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Saturday 27 March 2010
Letters: Debt and financial jackals
Fence off sovereign debt from the financial jackals
The Eurozone sovereign debt crisis has wider implications than finessing Greece's fiscal deficit (report, 26 March).
One major advantage of the single currency was that it eliminated the power of speculators to play the markets between national currencies by, for example, picking off the peseta, leaning on the lira or dumping the drachma.
That spectre has now re-emerged, with speculative attacks on the sovereign debt of eurozone members perceived to be vulnerable. Ironically, many of the hedge funds and other speculators preaching so unctously about sovereign nations' deficits are themselves borrowed up to the hilt and short-selling stock they do not own.
Governments and central banks are still negotiating a precarious path out of the recession caused by the cumulative excesses of the financial sector. Each state will have had to marshal its borrowing according to its own perceived short-, medium- and long-term political and social priorities and responsibilities. All these calculations will have been thrown well off course by the measures needed to bail out the financial sector.
Sovereign debt does not exist to provide a playground for financial jackals exploiting inevitable post-rescue vulnerabilities. The eurozone, and other countries, should make the short-selling of sovereign debt illegal or unprofitable, possibly by legislating that sovereign debt paper can be sold only by the owner and/or imposing a retrospective and punitive tax on gains made from such transactions. Then, if an owner considered disposal had become prudent, the stock could still be sold in an orderly market, but the disorder of a short-term speculative rampage would be avoided.
Governments and citizens owe no loyalty to hedge funds and speculators.
What Balfour really meant for Israel
Contrary to what Martin Sugarman claims (letter, 24 March), the "Balfour Declaration" of 1917 did not promise statehood to the Zionists: it specified that the civil and religious rights of non-Jews should be respected.
The semi-nomadic Hebrews might have had a short-lived, 100-year kingdom until 931 BC, established after the armed conquest of the Land of Canaan, but, by the time of the Roman conquest (62-63 BC), many had dispersed throughout the Middle East and the Mediterranean, making adepts to their religion, Judaism. Of course, a lot of Hebrews, Aramaeans and others stayed in Palestine, a great number becoming Christians and Muslims: they are the "Semites".
The Zionists who have claimed to "return" are Jews who have no direct links with the distant past. Secular Zionism with its motto "a land for a people ..." developed in the 19th century with the advent of nationalism in Europe, but was not popular among most Jews. The racist theories gave a bad name to Jews, these very people who suffered under the Nazis.
At the time, the Zionists were pursuing their goal of creating a Jewish state and achieving the ethnic cleansing planned by Theodor Herzl et al. Their propaganda machine stage-managed the "return" of the Holocaust survivors: the episode of the Exodus is one example, and the fraudulently voted United Nations resolution 181 is its direct result, offering the minority Zionists some 57 per cent of Mandate Palestine, which the indigenous Palestinians naturally refused.
That land was never stolen from the ancient Hebrews/ Israelites who passed through it, like many others. In any case, 2,000 years is rather a long time when there are Palestinians still alive who remember their native land destroyed by military force in 1947-48 and 1967, and have the undeniable right to be repatriated.
Far from establishing that I shot myself in the foot by asserting that the Holocaust was little or nothing to do with the establishment of the State of Israel, Martin Sugarman comes close to making the same point I did, that the major powers of the world were set on the establishment of a colony for Jews way before the Holocaust was conceived or committed. The main difference is that he seems to think the imposition of imperial designs on Palestine, the partition and the ethnic cleansing, were somehow fair.
He invokes the Balfour Declaration of 1917 as if this was a legal document and not simply a statement of imperialist intent. The Peel Commission suggested a partition of Palestine against the wishes of the natives and to be accompanied by the removal of some 300,000 of them.
Finally, he can't resist shroud-waving over the Holocaust, a tragedy which had zero impact on the decisions of the major powers but has been used successfully to stifle the growth of an anti-Zionist movement in the West and used to manipulate the opinions of Jews who are invariably accused of self-hatred and of risking another Holocaust if we speak out against Israel.
Donald Macintyre (25 March) may have unwittingly borrowed the old, long-busted US media record which for decades has been repeating that Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands, including East Jerusalem, have "never been accepted by most of the international community..."
The "most" is misleading. It might mean, say, 55 per cent, including the US. In fact, I don't know a single country that recognises the legality of the settlements. Does Mr Macintyre?
Aryeh Eldad (report, 24 March) is perfectly correct, we are behaving hypocritically over Israel, as are other nations, principally the USA. And we have been for decades. Were Israel an Arab country, it would have been invaded years ago because of its human rights abuses, terrorist actions, nuclear weapons programme and its persistent refusal to comply with UN resolutions.
Matthew Norman's article (24 March), about the expulsion of Mossad's most senior official in London concludes by saying, "From here, the hope must be, UK-Israel relations can only improve". Why?
What has Israel ever done for Britain, except collude over the Suez war, to our ultimate detriment? Do we really need "friends" like Israel, who, I have no doubt, cloned British passports? Someone convince me, please.
