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SOME LIGHT SHOWER ACTIVITY will persist across the interior today. Drier weather and warmer interior temperatures will return by Tuesday and last through much of the week as high pressure builds over the region. (NWS)
OBITUARY & EULOGY: CARON LAVERNE MCCLOUD, POET
April 25, 1937 - March 29, 2021
by Shiloh Sophia
“Like a bird on a wire
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free”
~ Leonard Cohen ~
Caron McCloud flew peacefully and powerfully into her future at her home in Port Townsend, Washington. Caron was born in Oakland, California to Eden McCloud and Eugene Grant.
Caron was married to her Beloved husband of 26 years, Jim Wilson. She is survived by three children. Her first born child, Brent and wife Brenda Johnson with their three daughters, Kirsten, Morgan, and Haley, their husbands and 6 grandsons. Her cherished daughter, Shannon Cinnamon McCloud (Johnson). Her daughter Shiloh Sophia and husband, Jonathan McCloud (Lewis). As well as Jonathan’s children, Christopher and Alex Lewis and their partners and children. Her sister and best friend, Janet Seaforth, and niece Bridget McBride and her husband, Andrew as well Bridget’s children Ezekiel and Maia Lemann. Her niece Aleta, and nephews Lael and Brian Grant, their partners who are the children of her brother Bob Grant and her 6 great-nieces and nephews. Her brother Chuck and his wife Sheila Leith and their children Christopher, Kate and their partners and children. As well as her step-son, Tommy Herndon.
Caron will be especially missed by her long-time friends Nanci Gilbert, Brigitta and George D'Amato, Donna Fitzpatrick, Greg Davis, Molly and Michael Lewis and one of her oldest friends, Lloyd Johnson.
Caron will be greatly missed as one of the Art Matriarchs in her women’s community, most especially by Mary MacDonald and Havi Mandell, and many more who found in Caron an uncommon kinship. Caron is celebrated by hundreds of community members who studied with her and her daughter Shiloh in Intentional Creativity -- especifically Red Madonna, Color of Woman, and Cosmic Cowgirls, who called her “Mama Cloud.”
Caron lived her early life in Oakland and Orland, followed by a long cycle in West Marin and then Sonoma. She lived and worked much of her life in San Francisco and the Bay Area, followed by Mendocino County and eventually in Port Townsend.
Caron was multi-talented. Her gifts include seamstress, painter, carpenter, tapestry-maker, teacher, writer, illustrator and designer. She was an avid and well-read scholar and teacher of philosophy, religion, poetry and truly celebrated the intellect. Caron was a rare genius, weaving disparate fields of study and finding connections between history, science, quantum physics, language, theology, symbology, sacred math, culture, and the shaping of identity. Whether she was quoting Jesus, Albert Einstein, Rainer Maria Rilke or Willie Nelson, Caron was able to illuminate hidden teachings that ordinary ears could not hear. Caron was a designer of ideas, as well as a maker of art.
In Caron’s childhood, she did a lot of fashion drawing. Then as a young adult she began making dresses with her mother Eden, a seamstress and pattern-maker. They made a lot of their own clothing, blankets, curtains, clothing for their children and decorated their homes with colorful fabrics. The mother and daughter opened two dress shops, one in Sonoma and one in Sausalito called “The Vagabond House” as well as an art gallery. By the age of forty Caron had her own successful clothing line called ‘Karen Johnson’ and she is the maker of the ‘Forever Dress.’ Her slogan was “If she really did only have one dress to her name, it would be a Karen Johnson.”
Caron loved entrepreneurship and thrived as a designer and a manufacturer of her clothing line which was featured in high-end department stores, appeared on fashion catwalks and was sold in hundreds of stores with tens of thousands of clients. Caron was in business with her mother for many years. The two were very close and co-created many beautiful projects as mother and daughter.
Later in life, when Eden changed her name from Merle Kinney to Eden McCloud, Caron followed her in changing her name from Karen Johnson, to Caron McCloud. Other family members soon followed in the tradition. You might say the women in the family have a bit of a wild streak and truly choose their own identity and story. Historically, you can also see that the name change marks a moment in time when both women chose to live the rest of their lives as writers and artists and claim a matriarchal name.
Throughout her life Caron was a devoted advocate for Civil Rights and Women’s Rights. She was always an activist for the under-served and sought justice and to eliminate systemic oppression of every kind she encountered, including working towards anti-racism, gender equality and women’s liberation. There were many times when Caron found herself being on the front lines of revolutions and revelations. She passed the vision for equality, justice and compassion onto her children. One of Caron’s gifts was the ability to ‘see the other side’ of every situation, and she was known for a depth of compassion that few had ever experienced.
In the late sixties Caron was encouraged by her partner at the time, the artist Sue Hoya Sellars, to begin writing down her thoughts. To her students and in her poetry, Caron often told the story of struggling from depression and not wanting to document the experience. Sue told Caron that all of those experiences had cost her a lot, and that her creativity would begin to bloom out of the compost of her past. This concept of ‘including the shadows’ in her work was the liberation Caron needed to begin writing. Many years later, those early writings and Sue’s encouragement sparked her first chapbook, called February Soul.
Throughout her life, Caron, along with her children, attended Glide Church in San Francisco and engaged in many projects including working with the homeless and were a part of The Hunger Project. Caron engaged in daylong fasts on behalf of those who are hungry, and taught her family how caring for others beyond the home and one’s immediate needs is a part of our work as humans.
One of Caron’s powerful teachings is summarized by Shiloh this way: “In order for there to be true freedom in an intimate relationship or authentic connection in community, each of us has to be able to stand in our own truth. If we can stand in our own truth, without making another person’s stand wrong, OR needing anyone to validate our stand OR being silenced for our view, then we have something to work with. Otherwise, we are all just watering our passion down in order to fit in and keep up with the status quo of whatever circle we are in and no one feels truly free to speak their mind. When we cherish our diversity we can find unity through our authenticity.”
Caron went on to teach that even in the privacy of our minds, we should not project our views onto others; rather, create a space where we are all free to speak.
In her poem, Long Have We Gazed Upon Beauty, we hear Caron’s call to beauty. Noticing and appreciating beauty was one of her most persistent invitations to those she loved.
“And we gazed upon our beautiful mother,
and she said: Thousands of years from now,
when people say, How beautiful your children are!
tell them to teach the children to speak
as I have spoken. Teach the children to say:
Stop, and look upon one another!
For long have we gazed upon Beauty.”
Pursuing a creative life took many forms for Caron over the years. Eventually Caron left the Bay Area and followed her sister Janet, her niece Bridget and life-long friend Sue Hoya Sellars in a return to Anderson Valley. They had founded ‘women’s land’ and were working as potters and sculptors.
Caron was a big part of the community through her work with women, her writings and her marriage to Donald Pardini for over ten years. She had been friends with the Pardini family since her early life and was close with Donald’s first wife Donna and their children, Ernie, Julie and Tony, as well as Annie, Donald’s mother, his sister Eva and his brother, Robert. In Boonville, Caron continued her design business, played the piano, and began being more devoted to writing her poetry and wrote a novel, a romance. She performed at open mics all over Mendocino County and self-published her first ‘chapbooks’, which are collections of poetry. She received many awards and publications of her work and eventually resided at Greenwood Ridge, where she had lived over twenty-five years before, with Sue Hoya Sellars and her children. Caron felt truly at home in the Anderson Valley and wrote for the Anderson Valley Advertiser from time to time.
