Josh Harkinson

Josh Harkinson

Reporter

Born in Texas and based in San Francisco, Josh covers tech, labor, drug policy, and the environment. PGP public key.

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A Showdown at the GSA

| Fri Jan. 19, 2007 8:11 PM EST

Back in December, the Washington Post reported that GSA Chief Lurita Alexis Doan had compared her agency's Investigator General, Brian Miller, to a "terrorist." His audting work had "gone too far," she'd said in August at a staff meeting, and was "eroding the health of the organization."

Today we learn that "going too far" might have meant investigating Doan.

Citing internal documents, WaPo reveals Doan attempted to give a no-bid contract that summer to a company founded and operated by a friend, which would have violated federal law. A former government contractor appointed by Bush, Doan "personally signed the deal to pay a division of her friend's public relations firm $20,000 for a 24-page report promoting the GSA's use of minority- and woman-owned businesses, the documents show."

Not surprisingly, continues the Post:

The GSA's Office of Inspector General has launched an investigation into the episode and briefed Justice Department lawyers, according to sources who said they were not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation. Officials at the inspector general's office and the Justice Department declined to comment.

If Miller is a terrorist, then I wonder what Doan would call the FBI.

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Attack of the Methodists

| Fri Jan. 19, 2007 5:12 PM EST

The habitually timid clergy of the United Methodist Church is on a rampage. Well, at least as far as Methodists go. Horrified by the prospect of Bush's presidential library marrying itself to Dallas' Southern Methodist University, ten Methodist Bishops have signed a petition opposing the move. Rev. Andrew Weaver of Brooklyn, an SMU theology school grad, told the Houston Chronicle:

What this (petition) will show is there are a lot of Methodists out there who don't wish to give him the gift of our good name because he doesn't deserve it. . .Bush has not been willing to speak with Methodist bishops about the war, but he will meet with Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. Why now is he choosing a Methodist school for his library and think tank?

Ted Nugent's Racist Spectacle at Texas Governor's Inaugural Ball

| Thu Jan. 18, 2007 10:27 PM EST

Is Texas Governor Rick Perry crazy, or is he just a big fan of Cat Scratch Fever? The final act at Perry's inaugural ball in Austin Tuesday night featured redneck rocker Ted Nugent, who, according to the San Antonio Express News, "appeared onstage wearing a cut-off T-shirt emblazoned with a Confederate flag and shouting unflattering remarks about undocumented immigrants, including kicking them out of the country, according to people who were in attendance. Machine guns, including an AK-47, were his props."

The funny thing for those who know Nugent is that he was actually being pretty tame. Two years ago, when I saw him speak at a National Rifle Association conference in Houston, he had this to say:

Remember the Alamo! Shoot 'em! To show you how radical I am, I want carjackers dead. I want rapists dead. I want burglars dead. I want child molestors dead. I want the bad guys dead. No court case. No parole. No early release. I want 'em dead. Get a gun, and when they attack you, shoot 'em.

That one was widely reported. But the AP didn't relate several other Nugent gems from that day. Among them was something he said while recounting a USO tour of Iraq: "I was just hoping somebody would take me hostage," he said. "Just aim for the laundry." (Which was even more odd when you consider that Iraqis generally don't wear turbans). Much of this was said while Nugent was holding an assault rifle. He wound up the tirade by concluding that Democrats, guilty of tax-raising and gun muzzling, should be "eliminated."

There has been a lot of talk in Texas that Gov. Perry could be tapped to run for Vice President. Maybe McCain should just nominate Nugent instead. The bigot vote would be in the bag.

In the Eye of Florida's Insurance Storm

| Tue Jan. 16, 2007 11:26 PM EST

The Florida legislature convened a special session today to address the state's property insurance crisis, in which homeowners, in the wake of recent hurricanes, have seen rates double in many areas and insurers pull out of some communities entirely. Stories in the Orlando Sentinel today and Sunday mapped out the confusing political landscape: In the recent elections, most insurance company money--$2.4 million—went to Republicans, who control the governor's mansion and both houses of the legislature; yet, perhaps forecasting a typhoon of voter rage, the new governor, Charlie Crist, has vowed to do something about the skyrocketing rates, and last week proclaimed : "Big insurance has a new day coming." The forecast for that day is less certain. What's likely is that the state will assume more of the risk of bailing out insurers or insure more homeowners itself—tamping down rates but leaving taxpayers holding the bill in the event of a killer storm.

Not on the plate this week, but sure to be on people's minds, is of course global warming, which has been blamed, in a roundabout way, for the entire shebang. Until now, lawmakers in the second-lowest state in the union (Louisiana is first) haven't really paid much notice to the whole global warming thing; the state legislature took a pass on curbing greenhouse gasses last year and the U.S. Congressional delegation voted in lockstep with the Bush crowd. The blasé attitudes might soon change, though. In November, Broward County Democratic Congressional candidate Ron Klein unseated the Republican incumbent, Clay Shaw, after running ads targeting Shaw's reactionary global warming stance. And the Sierra Club's Florida lobbyist, Susie Caplowe, tells me that Governor Crist has ousted a number of former Governor Jeb Bush's environmental appointees and replaced them with people who she likes much better. Crist hasn't yet stated a position on global warming, but if he wanted to represent his state's best interests (and perhaps his own), getting to the moral high ground on the issue would be a good place to start.

And the Kafka Nonfiction Award Goes to. . .

| Tue Jan. 9, 2007 9:49 PM EST

. . .one Adam Kropiewnicki, whose plight was immortalized deep inside an LA Times story about the emptying of a shelter for the NYC homeless in rural New York. Kropiewnicki, 61, was

a wordless, sweet-tempered Polish man known locally as "the Walker." Every morning for seven years, he set out on foot looking for work as a day laborer. But not until last fall did anyone call an interpreter to the site to speak to him in Polish, said Courtney Denniston, 27, a case manager supervisor.


"The first words out of his mouth were: 'Home. I just want to go home,' " Denniston said. He had come to the U.S. illegally to work as an asbestos handler, but when he lost the job, he had no money to fly home. He had a wife and children in Warsaw.


Volunteers of America, the nonprofit contracted by the city to run Camp LaGuardia, bought Kropiewnicki a one-way ticket to Poland. Staff members asked him to be ready at 2 p.m. on the day of the flight, but he was packed and sitting outside with his suitcases, beaming, at 8 a.m. Denniston loves to tell that story. "He had been waiting seven years for someone to ask him what he wanted," she said.

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