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Friday 13 November 2009
Immigration can be too much of a good thing
You report (9 November) that the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, is to launch a campaign stating that immigration is a "good thing" for Britain.
Immigration has proved of enormous benefit to this nation, as seen from the contributions made down the years, for example, from Huguenot, Jewish, Asian (and Ugandan Asian) and Caribbean influxes.
These additions to the national mix have been immeasurably enriching culturally and economically, adding greatly to the variety and colour of life. We owe, of course, a large debt to former immigrants for providing such strong support for the NHS.
Nevertheless we should aim for "net nil" immigration, given the effect of immigration in increasing the population of this already overcrowded country. While we also need to encourage a lower birth rate to limit the crush, we should first comply with humanitarian requirements to admit asylum seekers and those in genuine need of protection, and comply with freedom of movement under our EU obligations, but any further immigration should depend on the numbers emigrating from the UK.
We should not be encouraging unnecessary immigration, and we should certainly cease the practice of poaching skilled people (doctors, nurses) from countries in greater need of them than the UK; we should be training our own workforce from among the resident population.
A war with no credible victory
The gap between the British government and people over the war in Afghanistan is becoming wider.
It is not merely that Afghanistan has never been and will not in any prospective future be a democracy, that government there is systematically corrupt, that there is no prospect of women possessing any rights recognisable in the West, in anyone's likely lifetime, or that the writ of the Afghan state will ever run far outside Kabul, and that the best we are likely to achieve is to provide military protection to the poppy fields that undermine the young of our inner cities.
The problem is not even army supplies, troop numbers or the number of helicopters; as if an extra 2,000 British troops or 20 helicopters would provide a favourable tipping point for the British war effort. The Soviet Union, which fought its wars in uncompromising fashion, could not hold Afghanistan with 300,000 troops; and there is no prospect of Britain, the USA, Nato or anyone else resourcing the effort in Afghanistan at that level.
The problem that divides us was created after 9/11 by the US neo-conservative administration, who conjured up the brilliant conception of a "War on Terror"; a war against an unidentified enemy that the administration could fight at will, with complete control over who we were fighting, why, the terms of engagement, the length of the war, and even the result. How do you know when you have won a War on Terror? You know only when you are told by the government. Perhaps you never win. The only evidence you will see is the evidence they offer. The "War on Terror" is intellectually invincible. You do not need a state as enemy, an army, or indeed anything tangible to show the danger of Terror.
But this way of operating foreign and defence policy has a cost: nobody believes the Government any longer.
John S Warren
How long does it take to root out corruption from a government like Afghanistan's. How long does it take to train up the Afghan army and police from their current state and in sufficient numbers? Probably three years at a minimum.
As the conflict is significantly along ethnic lines, whether it is Karzai or the next one, the Kabul government will need to do deals with warlords. Nato will continue to support some groups against others in an ongoing civil war. There doesn't seem much reason to think the level of violence and British losses will come down any time soon.
Are the political parties, armed forces and public really prepared to pay this price in a sustained way for a security outcome that depends for success on the Afghan government meeting the Prime Minister's "five tests"?
Andrew Grice's article "Frustration mounts over Obama's fatal indecision" (6 November) misrepresents the Channel 4/YouGov poll on Afghanistan when it says that the poll found that "35 per cent want troops withdrawn".
The actual poll results show that 35 per cent believe that "Yes – all troops should be withdrawn immediately" while another 38 per cent believe that "Yes – most troops should be withdrawn soon, and the rest within the next year or so". Consequently, the true figure for those who, in your words, "want troops withdrawn" is a massive 73 per cent.
Nuclear power not so green
I'm concerned about the plans for new nuclear power stations.
Nuclear power is promoted by saying it doesn't give off CO2. Although nuclear reactors don't release this gas at point of generation, reactors are a small part of the nuclear fuel cycle, which give off large amounts of CO2 from uranium mining, ore milling, uranium hexafluoride conversion, fuel enrichment and fabrication of fuel rods. There is high use of energy in the treatment, transportation and disposal of nuclear products. A safe way hasn't been found to dispose of the increasing nuclear waste.
There is also the huge cost of decommissioning old radioactive nuclear power stations and the documented increased cancer rates in people living near some nuclear power stations.
If governments had invested in wave power and other alternative energy sources years ago, we wouldn't be rushed into this situation today.
In looking at your map (10 November) of where the 10 new nuclear sites are to be, I am struck by the fact that all appear to be on or near the coast.
Given that one of the effects of global warming will be a sea level rise of (eventually) anything up to 25 metres, I hope the Government's cost estimates have factored in the need to build them on stilts.
