How to make semi-soft butter

Andy’s excellent “Cooking with Andy” series has inspired me to share a recession-busting secret recipe that has been solemnly handed down our family from father to son since I invented it by trial and error last night.

Vegetable oils and butter are natural and healthy, but margarine has been chemically processed creating  unnatural trans-fats your body isn’t designed to cope with, and tastes disgusting. Its only advantages are that it spreads well and is far cheaper than butter. Semi-soft butter, despite being around 50% cheap vegetable oil, is even more expensive than regular butter – an absolute rip-off in my mind. It should be cheaper than standard butter.

So:

Take one 500g block of butter. Melt in the microwave until creamy. Mix in 2 cups of vegetable oil (plain canola oil is fine) until well blended. Pour into containers (fills 2 margarine containers) and place in the fridge to set overnight.

Voila, you have just made your butter go twice as far AND made it spreadable!

Enjoy on your morning toast.

Compulsory “volunteer” work

Gordon Brown has decided he wants to make volunteer work compulsory:

Gordon Brown has announced plans that could see every teenager in the country complete up to 50 hours of volunteer work by the age of 19.

The automatic reaction to something being compulsory is to resent it. No-one likes being told what to do. This is one reason why schoolkids here will play up in class and bunk – school is compulsory. In Africa by comparison, kids will walk for miles in bare feet to attend school, just like people in the West did in former generations – because school is a privilege that they value.

If Gordon Brown wants to ensure kids hate “volunteer” work and don’t choose to do any more than the bare minimum 50 hours, this is the way to go about it.

It can never be compulsory to volunteer. Check a dictionary.

Hat tip: Fairfacts Media

Let’s make New Zealand a tax haven

There’s a lot of talk about “cracking down on tax havens” at the moment, as high-tax Western countries want to crank up taxes to spend their way out of the recession, and want to stop people who disagree with their policies from moving their money somewhere else.

But what is a tax haven? Not a dodgy regime of crooks as some might imply – no-one would invest their money there as it wouldn’t be safe. A tax haven is essentially a stable country with low taxes. According to the OECD, the UK, the USA, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria are all tax havens, as they offer low tax rates to foreign investors to encourage people to invest in the country. Sounds a sensible idea to me.

A government is basically a service provider. One government offers to provide state services (such as law enforcement) for a certain price. Another may offer the same services for less. This results in competition, driving down overall tax rates, just as competition between supermarkets drives down the cost of food.

But certain high-tax nations now want to gang up on a few low-tax countries to force them to give up the personal details of people investing money in them. Rather than making themselves more competitive so people choose to keep their money there, they want to steal business back from other countries that are offering a better deal.

Let’s illustrate this with supermarkets. Fruit and vegetables are generally cheaper from specialist growers markets than from the supermarkets. But what if Foodstuffs and Progressive (the owners of virtually all NZ supermarkets) banded together and told your local greengrocer that they had to give them the personal details of all their customers or they would undertake “protectionist policies” to drive the greengrocer out of business?

Such behaviour would be immediately stamped on as “anti-competitive”, and a breach of privacy. But when governments do the same thing, are we supposed to think it is ok? That’s a big double standard.

What right does any government have to pressure another into changing their tax laws, or giving up the personal details of individuals?

Furthermore, not all foreign investors do so to avoid taxes. It can be very important for investors to have their personal information protected. Jews invested large quantities of money in Switzerland during the 1930′s to protect it from the Nazis – what if their personal details had been given up? There are plenty of oppressive regimes at the moment that you wouldn’t want to keep any money in – Zimbabwe for example. But you certainly wouldn’t want Mugabe knowing you had money stashed away in Liechtenstein…

We must not destroy vital personal privacy laws just to satisfy a short-term greed for tax revenue.

No, if we want to ride out this recession, we need more people investing money in New Zealand. And if there is a crack-down on other tax havens, there will be wealthy people looking for somewhere else to invest. Why don’t we draw that money here?

So lets slash taxes, guarantee personal privacy, and make New Zealand a tax haven.

To have your preconceptions about tax havens blown away, I’d recommend this excellent short video series by the Centre for Freedom and Prosperity:
The Economic Case for Tax Havens
The Moral Case for Tax Havens
Tax Havens: Myths vs Facts

Sea level rise “greatest lie ever told”

I am frankly getting sick of hearing phrases like “Pacific island nations are already struggling with rising sea levels” on the news and other places – never backed up by any real data. Now Dr Nils-Axel Mörner, a sea-level expert, has come out and said the whole thing is a scam. A few excerpts:

But if there is one scientist who knows more about sea levels than anyone else in the world it is the Swedish geologist and physicist Nils-Axel Mörner, formerly chairman of the INQUA International Commission on Sea Level Change. And the uncompromising verdict of Dr Mörner, who for 35 years has been using every known scientific method to study sea levels all over the globe, is that all this talk about the sea rising is nothing but a colossal scare story.

Despite fluctuations down as well as up, “the sea is not rising,” he says. “It hasn’t risen in 50 years.” If there is any rise this century it will “not be more than 10cm (four inches), with an uncertainty of plus or minus 10cm”. …

The reason why Dr Mörner, formerly a Stockholm professor, is so certain that these claims about sea level rise are 100 per cent wrong is that they are all based on computer model predictions, whereas his findings are based on “going into the field to observe what is actually happening in the real world”.

There is a lot of aid money to be had in claiming your country is at risk of a natural disaster:

When running the International Commission on Sea Level Change, he launched a special project on the Maldives, whose leaders have for 20 years been calling for vast sums of international aid to stave off disaster. Six times he and his expert team visited the islands, to confirm that the sea has not risen for half a century. Before announcing his findings, he offered to show the inhabitants a film explaining why they had nothing to worry about. The government refused to let it be shown.

The Islamic government of the Maldives is particularly dodgy (I had a Maldivian flatmate once & it was an eye-opener, stories of aid being sold instead of given away etc, you can’t even take a Bible into the country), so this doesn’t surprise me much. Not everyone’s motives are pure…

Now the last thing I would suggest you do is blindly believe this scientist, or to blindly believe anyone else. Just note that there is debate on this issue, so the next time someone claims any island is struggling with rising seas, make sure they back it up with actual measurements.

If they can, please comment, it would be interesting to look at the data.

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