There’s no “only” about the bank’s money

May 22, 2009

Stealing from an individual is theft, so is stealing from an institution but the reaction to the case of the couple who absconded after taking millions of dollars that were mistakenly credited to their account suggests not everyone thinks so.

The news has spread around the world and The Guardian has a comment by the editor of The Philospoher magazine Julian Baggini  who says:

People say such cases create “moral dilemmas”, but there are none. Taking the money is just wrong. You know it’s not yours and you could easily not take it. The only dilemma is whether to do the right thing or give in to temptation. Of course, it’s not difficult to invent spurious justifications. Some say the bank made the mistake so it should pay the price. That’s like stealing a car and saying it’s the fault of the owner for leaving the keys in. Others perversely descend into the ditch of self-serving mendacity and pretend they’re occupying the moral high ground. The banks are thieving, lying bastards who have spent all our money, they cry, so it’s only fair that we steal it back. WWRHD? (What would Robin Hood do?) Put it like that and it almost seems as if theft is your duty.

So we forget all the times we’ve said “two wrongs don’t make a right”. We forget that principled civil disobedience is carried out in public, not as secretly as possible. We forget that the answer to WWRHD? is that he’d give it away to the poor, not go on a spending binge. Most of all, we forget how quick we were to condemn politicians for milking their expenses, albeit legally, just because they could.

There is no moral complexity here, only a simple truth of human nature: that something that seems very wrong can quickly and easily seem very right, if it suits us.

He might be right but the behaviour isn’t, although that view isn’t supported by a disturbing number of the commenters at The Herald who think it’s okay because it’s “only” a bank.

But it’s not “only” the bank’s money. It’s the money of the customers and shareholders who will pay one through higher charges and lower dividends for the costs of the theft.

I concur with Barnsley Bill  who asks how did we get to be so dishonest?


Culinary Central

May 22, 2009

A Central Otago farmer enjoyed dinner was so effusive in his praise of the meal he’d eaten at a London restaurant that the waiter brought the chef and the restaurant owner out to meet him.

In the ensuing conversation the farmer discovered the chef had trained at Cromwell. The owner added that his only fault was that he’d only work with the best cuts of meat.

Cromwell? Yes, at Otago Polytechnic’s Cromwell Campus  which delivers a variety of courses including turf management, stone masonry, viticulture and hospitality.

The farmer mulled on the conversation with the chef and the importance of ensuring the trainee chefs worked with good cuts of meat so when they graduated and went to work around the world they would use New Zealand beef and lamb.

That mulling eventually led to a dinner at the polytech’s Molyneaux restaurant last night, cooked by trainee chefs and served to the Southern South Island Sheep & Beef Council and guests, two of whom were my farmer and me.

We were served a degustation menu, five little courses of delicious food, beautifully presented and matched with wines.

Italian lamb loin with beetroot pinot jelly, horseradish cream, micro greens and shaved parmesan accompanied by Quartz Reef Methode Traditional.

sheep&beef 001

Consomme of beef en croute with barley, red pepper and broad been accompanied by Bannockburn Road Pinot Gris – which is produced by Cromwell students.

sheep&beef 002

Ravioli with ox tail and mushrooms accompanied by a Bendigo Syrah from Aurora Vineyard.

sheep&beef 003

Herb and macadamia nut crusted rack of lamb with fondant potato, steamed broccolini and braised short rib with a Bannockburn Road Pinot Noir.

sheep&beef 004

Duo of white and milk chocolate delice with a saffron Anglaise and pistachio tuille accompanied by a 2006 Late Harvest Riesling.

sheep&beef 005

The chefs are only a third of the way through their training. The meal they served us was a feast for the eyes and the taste buds and left the diners satisfied but not over full.

If they can do so well this early in their training, they will be wonderful ambassadors for our produce when they are in their own kitchens in which ever corner of the world their careers take them.


What’s holding them back?

May 22, 2009

The statistics supporting the business case for having women on company boards  are compelling:

For companies in the top 25% (of highest women’s representation on the board) the return on equity was 53% higher; return on sales 42% higher; and return on invested capital is 66% higher than companies in the bottom quartile.

Of course statistics tell only part of the story – it’s possible that these companies performed better in spite of the women on the board rather than because of them.

It’s also possible that having women on a board is a sign of the intelligence and foresightedness which results in a well run and high performing company.

But regardless of the story behind those stats it does seem strange that women make up 46% of the New Zealand workforce but hold only 8.65% of directorships on the NZX top 100. Just 45 women hold 54  of the 624 board positions available and 60 of the top 100 boards have n0 female directors.

That’s been recognised by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, The Institute of Directors and Business NZ who launched a joint initiative last night to promote the economic benefits of having more women on boards.

A lot of women are actively involved in private rural businesses. Many farms are husband and wife partnerships, so are a lot of the small businesses which support farming and Rural Women’s Enterprising Rural Woman Award highlighted some of the successful rural businesses run by women.

There are plenty of urban business women too so it’s not lack of skills and experience which is holding them back.

The April edition of Next magazine opened a story on the issue with this:

The chairman of a large Kiwi agricultural company is asked why there aren’t any women on his corporate board.

“There’s no place for sheilas in this conservative, provincial boardroom, apart from making the tea,” is his gobsmacking response.

