Word of the day

September 23, 2012

Pusillanimity – a cowardly, irresolute, or fainthearted condition; lacking courage or determination; the vice of being timid and cowardly, and thus not living up to one’s full potential.

Hat tip: Inquiring Mind


5/10

September 23, 2012

5/10 in NBR’s Biz Quiz.


Rural round-up

September 23, 2012

Hairy mutant calves

Federated Farmers met with LIC on Tuesday to try to secure a solution that works for LIC’s farmer-shareholders and farmers affected by calf-mutation.

“I guess the best summary is that we spoke and they spoke,” says Willy Leferink, Federated Farmers Dairy chairperson.

“Our only hope is LIC may reflect on what we said over the next few days.  This is not about winners or losers because no one is winning right now. . .

Award-Winning Livestock Farmer Urges Others to Enter 2013 Ballance Farm Environment Awards:

Environmental sustainability is a hot topic for North Otago farmer Doug Brown.

As a councillor for the Otago Regional Council and a director of a large meat co-operative, he discusses the subject with a wide range of people from both urban and rural backgrounds. He also talks to consumers of NZ products who are demanding increasingly higher standards of environmental management and animal welfare.

He believes most farmers are committed to protecting their land-based resources.

“But we’ve got to keep working on these issues, and keep moving forward at a pace that farmers can handle.” . . .

New Chair for Dairy Awards Trust

The New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards Trust has a new chair, with former New Zealand Sharemilker of the Year, Teresa Moore, taking on the role.

Mrs Moore won the sharemilker competition in 2009 with husband Chris and the couple is now farming a 71ha 200-cow property at Te Puke in the Bay of Plenty.

“I’m looking forward to working with some great people on the Trust and in overseeing our role to ensure the Trust’s goals are implemented and that there is good communication between the Trust and the NZDIA Executive running the awards programme.” . . .

Reminder to TB test dairy service bulls

The Animal Health Board (AHB) reminds all traders and receiving herdowners that there is no fee for bovine tuberculosis (TB) testing of bulls aged over 12 months that are entering the dairy industry.

Commercial bull lessors should organise a TB test for bulls prior to marketing and leasing them to provide peace of mind to receiving herdowners.

Dairy farmers seeking assurance that the service bulls they are leasing are TB-free should insist on TB tests before accepting them onto their property, or at least ascertain that one has been completed in the past six months. . .


One study does not a swallowable conclusion make

September 23, 2012

The Green Party wants genetically modified corn to be removed from sale in New Zealand on the strength of a study showing it may be causing cancer and other health problems.

But one study doesn’t make a conclusion that should be swallowed unquestioned.

. . .   yes indeed we really would like to know whether Monsanto’s Roundup Ready corn (maize to Europeans) does cause health problems. We don’t think it does for several reasons. The multiple studies that have been done before looking at this very question for example. The fact that hundreds of millions of animals have been fed the stuff for years without anyone noticing anything odd about said animals. We’ve even got a nice natural experiment going on. Those humans in the Americas (North, South and Central) have been eating GM corn in vast quantities for a number of years now. Those humans in Europe have not. Again, we have not noted any difference in disease prevalence among the two groups that cannot be and is not explained by other factors. . .

Other scientists questioned both the method and the result, concluding it was not good science.

Why publicise it then?

. . . But having said, with all the politesse possible, that this is not good science, why then leap to the idea that it is politics? For the fairly obvious reason that is is most certainly being used politically:

A study claims that rats fed with GM corn that was produced by US firm Monsanto had suffered tumors and multiple organ damage. Following the study’s publication, thousands of protesters went out to the streets in Brussels on Wednesday, calling for an overhaul of food policy in Europe.

”Those in the food industry who said there wasn’t a risk lied, they didn’t tell people the truth. Europe’s independent food agencies now have to act. It is absolutely essential that we kickstart the debate and re-examine GM food. The new evidence shows how dangerous GM crops are for human health,” said Green MEP Jose Bove.

. . .  So what could it actually be, this political point that people want to make? SFGate makes the connection:

California Right to Know, the group pushing California’s Prop. 37 to require labeling of genetically engineered foods, pounced on the study. Spokesperson Stacy Malkan said the most “important and shocking part of it is that this is the first available long-term study on GMOs, which have been in the food supply for the better part of 20 years.”

Oh. Yes, that is true, isn’t it? There’s a proposition on the ballot in California this fall that would lead to the mandatory labeling of GM containing food. And as Mark Bittman has pointed out, the hope and aim is that so California, so the nation.

And so in New Zealand where the Green Party was so quick to seize on the opportunity without worrying about the science.


Plain English on exchange rate

September 23, 2012

Labour’s David Parker thinks the government should meddle with the exchange rate:

Finance Minister Bill English has a much better strategy:

We are focused strongly on the competitiveness of our businesses. It is difficult, if not impossible, to manage our exchange rate to a significantly lower level, so we are focusing on helping our exporters to be profitable, regardless of what the exchange rate is.

