Friday, December 21

FBI Warns U.S. Kids in E-Mail Pen Pal Program: 'Trust but Verify' - from Tampa Bay Online FBI Warns U.S. Kids in E-Mail Pen Pal Program: 'Trust but Verify'
The Associated Press
Published: Dec 20, 2001
WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House is encouraging American students to exchange e-mails with young pen pals in Islamic countries - but the FBI has a warning for school kids because of fears about hackers and Internet security: "Trust but verify."
The FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center warned teachers and parents on Thursday to make sure that American children in the program are following security practices such as using antivirus software and guarding against suspicious files sent by e-mail.
The FBI agreed that the program, which President Bush predicted will "enable boys and girls all across America to reach out to boys and girls all across the world," has "excellent potential" to bridge cultures between America and Bahrain, Pakistan and Egypt.
Wonder if John Walker had an Islamic PenPal? Just curious.

Thursday, December 20

December 20, 2001

Trumping Charity

The Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church is on the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 55th Street, just north of Rockefeller Center. It's in the heart of a neighborhood that is saturated with money.

The St. Regis Hotel is on the southeast corner. On the ground floor of the St. Regis is a Godiva chocolatier and a Louis Vuitton showroom. If you're contemplating a cruise, you should drop by Louis Vuitton. You can pick up an exquisite handmade Damier trunk for a shade over $10,000. Grab some chocolates at Godiva on the way back to your limousine.

There are princesses and pink Christmas trees to delight the shoppers in the Disney Store on the northeast corner. And on the southwest corner is the Peninsula Hotel, where you can kick back and blow $400 or $500 on room service in a suite that, since Sept. 11, can be had for the bargain rate of $1,390 a night.

It's a nice neighborhood. And everything would be swell if the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church could only manage to take its Christian charity mandates a little less seriously. You see, the church has been allowing homeless people to sleep on its property.

They sleep on the steps and on the ground adjacent to the church — 20 or 30 of them spending the night in cardboard boxes and other makeshift shelters. The church makes bathrooms available to them and allows them to come in and warm up in the morning, before they take off for the day.

This may sound like just the sort of thing President Bush had in mind when he suggested that faith-based organizations fill some of society's social service needs. But the thing you have to remember about the homeless, if you want to look at this from, say, the point of view of the Giuliani administration, is that they are unsightly. You can't have a couple of dozen people in threadbare clothes sleeping right out there where rich people can see them. Some of them were snoring away just a few yards from the double-parked limousines.

So the city sicced the cops on them.

At least three times this month the police have raided the area and forced the homeless, under threat of arrest, to go elsewhere. The most obnoxious raid came on the night of Dec. 11. Margaret Shafer, director of the church's outreach program, said five police cars and three vans arrived at the church about midnight and police officers chased away most of the sleepers, leaving only those who had taken refuge on the church steps and under an archway.

"Then," said Ms. Shafer, "about every hour for the rest of the night they came up to the people they had left in place and they beat on the boxes with billy clubs and woke them up and asked them how their health was. It was not the police's finest hour."

In fairness to the individual police officers, they did not seem happy with this duty. Ms. Shafer said the church generally has very good relations with the police. And a couple of the cops I spoke with at the church this week made it clear that harassing the homeless was not their idea of appropriate police work.

"The orders came from on high," said one officer.

When I asked another officer to explain the crackdown, he pointed toward the Fifth Avenue street sign. "They think it's bad for the area's image," he said.

The homeless have been sleeping outside the church, with the blessings of its congregation, for about two years. The police were generally tolerant. But Ms. Shafer noted that church officials had been asked to clear the area a few nights in late November and early December because dignitaries were staying in nearby hotels. She said officers on the beat told her one of the dignitaries was Vice President Dick Cheney.

Church officials complied, asking the homeless to stay away on those particular nights. When the homeless returned, the crackdown came.

Yesterday a federal judge issued a temporary ruling barring the police from taking additional action against the homeless at the church. The matter will be argued further in court.