Caron’s passion for perspective and language flowed into her writings. First and foremost Caron cherished being a poet and wanted to be remembered as a poet. She always said she just wanted the word, ‘POET’ on her headstone. She published many major award winning books of poetry, book of non-fiction and had many more works in progress until the day she left her physical form. In her last days she continued to design and work with concepts that she wanted to bring to life with her concept “Mattering Matters.”
Caron was a member of the Washington Poet’s Association where she was a semifinalist in the “Bart Baxter Performance Poetry” competition three out of three times entered, and won a “Carlin Aden Award'' for her Alexandrian sonnet, Last Trump Tango. S he was a 1st place winner of the “Charlie Proctor Award” for her poem Holmes Ranch Hags, which she also read as the introduction for the Alice Walker and Sue Hoya Sellars event “Neighbors and Artists” in Berkeley, California, produced by her daughter Shiloh. She has been a guest on many radio shows and was a reader for the poetry collection by J. Glenn Evans CD, Windows in the Sky. She was a participant in the “PoetSpeak Reading Series'' at Frye Art Museum in Seattle, with poems published in “Poets West Literary Journal.” Her poem Common Ancestry was 1 of 14 of the 400 contest entries selected to be included in the poetry contest chapbook, Saltwater. She recited her poetry at Cosmic Cowgirls and Musea, and taught poetry to women all over the world. Besides being published in various other venues she has over a dozen chapbooks to her credit, most of which she made by hand with a stitched binding. Caron was also a contributing author and designer in the book Heart of the Visionary for women in business published by Cosmic Cowgirls Ink, LLC, of which she and her mother Eden, were a co-owners with over 100 other women.
Caron wrote and self-published a book called Rachels’ Bag - In Search of the Qabalah of our Mothers bringing justice and voice to the often mis-understood women of the Old Testament. She taught her version of Messianic Christianity to many and she spent the last twenty years teaching and refining her work with the Tree of Life. She was also an incredible support and encouragement to others with their writings. She gathered a stout volume of thousands of pages of poetry, teachings, and stories which her family hopes to publish as a collection in the future.
Caron was always willing to question existing systems, challenge old ideas and bring forward the ways the feminine needed to be included in our spiritual traditions. She often taught from Genesis in connection with the Hebrew word, Elohim, as being both a masculine and feminine word and how that is missed in our traditions, and how that translates to the treatment of women. She brought her love of scripture into her teachings, her poetry, her art and her relationships.
About being an artist of many mediums Caron says this:
“The one thing crosses over and informs the other, as all skills do. Some of my poems are inspired by my art and some of my art arises from my writing. I love the feel of my tools, and my palette of paint and textiles. Working with my hands provides a much-needed balance and reprieve from the intense concentration and involuted process of writing.
“My very first memories are of being caught in the spell of some creative process— reading and writing, singing and dancing, drawing, coloring, painting, sewing, crocheting, knitting, carpentry—making things, the feel of a tool in my hand. Even when I was a little kid, I knew there was not going to be time enough. I started taking notes and making lists.
”My love of poetry and drawing started before I was old enough to go to school and came from spells cast by my father, Gene Grant— poet, musician, carpenter, and fisherman. He used to sign his gifts and letters to me: “Love, Trust, Dare.” I added “Create, Pray, Dance” and made it my slogan. I remember my father’s hands in the lamplight and amber glow from the dial on the console radio, as he peeled the wood with exquisite precision from a yellow #2 pencil with his pocket knife. The smell of tiny shavings and lead scrapings drifting from the emerging, long, shining point; my ecstatic anticipation while waiting to feel the pencil between my fingers, and the excitement of the exact moment when that point would make contact with my clean, white, 8 1/2 x 11-inch sheet of paper, and then— getting to watch where that little trail it laid down would lead me. It has led me to produce over a dozen chapbooks of poetry, and even win some awards. This led to cartooning, fashion renderings, and oil painting.”
Caron’s creativity was not limited by how often she moved, she brought her tools along with her and even if she was in a place for a short time, she would build her own work-table with her skill saw and plywood. She did a lot of moving on and what she called ‘off to the Next Great Adventure’.
One time when Shannon, known as The Cinnamon Cowgirl, asked her mother to explain some of what informed her life choices, Caron responded with these words, now famous in our family for summarizing her views.
“We have arrived at our truths
by forgetting the parts we didn’t like,
making up the parts that were missing
and holding on for dear life
to the little we came upon
that we could trust.”
The next great adventure in love happened when Caron met and married Jim Wilson when they were in their late 50s. Jim was also an artist living in the Anderson Valley. The two were proud members of AA, and would fondly tell the story of meeting each other at a local meeting. The two fell madly in love and were ready for a fresh start and so off they went to find their next home. The couple chose Port Townsend, Washington where the two lived on Water Street pursuing their art and their spiritual path. Jim was also a carpenter and builder, and with Caron’s encouragement began to pursue painting and drawing, also coming to claim himself as an artist. Caron’s mother Eden came along with them and enjoyed life as an artist as well, having her thread tapestry work featured in local galleries and being a part of art walks.
Jim describes their home as a “museum” because it is highly curated with art from every family member, including their own work. Caron and Jim were avid Sabbath keepers and the pair were very devoted to fellowship, attending the Seventh Day Adventist Church for many years, followed by Messianic Christian ministries that keep the Feast Days and the Sabbath. Caron and Jim shared a profoundly loving connection and relationship with their Lord and the Great Mystery, endlessly studying and talking late into the night about what mattered to them in a relationship with God. They refer to Jesus as Yeshua haMashiach.
Even though far away from her family in California, Caron got to spend time with her brother Bob’s family in Washington in the last twenty years of her life. She and her brother were very bonded and often spent the night playing piano, telling stories and dancing together.
Caron and Jim made regular trips to California to see her children and grandchildren and to pursue her career in teaching which started after the age of seventy. As an Elder, Caron taught along with Sue Hoya Sellars and Shiloh Sophia, informing a legacy of teachings called Intentional Creativity®. Caron and Sue both approached their art making as a form of consciousness, love in action and storytelling, and passed that onto their family and students.
Caron is considered an “Art Ancestor” and the foundational teaching on story and identity taught in the course ‘Legend’ were sparked by Caron’s perspectives on “mattering.” She taught that you have to “decide you matter” to yourself first. Caron taught in person at the The Legend Course, the Color of Woman Training, and recorded video teachings and poetry performances. Caron was one of the primary leaders in the Red Madonna Sisterhood for ten years, a community of women from all spiritual traditions, yet with a focus on the intersection of the Divine Feminine, Judaism and Christianity. Her teachings on The Tree of Life and her own relationship with her Creator were at the core of her ministry for this “women’s church.”
Caron also taught on her favorite “c” words: Create, Context and Content, which she said she learned a lot about from Werner Erhard. Her core philosophy in her curriculum was rooted in her quote, “Create the Context in which Concept is Converted into Content.
In Caron’s poem, Holmes Ranch Hags, she celebrates Elderhood and often re-claims things that women are criticized for.
