What happened to the honeymoon?


Barack Obama was sworn in today and the US stock market fell:

The main Dow Jones index had its worst Inaugural Day decline, plunging 332.13 points, or 4%, to 7949.09, fuelled by a doubling of unrealised losses at State Street, the largest money manager for institutions, and predictions that Wells Fargo would cut its dividend. 

State Street declined 59% and Wells Fargo was down 23%.

The S&P500 was down 2.4% at 829.72 as President Obama took his oath just after 6am NZ time. It closed at 805.22, a 5.3% drop. The broad-based index is off to its second-worst start to a year, shattering the biggest rally since World War II.

The S&P financials index was down 17% to near 14-year lows.

Is this the shortest honeymoon in political history?

Fonterra’s new CFO appointed


Jonathan Mason, former chief financial officer for Cabot Corporation will be Fonterra’s new CFO.

Bridge across rural-urban divide lost in translation


Dear Don

If an intelligent woman like Cactus Kate, who comes from a farming background, and JC, who left a comment here , struggled to get the message then I’m afraid the bridge you were trying to build across the rural-urban divide has been lost in translation .

You are right about the importance of agriculture to New Zealand, and the world, and Federated Farmers’  Open Farm Day is a good initiative to get people from town in to the country.

But your invitation came at the end of a long piece and if the feedback I’ve had is anything to go by I suspect most of your target audience wouldn’t have got past your opening paragraphs.

That’s a pity because you’ve laid some solid planks across that town-country gap in radio interviews and  Qutoeunquote pointed me at an interview in  The Press where you do it so much better:

But he has to ask why New Zealand, of all places, is shooting itself in the foot this way. He says it is shocking how dependent we are on food production as a country. Surely everyone knows that agriculture and forestry account for 65 per cent of New Zealand’s exports?

You might think Australia is a farming nation, too. Yet, despite those outback farms the size of small European states, agricultural exports are not even 4 per cent of the Aussie economy.

We are quite simply the biggest dairy and sheep meat exporter in the world. Or, to turn it around, the society whose fate is most closely tied to what is going on in its paddocks.

Yes, it is an exceptionally difficult trick we are trying to pull off – to be a nation with a First World standard of living based on an industry that generally, unfortunately, pays a Third World return.

“So many people are coming with negative connotations as to how we farm. And yet the world needs food. Farmers get out of a morning, pull their boots on and produce food, the best way we currently know how,” Nicolson says.

It’s clear, concise, easy to understand and easy to remember.

It worked in this piece and it’s a good blueprint to follow next time you want to build a bridge.

Yours sincerely


The new president


The USA has a new president and I doubt that any has faced greater expectations, than Barack Obama, the 44th man and first of African descent to hold that role.

He will be,  historian Robert Dallek says, not just making history, but building on it.



Obama succeeds George W. Bush whom history may judge more kindly than contemporary opninion which highlighted his shortcomings and gave him little credit for his ahievements, which included his leadership after the September 11 attacks.

 The immediate challenge Obama faces is not terrorism, it’s the economy. I wish him well because in spite of the high expectations of him, there are no miracles in politics.

UPDATE: The full text of his inaugural address is here.

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