De-cork wine without a corkscrew

July 21, 2014

This would be fun to try but I wouldn’t use a bottle of good wine, just in case:

It looks easy but a screw cap would be even easier.


Word of the day

July 21, 2014

Whaikōrero – the art and practice of speech making.


Popularity deficit

July 21, 2014

Felix Marwick sums up Labour’s problem – a popularity deficit:

Deficits are something no political party likes and the problem for the Labour Party at the moment is that it has one; a popularity deficit.

Its 27 percent result at the last election was the worst result it’d had in over 80 years and, at the time it was thought the party had scraped the bottom of the barrel. The only way, it seemed, was up. But four consecutive polls since last Wednesday have had the party polling below 30 percent and it seems distinctly possible Labour could crash and burn on September 20 unless it has a major change of fortunes.

Labour didn’t use its 2011 result to refresh and renew – its MPs and candidates, its policies and its organisation. It’s the same old faces peddling last centuries ideas from a vehicle that continually shows it isn’t road worthy and doesn’t trust its driver.

From the outside Labour’s predicament looks pretty simple. It has no discipline. Its caucus appears more focused on personal rivalries, revenge, and self interest than they do in winning the election. Nowhere has this been better illustrated than by the example of the anonymous insider that went to the Sunday papers criticising David Cunliffe for taking a holiday so close to the election.

It’s not the first time one of his rivals has made such an attack. A similar accusation was made against him by party insiders in the dying days of the ill-fated 2011 election campaign. It’s an accusation he rejected at the time.

There’s nothing wrong with taking a holiday. But there’s big problems with political management if it wasn’t discussed, and agreed to, by caucus; or if it was and someone broke ranks.

Certainly there are some within Labour’s ranks that will probably argue that David Cunliffe and his supporters are being served the dish they themselves plated up for previous leaders Phil Goff and David Shearer. It does seem there is an element of payback going on. This is something voters should pay attention to the next time a Labour MP tells them about how committed they are to the future of this country. The party’s track record since the departure of Helen Clark suggests self interest reigns supreme.

There’s a lot more MPs concentrating on staying in parliament rather than helping their party get into government.

What all of this means of course is that Labour is worse than a house divided; it’s a house falling apart. It’s a Christchurch red zone home. Its foundations are stuffed, its walls are broken, the roof is a leaking ruin, and its garden is submerged in liquefaction.

One seriously wonders if the party would be better off ditching all of its incumbents, replacing them entirely, and starting afresh. If ever a political party needed a fresh slate, it’s Labour.

Labour’s loss in 2008 wasn’t bad enough to rid it of its dead wood. Since then it’s either made no attempt at renewal or the attempts have failed.

It repeatedly shows it’s incapable of managing itself which gives voters absolutely no confidence it could run the country, especially with the ill-assorted coalition parties it would need on-side to get a majority.

The red party is deep in the red zone and has just two months to convince voters it doesn’t deserve to be red carded.

Hat tip: Kiwiblog


Rural round-up

July 21, 2014

A balanced lifestyle – Sally Rae:

Entering the Ballance Farm Environment Awards reinforced to South Otago couple Brendon and Suzie Bearman they were ”heading in the right direction”.

The couple, who farm a 245ha property south of Milton, received the Otago Regional Council water quality award, LIC dairy farm award and PGG Wrightson land and life award in this year’s Otago BFEA awards.

The opening date for entries in the 2015 competition is August 1 and Mrs Bearman encouraged people to enter. It was a good forum to promote farming in a positive light and the ”good things” people were doing on farms needed to be highlighted, she said. . .

Caution urged on intensification – Andrea Fox:

Not long ago Irish dairy leaders were saying New Zealand dairy farmers had lost the plot on cost competitiveness.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle recalled they gave him stick about the Kiwi move to higher inputs and this country’s flirtation with cow housing. 

Now the Irish are fearful they will go down the same road, with European milk production quota limits coming off next year. . .

Skills key to future success – Andrea Fox:

Sharemilkers will always be among us but the future pathway to farm ownership will be through the classroom, sector veterans say.

With the number of herd owners from the traditional nursery, 50:50 sharemilkers, shrinking in the past decade, from more than 3000 to 2229 last year, there is a question mark over who will be the dairy farm owners of the future as land prices, which spawned sharemilking, continue to rise.  

Sharemilker, farm-owner and DairyNZ director Ben Allomes said as the dairy industry grew in size and maturity, it would not be so much the sharemilking system that would be the ladder to farm ownership but an ability to work whatever system there was to get traction. . . .

Molesworth Station: From ruin to redemption :

The story of Molesworth is one of ruin to redemption, says the author of a book on the iconic high country station.

”It’s sort of a heroic theme really and a lesson in fantastic land management,” says Harry Broad, the journalist and conservationist behind Molesworth: Stories from New Zealand’s largest high-country station.

Harry is one of the authors at next weekend’s Marlborough Book Festival, where he’ll share stories of the incredible history, landscape and people of Molesworth.

The 180,000-hectare Marlborough station was ”close to ruin” by 1937, due to poor management, aggravated by low wool prices, a plague of rabbits and winters that could kill a third of its sheep. . .

Beef, lamb exports near peak – Gerard Hutching:

New Zealand beef and lamb exports are at almost record levels for the first nine months of trade this season.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand figures show lamb exports reached $2.06 billion for the nine months to June, despite volume dropping by 3.6 per cent and the disadvantage of a strong dollar.

The buoyant meat export figures are in contrast to recent slumps in dairy prices. In a shock fall, dairy prices dropped 8.9 per cent at the latest Global Dairy Trade auction earlier this week and are down about 35 per cent from recent peaks. . .

