Friday, November 2, 2007

Putting Conserve back into Conservative

When did conserve fall out of the Conservative movement? It's a serious question for Virginians on both sides of the political divide today. Amid the dust ups about climate change and among all the tears shed for drowning polar bears, Conservatives have overlooked the underlying issue of Virginia's runaway, cash and resource wasting energy consumption. No successful businessman would add a vehicle to his fleet or a person to his staff without first being absolutely certain that he had wrung every ounce of efficiency out of his operation. Yet as a state we pay and pay some more to increase energy supplies without addressing our underlying inefficient energy usage. Energy inefficiency is not good business and it's not sound fiscal policy for the Commonwealth.

Companies as large and as diverse as General Electric, Bank of America and 3M as well as future oriented utilities like Florida Power and Light, BC Hydro and Pacific Gas and Electric have all put considerable study into America's energy future and are taking steps to insulate their companies from the coming worldwide energy crisis and inevitable rate hikes as well as rapidly repositioning their product lines and portfolios to take advantage of the New Industrial Revolution (NIR) in energy efficient generation spreading across the nation (Alliance to Save Energy- www.ase.org ). One gauge of the strength of the coming NIR is venture capital investment in Renewable Energy, steady at around $250 million per year for the last several years, suddenly blossomed to $1.5 Billion in the first six months of 2007 alone (Newsweek, 08 Oct 07). Yet Virginia's energy future stands firmly rooted in the dirty past.

In 2006 the American Council for Energy Efficient Economy ( www.aceee.org ) issued it's annual report rating the 50 states in six categories, from Utility Spending on Energy Efficiency to Building Codes to State Leading by Example. The maximum score of 44 points was earned by Vermont while the Commonwealth of Virginia scored a measly 6 points, mostly on the strength of our building codes. Fortunately for the Commonwealth, enforcement of those building codes was not rated or we would have probably fallen even further in the rankings. In the end, Virginia finished 41st in ACEEE's assessment, much lower than it appears because of the numerous two- and three-way ties above us in the rankings.

What Virginians need now is some creative thinking in Richmond about energy efficiency. Our legislature could look to Austin (TX) Energy for inspiration. Back in the early part of this century Austin Energy bought a 3-acre property and set it aside for a future coal-fired electrical plant. Today, that property has yet to be developed as a generation plant. Austin Energy, instead, opted to increase demand-side efficiency first by offering free energy audits to homes and small businesses as well as offering financing assistance and guarantees for energy efficient improvements. In the end Austin saved 600 MW of electricity through increases in energy efficiency alone and avoided building a 500 MW coal-fired generator. The cost of the new efficiency program? The citizens of Austin saved about one half the cost of the proposed billion dollar plus generation plant, and energy efficiency savings keep paying month after month after month.

In Virginia the stumbling block to utility-based efficiency programs is the way that Commonwealth utilities make money. Here, utilities only make money by selling electricity (supply-side), so there is no financial incentive for programs to reduce demand-side waste nor to limit supply-side growth. This is where proper conservative thinking in Richmond can help. We have not suffered an energy crisis in the Commonweath in modern times, but we should learn from those who have. Consider California, seventh largest economy in the world.

Like many people I got a good chuckle as California worked it's way through several energy problems over the last few decades, but California emerged with an energy system more efficient, more supply diverse, and considerably more future proof than that of complacent Virginia. In fact, because they are more efficient, the average Californian consumes only one half the energy the average Virginian does (on an annualized, per capita basis, in millions of BTUs from all sources of energy, less transportation--so as to compare residential and business use alone, Energy Information Agency - www.eia.doe.gov). As I write this, California is now on track to increase energy efficiency 1% per year over 30 years. They're halfway there. That's the equivalent of a major oil field discovered under the state, an oil field that is never depleted.

Nor does Virginia's government lead by example, as highlighted in the ACEEE ratings. Governor Kaine's 2007 Virginia Energy Plan is largely aspirational (aspirational goals having replaced Blue Ribbon Commissions in politics as the political fig leaf of choice for lack of vision and legislative inaction). The energy re-regulation bill now coming out of Richmond is largely written to favor one supply-side intensive industry. Our state legislature will not even commit to a modest Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard or enforceable Energy Efficiency standards for Virginia (again, offering only aspirational goals), even though there is a 20% payback on energy efficiency investments. My own city of Virginia Beach, is equally guilty. With 200 other cities Virginia Beach signed the Cool City Initiative, but as far as I can discover has made pitifully little progress toward energy independence nor energy efficiency for the city. Our elected leadership may not get it, but leaders in other jurisdictions do.

In Blountville, TN, for instance, the Sullivan County School District engaged in a performance contracting project to improve energy efficiency in their schools (projects from daylighting, to geothermal heating and cooling to just shutting off computers overnight--which saved the district $35-40k/year alone). No new taxes were raised for the project, the schools received millions in energy efficient upgrades and the district is saving $1 million dollars per year in energy expenditures, cash which they then put back into the classroom. Sumner Country, TN, installed geothermal heating and air conditioning in their schools and now have an extra $5k per month in cash flow to invest in education. The state of Kentucky saves $3 million per year in replacement and manpower costs by replacing every traffic signal with long lived LEDs signals ( www.kilowattours.org ). Even the most mundane application can be improved. It is estimated (FacilityManagement.com) that all the EXIT signs in the nation burn about 35 billion KWH per year. If those were replaced with more efficient LED models, it would save about 90% of the energy, the equivalent of 5 nuclear power plants.

So before Virginia agrees to yet another expensive, mountain destroying, air and water polluting, $1.5 billion coal-fired generation plant in Wise county, before we open a new power line corridor to the Ohio Valley to get yet more energy from some of the oldest, most inefficient coal-fired plants in the nation, join me on insisting that our representatives in Richmond ensure the Commonwealth is operating as efficiently as possible. Join me in putting the conserve back into Conservative.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Solar Decathlon

Every other year, twenty universities from around the world compete in the solar decathlon in (surprise!) 10 categories

  • Architecture
  • Engineering
  • Market Viability
  • Communications
  • Comfort Zone
  • Appliances
  • Hot Water
  • Lighting
  • Energy Balance and
  • Getting Around

the homes are limited to 800 sq. ft., for transport by truck or shipping container and, while designed for grid-tied electricity, are built off-grid on the Mall.