“I am skinny, wrinkled, old and brown.
I live in a shack way outta’ town.
I dig in the dirt all hunkered down
and cackle with cronies
when they come around.”
Caron had a great sense of humor and style. As an oil painter, she painted mythic portraits of her daughters, Shannon and Shiloh, emphasizing the qualities of her daughters she found endearing. Shannon is seen in her green and cowgirls boots with an alligator draped over her shoulders and a devil-may-care attitude. Shiloh is in hot pink, lounging on a devan drinking tea and eating grapes with her mother’s cat, Ralphie, and she has her hand on a dove. She also did other paintings all featuring women, animals or insects and vibrant colors.
Caron was also a phenomenal fiber artist, creating intricate hand-stitched quilts and tapestries that many in the field of quilting consider unparalleled. She started making tapestries using the leftover fabric from her fashion design days. She completed over six major tapestries, some masterworks up to 12X6 feet wide. Musea, a museum and school founded by her family, hopes to feature Caron’s fiber work in the future.
In the future Cosmic Cowgirls Ink, LLC hopes to publish her volume of poetry called Neon Cuneiform, dedicated to Jim Wilson. The book covers vast ground from her relationship with her Lord, her creativity, her sexuality, her approach to consciousness, her honor of language, and her hopes. Here is a quote from the opening poem. The title is “An ode’ to the most modern form of language (neon) and one of the oldest forms of language (cuneiform).”
the resolution of the vision
contained within the word,
in the shape of information
exposing the anatomy of thought
where it lies suspended
upon the architecture of the mind.”
Caron believed that each one of us needs to decide that we matter and to start acting accordingly so that each of us could become the author of our own life. Her teachings would reach over 100,000 women throughout the world over the years, and she brought a new level of awareness to the shaping of each person’s content, and the curation of identity and consciousness. She felt we had a lot of authorship in what we could make of ourselves and our lives and felt that art, writing, and drawing specifically were ways to access our information. She also studied brain science, and how to be at cause for changing our default thinking and being.
We must also mention that Caron loved to dance! On her 80th birthday, her family hired a band and Caron danced the night away as well as performed her poetry. She inspired many young women that night. Her sensuality, personality, and charm astonished all who beheld her graceful prowess that night. She got to dance with two others that night, who have become Art Ancestors, Mary Gibbons Landor and Carmen Baraka.
Caron partook in a very deep relationship with all three of her children. She spoke to her son Brent for hours about God and the great adventure and with her daughter Shannon, she shared a love of cats, humor, irony, and music. With her daughter Shiloh, she shared in the love of art, the feminine, and creativity, and the two worked together on publishing, poetry, and creating a ‘church’ for their women’s circle. Caron enjoyed a rich and storied relationship with her sister Janet Seaforth, her brother Chuck and her brother Bob Grant. Their father Eugene was an artist of many trades and he passed that onto his children, all becoming artists of different mediums. Almost every member of Caron’s family considers themselves an artist, designer, or carpenter.
To contribute in honor of Caron you can visit her last design project, Mattering Matters. During a visit in December, Caron was clear that she wanted to design one last project that mattered to her. Caron was a lifelong entrepreneur and so the family got together to support her in bringing the project to life. She wanted everyone to know they mattered.
Caron McCloud is brilliant and beautiful. All who know her agreed that she is one of the most extraordinary people they had ever met. Her ability to treat others as if they truly mattered was one of her unique gifts -- she could find the best in everyone and bring it forward in them. Many people said that no one had ever felt seen like that before. She was naturally joyful and witty in groups, often becoming the life of the party.
Caron was also one of the wildest truest souls most of us had ever met, as well as being a romantic. Caron loved to love and be loved. She blessed our lives with immeasurable love, wisdom, and creativity. She is remembered and her teachings practiced. Her daughter Shiloh says “My Mama embodied compassion, wild wisdom and grace. She taught many of us to see the world with new eyes. Her perspective informed my way of seeing, and shaped the life work that I do with women. She was my most powerful partner in business and teaching. She taught with me until she was 82 years old. She is the best friend I have ever had.”
Caron will be greatly missed by many for all of our lives. She was laid to rest in a green burial at Herland Forest in Washington in a circle of ancient oak trees with a ceremony attended by her family. Her family also sprinkled the ashes of her mother, Eden McCloud at the same time. May she rest in peace in the arms of our Lord, for He was her shepherd.
Shannon says “I believe that my Mama and Gramma will be spending a lot of time working in the Garden of Eden.”
Fly free Caron McCloud, your life is cherished. Your name is spoken. Your words are read. Your life mattered to us.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” ~ Gospel of John
Jim Wilson: firstname.lastname@example.org
Caron’s Design line of shirts, cups, posters and more: fineartamerica.com/featured/mattering-matters-caron-mccloud.html
We will celebrate with a poetry reading and storytelling in honor of Caron on Sunday, September 19, 2021 from 12-2 pm for friends, family, and community. Mark your calendar now and then check www.musea.org for details in September. Cards can be sent to Jim Wilson, PO Box 2110, Port Townsend, Washington 98368, and to her children at ℅ Musea - Brent, Shannon and Shiloh 75 Fremont Drive, Sonoma, California 95476.
* * *
Two poems and one story to read in her honor
LONG HAVE WE GAZED UPON BEAUTY
And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us.
Stop! commanded our mother, mid-celebration
on the afternoon of that final wedding feast.
Even the leaves of the apple trees hushed
as the breeze halted halfway up the sunlit hillside.
All ceased together and, in silence,
turned to where she stood.
Stop right now and look upon one another!
Is it not written that we become what we behold?
Therefore, behold! And become beautiful
in the eyes of our Lord! Praise Him,
in whose image we are created!
Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us!
Look how beautiful you are! How beautiful
your sisters and your brothers, your husbands
and your wives, your children and grandchildren,
your parents and grandparents! Look!
How beautiful, your aunts, uncles and cousins!
Behold your beautiful friends!
Stop now, and look upon one another.
Look upon all that God has created.
Look deep and hard and long at Beauty.
Drink her into your very being.
Claim her as your possession.
Hold what you see in your hearts.
We turned, and we did look upon one another,
according to her counsel, and in turn, we turned
and looked upon the bride and her shining groom.
We saw as the mothers down through the ages
had taught us to see, and we feasted
upon all we beheld as though it were bread.
And we gazed upon our beautiful mother,
and she said: Thousands of years from now,
when people say, How beautiful your children are!
tell them to teach the children to speak
as I have spoken. Teach the children to say:
Stop, and look upon one another!
For long have we gazed upon Beauty.
How These Spells Begin by Caron McCloud
Eden is in her sun room. She is
surrounded by a jungle of house plants—her
Garden of Eden. It is morning—her
time of day. In the corner of the window screen
a spider annexes silver and magenta veined leaves
from the Wandering Jew into her doilied domain.
A tiny lizard suns herself on the toe of Eden’s slipper.
Eden is standing at her ironing board.
She is sewing of course—a Wonder Woman uniform
for my doll. She is frowning her famous frown
of intense concentration—that frown
that I diligently practice throughout my childhood,
because my mother is beautiful, and I want
to look as much like her as soon as I possibly can.
