Sunday, 28 February 2010

Letter to the Government

This is slightly old but it is still angrily funny in a Jonathan Swift 'A Modest Proposal' way (hat-tip: Mum!):


Rt Hon David Miliband MP
Secretary of State.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA),
Nobel House
17 Smith Square

16 July 2009

Dear Secretary of State,

My friend, who is in farming at the moment, recently received a cheque for £3,000 from the Rural Payments Agency for not rearing pigs. I would now like to join the "not rearing pigs" business.

In your opinion, what is the best kind of farm not to rear pigs on, and which is the best breed of pigs not to rear? I want to be sure I approach this endeavour in keeping with all government policies, as dictated by the EU under the Common Agricultural Policy.

I would prefer not to rear bacon pigs, but if this is not the type you want not rearing, I will just as gladly not rear porkers. Are there any advantages in not rearing rare breeds such as Saddlebacks or Gloucester Old Spots, or are there too many people already not rearing these?

As I see it, the hardest part of this programme will be keeping an accurate record of how many pigs I haven't reared. Are there any Government or Local Authority courses on this?

My friend is very satisfied with this business. He has been rearing pigs for forty years or so, and the best he ever made on them was £1,422 in 1968. That is - until this year, when he received a cheque for not rearing any.

If I get £3,000 for not rearing 50 pigs, will I get £6,000 for not rearing 100? I plan to operate on a small scale at first, holding myself down to about 4,000 pigs not raised, which will mean about £240,000 for the first year. As I become more expert in not rearing pigs, I plan to be more ambitious, perhaps increasing to, say, 40,000 pigs not reared in my second year, for which I should expect about £2.4 million from your department. Incidentally, I wonder if I would be eligible to receive tradable carbon credits for all these pigs not producing harmful and polluting methane gases?

Another point: These pigs that I plan not to rear will not eat 2,000 tonnes of cereals. I understand that you also pay farmers for not growing crops. Will I qualify for payments for not growing cereals to not feed the pigs I don't rear?

I am also considering the "not milking cows" business, so please send any information you have on that too. Please could you also include the current Defra advice on set aside fields? Can this be done on an e-commerce basis with virtual fields (of which I seem to have several thousand hectares)?

In view of the above you will realise that I will be totally unemployed, and will therefore qualify for unemployment benefits. I shall of course be voting for your party at the next general election.

Yours faithfully,

Nigel Johnson-Hill

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Valentine's Day- Prose Not Poetry From A Singleton (Provisional)


Seemed appropriate!

I didn’t send any cards today and I'll be pleasatnly shocked if I get any in the next 15 hours either. That’s the way it is for me at the moment. However, you never know who is going to come around the corner in your life do you?

Not that I resent people who do all that stereotypical Valentine’s Day stuff. I’ve done it in the past and will no doubt do so again in the future.

Not that I don’t believe in romantic love. However, there is a lot less out there than people sometimes think. They mix it up with liking and fondness and friendship and lust and sex and enjoying the company of some people more than others. All of it gets labeled ‘love.’

No, I’m going to moan about two aspects of Valentine’s Day, which undermine all that it is meant to stand for.

First Problem: February 14th. Who on Earth decided that was the best day of the whole year to celebrate love? It sounds like some decision made at 4.30pm after a particularly long liquid lunch.

For a start, it is in the middle of February. An awful bloody month by any stretch of the imagination. Who had the brainstorm to think February = Most Romantic Month of the Year? By now you’ve given up your New Year’s resolution. Indeed, you’ve probably forgotten them by now, haven’t you? It is cold and grey (I mean, I could understand it if Valentine’s Day was invented somewhere warm and sunny and Southern Hemisphere, but it is a very Northern Hemisphere winter phenomenon- again, why?) and damp and freezing and basically an utterly totally inappropriate time of the year for celebrating something which is warm, if not hot, in all senses of the term. I suppose being with your partner in front of a roaring hot fire in a log cabin in the middle of the tundra with a sauna in the next room is pretty romantic. Anywhere else- nah!

Put it this way. 7 or so weeks ago it was Yuletide, Christmas, New Year. A time for fun and celebrating and meeting up with people who are in the mood for fun and maybe a bit more than just a good laugh. Fast forward 7 weeks or so from now. Spring will be here, the clocks go forward, it’s light early evening, and young men’s (or old men’s; or young women’s; or old women’s…you get my drift) fancies turns to love and relationships and getting it on, especially if like in England the first sign of sun and the temperature going over 12 degrees Celsius/Centigrade means people go to the park or the beach, even during the week in their lunch hour, take a towel or find a deckchair and start taking clothes off and try to get a tan. You get my drift- and if not, don’t be so coy!

Suffice to say, February 14th basically comes mid-way between the two most romantic and passionate times of the year. If I can make A Modest Proposal- move Valentine’s Day to late September. No Spring or Summer distractions on the horizon to undermine your togetherness. Indeed, you would be more likely to stick with your Valentine as the Autumn begins, as the cold and dark and early nights draw in, followed by the rain, sleet, fog, snow and gales. At that time of year having a warm friendly body next to you to help you both get through the grottiness that awaits makes a lot more sense.

