Steve Richards ("Bite the bullet and nationalise the banks", 20 January) may gain comfort from being reminded that the 1932 Labour Party conference passed a resolution calling for an incoming Labour government to make the nationalisation of the joint-stock banks an immediate measure. In 1933 Clement Attlee and Stafford Cripps wrote a memorandum supporting this proposal. Another supporter was Hugh Gaitskell.
Gordon Brown is known for telling cheering Labour audiences: "Labour is best when it is Labour." Why is he shilly-shallying?
Paul Samuelson (Opinion, 19 January) comes closer than many analysts, but even he doesn't recognise the magnitude of our current economic plight. The simple truth is that the UK and most of the developed world has been living above its means for the best part of 20 years. Private debt has increased out of proportion to earnings and there is a huge overhang of unsecured borrowing, the proceeds of which have been spent and for which there is no replacement mechanism in sight.
In the UK people were encouraged to declare their houses to be worth more than they really were; the banks agreed but had insufficient deposits from savers to fund the massive loans and mortgages and had to raise the money abroad, inventing convoluted financial contraptions in the process; developing countries with cash surpluses were happy to lend because the money was used to buy their products.
The idea that we will in a few months be able to pick up where we left off at the end of 2007, once the banks start lending again, is misconceived: we have to accept that there is no option but to return to where we were 15 or 20 years ago. The wealth that we thought we had was a subsidy: we did not earn it and we cannot generate it ourselves.
We, the taxpayers, are once again being forced to bail out the banks, because of the plight they are in, brought about almost entirely by the bad management of their directors and senior managers.
Perhaps we should learn a lesson from history. After the South Sea Bubble burst in 1720, Sir Robert Walpole, who was in all but name Prime Minister, raised £2m (equivalent of about £400m today) by confiscating the property of the directors of the South Sea Company to pay off some of the losses which had been incurred.
J M Moses
Perilous path for a new Kennedy
Not since the First World War have our troops fought in such conditions and with such bravery, as in Afghanistan, but not since then have they been so betrayed by their political masters and their allies in the media. Thus were they roped into joining America's invasion of Iraq. To this Anglo-American misadventure do we largely owe the surge in worldwide terrorism and the resurrection of the Taliban.
The war in Iraq having effectively been lost, government and media, here and in the US, now tell us that Afghanistan is crucial to the War on Terror. Given the bellicose statements of both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail, we can expect the US Armed Forces soon to be given permission to prosecute the campaign against the Taliban even more savagely. Should that happen, then Afghanistan will be truly lost – as it was by the Soviets.
With the domino theory in mind, we should ask the question: does Afghanistan matter? Yes, it does. The Afghan people have suffered enough. But, from a politician's cynical perspective, whatever happens to Pakistan is more important.
I journeyed through that country in 1995, following the trail of Tang dynasty pilgrim Xuan Zang, visiting the ruins of Buddhist Gandhara. From the Hunza valley to Rawalpinidi, I was treated with courtesy, hospitality and scrupulous honesty. I therefore plead that the people of Pakistan should be allowed the right to a peaceful, moderate and democratically-elected government – such as would be threatened by American bombing strikes and incursions into Pakistani territory.
President Barack Obama has been favourably compared to President John F Kennedy. Yet, we'd do well to remember that on 11 May 1961, not four months after his inauguration, JFK committed the US to intervention in South Vietnam, expanding American military personnel there from 900 to approximately 16,000 by the time he was assassinated 22 November 1963.
Dr Yen-Chung Chong
President-elect Obama certainly did not travel from Philadelphia to Washington in a "caboose" (editorial, 19 January). That is what the British would call a guard's van.
He travelled in the 1939 passenger coach Georgia, built in the Pullman style with bedroom, conference room and open back platform (useful for photo opportunities).
Interestingly, although the whole line is electrified, the train was hauled throughout by a pair of diesel locomotives "to avoid any potential problems with the overhead lines", caution that travellers on our own east coast main line would recognise.
Shanklin, Isle of Wight
Gore Vidal has prophesied that the American people would never elect a bald president, but they have elected a Roman Catholic one and now a black one. I wonder if they might ever elect an atheist.
I enjoyed "The insider's guide to DC" (20 January). However, I was disappointed to see that the only places you could imagine Michelle Obama visiting were hair salons and spas.
Global companies need global names
Mary Dejevsky's comment piece on name changes (16 January) raises interesting questions. Our research has told us customers are looking for the reassurance that strong global companies bring. We're the world's fifth-largest insurer, doing business across four continents, where customers already know us as Aviva in 23 of our 27 markets. We have operated as Aviva in this country for seven years. We are a successful British business which now has 45 million customers worldwide.
