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Tuesday 6 January 2009
Letters: Contempt for the white working class
White working class doesn't deserve this contempt
The group for which Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (5 January) shows such contempt deserves better, because of its record. The white working class formed the British labour movement; without that movement, how much of the improvement in the lives of working people over the last 100 years would have occurred? In two world wars, the white working class formed the bulk of those Britons who fought aggression. If the white working class had been as irredeemably racist as Ms Alibhai-Brown suggests, they could, in the 1930s, have converted to Mosleyism.
There is a great deal of force in the argument that the white working class did not consent to the conversion of Britain into a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society via a policy of mass immigration. There is much in the view that this change was imposed on them by an alliance of the political/media/intellectual class and the capitalist/managerial class. The former, weighed down by post-imperial guilt, wished to demonstrate their liberalism. This group has persistently denounced as racist those who said that increasing demand for scarce resources in areas such as social housing and public education was likely to be a source of trouble. To the capitalist/managerial class immigration has been a source of cheap labour, with which to undermine demands for better wages from indigenous workers.
In a democracy, account needs to be taken by the political and economic establishment of the views of groups such as the white working class. If not, there is the risk either of yet more of the passive, resigned alienation shown in, for example, the turnout figures for the last two general elections, or, alternatively, things turning much nastier, with substantial support for far-right parties from those who believe that the system is against them. This would have disastrous implications for the harmonious, tolerant and egalitarian society which Ms Alibhai-Brown wants to see.
Storing CO2 under sea and land
With reference to your article "What can we do to save our planet?" ( 2 January), perhaps the solutions can be achieved through engineering rather than science.
According to many scientists, some 60 per cent of the floating Arctic ice cap melted last summer; this resulted in a positive feedback, where the darkening of the Arctic Ocean caused even more rays of the sun to be absorbed. One way of countering this effect may be to float white polystyrene sheets on the surfaces of the oceans, to shine back the sun's rays into outer space. Also, our roads and rooftops can be painted white to shine back even more of the sun's rays into outer space.
This, however, does not take care of the increasing man-made CO2, but this too can be dealt with by the engineers. For example, some 50 per cent of the CO2 in the atmosphere is absorbed by the oceans. Thus, using nuclear-powered ships, the CO2 can be collected from the oceans and frozen into dry-ice torpedoes and tossed back into the sea. The density of frozen CO2 is some 1.56 times the density of water, so the frozen CO2 torpedoes will sink.
At a water temperature of 5C, CO2 will turn into frozen carbon dioxide hydrate at a depth of water of about 255 metres, due to the water pressure at this depth; here it will remain stable. If the water is sufficiently deep, the carbon dioxide torpedo may hit the ocean floor at a speed of about five knots, where it will penetrate the ocean floor and remain stable for millions of years, as indeed methane hydrates have remained stable for over 60 million years.
Professor Carl T F Ross
Department of Mechanical and Design Engineering
University of Portsmouth
Geoengineering has to be considered as a way in which we can compensate for the carbon dioxide that we have placed in the atmosphere through our use of fossil fuels. But the focus should be on soil, not just the ocean.
The carbon cycle shows us that about a sixth of all the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is removed by land plants each year, only to be returned when they decompose and soils respire. We can intercept the plant-soil-atmosphere component of the carbon cycle much more easily than we can manipulate the ocean or the atmosphere. After all, humans have been farming since civilisation began, so in principle we know how to manage land and soil.
The capture of sustainably produced plant carbon as biochar is perhaps the most attractive approach to soil geoengineering. Biochar is a very stable carbon produced in bioenergy systems that use the technique of slow pyrolysis. Added to soil, biochar acts both as a sink for atmospheric carbon and a source of increased fertility, both environmentally valuable by-products of a renewable energy-generating process.
Professor of Soil Science
Who are the Palestinians?
Nick Howard blames Israel (letter 5 January) for the fact that the "original inhabitants of Palestine" were denied any real choice in the UN partition resolution. The "original inhabitants" were not only Arabs, but also Jews, who had lived continuously in their ancient homeland for three and a half thousand years, long before Arabs arrived as conquerors in the 7th century. A pre-1948 encyclopaedia defined "Palestinian" as "a Jew or Muslim who lives in Palestine".
The League of Nations created the British mandate on the clear understanding that Britain would hand over Palestine on both sides of the Jordan to the Jews as a national homeland. Muslim/Arab states would be created in Iraq and Syria in addition to Arabia, Egypt and the north African states. It seemed obvious that just as Jews would continue to live in Arab countries, so would Arabs live in the new small Jewish state. No less an Arab leader that the future King Feisal of Iraq thought this was very reasonable.
However in 1922, Britain unilaterally gave 80 per cent of Palestine to the Arabs to create Transjordan but yielded to both Arab pressure and to their own imperialistic aims and reneged on their responsibility to give the remainder to the Jews, giving the lame excuse that they had to stay to protect the Jews against Arab rioters. During this period immigration by Jews was tightly controlled whereas Arabs were free to enter in large numbers.