 

Single farmers looking for love – Kelly Dennett:

A new Facebook page that helps farmers find love has created a stir in the provinces.

NZF Singles invites country folk seeking companionship to post their photo and information for others to peruse.

The applicants could see who liked or commented on their photo and add them online accordingly.

For those seeking something a little more casual, a Russian roulette style system called Second Chance Sunday invited people to post their Snap Chat names or phone numbers on the wall for others to get in touch.    . . .


More common than sense

July 21, 2014

Winston Peters accused the Conservative Party of plagiarising New Zealand First’s policies.

Common policies isn’t plagiarism but copying a slogan could be and that’s what NZ First has done by adopting it’s common sense as its rallying cry for the election.

Since 2002 when Peter Dunne got the television worm to dance by insisting his policies were common sense, that’s been associated with him and United Future.

Common sense is an appealing slogan but New Zealand First backs it up with policies which have a greater claim to common than sense.

One of these is removing GST from basic food items.

The thought of wiping $15 off every $100 spent on groceries is attractive but it’s not that simple.

Not all of the grocery bill is spent on food and the part that is isn’t all spent on basic items – whatever they are and that’s where the problems, and costs arise.

Exactly what is basic and what isn’t requires definition, that’s open to debate and it all adds complexity and cost to our enviably simple and relatively cheap to administer GST system.

Labour tried to sell removing GST from fresh fruit and vegetables at the last election but gained little if any traction. One of the reasons for that was that the biggest gains from that would go to the wealthy who’d save on luxury items.

But the bigger problem with this policy is the cost.

. . . Mr Peters said his policy would save New Zealanders but cost the Crown a whopping $3 billion a year or thereabouts.

“This bold policy aims at the heart of the inequality undermining our society.”

Also “as part of a fair system” NZ First would remove GST from rates on residential property.

“This tax-on-a-tax deceit has to end, and it will,” Mr Peters told around 150 party faithful at Alexandra Park.

He did not provide details on how much that policy would cost, but with local authorities raising more than $7 billion a year in rates, the Crown would lose hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

However, in an echo of Labour’s plan to fund its big-ticket items, Mr Peters said the policies would be funded through “a clampdown on tax evasion and the black economy” which he estimated was worth $7 billion a year. . . .

Inland Revenue already devotes a lot of time and money to detecting and clawing back money lost through evasion and the black economy.

Greater effort would result in greater costs and would be very unlikely to result in a fraction of the billions of dollars that would be lost from the tax take if these policies were adopted.


Quota bad for health

July 21, 2014

Tim Worstall shows that public health campaigners  don’t understand economics:

. . . The European Union is taking the next step in reforming the entirely absurd sugar regime, making it marginally less awful. The public health wallahs are shouting that this might make sugar cheaper, to the point where everyone will explode from eating too much of it.

No, really:

Controversial agricultural reforms by the European Union could cause sugar levels in food and drink to rise, experts have warned.

Campaigners said it was “perverse” that the EU was planning to lift sugar production quotas at a time when health authorities are advising people to reduce their consumption of the ingredient. . . .

The move is expected to make sugar cheaper for food and drink manufacturers, prompting fears it will encourage them to use rising levels of the ingredient. Dr Aseem Malhotra, science director of Action on Sugar, a campaign group, said it would be “disastrous” for public health.

Oh dear.

They’ve really not understood what’s going on here at all.

In the nightmare world of EU agricultural policies the abolition of quota does not mean that prices are going to fall. For what actually happens is that if you grow sugar beet then there’s two prices which you can sell that deformed mangelwurzel to the processor at. One, a guaranteed one, much higher than a free market price, is only available if you have quota to go with your sugar beet. The other price is very much lower than a free market price and almost no one ever tries to grow beet without quota as a result.

The important point about the abolition of quota is not that it abolishes quota. It is that if there is no quota then beet with or without quota cannot gain that guaranteed price. Thus the price on offer to Europe’s sugar beet growers is going to fall: all other things being equal we’ll thus have less beet being grown. And thus less sugar being taken into storage and then subsidised by the EU when it is later dumped on the food manufacturers.

The abolition of quota will lead to less sugar being produced. And the public health campaigners are arguing against the abolition of quota to stop less sugar being produced. . .

Removing quota will not just have economic benefits, contrary to what the campaigners say, it could have health ones too.


Two sides one message

July 21, 2014

Electoral law permitted election hoardings to be displayed from yesterday.

Alfred Ngaro’s National Party teams were so keen to paint the Te Atatu electorate blue they started at midnight.

Facebook and Twitter showed MPs, candidates and supporters the length and breadth of the country erecting hoardings and  enjoying themselves while doing it.

Labour teams could be forgiven for not being quite as happy in their work but that’s not the only contrast between the blue hoardings and the red ones.

The message from National is clear and consistent, the one, or should that be ones from Labour are not.

We passed this double-sided hoarding on the way home from Queenstown yesterday.

hoardings 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hoardings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s two sides to the sign but a single message – party vote National.

Labour candidates are giving mixed messages – some are seeking the electorate vote over the party one, a lot of them – like those used in 2011 – don’t show their leader.

The contrast couldn’t be greater.

There are blue hoardings giving a consistent message of unity, support for party leader John Key, and  being quite clear that National wants your party vote. Then there are red ones giving mixed messages which show disunity and leave voters in doubt exactly what they’re being asked to do.

It’s the party vote that counts for forming a government.

National Party MPs and candidates are showing they not only want to be in parliament, they want to be in a John Key-led government.

But the hoardings of at least some Labour MPs show they’re more concerned about their own seats than the fate of their party – their desire to be in parliament is greater than that to have Labour in government.

If Labour MPs and candidates don’t care about the party vote, why would voters?


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