Showers | Full Moon | 128 Closed | Parade | Undamming Eel | Rainbow | Future Mechanics | Water Carnival | Canned Goods | Contestants | Further Reach | Chanterelles | Community Chorus | Coiffed | Unrefuted | KZYX Ukiah | Boardwalking | NPR Obit | Ed Notes | Judges | Landscaper | Princesses | Elderberry Juice | PA Holiday | Improv Showcase | Krch Story | GGC Time | Monte Rio | Code Enforcers | Johnny Sasso | Emerald Cup | Toggery | Lansbury Exhibit | RR Map | City Folk | CA Slaves | Breakup Camp | Yesterday's Catch | Clown & Cannibal | Crows | Chron Christmas | Toxic Neighbor | Greenberg/Feller | Gripped | Powell Memo | Lenin Reading | Assange | Family Motto | Babe & Johnny | Gun Molls | Griner Whining | Miss Dubai | Ukraine | Par | Warshing | Xmas Wish | Great Unsettling | Jailbird
A STRONG WINTER STORM will spread across the region this afternoon through Sunday. Gusty south winds this afternoon and evening will be accompanied by locally heavy rain. In addition, accumulating snowfall will occur across the mountains of Trinity County, while thunderstorms spread east across the coast tonight. Showers will continue into Sunday and early Monday, followed by chilly and dry weather next Tuesday and Wednesday. (NWS)
HWY. 128 REMAINS CLOSED BETWEEN HWY. 1 AND FLYNN CREEK ROAD due to shallow flooding near the Navarro River bridge.
The river level continues to inch higher, currently at 4.60 ft. as observed at 8:15 PM., compared to the forecast level of 3.2 ft., so it is rising faster than expected.
My rain gauge captured 0.46" of rain today, but today's rain won't show up in the river flow until tomorrow.
There is still a big surge forecast to hit 11.1 ft. by 5 AM Sunday. The surge is predicted to begin about 3 PM Saturday and rises fast after 5 PM. At the predicted peak, the river flow would reach 2668 cu.ft per second compared to about 400 cfs right now. So we're looking at a six-fold increase in flow volume.
That Saturday night surge will certainly blow a big channel through the sandbar Saturday evening, if it hasn't already breached before then.
The flooding will end quickly once the sandbar breaches and allows the accumulated water to drain out to the sea. That could happen any time from now to Saturday.
Meanwhile, detours around the closed portion of 128 include going through Comptche by way of Flynn Creek Rd. and Comptche Ukiah Rd. to Mendocino, or using the Philo Greenwood Rd. from Elk to Hwy. 128 near Philo. Using Hwy. 20 from Fort Bragg to Willits is the probably the best route to Ukiah and south for folks from Caspar northward.
Here's a link to the NWS Navarro gage forecast chart. It always shows the latest available forecast. It is updated several times a day. https://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=eka&gage=nvrc1
People planning to use 128 should check the road conditions first by dialing 1-800-GAS-ROADS or go to the following link and type in 128. Note that changes to that information may be delayed several hours. https://roads.dot.ca.gov/
I'm not an expert. Just sharing my observations of the Navarro sandbar over the past several years. Hope you find it helpful.
PERSISTENCE PAYS OFF ON EEL RIVER DAM REMOVAL
On the heels of the exciting news of FERC's final vote approving the removal of the four lower Klamath River dams, comes another step in the right direction on the Eel River dams. Last month FERC announced they will consider amending PG&E's license for the Eel River dams. This appears to be a response to our lawsuit calling out their violations of the Endangered Species Act. It is likely that this action will lead to FERC issuing protective conditions to the license, something recommended by the National Marine Fisheries Service and requested in our lawsuit. These protective conditions would make project operations less harmful to the Eel's native fish while PG&E prepares to surrender their license over the next several years.
This is an obvious step in the right direction and a direct result of our persistence. Persistence is the name of the game when advocating for dam removal. It is true that PG&E is currently preparing to surrender their license for the Potter Valley Project — but license surrender does not necessarily mean decommissioning or full dam removal. And there's also no guarantee that any of this will happen quickly.
This is why it's important that we maintain constant pressure to ensure a better future for our resilient salmon and the ecosystem they support. And to make sure that we don't lose the opportunity at hand while PG&E drags their feet.…
MENDO RAINBOW (photos by Simon Hodson)
I AM INCREDIBLY PROUD to announce and congratulate our first graduates of the Auto Mechanic Class that students enrolled in OUR PILOT PROGRAM this Fall. We had thirteen complete the three unit course. This is stellar!
These students hung in there and did the work even when it was hard. We even had two ninth graders complete the course!
Congratulations and hearty admiration to the following students and their families that supported and encouraged their diligence and attendance:
Anthony Fashauer Grade 11
August Spacek Grade 11
Brissa Mendoza Grade 12
Ciomary Garcia Grade 9
Spike Matson Grade 9
Diego Perez Grade 12
Eduardo Alvarez Grade 9
Edward Becerra Grade 12
Jack Spacek Grade 11
Jose Franco Grade 12
Julian Lopez Grade 10
Miguel Jesus Grade 11
Samuel Guerrero Grade 11
A HUGE THANK YOU TO DAVID BALLANTINE FOR BEING THE POINT PERSON AND ATTENDING EVERY CLASS AND DENNIS JOHNSON FOR GETTING THESE STUDENTS TRANSPORTED OVER THE HILL. A HUGE THANK YOU TO CHRIS HOWARD AND STEFANI EWING FOR REGISTERING THESE KIDS AND TROUBLESHOOTING LOGINS ETC.
Do you know what these kids did? We don’t have the program, so they extended themselves by committing to go every Wednesday to get a rigorous college experience and excel in facilities that are state of the art. My heart is bursting and I am doing a happy dance. THIS is AV. We have done college dual enrollment for years on-site, but never taken kids to college with a vocational emphasis. THIS IS BIG. We will celebrate these students with a special dinner and recognition in town next week. They have received their invitations. I am SO PROUD. PLUS, THEY GET EXTRA HIGH SCHOOL CREDIT. THIS IS A HUGE WIN.
We will have spots open on our Spring roster for Mechanics 1 and Costume Construction. See Mr. Howard ASAP. We pay for all costs and transportation. GIVE YOUR KID THIS OPPORTUNITY! IF THEY TOOK SIX UNITS OF COLLEGE COURSES EVERY YEAR, THEY WOULD GRADUATE HIGH SCHOOL WITH 24 UNITS!
I AM SO VERY, VERY PROUD AND GRATEFUL FOR EVERYONE THAT TOOK ADVANTAGE OF THIS OPPORTUNITY AND CREATED IT FOR KIDS. Always looking forward to all that we can BE!
KIRA BRENNAN FROM THE AV FOOD BANK:
Yesterday we delivered the 1,000 pounds of canned goods to the Food Bank at the Philo Grange. The folks who volunteer to provide food for our community in need were Amazed!!!! They said 'How did you do this?' We said 'the whole student body contributed, 1 can at a time!' That is truly community service. We should be proud of our giving.
Thank you to our Service Volunteers yesterday: They did an AWESOME job! Orion Chagoya, Miguel Hernandez. Tristan Reilly, Wayne Gunther, Nathan Burger, Juan Alcantar, Jose Lagunas, and Jamal Swain
We are hoping to do this every other week in the future. Wednesdays 10:30-12:30. Let me know if you are interested or have students who might be interested in this service work.
Thanks to All and Ms. Simpson for this vision.
Hello Anderson Valley, We are excited to announce a new relay with sweeping views of the valley.
Our Internet service area is from southern Navarro to Boonville. We have more relays under development, which will further expand our service area.
We currently offer plans in the valley starting at $70 with capacity up to 200Mbps (up and down).
If you want to learn more about our service or check if we can serve you, please call +1 707-278-8899 or visit us at www.furtherreach.net.
REDWOOD COMMUNITY CHORUS CONCERT TOMORROW NIGHT at 7 - brave the rains and attend, you won't regret it
I know there is a great deal happening around this time of year, but really the Redwood Community Chorus Concert Friday night at 7 is going to be amazing, It will be at the Mendocino Presbyterian Church in Mendocino and only one concert is being given this year - the Saturday option is NOT happening.
Howard Goodall's cantata called UNCONDITIONAL LOVE (composed as a tribute to the losses, sacrifices, and triumphs we all made surviving COVID) is really a wonderful piece of music. http://www.howardgoodall.com/
There will also be several special holiday songs.
Our wonderful Chorus director Jenni Windsor has invited one of her former students, soprano Anna Leach, to be the principal in Unconditional Love an incredibly talented new diva to our Coast music scene. The second principal will be the Chorus's own Laura Vague. They both have beautifully rich voices I think you will enjoy them as much as we in the Chorus do. .
No tickets needed. Voluntary donations at the door to support the Redwood Chorus Music Fund are always appreciated. Masks are required available also at the door
ON WEDNESDAY, Supervisor Maureen Mulheren posted a budget explanation video on her “mo4mendo” facebook page. She did it, she said, because she received an email (from whom? we’re not told) asking her to “refute” an unspecified “article” about the Supervisors and the budget, adding, “Sometimes the media doesn’t portray things that are happening during our meeting as they are actually happening.”
We assume by “the media” she means the unmentionable AVA and yours truly, no one else has written on the subject in the last two days.
Mulheren’s explanation was interesting and a decent summary of the meeting, such as it was. But hardly constituted a refutation of anything. A “refutation” would involve citing what needs refutation and then providing the promised refutation.
Basically, Mulheren’s video was a summary of what was discussed in Tuesday afternoon’s rambling, over-long Board budget workshop. The only thing we heard that was different from what we reported was that the Board and the bargaining units have apparently already agreed to a 2% COLA, not that it was planned. Mulheren also said that last fiscal year’s books are now not expected to be closed until January, formerly they’d hoped it would be done by now. Obviously not.
Mulheren concluded insisting that, “We are on top of the budget. We are trying to do some things,” adding that, “I know the 2% COLA is not a lot of money.” She took another dig at “the media” by saying that people should not always assume that what they are reading is true. She concluded by saying she’s always open to questions, budget-wise or not.
However, after listening to Mulheren’s entire 14-minute spiel, we (aka “the media”) remain unrefuted.
As far as our assessment that Board doesn’t seem to care much about the budget or seems incapable of doing anything significant to fix it, we will be happy to revise that opinion when they actually demonstrate something to the contrary.
PS. The 2% COLA will also raise the Supervisors own pay by $1600 a year each.
PPS. WHENEVER MO’S name comes up, The Editor yelps, “Hey! Take it easy on the kid. I think she’s as cute as a bug’s ear,” as if that silly opinion has any relevance whatsoever to her job performance.
PPPS. Since Supervisor Mulheren says she welcomes questions, we do have a couple: Why is Mendo suing a bunch of former Ortner Management Group employees for “breach of contract” and “intentional interference with potential economic advantage” (whatever that is)?
