Monday, February 22, 1999

Week of 02/22/1999

Target: Y2K
Much Ado About A Little Problem
- by David Matthews 2

Okay, let’s see if I can get this straight.. On midnight of New Year’s Eve there will be a huge pop of champagne corks, followed by the sudden snap of every computer in the world shutting down. All electronic accounts in banks and trading centers will be erased. All databases containing your vital information will be gone forever. Power plants will shut down because the computers running them will shut down. Hospital life support systems will shut down, killing patients by the thousands. Nuclear reactors will go haywire, creating hundreds of Chernobyl-like meltdowns. Planes will crash because the onboard systems will fail and there will be no way for air traffic control to guide them down. Military bases will go on alert as nuclear silos suddenly go online and begin automatic launch sequences. Dogs and cats will begin sleeping together. Car stereos will change all their preset channels to the local radio station that plays nothing but 24-hour non-stop elevator music and will be stuck on high volume. Mongolian warriors will stampede through Europe as they did in the old days. Society will crumble into a sea of anarchy as pockets of survivalists and religious extremists ride out the chaos in their own small communities for the promised Second Coming...

Did I get that in the right order? I sometimes get the sequence mixed up.

Anyways, the end of the world is coming - or so we are told - riding on a black horse called "Y2K."

Now let’s get brutally honest here. As someone who is involved in computers, I have been asked over and over to speculate about the pending event called "Y2K" - or the Year 2000 Bug. Will it be the end of the world? Will I still get my paycheck? Will I still get to work on time? Will I still have money in the bank?

Let’s look at what Y2K is all about. The Year 2000 Bug was first discovered by Peter de Yeager, whom I think should get the Nobel Prize, because while the whole world was so full of this nonsense about kids accessing the Playboy web site, this guy asked a very simple question that had a very complex answer.

When you write down a date, like the year of your birthday, or today’s date, do you write down the whole year every time? For instance, do you write down the year 1999 on each and every time, or do you just abbreviate it to the last two digits - 99 - and hope the other people will know what you mean? Most of us do the latter.

What about your computer? Computers aren’t like humans - they can’t assume things spontaneously like we can. Computers are only limited to their programming. So when you say to a computer that this is year 99, does your computer know that you mean the year 1999, or is it programmed to know that when it reads 99 that it should think 1999?

Now ask yourself what that computer will think next year.. year 00. Will your computer know you mean 2000 or will it think it is 1900 all over again? And how will it handle things like dates, bank transactions, personal organizers, and the like if it thinks it went from 1999 to 1900?

THAT, essentially, is the Year 2000 Bug. It is a flaw in a computer program that set two digits for a year designation instead of four digits.

So how did we get this flaw? Simple - because somebody was looking for a way to save some money. This flaw actually goes way back when computers were done on punched cards. Yes, we’re talking pre-Internet, pre-Windows, pre-Apple, pre-Microsoft, and even pre-Generation X never mind pre-Generation Y. This was back when the smallest of computers still took up a whole room, and you were lucky if your computer had a monochrome monitor.

Back then, computer space was at a premium, and programmers had to find ways to cut corners at every opportunity. That meant that they sometimes had to abbreviate things like states or first names.. or using the last two digits of a year. Nobody at the time was concerned about the year 2000 because at that time it was almost fifty years away, and they believed that either (a) the discrepancy would be fixed by then, or (b) we would all be killed by thermonuclear war.

But in that passage of time, nobody thought about correcting that little abbreviation. And so it was passed into subsequent programming language like COBOL, FORTRAN, BASIC, C+, C++, DOS, DR-DOS, MS-DOS, OS/2, and subsequently into operating systems like Windows. Each of them inherited some of the shortcuts of those earlier card-punched programs. Some would be corrected, others would not. The two-digit year abbreviation was one that wasn’t caught until now.

