The Breakfast Table

Ich Spy

Good morning, Nadine–or more likely good afternoon in your time zone.

You’re right. Sexual politics are freeing up political discourse in a whole lot of unexpected ways. Take a look at the stories in the Wall Street Journal and the NY Times about internet companies bracing for, and looking to take full commercial advantage of, an obscure videotape being released today. Together with the Starr report, this has made the web a significant medium for real-time distribution of large quantities of information. If this pries people away from the processed, over-analyzed TV junk, that’s a step in the right direction.

Alas, though, there is never a positive development that doesn’t give bureaucrats an excuse for more regulation. Did you catch the NYT story about how the “F.T.C. is ‘Losing Patience’ with Business on Web Privacy”? It turns out that websites gather information from people who browse them and use it for nefarious (read commercial) purposes. Did the FTC get a lot of complaints from consumers about this “problem”? No, they sent “dozens of lawyers” cruising on the net (what they call “the Big Surf”) to search for privacy problems. Just goes to show you, there is no situation that can’t be turned into a problem if you just send enough lawyers after it.

I have to say, though, that the most interesting news story I saw this morning is the AP story, posted to the NYT website, about a former British spy who claims that Britain recruited a German official in the Bundesbank to pass on secret information. “What kind of secret information?” you ask in hushed tones. Well, things like interest rate movements and the German negotiating position on the Maastricht Treaty. Can’t you see the movie version: The Bond Who Loved Me, or maybe Deficits are Forever? I suppose it’s a good thing that we are now using spies for such genteel purposes, but it does make you wonder whether we still have the ability to get information of military significance when we need it. Contrast the Times’s story on the “inferences”–a polite term for “guesses”–that led to our decision to bomb the Sudan, including the fact that “In January 1996, the C.I.A. formally withdrew more than 100 of its intelligence reports on Sudan after concluding that their source was a fabricator.”

While the spies who gave us the Sudan bombings are out looking for new jobs, they might turn for advice to the LA Times’s story on Monica Lewinsky’s career prospects. The LA Times counsels Monica that silence is golden: made-for-TV movies, book deals, television interviews, modeling gigs, centerfolds–all this and more could be hers if she doesn’t let the cat out of the bag too early. I’m not sure there’s any bag left to let the cat out of. Then, again, I still don’t understand how Marcia Clark got a $5 million book deal for losing the case that couldn’t be lost. I think I’ll write a book myself soon: Cases where I’ve been reversed by the Supreme Court 9-0. Know a good agent?

Until tomorrow morning…

Ciao. AK

P.S. I don’t get the Missoulian here and it’s not on the web (yet) so I hope you cut out a new recipe for those Prairie Oysters. I get so tired of the same old, same old … .