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105 posts categorized "Current Affairs"

February 02, 2010

O'Keefe prosecutor recused himself/Lindsay on GRITtv today

Interesting news from the WSJ's law blog:

The plot thickens a bit down in the Big Easy over the arrest of James O’Keefe and three other activist arrested last week while trying to capture secret footage in the office of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D. La.). On Monday, the U.S. attorney in New Orleans recused himself from O’Keefe’s case, citing, well, not very much.

A DOJ news release said simply that Jim Letten, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, recused himself from the case a day after the Jan. 25 arrests. Letten’s top lieutenant, assistant U.S. Attorney Jan Mann, has taken over.

No official reason has been offered for the recusal, but WSJ blogger Ashby Jones speculates that it might have to do with the fact that one of James O'Keefe's co-accuseds is Robert Flanagan, the son of an acting U.S. Attorney in Louisiana. 

By the way, I'm going to be on GRITtv this afternoon to talk about the phone tampering scandal, probably shortly after 1:30 EST. I'll post the video as soon as I can.

January 30, 2010

Ladies, meet your new gender diversity coordinator, Mr. Angry Penis

Stan Dai, one of the four Republican operatives arrested this week for allegedly plotting to tamper with Sen. Mary Landrieu's telephones, is a bit of a self-styled spook, at least in his own mind. His resume features some relatively junior administrative gigs with programs sponsored by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Defense. He also liked to publicly hold forth on terrorism, intelligence, and surveillance in videos and in before the Junior Statesmen of America.

You can rest easy, Laura Rozen was able to confirm that Dai never worked directly for a U.S. intelligence agency. Rather, he worked for programs supported by grants from these organizations. As far as we know, he never claimed otherwise. But he certainly got a lot of mileage out of his job titles including Assistant Director for the Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence at Trinity Washington University and Operations Officer for a DOD fellowship on irregular warfare. Dai's resume also lists him as having been an undergraduate fellow at the right wing Center for the Defense of Democracies. I called the Center to confirm this claim. A spokeswoman explained that the fellowship was a summer enrichment program for college students, which Dai completed in 2004. 

So, what is an Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence? Mark Hosenball of Newsweek reports that the ODNI gives grants to universities to attract more women and minority students to intelligence work. 

Stan Dai, as you will recall is the author of the Penis Monologues, a satire of the Vagina Monologues in which Dai's penis reacts with fury at being invited to a performance of the VM. (Quoth Dai: "MY PENIS IS ANGRY!!!!!!! You want to know what happened to my penis? Joan [the 5-foot-tall hairy vagina] happened to my penis!")

The irony is not lost on Marcy Wheeler: "As Hosenball points out, it’s ironic that a movement conservative like Dai was involved in what was basically a program to encourage diversity. But I’m a little more shocked that ODNI, under Mike McConnell, was funding Mr. Angry Penis to help recruit women into the field of intelligence."

January 26, 2010

Little (would-be) bugger Flanagan interned for Sen. Lamar Alexander, Rep. Mary Fallin

One of the four men arrested for allegedly trying to bug Mary Landrieu's office interned for Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) in 2007, according to his LinkedIn profile. The following year, Robert Flanagan worked as a paid intern for Republican Rep. Mary Fallin of OK. His duties included "brief[ing] legislative staff on issues of national security and international relations." In the summer of 2008, Flanagan volunteered for Chris Gorman's campaign in Shreveport, LA.

As you may have read, Robert's father, William, is an acting U.S. Attorney based in Shreveport.

Like his co-accused James O'Keefe, Stan Dai, and Joseph Basel, Flanagan appears to be a well-connected movement conservative.

I'm reposting Robert Flanagan's LinkedIn profile below the fold.

(Original reporting, please credit Lindsay Beyerstein.]

Continue reading "Little (would-be) bugger Flanagan interned for Sen. Lamar Alexander, Rep. Mary Fallin" »

Is this the same Stan Dai arrested for trying to bug Mary Landrieu's office?

Stan Dai is one of the four men arrested with a failed attempt to bug Sen. Mary Landrieu's office.

