‘Elp! ‘Elp! I’m Being Externalized!

To quote Dennis,

“This is what I’m on about!”

The Washington Post had this article about the way big farms resist facing the true costs of their industrial agriculture model. They want the public to pay the external cost for their economies of scale.

Some excerpts:

This summer, the state Air Resources Board ruled that any existing farm with more than 1,000 milk cows had to apply for a permit on the grounds that dairies — which release volatile organic compounds and ammonia — rank as major polluters. Volatile organic compounds create smog when combined with nitrogen oxide, while ammonia reacts with that smog to form fine-particle pollution.

Dairy farmers have assailed the science underlying the rules and blocked a plan that would have made them install technology to capture methane and other gases that cows emit.

“We’re not convinced our cows are worse than all the cars and trucks in the world,” said Michael Marsh, who heads Western United Dairymen, which represents just over half of the area’s 1,900 dairy farmers. Marsh estimates that installing manure digesters could cost the industry $1 billion. “If we’re going to have this kind of mandate, how are we going to pay for it?” he asked.

Tom Mendes’s family has been dairy farming in California’s Central Valley for three generations, ever since his grandfather arrived from Portugal. But Mendes has told his 19-year-old son not to follow him into what he calls a dying way of life.

Smallholder note: Perhaps the Mendes family should consider grass-based dairying. There are many families making a living with a lot less land and fraction of the cows. Without polluting or externalizing other costs to their neighbors.

Residents have formed a citizens’ group to fight large dairy producers. Tom Frantz, a Shafter native who heads the Association of Irritated Residents, said area farms are “like a factory in your midst.”

“We’re really irritated because our lungs are being used as an agricultural subsidy,” said Frantz, who has asthma. His group notified farmer Rick Vanderham this month that residents plan to sue him for building a new 2,800-cow dairy without a Clean Air Act permit.

California’s debate is not unique: Public health advocates in states includingNorth Carolina and Iowa have pushed to regulate hog, poultry and dairy farms — known as “confined animal feeding operations” — with varying degrees of success.

In the Washington area, farms account for more than 30 percent of the pollutants that cause “dead zones” in the Chesapeake Bay — where algae blooms deplete the oxygen, and fish and crabs cannot breathe. Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania have all tried to make farmers reduce the amount of fertilizer and manure washing off their fields.

God forbid that the polluters be stopped from passing on their pollution to the commons!

Large-scale livestock farms have mushroomed in recent decades — 5 percent of U.S. farms now account for 54 percent of beef and dairy cattle, according to the Agriculture Department — presenting a new challenge to regulators. Environmental Protection Agency officials began investigating the massive operations in the mid-1990s after nearby residents complained of respiratory and eye problems.

The government scored some initial wins: Missouri-based Premium Standard Farms agreed to monitor emissions at its hog farms in 1999, and the company has spent $9.5 million on technology that converts hog waste and emissions into commercial dry fertilizer. But Bush administration officials ordered the EPA to stop investigating farm emissions in 2001.

Last month, the administration struck a deal with more than 2,700 livestock firms, exempting them from prosecution for air pollution violations until mid-2008 while the agency researches the issue. Each firm must contribute $2,500 to help fund a study of two dozen livestock operations and pay a penalty on a sliding scale to address past violations.

“What the agency is trying to do is figure out the best way to get the most information, in a comprehensive way, in the most expeditious manner to determine if a problem may exist,” said Jon Scholl, counselor to the EPA administrator for agriculture policy.

David Townsend, Premium Standard’s vice president for environmental affairs, and other industry officials praised the deal, saying, “You have to have some reasonable data to say where [the industry] needs to go.”

Environmentalists, on the other hand, assailed the pact as an industry giveaway. Aloma Dew, a Sierra Club organizer in Kentucky who monitors poultry farms, said: “It’s not just a stink that’s coming out of these farms. It’s a real health threat.”

The Maximum Leader posted a link to an excellent essay concluding that, while Democrats are delusional, Republican politicians are liars. If Bush really believed in the market, he would accept the fact that the internalization of costs is neccessary for an efficient economy. He would support the entrepreneurial little guy and not the largest 5% of farms. He has continued subsidy programs that DO NOT help small farms - instead dooming them by continuing the public subsidization of the “get big” mentality that keeps farm prices “low” (See my previous post), reducing the amount of money that small farmers can earn from their smaller production. Good golly, but it makes me want to be a Libertarian!

Repeat after me:

Subsidies and environmental exemptions do NOT save the family farm. They force the public to pay for an inefficient economic model: factory farms.

If you get the government out, sanity will return to the agricultural market place and farmers with a will to survive will.

