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AFTERNOON SHOWERS and thunderstorms will occur today and Tuesday over the interior mountains. Otherwise, temperatures will remain near seasonal normals through Wednesday, followed by gradual warming and drying for the latter portion of the week. (NWS)
STEPHEN DUNLAP (Fort Bragg) weather wrap: Yep, a foggy 51F on the coast this Memorial Day. I only got a sprinkle yesterday afternoon but some folks got a good amount of rain from the passing thunderstorms. Lots of fog & some sun into Tuesday then windy & clearer for mid week.
It's mostly clear in the valley with 53F & yes the afternoon thunder will continue for the next week in the Lake Tahoe region, a partly cloudy 39F so far.
Some thunder in the south central plains, the Carolina's system is finally moving along after bringing a wet holiday.
3:08PM SUNDAY AFTERNOON, rain commenced, and not just a few drops but a good squall's worth, accompanied by distant rumbles of thunder which continued throughout the unexpected two hours of light rain. But not for the first time have campers had to huddle in their tents from the cold and the damp over the long Memorial Day weekend, the philosophers among them perhaps recalling that May has always meant maybe it will, maybe it won't. The refreshing precipitation had ceased by 5, but the skies remained gray and occasionally threatening the rest of the evening.
EYES ONLY, ANDERSON VALLEY: They say there's only 6 degrees of separation from someone we know. So, by this dubious standard among our population of 332 million people, we know, or have some association with, every sixth person. Bill Boger of Bill at Jack's Valley Store, has considerably narrowed these odds. A graduate of Carlmont High School in 1967, and U.C. Santa Cruz in 1971, since buying the store in Philo, Bill has encountered a wildly disparate group of locals who came from the same area of the San Francisco Peninsula.
FRITZ OHM. Bill met Fritz in Anderson Valley but knew of him when they both lived in the Pescadero/LaHonda area. Bill and Bill Meyer, a graduate of San Carlos High School, had friends in common in Half Moon Bay. Mike Reeves derives from San Mateo County and is a graduate of Serra High School where he probably knew, or certainly knew of, Rick Rajeski, a football star at Serra, with whom Bill had friends in common. John Phillips of Deerwood Meadows is a Palo Alto High School graduate. Bill had friends in common with the late Hayes and Linda Brennan who came north from LaHonda. And there's Mark Rawlins of the Mailliard Ranch and a graduate of Menlo/Atherton High School, and Jim Boudoures and Dennis Toohey of the fertile Peninsula. Most unusual, and much closer than 6 degrees, Bill rented a room from local guy David Butler in San Diego in 1971 and, wait for it, shared a girlfriend with David Skilman, but not at the same time, Bill hastens to add.
AARON O'BRIEN, the son of the late Ron O'Brien and Mary O'Brien, has been named basketball coach at Ukiah High School. An outstanding hoopster himself at Ukiah High School where he developed his deadly outside shooting skills that took him to college and on into the European pro leagues, Aaron has lately coached at Mount Eden High School in Hayward.
AND KATHY JAMES has come over the hill from Ukiah to Anderson Valley High School where her years of successful counseling have made her a valuable asset for the Boonville schools. Mrs. James, incidentally, is the wife of the prominent Ukiah attorney, Duncan James, a former Mendocino County District Attorney.
THE “WOKE” CROWD NEEDS TO GO BACK TO SLEEP
by Jim Shields
This past Tuesday, May 23, the Board of Supervisors unanimously ok’d a “streamlined” Weed Ordinance intended to break the logjam of local permit applicants who’ve been stuck in-place virtually forever, or at least since the original unworkable, failed ordinance was approved over six years ago.
The County has something like $17.5 million from the state’s Local Jurisdiction Assistance Grant Program (LJAGP), created in 2021 to provide funding to local governments that have problems transitioning weed cultivators from provisional cannabis license status into state annual licenses.
Needless to repeat again but the County’s Cannabis Ordinance has been fraught with problems from its inception.
In a letter that was included in documents and reports accompanying the proposed amended ordinance, the California Department of Cannabis Control stated:
“The Department is prepared to collaboratively engage with the County to address longstanding challenges confronting the County’s legacy operators and California’s legal market. This includes assessing inefficiencies under existing procedures for compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and identifying a way by which the Department could (with the County’s assistance) lead revitalized efforts to ensure timely compliance with CEQA for provisional license holders. Likewise, streamlining local permit decisions will provide greater clarity, sooner, to support enforcement of state and local law.”
I’ve heard from a number of pot farmers who’ve studied the new ordinance and believe it may prove successful in accomplishing the long delayed objective of actually issuing cultivation permits to applicants.
As others have also observed, I find it amusing that a 42-page “urgency ordinance” amending the original Mendocino Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance is deemed “streamlined.”
Something not so amusing was a totally bogus claim by the spokesman for the county’s main pot lobbying organization, that the proposed ordinance’s reference to the “black market” was racially “harmful rhetoric.”
What a load of crap.
According to Michael Katz, of the Mendocino Cannabis Association, “We request the substitution of the phrase ‘unregulated market’ or ‘unlicensed market’ in place of the currently included phrase ‘black market.’ The term ‘black market’ contributes, whether intentionally or not, to structures of white supremacy and institutional racism, and we are confident that the Board would not want to support that kind of harmful rhetoric.”
These kinds of false assertions, based on not even the thinnest thread of empirical evidence or historical fact, are the stock-in-trade of the nutsy “Woke” crowd.
At best, such fabricated and misleading assertions trivialize true racial justice issues, and at worst, foster disharmony and suspicion where none exists.
You’ll find absolutely nothing in the etymology or lexicology of the phrase “black market” that even tangentially or indirectly hints at anything remotely related to racism or white supremacy.
As a degreed political scientist and historian, I can say without any fear of contradiction that all the research I’ve done found that the roots of the phrase solely and only describes the illegal trade that takes place in secret, or in the dark, hence the name “black market.” Because black-market trade occurs “off the books,” so to speak, it represents a whole sector of a country’s economy that cannot accurately be measured.
Universally, standard dictionaries define a black market as an “underground economy, or a shadow economy, or a clandestine market, or a series of transactions that has some aspect of illegality or is characterized by noncompliance with an institutional set of rules or regulatory framework. Examples include the illegal drug trade, prostitution (where prohibited), illegal currency transactions, and human trafficking.”
Other scholarly sources use the term “black” because “tax evasion or participation in a black market activity is illegal, participants attempt to hide their behavior from the government or regulatory authority. Cash is the preferred medium of exchange in illegal transactions since cash transactions are less-easily traced. Common motives for operating in black markets are to trade contraband, avoid taxes and regulations, or skirt price controls or rationing.”