But the ultimate issue remains. Where is the city's heart? Why, in hard times, is the Giuliani administration pursuing this particularly mean-spirited case?

Well, it's a tough time for business, too. Ten-thousand-dollar Damier trunks are not exactly hopping off the shelves. And when the crunch comes, commerce almost always trumps charity, Christian or otherwise.
The gory details concerning Compassionate Conservatism in New York (such Christmas spirit would make Ebenezer proud!!)

Tuesday, December 18

Enron employee, retirees recount loss of life savings as company collapsed Among the witnesses: Charles Prestwood, who retired after 33 1/2 years in the natural gas business, mostly with Enron, and lost nearly all his $1.3 million in savings; Janice Farmer, a retiree who had nearly $700,000 in Enron stock and now faces living on a $63 monthly Social Security check.
"We have been lied to and we have been cheated," Farmer declared at the hearing, held to examine one of the biggest corporate failures ever.
Ask Janice and Charles how they feel about 'private investment' of retirement funds.
Bush halts inquiry of FBI and stirs up a firestorm "His dad was at a 90 percent approval rating and he lost, and the same thing can happen to him," Burton added, jabbing his finger and glaring at Carl Thorsen, a deputy assistant attorney general who was attempting to introduce a superior who was testifying.
"We've got a dictatorial president and a Justice Department that does not want Congress involved. ... Your guy's acting like he's king."
The searing tone continued for more than four hours from Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives. All objected to the order Bush signed Wednesday and made public yesterday. It claimed executive privilege in refusing to hand over prosecutors' memos in criminal cases, including an investigation of campaign finance abuses, saying doing so "would be contrary to the national interest."
Church Lawsuit Tries to Stop Police From Ejecting Homeless Church Lawsuit Tries to Stop Police From Ejecting Homeless

he Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church went to federal court yesterday to stop the police from enforcing a new policy of ejecting homeless people from its property amid some of the most expensive stores and hotels in the city.
Christian charity being outlawed in New York? Compassionate conservatism at it's finest.
The FBI's House Calls The FBI's House Calls

Emil Guillermo, Special to SF Gate Tuesday, December 18, 2001

If you want to know how strange it's getting in America, talk to Barry Reingold.
Reingold is a 60-year-old retired phone-company worker from the Bay Area who's old enough to withdraw from his IRA without penalty.
His parents are Jewish. But Reingold prefers to be known as your basic, average American.
This is scary stuff folks.

Friday, December 14

Dec. 10 Cox News Service column by Tom Teepen: "Most Americans are perfectly capable of hanging tough against terrorism while debating the means. Too bad John Ashcroft isn't one of them."

Philadelphia Daily News editorial, Dec. 10: "In these troubled times, we have to be prepared to give up our freedom to bring knitting needles on an airplane, but law enforcement may not see records because it might make some gun nut in Wyoming nervous."

Dec. 10 San Francisco Chronicle editorial: "It's puzzling...that an attorney general who feels such a sense of urgency to round up 1,200 people-in sometimes legally dubious circumstances-seems so uncurious about how they may have been arming themselves."

Dec. 11 Newsday column by Marie Cocco: "He deprives hundreds of detainees of their liberty. But he will not deprive them of their guns...He pursues them for working at shopping-mall kiosks, but not for the possibility they hold a weapons cache."

It's not just editorialists and columnists who are upset. For instance, Los Gatos, Calif., police chief Larry Todd, a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police firearms committee, told the New York Times, "This is absurd and unconscionable. The decision has no rational basis in public safety."

