Where was Senator Ayotte?

Reading an article on Food52 about milk I came across this alarming comment regarding the vagaries of State based regulations:

States make their own laws when it comes to the regulation of raw milk sales, with seven states outlawing its sale directly to consumers as of October of last year. Because it is potentially dangerous, federal law prohibits the distribution of the raw milk across state lines unless it is in transit to be pasteurized or used to make aged cheese.”

Said another way, 39 States allow some form of raw milk sales, another 4 States allow sales for pets only. Boy, I hope the anti-gun lobby doesn’t see that “potentially dangerous” is justification for Federal Law.

Perhaps Senator Ayotte needs better staff support or they were on coffee break and missed the poorly made State decisions thereby failing our Senator’s desire to declutter State Agriculture regulations and laws:

 “After hearing from New Hampshire food and agriculture stakeholders who raised serious concerns about the implications that a patchwork of state labeling laws would have on interstate commerce, as well as on consumers who could experience increased prices because of those different laws, I supported a procedural motion to advance consideration of the measure.

I would never suggest that the Senator’s support for the anti-GMO labeling law was driven by the Republican National Party (RNC). I would never suggest that the Senator favors the RNC over the citizens of New Hampshire.

I would also never suggest that the RNC favors its leadership over their own delegates, I will leave that to CNBC. I would suggest that the RNC decision to not adopt Roberts Rules of Order for their convention is strikingly similar to Senator Ayotte’s decision to support a bill that would be opposed by 90% of the population if put to a vote, instead voting to apply a Republican led squelch.

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Let’s Gore an Ox

Perhaps it was a shot across the bow in an election season. However, in my opinion, Senator Ayotte has not shown any favor to the consumers or citizens of New Hampshire beyond the Republican favored 1% so after becoming incensed at a clearly Big Ag ploy to controvert the States that do actively try to support their citizens (Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut) I sent this note:

Honorable Senator Ayotte, 

Oh where oh where have all the Republicans gone? 

How should I interpret Senator Roberts’ draft legislation: 

To amend the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to require the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a national voluntary labeling standard for bioengineered foods, and for other purposes 

Is the Republican Party taking aim at destroying States’ Rights?  

Where does this shill for Big Ag think he is coming from?  

At what point in time will the Republican Party start to voice the concerns of the food consuming public or are you folks all about getting Mexico to pay for a fence (aka Maginot Line) and whatever else Big Business wants? 

Of course States could ban the sale of products with GMO material unless those items are voluntarily stated clearly on the label; that wouldn’t contradict your Business Proposed Label Law; unless of course you also plan to regulate intrastate commerce.

Okay, so there were a few cheap shots in there, face it, building a fence along our southern border wouldn’t be as effective as the Maginot Line. I did get the following response from Senator Ayotte:

Thank you for contacting me regarding bioengineered food.  I appreciate hearing from you.

As you may know, on March 16, 2016, the Senate voted on a measure put forth by Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) which would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish a national voluntary labeling standard for bioengineered food within one year.  Further, the measure would require USDA to establish a framework for how the Administration will require “substantial participation” of food products in the voluntary labeling system to allow consumers more information about their food.  Specifically, the measure requires that if 70 percent of food products are not participating in the voluntary system within two years that USDA shall establish a national mandatory labeling standard for bioengineered food.

After hearing from New Hampshire food and agriculture stakeholders who raised serious concerns about the implications that a patchwork of state labeling laws would have on interstate commerce, as well as on consumers who could experience increased prices because of those different laws, I supported a procedural motion to advance consideration of the measure.  You may be interested to know that New Hampshire Department of Agriculture Commissioner Lorraine Merrill has warned that, “…state by state patchworks of biotechnology food labeling laws are chaotic for commerce, difficult to enforce and will deliver many unintended consequences,” and Commissioner Merrill supported the measure put forward on the Senate floor.  Going forward, I will continue to work with my colleagues to find a commonsense path forward on a bioengineered food labeling system that will provide consumers with more information.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me.  It is important for me to hear from you regarding the current issues affecting New Hampshire and our nation.  Please do not hesitate to be in touch again if I may be of further assistance.