(County of Mendocino v. Ortner Management Group, LLC et al. Mendocino Superior Court Case #22CV00511, filed in June of this year)
What does Mendo hope to gain from this lawsuit, since OMG, LLC folded in 2018 and most of their former employees don’t seem involved in the missing billing info that the County is complaining about?
Background: "Questioning Ortner"
* * *
KZYX REACHES TWO MAJOR MILESTONES TOWARD ITS MOVE TO UKIAH
With the recent approval of a building permit by the City of Ukiah, KZYX will soon begin building its future headquarters at 390 Clay Street in Ukiah.
The move became necessary when, after 33 years of operating from the beloved but modest Philo studio, the KZYX signal became threatened by tree growth between the studio and the Cold Springs Mountain transmitter. Mendocino County Public Broadcasting, the station’s parent non-profit organization, purchased the Ukiah property in late 2021to ensure a reliable KZYX signal going forward. In addition, the new location will provide an expanded headquarters and easier access to a wide range of KZYX stakeholders, including non-profit service agencies, news sources and potential volunteers, interns and underwriters.
General Manager Marty Durlin said, “This relocation represents a major effort to establish our public radio station in a new facility whose quality will match our excellent programming and wide-ranging service to Mendocino County.”
Durlin also pointed out that KZYX will maintain an Anderson Valley presence, in part to honor the station’s origins and 33-year legacy in the Valley, but also to retain easy access for Anderson Valley show hosts and an ongoing presence in the Anderson Valley community. The new Anderson Valley studio will be located on a site provided by the Anderson Valley Fire Department next to the AVFD facility in Philo.
“Even after the move,” Durlin said, “KZYX will always honor our Anderson Valley roots. For example, our main on-air facility will still be named the Ron O’Brien Studio after the man who did so much to help get KZYX on the air and maintain its quality during the station’s early years.”
The first stage of the Ukiah project, interior demolition and grading, is expected to be completed by the end of 2022. This will make way for construction of production, news, and on-air studios as well as offices, an ADA-compliant bathroom, and a breakroom for production staff. Construction of the new transmission tower will require extensive underground electrical work as well as grading for drainage and landscaping. The board and staff aim for KZYX to be up and running in its new Ukiah headquarters by October 2023.
Fundraising efforts for this ambitious project got a sizable boost, and the station a rousing vote of confidence, in late October when 100+ Women Strong Inland Mendocino participants chose the KZYX Building Project to receive their combined $12,100 in donations. In her appeal, General Manager Marty Durlin reminded the attendees of the public affairs, cultural, and emergency services they would be supporting: “KZYX reaches into every corner of our county from its four studios—Fort Bragg, Willits, Talmage and Philo—using three transmitters covering nearly 4,000 square miles. It also streams live on the internet at KZYX.org and offers podcasts and an on-demand archive. All these services are free, supported by more than 2,000 members and 100 local underwriters.” Donations to the Building Fund now total $404,000, toward a $2 million budget that includes retiring the $345,000 mortgage.
Community members can follow the progress of the KZYX Building Project and learn how to donate to it at https://www.kzyx.org/a-new-building-for-kzyx
NPR ON MARY KORTE
NPR noticed Dan Roberts’ KZYX news obit on poet Mary Norbert Korte, and contacted him for this exemplary 2-minute cut, which aired on Monday during the second hour of All Things Considered. We air only the first hour, so here is the segment.
Well done, Dan. I think they did well with the time allotted.
EYES ONLY, ANDERSON VALLEY: A Valley must-see is Jan Wasson-Smith's night time Christmas tree on Anderson Valley Way.
The Valley's American Legion post saw a good turnout for their annual dinner at the Veterans Building last week, and the older old timers will remember when the Legion sponsored youth baseball teams, on one of which, Mill Valley Legion Post whatever it was, the editor of this fine publication once played, losing big to the Bill Irwin Post of Oakland, national champs, most of whose members went on to star in the major leagues. Another Christmas sight for merry yuletide eyes is the Navarro Store's annual display, the work of the year-round ebullient Dave Evans, proprietor.
And a big gift to the entire community is the return to life of Starr Automotive, Philo, under new auspices, but shuttered for most of last year, now back with a new coat of paint and seemingly open for automotive business.
A READER WRITES: “A current peeve of mine is people's disinterest in constructing coherent paragraphs anymore. We see this in both personal postings and in the local news. Lots of sentences, or even sentence fragments in the worst cases, all separated as if they were paragraphs (sentence, return, sentence, return…). I suspect it is partly due to sheer laziness on the writer's part, somewhat akin to writing in all caps so we don't have to think much about what we're doing. Just bang away and hope for the best.”
MY FAVE PROSE is sprinkled with random commas, as if the writer stood back from his computer and hurled a bunch of commas at his screen, landing where they might.
KZYX'S MOVE from Philo to Ukiah shouldn't be necessary. The cringing, club-like, semi-public, tax-funded radio station should have been located in Ukiah from the get, as many inlanders argued at the time given that Ukiah is our county seat, location of the Superior Court and county bureaucracies. So, why wasn't it? Because a Republican hustler by the name of Sean Donovan set the thing in motion under his one-man auspices, as in, “I'm gonna do you libs a huge favor — your own radio station! Think of it! Never a dissenting opinion, maybe even uniforms! (I'm thinking unisex purple in draw-string pants and hemp shirts.) Most importantly, no negativity! Nice radio for nice people!”
UNLIKE genuinely public radio stations like KMUD outta Garberville that began out of a series of community meetings, KZYX was a one-man show, with the sketchy one man charging the station around thirty grand for his dubious efforts. Of course, and knowing Mendolib, he set the thing up so it was impervious to change, handpicking a squad of local stoners as his “board of directors,” and to this day the institution is so extremely inbred it threatens to break the incest laws.
THOUSANDS of classified documents about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy are set to be released next week, despite several government agencies desperately trying to keep them under wraps. And guess which agencies they are?
THAT PIVOTAL EVENT looks more pivotal with the passing years, in that it seemed to inaugurate the National Security State as the true drivers of our national bus.
I'VE ALWAYS tended to swallow whole the most recent book I've read on the assassination because it's impossible, at least for the non-professional Kennedy obsessive like me, to keep track of it all, but for years I've been skeptical, like most Americans, of the official version of events, beginning with the fact that the alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was at Camp Pendleton with the Marines at the same time I was there trudging Pendleton's endless hills with a mortar baseplate on my back.
SO WHAT?, YOU SAY. I mention it because the idea that anyone among my fifties Semper Fi cohort could go to Russia and then return with a Russian bride (daughter of a KGB colonel yet) was simply unimaginable. Not plausibly doable by one odd guy. Even communists didn't want to go live in Russia, let alone an unskilled, haphazardly eductated, straight-outta-poverty kid like Oswald. Sure, given his threadbare upbringing, Oswald could have been some kind of lumpen, proto-Stalinist, but to manage these travels not only to Russia and back, and later back and forth to Mexico where he met with Russian and Cuban officials, no way unless he was being sponsored by our infamous gringo intelligence agencies, specifically the CIA, with a big assist from cross-dressing Hoover's FBI.
CLEARLY, Oswald was one of the persons, maybe the only person, shooting at Kennedy that day and now, all these years later, it's more apparent he was like he said he was, “a patsy.” Incidentally, gun experts say Oswald's rifle, written off by a lot of people as a relic and not accurate, was a viable weapon, especially given Oswald's Carcano was scoped and he was shooting from above, a short distance away from Kennedy.
THE 15,000 CRUCIAL DOCS have been hidden away for half a century because they'll show that Oswald was on the federal payroll, and that Kennedy was shot by U.S. taxpayers.
AMONG the NYT's top concerns today, “A reader asks how much vitamin D to get in the winter.” And the NYT's Vitamin D desk has the answer!
OFFERING FRUIT TREE PRUNING, CHAINSAWING, LANDSCAPING AND GARDEN TASKS
I am offering Fruit Tree Pruning and Chainsawing to the coastal area.
I am also offering other Garden and landscaping maintenance such as hedge trimming, drip irrigation install and repair, weeding, planting, bed preparation and more.
My rates are $25/hr - $40/hr depending on scope of job. (Negotiable).
Please reply to my personal email with any requests or inquiries.
Jason Greenberg <email@example.com>
100 % organic elderberry juice.
16 oz bottle $22 ~ Next bottle $18 if you return the first bottle.
1 pint ~ $18 if you will bring a wide-mouthed jar to swap out.
I had to remove the original post. I posted it to other places and, the loonies came for me. Er'body so thirsty for my phone number. Apologies if you saved the other post. I hope everyone sees this one.
Great juice! It should be mixed 1:1 with the sweetener of your choice. Honey is the classic sweetener when making syrup. I mix it with honey and use it to make a nightly cocktail. 'Tis tasty.
(We don’t understand why people post these things without contact info, but we think this is from the Farm Shed / Boonville Barn Collective people who are somehow associated with the Boonville Hotel. But we are not sure.)
PFI PLAYERS PRESENT 2022 SHOWCASE
by Lisa Norman
Mendocino Theater Company in collaboration with Parents and Friends, Inc. proudly present a weekend production by the PFI Players entitled, 2022 Improv Showcase, December 16 at 7:30 p.m. and December 17 at 2:00 p.m., at the theatre, 45200 Little Lake Street in Mendocino. There is no cost to attend this event. The collection of improvisational short vignettes seeks to “bridge an authentic connection with the community” masterfully guided by Terilynn L. Epperson, The Places To Go/Alternative Program Manager for Parents and Friends, Inc.
This production is just one of the outcomes developed by the Equity Diversity and Inclusion Committee of Mendocino Theatre Company whose purpose includes several vital measures including “educating ourselves to develop a common language, respecting the theatre and beyond, looking at the structure of the community as a whole, ensuring EDI is in MTC programming, bridging an authentic connection with the community, listening not inviting people into a broken culture, approaching people not understanding of these principles and welcoming them and not creating defensiveness or polarization, and allowing socioeconomic data to guide our work.”
The preview rehearsal witnessed a variety of personalities performing improv prompted by a word/phrase on a white board, encouraged in transition by a celebratory unified applause from the players and cheer of “turn the page, turn the page…”—the ensuing dialogue, action, and story providing a unique unfolding of drama in real time, while also insightful of the team of players working hard to create the stories.
Parents and Friends, Inc. is a non-profit organization that has been serving people with developmental disabilities for over sixty years. It serves both children and adults with special needs and strives to create opportunities for education, self-sufficiency, leisure, and employment for those with developmental challenges.
2022 Showcase is a community-wide public event. Everyone is invited. Admission is free.
MR. KIRSCH/KRCH, an on-line comment: A lot of those young men out of Willits in his same age range pretty sad situations. So many of them have been in the paper for DV, outrageous crimes. It truly is a lost generation. F******, thugging and drugging, there’s no future in it and their babies are the ones that suffer. 100%. It’s no secret that the CPS cases in Mendocino County are higher than the average for the population. Hopefully when this situation came down no children had to witness it. You can do much better than this Chris.
