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Wednesday 11 August 2010
Letters: The victims of drink-driving
Like Mary Ann Sieghart (Opinion, 9 August) I find it inconvenient to arrange travel for partying or visiting a remote pub. I have nostalgic memories from the pre-breathalyser days of determining that the driver for the homeward journey was whoever was least drunk.
I also remember, painfully, being a passenger on such a journey where two of my friends went through the windscreen. They survived, but, 40 years on, the scars are still visible.
It is true that the number of road deaths per year is now remarkably low, and further reductions will be hard to achieve. However, for every death there are about 100 serious injuries, many of which are life-changing events to innocent victims.
If drunk drivers were able only to damage themselves, I would be happy to see no restrictions. As it is, I would vote for a zero limit. You have to factor in the cost of safe, legal transport or overnight accommodation into the total cost of your evening out. End of discussion.
It is a long time since I have read anything as irresponsible as the article by Mary Ann Sieghart. What she fails to realise is that, the more alcohol you have in your blood, the more your driving ability is impaired.
The logic of her argument is that if a driver stays just within the current limit by having, say, 79mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, but kills an innocent person because of drink-impaired driving, then that's the price that has to be paid to stop the Government making our lives "more miserable".
No it isn't, and I am sure she would not feel this way if the victim were a member of her own family. The limit should be reduced to as near zero as possible, thereby reducing still further the number of avoidable tragedies. A reduction to 50mg would be a step in the right direction.
There is no need whatsoever for anyone to drink and drive.
Mary Ann Sieghart is picking and choosing statistics to fit her argument. In saying "what's remarkable about our roads, though, is not that they're so dangerous but that they're so safe" she neglects to mention that Great Britain is still nowhere near the top of the table when it comes to the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and children.
In common with many groups concerned about the number of deaths and injuries on our roads, CTC, the national cyclists' organisation, is not "trying to spook politicians" but is still waiting for the Government to publish the new Road Safety Strategy. CTC hopes that it will contain measures like 20mph speed limits, tackling bad driving and an increase in the availability of cycle training. This will encourage more as well as safer cycling, making our roads a safer and more enjoyable place to be. We are not, as Ms Sieghart thinks, just trying to spoil everyone's fun.
CTC Campaigns and Policy Director, Guildford, Surrey
Mary Ann Sieghart informs us that our roads are "so safe", but later in the same paragraph she notes that over 2,000 people were killed in traffic accidents last year. The inferior record of other countries merely signifies that British roads are less dangerous.
Two methods for improving road safety: first, prevent cars from exceeding speed limits by mechanical inhibition (fitting mandatory transponder-controlled fuel flow governors in their engines) and secondly, require all drivers to pass periodic competency checks, perhaps every five years (or every two years for drivers aged over 70).
Scrapping speed cameras? Jeremy Clarkson is Prime Minister!
Handout for council tenants
Tony Webb's letter (10 August) calculates that his parents have paid approximately £146,000 rent "in today's prices" for their council house in Swansea. He is unhappy with David Cameron's proposals, which might now apply to his parents tenancy. Apparently they have been tenants for 45 years. That's about £65 per week rent for a house in Wales, which I calculate to be half the open market rent.
That being the case, Tony Webb's parents have effectively received £146,000 from the state and the longer they occupy the property, the bigger the state handout. I consider that somebody claiming 45 years of subsidy totalling some £146,000 requires constant review, and a time-limited lease might then release this property to somebody in dire need.
It is wrong that council house tenants should have the advantages of secure, low-cost housing for life, when their circumstances may have improved vastly. It is equally wrong that anyone should be forced out of their family home, simply because their work situation has improved.
A sensible compromise would be that as residents' circumstances improve, a sliding scale should bring them up to paying a market rent. This would mean that there is no financial bar to them moving elsewhere in the future, but that they can stay put if they want.
The increased rents collected from the non-movers could then go towards building more social housing.
Fossilised by religion
Vera Lustig (letters, 10 August) is right that female circumcision predates Islam, and probably Christianity. But that does not get those religions off the hook.
