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Monday 7 September 2009
Letters: Software industry
Software industry bleating about 'losses' rings hollow
John Lovelock (letters, 1 September) makes an impassioned plea for draconian measures against software "thieves". But who are the thieves in the matter? One software company made an immense fortune by doing a deal with hardware manufacturers to install its software on every PC sold. People are made to pay for hidden extras as part of a deal without even being aware they are doing so. Just try to buy an empty computer and choose the software you want.
Selling software is a bit like saying: "I know how to cure swine flu, but you are going to have to pay an exorbitant fee for that knowledge".
The internet is rapidly becoming as essential a service as utilities such as gas and electricity. To deprive a household of gas and electricity is immoral. The more so in that forbidding internet access to one person means in practice depriving a whole household of it.
The losses that Mr Lovelock quotes are not true losses, rather a grossly exaggerated calculation of the extra money that might have been earned if everybody acted like the milk cows he wants them to be. The market capitalisation of Microsoft is $219bn with 60,000 employees; that for the Boeing company is $34bn with 160,000 employees. My, how the software companies are suffering from piracy.
I spent the 1980s working in the music industry, when record companies considered it fair and honest to expect their loyal customers to pay £15 to re-buy their Beatles albums, while insisting that their artists took a cut in royalties to help pay for development of the new technology. This windfall had the effect of making music executives lazy, and the decline in quality of music, plus the search for "an easy hit", followed.
The new fans now see music as essential but valueless in terms of money; I doubt that anyone under the age of 20 has any idea that music is not freely available.
The good news is that some people will always want to make music and others will always want to listen to it. This is great news for aspiring artists, who no longer have to run the appalling gauntlet of trying to get a record deal.
Cowes, Isle of Wight
Grim outlook for Afghani women
Can Paul Flynn ("We've wasted enough lives in this war", 5 September) be correct in claiming that "the rights of women in Afghanistan now are worse than under the Taliban"?
Even with the recent law regarding marital rape, it seems unlikely that women and girls would be as present as they now are in schools, work, elections and the public sphere under a renewed Taliban rule. Indigenous Afghan support for human rights has been built up considerably by the West since 2001, but the outlook when the West withdraws is far grimmer.
The brutal truth is that the hopes and expectations raised by the West for human rights and development among Afghans, women and girls in particular, are likely to be abandoned. The Afghans don't want to be occupied; as long as foreign forces remain, war will continue and the process of Afghans sorting out their own issues, including human rights, will be postponed and made more difficult in the long run.
The human-rights and development community bears considerable responsibility for raising Afghan expectations, and then exiting before any meaningful improvements are in any remote way embedded.
Many in this community failed to see that "liberal" intervention in Afghanistan was an afterthought to justify invasion for other reasons. They bought into a project that was predicated on change through force.
But tagging along on invasions is rarely likely to advance the rule of law on which human rights and development depend. Afghan women and girls most of all will pay the price.
Gordon Brown has announced that 200 additional Army experts will be sent to Afghanistan to help to defend against roadside bombs (report, 29 August). Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) personnel must not be risked by using them to search for hidden devices, as they are just as vulnerable while on the move and on foot as our infantry.
EOD teams should only be called in once a suspect device has been located, the approach road has been made safe and the immediate area had been secured against ambush as far as is feasible. Dissidents will try to lure EOD teams into range of the double booby-trap, i.e. other devices hidden nearby.
The death of the Army's senior bomb-disposal expert in Belfast demonstrates terrorist cunning; Major Bernard Calladene was killed in Wellington Street, Belfast on 29 March 1972. A suspicious vehicle had been examined by a Bomb Squad and when Calladene approached it the bomb was exploded remotely.
Experience in Ulster shows that members of EOD will soon be reappearing in the casualty reports with little or no benefit to our troops in Afghanistan.
One can only hope that they will be used in a research and advisory role, and not to supplement insufficient infantry.
Major (Retd) Michael Hamilton
Kelso, Scottish Borders
Before long more servicemen and women will have died in Afghanistan than died in the Falklands War. That, at least, was a conflict with a clear aim and of limited duration. The war in Afghanistan is a quagmire sucking in more and more lives every day.
It is a disgrace that no major political party dares oppose this unnecessary, unending and unprofitable conflict.
Dr Mark Corner
Gordon Brown is wrong. The war in Afghanistan is and always has been, unwinnable. Eventually, Britain and the US will broker a deal with the Taliban, as the main political representatives of the Pashtun people in Afghanistan. The only thing that is in doubt is how many British troops will be killed and injured before that deal is struck.
So my message to our soldiers here in Catterick Garrison and around the country is stark and unequivocal: just do not go. Refuse to serve in Afghanistan. Stand your ground and stop this madness now.