I've created a couple of video tours:

Introduction (win 2:12)
House by House (win 23:45)

Introduction (apple 2:12)
House by House (apple 23:45)


If you have a slow connection, right click the link, select "Save Target As", and play from the downloaded file later.
--

Friday, September 28, 2007

Dump the Junk, Save a Tree

The average American receives 41 pounds of unsolicited mail each year, mostly junk mail. It's not just annoying but bad for the ecosystem. That 41 pounds per year represents:
  • more energy in production, delivery and landfill costs than 2.8 million cars do.
  • requires 100 million trees to supply the paper
  • bulk up landfills (44% of the junk is never even opened)
  • wastes your time sorting and recycling
  • costs you a lot of money, if you buy something you don't need.
You can help stop most of it from ever finding its way to your mailbox:
From Natural Home Magazine

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Don't Bug Me

The federal Do Not Call list expires next year, www.dontcall.gov or 1-888-382-1222

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Podcasts Worth Hearing


Patricia McConnell: "For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend"

Listen to a really fascinating interview with Pat McConnell on the Diane Rhem Show, on WAMU
(right click and "save as" they play for smoother play back)

Pat McDonnel, PhD, Animal Behaviorist, trainer, radio talk show host of "Calling All Pets" talks about the new brain science and dogs, particularly their emotions and how those emotions are both similar and different from our own.

Best Tip:

  • Once you get past the basics, the time to praise or reward a dog is the instant they look at you. McConnell gives the example of when you call "come". The time to get really enthusiastic is when the dog looks at you and has that split second decision, keep sniffing or comply. Reinforce the right decision then, not when the dog comes. (I wonder if rewarding an ear twitch is good enough for cairn?)


Buy this book and support Cairn Rescue

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Good Citizen Dog Walker Kit

After Sydney's sorta bad black and tan adventure, I thought I'd share my dog walking kit (click image to enlarge):
  • cell phone with camera
  • Bags on Board container (15 ct. per roll) emergency poop bag
  • Gerber lock blade pocket knife # 05842 has belt clip and opens with one hand
  • HeatWave 17% pepper spray with UV marker (for ID later by police) & leather carrier
  • 1 aluminum carabiner, for belt (never a belt loop) to hold extra bags and pepper spray as well as to tether dog to waist
  • 1 aluminum spare carabiner, to tether dogs to fence or post
  • 6' leash and chain collar, makes a pretty stinging weapon if the dogs are off leash. Also, it's difficult for the dogs to slip their collars when excited
  • plastic shopping bags, 5 per trip out. Recycle those bags and save the expensive emergency bags (If you're not picking up your dog poop on a walk, you're a bad, bad owner).

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Green Festival Comes to DC, 6-7 October


Sustainable Economy | Ecological Balance | Social Justice

At the Washington Convention Center map

  • $15 / Day (discounts available--see site)
  • 400 booths and exhibits
  • 150 speakers
  • 8 pavilions
This event has the expected organic and farming booths, natural health, etc. But several categories and events caught my eye:
  • Green Building (11 booths)
  • Green Careers and Education (11 booths)
  • Renewable Energy (9 booths)
  • Socially Responsible Investing (3 booths)
  • New Green Businesses (2 booths)
  • Green Pets (3 booths)
  • Building Green Economy (Sat 4 pm)
  • Jim Hightower (just because he's a hoot, Sunday 3 pm)
Green Home Series (40-min. each, continuously both days)
  • Energy-Efficient Lighting
  • Living with Solar
  • Solar Hot Water & Photovoltaics
  • Is Your Home a Hummer?
  • Top 10 Steps to Green Remodling
  • Planning a Self-Sufficient Solar Home
  • You and Your Employer Going Green Together
Green Careers
  • Landing Your Dream Green Job
  • Green Multimedia
  • Possibilities in Green Government
  • Careers in Alternative Transportation
So, if you're in the DC area, you might be interested in spending a day or two at the convention center.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

More Sad News from Iraq--NYT OpEd Soldiers Dead

If you missed the NYTs OpEd entitled "the Was as We Saw It" by seven career soldiers actually serving in Iraq at the time of publication, I've put a copy on my blog because it's now archived and available only for a fee at NYT.

http://mouseherder.blogspot.com/2007/09/war-as-we-saw-it.html

As noted, in a coda to that piece, one of the writers, Murphy, was wounded in the head before it was published and has been evacuated to Bethesda. Now word comes from Baghdad that two of the remaining authors, Mora and Gray, died in Iraq Monday.

I hope you'll remember these multiple combat tour, combat hardened troops when reading about Pete Hegseth and his GOP front organization Vets for Freedom, both of which have been much in the news lately. Hegseth did one tour of Iraq early on with the NY National Guard and hasn't been back since. While I honor his service, he's abused his mantle of authority beyond credibility in the press. His prowar neocon organization, Vets for Freedom, much in the news lately with the latest administration push after the Petraeus/Crocker report, is a wholly owned, 100% financed, creation of the GOP war machine.

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Vets_for_Freedom
http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Pete_Hegseth

http://www.vetsforfreedom.org/

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Why We Need a Draft: A Marine’s Lament

Mail this to all your Chickenhawk associates...


from Newsweek
http://tinyurl.com/3aadvb


Why We Need a Draft: A Marine’s Lament
He was in the firefights of Fallujah. He saw gaps in America's arsenal that he believes can only be filled when America's elite puts its sons on the battlefield. A plea for selective service.

By Cpl. Mark Finelli
Newsweek
Updated: 12:20 p.m. ET Aug 28, 2007

Aug. 28, 2007 - “Maybe we would have only lost those three instead of 13,” I thought to myself on a dusty Friday in Fallujah in early November 2005. I was picking up the pieces of a truck that hours before had been blown apart by an IED, wondering why our equipment wasn’t better and why three more Marines were dead. Ramadan had just ended, the period in which a suicide bomber gets double and triple the virgins for killing himself in the name of jihad, and my weapons company, Second Battalion Second Marines, had lost 13 men in the last two weeks—not from firefights but from roadside bombs likely being imported from Iran. The insurgents were ramping up their technology, and here we were in the same old trucks. At least these didn’t have cloth doors like the ones last year. But seriously, was this the best technology we have?



Cpl. Mark Finelli, who served in Second Battalion Second Marines
Courtesy Cpl. Mark Finelli
Cpl. Mark Finelli, who served in Second Battalion Second Marines

Just then I noticed a big vehicle driving by, one owned by a private contracting company. This thing made our truck look like a Pinto in a Ferrari showroom. It was huge, heavy, ominous, indestructible. I wanted to commandeer it. I wanted to live in it. If only we were in one of those, I would definitely come home, and a lot of the guys who won’t would too. As it passed I stared at what I would later learn was called the MRAP vehicle (Mine Resistant Ambush Protective Vehicle). I never thought I would see something in Iraq that enticing, but there it was, rumbling past in all its glory.