Notice, however, that one program was missing from that list.. If you guessed Apple’s OS, give yourself a hand! The programmers at Apple made sure that they used four-digits for their year designations, and thus Apple is the only computer company that has been Year 2000-safe since day one! (And you thought those HAL commercials during the Super Bowl was just hype!)

Getting back to inherited programs for a second.. I know a lot of you are saying "well, if it is a software glitch, just come up with an upgrade!" It’s not as simple as just coming up with an upgrade because it is not just confined to computers that can be easily upgraded. We’re talking about older computers, like the kind still being used by the government for things like air traffic control and power plants. We’re also talking about household appliances like video recorders, television sets, and even personal devices like digital watches. Any computer-based appliance that records dates including years is potentially involved.

Now here’s something that sounds ominous - nobody really knows how much of a problem Y2K will be until it actually happens! That’s why there’s all this talk about Armageddon, and guys like Art Bell going off on tangents about the end of civilization. The uncertainty of the extent of Y2K gives people yearning for the apocalypse an open forum.

Hey folks, remember "The Great Cosmic Convergence?" This was in the 80’s, when all the planets in the solar system were going to be in relative alignment to each other. Remember the talk about throwing the sun off balance, causing solar flares and possibly spinning a few planets out of their rotation? Doom and gloom talk came from that as well.

Now I’m not going to say nothing could happen, but neither can I believe that the destruction of human civilization will occur on January 1st, 2000. There has been too much talk on the issue, even before the media started playing their Chicken Little games, and some progress as well. Wall Street, for instance, has been working on updating their systems when they first heard of the Y2K bug. Government agencies have been working on updating their systems, not only to be Y2K safe but also to appease the efforts of the Clinton Administration in going "paperless" by 2002. (Or is that 1902?) Private corporations are reassessing their own systems and are aiming at making their systems Y2K safe as well. Banks and credit card companies have already been addressing the issue since they were the first to experience Y2K troubles, thanks to those first few renewed credit cards with the "00" expiration date.

Still, there might be some preparations you should make for New Year’s Eve besides champagne and party favors. Fill up some gas cans, stock up on canned foods and bottled water, buy plenty of batteries for your radios.. if you can afford it, look into getting a portable generator. It might be for nothing, but then again you never know. Have some cash ready. You don’t have to draw all of your money out, but certainly have enough to go on for a few days without having to hit the ATM machine or call on your credit cards. Also make a print-out of all of your bank accounts, including numbers and last balances, just to be safe.

And of course, make sure your computer system is updated. Microsoft has posted a couple of Y2K upgrades on their site you should consider looking into, if you haven’t already.

There are places where you can go to get more information about the Y2K bug that don’t necessarily cater to the survivalists and religious zealots who yearn for the apocalypse to happen. Bone up on that information, because it is the only thing that separates the justly concerned from the lunatic fringe.

Monday, February 15, 1999

Week of 02/15/1999

How the GOP Lost The Impeachment Trial
- by David Matthews 2

As I began typing this article, the final chapter of the Impeachment Trial of William Jefferson Clinton was being made in the halls of the US Senate. House managers and lawyers for the Clinton Administration made their closing arguments before the Senators, and in return, the Senators were hashing out what kind of endgame scenario they should play.

Conservatives knew they lacked the votes to remove Clinton from office, yet they were unwilling to provide any less of a punishment such as a censure. They were also scratching their heads in frustration, trying vainly to understand how they could turn out to be the real losers in this sad and chaotic affair.

The Republicans thought they had a sure-fire thing with the impeachment of President Clinton. They had the facts on their side and revenge on their mind. It was an airtight case. Clinton lied under oath. They had the evidence to prove it. They had the Senate history of impeaching judges who lied under oath. This would be their revenge for Watergate and for Iran-Contra, and the embarrassment that those two scandals caused the GOP.

And yet, when the final votes were tallied, the GOP couldn’t even secure a majority to convict, never mind the two-thirds majority that was required by the Constitution to oust the President. They lost five members on the charge of perjury and ten on the charge of obstruction of justice.