As someone who is a veteran of the Civil Rights movement, as someone who as a young unionist supported and worked with Cesar Chavez’s UFW, as someone who resigned from his original, corrupt union and with others founded an international, rank and file independent airline union that was recognized a “rainbow union,” I deeply resent Woke charlatans like Katz who don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, yet chatter on incessantly.
Paraphrasing a favorite old saying, “While everyone is entitled to act foolish, Mr. Katz abuses the privilege.”
* * *
Everyone knows that cannabis use is legal in California. However, cities and counties can prohibit cannabis cultivation, as well as businesses, like retail, manufacturing, and distribution. As a result, the state’s landscape is a patchwork where cannabis-related activities are either legal or prohibited.
I had always assumed that a majority of the state’s cities and counties allowed the full range of cannabis activities. I discovered that my assumption was far off the mark.
According to the state Department of Cannabis Control, two-thirds of cities and counties ban all things pot.
Here’s the breakdown:
• 69 percent of cities and counties prohibit cultivation.
• 61 percent of cities and counties do not allow any retail cannabis business.
• 66 percent of cities and counties prohibit manufacturing.
• 66 percent of cities and counties prohibit distribution.
Mendocino County and its four cities are among a distinct minority that allows all weed-related activities.
(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, firstname.lastname@example.org, the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District, and is also chairman of the Laytonville Area Municipal Advisory Council. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org.)
BONY SALUDES, legendary Press Democrat reporter, dies at 90
An old-school, shoe-leather newspaperman, Saludes contributed to The Press Democrat’s coverage of some of the late 20th century’s most harrowing local crimes.
by Bob Smith
Bony Saludes was a diligent, always-digging Press Democrat reporter who for decades was a fixture at the Sonoma County courthouse, and who, owing to his driven hands-on nature, once or twice became part of the story.
Saludes, whose very first project for the newspaper in 1953 won him substantial awards and admiration, died May 21, of advanced age and a couple of longstanding exceptions to his generally hale condition. He’d have turned 91 in early June.
“Indefatigable. That’s the first thing that comes to my mind,” said former Sonoma County District Attorney Mike Mullins.
“If he caught the scent of a story, he would hound it down to the last nub,” said Mullins, who was district attorney from 1995 to 2002. He added that if Saludes was after you for an article, “You might as well give up and think about what you’re going to say.”
An old-school, shoe-leather newspaperman, Saludes contributed to The Press Democrat’s coverage of some of the late 20th century’s most harrowing local crimes. Among them: the 1989 murder spree by Ramon Salcido of Sonoma Valley; the 1993 kidnapping and slaying of 12-year-old Polly Klaas by Richard Allen Davis; and the 1995 murder of Deputy Sheriff Frank Trejo by Robert Scully in a parking lot between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol.
“Everywhere you turned, he was there. When he interviewed me, he didn’t just accept my answer. He would ask follow-up questions. He challenged me. He kept me on my toes,” said Chris Andrian, one of the region’s leading criminal defense attorneys.
Added Andrian, “He was a sweetheart, a wonderful man. He was very smart, too. Very incisive.”
Compact and generally soft-spoken, Saludes was a pillar of the PD newsroom for 43 years.
‘He did everything’
“Like a lot of us at the time, he did everything,” said retired reporter and columnist Gaye LeBaron, who wrote her first Press Democrat story in 1955. Though Saludes became best known for the depth, thoroughness and insight of his coverage of criminal trials, he also reported on community events, politics, whatever was asked of him.
Former Press Democrat editor and publisher Bruce Kyse called him “something of a legend in the Press Democrat newsroom” and for decades the news editors’ “quiet and stoic warrior.”
“He was the go-to reporter on so many topics,” Kyse added, “and we took advantage of his news acumen, speed and accuracy as often as we could.”
One of Saludes’ most extraordinary days as a reporter occurred in March 1973.
Deputies had pulled over a car occupied by four men on Highway 116 near Sebastopol, and there was gunfire. Two deputies were injured. The suspects fled. Two of them entered a house near Sebastopol and took a widowed mother, Michaela Madden, hostage.
The armed suspects, one of whom had taken a bullet to a leg, allowed both Saludes and an unarmed sheriff’s lieutenant to enter the house. Over the course of five fearful and anxious hours, Saludes assured the men he would help them get out of the situation alive, and by phone he demanded that deputies outside back away.
In a biographical story he wrote later, Saludes recalled gunman Dave Savory telling him, “You’re the only person I can trust. Tell me, do we have a chance?”
Saludes wrote that he told Savory, “You have a chance only if you give me the gun and surrender. Otherwise, you have no chance at all.”
A short while later, both Savory and the second suspect in the house, Dave Ferguson, handed the reporter their handguns. They walked outside and were arrested without further incident.
A grateful Michaela Madden would write to The Press Democrat’s editor that the night of the hostage ordeal “was long and tense, and the outcome was in doubt through much of it.
“Bony undoubtedly included himself in my dilemma as a means of getting a story. He got the story and he also revealed himself to be a man of courage, wisdom, compassion, ingenuity and immense calm. He was a true hero that night…”
In an unpublished book of stories and memories from his long life and career, Saludes reprinted the subsequent article from United Press International that told of his surprise to receive a letter from the Sonoma County Superior Court just as the trial of Savory, Ferguson and their alleged accomplices was about to begin.
Saludes was being summoned for jury duty — for that trial.
“I, of course, was disqualified as a juror,” he wrote.
Elsewhere in his book, he recalled going in 1961 to a standoff between deputies and a man wielding a rifle. That time, too, the man with the gun was calmed by Saludes’ presence and surrendered to him.
Boniface Saludes was born in the Tuolumne County town of Sonora on June 5, 1932. He was the youngest of four children of immigrants from Mexico, Juan and Belen Saludes.
Saludes studied journalism at Modesto Junior College, then Fresno State. He’d just graduated when one of his professors arranged for him to be a summer relief reporter at The Press Democrat. Weeks later, editor-in-chief Art Volkerts approached him with an idea.
Saludes would recall years later that Volkerts “wanted me to pose as an illegal alien — or a ‘wetback’ as they were called then — in the flourishing apple business in western Sonoma County. Among other things, he wanted to know how easy it was for illegals to get jobs in agriculture, their living conditions and how they were treated by employers.”
It was August of 1953 and Saludes was 21 years old when he went undercover among migrant field workers. The series that appeared in the PD beneath his byline was a striking success, and brought him and the paper a number of prestigious awards.
Impressed by the young newsman’s premiere work, Volkerts offered him a staff-writer position. Saludes hired on in 1954, quickly becoming one of the most productive and respected people in the newsroom.
“He was the classic ‘street’ reporter,” said Chris Coursey, a former Press Democrat reporter and columnist who now chairs the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.
“He knew every lawyer in the courthouse, and every cop on the beat. He had every important person's phone number, and if they weren't answering their phone, Bony likely knew where they were drinking.”
