Each month the Government makes a big announcement to degrade our environment. Two months ago it was allowing the farming lobby to indulge its fetish for killing badgers irrespective of the scientific evidence on Bovine TB, and last month itwas introducing a presumption in favour of development on those parts of the countryside not specifically listed as Green Belt.
This month’s initiative panders to aggressively selfish petrolheads by raising motorway speed limits despite the resulting increase in CO2 emissions. Anyone who supported theTories believing claims that this would be “the greenest government ever” and that they could vote blue and go green”, and anyone who voted Liberal believing that they are environmentally principled, must now feel very silly.
When I was learning to drive, I was told always to remember that driving a car was equivalent to carrying a loaded firearm with the safety catch off. Do any instructors say that now ? Cars may be “safer”, but the analogy still holds true. Are we really willing to raise the speed restrictions on our roads to favour 99 “safe” drivers, and simultaneously give one reckless driver, possibly unlicensed and uninsured, the same liberty? Is it not time all drivers recognised driving a car as a privilege not a right?
The most lethal and unavoidable drivers are “middle lane hoggers” who self-righteously drive at 68 mph in lane 2when lane 1 is empty and should be prosecuted for dangerous driving. Cars may have better brakes than in the 1960s but the speed of human reactions, even petrolhead reactions, hasn’t increased. Driving too close is common practice and the slow crawl past a pile of mangled cars with their attendant ambulances and police cars should be a reminder to all of us just how dangerous motorways can be.
Several things come to my mind over the proposed 80mph limits. One is how so few have mentioned braking distances. Another is how no one has talked about older or classic cars that will struggle. And most importantly it makes me wonder, what with all the hyperbole about debt that this government bangs on about: are they hoping to raise these funds through fuel duty?
Keith O’Neill (letter, 3 October) suggests that the latest proposal to raise the motorway speed limit “sends out the wrong signal on so many fronts”. The kind of road users to whom the idea will appeal most - those who get excited by going “neeeeoooww” round their imaginary Silverstone - tend not to bother with signalsanyway, front or back.
Is the Government, and particularly the Conservative wing of it, really not aware that the major threat to life on this planet is climate change? If it is aware, how can it contemplate raising the motorway speed limit, with the well-known resulting increase of fossil fuel consumption and the consequent higher emissions of CO2?
CHICHESTER, WEST SUSSEX
I wish the Government would also consider raising the speed limit of London’s buses to 80mph
US hoodlums hit Awlaki
After the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, can we take it as official that the United States of America has adopted the methods of dealing with its own and foreign citizens in the name of anti-terrorism which were previously associated with the old Soviet Union, Israel or Rwanda ?
I got to thinking about the days when America produced some big people that the whole world could be proud of. Dashiell Hammett, for instance, who, while working as a Pinkerton’s detective, turned down a $5,000 murder contract on a trades unionist (who was described by the lawyer of the mining company involved as a “terrorist”) and later went to prison for refusing to betray fellow Americans to Senator McCarthy’s assizes. Most of all, when I read that a Pentagon official had, saidthat “A very bad man just had a very bad day,” it reminded me of the braggadocio of the inept young hoodlum, Wilmurin Hammett’s great book The Maltese Falcon, and the hero Sam Spade’s response: “The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter.”
Imagine it is 1982 and an official from the Ministry of Defence has just announced the killingin Boston, Massachusetts, of Martin McGuinness and of the people withhimby a missile strike launched from a Royal Navy destroyer moored on the Boston River by saying: “A very bad man just had a very bad day.” The MOD official does not offer hard evidence just the assurance that he has been “linked with several attacks on British soil”. It would have been unthinkable. Why then, is it deemed acceptable for the US to carry out the illegal assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen along with other innocents?
Also, how can five of your journalists write so much about the event and not even mention once this inconsistency? I have little sympathy for “radical clerics” or anyone rallying the poor, oppressed and disenfranchised to violence. But, if we believethey have committed crimes, then we should get them into the dock of a criminal court and have them tried and prosecuted.