ACCORDING to an on-line comment, "Story is complete bullshit. There was no bat and the victim initiated the combat… all comes down to the dude's ego hurt too bad to tell the truth. He stole the dude's phone and got checked for it. That's the true story."
NEW START TIME! General Government Committee (GGC) Meeting on 12-12-2022
The County of Mendocino General Government Committee meeting schedule for Monday, December 12, 2022, has been changed. The meeting will now start at 9:00 am and end when all agenda items have been completed. The meeting will take place in the Board of Supervisors Chambers, Room 1070 at the County Administration Building. Members of the public may participate in person, or via Zoom. No registration will be required for this meeting. Instructions regarding how to participate can be found in the meeting agenda, which will be posted to the Board of Supervisors, Agenda and Meeting Minutes webpage.
Reminder – The County of Mendocino Cannabis Department has moved and has new counter hours!
Come see us at our new location: 125 East Commercial St, Willits CA, 95490
Our new counter hours are Tuesday – Thursday from 9:00 A.M. – 4:00 P.M. We are closed from 12 noon – 1 P.M. for lunch
Mendocino County Cannabis Department
WANNA BE A MENDO CODE COP?
Code Enforcement Division To Host CACEO Training Module Academies In 2023
The Department of Planning & Building Services is pleased to announce that the Code Enforcement Division has partnered with the California Association of Code Enforcement Officers (CACEO) to host three week-long training module academies in Ukiah next year (2023). Upon completion of the three training modules participants will become Certified Code Enforcement Officers.
CACEO is an organization which instructs and advocates for code enforcement officers in California. Its mission is to promote and advance the profession of code enforcement while serving and supporting members by offering comprehensive education and certification, providing legislative advocacy on issues of importance to the code enforcement profession, and facilitating a network for an exchange of information and technology.
Code Enforcement Officers from the Northern California region will be attending the modules, as well as those from Mendocino County.
The three modules will cover all aspects of working in Code Enforcement, studying principles such as (but not limited to); field activities, basic inspections, case documentation and evidence procedures, ethics and professionalism, critical thinking, officer safety, vehicle abatement, land use, and customer service.
The modules will be held at the Ukiah Conference Center on South School Street in Ukiah on the following dates:
Module 1 Academy: Feb 6th – 10th
Module 2 Academy: April 17th – 21st
Module 3 Academy: June 19th – 23rd
Additional information on CACEO, including details on how to register for the training modules, can be found at the following link: https://www.caceo.us/
EMERALD CUP HARVEST BALL RETURNS TO SONOMA COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS Featuring E-40, Over 100 Vendors
by Mya Constantino
The Emerald Cup Harvest Ball, Northern California’s largest annual cannabis festival, returns Saturday and Sunday. The festival, slated to bring more than 30,000 people to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, offers various thrills for cannabis enthusiasts, from more than 100 cannabis vendors, art and musical performances to panel discussions and beer gardens.
“It means the world to us. This is our culture,” said Tim Blake, Emerald Cup’s founder. “I’m excited for the community to come together, really stand together, celebrate and mourn.”
The Emerald Cup Harvest Ball is known as the fall harvest “after-party” and kickoff for the 19th annual Emerald Cup competition. An awards show, the Emerald Cup Awards, honoring the event’s best marijuana strains and other cannabis products, follows in May in Los Angeles.
Last year, the festival attracted 30,000 over the two-day weekend event. In 2019, the Emerald Cup, the cherished award show held annually at the fairgrounds since 2013, drew 25,000 people.
“It’s amazing to see how quickly cannabis is being embraced,” said Blake, who’s been in the cannabis business for over 50 years. “It’s been a wild ride watching the industry evolve all these years.”
The cannabis culture seeps into all aspects of this festival, including the music. Musical artists E-40, Channel Tres, Flamingosis and Fleetmac Wood are set to perform on the Emerald Stage or Redwood Stage for a crowd of cannabis lovers.
“People listened to E-40 during what some considered the golden era of cannabis,” said Kenneth Loo, head of communications for the event. “The artists truly speak to the community.”
The festival’s Emerald Cup Sessions, held in the Garden Annex, will comprise discussions on psychedelic trip planning, lessons learned from Proposition 64, regenerative cannabis farming and small farms.
A lineup of nearly 50 leaders, founders, teachers and others in the cannabis industry will also speak at the Garden Annex during the festival. And some 20 small farms from across the North Bay will showcase their products at booths.
“We’re giving a platform to the small farms,” Blake said. “We’re doing everything we can to help our small farms survive.”
On Saturday, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Cannabis Restoration Grant Program will moderate a panel with grant recipients, including the Mendocino County Resource Conservation District, Sun + Earth and cannabis cultivator Casey O’Neill of HappyDay Farms.
The panel from noon to 12:45 p.m. will cover grants that can help cannabis cultivators with increasing biodiversity, reducing erosion and conserving water, and help cultivators transition from provisional to annual licenses, according to a news release.
The awards aspect was moved to Los Angeles in March 2021, a change prompted by the desire to put the awards show center stage on a statewide level. The celebratory aspect of the event remains as the Emerald Cup Harvest Ball in Santa Rosa.
“It’s all about enjoying this year’s bounty,” said Joe Sullivan, director of procurement at Mercy Wellness dispensary in Sonoma County. “It’s a time for celebration, but it’s also a call for action. We need to support our small farms. They’ve been hit hard.”
For the Emerald Cup competition, about 150 judges examine a strain’s effects, aroma and taste, said Sullivan, who’s judged strains for the last four years. Last year, the Emerald Cup competition had more than 700 entries in 50 categories.
The Emerald Cup began in 2003 as an after-harvest party for clandestine Emerald Triangle growers in Mendocino County. In 2013, it moved to Santa Rosa.
“The event is really beautiful,” Blake said. “We’re there to support one another. We need each other.”
(Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
SPOTLIGHT ON ANGELA LANSBURY: Muse of Cabot Cove by Marguerite O’Brien
The Kelley House’s new exhibit, Angela Lansbury: Muse of Cabot Cove, is a tribute to the beloved actress and her impact on Mendocino. The exhibit examines her illustrious life and career, in particular her role as Jessica Fletcher in “Murder, She Wrote.” The iconic TV series had an impact on Mendocino that ranged from hiring locals for the filming to boosting tourism. Most of all, the exhibit honors Lansbury for the generosity and kindness she showed to the people of Mendocino.
In Lansbury’s prolific career, she starred in 60 films, 49 movies and television shows, 21 stage productions, 2 radio shows, and 2 video games (voicing the sentimental teapot, Mrs. Potts, in a couple of Super Nintendo’s “Beauty and the Beast” games). Born in London in 1925, she and her family came to the United States in 1940 to escape the blitz. When she was 17, she landed her first film role as the nasty young maid in “Gaslight,” with Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer.
As unpleasant as her character was in that nail biter, the real Lansbury was known for her compassion and humility. Fans and co-workers alike spoke of her with admiration; and in all the taped interviews she did, Lansbury was a down-to-earth person. When she died last October, many of her colleagues in film and theater paid tribute, including Lin Manuel Miranda, who wrote: “Angela Lansbury…a consummate professional, a talented actress, and a lovely person.”
The majority of items on display at the Kelley House are behind-the-scenes photographs from the filming of “Murder, She Wrote.” They were taken by Wally Smith, a local who often appeared as an extra in the show (he also got to speak a line in “The Haunting of Seacliff Inn”). Mendocino locals were often cast as extras in the show, and several appear in the photographs. Another shows local film coordinator, Toni Lemos, chatting with Lansbury. She and Lansbury became good friends. Lemos worked not only on “Murder, She Wrote,” but on dozens of other movies, shows, and commercials for decades. Toni began her work in the film industry when she was hired as the stand-in for Joan Fontaine in “Frenchman’s Creek” in 1943 and continued to work in the field into the 1990s before passing away in 2008.
Interestingly enough, Lansbury’s mother, the Irish actress Moyna Macgill, made a film on the Mendocino coast long before Lansbury set foot here. Macgill appeared as Lady Godolphin in “Frenchman's Creek” in 1944, a swashbuckling adventure filmed on the Albion River and in its harbor, in which an aristocratic English woman falls hopelessly in love with a French pirate.
“Murder She Wrote” aired for 12 years from 1984-1996, and was the first successful crime drama with a woman as the lead. Not only was the lead a woman, but an older woman! Lansbury was 58 years old when she began the series. As the years went by, she gained more creative influence and eventually became an executive producer. She co-owned (with her husband, Peter Shaw) Corymore Productions, which co-produced the show with Universal Studios.
Part of the exhibit is a wall on which visitors can share their stories about, and memories of, Angela Lansbury and the filming of “Murder, She Wrote.”
Angela Lansbury: Muse of Cabot Cove is on display from December 1, 2022 until March 5, 2023. The Kelley House Museum is op-en from 11am to 3pm Thursday through Sunday. Walking tours of the historic district depart from the Kelley House regularly; for the tour schedule visit https://www.kelleyhousemuseum.org/visit-walking-tours/
RD BEACON, consensus mayor of Elk:
In the top 20 not funny department, some information is rolled onto the top of my desk; maybe I should just let it keep rolling, but I have a hard time understanding when newcomers move to the coast as people from the cities and certainly don't like the surroundings when they look out of their new windows in the Mendocino area more particularly described as a house on Pallet Drive. For those of you that do not know the neighborhood just north of the Hill House on that little road that goes back down to the old Highway 1.
For years people been building on that little subdivision bigger and more expensive homes, but then they complain about businesses there that light up their world. They don't like it because it's all about them after they've spent buckets of money but not doing the research that needs to be done with their view corridor, which is the area you look out from your living room windows and hope you have drapes so at night you don't see the lights. I have heard of one case where the property owner complained about the lights they saw from the Sea Rock INN, which has been there in the neighborhood since the 1950s, grandfathered in when that used to be Highway 1 before the freeway was added. The new people have decided they don't like their view and they sent a complaint to the owners of the little facility that we've known as the Sea Rock Inn.
Is it that most of the people from the cities have bad manners and think that they can tell longtime property owners what to do when they don't like to view. I would say and suggest that if a newcomer comes to the neighborhood they should appreciate what they have, and not try to bully people who have been around most of the time longer than the new people have been alive.
I have seen it even in the town of Elk where people complained about the lights at the Bone building. The people who make these complaints are not from here and not usually born and raised generations here.
On the hill south of the town Elk people complained about my music outside. I turned up the volume so they can hear it a little more clearly. When they complain about my lights outside I put up more of them. It's my suggestion that new people should learn how to be quiet, and when they want to protest, do it before you build your house. If you don't appreciate the view, don't live here; move back to that cesspool that you moved out of.