I’d hope that attitudes have changed for the better since this comment was made seven years ago but that still hasn’t translated into an increase in female directors.

What’s holding them back?

Are women choosing not to put themselves forward or  are they not being accepted when they do because, regardless of qualifications and experience, having a y chromosome makes some candidates for directorships and management more equal than others?

P.S.

The Hand Mirror posted on the MWF/ID/BNZ joint initiative when it was first announced.


The King’s Breakfast

May 22, 2009

Over at In a Strange Land, Deborah is asking people for their party piece poems – those they can recite by heart.

That’s prompted this choice for Friday’s poem, A.A. Milne’s The King’s Breakfast.

There was a time I could recite it, word perfect but when I tried to type it out I had some gaps in the middle and had to peek at When We Were Very Young,  the collection of poems from which it comes to refresh my memory.

The King’s Breakfast

The King asked
The Queen, and
The Queen asked
The Dairymaid:
“Could we have some butter for
The Royal slice of bread?”
The Queen asked the Dairymaid,
The Dairymaid
Said, “Certainly,
I’ll go and tell the cow
Now
Before she goes to bed.”

The Dairymaid
She curtsied,
And went and told
The Alderney:
“Don’t forget the butter for
The Royal slice of bread.”
The Alderney
Said sleepily:
“You’d better tell
His Majesty
That many people nowadays
Like marmalade
Instead.”

The Dairymaid
Said, “Fancy!”
And went to
Her Majesty.
She curtsied to the Queen, and
She turned a little red:
“Excuse me,
Your Majesty,
For taking of
The liberty,
But marmalade is tasty, if
It’s very
Thickly
Spread.”

The Queen said
“Oh!:
And went to
His Majesty:
“Talking of the butter for
The royal slice of bread,
Many people
Think that
Marmalade
Is nicer.
Would you like to try a little
Marmalade
Instead?”

The King said,
“Bother!”
And then he said,
“Oh, deary me!”
The King sobbed, “Oh, deary me!”
And went back to bed.
“Nobody,”
He whimpered,
“Could call me
A fussy man;
I only want
A little bit
Of butter for
My bread!”

The Queen said,
“There, there!”
And went to
The Dairymaid.
The Dairymaid
Said, “There, there!”
And went to the shed.
The cow said,
“There, there!
I didn’t really
Mean it;
Here’s milk for his porringer,
And butter for his bread.”

The Queen took
The butter
And brought it to
His Majesty;
The King said,
“Butter, eh?”
And bounced out of bed.
“Nobody,” he said,
As he kissed her
Tenderly,
“Nobody,” he said,
As he slid down the banisters,
“Nobody,
My darling,
Could call me
A fussy man –
BUT
I do like a little bit of butter to my bread!”

        –  A. A. Milne –


Watering down the wine prices

May 22, 2009

One of Central Otago’s pioneering wine companies, William Hill Winery has been placed into receivership.

The ODT reports that rivalry from newer entrants in the viticulture industry contributed to the company’s problems.

Mr Green, of Carrick Winery at Bannockburn, told the Otago Daily Times established wineries like William Hill were facing more competition than ever before as new operators started to come on line.

He said lesser-known wineries were selling wine cheaply in order to move stock, which potentially created problems for companies with more expensive labels.

“Smaller wineries might be struggling to establish themselves so they’re selling wine at lower prices simply to generate cash flow, which is having an effect on more established wineries.

That’s compounding on other issues in the industry, such as the economic downturn,” he said.

This is sad for the company and the people involved in it but the issue isn’t peculiar to the wine industry.

Businesses come and go, some last longer than others and some damage their competitors in the process.

It’s tough but that’s the market and any alternative would be worse.


Too much information

May 22, 2009

Did we really need to know a cricketer will miss the Twenty20 world cup because he’s got genital warts?


Crossbred win makes some cross

May 22, 2009

Sex, religion and politics are not supposed to be raised in conversation at polite gatherings.

There’s many who would be happy for stock breeding to be added to the list.

People whoin the purebred business, have very strong feelings about the finer points of their favourite breeds and can wax lyrical about the genetics involved in breeding them.

It’s not surprising, then, that the annual Steak of Origin competition to find the best steak in the land attracts a fair bit of rivalry from beef breeders.

Imagine the consternation then, when the winner this year was not a pure beef breed but a crossbred, and a dairy cross at that.

Judges, Invercargill chef Graham Hawke, Minister of Agriculture David Carter and retired farmer and All Black legend Colin Meads (now aka Sir Pinetree), blind tasted 20 steaks. They awarded the title of Supreme Champion to a sirloin from a Piedmontese/Friesan cross entered by Catherine Withers from Rotorua who’s a dairy farmer not a beef breeder.

I’m told that good manners prevailed on the night but some breeders were a bit cross their purebred steak couldn’t quite cut the mustard in the competition.

The Steak of Origin link above will take you to the full results.


Brooke Fraser – Deciphering Me

May 22, 2009

Day 22 of the tune a day challenge for New Zealand Music Month.

Brooke Fraser sings Deciphering Me.

Catching up from yesterday:

Phoenix Foundation was singing Bright Grey at Inquiring Mind

Keeping Stock featured Evermore with Running.

And Rob’s having health problems of the technical and human kind (for which I send hopes of speedy and full recoveries) but manages to  list six great Kiwi songs he’s been unable to find clips for.


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