Monday, December 28, 1998

Week of 12/28/1998

The 1998 Brutally Honest Awards
The Second Annual Awards Article
- by David Matthews 2

Can you believe that a whole year has come and gone? Me neither, but it has.

Thus, as 1998 ends, it is once again time for the good, the bad, and the sometime lighthearted Brutally Honest Awards.

The Temporary Sanity Award for 1998 - The Georgia Supreme Court. The highest court in the state of Georgia had two moments of clarity to them. The first was when they ruled in favor of free speech for advertising, even when that advertising was for adult-only establishments. The second, and the most decisive of decisions, however, was when they overturned the state’s infamous sodomy law. They made the decision that the US Supreme Court, last year’s recipient of this award, failed to do back in 1988.

Now if only the state legislature had the brains to understand what that decision means.

The "Hulk Hogan" Award for the most staged event in 1998 - The House Impeachment Of President Clinton. Or perhaps the title should have been "As The Politics Churn," because this was a soap opera-like scenario. Even the CNN commentators were able to predict the actions of many members of the House, right up to what the House Parliamentarian would say almost word-for-word, and how the House Democrats would stage their symbolic walk-out to protest their inability to vote for a censure resolution.

C’mon folks! The only surprise was that only two of the four articles of impeachment got passed, and that Bob Livingston resigned. The self-righteous posturing on both sides was as scripted as professional wrestling!

The Kamikaze Award For 1998 - Newt Gingrich and Bob Livingston. Let’s see.. Bill Clinton gets impeached, but the House Speaker and his would-be replacement are the ones who resign?

The funny part is that both of them were defiant in their respective troubles. Gingrich took responsibility for the use of GOP "issue ads" that aided in their ultimate loss of five seats. Livingston admitted to having a few adulterous affairs in his thirty-plus years of marriage. Both said they were willing to stick through the situation. Then, suddenly, they each announce they will resign.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that they didn’t fall on their swords, they were shoved onto them by the moralistic special interest groups that put them in power in the first place.

The Bait-And-Switch Award for 1998 - The GOP "Tax Cut." Let’s see if I get this straight… The Republican members of Congress say that we need a "tax cut." But they don’t offer a tax cut. Instead they offer a tax credit that only exists on paper and you can’t use until the time comes to fill out your taxes, and it really doesn’t apply to every tax-paying American, but only those who have kids. Meanwhile my taxes as a struggling single male with no kids continue to rise. And they have the unmitigated gall to call THAT a "tax cut?"

The Bad Date Award for 1998 - The Feminist Supporters of Clinton. Okay, they have to stand by their man, even though their man hasn’t exactly been doing too well of a job on their behalf. Fine. I understand that. But you don’t back Clinton for doing the very same things you condemned Bob Packwood for and tried to hound him out of the Senate! That’s just plain hypocrisy.

The "Do As We Say Not As We Do" Award for 1998 - The US Congress. Congress releases the Kenneth Starr report online, complete with sexually explicit material, while at the same time shoves through the latest Internet censorship legislation, and then wonders why we have no respect for them? They redefine the meaning of the word hypocrisy with every session that convenes!

The Crybaby Award for 1998 - Hillary Rodham Clinton. Oh, they’re so nasty, aren’t they Hillary? Those evil people behind that "right-wing conspiracy" that are out to crucify your husband! How dare they! Just because you want to take over the world, that’s no reason for them to be so mean to you and your husband! And worse yet, it’s because you’re from Arkansas that they’re out to have you two impeached! Never mind that you weren’t originally from Arkansas..

Come on Hillary! That’s the nature of politics! Did you really think the Gods of Mount Morality were just going to roll their eyes when you said you were going to be a co-president back in 1992? Did you really think that you would be treated with kid gloves? There’s an old saying in Washington - if you can’t stand the heat, get out of politics!

The "Much Ado About Little" Award for 1998 - Windows 98. Improvements notwithstanding, the hype about Windows 98 lacked the luster of Windows 95. There was much talk about it, and it even served as a chief catalyst in the antitrust suit brought on by Uncle Sam and 19 of his 50 spoiled brats, but in the end, it was more of a fizzle instead of the anticipated bang because there was little that was different about it.

The Sleeper Surprise of 1998 - Apple’s iMac. Let’s face it, Apple put all their chips on a revised version of their original Macintosh computer, and it was a gamble that worked for them. Yes, the iMac has no floppy drive unit. Yes, the iMac has no means to expand beyond its one-piece set-top design. Yes, the iMac mouse looks as weird as the unit itself. All that didn’t matter, because people bought it and put Apple back in the black for the first time in years.