Sincerely,

Kelly A. Ayotte
U. S. Senator

Sounds like a well thought out plan and it even has the support of our New Hampshire Department of Agriculture Commissioner. There is a provision that makes GMO labeling mandatory if 70% of food products are not in compliance, if you have a negative bent then 30% of our food products and their nefarious producers will get a pass. What I found most interesting was the lack of dialogue on States’ Rights, actually that is a pass as the Senator completely avoided it. Also the lack of dialogue on why not simply give the people what they want, truth in labeling, wine labels have to disclose if the wine contains added sodium nitrate so what’s the fuss over adding contains GMOs on a label?

I would love to see a detailed example of how a voluntary labeling system would provide me with more information. I don’t believe the Mexicans will pay for any wall so I have a little trouble with this Republican claim as well.

It also smacks of a delaying tactic, hoping that the Republicans will take the White House and control Congress so they can make this labeling issue, supported by 90% of the population, go away. I am not a scientist (that makes me a republican) but I am suspicious of the benefits claimed for GMOs. If they were really that beneficial than you would expect companies to broadcast far and wide that their product contains the Newest, Best GMOs available on the market. Maybe GMOs have a bad image and need quality public relations efforts. As I said, I am not a crook scientist, I have just found when dealing with salespeople that what is not said is more important and with all the money and lobbying being thrown against labeling GMOs I simply smell a rat.

If State Commissioner Merrill is so concern about all the variances from State to State, then would she also support a move to disband State Agriculture Commissions and let the FDA/USDA rule? Wouldn’t that be more logical for Big Ag?

Should we discuss Insurance Commissions? Wouldn’t voter registration be better, at least simpler, if the Federal Government was in control? Will Senator Ayotte champion a Value Added Tax to replace the patchwork of State Sales and Use Tax regulations?

Regarding the Senator’s justification “. . . the implications that a patchwork of state labeling laws would have on interstate commerce, as well as on consumers who could experience increased prices because of those different laws, I supported a procedural motion to advance consideration of the measure. ” Anyone who likes wine knows that the best prices and especially variety are online (even if you include New Hampshire 8.5% sales import tax fee for doing nothing at all which passed when Senator Ayotte was our Attorney General) but many vendors don’t ship to New Hampshire because of the license fee, processing and collecting the 8.5% assessment cost, and reporting costs. Gee, wouldn’t it be easier if the Federal Government regulated the interstate sales of wine? Wouldn’t we as consumers benefit from lower regulatory and compliance costs? Yes, I am familiar with the 17th Amendment as well as how a concerted effort by our politicians could get that modified.

Next time you buy a soda in New Hampshire or any other state without a Bottle Tax take a look at the label and how they have managed to accommodate those who have a bottle tax with those who don’t. How hard would it be to label your products, to avoid unnecessary inventory and product costs, by simply labeling the products to comply with the 4 food consumer friendly States and sell that product in the other 46 as well? It all comes down to consumers want to know what is in their food and Big Ag Republicans don’t want you to know.

I worked at regulatory and legislative lobbying for a brief time, that limited experience helped me create a theory on people’s’ ability to govern:

An individual’s ability to affect laws and regulations is inversely proportional to the square of that individual’s distance away from those making the laws or regulations. 

In plain English, if you live in Alaska or northern Maine or New Hampshire, you’re screwed. Large businesses understand this theory and hire lobbyists for Washington DC as well as each State Capitol, the rest of us can only open a window and rant into the verse.

 

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Wine Terminology

Every industry creates their own shorthand or jargon trying to make it easier for the insiders but understanding that it also frustrates outsiders. Here are a few of the common terms used to describe wine:

Acidity

Wine with a pH below 7 is an acid. Acidity refers to the degree of acid. It is considered a preservative in wine resulting from fermenting the fruits and is often referred to favorably as tart or crisp and unfavorably as flabby if the necessary acidity is lacking.

Aeration

Simply put, allowing wine access to oxygen; principle behind decanting. However, too much oxygen for too long can cause wine oxidation leading to rancidness.

Appellation

A geographical area of one or more distinct attributes that distinguishes it from another place. Known as AOC (appellation d’origine controlle) in France, DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) or DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) in Italy, and DOC (Denominación de Origen) in Spain.

