September 5 2006

 

It's a small world

My north-county cyber whizz kid has drawn my attention to the website (http://www.pembroke.gov.mt/pdfs/Min%202001/MINUTI%2020%20K3%202001.pdf) of Pembroke town council in, of all places, Malta.
Paragraph 3.8. reads: B’riferenza ghall-korrispondenza numru 46/3131/01/I is-Sindku Joe Zammit informa lill-Kunsill li fil-granet li ghaddew kellu laqgha ma’ Dr. Michael P. Ryan li huwa l-Economic Development Consultant tal-Pembrokeshire County Council. Il-Kelliem qal li waqt din il-laqgha gie diskuss kif il-Kunsill Lokali Pembroke ikun jista’ jibbenefika minn fondi ta’ l-Unjoni Ewropeja ghal zviluppfil-lokal.
I've got a bit of an idea what this is all about but an accurate translation would be appreciated.
What is interesting is that this letter was written in early 2001 just a few months after Dr Ryan was taken on by Pembrokeshire county council as an economic development consultant, and even fewer months after he went into business with Cllr Brian Hall (see Hall-Ryan).
And it coincided with moves to set up twinning agreements between Pembroke(Malta) and Pembroke Dock and Pembroke (see minutes 3.1, 3.2 (fourth item), 5.1, 7.1 and 7.2.)
These arrangements are now in place and if you click on http://www.vol.net.mt/LocalCouncils/pembrokelc/
you will find the town's website where there is a large section given over to photographs taken during a visit by a group of Pembroke Dock dignitaries, several of which feature of Dr Ryan's former business partner Cllr Brian Hall.
Fancy them both turning up in Malta at more or less the same time.
Now, that's what I call a proper coincidence.

Men - a waste of space?

This week sees a radical change of farming policy on the Grumpy homestead.
Whereas in the past the enterprise has been organised on entirely arable lines, from now on the emphasis is on diversification into a mixed farming regime.
The first step along this road was taken this week with the arrival of two Old English game bantam chicks which I hatched out in my nephew's incubator from six eggs bought on e-Bay.
Now, two out of six (33.33333%) may be enough to get you an A in GCSE maths, but in this field, where scores in the nineties are common, it is nothing to write home about.
However, as luck would have it, they appear to be a boy and a girl so, come next summer, they will be able to go forth and multiply.
Is it good luck that they happen to be one of each sex?
My statistical consultant tell me it isn't because, of the four possibilities (M-M, F-F, M-F and F-M), half give you the desired result.
Of course, if all six had successfully hatched, the best outcome, from a breeding point of view, would have been five females and one male.
So why does nature produce all these surplus males?
From what I can gather, we men are what biologists call "the meiotic cost".
The theory is that the benefits of meiosis and sexual reproduction - the churning of the gene pool, hybrid vigour etc - more than outweigh the disbenefits (meiotic costs) of all those redundant males.
Farmers know all about this which is why they don't keep equal numbers of bulls and cows, or rams and ewes.
However nature, particularly the female half, has to find another way to solve the problem.
This is achieved by females imposing usefulness on males.
In the case of humans this has led females to select for males that are big and strong and swift, and good at throwing spears.
In short, they choose mates best able to offer protection to them and their offspring.
Of course, in an age of computers and machines, where even warfare can be conducted at the touch of a button, the need for male muscle power is rapidly diminishing.
So, men, take my advice and make yourself useful around the house, otherwise your future is bleak.

 

Welfare dependency

 