Here’s a story from Caron
I kept feeling a “calling” because of an experience I had had when I was about four. It occurred in that moment of a child’s life when (as defined by Maslow as a “peak experience”) a child becomes differentiated from their environment, and self awareness occurs. I do remember becoming aware of being present in my body. I had no idea how I had gotten here, where I came from, or why.
I was just there (or here), looking down at the wonder of my knock kneed little legs standing in little scuffy brown shoes on a mass of little grey pebbles (the gravel of the driveway). Then looking at my arms and the little blonde hairs on them which were shining as though they had a light and life of their own. I keep saying “little” because I was astonished by how very tiny (even later word “minuscule”) l felt when looking up I saw the huge blue bowl over my head in which I was encompassed.
I was in a state of awe and somewhat frightened by a sense of feeling trapped in this body and by this half bowl. There was also a lot of physical and visual stuff going on for which I did finally acquire a few comforting words to describe like: “fractiles" and “wave-particle duality” and “psychedelic”.
I wanted to know what I was doing here and where I had come from and why.
I then experienced hearing a voice which said, “Tell my people they can come home.” It came from high up and behind me and I could not turn to look until after having a sense of doors closing behind me. And when I tuned there was only the bowl.
I was very excited, of course, and for days drove my parents and brother Bobbie crazy talking about what had told me I was supposed to do, and also about the psychedelic stuff I saw, and how everything is made out of a little tiny sparks that fly around and kept wanting them to explain to me what kept them all separate so that my arms didn’t become part of my dress or the chair or my mother. I felt I had been given an assignment and started referring to myself with this beautiful sounding word: “missionary”.
And oh yeah, God told me to tell you all: We can come home.
* * *
Well Mama, you are home now.
BILL KIMBERLIN WRITES:
Thank you for your mention of me in your paper, but it got screwed up.
Jeff Burroughs commented on Facebook about our Boonville hotel.
Geoff Brown, who is a friend of mine, asked me a question in that post, about whether my Uncle Avon built the Boonville Hotel. I answered Geoff with the Jack London hotel history that you mistakenly ascribed to Geoff Brown.
It may interest you to know who, Geoff Brown is. His cousin is Jerry Brown, lately our Governor and years earlier also our Governor.
Geoff was for many years the Public Defender in San Francisco. Geoff's uncle was Edmond Brown also a Governor of California when I was a kid.
We all made a trip to Squaw Valley for the opening of the Olympics in Squaw Valley and I remember Geoff running up the steps of the Governor's Mansion in Sacramento to return a book he had borrowed form his Uncles library.
I have written about this in more detail, that may appear in my next book.
Still wasting tax money after all these years…
by Rob Anderson (1997)
It’s one thing to lose an argument, but it’s tough to lose when your argument isn’t even acknowledged. The board of supervisors is unanimous — including “liberals” Peterson and Shoemaker — in assuming that giving the county Tourism Board buckets of money — $100,000 this year — to promote still more tourism is a great idea. After all, tourists pay the 10% bed tax, which, from the unincorporated areas, goes into the county’s general fund. More tourism means more money for the general fund. What could possibly be wrong with that?
Let me count the ways:
1. More tourism means more traffic on the county’s roads. Anderson Valley especially feels the impact in the summer months on Highway 128, over which much of the tourist traffic rushes to the coast. Caltrans has worked for years to straighten out 128 so that the lemmings can get to the sea faster and faster. Neither county deputies nor the Highway Patrol deign to give speeding tickets, thus rendering it hazardous to go from, say, Lemon’s Market in Philo to the post office across the street. Last year an infant died in an accident in Philo when a speeding motorist rammed into a vehicle stopped to allow a mother and her children to cross the road. Caltrans — the world’s dumbest, most unresponsive bureaucracy now that the Soviet Union is defunct — won’t allow a crosswalk in Philo, because, incredibly, they insist that would actually make it more hazardous to pedestrians, who would have a false sense of security and would be unable to get out of the way of speeding vehicles.
2. The “hospitality industry” creates primarily minimum wage jobs, like cleaning motel rooms and working in local restaurants.
3. The tourist industry should pay for its own advertising, and should not be subsidized by the taxpayers.
Supervisor John Pinches in particular presents himself as a bottom line, free market guy, but when it comes to handing out public money, it’s apparently socialism for the rich — tourism is a $30 million industry in Mendoland — and the free market for the poor, since he and his colleagues recently voted to cut the General Assistance program for the poorest in the county. And they did it in a chickenshit way, not by directly cutting the $286 monthly grant, but through the backdoor, when they voted for a 90-day limit on benefits. This will allow the clerks at social services, not known for their compassion, to bounce whoever they want off the roles. This is the county’s version of “welfare reform.” (The supervisors also continue to subsidize the local livestock industry by giving money — $40,000 again this year — to the predator control program. I did the math last year: if every rancher in the county chipped in $50, they could pay for their own program. Rancher Pinches, who raises cattle, should have recused himself from voting on this issue, but he didn’t bother. After all, who’s watching in a county that too often is an economic free-fire zone?)
The folks in the tourist industry suggest that they’re doing us all a big favor by locating their often cheesy motels and tacky bed and breakfasts in Mendocino County. The opposite is the case, since people come to this county because of its natural beauty, not because they’re eager to camp out in a particular motel room on the coast. By subsidizing this industry, the county is essentially greasing the skids for what’s left of the county’s natural beauty: more traffic, more knick-knack shops, more shitty restaurants, more motels.
Mendoland as theme park, brought to you by the tourist industry and their pals in county government, including Fifth District Supervisor, Charles Peterson.
In last Sunday’s Ukiah Daily Journal, Peterson is quoted in favor of giving the Tourism Board an even bigger “chunk of money” next year. He also talked about, in reporter Jennifer Poole’s words, “working out a formula to reward the tourism industry as it brings in more TOT [transient occupancy tax] revenues.”
The tourism industry gets its reward in the profits it earns from the privilege of doing business in Mendocino County. They have no right to a bonus from county taxpayers.
The above-mentioned Daily Journal piece (“County Board Nixes Extra Tourism Funds,” Jennifer Poole) gives readers the impression that backers of the Tourism Board suffered a serious setback when the board didn’t give them the $250,000 they asked, instead giving them a mere $100,000. Yet, when you consider that the Tourism Board got $35,000 last year, this year’s giveaway represents a 200% increase in the county’s subsidy to this industry.
KZYX had the same interpretation in its bulletin-like account of the same budget hearing, apparently taking the Daily Journal headline at face value.
In her article, Poole includes some telling quotes, like Supervisor Delbar’s calling the assembled chamber of commerce types a “very impressive group of people.” And they are impressive — like hogs in the trough are impressive in their avidity and single-mindedness.
And, from the Ukiah Chamber of Commerce, Jim Mayfield: “It’s time to make up the promise that’s been made for 10, 12 years to these businesses that have been collecting this tax for you.” What promise? I’ve been covering the board of Supervisors for years, and I don’t recall any such promise. And there’s the idea that the motels and bed and breakfasts are doing the county a favor by collecting the bed tax. The reality is that they have the privilege of doing business in Mendocino County, a place that, fortunately for them, many people still want to visit — so far, at least.
