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Mendocino County Today: June 21, 2012

GOOD FOR ALICE WALKER, the famous novelist and author of The Color Purple and numerous other books. Ms. Walker, a part-time resident of the Anderson Valley, Mendocino County's most happening community, has refused a Hebrew language translation of her most famous novel, The Color Purple, in protest of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. In a letter dated June 9 to Yediot Books, Ms. Walker cited her involvement in a tribunal last fall in South Africa, saying that Israel is guilty of apartheid and persecution of the Palestinian people, both inside Israel and in the Occupied Territories. “I grew up under American apartheid,” said Ms. Walker, “and this was far worse." Ms. Walker also would not allow Steven Spielberg's film version of The Color Purple to be shown in South Africa until the apartheid regime was dismantled and Nelson Mandela became the first South African President of color.

AT A TIME when the Nobel Peace Prize Winner with the Kill List, Mr. Tambourine Man, is taking Presidential citations in the White House, Ms. Walker, almost alone among prominent writers and intellectuals in the United States, is taking a principled stand here at no small cost to herself. And the correct one too.

NORMAN SOLOMON is closing the gap between himself and Republican Dan Roberts as election results in the sprawling Second Congressional District keep trickling in from Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino, Humboldt, Del Norte and Trinity counties. Early returns showed Republican Dan Roberts barely beating out Solomon for second place for one of the “top two” slots in the November 2012 congressional Second District election. Most of the remaining votes are from Sonoma County (election officials there are being suspiciously mum), plus several thousand from Humboldt. Nobody knows when Sonoma will post their final results, but technically they have 30 days from the day of the election, so it could be upwards of two weeks before we get the final result. Humboldt is said to be close to releaseing their final vote counts. As of Tuesday night, Solomon had closed the initial 1,397 vote lead that Republican Roberts had to less than 600 votes with thousands more still to be counted, and Solomon can be expected to get more than Roberts simply because there are almost twice as many Democrats in the voting areas not yet counted. If Roberts hangs onto his lead, leading Democrat Jared Huffman would waltz into Congress without lifting a campaign finger. But if Solomon gets into the General Election, we could have a real debate about the soul of the Democratic Party.

PREDICTABLY, the Mendocino Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to deny the appeal of opponents of the Harris Quarry a few miles south of Willits. (The Board previously voted unanimously to certify the Environmetnal Impact Report and approve the necessary batch plant zoning change.) The Harris Quarry operators want to increase their asphalt production volume and add a batch plant which could become a large source of aggregate and asphalt for the upcoming Willits Bypass project, among others. It is expected that the Quarry expansion opponents/neighbors will take their case to court next, presumably based on what they say is a badly flawed Environmental Impact Report. Mendo’s record in court when it comes to gravel projects is spotty so the opponents may have a case. But they’ll have to prove that the Board approved the project illegally and so far we haven’t heard any arguments that amount to a smoking gun error on the County’s part.

SHERIFF ALLMAN was given the go-ahead on Tuesday on a 3-2 vote by the Board of Supervisors to work with a TV production outfit called Studio Lambert to produce a six-part TV reality show mini-series on the Mendocino County Sheriff’s department’s efforts to keep marijuana trespass and National Forest grows at bay. Allman said he hopes that the production will help neutralize the image that Mendo has developed in recent years as a pot-friendly county by showing pot raiders at work pulling up plants and cleaning up dirty grow sites — maybe even arresting a few Mexican garden tenders. Supervisors John McCowen and Carre Brown were cautiously supportive, expressing no serious problem with the documentarians pointing their cameras at Allman and Crew. Supervisors Dan Hamburg and Kendall Smith were skeptical, saying that Allman has no guarantee of what the final product will look like, with Hamburg denouncing the reality show idea as “phony news” and “docudrama,” as if that’s not what most of it video news already is. Supervisor John Pinches, calling himself the swing vote on the question, reluctantly gave a thumbs up primarily because Sheriff Allman wanted to do it. However, Studio Lambert’s track record isn’t exactly up to Edward R. Murrow standards. Previously they’ve produced shows entitled “Wife Swap” and “Undercover Boss” — hardly real documentaries. We expect the show will mirror the Fox News Show “Cops” with interviews with pot raiders on their way to a garden and films of the possible interaction between cops and growers. The trouble with these projects is they focus on the sensational aspects of the pot world, not the “after-action” world of lawyers, bureaucrats, trials, judges, juries, convicts and verdicts. Maybe if the producers come up with new versions of “Let’s Make A Deal: Plea Bargain Swaps in Mendo,” or “Undercover Narc,” we’d get a more documentary style view of the subject. As it is, it’s basically just a video version of a news reporter ride-along which is a common aspect of local reporting.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK 1, from Andrew Blum, author of “Tubes.” “I have confirmed with my own eyes that the internet is many things, in many places. But one thing it most certainly is, nearly everywhere, is, in fact, a series of tubes. There are tubes beneath the ocean that connect London and New York. There are tubes that connect Google and Facebook. There are buildings filled with tubes, and hundreds of thousands of miles of roads and railroad tracks, besides which lie tubes. Everything you do on-line travels through a tube.”

QUOTE OF THE WEEK 2, from Mr. Blum: “I'd feel better about outsourcing my life to machines if I could at least know where they were, who controls them, and who put them there. The great global scourges of modern life are always made worse by not knowing.”

QUOTE OF THE WEEK 3, from Mr. Blum: “Google made me feel like a schoolkid. This was the company that arguably knows most about us, but it was being most secretive itself. (Blum said this when he visited Google’s big server farm way out in the desert in central Oregon.)

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