When Britain finally left and returned the remainder of Palestine to the UN for a decision, partition was the only fair and workable solution.
Bet Shemesh, Israel
I am a great admirer of Howard Jacobson's writing. His way with words is truly gifted. The article in Saturday's Independent (3 January) was no exception. The conclusion that Israel has no choice in the current Gaza situation is tragically true.
How much more favourable world opinion would be towards Israel, though, if no settlements had taken place on the West Bank, if Israel had restricted itself to the 1967 frontiers and if the great security wall, though necessary, had been built on that frontier instead of inside the West Bank.
Israel needs friends. Alas, because of what has gone before they are few in number. Richard Ingrams, in the same paper, writes that Israel is now looked upon as Goliath and the Gazans as David. It need not have been so.
Mary Dejevsky (Opinion, 30 December) rightly draws attention to the failure of western governments to enforce international law and to the fact that international guarantees have proved inadequate, but she is wrong in her attribution of who suffers most.
The most famous and crucial international guarantee given regarding Israel-Palestine was of course that in the Balfour Declaration of 1917: "Nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities."
Subsequent to this the international community has stood by and watched Israel flout every international agreement, convention and legal ruling in the book regarding the treatment of the Palestinians, and Israel has vetoed, through its ally the US, myriad UN resolutions over the years that were critical of its actions.
Sex workers are safer in brothels
Your article "Police crackdown on prostitution expected to close 1,200 brothels" (24 December) announces the Home Office's estimate of brothels to be closed annually under the new Policing and Crime Bill.
But careful inspection reveals this Home Office document is flawed. It announces that the basis for its figure is that police found 800 brothels containing trafficked women during their Pentameter 2 anti-human trafficking operation. In fact, by completion of Pentameter 2, while they had "visited 822 premises", they had found only 167 trafficked persons. They were frequently in groups of two or more at the same premises, bringing the total numbers where trafficked persons were found to perhaps a tenth or less of the 822 figure.
There is no guarantee that sex was for sale at all 822 premises. Indeed, only 739 were massage parlours, saunas or homes. Furthermore, police may have visited many places where sex was for sale by only one sex worker, which do not constitute brothels (which require two or more).
The mass closures of brothels when they were first criminalised in 1885 resulted in a huge swelling of the street prostitute population and created ideal conditions for Jack the Ripper's Whitechapel murders three years later. Modern studies also confirm the commonsense conclusion that prostitutes are far safer indoors than on the streets; the victims of the Yorkshire Ripper and the Ipswich murderer, Steve Wright, were outdoors.
Colwyn Bay, Conwy
Conflicting claims of divine favour
The Rt Rev Nick Baines (letters, 24 December) claims that God is working through "thousands of people who have been sacrificially working to resist Robert Mugabe". May I inquire whether God is also present in the devoutly Christian Lord's Resistance Army in nearby Uganda?
Lest I be accused of picking an extreme example, I'd also be curious to know whether God was working through the Pope when he made his recent remarks about homosexuality, or through the tens of thousands of Californian Christians who recently voted that some forms of love should be legally recognised as inferior.
If this isn't the case, then it would appear that God has granted the Rt Rev Nick Baines a special divine revelation allowing him to know which devoted, committed Christians He chooses to manifest Himself in and which ones He doesn't.
Need for water
Well done Johann Hari (Opinion, 1 January) for rejecting bottled water. Out of interest, how plentiful are drinking water fountains at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted?
Saffron Walden, essex
The suggestion that a simple review of the patent filed for the commercial Enigma machine "could have broken the system as early as 1924" ("Napoleon's piles: how footnotes changed history", 31 December) is incorrect and an insult to all those involved. The Enigma machine used by the German forces had a number of differences from the commercial version, notably the "plugboard" stepping mechanism and a wider range of differently wired rotors. A review of the commercial design may have assisted attacks on the cipher, but would by no means lead to a complete breaking of it.
Nigel Morris reports that police are now able to "hack your PC" using "remote search" and "key logging" (5 January). Such methods will only likely work if your computer is running Microsoft Windows. An increasing number of the concerned public are using more "hack-proof" alternatives such as those based on the open-source Linux.
Man of honour
I see that once again I have been overlooked in the New Year Honours list. This is after 35 years of monitoring, speaking on and writing about the murdering quacks of the medico-pharma mafia, the planet-killers of the petro-industrial complex, the spivs, half-wits, quarter-wits and quislings who have managed to slither their way into the various Parliaments and the ignorant, lying, cowardly, corrupt, incompetent, derelict-of-duty, impossible-to-insult, establishment-lackey trash-hacks trying to pass themselves off as journalists. Where am I going wrong?
I have a dilemma. I am keen to give advice to Karen (Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas, 5 January) but notice that anyone whose advice is quoted will receive a Belgian chocolate selection. As a recovering Belgian chocolate addict, what should I do?
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