IN THE MIDDLE 1990s, the AVA reported on the Cold War experiments carried out at Hopland’s UC AG station. A Sacramento reader had alerted us to an article in a techno-journal about what was called “Project 23,” a federal experiment aimed at gaging the effects of radioactivity on food supplies. If we nuked it out with whomever how much radiation could we absorb without turning into walking X-rays? Well, the levels at the test zone in Hopland, not far from the Hopland rancheria, were still unnaturally high in 2000. We still wonder if strontium 90 worked its way into the groundwater that ultimately finds its way into Indian wells, Fetzer’s grapes and Real Goods enviro retail store, all of which border the 5,300-acre ag station. The experiments at Hopland were conducted from 1952 until 1968 by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. The Feds, in 1997, ponied up $45,000 to see if the fallout from the experiments was still with us. It was.
THE IRONY is that a few miles north of the radioactivity deposits that won’t go away, neighbors of Retech had to sue to find out how much radioactivity was being emitted by the outside-owned corporation which manufactured and tested ovens designed to render harmless contaminated soils. Neighbors were concerned that Hopland’s Retech plant was releasing toxics in the neighborhood’s air as the company tested its cleansing devices while official Mendo County waived the plant right on past the regulatory process. Retech packed and flew off to Poland, nobody became a see-through x-ray.
ASSESSING the Anderson Valley at the millenium, I wrote, “Look what’s happened here: Second home communists. Kendall Jackson. Yorkville Highlands. Movie stars. NPR. Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners. Decaf Lattes. The hills sprouting metal grape stakes. Rivers and streams pumped dry in the summer. French aristocrats flying in for visits. Range Rovers. Play groups. Ski vacations for high school kids. Chronological adults with no adult responsibilities. Art-free art shows. Wine tours. Personal growth seminars. Retreats for adults retreating from adulthood. Watershed grants to study where the water went. Gourmet beer. Vegetarian tacos. Strangers on the school board. Mexican bands arriving by helicopter at the Boonville Fairgrounds. Dope dealers in stretch limos. Cul de sacs in Yorkville. Shops selling crystals. Locals wearing them. Vertical tastings. Horizontal employment.” Twenty-one years later, depletion and ennui.
AMUSING STORY relayed to me way back by Elinor Clow: When the unforgettable Mel “Boom-Boom” Baker was the local superintendent of schools, Elinor had some difficulty decoding an article Mel had published in Homer Mannix’s Anderson Valley Advertiser, a kind of living museum of antiquated newspaper technology. Elinor quickly deduced that the Superintendent’s piece lacked quite a number of clarifying commas and asked Homer to explain the comma deficit. “I don’t have enough commas so I try not to use too many of the ones I do have,” Homer explained, and which I’ll explain to you by pointing out that Homer printed his paper on one of the last functioning hot lead presses in the United States. Type was handset by the amazing Marie Helme, probably the last manual typesetter in the United States. Marie had only so many letters in her overhead type case, and only so many punctuation marks. The comma deficit was severe. If Homer had had to publish a wordy paper in 9-point type like this one he’d have been out of commas at the end of the first page, but the comma shortage accounted for the Superintendent’s unintentionally run-on prose style. The recalcitrant linotype, Elinor recalls, was dubbed “Old Miserable” by the late Juanita Maddox, who wrote for Homer in the hot lead days, but it and Marie managed to produce a weekly paper from these antiquated means for a good twenty years.
MARIE had a fascinating back story. She came from a newspaper family in Michigan where, as a child, she learned to set type by hand. As an adult Marie suddenly took to occasionally running nude through her home town, which got her packed off to the state hospital. But once free, her mortified family encouraged Marie to head west where she soon landed a job at the old Ukiah Daily Journal at the tail end of its hot lead days. When the Ukiah job ended, Marie came to Boonville to work for Homer Mannix’s hot lead Anderson Valley Advertiser. She lived in a room in the old Boonville Hotel for a while, then in a small apartment in the Mannix Building, long ago destroyed by fire. Marie always wore a black overcoat, and every day, in all kinds of weather, walked down the street to the Boonville Lodge where she downed exactly one short beer then walked home to the Mannix Building. Gossips claimed she was nude beneath her habitual black coat, but how they would know that about this most private of private women was never explained. One infamous afternoon, as Marie sat perched on her habitual end-of-the-bar stool, the man sitting next to her took a bullet in the head. Marie finished her drink and, without seeming to notice the corpse next door, walked out of the bar and back to the Mannix Building. Homer’s paper appeared right on schedule the next day.
DEMPEL FARMING COMPANY SELECTS MARTINEZ ORCHARDS
Robert Dempel, President of Dempel Farming Company announces that he has selected Martinez Orchards Inc. of Winters, California to propagate and sell the historic certified Baldocci Zinfandel clone 29 grapevines.
Budwood for Martinez was procured from Foundation Plant Services located at UC Davis Foundation Plant Services. Dr. Deborah Golino the manager assures that this material is “clean, clean — and meets the standards of the protocol 2010 testing. The material was taken from two vines in the Classis foundation block this spring.
The history of the Baldocci clone goes back some 65 years when Dempel became friends with Dewey and Irene Baldocci. Baldocci had a field of Zinfandel that dated back to Dewey’s parents planted in the late 1800s in Fulton, Sonoma County. Dempel remembered this and in the 1980s took samples from five vines to FPS at Davis and entered them into the certification program. After regulus testing Dempel was able to obtain a small amount of the precious budwood again in 2020.
Martinez will propagate the cuttings into full mature vines which will be used to grow grafted Zinfandel clone 29 vines by 2023 which will be available to purchase from Martinez.
Dempel has had a long relationship with Martinez Orchards who started out as a partnership between Ernest Peninou, the famous wine writer/historian and Dan Martinez Sr. In the 1970s Dempel became a dealer for the Martinez dormant rootstock vines. Through the 1970s and 1980s Dempel marketed over 100,000 of the Martinez vines annually to grape growers on the North Coast.
For More Information: Bob Dempel 707 953 5428
Zinfandel 29 information can be found on the FPS website: fps.ucdavis.edu/fgrdetails.cfm?varietyidid=1634
POISONS DEPUTY, BUT GETS RELEASED
On Friday April 23, 2021 at about 6:24 PM, the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office brought in Arrestee Dakota Johnson, 24, of Willits, for booking into the Mendocino County Jail.
Johnson was arrested for several warrants in addition to Possession of a Controlled Substance, False Identification to a Peace Officer, and Possession of a Baton. After the reception process, staff brought Johnson to the Women’s Jail holding cell area. A female Corrections Deputy exchanged Arrestee Johnson’s personal clothing for jail-issued clothing. While doing so, suspected drugs fell out of Johnson’s clothing.
After recovering the suspected drugs and placing the arrestee in a holding cell, the Corrections Deputy began to walk out of the building at about 6:49 PM. A short ways later, the Corrections Deputy said that she wasn’t feeling well and collapsed. A Corrections Sergeant that was walking with her summoned assistance from staff and jail medical personnel. Correctional staff recognized that the female Corrections Deputy was experiencing an exposure to an opioid. They began administering Naloxone, a medication designed to rapidly reverse an opioid overdose. Emergency medical services were summoned while jail medical staff attended to the Corrections Deputy. Additional doses of Naloxone were administered while awaiting the arrival of EMS.