On the last day before his retirement in 1997, Saludes filed a news story or two, stood up from his desk and, as though it was simply the close of another workday, stepped toward the newsroom door. Spotting him, fellow reporter Tom Chorneau stood, and clapped.
Soon everyone in the room was on their feet, thanking Saludes with a heartfelt ovation.
“I’d never seen that happen before,” Gaye LeBaron said.
Saludes is survived by his wife of 37 years, Jeanie Anderson Saludes; his children, Andrea Saludes and Trinidad Saludes, both of Santa Rosa; Quentin Saludes of Santa Cruz, and Susan Saludes and Chris Summit, both of Santa Rosa; and two grandchildren.
A celebration of his life is planned for the fall.
ATTENTION DA EYSTER
I am currently confined in "isolation" at the Mendocino County Jail. I am writing this letter to bring to light the inhumane conditions of confinement that this county jail subject inmates to.
The "isolation" cells are maybe 8 feet wide and 11 feet long. There is a camera above the door in the cell and a camera in the back of the cell. We are under observation 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We are in this cell 23.5 hours a day.
Most of the cells have feces on the walls and ceiling. In my cell there is feces on the walls, ceiling and phone. However, I can't clean the phone without causing damage to the phone. The deputies are aware of the situation as I have earlier let them know as well as grieved it. Most of these cells are infested with ants, spiders, pincher bugs and earwigs.
While housed in "isolation," we are not afforded books. If you don't come with books you will not receive any books to keep you preoccupied. We cannot verbally express our frustration with being left back here indefinitely or they (classification and the brass: sergeants, lieutenants and captains) classify that as "negative behavior," and extend our stay. We cannot express our frustration with peaceful protests in the form of hunger strikes for that too is classified as "negative behavior" and extends our stay.
Yard? They come around 7 AM to ask if we want yard. The yard is only 30 minutes. The process of getting to the yard? They, the deputies — two of them, open the tray slot and cuff us behind the back. Then we have to kneel on our bed. They come in the cell and shackle our ankles. Then one grabs our left elbow and the other the right. Then they physically escort us to a yard. When I say "physically" I mean it feels as though they are attempting to carry/drag us to the yard. Once on the yard we are held against the fence with one shoulder and face to the fence. Then they unshackle our ankles. As they close the gate to the yard we are to remain leaned against the fence. This 30 minute yard feels as though it is only 15 minutes. Then it's the same process in reverse when taken back to our cells.
Showers? Sometimes we don't get offered a shower for three days. When they do run showers they come get us from anywhere between midnight and 3 AM. It's like they wait until we are asleep before they ask us if we want a shower. The shower is filthy. There is even feces in there and it smells of feces and urine.
This county jail has this thing then it calls the "step down program" in which mainly an individual in a "smock" (which is a sort of night gown looking thing) and that is the only piece of clothing they receive. They only give these individuals a "smock blanket" to cover up with at night. They refuse to give these individuals any reading materials, cleaning supplies or hygiene so that they can brush their teeth or wash their hands after they use the restroom.
My neighbor has been on this "step down program" for about two months. Well — he went crazy the other morning and began banging his head on the walls, the door and the window. Over and over again screaming, "Why am I still alive?" (Bam Bam Bam), "until I'm dead!" (Bam Bam Bam!). "Why am I still here?" (Bam Bam Bam). This went on for about 30 minutes before someone let them know that he was over there banging his head on stuff and still it took them another 3-5 minutes to come over here.
Once they brought him back from the "safety cell" (which is yet another inhumane place that this county jail places inmates in as it has feces, urine, blood, boogers, snot, spit etc. in it on the floor and the walls). I can tell you this, they will still leave him on the so-called "step down program" that caused him to go crazy.
This practice of this county jail placing the mentally ill in the super max environment of its lockdown unit (400 wing) and "isolation)" is a violation of their Sixth Amendment due process clause and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. This county jail is not equipped to house mentally ill so they put them in punitive segregation which seems to enhance their mental illness. Take my neighbor for an example.
Tablets. Every other housing unit has access to tablets on which they can do legal research, read books, watch movies and TV shows, listen to music, message their families and friends, and receive letters from them on there as well. "Isolation" is not afforded this and their excuse is that there is no WiFi back here. They won't even give us an alternative, the "windup radio," so those of us back here indefinitely can at least listen to music to help us stay mentally healthy.
I was making little projects to help my mental health in which I was making crosses and dream catchers out of strips of plastic bags that I stretched out and made into string. Practicing my religion. Something that boosted my spirits and morale in this depressing environment. Well, they came into my cell and took those from me and called them "contraband" and wrote me up, effectively restricting me from practicing my religion in this area.
Will the Mendocino County jail ever be held accountable for the wrongs that it commits? Or will they continue to get free reign to do whatever they want when it comes to these inhumane conditions of confinement?
Name Withheld/’An isolation inmate’
CATCH OF THE DAY, Sunday, May 27, 2023
DUSTIN FABIN, Laytonville. DUI-alcohol&drugs, controlled substance.
ARMANDO GOMEZ, Philo. DUI, concentrated cannabis.
TANYA HARRIES, Potter Valley. DUI causing bodily injury, child cruelty-infliction of injury.
GARRICK HORNLEIN, Fort Bragg. County parole violation.
BUDDY HORVATH, Laytonville. Disorderly conduct-intoxicated by drugs&alcohol, more than an ounce of pot.
JACQUELINE LOVRIN, Redwood Valley. DUI.
SAMANTHA MENDEZ, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-intoxicated by alcohol&drugs.
CHAMPA SAIGAL, Healdsburg/Ukiah. DUI, resisting.
RUBEN SPAGGIARI, Willits. Obtaining personal ID info without authorization, use of access card account data without consent, conspiracy.
DAYNE VICE, Hopland. Probation revocation.
NOTHING MUCH HAS CHANGED
In the history of the world, the wealthy have been the landowners and the rest of us have been taxed and made to pay whatever “rent” the wealthy could get for the “right” to live (sometimes even to work) on their land. Nothing has really changed now, except that the wealthy, who are supposed to pay a fair amount of taxes to our government (like the rest of us), don’t.
It appears that the tax breaks granted by former President Donald Trump added trillions to our national deficit. From my understanding of a report by the Center for American Progress, an independent policy institute, if Trump and former President George W. Bush hadn’t enacted tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations, debt, as a percentage of the economy, would be declining permanently and the rich and their corporations would still be doing fine.
This wealth directly affects the cost and, hence, the required rent to make an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) a “profitable” investment, as the wealthy don’t do anything that doesn’t make a profit or a hedge against paying taxes. There is nothing wrong with that, as that is the basis of how our for-profit economy works.
If wealthy people and large corporations paid their fair amount of taxes, interest rates would be lower and our government would have the means to help offset the cost of constructing “fair-market housing” by giving yearly tax breaks to those owners who built ADUs on their property. They could make them charge less for rent and still have their investment be profitable.
