Saturday, April 21, 2007

Earth Day

Renzi gets publicity

Oh my, our man Renzi makes the first page of the Wall Street Journal!

That investigation has now become a formal public-corruption probe by a federal
grand jury in Tucson. On Thursday, the grand jury authorized a search warrant of
a Renzi family business. Investigators have uncovered evidence that Mr. Renzi
received a cash payment from his former business partner, funneled through a
family wine company, after a second investor group pursuing an unrelated land
swap agreed to pay $4 million for the alfalfa field, according to people contacted in the course of the two-year investigation.

The article clarifies how Renzi was able to manipulate a federal land deal to benefit his business partner, James Sandlin.
"Congressman Renzi told me that the purchase of the Sandlin parcel was a matter
of national security, and that it was key to ensuring the viability of Fort Huachuca," Mr. Aries says. "He said that if we were to buy it before" upcoming hearings about the possible closure of the base, "he would give our swap priority -- a 'free pass,' he said, would be sure to get through the Natural Resources Committee," thereby ensuring its approval.

The guy will look good modeling an orange jumpsuit.


I wish it were this easy.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Friday Boobie

I think I'll start a new Pygalgia tradition: The Friday Boobie.

A pair of masked boobies. I'll try to put up a new boobie every Friday. Well, except next Friday when I'll be boating the canyon.

Raid on Renzi

Piling on Sweaterman's post, it's good to see that our local corrupt congresscritter, Rep. Rick Renzi, is in more trouble.

In a second blow to House Republicans this week, the FBI raided a business tied to the family of Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) Thursday afternoon as part of an ongoing investigation into the three-term lawmaker.

Details of the raid on Patriot Insurance Agency in Sonoita, Ariz., were not immediately available. Renzi’s most recent financial disclosure form lists the
business as an asset belonging to his wife, Roberta, and valued at $1 million to
$5 million.

Little is known about the inquiries into Renzi’s activities, but according to media reports the Justice Department has been running a two-track
investigation into Renzi regarding a land deal, as well as a piece of
legislation he helped steer that may have improperly benefited a major campaign contributor.
It was not immediately clear which investigation the raid
pertained to, and neither his attorney nor his spokesman could be immediately
reached for comment.

Couldn't happen to a more deserving scumbag.

In 2003, Rep. Renzi sponsored legislation that dealt hundreds of millions of
dollars to his father’s business while, according to environmentalists, devastating the San Pedro River. A key beneficiary of Rep. Renzi’s legislation was ManTechInternational Corp., a Fairfax, Virginia based defense contractor
where Rep. Renzi’s father, Retired Major General Eugene Renzi, is an executive
vice president. The company, which has an office in Sierra Vista, Arizona, was
the largest contributor to Renzi’s 2002 congressional campaign and the second
largest in his 2004 campaign.

If Rep. Renzi accepted campaign contributions from ManTech in exchange for
pushing through legislation benefitting the company, he would be in violation of
federal bribery laws. His actions on behalf of his father may have also violated
conflict-of-interest rules and the requirement thatMembers of the House
conduct themselves “at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the

And it's good to see that he's off the house intelligence committee. The last thing anybody who's talked to Mr. Renzi would accuse him of is "intelligence".

As a result of the raid, Renzi is stepping down from his seat on the
House Intelligence Committee
, according to a statement from his office
obtained Thursday evening by Roll Call.

Unfortunately, we haven't been able to beat him at the polls in the past 3 elections (all 3 times, the dems have run truly uninspiring opponents). So maybe we can get rid of him through the courts.

Cell Phone Rant

I may show myself to be a grouchy oldster here, but I was bothered by something yesterday. I was at my favorite microbrewery and, beer being beer, went to use the restroom. I'm standing at a urinal and another guy enters, talking away on his cell phone. He goes to the next urinal, and tells whoever he's talking to "yeah, I'm just taking a leak", then continues his rambling conversation. And I've had these type of encounters before.
Now, I'm comfortable with bodily functions. But is it a topic of phone conversation? Are people so tied to their phones that they feel a need to tell someone exactly what they're doing at every single moment?
I have a cell phone, but I don't like talking on the phone so I only use it to communicate specific information. "meet me at ..." type communication. I don't feel any need to communicate my bodily functions to someone as a phone conversation.
Am I alone in finding this annoying?