The J. Edgar Hoover Award For Snooping In 1998 - Kenneth Starr. Starr started out by looking into Whitewater, but couldn’t find anything. Then nobody could explain how Clinton could get hold of FBI records. And the investigation into the White House Travel Office came up empty. And the allegations of then-Governor Clinton using state troopers to bring women to him came up empty. And nobody REALLY wanted to look into what happened with Kathleen Wiley in the Oval Office. But Monica Lewinsky? Hell, yeah! Let’s get her friend Linda Tripp to tape record everything about Monica and her little dalliances with Big Bubba Spin! Let’s get Monica to confess by using every trick in the book!

And how does the media react? He gets co-billing with Clinton as Time’s Men Of The Year!

I don’t think that should be an accomplishment he should be proud of.

The Bottom-Of-The-Barrel Award for 1998 - Matt Drudge. It was close. He almost got beaten out by Hustler publisher Larry Flynt. But when it comes to mudracking on Washington, Drudge got the ball rolling this year. Flynt, despite his recent boastings, didn’t oust Representative Bob Livingston, and he didn’t know about the admitted affairs of Henry "Check Your Politics At The Door, Liberal" Hyde, Helen "His Actions Are Deplorable" Chenoweth, and Dan "The President Is A Scumbag" Burton.

The "Boom-Boom-Boom Let’s Go Back To My Woods" Award for 1998 - The Manhunt of Eric Robert Rudolph. Oh, yeah, he’s still roughing it in the woods.. Sure. He’s probably in the basement of someone’s house now, laughing his butt off with the reports of the FBI staked out where he isn’t.

The "Laughing All The Way To The Governor’s Mansion" Award for 1998 - Jesse "The Mind" Ventura. The former wrestler and part-time actor was a real underdog in politics. He ran on simple platforms, campaigned on a third-party ticket, didn’t do any serious political ads on TV until the final weeks of the election season, and still ended up being elected governor of Minnesota. Now he’s hobnobbing it up with the big boys of politics, and they’re terrified of what he represents.

By the way, I hope the only sign of political egomania that affects Jesse would be the change of his moniker from "The Body" to "The Mind." His wrestling ego was as legendary as a certain fellow wrestler from Venice Beach who used to wear yellow and red, he certainly doesn’t need to fall down the path of Bill Clinton.

The "Season Of The Living Dead" Award for 1998 - The 98-99 Network Season. Seinfeld goes out with a whimper, Phil Hartman dies unexpectedly, and the networks apparently cannot grieve sooner enough. Instead, they tap one more time into the mindless sitcom boilermakers and rehash of hit shows instead of trying to use an ounce of actual creativity.

The Bane of Tyranny Award for 1998 - The Clinton Administration and the US Congress. Between CDA2/COPA, further limits on encryption, further encroachment on personal privacy through asset forfeiture and wire-taping laws, repeated violations of the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution by imposing their will against certain ballot-approved initiatives in individual states, and further planned regulations that would make your personal bank transactions the purview of the government, its easy to see how Uncle Sam has become the biggest threat to American freedoms in human history.

The Worst Moniker For Bill Clinton in 1998 - "The Playboy President." I’m sorry, Hef, but Bill Clinton does NOT live the Playboy Philosophy, nor does he even admit to his sexual encounters, and if you - in some bout of insanity - invite him to the Playboy Mansion, I’d SERIOUSLY recommend you count the silverware and do a head check of all the staff and Playmates when he leaves. Don’t worry about the blondes. It’s the brunettes that he has a fixation on. (Gennifer Flowers and Paula Jones were both raven-haired when they met Clinton. Even Kathy Wiley has a darker shade of brown when she was allegedly groped.)

Yes, politicians do have sex, they don’t just spend every waking moment trying to screw Joe and Jane Six-pack. But living up to the Playboy Philosophy does not mean you lie about it, nor refer to it only as "your shame."

The Best Moniker For Bill Clinton in 1998 - "Big Bubba Spin." The best of all nicknames for Clinton, incorporating all the best attributes that made him what he is today. He has a huge ego, he still shows his redneck roots in terms of his southern hypocrisy, and he is the grand master of political spin. And even the nickname appeals to the younger generation.

