published code of practice.

The list of appointable candidates, which is signed off only once those requirements have been met, is then submitted to the minister, who makes the final choice.

Sir David Normington
Commissioner for Public Appointments
London SW1

 

Sign of the times in a tin of soup

It is said that the existence of food banks is a sign of difficult times. If that is so, what does the increasing presence of those who rummage through other people’s rubbish and recycling bags mean? I used to think that only happened in Third World countries, but it appears I was wrong.

I realised one morning that the night before I had accidentally knocked an unopened tin of soup into a black plastic bag containing rubbish to be put out for collection. I am an early riser so when I get up I often check to see whether the bags have been collected. I found that the bag had been broken open and the tin of soup had gone.

Somehow, I do not think I can blame a seagull this time.

Barbara MacArthur
Cardiff

 

What is the point of business studies?

I enjoyed Emma Wilson’s letter about business studies (31 July). A holder of degrees in natural sciences and then an MBA, I have never rated business studies highly as an academic discipline.

What is the use of hypotheses that can’t be tested or models that can’t predict anything? The only value of MBAs is to help those who have them – and the universities that offer them – to earn more money.

The Rev Dr Andrew Craig
Hartlepool

 

Marxist ideologue by the seaside

With the unfortunate fire at Eastbourne pier, rebuilding is surely on the agenda. What better time to finally erect a statue to one of the seaside resort’s most unlikely fans, Friedrich Engels.

Particularly after his early retirement from the family firm, Engels spent much time at a residence close to the pier, 4 Cavendish Place, in the 1880s and was there during his final illness in 1895.

Keith Flett
London N17

Times:

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Published at 12:01AM, August 1 2014

Debate over the impartiality of news coverage and the need for a trusted mediator

Sir, Lord Hylton questions the balance of BBC reporting (letter, July 31). For weeks I have been watching in vain on British media to see pictures of Gazan military men let alone rockets being launched or even guns. All we see are civilians, medics and international supporters. Journalists’ live reports and interviews (including the words allegedly spoken to the translators) are uncannily similar on all media.

We now read in Italian sources that Hamas has been preventing journalists from properly reporting by physical threats. The BBC and others should tell us whether their journalists in Gaza can fairly report (within the proper confines of military censorship). If not, all reports from Gaza should carry a warning explaining the situation.

David Rose
Herzliya, Israel

Sir, Lord Hylton considers it appropriate to form an opinion of the BBC’s coverage of the last three weeks of Israel’s defence against Hamas based on two hours’ television viewing on one evening. His expressed “regret” is mistaken. The BBC has done an excellent job showing the Gazan side of this crisis.

David Lederman
London NW11

Sir, Lord Hylton is dismayed at the BBC’s editorial coverage on Palestine and Israel. I beg to differ. We do not need to hear the perspective of Hamas. The BBC is to be commended for airing the horrendous scenes from Gaza, the utter destruction of lives and livelihoods, the demolition of homes, mosques, schools, UN installations, markets and apartment blocks and the gruesome murder of innocent children. Israel has even destroyed the only power plant in Gaza, threatening not only the human health and the environment but collectively punishing an entire people, depriving them of the basic ingredients of life. Does anyone still need a verifiable proof of Israel’s crimes against humanity and its dismal record on human rights?

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob
London NW2

Sir, Lord Hylton has successfully found one of the very few reports which does not, overtly, severely criticise the Israeli response to Hamas rockets.

Dr R Million
Manchester

Sir, Professor Baron-Cohen’s appeal (letter, July 29) to leaders in Israel and Gaza to start a new politics based on respect, dignity and empathy is a compelling reminder of what was needed to advance the peace process within Northern Ireland. As a Northern Irish mother of two boys who are now growing up with a respect for all Irish people regardless of their religious or political preferences and street address, I believe peace can be achieved only through a third-party intermediation that is perceived to be non-partisan by both sides. It was two Americans, George Mitchell, followed by Richard Haass, who were seen as neutral brokers by all sides in Northern Ireland. This led to the diplomacy where both sides were trying to accommodate each other’s needs despite inevitable underlying tensions.

Surely this is what is now needed in the Middle East. Maybe when the fathers on both sides can imagine how it is for the other side’s mothers to see their children die, they will find the courage to let go of their national pride and come together to find a diplomatic resolution. We can all live in hope.

Claire Uwins
Bushmills, Co Antrim

Sir, We applaud Professor Baron-Cohen, Ahmad Abu-Akel and Haifa Staiti (letter, July 29) for appealing for dialogue but we fear they address the wrong people, for the Israeli and the Hamas leaderships are hostage to a much wider dynamic.

The conflict will continue without an international forum that addresses the interests of the antagonists’ patrons (the US, Iran, Europe), the onlookers (a media that satisfies its audiences’ blood lust), and the antagonists (apocalyptic fundamentalists who allow no divergence from their world views).