It is one of the three great evils of organised religion that it fossilises and preserves barbaric customs, practices and attitudes which would otherwise have faded away. Homophobia and misogyny are the obvious examples, embedded in the "traditions" of many great religions, whether or not they are supported by the actual texts of the founders. The fondness of fundamentalist Christians for selected passages of Leviticus is typical, but not so revolting as the sight of an Anglican bishop in Uganda supporting the death penalty for homosexuals. What would Jesus say, indeed?
Since you ask, the other two great evils are the artificial boundaries which religion establishes between people who would otherwise have lived perfectly happily side by side, and the vast power, literally life-and-death in many cases, which it gives to entirely self-perpetuating and self-selecting elite groups. And all three evils overlap, interact and support each other.
Shops with a language barrier
Dr Ama Biney's account of covert racism against Black Africans within Asian shops in Newham (Letter, 4 August) has reminded me of similar accounts told by Black British people in Lozells, Birmingham after the riots of October 2005.
The problem centres around Asians who have recently come to this country who prefer to associate with similar Asians, speak their own language and can at times seem impolite to other races. This is not true of British Asians, like myself, who invariably speak English and are fully integrated into society.
Increasing ties between recently arrived Asians and British Asians may be a good way to assimilate new arrivals and avoid the tensions with the Black community in the UK.
West Bromwich, West Midlands
Small charge for homeopathy
Thank you for another big article on homeopathy (3 August). While there are some inaccuracies, I am told that there is no such thing as bad publicity.
Here are some numbers to consider alongside the ones you quoted . Your estimated cost to the NHS of homeopathic treatments was £4m. The cost of the NHS according to the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry in 2005 was £85bn. I did the maths. Homeopathy costs 0.0048 per cent of the total bill.
Typical cost of an initial consultation with homeopath, £150, according to The Independent: actual cost, usually around the £60 mark. I speak as a practising homeopath.
Plenty of £10 theatre seats
There are currently 20,000 £10 seats available to book in the Olivier Theatre for Welcome to Thebes, Danton's Death and Hamlet (letter, 7 August), with more performances of Hamlet still to be announced.
All three shows are part of the Travelex £10 Tickets season for which, as Geoffrey Robinson correctly says, almost half the seats are £10. Over 100,000 Travelex £10 tickets are offered each season and we've sold over a million of them since 2003.
Outside the Travelex season, a more limited number of £10 seats are offered for every performance. For very popular shows, these can be snapped up quickly, but you can purchase advance National Theatre membership for as little as £15, and £10 day seats are always available too.
National Theatre, London SE1
Last job I would ever consider
High Street Ken reports on Chris Grayling's clampdown on the advertising in Jobcentres of such jobs as pole-dancing and lap-dancing (Diary, 3 August). On a recent Jobcentre visit I came across a vacancy for a webcam entertainer ("to conduct conversations of a sexual nature while semi-naked or naked"). It was pretty much the only job on offer for which I didn't lack the requisite paper qualifications (HGV, NVQ etc), but, fearing that I lack the physical qualifications, I didn't apply.
Having said that, in 30 fortnightly visits to the Jobcentre there was a total of one post advertised that I felt worth a try. Despite spending four days on the application, offering 30 years' relevant experience and being prepared to take a 50 per cent cut on my previous salary, I didn't get shortlisted.
The employer, a charity, wrote saying, "We hope this doesn't discourage you from applying for future vacancies with us." It did. Perhaps web-cam entertainment is my way forward.
Not the first Lib Dem coalition
The criticisms levelled at the Liberal Democrats say more about the writers than the party. Lib Dems have succeeded in coalition in Wales and Scotland and in town halls across Britain. They have held to their beliefs while engaging in compromise to achieve their goals.
The London-centric press and England-based critics lack this experience and seem trapped in a "winner-takes-all" world.
You ponder how many Lib Dem MPs might lose their seats at the next election if poll ratings stay as they currently are (10 August). Surely however this is a false speculation. It is unlikely that these MPs will face Tory opposition and most will stand a reasonable chance of being re-elected as National Liberals.