Lawmakers are upset, too. "You're looking for new tools in every direction," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) told Ashcroft when he appeared before the Senate on Dec. 7 to answer questions abou
It's the Enronomy, Stupid, by Walt Starr - Democratic Underground George W. Bush believes he can coin new words for the English language, so I thought I'd give my first shot at this practice with enronomy. Look at the beauty in the word. Enron is a perfect analogy for the current economic conditions in this nation. Previously number seven on the Forbes 500 list, and now bankrupt - compare it to the Clinton economy being taken over by Bush and run into the ground.
The entire idea of the enronomy runs deeper than any analogy, however. The complicity of the Bush administration in the happenings of Enron had detrimental effects on the enronomy (there's that word again). Sixty billion dollars just disappearing from the enronomy must have a detrimental effect, and let's face facts, there is no way that members of this administration didn't know what was going on. News | Bush signs anti-drug measure Bush signs anti-drug measure

- - - - - - - - - - - -
Dec. 14, 2001 | WASHINGTON (AP) --
President Bush said Friday that drug users aid terrorists who get their money from global trafficking in narcotics. "If you quit drugs, you join the fight against terrorism," he said.
I knew this would be coming along. Military tribunals for pot smokers can't be far behind.

Tuesday, December 11

Condit Dares Foes to Bring Up Levy Condit Dares Foes to Bring Up Levy
Politics: The scandal over the missing intern was a media fabrication, the congressman says.

By MARK Z. BARABAK, Times Political Writer

Rep. Gary Condit, facing an uphill bid for reelection, dared his opponents Monday to make an issue of his relationship with Chandra Levy.

He said that the scandal surrounding the missing intern was a media fabrication and that he would not let "the pundits and the talking heads" chase him from the race.
The guy's got cajones the size of grapefruits.

Friday, December 7

VPC - Press Release - (12/06/2001) - Ashcroft Justice Department Protects Terrorist "Gun Rights" While Putting Americans at Risk Ashcroft Justice Department Protects Terrorist "Gun Rights" While Putting Americans at Risk
Ashcroft's Actions Fly in Face of President Bush's September 20 Promise that "We will direct every resource at our command—every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence and every necessary weapon of war—to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network."
On Hill, Ashcroft Defends Anti-Terror Tactics ( Ashcroft also defended the Justice Department's decision to stop the FBI from searching federal gun records to see if any of those detained in connection with the Sept. 11 investigation had purchased weapons or firearms. Ashcroft, who has sided with the National Rifle Association in limiting the use of such records, said federal law prohibited the FBI from seeking the information and he declined to say whether he would support changes to the law.
John Ashcroft defending the rights of ALIENS to keep their gun purchases secret while at the same time asking Americans to give the FBI broad powers to scrutinize citizens of this country. Anybody see the duplicity and stupidity in this one??
by Gene Lyons December 5, 2001
If Senate Democrats wanted to spend all their time investigating their opponents like another political party I could name,
the Bush administration provides a growing list of suspects. The spectacular collapse of the Houston-based Enron Corp., whose stock was valued as high as $63 billion last spring when California officials accused it of rigging a phony
"energy crisis" to drain hundreds of millions from that state's electrical ratepayers, could keep an infinite number
of congressional committees busy indefinitely.
Think of it this way: The Whitewater real estate deal involved a total investment of about $200,000, roughly the cost
of modest Hillcrest fixer-upper. The Clintons lost $45,000, not quite enough to buy a new SUV with all the trimmings. Whitewater itself never cost the taxpayers a dime, but the demise of Jim McDougal's Madison Guaranty S&L reportedly
cost the taxpayers maybe $65 million. Probing this fathomless mystery required months of House and Senate hearings,
and kept Kenneth Starr and his sleuths busy for six years, at the end of which poor, sick McDougal had died in prison,
and all Starr had to show for his trouble was a stained dress and a ruined reputation.
Now Republicans are reminding us what a real financial scandal looks like. With the value of its stock plunging from $94
a share to 26 cent.
I want to see a full investigation of these crooked oilmen and their paid political puppets. By saying so, I am undoubtedly running afoul of some Patriot law, but so be it. Enron Execs Got $55 Million Just Before Bankruptcy Enron Execs Got $55 Million Just Before Bankruptcy
Neil Weinberg and Lynn Cook,, 12.05.01, 4:36 PM ET

NEW YORK - Enron paid out $55 million in bonuses to executives and other employees two days prior to filing for bankruptcy, the company confirmed today. A total of 500 employees received bonuses.