It is the patrons, bystanders and the antagonists who need to talk so that they can be made aware of how their own wider systemic and unconscious dynamics influence the inter-locking systems of conflict and behaviour that eventually end up fuelling the fires raging in Gaza.

A plea for peace will not succeed without a deep understanding of the driving forces of hatred that exist in all the parties.

Dr Mannie Sher
Dr Leslie Brissett
Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, London, EC2

Yes, the Germans did start the First World Wars, says one distinguished historian

Sir, Fritz Fischer aligned West German views on the origins of the First World War with those of the Allies at the Paris peace conferences on the basis of incontestable new archival evidence which proved the verdict of Versailles to have been fundamentally just (“Did we cause the Great War, ask Germans”, July 29).

Reich Chancellor von Bethmann Hollweg’s notorious programme of 9 September 1914 envisaging a Europe dominated by Germany — Fischer’s most significant discovery, published in 1961 in his study of Germany’s war aims — was no more the fruit of British propaganda than was Helmuth von Moltke’s insistence at the so-called “war council” on 8 December 1912 on “war the sooner the better”. This was the cornerstone of Fischer’s second book chronicling Germany’s moving to a decision for war in 1911-14. Indeed Moltke himself complained after his dismissal as chief of the Great General Staff: “It is dreadful to be condemned to inactivity in this war which I prepared and initiated.”

The bitter Fischer controversy of the 1960s played a crucial part in the democratisation of West German civil society after the Second World War, helping to lay the foundations for the trust the Federal Republic now enjoys, and without which neither the reunification of the country nor the leadership role that has fallen to it in a European Union of 28 nations seems thinkable.

It is to be hoped that the enthusiasm generated by recent works proclaiming the “innocence” of the Kaiser and his advisers for the catastrophe of July 1914 subsides again before any damage is done to the Federal Republic’s admirable reputation for dealing frankly with a difficult history.

Professor Emeritus
John CG Röhl

Kingston, Sussex

The strong-man leader of Russia does not admit it but there are signs that he may be a closet Christian

Sir, Apropos your convincing portrait of Vladimir Putin (T2, July 30), it would have been interesting to know more about his meteoric accession to the top job. There must have been much wheeling and dealing, but none of this has become public knowledge.

Second, you say “his life is not that of a Christian”. This may seem to be self-evident, but he is said to have a regular confessor. Putin’s Christian “image” is important to him. Was his dash to meet Patriarch Kirill after the destruction of the Malaysian airliner in his schedule, or was it a horrified reaction to seek counsel? It was surely more than a photo opportunity.

Canon Dr Michael Bourdeaux

Oxford

Glamorous actress who brought gaiety to the nation was not above planting racy stories about herself in the media

Sir, In your obituary of Sally Farmiloe (July 31) you say that she was “caught in a cupboard clinch with Malcolm Jamieson”.

If I had been caught in flagrante with the lovely Sally Farmiloe I think I would remember it but I have no such recollection at all. Perhaps it’s a pity to spoil an amusing tale but one should bear in mind that Sally was rather adept at planting racy stories about herself in the papers to raise her profile. I only wish life at the boring BBC had been half as exciting as it sounds. Nevertheless, Sally’s adventures, imaginary or otherwise, brought gaiety to the nation, and I was very sad to hear of her premature passing.

Malcolm Jamieson

London W10

Richard Dawkins has drawn attention to himself by apparently underplaying the trauma of rape

Sir, Richard Dawkins’s comments on rape are neither ignorant nor extremely offensive (“Dawkins incites fury with his theory of ‘mild rape’”, July 30). For the End Violence Against Women Coalition and Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty to imply that all rape is the same is disingenuous. If I, a sexually experienced adult woman, was raped, it would be a terrible crime. If a virgin of 15 was raped, the crime would be far worse. If a knife were held to our throats for the crime to be committed it would be worse again.

I fail to see how any logical person doesn’t see this. Women do themselves a disservice in insisting that there are no degrees of rape or sexual violence.

For the avoidance of doubt, I am a feminist and a lesbian.

Jayne Lindley

Powys

Sir, While I would question the motivation behind Richard Dawkins’s use of rape as a method of explaining syllogistic logic (traditionally it was black crows), the reaction of feminist groups is illogical and demeaning.

Presumably the law courts have to distinguish between levels of offence every time they impose varying levels of sentence — or would the feminist groups just stone all offenders indiscriminately?

Sarah Watkins

Ingworth, N Norfolk

Telegraph:

The sun sets over Worthy Farm in Pilton during the 2014 Glastonbury festival Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

6:57AM BST 31 Jul 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – John Wilkins contends that the first verse of “Jerusalem” consists of four questions, the answer to all of which is “No”.