Big Farms = Cheap Food For The Masses

The most common defense of factory farming is that it produces cheap food.

I call bullshit on that.

Your 1.09/lb chicken breasts do not actually cost 1.09/lb.

Adam Smith talked about how the invisible hand of personal interest would lead to the most efficient production of goods and the common weal of a society.

People, supposedly rationally, would vote with their dollars, therefore allowing the wisdom of crowds to more efficiently allocate production that those moronic central planners.

Well, the rationality of consumers is an open question. A question tellingly answered by the existence of advertising firms.

Assume for a moment that consumers are rational - will this still result in a society in which the rational forces of the market serve the common weal?

Only if external costs are incorportated (internalized?) into the prices we see for goods on the shelves.

For example, if a factory dumps cyanide byproducts into a stream, the resulting environmental degradation, deaths, cancer, clean-up, lost production in other affected areas, and generally reduced quality of life for the domiciles of downstream dwellers are not reflected on the package price. So the consumer says “Wow! Hairspray for only $1 a can! Awesome! I’ll take 20!” The consumer gets a cheap product and the manufacturer gets a quick profit. But the consumer loses and the society as a whole suffers.

If the costs of the clean-up were incorportated into the price by requiring the company to avoid the spill or mitigate its effects, maybe the can of hairspray would cost $2. If consumers still buy it, it is now safe to say that hairspray production is efficient. But if the hairspray cannot be made without polluting for less than $20/can, perhaps that money is better spent elsewhere.

Even if the consumer is aware of the environmental cost, the consumer is going to pay that cost in higher taxes and shorter life expectancy whether or not they personally benefit from the cheap hairspray. So they might as well buy the cheap hairspray and look good in their little cheap consumer casket. This is called the “tragedy of the commons.”

Believers in the power of the invisible hand ought to insist on the internalization of costs. Big factory farms extrnal costs all over the place.

The cost of that cheap chicken is e-coli-rich effluent, erosion, higher gas prices, and pollution. The expitation of the workers in the polutry plants (read “Fast Food Nation”) also leads to other external costs. In Harrisonburg, the city had to spend $42,000,000 on a new high school because the immigration encouraged by unskilled poultry processing jobs has led to an influx of children who have many special (read: expensive) needs, whether they are ESL, Special Ed, or disciplinary costs. The city has also seen a huge increase in crime as a result of the new urban underclass that has developed. I don’t know how you would put a dollar sign on it, but the all-encompassing stench of confined chicken and turkey houses sits like a sick miasma over the city. How much have the residents of Harrisonburg sacrificed in property values in order to have cheap chicken?

My small farm can’t necessarily compete in quantity with the big boys. But if the big boys were not being subsidized by the rest of society, my environmentally friendly beef would be cheaper.

Plus, it just tastes better.

Big farms and small farms

The Maximum Leader’s link to the Louisiana small farmers who began marketing their own milk is a good example of what farmers ought to be doing.

Farmers have had a problem - ever since tobacco prices fell in the Eighteenth century - of trying to compensate for falling prices by increasing production.

I’ll pause while you recall your high school economics course.

The process continues today with the “get big or get out” mentality of most mainstream farmers. These are the same folks who, with farms encompassing square miles of land, cry that they need government subsidies.

But those two Lousiana farmers said, “Screw this! We’ll stay small but become profitable by cutting out the price-setting middleman.” Milk processors are a damned oppresive pseudo-monopoly. Three firms control 90% of the milk processing in the United States and they purposefully keep milk prices down. Farmers today get the same amount for their milk that they got in 1970 yet the price of milk keeps rising. Most farmers react by buying more cows, producing more milk, and selling to the same collectives at the same 1970 price.

But those Louisiana farmers said, let’s just pasteurize the milk ourselves and find our own customers. Milk processors are giving abour 22 cents per pound - around 16 cents once trucking and advertising contributions are subtracted. That’s about $1.20 a gallon gross milk check. Start subtracting the cost of feeding the cows, raising replacements, and equipment loans, it is not a winning proposition.

But if you pasture feed your cows, stay small, avoid building gargantuan kilometer-long barns and multi-million dollar manure lagoons, you still get $1.20 per gallon. Sure, you’ll actually produce less milk without grain supplements, but your healthier cows will last longer, you can sell more heifers to the “sheep” farmers who get “big” (and bankrupt), and you won’t have the debt to service. You’ll make more b producing less. If you are smart like the Louisiana farmers and find your own market, you can jump your price to $3.00 or more per gallon (I would get $6 in Albemarle). That is a winning proposition.