So what happened? How did Clinton beat the rap?

"It’s Not About Sex" - The four-word mantra that the Republicans used turned out to be one of the key elements to their own downfall. "It’s not about sex," the GOP people would say, "it’s about perjury." "It’s not about sex, it’s about lying under oath." "It’s not about sex, it’s about lying to the American people." "It’s not about sex, it’s about having an affair with someone who works under you."

But the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth of the matter is that is WAS about sex. Sex was the lynchpin of the scandal grenade. It made the media pay attention to what the Office of Independent Council was doing. It galvanized the moralists to act, and thus got them to lobby their supporters in the Congress to act. No other scandal could do that - from Whitewater to Vince Foster to the Travel Office to the GOP files to the 96 Campaign, the media kept themselves as far away as possible from implicating the Clinton Administration of doing anything illegal. But talk about Monica Lewinsky, "the stain," and "the cigar," and it gets front page billing on newspapers. Dozens of newspaper editorials demanded that Clinton resign just because he had sexual relations with someone other than Hillary and then lied about it. Not because of Whitewater. Not because of Vince Foster. Not because of the White House Travel Office. Not because of the 96 Campaign scandal.

Sex was also the Achilles heel of the Republican charge to oust Clinton. The more the GOP tried to deny it, the more facts that came out about Republican skeletons. One such skeleton cost would-be Speaker Bob Livingston of Louisiana of not only the leadership of the US House but also his job. Other skeletons served as embarrassing reminders to more veteran members of the Washington elite like Rep. Henry Hyde, or signs of utter hypocrisy as in the case of Rep. Dan Burton, who called Clinton a "scumbag" on the floor of the House but then was very silent after it was revealed he had a child from his past illicit affair.

Worse yet, the sordid details of the Starr Report served to hasten the end of the Senate trial as Senators piously snubbed their noses at the thought of seeing Monica Lewinsky on the floor of the Senate describing the President’s "penmanship" in front of the nation. After all, its one thing to watch in mild amusement as the members of the US House "degrade" themselves over this subject.. it is another thing to let it happen to their own body politic.

Spin Amok - There is a reason why Bill Clinton has earned the nickname "Big Bubba Spin" in these columns and it’s not because it sounds both trendy and insulting. Bill Clinton is a career politician who plays the political game just as good or better than the Beltway elite, and in Washington D.C. that is actually a compliment. As with any good politician, Clinton’s staff has a hair trigger on the spin gun, and anything that remotely makes Clinton look bad is instantly attacked, degraded, downplayed, diluted or otherwise bastardized.

There is no coincidence that the media was running a near daily public opinion poll as the "L’affair Lewinsky" moved to its inevitable conclusion, nor is it a coincidence that those polls were always and increasingly on an upswing for Clinton approval. The polls were used to validate Clinton’s actions, and only now are the journalists starting to distance themselves from all that political white noise. One would think that Clinton was running for reelection for a second time considering all the polls that came out. I would wonder what all those pollsters are going to do now that the Impeachment trial is over, but with the 2000 election just a year away no doubt the pollsters will be able to keep making their mortgage payments well into the next millenium.

And when the public got sick and tired of seeing Clinton’s poor man’s WC Fields face minus the top hat, the spin turned to his family. "Poor Hillary," we’re told. "Poor Chelsea," they whine. "How could he do this to them? How could he cheat on them?" The guilt factor is nothing new, but usually someone has to be six feet in the ground for this kind of overkill to happen.

The Senate - Of the two houses that make up the US Congress, the US Senate is the one that really tries to live up to the moniker of "Gods of Mount Morality."

The biggest mistake that can be made of the impeachment trial is found in role of the members of the US Senate. Yes, it was a trial, presided by Chief Justice William Rehnquist of the Supreme Court, and the members of the Senate did sit in judgement of the president. But don’t ever refer to them as "jurors." They hate that term. It sounds too… normal. Too mortal for their tastes.