Sweet Jesus, It's About Time

From Kos:

From the subscription-only Roll Call:

In a second blow to House Republicans this week, the FBI raided a business tied to the family of Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) Thursday afternoon as part of an ongoing investigation into the three-term lawmaker.

Details of the raid on Patriot Insurance Agency in Sonoita, Ariz., were not immediately available. Renzi’s most recent financial disclosure form lists the business as an asset belonging to his wife, Roberta, and valued at $1 million to $5 million.

Little is known about the inquiries into Renzi’s activities, but according to media reports the Justice Department has been running a two-track investigation into Renzi regarding a land deal, as well as a piece of legislation he helped steer that may have improperly benefited a major campaign contributor. It was not immediately clear which investigation the raid pertained to, and neither his attorney nor his spokesman could be immediately reached for comment.

As a result of the raid, Renzi is stepping down from his seat on the House Intelligence Committee, according to a statement from his office obtained Thursday evening by Roll Call.

I'm a stone-cold non-believer, but as the title of my post indicates, it's about time we ran his over-breeding, carpet-bagging, useless slimeball, wasted sperm out of town.

Renzi has done his best to ingratiate himself to the folks in his district that never look at the bigger picture; in our ADHD culture we're get all excited by a new museum or some shiny knick-knack; and as a result we get the shitty congressperson we have now.

I can't fault Renzi on all things; he has voted for more Veteran's support and a for the self-employed to take health care deductions (which would probably be fucked out of them somehow anyways, given the Republican tactics), but you'd be a fool to not do that. However - splitting the 9th Circuit Court into 3 separate districts? Fuck you to death asshole. The 9th Circuit is the one court that keeps things relatively sane in this country; otherwise, we'd be run over by the Jee-bus lovers and militaristic types (and frankly, they're both about the same). Pulling military support out of the U.N.? Fuck-waddian idea if I've ever heard one.

Oh, and do I even need to mention that you've been voted one of the 20 Most Corrupted Members of Congress?

Renzi, it's time for you to go. I'd vote for the dump I took earlier this evening before I'd vote for you. Now I guess it's up to me to make sure my fellows citizens do the same. After all, I'd rather have Congressperson(?) Hankie than Congressperson Renzi, any day, in a heartbeat.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Al gon

Ok, I'm taking a quick break, and checking up on the Gonzales hearings. He sounds pathetic. Imagine a corporate department head sounding like this:
"I don't recall" over and over.
"I was not involved"
"I have no idea what my employees are doing".
"I wasn't in charge, and I plan to remain so".
For real coverage, go to Firedoglake,

Light Posting

Posting will be sparse, as my river trip is one week away. I've got to organize all the gear and provisions for 16 people for 6 days...damn, that's a lot of stuff.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Art Farm

Do not click on this link unless you are really weird: I would post a pic, but then I wouldn't be able sleep tonight.

Mental Health Issues

The Virginia Tech shooter had mental health issues, and it's a media firestorm. I'm going to throw my 1.5 cents in.
First, some background: I was a mental health counselor for 14 years (yeah, since I gave up mental health I'm feeling much better). My degree is in community mental health, and as a crises counselor I was involved in many involuntary treatment situations.
There's a huge debate in mental health treatment regarding civil rights and when a person can be forced into treatment. The legal standard of "danger to self or others" is subject to interpretation and often hard to determine. For example, I as a counselor could be fairly certain that a client was suicidal based on their case history, but if the client denied being suicidal I would not be able to get them hospitalized against there will. Sometimes civil rights come with risks.
People with mental illness are no more (or less) dangerous than the rest of the population, and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. And mental health workers are not prescient. There is no way to know what someone might do in the future.
I will also point out that mental health is grossly underfunded. Even if the young man went to counseling, I doubt that what would be available would be adequate.
Could this tragedy have been prevented? I'm doubtful. But I would hate to see this become an excuse to stigmatize and oppress people with mental illness.


Another from the San Juan. 8 days until the "big ditch" trip.