There is a belief in the West Country and Cornwall that Joseph of Arimathea came to Pilton near Glastonbury during one of his voyages to buy lead, which was mined in the Mendips. He is also said to have brought Jesus with him. If this is true, then the answer to the first three questions is “Yes”. The fourth is more hypothetical and defies a yes or no answer.

Joan Hill
Wells, Somerset

SIR – Surely the problem of the English national anthem was solved many years ago by Flanders and Swann, with their “Song of Patriotic Prejudice”.

After denigrating every other British nation in turn, the chorus runs: “The English, the English, the English are best / I wouldn’t give tuppence for all of the rest.”

Gavin Barr
Ashford, Kent

A leap of faith

SIR – Your obituary of Lettice Curtis reminded me of another member of the Air Transport Auxillary who was also a member of the “First Woman To…” club.

Second Officer Vera Turl joined the ATA at the outbreak of war and was responsible for the parachute section. She had become the first woman to hold an Air Ministry parachute licence when she was parachuting at Brooklands in 1934. She would recall that, given the difficulty of steering parachutes in those early days, “If you hadn’t landed in the sewage works, you hadn’t jumped at Brooklands”. If she came down on the racing track, the drivers would screech to a halt and pick her up.

How do I know all this? She was my mother.

Anthony Turl
London SW1

Hidden costs

SIR – Your article about supermarket trends informs us that Aldi’s boys’ school trousers sell for £1.50.

Perhaps the eager “middle-class customers” referred to in the article might take a moment to reflect on the likely conditions in which these trousers have been produced and on the share of this price that is likely to have been paid to the workers making the goods.

Dr John Fleming
Chertsey, Surrey

The long and the short

SIR – Nothing looks worse than long shorts on short legs.

This photo of fellow gunners “Skinny and Bill”, taken in 1948 during our National Service on Malta GC, demonstrates the fact admirably.

Bernard Parkin
Woodmancote, Gloucestershire

A weighty dilemma

SIR – Over the years I have given up smoking many times, and every time I have put on more than a stone in weight. I have therefore had to choose between being obese or a social outcast.

I chose the latter. Women prefer it.

Jack Richard
Hitchin, Hertfordshire

Sanctions on Russia

SIR – Despite David Cameron’s protestations that the economic burden of EU sanctions against Russia should be spread across the bigger countries, it looks as if Britain is going to suffer a disproportionate hit to our financial services industry.

I’m reminded of the excellent Seventies comedy The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, wherein Reggie’s boss would call to make an appointment. Reggie would reply that any time would be convenient, except two o’clock. Inevitably, Reggie always ended up agreeing to a two o’clock appointment.

Does this now typify our relationship with the EU?

Tom Jefferson
Howden, East Yorkshire

Domestic abuse laws

SIR – The Prime Minister is right to recognise the need for reform of how the justice system tackles domestic abuse. One of the challenges is encouraging people to come forward to get help. A study by Citizens Advice found that, when asked, 27 per cent of people seeking help from our bureau reported some sort of domestic abuse, but less than 1 per cent reported abuse unprompted.

As politicians look at how the justice system can work better for victims, they should also remember that abuse can take many forms. People need support to take the brave step of reporting perpetrators, confident that their case will be handled sympathetically and that they will get the justice they deserve.

Gillian Guy
Chief Executive, Citizens Advice
London EC1

Hands off the wheel

SIR – You report that driverless cars are to be legalised on “quiet British streets” next year.

It would be better to start by allowing them on restricted roadways. Amusement parks could use them to take customers around the attractions, and in airports they could transfer people between terminals.

They do not have to be perfect. They just need to be proved safer than human drivers, after which their introduction to Britain’s main roads could begin.

Brian Gilbert
Hampton, Middlesex

SIR – I hope someone has programmed the driverless cars to avoid potholes.

Tony Cross
Sevenoaks, Kent

The true story of the Yangtze Incident

SIR – As one of the few still alive from the ship’s company of HMS Concord, I would stress just how upsetting longstanding misinformation about the Yangtze Incident has been.

Admiral Sir Patrick Brind, who was Commander-in-Chief Far East at the time, detached Concord to the Yangtze river on July 27 1949. Concord entered the estuary on July 28 to sweep for reported mines by means of its sonar and to prepare for a possible gun battle. Towing gear was prepared in readiness to tow HMS Amethyst should she break down during her escape. The Chinese nationalists “buzzed” Concord by sea and air to demonstrate their annoyance at her entry to this part of the river under their control.