Family planning made easier
We read of 200,000 terminations a year, 65,000 children in care, 60 adoptions. Experience in general practice and the courts has shown me large numbers of families with far more children than mothers wanted. Because of exhaustion or chaotic lifestyle they were unable to prevent the pregnancies. Some women find it impossible to make an appointment at a surgery, and keep it, with small children in tow.
Surely it is time a domiciliary family planning service was set up,whereby family planning nurses go into homes identified by health visitors, midwives, GPs or practice nurses, and help women with contraception. It will cost a lot, but eventual savings in terms of health care, education, benefits, crime, and improving women’s health would far outweigh the running costs.
It is far more logical to prevent the birth of unwanted children than to pick up the pieces afterwards. Every baby born should have the right to bewanted.
VAT bounty with a catch
The Coalition Government's plans to put Council Tax rates on hold will do nothing to help the most disadvantaged groups in society, who do not pay it. They will, however, continue to suffer from the squeeze on benefits, increased food and fuel prices, and the higher level of VAT.
This suggests to me that we are not “all in it together”, but that what the Coalition really believes in is Nietzsche’s adage: “And him whom you cannot teach to fly, teach to fall faster.”
So the Tory truffle pigs have “managed to find” a couple of odoriferous lumps of cash. Quite sizable lumps, too, as truffles go - £250m snuffled out by Eric Pickles, £850m grubbed up by George Osborne - though they’ll need to be shaved thinly if we’re allgoing to get a sniff. And once again it’s clear that the best ground for truffle-hunting is in the vicinity of a party conference.
Face to face with death
I read the feature by Dr Margaret McCartney “The doctor’s dilemma” (28 September) and your leading article “A debate that will intensify” (29 September) with sad recognition. In January 2009 my husband Philip was diagnosed with metastatic bowel cancer. We were told he had between four and eight months to live. We were told that with palliative chemotherapy he might have 18 months of life. We seized upon this and Philip went through months of infection, misery and pain from the side effects of this “palliative” treatment until he died eight months after diagnosis. Right up to the last week of his existence he was desperately grasping any hope of new miracle treatment or drugs for an extension of life, even if they cost hundreds of thousands of pounds for at most a few months or even weeks extra before death. I could not believe that his existence was life but his obviously overwhelming belief was that simply continuing to breathe was, for him, “quality of life”, and loving him as I did, I did not make any comment, least of all any objection to his wishes.
Five years before his diagnosis, we would have agreed that in such circumstances nature should be left to take its course and that a peaceful and relatively comfortable last few months before death would be better than aggressive intervention. Philip, when faced with the reality of terminal disease and approaching death, felt very differently. I therefore understand the dilemma faced by doctors and judges inthese extremely hard cases. I share Dr McCartney’s reservations about, in particular, the unthinking headline-grabbing attitude of the press to new drugs which may or more often may not be the panacea claimed.
After Philip’s attitude when facing the reality, not the hypothetical possibility, of death, I have serious doubts as to the wisdom of accepting a person’s hypothetical acceptance of death rather than continued suffering, as guidance to their wishes whenfaced by the actual mental and or physical agony of lifethreatening illness and the approach of death.
ST ALBANS, HERTFORDSHIRE
Lessons to learn in Bahrain
In the article “Power struggle deepens divisions among Bahraini royal family” by Patrick Cockburn (27 September) there are a few points we would like to correct. While the foreign media has largely referred to “peaceful demonstration” since 14 February, it is unfortunate that protests escalated to include violence, rioting and widespread vandalism, instilling fear in the community with chaos reigning in the streets.
Naturally, at this point, the role of the security apparatus (under the Ministry of Interior) becomes a critical one in maintaining law and order, and rightfully places the police under scrutiny to ensure that officers work within the proper legal and ethical framework to carry out their duties. To that end, it is crucial that erroneous reports be corrected, such as the false statement that 90 Jordanian officers have been suspended from the Bahraini police force. In fact, an official at the Ministry of Interior stated that there are not any Jordanian officers in its employment.