I looked at my platoon sergeant. “Staff sergeant?”

“Yes, Finelli?”

“Why are the private companies driving around in these things and not the Marine Corps?” He looked at me and gave the universal sign for money, rubbing together his thumb and forefinger. And suddenly, I understood. It became clear on that November Friday in Fallujah that America’s greatest strength, economics, was not in play. A sad realization.

According to the Pentagon, no service personnel have died in an MRAP. So why isn’t every Marine or soldier in Iraq riding in one? Simple economics. An MRAP costs five times more than even the most up-armored Humvee. People need a personal, vested, blood-or-money interest to maximize potential. That is why capitalism has trumped communism time and again, but it is also why private contractors in Iraq have MRAPs while Marines don’t. Because in actuality, America isn’t practicing the basic tenet of capitalism on the battlefield with an all-volunteer military, and won’t be until the reinstitution of the draft. Because until the wealthy have that vested interest, until it’s the sons of senators and the wealthy upper classes sitting in those trucks—it takes more than the McCain boy or the son of Sen. Jim Webb—the best gear won’t get paid for on an infantryman’s timetable. Eighteen months after the Marines first asked for the MRAP, it’s finally being delivered. Though not nearly at the rate that’s needed. By the end of the year, only 1,500 will have been delivered, less than half the 3,900 the Pentagon had initially promised.

It’s not hard to figure out who suffers. The 160,000 servicemen and women in Iraq are the latest generation of Americans to represent their country on the field of battle. And like their predecessors, they are abundantly unrepresented in the halls of power. As a result, they’ve adopted what I find to be a disturbing outlook on their situation: many don’t want the draft because they believe it will ruin the military, which they consider their own blue-collar fraternity. They have heard the horror stories from their dads and granddads about “spoiled” rich officers. Have no doubt: there is a distinct disdain for networked America among the fighting class of this country. When a politician would come on TV in the Camp Fallujah chow hall talking about Iraq, the rank-and-file reaction was always something like, “Well, I am blue-collar cannon fodder to this wealthy bureaucrat who never got shot at and whose kids aren’t here. But I know I am making America safer, so I’ll do my job anyway.” And they do, and have been for the last three and a half years, tragically underequipped but always willing to fight.

The real failure of this war, the mistake that has led to all the malaise of Operation Iraqi Freedom, was the failure to not reinstitute the draft on Sept. 12, 2001—something I certainly believed would happen after running down 61 flights of the South Tower, dodging the carnage as I made my way to the Hudson River [I worked at the World Trade Center as an investment adviser for Morgan Stanley at the time]. But President Bush was determined to keep the lives of nonuniformed America—the wealthiest Americans, like himself—uninterrupted by the war. Consequently, we have a severe talent deficiency in the military, which the draft would remedy immediately. While America’s bravest are in the military, America’s brightest are not. Allow me to build a squad of the five brightest students from MIT and Caltech and promise them patrols on the highways connecting Baghdad and Fallujah, and I’ll bet that in six months they could render IED’s about as effective as a “Just Say No” campaign at a Grateful Dead show.

On a macro level, we are logistically weakened by the lack of a draft. It takes six to seven soldiers to support one infantryman in combat. So, you are basically asking 30,000 or so “grunts” to secure a nation of 26 million. I assure you, no matter who wins the 2008 election, we are staying in Iraq. But with the Marine Corps and the Army severely stressed after 3.5 years of desert and urban combat in Iraq—equipment needs replacing, recruitment efforts are coming up short—you tell me how we're going to sustain the current force structure without the draft? The president’s new war czar, Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, essentially said as much earlier this month, when he announced that considering the draft “makes sense.”

Of course, the outcry was swift and predictable. America has rejected selective service before, though always in the guise of antiwar movements. But they should really be viewed as antidraft movements, and they existed, en masse, when the wealthy could buy their way out of serving—as Teddy Roosevelt’s father and his ilk did during the Civil War, or as countless college kids did during the deferment-ridden Vietnam conflict. Not every draftee has to be a front-line Marine or soldier, but history shows us that most entrepreneurial young men, faced with a fair draft, almost always chose the front. A deferment draft, however, is a different story, and ultimately counterproductive because of the acrimony it breeds. By allowing the fortunate and, often, most talented to stay home, those who are drafted feel less important than what they are asked to die for. At the end of the day, it was this bitterness that helped fuel the massive antiwar movement that pushed Nixon to end the draft in ‘73.

I don’t favor a Vietnam-style draft, where men like the current vice president could get five deferments. I am talking about a World War II draft, with the brothers and sons of future and former presidents answering the call (and, unfortunately, dying, as a Roosevelt and a Kennedy once did) on the front line. That is when the war effort is maximized. Quite simply, the military cannot be a faceless horde to those pulling the purse strings of our great economy.

The draft would even hasten a weaning away from foreign oil, I believe, if more Americans felt the nausea that I do every time I go to the pump and underwrite the people who have nearly killed me five times. This war on the jihadists needs to be more discomforting to the average American than just bad news on the tube. Democracies at war abroad cannot wage a protracted ground operation when the only people who are sacrificing are those who choose to go. This is the greatest lesson of my generation. Young Americans: you may not want to kill jihadists, but they are interested in killing you and your loved ones. Wake up.

Cpl. Mark Finelli is an inactive, noncommissioned Marine Corps officer who served in Iraq from July 2005 to February 2006. He is currently writing a book about surviving 9/11 and fighting in Iraq.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The War as We Saw It

The most under reported story on the war I've seen. None of the major news outlets gave these troops much space, if at all. Since the article is archived now and available only for a fee, I thought I'd share it here.


NYTimes commentary

Published: August 19, 2007

The War as We Saw It

By BUDDHIKA JAYAMAHA, WESLEY D. SMITH, JEREMY ROEBUCK, OMAR MORA, EDWARD SANDMEIER, YANCE T. GRAY and JEREMY A. MURPHY

Published: August 19, 2007

Buddhika Jayamaha is an Army specialist. Wesley D. Smith is a sergeant. Jeremy Roebuck is a sergeant. Omar Mora is a sergeant. Edward Sandmeier is a sergeant. Yance T. Gray is a staff sergeant. Jeremy A. Murphy is a staff sergeant.

Baghdad

VIEWED from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the "battle space" remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers' expense.

A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.

As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias.

