Flower power

One word: alleluia. First flower found yesterday in the backyard, at 42˚58′ degrees North, 70˚49′ West.

Let’s get this question out of the way: You can, if hungry, eat crocus bulbs. You can also eat green crabs – though you may expend more calories picking out the meat than the meat will give you back.

Husband pulled out the corn stalks and other dead stuff from the big garden yesterday, but left the sunflower stalks because they are oddly beautiful, in a dead stuff sort of way. Then he raked it up. The soil doesn’t seem to need tilling, as it’s wetly fluffy and well-mixed from years of his attention and work. pH is a bit alkaline, which seems weird because we’re surrounded by acid wetlands soil with wild blueberries and stuff. Maybe too much wood ash, or mulched wood chips over the years?

Maybe I’ll check with the Cooperative Extension. Or just see what happens. There are plenty of earthworms and the soil seems alive. We will sow, soon, the early cold-season crops and we will reap, hopefully at some point, and sow again. We will enjoy ourselves, and feed ourselves, and we will share bounty beyond that.

We got a nice-sized tax return, direct-deposited. We’re all excited. It feels like a bonus, a pleasant surprise, with potentiality for unplanned, spontaneous purchases, or possibly a vacation. But, of course, it’s just our money in the first place. We knew we were having too much withheld; we do it every year. Our money was just visiting Washington for a few months.

I have noticed a trend in thinking among some people, and lots of elected and appointed people who are supposed to be representing our interests and working for us. They seem to forget what taxes are and where the money comes from.

The whole notion of private property seems to be eroding. Too many people have plenty of plans for what do with other people’s money and property and time and knowledge (including people not yet born). And they think all they need is a reason (often based in emotion, sometimes accompanied by name-calling) for taking and using it.

I clicked through to a friend’s friend’s Facebook page the other day and discovered a woman poet proud to proclaim herself an “anarchist.” (It was a comment thread about how people should not be allowed to build vacation cottages in Maine, because they take up space and are unoccupied for a large part of the year.) Oh, how Justice, or maybe Karma, would like to see the woman poet, and all other self-professed anarchists, personally reap the benefits of anarchy! Maybe they could go live together on an island in the Pacific, sow and reap anarchy away from the rest of us.

People who work and pay taxes and go about their own business without getting in other people’s business, people who have a mature understanding of appropriate boundaries and acceptable behavior (and history and human nature) have tolerated a certain amount of childish, borish behavior and overstepping of bounds.

The perpetual children, sowers of anarchy, and other rude, confused, hysterical, unself-governing brats can be as ridiculous as they want, but at some point, when the stealing and other interference becomes truly pestilential, the oversteppers may go too far in making themselves enemies of the people who have been supporting them. The minders-of-their-own-business will be forced to articulate and defend those long-accepted, sensible, moral boundaries of Yours and Mine.

(Sensible and articulate: get some Jefferson.)

Here’s something that doesn’t make sense to me either, stuck as I am in the private property is the foundation of a free and civil society mode.  Why are lots of public employees, including some otherwise-sensible people I know, pitching fits against the possible loss of collective bargaining “rights”?

They want to preserve their “right” to be forced to join, and fund, a union? They want dues automatically deducted? They want powerful union bosses in faraway places to decide how their money should be spent, and what is best for them? They don’t want an individual vote, and voice? They can’t decide what’s in their own best interest, and use their own hard-earned money for things important to them?

“Anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security,” wrote Ben Franklin. I would paraphrase: “Anyone who trades liberty for security will find that, nine times out of ten, security comes back to bite them in the ass.”

There is no such thing as collective rights.

“Collective bargaining” sounds like the way government is functioning right now too. All a bunch of formal or informal gangs out to take what they can from other people. Just slap some high-minded, or emotional, label on the action and then it isn’t stealing.

Property. It’s not just in my backyard.

James Madison On Property

This term in its particular application means “that dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in exclusion of every other individual.”

In its larger and juster meaning, it embraces every thing to which a man may attach a value and have a right; and which leaves to every one else the like advantage.

In the former sense, a man’s land, or merchandize, or money is called his property.

In the latter sense, a man has a property in his opinions and the free communication of them.

He has a property of peculiar value in his religious opinions, and in the profession and practice dictated by them.

He has a property very dear to him in the safety and liberty of his person.

He has an equal property in the free use of his faculties and free choice of the objects on which to employ them.

In a word, as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.

Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions.