I've always believed that we need to give the newcomers a test in writing before we let them move in, and they should sign a declaration before living in the county that they will not make waves, or involve themselves in anything that we don't like. We were here first. Many of the families in the town of Mendocino, well, their relatives built the town. If you don't like the village don't come here. If you don't like any of the towns in Mendocino County go somewhere else. We've had, over the years, people move in and the first thing they try to do is take over the dynamics of the neighborhood. Most of these people were little tiny minnows in their own neighborhood and nobody would jump to their will, or even listen to them at a meeting. So they move out of their town to try and get a foothold somewhere else where they think we're too stupid to notice. That's simply not true; most of us are far smarter than city people by far, and that's why we live here for many generations.
We as a people supply the city folks many of the products that they need to survive on. There is an old saying that was written in a very large book over 3000 years ago. It says thou shall not be thy brother's keeper. We should listen to the word and the writings of the disciples of the Lord Our God whose words should be if you don't like the neighborhood don't build here; if you don't like the people don't move here; if you don't like the weather move away.
PEOPLE ARE PAYING $4,000 FOR PHILO BREAKUP BOOT CAMP
by Kailyn Brown
When filmmaker Tito Molina told his business partner and ex-girlfriend that he was attending a breakup retreat to help him heal from their recent split, she offered to help him pay for it.
Molina’s ex ended their relationship in early September, a couple of weeks before their nine-year anniversary. Molina said the breakup was sudden and devastating. But leading up to it, he had felt as if they were the happiest they’d ever been given how well their production company was doing. After their breakup, he realized that his attention to work and not his ex’s needs had caused a strain in their relationship.
Molina, 35, had experienced previous breakups. However, he said this one hit him differently.
“I thought [she] was my life partner, so my identity was attached to her,” he said while sitting inside a lodge in mid-November during a 96-hour breakup retreat in Philo, Calif., about 130 miles northwest of San Francisco. “When I lost that, I lost myself and I was like, ‘I need help finding who I am.’ We live together. We have a dog together. We have a business together. We share friends. We share everything. Our lives were completely entangled, so it just felt like too grand of an undertaking for myself. I just knew I didn’t have the tools to get myself out of this.”
The day after their separation, Molina, who lives in Los Angeles, enrolled in therapy and began searching for wellness retreats. He came across Renew Breakup Bootcamp, a twice-yearly retreat for people who’ve gone through heartbreaks or struggled to find romantic partners.
“Some people would think this was a waste of money, but it’s because we value material things,” Molina said. “We don’t value ourselves. We don’t value our mental health.”
The recent retreat took place over four days at the Land, a 162-acre Northern California retreat center. Retreat founder Amy Chan hosts another version of the boot camp in upstate New York during the spring.
Since Chan launched the experience in 2017, the retreats have welcomed dozens of female attendees who have participated in workshops and shared their personal stories in a safe space among strangers. This fall, Chan decided to welcome men and nonbinary people for the first time.
“I don’t think it’s as taboo as it once was for a guy to go to therapy or to go to a wellness retreat or to attend a community or men’s group. In fact, it’s kind of cool,” said Chan, 40, a relationship columnist for more than a decade for a Canadian newspaper, HuffPost and her own blog. “Like if you go to therapy, you’re going to be more attractive. So it’s interesting how the culture has changed, and I think that’s amazing.”
Chan, who lives in Vancouver, said demand from men wanting to attend the retreats increased during the COVID-19 pandemic and after the release of her 2020 book, “Breakup Bootcamp.” Therefore, she asked participants at two previous gatherings if they’d be comfortable with her opening the boot camp to men and nonbinary people.
For the fall retreat, Chan prescreened those individuals interested in attending and selected 21 people, including four men, to participate. The group that gathered in Northern California ranged in age from 22 to 61 and covered a variety of backgrounds and geographies — some participants traveling from as far as Alberta, Canada; New Jersey and Texas.
Some had been through recent breakups like I had, while others were navigating custody battles with their ex-spouses.
The retreat, which typically costs $3,495 to $3,995, included three nights of lodging in a cabin, three meals per day cooked by a private chef and a busy schedule of programming and activities. In addition to being drug and alcohol free, the boot camp was digital free.
Prior to arrival, participants — myself included — were told only that they’d be engaging in workshops with therapists, coaches, movement and yoga instructors and a dominatrix. However, there were two ground rules that Chan made clear early on: We weren’t allowed to bash our exes and we weren’t allowed to give unsolicited advice.
We didn’t sit in a circle, repeating affirmations and rant about our exes before going home. What we did do was work on ourselves during a series of sessions, some of which stretched over the course of 12-hour retreat days with limited free time.
Along our four-day journey, Chan and a team of experts discussed the science behind what happens in the body when you go through a separation, how dopamine pushes you to want to, say, check your ex’s Instagram account multiple times a day after a breakup, look through old photos or find excuses to see or contact them.
Chan also shared her own breakup story, which inspired the boot camp: Her ex-boyfriend cheated on her with one of her co-workers, and it took Chan more than two years to heal from their split.
She went to a yoga retreat in Mexico after her breakup, but when she returned home, she realized that she hadn’t started the deep interpersonal work that can lead to healing. “I didn’t learn anything about what I was going through,” she said. “I just had a relaxing time. So I felt great, but I was procrastinating my pain.”
She craved a safe space where she could get support while learning about valuable emotional tools and gaining insight into how to deal with her feelings related to her breakup. “I wanted something where I would come out a little different,” she said.
I completely understood. My ex-boyfriend dumped me suddenly this fall, less than a week before our one-year anniversary. I thought this retreat would be beneficial, so I participated in the full experience as an observer and a participant.
Exercises during the workshops included doing primal screaming and ecstatic dancing to release grief, anger and other emotions from the body; participating in a burning ceremony in which we tossed letters we had written to our exes in a fireplace; practicing how to discuss boundaries with our loved ones; and doing breath work.
We also learned about power dynamics through the lens of BDSM from Colette Pervette, a professional dominatrix who holds a PhD in education from UC Berkeley. It was a workshop that many participants, including myself, felt offered an “a-ha” moment.
“I’m going to domme you today,” Pervette told the group. At the start, she wore black casual attire, but she eventually stripped down to a corset with cut-out panties, tights and stilettos.
After asking for a volunteer to play the role of a submissive, she began pulling out toys from her bag one by one, including handcuffs, a leash, a collar, an eye mask and a ball gag. Then she asked the volunteer if they were comfortable with her putting on the items. The volunteer gleefully consented as the class watched intently.
Although the exercise was PG-13, the purpose of it was to show that although it looked like the submissive was powerless, the volunteer actually did have control. The person could’ve ended the demonstration at any point by saying the agreed-upon safe word or by giving a nonverbal signal. Pervette then challenged us to think about the bondages in our own lives that hold us back, such as fear of judgment or rejection, and to look at the ways that we had given away our power.
“You might not be able to see it as clearly as these gold handcuffs,” said Pervette, who has taught at 10 of the boot camps over the years, but “we’re all in bondage in some way. If not, we’d be saying what we want to say, doing what we want to do and being who we want to be in every moment.”
During her session, Pervette also spoke about how to work with your pain and alchemize it into power. It was a message that resonated strongly with Andy Heil, 50.
The father of two lost his wife to breast cancer in 2018. He asked Chan to extend the retreat to men after he and his girlfriend — she’s a widow — ended their relationship during the summer. The San Diego resident and his ex-partner met on the dating app Bumble, and despite living more than 100 miles away from each other, their relationship quickly evolved.
It began to flounder when Heil revealed something to her a few months after they’d been dating. Although he had told her that he was working at a bank, he actually didn’t have a job at the time. He confessed that he left his former job for another business opportunity but was furloughed shortly after due to the pandemic.
She accepted his apology. They continued dating for several months, but he eventually decided to call it quits.
“That’s on me,” Heil said with regret in his voice. “I didn’t love myself enough. I wasn’t secure enough to say, ‘Hey, this is where I’m at.’ I was functioning on fear, and when you make decisions based on fear, it never works.”
Having lost the person he thought was his “life partner,” Heil wondered if this one wasn’t going to work, “What the f— is it going to take?”
That’s why he began to seek help. “That’s what scares me,” he said.
He told Chan that he wanted to attend the retreat because he felt as if men were left out of grieving spaces, which he said tended to be catered to women. “[Men] have some processing to do,” he said. “We could use the help too.”
Therefore, he was grateful that instructors such as Owen Marcus, co-founder of an organization called Evryman that teaches men about emotional wellness, and Daniel Ellenberg, a leadership coach and team facilitator, were teaching at the boot camp to offer a male perspective.
Another participant, Jenelle Wensley from Lethbridge, Alberta, reached out to Chan about attending the retreat after her ex-fiancée broke up with her one month before their wedding.
Within the first year of dating, the couple moved in together and got a dog, and Wensley proposed. Shortly thereafter, Wensley began noticing her partner pulling away, which caused her to overcompensate. Wensley said she thinks her ex-fiancée had become overwhelmed by the pace of their relationship.
Her partner eventually broke up with Wensley in June, saying she didn’t love her anymore.
“I’ve never done cocaine before but I felt like I was in withdrawal. I hated myself,” said Wensley, 32. “I was crying every day for hours. My work was suffering, and I just couldn’t function.”
Following their breakup, Wensley began going to therapy multiple times a week, listening to podcasts, reading books and watching TikTok videos to try to understand what happened. That’s when she came across one of Chan’s TikToks, which mentioned her book and the retreat.
Wensley initially came to the boot camp wanting to gain tools that could help her mend her relationship with her ex-fiancée, whom she has since reconnected with. Wensley said she’s hopeful they’ll get back together but now realizes that even if it doesn’t work out, she’ll be OK.
Melissa Sharp, 41, wanted to attend the retreat after dating a man for several months before discovering that he was married with children. She said she decided that she needed to take a different approach with her healing journey. Therefore, she started reading Chan’s book but stopped a quarter of the way through because she wanted to learn more at an in-person retreat.
“I think that I’ve handled previous breakups well,” the Riverside resident said. “I just let time go by, thinking that time is the healer of those things. So when I noticed that I was still dating and not having success, then having this situation happen made me think, ‘OK, let me figure something out.’”
Sharp said she initially came to the retreat hoping to receive tools for healing from her recent breakup.
“I understand what he did was not right, but what did I do to contribute to this?” she said. “Could I have made a better choice? I had a bunch of questions. I think that I can control myself, but I couldn’t control him.”
She learned more about herself and how to date in a healthier way, which was Chan’s goal for participants of the boot camp. For those reasons, Sharp said the retreat was worth the price tag.
As someone who had never been to a retreat before, I was initially skeptical about Renew Breakup Bootcamp. I wondered how a four-day boot camp in the woods could help me heal after being dumped. But what I took away from the experience was much more valuable than getting over my ex.