The Best Distractions For 1998 - Marc McGwire, Karen McDougal, and Katarina Witt. When it seemed that the whole world would be sucked down into the bowls of "L’affair Lewinsky," three faces stuck out in the public’s eye. Marc McGwire shocked the world and broke the home run record. Karen McDougal became Playboy’s Playmate of the Year, and Katarina Witt made news at the year’s end by revealing her athletic physique in the same publication.

As 1998 ends, and 1999 arrives, one can only wonder just how weird things will be this time next year! If this past year is any indication, the best line will have come from the legendary Bettie Davis:

Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!

Monday, December 21, 1998

Week of 12/21/1998

Dear Santa…
A Lighthearted Peek At Santa’s E-Mail letters
- by David Matthews 2


Subject: Holiday Wish Lists

Dear David,

After reading your Brutally Honest Christmas Wish List article online, I thought I’d share with you some of the e-mail I get from certain people. You and your readers might recognize some of these letters.


PS: I checked with Hef. Sorry, I can’t put a Playmate under your tree this year. I’ll try again next year.

Dear Santa,

This year I certainly can use your help. I’m in dire straits with my opponents. It seems some of my past moments of humiliation are coming back to haunt me. That is not to say that I was being naughty. Quite the contrary, my actions have been exemplary to the situations presented to me, and I responded in accordance to what any reasonable man in such a situation would do.

Besides, this is not about me. This is about the people I represent. I have a job to service them, and I should not be denied that because of past indiscretions.

I need new polls to show the politicians in Washington that the people I serve do not want me to stop doing my job. I cannot convince them otherwise. I think about fifty new polls should be enough to dissuade them.

I would also be ever grateful if you could arrange a little external conflict so I can improve my image as a leader. Those things have always benefited me in the past.

Lastly, as ever, I would appreciate a generous campaign donation. Oh, if possible, could you have your donation brought over by attractive female interns? Preferably brunettes. Those elves just don’t do a thing for me.

Your friend,
W.J. Clinton
Washington DC

Dear Mister Claus,

My office informs me that you continue to discriminate against non-elves in your toy manufacturing and distribution. This is in clear violation of equal employment laws in this country.

Furthermore, my office is once again telling me that you continue to maintain a list of so-called "naughty" and "nice" people, based solely on your observations through a magical snowball. You may or may not be aware that such actions are in violation of several state laws concerning invasion of privacy, not to mention a few local ordinances which prohibit the use of magical devices. While I applaud your efforts to determine who is "naughty" or "nice," my office cannot allow a private citizen to peer into the private lives of other people. That is the role of my office.

I would also appreciate it if you were to send me one of those magical snowballs. (For observational purposes, mind you.)

Oh, yes, and the head of Bill Gates on a platter, if at all possible.

Washington, DC

Forward Message:
From: Jessica Kringle
To: Chris Kringle

Chris, please tell this woman that I do not answer your e-mails anymore. It was cute when she first did this years ago, but it is just plain annoying now. - Jes

Forwarded Message

Dear Mrs. Prym-Kringle:

Hello once again. I hope you are adjusting well to life away from your husband. Trust me, sometimes it is for the best. I know the media hasn’t touched on your marital problems, and I think that is a good thing.

Since all real brains of a relationship rest with the wife, I hope you won’t mind if I continue to write to you about my Yuletide wishes. We both know that you are the one who really makes that whole deal with the elves work, not your husband. After all, look at my marriage.

What I want is the same thing I want every year: power. As a woman, you know I already possess enough power through my husband. But that is not enough. My husband has this tendency to make a fool out of himself, and this latest incident may just well cost me my hold on power.

If at all possible, I wish that my husband be given detachable privates. Since I may have to spend more time with him than I want to in the coming years, I would like to be assured that he will not embarrass me any further than he already has. Plus my daughter is now in college, and such a gift will ensure she won’t be embarrassed by his antics amongst her of-consent-age friends.

As always, I would also appreciate any fiscal contributions to our cause. Any denominations, large or small, will suffice. I fear we may have to use those funds in the coming years. Oh, if you do decide to contribute, please do not send any attractive, brunette interns over! Send the elves. I happen to know my husband is turned off by them.

I hope all goes well with your tell-all book about life on the North Pole. I look forward to reading it.

Your friend,
Washington, DC

(Writer’s note: I have been assured by Santa that he and his wife have patched things up and she has cancelled her tell-all book before it could be released.)

Dear Santa,

I have been a nice leader over the years. I have had no choice. The other countries won’t let me be naughty. When I try to be naughty, they bomb my home. Oh, and they kill some of my people too, but that is incidental.