Kudos to the enlightened state of Lousiana (who thought I’d ever write that phrase!) which has allowed agripreneurs to seize the market for themselves and make small farms profitable. Virginia’s requirements for a pasteurization system are so huge as to be an impenatrable barrier to entry for the small farmer. One farm in Timberville, Virginia did borrow a couple of million dollars to set up an approved pasteurization facility. They pulled in money hand over fist - but couldn’t keep up with the banknote (though they also seemed to suffer from the “get big” syndrome). I wonder who that barrier to entry protects? Could it be the consumer? Or the politically connected milk processors?

Government regulation that squelches intitiative, consumer options, and favors powerful business over the little guy makes me want to join the Libertarian party.

At any rate, I was saddened to see that the potential sustainability of two small Lousiana dairy farms has been compromised by poor inter-familial relationships. Can’t we all just get along?

First Hurdle for Roberts Court

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was greatly disappointed at the overall calibre and tenor of the questioning of John Roberts before the Senate Judiciary Committee. His feelings are entirely non-partisan Both Democratic and Republican Senators opted for giving long diatribes in front of cameras instead of actually asking questions. Your Maximum Leader believes that the hearings would have been completed in about 45 minutes if they had actually been a question and answer session.

Of course, many Senators did their damnest to find out how John Roberts’ brain works on the question of Roe v. Wade. Little did they know that the question they should have been asking was could a federal judge overturn a state probate court ruling in the case of a horny old man who wanted to nail a trashy stripper with huge (if artificial) tits?

Indeed, it seems like our white-trashy “friend” Anna Nicole Smith is going to have her day in front of the Supreme Court of the United States of America. Which (we hope) will be lead by newly minted Chief Justice John Roberts. Who knew?

Your Maximum Leader would have paid good money to see some Senator ask, “Judge Roberts, what is your opinion of strippers with big boobies cashing in on the estate of their late octagenarian husband to the detrement of the late husband’s estranged son? And I’d like to follow-up Mr Chairman… What does Judge Roberts think about huge fake boobies? Does he like them? Does he feel that getting fake boobies is a right protected by the Constitution?”

Yeah… That would have been great.

Carry on.

Sad Story

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader will pass along this sad story of two small farmers (father and son) torn apart by the recent Hurricanes.

Very sad indeed.

Carry on.

Benator (D - ?)

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was a little relieved when he heard that outgoing Virginia Governor Mark Warner (D) was not going to challenge Senator George Allen (R) in next year’s elections. But, as a consequence of the most electable Democrat in the state “bagging out” of the race for the “open” Senate seat the Democratic party has been looking around for another viable candidate.

According to the Washington Post, the VA Democratic party is wooing….

Wait for it…

Ben Affleck.

Yup. You read that correctly. Ben Affleck. You may remember the many (somewhat compelling - if you’re into that type of thing) stump speeches Ben made on behalf of Senator John Kerry in last year’s election. Ben may have been bitten by the political bug. The article says that Ben and Jennifer Garner have been looking at “country estates” in the Charlottesville area; aka: The Great Socialist Collective of Albemarle County.

Now as you know our own dear Smallholder resides in Albemarle County. But alas he doesn’t live in the tony/posh upscale part of the county. He lives with the good decent folk who still farm/work for a living. (But that doesn’t mean that he secretly doesn’t sympathize with the Kelo-loving Social Democrats who make up the rich elites of his area…)

Perhaps Ben will decide to move to Albemarle after all. But if he does, your Maximum Leader wouldn’t recommend running against Allen. Senator Allen has a propensity to want to kick his opponents soft teeth down their whiney throats.

Your Maximum Leader would recommend that Ben buy some of the Smallholder’s beef and pigs. Perhaps Ben could also subsidize a raw milk business for the Smallholder.

Carry on.

Own a Little Bit of Lord N.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees that a private owner is selling one of Horatio Lord Nelson’s undershirts. One tailored for his lordship after he lost his arm at the Battle of Santa Cruz. This shirt is said to be one of the only pieces of Nelson’s clothing “still in private hands.” That seemed a little odd. Did the British Government buy all of Nelson’s stuff after his death at Trafalgar in 1805? Your Maximum Leader has read a lot about Nelson, but he must have missed that little tidbit.

Anyho… Half a million for a one-armed undershirt? It seems like a bit much… But if you Maximum Leader had the cash lying about doing nothing he might go for it.

Carry on.

Battlestar Galactica

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees that Johno at the Ministry of Minor Perfidy has declared the new SciFi series Battlestar Glactica the best scifi show EVAR. (And possibly the best show on TV.)