Emergency medical services arrived at about 6:59 PM and began caring for the Corrections Deputy. She was transported by ambulance personnel to Adventist Health Ukiah Valley at about 7:04 PM. The Corrections Deputy was released from the hospital after several hours of treatment and was taken home by family members to continue her recovery.
A preliminary test of the suspected drugs indicated that they contained fentanyl, a strong opioid. Fentanyl exposure can come from breathing it in, ingesting it, or even by absorbing it through the skin, which makes it extremely dangerous for all first responders. The additional charge of bring drugs into the correctional facility was added to Johnson’s prior charges. Because of COVID-19 and the zero bail schedule currently in effect, Johnson was released from custody after signing a promise to appear in court.
We would like to thank NaphCare, our jail medical services provider, and Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Corrections staff for their quick actions and immediate attention to the Deputy, saving her life. We would also like to thank Medstar Ambulance, Ukiah Valley Fire Authority and Adventist Health Ukiah Valley for continuing treatment and allowing our Deputy to return home to her family. Naloxone, credited with saving the Deputy’s life, has been provided to Corrections personnel from Mendocino County Health and Human Services, a partnership for which we are extremely grateful.
* * *
When Dakota Johnson was a teenager: "The Methods Of Meth-Heads" (by Bruce McEwen, June 8, 2016)
NEW ANALYSIS FINDS SPOTTED OWLS HARMED BY POST-FIRE LOGGING, NOT FIRE
by Chad Hanson
Are forest fires a threat to the imperiled Spotted Owl? For years, different groups of scientists assumed so, but a new study turns this assumption on its head. Researchers from the John Muir Project, Pennsylvania State University, and Wild Nature Institute found that these previous studies consistently had a serious methodological flaw: they failed to take into account the impact of post-fire logging on Spotted Owls.
"It turns out that the decline in Spotted Owl populations that sometimes occurs after forest fires is being driven by destructive post-fire logging practices, not by the fires themselves," said Dr. Chad Hanson, Research Ecologist with the John Muir Project.
Interestingly, in the absence of post-fire logging, Spotted Owls benefit overall from large mixed-intensity forest fires, contrary to longstanding assumptions made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service.
"Federal wildlife and public land agencies have a serious misunderstanding of the science regarding wildfires and Spotted Owls," noted Dr. Derek Lee, Associate Research Professor at Pennsylvania State University. "This leads them to mistakenly label forest fires as a threat to the Owls, and ignore the real threat: logging."
Forest fires burn in a mosaic pattern. Typically, even the largest forest fires are dominated by lower-intensity effects, where most of the mature trees remain green and survive, and the remainder is comprised by higher-intensity fire patches where the fires create "snag forest habitat".
Owls need to survive and reproduce," observed Dr. Monica Bond, Principal Scientist with the Wild Nature Institute. "But post-fire logging destroys and eliminates snag forest habitat, and that harms Spotted Owls," she added.
More information: Hanson CT, Lee DE, Bond ML. 2021. Disentangling Post-Fire Logging and High-Severity Fire Effects for Spotted Owls. Birds 2021:147–157. doi.org/10.3390/birds2020011
CATCH OF THE DAY, April 25, 2021
ROCHELLE CLEVINGER, Garberville/Ukiah. Stolen property, harboring wanted felon, conspiracy.
ERIC COLLIN, Redwood Valley. Pot cultivation & possession for sale, armed with firearm in commission of felony.
DEREK HADDON, Ukiah. Vandalism, probation revocation.
WILLIAM MATTINGLY, McKinleyville/Ukiah. Stolen property, pot sales, false personation of another, conspiracy, assault on police officer.
NICHOLAS POLLARD, Fort Bragg. Attempted first degree burglary, controlled substance, disorderly conduct-alcohol.
GEORGE SORROW, Lizella, Georgia/Ukiah. DUI.
REYNALDO ZAVALA, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
If these high and mighty Whites have taken away from non-whites then Whites in privileged positions [ … ] must necessarily give up these posts as a matter of elementary justice.
There is no doubt that White Males (mostly heterosexual) are hugely over-represented in every desirable activity that offers power, status, money, perks, and often, access to the nicest women.
Just look around you – at every parliament, ivy-league academic faculty, Fortune 500 boardroom, government agency, military command, courtroom, legal firm, country club, and expensive suburb or prestige apartment block on the Upper East Side … it’s completely and totally obvious.
How to change the mix … that is the question.
Make it a bigger pie, divide the pie different, smash the pie? These aren’t just issues and challenges for squishy liberals and other bleeding hearts – it is at the core of American society.
A few privileged Whites have done huge amounts to change the diversity of their respective orbits, but I wouldn’t count on a majority of White Males doing it voluntarily. There is an argument that if the elites gave a bit more, then they might retain the rest for another century or so.
But then Moscow Mitch gives the super-wealthy tax breaks that they absolutely do not need. It borders on the truly outrageous. If they makes me a crazy liberal, then I’ll wear the badge with honor…
APPARENTLY QUITE A FEW PEOPLE are watching the Sasquatch documentary currently showing on Hulu, and wondering just who this Larry Livermore guy is and what he has to do with Bigfoot.
Well, the answer is that he's the guy who wrote the book about Spy Rock, which is where much of the stuff they're talking about happened (or might have). If you think the TV show barely scratched the surface, read the book and find out the rest of the story.
Note: to be fair, the book Spy Rock Memories doesn't contain that much info about marauding sasquatches, but some of the marauding hippies are just as scary!
— Larry Livermore
ON PAPER, you say exactly and completely what you feel. How easy it is to break things off on paper! You hate, you shout, you kill, you commit suicide; you carry things to the very end. And that's why it's false. But it's damned satisfying. In life, you're constantly denying yourself, and others are always contradicting you. On paper, I make time stand still and I impose my convictions on the whole world; they become the only reality.
—Simone De Beauvoir
Longest is the life that contains the largest amount of time-effacing enjoyment; of work that is a steady delight. Such a life may really comprise an eternity upon the earth.
— John Muir
IF YOU REALLY want to piss people off, you can do two things: Attain some happiness or tell the truth.
[from the AVA Archive, May 14, 2014]
FANS OF THE INDUSTRY
by Brock Tillis
When Anderson Valley resident Wendy Read called a public meeting to rally sleep-deprived opponents of frost fans in the vineyards, she may not have expected that more than half of the 50 attendees would be owners and employees of the wine industry. After swallowing hard, she opened with a presentation of the health concerns associated with noise, vibration, and electric fields that the fans produce. It was a sobering list. She followed that by reading relevant sections of the Mendocino County ordinance that governs public nuisance. This document specifies permitted decibel levels and times of operation of machinery that in black-and-white renders fan use dead. (Why that ordinance is not being enforced in the county is the subject for another day.) Ms. Read stressed interest in finding a solution and threw the room open to discussion.
It was soon clear that the two camps arrived certain their views were the only right and reasonable ones. Unfortunately, the indignation of first two speakers (both vineyard people) added thorns. When a winery owner bluntly asked if people preferred that he lose income so they could sleep, like a Gilbert and Sullivan chorus, the sleepless chirped, Yes. Next, that same man’s daughter read a document she had written in a style as if just losing ten games of darts in a row. “It’s kind of snarky,” she said by way of introduction, “But, you’ll see; it’s just to get the ball rolling.” Her arguments lampooned the sins of organic and sustainable farming to show how fan noise between the hours of midnight and 7 AM was comparatively not so bad.