By listing out my values and nonnegotiables in a relationship, I learned how to weed out potential partners. I also recognized and put a name to the bondages — many of which were self-inflicted — in my life that have been holding me back from living authentically.
But most important, I realized that although breakups undoubtedly suck, it’s a common experience that we don’t have to go through alone. In addition to the skills that I learned from the retreat experts, it was the other 20 people there — experiencing pain similar to mine — who ultimately helped me get to the next step in my healing journey, and for that I’m grateful.
(Los Angeles Times)
CATCH OF THE DAY, Thursday, December 8, 2022
MANUEL AMADOR, Willits. Cultivation of more than six pot plants, controlled substance, suspended license for DUI, failure to appear.
NICOLE BRITTON, Covelo. Failure to appear.
GUADALUPE GARCIA JR., Ukiah. Failure to register.
VERNON KNAPP, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
MELISSA LANCE, Fort Bragg. Failure to appear.
MICHAEL PARKER, Ukiah. Controlled substance, paraphernalia. (Frequent flyer.)
JERI PERDUE, Ukiah. Failure to appear, probation revocation.
KAILEE POZZI, Santa Rosa/Ukiah. Taking vehicle without owner’s consent, stolen property-vehicle, addict driving a vehicle, DUI-alcohol&drugs, suspended license, paraphernalia.
JERMAINE SALAS, Rohnert Park/Ukiah. DUI while on court probation, suspended license, probation revocation.
SCOTT STONE, Conway, South Carolina/Ukiah. Probation revocation.
JOHN TEDESCHI, Ukiah. Domestic battery, paraphernalia.
KYLE THOMPSON, Fort Bragg. Controlled substance, paraphernalia.
NATHAN TOTTEN, Shingletown (CA)/Ukiah. Failure to appear.
...thumbs down on your Death Penalty comments, AVA.
I had encounters with an infamous “Clown” in 1976, at a Democratic Party Fundraiser (I was 11), and a “Cannibal” in 1991, at a gay bar, when I was 26; both in my native Chicago, both actually made physical contact with Me.
The Clown got to live 14 years being fed, sheltered, on Our Dime before this “Compassionate Society” finally offed him. The Cannibal not quite so long as one of his fellow inmates executed him due to racial hatred and homophobia.
I’m a bit surprised, as long as You’ve been in the Bay Area, throwing down w/ the likes of Scott Petersen, ala Our Illustrious Governor!
Your Liberal Values are showing, Dude!
ED NOTE: But, but, but.... I said if surviving family members would at least be required to administer the midnight needle themselves, but best of all that the executions be carried out in public football stadiums by firing squads so we could all be properly deterred from committing murder ourselves, all admission fees going to the survivors. But the state offing our monsters in secret executions at midnight? Satisfies no one's revenge lust and defeats the death penalty's alleged purpose.
ESTHER MOBLEY: I think it’s important you’re all aware that the Hallmark Channel just released a movie that takes place at … the San Francisco Chronicle! “A Big Fat Family Christmas” follows two Chronicle journalists assigned to cover a holiday party. To see what it got wrong about the reality of being a journalist, see my colleague Heather Knight’s hilarious Twitter thread.
IN RURAL CALIFORNIA, FARMWORKERS FEND FOR THEMSELVES FOR HEALTH CARE
by David Bacon
Carmen Hernandez lives in a small home on Chateau Fresno Avenue, one of the three streets that make up Lanare, a tiny unincorporated settlement in the San Joaquin Valley. The street’s name sounds more appropriate to an upscale housing development. In reality it is a potholed tarmac lane leading into the countryside from the highway.
In Lanare live the descendants of its original African American founders, excluded by racial covenants from renting or buying homes in surrounding cities. Here they rub shoulders with their Mexican neighbors — the farmworkers who make up the valley’s agricultural workforce.
Hernandez’s house sits behind a white-painted fence of bricks and wrought iron, and a neat lawn dotted with a few small trees. On the other side of the road are the pistachio trees that make her home almost uninhabitable four times each year.
Just before the nuts are harvested in September, a tractor drags a tank with long arms down the rows, spraying a thick fog of pesticide into the trees. Quickly the chemical travels across the dozen yards between the orchard and Hernandez’s house. During other times of the year, the spray rig lays down weed killer, or a chemical that causes leaves to drop from the branches after harvest. Fertilizer is another evil-smelling chemical the neighbors have to contend with. The families on Chateau Fresno don’t let their kids play outside much anyway, but when the spray is in the air, they make sure to keep them inside.
One might ask, why did Hernandez build a house across the street from such dangers? She didn’t. When Self-Help Enterprises helped Lanare’s low-income families to build homes they’d never otherwise have been able to afford, the field across the street grew cotton or wheat. Those crops also use a lot of chemicals in California’s industrial agriculture system, but when pistachio trees were planted eight years ago, the contamination grew by an order of magnitude.…
“A BALLPLAYER SPENDS A GOOD PIECE OF HIS LIFE GRIPPING A BASEBALL, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.”
— Jim Bouton
THE POWELL MEMO REVISITED
Citizens were challenging big business, holding them accountable, demanding governmental oversight, exercising their democratic rights. To Powell, the corporate lawyer and perennial corporate board member, this was a bridge too far. The chorus must be killed, power returned to the kings. The future Supreme Court Justice went on to outline in detail how the corporate world must retake control and influence over every aspect of American life. ...To read the Powell Memo today is deeply disturbing, not just because it was written by a future Supreme Court Justice who was advocating a corporate takeover of American democracy, but also because the actions detailed were so successfully deployed and completed. Powell was prescient. His plan worked. And the average American pays the heavy price today.…
ASSANGE, November 2022
by Ellen Taylor
On November 28th the New York Times, Der Spiegel, the Guardian, Le Monde and El Pais sent an Open Letter to the world, stating that “ the “US government should end its prosecution of Julian Assange for publishing secrets.”
This letter is unforgivably late. Julian has been buried alive for over a decade. From all reports he is in terrible shape. Of course, in this country, we have become tolerant of interminable prison sentences, only discovering the innocence of the victims long after their lives have been destroyed.
In the letter, these “Papers of Record” make no mention of their part in the destruction of this human being. They even have the gall to remind us of their own reservations regarding Julian’s case, questions about redactions and hacking, issues which were definitively put to rest years ago, during trials, hearings, and a recanted testimony.. Moreover, they themselves participated in the smear campaign, which turned Julian into a pariah, neglected and rotting away in hideous conditions which have been identified by the UN as torture.
Perception management, according to the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, consists of “actions to convey and or deny selected information to…audiences to influence their emotions, motives and objective reasoning …ultimately resulting in behaviors and official actions favorable to the originator’s objectives. In various ways, perception management combines truth projection, operations security, cover and deception and psychological operations.”
How well perception management works is illustrated by Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur for Torture from 2014- 2022 who published a book this year, The Trial of Julian Assange. During his career,he interviewed hundreds of torturers, victims of torture, prisoners of war, and other people subject to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, around the world. He has had many years of experience discerning truth from lies, and how to tease out calumnies of all sorts. Nonetheless, when he received an appeal from Julian Assange’s legal team, in late 2018, requesting protection from inhumane treatment in his confinement at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Melzer tossed it aside.
His desk was piled high with torture allegations, prisoners at risk, possible war crimes. To him, “like to most people around the world, Assange was just a rapist, nihilist, a hacker, a spy, a narcissist.” Melzer had more important work to do.
“Like so many, I was convinced that I knew the truth about (Assange), even though I couldn’t quite remember where that knowledge had come from”.
When a more urgent appeal came three months later, he forced himself to take a better look, and was instantly appalled at his own dangerously foolish prejudice :
“What troubled me most was the self-righteous ease and unshakeable certainty with which I had accepted a largely unsubstantiated narrative as unquestionable fact..” Remarking that he had “never seen a comparable case where a person was subjected to nine years of preliminary investigation for rape without a charge being filed”, he immediately plunged into investigating not only the torture claim of Assange’s lawyers, but the character assassination which had so effectively turned him away.
Assange’s integrity is convincingly revealed in his autobiography. People should not be deterred from reading it simply because it is unauthorized. Assange wrote it in 2011, while he was out on bail, and comfortably housed in his friend’s 18th century manor in Norfolk.
After a professional writer polished it up he read it through and repudiated it, in the same spirit as people burn their old diaries, with the comment,
All memoirs are prostitution.” However, since he had already spent the advance on lawyers, we have the book, and, to avoid being brain-washed, like Nils Melzer, with the smear campaign in which the Papers of Record so cynically participated, it is essential to read it.
Julian’s detractors, the reporters, politicians, interviewers and film makers, after hurling their calumnies at Julian, document their invective by referring to his “deeply traumatic” childhood, shaping his character: vain, greedy, arrogant, manipulative, liar, thief, autistic, “on the spectrum”, narcissistic, and so on. The narrative contained in this autobiography, however, reveals a completely different person, a wonderful person: objective and analytical about his past, calm, lyrical and humorful. His portraits of people he met along the way show a keen observation and empathy:
“Early childhood is so important, I think. It gives you all your capacity for wonder. My mother had a gift for love and for making life no less interesting than it was. Magnetic Island (off Australia) was a freedom-haunted place, a beautiful Eden…a lot of my family’s energy was devoted to life outdoors…we swam every day and later I fished with my grandfather…I remember rolling down hills with my mother on her bike and as we sped along I would stretch out my hands and try to grasp fruit from the trees…”
He was surrounded by caring adults who answered his questions patiently and allowed him to think for himself. These adults were a vigorous part of antiwar movements and demonstrations against nuclear weapons testing in the Australian desert. They took Julian along. For a while Julian shared their life of itinerant puppeteers, and the inevitable reaction of prejudice toward intruders in rural communities. Julian’s description of their house burning down on Magnetic Island describes weather and climate as a formative element in human nature:
“The atmosphere was clammy and the heat would make people lethargic; atmosphere is important in Australia and in many places, creating not only a physical state in people but a mental state as well… one day we came back up the hill to discover our house was on fire. About twenty people were standing around …nobody was attempting to put out the fire.. I remember one of the neighbors laughing and saying we couldn’t stand the heat. It was all very sinister and I remember it took the fire brigade 40 minutes to come….that fire is my first very big and complicated memory…it involved levels of complication that would continue to fascinate me…I noticed for the first time in my life how authority could drag its heel to make a point and how bureaucracy could make a stone of the heart…there was something demonic in the way they let “nature” take its course..”.
With merriment he describes fleeing one of his mother’s lovers, father of his half-brother, in a dilapidated car with a noisy rooster and a hive of bees. This is the deeply traumatic experience which hostile media invokes as the source of all the personality disorders the heap on him. Julian himself referred to its psychic consequences, when he describes a period in Iceland when his “battery was low” and there was little daylight:
“In some very obvious way, I have been escaping from some dark pursuer since I was a child, and my mother took me across country to escape from her stalker.”