It is funny that Johno should bring this up. The Air Marshal and your Maximum Leader were talking about this show on Saturday. We were talking about the season finale on Friday night. It was a very compelling piece of TV. Indeed, almost all of the programs have been very compelling.

But your Maximum Leader feels much the same towards Battlestar Galactica as he did towards the first few years of “The West Wing.” The feeling can be encapuslated in the phrase, “I love it, but it drives me crazy.”

You see, your Maximum Leader (like Buckethead from the M of MP) believes that the writers of Galactica are lefty commie pinko ideologues who veil their current affairs critiques in the scifi world. (A trait not that unusual in scifi in general.) In this respect Battlestar is similar to The West Wing. The agenda is just one with which your Maximum Leader cannot agree.

But the show is so damned well written and well acted plus the story-lines compelling (if disagreeable). Your Maximum Leader sometimes wants to puke watching the show - but prbably for different reasons than Johno.

(And you know something… Tricia Helfer is damned attractive. So is Grace Park.)

Battlestar is a great program. Certainly it is deserving of being included in the Pantheon of great SciFi TV series. But your Maximum Leader still maintains that (viewing the body of work as a whole) the greatest TV show in the history of the medium is “The Simpsons.” Which is followed by “Your Show of Shows” with Sid Ceasar.

Carry on.

Evolution Sustained… Again…

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees that (once again) science and scientifically testable processes have shown that humans are decended from apes. You can go and read the Washington Post article that has a synopsis of the findings of study that compared the human genome to the chimpanzee genome.

It seems that evolution scientists had predicted the number of genes that would need to be dissimilar to account for the differences between humans and chimps. The comparison of the two genomes confirmed that the prediction was spot on.

Your Maximum Leader’s favourite aggrevation in the piece… The Intelligent Design spokesman saying that science had to disprove ID. Ack!

Carry on.

Three Thoughts

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is a happy camper this morning. Why you ask? Well because Loyal Minion Phin has upgraded Naked Villainy to the new(er) version of Movable Type. And although your Maximum Leader has no idea what all the new functionality is on V 3.2 he can say this… It looks mighty pur-ty. Yes, if you, dear reader, were able to log into the site to create or edit a post (which you are not), you would see lots of fun little colour icons and buttons. No more monochrome! It is almost like the Movable Type people said to themselves, “By God! We’ve got at least 256 web safe colours! Let’s use about 32 of them!”

Very impressive.

(That was thought number 1.)

Your Maximum Leader had planned on doing some blog maintenance this weekend. (This is thought 2.) He wanted to update the blogroll a little. Try and fix whatever was wrong with Blogads. And add a new Villainous Commerce icon based on a Big Hominid design. But due to the impending upgrade on MT from Phin, your Maximum Leader decided to hold off. Perhaps some day this week.

So instead of working on the blog he played a few hours of Rome: Total War. For quite a while it looked like the computer was going to kick your Maximum Leader’s arse. But then your Maximum Leader fought a very decisive battle outside of Tarantum. The difference for your Maximum Leader. War Elephants. It was cool.

And the third thought…

Your Maximum Leader will provide a link for your reading pleasure to Professor Stotch’s post about his recent experiences at a DC party. Your Maximum Leader will agree with Professor Stotch’s sentiment in the post. Dems are socialists. Republicans are liars. It is really too bad. Every time your Maximum Leader hears some Republican leader talk about how well they are doing running the country (and in this your Maximum Leader is thinking mostly about Congress) he wants to retch.

It is almost enough to make your Maximum Leader want to throw his vote away on a 3rd party candidate…

Carry on.

Villainous Upgrade version 3.2

The Villainous Upgrade to Movable Type Version 3.2 has been completed.
In the words of our Maximum Leader: “Carry On

Free Speech, FEC, Blogs

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader hopes that you all were paying attention to other bloggers and noting the testimony given to the FEC yesterday concerning regulation of politically oriented blogs.

There was an AP story about it. You can read the full text of Michael Krempasky here on his site, Redstate.org.

Your Maximum Leader (and many others) have noted for quite a while that to require the FEC to create guidelines which regulate blogs under the guise of campaign finance reform are just a ridiculous government infringment of free speech. Last time your Maximum Leader checked pretty much everyone in the country (with a minimal IQ and political awareness) was in agreement that freedom of political speech was guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

One hopes that the FEC will keep regulations to an absolute minimum (since they have to create some it seems by Cogressional mandate). But one would further hope that Congress would just think again and repeal the laws they wrote last year.

(Yeah, yeah. Very unlikely. But one can still hold out hope.)

Carry on.

