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Monday 17 December 2012
Letters: Clegg's welcome words on drugs
At last a Lib Dem MP, Nick Clegg, is complying with his own party's policy on drugs law reform. On 14 December you report that: "Mr Clegg told The Sun he will include a 'clear commitment' to a royal commission on drugs in his party's 2015 manifesto". This complies with the Home Affairs Select Committee's recommendation.
But you might also have referred to the Motion passed at the Lib Dem Party's conference in 2011 which underlies this and calls for "the Government to immediately establish an independent panel tasked with carrying out an Impact Assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, to properly evaluate, economically and scientifically, the present legal framework for dealing with drugs in the United Kingdom".
Yes, 2015 is a long way off, but, finally, our MPs in ministerial office are doing the job that they were elected to do rather than the one they were appointed to as ministers by a Conservative.
Lib Dem policy is decided by its members; perhaps they will now take heart.
The big elephant in the room in the whole legalisation-of-drugs debate (leading article, 15 December) is the unspoken understanding that the taking of drugs is somehow intrinsically wrong. Exactly why? Because it makes one feel happy and fuzzy? Well, alcohol does the same sort of thing as that, so why isn't drinking alcohol wrong? If I choose to get drunk, that is my legal right. However, if I choose to get stoned on dope, that is completely illegal. But where, exactly, is the qualitative difference between these two actions?
The decision as to whether or not to smoke cannabis, for example, is a lifestyle choice like drinking alcohol, eating sugary doughnuts, jumping out of planes attached to a parachute and running around a muddy field chasing after a leather spheroid. All of the above have health and safety implications. Only one of these is illegal. Why not ban all the others too?
Our failure to control the consumption of cannabis does not mean it should be legalised. Our national drug, alcohol, is well understood and plays an important role in society: from the toasting of great events with champagne to the celebration of the Eucharist, where red wine represents the blood of Christ. It is unlikely that Western civilisation could have evolved without it. Cannabis, on the other hand, is an alien drug which is not fully understood and has no historical equivalents to the gods Dionysus or Bacchus. Better the drug you know.
How can the US call itself civilised?
When will the National Rifle Association come to its senses and acknowledge that the right of little children to grow to adulthood without fear of being slaughtered by gun-toting maniacs is greater than their right to bear arms?
America a civilised society? Not while almost every town and city has shops where anyone can buy weapons that most members of the armed forces do not even have access to.
America's endemic gun culture was exemplified by the appearance on our TV news of the strangely unreassuring heavily armed police-response teams in scenes that produced an awful symmetry with the original terrible incident.
America's irrepressible cowboy culture has combined once again with mental illness and visited suburban New England with tragic consequences.
How strange it is that a great democratic country like America would rather have its children practising school evacuations with eyes closed than seriously contemplate restricting the ownership of assault weapons. The freedom to bear arms seems to be sustained at the cost of the freedom of their children to enjoy education without fearing for their lives.
I am a USMC Vietnam Veteran. I served in 1966-68. All of the men in my 12-man squad were killed and replaced or wounded and replaced during my tour. I received three purple hearts and carried many dead and wounded brothers off the field of battle. In June of 1968 I joined the NYPD in time for the Martin Luther King riots and the Black Panther killings of many police officers.
In all the experience I have had in dealing with death I have learned one thing: when you are dead, you are dead.
We have had guns in the United States for as long as this country has existed and we never saw the senseless killing that we are seeing today. Why?
I believe that the answer to this new breed of senseless killer is violent video games, movies and television shows.
The children of today play video games from infancy on. They shoot and kill invading aliens. They shoot at and kill bad guys with the realism of red blood spurting out of their targets, heads and limbs being shot or cut off. The more they kill, the more points they are rewarded with.
On the other hand, if the player is killed he or she gets a second chance. Our children are not taught that in real life there is no second chance. What kind of video game is your child playing now? Guns did not create these killers.