Astringency

Originating from the wine’s tannins, described as coarse, harsh or rough, often referred to for causing your mouth to pucker up when initially tasting the wine. Ideally this will decrease as the wine ages.

Austere

Having the flavor of acid or tannin predominant over fruit flavors, may indicate a capacity for aging.

Backward

An underdeveloped wine, slow to age. May also be referred to as austere.

Balance

A condition where the wine’s bouquet, taste and finish are in concert or harmony with each other. Neither characteristic is present in excess or is deficient.

Big

A term personal to each taster but tends to represent an exaggeration of one or more of the wine’s characteristics. A common complaint for fruit forward New World wines which tend not to par well with refined cuisine but can rock with barbecue.

Bite

Strong acidity, typical of many young wines built to age.

Bland

A wine lacking in tannins, acidity and/or fruit. Essentially a nondescript wine.

Blend

A combination of the juice from two or more grape varietals. The purpose for blending is to control the end experience, some grapes are added for color, others for their alcohol capacity, others for their tannins, and others for their bouquet.

Bottle Size

Generally, the larger the bottle format the more gracefully a bottled wine will mature. Sizes:

187.5     ml          Piccolo or Split

375         ml          Half bottle (US)

500        ml           Demi bottle (Fr)

750         ml           Standard bottle

1.5          L              Magnum

3.0          L              Double Magnum

4.5          L              Jeroboam

4.5          L              Rehoboam, used for Champagne

6.0          L              Imperial

6.0          L              Methuselah, usually used for sparkling wines

9.0          L              Salmanazar, equivalent to one standard case

12.0        L              Balthazar

15.0        L              Nebuchadnezzar

Bouquet

Aromas created during the fermentation process and barrel aging.

Chaptalization

The practice of adding sugar during the fermentation process to increase the alcohol level.

Clarity

The absence of haze/particles in liquid suspension.

Cooked

Heavy, sweet wine with aromas of plum. An attribute of fine Maury wines, otherwise not a quality descriptor.

Corked

Tainted wine caused by 2, 4, 6 Trichloroanisole (TCA) in the cork. Typically, it can be smelled as the bottle is opened but if mildly tainted it may be subtle and expand as the wine warms.

Fat

A full-bodied wine, plenty of glycerin and alcohol.

Finish

Describes the aftertaste once the wine is swallowed. Long, short, tannic, etc.

Flabby

Lacks structure, probably low in acid, with a short finish.

Fruity

Common descriptor of wines which can originate from various sources, some added but most associated with the grape or wine making process. Sauvignon Blanc grapes typically exhibit flavor notes of grapefruit. Other flavors could be from contamination in the vats or on the grapes as they are brought in from the fields. The point to appellations is that grapes take on a ‘taste’ of the place where they are grown, chardonnay from California will unlikely taste like chardonnay from Chablis, ignoring the variances in winemaking technique.

Herbaceous

Naturally occurring wine aromas that remind one of herbs.

Hot

Mouth sensation caused by high alcohol levels.

Legs

When you swirl the wine and tip to one side then back, the clear coating that clings to the glass surface is glycerin.

Oaked

A distinct vanilla taste derived from the vanillin compound found in oak wood. The flavor is imparted to wines that are fermented/age in oak barrels or in those countries with much looser standards from oak chips that are tossed into fermenting/aging wines.

Off

Refers to a bad odor or taste sensation.

Oxidation

Exposure of grape juice to oxygen. Oxygen is important to maturing wine but it also hastens reduction which can produce a foul-smelling by-product Hydrogen Sulphide. Too much oxygen is generally bad.

Plummy

Could refer to the wine’s color but typically refers to the sensations caused by over ripe grapes.

Punt

The indentation on the bottom of most wine bottles. Original glass making equipment was not able to produce a flat bottom so they made the indentation to keep the bottles upright.

Short

Refers to the finish length.

Tannin

Creates astringency, comes from the stems, skins and pips.

Tart

A wine that has too much acidity for the sugar content, may be resolved by age.

Terroir

The ‘place’ where the grapes were grown; a combination of the soil, microclimate, and orientation to the sun.

Ullage

Space between the bottom of the cork and the top of the wine.