"In order to protect and maintain the value of the estate, we wanted to retain key employees in critical businesses," said Mark Palmer, an Enron (nyse: ENE - news - people) spokesman.

The so-called "stay-on" payments were made Nov. 29 in exchange for select employees' agreeing to remain at Enron for 90 days. Enron filed for restructuring Dec. 2 in the biggest bankruptcy filing in history. Enron has $50 billion in assets and booked $101 billion in sales last year.
See here. Not everybody loses in these big bankruptcy deals!!

Thursday, December 6

Rainbow's End By Nell Minow and Ted  Widmer  Corporate governance can use some improvement as well. The corporate laws of Delaware are so management-friendly that almost all public corporations are "domiciled" there. So they have become in effect a sort of federal corporate law without the accountability of the federal system.

Wednesday, December 5

Not content with the noxious USA PATRIOT bill (for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act -- urp), which was bad enough, Ashcroft has steadily moved from bad to worse. Now he wants to bring back FBI surveillance of domestic religious and political groups.
For those who remember COINTELPRO, this is glorious news. Back in the day, Fearless Fibbies, cleverly disguised in their wingtips and burr haircuts, used to infiltrate such dangerous groups as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Business Executives Against the War in Vietnam. This had the usual comedic fallout, along with killing a few innocent people, and was so berserk there was a standing rule on the left -- anyone who proposed breaking any law was automatically assumed to be an FBI agent.
After Enron, New Doubts About Auditors

By David S. Hilzenrath
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 5, 2001; Page A01

The collapse came swiftly for Enron Corp. when investors and customers learned they could not trust its numbers. On Sunday, six weeks after Enron disclosed that federal regulators were examining its finances, the global energy-trading powerhouse became the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history.
Like all publicly traded companies in the United States, Enron had an outside auditor scrutinize its annual financial results. In this case, blue-chip accounting firm Arthur Andersen had vouched for the numbers. But Enron, citing accounting errors, had to correct its financial statements, cutting profits for the past three years by 20 percent -- about $586 million. Andersen declined comment and said it is cooperating in the investigation.
The number of corporations retracting and correcting earnings reports has doubled in the past three years, to 233, an Andersen study found. Major accounting firms have failed to detect or have disregarded glaring bookkeeping problems at companies as varied as Rite Aid Corp., X
Howell Raines Owes Me an Apology - The New York Times editor's sudden conversion to2 The main argument of the public journalism advocates was that reporters and editors should think of themselves as being inside society, affecting through their coverage the way other people thought and behaved, rather than being wholly detached observers from outside. When viewing a society somewhere else in the world, members of the American press accept this point immediately. They know that the existence and quality of information flow will have a huge impact on other aspects of that society—whether people can hold their government accountable, how realistic a picture they have of other cultures, how unified or divided they seem. To use the obvious current example: If the media in Islamic societies never blow the whistle on Islamic extremists or their own corrupt regimes, people in those societies won't understand why the United States is now "attacking" Afghanistan.
The public journalism crowd was insisting on the same point about America. News was not just another form of "content," and newspapers and broadcast stations were not just another "profit center" (when profitable). The reason they were protected in the Constitution was that what they did affected everyone else. As I put it in the book: "One of public journalism's basic claims is that journalists should stop kidding themselves about their ability to remain detached from and objective about public life.
Marvelous adventure of 'Walker, Taliban Ranger' Marvelous adventure of 'Walker, Taliban Ranger'

ROB MORSE Wednesday, December 5, 2001

It's perfect, Rush Limbaugh perfect. The first Bay Area casualty of the war in Afghanistan was on the side of the Taliban.
That's better than Berkeley banning American flags from fire trucks. Score one for Marvy Marin over Berserkley.
The story of John Walker may sound improbably like a pilot for Afghan TV: "Walker, Taliban Ranger," but it makes sense to me. Now that the Rajneesh has left Oregon for the big ashram in the sky, where else are spiritually needy kids from materialistic Marin going to go?