Archive for May, 2004
This story includes a rundown of the new Hautboy Hill Farm brand specialty “creamline” milk in Connecticut. Before retail milk prices began their run to $4 a gallon (they’re already there in New Mexico), many smaller milking operation had to fold due to government price caps. Now, driven by increased demand, limitations on dairy cows imported from Canada due to mad cow worries, farm closures, and other factors, prices are climbing rapidly. But not in time for many.
Faced with several years of $70,000 losses, Buddy Hulbert decided to close his 90-cow main operation and make the switch to specialty milk. Whatever the hell that is.
At the urging of his banker, Buddy Hurlburt drew up a business plan showing that, with just six to eight cows, he could produce 35 gallons of “creamline” whole milk a day. (Old-fashioned creamline milk, which is pasteurized but not homogenized, has to be shaken to mix in the heavier cream at the top.)
At the specialty prices charged by local stores, he could sell this for $6 a gallon, which would earn him more than $1,400 a week in gross proceeds, or about $75,000 a year. With the cash from selling off his herd earlier in the year, Hurlburt had enough to invest in pasteurizing and bottling equipment. Eleven local stores agreed to take on his new Hautboy Hill Farm brand, which the couple will begin selling at their farm stand in Cornwall in a few weeks.
“We were amazed once we ran the numbers,” Buddy Hurlburt said. “Grossing $75,000 a year direct to us was better than we were doing running 90 milk cows in a commercial operation. We realized that running a big commercial dairy was just a money-laundering operation — moving the money around but not returning the profits of milk to us.”
For $75K a year, I’d make people shake their own damn milk, too, if I thought I could get away with it.
Is this milk crisis part of a consolidation move by big dairy? When the little guys are pushed out of the lineup, will the lack of any competition allow the major players to set their own prices? Or will consumers, in the end, come out okay? I know that I’m happy buying DVDs at Best Buy. But I don’t shop at Wal-Mart. What will this mean for my cereal in the morning?
And SIX DOLLARS for a GALLON OF MILK? Do people really choose to buy the stuff? Is it really 50% better than regular milk? MO needs to know.
My latest entry on WatchBlog is up, and it’s about the reaction that the latest round of terror warnings is getting. I’m mystified.
I think we’re going to be dealing with this for at least a generation. Probably more. Go read and let me know what you think.
Yes. You read that right. Some rogue oil companies are pricing their gasoline too low. The bastards.
Under Gov. Jesse Ventura, the state adopted a law in 2001 that prohibits gas stations from selling gas without taking a minimum profit. These days, they must charge at least 8 cents per gallon, plus taxes, more than they paid for it.
On Friday, the Commerce Department announced a $70,000 fine against Arkansas-based Murphy Oil for breaking the law at its 10 stations in the state, based at Wal-Mart stores and elsewhere. They also fined Kwik Trip Inc. $5,000 for violations at one station in Apple Valley.
The two are the first fines levied under the law, which is similar to minimum-price laws in about a dozen states. Another two dozen have broader laws banning predatory pricing.
I understand the intent of the law. And I understand why such safeguards might be needed.
Also, in Michigan, mergers are blamed for higher prices. And the source of fear about the end of competition.
You may have heard about the recent column in the Denver Post equating military service with slavery. If you haven’t the column, called KEEP OUR SLAVES SAFE, I can sum it up in one word:
Not that there aren’t important issues that need to be addressed. But the whole argument about our poor, poor soldiers who never wanted to actually fight a war but just wanted money for college is just plain lost on me.
(Tip: Don’t comment or email and try to convince me otherwise. I have long since made my mind up about this issue, and nothing I’ve heard in the past year has even dented my conviction. Call me closed-minded if it makes you feel better. I’m also close-minded about the idea that the world is not flat.)
The column was written by Reggie Rivers, who at one time played running back for the Denver Broncos. Here’s the opening
Our military is one of the last bastions of slavery in the United States. At the moment, our slaves are stuck in a combat zone, getting killed and maimed, and there’s nothing they can do about it except hunker down and pray.
Yes, our slaves signed up of their own free will, but most of them were as misled about their job as the rest of us were about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
And I don’t think “slave” is too strong a word to describe someone who is not permitted to quit his job no matter how dangerous it becomes or how much he hates it. For most of us, the 13th Amendment abolished slavery and guaranteed that we have the right to withhold our labor. It doesn’t protect soldiers.
Ah. So a US soldier in a combat zone doesn’t have the same rights as the teenager in the Orange Julius at the mall? Weird.
Random Nuclear Strikes asks Is their ANY validity at all to this guys argument that I’m missing?
I don’t think so.
