Sir: Now that a couple of ACTU present and former leaders have come out and declared the efficacy of breaking ‘bad laws’, where does that put cartoonists and others who have sought to break laws they think are ‘bad’, laws for example that prohibit offending other people?
Hold on lefties, not so fast—and by the way,’conservatives’ aren’t the only hypocrites here. 18C is a law straight out of the Reformation. You can’t actually break it yourself, but by the grace of somebody else (to wit, your honour, ‘the offended’) you shall surely die. So breaking this particular bad law was actually impossible until some Cindy Prior broke you for it. Imagine why, then (Wolfenden Report advocates, take note), this particular bad law immediately and inevitably opened the floodgates to blackmail.
Do we have room for laws of this sort in a society operating by modern, ‘secular’ jurisprudence? Apparently.
Macquarie Fields, NSW
Young and gorgeous
Sir: If I were young, gorgeous and rich enough to swan around Gstaad, I would love to meet Taki. But I’ll settle for reading the other great writers, particularly Rebecca Weisser, who have revealed the depth of cruelty dished out to Bill Leak and our young students, by the so-called guardians of our human rights.
Sir: I enjoyed David Martin Jones’ contribution (Killing history, 11 March) to the subject of the recent disturbing tendency in some ratbag circles to attempt to kill off much of our rich and wonderful history. It is probably not necessary, however, to misrepresent the past in order to effectively argue the present. In regard to David’s thesis, yes, those nasty Americans did maintain the slavery system well into the 19th century (1865?), but so too did the British Empire. In fact, although the Land of Hope and Glory abolished slavery in 1833, it provided ‘exemptions’ in a few key areas, and it wasn’t until 1843 that the practice was entirely ceased. Beat the Yanks home by a whisker, perhaps, but nothing to really brag about. Let’s be a little kinder to our American cousins. We may need them again a bit sooner than we think.
Speaking for Scotland
Sir: I wonder if it is wise of Charles Moore (Notes, 18 March) to assume — as so many do — that because they lost the independence referendum back in 2014, the Nationalists do not speak for Scotland? In the following general election Scottish voting virtually wiped out every political party north of the border, other than the SNP. Might it not be wiser to assume that the Scots had thought again?
Birds, gangs and economics
Sir: Simon Barnes is correct in his implication that the trapping and harvesting of small birds by criminal gangs in Cyprus is enough to make the average Briton squeamish (‘Little birds, big trouble’, 18 March). However, while this may be so, the current system of enforcement is clearly failing.
The problem Barnes describes seems to the uninitiated observer to be a variation on the classic the tragedy of the commons. While nominally anyone may benefit hugely from bird-catching if they get away with it, no one is willing to police the area effectively. The risk-to-reward ratio of illegal activity is simply too good for criminal gangs to pass up.
By way of a solution, I suggest that licensed individuals (local Cypriots preferably) ought to be able purchase quotas for the catching of birds from the bases, with the revenue paying for gamekeepers to patrol the areas.
This will have the quadruple effect of eliminating the unsustainable ‘take all we can, while we can’ attitude, undermining the profitability of criminal activity, reducing friction with the local Cypriot population and allowing the base police to make actual security the priority.
While for some this may seem distasteful, it must be remembered that the current system will see the birds harvested to extinction by criminals. Creating legitimate livelihoods that rely on bird populations’ continued strength is the only way that they can be managed sustainably.
Sir: Bravo Toby Young for his piece on dogs’ calling cards (Status anxiety, 18 March). He highlights a real problem. There seems to be but one means of dealing effectively with the minority of selfish dog owners who allow their pets to foul private and public areas, and that is an innovative Italian solution whereby dogs must be licensed and owners are required to submit a sample of each dog’s offering. The local authority then retains a DNA record of each animal and when canine muck is collected it can be matched with the sample and a hefty fine levied on the responsible individual. If the fines and licence fees are set at the right levels, the process can be self-financing, covering the costs of data collection, personnel and vehicles used in such a scheme.
Anthony J. Burnet
East Saltoun, East Lothian
Who was the Ripper?
Sir: I have great respect for Patricia Cornwell as a writer of fiction. Sadly, though, her beliefs on the identity of Jack the Ripper (‘Redeeming the Ripper’, 18 March) are just that. The generally-held belief is that the correspondence from Saucy Jack are fake, written either by a journalist or some other hoaxer. My own view is that the Ripper was probably Aaron Kosminski, but I doubt very much that it was Walter Sickert. He is as plausible a candidate as Sir William Gull, or the Duke of Clarence.