Richmond, North Yorkshire
The dossier concerning the antics of "ArmorGroup North America" employees would appear to hold few surprises (report, 4 September). It would be difficult to imagine a more daunting job description than "guarding the American Embassy in Kabul". Wilting violets are less likely to apply than are gun totin', living-on-the-edge, adrenalin junkies. Hardly surprising, then, that their idea of a good night out is to dress up as mujahedin fighters, borrow some night-vision goggles and head out on the town.
The GM lobby can't depend on science
In defence of GM crops, Dr Julian Little (letters, 4 September) suggests that we should adopt "science-led decision-making" to allow farmers to grow modified crops to improve their efficiency to meet the needs of a growing population. This is a dangerous argument for the GM lobby to pursue.
If we are about to venture into a genuine science-led decision-making process, the first decision must be to run down all livestock production in the UK. Proponents of GM crops claim improved yields of around 20 per cent to 30 per cent (though these figures are extremely contentious). Cows, pigs and sheep waste 80 per cent to 90 per cent of the food they eat; nobody denies these figures and no significant senior nutritionist argues that meat or animal products are necessary for human health.
If decision-making vis-à-vis methods of food production is to be truly "science-led" then GM crops have no significant part to play in that process.
But livestock farmers can relax. No politician has the courage to argue for decision-making in food production to be truly science-led; such a stance would be electoral suicide.
Dunlop, East Ayrshire
But who will pay the scientists who produce the science used in the "science-led" decision-making advocated by Dr Little? Come to that, who funds the Agricultural Biotechnology Council?
Nothing ethical in the arms trade
Alex Dorrian, Chief Executive of Thales, is miffed that the arms industry has an image problem and is not seen as "ethical" (3 September).
That's because the image reflects the reality – arms sales create profits from socially useless products, fuel conflict and human-rights abuse, divert funds from development and services, and can facilitate corrupt business activities.
Mr Dorrian makes great play of the benefits of exports and employment. However, arms exports provide only 1.5 per cent of exports (with 40 per cent import content) and employ 0.7 per cent of the workforce. In addition, arms-export jobs are heavily subsidised by the taxpayer to the tune of £9,000 each, through government-sponsored Research and Development (R&D), and government insurance and military-procurement policies, where project overruns are measured in decades and billions of pounds.
R&D should be directed to areas that are socially beneficial and support real security, primarily combating climate change.
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), London N4
Independence for Scotland
Why do you not support Scottish independence when you supported freedom for the countries of Eastern Europe from Russian domination (leading article, 4 September)? Scotland lost her independence through bribery, when quisling Scottish aristocrats accepted "bungs" from the English government; the ordinary people of Scotland were against the Act of Union and viewed it as an attempt to destroy Scottish nationality.
The SNP is to be commended for using peaceful means. Violent confrontation has often been needed to gain independence from Britain. Let's hope it does not come to the bullet in this instance.
Donald J MacLeod
Brought to book
Richard Garner reports (3 September) that thousands of primary-school children fail to complete the reading of a single book during the course of an academic year. As a university teacher of 17 years, I would be surprised to see evidence that anything has changed by the time those same children become first-year undergraduates.
Walton on the Hill, Surrey
NHS job cuts
It would be interesting to know how many millions of pounds the NHS paid these management consultants to come up with the bright idea that large sums of money could be saved by sacking 10 per cent of the staff (report, 3 September). Any fool could tell them a firm could save money by cutting back on staff and services, as Beeching did with the railways. The difficult bit is to analyse where money could be saved without disrupting services of value to the community.
I must take exception to Yanni Papastavrou's letter (3 September). When Johann Hari (Opinion, 2 September) objects to the phrase "Christian/Muslim children" he is objecting to the imposition of a belief system upon a person who does not yet have the experience or mental maturity to decide for themselves the validity of such a belief. The term "English children" is a statement of fact. Children born in England are, by dint of their location at birth, English.
Kevin A Latham
No need for speed
This comparatively small country of ours needs greater railway capacity rather than speed (letters, 2 September). This can be achieved, and in a greener fashion, by upgrading remaining diesel-operated main lines (including existing alternative routes from London to Birmingham, Leeds and Plymouth), lengthening trains and reducing the amount of first-class accommodation. Any new line would inevitably penalise investment elsewhere on the system and turn out over estimate and behind schedule.
Perhaps Boots the chemist should check that Damien Hirst hasn't inadvertently trespassed upon their intellectual-property rights within his Pharmacy sculpture ("Damien Hirst in vicious feud with teenage artist over a box of pencils", 4 September). An anagram of his name is "Mr Thin Ideas". 'Nuff said.
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