Our decision to change our name in the UK has not been taken lightly – we're very proud of Norwich Union's 200-year history. It's about making sure customers can access and benefit from the best of what we do around the world, wherever they are. Our investment in a single brand will also allow us to amplify the impact of our advertising and sponsorship around the world, providing cost efficiencies that will benefit customers and shareholders alike.
Consider the successful businesses, the powerful brands, and the customer value created from the name change of HSBC, Vodafone or O2. To be global, they needed the same name everywhere.
In the UK we employ more than 30,000 people, and as the UK's largest insurer we're a major contributor to the economy. To thrive and grow over the long term we need to be competitive globally – we are no longer an island. The creation of a single brand is an important step in delivering that goal.
Chief Marketing Officer
A nourishing bowl of gruel
Although I am a Fellow of that organisation, I feel that the Royal Society of Chemistry has been a little hard on gruel ("The return of gruel, a meal fit for the credit crunch", 14 January). The gruel dished out to passers by was of a very basic recipe and was not a true reflection of the culinary delight afforded by that dish.
Mrs Beeton's recipe for barley gruel used two ounces of barley, half a pint of port, lemon rind, water and sugar. True, there was a very basic barley gruel, made with just barley and water, but that was intended for the sick. Let it not be forgotten that Ebenezer Scrooge himself, having had his "melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern", and having seen Marley's image in the door knocker, sat by the fire to enjoy his little saucepan of gruel, for he had a cold in the head.
Michael K Baldwin
Who pays for the Gaza devastation?
In addition to the tragic loss of life resulting from the Israeli invasion of Gaza, much Palestinian property and infrastructure has been reduced to rubble. This is far from the first time that this has happened and each time the international community is called upon to rebuild what has been wantonly destroyed.
After Iraq's unlawful invasion and occupation of Kuwait in 1990, Iraq was forced to accept that it owed reparations both for property and lives lost. A United Nations Security Council Resolution (687) in 1991 stated "Iraq . . . is liable under international law for any direct loss, damage, including environmental damage . . . or injury to foreign governments, nationals and corporations as a result of Iraq's unlawful invasion and occupation of Kuwait." Consequently the war reparations payable were assessed at $53bn, much of which was subsequently paid.
It has to be observed that the Iraqi population had much less say in the decision to invade than is the case in a democracy such as Israel. Apart from that it is difficult to distinguish the cases. Let those who have caused the damage in contravention of international law repair the harm.
Wade Mansell, Professor of International Law
University of Kent, Canterbury
No, Fares Akram, (16 January) it doesn't have to be like that. It doesn't have to be that whatever Israel has done this past three weeks will keep the flames of this conflict alive for generations to come.
It could be that the people of Gaza take a good look at their situation and say to themselves that they should reject the violent and extreme rule of Hamas and try to seek a peaceful accommodation with Israel.
They would find that Israel would be willing to return to the situation that existed before the time of the second intifada. Then, many thousands of Gazans travelled accross the border each day to jobs and to earn a living all over Israel; Israelis went to Gaza for business and pleasure, and basically there was peace and co-operation between the two peoples.
As was shown by the withdrawal in 2005, Israelis have no desire to reoccupy Gaza in the long term, but they would certainly welcome the chance to live in peace and harmony with their neighbours
You report that the Prime Minister insists that arms shipments to Hamas must cease. I assume in the interest of fairness that he will immediately stop all similar aid to Israel.
The article about Chesley Sullenberger (Tom Sutcliffe, 20 January) reminded me of a saying among aircrew in the RAF 50 years ago: "There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots; but there are no old bold pilots."
Legacy of injustice
I am surprised that the eight-page biography of Franklin D Roosevelt in your Lives of the Presidents series makes no mention of his role in the incarceration of upwards of 100,000 Japanese and Japanese-American citizens during the Second World War. Presumed guilty and kept captive without trial, such people lost jobs, homes and years of their lives because of Roosevelt's 1942 executive order. This is particularly relevant in light of the USA's recent use of imprisonment without trial in the instance of Guantanamo Bay, and should not be forgotten.
Under the flight path
Presumably many, if not most, of the people who live near Heathrow and so "suffer" as a result, do so because they actually work there. I suspect that we have a silent majority who wish that the likes of Emma Thompson, who I presume absolutely never flies anywhere, would go away and let them get on with making a living.
Largesse to the few
When in 2007 the Conservatives proposed that wealthy couples should be able to hand on £2m to their heirs without paying a penny of inheritance tax, rising house prices were speciously advanced as a justification. Now that those same house prices are falling, will the Conservatives scale down their proposed largesse to the few, funded by public spending cuts affecting the many?
Morality of hunting
Objections to hunting with dogs based upon the morality of gaining "pleasure from inflicting fear, injury and death upon other creatures" (letter, 20 January) may also be thought applicable to watching boxing, wrestling, horror films or even the excesses of James Bond and other licensed killers.