R J Farman
Simple elections get my vote
I am already fed up with touch-feely stuff about political leaders' wives and air-brushed photographs of politicians, and I am very suspicious of wealthy political donors. Now I am overwhelmed with requests for money from my favourite political party, by what feel like daily mailshots and a fair amount of misinformation from local and national party offices, most of which goes straight into my recycling bin.
So here's my solution, one which will save countless trees, reduce political dependency on donations from non-dom millionaires, trades unions et al, and may return political debate to the serious issues that really matter: every political party can push just one piece of A4 (recycled) paper through my letterbox, outlining their policies and what their candidates have achieved so far and hope to do in future.
That and a few local meetings and televised debates are all we need to make informed choices about who represents us in Parliament and on local councils. For everything else, party machines can rely on the free publicity so generously provided by our press-release-hungry media, which we can treat with as little attention as it deserves.
Kingston upon Thames
What's wrong with a hung Parliament, preferably from Westminster Bridge and before the general election? The cull's started with three former cabinet ministers already suspended. Necktie parties for the rest won't cost the taxpayer; as the expenses fiddle showed, if you give MPs enough rope ...
St Agnes, Cornwall
Cheap gimmickry mars Pompeii
The "re-opening" of the thermpolium which you report ("Lava bread anyone? Pompeii snack bar rises from the ashes after 2,000 years", 20 March) seems to be nothing more than tourist-trap gimmickry by Italian authorities who seem to care little for the site, except as a neglected, grafitti-marred cash-cow. They would be better employed improving security and making the experience a more valuable and memorable one for visitors.
You have swallowed the hype wholesale. For example, any student of ancient Pompeii could supply three or four reasons why dolia (food storage, not serving jars) would not be made of glass. A thermopolium was more of a pot-house than a snack bar, food would probably have been rudimentary and the confections described in the article are modern attempts to beguile gullible visitors. "Typical ancient Roman lunch establishment"? No, the Romans did not really "do" lunch.
In reality, most citizens of Pompeii did not die in the eruption. They had plenty of time to escape before the final cataclysm and relatively few bodies have been found. As for "former holiday hotspot", no, that was the northern end of the Bay of Naples. Pompeii was largely a prosperous, working port.
And I cannot resist the hypothesis about the owner and his two days' takings; so, you flee the disaster, instinctively deciding to leave your money behind?
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Object lesson in objections
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is right that the future of politics lies with women (Comment, 22 March), but she is mistaken to assume the organisation Object has "gathered massive support".
Object has had financial help from Eaves Housing, which in turn had millions of pounds of government money. The money has paid for "Objector packs" used to whip up hysteria and create objection to lap-dancing clubs where none would otherwise exist.
This is no grassroots organisation. Within activism, feminist or otherwise, such organisations are referred to as astroturf. After taxpayers' money is no longer funding them, this astroturf is likely to wither and die. Then, maybe we can sort out jobs, university fees, climate change, racism, financial vulnerability, caring for the elderly, and threatened public services that Object and Eaves noise has drowned out.
Dr Belinda Brooks-Gordon
Birkbeck, University of London
Matthew Norman (Comment, 24 March) reminds us of Lord Mandelson's intensely re-laxed feelings about people becoming "filthy rich". It is not a remark anyone who believes in a more equal society can support. But Mandelson did add a rider, which was "as long as they pay their taxes", in present circumstances a greater political point.
The dating game
Banks have a new way of extorting money. A credit card bill asks for payment on a certain date; this arrives on that, but it's the weekend and isn't credited, despite this being the date stated on the account. So a late fee and interest are charged. Apparently, it is my responsibility to check that the payment day is not at a weekend, although the bank sent a misleading and unfulfillable request. I have returned the card.
Newton Abbot, Devon
Colour of politics
Carola Long (25 March) wondered why the Labour front bench was wearing purple when Mr Darling gave his Budget speech. It's Lent, of course. Mr Cameron wore a blue tie. Blue is the old English "purple" used to dress churches in Lent. Mr Clegg wore a golden tie. He's an atheist. In early April, you will see many white/yellow/ golden items of clothing in Parliament, white being the liturgical colour of Easter. The long Trinity season will be all green. In November, expect red, the All Saints seasonal colour. Who says the Church has lost her influence?
Reverend Karl Wray
Spare the badgers
The Conservatives' desire to cull badgers should they be elected is illogical. The Independent Scientific Group said in June 2007 that killing badgers would not reduce bovine TB. It also declared that TB probably first spreads from cattle to badgers, where it remains stable, if the badgers are undisturbed. Culling increases the incidence and spread of the disease.
Brighton, East Sussex
Sky's the limit
Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterrand, honouring Cy Twombly for his decoration of the Louvre ceilings as recalling "the sea, allied with the sun" (report, 24 March), was quoting Arthur Rimbaud's L'Éternité: "C'est la mer mêlée/Au soleil" (avoiding the more sexually suggestive version, Rimbaud wrote, "C'est la mer/Allée avec le soleil").
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