Thought for Food

One of the most basic things we as taxpayers should expect from our government is that our food is safe. Thanks to the anti-government administration, this is no longer the case. Seems to me that safe groceries should be a basic right.

Updated: 7:13 p.m. MT Feb 26, 2007

The federal agency that’s been front and center in warning the public about tainted spinach and contaminated peanut butter is conducting just half the food safety inspections it did three years ago.

The cuts by the Food and Drug Administration come despite a barrage of high-profile food recalls.

“We have a food safety crisis on the horizon,” said Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia.

Between 2003 and 2006, FDA food safety inspections dropped 47 percent, according to a database analysis of federal records by The Associated Press.

FDA ‘just can't manage the job’
That’s not all that’s dropping at the FDA in terms of food safety. The analysis also shows:

  • There are 12 percent fewer FDA employees in field offices who concentrate on food issues.
  • Safety tests for U.S.-produced food have dropped nearly 75 percent, from 9,748 in 2003 to 2,455 last year, according to the agency’s own statistics.

Feeling the outrage? Rick Perlstein is:

E. coli conservatives

First, they came for the spinach.

I remember the day last September. The supermarket had a new kind of salad dressing, one that looked like it would taste good with spinach. I went to the produce section to buy a bag. But they all had been recalled. Three people had died from E. coli contamination from eating spinach. I decided I could live without the spinach.

Next they came for the peanut butter, and I didn't pay much attention. I don't much like peanut butter.

Then they came for the tomatoes. Then the Taco Bell lettuce.

Then the mushrooms, then ham steaks, then summer sausage. I started worrying.

Then, they came for the pet food.

I remember the sinking feeling, hearing that dogs and cats had died eating contaminated food. Then the flash of guilt—had we poisoned our dogs? I remember hearing the name of the manufacturer, my wife searching the web frantically for
a catalogue of its products, the stab of fear when we found the name of the food our own dogs eat. Then the wave of relief—it was only canned food; our dogs eat dry. I began investigating more. One of the things I learned was that the Food
and Drug Administration hasn't been able to confirm
"with 100 percent certainty" that the offending agent didn't go into human food. Then it neglected to reveal the name of the tainted product's U.S. distributor.

Sex and the CIA

I've learned that to be a really good scandal, it must include sex. The Cunningham/Wilkes/Foggo scandal is about to get the sex it needs for the public to notice.

I recently received an advance copy of Seth Hettena's Feasting
on the Spoils: The Life and Times of Randy “Duke” Cunningham, History's Most
Corrupt Congressman
, which will be published this July and which I highly recommend. In addition to being a terrific piece of political reporting, the book is filled with juicy details concerning the seamier side of the Cunningham affair, otherwise known as “Hookergate.”

I was particularly interested in stories Hettena unearthed about Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, whom former CIA director Porter Goss had named as executive director, the agency's number-three official. Foggo resigned last year not long after FBI agents raided his home and office. The Feds suspected that Foggo, who was later indicted, had funneled CIA contracts to his long-time friend Brent Wilkes, the defense contractor who is accused of bribing Cunningham with money and prostitutes.

Some of the more sensational stories in Hettena's book—and he has on-the-record sources—got me thinking. First, didn't Foggo's frequent indiscretions (for example, flashing his agency ID to jump the line at a strip club) raise red flags about his character? Second, wasn't Foggo's outlandish sexual behavior—like, say, publicly performing oral sex on a hooker (hired by Wilkes) at his own bachelor party—just the sort of thing that makes intelligence officials potentially vulnerable toblackmail by a hostile spy service? Third, might it be possible to cynically point to such revelations and use them as a hook for a blog item that combines sex and espionage?

You already know the answer to #3. As to #1 and #2, I spoke with a number of former CIA officers and asked them about the use of sex as a weapon of espionage and whether Foggo-scale misbehavior would typically be deemed a security risk or cause other problems.

The original scandal was pretty basic: Wilkes bribes Cunningham and Foggo, gets government contracts for millions. Cunningham gets caught, goes to jail. Page B17 story. But if we can get some sex in the story? A1 with screaming headlines.