Folks, I sat on a jury once. In fact, I was the jury foreman. I can tell you first hand it is not a simple process even in a non-scandalous case like the kind I had to sit through. It was dry, long, and tedious. Myself and the 11 others on this jury spent a week in the servitude of the court, not able to go to work or discuss the matter with anyone outside of the court or amongst ourselves until the time we could deliberate about it.

But anyone who had aspirations of the Senate going through something like that was sorely disappointed, because the rules were different.

The Senate could decide whether or not to have a trial. They could decide how long that trial was to last. They could continue to do business in the morning and continue the trial in the afternoon. They could decide whether or not to dismiss the case. They could decide whether or not to allow depositions or to allow them on the floor of the Senate in live testimony. They didn’t even have to have to render a decision based on any rule of law or the preponderance of the evidence. They could vote to convict or acquit on nothing more than a whim and it would still be legal.

These were decisions that the Senate gave themselves because they could make the rules as they went along. No other political body could do that. The House had to follow the rules of the Constitution in bringing forth impeachment charges. The Chief Justice was forced to abide by the Constitution. The members of the Senate, however, went for the most part by their own rules, and their only Constitutional limitation was that they had to have two-thirds majority to oust the President.

There is no doubt that had the Senate been forced to follow the same rules as any other jury body in the real world, this trial would still be going on.. and perhaps even with a closer margin for conviction.

Not Like Nixon - There have been constant comparisons between Presidents Clinton and Nixon in the past year. Both were career politicians who played the public like a harp from Hell, and both were embroiled in scandal concerning their past offices. Clinton had Whitewater, Nixon had "Checkers." Nixon’s charges against him were serious charges of abuse of power, and were seen as such in the public eye. Clinton’s charges concerned lying under oath about an affair with an intern, and his attempts to keep such information secret. Not exactly serious charges of abuse of power, and certainly not seen as such in the public eye.

But the comparisons ended when the House actually impeached Clinton. Nixon, for all of his political abuses, was at least honorable enough to resign from office rather than have the Congress go through the process of removing him. Clinton, on the other hand, has no such sense of honor. Rather, he turns to the easily-manipulated polls to validate his actions.

While history was first cruel to Nixon, but kind at the end of his life, it is hoped that the reverse would be true for Clinton when his life story is fully told.

Not Serious Charges - Finally, we need to look at the charges themselves. While perjury is a serious charge, one usually looks at the kind of charges Nixon was accused of when they think of things that would warrant the removal of the President. They think of the abuses of power that degrades the office of the President far worse than just in appearances. Things like … oh .. enacting laws that violate the Constitution of the United States. Things like .. oh .. enacting regulations that eliminate personal privacy. Things like .. oh .. using the force of the federal government against legislation that certain states have passed. Come to think of it.. those are the things that are being done already, not just by President Clinton, but also with the blessings - and sometimes the encouragement - of the Congress.

But it is ultimately unlikely that such serious charges against the American people would be filed as long as it is activities that Congress approves of, and activities that would also warrant the removal of many in Congress as well.

So in the end, what did we learn from all this? We learned how a career politician can get away with whatever he wants as long as he shoves enough polls down our throats. We learned how the members of Congress cannot get past their obsession with suppressing sex to deal with the abuses of power that goes on. We learned that Congress can dish out the lies but can’t take them. We learned that Bill Clinton isn’t the only member of Washington D.C. who abuses the power they’re given, but rather he’s the one who got caught.

Finally, we learned that we get the government we deserve. We as voters put these people in office, and those of us who spent their time on Election Day doing nothing but complaining about the two most tyrannical political parties and don’t make an appearance at their local ballot box are just as guilty of our political morass as those of us who re-elected a socialist for President and put conservative moralists in the Congress.

At the end of 1996, when people were talking about impeachment but haven’t yet done anything about it, I made a prediction that Bill Clinton would be leaving the same way he came in - with a wave and a smile. And while it looked for a little while like the beltway elite would prove me wrong, I now have no doubt that in January of 2001, when the door closes on Air Force One for his final trip out of Washington as President, Bill Clinton will be laughing his ass off for pulling off the biggest hoax on the American people.