Rivers also takes the downloadable first-person shooter AMERICA’S ARMY to task as a “brainwashing” recruiting tool:
The U.S. Army has an official video game that can be downloaded at www.americasarmy.com It’s a recruiting tool aimed to win the hearts and minds of children of all ages. The goal is catch them before they develop critical thinking skills that might lead them to question the wisdom of volunteering for slavery.
The site’s FAQ section includes this encouragement for parents: “In elementary school kids learn about the actions of the Continental Army that won our freedoms under George Washington. Today, they need to know that the Army is engaged around the world to defeat terrorist forces bent on the destruction of America and our freedoms.”
Parents are further assured that the brainwashing of their kids will be conducted without undue exposure to the horrific reality of warfare. “The game does not include any dismemberment or disfigurement. When a soldier is killed, that soldier simply falls to the ground and is no longer part of the on-going mission.”
So Rivers thinks that the game would be better if it reproduced the blood and gore of an actual battlefield? All the better to scare kids away from voluntary slavery? Probably not, but it might be okay if we also show some nudity. Or something. (I’m not really sure what the point of that last linked column was…)
I haven’t read enough of Rivers’ stuff to really have an informed opinion. But I hope he writes better than he did in this most recent column. And I hope he writes better than he rushed the football.
Sure, soldiers give up a lot of rights when they sign on. But calling them slaves is just plain silly. And an insult to those that were or are actually slaves.
And did Rivers conciously intend to time this column to coincide with Memorial Day? Even if he was right, WHICH HE FUCKING WELL ISN’T, why would he choose to go head-to-head with the day we memorialize those soldiers, sailors, and airmen that have fallen? I’m willing to entertain arguments that it’s because he’s stupid, but that doesn’t answer the question of his editors greenlighting it.
Are they trying to say that some intelligence may not be 100% accurate? No way. We only accept info when it’s concrete and indisputable.
And Newsweek has apparently noticed that there are politics involved with the terror alert system. Really.
So here we are, two and a half years after 9/11, and terror alerts are politically motivated and might not be based on credible evidence. So to hell with them.
We’ve seen attacks on American soil. Critics of Bush and the GWOT (World War 4) complain that the administration is so focused on Iraq that they are ignoring terrorism. And the warnings, vague though they are, are dismissed as political trickery. (Don’t forget that Hermann Goering pointed out that all you need to do is keep people scared.)
Makes you wonder what the reaction might have been on September 4th, 2001, if a bunch of Arabs were arrested, airline security quadrupled, and Special Forces sent into Afghanistan.
Less than two dozen men are going to destroy the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and maybe the Capitol or the White House? With hijacked airliners?
UPDATE: And don’t forget that the ACLU is fighting airline banned passenger lists. I would have like to see the government try to pull that stunt after the August 6th PDB. They are having trouble doing it after 9/11. But Bush was just screwing around on his ranch when he should have been stopping the hijackers based on information of questionable credibility from questionable sources…
Yesterday ACE posted about a company of 82nd Airborne paratroopers who received their “mustard stain” combat jump badges for a classified jump into Afghanistan in February of 2003.
Balckfive (the Paratrooper of Love) also noted it, though I didn’t come across his post until today. Among the goodies pointed out:
The paratroopers had been in Afghanistan for about a month and had been running missions in the eastern part of the country when they were ordered to pack up their gear and move to Bagram air base. The mission was kept so secret that the soldiers didn’t know what they were doing until almost a week after they arrived at the base. “Rumors were flying around. I wasn’t sure we would jump until the parachutes arrived,” said Spc. Raymond Mullenix, a 21- year-old Florida native.
Even getting the parachutes was a furtive operation.
The paratroopers covered the parachutes with their ponchos as they carried them into the building where they were training.
Remember that many, if not most, of the most notable missions and accomplishments in the war will go unnoticed by most of us since they’re SECRET. My thinking is that the mountains along the Afghan/Pakistan border, the western desert of Iraq, the Syrian and Iranian borders of Iraq, and various spots in Africa and the ‘Stans have been the sites of many bold moves by US forces. It will be years before we learn of them. If we ever learn of them.
The inmate population continued its rise despite a fall in the crime rate
Gee. Prison population UP and crime rate DOWN at the same time? Who would’ve thunk it?
(I swear I posted about an observation just like this last year, but I can’t seem to find it. If anyone sees a stray post of mine out there somewhere, email me or comment. Thanks.)
In a serious blow to peace-mongers, reports of the Army’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
The active Army has achieved 98 percent of its year-to-date mission, the Army Reserve has achieved 96 percent of its YTD mission. The National Guard has retained almost 130 percent of its YTD mission. A percentage of the Army Guard retention numbers include involuntary extensions due to Stop Loss, National Guard officials said. [emphasis mine]
I’d be curious to know exactly how much of that 130 percent in the National Guard is due to Stop Loss, but in any case this is extremely good news.