The contract, previously reported to be worth between $2 million and $3 million, was a no-bid, unneeded deal to distribute water in Iraq. In other words, it was right up Wilkes' alley, since he specialized in selling unneeded and drastically overpriced equipment and services to the government via acquaintances like the now-incarcerated Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA) .

Besides the fun of seeing someone called "Dusty" go on trial, maybe the public will start to notice the corruption that has become so pervasive in the current administration.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Guns (and butter)

I'm trying to figure out what to say.
I'm a gun owner, but I'm also a liberal who believes that gun responsibility comes first. I grew up with guns, but my dad and my uncle made sure that I knew what I shot. I may say more later, but the V.Tech massacre is not the gun debate.

For Whig

Because I don't have an email address for frequent commenter Whig.


Too cool!

The team from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo today won the first Shell Eco-marathon
Americas with a gasoline-fueled combustion engine vehicle that delivered 1,902.7

The Eco-marathon challenges student teams to design and build the most
fuel-efficient vehicles, which are tested in a mileage challenge. The Eco-marathon concept started as the Shell Mileage Marathon in 1939 after a friendly wager between employees of Shell Oil’s research laboratory in Wood River, Illinois, as to whose car could get the better fuel mileage. Shell has been running the current Eco-marathon for more than 20 years in the Europe and the UK, and brought a version of the event to the US for the first time this year.

Say Hello To

In the Skippy tradition of welcoming new blogs, say hello to Pollywog

She's a friend, and a really smart lady, so I look forward to her bloggy goodness.
And Sweaterman, watch out.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sheer Insanity

The Virginia Tech massacre is beyond horrible. As someone who until recently worked at a university, I can only imagine the whole communities horror and grief. My sympathies to all the victims of this senseless tragedy.

al-Sadr's power play

Moqtada al-Sadr is pulling six members out of Nuri al-Maliki's cabinet. As I've posted before, this bears watching.
The six cabinet members belonging to the Sadr Movement in Nuri al-Maliki's
government are set to resign
. The movement's 32 parliamentarians will continue to attend sessions of the legislature, but presumably would vote against the prime minister in a vote of no confidence. The Sadrists want the Iraqi government to insist on setting a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, and are annoyed that PM al-Maliki publicly rejected that approach recently when he was in Japan.

As always, Juan Cole provides the best insight:
I now count those who would probably vote against al-Maliki if the question was
called this way: The Iraqiya List of Iyad Allawi: 25; The Fadhila Party: 15; the National Dialogue Front (secularist Sunnis): 11; Sadrists: 32. That is 83. I don't know what the Iraqi Accord Front (fundamentalist Sunnis) would do. They have 44 seats. If they voted against, that would be 127. It would take 138 to cause the government to fall, which means that if the Sunnis were disgruntled enough, and if a few (11) other Shiites defected, even al-Maliki's powerful coalition of Kurds and fundamentalist Shiites could not protect him. I think the Iraq government is gradually collapsing; likely the end state is just dysfunctionality rather than anything dramatic. There was a Lebanese parliament all through the Civil War there, it just did not do anything and couldn't meet (the parliament building lay on the Green Line along which the fighting raged).

And the media, of course, repeats "radical":
BAGHDAD - Cabinet ministers loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr quit the
government Monday, severing the powerful Shiite religious leader from the U.S.-backed prime minister and raising fears al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia might again confront American troops.

al-Sadr is a power player in Iraqi politics, and until we leave Iraq we better figure out how to deal with him.

Though in his early thirties and only a hojatalislam ("proof of Islam") - one rank below an ayatollah in the Shiite religious hierarchy - Muqtada al-Sadr has pursued a political strategy no other Iraqi politician can match.

The sources of his ever-expanding appeal are: his pedigree, his fierce nationalism, his shrewd sense of when to confront the occupying power and when to lie low, and his adherence to the hierarchical order of the Shiite sect, topped by a grand ayatollah - at present 73-year-old Ali Sistani - whose opinion or decree must be accepted by all those below him. (For his part, Sistani does not criticize any Shiite leader.)