His public discussion of the experience, however, confirms a successful resolution. More importantly, Julian himself dispatched the pursuer : “something in the way I said it ensured that we would never see him again.”
As do many children, Julian developed a fascination for taking apart machines. This extrapolated into a marvelous new apparatus, the computer, and he was off into a new dimension.
“By the time I was sixteen, the computer had become my world…it constituted not only a different way of being in the world, but a new way of being in your own skin…I was part of a generation that dug down into our machines, asking them to help us fight for justice in ways that would fox the old guard, even the protest element of the old guard, such as my parents, who didn’t know how to break the patterns of power and corruption that kept the world unfair”.
Together with teenage friends, he sat at his computer through the night. “…to many of us it was like breaking into quarries or abandoned buildings. We had to see what was in there. It was the thrill of making it into the adult world and being ready to challenge it. That’s how hacking begins…keeping people out of the world’s computer systems was, for the people who ran them, a matter of control, much as Orwell understood the meaning of state control. And it was only a natural progression for us to go to work on them as part of our youthful attempt to explore the world.. while inside you would hack into some other computer system somewhere else in the world -typically, for me at the time, it was the Pentagon’s 8th Command Group computers. You’d dive down into its computer system… projecting your mind all the way from your untidy bedroom to the entire system along the halls and all the time you’re learning to understand the system better than the people in Washington…awesome…”
These teenage hackers never harmed anyone, they never stole anything except a little free phone time. They were honorable hackers. They carefully repaired any damage their entry might have caused. Nevertheless he was finally discovered and arrested. His hacking career ended.
So he went to school, Melbourne University, where he was bewitched by quantum mechanics.
“There is something beautiful in the truth revealed by maths, something perfect and just, and I grew experienced in the study of that, not just the problems themselves but the entire moral scope of quantum mechanics…there was a research project in the department to study sand, because the Americans were dealing with sand as part of their adventures in the Middle East. Some woman came to give us a talk about how beautiful it had been to take part in the testing of military hardware and assisting with the flying of the cargo planes that bombed retreating Iraqi troops…I thought “Why are we sitting here listening to this mass murderer?” I began to see how the universities were being used …for military profiteering…everything was coming together in my head, the clarity of mind that quantum mechanics forced upon me, my ideas about cause and effect, my horror at military outrages, and my increasing insights into Western foreign policy….I shared the view with a handful of computer scientists around the world that quantum mechanics offered a methodology for understanding justice.”
Assange used the metaphor of a pipeline. “Let us imagine that there is a pipeline that allows a flow of material towards what provides for a state of justice.. if material is suppressed, we must see it as a blockage.. in the future, there could be a new way of providing optimal flow between observers and actors.. to make agencies watchable, and to break their hold on information maintained by governments and their collaborating fourth estates…we cannot realize the basic rights that underpin justice in a world of concealment, secrecy and lies…I have a single goal, not a very original one but a definite goal to my life which is to help in the creation of a more just society to live in…I believe we have an innate yearning for justice. We have an inert aversion to censorship. And the Web can speak to that.”
So the former hacker set up Wikileaks. It was dedicated to journalistic honesty. Honesty was in fact Wikileaks dogma. Sources were meticulously checked. Wikileaks had established a system whereby he could receive information, source material, while keeping whistleblowers safe.
And, as soon as material began to pour through the pipeline, the smear campaign started.
Wikileaks was fastidious in removing the names of individuals who might be exposed and hurt by Wikileaks publications. In July 2010, it put the cables and logs online for safekeeping, In February 2011, a journalist from the Guardian was given the password to the documents for perusal purposes, which he allowed to slip. When, as a result, Der Freitag, a German weekly, published unredacted documents, Wikileaks, recognizing its own efforts at redaction were now useless, released all the Cablegate documents, with the exception of the 15,000 pieces which were actually classified.
About redaction, Assange stated, “One has to understand the primary reason we set up harm minimization procedures. It's not primarily because the material we release will have a reasonable risk of producing harm as a result of disclosure. That's very rare. Rather, there is a probable risk that if we don't, our opponents will opportunistically attempt to distract from the revelations that we have published, by instead speaking about potential for harm and thus distract from the impact of the material”.
Indeed. This is exactly what happened. In his 2011 essay “Dealing with Assange and the Wikileaks Secrets” Bill Keller, editor of the new York Times remarks, “the story of this wholesale security breach outgrew the actual contents of the secret documents..”
The smear campaign against Assange and Wikileaks began shortly after the release of the Collateral Murders video. Bill Keller’s above-cited essay is thoroughly contemptuous of Assange. It is clear he has no understanding of Wikileaks’s noble aspirations. It describes his appearance in a demeaning way, calculated to generate disgust (“looked like a baglady….smelled as if he hadn’t bathed in days..”) and then ridicules his change in presentation as the objective changes to engagement of mainstream media in communicating the revelations: “Assange was transformed by his outlaw celebrity. The derelict with the backpack and sagging socks now wore his hair dyed and styled, and he favored fashionable skinny suits and ties. He became kind of a cult figure for the European and leftish and was evidently a magnet for women.”
Completely ignoring the fact, vital to Assange’s defense, that he was a publisher, a journalist, an editor, the New York Times and the Guardian, with the mass of war logs and cables, all provided by Wikileaks in their laps, “discussed the complexities of assuring an appropriate distance from Julian Assange. We regarded him throughout as a source, not as a partner or a collaborator…”
The New York Times described Assange’s vigilant protection of his source as “coy”. It describes him as “manipulative”, “arrogant”, “conspiratorial”, “volatile.”
Other media caught on , and referred to him as a shady hacker, a peddler of half-truths, a “man of enormous self-regard and slippery ethics…’ and so on. A betrayal, and a devastating blow to Assange’s reputation occurred when the NYT published the raw Swedish police report on Assange’s Swedish sex scandal, hyped to smear.
When the Collateral Murders video was revealed, shocked the world. The war logs followed, and Assange was immediately accused of being a murderer.
US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen remarked, “Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he and his sources are doing- but the truth is he and his staff might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family.”
Former CIA director James Woolsey, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Senator Lindsey Graham also spoke of the blood on Assange’s hands.
Leon Panetta, director of the CIA, called Assange a spy, and declared, “Assange is somebody who will sell somebody in his family if he thinks that, you know, that he is going to get some attention…he is a high-tech terrorist.”
Attorney General Eric Holder: “We have a very serious criminal investigation that's under way and we're looking at all the things that we can do to stem the flow of this information.”
The US defense secretary, Robert Gates, claimed, in Washington: “The battlefield consequences are potentially severe and dangerous for our troops, our allies and Afghan partners, and may well damage our relationships and reputation in that key part of the world.”
(Later, in a letter to the Senate Armed Forces Committee, Gates admitted that a Pentagon review had “not revealed any sensitive intelligence sources or compromised methods.”
Vice-President Biden acknowledged that the releases had caused “no substantial damage”, other than being embarrassing for the US government.)).
A number of movies were made about Assange, designed to smear. “We Steal Secrets,” is one of them. To begin with, its title creates the false impression that Wikileaks steals secrets. The phrase actually comes from a speech of Michael Hayden, predecessor of Leon Panetta at the CIA. Hayden believes that state secrecy is indispensable to what the CIA regards as “success”, (viz., the effective completion of the murderous and criminal acts committed by the invaders revealed in the war logs, Collateral Murders, and Cablegate):
“Look, everyone has secrets. Some of the activities that nation states conduct in order to keep their people safe and free need to be secret in order to be successful. If they are broadly known, you cannot accomplish your work. Now, I'm going to be very candid, right? We steal secrets; we steal other nations' secrets. One cannot do that above board and be very successful for a very long period of time.”
The most powerful and effective slander came from Julian’s personal adventures in Sweden.
Two women with whom Julian had had sexual relations went to the police to ask (inexplicably, since he had promised to do it only hours earlier) if there was a way Julian could be compelled to take an HIV test. The police (also, inexplicably) turned this request for advice into an accusation of rape which hit headlines the next day.
Sexual allegations are smears which, despite exoneration, can mutilate a life forever. They are stigmas which, like strong odors, persist and overwhelm contradictory or more complicated information. The mainstream media is a willing solvent for poisons that cancel or brand their victims so deeply that discovering the truth requires effort, and restoring reputation is next to impossible.
Julian explains his thoughtless, but very ordinary behavior, in his unauthorized autobiography: “The international situation had me in its grip, and although I had spent time with these women, I wasn't paying enough attention to them, or ringing them back, or able to step out of the zone that came down with all these threats and statements against me in America. One of my mistakes was to expect them to understand this? I wasn't a reliable boyfriend, or even a very courteous sleeping partner, and this began to figure. Unless, of course, the agenda had been rigged from the start.”
With the help of the UK, Sweden played Julian like a fish on a hook. It allowed him to leave Sweden, then called him back though refusing to promise not to allow extradition to the US. It never charged him, but kept him imprisoned in the UK for 9 years, during which time the case collapsed, and was finally dropped.
His native country, Australia, abandoned him shamelessly.
After 7 years of courageous hospitality, Ecuador finally betrayed Julian, and Assange fell down the cliff, to his present desperate handhold, Belmarsh Prison, and the British.
Now the Star Chamber show trial looms. The New York Times, the Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and El Pais, have written their letter. Karine Jean-Pierre and John Kirby, White House and Pentagon press secretaries respectively, were asked, on November 28th, what the White House response to that letter was.
Kirby answered that the Administration position was the same as it had been in 2012 when the
War logs and Cablegate were released: that “those revelations in the public sphere were damaging to U.S. national security”.
This of course contradicts President Biden’s comment quoted above. Though perhaps his statement indicates a policy change will be initiated. Perhaps the “New York Times problem”, which stopped Obama, that Assange cannot be prosecuted because the New York Times was equally guilty and therefore would have to be charged as well, has been resolved in some way.
Many people are out to get Assange. Hilary Clinton, vindictive when apprised of the Hilary Leaks, declared “can’t we just drone this guy?”
Wikileaks exposed the phone call between Victoria Nuland and the ambassador to Ukraine in 2014, in which they discuss the direction and management of the 2014 coup in Ukraine.
Meanwhile Assange is being droned in Belmarsh style: interminable isolation, humiliation, despair. Easier, for the colluding nations, than a Star Chamber affair. New York Times editor Bill Keller ends his 2011 article mocking Julian, who is “musing darkly” on his fears of extradition, regarded by the heartless Bill as vain fantasy:
“I would still have a high chance of being killed in the US prison system, Jack Ruby style, given the continual calls for my murder by senior and influential United States politicians.”
At the end of his book, UN special rapporteur Nils Melzer sends his own message to the world, and to President Biden. He quotes former President Jimmy Carter, who once remarked “I did not deplore the Wikileaks revelations. They just made public what was actually the truth. Most often, the revelation of the truth, even if it’s unpleasant, is beneficial. I think, almost invariably, the secrecy is designed to conceal improper activities, and not designed for the well-being of the general public.”