Wakefield, Rhode Island
Lazy assumptions about Liverpool
"Of course, the black-white mix has been with us for decades, but it was found in Liverpool or Brixton, in council estates and two-up two-down houses – the same working-class hotspots that spawned the National Front and the British National Party," says Shyama Perera (13 December).
It is deeply disappointing to find that Mrs Thatcher's campaign to demonise the denizens of Liverpool remains so thoroughly entrenched in the southern-centric press, that 30 years after its greatest successes, it is still acceptable to suggest that working-class Liverpudlians are racist buffoons – uneducated, unthinking and more prey to lowest- denominator thinking than those of other cities.
I have no insights into life in Brixton (and I have no grounds to repudiate or question facts and figures on which Ms Perera based her statement, as she does not supply them), but growing up on a working-class council estate in the 1970s and 1980s, in a multicultural part of Liverpool (created by extensive Irish, Caribbean, Chinese, Pakistani and other economic migration), there were certainly troubling social and economic issues. However, the extent to which the city was a flagship "hotspot" for the National Front or the BNP is, to say the least, open to debate.
That modern journalism allows such sweeping pejorative statements to be made without any critical evaluation is troubling. Yet again, Liverpool is used as lazy shorthand to illustrate a damaging point. I suggest that Ms Perera (who, one assumes from her article, has had the benefit of being middle-class and educated) should be a better example to the rest of us.
Eulogy to bankers must be a joke
Are we supposed to take seriously the eulogy to our banking industry (David Buik, Midweek View, 12 December)? Mr Buik tells us how far bank shares have risen this year but fails to point out that they are currently worth far less than they were a few years ago. He even catalogues the catastrophic incompetence and dishonesty of recent years: £1.2bn fine for laundering drug-cartel cash, £16bn for missold payment-protection insurance, £17m for a Northern Rock cock-up, etc.
Although our banking industry is such a lame duck it has had to be bailed out with £100bn of taxpayers' money, Mr Buik concludes not only that London produces the best bankers, but insults German, French and Spanish banks by calling them "Mickey Mouse" outfits. If London produces the best, what are German, French and Spanish bankers like then? Could it be that they are honest, possibly even competen? No wonder the City has got the wind up and is calling them names.
A fix for history's Hitler problem
Natalie Haynes (10 December) refers to our obsession with Hitler and the Henries in history teaching. The problem with this is its concentration on the isolationist aspects of English policies, the rejection of European popish religion and standing alone against the mighty Spanish Habsburg empire. We overlook the fact that before the Tudors England was very much a continental power. Britain isolated is also the theme of teaching about the Second World War.
I suggest that the history of the Stuarts should be taught as a corrective; of how the English fleet was defeated by the Dutch and how England only achieved greatness by inviting a Dutch king to take over ruling the country.
What a gas
Is it not ironic that it takes huge efforts and deep drilling to release gas from shale, whereas due to global warming, the permafrost under the Russian tundra is melting, causing large amounts of methane to be spontaneously released into the atmosphere?
No safety net
It seems that there are no longer any forms of illness or disability – with the possible exception of terminal cancer or quadriplegia – that preclude a person from working. Astoundingly, over half the population agree with the Coalition in their endeavours to remove the safety net of social security. A very rude awakening awaits them if they or a loved one falls ill and expects the state to help them continue the life they have become accustomed to in the world of work.
Amid the controversy – and delight – over Starbucks' decision to "choose" to pay corporation tax in the UK (report, 11 December) should it not also be noted that this tax payment in the UK may be a "deductible" in Starbucks' companies elsewhere in the world? This means that other countries may lose tax revenue in order for the UK to receive taxes, while Starbucks globally will be no worse off at all. Looks like a clever publicity stunt, doesn't it?
London mother and four children feared to be 'travelling to Syria'
Migrant crisis: The walls Europe is building to keep people out
Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet: Technician quits after social media row with actor's fans
US police officer shot in 'execution-style killing' while refuelling at petrol station
Bangkok Bomb: Thai police name Adem Karadag as suspect arrested over blast that killed 20
Hangover cures: The only way to avoid suffering the morning after is 'to drink less alcohol', say scientists
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