The way to make the cost of building ADUs less would be to have the government subsidize for-profit home manufacturers to build prefabricated housing units that could be easily transported to the site and built under the international building codes instead of more stringent California codes. They could still be “green” and energy efficient. The exteriors could be made to fit into existing neighborhoods.
Doing this correctly requires a government that is getting a fair amount of taxes from us all.
AND EARTH’S DIAMETER IS 200 MILES
by Tommy Wayne Kramer
I’ve been skeptical of population estimates for a long time because it just seems there are far fewer people roaming around Planet Earth than statistics suggest.
Who hasn’t run into a friend from Ukiah at an airport in Detroit or somewhere just as unlikely? If there are 350 million people in the USA how could I have once met an Ohio woman in Boonville and six months later run into her on a dusty back street in Central America? Or met a Willits teenager and a few days later wave to each other at an intersection in Midtown Manhattan?
Can it really be that millions and millions and millions of people get hungry three times a day yet our supermarket shelves are full 365 days a year? No shortages ever? Why is every breath of air we breathe so fresh if six billion people just exhaled it?
How can it be that Ukiah, of all the pushpins in all the maps in all of America saw the population of lost souls from Lucas County, Ohio go from zero to 100 in a matter of a month in 1975? It was a tsunami of immigrants that might have been called New Toledo and could have been the sixth largest city in Mendocino County.
When we travel Trophy has very few rules, but all of them are the same: I am not allowed to strike up stray conversations with strangers. Anywhere. I’m not to speak to anyone in a pub in London, a gallery in Florence or a hotel lobby anywhere.
Why? Because everyone everywhere is from Ohio, and a “Hello” quickly turns into small talk about the midwest and the weather and the Buckeyes and the Browns. Trophy’s had it with standing around while yet another elevator goes up, comes back down and I’m still gabbing at some couple from Columbus with memories of the good old days.
Turns out they left Ohio, now live in North Carolina, and are here at the South Pole to visit a niece who once lived in Ukiah who happens to be a good friend of daughter Emily.
So how could all this (and tons more!) happen if there were millions of inhabitants on this lonely planet?
Here in the American South the land is thick with ex-Clevelanders, Youngstown gangsters, Dayton bicycle shop owners. The numbers are overwhelming and Trophy sincerely believes there must only be a dozen or so people left in Ohio. She may be right.
When we left for the Carolinas, friends asked if it was because we had family back east and wanted to be close.
Well, yes, I said. And no.
Two years into our southern adventure we’ve had no inclination to visit my brother 150 miles away in Charleston, or my sister in the middle of Pennsylvania.
We’ve uhh, never been all that close.
But last week Craig Pickering, an old pal from Cleveland got in touch and suggested since we both now live in the Carolinas we should get together and share some laughs, tell some lies, remind one another that in the past 50 years we’ve seen each other just about never.
We met at a big hotel South Carolina’s capitol city and marveled at our boyish good looks. We were stylish and well-dressed too. (Craig had remembered to wear shoes.)
After a couple hours dawdling poolside I went in to fetch a couple more beers. The lobby is dark, the lounge is darker, and as I stand at the end of the bar, fumbling through my wallet, holding it up sideways to pick through matted bills, I lightly jostle a woman seated on the last stool.
“Oops,” I say. ”Sorry. Dark. My fault.”
She turns to look at me and so does the guy sitting next to her.
My eyes, pinholes from bright Carolina sunshine, slowly adjust to a dark that would make a cat hire a guide dog. Dark as a coal mine. Took me a while…
“Oh.” I said. ”Hey.” And with that I greeted my brother and his wife. (We’d seen each other as recently as five years ago.)
Being a family member, he was clearly thrilled and displayed the cheer and exuberance I’d expect. When I left a few minutes later Bill was still facing the mirror, draining a beer, and with his back to me raised a hand in a gesture of goodbye.
Ahh, we’ve never been that close.
The point remains that it would be impossible to vector two people together in circumstances such as those if there were hundreds of millions of humans to sort through.
But wait, you say! What about the 65,000 that go to the Super Bowl every year? Answer: I dunno. There’s that PhotoShop stuff, and maybe everyone brings an inflatable doll to the game. And seriously: Do you personally know anyone who’s ever been to a Super Bowl?
The only big crowd I was ever in was Woodstock, but they made me take drugs and I wasn’t able to count.
I think there are about 300,000 people in the world, and I’ll stick with that total until we line everyone up and give each a numbered badge.
WHILE MOST SAN FRANCISCANS are familiar with the names Boudin, Tartine and Acme, there is another, often-forgotten family-owned bakery that reigned as part of San Francisco's sourdough elite for more than 75 years.
In fact, their “French sour” bread was so sought-after that beloved newspaper columnist Herb Caen reportedly called it part of “the quintessential San Francisco meal” and film director Alfred Hitchcock was rumored to be a frequent bakery visitor, often sending his assistant up to SF from LA on a private plane to bring back loaves for his Hollywood parties.
The bread that was known for its tangy flavor and hard crust — hand-kneaded and made without preservatives, shortening or yeast — developed quite a loyal following. Then seemingly overnight, it was gone.
Julia Lavaroni is working on a documentary about the historical Larraburu bakery, which was run by for a time by her great uncle, Hal Paul and closed in 1977.
— Jessica Brandi Lifl
THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY’S CRUCIFIXION OF MATT TAIBBI
Extensive government blacklists, revealed by the Twitter Files, are used to censor left-wing and right-wing critics. This censorship apparatus has been turned on the reporter who exposed them.
by Chris Hedges
On Dec. 24, 2022 Matt Taibbi was in a room at the Parc 55 Hotel in San Francisco pouring through reports sent to Twitter from an entity called the Foreign Influence Task Force (FITF). The FITF is an FBI-led interagency task force that forwards “moderation requests” from numerous government agencies, including Homeland Security, the CIA, the Pentagon and the State Department, to social media outlets. Taibbi was given access to the internal traffic by Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk. It revealed how the FBI and other government agencies routinely suppressed news and commentary. He published a Twitter thread that night, Christmas Eve, with the headline “Twitter and Other Government Agencies”.
“There would be a list of YouTube videos,” Taibbi said when I reached him by phone. “There would be a notation that would say ‘We assess that these are all created by the Internet Research Agency in Russia. We assess that they are promoting anti-Ukraine attitudes.’ I would see that all those videos were no longer on YouTube. You can make your own deduction from that, but that was the pattern. They would send Excel spreadsheets full of account names and either all or most of them would be gone.”