Please send me two dozen tanks, a hundred scud missiles, forty thousand machine guns, twenty attack helicopters (fully loaded, of course), some nerve gas, and one nuclear bomb if you can squeeze that in. Oh, and a new teddy bear. I seem to have lost my old one in the latest attack.

From a real nice leader,

Dear Santa,

This will be somewhat embarrassing for me, but I must revise my Christmas list. I had initially wished that my little project show some fruit before Christmas. Now it appears it has.

Thank you Santa.

Washington D.C.

Dear Saint Nick,

I know we scratched you off our official list thirty years ago, but I at least haven’t forgotten about you.

All I want are the usual things: peace on earth, good will towards men, faith, love and understanding…

Oh, yes, and a taller hat.

Vatican City

Dear Santa Dude,

Thanks once again for the present you gave me a few years ago. It took me a few years to wear it out, but at least I ran this one through instead of the other way around.

Now, bro, what I need is new territory to conquer. I know how you got this guy Jesse his own state, and you know how much I hate being upstaged by him. So I’m setting my sights higher than him.

Now, if you could get Jesse to be governor of some no-name state, I know you can get me the White House. After all, I’m your number one elf!

Just think of it - me, slamming those politicians through the political mat, wrapping that budget around my pythons and squeezing all the pork out of it. I’d even get Janet Reno to get off your back about that antitrust nonsense. Jesse can’t hold a candle to that!

So, dude, if you can swing that little election bid for me, I’d be every grateful.

Your bro 4 life,
"’wood" Hogan
Venice Beach, CA

Monday, December 14, 1998

Week of 12/14/1998

Brand X
How "zoning" the Internet is a bad idea
- by David Matthews 2

I guess it’s inevitable. Create a new frontier, a new place where the old laws and old standards don’t apply, and every would-be control freak with delusions of grandeur will scream bloody murder for those old standards to be applied.

Case in point - zoning laws. For those whose understanding of zoning laws are limited to the simplistic Monopoly rules that houses are green and hotels are red, be aware that depending on the rules created by state and local municipalities, the most powerful place to be in business is sitting on the zoning board. Not only do you get to decide what sort of business comes into town, but you also have the power to micromanage it down to the last nail used to hang up the "Open for business" sign.

Moralists who are frustrated in not being able to otherwise ban or prohibit actions they deem to be offensive, find that the local zoning board is an excellent weapon to wreck havoc in society. Zoning laws grew from the days of the Greeks and the early Roman Empire from the means to create aesthetic beauty to the means to control and regulate social growth. In most cases, the zoning laws are general enough to allow most businesses without problem. Most only pertain to controlling growth to an optimal level so the infrastructure can keep up, making sure the buildings live up to an optimal measure of safety, and that the buildings aren’t constructed using substandard materials.

But abuses by moralists in the zoning laws often have little recourse. Courts favor zoning laws as the means to regulate growth and rarely override them, no matter how absurd some of those laws are. Some of the more blatant, and absurd, abuses of zoning laws include prohibiting freelance writers from working in the privacy of their homes, determining what shade of white should be appropriate in a person’s living room, and the tearing down of homes because they interfere with someone’s view of the sunset or simply because a zoning board member thought it looked "aesthetically appalling" when seen in a dream.

In the past few months, a move has been suggested by moralists to "zone" the Internet. Thwarted by the US Supreme Court in their efforts to censor the Internet of all things they find "offensive" through the Communications Decency Act, they have picked up the dissenting view of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and demanded that the Internet be "zoned" by creative use of domain names.

Domain names are the addresses used to find certain sites on the Internet. Most sites have simple domain names like to identify themselves to the public. Most domain names have suffixes that end with .com (commercial), .net (network), .org (organization), .gov (government), .edu (educational), or the two letter suffix of certain nations. Recently, the control of domain name registration has been under dispute, and the whole realm of domain names would be opened up, allowing more suffixes.

In theory, sexually-explicit material would be given a new domain suffix, such as .xxx or .sex, that would clearly identify the site as one pertaining to sex. So for a publication like Penthouse, they would go from to online. Moralists contend that this would make it a whole lot easier to block out sites they would deem to be offensive to themselves and to children, no different in application than the scarlet "Brand X" letter they pin on movies and video tapes.

But who determines which sites get the dreaded "Brand X" suffix? And what would those standards be?

For instance, would news that discussed President Clinton’s alleged dalliances with a White House intern in detail mean that the site would get the "Brand X" suffix? It is, after all, a mature subject matter not meant for children. Will "established" news sites like MSNBC or CNN have to use "Brand X" suffixes if they want to discuss such issues?