Parker had another go later in Question Time:

4. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: How many export and import substitution jobs does he estimate have been destroyed in 2012 as a result of the exchange rate, which has been at 70 or above on the Trade Weighted Index for every month of this year?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): There is no officially accepted measure for what the member is asking for. What I can tell him is that total goods and services export receipts have increased 15 percent, from $52.9 billion in the year to March 2010 to $60.9 billion in the year to March 2012, and a net 57,000 more people have jobs than 2 years ago. The economy is dynamic, and jobs are constantly shifting as innovation, investment, and demand change. I would be suspicious of any measure that attempted to pick out one factor, when there are many factors in a company making a decision to export or to hire another worker.

Hon David Parker: Does he agree with the Prime Minister’s statement of January 2012: “We are concerned at the level of the exchange rate because we think that above $0.75 [U.S.]it’s very difficult for our export sector.”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, I do agree with that. The export sector has shown itself to be very resilient and capable of increasing exports and production when it is backed by stronger policies on competitiveness. If the member is suggesting that there is some way to choose an exchange rate, then I would be keen to hear from him on that, but of course he needs to keep in mind that even if he could choose the exchange rate, reducing it would reduce the standard of living of all New Zealand households.

Hon David Parker: Does he agree with the Prime Minister’s statement of August 2012 that continued currency appreciation would make the economy at some point “splutter and stutter and probably stop”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is possible that that could happen. As it has turned out in New Zealand, although we have had a high exchange rate now for a number of years, a relatively high exchange rate, our export sector has continued to expand. I think the member is getting at the issue of whether we can choose an exchange rate. It would be nice if we could, but there is no known method for picking the right exchange rate in the first place, and, secondly, there simply are not the tools to hold the exchange rate at whatever desirable level there is.

Hon David Parker: If China is running a programme of competitive devaluation of its currency, as are the US, the UK, and the EU, if Switzerland is defending a cap on its currency, which is the opposite of what the Minister just said could be achieved, if Singapore is managing within a range, if Brazil and Chile are intervening in capital flows, and if Japan is printing money too to protect its exporters, why should New Zealand exporters be slain and New Zealanders lose their jobs because his Government refuses to move on the primacy given to inflation targeting? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is a serious question.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member’s analysis is simply wrong. We could go through all those countries, but the countries that are actually defending a fixed rate, Singapore and Switzerland, both have very large reserves, and, in the case of Switzerland, they are building up huge imbalances in defending that rate, and one has yet to see whether the experiment is going to work. In the case of the UK and the US, they are printing money because they have zero interest rates. The fact that they are printing money is a sign of deep distress in their economies, not success. I would not like to be in that position. It would be bad for New Zealanders, bad for their incomes, and bad for their job prospects.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given his professed concern and that of his Prime Minister about real employment and real growth, has he asked Treasury and the Reserve Bank to calculate the damage, as the primary question asked, in terms of jobs and exports from an overvalued exchange rate; if he has not, why is he giving answers that say that nothing can be done about it or nothing can be quantified?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, the calculations on damage would depend entirely on your assumption about what the alternative was. Would the alternative be, you know, the Zimbabwe exchange rate, or the Japanese exchange rate, or the Aussie dollar exchange rate? I mean, it is a meaningless calculation. I mean, members of the Opposition are—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question asked him as to why he has not asked the Reserve Bank or Treasury to do these calculations. I am not interested in his ideological views; I am interested—

Mr SPEAKER: No, no. Order! I have heard the member’s point of order. He is now going on to debate it. The Minister is answering the member’s question absolutely explicitly. The member asked why he has not asked Treasury to carry out these calculations. The Minister is explaining why he has not—that he believes such calculations are meaningless because of the difficulty in establishing the base level for the dollar to commence the calculation. That is his answer as to why he has not asked Treasury to do that. [Interruption] Order! He has answered the question. Does the member wish to ask a further supplementary question?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, whilst most other Ministers of Finance in the developed world, in countries doing far better than New Zealand, are implementing policies to manage their exchange rates—policies endorsed by the IMF and leading international economists—why do he and his colleagues keep on saying again in the House today, as they have for months, that they can do nothing?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: We have not said we can do nothing. What we have said is that we can use the tool that is likely to be effective and sustainable for New Zealand, and that is to improve the competitiveness of our exporters. There is no free lunch around the exchange rate. Any attempt to move it comes with large costs and large risks. New Zealand has been down that path before. It found that it was not sustainable, and for the last 25 years it has maintained a policy of a floating exchange rate, with the capacity to intervene in extreme circumstances. We do not intend to change that policy, because we have not yet seen from the members a viable alternative way of managing an exchange rate.

Hon David Parker: Does he agree that the—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to hear the Hon David Parker.