Similarly, Sunnis, who have been underrepresented in the new Iraqi armed forces, now find themselves forming militias, sometimes with our tacit support. Sunnis recognize that the best guarantee they may have against Shiite militias and the Shiite-dominated government is to form their own armed bands. We arm them to aid in our fight against Al Qaeda.

However, while creating proxies is essential in winning a counterinsurgency, it requires that the proxies are loyal to the center that we claim to support. Armed Sunni tribes have indeed become effective surrogates, but the enduring question is where their loyalties would lie in our absence. The Iraqi government finds itself working at cross purposes with us on this issue because it is justifiably fearful that Sunni militias will turn on it should the Americans leave.

In short, we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear.

(In the course of writing this article, this fact became all too clear: one of us, Staff Sergeant Murphy, an Army Ranger and reconnaissance team leader, was shot in the head during a "time-sensitive target acquisition mission" on Aug. 12; he is expected to survive and is being flown to a military hospital in the United States.)

While we have the will and the resources to fight in this context, we are effectively hamstrung because realities on the ground require measures we will always refuse -- namely, the widespread use of lethal and brutal force.

Given the situation, it is important not to assess security from an American-centered perspective. The ability of, say, American observers to safely walk down the streets of formerly violent towns is not a resounding indicator of security. What matters is the experience of the local citizenry and the future of our counterinsurgency. When we take this view, we see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side.

Coupling our military strategy to an insistence that the Iraqis meet political benchmarks for reconciliation is also unhelpful. The morass in the government has fueled impatience and confusion while providing no semblance of security to average Iraqis. Leaders are far from arriving at a lasting political settlement. This should not be surprising, since a lasting political solution will not be possible while the military situation remains in constant flux.

The Iraqi government is run by the main coalition partners of the Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, with Kurds as minority members. The Shiite clerical establishment formed the alliance to make sure its people did not succumb to the same mistake as in 1920: rebelling against the occupying Western force (then the British) and losing what they believed was their inherent right to rule Iraq as the majority. The qualified and reluctant welcome we received from the Shiites since the invasion has to be seen in that historical context. They saw in us something useful for the moment.

Now that moment is passing, as the Shiites have achieved what they believe is rightfully theirs. Their next task is to figure out how best to consolidate the gains, because reconciliation without consolidation risks losing it all. Washington's insistence that the Iraqis correct the three gravest mistakes we made -- de-Baathification, the dismantling of the Iraqi Army and the creation of a loose federalist system of government -- places us at cross purposes with the government we have committed to support.

Political reconciliation in Iraq will occur, but not at our insistence or in ways that meet our benchmarks. It will happen on Iraqi terms when the reality on the battlefield is congruent with that in the political sphere. There will be no magnanimous solutions that please every party the way we expect, and there will be winners and losers. The choice we have left is to decide which side we will take. Trying to please every party in the conflict -- as we do now -- will only ensure we are hated by all in the long run.

At the same time, the most important front in the counterinsurgency, improving basic social and economic conditions, is the one on which we have failed most miserably. Two million Iraqis are in refugee camps in bordering countries. Close to two million more are internally displaced and now fill many urban slums. Cities lack regular electricity, telephone services and sanitation. "Lucky" Iraqis live in gated communities barricaded with concrete blast walls that provide them with a sense of communal claustrophobia rather than any sense of security we would consider normal.

In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, "We need security, not free food."

In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are -- an army of occupation -- and force our withdrawal.

Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities.

We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Click-N-Ship



One of the best kept secrets in the government is the new USPS Click-N-Ship services. Advantages are listed below, and USPS offers a lot of shipping materials for FREE!

So if you love to hate the "backwards" U.S. Post Office, it's time for you to give it another look. That's particularly true if you, your small business, or home business are shipping small to medium sized packages on a regular basis.

The USPS's new online system, Click-N-Ship, offers these features:
  • No Stamps--print professional looking barcoded shipping labels WITH paid postage on your inkjet or laser printer
  • No Standing in Line--FREE USPS residential or business carrier pick-up, scheduled online (for unattended pick-up, just tell the carrier online where to find the package-- e.g. front porch under chair, watch out for spider) For added security, you may also drop your package in any mailbox or at any post office
  • print barcoded mailing labels using plain paper (tape to package) or buy custom USPS self-adhesive labels online
  • pay online using secure credit card processing technology
  • pay cash--if you don't pay by credit card you can print the label and then deliver the package and label to a post office to pay cash
  • buy additional parcel insurance online or request delivery signature confirmation
  • multiple mailing options presented online and their costs. Just select the one that suits your needs.
  • FREE online address book for routine correspondents (with USPS database generated address and zip code checking, correcting and formatting for machine scanning)
  • FREE online package tracking and shipping history
  • FREE e-mail notification of shipping (to recipient) and delivery (for you)
  • FREE USPS Priority/Express Mail boxes, envelopes, and tubes delivered to your house
  • FREE USPS Express and Priority Mail stickers and tape
  • Flate Rate envelopes and boxes will ship up to 70 pounds for a single rate
  • e-mail receipt for every charge to your credit card
  • Batch Orders, print several shipping labels at a time, and have only one credit card charge for the batch
Of course, you can use your own boxes, but the USPS boxes give your merchandise a very professional look that your customers will notice. Order FREE and for fee items online here: USPS Store.

You don't need an official USPS scale, but you will need a fairly accurate scale of some sort. If you don't have an accurate scale, you can purchase an electronic USPS scale for very little--NOTE: under postage packages will be either returned for more postage or delivered postage due, depending on the amount underpaid. Neither makes your operation appear professional to your customer, so accuracy is important to avoid embarrassment.

There are a few downsides, but not many:
  • if you elect unattended pick-up, you are responsible for the package until the postal delivery folks actually have the package in their hands (they'll leave a hand receipt in your post box)
  • this service is for domestic deliveries, mostly. There is little support for international deliveries, where the rules are much different
  • I screwed up and forgot my USPS account password and couldn't, after several requests, have the problem resolved on-line. I ended up creating a new account under my wife's name
So give Click-N-Ship a try. I found it most competitive when compared against the prices of UPS and FedEx. The FREE (did I mention most of the boxes and envelopes were FREE?) shipping materials helped make it cost effective and easy to use.

Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Whole House Fans


Whole House Fans are:
  • inexpensive to buy ($150-250)
  • energy saving (we saved $158.63 during the first spring of operation. Payback less than one year)
  • easy to install
  • cool well
  • allow you to direct cooling breezes throughout the house
  • significantly reduce energy bills
  • add to feeling of being a part of nature
  • Utility Company Rebates (google "whole house fan" rebate )


September marks the end of the hot, muggy and windless Chesapeake summers and the beginning of our wonderful and quite long fall season here in the mid-Atlantic, a perfect time to turn off that energy hogging AC and open those windows for night time cooling.

