No Pardon for Billy the Kid

Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico has decided not to posthumously pardon Billy the Kid, aka William H. Bonney, aka Henry McCarty, for any of his many crimes. Richardson considered pardoning him because the historical record suggests territorial Governor Lew Wallace may have extended the promise of a pardon in exchange for Billy’s testimony against another murderer. Billy testified but the pardon never materialized. He escaped from jail killing two guards only to be caught again, escape again, then finally shot to death by Lincoln County sheriff Pat Garrett in 1881.

The Wallace and Garrett familys were not pleased that Gov. Richardson was willing to re-examine the question of whether Wallace made a deal with Billy the Kid that he welched on and whether Garrett had shot the wrong man. The descendants of Billy the Kid’s victim Sheriff William J. Brady, killed on April Fool’s Day, 1878, were also offended by the very notion of a pardon.

Sheriff Pat GarrettIn July of this year, Garrett’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren wrote to Mr. Richardson: “If Billy the Kid were living amongst us now, would you issue a pardon for someone who made his living as a thief and, more egregiously, who killed four law enforcement officers and numerous others?”

But history buffs who also happen to be Governor can’t be deterred that easily, especially when they can’t run again because of term limits anyway. Richardson set up a website about the Billy the Kid pardon, soliciting comments on the question from the general public. Out of the 809 emails received, 430 of them favored granting the pardon, 379 were against it.

Overwhelming pro-Bonney numbers notwithstanding, the Governor ultimately decided the evidence was just too inconclusive even for this level of tourism-luring stunt pardoning. After all, even if Lew Wallace did offer Billy the Kid a pardon, he could have been lying to get his testimony. There was never any guarantee, nor is there any formal record of Governor Wallace making any such offer.

Some historians suggest that Mr. Wallace never explicitly offered a pardon to the outlaw, who also went by the names Henry McCarty and William H. Bonney, and might have been trying to trick him. Shortly before Mr. Wallace left office, he told a newspaper: “I can’t see how a fellow like him should expect any clemency from me.”

Högström gets 3 years for Auschwitz sign theft

Swedish national and founder of Sweden’s National Socialist Front party Anders Högström has been sentenced to two years and eight months in prison by a Polish court for masterminding last year’s theft and dismemberment of the infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign at the entrance to Auschwitz.

Högström, who claimed to have abandoned his neo-Nazi ways over a decade ago, received the sentence as part of plea agreement that allows him to serve his time in a Swedish prison rather than a Polish one. If what I’ve seen on Wallander is at all accurate, I suspect that’s a pretty sweet exchange.

Auschwitz "Arbeit Macht Frei" signThe exact nature of his involvement in the plot is still nebulous. When he was extradited from Sweden, he said he had played the middle man, simply arranging the transportation of the sign from one location to another. He also claimed that he had turned himself in once he discovered the proceeds from the sale of this ultimate symbol of Nazi genocide were going to be used to disrupt the upcoming elections.

Poland convicted him of masterminding the theft after prosecutors failed to turn up any evidence which supported Hogstrom’s claims that he was acting as a middle man in a plot to steal the sign for financial and possibly political gain.

Swedish police arrested him early in 2010. Hogstrom also claimed that rather than being arrested, he had turned himself into the Swedish authorities after he realised that proceeds from the sign’s sale was meant for a political campaign to disrupt Swedish general election in September which saw huge gains by the right-wing Sweden Democrat party. No evidence has emerged to support his claim that there was a political element to the theft

Polish prosecutors said Hogstrom had admitted his guilt at the last minute. The most likely cause for Hogstrom’s change of heart appears to have been the settlement reached with prosecutors which allows him to return to Sweden to serve his sentence.

But whether the motives behind the sign’s theft were political or linked in any way to the election gains by Sweden’s anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats, remains a mystery. Robert Parys, the Polish prosecutor who headed the investigation, said he was convinced the main motive was financial.

