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Feedback | 14 June 2003

Readers respond to recent articles published in <i>The Spectator</i>

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Comment on The noble feat of Nike by Johan Norberg (07/06/2003)

Though I would not describe myself being anti-globalisation, I do think some qualification of Johan Norberg's article (the noble feat of Nike) is required.

Admittedly, I have no information on the conditions in the Vietnam factory that Norberg refers to, but such conditions are far from universal. If, as he says, workers are so desperate to work for Nike factories, why were 300 striking workers beaten by police in riot gear outside the Kuk Dong factory in Atlixco, Mexico in January 2001? Apparently because they wanted to form a union for better wages and food.

In the same country, workers in the Puma factory Matamoros Garment in Puebla, Mexico had not been paid for three weeks, and went on a one-day strike. There were also complaints of forced overtime, no freedom of association and forced overtime. The management threatened that the workers would lose their jobs if they did not renounce their decision to form a union. Puma then withdrew its orders because of the strike.

Does Mr Norberg really think that the labour code of practice that Nike employs (although it has been found not to implement the code in some cases) would have been adopted if it were not for the publicity generated by the protesters whom he denounces as naive teens who need to 'learn their lesson'? In 1998, Nike's CEO made a statement pledging to improve the conditions in foreign plants precisely because they were so frightened of the effect that a boycott would have on profits.

Globalisation can be a good thing, but only if employed responsibly under the watchful eye of people with a conscience. Simplistic views about how globalisation is undoubtedly the best thing since the wheel are deeply unhelpful, and deeply flawed.

Robin Evans

I can only assume Johan Norberg was paid handsomely by Nike to write this article. Globalisation is a disgrace and should be resisted at any cost - and I really mean any.

It's a disgrace. $54 a WEEK? Assuming Nike employees work 6 days on a 9-hour day, that is a dollar an hour, or one-sixth of the US minimum wage and about one-eighth of the UK minimum.

Norberg talks about 'enriching' the poor. They're going to be RICH on $600 a year? "Exploitation" is the correct word, not 'enrichment'.

And what about the workers in the West who are thrown out of work as a result? That's OK I suppose.

Even white collar and high tech jobs are now rapidly disappearing to India and suchlike. I read yesterday that BT has just announced their intentions to close UK Call Centres and move them to India.

My son is a highly talented programmer at 16. What should I advise him to study at university? Computer technology? What a laugh. By the time he finishes, all the jobs will be in Bombay at a dollar an hour.

It looks like globalisation is going to leave British workers as waiters, cleaners, and cooks. Every other job will be farmed out in Asia.

Clive Warner

Comment on The great pretender by Peter Oborne (07/06/2003)

I think Peter Oborne has a cheek to call Tony Blair the great pretender in his latest cover piece for your magazine. Lets remember, Oborne is the same guy who took a particular objection to an interview the Prime Minister had with The Sun a few weeks after the end of the war, in which he said he thought he might have to resign.

Having told us this was all just spin, we then remembered that no lesser than Donald Rumsfeld spilt the beans on the contingency plans being drawn up in the event the government lost that crucial vote. So it turned out to be not so fanciful after all.

Considering that Peter Oborne's credibility took such a huge knock over this episode, I think it's a little too soon for him to be doing cover story's on the PM's credibility. Oborne has got at least another six months of hard graft before he can hope to get back to anything like his former position as a respected watcher of government affairs

Doug Gray

Comment on Is Saddam in Russia? by Raymond Keene (07/06/2003)

Mr. Keene's theory is an interesting one and not at all improbable to a layman. The first question that springs to mind after reading 'Is Saddam in Russia' is why there aren't a lot more of these theories. And indeed why the services responsible for finding Saddam aren't checking up on leads such as this one.

The article did, however, leave me with a few unanswered questions, perhaps because of the authors wish to be brief. In that case I would be much obliged if Mr. Keene was in the opportunity to elaborate on the following:

1. Unfamiliar as I am with the world of chess, I wonder if Mr. Ilumzhinov's millions spent on the game are not a subject of scrutiny by Fidé. And if not, why? Surely all members run the risk of harming their good names, should it emerge that they have been supporting, or accepting support from, a dubious if not criminal source.

2. Apparently Kirsan's 'inexhaustible money tap' as Mr. Keene calls it, is too fluent to simply stem from his endeavours as 'the head of more than 50 companies, banks and bourses, both in Russia and abroad,' and his position as president. But those occupations would not, it would seem, leave him a poor man. And though I'm ready to accept the friendship between Kirsan and Saddam as presented in the article, I'm curious to know a) who exactly suspects him of violating the economic boycott, b) what Mr Keene would estimate is the difference between Kirsans 'legal' income and the actual amounts he seems to spend and c) whether Mr. Keene knows of any substantial proof to the claim of violating the boycott.

