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Wednesday 13 April 2011
Letters: Scared politicians fail to curb casino banking
The failure of the Independent Commission on Banking to propose an adequate separation of retail and casino banks is inexcusable. The proposals for ring-fencing protected operations are a poor attempt to cover up a system that is still fatally flawed. Banks will still be able to borrow money for their gambling operations at preferential rates because of their ownership of protected retail operations. The losses of the "masters of the universe" will still accrue to those parent companies. Parents of retail banks cannot be allowed to go bust; therefore nothing has essentially changed.
Once again we have cowardly politicians running scared of banks that threaten to move operations overseas and which, in any case, move profits overseas to avoid paying tax to the nation that hosts them.
Well, let them move, and ensure they pay tax here on profits generated here. And force a legal separation of the casinos from the arms with retail operations enjoying state protection but obliged to undertake conservative business practices with realistic fractional reserves and fully salaried (non bonused) staff. The casinos can do what they like, with no restrictions on bonuses and no state safety net.
Until we have full legal, functional and economic separation of these fundamentally differing operations we remain exposed to another catastrophic banking crash. Why is that so hard for the supposed experts of the ICB to understand?
Great Amwell, Hertfordshire
A "firewall" is a bad joke. It is a technical term taken from IT which is meaningless in the present context. As long as one gigantic entity owns retail banks and investment banks there will always be ways of starving the retail sector and allowing the investment sector to continue with its nefarious work.
We need to do what Roosevelt did for the US in the 1930s: break up the banks into retail and investment sectors and break up individual banks into smaller separate companies – about 100 should do to get some real competition. The US went much further than that, but the US is a bigger country.
It was Ronnie Reagan's deregulation that got the US into the mess it is in today, copied unfortunately by our own Maggie Thatcher.
Port Solent, Hampshire
Do I understand that some of the banks are threatening to move abroad? And that this is to preserve their excessive bonuses and state protection against failures? Where are the foolish paradises that might actually want such greedy parasites? Can I go too? And is this government of toughies really fooled by such see-through threats?
Kenneth J Moss
Can someone from the Coalition explain how the previous Labour government, having caused the budget problems in the UK, managed to cause havoc in Greece, Ireland and Portugal, and also cause the USA to have to inject massive funds into their banks?
'No' campaigners are no stooges
I am accused by your newspaper, indirectly, of being a Tory stooge (" 'Vote no to AV' group accused of being 'a Tory front organisation' ", 12 April ). Am I the only person aware of the irony of Liberal Democrat peer Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay claiming that: "The 'No' campaign is just a Tory front organisation. They provide the money, the staff, the muscle and the backbone of the campaign"?
Does his Lordship keep up with current affairs? Is he aware that his party is in a formal coalition with the Conservative Party? Precisely the same accusation he levels at the No campaign can be more easily made of his own party with regard to the role it is playing in sustaining this Tory government. So it's fine for Lib Dem MPs to support the Government's plans to emasculate public services, impose sky-high tuition fees on students and undermine the NHS, but unacceptable for Labour MPs to campaign on the same side as Tory politicians with whom they agree on a single issue?
The "Yes to AV" campaign is run by leading Lib Dems and is funded by organisations with a long track record in funding the Lib Dems. If Lord Oakeshott is now opposed to cross-party co-operation, does he want Labour members to leave his campaign?
And if the Lib Dems are no longer advocates of cross-party co-operation, I think we should be told. David Cameron in particular would be most interested.
Tom Harris MP (Glasgow South, Lab)
House of Commons
There is nothing "inadvertent" about my support for the No campaign. I, as a former Labour MP, along with the vast majority of Labour activists, two thirds of Labour MPs, three quarters of Labour peers and millions of Labour voters will quite deliberately deliver our verdict on Nick Clegg's "miserable little compromise" on Thursday 5 May by voting No.