Or how about organizations that deal with adult-oriented topics like breast cancer or AIDS? Will groups like the American Cancer Society, or the Center for Disease Control have to change their suffixes to .sex in order to get discuss these issues?

How about adult publications that discuss serious news issues? Playboy Magazine comes to mind. Last year, Playboy made news by publishing online what they contended was a confession from Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh to his lawyers before his conviction. Playboy also has a history of interviewing politicians and celebrities whose words make the news. Jimmy Carter’s admittance of having "lust in his heart" made news back in 1976. Clint Eastwood, the legendary actor and one-time mayor of a small town in California, created a few headlines by saying for the first time he was a libertarian. This year Mike Tyson’s interview in Playboy also caught the attention of the press. Would this be considered news or sex?

And whose standards would apply in getting this "Brand X" suffix? Remember that the Internet is a GLOBAL domain, not just confined to America. (A fact that I am often reminded of by my international readers.) What would be appropriate even in the most conservative of US regions would still be considered pornography in certain Islamic countries. Would Sports Illustrated have to censor its online publications when the swimsuit issue comes out in order to escape the "Brand X" suffix? Would a site dedicated to "Baywatch" episodes have to be given the "Brand X" suffix even though they would only show people in swimsuits? Would Victoria’s Secret or Frederick’s Of Hollywood have to get "Brand X" suffixes on their online catalogues because they deal in lingerie?

Let’s be brutally honest here. The moralists don’t want to answer those questions, because it throws a kink in what they would deem to be a flawless counterattack against free speech in America, if not the whole world. Essentially this is CDA-lite, the regulation of content of speech that the US Supreme Court declared in ACLU Vs Reno was a gross violation of the freedom of speech guaranteed in the US Constitution.

But if moralists want to "zone" the Internet, why not take a different approach? Instead of trying to corral speech that some moralist would deem offensive, why not create a domain suffix called .kid for all the sites deemed child-friendly? That way, instead of trying to get the whole world to bow down to the ravings of paranoid social busybodies, they can create a small subsection of the Internet that they know kids can access without concern.

Think about it. Parents can then limit access on their browsers to exclude anything that doesn’t have a .kid suffix on it and know that their kids will only be able to go to child-friendly sites on the Internet. News agencies can also create special child-friendly news sites like www.kidscnn.kid without having to censor their main news sites. You know that toy companies and cereal companies will be quick to pick up on this new .kid suffix and create child-friendly sites of their own. And because you’d have to apply to get a .kid suffix, you have some control over the kind of sites that would be allowed to appeal to kids. This is not an unrealistic level of control, since the domain suffix .edu is under similar control to ensure it is being used by legitimate educational institutions.

Perfect, right? Kids would be able to surf the web without concerns from parents, and the freedom of speech would still be intact because only a small portion of the Internet would be self-regulated, allowing free speech to reign unhindered everywhere else.

There’s just one problem - the parents. Moralistic parents are incredibly stubborn and self-centered. They refuse to do to themselves what they expect the whole world to do in the name of their children. When faced with the burden of responsibility, they feign both ignorance and incompetence in order to get government to do their bidding. The same amount of time used to sit down and figure out how to use the Internet safely, they instead spend calling up their legislators and complain that the Internet is a danger to their kids. The same amount of money that could be spent on manuals or seminars on how to use Internet browsers so they can be more aware than their own kids, is instead sent to special interest groups who lobby Congress to limit speech to what would be "safe" or "child-friendly".

Then there’s the real motivation behind the "zoning" – so moralists can force service providers to censor out those sites. As long as the onus is on the parents to monitor their children, the self-appointed crusaders of self-righteousness have little power over what they deem to be offensive, be it sex, language, or violence. If they can’t place the burden on government, they’ll try to place the burden on the providers of that information. They just need one central location that they can point fingers at, blame, cajole, penalize, punish, and coerce into submission. They have zero leverage on a one-to-one basis with individuals.

Remember folks, the moralist acts not out of concern for their own children, nor of your own, but rather out of fear and doubt of the strength of their own beliefs. They are terrified of other people having thoughts that are different than their own, and thus want the whole world to kowtow to their beliefs.

Zoning power is a legitimate power that has already been abused badly without feeding it to the Internet. It has its uses, but not when it concerns the content of speech or expression.