3. Supposing Saddam did flee Iraq with Kirsan's help, does Mr. Keene think he would really take residence in Kalmykia? Surely he can't afford to sit tight for too long and surely he has more friends throughout the world (including in the CIA). Does Kalmykia make for a good base camp from a geographical point of view?

4. Not fully up to date on Russian-Kalmykian relations, what course does Mr. Keene suppose events would take should Saddam's presence in Kalmykia indeed be discovered en made known? Would Russians allow for US forces to come and get Saddam, regardless of local or national wishes?

Don't get me wrong, I'm far from attacking this article, I'm simply interested, both as a journalist and as a reader

Steven Stol
The Netherlands

Comment on Mind Your Language by Dot Wordsworth (07/06/2003)

Your current piece on 'they/them/their' as unisex neutral pronouns is most interesting. As an editor involved in producing English language textbooks for German schools I am faced with this problem a lot, and I must say in the majority of cases we favour use of the plural pronoun with a singular antecedent. With indefinite pronoun antecedents like someone/no-one/everyone/whoever‘ it is really quite uncontroversial. After all, nobody would surely ever say 'Has somebody lost his or her keys?' or 'Whoever wants to can leave his or her car in the driveway.' 'The caller' is also pretty indefinite and therefore I have no difficulty accepting the example you quote. But it can sometimes be a bit jarring when the singular antecedent is very specific rather than indefinite and is then followed immediately by a plural reference, as for example: 'A pupil who gives a wrong answer must put their card back in the pile.' I think it's okay, but the clash of singular and plural still worries me a bit in cases like that.

As for the reflexive, themself‘ (which my computer also just corrected to themselves‘ unhelpfully!), it's more widespread and older in origin than you may imagine. I found 27 examples in the British National Corpus (from OUP) and m ost are rather convincing. What about: 'How could someone hang themself?' 'There is no point in telling a seriously depressed person to pull themself together.' 'The person nominated should attach a 50-word statement about themself.' 'Make sure that anyone offering help identifies themself before you open the door.' And last but not least an apposite translation for the French saying Sauve qui peut! might well be 'Everyone for themself', don't you think?

The first citation I could find dates from a poem by Emily Dickinson of 1862 by the way. One verse reads: ' He questioned softly "Why I failed?" "For beauty‘" I replied "And I for truth- themself are one. We brethren are", he said'

Slightly strange language, but I presume Emily chose the form consciously.

Many thanks for your ever-stimulating observations.

Michael Ferguson
Berlin, Germany

There is no need to agonise over this. In order to avoid "he or she" etc I hit upon the solution, in mixed groups, of always using the feminine word. Thus, "If the manager meets this problem she should..." The women loved it and the men did not seem to mind. I put the idea forward for general adoption.

Harry Baker

Comment on Bad for business by Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka (07/06/2003)

I would like to endorse the comments and sentiments made by Mr Musyoka in his article.

Kenya has always been one of the most fervent supporters, in Africa, of the West. It is totally incomprehensible, therefore, that the West has decided to take "destructive" measures against Kenya when surely the better alternative would have been to implement the more effective and least harmful "constructive" measures.

It appears on the surface, that the West are doing what they can to discredit the new Kibaki Government, that is doing it's very best to turn Kenya around after years of misrule under the Moi regime.

Do the West not appreciate that there is no social security in Kenya. With the imminent layoffs in the Tourism sector, what alternatives are there for those affected? More crime?

Everybody is aware that Kenya has limited resources when it comes to fighting the relatively new phenomenon of "terrorism". So why not come to the aid of a faithful ally, rather that cutting his legs off beneath the hips!

John Lyall

Comment on Truth twisters by Taki (07/06/2003)

If the French and British had had the guts to take on Hitler when he reoccupied the Rhineland, World War II wouldn't have happened. However, those who preferred to wait and see, who needed absolute, concrete evidence of Hitler's malevolent intentions, convinced the world to hold its collective breath and six years later 50 million people were dead.

George H made the same mistake in 1991, thank goodness George W cleaned up the mess before history repeated itself.

The inability of the allies to find WMD in Iraq is irrelevant. It was documented that Saddam had them. There was no evidence that he destroyed them. Ergo, they still exist. By the time the inspectors were finished, he would have had more deadly ones. Now he'll never have any.

Edward Cooke

Taki asks how a matador can be called a coward? Easy. Without his pack of murderous sadistic bastards which matador would go into the ring? In 400 years only one matador has been killed in the bullring at Ronda! Not a very dangerous pursuit.

Laurie Stewart