During the evening of July 31, Lt Cdr John Kerans, the Amethyst’s captain, signalled the Admiral that he intended to break out at 22:00 and to inform Concord accordingly. The two ships met off Woosung at 05:30, as Kerans had requested, Concord placing herself between Amethyst and the gun battery so as to protect her. The two ships remained at action stations for a further hour and a half until reaching the open sea at 07:15.

The British ambassador sent a telegram on August 1 to all concerned which read “Amethyst. No, repeat no publicity should be given to the fact that H.M. Ship Concord entered Chinese territorial waters.”

The Admiralty press release on August 2 stated: “HMS Concord was waiting at the mouth of the Yangtze ready to proceed up river should HMS Amethyst be attacked.” Since that time all reports of the incident have stated these very words.

It was as recently as July 12 2013 that Mark Francois, the Armed Forces minister, finally confirmed that Concord had sailed 57 nautical miles up the river.

Derek Hodgson
Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire

SIR – Both Lawrence Earl’s account of Amethyst’s trials, published in 1950, and Jack Broome’s “Make Another Signal” (1973), refer to the fact that Amethyst and Concord met off Woosung. This meeting prompted the famous exchange of signals: Concord to Amethyst – “Fancy meeting you again”, and Amethyst to Concord – “Never, never has a ship been more welcome”.

David Muir
Stoke Gifford, Gloucestershire

The sweet treat that keeps for thousands of years

The label on a box of honeycomb recounts the treat’s long history

Hieroglyph of a bee from an inscription

A hieroglyph in Karnak, Egypt, where, in ancient myth, bees were the tears of the sun-god Ra

6:59AM BST 31 Jul 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – While enjoying my honeycomb I read on the box that “honey is one of the oldest and purest foods known to man. It has been found in beeswax-sealed pots in the tombs of the pharaohs well over 2,000 years old and still perfectly edible.”

Imagine my disappointment when the “Best Before End” date was 2017, not 4017. Perhaps it had just been on the shelf for a very long time.

Michael McKeag
Belfast

New legislation will mean that those arriving in Britain cannot claim benefits for at least three months Photo: REX

7:00AM BST 31 Jul 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – The Prime Minister is taking steps to limit the benefits that can be claimed by EU migrants, but this does not address the fundamental issue that we have lost control of our borders. The British Government – not the European Union – should decide who is allowed into our country.

We also need to reclaim the right to deport anyone we wish, after due process via our legal system.

Andy Bebbington
Stone, Staffordshire

SIR – Yet again David Cameron is missing the point (perhaps deliberately) on Europe, and getting sidetracked. Immigration and universal benefits are not the main concern. Sovereignty is the overwhelming issue. Regain our sovereignty, and we can deal with all other challenges easily, and by ourselves.

Of course, Mr Cameron can easily achieve a return of self-governance by holding an in/out referendum before the next election, with the consequence of removing the Ukip threat to his continued tenancy of No 10.

John Newman
Pattishall, Northamptonshire

SIR – Are taxpayers’ objections to funding benefits to immigrants who have not paid into the British tax system alleviated by Mr Cameron cutting the period of “entitlement” from six months to three? The objection is a matter of principle.

John Allison
Maidenhead, Berkshire

SIR – A recent migrant to Britain will have had the costs of his upbringing – health care, education, etc – borne by his home country. In contrast, a local school-leaver or university graduate has been supported by the British taxpayer up to the date he becomes a taxpayer himself.

Arguably, we benefit from having other countries educate our workforce. In that context, are migrants really such a drain? Shouldn’t we be embracing more of them?

Dr Neil Lowrie
Sheffield, South Yorkshire

SIR – David Cameron is selective when he claims to be supporting British families, since he discriminates against those whose sons or daughters have spouses from outside the EU and who currently live abroad.

Our British son and his South African wife, married for 10 years, want to return to Britain to live and work. The visa requirements for our daughter-in-law are draconian and discriminatory and the £900 application fee is non-refundable, should her application be rejected for whatever reason. Many British families are in this untenable position. Does any other government discriminate against its own citizens in favour of those from the EU, who face no such restrictions on where their spouses or their families are born?

Susan Gorton
Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – On BBC’s Newsnight (July 30th) a spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, Binjamin Netanyahu, said: “We don’t want to hurt innocent Gazan civilians, that’s not our desire. We have a policy. We don’t target civilians.”

Incredibly, this comment was not just left to rest unchallenged but was, in fact, repeated a number of times. The evidence that Israel is, in fact, completely unconcerned about the human toll in Gaza is overwhelming. It is indisputable. Courtesy of the skill and bravery of cameramen and reporters in the field no unbiased eye could but be appalled by the complete abandonment of the principles of international law of a nation that presents itself as a modern, mature, democratic state.

Over and over again targets that are primarily places of refuge for a frightened people have been bombed to oblivion, even in cases where the United Nations had, well in advance, advised the Israeli Defence Forces of the exact co-ordinates of the schools, hospitals and playgrounds where civilians were sheltering.