Varietal

Refers to a specific grape variety. Hachette Wine Library Grape Varieties lists 36 major varieties in France alone.

 

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Air Travel Complaint

Years ago I attended a Disney Management Program at their facilities in Orlando. It was an interesting week of Disney philosophy and maybe even a little Goofy. I clearly remember the discussion on trash bins and their efforts studying just how far people would walk to throw trash in the bin verses on the ground. They placed trash bins around the park where no one would be beyond the ‘walk to toss’ limit. Of course they also had a Plan B, absolutely no park employee was allowed to walk by trash on the ground, they had to pick it up and dispose of it properly. Ultimately, Disney was all about making every aspect of your park visit pleasant, enjoyable and entertaining.

The airline industry adopted the antithesis of Disney’s management approach. They reduce leg room as a vehicle to increase revenues. They routinely cancel undersold flights waiting, apparently, until they are oversold. They let ‘premiers’ on first with more baggage than allowed to choke the overheads so economy fliers have no room to store bags. And if the reduced leg room isn’t enough to convince you to pay an enormous fee for another few inches, they refuse to lock the seats so the kid in front of you can lean all the way back into your lap.

Since retiring I have limited my flights to overseas and coast-to-coast otherwise I drive. Driving is reliable, over 700 miles it probably takes a little longer than flying but not necessarily if the trip requires a connection. Driving is definitely more economical than flying, especially if there are two of us. The food is significantly better. Plenty of leg room, and with extra baggage space to take more than we need and to bring back even more that we don’t need.

Air travel is a lot like cable television, management focuses on cash flow and knowing that most travelers don’t have the option to drive like I do, they behave like monopolists. Too bad we don’t have the promised Open Skies agreement in place, ever since deregulation we have seen industry consolidation to the point where now it is, at best, an oligopoly but on many routes it is an effective monopoly.

Have you had a problem with air travel? The Department of Transportation (DOT) is actually listening, give them a call to lodge your complaint 202.366.2220 or go online to file a complaint.

 

 

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Ready for Spring 2016

It really hasn’t been a bad winter but it was still winter. The upper Oyster River below the dams never convincingly froze for more than a day or two at a time. Snow is an annoyance at best and for the working crowd a major obstacle at its worst. I have seen flocks of geese flying over the last couple of weeks and that woke me to the need to place my seed order which, may be just in time as the forecast is looking more and more spring like.

Now, for the last two days we have had 5 swans paddling about Jackson’s Landing:

Swans on the Oyster River waiting for ice out above the dams in Town, ©T20R11.com

Swans on the Oyster River waiting for ice out above the dams in Town
©T20R11.com

 

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Looking at German Wines

I am fond of dry, crisp white wines with decent acidity but disappointed with my purchases of German wines regardless of the professional reviewer’s rating or the wine’s price. Their labels are confusing and I have been left staring at the wine shelves only to turn and buy a nice French Picpoul or an Alsatian Riesling or Pinot Gris. I am comfortable with my Old World bigotry but within the Old World I do like to drink around. It is high time that I did some basic research and look at the German system for labeling wines.

Consider these three main issues when purchasing German wine:

Quality Designations:

QbA       Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete

Growing region must be shown on the label, it is an everyday table wine similar to France’s VdP designation. Alcohol must be at least 7%, chaptalization is common and the resulting wines range from dry to semi-sweet.

QmP      Prädikatswein, formerly Qualitätswein mit Prädikat

Germany’s best wine regarded as ‘quality wine with specific attributes’. Chaptalization is not allowed but the wines typically show a trace of residual sugar. The Prädikat (ripeness level) indication is designated on the wine label and means:

Kabinett

Typically, semi-sweet with good acidity made from fully ripen grapes.

Spätlese

Typically, semi-sweet and often fruitier and maybe sweeter than Kabinett, the grapes must be harvested, at least, 7 days after the normal harvest. Spätlese equates to late harvest but isn’t as sweet as a dessert wine and might even be a full bodied dry wine.

Auslese

Produced from extremely ripe grapes, the wine is typically semi-sweet or sweet but might be dry. This designation covers the widest range of wine styles.

Beerenauslese

Sweet dessert wine

Eiswein

Produced from grapes that were left to freeze on the vine, an ice wine.