SF has emailed me the Welsh Assembly's latest figures on subsidies paid to Pembrokeshire farmers.
No doubt, with a bit of patience, these can be found on the Assembly's website, though my own puny efforts have been in vain.
For some reason, the Assembly has based the alphabetical order on the first initial rather than the surname which makes it difficult to find people.
Things aren't helped by the fact that no addresses are given, only post codes.
However, I can report that that the top subsidy earner in the county is DB Davies and Sons (SA41) £191,118, followed by WJA and EM Evans (SA65) £160,233, with Raymond Bros (SA62) £154,405 in bronze medal position.
In all, there are more than 50 farmers receiving in excess of £50,000.
Holding a position in mid-field is JS Allen-Mirehouse (SA71) £39,594 while the Watkins partnership (SA41 by coincidence the same postcode as that of county council chairman Steve Watkins) trousers a modest £19,936.
Down among the also-rans is Cwmbetws Ltd (man director county council leader Cllr JT Davies) (SA41) £12,492.
Not that we should shed too many tears for Cllr Davies because the £45,000 he picks up from his political activities should ensure that the wolf doesn't darken his door.
Meanwhile my mother has sent me a bundle of back copies of the Cumberland News where I read that a 144 acre farm just north of Carlisle has sold for just short of £1 million or £6,500 per acre.
By my reckoning, that makes the above mentioned farmers multi-millionaires, and I can't for the life of me see why I should be paying taxes to support them.
Of course, they will say that they are asset rich - cash poor but when the rest of us find ourselves in that position we have to liquidate our assets.
As the Adam Smith Institute pointed out more than 20 years ago, agricultural subsidies distort markets, and it is not farmers who are the principle beneficiaries, but landowners.
If anyone wants the full list, just e-mail me and I'll forward it on.

State control

The Cumberland News of 30 June carried a large feature marking the ninetieth anniversary of the nationalisation of the pubs in Carlisle and surrounding areas during the First World War.
And they were not privatised until the early 1970s.
This draconian measure was thought necessary because Carlisle was the centre of a large munitions industry and Lloyd George's government didn't want the war effort hampered by drunkenness among the workers.
The managers of the pubs were civil servants and, as one person told the paper, they were paid the same salary whether they sold one pint or 100.
Not surprisingly, they were some of the rudest people on earth.
I think it was drinking in these scruffy, inhospitable places that first turned my mind to the attractions of free market liberalism.
The article also confirmed what I had always thought: that, in order to encourage sobriety, the beer was watered down.
That would explain why six pints of Bass had such a dramatic effect on my sense of balance when I first went to university near Stoke on Trent.
Rules were strictly enforced by government inspectors (snoopers?) who toured the pubs making sure nobody was getting the worse for wear.
Customers were not allowed to sit at the bar, and in order to head off that time honoured excuse: "Sorry I'm late love, but I was in company and I couldn't leave before I'd bought my round", the buying of rounds was forbidden.
So, if you happen to be in the pub with me and I seem to be hanging back from getting them in, please try to understand it's my upbringing, not meanness, that's to blame.

Cabinet puddings

Last week the Mercury printed the Leader's statement on proposed car parking charges.
Old Grumpy's antennae twitched as I read the first sentence: "In terms of where we are now, the Cabinet has been informed of the intention to increase or introduce new car parking charges."
Informed! and I thought the Cabinet's job was to make decisions.
Indeed, reading the report to the June meeting where these charges were approved I find the words: "Recommendation: That the proposed increased charges be agreed and the statutory process be implemented".
As this was merely a recommendation, the Cabinet didn't have go along with it, though, considering that, in more than four years of Cabinet government, no officer's recommendation has ever been overturned, it should come as no surprise that they did.
I would suggest that by using the word "informed" the Leader has, unwittingly, admitted that the Cabinet is nothing more than a rubber stamp and that, for all their fancy titles, and even fancier salaries, Cabinet members are little more than the officers' errand boys.

Word games

By far the funniest thing I have read about this week, is the acrostic love letter that appeared in A N Wilson's biography of John Betjeman. Perhaps Wilson saw through the hoax and put it in the book anyway, knowing that the inevitable publicity would boost sales.
Just to explain, for those who missed the story, the first letter of each sentence spelt out the message "A N Wilson is a shit". Rarely can an acrostic have provided so much innocent amusement.
Ultimately, of course, such a scam is only effective if it is discovered. Like any secret, it has no value unless you tell it to someone else.
Everybody likes to think they can keep a secret, but few can.
So, we have a dilemma. On the one hand, we wish to deceive and, on the other, we want everyone to know how clever we are.
Knowledge of itself is power, as Roger Bacon said, but knowledge locked up in single mind is not really knowledge at all.

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