Hon David Parker: Does he agree that the current policy settings, which give primacy to inflation targeting over the exchange rate, are not working, and is he ready to conclude, after a four decade- long current account deficit, that inflation is not the pressing problem for growing jobs in the economy—it is the exchange rate?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I am not going to agree with that. The challenge here would be that even if you could change the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act to tell the Reserve Bank to target the exchange rate, no one knows how it could do that in a sustainable manner that would significantly shift the exchange rate track. Oh, it is all in the book the member is waving about; it is all in the little red book. The fact is if the member looks at those countries which say they are doing it, such as Chile, Brazil, and Japan, it is highly arguable whether they are making any headway at all, given the large risks they are taking.

That’s the plain English answer and it’s also good economics.

New Zealand used to have a managed exchange rate and the people it benefitted most were currency traders who gambled on it.

Those calling for the government to meddle are showing their economic ignorance.

Businesses should treat the value of the dollar like the weather. Sensible ones take account of it but put their energy into factors they can control.


September 23 in history

September 23, 2012

480 BC  Euripides, Greek playwright, was born (d. 406 BC).

1122  Concordat of Worms.

1215 Kublai Khan of the Mongol Empire, was born (d. 1294).

1409  Battle of Kherlen, the second significant victory over Ming China by the Mongols since 1368.

1459 Battle of Blore Heath, the first major battle of the English Wars of the Roses.

1529  The Siege of Vienna began when Suleiman I attacked the city.

1641  The Merchant Royal, carrying a treasure worth over a billion USD, was lost at sea off Land’s End.

1779 American Revolution: a squadron commanded by John Paul Jones on board the USS Bonhomme Richard won the Battle of Flamborough Head, off the coast of England, against two British warships.

1803  Second Anglo-Maratha War: Battle of Assaye between the British East India Company and the Maratha Empire in India.

1821  Tripolitsa, Greece, fell and 30,000 Turks were massacred.

1846  Neptune was discovered by French astronomer Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier and British astronomer John Couch Adams;  then  verified by German astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle.

1857 The Russian warship Lefort capsised and sank during a storm in the Gulf of Finland, killing all 826 aboard.

1868 Grito de Lares (“Lares Revolt”) in Puerto Rico against Spanish rule.

1869  Mary Mallon, also known as Typhoid Mary, first carrier of typhoid, was born (d. 1938).

1880 John Boyd Orr, Scottish physician, Nobel Laureate, was born (d. 1971).

1887 Ngati Tuwharetoa gifted the mountain tops of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu to the Crown.

Tongariro mountains gifted to Crown

1889  Nintendo Koppai (Later Nintendo Company, Limited) was founded by Fusajiro Yamauchi to produce and market the playing card game Hanafuda.

1905  Norway and Sweden signed the “Karlstad treaty”, peacefully dissolving the Union between the two countries.

1908  University of Alberta was founded.

1909  The Phantom of the Opera (original title: Le Fantôme de l’Opéra), a novel by French writer Gaston Leroux, was first published as a serialization in Le Gaulois.

1920 Mickey Rooney, American actor, was born.

1922 In Washington D. C., Charles Evans Hughes signed the Hughes-Peynado agreement, that ended the occupation of Dominican Republic by the United States.

1930 Ray Charles, American musician, was born (d. 2004).

1932  The Kingdom of Hejaz and Nejd was renamed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

1938 Mobilization of the Czechoslovak army in response to the Munich Crisis.

1939  Henry Blofeld, English cricket commentator, was born.

1941 World War II: The first gas chamber experiments were conducted at Auschwitz.

1942  World War II: First day of the September Matanikau action on Guadalcanal as United States Marine Corps forces attacked Imperial Japanese Army units along the Matanikau River.

1943 Julio Iglesias, Spanish singer, was born.

1943  World War II: The so-called Salò Republic, the Italian puppet state of Germany was born.

1944 Eric Bogle, British/Australian singer and songwriter, was born.

1949 Bruce Springsteen, American singer and songwriter, was born.

1952 Richard Nixon made his “Checkers speech“.

1954  Cherie Blair, lawyer and politician, wife of ex-British PM, was born.

1959   Iowa farmer Roswell Garst hosted Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev.

1959  The MS Princess of Tasmania, Australia’s first passenger roll-on/roll-off diesel ferry, made her maiden voyage across Bass Strait.

1962  The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City opened with the completion of the first building, the Philharmonic Hall (now Avery Fisher Hall) home of the New York Philharmonic.

1973  Juan Perón returned to power in Argentina.

1983  Gerrie Coetzee of South Africa became the first African boxing world heavyweight champion.

1983  Gulf Air Flight 771 was bombed, killing all 117 people on board.

1992 A large Provisional Irish Republican Army bomb destroyed the forensic laboratories in Belfast.

1999  NASA announced that it had lost contact with the Mars Climate Orbiter.

1999  Qantas Flight 1 overran the runway in Bangkok during a storm.

2002  The first public version of the web browser Mozilla Firefox (“Phoenix 0.1″) was released.

2004  Hurricane Jeanne: At least 1,070 in Haiti were reported killed by floods.

2008  Kauhajoki school shooting: Matti Saari killed 10 people before committing suicide.

Sourced from NZ History Online


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