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Friday 18 August 2006
Letters: Blair's law-making
Blair's law-making frenzy unmatched in six centuries
Sir: You report on the frenzy of Labour's law making (16 August). Your piece is supported by the following facts. Halsbury's Statutes covers criminal Acts of Parliament in two volumes. The first covers six centuries (1351-1999); the second covers six years (2000-2005). And the second volume is the longer.
Sir: The news that the Labour government has created 3,023 offences since 1997 will come as little surprise to the rural community. When the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was created in 2001 there was real hope that an enabling department had been created to bolster the beleaguered countryside; 640 new offences later from that same department and that hope has all but died.
Prohibitive rule is a barrier to any kind of progress and prosperity, and in no other area is that more apparent than in the countryside, where farming is on its knees, affordable housing problems are endemic and red tape continues to stifle. Instead of prohibiting the wrong behaviour, why not try encouraging the right kind and help people to help themselves?
CHIEF EXECUTIVE, COUNTRYSIDE ALLIANCE, LONDON SE11
Sir: I actually approve of some of the laws mentioned in your feature about Tony Blair's passion for creating offences. Let's protect scallops and fish stocks on the Lower Esk.
I was wondering, however, whether the police should perhaps pop round and arrest government ministers involved with maintaining and continuing our nuclear "deterrent" capability, since the only reason to possess such weapons is an intention to cause a nuclear explosion - surely a clear breach of the 1998 Nuclear Explosions Act?
PORTSLADE, EAST SUSSEX
Prescott speaks up for the nation
Sir: John Prescott has finally said something sensible, and for a Labour politician he has shown remarkable honesty and accuracy in his remarks over the Bush administration and the Middle East. Perhaps he should be our next Prime Minister.
Sir: Well done, John Prescott, for having the guts to say what many people believe. I do hope this does not prove to be another nail in his political coffin.
Sir: Well done Prezza for becoming the first government bigwig to speak the minds of the nation. Not since Hugh Grant's speech in Love Actually has one man spoken so succinctly for so many. "Bush is crap"; spot on. What next, "Blair is mad", "the UN are tossers"? How about "political correctness is bollocks"? Keep it up, John; truth is the new black.
ALL CANNINGS, WILTSHIRE
Sir: "Crap" to describe an American presidency; how clever British liberals are! They hold on to illusions of failed people and policies. My question to Mr Prescott and his ilk: When did your past policies provide anything other than the overture to war?
HUNTINGTON BEACH, CALIFORNIA, USA
Sir: Why is the Deputy Minister denying his "crap" and "cowboy" remarks about President Bush? After all, 80 per cent of the electorate think the same and New Labour is supposed to be in tune with it.
Sir: Are we expected to believe that Prescott's outburst is anything more than a perfectly timed publicity stunt to try and make us all to forget how crap he is?
Sir: Are we witnessing a falling-out of cowboys? There is obviously no Brokeback Mountain scenario at the Bush/Prescott ranch.
CHESHAM BOIS, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE
Middle East conflict: the core problem
Sir: Bruce Anderson's article, "I fear that Israel has lost this war" (14 August), correctly highlights the core problem to the current conflict in the Middle East: the unresolved issue of Palestine.
Mr Anderson suggests that: "Israel's attitude to conflict with its neighbours is still influenced by complacent memories of the 1956 and 1967 campaigns against Egypt, when Israel's foes ran away like field mice from the combine harvester".
As an Egyptian I obviously take offence to such remarks, and would point out that both these wars were initiated by Israel on a "foe" who was taken completely by surprise. However, the 1973 war was altogether different and, but for the intervention of the USA (flying replacement aircraft and tanks from West German air fields straight into Israeli air bases in the Sinai) Israel would have lost that war and sued for peace. As it was, peace between Israel and Egypt did, eventually, come about.
There is no question that Israel has the military wherewithal to inflict enormous damage and death, as so vividly illustrated to the world these past 33 days. The real question is how likely is this overwhelming military might to bring true and long-lasting peace to the region? After nearly sixty very long years the answer must surely be clear: not at all.
The best way forward is immediate discussions on finding a just and equitable resolution of the Palestinian right to a state of their own, to end the illegal occupation of their land, and to end the equally illegal building of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Sir: Ghayth Armanazi condemns Israel's "brutality", "tyranny" and "entrenched state of denial" (Opinion, 11 August). It is astounding to find such words written by a former ambassador of the Arab League.
No organisation in history has stood by in such an "entrenched state of denial" while its own members have committed the most heinous acts of "brutality" and "tyranny" against their own populations - far surpassing any atrocities committed by Israel.
Never did the Arab League condemn the sadistic, murderous acts of Saddam Hussein, Hafez al-Asad or the House of Saud, not to mention the subtler, yet equally pernicious, abuses in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and much of the rest of the Arab (and Islamic) world.
For decades, the Arab League acted to make sure that those states were not condemned in the United Nations, while they constantly voted as a block to condemn Israel. Israel has been a lovely convenience for Arab and Islamic states, allowing them to divert attention from their own inhumanity by constantly howling about Israel'.
Armanazi's remarks dovetail perfectly with those made in response to last week's foiled terrorist attacks. Blair and Bush have been chastised (for instance, by the London-based Islamic Commission for Human Rights) for using the crisis to divert attention from Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq. Yet, when it comes to diverting attention from the gravest abuses of human rights committed against Muslims, organisations like the Arab League and the ICHR surpass Israel and the West by a long shot.