The content that was suppressed included right-wing and left-wing reports critical of the dominant narrative advanced by the Democratic Party and the old establishment wing of the Republican Party, which has been folded into the Democratic Party. Threads from the Yellow Vests movement, activists from the Occupy movement, Global Revolution Live, negative stories about Joe Biden, reports on the Ukrainian energy company Burisma that paid Hunter Biden about $1 million a year while his father was vice-president, positive stories about Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro, reports about Ukrainian human rights abuses and details of the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop were part of the plethora of accounts that were flagged and disappeared.
I was a victim of this censorship. The six-year archive of my show On Contact, broadcast on RT America, was erased from YouTube, although not one show was about Russia and none violated YouTube’s content guidelines. Episodes were later reposted on The Chris Hedges YouTube Channel. The show gave a voice to those targeted by the FITF — anti-imperialists, anti-capitalists, prison reform advocates, Black Lives Matter and Palestinian activists, anti-fracking activists and independent intellectuals, journalists and authors including David Harvey, Noam Chomsky, Sami Al-Arian, Glen Ford, Amira Hass, Mumia Abu Jamal, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Medea Benjamin, Nils Melzer, Pankaj Mishra, Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi and Cornel West.
The FBI, before the release of Taibbi’s Twitter thread on Dec. 24, had denounced the Twitter Files as the work of “conspiracy theorists” who fed the public “misinformation” and whose “sole purpose” was “discrediting the agency.”
“They must think us unambitious, if our ‘sole aim’ is to discredit the FBI,” Taibbi responded. “After all, a whole range of government agencies discredit themselves in the Twitter Files. Why stop with one?”
Taibbi was acutely aware these Christmas Eve revelations, which for the first time revealed the role of the CIA, would further enrage the intelligence agencies.
“My understanding is that the FITF has a staff of at least 80,” Taibbi said. “It consists primarily of the FBI, but it also includes people from the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The FITF was the conduit for content moderation requests that went to the tech platforms. They had something called an industry meeting which was, at first monthly and then weekly, leading into the 2020 election. It included companies like Twitter, Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Wikimedia, a series of others, about two dozen of them. They would have a general briefing on trends. Individually, each of the companies were receiving notices. Some of them were receiving weekly notices from the FITF. Twitter was. We know that because there were very specific instructions about how it was done. Requests that came from the states went through the DHS. Requests that came from the Federal Government went through the FBI. They went through a program called Teleporter. That’s how we got those documents.”
In March, Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger were called to testify before the Select Subcommittee on Weaponization of the Federal Government. While Taibbi was testifying on March 9, an IRS agent visited his house in New Jersey.
Taibbi discovered that the IRS opened a case against him on the day he published his Christmas Eve Twitter thread from a letter House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan sent to IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel inquiring about Taibbi’s case. It was a Saturday. It was Christmas Eve. Taibbi did not owe taxes. The case was four years old. All this suggests that the IRS case was politically motivated and the FBI was monitoring Taibbi.
“There’s probably little doubt that they were at least closely following all the Twitter Files reporters, but probably they were monitoring in other ways too,” Taibbi deduced.
“One of reasons I agreed to testify before the weaponization of government committee — and I got a lot of grief from old lefty friends who were upset that I was appearing before a Republican-led committee — was that the other mainstream news reporters weren't picking up a lot of these stories that I thought really needed some attention. I needed other reporters to do some work on this. My thinking was, if I testified in Washington it might get some more attention, not just nationally but maybe globally.”
Taibbi ran into a buzzsaw of orchestrated character assassination. The Democratic members of the committee rarely let Taibbi speak. They delivered vicious and insulting diatribes. Here is a clip of Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, along with Sam Seder and other hosts at The Majority Report, attacking Taibbi.
“I expected there to be hostility in the questioning, but what happened in that hearing was amazing, even to be involved with as a spectator,” he said. “Rather than engage with the material of the Twitter Files reporting on any level, even negatively, it was pure character-assassination. The ranking member called us a direct threat to people who oppose us. We were ‘so-called journalists.’ We were the lapdogs and scribes of Elon Musk. We didn’t believe in Russian interference. We didn’t respect authority. I had a tin-foil hat I was told to take off by one member. It was one member after the other creating clips of video that were replayed on MSNBC and CNN later that night. That was how people got the news about that hearing.”
“We grew up in an atmosphere where the Democrats were always the champions of free speech, more so than the Republicans,” Taibbi told me. “Through the 70s, 80s, 90s and even the early 2000s. Suddenly, on this issue, it was wall-to-wall hostility. There wasn’t a Dennis Kucinich or Bernie Sanders type who stands out from the crowd. There are no dissenters in the ranks of this party anymore.”
“The old school ACLU-like liberals, they’re just gone now,” he said. “There’s this new movement that doesn’t believe in countering bad speech with better speech. They believe in closing it off and shutting it down. That’s what the Twitter Files were about. That’s why there was so much hostility.”
Taibbi was informed there were problems with his 2018 tax return. The IRS said it had sent him letters about the issue, but Taibbi had not received any letters and the IRS refused to produce copies. He also had electronic confirmation from the IRS that his 2018 tax return had been received.
It was only when Congressman Jordan wrote to the IRS asking for clarification that Taibbi became aware of the files the IRS had amassed on him. These included information taken from search enginesand commercial investigative software such as Anyhoo, Consumer Affairs and LexisNexis. They had his voter registration records, whether he possessed a hunting or fishing license, whether he had a concealed weapons permit, his telephone numbers, articles he had written and articles written about him.
“Why would an IRS agent need to know anything about my professional history or about controversies that I’ve been involved with or things that I had written about?” he asked. “That seems pretty dubious.”
“They’re not worried about the optics, about doing something like sending an IRS agent to the home of a journalist who has a big platform and a reputation for not being afraid to say something about it,” he said. “They’re not worried about how this looks. It is concerning for a number of reasons. It reminds you of things you would see in a third world country.”
Taibbi was interviewed by MSNBC host Mehdi Hassan. Hassan, or his researchers, had combed through Taibbi’s reports and found a couple of very minor errors, including a confused timeline and a misplaced acronym. Hassan argued that the errors were evidence that Taibbi intentionally lied to Congress. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez seconded the accusation. The ranking committee member, Stacey Plaskett, sent Taibbi a letter accusing him of lying to Congress. Plaskett threatened Taibbi with a five-year prison sentence.
There are three steps to destroying a reporter who can’t be bought off or intimidated. The first is a campaign by the powerful, whose lies and crimes have been exposed, along with their obsequious courtiers in the press, to discredit the reporting. The second is a sustained campaign of character assassination. The third is persecution carried out once the reporter’s credibility has been weakened, his or her ability to publish or broadcast is degraded and public support has eroded.
This is what happened to Julian Assange. It happened before Assange to Don Hollenbeck, I.F. Stone, Gary Webb, Ray Bonner and many others. It is what is happening to Taibbi whose revelations of widespread censorship — by the FBI, the CIA, Homeland Security and other intelligence and government agencies — have enraged the ruling class.