Monday, February 8, 1999

Week of 02/08/1999

Legalized Robbery
Gun Lawsuits Show Government Greed

- by David Matthews 2

Hey! This is a stick-up! Gimme your cash!

C’mon, c’mon, I know you got money on you! Give it over!

Now, damn it! Give us the money NOW!

Go ahead, yell all you want. Nobody will help you. So just give us the money.

By the way, good luck in getting the law to help you. In case you didn’t notice, WE ARE the law!

Think that was a bit over the top? Guess again!

Local government have figured out a really great way to get a lot of money - through product liability lawsuits!

First came civil suits for products that caused harm: the buildings that used asbestos, the companies that made silicone breast implants, the companies that made house paint with lead in them. Then state governments realized that a lot of money was being made in settlements, so when coaxed by the same lawyers who were making millions out of these cases, it should be no surprise that the states jumped at a chance to reap in on the settlement cash cow. All they had to do was choose a social villain, which in this case was the tobacco companies. Then they let the PR machines - the media - run story after story about the evils of tobacco products.

And what happened? They settled! Faced with endless lawsuits after lawsuits after lawsuits, the tobacco companies were willing to offer BILLIONS to the states! So much money that even the Clinton Administration wanted a piece of the money pie! Well, not exactly a piece.. they wanted ALL of the money, with maybe some crumbs to the states. That wrote off the initial deal, but they were able to strike up a new settlement offer, which the details are now being hashed out between states. And the Clinton Administration is eager to start their own lawsuit as well.. just so they don’t feel left out on this cash giveaway.

It should be no surprise, then, that smaller governing bodies would want to dip their own hands in the cash cow too. After all, they "have it rough" as well. They really can’t enact too many taxes on the people. Some have "local option" sales taxes, others have to use property taxes.. each of them knowing that they can’t raise those revenues too high or else people will move elsewhere. And like any other political body, they have loads of special interest programs they’d like to enact but can’t because they don’t have the money.

So inspired by the tobacco settlements, cities across America have chosen their own token villain, and are suing them for millions of dollars. The villain? The gun manufacturers! The reason? Because the guns work and the people don’t!

Now let’s get brutally honest here.. this is the most asinine lawsuit that has been filed on behalf of government!

Let’s look at the argument the cities want us to swallow: Gun manufacturers make guns. Guns are designed to kill people. People use guns, other people die. Gun manufacturers make lots of money, therefore gun manufacturers should pay up for the costs of people using guns.

THAT is the logic the cities are using!

Where’s the product liability? The guns work! They fire bullets that have the capacity to kill other people. It’s not like the gun manufactures withheld that information from the public. In fact, that’s WHY people buy guns! There is no big conspiracy to deny that guns kill people. There is no big conspiracy to deny that if you misuse a gun it will go off and could kill you or someone else. These are not shocking revelations!

At least with the tobacco lawsuits there was a modicum of legitimacy. The tobacco companies were accused of withholding information about their products and advertising towards kids. But that isn’t the case here. These new lawsuits aren’t about gun manufacturers withholding information that the guns work or advertising their wares to kids.

What this is about is the cities trying to use lawyers to collect millions of dollars that they have no right to collect! This is about money, plain and simple - a fact that the city leaders don’t even try to deny. It is no different than if the gun manufactures were being robbed on the street by a common thug. No, I stand corrected.. at least the thug on the street would have the decency to shoot you afterwards and they won’t try to convince the public it was a good thing!

