Vic Chesnutt – dead at 45

Shocking news from the New York Times in the obituaries.

Vic Chesnutt, who I saw perform at the San Francisco Bathhouse last July died of an overdose of muscle relaxants.

According to the notice he had attempted suicide several times and failed. The day before Christmas in 2009 he succeeded.

Vic Chesnutt was a great singer songwriter. Confined to a wheelchair since the age of 18 when a car accident left him paralysed he relearnt the guitar by playing only the easy chords. His simple melodies wrapped themselves around witty and sometimes complex lyrics – often with an apparent sense of humour.

His songs have been performed by many big acts: REM, Madonna, The Indigo Girls and Smashing Pumpkins.

The financial burden of having to pay for his medical treatment seemed to have played a part in his depression. This prolific songwriter will be sadly missed.

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Andrew Williams – North Shore Mayor

Andrew Williams appeared with Mike Hosking tonight on Close Up defending his position over the rumoured late night texts. It’s one of those situations of either you believe him, or you don’t. Each side seemed to have evidence that supported their own claims.

Rodney Hide, Andrew Williams, John Key

Rodney Hide, Andrew Williams, John Key

Everyone except John Key. Interviewed on Breakfast he appeared as vague as he always does when trying to evade specific questioning. He adopts exactly the tone he did when he “couldn’t remember having an opinion about the Springbok Tour of 1981”. All I can see is a man squirming and looking uncomfortable and evasive.

Williams has evidence that he only texted John Key at 12.16pm (two months ago) just after the house rose from urgency – so presumably John Key was awake at the time. But then Williams disingenuously claimed that he ‘couldn’t recall’ sending a text at 3.30am and that if he had it was longer than 4 months ago – which seems beside the point.

At the end of the interview Williams claimed this was all an ACT conspiracy to discredit him and to push the Super City – a shoot the messenger scenario. Maybe he’s right. Williams certainly has the knife out for Rodney Hide asking, under the OIA, for records on the actual meetings that took place while Hide was away with his girlfriend. Turns out there were not many.

This saga will continue until Andrew Williams is out of a job – which may be sooner rather than later.

Intensive dairy farms in the Mackenzie country

These are happy dairy cows

These are happy dairy cows

Two companies, Southdown Holdings and Five Rivers, have put an application in to start a dairy operation that would see 18,000 dairy cows housed in pens known as free stalls. You can see the application here.

What are these people thinking? And why are the Federated Farmers supporting them?

Apparently there is a plus side to this type of farming: it makes the ‘farmers’ more money; and it’s supposed to be kinder to the environment because the effluent can be easily collected.

On the negative side the animals need greater doses of antibiotics to prevent infection, plus they’ll be fed on grain, not clover or grass. Both of these things have an effect on the milk production. These chemicals leach through into the milk so that you and I end up drinking them, and being fed on grain will alter the taste.

What’s more the grain that they feed these animals is likely to come from palm plantations that are replacing natural rainforest. Any apparent lowering of the carbon footprint is more than offset by the fact that grain will need to be shipped in.

What’s more frightening is that this will irreparably damage our reputation as a clean green producer of sustainable sheep and beef meat, and milk. If a feed lot for dairy cows is allowed then the next logical step is that beef farmers will want to intensively farm their animals and we’ll end up like the US – crap meat, crap milk.

Why is the Federated Farmers supporting this move? They believe that this sort of farming should be encouraged. According to Federated Farmers President Don Nicolson:

This style of closed cycle farming means effluent can, for example, be put into bio-digesters with the resulting biogas used to power the farm offsetting farm animal emissions.  Surplus energy could be sold into the national grid and all the while, nutrient loss is minimised.

This is what the emissions trading scheme is meant to encourage, isn’t it?

What he doesn’t take into consideration is the long term implications for New Zealand as a whole in allowing this type of farming. This isn’t a farm – it’s a factory. And the welfare of these animals is compromised as much, if not more, than the pigs in pens that caused so much controversy several months back.

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