Saturday, February 18, 2006

Don’t shoot José, Mr Cheney, he just wants a chat

Have you ever seen quail? It’s a very small bird – about the size of a grapefruit – and very different from a Harry Wittington, which is a large human with legal training. Harry was shot by Dick Chaney while quail hunting recently, and nearly killed from the resulting heart attack. The visual difference between a quail and a Wittington is about the same as the difference between a grapefruit and a large refrigerator.

You would think that, even outdoors, it would be easy to pick the difference between a grapefruit and a refrigerator. It’s something that most people do indoors quite readily. It is rare for people to mistakenly put the milk back in the grapefruit, and despite eating-out a lot, I have never been served refrigerator in any form: not in a salad, not in a dressing, not cut in half with brown sugar sprinkled on top. Not once.

Now of course I don’t want to trivialise hunting by comparing it to breakfast. Hunting is serious business. The most serious part of the business occurs when the gun is shouldered and prey is in the sights. At that point, if you cannot tell the difference between grapefruit and a refrigerator, you have a big problem. A big problem.

Now whatever your opinion of Dick Chaney, he knows enough about problems to avoid the grapefruit-refrigerator one. He can tell the difference between a quail, which is a small bird, and a Harry Wittington, which is a large human with legal training. This prompts two questions:

1. If this is how Dick Chaney treats his friends, how does he treat his enemies?

2. Are we talking about the right kind of quail?

The second question is more important than it might first seem. You see, although a quail is a small bird, and thus easy to distinguish from a Harry Wittington, a Quayle is a large human with legal training. When viewed from a distance, over the sights of a shotgun, and through a bush, er shrub, Dan Quayle and Harry Wittington are largely indistinguishable without the aid of a spelling bee. Depending on Dick Chaney’s opinion of the Quayle, this may answer the first question.

Knowing Dick Chaney’s opinion of Dan Quayle is probably of paramount importance to Mr José Bové, a French farmer turned away from the US last week. He was detained at JFK airport, en-route to a speaking engagement at a conference organised by Cornell University’s Labour Institute (Reuters, in The Guardian, 10 Feb 2006, p7). Mr Bové appears to have been a threat to the USA since one of his anti-GM food protests resulted in him wrecking a McDonalds Restaurant – show me a seven-year-old that has not tried that one – earning him a six week prison sentence. And as if that was not enough, he wantonly destroyed a field of GM corn in France, and served four months! (Foolishly, he did not follow Michelle Shocked’s lead and write a song about it – though she burned a barn too, which may improve the audience appeal.)

So Mr Bové was refused entry to the USAbecause he doesn’t like GM food. That means Gwynneth Paltrow is not returning, because we saw her down at Fresh & Wild the other day, which will surely get her banned. (We were there too, but we didn't inhale.) Or would she be allowed into LA, but banned from the East Coast?

Honestly, what possible threat could Mr Bové be to the American way of life? (How could I be so stupid? I realised as I typed the question that he might encourage people to eat less refined food and reduce their sugar intake leading to the destruction of the doughnut industry, the sugary drink industry, the Twinkie industry, the diabetes treatment industry, the heart disease industry, the sitting on the couch chugging down beers and burgers industry – it could stop the world turning.) It also threatens Monsanto – the world’s main proponent of GM cropping.

What sort of power does Monsanto have? A lot. The Australian -US free trade negotiations faltered when Australia wanted to label GM foods so that consumers could chose for themselves. Anti-competitive, said the US, despite most of its agriculture being GM free – only Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Soy Beans were seriously threatened.

Roundup, of course, is an outstanding herbicide – unless you want to kill Roundup Ready Soy Beans. It would have removed those pesky bushes, er shrubs, that caused the Quayle-Wittington mishap. Maybe Monsanto should ship a drum of Roundup with its next round of political donations. Oh yes, Monsanto and Dick are good friends, which makes me glad, because with friends like Dick, Monsanto will be taking a bullet any day now, and bio-diversity can slowly return to normal. Which brings me to the final question:

3. What is normal?