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Republican lapdog George W. Bush is gaining support among America's high-tech patriarchs eager to cuddle him in their laps too, with Michael Dell, Sun CEO Scott McNealy and Netscape's former CEO Jim Barksdale publicly doting on the Texas governor and scratching him behind the ears at a campaign do on Tuesday. Barksdale and Dell praised Bush's "demonstrated leadership", leading, as he does, the state that leads the US in executions. Both are lavish Bush donors, and clearly not Catholics or bleeding-heart pinko liberals. They also praised Bush's promise to raise the H-1B visa quota and protect companies from lawsuits by America's revolutionary rabble.



Entertainer Elton John, on the other hand, endorsed Vice President Al Gore at a $10,000-a-plate Silicon Valley fund-raiser the same day.

"I've never done a political fund-raiser before, and I'm an Englishman who has been coming to America for 30 years," John explained to an audience 320 strong which included an impressive assortment of Hollywood luminaries and tech execs other than Barksdale, McNealy and Dell.

"I'm a great believer in the Vice President... His views completely coincide with mine. [He] wants this country to go forward, and if you vote for him, it will go forward," John said. "But it's back to the Dark Ages, I'm afraid, if you vote for the other guy."

The little soiree was held at the residence of Novell CEO Eric Schmidt, and raised a cool $3.25 million for the Democratic National Committee.



Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (Republican, Utah) has lashed out at Clinton Administration apparatchiks who a couple of weeks ago filed amicus briefs with the Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals, denouncing Napster's defence of a copyright infringement suit brought by industry front group the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

"Given the importance of the issues to be decided, I thought it important that the court be under no misapprehension that the [Clintonite] brief necessarily expresses the view of Congress in this matter," Hatch wrote. "Indeed, Congress has recently held hearings into the matter and is engaged in ongoing deliberations about its merits as the events unfold in the emerging online music and entertainment market."

Hatch has been vocal in his defence of free enterprise on line, and openly sympathetic with Napster. RIAA and Napster lawyers are scheduled to meet in court in early October, when the appellate court will decide whether to uphold a preliminary injunction threatening to shut the file-trading service down.



The US Department of the Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is struggling to increase its presence among all the other legions of snoops Uncle Sam is plaguing us with, and has therefore issued several reports of late which paint a frightening picture of financial crime and its facilitation by electronic means. Electronic banking is making it altogether too difficult to follow the money, and something must be done, the Department whinges.

Its most recent 'Strategic Plan' is a fascinating document which advocates "expanding FinCEN's database by seventy-five per cent over the next five years and increasing the number of subjects and businesses by one hundred percent." Yep, 'let's bust heaps more people,' appears to be the strategy. Nice to see our tax dollars at work in such clearly-defined ventures.



The House Commerce Telecommunications Subcommittee on Monday voted to bar federal regulators from imposing fees on Internet traffic, including voice services. The amendment was sponsored by Christopher Cox (Republican, California), and would eliminate the charge a phone company must pay to terminate a call on another company's network, including Internet traffic. It's a small tariff, but it represents billions a year cumulatively. However, some consumer groups argue that eliminating the payments could actually raise the cost to smaller phone companies that handle Internet dial-up calls, for which the tariff is a needed source of revenue.

It's difficult to predict whether this would result in a net gain or loss for consumers, but we needn't worry about it this year. The measure has yet to go to the full Commerce Committee, then to the House floor, then to the Senate, and possibly to Conference Committee if there are House/Senate differences in need of resolving. With a fortnight to go in the legislative schedule, the odds against clearing each of those hurdles are astronomical. ®

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