What a predictable response from a Lib Dem to the publication of the No campaign's lists of financial supporters. The "shock horror" headline that a Lib Dem peer has condemned the No campaign for having Tories on the team is laughable. What a surprise to have "revealed" that the Tories have more money than Labour! Surely some mistake?
National Organiser (Labour)
NO to AV, London SE1
Julian Lewis (letter, 12 April) has missed the point in asserting that in a general election "there are just two outcomes which matter", the return or non-return of a safe parliamentary majority for one party.
So it doesn't matter that the result may not remotely represent what most voters want? Does Dr Lewis really think that, or is he being less than honest with us?
Intellectual dishonesty is deeply ingrained in the "NO to AV" campaign. David Cameron, with a populist preacher's eye for a topical illustration, has likened the outcome of an election under AV to the award of the Grand National laurels to an also-ran. An election is not a race; it is a test of popularity. The favourite should be the rightful winner. The question is the best and most accurate way of determining the favourite. That is the outcome which matters.
Colin V Smith
St Helens, Merseyside
Woman's right to choose the burka
I am a Muslim. I do not don the niqab, but I still have a problem with a ban such as has been introduced in France.
It is not really true that we need to see the nose and the mouth of someone in order to interact with them. If this was the case, we would not phone or email instead of speaking face-to-face. There is not a strong enough case that not seeing the lower part of someone's face is a real barrier to communication to formulate a law which requires policing.
This claim Sarkozy has made of needing to liberate the shrouded Muslim woman has little basis in reality. It suggests that in order to be liberated we must fit into the Western model of the liberated woman, defined by how we dress and how hot we look, rather than who we are and the character and intellectual minds we have.
Has anyone stopped to think that some women, however beautiful they may be, wish to reject a culture which too often measures women by their exterior over their mind? They reject a society which has entangled women in a host of problems, ranging from sexual harassment in the workplace to sexual violence and rape – all rooted in the mentality fuelled by liberalism that people are free to treat the woman how they want.
Rather, these women seek to be defined by a way of life, the Islamic way of life, which defines them according to their values, their mind and what contributions they make to society. Slightly more worthwhile I'd say.
Burka-wearing is an attack on good health. We all need vitamin D, which comes naturally by exposing the skin of the face and arms to sunlight. The darker the skin, the more exposure needed.
Research at St James' Hospital, Dublin, in 2008 warned that "Muslim women who wear the burka are at increased risk of pelvic fracture during childbirth because of vitamin-D deficiency. Babies born to women with vitamin D-deficiency are also more prone to seizures during in their first week of life."
Creationism is just plain wrong
Five letters about creationism in schools (9 April) and not one manages to mention that teaching creationism is wrong, not because it is some tiff between religious and atheistic fundamentalists or any other anti-religious reason: it is wrong simply because it is factually incorrect.
Dr Black thinks that as long as "the teaching is good" we can teach even creationism alongside evolution, providing "teachers convey that scientific truth is decided by a sceptical approach and the weight of evidence".
Sure. We could also teach kids that two and two make five and with the same approach they will eventually find out for themselves. But please tell me: why bother?
Hove, East Sussex
Although the US Supreme Court in 1987 ruled that states cannot require public schools to balance evolution lessons by teaching creationism, the decision did not put an end to the practice.
When a small school district in Pennsylvania tried an end-run around the prohibition by asserting that intelligent design is different, a US District judge in 2004 rejected the claim, saying that ID is creationism in disguise. Nevertheless, several states are still waging battles to include it in science classes.
Nicholas Deliyanakis's reference to atheistic fundamentalists (Letters, 9 April) shows a lack of understanding of both atheism and fundamentalism.
Fundamentalism is the belief that a religious text is divinely inspired and therefore literally true. Atheism is the absence of belief in a god.
There is no text which atheists hail as inspired, particularly not divinely. Atheists cannot therefore be fundamentalists, although some are clearly more vociferous in their lack of belief than others.
Mobile phones in the classroom
Kartar Uppal asks if classrooms can be insulated so that mobile phones cannot receive a signal during class time (Letters, 11 April).
