I respectfully disagree with the US president in his claim of victory that Friday’s missile strike on Syria was a “mission accomplished”.
If his intention was to wag the dog and detract the public from the avalanches of troubles facing him, including the latest bestseller by the former FBI director, then no significant victory has been achieved as the list of problems keeps growing.
If his aim behind sending the missiles was to get a peaceful sleep at night away from the many women claiming to have had relationship with him then nothing has been achieved to make him happy.
The mission was nothing but a show-off; a disgrace and a mockery to the helpless children who were allegedly poisoned to slow and agonising death.
If Trump was serious and honest about it he would have acted a long time ago and would have gone after the ruthless regime.
Abubakar N Kasim
What gives Theresa May the moral high ground over Syria?
The Independent reported how in 2012 Britain was content to permit sales to the Syrian government of chemicals that could be used in the development of chemical weapons.
Is it not sad, though unsurprising, that in all the mainstream interviews and commentaries on the UK’s “humanitarian concern” in bombing Syria, no mention is made of this? Is it not sad, though also unsurprising, that mainstream interviews of government ministers have not questioned how this government can have such humanitarian concern that justifies the bombing, while happily permitting arms sales to Saudi that contribute to the immense sufferings and numerous deaths of Yemeni civilians?
Indeed, we may add a further inconsistency – hypocrisy, indeed – regarding Theresa May’s great outrage at the use of chemical weapons, given that she has explicitly said that she is prepared to use nuclear weapons, even on a first strike. It is difficult to see how the results of such use would be less devastating than the recent uses of chemical weapons. Nuclear: good; chemical: bad?
We have no support for retirement plans
The issue of saving for retirement seems impenetrable. Where is the advice suggesting how much you need to put into a pension fund during each decade of your life to give yourself the best chance of a “comfortable” retirement? How can you invest in a pension fund when you are in your twenties or thirties if you have no or little earned income or are one of the “only just managing”? If you are the average man or woman with little knowledge of how pension funds work, how investments accrue and who the best fund managers are, how can you be sure that whatever you do save is in the best place?
If you have an employer with a final salary pension scheme which is willing to pay you a generous final salary, you are truly lucky. If you have a well-paid job and can afford to put additional funds into your pension fund with an employer which also contributes a large percentage of your salary you are also lucky.
If you are a struggling member of the self-employed community or someone who has been employed on a series of restricted-hours contracts, paying minimum wage, with no requirement for pension contributions, then even though your contribution to society has been great, you are unlucky and will probably have to survive on your state pension alone. Even public-sector pensions are less generous than in days gone by due to changes in employment contracts and patterns of working.
Pensions continue to foster wealth divisions and inequality in society. Age UK reports there are 1.9 million pensioners living in poverty or only just above the poverty line, with projections that these figures will increase instead of contract. Many people of beyond retirement age have to work to supplement their state pensions although that can be difficult if they have health problems or caring responsibilities for elderly parents. Many of them might have paid plenty into a pension scheme but the payout is small due to the performance of that fund, which is based essentially on gambling on the stock market.
A better understanding of how both state and private pensions are accrued is essential.
Let’s wheel out driverless cars
Ashley Nunes argues that two recent deaths in the US show that driverless cars are not ready for the road. However he doesn’t tell us how many deaths would be expected from conventional cars doing the same mileage under the same conditions. If we require an impossibly high standard of autonomous vehicles before allowing their widespread rollout, then more people will die rather than fewer. This needs an informed risk analysis, rather than an emotional response.
Those at less prestigious universities still work hard
Janet Street-Porter said in her article on Saturday that she had encouraged her friend’s two teenage sons to do plumbing and electrician apprenticeships. As long as their desire to do these apprenticeships matched her wish for them to do this, then certainly that is a great outcome.
However, she then went on to say that this career route is more impressive than “gaining a useless degree at a third division university in geography or media studies”. You cannot say that one career route is simply better than another. Not everyone is suited to a construction apprenticeship, and not everyone can get into a “Premier League” university and course.
Hundreds if not thousands of young people have done what Janet Street-Porter would regard as useless degrees at third division universities, and have ended up in professional and managerial occupations. Sure, some of them will not be in graduate jobs six months after completing their course but they have worked hard to try and achieve this. No doubt all of these students know they are not at prestigious universities, but they are doing what they can, often overcoming positions of disadvantage to do so.
At least leaving the EU is a democratic choice
Like Sir Patrick Stewart I too remember our joining the common market as it then was in 1973. For me it was a day of despair as we turned our backs on our Commonwealth and non-European partners in favour of joining a Western European trade bloc. And all this without any public vote – it was decided by the then government of Edward Heath and pushed through parliament without much public consultation.
I do not accept at all Sir Patrick’s view that it is the EU that has kept the peace in Europe since 1945. Peace has been maintained by Nato and, more specifically, by the very large forces the US and the UK kept stationed in Germany until the 1990s. Indeed EU attempts to peace-make in the Balkans war were ineffective to say the least.
In the recent referendum campaign both sides used misleading information and scare tactics. I doubt that many voters had their minds changed by either campaign. Parliament voted overwhelmingly to allow the electorate to make the decision on EU membership and undertook to abide by that decision. It is an assault on democracy for politicians, and their celebrity supporters, to try to get round this now just because some did not get the result they were expecting.
No further vote by politicians or people is needed. We just need to get on with the process of leaving. And leaving completely. Any form of agreement which leaves us subject in any way to Brussels and EU institutions but leaves us without a role in the decision-making process would not be leaving and would result in our being in the worst of all positions. If this means leaving the single market then so be it. Most people who voted to leave understand this and it is patronising of the remain campaign to suggest that they don’t.
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