DR ERIC HEINZE
FACULTY OF LAWS, QUEEN MARY, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON
Sir: I read Alex Swanson's letter (17 August), which stated that the descendants of the Jews should have the right of return to Palestine, and remarked how relevant it was to my own life, as I had just returned home to find a nice young Welsh couple occupying my house. They claimed that their Celtic ancestors had lived here 1500 years previously, and therefore it now belonged to them.
Naturally I accepted this reasonable argument, and I am now negotiating my move back to the forests of my own ancestral Saxony. Of course, I'd better hurry, before over 200 million "returning" Americans overwhelm the European housing market.
Sir: A fascinating thing about the Middle East conflict is how subtle differences in terminology reflect the divisiveness of the issue.
In his article of 15 August, Robert Fisk refers to the kibbutz Mizgav Am (established in 1945) as a "settlement". This is a term that is usually used to describe Israeli towns outside the 1967 border line, with the implication that their presence is not legitimate. Depending on who you speak to, this term can also be used to describe towns inside Israel's 1967 boarder - in fact to some people all of Israel is a Zionist settlement.
In contrast, Palestinian towns are prone to being called refugee camps, no matter how long ago they were established. Most Israelis are refugees or direct decedents of refugees, a lot of them from Arab and Muslim countries, yet Tel-Aviv is more likely to be called a settlement than a refugee camp.
Air travellers who beg to be screened
Sir: All the letter writers and commentators who are (rightly) worried about profiling and discrimination against Muslim travellers are forgetting one thing: the class element involved.
If the airlines want to keep their lucrative business travellers, they will have to quickly find a way to separate them from the masses. I am referring to the hard core of fliers who fly to 2-6 places a month (which means 4-12 flights) and who sleep more than 100 nights a year in hotels. People like this have to be able to work on their laptops while on the plane and waiting in lounges. They need to be able to rush out of the airport and into a meeting with their laptops and clothes without having to wait 45-60 minutes for their bags to come off the plane. They are also a cash cow for the ailing airline industry.
I am sure that in the first instance, positive profiling will mean the airlines find a way to screen these people out whether they are Asian, white or Martian. As someone in this group (which includes politicians, businessmen, diplomats, journalists, international do-gooders, minor celebrities and spouses of the above) I look forward to it happening soon. This class of people may be responsible for many terrible things in the world but blowing up airplanes is not one of them.
Sir: In view of the ever-strengthening case for surface transport, isn't it now time for easyLiner?
Birds can live with wind turbines
Sir: Donald P McDonald (letter, 15 August) is quite right in thinking birds are capable of avoiding wind turbines.
My father runs a farm in New Zealand with over 100 wind turbines on it. This farm shares its boundary with a reserve, home to many birds, some of which are native to New Zealand and therefore closely monitored.
He has just assured me that he is not faced with scores of dead birds over the farm, and this wind farm has been there about 10 years and is in fact still growing. I think the readers of your paper are being fed very inaccurate information about turbines and it is a real pity. He has never had to reduce stock numbers, another myth thrown about by the anti-wind-farm lobby.
If a grumpy old redneck from New Zealand can live with huge turbines, 14 of which are right outside his bedroom window and do not keep him awake, then I think it very odd that some people in Britain are so backward on this issue.
Tolerance not enough
Sir: I thought it extremely generous of Patrick Bennett (Letters, 16 August) to tolerate homosexuality. Toleration is not equality or a loving gesture towards understanding. Gay men have discovered in Alpha Course material that tolerance stinks of annoyance and superiority.
Deals with terrorists
Sir: Looking through John Reid's eyes, it would make sense to describe the Good Friday Agreement as "a foreign policy dictated by terrorists". It seems improbable that Mr Reid really is looking back with outrage on a decade of relative peace, security and sanity in and around Northern Ireland, but recently I have been wondering how the present government ever got as far as signing it.
Sir: In the early 1960s, every Cambridge undergraduate's bicycle was marked with a registration number painted on the rear mudguard (letter, 17 August). Cheap, effective and a boon to those whose bikes had been "borrowed" and subsequently abandoned, since they could retrieve them from the police cycle pound.
Sir: Pat Wallace's cogent letter on the hardship suffered by carers (17 August) appears on the day the A-level results are published amid the customary jubilation. Sadly, many young people are denied further education, because their education has been sacrificed to the task of caring for a sick relative. These children may be as young as five, and they bear the burden of caring at the expense not only of their schooling but also of their mental and physical health and their social development. In the world's fourth-largest economy, is this acceptable?
Sir: We applaud the moves of our fellow retailers to belatedly introduce "green" policies including bio-degradable plastic bags ("Supermarkets battle for hearts and minds of green shoppers" 15 August). Indeed we thought it such a good idea that we pioneered the practice and introduced Britain's first 100 per cent biodegradable carrier bags to all of our stores nearly five years ago.
THE CO-OPERATIVE GROUP MANCHESTER
Sir: Despite giving us the most tedious details of his life, Cooper Brown fails to mention his source for the obviously pirated version of Snakes on a Plane (17 August). I'm sure the Federation Against Copyright Theft would be especially interested to have access to this information. Me? I'd be happy to see how a respected national newspaper, renowned for taking the moral high ground on so many issues, justifies condoning an obviously criminal act by one of its columnists.
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