Our single story ranch, however, is difficult to cool using the natural passive "cooling chimney" techniques available to two-story home owners. That's why I installed a Whole House Fan last winter to reduce our home cooling bills during the long spring and fall months (see Energy Usage chart at left to compare March-July 2006 to 2007 after the fan was installed).

Normally installed in the ceiling of a hallway, these fans and automatic louvers come in two models: direct drive and belt drive, and in two sizes: 24x24 inch and 30x30 inch. Cost starts under $200 at the home improvement stores. Installation only takes an hour or two, depending on your abilities, but is well within the do-it-yourselfer's skills.

While some models require the homeowner to cut a ceiling joist to box in the fan, at least one brand (Air Vent) has bracket hardware to allow the fan to sit atop the joist. The installer then fits stiff cardboard (included) between the fan box and the ceiling below to seal the air flow. (note: click image to enlarge and inspect the bracket placement on top of joist and staples holding the cardboard in place to seal airflow. Not shown: I scored the cardboard on one side and folded it into an "L" shape, and then stapled the short leg of the "L" to the ceiling and the long side to the fan box.)

All that remains is to wire the motor for regular household current (120 volts), cut the sheet rock inlet hole, and install the automatic louvers. This particular fan is controlled by a pull chain and has two speeds, but wall mount controllers are available.

To begin enjoying the joys of your cooler seasons, turn on the whole house fan, open windows in living areas or bedrooms to control air flow.
If we only open windows on the shaded side of our home, we are usually comfortable inside the house using the whole house fan alone in temperatures up to 85 degrees.


Considerations:
  • before you cut into your ceiling, be sure you have enough attic room above the fan (the attic space above my hallways was blocked where roof supports joined the ceiling joists)
  • direct drive fans are reported to be somewhat more noisy than belt drive fans. However, direct drive fans are not prone to the belt noise of some belt driven fans.
  • if you are not comfortable with 120 volt connections, hire an electrician for this part
  • a 30x30 inch whole house fan operating on high requires about 7 sq. feet of exhaust vent from your attic. You may have to add a bit of exterior venting in the form of passive gable or rooftop vents. Don't forget to calculate in the area of soffit vents under the eaves and ridgeline vents on the roof, if you have them. (Note: for exit vent calculations, screening over vents reduces air flow by about half the area). Ignore this warning and you may blow down a weak section of ceiling when you over-pressurize the attic--I did, fortunately it was in the garage and easy to repair.

A bit odd, but it works:

I mentioned that whole house fans are usually installed in hallways, but we couldn't find a place inside the house where it was easy to get to from above and below. So we installed our whole house fan in the attached garage. Of course, the connecting door has to be open between the house and the garage for the fan to work.

Advantages of installing in the garage:
  • less noisy
  • usually no itchy blown-in insulation over the garage to fool with
  • with AC on and the house buttoned up, the whole house fan vents and cools the garage while I'm working on a project
  • removes paint and varnish fumes from garage
  • removes heat from parked cars and vents it out the attic
  • with AC on in the house and the garage bay door open, the whole house fan will force super heated air out of the attic and replace it with cooler air from the garage, reducing the load on my AC system (my ducting is in the attic).
Disadvantages of installing in the garage:
  • door open between garage and house. We use a pet gate to keep the dogs in the house and out of dangerous substances in the garage.
  • mice can crawl into the house through the pet gate (this has not happened yet, and in any event, our three cairn terriers would count a mouse in the house as a bonus, not a disadvantage. The seem to recognize this and sleep in shifts watching the gate at night, hopeful for a critter incursion)
We love laying in bed together on a cool fall night, snuggled together under our comforter. We listen to the splashy fountain outside our window and the nocturnal sounds of nature being drawn into our bedroom on the breeze from our whole house fan.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Black Gold Booster

Yet another letter from the Mouseherder to Newsweek:


Thank you for publishing Fareed Zakaria's interview with National Petroleum Council chairman Lee Raymond. I say this for two reasons.

First, it is enlightening to know that the man who killed the alternative energy program at Exxon is also chair of President Bush's Alternative Energy Committee. No wonder this administration has made such poor progress on the topic of energy independence and alternative fuels for this nation.

Second, I want to point out the extremely self-serving industry position highlighted by Mr. Raymond's comments and the report of his council when contrasted against the independent (and less rosy) July 2007 assessment of The International Energy Agency's (IEA) titled: /Medium-Term Oil Market Report.

My only wish is that Zakaria had done more research on this subject before the interview and confronted Mr. Raymond with the true state of energy production, use and in-ground resources left in the world.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What if Global Warming is not real? Let's Pretend...

This is a copy of a Letter to the Editor the Mouseherder wrote to Newsweek.

I take exception to the exceedingly narrow scope demonstrated by both Sharon Begley (the Truth About Denial) and Robert Samuelson (Greenhouse Simplicities). If this were just a debate about global warming and human agency in climate change, I'd be less concerned. However, Newsweek has totally missed the underlying grassroots corporate, religious and citizen movements converging on the questions of climate change, energy independence, one's duty for stewardship of God's living gift, and a parent and grandparent's desire to turn over not only a sustainably run planet but also a sustainable run economy as well.

Neither article asks this most important question: "What is the down side to acting as though climate change is real, that human agency in global warming is confirmed, and that we as a nation can do something about it?" After careful study my answer is: there are not many downsides; even if, in the end, we are wrong about our ability to effect global warming at all. In fact, we will only gain a stronger more diverse and cleaner economy with more job; we will get well funded research into alternative energy; conservation, and carbon sequestration; we will have cleaner air and water; and we could prevent the probability that our children and grandchildren will have to fight needless and endless wars over a nonrenewable and disappearing resource like oil (isn't it a little crazy to be funding both sides of the War On Terror because we have this addiction to cheap oil?). The truth is, there is a looming energy crisis not only in China, not just in the United States, but worldwide, and we should prepare ourselves for it.

Mr. Samuelson needs to rethink his proposed raising of the gasoline tax and instead support:

1. legislation removing all subsidies from the oil, gas, and coal industries and allowing the free market to find its natural price level for those products (given the likely resulting true cost of gasoline, I've seen estimates of $5-7/gallon, automotive CAFE standards will take care of themselves as drivers will then make rational choices about transportation. People will drive--or ride--what they can afford, once the government stops distorting the market price by making everyone subsidize waste). Those subsides and tax credits should be redirected to carbon sequestration research, making alternative energy affordable, and making Plug-in Electric Hybrid Vehicles a reality (which would recharge on the mostly wasted energy generated by utilities overnight).