We are told that Israel has one of the world’s most powerful and sophisticated armed forces, with what some experts describe as unparalleled military technology. How then, in addressing the threat posed by Hamas, can such systems be failing so abysmally to effect the stated purpose for which they are being deployed? Furthermore, if the sole objective is to “root out Hamas” and weeks after the bombardment commenced little or no progress has been made in that respect, how can spokesmen for Israel be allowed by western media to feign concern for the lives of the people of Gaza.

The lack of a meaningful response by western governments is not good enough even if, in part, it is on account of sensitivities relating to the unspeakable horrors visited upon the Jewish people during the second World War. This is about the actions of a sovereign state that purports to be among the world’s sophisticated nations. The failure of the EU and its member states, including Ireland, to support the recent Human Rights Council’s resolution to establish a commission of inquiry into Israel’s actions was the ultimate proof of a complete lack of moral leadership.

In the 1940s there was, to put it at its kindest, an institutional paralysis in Europe around the growing threat to the Jewish people. Today, when we are witness to state-sponsored killing on a grand scale – which is exactly what Israel is responsible for in Gaza – then in the absence of leadership from those who govern, citizens have a responsibility to express their alarm. Protests need to grow in number, scale and in voice. The boycotts need to be across every product imported here from Israel (from oranges to cosmetics) and should cover events where Israel is represented.

All the actions taken should be lawful, with the express purpose of displaying to the state of Israel that we are horrified by its engagement in war crimes and its complete abandonment of the most basic principles of democracy and human rights. Yours, etc,

FC DRURY,

Kilmore Avenue,

Killiney,

Co Dublin

Sir, – In responding to my previous letter, Simon Fuller (July 31st) says that Hamas chooses to smuggle rockets and weaponry into Gaza rather than food or medical supplies because “rockets are small, but the trucks of food and medical supplies … are very big.” Perhaps Mr Fuller should acquaint himself with the exact scale of the Hamas rocket arsenal.

The Hamas weapon of choice is known as the Qassam rocket, which weighs 50 kilos and is 250 centimetres long, over half the length of an average saloon car. In the month of July alone 2,500 such rockets have been fired by Hamas, which amounts to over 130 tonnes of hardware. It would take six articulated trucks to transport this much material, and that’s before you consider the stockpiles of rockets and weapons which have yet to be used.

To put this in perspective, an average person eats about five pounds of food per day, so 130 tonnes of food could have fed around 2,000 people for the entire month that this conflict has raged.

And yet Mr Fuller seems to think that it is acceptable for Hamas to use their smuggling routes for importing rockets rather than for items which would keep their people alive. How dare he accuse me, or anyone else, of “moral apathy” while displaying such a disgusting attitude. – Yours, etc,

THOMAS RYAN BL,

Mount Tallant Avenue,

Dublin 6W

Sir, – Lest anyone think otherwise I am no cheerleader for the IDF. Their actions in the current conflict seem in many instances reprehensible. Nonetheless, I can’t help thinking that were Hamas to expend even half the amount of energy they use on their rockets on bringing food and medicines to their people, the situation in Gaza would be far less unbearable.

Of course I fully appreciate that my analysis might be simplistic. This most recent outbreak of violence has made one thing clear: Ireland has an inordinate number of Israeli/Palestinian “experts”. Yours, etc,

BRIAN AHERN,

Meadow Copse,

Clonsilla,

Dublin 15

Sir, – Israel justifies its continuous assault on Gaza by arguing that a state has the right to defend itself. For 30 years Britain was subject to continuous attack from the Provisional IRA. During the course of that campaign the Provos attempted to wipe out the British cabinet in Brighton, killed a close relative of the queen and members of parliament, while car bombs brought death and destruction to British cities for many years.

Certainly questions can be asked about the origins of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings but there is little evidence of the indiscriminate targeting of civilians, as is happening in Gaza.

British patience and restraint paid off in the end and the “Irish question” was resolved to the satisfaction of both sides. Perhaps Israel could learn from the British experience. Yours, etc,

JOE COY,

Kilbannon,

Tuam,

Co Galway

A chara, – I wish Heather Humphreys well with her invitation to Kevin Myers, late of your parish, to join in the all-inclusive 1916 celebrations. I would also like to assure Derek Henry Carr (Letters, July 29th) that he is not alone in his distaste for the manner in which many in this country are succumbing to 1914 revisionism and toadyism.

What is particularly galling is that any effort to mount a tribute to the needlessly dead men and women is hijacked by the very establishment that sent them to their deaths in the first place.

In a similar vein I was informed last year that it was proposed that a memorial be built in this country to commemorate the Irish men who were killed in the American forces in Vietnam.  I objected to this at the time it was proposed.