More on North Korea

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was reading over a comment from the Minster of Propaganda. The M of P left the following comment in response to a (lame) post of your Maximum Leader’s concerning North Korea:

I’ll put forward that we’ve been making plans to invade North Korea ever since the Bush administration started floating the idea of withdrawing our troops from South Korea last year.

The defense of South Korea against a Northern invasion is not feasible; the only wartime mission for our forces in Korea, for all practical purposes, is — with their destruction — to trigger a U.S. re-invasion. By minimizing our forces on the ground, we are minimizing our vulnerability to counterstrike should we exercise a first-strike option.

Whether or not this is a good strategy for the U.S. to adopt is a matter of opinion and debate.

Your Maximum Leader will agree with the Minister of Propanganda in almost every point he makes in this comment. Your Maximum Leader agrees that the Bush Administration has been making up various plans concerning how to deal with North Korea militarially. He will go one step further and say that he is confident that the Pentagon as made such plans for every administration since John F. Kennedy’s.

He also agrees that US troops are “tripwire” troops. Their only purpose on the Korean penninsula is to be destroyed in the event of a North Korean invasion. The destruction of US forces will, in turn, provoke a full US response.

As the M of P stated, a successful defence of South Korea - or at least one in which most of the country is not completely overrun by the North - is not feasible. Indeed, if every analyst’s opinion is accurate on this issue, Seoul would be destroyed within a matter of minutes. If US forces remained in the vicinity of Seoul and the DMZ their only purpose would be to die doing what they could to defend Seoul.

The Bush Administration has suggested, for a number of reasons - not the least of which is pressure from the South Koreans, to move US forces much farther south on the penninsula. This would, ostensibly, improve their chances of survival. (It would also free up lots of prime Seoul real estate, but that is another matter.) But would the forces then be “tripwire” forces? Presumably, by moving US troops further south the surviability of those troops is increased. But if the troops are no longer in a position to be the “tripwire,” what exactly is their role?

Therein is the crux of the national debate we are not having. What is the US role in guaranteeing a free Soth Korea? Does South Korea need the US as the guarantor of its freedom?

There is something particularly unsavory in maintaining tripwire forces. The force has to be significant enough to be a meaningful presence. That is to say that the number of troops have to be great enough to provoke outrage at their death at the hands of the enemy. Of course, the force is not so large as to have a legitimate chance of long-term survival.

This has been, since the end of the Korean War, the policy of the US government.

Adding to the unsavory proposition of positioning US forces solely to have them destroyed is the growing feeling among South Koreans that US troops be withdrawn. South Korea is, afterall, a reasonably prosperous nation that appears able to defend itself. So why not let them defend themselves?

Indeed, your Maximum Leader believes that with the changing world situation the US needs to withdraw its troops and close its existing bases throughout most of continental Europe. What then might make Korea different?

Perhaps it is the nature of the North Koreans. When your Maximum Leader plays word association with someone and they say “rouge state” he thinks “North Korea.” Almost instantaneously. The North Koreans, unlike Syrians, Iranians, or any other state you’d like to throw into that mix, are certifiably insane. That insanity deserves a certain degree of engagement. Because if left unchecked it we’ll end up with a group of starving insane people with nuclear missiles aimed at Los Angeles and Seattle.

Perhaps we do (and should) feel partially responsible for the situation on the Korean penninsula and want to see it through to some sort of conclusion?

Regardless of what precisely might make Korea a different sitation from Germany we do need to rethink our role there. If our forces aren’t stationed directly (and immediately) in harm’s way what is their purpose? If we can’t well answer that question it woud seem as though we need to remove our troops all together.

Carry on.

One Week

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is sure you’ve already hear the news. The news that the Dimystifying Divas and Men’s Club will be returning next week.

Yes.

Next week.

As in September 29th.

You must be tinglig in anticipation.

Your Maximum Leader said you MUST BE TINGLING IN ANTICPATION!

Much better. He can see you tingling as you read this.

In addition to your Maximum Leader and his Ministers dispensing with thoughts, opinions, and advice on issues of concern to the sexes there will be the other esteemed bloggers who form this elite group. They are, as you surely recall, Phin, Stiggy, the Wizard, Sadie, Silk, Kathy, and newly minted Diva Phoenix.

If you would like to ask the Men or Divas questions on any particular subject, feel free to comment on any of the afore-linked blogs and leave your query.

Remember! Forewarned is forearmed. So be prepared. And don’t forget to tingle.

Carry on.

the centrist hominid

My results on that quiz:


You are a

Social Liberal
(65% permissive)

and an…

Economic Conservative
(60% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Centrist



Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid

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