2. strike from the tax code the provisions that allow business tax write-offs for vehicles over 6,000 lbs. GVW. This provision was intended to help ranchers, farmers and tradesmen like plumbers, but instead has been roundly abused in every sector of business to write off large gas guzzling SUVs as company cars for executives and salesmen alike.

3. Pouring massive tax credits into nationwide energy conservation efforts for utilities, individuals and businesses. In a country where gasoline consumption alone has soared 15% per year for a decade (and electrical demands even more), it is a fools errand to try to build our way to energy sufficiency on dwindling supplies of carbon resources. Instead, Congress should mandate public utilities to launch immediate conservation and alternative energy development programs, create services programs among their business and residential customers to reduce demand and then reward the utilities, home owners and businesses for their successes.

Last year our family knocked 30% off of our gasoline and utility bills with very little effort, little expense and no pain. This year, we're really working at it. Despite what Vice President Chaney thinks, this is not some weird tree-hugger fantasy. Every dollar saved through conservation is a dollar in your pocket and while we may not be able to save our way to self sufficiency, conservation is a more rational position to start from than building more energy capacity into a wasteful system.

Corporations from Goldman-Sachs to GE to Wal-Mart who have seriously studied the energy future of the nation and are adjusting not only their portfolios, but also their practices and products to position themselves to take advantage of the new energy economy. This nation should do the same. Energy Independence is Homeland Security, but it's much, much more as well. It is a means of securing a rational future for those who come after us.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sock'em

I was sitting in an early morning breakfast meeting with a potential client, noshing pastries around one of those itty-bitty glass cocktail tables in the hotel lobby, when I looked down at my ankle crossed over my knee.

I was embarrassed to see at least 3-inches of my somewhat hairy but all too fish-belly-white calf shining out beyond the cuff, the sock gathered around my ankle like an old snake skin. I don't know if the client noticed, but I sure felt self conscious and awkward for the rest of the meeting. To make things only slightly worse, when I glanced down at the other foot I realized that I had dressed with one short blue sock and one medium length black.
Cheap socks in a $400 suit ruined the image I was trying to project and ruined my presentation because I became self conscious.
I didn't get the work, but I did fix the problem. I went home and took stock of my sock collection:
  • 24 pair of socks + 5 socks with no matching mate
  • short black socks
  • short brown socks
  • short blue socks
  • long over the calf beige socks
  • medium black socks
  • medium brown socks
  • one pair Argyle socks
  • one pair Christmas novelty socks
(I didn't count the white athletic socks or the white footlets that go with my--euphemistically named--"running" shoes.)
This is crazy, I thought. Who cares what kind of socks a 54 year old guy wears as long as you don't have to look at his calves?
So I took all the "dress" socks, put them in a bag, put the bag in the car and drove to J.C. Penney's where I bought eight 3-pair packages of reinforced toe and heal, over-the-calf, basic black ribbed socks.
Splurge a bit and get the the cotton/stretch nylon/spandex blend for long life and calf hugging abilities (cheap socks will eventually stretch out and fall down, so buy quality:
It's the cheap man who pays the most

  • No more pairing socks after laundry
  • No more matching colors
  • No more matching styles
  • No more pulling up short socks
  • No more exposed fish-belly white calves
  • No more sock problems, period
Look at the socks on the next homeless guy you see, odds are they're too short and miss-matched because I dropped that bag of old socks off at the Salvation Army drop box on the way home
Life's too short to worry about socks.

Friday, August 24, 2007

It's more than Ecological, it's important!


This is a copy of a letter the Mouseherder wrote to the editor of the Virginia Pilot this week. It is in response to the several anti-global warming articles published in the VP. Mostly, though, it is a reaction to those of us in the ecologocal/energy independence/stewardship of God's gift always portrayed a leftwing kooks?


It is impossible to respond comprehensively to the lengthy attack editorials on global warming run in Friday and Saturday's Virginian Pilot in the alloted 150 word limit, but allow me to hit the high points.

First of all, global warming is not the new "secular religion" (worn code for godless and democratic, I suppose). Religions are a fixed and unchanging polar star of the faithful. Global warming, on the other hand, is based on science, on evolving scientific understanding, better (and better refined) scientific data and ever more sophisticated technology. There is and always will be debate in science; it is the nature of the beast. But that does not mean that the underlying understanding of global warming is under any significant cloud. Indeed, those whose claim "the science is not settled" almost never then go on to address the areas where the science is unsettled. Instead, they launch into their own canard against some aspect of global warming, usually attacking the well understood areas of the field as if it were unsettled science.

Second, if the tactic of arguing "the science is not in" or "the data are conflicted" or "there is significant scientific debate" seems familiar, it is. Think back to the tobacco wars and the anti-smoking movement. This is straight out of the corporate tobacco play book. Let me be clear, there is no significant scientific disagreement about the basic science or observations of global warming.

Third, there are significant advantages for the United States to acting as if global warming is real, that humans have made significant contributions to the acceleration of global warming, and that we can actually do something about it, even if, in the end, we are totally wrong about it all.

Despite what your Op-Ed authors opined, global warming and the sustainability movement are not just an ecological movement. They are much, much more:

  • It is a movement of religious devotion for a growing number of congregations of all faiths--from How Many Jews Does It Take to Change a Lightbulb? (no kidding, look it up) to evangelical Christians to Muslims to Buddhists. It's about concern about our stewardship of God's gift of this planet, His environment, and His resources.
  • Is is a movement of parents and grandparents who are concerned about leaving a sustainable economy, a sustainable ecosystem, and a sustainable lifestyle to their children and grandchildren (not to mention clean air and pure water, both a particular concern for Virginians since every open body of water in the commonwealth has measurable amounts of mercury from coal fired plants upwind of us).
  • It is a movement of corporations from Goldman-Sachs to GE to Wal-Mart who have seriously studied the energy future of the nation and are adjusting not only their portfolios, but also their practices and products to position themselves to take advantage of the new economy.
  • It is a movement of labor leaders, business owners, and workers who see new (and unexportable) economic opportunities in renewable energy, energy conservation, and sustainability.
  • It is a movement of the citizens of more than 250 American cities (and growing), including Virginia Beach, and several states who have pledged to honor the Koyoto Protocols, even though the President and Senate of the United States would not ratify the treaty.
  • Finally, it is a movement of American Patriots who understand that even now, through our over dependence on foreign oil and unsustainable use of petroleum products, that we are funding both sides of the war on terror; the cost of our military and defending the nation on the one hand and the payments we make to countries from which terrorism springs on the other hand, by paying $80 to $100 per barrel of oil. (I know, most of America's imported oil comes from Canada, but research which royal families and Arab petroleum companies have major holdings in those Canadian stocks, too.)