The author’s allegations that the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) stated that marks of torture were visible on 63 detainees months after the acts are alleged to have taken place, is news to us, since their report is not due until late October. We look forward to this report, as the sincere desire to learn from this difficult experience and usher in a period of accountability and reconciliation is one felt all across Bahrain.
LUMA E BASHMI
INFORMATION AFFAIRS AUTHORITY
ISA TOWN, KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN
Kindle is getting there
I would endorse Linda Grant’s article (1 October) about her Kindle pretty much word for word. I bought mine about the same time and for the same reasons. I love its portability, the sampling element, the speed of downloading, but do not understand why e-books have to attract VAT when ordinary books don’t. It’s not as if publishers and authors, or even Amazon, benefit from that.
There are, though, two technical drawbacks. Its monochromatic presentation makes it like the Amstrad of the pcworld. I look forward to a Kindle with high-quality colour and an audio element that works. At present the audio version ignores all punctuation and is unlistenable to. Way to go yet, Amazon.
Walking out on the Witnesses
As an ex-Jehova's Witness it was with depressing familiarity that I read about the organisation’s latest attempt to control its members (27 September). When my family left, my mother was repeatedly told that she was “murdering her children” by leaving and condemning us to death in the forthcoming apocalypse - which still hasn’t happened after 30 years of waiting.
Although many Witnesses are decent people trying to do the best for their families, the organisation itself is a controlling sect. Faith should be about love, tolerance and understanding, not fear, control and hatred.
A nasty Home Secretary?
We have a Home Secretary who complains that the Human Rights Act stops her sending terror suspects abroad to torture and worse. By imposing elected Police Commissioners she has done her best to increase partypolitical control over thepolice forces of this country. She has fought (largely successfully) to retain control orders and her right to impose internal exile on those she considers to be terrorist threats. In a liberal democracy, how can she stay in her job?
Your headline “Shocking on the field, shocking off it”(3 October) says it all. That Martin Johnson can suggest that any of this “stuff” is “magnified” because of “the status England players have” beggars belief. “Dwarfgate”, “The Dunedin Three” and“Ballgate” are in the realms of up-you-could-not-make-it.
I enjoyed very much Robert Fisk’s description of his enduring distaste for silly language, entitled “The neverending war against cliché and jargon” (1 October). Yet “never-ending war” itself is surely a cliché.
DR ALEX MAY
In today’s concise crossword (3 October) is a “sofa bean” any relation to a couch potato?
Perspectives on equality
Who pays the Cameron household bills?
Mary Ann Sieghart (Opinion, 3 October) hits on a real problem the Tories have: David Cameron cannot conceal that he is an old-fashioned sexist.
As well as the instances she cites, what was almost worse was something he said on Sunday. While talking about how bill-payers are hard-pressed, he suggested many women are worried about how they are going to pay the household bills...
At this point, I think he lost my other half’s vote for ever. This was not overt, boorish sexism but an even more worrying dyed-in-the wool, set-in-stone revelation of character type. To Cameron it appears, good little women all stay at home while men go out to work.
He clearly needs to meet a few more women – I am sure my wife would be happy to enlighten him on equality and the norms of modern life. Some of them are really jolly clever when you get to know the little fillies, you know.
Now let’s get more women on to the board
Good news that women aged 22-29 are finally getting pay recognition (“Young women now earn more than men”, 3 October). It’s about time girls’ out-performance of boys at A-Level had a tangible impact on their pockets.
Let’s not get complacent though. There is no reason why the many capable women out there – irrespective of age – should not have parity in terms of senior, highly-paid, board positions right now.Yet they don’t.
It is crucial that the Davies Report’s recommendation that all FTSE-100 companies should have at least a quarter of their board members women by 2015 should be followed through with alacrity.
Dr Helen Wright
President, the Girls’ Schools Association
Bias begins at home
It is great that the gender pay gap is closing among young men and women. But it is naive to think that this will trickle up to the boardroom. In between come children, and the way family life is organised is the biggest driver of gender inequality now, not testosterone-filled boardrooms, as you suggest.
If we want gender equality, a key focus for the next 30 years must be the home.
Crickhowell, PowysReuse content