Second Problem: romantic love should be spontaneous and free-flowing, but it gets all stuck in a straightjacket of formality on Valentine’s Day. The card, chocolates, flowers, going to a restaurant surrounded by lots of other couples all in the same boat etc etc etc. Then there is all the stuff in the media about how Valentine’s Day SHOULD be like. No wonder on Feb 14th so many arguments start, things get thrown, or even worse- the silence (and as the relationship gurus often say- when you stop arguing, you might as well give up). It reminds me of people who make rigid rules about people they find attractive, would like to go out with and marry. (Those types, admittedly, are not as bad as those who want to get married and settle down by a certain age…AARGH! Put the two together and watch the moon turn red and the stars fall from the sky…) People who over-intellectualise and over-theorise about relationships are trying to nail down, not very well, one of the most anti-intellectual and anti-theoretical things in human existence- basic attraction to other people. Which often ain’t rational one little iota. It’s like trying to nail jelly and blancmange to a brick wall with plastic nails. You do not need to justify who you find attractive- that’s just the way it is! Or is that too theoretical?

However, I don’t want you think I’m a Cynical Singleton. If I am cynical, it is all in the name of romantic idealism. Frankly, I think if your relationship can survive Valentine’s Day it might be the one that sees you through to the end, or at least a fair bit of the way (as you never know who is around the corner...). It’s a bit like going on holiday with your partner for a few weeks (a romantic/dirty weekend does not count). Let’s be honest: two or three weeks in the company of the same person is asking a lot. If you cannot abide a person’s close company when you are supposed to be enjoying yourselves, how will you cope when the dull compulsion of the domestic envelopes you both? If you come back at the end of a holiday and still think ‘you’re alright’, I think you’ve pushed it forward to the next stage. The same holds with Valentine’s Day. If you celebrate and end Valentine’s Day with someone who, in your opinion, is pretty bloody good, you are doing well relationship-wise. I just hope it continues that way!

Monday, 8 February 2010

February: 'a detestable month with no virtue except shortness.' (George Orwell)

UK recession over: rejoice, rejoice...

Every time I look 45 degrees to my right I see a pile of books on my table that are demanding to be read. I may have to take the blogging easy for a short while, but before then I have a few links you may want to peruse.

At AngloNoel Towers I have vaguely being following the opinion polls. It appears the Cons are a bit ahead of NuLab but the lead appears to be falling. Then again it may not be. No-one really knows and I doubt anyone really cares that much out there in 'the real world' which bunch of professional shyters in suits (almost typed 'suites' then...Freudian slip) get the keys to Number 10 in a few months time. I think any time the public looks at one of the main parties for any considerable period of time, they are generally revulsed. Then they look at the other lot, and the polls start going in the other direction...It reminds me of being a neutral sports fan and seeing two teams playing who are full of individuals who, whatever their talents as sportspeople, are pretty obnoxious as human beings. Who do you cheer on? Those who are sick of politics being treated as mere showbiz or sport may like to read some Marina Hyde.

Whether or not the Conservative poll lead is falling- if it is I blame myself!- it appears people are more 'conservative' politically after 13 years of New Labour telling everybody that, yes, the Conservatives were right after all. Comment on thse survey findings can be found here and here. Frankly, to try and rally extremely disllusioned Labour support for the General Election on the grounds by saying  how bad and nasty the Conservatives will be in Government comes across as extremely shallow and pathetic politicking by New Labour. Moreover, those who have a longer memory than a proverbial goldfish know that New Labour will probably implement most of the policies they say the Conservatives plan to bring in after the next General Election. Cuts are cuts, whether they are implemented by 'Nasty' Tories or "Nice' Labour.

Is British Politics now all about a bunch of cuts?

Those of you who wonder whether social democracy is dead or not (or just stunned as it was waking up, to quote the Monty Python Parrot sketch) may be interested in reading Larry Gambone. The other Larry, Mr. Elliott, looks at how far New Labour, despite its pre-General Election rhetoric, is away from economic policies which can even be considered to be post-social democratic.

On of the benefits of the Net is the help it gives you in tracking down the origins of great quotes that you heard years back. Hence I was able to nail this one a few days back, which I heard back in 1990:

‘In early 1919 Max Weber wrote a letter of doom to his younger colleague and friend Georg Lukacs, who had by then become a Communist and whom he regarded as the great promise of German theoretical culture. In this letter Weber
warned Lukacs that the audacious Russian experiment would bereave socialism
of its reputation and authority for a hundred years. Let us conclude with
the most optimistic sentence of this book: of these hundred, sixty years
have already elapsed.’

Ferenc Feher, Agnes Heller and Gyorgy Markus, Dictatorship over
Needs: An analysis of Soviet Societies.
Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1983, p.299

November 2018, here we come...

Finally, if you want to get away from 'conventional' politics (and who does not want to do that?) you may want to look at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Now back to scaling Book Mountain...

Friday, 5 February 2010

Quick one on Iraq...

The Chilcot Inquiry on Iraq is still going on. Andy Beckett gave a good account of proceedings prior to Tony Blair turning up to be 'grilled' and giving up a day in his busy schedule of making more money bringing peace to the Middle East.

I did not sit through the live coverage of Blair's 'interrogation' - glass would probably have been broken at some stage- but Madam Miaow did and has given her caustic assessment of the old ham's theatrics. Not much more to say about that although Madam M. does note:

'It's like when he said he hadn't understood that the 45 minute mobilisation only applied to battlefield armaments and not long-range weapons, and simpered, "I wasn't watching closely".'

Frankly, you would think someone who liked going to war and playing at soldiers (with other people’s lives to boot) would know the difference between short and long range weapons. It also begs the question: what was Tony Blair ‘watching closely’ instead? His bank balance?

However, Richard Madeley put all the carping critics of  Mr. Tony into their places. Just a pity some of them, such as Paul Routledge, know a bit more about politics than 'a lapdog for Tony Blair' does.