I did some research. Ten bucks says this is the little (would-be) bugger:

STAN DAI, Lisle, Ill., attends The George Washington University majoring in Political Science. He is editor-in-chief of The GW Patriot, an alternative conservative student newspaper, a Club 100 Activist of Young America’s Foundation, and an Undergraduate Fellow on Terrorism of the Foundation for the Defense of the Democracies. He is co-founder of GW’s Students Defending Democracy, a volunteer on several political campaigns, and active in the GW College Republicans and GW Colonials for Life. He was a 2003 Honorable Mention in the U.S. Institute of Peace Essay Contest.

One Stan Dai was listed as the Assistant Director of the The Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence (ICCAE) at Trinity (Washington) University. The ICCAE says it prepares young people for careers in intelligence.

(Original reporting, please credit Lindsay Beyerstein.)

Update: Welcome, Politico readers. Many thanks to Laura Rozen for the link.

Continue reading "Is this the same Stan Dai arrested for trying to bug Mary Landrieu's office? " »

December 09, 2009

Scout's honor: Founder of Boy Scouts executed a POW

First Tiger Woods, and now this. Role models are dropping like flies.

Lord Baden Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts, may have illegally executed a prisoner of war--according to documents sold at auction this week. The papers indicate that Lord Powell, then colonel in the British Army, ordered the execution of a captured African chief during the Second Matabele War in 1896. The chief had been promised that his life would be spared if he surrendered. The record states that Powell knew this, but had the chief shot anyway. In his own defense, Powell claimed he had the prisoner killed in order to "save lives." An official inquiry cleared him of wrongdoing, mostly because his old school chums swore up and down that he was a good guy.

November 30, 2009

The Vancouver Olympics is a triumph of human civilization

Listen up, Canada Customs: The Vancouver Olympics will be the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful international sporting event I've ever seen. Is that clear?

I don't want to end up like U.S. journalist Amy Goodman, who was detained at the Canadian border by guards who were concerned that the host of the popular radio show Democracy Now! would speak out against the 2010 Olympics to be held in Vancouver, British Columbia. (via Melissa Lebo in Vancouver.)

For more international news, check out the latest edition of Morning Coffee.

April 16, 2009

Snakes on a plane

An Australian airliner was grounded after baby pythons got loose in the cargo hold.

The babies were part of shipment of 12 Stimson's pythons. The remaining snakes were initially suspected of eating their companions, but they were quickly exonerated by a weigh-in.

Passengers were moved to another plane as the missing snakes remained at large. "They're not endangered so a decision was made to fumigate..." said a Quantas employee.

March 07, 2009

Fatal lapses: Parents who forget their kids in hot cars

Gene Weingarten has a gut wrenching investigative piece in the Washington Post today about parents tormented by guilt for having forgotten their children to die of hyperthermia in their car seats.

About 15-25 kids die this way each year in the United States.  Some of these fatalities are attributable to parental negligence; but Weingarten's thirteen subjects were, by all accounts, loving and responsible mothers and fathers who simply got distracted at the worst possible moment.

These generally responsible parents present a quandary for the legal system. About 40% of the time, the authorities conclude that the death was a tragic accident and don't press charges. Prosecutors conclude that since there was no criminal intent, there was no crime.

In the remaining 60% of cases the parents face criminal charges ranging from manslaughter to second degree murder. The tacit assumption is that anyone responsible for such a senseless death must have somehow been culpably negligent.

You might think that only a monster or an idiot could forget their own child in a car all day. But Weingarten marshals evidence from experimental and clinical psychology to explain how an otherwise attentive parent can suffer such a catastrophic lapse. Often, the caregiver is multitasking, sleep-deprived, or adjusting to a change in routine.

The story is quite long, but I encourage you to read all the way to the end. There's an incredible payoff.

Weingarten's piece is an example of the kind of old-fashioned investigative story that most papers can't afford to fund anymore. Kudos to the Post for making the investment.

March 06, 2009

Overflow crowd at the Nation Institute's economic policy panel


The Nation Institute's panel discussion on progressive responses to the economic crisis attracted a huge amount of interest.

