This week, Ron Dellums officially launches his campaign for mayor of Oakland and will outline his vision for the future, but let's face it -- he's gonna win this thing in June because of what he did in the past. Most folks remember Dellums as the radical pacifist in Congress who fought the Man for three decades, helped topple apartheid, and defied the odds to become chair of the House Armed Services Committee.
That's the distant past. But what about his less-heroic recent past as a lobbyist? Thus far, the local dailies haven't asked any probing questions about Dellums' lobbying business. With campaign season getting into gear, however, the questions are inevitable. Not all lobbyists are bad or represent evil causes, of course. There are plenty of public-interest lobbyists who advocate for environmental protection and so on, and Dellums' firm represents the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. But the ex-congressman also counts among his clients one of the nation's Top 100 defense contractors.
For more than a year, Dellums & Associates has represented Rolls-Royce, which the Department of Defense ranked 62 in 2004 in terms of defense contracts awarded. Yes, Rolls-Royce makes more than fancy cars. The British company, which has a facility in Oakland, is also known for making engines and parts for military aircraft. Over an eight-month period extending to the middle of last year, Rolls-Royce paid Dellums and his partners $120,000 to lobby on its behalf, records show. According to the most recent disclosure report from August 2005, Dellums' firm lobbied the House Armed Services Committee early last year to net defense money for his client. So did the same man who spent his congressional career fighting for arms control go to bat for the war machine as a paid shill?
Charles Stephenson, an associate in Dellums' firm, insists Dellums wouldn't work for something that violated his principles. In this case, Stephenson says, the firm was pushing to get Rolls Royce's T56 engines installed in C130 cargo planes that move the troops -- in other words, noncombat planes. "I don't think Ron has changed his stripes," Stephenson reasoned. "You've got to transport the troops."
Stop That Man!
Okay, before I go any farther, let me say that I am not a terrorist. I even celebrate Christmas, a beautiful season of giving in which we honor the birth of our Lord and Savior, Santa Claus. But I digress. The point is that I am not a terrorist. Nonetheless, while traveling over the holidays I had the misfortune of being reminded that I'm on the Transportation Security Administration's security watch list.
Here's what happened: I tried to use online check-in for our Alaska Airlines flight, but the system refused my request. That meant I had to check in the old-fashioned way, with a live ticketing agent at Oakland International. When we got there, the agent asked for our IDs and then disappeared for five minutes before returning.
"What's the problem?" I asked.
"Oh, you're on that security watch list," she said cheerily, adding that she comes across these situations only about once a week. She issued our boarding pass without further fuss, and when we got to our destination, I found a "Notice of Bag Inspection" left by one of the TSA agents who rifled through my stuff. In the end, it was merely a mild inconvenience, especially since others on the list have experienced a lot worse (see Take Out). But it was creepy nonetheless.
So why is Bottom Feeder on the list? I'll never know. The government considers that information classified. Marcia Hoffman, staff counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, says my name may be similar to that of someone the feds consider a real threat. Or it could be that the government has "mistaken" information about me, which I could theoretically correct if I could find out what the government has, which I can't. "Redress and due process is not a right people have when it comes to these lists," Hoffman says.
At least my bad-boy status translated into an unexpected holiday gift for my girlfriend: Presumably because she was traveling with me and I bought her ticket, she's now on the list too. That's our theory, at least. Merry Christmas, baby!
So Feeder goes off on vacation, only, of course, to miss the best story of the Christmas season: twenty-year-old Richmond porn "actress" Genevieve Elise Silva getting arrested for drugging, bedding, and running off with a fifteen-year-old high-school kid. Well, now that I'm back, let me say that I object to the mainstream media's insistence on referring to Silva as an "actress." It just seems wrong to label what she does and what, say, Meryl Streep does with the same word.
Silva, who boasts about fifteen video credits on her résumé, including Nasty Youngsters #03 and Sex --Insane and Insatiable, specializes in what's called "gonzo" porn, which doesn't bother with a script or even a plot -- it gets right to the action. It's like Hunter S. Thompson's gonzo journalism, only instead of the writer inserting himself into the story, the gonzo porn director or cameraman inserts himself into -- you get the picture. The style is cheap, quick, and suitable for franchising. Silva, for instance, appears in the 322nd installment of Dirty Debutantes. And you thought Friday the 13th had too many sequels.
Silva has been extradited from Oklahoma, where she was hiding out at her mom's place -- the role-model mom with the "420" tattoo on her leg. (That's the code number for weed, for all you straight-edgers.) According to news reports, police want to charge Silva with, among other things, raping a drugged victim.
Ultimately, it's up to the district attorney to decide what charges to file. Since prosecutors are always concerned with their win percentage, Contra Costa DA Bob Kochly's office would be well advised to think long and hard before pursuing a rape charge. After all, this case doesn't involve a sleazy old guy and an underage girl, but a presumably hormone-crazed teen who reportedly bragged to his friends about having sex with a slightly older porn star. "I don't think jurors in this area are going to go for it," predicts Karen Fleming-Ginn, a Walnut Creek-based jury consultant. "I think that in a lot of ways it's every teenage boy's fantasy."
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