Two Polish nationals, Marcin Auguscinski and Andrzej Strychalski were sentenced 30 months and 28 months in jail respectively for the theft and dismemberment of the sign. They cut it into three pieces so it would fit in their truck. Marcin Auguscinski knew Högström personally. He did odd jobs on Högström’s southern Sweden estate more than two years ago.

New Georgia AC to remove slavery murals

George Beattie mural of slaves harvesting sugar cane in lobby of GA Dept. of AgricultureThe incoming Georgia agriculture commissioner plans to remove seven murals by George Beattie from the lobby of the Department of Agriculture in Atlanta across from the state Capitol.

Beattie’s paintings were commissioned in 1956 and depict the history of agriculture in the state, from half-naked Native Americans cultivating corn to a state farmers market to a 20th-century veterinary lab. Somewhere in between there are two idealized depictions of slavery, one of strapping slaves harvesting sugar cane, the other of equally strapping slaves picking cotton and using a cotton gin to separate seed from fiber under the dignified eye of a pair of white overseers.

Conservative Republican Commisioner-elect Gary Black finds them “undesirable” and plans to take them out of the lobby and put them in storage. The unobjectionable state farmers market one might remain in use, but not in the lobby.

“I don’t like those pictures,” said Republican Gary Black, the newly elected agriculture commissioner. “There are a lot of other people who don’t like them.” […]

“I think we can depict a better picture of agriculture,” Black said.

There are no signs of the whippings, beatings, shackles or brutality used to subjugate the slaves, who appear healthy, muscular, even robust.

George Beattie mural of slaves picking and ginning cottonBeattie’s son George Beattie III says his father thought slavery was terrible but that he was asked to depict the history of agriculture in Georgia, and that means depicting slaves who were 40% of the state’s agricultural workers by 1840. Historical accuracy did not demand that he depict them in the blazing good health of a ruddy Soviet farmer on a propaganda poster, though.

Even Beattie’s close friend, sculptor and professor emeritus at Georgia State University George Beasley, who believes the paintings should remain where they are, admits that the painter had a penchant for idealized, shiny-happy images, which puts the lie to the notion that the paintings are only about presenting Georgia history as it was.

The year those paintings were hung, after all, was a landmark year in Georgia’s racist history. It’s the year a Confederate Battle Flag was added to the state flag in protest of school desegregation. Governor Marvin Griffin declared that “the schools are not going to be mixed come hell or high water.” The Confederate flag remained on the state flag until Governor Roy Barnes replaced it in 2001, a decision that may have played a pivotal role in his failure to secure re-election the next year.

Gary Black is the first new agricultural commissioner in 41 years. Outgoing commissioner Tommy Irvin was appointed by segregationist governor Lester Maddox in 1969 and ran undefeated, often unopposed, for the next 10 elections. If Irvin hadn’t decided to retire this year, Black might have lost yet again, just like he did in 2006. He has all kinds of reasons for wanting a fresh start.

2,600-year-old Celtic tomb found in Germany

A 2,600-year-old Celtic tomb has been found by archaeologists excavating the ancient hill fort at Heuneburg, Germany. The 13-by-16-foot burial chamber is in an excellent state of preservation and still contains a treasury of gold and amber jewelry.

The jewelry allowed archaeologists to pinpoint a precise date, the first time they’ve been able to do so with early Celtic remains. It also strongly suggests that the tomb belonged to a noblewoman of the fort’s early period of Celtic habitation, the 7th century B.C. Further analysis of the burial chamber will be needed to confirm the date and owner.

This should be a lot easier for scientists since the entire tomb has been lifted out of the ground in one solid block of earth by two cranes, loaded on a specialized flatbed truck and transported tout entier to the lab of the State Office for the Preservation of Monuments in Stuttgart.