Where there is an excess of liberty, the effect is the same, tho’ from an opposite cause.

Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own.

(read the rest…)

I remember something I loved about the Montessori schools my daughters attended oh so long ago. A child had a little rug, rolled (in a “tight cylinder”) and stored away. When the child wanted to work on an activity or project, they unrolled their little mat and had a space that was all their own. No one else could walk on it, or touch the project. The rug was out as long as the project was being worked on, sometimes overnight or for several days. Children could work alone, or work in groups with other children (by free association).

The rules were simple, and constant, and natural, and existed above any one person or authority figure, and everyone knew them. “Enforcement” rarely had to go beyond a gentle reminder from the teacher. (More on the Montessori Method.)

The respect shown for the dignity of each child’s “work” (as it was called) and boundaries of each child’s personal space made calm, happy, focused children and a peaceful classroom.

Oddly muscular

(Photo: North Hampton Beach 3-25-11)

A Green Crab’s Shell
by Mark Doty

Not, exactly, green:
closer to bronze
preserved in kind brine,

something retrieved
from a Greco-Roman wreck,
patinated and oddly

muscular. We cannot
know what his fantastic
legs were like–

though evidence
suggests eight
complexly folded

scuttling works
of armament, crowned
by the foreclaws’

gesture of menace
and power. A gull’s
gobbled the center,

leaving this chamber
–size of a demitasse–
open to reveal

a shocking, Giotto blue.
Though it smells
of seaweed and ruin,

this little traveling case
comes with such lavish lining!
Imagine breathing

surrounded by
the brilliant rinse
of summer’s firmament.

What color is
the underside of skin?
Not so bad, to die,

if we could be opened
into this–
if the smallest chambers

of ourselves,
revealed some sky.

Little fists of future flowers

Hey, bud!

Some shrubby little things by the pond. Alder?

But note the ice is gone! I’d say yesterday was officially Ice Out, though a thin film of new ice grew last night on about half the pond, with two serving-platter-sized chunks of old white ice embedded in it.

It’s really very cold. And windy. But the sun has power.

I had a dream I was tumbling in slow motion down a seemingly infinite spiral staircase, with empty cardboard boxes tumbling with me. It was physically painless, though I felt crowded and not able to breathe well, but it was mentally anguishing because I was beginning to realize there was no bottom, and no end to the dream.

So I dream-worked hard and woke myself up, then tried to think of everything that was the opposite of infinite spiral staircases, cardboard boxes and falling in slow motion so I wouldn’t fall back into the dream when I fell back to sleep.

It’s Sunday. Husband is flying home from London. The rebel teen is painting colorful pictures of Moroccon markets for her art show. I am painting trim around windows and doors Bright White.

Not just a picture, a person

Yesterday. Bath houses at the southern end of North Hampton Beach. A surfer heading for the water is greeted by a dog. (Click to enlarge.)

I am looking for washed up sewer disks, keeping an eye on the beach as a Friend of North Hampton Beach, and I have my camera with me, and my new telephoto lens.

It is a bright, beautiful, abrasively cold March day. Native New Hampshirites feel cheerful and relatively outgoing in weather like this, I’ve noticed. One older gentleman was sitting on the hood of his car, facing the ocean, soaking up the (38-degree) sunshine. “We’ve waited a long time for this,” he said.

I am going to take some pictures pdq before my fingers freeze.

With my new lens, I could get even closer to maybe even recognize these people. But I’d feel like a weirdo spy, so I try to just capture general figures in the landscape.

A surfer in a dark wetsuit is always a nice figure against ocean and sky. He is representative. With the simple technology of board and wetsuit, he challenges, engages with, experiences and enjoys the raw elements of nature.

And we certainly have some raw elements of nature around here. (Last night it was 16 degrees.)

So, a generic surfer and a nice picture.

But when I edited and posted this photo yesterday, the Marine Corps emblem on the board stood out and suggested to me that the black figure against a dramatic landscape might actually be someone everyone around here knows.

Ralph Fatello surfs every day, not just because he loves it but for a cause: in remembrance of a little girl from Hampton who died of lymphoma last year, and as a fundraiser for the Molly Fund, supporting children with cancer.

Catch a Wave for Molly. He started catching at least one wave every day back in July of 2010.

“Surfing heals all wounds,” he says.

I know Ralph as the commander of the local American Legion post. Every Memorial Day he introduces a war veteran to speak after the parade, at the laying of the wreath ceremony. He is an intense, plainspoken man who knows what is important and has proven himself committed to fight for it.

