Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Ballad of Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden come home.
I suspect he won't. You can't. Neither can we. Where is home now when the walls have ears and our computer screens are staring back at us with the cold eyes of NSA bureaucrats?
No, Edward Snowden has sent us all off into exile from an America that may have never existed, from the Leave it to Beaver world before 9/11, before the Internet, when we still knew or cared about our actual neighbors more than our virtual pleasures.
Edward Snowden where will ye go now? Is it Ecuador? Maybe Cuba? Lands and powers that may or may not have your interests at heart. But probably not.
Maybe that's the last we'll ever see of him, the netherworld of the Moscow airport, stuck between flights. There will be rumors of sightings on strange midnight planes to Marrakech, on trains for Novosibirsk, on a bicycle to Finland, and whole mystic cults devoted to finding him, but Edward Snowden is not coming home. And neither are we.
But I hope to God his father has some success bending the ears of the machinery of state. Here's a pretty savvy operator writing a letter to Eric Holder and offering to broker a deal to get his son off the dime and out of the Moscow airport. Huzzah, Mr. Snowden.
Obama is clearly in PR mode, taking my advice and downplaying the whole affair. After all, why stoop to taking this guy seriously, right? Nothing he's said is actually that revelatory. Did anyone ever think for a second that Google and Facebook were in charge of the Internet and that higher authorities would not be brought to bear? Get real, people. What he's done is shed some light on the bureaucratic, legalistic and technological netherworld that exists in the intelligence gathering community and how it has latched onto the Internet like remoras on a whale. But did anyone not suspect that this is how it is done?
But Edward, like a hero in some poem by Shelley. has sacrificed himself for our sake. So that we might know how far we have strayed from home. And we might never get back. But at least we have our iPads and our Blackberrys and we don't ever have to look anyone in the face anymore and acknowledge them except on our screens. And the terrorists, well, they're not emailing each other or posting each other tidbits on Facebook and never have. They're not stupid. They know NSA from a hole in the ground. They still rely on human couriers, the real touch of flesh on flesh. In the end they might win.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Strawberry Moon

This is a magical time of year for me. I always am very aware of the hinge of the solstice as we go from waxing in the growing year over to the long, gradually accelerating descent into the dark. The full moon tonight is another layer of influence, her pulling tide calling out in mysterious ways to all creatures.  I find myself really responding to the beauty abounding in life. Today a flock of cedar waxwings took to the cherry tree in the back yard. Their olive plumage gleamed in the sun like drops of water. A new batch of chicks moved into the henhouse, and chirped in a panic like any babies would out in the real world for the first time, before settling down at dusk and dropping off to sleep. One of the lambs got his horn stuck in the portable fence and leaped like a salmon to get away, almost flipping this morning in the long, dewy grass. The awesome energy of spring is moving into a new phase and these first days of summer are like the culmination of the first act of the play.
We don't know what God is, but we can see the grace we are endowed with most clearly at the change of the seasons. Nature is healing.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Edward Snowden -- Heroes "Backwards R" Us

Is Edward Snowden a hero or a traitor? His revelations of the extent of US surveillance efforts under the Patriot Act have put him at the center of the world's attention in the latest round of political embarrassments for the Obama administration, but I don't believe they have disclosed the existence of anything new. We've known about the US government's surveillance of domestic telephone and internet traffic overseas since the Bush administration. At least I remember being aware of reading those reports and thinking my emails to my father living in London at the time were probably being picked up on the government's radar every time I mentioned Osama Bin Laden or something I'd read in the news. See, there I go again. Hello NSA computer scanning this. Are you having fun yet?

What's new for me is the way opinion on the issue of government surveillance is completely divided along partisan lines. According to the polls, Democrats who previously railed against government intrusions under Bush are now totally fine with giving up certain undefined privacy rights in exchange for the added security of the government's snooping, whereas Republicans now are seething with libertarian fury in the place of their previous trust in the government's good intentions with their innermost secrets. Yes, Virginia, there is a functioning democracy.

The point is we have gotten used to the feeling of being invaded in the sanctity of our home spaces via Facebook and Google and have seen that instead of trench-coated watchdogs knocking at our doors, you get strange ads for tree pest removers and yoga classes when you're online. Sharing our information has become part of the trade-off of living in the age of the Internet, and we somehow sense that the government is no more powerful than the nerds that run things nowadays, and are probably less likely to bother us. Seeing Edward Snowden come in from the cold only confirms this sense that the government are us. Here's this guy from Maryland who didn't even graduate high school living in Hawaii with his girlfriend and suddenly feeling guilty about his job working for the biggest eavesdropping operation in the history of the world. But really, Edward, come on. You were working for the NSA. What did he expect, they were doing market research for toothpaste manufacturers?

I think if Obama were smart he would let this go away. We already have a genuine whistleblower hero on our hands in the person of Pfc. Bradley Manning, who decided to answer to a higher morality and betray systematic massacres of innocent civilians in the immoral war we waged in Iraq and now faces a possible death sentence from a military tribunal for his genuinely sacrificial actions.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Problem with Activism on Global Warming

This is the time of year that I can't really say I sympathize with nature. They say we humans have an adverse impact on it, but today I really don't see it. The grass has never been more lush. The rain keeps coming down. The mosquitoes have never been healthier. I know that climate change is a problem, but the weather at my place is just fine. We've had some heavy rains, but then the sun comes out and dries us off. It's hard to get worked up about the crisis between man and nature when you're setting up for a barbecue. My biggest problem with the outdoors is picking off the ticks when I get inside. Everything seems just fine. The Amazon has lost 3 percent of itself to fires in the last 12 years, but I think we've balanced that out here with the growth of bittersweet, golden rod, nettles and assorted other impossible to destroy weeds that have taken over our garden. You get my point. Our view as humans is so dependent on local context that despite the best information in the world and the preponderance of scientific reasoning in setting policy, the more we're told about the dangers of climate change and global warming, the more we want to see the evidence. And the evidence for the impacts of human activity on average global temperatures does not happen at the local scale. As activists gear up for a summer of civil disobedience around the issue of the Keystone Pipeline and the need for an immediate shift away from our dependence on fossil fuels, the biggest obstacle will not be the evil oil company barons and their allies in Washington. It will be everyone's natural inclination to judge the severity of any crisis by what they can see before their eyes.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

In the Merry Month of June

June kicks off the busy summer season here at Hope Mountain Farm. Just sheared the first two sheep. I use the manual shears because it keeps them calmer and I don't cut them as badly, but it's a struggle anyway, and after two, I'm done for a spell. The benefit of a small-holding is the scale is right for this kind of careful, time-consuming work. Here's a funny thing, the lambs don't recognize their moms and when they're done getting shorn, they spend hours bleating at each other trying to figure it out. The lambs are about six weeks old now and have formed a pack, somewhat like unruly teenagers, running up and down the hill from the barn and finding any crack in the fence to get out and into trouble. Ah, the animal kingdom of which we are a part.

The first victims:

 Some lambs and a ewe inspecting shearing station:

The apple trees have a very good set this year, and for the first time I think I've figured out an organic system for keeping the dreaded plum curculio at bay. (See last year's post for the misguided and ill-fated venture into chemical farming in this regard.) It involves constant spraying from first petal fall onwards of kaolin clay and the use of pyganic, (made from chrysanthemum seeds), on cherry and plum trees as traps.

Northern Spy:

The garden is doing its usual great after plenty of moisture and now the first summer heat. We are behind though, with two more beds to be dug over and manured for tomato, eggplant, corn, etc.

Here some potatoes are emerging from leaf mold mulch put down just last week as a cover to protect from the last frost of the year, hopefully: