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1994 Fools: April Fools on the Senate


[Archive note:  From:
RISKS-LIST: RISKS-FORUM Digest  Monday 28 March 1994  Volume 15 : Issue 70]


~Date: Fri, 25 Mar 1994 19:50:47 -0800 (PST)
~From: "Arthur R. McGee" <amcgee@netcom.com>
~Subject: April Fools on the Senate (fwd)

   [PLEASE SEE MODERATOR'S NOTE BEFORE THE INCLUDED MESSAGE BELOW.
   THIS EXPLICITLY MARKED APRIL FOOL'S PIECE IS INCLUDED NOT FOR
   ITS SURPRISE VALUE, BUT IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST.  PGN]

---------- Forwarded message ----------
~Date: Fri, 25 Mar 94 12:16:58 EST
~From: Chris_Casey@kennedy.senate.gov
To: ace-mg@esusda.gov
~Subject: April Fools on the Senate

Hello ACE,

In the April issue of PC Computing, John Dvorak's column describes a Senate
Bill, supposedly introduced by Senator Leahy and co-sponsored by Sen. Kennedy,
to keep people from being intoxicated on the information highway.  The column
is an April Fools hoax and I'm sure plenty of people will find it amusing (see
below).
  
Unfortunately there are also people that are actually believing it to be true.
Our office has received several calls from outraged constituents and I
understand Leahy's staff has as well.  I originally received the article via
e-mail, and I understand that the on-line rumors are flying leading some
people to learn about it without the benefit of the actual article (which when
read closely, reveals the hoax).

Congress has taken some great forwards steps recently, particularly through
the availability of the Senate and House gophers (gopher.senate.gov,
gopher.house.gov) and it would be unfortunate if people weren't aware of them.
I share this with ACE in hopes that you can help quash any of these on-line
rumors if you see them.  Feel free to put people in touch with me if they'd
like to hear more about what's happening in the cyber-Capitol :-)

Thanks for any help.  I enjoy April Fools gags, but a lot of folks just aren't 
getting this one! 

Regards,

Chris

############################################################################
Chris Casey                                  chris_casey@kennedy.senate.gov 
Office of Senator Kennedy                                      202/224-3570
Washington, DC  20510
############################################################################


   [RISKS MODERATOR'S NOTE:  THE FOLLOWING ITEM IS REPRODUCED IN THE
   RISKS FORUM WITH THE KIND PERMISSION OF THE AUTHOR, WHO HAS HIMSELF
   RECEIVED SEVERAL CALLS FROM PEOPLE WHO MISSED THE SPOOFINESS.  John 
   is quite well known for his annual spoofs.  He noted to me that there 
   are (at least) four clues herein.  (See if you can find them, but
   don't bother informing RISKS.)  As we approach the big day, I note
   that this piece is akin to the 1984 Chernenko spoof (due to Piet 
   Beertema) and the "Spafford" spoof (due to Chuck von Rospach), the 
   latter (see RISKS-6.52, 1 April 1988) fully laden with self-referential 
   clues.  PGN]