It is a relatively trivial matter to create a localised spoof cell with a range of only a few metres that doesn't connect to any network. As a mobile phone's default behaviour is to connect to the strongest signal available, the presenting of just such a signal with no onward connection would prevent any texts or calls being made or received. Indeed there is a good argument for the use of this technology in hospitals, theatres and cinemas in addition to schools, colleges and universities.
Unfortunately the use of such a piece of equipment would be in direct contravention of the Radio and Telecommunications Act and presumably would not go well with the mobile-phone companies, many of which paid the Government billions of pounds in licensing fees for free and unencumbered use of the spectrum such a device would need to be working in.
Mobile phones have become the new scapegoat for lack of discipline in schools (report, 8 April). The problem does not lie with the technology, but with classroom management.
Children are always finding ways to annoy teachers or bully their peers, and ring tones are the latest equivalent of humming or flicking chewing gum. A child who posts photos of the teacher on a social network site is plain stupid, since the evidence is there for all to see and for the school to take action.
Teachers must be given the power to manage their classes, which means confiscating mobile phones when they are used to distract or bully.
But by banning phones, schools are missing the opportunity to educate children in how their technology can become a tool for learning. Smartphones are now powerful computers and scientific instruments.
A few schools already allow children to use their mobile phones for project work, science investigations and revision. With cuts to their ICT budgets, perhaps it is time for schools to stop blaming children's phones and instead embrace them.
Professor Mike Sharples
Director, Learning Sciences Research Institute
University of Nottingham
Cancer test can fail
Further to Wendy Woodward's letter about bowel cancer screening (12 April), I am delighted that her test picked up the early stages of the disease, but I would like to point out that the test is by no means fool-proof.
Like her I was a fit and healthy woman in my early 60s, and the test I did last year came back as being "normal". Four weeks later I was diagnosed with bowel cancer and have since undergone radiotherapy, chemotherapy and a major operation. The test can give you a false sense of security so should never be considered 100 per cent reliable.
It gets worse
Spare a thought for those who work for BT (Letters, 11 April). Some years ago we were moving house with our elderly parents and needed our phone number transferred from our old house a mere half mile away. After many frustrating phone calls to BT, my husband finally lost his rag. When he apologised, the supervisor said: "That's quite all right sir, you're only a customer. If you worked for the company you'd feel like committing suicide."
I was sorry to read of Margaret Schofield's experience at Chelsea Football Club (Letters, 9 April). But perhaps the unpleasantness she described is more prevalent at Premier League clubs and/or in the south. This season I have been to games at Carlisle, Preston and Rochdale, and the atmosphere, while enthusiastic, has been completely non-threatening and friendly.
I am afraid that Hasani Hasani (letter, 7 April) is overlooking one important point when he makes a plea for international help to stop the genocide being perpetrated in Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe has no oil!
Perspectives on the Government's NHS changes
How on earth does the Government expect people trained as doctors to have any idea about finance, purchasing, negotiation, contracts, risk management, and all the other things GPs are going to be doing if they are given control of NHS spending? The whole idea is madness.
Listening for what?
You are right to express scepticism about the Government's "listening exercise" on the proposed changes to the NHS in England.
The whole point of a "listening exercise" is that it is not a proper public consultation and is thus not covered by the Cabinet Office code on public consultations nor subject to the body of case law on such consultations that has accrued over time.
The choice of a "listening exercise" may just be because of the potential impact on the legislative timetable (the code requires at least 12 weeks and some time to consider responses afterwards) or there may be a less charitable explanation.
The obvious explanation for Andrew Lansley's record expenditure on pot plants for his office (report, 8 April) is that after his disastrous meddling with the NHS he needs something to hide behind.
Solihull, West Midlands
Fair treatment for MPs
As a matter of public interest, I should like to know how many MPs have private health insurance, and how many rely on the public service that is about to be decimated.
Mary Anne O'Donovan
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