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Mendocino County Today: August 31, 2012

THE US FOREST SERVICE AND CALFIRE  don’t expect full containment of the Pass Fire, still in vigorous flame northeast of Covelo, until Monday, September 10th. Residents of Indian Dick Road, also known as U.S. Forest Service Road M1, Blands Cove Road and Mendocino Pass Road, also known as Forest Highway 7, may soon be permitted to return to their homes while the roads remained closed to non-residents and to through traffic to the Sacramento Valley. Ignited by lightning late the evening of Saturday, August 18th, the fire has consumed more than 34,000 acres, much of it in the Mendocino National Forest and the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness. Several homes have been destroyed. As of Thursday afternoon, the blaze was pronounced as "28 percent contained" with 2,000 fire fighters still struggling to achieve full control of the fire in steep terrain and hot and dry weather.

(FOR MORE INFO and visuals go to Facebook and search for Matt Henderson’s North Pass Fire page and his very vivid photos.)

EMILY HARRIS of Californians United for a Responsible Budget alerts us that the California Senate has passed AB-1270 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, a kind of back-to-the-future, pre-1996 measure when state corrections made it very, very difficult for us journalo-scum to report on prisoners and prisons.

“WE'RE NOT JUST WORRIED about reporters,” Ammiano said. “The lack of good information is also a danger to the prisoners, the employees and the public at large. It was under these closed-door conditions that prison health conditions deteriorated to the point that the courts stepped in. When it comes to prisons, what we don’t know can really hurt us.”

THE LA TIMES AGREED. “California's prisons are notoriously off-limits to the kind of scrutiny that is routine for most public agencies. The bill deserves the Governor’s signature.”

PRESENTLY, journalists can't interview a specific prisoner for his take on conditions in the tax-funded facilities, but prison officials freely offer one or another of their carefully selected prisoners to regurgitate the prison's party line. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to investigate, say, the 2011 inmate hunger strike, nevermind suspicious deaths, riots, illegal behavior by prison staff and so on.

”THE PUBLIC has the right to know how our tax dollars are being spent inside prisons,” said Jerry Elster, an organizer with All of Us or None. “If the state officials have nothing to hide then what's the problem with reporters having more access to people in prison?”

“WITH PASSAGE of AB 1270 legislators have voted for transparent and accountable reporting of the state's 32 prisons and the more than 130,000 prisoners locked inside their walls,” said Nancy Mullane, a prize-winning reporter and author on prisons. “With the governor's signature, no longer will professional, credentialed, hard-working journalists be forced to interview whichever inmate the prison authorities make available to them. For the first time in more than two decades, journalists will be permitted by law to request an interview with an inmate by name.”

THE GOVERNOR has until September 30 to sign the measure.

HUMBOLDT STATE'S hazing scandal continues to rage. The mommies and daddies of the affected male and female soccer players have mounted a counter-attack, claiming, among other crimes against their little darlings, that the penalties have been too “draconian,” and that the school's president won't talk to them. An attorney named Swartz, father of one of the male soccer players, is leading the charge.

THE MEN'S soccer season was cancelled, the women's truncated when their after hour parties, in the eyes of school administration, veered off from the usual heavy drinking into dangerous hazing. What exactly that hazing consisted of has not been revealed, but yesteryear's HSU jock festivities have included drop-fall boozing and penis pacifiers. (There don't seem to be any intellectuals on these teams.)

THE MUMSIES AND POPPSIES have even stooped to dragging up an unhappy episode from Peg Blake's past, as if Ms. Blake, HSU's vice-president of student affairs, had forced one of the over-indulged “scholar-athletes” to bong tequila and run around the room naked with a replica penis in his or her mouth. Or whatever dangerously moronic funsies the soccer players were engaged in. Ms. Blake, it turns out, was once arrested for drunk driving with her kid in her car, an episode which has translated to this Swartz character, the lawyer-parent of one of the suspended athletes, as rendering Ms. Blake a hypocrite so large she couldn't possibly pass moral judgment on Swartz's little angel.

OF COURSE if Little Angel had died at the party Swartz would be suing the university and whining to the media about how irresponsible the school was for not supervising Little Angel round-the-clock.

THE HSU CONTROVERSY seems to this moralizing old wheeze emblematic of the way so many young people have been raised — it's everyone else's fault but yours, honey bunch.

IN MENDOCINO COUNTY, only 40% of households have access to cable broadband and only 11% can get a high-speed DSL connection. But according to the Press Democrat's Martin Espinoza, “a grassroots consortium in Sonoma and Mendocino counties that includes high-speed Internet advocates, county officials and economic development experts is crafting a proposal to build a 122-mile, 72-strand fiber-optic ring that would connect the North Coast to the telecommunications backbone along Highway 101. The ring would run west from Petaluma to Bodega Bay, north to Fort Bragg and east to Willits.

REMEMBER back about 15 years ago when that fiber optic cable was laid from somewhere east of Lake County all the way to Manchester on the Mendocino Coast where it crosses the Pacific for Japan? Our roads were torn up for a year while the cable was buried. What did we get out of all the inconvenience? Nothing but a permanently damaged County Road to the Coast that was trenched right down the middle, weakening the roadbed. Our then Supervisors ignored demands that Williams Communications, who was installing the cable, provide the County with a few on-ramps to the info superhighway. The Supes didn't, and here we are with no high speed internet available to a large majority of Mendocino County's 90,000 residents. At last it may be on the way, 15 years after a big-time missed opportunity.


  1. August 31, 2012

    Never heard of Kad County? How about Lake?

  2. August 31, 2012

    The number that struck me in the PD article was that in Mendocino County about 40% (30,000?) residents don’t have broadband.
    In our “backwards” neighbor Kad County that number is 174!

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