As you may know from personal experience, it’s no longer just Big
Brother who is watching you.

The October issue of

Yahoo! Internet
makes this spookily clear in its special report on “Privacy in the Digital Age”: Your sacred personal privacy rights are becoming extinct.

Everyone from the White House office of drug busters to your insurance man and grocer can now keep a closer eye on you than you’d like — and they are often doing it without your knowledge.

We’ve always had private and government snoops, but now the wondrous powers of the Internet have made their dirty work much easier. Here’s what Robert Scheer, the veteran left-winger from America’s Left Coast, says in his article, “Nowhere to Hide”:

“Anyone willing to spend a few bucks and a little time on the Internet can find out more about what you read, think, and earn than Joseph Stalin or Adolf Hitler, with their fearsome secret police, could ever have learned about the inhabitants of their totalitarian states.”

Though a little hyperbolic, this should not be news to many people. But the combined impact of Yahoo! Internet Life’s package about the lengths to which private companies and government agencies go to capture info about Internet users is disturbing.

Scheer’s a devout anti-Drug War warrior, God bless him. And he rails, rightly, against government super-snoops — the National Security Agency’s Echelon, which sucks up communication around the globe, and the FBI’s Carnivore, which sucks up domestic e-mail traffic.

It’s true Scheer seems a bit more worried about the sneaky snoopery of evil (i.e., profit-making) corporations than of the government. And it’s true his idea of the right of privacy doesn’t include private property — just private thoughts, plans and aspirations. But on this issue, give him credit for being on the right side.

Another writer, Jeff Howe, details how Echelon works — using eight or nine radar stations around the world to intercept and scan billions of messages per hour from everything from the Net to undersea cables and baby monitors.

In this case, it is the ACLU that is on the right side of the privacy fence: its associate director strongly suspects that the dear government’s National Security Agency is doing some heavy duty cheating and law-evading by using Echelon to do what it’s not supposed to — spy like crazy on American citizens.

Howe also writes, “Big Boss Is Watching.” It shows how your employer is probably watching your every Internet move at work and is perfectly entitled to do so: “If you’re on company time,” the lawyers say, “you don’t have a right to privacy.”

Some stats from Howe explain why it pays to be careful: 74 percent of companies engage in some kind of employee surveillance; one in four companies has fired someone for misuse of office teletools.

Hollywood politics
Few liberal Hollywood political donors will want to miss

exclusive mega-interview with none other than Barbra Streisand, who says she is retiring from the stage to focus on her marriage to James Brolin, her left-wing political activism and good food.

The Streisand package, which includes kudos and reminiscences from such musical friends and admirers as Neil Diamond, Vince Gill and Burt Bacharach, will please any fan of Babs and her famous voice.

Conservatives, however, will want to gag — or hold their ears — when she starts babbling her liberal politics and belting out hymns of praise for her good friends, the Clintons.

Also, for those who hadn’t heard, she’s backing Al Gore (“a strong leader” who has “an astounding command of the issues”) against George W. Bush (who, besides trying to starve all those poor school children in Texas by cutting their free-lunch money, “will say anything to get elected — and say it in poor English”).

US Weekly, which puts barely more than its index on the Web, is devoted almost exclusively to Hollywood stars and pop culture. But it doesn’t even pretend to try to mute the scream of its liberal politics. Its item on Bruce Willis getting an actors’ award mentions that he is — God save us! — a Republican. The editors would never dream of giving him a whole paragraph or two to explain his craven self.

Elsewhere, meanwhile, in what passes for ideological diversity in the pages of US Weekly, Susan Sarandon gets to ramble on about why she decided to vote for St. Ralph Nader for president.

For the record, the famous left-wing Hollywood policy wonk says she thinks Streisand’s pal Al Gore is not a real environmentalist (because of his Occidental Petroleum connections) and he represents the bad-old corporate-dictated politics as usual.

US Weekly comes from Wenner Media, the same folks who bring us Rolling Stone, so it can be expected to lean leftward. But no one will ever confuse

Entertainment Weekly
— Time Inc.’s spectacularly successful chronicle of pop culture and bountiful warehouse of movie, TV and music reviews — with being a conservative rag, either.

Take Entertainment Weekly’s Oct. 6 cover story, please.

“Gay Hollywood 2000” is a special multi-part, annoyingly excessive celebration of “Hollywood’s Gay Power Surge” that apparently has occurred in the last five years. (Like the rest of the issue, its availability online is delayed until it is off newsstands.)

The article “Is Your TV Set Gay?” documents how gay characters have “become so common on television, so unexotic, that their sexual orientation has become all but invisible to most viewers.” Another article lists 101 gay movers and shakers (most of whom will not be familiar names, unless you read the credits of prime-time sitcoms for a living).

Of course, tolerance of a less politically correct sort can always be found in

the cheeky, excessively heterosexual British mens’ magazine that everyone with taste and refinement hates but more than 2 million shameless American males read.

For its October celebration of sex, sports, beer, gadgets, clothes and fitness, the young man’s Bible engages in its usual acts of immoderation. Hidden among its usual gallery of lovely minor-aged women and hot cars is “Meltdown in Los Alamos.”

It’s a genuinely good, you-are-there piece of journalism about firefighters fighting “the single-most dangerous fire of the worst fire season in 50 years” in north central New Mexico.

More in keeping with Maxim’s mandate to slip sexual themes or wise-acre comments into everything, including descriptions of products like telescopes and copiers, is its interview with Charlie Sheen.

Unlike the stars featured in US Weekly, Sheen did not drop by to babble on about his personal politics, or tell what it’s like being the son of Martin Sheen, one of moviedom’s most activist liberal actors.

Rather, “Hollywood’s randiest bachelor” (who is replacing Michael J. Fox on “Spin City”) holds court on his high-scoring pursuit of women, being in Alcoholics Anonymous and explaining why collecting women’s underwear does not make him a cross-dresser.

It’s not classy, but it’s pure Maxim.

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