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Here is the first thing you see when you open up the Starr report
area on
America Online:

“Parental Notice: The Starr Report contains adult language
and situations
and may be objectionable to some people. While the content of this
report falls
within the bounds of our Community Guidelines, it is not appropriate for
children. This content will not be accessible to AOL accounts that have
been designated by parents as Kids or Young Teens. Parents can go to
Keyword:
Parental Controls to put these settings in place. (Please note that
Congress has posted the report on some government websites, such as the
Library of
Congress, that are accessible to Kids and Young Teen accounts.) AOL has
advice on discussing the report with children.”

Notice that Young Teens as well as Kids (assuming they have been
properly
so designated by the responsible adult in charge of the account) are
restricted from access to the report. That’s as close to an X rating as
the Internet
ever gets. Also, AOL’s “advice” link isn’t just a page of suggestions
but an
entire area full of age-tailored expert advice, strategies, and other
resources
for coping with the scandal’s effect on your family.

I wonder if we fully realize what a sad and sorry state of affairs
(excuse
the expression) this is for our republic. Children are future voters,
and as such
have a civic duty to learn to stay abreast of current events. That’s why
we
encourage them, in saner times, to develop a sense of responsibility for
staying informed on the major issues of the day. It’s the only way for a
democratic republic to ensure its future.

But thanks to the Augean stables that is the moral character of the
current
President of the United States, the headline news is now roundly
flunking
the V-chip test. So much for the kids learning the sort of civic sense
that
would require them to follow what’s going on out there. To the contrary,
many of
us are now doing everything in our power to make sure our children stay
as
ignorant as possible. The profound sickness of the body politic is
nowhere
clearer than in this.

Well-meaning liberals have been asking for a long time, in tones of
honest
bewilderment, why the president’s personal life should matter so much.
Here’s why.

Lifestyle totalitarians on the move

The new Puritanism of health has grown into a powerful force in
American
society during the same period in which the old Puritanism of ethics has
retreated. People sense a lack of standards and signposts telling them
what’s right and wrong. The only authority figures still willing to make
definitive pronouncements on what constitutes good behavior and bad
behavior are
doctors (or, often, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which
brought
you the crispy-orange-beef and movie-popcorn scares — a coven of
major-league
crackpots, who get airplay every year or two because they gratify our
need
to be chastised.) So we make health dicta the centerpieces of our newly
jerry-
rigged moral structures, secure in the knowledge that they’re backed by
all
the benevolent authority of Science. No matter that Science changes its
mind every 15 years.

The consequences of health Puritanism aren’t pretty. Besides
encouraging
relativism in other areas (an example: sexual mores based entirely on
“safety,” i.e., condom use, to the exclusion of all other
considerations),
it promulgates a creeping lifestyle absolutism that has begun to pose a
real
threat to our individual liberties.

Walter E. Williams’ essay “Paving the Way for Tyranny”
explores the growing
menace
of health Puritanism. “We are naive — perhaps stupid is a better word

enough to think that lifestyle tyrants will be finished once they bring
the
tobacco industry to its knees,” he points out. “History records no
instances where
a tyrant woke up one morning and said, ‘I’m tired of tyrannizing, and
I’m
going to let people live free.’ ” After tobacco, will caffeine, fat, and
perfume
be next to be excommunicated from what passes nowadays for decent
society?

The Web’s best Y2K resource

Ed Yourdon, writer of “Time Bomb 2000!” and columnist for
Computerworld
magazine, maintains an extensive and frequently updated Y2K-related Web
site
. Yourdon is generous with his own
material, including the new and soon-to-be-published — posting, for
example,
presentation materials he’s developed in Powerpoint, as well as the full
text of upcoming columns that have yet to see ink and updates to the
draft of
the second edition of his book. The book may be worth buying: it offers
a more
comprehensive view of the Y2K problem than you’ll find on the site,
while
the site provides all the ongoing updates and expansions to it you’ll
ever
need. (It’s 20% off now at Amazon — click here.)
Y2K is one of those significant and valid issues that nevertheless seems
to
bring the paranoid schizophrenics out of the woodwork in force, so that
doing a
Y2K search on the Web tends to bring up a hopeless tangle of incoherent
raving
and irresponsible fearmongering. Skip the nut cases and come straight
here.
Highly recommended.

Need ammo for the water cooler? Cato’s got it

Don’t miss the Cato Institute’s
“Handbook for Congress”
. Semi-modestly
claiming, “The Constitution is the blueprint for limited government.
This Handbook is
offered as a more detailed guide to a reform agenda,” it explores just
about everything you could ask for under that rubric. Here’s where to
come for
some good toothsome fodder for the proverbial water-cooler argument.
Sections to
hit include “Federal Agencies: The Abolition Agenda” (chapters dealing
with
Education, Commerce, Labor, Energy, and the cultural agencies) and “The
Growing Threats to Civil Liberties,” which includes a discussion of
Internet freedom issues.

My personal favorite bit of the Handbook is an incisive chapter in
the
“Regulation” section which proposes that the FDA finally get what it
deserves. This
hard-hitting essay
indicts the FDA for its use of administrative means to prolong the time
required to permit clinical use of medicines. FDA-mandated delays in
allowing the U.S. marketing of drugs used safely and effectively
elsewhere around
the world have cost the lives of at least 200,000 Americans over the
past 30
years — many sad examples are enumerated in the Handbook’s discussion.
Go read
it, please. And if you want more on FDA reform afterward, take a look at
Ralph
Epstein’s “Advancing Medical Innovation: Health, Safety and the Role of
Government in the 21st Century” (Washington: Progress and Freedom
Foundation, Feb. 7, 1996), which is online.

In the market? Free, real-time SEC data

The Securities and Exchange Commission requires all publicly traded
companies to electronically file reports on their activities and
financial condition.
Free real-time access to this data is available on the Web at
up to 48 hours before the same information
appears
on the official SEC site. Investors can find and
extract
financial information with a minimum of pain using the site’s search
engine, receive instant email notifications of SEC filings, and download
data
straight into an Excel spreadsheet.

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