I lost a cousin in this venture and can see no reason to allow the American forces to revel in this and exclude a memorial to the Vietnamese who lost their lives.

To add insult to injury the defence forces of this country, in which my father served for many years, are now turned against citizens who choose to remonstrate against the American forces at Shannon airport. Can no one protect us from sleeveenism? Yours, etc,

PÁDRAIG UA BRIAIN,

Brú na Fána,

Coill na bhFearraibh

Baile an Chabháin

Sir, — Patrick Cooney (Letters, July 30th) claims that the Easter Rising “belongs” to those who are republicans. The republican ideal is an all-inclusive one, in which people of differing beliefs and opinions are accommodated. Sadly, not only in an Irish context, but also in the USA, it has come to mean the polar opposite. That Mr Cooney should claim that 1916 should “belong” to republicans to the exclusion of others is richly ironic. – Yours, etc,

PADDY SWEETMAN,

Clarinda Park East,

Dún Laoghaire

Sir, – Well, well, the apologists for 100 years of division, strife and terror have finally let a chink of light shine from their lair. I for one do not want to own a part of the actions of a few unelected and self-appointed so-called revolutionaries. So Patrick Cooney can rest assured he can have his commemorations to himself. – Yours, etc,

JOHN K ROGERS,

Ballydorey,

Co Westmeath

Sir, – You rightly require all those writing to your Letters page to provide a full name and address, plus a contact phone number for verification purposes. It is nice to know that those expressing views therein are prepared publicly to stand over their opinions.

On the other hand, you permit anonymity to those who wish to comment online on the writings of your columnists. I have heard it argued that this is a good thing, allowing readers a private voice where they might be otherwise reluctant to speak out for fear of adverse reaction, that their forthright views might lead to repercussions, perhaps in the workplace.

Alas, a perusal of your commentariat’s contributions will reveal a startling lack of revolutionary writing or radical thinking. None of your online correspondents has ever submitted anything that should cause them to fear the banging on their door at 4am of the Thought Police. On the contrary, anonymity seems to foster banality. It encourages those among us who confuse cynicism with sophistication, who shout from the darkened back of the hall in a feigned accent.

Michael Harding, for instance, has attracted the attentions of a couple of nasty ankle-biters who, from the long grasses of anonymity, sneer asides that are irrelevant to the subject before scurrying off to self-satisfied smugtown.

Apart from the fact that such sniping must dishearten your columnists (though I hope they have the good sense not to read these faceless interjections) it is typical of everything that is wrong in this country: griping and groaning on the bus and in the pub, nodding with a smile when the server asks “was everything OK with your meal?” You should scrap this shoddy forum for cowards. Yours, etc,

LIAM STENSON,

Knocknacarra,

Galway

Sir, – The exchanges between members of the Irish Times online commentariat are not always unbecoming. In the comments under Vincent Twomey’s opinion piece (“What’s wrong with the proposed mother and babies home commission”, July 29th), a Margo_Sweetbread addressed a fellow debater as “sir”, while disagreeing vehemently with his views. – Yours, etc,

JOHN O’BYRNE,

Mount Argus Court,

Dublin 6W

Sir, – Thankfully another marching season in Northern Ireland has come to an end without too much trouble. However, as usual, huge resources in time and money have been used to keep the peace and avoid injury and loss of life.

Environmental damage has undoubtedly been done with the lighting of massive bonfires, often consisting of enormous numbers of tyres. No other area in first world Europe would tolerate this massive pollution. Why should Northern Ireland?

Llike all other reasonable ethnic groups or nationalities they should be content to celebrate their heritage on one day, and in the process not encumber or disrupt others.Let them have private celebrations on private lands when they wish but public thoroughfares should not be used in this manner.

Year after year thousands of residents from the North literally escape the marching season – “marching season refugees” if you will. I welcome their presence here but wish they were not coerced into leaving their homes. – Yours, etc,

JEREMY KENNY,

Jamestown Business Park,

Dublin 8

Sir, – I couldn’t agree more with the sentiments expressed by Máire Úna Ní­ Bheaglaoich (July 31st), “an actual busker”, regarding the deafening cacophony of noise that amplified My Way clones inflict on pedestrians on Dublin’s Grafton Street. Something should be done about these musically challenged individuals. They must, as Ms Ni Bheaglaoich writes, be deterred from “hogging prime slots all day and sidelining young traditional players”. – Yours, etc,

PAUL DELANEY,

Beacon Hill,

Dalkey,

Co Dublin

Sir , – Máire Úna Ní Bheaglaoich does her case as an “actual busker” much harm by denigrating others present in Grafton Street, especially “greedy beggars”. I suspect that most beggars are there out of need rather than greed unlike so many buskers, who are there presumably for the “craic”. – Yours, etc, – Brendan Butler

The Moorings,

Malahide,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Chris Johns (July 29th) presents a profound misreading of Thomas Piketty’s analysis in Capital in the 21st Century.

