TCS Daily

Friday Fodder: Hugo the Boss, Scary Larry, and Erin Brockovich

By Nick Schulz - December 7, 2001 12:00 AM

Scary Larry -- In an effort to generate goodwill for his plans to help the feds develop a national ID system, Oracle`s Larry Ellison recently donated his company`s software to the U.S. government for security purposes. Despite the controversy surrounding a proposed national ID card as a way to combat terrorist threats, it is a proposition not without some merit. But as we`ve written here before, Ellison is certainly the wrong person to help orchestrate a national ID system.

In making the recent software donation, Ellison tried to assuage privacy and power-grab concerns by saying, "We don`t run those law enforcement agencies. We just provide them software." As Ellison surely knows, this statement is thoroughly misleading. I once worked for a big database management software company called Platinum Technology (it was bought a couple of years ago by an even bigger Computer Associates). Companies like Platinum, and certainly Oracle, become deeply involved with the files and information stored in the databases they help establish and manage. It`s the nature of sophisticated databases that the employees and consultants manipulating and generating code for them will have access to what is in them. That`s why lots of Oracle employees have to get security clearances before developing or working with sensitive government databases.

But don`t be fooled by Ellison`s seemingly magnanimous gestures. He`s not to be trusted with overseeing a national ID system.

Trial Lawyer TV (Cont.) -- Erin Brockovich has a nice little cottage industry going straddling her careers in the legal world and on big time TV. Later this month she`ll have a reality TV special on ABC, and NBC is in talks with her for a daytime talk show.

TCS has pointed out Brockovich`s excesses in the past and will be documenting her other efforts to gouge corporations of millions of dollars, including some interesting efforts she has undertaken in a California oil spill case. Check back for more details in the next couple of weeks.

Much Ado About `IT` -- Now we know what IT is. Was it just me or was anyone else thoroughly unimpressed with the Segway Human Transporter scooter thingee that had been hyped for months?

Car haters and "smart growth" advocates love IT. Apple`s Steve Jobs gives even the dorkiest of techno-weenies a bad name with his grandiose claim that entire cities will be redesigned around IT.

The fact remains, as my colleague Brock Yates has pointed out on several occasions, people love their cars -- passionately. And a glorified `kick-and-go` with gyroscopes isn`t going to supplant the automobile anytime soon.

IT enthusiasts need to rent the movie "Singles" which features an urban planner trying to drum up support for a newfangled mass transit system and the mayor cuts him off abruptly and reminds him: "people love their cars." They are safe, versatile, and liberating. Those are values people cherish and they will not part with them -- or their cars -- easily.

Black Gold and Hugo Boss -- Hundreds of millions of dollars in bids were issued this week to claim federal leases for offshore oil drilling in Florida. This is a good thing. Despite threats by environmental groups - "We will consider every option" to stop it, said Frank Jackalone of the Sierra Club - the United States needs to push ahead aggressively with domestic and regional oil and natural gas exploration. If there is one thing the morass in Central Asia and the Middle East is teaching us these days, it`s that diversified sources of energy are imperative to national security.

Even in the Western Hemisphere, goons like Venezuela`s loathsome Hugo Chavez shouldn`t be relied upon for steady supply. He has called the US campaign in Afghanistan "an attack on innocents" and has mocked the United States since September 11. Major media outlets have done a decent job of exposing anti-Americanism in the Arab world, but Fox, CNN and others should spend some time looking at the menace in Caracas.

The Uniter Meets the Dividers -- Democrats on Capitol Hill have now thumped President (I`m-a-uniter-not-a-divider") Bush`s nominees Mary Sheila Gall, Otto Reich and Gene Scalia. And Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy continues to hold the administration`s judicial nominees hostage for pet issues, prompting Dick Cheney to get into the fray and fire off an angry letter to Leahy for his partisan maneuvers.

The nation might be united after 9/11, but Capitol Hill is still its same, ugly, partisan mess. In the same way Texans remember the Alamo, maybe our Texan President Bush will remember these defeats come this spring when Senator Tom Daschle tries to push his Kyoto-lite version of an energy bill through the Senate.

A `Shout Out` to TCS Fans -- Many thanks to all of you who have been visiting TCS in recent weeks. Last week was our biggest ever in terms of visitors and traffic as we`ve been growing steadily over the last couple of months. This week we were glad to feature the writings of Glenn Harlan Reynolds of , Philip Stott, and Chris Horner among others.

Our success also reflects the hard work of Matt Briney and the rest of the TCS staff who keep the trains running on time. The site is growing quickly as we are covering more issues and ideas. So please keep little nuggets of fodder coming to me at and let me know how you think we`re doing. We`ll be launching a new version of the site in a couple of weeks with new bells and whistles, so make sure you are checking in so you don`t miss anything. Lastly, check out my column on baseball contraction.


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