Join Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, author and activist Barbara Ehrenreich, Black Commentator's Bill Fletcher, Jr., Nation D.C. editor Christopher Hayes and author and director of the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis, Jeff Madrick, as they debate, discuss and deliberate on the current economic crisis and what we can do to help in the recovery process.

By the time I arrived, about two minutes before the program was supposed to start, the entire auditorium was full and over 30 people were waiting on the sidewalk.

A woman in a gray knit hat said that a staffer had already come out to announce that there was no more room. But they were all still there, hoping someone would have a change of heart and let them in.

"We're wondering if we could rush the door," the woman said, jokingly.

I was disappointed that there weren't any seats left, but it was exhilarating to see so much enthusiasm for a panel discussion on economics at eight o'clock on a Friday night.

You can watch online here. Last I checked, about 300 people were watching the live stream at home.

September 29, 2008

How I made Green & White Taxi pay what they owe

Suburban/Green & White Taxi Accident, St. Paul

On Sept. 4, I was in a Green & White Taxi on my way to downtown St. Paul to cover the RNC protests.

Suddenly, the driver slammed on the brakes, the cab veered into the next lane, clipped an adjacent vehicle, hit the k-rail, bounced back out into traffic and finally came to rest against the k-rail.

I was wearing my seatbelt, so I wasn't seriously injured. But I walked away with a very sore neck. I went to the ER to get checked out. X-rays came back normal and they discharged me with a prescription for ibuprophen.

In a way, it was a lucky accident because if I hadn't been strapped to a backboard in the ER while the Capital was being locked down, I probably would have ended up flex-cuffed face down on a bridge, like many of my indie media colleagues. As it turned out, all access to the Capital was blocked off by the time I arrived, so I missed the mass arrest.

The hospital assured me that the cab company's insurance would take care of the ER bill. I left them with the taxi company's name and phone number and assumed that the billing department would handle it from there. I didn't give it much thought until I got a bill for $1100.

The hospital explained that they'd called Green & White Taxi three times to request insurance information, but Green & White wasn't returning their calls. They wanted to hold me responsible for the bill.

I tried calling Green & White (also dba Suburban Taxi). I must have left a dozen messages over the course of several days. Despairing of ever reaching a person at the office number, I tried calling the dispatcher and asking him to walk over to the front office and get someone's attention. He refused.

I got a sinking feeling when I finally got through to a receptionist who refused to tell me the last name of the insurance administrator or when she'd be in the office next, or even the last name of the owner of Green & White.

For the record, the owner's name is Gary Tournier. Mr. Tournier didn't cover his online tracks nearly as well as he thought he did.

I was getting panicky because if Green & White would't give the hospital their insurance information, the hospital was going to hold me responsible. What's the point of making cab drivers carry insurance if they can get away with stonewalling the hospital until the victim gets stuck with the bill? 

Then I remembered that St. Paul has a taxi licensing commission which keeps track of the insurance that each taxi company must carry. I got the name of the insurance company and the insurance policy-writing company from from St. Paul's taxi licensing office. The policy-writing firm referred me to a third company that actually handles claim processing.

I asked if a claim had been opened for Green & White's policy. All the agent needed was the name of the company and the number of the cab. Sure enough, Green & White had filed a claim to cover the damage to their vehicle. The agent gave me the policy number and the underwriter's name.

That's all the hospital needs to bill Green & White's insurance for my ER bill.

I devised my own strategy to get around the shady, stonewalling Green & White Taxi because there wasn't any information online about how to get insurance info from a taxi company that won't divulge it.

So, I thought I'd post about the experience in the hopes that someone else will have an easier time of it.

To summarize: Here's what to do if a cab company won't divulge its insurance information. Find out which body governs taxi licensing in the place where the accident happened. Usually, the licensing body is part of the city government, but not always. Ask for the insurance policy information on the cab. Call the company that wrote the insurance policy and ask them to put you in touch with the company that processes the claims. Give the claim- processing company the details of the accident: Company name, cab number, date of the accident. They can give you the policy number and the name of the adjuster who is handling the claim. Give all that information to the billing department at the hospital.