>Trust Congress? Not With This Unbelievable Lair of Slop
>PC Computing, April 1994, page 88.
>By John C. Dvorak
>
> When Vice President Gore began talking about the Information Highway,
> we all knew the bureaucrats would get involved more than we might
> like. In fact, it may already be too late to stop a horrible Senate
> bill from becoming law.
>
> The moniker -- Information Highway -- itself seems to be responsible
> for SB #040194. Introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy, it's designed to
> prohibit anyone from using a public computer network (Information
> Highway) while the computer user is intoxicated. I know how silly this
> sounds, but Congress apparently thinks that being drunk on a highway
> is bad no matter what kind of highway it is. The bill is expected to
> pass this month.
>
> There already are rampant arguments as to how this proposed law can
> possibly be enforced. The FBI hopes to use it as an excuse to do
> routing wiretaps on any computer if there is any evidence that the
> owner "uses or abuses alcohol and has access to a modem." Note how it
> slips in the word 'uses'. This means if you've been seen drinking one
> lone beer, you can have your line tapped.
>
> Because this law would be so difficult to enforce, police officials
> are drooling over the prospect of easily obtaining permits to do
> wiretaps. Ask enforcement officials in Washington and they'll tell you
> the proposed law is idiotic, but none will oppose it. Check the
> classified ads in the "Washington Post" and you'll find the FBI,
> National Security Agency, and something called the Online Enforcement
> Agency (when did they set that up?) all soliciting experts in phone
> technology, specifically wiretapping.
>
> It gets worse. The Congressional Record of February 19, 1994, has a
> report that outlines the use of computerized BBSes, Internet,
> Inter-Relay Chat, and CompuServe CB as "propagating illicit sexual
> encounters and meetings between couples -- any of whom are
> underage...Even people purporting to routinely have sex with animals
> are present on these systems to foster their odd beliefs on the
> public-at-large." A rider on SB #040194 makes it a felony to discuss
> sexual matters on any public-access network, including the Internet,
> America Online, and CompuServe.
>
> I wondered how private companies such as America Online can be
> considered public-access networks, so I called Senator Barbara
> Boxer's office and talked to an aide, a woman named Felicia. She said
> the use of promotional cards that give away a free hour or two of
> service constitutes public access. You know, like the ones found in the
> back of books or in modem boxes. She also told me most BBS systems
> fall under this proposed statute. When asked how they propose to
> enforce this law, she said it's not Congress's problem.  "Enforcement
> works itself out over time," she said.
>
> The group fighting this moronic law is led by Jerome Bernstein of the
> Washington law firm of Bernstein, Bernstein and Knowles (the firm that first
> took Ollie North as a client). I couldn't get in touch with any of the
> co-sponsors of the bill (including Senator Ted Kennedy, if you can believe
> it!), but Bernstein was glad to talk. "These people have no clue about the
> Information Highway or what it does. The whole thing got started last
> Christmas during an antidrinking campaign in the Washington D.C., metro
> area," Bernstein said, "I'm convinced someone jokingly told Leahy's office
> about drunk driving on the Information High and the idea snowballed. These
> senators actually think there is a physical highway. Seriously, Senator Pat
> Moynihan asked me if you needed a driving permit to 'drive' a modem on the
> Information Highway! He has no clue what a modem is, and neither does the
> rest of Congress."
>
> According to Bernstein, the antisexual wording in the bill was
> attributed to Kennedy's office. "Kennedy thought that technology was
> leaving him behind, and he wanted to be perceived as more up-to-date
> technologically. He also though this would make amends for his alleged
> philandering."
>
> Unfortunately, the public is not much better informed than the
> Senate.  The Gallup Organization, at the behest of Congress, is
> polling the public regarding intoxication while using a computer and
> online "hot chatting." The results are chilling. More than half of the
> public thinks that using a computer while intoxicated should be
> illegal! The results of the sexuality poll are not available. But one
> question, "Should a teenage boy be encouraged to pretend he is a girl
> while chatting with another person online?" has civil rights activists
> alarmed. According to Kevin Avril of the ACLU, "This activity doesn't
> even qualify as virtual cross-dressing. Who cares about this stuff?
> What are we going to do? Legislate an anti-boys-will-be-boys law? It
> sets a bad precedent."
>
> I could go on and on with quotes and complaints from people regarding
> this bill. But most of the complaints are getting nowhere. Pressure
> groups, such as one led by Baptist ministers from De Kalb County,
> Georgia, are supporting the law with such vehemence that they've
> managed to derail an effort by modem manufacturers (the biggest being
> Georgia-based Hayes) to lobby against the law. "Who wants to come out
> and support drunkenness and computer sex?" asked a congressman who
> requested anonymity.
>
> So, except for Bernstein, Bernstein, and Knowles, and a few members of
> the ACLU, there is nothing to stop this bill from becoming law. You
> can register your protests with your congressperson or Ms. Lirpa Sloof
> in the Senate Legislative Analysts Office.  Her name spelled backward
> says it all.

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