Fawlty Towers

June 22, 2009

It’s Prunella Scales’ birthday which is a wonderful excuse to rewatch a little Fawlty Towers:


Prison for sale

June 22, 2009

The suggestion that prisoners be housed in containers has got a lot of attention, to which debate Not PC and Stephen Franks add  some facts.

Meanwhile the now disused Dunedin Prison is up for sale and the ODT is running a poll on options for what it might be used for: a boutique hotel, backpackers, exhibition space, museum or bar.

I think it would be easy to market it as a backpackers. Young travellers would take a lot of delight in sending postcards home saying they’d spent a night in gaol.


Monday’s Quiz

June 22, 2009

1. What’s the gestation period of a sheep?

2. Who said: I married beneath me, all women do?

3. Who wrote Motherhood, the Second Oldest Profession?

4. What did tamarillos used to be called and where did they originate?

5. Where is this statue (bonus point if you can name the dog and his master).

dairy 10001


What’s humane and how much does it cost?

June 22, 2009

The row about sow crates has slipped from the headlines but the debate over reasonable standards for farming livestock continues.

In the USA poultry producers fear a referendum by the Humane Society of the US could spell an end to their industry. Ohio State University economist Luther Tweeten said:

. . . it is important to recognize that nearly everyone supports humane treatment of animals, but at issue is what constitutes humane treatment. He says the HSUS proponents believe legislation will enhance animal welfare, provide healthier food because animals will contract fewer diseases and will reduce soil, water, and air pollution. On the other hand, confinement philosophies are associated with protection of animals from temperature extremes, predators, soil-borne diseases and parasites. He believes the general public has looked to science-based research to narrow the differences, but only with partial satisfaction.

The Ohio economist says market forces have dictated animal production practices, forcing producers to ensure animals are well treated. And he says, “Socially acceptable production practices for animal welfare ultimately rest on the public’s values and attitudes and not just on science. Such values range from indifferent observers to animal rightists who object to animal confinement and would end use of animals as sources of food, clothing (leather), fiber, draft-power, or companionship (pets).” To satisfy consumers with those preferences, Tweeten proposes, “to label animal products by production practices. Preferred animal welfare practices may be more costly to producers, but consumers can “vote” their preferences with dollars in the market.”

There is no excuse for inhumane treatment of livestock. But the question of what constitutes humane standards is open.

Tweeten is right that what’s acceptable ultimately rest on the public’s values and attitudes as well as science.

But basing standards on emotion rather than science could impose unnecessary costs on the industry which put produce beyond the budgets of many consumers and force producers out of business.

If eggs were available from other states or countries with lower standards and lower costs it won’t do anything for animal welfare either.

The lesson for farmers here is that perception rules. We need to be ever vigilant about animal welfare and ensure all our practices meet accepted, scientifically based standards.


Government intervention isn’t the answer

June 22, 2009

Thousands of farmers from the European Union’s 27 member states are taking to the streets of Luxembourg today to demonstrate against poor returns.

“Food production is the single biggest economic activity in Europe and it is facing serious problems,” said the organisation’s secretary general Pekka Pesonen. “Dairy in particular is in a very severe crisis, and other sectors, from pig meat and olive oil to sheep and goats are suffering, too.

“Even as the causes of the problems differ, the result is always the same – we are not getting a fair share of the value of the final product.”

Producers all over the world could no doubt say the same thing but those of us who’re in the real world know that’s mostly to do with the market and very little to do with the government.

The crisis affecting the dairy sector is likely to be a major focus of attention. Despite a decision by the EU dairy management committee this week to raise export refunds for milk powders, Irish Farmers’ Association leader Padraig Walshe called for a “much more aggressive approach”.

“Prices have fallen to their lowest level in recent history, in some countries to those of 1983. To make matters worse, production costs have remained at an all-time high. This is disastrous for farm incomes, endangering the very existence of dairy production in the EU.”

A taste of the protest to come next week was given in Brussels on Thursday (18 June), when hundred of farmers from Germany, France, Belgium and Holland drove their tractors to the city centre as EU heads of state met for a summit meeting. . .

Their principle demand was for an immediate 5% quota cut, to tighten the market and allow cost covering prices to be achieved. But the EU Commission says production is already well below quota and such a cut would make no difference.

A 5% quota cut to tighten the market means a forced reduction in supply to force prices up so consumers pay more. That’s not a subsidy from the taxpayer but from the consumer which amounts to the same thing in the end.

Farming in Europe is facing a crisis. But if government intervention in the market by way of subsidies and quota controls is the answer they are asking the wrong question.


Unintentional arrogance #2

June 22, 2009

David Garret said on Q&A yesterday morning that he’d apologised unreservedly for comments which offended a parliamentary services staff member.

PAUL . . . did you make an inappropriate remark to a female staff member?

DAVID I believe that’s perfectly possible Paul.

PAUL Yes or no?

DAVID Well what’s inappropriate, Paul I come from a background – I’m probably the only Member of Parliament who has been an oil rig worker for ten years, it was a big adjustment to become a lawyer, and even bigger adjustment to become an MP, I’m on a very steep learning curve, I now understand very clearly that the kind of thing that might have been okay in a law firm in Tonga is not okay in parliament.

PAUL The perception of course of the woman obviously is that it was an inappropriate remark, Rodney Hide worked on oil rigs too but he doesn’t made inappropriate remarks. Have you apologised to the woman?

DAVID Oh I have Paul, yes, unreservedly.

PAUL Do you regret making the remark?

DAVID I do, very much so yes.

An unreserved apology and regret for having made the remark ought to be the end of the matter.

But I’m left with some questions:

What’s the difference between a law firm in Tonga and parliament?

Shouldn’t you understand what’s appropriate before you enter parliament?

If you don’t whose responsibility is it to ensure you do?


June 22 in history

June 22, 2009

On June 22:

1856 English author H. Rider Haggard  was born.

 

1906 US author and aviator Anne Morrow Lindbergh was born.

Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh
 
1932 English Actress Prunella Scales  was born.
 
1969 The Cuyahoga River in north east Ohio caught fire, leading to a crack-down on pollution and providing impetus for the environmental movement.

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