Washington Roundup

Odds and ends from the Belly of the Beast

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The House Subcommittee on Government Reform last week enumerated the many privacy abuses of the Clinton Administration and lamented the loophole within the 1974 Privacy Act which 'empowered' them. Frustration mounted as Deputy Assistant Attorney General William Treanor patiently explained that the Privacy Act makes a direct reference to the Freedom of Information Act, and derives from it a definition of a 'federal agency' which exempts the Office of the President from accountability.

Well-known privacy advocate Rep. Bob Barr (R., Georgia) harangued Treanor mercilessly, in a Kafkaesque performance to force him to confess that the Department of Justice secretly relishes this glaring loophole. We wouldn't have believed it if we hadn't witnessed it with our own eyes.

Hey, we're as appalled as anyone by the Clintonite contempt for privacy and civil liberties, but Congress wrote the damn law, so Members have nothing legitimate to whinge about. Republican committee members stubbornly refused to admit Congressional responsibility for the loophole during the hearing, but at the same time seemed to recognise it instinctively, so this one is worth keeping an eye on. It will be particularly interesting to see if the Republicans remain as eager to amend the Act and close the loophole if we should elect a Republican president this Winter...

Justice Department arguments that the Microsoft antitrust appeal is of urgent national importance fell on deaf ears as the US Supreme Court again declined to grant fast-track consideration to the case. Microsoft wants the case heard by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which it deems a more sympathetic panel; but US Solicitor General Seth Waxman has requested, on behalf of the DoJ, that the Supremes accept it on direct appeal. But thus far, the Nine Immortals seem to think they've got bigger fish to fry. Smart arses...

Acknowledging a rare lapse in Clinton-Administration PR spin, US Attorney General Janet Reno announced intentions to change the moniker of the FBI's aptly-named e-mail sniffer Carnivore to something more palatable. We think "Your Baby's Guardian Angel" would be most in keeping with the Clinton/Reno DoJ's vomitorious addiction to euphemism and child-protective hype, and humbly submit it for consideration.

Also, the promised 'independent review' of Your Baby's Guardian Angel has run into a snag, with several universities objecting in disgust to DoJ restrictions on publishing independent comments or examining any part of the system but those spoon fed to researchers by the Department. The DoJ will choose a reviewer by 25 September and release its report by 8 December. No doubt the Department has already written the report, and is merely looking for some high-profile techno whore to rubber stamp it. Vinton Cerf seems to be jockeying for position, with a public statement advising that the technical details be kept secret...

The New Economy is bigger than the Second Coming of Christ, and Internet geeks are "right on cutting-edge" of it, US presidential wannabe Al Gore gushed in a fact-light campaign speech in Columbus Ohio Tuesday. Hosted by

Resource Marketing

, a local hi-tech outfit that does research, adverts and marketing strategy for equally hi-tech clients, the Veep was introduced by founder and CEO Nancy Kramer who enthused brightly about his renowned high-tech savvy.

"The amount of human knowledge is said to be doubling every five years now," the Veep chirped optimistically, but offered no explanation as to why, then, the Human Race should still be plagued by all the moronic vexations it endured in the days when it was squatting naked around bonfires and picking its teeth with the ends of deer antlers.

The Vice-Presidential platform also included "storefront computing centres in neighbourhoods where computers are not readily available... When you have all those pieces in place the momentum kind of builds on itself," as Gore said vaguely.

Resource Marketing's vision, as they state it, is "communicating the promise of technology to the world," which is precisely Gore's vision as well, though he's not nearly as proficient as he'd like to be at getting it across. Gore Campaign / Resource Marketing: truly a marriage ordained by Heaven -- can't you just smell the 'synergies'?

A New York

court case

challenging booze import restrictions may snowball into something with national implications. New York's Direct Shipment and Advertising Ban is an obstacle to such commercial Web sites as Wine.com and eVineyard.com which, a New York judge has decided, deserves to be challenged.

The state's liquor distributors are understandably reluctant to let go of what amounts to a monopoly on drink. It gets hairy only if the industry lobby loses in New York and then refuses to take its lumps. Taking the fight up the judicial ladder, the state case becomes a national precedent, and if they lose there, the game is up for all their brethren. It should be a tough call, but the high-profile, national success of the MPAA and RIAA in their struggles for primacy may encourage the New York booze lobby to ignore the pitfalls. ®

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