Melzer continues: “Even in the darkest room, the light of a single candle is enough for everybody to see. Julian Assange has lit such a candle with his work. He has exposed crimes, abuse and corruption that had been concealed behind a curtain of secrecy. It was only a brief glimpse, but sometimes a glimpse is enough to change our entire worldview. We now know that the curtain of secrecy exists and that a parallel universe of dirty secrets hides behind it. Secrets that many of us might prefer not to know, because the knowledge forces us to wake up, grow up and step up. Beyond the discomfort of disillusion, however, that same knowledge empowers us to carry out the systemic governance reforms required to save us from certain self-destruction. Each and every one of us can change the world through courageous action. To make the darkness disappear, we need not look elsewhere for the light. It is sufficient to let our own light shine, right where we are in our everyday life. To do this, all we need is the courage to be honest with ourselves and with the world.”
THE HEART-WARMING STORY OF BABE RUTH AND LITTLE JOHNNY SYLVESTER
“I'll knock a homer for Wednesday's game. Babe Ruth” –Inscription on baseball scrawled by Babe Ruth during the 1926 World Series and given to little Johnny Sylvester, recovering from a near-fatal illness.
One of baseball’s most enduring legends occurred during the 1926 World Series. Of course it had to involve none other than the great Bambino himself. We're all aware the Babe had his share of personal shortcomings (and don’t we all!); but when there was a kid in need, no one was more likely to come through in a big way than the Babe.
The Babe's Famous Promise
In 1926, little Yankee fan Johnny Sylvester was just 11 years old, recuperating from a horseback riding accident that resulted in a serious injury. He was hospitalized near his home in Essex Falls, New Jersey. The prognosis wasn’t good. The Yankees got wind of Johnny’s condition, and so during a rain delay in Game Three of the World Series in St. Louis, a few ball players signed a baseball just for Johnny. Babe Ruth inscribed more than just his signature, though. He penned his famous promise:
“I'll knock a homer for you in Wednesday's game” Babe Ruth
In the classic photo above, we see the Babe and little Johnny together. Johnny still has a bandage on his forehead from his horseback riding injury. Thanks again to Don Stokes, our resident baseball artist, for another super colorization that really helps bring the story to life.
The Bambino Delivers...
On Wednesday, October 6, 1926 – Game Four of the series, a 10-5 Yankee victory – the Babe delivered on his promise...and then some! Amazingly, he didn’t hit just one homer, he hit three. On the day after Game Seven, Oct. 11, Ruth personally visited Johnny Sylvester in the hospital in Essex Falls.
...And Johnny Miraculously Recovers!
And sure enough, something miraculous happened: Against all odds, Johnny's health gradually started to improve. According to Andrew Lilley, Johnny’s great-nephew, the visit from the Babe changed everything:
“Babe Ruth’s home runs and his visit helped Johnny find the will to survive.”
On Dec. 16, 1926, Ruth penned another letter to the boy in Babe's distinctive, florid handwriting (see photo gallery), inquiring about his recovery and inviting him to Yankee Stadium during the 1927 season “to help win another pennant.”
Johnny didn't just survive...he thrived. He went on to graduate from Yale University in 1937, and later became a successful business owner and much-beloved family man. He even served in the Navy during World War II, rising to the rank of lieutenant. All because the Babe saved his life...or so the story goes!
Life Turns Full Circle!
Fast forward to 1947. The situation had now completely reversed. Now it was Babe Ruth who was ailing and it was Johnny Sylvester's turn to repay the man who had come to his bedside when he was gravely ill. As Andrew Lilley described the scene:
“The story had come full circle at this point. Here was the kid all grown up going back to the Babe and showing the same generosity to his hero, just as the Babe showed him all those years ago.”
Reading about this reunion 75 years later, it's still hard not to shed a tear...
Ruth wasn’t the only sports celebrity to reach out to the ailing boy. “Big Bill” Tilden, one of the greatest tennis players of all time, sent him an autographed tennis racquet. Hall-of-Fame halfback Red Grange sent a letter and an autographed football. Baseball Hall-of-Famer Rogers Hornsby, in a rare show of compassion, was another famous athlete who sent little Johnny a letter. Of course, none of these other displays of concern did as much for little Johnny's recovery as the Babe's fulfilled promise and later visit.
Forty Years Later, Johnny Sylvester Is Found!
In 1986 - the 40th Anniversary of the Johnny Sylvester story - the Babe Ruth Museum tried to investigate the story for authenticity. The museum eventually tracked down the real Johnny Sylvester, finding him as a retired banker living in Connecticut. When asked for some proof that these events actually happened, Mr. Sylvester produced the baseball with Babe’s handwriting and signature. The ball said, “I’ll knock a homer for Wednesday’s game. Babe Ruth.” The ball is now on display in the Babe Ruth Museum in Baltimore along with the other artifacts in “The Little Johnny Sylvester Collection.” It's been on loan to the Babe Ruth Museum for 36 years.
But Is the Story True?
Is this heartwarming story completely true, or has it been embellished? Was the whole thing a hoax? Maybe we're falling for a sappy publicity stunt dreamt up by Babe Ruth's ubiquitous agent and “image-maker,” Christy Walsh. It certainly has that ring to it.
If so, it was highly successful. The publicity was priceless for Babe Ruth's image. Years later when asked about the incident, Ruth is purported to have blurted out, “Who the hell is Johnny Sylvester?”
True or not, it remains one of the most timeless anecdotes in all of baseball lore and is one of the wonderful stories contributing to the endearing legacy of the great Bambino, Babe Ruth. Sadly, Johnny Sylvester passed away on January 6, 1990 at age 74 while residing in Garden City, New York.
— Gary Livacari
ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
To be fair Brittney Griner did not belong in jail for being stupid.
These kinds of laws should be looked at for a small amount of personal use and the person sent back to home country with a word of caution never to return to Russia.
Had she been dealing then she belonged in jail for a while and then returned with the same caution.
It just shows how stupid this person is traveling with a substance deemed illegal in most countries and flying with it even more stupid.
I agree, it was ridiculous to jail someone over cannabis oil.
Yes, the sentence seemed a little harsh. There’s a temptation to want to punish her for arrogance and an attitude that she should be above the law–presumably as a sports figure and a POC and an LGBT+. (I don’t think it was stupidity.)
So, you’re left wondering what the penalty should be for the real (and frankly more serious) offenses; namely, expecting people to kowtow to you.
Instead of bitching on an American blog, why don’t you three take your bitching to the Duma or the Politburo.
You really think that an American should be able to go to a foreign nation and flout that country’s laws if they think they’re a little harsh” and get away with it, don’t you?
UKRAINE, THURSDAY, 8TH DECEMBER
The Kremlin lashed out at Time magazine on Thursday for naming Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelenskyy its “Person of the Year,” saying the selection was a reflection of the West's Russophobia.
“The magazine’s editorial directives remain within the boundaries of the pan-European mainstream, which is totally short-sighted, anti-Russian and vehemently Russophobic,” Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Zelenskyy, 44, has drawn high praise for his fearless leadership and ability to rally world leaders to his cause. Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged the war is taking longer than expected, but he assured the Russian public that all the Kremlin's goals would be achieved.
“There is a lot of noise, chatter and outcry all across the universe,” Putin said Thursday. “It will not obstruct us from fulfilling combat tasks.”
In the Time cover photo, Zelenskyy is depicted surrounded by Ukrainian people, flags and sunflowers, the country's national flower. ”Zelenskyy’s success as a wartime leader has relied on the fact that courage is contagious,” Time reporter Simon Shuster wrote.
Time magazine has chosen a Person of the Year (until 1999 it was Man or Woman of the Year) annually since 1927, when groundbreaking pilot Charles Lindbergh was honored. Russian dictator Joseph Stalin claimed the title twice, in 1939 and 1942.
The Russian military said it shot down a Ukrainian drone over Crimea on Thursday, the latest indication of Kyiv's efforts to push the war deeper into Russian-held territory. Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014.
MEME OF THE DAY
FORGOTTEN APPALACHIAN MEMORIES
"Warshing Clothes Recipe" - imagine having a recipe for this! A grandmother gave the new bride the following recipe:
This is an exact copy as written and found in an old scrapbook, spelling errors and all.
Build fire in backyard to heat kettle of rain water. Set tubs so smoke wont blow in eyes if wind is pert.
Shave one hole cake of lie soap in boilin water.
Sort things, make 3 piles
1 pile white,
1 pile colored,
1 pile work britches and rags.
To make starch, stir flour in cool water to smooth, then thin down with boiling water.
Take white things, rub dirty spots on board, scrub hard and boil, then rub colored don't boil just wrench and starch.
Take things out of kettle with broom stick handle, then wrench, and starch.
Hang old rags on fence.
Spread tea towels on grass.
Pore wrench water in flower bed. Scrub porch with hot soapy water.
Turn tubs upside down.
Go put on clean dress, smooth hair with hair combs. Brew cup of tea, sit and rock a spell and count your blessings.
(via Forgotten Appalachian Memories)
THE GREAT UNSETTLING
Simone Weil and the need for roots
by Paul Kingsnorth
There is no such thing as a perfect society, and anyone who tries to build one will either go mad or become a tyrant. Humans are fallen, or just natural, and both of those words are synonyms for ‘imperfect’. What is ‘perfection’ anyway? It is a concept designed by a part of the modern human mind - the part that likes clean lines, easy answers, plots that end by neatly tying up all the threads. The quest for perfection is a quest for homogeneity and control, and it leads to the gulag and the guillotine, the death camp and the holy war. Even if we could agree on what perfection amounted to, we would none of us be equipped to build it.
But. Though there has never been a human culture that is anything but flawed, all lasting human cultures in history have been rooted. That is to say, they have been tied down by, and to, things more solid, timeless and lasting than the day-to-day processes of their functioning, or the personal desires of the individuals who inhabit them. Some of those solid things are human creations: cultural traditions, a sense of lineage and ancestry, ceremonies designed for worship or initiation. Others are non-human: the natural world in which those cultures dwell, or the divine force that they - always, without fail - worship and communicate with in some form.
We need these roots. We need a sense of belonging to something that is bigger than us, across both space and time, and we underestimate that need at our peril. In her brilliant and singular book The Need for Roots, written in 1943, the French writer, philosopher and reluctant mystic Simone Weil puts the case starkly:
To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognised need of the human soul. It is one of the hardest to define. A human being has roots by virtue of his real, active and natural participation in the life of a community which preserves in living shape certain particular treasures of the past and certain particular expectations of the future … Every human being needs to have multiple roots. It is necessary for him to draw wellnigh the whole of his moral, intellectual and spiritual life by way of the environment of which he forms a natural part.