I don’t know if they will win. Let us hope not. But the deafening silence by nearly all press outlets to what they are doing to Taibbi, as is true for Assange, is ominous and self-defeating. It sends a signal to those who attempt to report about the inner workings of power that no matter how well known you are or how high a profile you have, you too will be targeted. The concerted attacks on Taibbi are an example of how the walls are steadily closing in to impose an iron conformity, one more piece of our emergent corporate totalitarianism.
“Nobody wants to deal with a full-throated negative media campaign that you volunteer for when you do this kind of work,” he said. “It never goes away. That’s kind of a drag. We’ve seen it happen with you, with Glenn Greenwald after the Snowden business and it happened with him again during Russiagate. It’s not fun. People don’t want to go through it. It’s a disincentive to do counter-narrative work.”
“It’s funny, Chris, I thought a lot during this process about your book Death of The Liberal Class,” Taibbi said. “There have been so many different instances where the basic story we’re looking at with a lot of the Twitter Files reports was a breakdown in the system of checks and balances. Civil society organizations, the media, private industry and the government, they’re all supposed to have different interests. They have a check on each other. But what we’re seeing is, underneath the surface, they’re engaged in anti-competitive behavior…It’s basically media, these internet censors, the enforcement agencies and NGOs, all acting in concert against the population as opposed to checking each other. You were predicting this. When these institutions break down, when they don’t work anymore, this is what happens. It’s a pretty quick step to consolidation of authority. That’s the scary part. Once upon a time, if you were in media, even a small offense in this direction would’ve attracted solidarity amongst the ranks. Now there’s nothing.”
He decried the role major media organizations played in hunting down Jack Teixeira, a National Guard technology support staffer who posted classified documents online.
“Instead of reporting on the contents of big intelligence leaks, the Washington Post and The New York Times worked with Bellingcat to deliver this suspect to the authorities,” he said. “This is a new role for the media. It is a big shift in how the press thinks of itself. It doesn’t see itself as something separate from government or law enforcement. It sees itself as on the same side.”
“There were probably a lot of people who were frightened by the spectacle of the rise of Donald Trump,” he said. “They were told over and over again that this was a Christian nationalist neofascist movement. There are elements of that. There’s real truth to that. But in response to it they became exactly the thing they were telling everybody they were fighting against. By the time people wake up it might be a little bit too late, which is unfortunate.”
A discredited ruling class, which has disemboweled the nation for its corporate masters and whose primary mission is the perpetuation of permanent war, has no intention of carrying out reform. It will not permit an exchange of ideas or allow its critics a platform. It knows it is hated. It fears the rise of the neofascists its dysfunction and corruption have spawned. It seeks to perpetuate itself only through fear — fear of what will replace it. That is all it has to offer a demoralized citizenry. Constitutional guarantees of free speech and the right to privacy are noisome impediments to its tenuous grip on power. These constitutional rights have been effectively abolished. What the Twitter Files revealed is massive government blacklists and the craven acquiescence of media platforms to marginalize and ban individuals and groups on these blacklists. Taibbi, not surprisingly, is being targeted by the totalitarian machinery he exposed.
I KNOW FOR A FACT that the wild people on the street corners who are talking to themselves aren't crazy and lost, they just don’t get enough carbohydrates to sustain the weight of profound ideas rushing into their cerebral cortices. Each friend I’ve lost was an extraordinary person, not just to me, but to hundreds of people who knew their work and their fight. Their war was against ignorance, the bankruptcy of beauty, and the truancy of culture. They were people who hated and scorned pettiness, intolerance, bigotry, mediocrity, ugliness, and spiritual myopia; the blindness that makes life hollow and insipid was unacceptable. They tried to make us see.
— Cookie Mueller
CHRISTIANE SCHMIDTMER was born in Mannheim, Germany.
She took acting lessons in Munich and worked in the stage in Germany from 1961-1963, then turned to photographic modeling for German nude magazines and later, Playboy. She also modeled for advertising companies, namely Max Factor cosmetics, before she started her movie career.
She was the beautiful mistress of José Ferrer in Ship of Fools (1965), but most people will remember her as the evil wardress in the exploitation women-in-prison film, The Big Doll House (1971), as well as one of the three airline stewardesses in Boeing, Boeing (1965)
Born December 24, 1939 · Mannheim, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Died March 13, 2003 · Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany (natural causes, after an accident)
Birth name: Christel Schmidtmer
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL ICICLE
by Inigo Thomas
In Neil Armstrong’s photograph of Buzz Aldrin standing on the Moon, taken with a camera strapped to his chest, Aldrin stands at ease, his right arm hanging loosely at his side, the left raised as if he’s about to do something — look at his watch, perhaps? The photograph was over 50 years ago, on July 20, 1969, and it’s one of the most recognizable photographs from the Apollo missions, among the most famous photographs ever taken. So stark is the contrast between Aldrin in his white spacesuit and the empty gray desert he stands on — the black of space beyond, the sun out of sight — that while it is, obviously, a photograph of a man on the Moon it is also a picture of the living and the dead. For Armstrong, who always saw things from an engineer’s point of view, what was important was the suit: it was a spacecraft in its own right. Each suit had its own atmosphere; each was designed to fit its astronaut perfectly. “Turned out to be one of the most widely photographed spacecrafts in history,” Armstrong said. “That was no doubt due to the fact it was so photogenic. Its true beauty, however, was that it worked. It was tough, reliable and almost cuddly.”
MOST PROPAGANDA LOOKS NOTHING LIKE THIS
by Caitlin Johnstone
When most people in the English-speaking world hear the word “propaganda”, they tend to think of something that’s done by foreign nations who have governments that are so totalitarian they won’t even let people know what’s true or think for themselves.
Others understand that propaganda is something that happens in their own nation, but think it only happens to other people in other political parties. If they think of themselves as left-leaning they see those to their right as propagandized by right wing media, and if they think of themselves as right-leaning they see those to their left as propagandized by left wing media.
A few understand that propaganda is administered in their own nation by their own media, and understand that it’s administered across partisan lines, but they think of it in terms of really egregious lies like weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or babies being taken from incubators in Kuwait.
In reality, all are inaccurate understandings of what propaganda is and how it works in western society. Propaganda is administered in western nations, by western nations, across the political spectrum — and the really blatant and well-known examples of its existence make up only a small sliver of the propaganda that our civilization is continuously marinating in.
The most common articles of propaganda — and by far the most consequential — are not the glaring, memorable instances that live in infamy among the critically minded. They’re the mundane messages, distortions and lies-by-omission that people are fed day in and day out to normalize the status quo and lay the foundation for more propaganda to be administered in the future.
One of the forms this takes is the way the western political/media class manipulates the Overton window of acceptable political opinion.
