Raising The Barr

Here’s something frightening, just in time for Halloween.

I found an important issue I agree with Bob Barr on. Chances are you do, too.

The issue is privacy. Barr’s for it. He doesn’t want the Internet Engineering Task Force to give police any back doors around encryption that would let them wiretap your email or Internet phone calls. The FBI and police agencies around the world claim crooks and spies will use Internet privacy to ruin the world unless police have a way around it.

I seldom find myself on the same side of anything as Bob Barr.

You may remember Barr from the Clinton Impeachment trial – Barr was for stringing up the President before there was even a charge against him. Barr likes ozone, hates pot, and wants every American child to take their lessons in English, even if they don’t understand a word of it. He’s one of those pols who deliberately gets under the skin of his adversaries but gives as good as he gets.

Every Congress has a few folks like Bob Barr. They keep the press entertained, and remind everyone that America is, in some ways, uncomfortably diverse. Centrists might want to put a Bob Barr in a locked room with Al Sharpton in hopes of getting rid of both, but just their luck, the two would become fast friends.

The point is that Internet issues make for strange bedfellows. It’s hard to find a politician – any politician – you’ll agree with all the time regarding the Internet.

I don’t expect Bob Barr to join my party on behalf of the First Amendment freedom to enjoy dirty books, for example. I have no idea how Barr feels about AT&T’s efforts to keep other ISPs off its cable, or the growing effort to internationalize governance of the Internet. But he’ll have a bigger say on what happens on those questions than I will, whether he understands them or not.

All this, and the obscurity of many issues, makes it easy for the elites to decide questions you care about in secret.

Will you be able to say what you want, go where you want, and maintain the privacy of your home online? Will you continue to have a choice of service providers as access speeds go up? Will small businesses get a break from taxes and regulation online, and will they be able to protect their names or secrets against larger rivals?

These are important questions, and as the 2000 campaign gears up, most candidates haven’t been heard from on any of them. The fact is most politicians prefer to keep their heads down, leaving it to folks like Barr to blow the whistle.

Your job, should you decide to accept it (and it is your democratic responsibility), is to demand answers and hold pols accountable for those answers. If you need some background on the issues, click here.

Some say politicians are stupid, but I think they’re just ignorant. They don’t know the Internet as you do. Get educated, then educate them. If you don’t, they’re going to do more than scare you in the future.

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