The core argument of the book is that wealth has become more and more concentrated in fewer hands due to the effect of high returns to capital income and low economic growth. The ESRI report on income distribution actually confirms a core finding of Piketty’s analysis, namely that the middle class carries the heaviest burden in funding the social state.

The increasing concentration of wealth suggests that inheritance and rent rather than hard work or merit will determine the politics of distribution in the 21st century. The core policy recommendation is to tax global financial capital to ensure the stability of the democratic state. In Ireland, corporate tax rates have remained unchanged while public services have been decimated. Yet the Government opposes a financial transaction tax and actively promotes tax competition in Europe. – Yours, etc,

DR AIDAN REGAN,

University College,

Dublin 4

Sir, – Thank you to Lara Marlowe for curating, so brilliantly, Countdown to war (July 31st) – a reprint from L’Humanité newspaper’s front page of August 1st, 1914. Jean Jaurès (the founder of the French socialist party and director of L’Humanité) had been assassinated the day before, in front of his colleagues, at a restaurant called Le Croissant. The front page article, recounting the horrific event the journalists had witnessed, includes the ellipsis a number of times ( … ) as if they had literally run out of words such was their shock and sadness. A reading of this piece brings me back 100 years, and I find myself swapping past tense verbs for the present tense, as if I am there, now, feeling their grief at the loss of a good man. “Jaurès spoke in his beautiful, deep voice […] Jaurès’s instructions! One had to have heard them to know in what a gentle voice he gave his instructions.” It reminds me that deep in every journalist there lies a beating heart. Yours, etc,

ALISON HACKETT,

Crosthwaite Park East,

Dún Laoghaire

Sir, – Niall Ó Cléirigh (July 31st), declares that he does not understand why Irish consultants are going to get a pay increase despite the OECD reporting that they are the best paid in the world. The 2013 OECD figures refer to average pay per specialist. Of the more than 2,500 consultants in this group, only a handful are new consultants, with the most recent terms and conditions. Their numbers are so low due to the unattractiveness of their contract and their pay levels have negligible effect on the overall average. It is these new doctors who will benefit from a staged, partial reversal of the recent pay reductions. I hope that this is clear. – Yours, etc,

DR WILLIAM BEHAN,

General Practitioner,

Cromwellsfort Road,

Dublin 12

Sir, – John Delaney thinks it fair that he receives a salary of €360,000 a year for the next five years on the basis that “it is a 24/7 job – weekends as well” (report, July 26th). Migrant workers building the new stadiums in Quatar (report, July 30th) share Mr Delaney’s long hours: they work on average 30 days per month – and earn €6.20 a day – less than €2,200 per annum. That’s if they live to the end of the year. Fair play Fifa style? Yours, etc,

AODH O’CONNOR,

Rockfield Avenue,

Perrystown,

Dublin 12

A chara, – Well done to Don Hoban for his 30 seconds of investigative skill. Unfortunately he chooses to ignore the central point. Who made the decision to drop the anthem that represents Ireland on the international stage in favour of a ditty not sanctioned as an anthem by anybody on the island of any particular persuasion? Presumably had Paddy McGinty’s Goat been chosen by whoever was entrusted with the decision that would just as easily have been acceptable for himself and our hockey ambassadors. – Is mise,

RORY O’ CALLAGHAN,

Mc Dowell Avenue,

Ceannt Fort,

Dublin 8

Irish Independent:

* Desmond FitzGerald (Letters, July 30) is correct in labelling Hamas as extremist, but he is very wrong in implying that it represents the majority view among Palestinians, only a portion of whom reside in the enclave that is Gaza. Hamas won a majority among people of voting age there who cast their votes. This does not signify a pan-Palestinian movement.

What a one-sided proposition Mr FitzGerald then makes. If Ariel Sharon were alive today he would hug him in delight for reiterating his own Great Zionist Dream, ie Palestinians do not exist. They are simply Jordanians, Lebanese, Egyptians, etc who have not yet been granted citizenship in those countries. This “solution” denigrates the Palestinian people and denies to them the right to their own identity and self-determination.

By suggesting that Palestinian refugees live in ghettos that are self-created, Mr FitzGerald conveniently ignores the history of Palestine since 1947-48 when mass expulsions of Palestinians by the then Israeli army took place. Many others not expelled fled in terror as refugees from the fighting. The refugee camps dismissed as “self-created ghettos” arose through those events. Against international law, these refugees were denied the right to return to their homes by Israel when the conflict ended.