Have you ever noticed how when you look at any mainstream newspaper, broadcast or news website, you never see views from those who oppose the existence of the US-centralized empire? Or those who want to close all foreign US military bases? Or those who want to dismantle capitalism? Or those who want a thorough rollback of the creeping authoritarianism our civilization is being subjected to? You might see some quibbling about different aspects of the empire, some debate over whether we should de-escalate against Russia so we can better escalate against China, but you won’t ever see anyone calling for the complete end of the empire and its abuses altogether.
That’s propaganda. It’s propaganda in multiple ways: it excludes voices that are critical of the established status quo from being heard and influencing people, it amplifies voices (many of whom have packing foam for brains) which support the status quo, and, most importantly, it creates the illusion that the range of political opinions presented are the only reasonable political opinions to have.
The creation of that illusion is propaganda. It’s not something solid that you can point to easily because it’s comprised of an omission of something rather than a concrete thing, but it warps people’s perspectives in ways that have immensely far-reaching consequences. It’s something that doesn’t stand out too sharply against the background, but because people are exposed to it continuously day in and day out, it plays a huge role in shaping their worldview.
Another related method of manipulation is agenda-setting — the way the press shapes public thinking by emphasising some subjects and not others. In placing importance on some matters over others simply by giving disproportionate coverage to them, the mass media (who are propagandists first and news reporters second) give the false impression that those topics are more important and the de-emphasised subjects are less so. As political scientist Bernard Cohen famously observed way back in 1963, the press “may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about. The world will look different to different people depending on the map that is drawn for them by writers, editors, and publishers of the paper they read.”
Ever noticed how the fact that our governments are increasingly tempting nuclear war seems like it ought to be a front-page story pretty much every day of the week, but instead the news is full of stuff like the US presidential race and people arguing over what products Target should sell during Pride Month? That’s agenda-setting.
The press could easily have spent the entire Trump administration screaming about the dangerous aggressions Trump was advancing against Russia instead of calling him a Putin puppet, and mainstream liberals would have fixated on Trump’s warmongering insanity instead of calling him Putin’s cock holster. But that wouldn’t have served the interests of the empire, which had been planning to ramp up aggressions against Russia for years. They set the agenda, and the public fell in line.
Another of the mundane, almost-invisible ways the public is propagandized from day to day is described in a recent video by Second Thought titled “You’re Not Immune To Propaganda“. We’re continually fed messages by the capitalist machine that we must work hard for employers and accept whatever standards and compensation they see fit to offer, and if we have difficulty thriving in this unjust system the fault lies with us and not with the system. Poor? That’s your fault. Miserable? Your fault. Unemployed? Your fault. Overworked? Your fault.
The continual message we’re fed every day is that there’s nothing to rebel against and nothing to oppose, because any problems we’re perceiving are our own fault and not the fault of an abusive, exploitative system which is built to extract profit from the working class and the ecosystem at the expense of both. The system cannot be a failure, it can only be failed.
Then there’s the ideological herding funnel we discussed recently, which herds the population into two mainstream factions of equal size which both prevent all meaningful change and serve the interests of the powerful. Anyone who can’t be herded into either of these mainstream factions is instead herded into fake “populist” factions, which eventually corral them back into the mainstream factions. Those few politically engaged people who can’t be herded toward any of these groups are so small in number that they can simply be marginalized and denied any sizeable platform from which to spread their ideas, and “democracy” does the rest because the majority are supporting the status quo.
Maybe the most consequential of all the mundane, routine ways we’re propagandized is the way the mass media manufacture the illusion of normality in a dystopia so disturbing that we would all scream our lungs out if we could see it with fresh eyes. The way pundits, politicians and reporters will talk about the Biden administration surrounding China with war machinery without also talking about how freakish and horrifying it is that we’re looking at rapidly escalating brinkmanship between nuclear-armed countries. The way American cities are full of homeless people and it’s just treated as a normal and acceptable thing to simply let them stay homeless and push them out of wherever they try to be. The way nothing ever changes no matter who we vote for but we’re still herded into the voting booths and told to vote better.
As a character in the movie Waking Life puts it, “We all know the function of the media has never been to eliminate the evils of the world, no! Their job is to persuade us to accept those evils and get used to living with them. The powers that be want us to be passive observers. And they haven’t given us any other options outside the occasional purely symbolic act of voting — do you want the puppet on the right or the puppet on the left?”
They don’t just tell us what to believe about the world, they tell us what to believe about ourselves. They give us the frameworks upon which we cast our ambitions and evaluate our success, and we build psychological identities out of those constructs. I am a businessman. I am unemployed. My life is about making money. My life is about disappointing people. I am a success. I am a failure. They invent the test of our adequacy, and they invent the system by which we are graded on that test.
Over and over and over again, day after day, we are fed seemingly small messages which add up over time. Messages like,
- The world works more or less the way we were taught in school.
- The media have some problems but basically tell the truth.
- The status quo is working basically fine.
- Democracy is real and voting is effective.
- This is the only way things can be.
- Our government might have its problems, but it’s basically good.
- You can earn your way into happiness by working harder.
- You can consume your way into happiness with more spending.
- If you think the system is dysfunctional, you’re the dysfunctional one.
- Those who oppose the status quo are weird and untrustworthy.
- Things might get better after the next election cycle.
- Any attempt to change things is a silly waste of time.
By feeding us all these simple, foundational lies day after day, year after year from the time we are very young, they lay the groundwork for the more complex, specific lies we’ll be told later on. Lies like “Russia/China/Iran/etc is a real problem and its government needs to be stopped,” or “People are struggling financially right now, but it’s just because times are hard and it can’t be helped.”
All the mundane lies serve as a primer for the lies we’ll be told later, because once our worldview has been shaped by them, our basic human cognitive biases and predisposition to reject information which conflicts with our worldview will ensure that we’ll take on board the information which confirms our biases and reject any evidence against it. They construct our worldviews for us, then let our normal cognitive defense systems protect it.
Their messages don’t even need to be well-evidenced or well-argued, they only need to be repeated frequently due to a glitch in human cognition known as the illusory truth effect which causes us to mistake the feeling of having heard something before with the feeling of something being true.
Add to all this the recent development of things like Silicon Valley algorithm manipulation and the deck becomes stacked against truth even further, because someone’s odds of stumbling across information which conflicts with the propaganda they’ve been fed goes dramatically down. Even if they’re actively searching for information which conflicts the mainstream worldview, algorithms by Google and Google-owned YouTube often make it almost impossible to find.
So that’s what we’re up against. There’s a failure to appreciate just how pervasive and powerful the empire’s propaganda machine is, even among those who are very critical of empire, because propaganda in our society is like water for fish — we’re swimming in it constantly, so we don’t see it. You have to step way, way back and begin examining our situation from its most basic foundations to get any perspective on how all-encompassing it really is.