These blunders roused the ire of those for whom the meeting was called. Several people stood and, in strained voices, described in great detail the offense and consequences they suffer at being ripped from sleep, complete with 19th Century theatrics showing how the fans shake their beds, rooms and even houses and what they try to do to hide from the sound. Several offered invitations for the vineyard owners to sleep with them, which, being made in public and with spouses present, seemed a noteworthy proposition.
During each testimonial, clusters of owners and managers tipped their heads together and snickered, whispering — not quietly enough — derisions that would have been better saved for another time. But as the impassioned speeches in opposition gathered momentum of common sense, the vintners lined up to defend the “choice-less situation” in which they find themselves, now that the drought has killed their preferred method of spraying water over the vines to protect the tender buds from freezing in April and May. First they reminded the assembled that the valley depends on the wineries for all manner of employment and that life-as-we-know-it would halt if they lost any crop (money). They had practiced their arguments that fans were the ecological choice over sucking water from the river and fragile water table (which they have done for fifty years and which they will continue to do anytime they can get away with it) and that clearly “you exhausted residents can see the wisdom and beneficence of our strategy. View it as us taking care of you and the Earth.”
They were quick to say, when the rains return, they will revert back to water spraying and we can all get back to sleep. This argument coming so soon into the politically-charged, climate change boondoggle, no one dared acknowledge the strong odor of elephant droppings in the room. Only worshippers in the Church of Fox News believe the water is coming back (after Liberals are crucified en masse), while the rest of us we are resolved that farmers will run fans until the atmosphere is blackened from burned carbon, which is, ironically, the very reason the archaic smudge pots were banned.
By and large, the sleepless were longhaired (gray) and bearded, while the vintners of all generations came dressed more for an upscale barn dance. Some of the latter were young men, well-spoken and proud to be on track for great things involving a drug delivery system the United States has long legalized. (They had the sense to not mention by name the competing drug system of many local residents.) Speaking in reasoned tones they explained that farms have a right to exist, that methods of farming change, that everyone likes wine and that nowhere in the constitution does it say residents have a right to uninterrupted sleep. This stirred even the most tired. Some tottered to their feet and said they moved here for the quiet life and that the fans were ruing everything they had strived for all these years. It was property rights versus property rights.
Some vintners turned Ms. Read’s initial use of the words “compromise solution” to mean that residents should be patient: it’s only twenty days a year when the fans need to run (not 365); technology will find ways to make quieter fans; and farmers are experimenting with the machines’ settings to have them come on a little later, turn a little slower and quit sooner. But they did not volunteer to limit their use or consider losing some of their crop as an acceptable part of coming to some middle ground. It was more like, We keep the crop and the money and you get to keep losing sleep.
Perhaps the weary ones really believed in compromise or perhaps they were too run down to ask for the fans to be banned entirely — as the public nuisance order would indicate. Some spoke sadly in hopes that moderately supporting wine and farming rights would somehow allow them to get some sleep.
One fellow asked for hands of who in the room were owners and employees of the vineyards. After seeing some 30 hands, he asked who among them was losing any sleep from the fans. The luck wine people have is amazing; only one woman, an employee, kept her hand raised. She was quick to add that she also had young kids, so was getting up a lot anyway.
Strangely, no one raised the issue of the effect fans have on property values. When showing a listed property, a real estate agent must disclose to every buyer conditions that might cause the buyer to not have reasonable peace and contentment. The agent’s spiel should go like this: “I must inform you, Mrs. Buyer, that in April and May there will be between 10 and 20 nights when you will be awakened by the sound of stationary attack helicopters overhead and that some neighbors thus afflicted have trouble getting back to sleep.” The buyer will check the agent’s list of other properties and ask to see those next. As any student of Supply and Demand economics will tell you, fewer buyers means lower prices. And fortunately for farmers, that’s not in the constitution either. But the first wealthy buyer who acquires a property without being informed will create a storm in court and with the state’s real estate commission. At that time, farmers will again polish their arguments about why fans of the industry are good and necessary for us all.
But for 2014, the Fan Season is coming to an end, though this writer had the pleasure of hearing them this morning. So perhaps in the coming months things will settle down and residents and farmers alike will look to the hillsides of Anderson Valley, seeing profit trickling into offshore accounts and oak-flavored intoxication into wine goblets on local tables. As has been the trend for the last 50 years, more acreage will be put into grapes this year by newcomers hoping to make much more than a pretty penny creating tax havens for spoils gained elsewhere. More water will be pumped from the water table to supply 270 gallons per day, per acre through the season. But none of those new acres will be placed in frost-free locations and none of the existing frost-prone acres will be ripped out. (That would be a great farmer contribution to compromise.) For a few months anyway, one and all will raise a glass to the bounty of nature and drink away the troubles of the recent past. Few will think to stand on the edge of history and peer over to an earlier time to learn the lesson when another plant so captivated human passion that everyone who had a Dutch Gilder invested in tulip bulbs, knowing wealth and fame would be theirs if they could just milk a little more out the soil before the market collapsed. For now, we demand a supply.
LAWSUIT AGAINST WEED SLAYER manufacturer
The Arns Law Firm has filed a federal class action lawsuit in the Northern District of California on behalf of consumers who purchased the popular herbicide Weed Slayer, alleging that its manufacturer, Agro Research International, falsely represented that the herbicide was organic and contained only natural ingredients. The lawsuit contends that, in reality, Weed Slayer contains synthetic chemicals—glyphosate and diquat—that are prohibited by federal law for use in organic farming.
WHY ‘SECURING DEMOCRACY’ WILL BE TAUGHT IN JOURNALISM SCHOOLS
Haters gonna hate, but Glenn Greenwald's latest is a field guide to bringing home (another) scoop of a lifetime
by Matt Taibbi
Review: Securing Democracy: My Fight for Press Freedom and Justice in Bolsonaro’s Brazil
My friend Glenn Greenwald has lately become a fixation of American propaganda, playing the role of the traitorous outcast, a cross of Emmanuel Goldstein and Satan. He’s inspired a slew of “Whither Greenwald?” profiles, often penned in the same plaintive “Why does he hate us?” tone pundits once reserved for the Islamic enemy. Some have been stunners. The New Yorker’s “Bane of Their Resistance” piece described Glenn as a gay Carrie, a scorned classmate pouring flamethrower-blasts of childhood trauma on the gentle defenders of Consensus.
On Twitter, where he has 1.6 million followers, it’s worse. Greenwald is coming off a streak of trending six times in six weeks, accused of everything from transphobia to grooming children. Few non-Trump figures on Twitter generate this level of crowdsourced fury; there are too many attack lines to count. One of the more popular is the idea that he’s “just an opinion writer” who doesn’t do any “real reporting.”
The through line for all these assholes, Stephens, Weiss, Yggy, Singal, and Greenwald is that they're fundamentally opinion writers and therefore suck at dealing with actual facts. (Greenwald had shit dumped in his lap based on his opinions, he report it out to get it.)