Rot at the core of disabled services
As the sister of a young lady with severe and complex mental and physical disabilities, I was bemused by Dr Tim Lawson's response (letter, 11 November) to Tussie Myerson's brave article.
His telling comment that the mother he knows has been "lucky enough" to receive adequate help for her daughter is indicative of the rot at the core of services for such people in this country.
My family too, have been "aggressive" in their pursuit of care for my sister, an approach which has proved to be the only effective way of gaining the attention of those who are charged with providing and supervising care for disabled people and their families. Those who do not, for whatever reason, approach health and social care with some degree of anger are left flailing in a sea of frustration and isolation. Many people have no access to even a social worker, so their needs go unrecognised, never mind unassessed.
Health authorities and social services battle each other over where financial responsibility lies for people with complex needs. The use of unhelpful umbrella terms such as "learning difficulties" has allowed government targets for provision to be reached by meeting the simple needs of a precious few whose difficulties include such problems as dyslexia. That leaves, a diminishing budget for people such as Tussie Myerson's daughter and my little sister.
Places like the Touch Trust, for example, whose work is invaluable to those people who receive their unique therapy, are forced to rely on charity and the iron will of their dedicated team.
It should not be luck which dictates who gets care and who doesn't.
Perhaps when MPs are whingeing about the reforms to their expenses they might consider how their wrangling sounded to families like mine and Ms Myerson's.
Legal drugs will be no panacea
It is silly to justify decriminalisation of illegal drugs because some of them (marijuana, Ecstasy) are a few degrees less dangerous than two substances that are legal but deadly when abused, and the treatment of which costs taxpayers billions. Others (heroin, crack) are more dangerous.
While parallels with the US experience of prohibition of alcohol are regularly used by proponents of a legal but safer drugs regime, we can hardly take comfort from the current regulatory framework for alcohol (and tobacco), which has not protected children and has failed to prevent major epidemics of dependency and sickness at enormous cost to the victims and to the public.
I agree with Johann Hari (11 November) that, on its own, the law cannot eliminate the contagion of drug abuse. But neither is decriminalisation a panacea. The starting point in a debate on drugs policy should be how to protect the many and cure the few. I suspect that it will be necessary to have legal constraints on the production, distribution and exchange of addictive substances (not least to protect children), and that to make this effective we will still need to contain (or quarantine) those who traffic them.
Who is that letter for?
T Honeybone's letter (11 November) regarding the misspelling of his name struck a very personal chord. When I first started in practice, I became so bemused at the many diverse attempts at spelling my own name that I began a scrap book.
The range varies from the odd incorrect letter to the downright bizarre: Dr Carla-Ponalia; Dr Carni Parrola; Dr Canal Tavola. Pick of the bunch is a letter from the old Salisbury Health Authority addressed to a Dr Canniper-Allan.
Dr Adrian Canale-Parola
Perhaps the reason Judi Martin has been addressed incorrectly so often (letter, 11 November) is that her name is spelt in this pretentious way. It is good manners, of course, to spell people's names correctly in correspondence, but it is easy to assume that the usual, sensible spelling has been used.
Had my name been spelt "Graeme" I'm sure I would have been similarly misaddressed throughout my life, but I like to think that it would not have "irked" me. She must be easily irked.
Your report of the shooting of a polar bear by a hunter trapped on an ice floe prompts Clare Cheney (letter, 12 November) to ask what happened to the bear's two cubs. In these days of increasing environmental concern, is it too callous to ask what news of the ice-floe.
Allowed to die
In order to understand the tragedy of Baby RB, it is important to describe the situation very accurately. Your report (11 November) states: "The father withdrew his objection to allow doctors to end his son's life." In fact he has withdrawn his objection to allowing the doctors to stop intensive treatment, thereby allowing Baby RB to die naturally. There is a world of difference.
Consultant Neurosurgeon (Rtd)
Deals with Murdoch
I'm curious as to why Lord Mandelson would ever entertain the notion that politicians could be so cynical as to do deals with Rupert Murdoch ("Has Cameron done a deal with Murdoch?", 12 November). What possible historical precedent would inform his suspicion that an opposition party would enter into a "contract" in return for Mr Murdoch's support?
Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire
Fall of the Wall
I don't know what sort of company Brian Rushton worked for and what sort of workmates he had, (letter 11 Nov ember) but none of the socialists I knew ever admired the oppressive regimes in eastern Europe, nor gloated at their Olympic successes. All the socialists I knew were glad the Berlin Wall came down. It's the same old lies and distortions we have had to live with, associating real socialists with the crimes of Stalin. East Germany was never socialist.
I have no great problem with cyclists using the pavement (letters, 12 November). Unfortunately this is frequently impossible because of the number of cars parked on them.
David C Brown
Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire
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