The elephant in the room hasn’t gone away. The underlying grievance of the illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem since 1967, if addressed, would go a long way towards finding a peaceful solution to the whole Israeli-Palestinian problem.

BERNARD KEOGH

CLONTARF, DUBLIN 3.

Expel the Israeli ambassador

* In a world which is more accessible by social media, it is distressing to have a front seat and witness the genocide of innocent men, women and children in Gaza. This year marks 100 years since the start of World War I, a war so devastating to the lives of countless men, women and children, that it was vowed no such war should ever take place again.

Yet, the world continues in an endless cycle of death and destruction to the lives of ordinary individuals. Meanwhile, we all watch behind the screen of our phones and laptops, engaged but unable to truly influence and halting this sad state of affairs. Or are we? Is this distance merely an excuse to turn our backs on humanity at this time?

Our Constitution is premised on the right to life and the protection of that life. Yet, we stand by in the wings waiting to be prompted by the EU before taking any stand to protect the lives of human beings who are outside of our borders.

Don’t they too deserve our emphatic and passionate defence of life?

There has never been a better time to finally expel the Israeli ambassador to Ireland.

This is a real and tangible display of our outrage at the genocide in Gaza. It is a step towards re-establishing our sovereignty in the eyes of Europe. It is a mark of our self-determination that as a nation we live by our principles and our humanity that were generously gifted to us by our forefathers.

Expelling the Israeli ambassador is the first step in a meaningful Irish re-engagement with the fundamental principles upon which the State was founded. Standing with the people of Gaza is honourable way to remember the sacrifices made for our own independence.

I urge the Government to undertake this measure and I urge all citizens to contact their local representatives and support the people of Gaza by taking this stand.

LABHLAOISE NI THROIGHIGH

PORTLAOISE

GAZA \AND OUR OWN TROUBLES

* I read with interest that a secular country like France has offered asylum to the thousands of Christians driven from their homes by the Islamist terror group currently rampaging through much of Iraq.

These Islamist terror groups are doing the same in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. There is very little concern expressed in this country even though the problem has been highlighted for a long time.

Our Government would not consider it PC to offer asylum to these Christians.

Well done France. Every day the national news is about Gaza. Apparently in the eyes of the media the war in Gaza will only be just if the same number of casualties can be achieved on both sides. I notice the cameras seem to highlight only the grief of Palestinians.

Surely Hamas is responsible for their pain and therefore must resolve this by discussion.

I find it extraordinary how people in Ireland are so concerned about the war in Gaza and yet when the 30-year war was happening in the North of Ireland – which had plenty of brutality – these same people would avoid travelling there at all costs.

E MURPHY

CAVAN

TAKING THE SKELLIG MICHAEL

* The recent filming of a ‘Star Wars’ film on Skellig Michael should be viewed by the citizens of Ireland as a disturbing new episode of wrong-doing by those tasked with governing our country.

Unesco, which awarded the location world heritage status in 1996, is raising the issue as are numerous other domestic organisations.

We should not forget that this is an ancient historic site belonging to the Irish people, and not a modern film set which can be sold for a few euro to a movie company.

The one facet of the whole sorry episode that disturbed me most was the images of an Irish naval patrol vessel being used to enforce an exclusion zone around the island in order that a commercial company could make a movie.

MICHAEL KELLY

DUBLIN 15

QUESTIONS ON ‘HOLE IN WALL’ FIASCO

* Wow! The silence is deafening! How many teachers, gardai, nurses went to the ‘hole-in-the-wall’ only to find nothing came out!

Yes, the empty ‘hole-in-the-wall’ has happened but it has been downplayed to the point that it gets a mere mention at the end of RTE news bulletins. I have the following questions which, I presume, none of us except the Government and banks have the answers to:

l Will this happen with greater frequency to public servants in the future?

* This occurrence calls into question the whole Paypath system. Who does Paypath really convenience? The professional who wants quick access to his/her salary or the bank? Psychologically, a worker needs/deserves first-hand access to the fruits of his/her labours. In terms of self-esteem, motivation, satisfaction and engagement in one’s work, the professional must be assured that he/she can enjoy the fruits of his/her hard earned salary and retain command over what he/she does with that money. Not so, under the Paypath system.

* The public, we are told, owns over 90pc of AIB which has reported profits for the first time since 2008. How will these profits manifest for the ordinary citizen who has bailed out the banks?

* So, final question, who is fooling who? Is the country in recovery mode? Who actually runs the country? After this morning’s ‘glitch’, do public servants actually realise how volatile they are? When are we supposed ‘intelligent’ Irish going to wake up to reality?

TERESA HAND-CAMPBELL, MSC

PRINCIPAL \AND OCCUPATIONAL PSYCHOLOGIST,

ATHLONE, CO ROSCOMMON

Irish Independent

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