Today's total world production of oil has been steady or in slight decline at about 300 billion barrels of oil per year for over a decade. During that same decade, American use of gasoline alone increased 10-15% per year. Substantial new finds of petroleum are reported unlikely, existing untapped reserves--such as ANWR or the fields off of the coast Virginia, California and Florida--are insufficient to meet future demands for long. And here's the kicker: if China maintains its current rate of economic growth, by mid-century that nation alone will have energy demands equal to today's total worldwide oil production, not counting the needs of India, Europe, the rest of Asia or the United States.

I for one, do not want our children and grandchildren fighting endless wars over a nonrenewable and shrinking commodity like oil. But we can win by changing the game. We can change the game by taking advantage of this unique nexus of interests--environmentalists, believers, families, future-minded corporations, and patriots--to substantially reduce America's dependence on carbon producing energy through conservation and economy, through support of alternative energy and research, through smarter design and smarter use.

King CONG--Coal, Oil, Nuclear, Gas--will put up a fight, just like big tobacco did, probably more of one. They'll use the same dirty tricks, run out the same tired arguments and trot out the same dubious mouthpieces that tobacco used. But we will not be deterred.

We do this for our God. We do this for our children. We do this for the future of our nation. We do this for our earth. And we'll do it one light bulb and one family at a time, if we have to.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

1st Lt. Pete Hegseth, Neocon Fraud Part II


but Lt. Hegseth doesn’t tell the whole story, does he?

Like we’ve won the war, every battle, but we are losing the occupation. Or that never in modern history has there been a successful occupation of an Arab country by a western power or that the only reason Israel is hanging on is because she has got us at her back and a few nukes.

Like the now friendly warlords in Anbar fighting AQ and the Taliban are minority Sunni and likely to turn on us as soon as we’ve helped them accomplish their goals.

Or that our allies, Turkey, has declared there will not be a Kurdish state on its border and is massing troops along the Turkey/Iraq border already.

Or particularly that regardless of how much extra blood and treasure we spend trying to buy the princes of the greenzone a bit of time, that they’ve made absolutely no substantive progress on actually forming a working country or finding a way to defend themselves.

What 1st Lt Pete Hegseth of VFF needs to do is abandon his part-time National Guard post and join the regular fighting Army, the folks who have made 3 or 4 or 5 deployments to Iraq and where company grade officers like Hegseth are leaving in droves and are in extremely short supply. Let him fight and die for his beliefs like a real soldier, instead of standing on the sidelines writing articles.

BTW, Hegseth and VVF are a bit of ringer. Check out him and his organization at www.sourcewatch.org. Vets for Freedom is a completely GOP owned and run 527 front organization and has, as far as anyone can determine, very little active duty military membership (VFF won’t releasea list of members, but their 527 reports show donors and contributors are mostly republicans loyalists).

I heard a radio interview the other day with a Lt. Col. His assessment: “right force, right mix, too little, too late.”

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Visitors


You'd expect more visitors than we see in our graveyard. Sure, Easter and Christmas, Mother's and Father's Day are big visiting days in the boneyard, but other than Toddler's Row there's never much traffic in the yard, which makes the regulars standout.

Without fail at 0630, rain or shine, an older gent struts into the graveyard, proud and purposeful, erect in a stooped sort of way, trying to retain that old military bearing despite his age, gravity, and, one suspects, arthritis. He's always crisp, probably a retired Marine or an Army lifer. He tends a single grave, bending at the knees to to sweep away the dead grass, then stands erect, removes his cap and prays...or maybe he just remembers. He's never long, though. It's only a minute or so before he about faces and marches across the yard and through the gates.

My wife and I make up stories about some people we see, like the older guy in the white convertible with a much younger blonde riding shotgun. They whizzed in one Sunday morning with the top down, all tanned and fit.
"I guess they're going by to show the old dead wife his new car and spouse", I said.
One visitor we can't figure out, however, is the younger girl in the black over silver PT Cruiser convertible. Every weekday morning around 6 am she enters the graveyard and just drives aimless, looping circles on the roads around and through the graves. She never stops, never takes the same route twice, and then, like she'd finally made up her mind about something, she heads out for the boulevard. Cruiser girl's been doing this for several weeks now and I'm getting ready to go stop her and ask what she's up to.
On the other hand, maybe she can be my private Suzanne Sommers in a white Tbird.
I like the biker best of all the visitors. A big guy with a black beard and one of those black Nazi-looking helmets riding a real Harley hog thunders into the cemetery every now and then, always around sunset. You can tell him from the note of his pipes. Even inside our house we feel the earth tremble as he racks his pipes and shuts down in an expensive part of the graveyard.

His ritual is aways the same. He always brings a big pizza in a flat box and a six-pack of Corona, and, sitting next to a grave, he eats a single slice of pizza and drinks a single beer with his buddy. When he's finished, he boxes up the pizza and leaves it and the beer on the grave.

Years ago, I spent 4 years in the Western Pacific on the island of Guam, where America's day begins. There was some flavor of Buddhist temple near our house that I visited now and again. The temple catered to the needs of Japanese families making pilgrimage to Guam to honor the fallen family members from WWII and was kind of a mixed use Taoist, Buddhist, whatever establishment. The monk was affable and enjoyed the occasional visitor. His gardens were beautiful and restful. He had a 3-legged dog.

Inside the temple itself, always awash with the smoke of dozens of burning incense sticks, worshipers bring food and drink to leave on the alter for ..."the gods" the spirits of the dead? Somebody. I learned from the monk that the gods ate the essence of the offering, leaving the physical behind. While I never saw him eating or drinking items from the alter, I always suspected that he did. He never looked like he had much to eat: scrawny.

So when the Harley fires up and after the biker has rumbled out of sight through the gates, it's my cue to hop over the fence and retrieve our dinner, I say to the gods or the dead guy or maybe both or maybe no one, "hey, you gonna finish that?"

I hope the gods got all the essence out of that pizza and 5-pack of Corona.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Michael Moore's Sicko

Maybe we should run Michael Moore for President. I went to see Sicko yesterday. Even though it was 5pm on a beautiful Saturday afternoon there were a couple of hundred people at Sicko--in Virginia Beach! a Navy town and the GOP's Elephant Graveyard. People were actually applauding and hooting. Interesting mix, oldsters and younger people. Not a lot in between.