Trockenbeernauslese

The trocken does not mean this is a dry wine, rather that the grapes have been left to shrivel on the vine before harvest. Additionally, these wines are made from grapes infected with noble rot.

Sweetness Designations:

Trocken                Dry or sec

Halbtrocken       Half-dry or demi-sec

Feinherb              Sweeter than halbtrocken

Color

Weißwein           White wine

Rotwein               Red Wine

Roséwein            Rosé wine

Perhaps to make this more confusing there is an Association of German Prädikat Wine Estates indicated by the VDP logo, usually on the capsule, which depicts an eagle grasping a cluster of grapes. VDP members can use two additional designations for their top-level dry wines:

Erste Lage and Grosses Gewächs

Next time its the QmP Spätlese Trocken Weißwein  for me. Certainly not a guarantee for a great wine but likely better than what I bought before.

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Cheese & Wine

Best advice I have is: if it tastes good to you then it tastes good. I’ll swear that the best pairing I ever discovered was a good Roquefort (Carles makes the best) with an ice-cold Diet Dr. Pepper. Anyone suggesting that a definitive guide to pairing exists doesn’t under stand the number of grape varietals, complexity of terroirs, degrees of affinage that exist.

I offer the following as a place to start your discovery, enjoy the trip and hope it never ends.

Source: Fix.com

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Paris, COP21 and Christmas

Delacroix's La Liberte guidant le peuple

Delacroix’s La Liberte guidant le peuple

If you can survive the Occupation than a few terrorists will only piss you off, the loss of life and the tragedies that occurred on 13 November are not taken lightly nor will they be forgotten soon but the French are resilient. They have and will continue to press the agenda against terrorism but they will also get back to their process of living.

We arrived to vacation in Paris along with the 45,000 who came for COP21, passport control was an interesting hour and a half of standing and shuffling along. But everyone understood the additional security and in general, except for those who were missing tight connections, were in good humor. We arrived via Boulevard Malesherbes to the trendy little studio we rented on rue Royale. Metal barriers lined both Malesherbes and Royale but we failed to understand the significance as Malesherbes was the major route for dignitaries heading to COP21 at Bouget the next day. We were up fairly early that Monday morning and found that to cross rue Royale we would need to walk over a mile!

From the Eglise Saint Augustin looking towards Place de la Madeleine, about 3000 feet

From the Eglise Saint Augustin looking towards Place de la Madeleine, about 3000 feet

We saw a few people going to work that hadn’t realized their normal route was blocked. Rerouted bus lines , closed underground parking areas and an abandoned roadway from Saint Augustin to Place de la Concorde except for the occasion blaring of sirens and cavalcade of black SUVs.

There was also a significantly noticeable increase in security in most stores, all of the upscale stores, and on the streets. There were strategically located police staging areas throughout the city:

Police Staging Area

Police Staging Area beside Opera Garnier

On any of the major streets you would find multiple security forces in groups of 3 or 4:

Army on the Champs Elysees

Army on the Champs Elysees

The Parisians and their guests have taken to the streets to protest the attacks and heal their wounds:

Crowds at Christmas market along the Champs Elysees

Crowds at Christmas market along the Champs Elysees

The City of Lights has never shined brighter:

Christmas market along the Champs Elysees at night

Christmas market along the Champs Elysees at night

rue Montorguel packed with revelers

rue Montorguel packed with revelers

Printemps celebrates 150 years

Printemps celebrates 150 years

 

 

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All Remember as Life Returns to a New Normal

La Bonne Biere reopens

La Bonne Biere reopens

Sincere Thoughts

Sincere Thoughts

Near to the Place de la Republic cross corner from where the Canal Saint Martin goes under ground on the way to the Bastille in a very busy section of Town, sits La Bonne Biere, one of the sites attacked on 13 November in Paris. They reopened last Friday and people from all countries have come to share a beer, glass of wine or have something to eat. Without the flowers and signs outside you might not even realize what had happened here. The staff was inviting, gracious and busy as hell trying to serve all, add to that the food is great too.

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À mes amis Français

Tuez les Tous! Dieu reconnaîtra les siens.

LaFayette, nous sommes prêts!

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