I read with amusement Philip Hensher's article on whether town names have meanings (9 August). He attributed this idea to The Meaning of Liff by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd. I thought it was now well known that the wonderful article "Ware, Wye, Watford" by Paul Jennings used this idea many years before that book was published. My favourite quote from it is the near-Zen like old proverb: "Man Erith, Woman Morpeth."
Chris Maume's review of the book Slipless in Settle (10 August) refers to "railway lines that Beecham somehow missed". Is he not aware that while Dr Beeching went through our rail system like a dose of salts, Sir Thomas was able to conduct himself in a more becoming manner?
At last, though indirectly, our Western hypocrisies about anonymity and the burka are exposed by Stephen Glover (Viewspaper, 9 August) when he highlights the generally accepted anonymity that we practice through blogs – but also through cold-calling, texts, emails, and chat rooms. We are very often deliberately more unseen to each other than any woman in Islamic dress could ever be.
PERSPECTIVES ON HIROSHIMA
Bombs ended my father's war
It is easy for Robert Fisk (7 August) to take a revisionist view of the atomic bombings of Japan when he is sitting in a comfortable chair in front of a keyboard, 65 years later. From his cosy vantage point, those bombings were driven mainly by budgetary rather than military considerations, the prospect of a bloody invasion was chimeric, the Japanese were considering surrender anyway, and "most people" now feel that they amounted to war crimes. All of those assertions are highly questionable.
During the Second World War , my father was an infantry officer in the US Army. He fought the Japanese in New Guinea and in the Philippines, and he was highly decorated for his efforts. He was also slated to be among the very first elements in the invasion of Japan. In that regard, his view at the time was that he was very unlikely to emerge unscathed from that mission. He is for ever thankful that those bombs spared him from having to find out. (And, as his son, so am I.)
Fisk speculatively projects Japanese talk of surrender as firm intentions to buttress his arguments. At the time of the bombings, the Japanese had continued the war for months after the Germans had given up the fight; and they failed to promptly surrender the day after Hiroshima, which belies the argument that they were really anywhere near the verge.
Mark S Winston
No need for an apology
It is wrong to muddle up Hiroshima in the argument over whether any nation should make apologies for their war crimes. We Japanese would like to see as many as nations as possible come to Hiroshima and attend the memorial service to seek to end nuclear weapons, but it doesn't have to imply an apology.
One bomb destroyed the whole city of Hiroshima instantly; 450,000 people were exposed to dangerous radiation and 140,000 people died within three months. These people could well foresee the end of the entire human race, if only one bomb could bring about such hell. Their thoughts and wishes are far beyond blaming anybody or asking for apologies; they just simply don't want to see nuclear weapons exist in this world.
If Robert Fisk has visited the peace memorial park and the atomic bomb museum in Hiroshima, it must have been clear to him that there is no accusation or blame, but just a deep regret for us to have caused the crazy war that brought such a tragedy and a firm determination to put an end to nuclear weapons.
Sometimes you can be too late to say sorry, but you can never be too late to try to understand what really happened in Hiroshima 65 years ago. It doesn't matter if you are a winner or loser of the war: the US and UK ambassadors' attendance at the memorial service doesn't have to be taken as an apology at all. And I hope they agreed with the Hiroshima mayor's speech at the ceremony: "We must not allow this horrible thing to happen to anybody else, ever again."
Maybe the world learnt a lesson
Robert Fisk believes that the atomic bombs dropped on Japan were unnecessary because "the Japanese were already talking of surrender". I'd like to remind Mr Fisk that it took a second nuclear attack, this time on Nagasaki, before Japan finally capitulated. This causes me to wonder just how much longer they would have gone on talking about it.
There is one other aspect to this bombing that I've not seen debated before. Horrible though the event and its aftermath were, they did show the world how dreadful were the effects of the use of such weapons. Could this be one reason why during the Cold War neither side turned those keys and pushed the buttons?
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