After I realized I had, by chance, taken his photo and enjoyed watching him surf (and reading what he wrote about yesterday), I decided to just go ahead and take the next step and make a donation. 243 days, 122 to go.

My theory is that serendipitous events may have a meaning and a purpose, even if it is only what we make of them.

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land, there is no other life but this. – Henry David Thoreau

The Daily Libya

The professor’s war

If you go to take Vienna, take Vienna. If you’re not prepared to do so, better then to stay home and do nothing.

More Krauthammer: Obama “working on language that will disguise a failure” in Libya

Obama fails to grasp the gravity of going to war

I am absolutely ready to punch the wall over the fact that Obama hasn’t spoken to the American people about the Libya exercise.

U.S. foreign policy has gone down the rabbit hole… intoxicated with an advanced form of Wilsonian madness, shorn of sensitivity to consequences

A no-fly zone cannot, and never could, end this fight among the Libyans. This is not a set-battle conventional war; it’s a messy insurgency/counterinsurgency brawl without fixed fronts or large concentrations of forces.


Before we started this crazy war, what was going on in the region was all about the Arabs—the good Arabs, the bad Arabs, the other Arabs, all the Arabs, some of the Arabs, whatever. In both their eyes and ours, it was about them. Now it is, or will soon be, about us. Every quark’s worth of negative energy in the region will in due course be drawn as if by a magnet to us, as the Arabs resume their favorite sport of exporting responsibility for their own circumstances onto others. We will subject the region, yet again, to the equivalent of the U.S. Heisenberg Effect, especially if we’re forced to bail out our allies. We’ve seen this film before. It’s a tragedy.

What are we doing in the Middle East?

We cannot articulate what we want to achieve, beyond preventing the “humanitarian disaster” to which we are now substantially contributing. Western statesmen can’t even agree if they want Gadhafi to be gone. Nor, apparently, have their generals been briefed coherently on the purpose of this war. They could not even explain if missile strikes on Gadhafi’s compound were intended to hurt him.

This is another liberal, push-button war, from the Bill Clinton era; one intended to produce very few allied casualties. Twelve years ago I described the NATO attack on Serbia as a form of “experimental bombing.” See what the techies can come up with, working from satellite photos. Hit anything that looks mean on the other side, and spare the rest of the landscape. Just “tilt that playing field” against Milosevic, or whichever nearly defenceless dictator we have decided to seriously dislike.

Note that liberal wars are never conducted against our more lethal enemies. Every argument for going into Libya counts 10 times for going into Iran, the one place where the opposition is secular and pro-Western. But it is taken for granted that we can’t “do” Iran, because the ayatollahs might already have serious weapons up their sleeves. And besides the humanitarian crisis there has been going on for decades; the Iranian demonstrations are no longer “breaking news.”

An air force isn’t a “touchy-feely” thing. Contemporary weapons systems allow much greater precision than in the past (at a price: cruise missile barrages at more than $1 million a pop). But without matching accuracy in live-time intelligence, we still cannot know what we are hitting. And intelligence out of Libya is almost a contradiction in terms.

Rebel commander in Libya fought against U.S. in Afghanistan

In his more recent remarks to Il Sole 24 Ore, al-Hasadi admits not only to fighting against U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but also to recruiting Libyans to fight against American forces in Iraq.

“I don’t care, Obama is awesome.”

Update Sat. a.m.

Amnesty International: Egyptian women protesters forced to take ‘virginity tests’

Decoding Libya: Sharia can tell us how this story ends

For nearly 20 years, we’ve willfully blinded ourselves to the Rosetta Stone that decodes our enemy’s war doctrine. But the jihad (or shall we call it “kinetic Islam”?) is catalyzed not by al-Qaeda but by sharia — by Muslim law. So is the “Arab Spring,” now playing in Tripoli (and elsewhere) after rave reviews in Cairo.


When non-Muslim forces invade or occupy Islamic countries, Muslims must fight them as ruthlessly as necessary to drive them out. It does not matter if Muslims realize that the Western forces had a perfectly understandable reason for attacking. Even if they believe a Muslim has acted in a manner harmful to Islamic interests, sharia forbids Muslims to take sides against other Muslims for the benefit of kaffirs (unbelievers). Disputes within the ummah must be settled internally.

The Middle East Crisis Has Just Begun