Muqtada's father, Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, and two elder brothers were
assassinated outside a mosque in Najaf in February 1999 by the henchmen of President Saddam Hussein. The Grand Ayatollah had defied Saddam by issuing a religious decree calling on Shiites to attend Friday prayers in mosques. The Iraqi dictator, paranoid about large Shiite gatherings, feared these would suddenly turn violently anti-regime.

Muqtada then went underground - just as he did recently in the face of the Bush administration's "surge" plan - resurfacing only after the Baathist regime fell in April 2003; and Saddam City, the vast slum of Baghdad, with nearly 2 million Shiite residents, was renamed Sadr City. As the surviving son of the martyred family of a grand ayatollah, Muqtada was lauded by most Shiites.

While welcoming the demise of the Baathist regime, Sadr consistently opposed the continuing occupation of his country by Anglo-American forces. When Paul Bremer, the American viceroy in Iraq, banned his magazine Al Hawza al Natiqa ("The Vocal Seminary") in April 2004 and American soldiers fired on his followers protesting peacefully against the publication's closure, Sadr called for "armed resistence" to the occupiers.

The Padilla Trial

Jose Padilla's trial begins today on charges of aiding terrorism. Fine. But when he was arrested in 2002?
In 2002, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft announced Padilla’s arrest and said
authorities had thwarted an Al Qaeda plot to detonate a radioactive bomb in a major city. Those allegations have been dropped.

I've been outraged about the breach of constitutional rights that this case shows. Mr. Padilla is a U.S. citizen. The administration held him without charge for 5 years, may have used torture, and denied counsel for 3 years claiming that he is an "enemy combatant". That should scare the shit out of anyone paying attention. If the administration can detain someone without charge by simply accusing, none of us are free.

Jose Padilla is the U.S. citizen who supposedly plotted to detonate a "dirty bomb." Since his capture -- not on the battlefields of Afghanistan or Iraq, but at Chicago's O'Hare Airport -- he has not been charged with any crime.

Padilla's indefinite detention, without access to an attorney, has civil libertarians up in arms. That's why the Cato Institute, joined by five ideologically diverse public policy organizations -- the Center for National Security Studies, the Constitution Project, the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, People for the American Way, and the Rutherford Institute -- filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Padilla v. Rumsfeld, now pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York.

Consider this specious logic, endorsed by the Bush administration: Under the
Sixth Amendment, the right to counsel does not apply until charges are filed.
The government has not charged Padilla. Ordinarily, U.S. citizens cannot be
detained without charge. But the administration has avoided that technicality by
designating Padilla as an "enemy combatant," then proclaiming that the court may
not second-guess his designation.

Essentially, on orders of the executive branch, anyone could wind up imprisoned by the military with no way to assert his innocence. That frightening prospect was echoed by J. Harvie Wilkinson, the respected and steadfastly conservative chief judge of the Fourth Circuit. In a case involving another U.S. citizen, Yaser Hamdi, Wilkinson warned, "With no meaningful judicial review, any American citizen alleged to be an enemy combatant could be detained indefinitely without charges or counsel." Judge Wilkinson upheld Hamdi's detention but pointedly noted that Hamdi's battlefield capture was like "apples and oranges" compared to Padilla's arrest in Chicago. "We aren't placing our imprimatur upon a new day of executive detentions," Wilkinson cautioned.

Mr. Padilla may be as dangerous as the administration claims. Fine. Charge and let a jury decide. But do it as our constitutional laws require.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Jackie Robinson

As a baseball fan, I would be remiss if I didn't note that today is the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier. It should have happened long before, but his courage in the face of adversity is a truly great inspiration.

"a life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives." - jackie robinson


I haven't put any up for a while, so here's a nice pair of boobies:

Seeking Hope

I tend to get depressed when I look at our current society. Somehow, we've allowed the worst leaders to carry out the worst ideas across the broad spectrum of policies. Laws? Not for these leaders. War? Not to be won, but to be sustained for the profits of our donors. Public safety? Not profitable. And on and on and on.
So I'm trying to find some hope. Some positive sign. Reading this article, "A journey into the (reputed) soul of conservatism" by David Green,, actually gave me a bit of hope. While it chronicles decades of wrongness,Green sees a light at the end of the tunnel.