I thought it was quite good and quite thought provoking. I'm trying to image why we couldn't have organized universal health care in the US. Perhaps it's time we start taking seriously the

"in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity"

part of the Constitution. Of course, you only have to walk into any county ER to see that we have a sort of unorganized universal health care going right now, for which we pay through the whazoo locally.


Stats don't lie. By virtually every measure (available through the CDC and WHO), there are many countries with much healthier people who live longer. It's not like we're not paying for health care; we just don't seem to be getting much for what we do pay for. I see no reason cradle to grave health care could not be a birthright of every American.

I think, particularly with an aging population, that Moore has hit on something. What could actually be more freeing than to have the burden of worry over health care and health insurance lifted from our shoulders?

Moore is right on another of his points, too. Americans are sheeple, chained to systems that keep us enslaved. One of my favorite philosophers Jean Jacques Rousseau said, "man was born free, yet everywhere he is in chains". The chains he was referring to were the chains of ideas and traditions and systems that keep man down.


Finally, Moore is right about our government not being nearly as afraid of us as it should be, sheeple.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Vets for Freedom--Neocon Fraud

Lots of buzzz about a piece in the Washington Post called Reality Check for the Antiwar Crowd By Army National Guard 1st Lt. Pete Hegseth, fronting for his group Vets for Freedom, who writes to support the administration's actions in the War in Iraq.

Pete even had a great appearance on the nationally syndicated NPR Diane Rehm Show yesterday, but something didn't seem right. I mean he had a good story, spent a year in Iraq with Army National Guard, saw the good that would come from our involvement, wanted to do something to support the war effort and his buddies in the field so he and a group of vets started his group Vets for Freedom. Unfortunately, the usually competent WAMU staff and the even more competent WaPo got reverse Swift Boated by Pete Hegseth.

According to Source Watch the organization Vets for Freedom is a GOP front organization run a well known GOP PR firm The Herald Group and involves former White House spokesman Taylor Gross.

Pete Hegseth is not all he seems to be either. Again, according to Source Watch, 1st Lt Hegsweth's day job is as a policy consultant at the Center for the American University as well as the conservative think tank Manhattan Institution. While I honor Pete's service to the country, both WAMU and the WaPo should have been upfront with their listeners and readers about Mr. Hegseth's political associations and neocon roots, since that's how he earns his crust of bread.


Diane Rehm got reverse Swift Boated.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Toddler's Row

Well, I guess there is one downside to having a graveyard behind the house: Toddler's Row is right behind our fence. We seldom see the burial, but live with the aftermath for months, even years. Some families come every week, a few every day, a couple of women come several times a day for months on end. Often late at night ghostly wailing sets the dogs afire with agitation when the windows are open.

Men come too, but almost always with their wives', seldom alone. After awhile, though, the men all begin to wear their "shopping husband" faces as they mill about. I've gone so far as thinking about putting in a husband bench, like at the malls, for the men to sit upon and to wait. You can see it in the men's eyes; they're wondering the same thing on their side of the fence that we're wondering on our side of the fence; when will she get over it? Will she ever get over it?

Actually, it's not true that men don't come alone, but it's not like when they come with their wives. One guy came by himself last weekend. We were pruning the back the new growth on the Azaleas along our side of the fence when he popped out of his red truck, leaving the door open and the engine idling. He was on his cell phone the entire time he inspected the tiny grave, popped back into his truck and left. Guess he can tell his wife he came, maybe he was inspecting to be sure everything was right for the Sunday morning pilgrimage.

There are positives to having Toddler's Row near the house. Parents often leave cupcakes on the graves, which our dogs enjoy.

Life on the Edge of Other People's Graves

Nope, Mouseherder's feelin' fine. But the Rat's Nest is nestled in on the edge of a cemetery, which creeps a lot of people out. Not us, though, they're good neighbors and nobody's gonna build a condo behind our house.

We think it's pretty kewl, in fact. And so do the dogs. The graveyard has been alive on our morning walks this spring. The dog's jump rabbits and squirrels to chase nearly every day (all too fast for them, though. What they need is a squirrel on crutches). The dead people don't seem to mind the pups thundering over their graves, but their relatives do--the reason we're out of there by 7 am.

Life, as they say, is for the living.



I wonder if dog pee stains white marble?

Natural Round-Up

natural round-up from Mother Earth News

1 qt vinegar
2 TBLS canola oil
1 TBLS dish soap

Put in sprayer

Organic Insecticidal Soap


Natural Insecticide Soap from Mother Earth News


1" Fels-Naptha Soap
1 qt water
Boil to dissolve; put in lidded jar

1 tbl mixture : 1 qt water
1/4 cup rubbing alcohol

Put in sprayer

pour up a geriatric screwdriver


1 oz. vodka
6 oz. water
1 Tablespoon orange flavored Metamucil

Two or three of those in the morning should get things movin’.

Texas Caviar

  • 3 cans black-eyed peas (rinse & wash away the juice)
  • 1 large can black olives
  • 1 jar green olives (the broken “salad olives” are fine)
  • 1 med white or red onion
  • 5 stalks of celery
  • 6 med carrots
  • 4 med jalapenos
  • 1 large green bell pepper (or red or yellow)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • salt & pepper
  • olive oil
  • apple cider vinegar

Wash & rinse canned peas and place in large bowl. Chop all remaining ingredients to about the size of the peas. Salt & pepper to taste. Add vinegar and oil. Refrigerate overnight.

We eat it bowls of it, but can be used as a relish or served on crackers.

They Knew What They Were Getting Into


The stupidest comment I hear in defense of the Iraqi war is that soldiers “knew what they were signing up for” when they joined the military. While true on its face, it is also disingenuously false because it only looks at the personal responsibility side of the equation, a favorite hobby horse of the far right.

What these commentators overlook, I think intentionally, is the bargain our volunteer citizen soldiers have made with the leaders of our nation, not to mention the citizens of our great nation. In the decades after the Vietnam war the understood but unspoken bargain was this:

I will serve you. I will protect you and our nation. I will sacrifice for you. While you sleep, I will stand lonely vigil. I will willingly walk my post on foreign soils so your children are not forced to.

In return I ask only this: that you do not waste my sacrifice in foolish endeavors; that you stand behind me as you lead me; that, when all is said & done, I can be as proud of your conduct, restraint & judgment as you will be of mine.


We, as a country, have failed every man & woman in uniform.