The Heuneburg hill fort site is one of the oldest settlements north of the Alps, and a major source of information about Iron Age Celtic culture at a time when wealth and population were increasing rapidly in a few population centers.

The Celtic citadel was first enclosed with a wood and earth wall in 700 B.C., a standard Celtic building technique. By 600 B.C., however, they had built a mudbrick wall over a limestone foundation almost 20 feet high. The mudbricks were painted in limestone plaster and must have been a very visible landmark in the area for the 70 years they lasted. There are no other similar such walls known in any Celtic settlements in central Europe of the time.

Cranes remove entire burial chamber as solid block of earth Intricate gold jewelry found in the tomb

Portland chef finds 200-year-old Italian cookbook

Pumpkin soup page from "Il Cuoco Maceratese"Stefania Toscano packed many of her beloved aunt’s books when she moved from Italy to Oregon. She was in a rush and didn’t catalog them before boxing them up, so when she found a coverless, worn book in a Ziploc bag at the bottom of one of the boxes, at first she didn’t think much of it. Her aunt was a hugely accomplished cook and had a large collection of cookbooks.

Upon closer inspection she realized it was an 1809 edition of Il Cuoco Maceratese (The Cook from Macerata — a city in the central Italian region of Le Marche) by Antonio Nebbia. It’s one of the earliest cookbooks written on Italian soil, decades before it was a country.

Toscano went to the Reed College library to find out more about the book, and a search of the school’s massive database of libraries around the world confirmed that it was a rare volume indeed. Out of 42,000 libraries searched, there were only three copies of this edition.

The University of Oregon’s Nicola Camerlenghi, an Italian-born assistant professor of art history, told us that the mere fact that recipes were even written down and published reflected the region’s growing economic prosperity and the emergence of an upper-middle class, who were employing cooks who needed information.

According to Camerlenghi, who has an academic interest in medieval architecture and gastronomy, the new bourgeois class in Macerata looked to France and its nouvelle cuisine for inspiration — even before Napoleon stormed Italy in 1798.

“Papal rulership is conservative,” Camerlenghi says. “And here is this exciting stuff that is going on in France: the 19th century Enlightenment. Voltaire, all these big thinkers.” And France, he says, embodies a cosmopolitan sophistication that appeals to upper-middle-class Italians.

Nebbia introduces French-style sauces to give flavor to food, eschewing heavy use of spices, roasted meats and other medieval carryovers.

Along with the more traditional lard and pig fat, he recommends using butter, even in pasta. Dishes call for making puff pastry and sweet custard creams to accompany meats and breads.

As important as what is in the book is what’s not. You see no mention of tomatoes or potatoes. It took years after the tomato’s arrival in Europe from the New World for it to be considered edible (the first pasta recipe with tomatoes was recorded in 1790). Potatoes were introduced in 1773, Camerlenghi says, but only became widely used after the government played up their health properties.

You see Enlightenment principles at work in his description of rational rules for the organized kitchen, the ordered, measured instructions for each dish, and his focus on sanitation. He recommends, for instance, that people who are sick be forcibly evicted from the kitchen, that cow hairs should be filtered out of milk and that feathers should be removed from birds before they’re cooked and then actually kept off. (There was a gross habit in medieval cookery of serving birds with their feathers draped back on them so they looked like a live display.)

In the video below Stefania Toscano says the book is written in an archaic Italian, a mixture of the modern language and Latin, but from what I can see in the picture it looks just a little old fashioned; for instance, they use the medial s, the elongated form that looks like an f.

It’s readable enough, though, because she’s been making some of the recipes and even the odd ones like Piatto di Sellari di Vigilia con salsa di Tarantello, a pan sauté of tuna, boiled celery, a sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg, and a slurry of flour and water, have turned out surprisingly well. Then there’s the one she’s been making for Christmas, a marvel called Lasagna Princisgrass, so called because it’s rich enough for a prince, made from sheets of pasta layered with white sauce, shaved truffles and prosciutto.