Given the prevalence of such attitudes, it is no small miracle that we appear to have survived our era’s toxic cocktail of regressive bile. We are, of course, not out of the woods yet, and it is possible that a new, new Pearl Harbor, or yet another Middle East war would rally the persuadable middle of the American electorate back to the flag of the Boy King. (Don’t forget he had 90 percent job approval ratings right after
9/11 – despite the fact that he had gone off hiding in Nebraska.) But I tend to think that is probably no longer possible. I also tend to think that the fact that they haven’t already done this suggests that they’re probably not going to, though you never know what they’re capable of once the impeachment process kicks in.

Americans have hardly become any more secure in their own skins, however. To the contrary, the loss of a second Vietnam and the economic disaster which continually seems looming right around the personal debt / government debt / trade debt / mortgage meltdown / globalization corner is only going to make things worse on that score.

Ironically, what saved us (if we are saved) in the long-term from a predatory regime of regressive kleptocrats was the short-term experience of living under a predatory regime of regressive kleptocrats. After the utter and complete hash these people have made of everything they’ve touched, who now wants anything to do with this absurdly deluded ideology, apart from the frightened old ladies who still allow their pastors to tell them how to think and vote (oh, and how to donate too)? There is massive opportunity here. The combination of increasingly insecure Americans and the patent failures of a disastrous turn to the right meant to address those insecurities leaves one obvious prescription on the table – a turn to the left. Already there is overwhelming public support for a national healthcare system (wow, and to think – only sixty years after every other industrialized democracy in the world got theirs!). This would have been unthinkable as little as five years ago. Expect similar
attitudinal swings as the trap door continues to open underneath Americans on
issues like pensions, global warming, jobs and more. It is not exactly in the American tradition to favor governmental solutions to personal and social problems. It just so happens, though, that in so many of these domains they tend to work (however imperfectly – which imperfections usually having most to do with insufficient funding), and that the alternative of the conservative market deity (Praise the one true lord!) does not.
Americans have been slow to learn this, and have paid
the price accordingly. But learn they now appear to be doing (it would sure help if somebody out there from the so-called liberal party would frame the question properly, and vocally), and we should perhaps be thankful that the damage done during this particular life lesson wasn’t greater than what has in fact been visited upon us. As awful as its been, it could have been much worse.

Unfortunately, things are likely to get worse before they get better. But I have to believe that they will get better.
Added: This article by Robert Kuttner touches on the same theme

THREE TIMES in my political adulthood, we have seen the exhaustion of a conservative ideology and presidency. Under Presidents Nixon and Bush II, the
ingredients were corruption, corporate excess, and overreach of presidential power. During the 12 years of Reagan and Bush I, the hallmark was the failure of conservative economics.

And twice, the electorate ousted Republicans only to get centrist Democrats, who ran more competent administrations but did little to redress the structure of financial inequality in America.

Now, the third era of conservative Republican rule is collapsing -- with the most spectacular mélange of overreach, incompetence, economic distress, and sheer corruption of all. But who, and what, will succeed Bush? The forces of privilege and inequality are now so deeply entrenched in America that it will take a Democratic successor at least as bold as FDR or LBJ to change course.

Government Contracts

I'm convinced that this is not a joke, but the way they really do it:
Three contractors are bidding to fix a broken fence at the White House in D.C. - one from New Jersey, another from Tennessee and the third, Florida. They go with a White House official to examine the fence.

The Florida contractor takes out a tape measure and does some measuring, then works some figures with a pencil. "Well," he says, "I figure the job will run about $900: $400 for materials, $400 for my crew and $100 profit for me."

The Tennessee contractor also does some measuring and figuring, then says, I can do this job for $700: $300 for materials, $300 for my crew and $100 profit for me."

The New Jersey contractor doesn't measure or figure, but leans over to the White House official and whispers, "$2,700." The official, incredulous, says, "You didn't even measure like the other guys! How did you come up with such a high figure?"

The New Jersey contractor whispers back, "$1,000 for me, $1,000 for you, and we hire the guy from Tennessee to fix the fence."

"Done!" replies the government official.