Monday, December 7, 1998

Week of 12/07/1998

A Filtering Quandary
A Fine Line Being Crossed?
- by David Matthews 2

On November 23rd, a federal district judge ruled that the Loudoun County Library System in Virginia cannot use filtering programs on their Internet-connected computers. The decision was seen as a blessing to free speech supporters and yet another blow to censorship-happy moralists.

But was it that simple?

Don’t get me wrong, folks. I haven’t sold my soul to the religious wrong or changed my mind about Internet censorship. However, the issue of filtering software is not as cut-and-dry as the media would have us think.

Filtering software operates on a very simple premise - if you know the URL of the site that contains offensive material, you can block that site to anyone who doesn’t have a certain password. The catch, however, is to know which site contains offensive material, and many of the filtering companies offer regular updates to their customers.

It’s not a perfect system to safeguard against kids finding offensive materials, and that has been the complaint by power-addicted moralists who placed their support on heavy-handed censorship legislation like the Communications Decency Act and the Child Online Protection Act (also known as CDA 2).

But when the CDA was declared unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court, a strange reversal of direction occurred. Pro-freedom groups like the American Library Association, who once welcomed the support of filtering groups like Surf Watch against the CDA, were suddenly against filtering software. Worse yet, the ALA started referring to them as "censorware." Moralists were quick to pick up on this loss, and started to use government to mandate such filtering software be used for public facilities that have access to the Internet. That led us, once again, to the courts.

Now let’s be brutally honest here. NO system will be 100% effective in keeping kids away from sites that parents deem to be offensive! It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about censorship legislation, filtering software, online ratings systems, or domain name zoning regulations. The ONLY way to make sure that kids don’t access offensive materials online is to not let them go online in the first place. But with the whole world telling you that you have to have your kids online, that isn’t too realistic.

Perhaps one of the worst decisions our elected officials made has been trying to rush EVERY school and EVERY library online without considering the realities of the Internet. The Internet is perhaps the ultimate haven of free speech, a place where any voice can be heard, no matter if that voice is offensive. It was never designed for the kind of supervised access online services like Prodigy, CompuServe, MSN, or America Online provide. But that access is there, and now the problem is trying to deal with it without trampling on the freedom of speech that has been reaffirmed in the courts.

The moralists already have the easy option - reduce the level of online speech to that acceptable for a minor. It is unconstitutional, anti-American, unrealistic, and virtually unenforceable without creating the tyranny they so covertly desire. Worse yet, moralists like Bruce Taylor and Donna Rice-Hughes are ever quick to jump on the censorship soapbox with snake-oil claims of "rabid porn addicts" that hearken back to days of Joe McCarthy’s ever-changing and non-existent "communist" list. Their constant ramblings of over-exaggerated bogeymen continue to demonstrate how moralists have been, are, and will continue to be a great disservice to America.

The only realistic option when dealing with the Internet is the same one for any medium of communication: personal responsibility. That means that parents, not government officials, need to do their jobs as parents and screen computer access.

That brings us back to the issue of schools and libraries.

You know folks, I’m in a bit of a quandary when it comes to filtering software. I have for many years now pushed the use of filters as an alternative to government censorship. Many corporations use similar measures at the workplace, and have done so apparently with the blessings of the courts. Yet at the same time, some filter programs have been just as restrictive as moralists would have government be. Certainly the exchange of information which the Internet promises cannot be met to libraries where that information is the key to such an institution. Somewhere, there has to be a balance between protecting kids and censoring adults.

Loudoun County made a fatal error in dictating that ALL computers with Internet access must have filtering software, and then set some of the most restrictive filters available. Their result then was to censor speech, not to "protect children," as they claimed they were doing. It was the blanket censorship policy that the court found unconstitutional, not the filtering software itself.

So what must school administrators and library officials do, then?

For starters, much like some libraries now have sections devoted to children and sections devoted to adults, computer access in libraries needs to be equally divided - filtered for children, unfiltered for adults. Parents should be aware that even with the best filtering systems, some "offensive" materials may still be accessed, so they should not let their kids surf the Internet unsupervised. The Internet is no more of a babysitter than would the television set, and should never be used as such.

Administrators should also review their filtering software periodically to see if the wrong material is being filtered. Censoring out every site with the word "breast" also means censoring out sites that deal with breast cancer, a fact that one adult Loudoun library user found out herself. It’s not an easy process, but one that must be done. They should also set "acceptable use" policies concerning things like sites to visit, spamming, downloading files, etc. and have those policies visible for all users to see.

Internet filters are a wonderful tool, but they are not perfect, nor should they be used in substitute of personal responsibility. That goes for home use as well as use in the libraries and schools.