The city of Atlanta is perhaps the most hypocritical of the cities taking part in this form of legalized robbery. Mayor Bill Campbell filed the city’s lawsuit at the same time of the S.H.O.T. Show, a major convention for gun dealers and manufacturers. The SHOT Show was going to be a major find for Atlanta in terms of conventions, especially given Atlanta’s loss of other major showcases such as Comdex. But now with the filing of Bill Campbell’s lawsuit, the Atlanta SHOT Show could very well be a one-time affair that will cost the city thousands in future convention revenues. In a post-Olympic economy, every convention is important to Atlanta, and thanks to Bill Campbell, they just pissed away a solid money-maker.

State and federal legislators are working on laws that will prohibit such lawsuits from being filed, but to be blunt, we don’t need more legislation. We need common sense! We need the courts to come in and slap down these greedy politicians and the high-priced lawyers that coax them into such frivolous lawsuits.

Of course, it’s easy for politicians to get away with such abuse of power because they know that nothing will happen to them if the suits fail! They can sue with impunity and know that it won’t cost them personally! They’re protected by "sovereign immunity" - which means they can’t be held responsible for their actions as political leaders! How ironic, since they are the ones who wail and moan about the lack of personal responsibility and how THEY would be the ones to restore it in government!

The issue of guns in society has been going on for decades now, and politicians have had a hard time trying to restrict guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens. There’s this pesky little thing called the Second Amendment to the US Constitution that says the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. It was there because the old guard (namely the British monarchy) barred our forefathers to own or use guns. Their arguments over two hundred years ago are the same ones being used today - "You should rely on us to protect you." We didn’t trust the government line then, we sure can’t trust the government line now.

But now the politicians have turned their frustrations into what they hope will be a cash settlement bonanza, and in the process they have further abused the legal system and bastardized the very concept of personal responsibility.

The gun manufacturers have vowed to fight instead of settle, and their first challenge is already in the hands of a jury in New York. Time will only tell if they will be forced to capitulate to this legalized form of robbery by those who are considered immune from responsibility.

Monday, February 1, 1999

Week of 02/01/1999

Planning the Attack on the Internet
- by David Matthews 2

You know, I was always wondering about the reasons behind all the hoopla behind bashing the Internet. I really don’t think it was a coincidence that the timing of the much-refuted "Cyberporn" feature article in Time Magazine followed the introduction of Senator Jim Exon’s Communications Decency Act to the Telecom Bill in 1995. The CDA went nowhere as a stand-alone bill twice before Exon managed to include it into the Telecom Bill, and Time’s "in depth" report on the subject of sex over the Internet served to make Exon’s bill a legislative certainty.

They say that love is the strongest emotion in the universe. I disagree. I say fear is the strongest emotion. Politicians use fear to get voters to side with them, even when common sense tells them otherwise. Fear keeps people from being creative, from taking risks, from learning and growing. Fear keeps whole neighborhoods under the control of gangs and mobsters. And yes, fear keeps people stuck on certain issues - and as you can tell, I’m just as guilty as anyone else of heeding to fear.

That said, this is what I envisioned could have happened a couple of years ago between a certain publication and a certain group of politicians. Now, to be brutally honest, I have no idea what really happened, or if the following account is anywhere near what really happened. It’s best to take the following story as simply that - a story that can demonstrate how a fear and a well-planned attack can lead to the deprivation of individual rights and the further encroachment of government into the everyday lives of you and me.

It was late in the evening. The hallowed halls of the government offices took on a more sinister tone when the sun went down.

The conference room was dark. A single lamp hung over the custom-built mahogany table that provided the only illumination. The air was rich with the smell of cigar smoke and power. The affairs of the nation were debated here. Deals were struck. At one point in time, money even exchanged openly across the ancient table.

It was that sense of power that made the two publishers sit in awe in the otherwise empty and dimly lit room. They would otherwise be in their offices in New York, but they were told that this situation was so important, so vital, that it would change everything that they would hold dear in their lives. They wondered what that issue would be, and why it would be so important that it would require them to be present instead of their Washington correspondents. They would have those answers soon enough.