Finding your way out of the propaganda matrix takes a lot of diligent work, tons of curiosity, the humility to admit you’ve been completely wrong about everything, and more than a little plain dumb luck. But if you keep hacking away at it eventually you get there, and then you can help others get there too. It’s a hard slog, but if our chains are psychological that means they’re ultimately only made of dream stuff. All that needs to happen is for enough of us to wake up.
TARGET has lost more than $10 billion in market capitalization in the span of 10 days — as it continues to face backlash for Pride-themed merchandise. Prior to the controversy — which stems over a LGBTQ-geared campaign that includes “tuck-friendly” bathing suits and pro-trans T-shirts for kids — Target shares were trading at $160.96, giving the retailer a market valuation of roughly $74.3 billion. By the time The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) closed Friday, the blue-chip stock was trading at $138.93 — marking a loss of $10.1billion. The sum, moreover, stands as the superstore's lowest market value in an entire year — all achieved in a matter of days as customers swear off its products in response. As this consumer-led retaliation continues to be felt, Texas Senator Ted Cruz devoted an entire episode of his weekly podcast Friday to the burgeoning boycott, during which he conceded it would be tougher for conservatives to stop giving their hard-earned cash to a department store like Target rather than a beermaker like Bud Light.
— Daily Mail
UKRAINE, SUNDAY, 28 MAY
Russia unleashed waves of air strikes on Kyiv overnight in what officials said appeared to be the largest drone attack on the city since the start of the war, as the Ukrainian capital prepared to celebrate the anniversary of its founding on Sunday. Ukraine's Air Force said it downed 52 out of the 54 Russia-launched drones, calling it a record attack with the Iranian-made “kamikaze” drones. It was not immediately clear how many of the drones were shot over Kyiv. In what also appears to be the first deadly attack on Kyiv in May and the 14th assault this month, falling debris killed a 41-year-old man, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said. The pre-dawn attacks came on the last Sunday of May when the capital celebrates Kyiv Day, the anniversary of its official founding 1,541 years ago. The day is typically marked by street fairs, live concerts and special museum exhibitions - plans for which have been made this year too, but on a smaller scale.
by Malcolm Gaskill
In June of 1616 the Virginian princess Pocahontas arrived in Plymouth and travelled to London. With her came her husband, the English tobacco planter John Rolfe, and several members of her Native American family. Done up in embroidered silks and Flemish lace, she enjoyed — if that’s the right word — the adulation of the crowds and an audience with King James I. She was not, in fact, a princess, however much it suited the Virginia Company to pretend she was. Nor was her name Pocahontas, which means “playful girl” and like so many other aspects of Indigenous culture had been misunderstood. Yet the name is a fitting symbol of her plight and short life.
She was known previously by her childhood names Amonute and Matoaka, and later by her Christian baptismal name, Rebecca, with her husband’s surname: everything about the experience of Native Americans in Europe was caught between the Old World and the New, awkwardly and usually unhappily.
The Virginia Company, a private joint-stock venture, had been struggling and needed some positive PR to attract investment and political support. Four months before the arrival of the Rolfe entourage, the company organized a fundraising lottery, advertised with printed handbills.
These were decorated with engravings of the monetary prizes, the royal coat of arms and a pair of American men, Eiakintomino and Matahan, who the previous year had been displayed in St James’s Park, where their portraits were painted. The broadside also included verse, a ventriloquized appeal from the visitors:
Once, in one State, as of one Stem,
Meere Strangers from Jerusalem,
As Wee were Yee; till Others Pittie
Sought, and brought You to That Cittie.
Deere Britaines, now, be You as kinde;
Bring Light, and Sight, to Us yet blinde:
Leade Us, by Doctrine and Behaviour,
Into one Sion, to one Saviour.
The declared ideals were charity and conversion, the sincerity of which is questionable given England’s undisguised desire for overseas land and natural resources. Eiakintomino and Matahan appeared wearing doeskin mantles and holding bows and arrows; Pocahontas, however, in her Jacobean finery, was a promotional mannequin for the spiritual and material fruits of colonization. Even her portraits gave her a Caucasian makeover, airbrushing racial distinctiveness — she may have had facial tattoos — to make her conform to English expectations. Her cultural rebirth was not so much a gesture of accord between Britain and the Indigenous people of Virginia as a symbol of conquest and dominion over the American wilderness and its supposedly savage ways.
The Pocahontas story has been avidly fictionalized in novels and films, mostly as a bogus love story between Matoaka and the explorer Captain John Smith. It’s a versatile tale, delivering romance and adventure, as well as a Southern creation myth that allowed postbellum Virginia to compete with the Mayflower pageantry cherished by the victorious North. Pocahontas is a household name. But, as Caroline Dodds Pennock shows in her new book ‘On Savage Shores: How Indiginous Americans Discovered Europe,’ there were many thousands of Native Americans in early modern Europe who have long been forgotten.
The circumstances in which they crossed the Atlantic were diverse. Some came voluntarily as traders, ambassadors and scouts, others as prisoners and slaves, although it’s often hard to tell whether coercion or curiosity lay behind their journeys.
From the late 15th century, diplomatic missions on behalf of Indigenous nobility were received at the Court of Castile and its imperial outposts. A deputation of Mexican Totonacs, allied to Spain as enemies of the Aztecs, arrived in 1519. They were well looked after, body and soul — given velvet tunics and compulsorily baptized — and granted an audience with Charles V. Exactly who they were and what they were doing is unclear, but they were astute interlocutors and the king, soon to be crowned Holy Roman Emperor, considered good relations a means to an end.
Charles exhibited the golden treasures the Totonacs brought with them in Brussels town hall, where they were seen by Durer. “In all the days of my life,” he said, “I have seen nothing that rejoiced my heart so much as these things.”
American visitors to European courts were usually seeking confirmation or extension of their rights as imperial subjects.
Tlaxcala, a Mexican city state (like the Totonacs hostile to the Aztecs), sent several embassies to Spain during the 16th century. “One of the savage kings of the Countrey of Brasill,” probably a Tupinamba from Bahia, visited Henry VIII at Whitehall. He had facial piercings, his lower lip was set with a jewel, and everything about him, it was said, was “very strange to the beholders.” Once he had seen what he wanted of this curious place, his hosts put him back on a ship — but, like Pocahontas and so many other Indigenous people in contact with Europeans, he succumbed to a germ against which he had no immunity and never saw Brazil again.
(London Review of Books)
A SPRING NIGHT IN SHOKOKU-JI
Eight years ago this May
We walked under cherry blossoms
At night in an orchard in Oregon.
All that I wanted then
Is forgotten now, but you.
Here in the night
In a garden of the old capital
I feel the trembling ghost of Yugao
I remember your cool body
Naked under a summer cotton dress.
— Gary Snyder