Friday, April 23, 2004
The current political advertising policy of the Carlisle Mosquito states: "Political ads will be accepted for publication up until the election." (See page 7.)
This is a new policy in 2004. In past years the Mosquito would not accept political ads for publication in the last week before an election out of concern that an erroneous or misleading statement, malicious or innocent, might affect election results. The final ad-free issue would allow citizens to rebut an offending advertisement in Letters to the Editor. Of course, there was the risk of erroneous or misleading statements appearing in a letter printed in the last week, but it was assumed that a letter would not have the impact of a large in-your-face ad. In addition there was a belief that those with deep pockets (and big expensive ads) should not buy influence, and that Carlisle residents have few other forms of communication besides their one and only newspaper.
Last week, at the Mosquito's annual editorial review, a group of citizens questioned the newspaper's judgment in publishing an ad appearing immediately before the Special Town Meeting which tried to scare voters that a new ballfield on the Benfield Parcel A would be built with tall chain-link fencing and glaring night lighting. This was not the town's intention, they argued; the Recreation Commission had ruled out night lighting.
It should be pointed out that the one-week moratorium only related to elections, not Town Meetings, as there is an opportunity response at Town Meeting.
Earlier this year the board of directors of Carlisle Communications, Inc., the non-profit parent of the Carlisle Mosquito, debated the ad policy and the free speech flamethrowers won narrowly over the responsible community protectors. This was a bunch that likes a good fight. (No names will be revealed, but one has the initials M.L.)
The flamethrowers argued that:
• Political advertising is an important form of communication and the newspaper should not curtail free speech.
• Political parties and political action committees that raise money and mount effective campaigns should not be stifled by a policy that levels the playing field by only permitting letters to the editor.
• Uncensored political advertising, as long as it is not libelous or obscene, is an American tradition.
• Mosquito editors are not smart enough to spot all errors or misleading statements and every reader in town knows this. Consequently, readers are cautious in what they accept as truth.
In the fall, after the 2004 election cycle is over, the CCI board will review its political ad policy again (and check whether the editors have smartened up). In the meantime, we promise to label all political ads explicitly. However, we do not promise to protect you against falsehoods, innuendos, and lies. Reader beware!
Down on the farm
I am one generation removed from a long line of Iowa farmers. My father was the first in his family to attend college, and to pursue a life "in town." You can take the boy from Iowa, the saying goes, but you cannot take Iowa from the boy. In Dad's case, that was certainly true.
We raised no livestock at my suburban home, but we maintained a vegetable garden of impressive scope. Rhubarb, tomatoes, green beans, radishes, cucumbers, zucchini, scallions, leaf lettuce and corn were among the basics. The garden began as a modest plot in the clay fill adjacent to our house, but grew each year in size and quality. Gradually, my father worked compost into the ground to convert the clay fill to arable soil. There were also traditions: cucumbers were planted on Minnie Hansen's birthday. I don't think I ever learned who Minnie Hansen was, and I am sure the climatological relationship between Minnie's birthday and favorable conditions for growing cucumbers in Iowa doesn't compute in Massachusetts.
One summer we had an abundance of beets. I had agreed to sell seed packets, door-to-door, for a company that advertised in "Boy's Life." The company sent me an assortment of packets, including a disproportion of beets. I sold them as best I could, but the beets didn't go. Dad generously bought and grew them. Eight weeks later, we had more scarlet saccharine spheres than one could imagine. Boiled beets, pickled beets, candied beets, beet salad and other presentations that escape my present awareness defined my family's summer. But I shall never again enjoy a beet.
Dad's garden was an unruly affair. The compost pile was just that — a pile. No fences, bins or other accoutrements to make the mess more presentable. Within the defined boundaries of the garden, the aesthetic disorder stemmed from visible weeds, and vegetables past time to pick. But it worked.
I took for granted, growing up, the immediate availability of fresh vegetables. I don't recall resenting the effort of establishing or harvesting the produce (though I shall forever hate the task of snapping green beans). However, though Carlisle is more agrarian than my hometown, my present garden does not approximate the garden of my youth.
Over the years, we have landscaped the area surrounding our home. That effort remains a work in progress. The vegetable garden, however, is more a concept than a tangible reality. It is interwoven into the decorative flowers and perennials surrounding our backyard. There are no defined boundaries to the space. We grow far more chives than I can imagine using; they occur more by reason of their appearance than of culinary imperative.
Our staples, when we get it right, are tomatoes and basil — a caprese salad, less the mozzarella. (If I could grow a mozzarella bush I would.) Various herbs find space among the flowering perennials. We also find space for leaf lettuce to "let us" cut renewable salads. But the emphasis is much more on appearance and tidiness than on produce.
I have moved far from my father's connection to the land. As a practical matter, I am able to attend to planting only on occasional weekends. New England springs provide only a few weeks between frost and summer's heat. In some years, my free weekends have not coincided with favorable weather, and we have had no tomatoes.
Despite my heritage, I am no farmer. But as we welcome our long overdue spring, I join with my forbears in embracing that fundamental rite of spring: the opportunity to plant, in hopes that the coming season will bear fruit.
© 2004 The