Securing Democracy: My Fight for Press Freedom and Justice in Brazil is Greenwald’s sixth book. It chronicles how he, his husband David Miranda, and a team of journalists and lawyers in and around The Intercept: Brasil broke the story of a widespread corruption campaign involving Brazilian prosecutors and a judge named Sergio Moro. Under the guise of an Eliot Ness-style cleanup called “Operation Car Wash,” the group railroaded hundreds of business figures and politicians into convictions, including the country’s popular former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
The story came from a hacker-tipster who handed over a trove of explosive phone recordings. Once released, the recordings showed enough evidence of wrongdoing to kick-start an actual cleanup, with Lula released from prison less than a year after the hacker’s first call.
If folks like Kopplin want to keep score, that’s the second history-altering scoop of Greenwald’s career, two more than me, and two more than pretty much everyone else in this business, with one or two living exceptions (they know who they are!). The first time around, the “bane of their resistance” won the highest awards “they” give out, a Pulitzer Prize and an Oscar, for helping former NSA contractor Edward Snowden blow the whistle on a massive domestic surveillance program.
Times have changed, since that first rush of adulation. Even back then we saw a glimpse into the future shift in conventional wisdom, when Oscars host Neal Patrick Harris cracked that Snowden couldn’t attend the ceremony “for some treason”:
When reporters bring a big enough scoop home, they get the best prize of all: the chance to go back and write the story of the story. The best efforts in this area come off like great detective novels, often aided by the fact that the detective is also a professional storyteller.
Greenwald already traversed this genre skillfully with No Place to Hide, about Snowden, and Securing Democracy is the same kind of book, following the tale from one mysterious call on Mother’s Day, 2019, through publication, counterattack from Brazil’s beyond-Trumpian president Jair Bolsonaro, and the (for now) victorious end. The only challenge for American readers will be wrapping their heads around the Brazilian history primer in the first chapter, and keeping track of a long list of unfamiliar characters.
The story itself is not difficult to follow, however, and has clear parallels and connections to American politics. In fact, part of what makes Securing Democracy compelling — and Greenwald talks about this in our interview — is that Brazil’s “Operation Car Wash” affair shows how easily corruption scandals are manufactured in the digital age, as an alternative to traditional strong-arm tactics, to undermine democratically popular figures.
No Place To Hide featured one of the most elaborate source negotiations ever, tailor-made for movies, with exotic locales and covert communication schemes. There, Snowden seemed to know exactly what he was doing, while Greenwald was the one working through uncharted territory. Securing Democracy is a reversal.
“I assumed he would be like Snowden,” Greenwald says, “but I quickly realized that he wasn’t.” Unlike the methodical NSA contractor, who took every precaution, the Brazilian source insisted on talking by ordinary telephone from the start. Greenwald and Miranda, meanwhile, rely on the Snowden experience throughout to help plan their steps.
Securing Democracy will someday be taught in journalism schools because it’s a guidebook for how to carry an explosive story from the moment of receipt across a distant finish line. With respect to learned Twitter critics, there’s nothing easy about dealing with a story of this size. Even if a thing isn’t dug up in the old-school muckraker style, you still have to work the tip after you get it. With such a huge quantity of explosive information, just getting it into print requires an organizational effort on par with launching a business, and a marketing campaign that resembles launching a run for office.
Greenwald, his assistant Victor Pougy, and tech specialist Micah Lee created a system for transferring the files of the mysterious hacker out of Brazil and to a secure facility at the Intercept in New York. Once the calls were logged, they began the long process of going through the files — the archive was bigger than Snowden’s — to identify the most newsworthy material, zeroing in early on illicit chats between Moro and chief prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol that were the most damning proof of corruption. This was followed by the dicey project of picking the right lawyers, two men named Rafael Borges and Rafael Fagundes, and gradually bringing them in in a way that was safest for all concerned.
Greenwald and Miranda calculated, probably correctly, that if the story only came out in a new online venture founded by a gay foreigner, the story wouldn’t resonate with the Brazilian public. “As a result, I decided to use a strategy that we used during the Snowden reporting,” Greenwald wrote, “partnering with the most established media outlets in order to co-opt them into the reporting.”
They ended up partnering with Folha, which Glenn describes as “The New York Times of Brazil.” The paper not only reported the story but added a key early editorial saying, “Examination of the materials did not detect any evidence that it may have been altered.” Folha even offered some corroboration, showing how the archive contained messages from Folha reporters that checked out with the reporters’ own information. This was a major blow to the Bolsonaro regime, which early on tried to counterattack the archive as fake news, a “criminal” production printed by a shady foreign source.
This part of the story will be particularly useful for young writers who may be coming up in a business that lately is teaching different or opposite habits about what the proper relationship to an audience should be. As Greenwald puts it, a lot of modern American reporters think worrying about marketing and engagement are “beneath them as journalists.” In the business now it’s common to think it’s the audience’s job to believe what they’re told, not our job to convince. Unsurprisingly, as a result, polls continually show that the public is losing more and more faith in what the press publishes.
“They’ll tell you, ‘We are the ones who tell you what's important, and you're going to listen,’” is how Greenwald puts it. “And people are saying, ‘You know what? I don't think what you're saying is important and I'm not listening anymore.’”
As Securing Democracy and the Moro/Car Wash story demonstrate, when journalism is serious, when it’s not just farming eyeballs for dollars but actually trying to accomplish something, it has to think in terms of convincing everyone.
Lastly: for all the quasi-psychiatric analyses of Greenwald in places like The New Yorker or New York magazine, none of them seem to grasp that being willing to be the object of intense public loathing is now a pre-condition of most serious investigative reporting.
The costs of publishing something really damaging were always high — think of the way the business turned on Sy Hersh after he published the “Family Jewels” story about the CIA in 1975 — but in the digital age, full-scale character assassination is usually just a beginning. The Car Wash story prompted the spreading of a wild forgery purporting to show a secret bitcoin payment by Greenwald to a Russian hacker for the archive. This turned into Bolsonaro’s son Flavio publicly insisting that “Glenn Greenwald may have paid a Russian hacker to invade the cell phones of Brazilian authorities,” followed by accusations of pedophilic predation, followed by Bolsonaro himself speculating that Glenn might need to “spend some time in the slammer here in Brazil.”
America’s social media smear artists can be proud that they share many thematic ideas with the Brazilian fascist. Bolsonaro is too dense to know the word “grooming,” but he insinuated that Greenwald and Miranda were “tricksters” who “adopted boys” to abuse them. Greenwald and Miranda’s lesson: “It is impossible to anticipate all the threats that you will face when confronting powerful governments.”
Even after all this, Greenwald could regularly be seen arguing the story’s merits with every after-midnight three-follower egg on Twitter, which drives some people crazy but is probably a big part of why the hacker-source picked him in the first place. Most whistleblowers are in jams, thrust into impossible situations that have cost them jobs, friends, even their families sometimes. They need someone willing to join them on the hated list, and in the Internet age, the number of such people is small.
Unless you’re willing to deal with the worst this era can throw at the bearers of bad news — and it can be quite bad, as Snowden and especially Julian Assange can attest — you can’t really do this job anymore. Securing Democracy details what it takes, in the most extreme set of circumstances, in a compelling story that will be instructive for young reporters for generations.