And it pretty much shoots down Col. David Hackworth’s worries. Hackworth, in an article entitled Voting With Their Feet, piled up anecdotal evidence of a looming mass exodous from the Army, peaking next year. Yes, there’s still time for him to be right, but only if things change in a major way.
One thing that Hackworth is completely correct about is that our Army is stretched pretty thin. He’s obviously right, as demonstrated by the decisions to deploy forces from Korea and the National Training Center to Iraq, and the quick turnaround for redeployment of many units which have already spent time in Iraq or Afghanistan. In fact, Senators Hillary Clinton and Lindsey Graham spent quite a bit of time on FoxNews Sunday this past weekend discussing this very topic. From the transcript:
U.S. SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-SC: Well, send in more troops, absolutely.
I think we need more people in the military. When I went to Iraq last year, you could see that there was a lot of ammo dumps that needed to be guarded. Forty percent of the people, by the end of the year, are going to be Guard and Reserve members. And we’re moving people out of Korea.
So I thought for a long time that we needed more people, but when your combat commanders tell the secretary of defense we have enough, then, you know, what’s the secretary of defense to do?
But it’s clear to me, not just Iraq, but when you look at Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea and all of the obligations of this country, we’re putting too much pressure on the men and women in uniform. We need more of them, sooner rather than later.
CLINTON: And I agree with that 100 percent. And, you know, I reached the same conclusions when I was there last year. And a number of us on the Armed Services Committee have been sounding this alarm, not only asking that we get more troops in Iraq, and in Afghanistan I would add, but that we have to face the fact we need a larger active- duty military. We cannot continue to stretch our troops, both active- duty, Guard and Reserve, to the breaking point, which is what we’re doing now.
WALLACE: I know you’re not sitting in the defense secretary’s chair in the Pentagon, but 25,000 more troops, 50,000? Give me a scale of order.
CLINTON: Well, Chris, the way I would talk about this is that, at this point, General Abizaid has asked for additional troops, and we’re going to see those troops brought in, some from Korea. We’re going to end up with what the last number was, 140,000. That’s fine, but it’s still late, and it’s been a little slow.
I’m supporting an effort to increase the end strength of the Army, increase the size of the military. This is a big decision for our country to make. It is expensive, but I don’t think we have any alternatives. [emphasis mine]
I believe that they’re right, and I’ve said so before. But none of that indicates any need for a draft.
If we were to suddenly start drafting kids, there’d be nowhere to put them. The military is full. Of volunteers. If the Army were expanded by a division or two, they would still probably be able to fill all positions with volunteers. And remember that the need for bodies would have to be DIRE to reinstate the draft. If targets are missed by a few thousand, there’s not a chance it would happen. Reinstating the draft would be political suicide for everyone involved, as well as an end to the Army as we know it. No one wants a draft, and everyone will do anything they can to avoid using one.
Let me repeat. There is not room in the military for a single draftee right now. IF the military is expanded AND there are far fewer volunteers than are needed to fill the new positions, THEN we can start talking about a draft.
I expect that the biggest problems in retention will be in the National Guard and Reserves. The decision to deploy Guard units to Iraq for a year is definitely going to hurt reenlistment. But I think this will be manageable, especially if the Iraqi military begins shouldering more of the load and we can begin to draw down our forces in Iraq.
Although those Stop Lossed into remaining in the military may not be particularly happy about the extension of their service, Stop Loss is actually a reason why Iraq ISN’T Vietnam. During Vietnam a major problem was under-motivated two-year draftees and the fact that when enlistments were up, the men were jetted home that day. Stop Loss is how the Army keeps its units from becoming splintered and less than ready to perform their missions.
While I sympathize with those stuck in the military when they wanted to get out, and I sympathize with those in units whose tours in Iraq have been extended, this is right thing to do. Are our forces in Iraq better off with or without the seasoned, experienced troops that have been there and done that? Without question they are better WITH them. The military is serious about performing its mission, so the men and units need to stay.
I wrote last month
The decision to extend the stay of some units in Iraq is the right one, though, and in the long run we will be better off for it. However, it underscores the need to rethink our force levels and the way they’re organized. Two or three divisions of infantry would be nice, but then so would two or three capable Iraqi infantry battalions…
On Monday Bush said there were five active battalions in the Iraqi Army, and that eight more would be activated by June 30th. That seems incredible, but if it’s true, and the Iraqis perform well, it will take a lot of pressure off our guys. Let’s hope it works out.
Things seem to be going fairly well in Fallujah since we handed over most of the duties to Iraqi forces. How do I figure that? Mostly because we have barely heard a peep out of Fallujah since the Marines pulled back. If things weren’t going well, you can be sure that we’d be hearing all about it.
At this point, and for the foreseeable future, any talk of a draft is nothing more than political grandstanding.