The door opened and a collection of men in suits entered the room. It was easy to identify the senators, since they were the eldest of the group. But nobody made any impression that they held any serious power. It was the younger members of this group, the ones who followed the senators into the room, that held the real power in Washington. They took their place on the opposite end the two publishers were sitting at, while the senators took up the chairs in the middle of them.

Introductions were made and handshakes exchanged.

"OK," said the first publisher, who spoke for the duo, "you called us in here, now would you mind telling us what this is all about?"

One of the senators, a crusty old man who reminded people of Walter Matheu’s ugly big brother, did the speaking. "What do you know about the Internet?" he asked.

The publisher turned to his partner, who shrugged his shoulders. "Something about communicating through computers," he finally answered.

"It’s a little more than that," explained the senator. "The Internet is a series of electronic networks that allow people to communicate around the world. Right now it’s done through computers, but I’m told that in the future it’ll even be done via your TV set."

"So what does that have to do with us?" the second publisher asked. "We publish a magazine. Besides, we’ve been using networks for years. It’s how we’re able to.."

"You don’t get it," interrupted the second senator. "This Internet will soon be a part of everything. There’s talk about it replacing all publications in a matter of years."

"All sorts of publications will go online," continued the first senator. "Anyone who has access will be able to put their own publications for the whole world to see. It won’t require a huge amount of money. Just access."

"So?" asked the second publisher, oblivious to the implications these lawmakers were saying.

The second senator continued. "Anyone with access can publish what they want, post whatever they want. Without editors. And it’ll be accessed by the whole world!"

"That means YOUR magazine will be irrelevant," exclaimed the first senator. "You’ll be out of a job!"

The two publishers sat there, staring at each other. The implications of what was said were startling. A medium that anyone can access and anyone can publish? Without editors?

"So…" posed the first publisher, "what are you planning on doing?"

The two senators smiled. They had them sold. "We’re going to regulate it," the first senator proudly announced. "We already have a bill proposed that would regulate content on the Internet. We just need public support."

"Which is where you come in," the second senator said.

Only then did the young suits act. The baby-faced spokesman handed the publishers a manila folder.

"This is a report from an undergraduate at Carnegie," the younger man said with pious determination. "It says that pornography dominates eighty percent of the Internet. We also went through every filthy, illegal, and immoral site there ever could exist and pulled up the filthiest of pictures. The senator already has a copy of them and will waive them around down the halls to offend the Senate. We need you to run a story that will mirror what the study says. That way it will look like the senators are just following the public’s outrage over the issue."

The two magazine publishers skimmed through the study. "Can you imagine the headline?" the first publisher said to the second.

"I can," his associate replied. "We put this stuff on the cover, it’ll get everyone’s attention…"

"We want you to make sure you mention that children can get access to this stuff at any time," the baby-faced one said. "The bigger the threat the better!"

The senators smiled. They knew they had quick converts.

But then the publishers threw a curve.

"What about confirmation?" the second publisher asked. "I mean, this is from an undergraduate. How do we know this information is legitimate?"

The senators gave a worried look at the younger suits, but the baby-faced spokesman stood firm. "Don’t worry, we’ll provide you with whatever confirmation you need. Just find a writer who won’t back down on the issue once the heat is on. Sensationalize it! We’ll take care of everything else."

Handshakes were exchanged. The deal was done. Within weeks, the headlines will pronounce the new nightmare for Americans, and the new crusade for those who make their living off crusades.

The first publisher waited until they had left the hallowed office building until he spoke. "You realize that if we run this article the way they want us to and we’re wrong, we’ll be crucified."

"You really think so?" asked the second publisher. "By the time the truth comes out, the story will be cold. It won’t really matter then. If they’re right, we’ll be awarded for bringing this issue out in the open. If they’re wrong, the blame will go on them, not on us. After all, we’re just the messengers. Either way, we’ll win."

The first man chuckled. "Heh.. I guess you’re right." Then he looked over at the Capitol building, and everything that Washington politics represented. "Ho, I love this city!"

"God bless America," replied his associate.