Letters + Opinion » The Town Dandy

Torrent of Bits



Last week we noted that the paranoid and paranoia-inducing machinery of Humboldt County politics seemed to have mellowed this cycle. Where were all the shady front groups? Where was the dirty money? Where were the outlandish rumors and whisper campaigns? Did the election even happen?

Just as we were starting to suspect it was all an Ecstasy flashback, someone came along and dashed a mug of ice water into our face. It came in the form of a talking point, one clearly invented by some crafty person in the Second District (or a friend) and intended for distribution in the last few days of the election. And here it was, the last few days of the election, and suddenly it was on everyone's lips. It rang out on the blogs and on the radio and in the letters-to-the-editor page of the Times-Standard.

"A vote for [the late] Roger Rodoni," it said, "is not a vote for Johanna Rodoni. It's a vote for [Gov.] Arnold Schwarzenegger! Or maybe for [Eureka kazillionaire] Rob Arkley! Or for [Friend of Arkley and former supervisorial candidate] Nancy Flemming!For someone scary, in any case! Be very scared!"

The factual foundation for this amusing whisper campaign is not difficult to recap. Rodoni died before his name could be taken off the ballot. If he won the election, Gov. Schwarzenegger would be charged to appoint a replacement. All true. After that, consumers of the campaign were asked to strap in for a nice long ride on the crazy train. See, Arkley — a person who remains omnipotent in the popular imagination, despite his several recent political failures — Arkley controls Schwarzenegger! Plays him like a fiddle!

What was left out of the equation was why Schwarzenegger would bother to appoint anyone but Rodoni's wife, Johanna Rodoni — or, if you're willing to go this far, why Arkley would object. Schwarzenegger had already appointed Johanna Rodoni to fill out her late husband's current term, after all, and she would be the pick of the overwhelming majority of folks who ticked Roger Rodoni's name on Tuesday. She's a solid Republican, and has served as a member of the local party's central committee. Flemming's name was thrown into the mix to up the fright factor, but though Flemming currently serves as the city manager of Rio Dell she doesn't even live in the Second District.

Johanna Rodoni herself unwittingly added fuel to the fire when she told the Times-Standard that she would be willing to serve in her husband's stead if the governor chose to appoint her. "A big if," she said. This was plainly recognizable as common humility — you don't promise that someone else will pick you — but those who wanted to believe were unwilling or unable to recognize it as such. They took it as another clue to the swirling chasm of conspiracy that surrounded this matter, and their lives.

In the annals of Humboldt County dirty tricks, this one probably doesn't even rate in the top 100. But hey, maybe it worked. Check the election night returns elsewhere in this paper for clues.

Jud Ellinwood is a serious man, and he has a simple mission. For the last several months, he has been urging the Eureka Times-Standard — the region's largest daily newspaper — to reduce the amount of plastic waste it foists upon the lawns of subscribers. Recently he read a T-S editorial entitled "Living Green Year-Round," which was in one of the paper's Earth Week editions. "We should all examine our lifestyles, and start viewing the world through green-colored glasses," the editorial read.

Ellinwood wants to help.

Last December, the paper published a guest editorial written by Ellinwood. The editorial took a swipe at the huge number — perhaps millions — of plastic baggies that the company distributes, along with the morning paper, every year. Ellinwood estimates that the paper could take a big bite out of its plastic waste by declining to wrap the paper during the dry months. Since the editorial was published, Ellinwood has tried to follow up. He has written numerous e-mails, checking to see what has been done and asking how he can help.

Last month, Ellinwood wrote an ad that he hoped to publish in the paper. "Unhappy with the 7 million plastic bags the Time-Standard contributes to the local waste stream every year? Learn more, take action: Use your browser to access http://reducetsbagwaste.blogspot.com." He submitted it. He received no answer. Until, remarkably — scandalously, for a paper that purports to stand for freedom of speech — his ad was refused. "We're declining to publish it," Times-Standard Publisher Greg Stevens wrote him.

To be fair, the 7 million figure seems just a touch high. That's pretty much every edition of the paper in a year, and not every edition is delivered to subscribers' lawns. Still: the paper's straight-up refusal to publish it, and to refuse the help and good advice of a well-meaning reader, is inexcusable.

"I think that if they were at all in touch with their subscribers ..." Ellinwood told the Journal last week, trailing off. "That's all I'm trying to do, put them in touch with their subscribers on an issue they should be concerned about. And they're avoiding that input."

You can find Ellinwood's ad elsewhere in this edition of the Journal. Pay him a visit on his blog — reducetsbagwaste.blogspot.com. That's "Reduce T-S Bag Waste." Dot Blogspot. Dot com.

And if you haven't done so in the last week or thereabouts, why not take a moment to marvel at the North Coast Journal's new website? Stroll on over to northcoastjournal.com and take the tour.

Different? Yes! For one, you can attach your thoughts, prayers and invective to any North Coast Journal article. For now, commenting requires a quick 'n' painless registration process, which we sincerely hope is not too onerous. Also: the Calendar of Events on steroids! There's a full-on searchable database of what's happening where at any moment of the day, week, month or year, and it includes clickable info on local bands and places to see them. There's a kool klassified ad system that makes it super-duper easy to stake your for-sale sign on the web and in the paper.

This is still a work in progress. The North Coast Journal Blogthing, which has been tearing up the blogosphere for the last half a year, is going to stay at its Wordpress home for just a little bit longer while we work out some kinks. Find a link on the Journal's home page. For another, we were already well on the way toward fixing the problem of links within the stories before Professor Marcy Media Maven rapped our knuckles over the issue (see elsewhere in this week's paper). But there's so, so much more on the way, as the database fills with luscious tidbits and mind-blowing new features are continuously added.

Shout-out time. First to the Journal's own Holly Harvey, for running the show on our end. Second to the boy whiz web developers at Tangerine Smash, on Britain's beautiful Isle of Man. They picked up the shards of our previous attempts, saved what was worth saving and built us a purring little device. Third to Eureka's Carson Park Design for providing key advice early on and lending a hand throughout. Fourth to Morse Media, who despite having stuck us with a weird Red Hat-like operating system have provided bang-up hosting ever since the Journal first went online, something like 10 years ago. (Think Debian, guys!)

Finally, thanks and blessings to the open source software world everywhere, especially the crew behind Django — "the Web framework for perfectionists with deadlines." That's one more newspaper site you've carried kicking and screaming into the modern age.

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