Weil was writing from exile in England, as her homeland was still under Nazi occupation. She saw National Socialism’s perversion and capture of the notion of rootedness, and the evil that was being done with it. But unlike many intellectuals of the left, the Nazis’ racial tyranny did not lead her to reject the notion of rootedness in favour of some universalist flavour of ‘global justice.’ She saw that for the perfectionism it was: the same flavour of perfectionism that, to the east, was leading the USSR to roll out the same kind of tyranny as the Nazis were building, right down to the barbed wire that surrounded the camps designated for those who did not fit into the model.
Weil saw beyond all of this: when she looked at Hitler and Stalin she saw two tyrants leading nations that had already been uprooted - by the industrial revolution, by Bolshevism, by the Great War, by the depression, by the wider process of modernity. Both tyrants promised a return to security, power and meaning for their people through the imposition of a totalitarian ideology which they claimed would speak for the masses. Both delivered hell instead.
Weil’s book was commissioned by the Free French in London, led by Charles de Gaulle. It was intended to be a manifesto for the renewal of France, and Europe, after the scourge of Nazism. Her prescription was radical. Europeans, she said, had been uprooted by industry, by the state and by an aggressive form of pseudo-Christianity (Weil herself was Christian, but was scathing about official forms of the faith which had, she said, in most cases lined themselves up with ‘the interests of those who exploit the people.’)
Both state nationalism and state socialism were con tricks, according to Weil: exploiters of the people posing as their liberators. The ‘totalitarian idol’ of grand world-saving ideologies such as communism and fascism was the scourge of the twentieth century. The whole game had to be junked, the terms redefined:
The only punishment capable of punishing Hitler, and deterring little boys thirsting for greatness in coming centuries from following his example, is such a total transformation of the meaning attached to greatness that he should thereby be excluded from it.
A transformation of the meaning attached to greatness. Perhaps this has always been the task, and perhaps it has always been urgent. But it certainly is now. Our society has attached a meaning to greatness that is not as far away from Hitler’s as it would like to believe, despite our cant about democracy and freedom. Our idols today are economic conquest, unending ‘growth’ built on turning all life into ‘resources’ for human consumption, scientism disguised as objective inquiry, manic forward-motion, and the same old quest for perfectability. Charles de Gaulle, when he returned to France victorious, was an effective competitor in this game. He never read the book that Weil had aimed at him.
What did Weil mean by this ‘transformation’? Perhaps the answer is a reason why she is not as widely read as she could be. Her attachment was to the eternal things, and she could never be boxed in. She wrote in praise of God, tradition, roots, peoples and culture; but also of justice, freedom of speech and thought, honour and equality. She was a Catholic, but fought for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. She could be equally scathing about fascism, communism, established religion, liberal elites, capitalism and mass education. One minute she is incinerating the ‘uprooted intellectuals obsessed with progress’ who dominated the cultural elite of her time (and who have entirely conquered ours), assailing the left for its contempt of the peasantry or asserting that ‘of all the human soul’s needs, none is more vital … than love of the past.’ But just when you think you’re dealing with a conservative defender of the West, you read something like this:
For centuries now, men of the white race have everywhere destroyed the past, stupidly, blindly, both at home and abroad. If in certain respects there has been, nevertheless, progress during this period, it is not because of this frenzy but in spite of it, under the impulse of what little of the past remained alive.
Weil wasn’t wrong. We in the West invented this thing called ‘modernity’, and then we took it out into the world, whether the world wanted it or not. Once we called this process ‘the white man’s burden’ and exported it with dreadnoughts. Now we call it ‘development’ and export it via the World Bank. But - and here is the point so often missed, especially by the ‘progressives’ currently leading the charge in the culture wars - before we could eat the world, we first had to eat ourselves. Or rather: our states, our elites, our ideologues and power-mongers, had to dispossess their own people before they could venture out to dispossess others. We were the prototype; the guinea pigs in a giant global experiment. Now we find ourselves rootless, rudderless, unmoored in a great sea of chaos; angry, confused, shouting at the world and each other. We have made of our world a nihil. We are both perpetrators and victims of a Great Unsettling.
I don’t mean to imply by this that ‘Western’ people alone are responsible for the rolling destruction of culture and nature that is overwhelming the world, let alone to ally myself with the woke legions who assert that all bad things can be traced to some phantasm called ‘whiteness’. Notions like that are not so much gloriously internationalist as hyper-parochial: only Western people could believe them (and middle-class Western people at that). No, this culture of uprooting is global now, and was when Weil was writing. You can see it everywhere you care to look, accelerating in speed and destructive power.
The Indian government, for example, are currently in the process of trying to undermine the power and agency of the peasant farmers of the Punjab, and have triggered a rural rebellion by doing so. India has been uprooting its adivasi (tribal) people systemically since independence. The Chinese state is increasingly looking like the most efficient machine ever invented for uprooting, resettling and controlling mass populations. Indonesians are colonising West Papua, as I have seen with my own eyes. African governments are corralling the last of the bushpeople and the last of their game. This is what states do, whatever colour or culture their ministers are. It’s the ancient human game of power and control, turbo-charged with fossil fuels and digital surveillance technology.
Two years after Weil’s book was published, C. S. Lewis - no progressive he - had one of the characters in his novel This Hideous Strength make clear that there was no escape from this brave new world:
The poison was brewed in these West lands but it has spat itself everywhere by now. However far you went you would find the machines, the crowded cities, the empty thrones, the false writings, the barren beds: men maddened with false promises and soured with true miseries, worshiping the iron works of their own hands, cut off from Earth their mother and from the Father in Heaven. You might go East so far that East became West and you returned to Britain across the great ocean, but even so you would not have come out anywhere into the light. The shadow of one dark wing is over all.
Well, the dark-winged chickens are back home now, and they are roosting on our Western shoulders, and I want to use the first few of my essays here to explore how we all got - pardon my French, Simone - covered in shit. How can we prise apart, if we can, the intersection of the Industrial Revolution, enclosure, colonialism at home and abroad, the collapse of religion, the objectification and abuse of nature, the decline of rooted and local ways of seeing, the rise of Enlightenment liberalism and the consequent flowering of me-first individualism, and the final triumph (and thus coming defeat) of the money-power of techno-capitalism? Phew. Better people than me have tried, and I won’t be able to add anything new to the mix. But I want to try and lay some of it out clumsily on this table for my own satisfaction, and I’ll be happy to be corrected by others if my knife makes the wrong cut.
However we dissect it, I believe that the heart of our global crisis - cultural, ecological and spiritual - is this ongoing process of mass uprooting. We could simply call this process modernity, which is not a time period so much as a myth (more on that another time.) But I prefer to call it the Machine, a name which I have stolen from smarter writers. I want to look into its workings (and into some of those writers) in coming essays, but for now it is enough to say that this Machine - this intersection of money power, state power and increasingly coercive and manipulative technologies - constitutes an ongoing war against roots and against limits. Its momentum is always forward, and it will not stop until it has conquered and transformed the world.
To do that, it must bulldoze everything Simone Weil valued, and everything I value too: rooted human communities, wild nature, human nature, human freedom, mythic ways of seeing, beauty, faith and all the older and truer values which until yesterday, in terms of human history, were the values of every culture on Earth. This, I think, is what the writer Arundhati Roy was evoking when she once wrote of ‘the profound, unfathomable thing we have lost.’
Because we are all uprooted now. The power of the ‘global economy’ - another euphemism for the Machine - demolishes borders and boundaries, traditions and cultures, languages and ways of seeing wherever it goes. Record numbers of people are on the move as a result, and as the population increases and climate change bites, those numbers will rise everywhere, churning cultures and nations into entirely new shapes or no shapes at all. Even if you are living where your forefathers have lived for generations, you can bet that that smartphone you gave your child will unmoor them more effectively than any bulldozer. The majority of humanity is now living in megacities, cut off from non-human nature, plugged into the Machine, controlled by it, reduced to it.
This process accelerates under its own steam because, as Weil explained, ‘whoever is uprooted himself uproots others’, thus feeding the cycle. The more of us are pulled, or pushed, away from our cultures, traditions and places - if we had them in the first place - the more we take that restlessness out with us into the world. If you have ever wondered why it is de rigeur amongst Western cultural elites to demonise roots and glorify movement, to downplay cohesion and talk up diversity, to deny links with the past and strike out instead for a future that never quite arrives - well, I’d say that this is at least part of the explanation.
We are, I think, desperately in need of real culture. We want to go home again, but if we even know where home is to be found, we see that we can’t return. And so a void is created, and into the void rush monsters: fake versions of the roots we are looking for. Identity politics, newly rigid racial labels, extreme nationalisms, endlessly multiplying genders and ‘identities’ constructed online with no reference to reality. The mono-ethnic identitarianism of the far right or the 'diversity' identitarianism of the far left: take your pick according to your predelictions and fears. We reach for toxic imitations of our lost roots, but they can never replace the real thing and the result is an orgy of anger, iconoclasm and rising bile.
Meanwhile, the Machine pushes on, relentless. The Welsh poet R. S. Thomas described this process chillingly in his poem, Other, in a verse I have never forgotten since I first read it:
. . . The machine appeared
In the distance, singing to itself
Of money. Its song was the web
They were caught in, men and women
Together. The villages were as flies
To be sucked empty.
A tear. Enough, enough,
He commanded, but the machine
Looked at him and went on singing.
The Machine is singing to us all, and we are all singing with it. We are, in fact, all parts of its chorus line, whether we like or know it. If you are looking for a ‘solution’ to this - if, of course, you think it is a problem - then you will not find it in politics, nor in ideologies. Once these rootless, curated ‘identities’ are the choices we are faced with, we are already a long way down the road that leads away from real culture.
In all the time I have spent with people who live in genuinely rooted cultures - rooted in time, place and spirit - whether that be here in the remnants of rural Ireland, in indigenous communities in Mexico, Papua or India, on some of the last small farms in England, or simply talking to Maori or Native American or Aboriginal Australian people, I have been struck by one fact: people don’t tend to talk much about their ‘identity’ unless it is under threat. The louder you have to talk about it, the more you have lost. Once an entire country is talking about nothing else, that’s a pretty good sign that the Machine has sprayed the roots of its people with Roundup and ploughed the remains into the field.
‘Our age is so poisoned by lies’, wrote Weil, ‘that it converts everything it touches into a lie.’ Everything deeper, older and truer than the workings and values of the Machine has been, or is in the process of being, scoured away from us. We turned away from a mythic, rooted understanding of the world, and turned away from the divine, in order to look at ourselves reflected in the little black mirrors in our hands. Some people are quite happy with this, and have no time for Romantic Luddites like myself when we lament it. Even we Romantic Luddites are here on the Internet, lamenting. But some day soon we will all have to look up and begin to turn back again. I have a feeling that this process has already begun.
When a plant is uprooted, it withers and then dies. When the same happens to a person, or a people, or a planetful of both, the result is the same. Our crisis comes, I think, from our being unable to admit what on some level we know to be true: that we in the West are living inside an obsolete story. Our culture is not in danger of dying; it is already dead, and we are in denial.