E-zines have their fun with the candidates Humor: While the mainstream media pursue more conventional coverage, World Wide Web publications take a decidedly less reverent approach.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

There's not much time left in in the quadrennial gust of wind called an election season, and there's little of anything presidential to pique the interest. All the sex scandals have dissolved into mutual muted allegations. The brouhaha over funny foreign money, trumpeted as shaking the very foundations of democracy, has degenerated into the kind of sandbox squabble that toddlers quickly learn to avoid because everyone's eyes get hurt.

Since the horse race is starting to look like Cigar vs. a cigar box, coverage in the mainstream media has started to resemble a collective, infectious yawn. That said, there are still a few bright spots left, mostly on the World Wide Web, and mostly funny.

Pierre "Call Me Pete" DuPont was never accused of rampant mirth as governor of Delaware, but his e-zine, Intellectual Capital, often takes a lighter look at politics.

The web site (www.intellectualcapital.com) is usually a way station for wired policy wonks and other Beltway types, but there are the occasional easy-to-digest pieces, such as assistant editor Bob Kolasky's analysis on why the Senate still doesn't get the web thing.

Incumbents facing re-election can't update their web sites during the 60 days prior to Election Day. The rule is designed to prevent misuse of the Senate web server for campaign purposes, but, Kolasky notes, electioneering with public funds is already prohibited. The freeze on web sites inconveniences the public, Kolasky says, and is another example of government over-regulation.

Candidates' trail

Netizen, the muckraking side project of HotWired, can be counted on for deliciously acerbic fulminations, the latest conspiracy theories, or at least something funny to read at lunch.

It's been a slow season at www.netizen.com, but, bird-dogging the candidates as always, John Heilemann has an on-target assessment of Bob Dole's shift into attack mode -- and the general disinterest that followed.

Heather Irwin serves up several short takes that illustrate how the moribund Clinton vs. Dole decision -- previously described by satirist Michael Moore as "the evil of two lessers" -- is forcing attention toward House and Senate races.

Media critic Jon Katz posts a curious piece on the electronic media food chain, from its bottom feeders in Usenet newsgroups to its heights among the Washington policy makers.

About midway up this hierarchy, Katz says, is his employer, Wired, and its related products. It's a semi-funny piece, mostly because by trying to mildly spoof Wired's uber-zine mentality, it actually reinforces the belief that the folks there at Wired in Frisco took the term "We are the world" to mean "WE are the world."

'Amateur Paranoia'

The World Domination Review (the Journal of Amateur Paranoia) is a small web site with a big goal, so it can be excused its occasional lapses in taste. The site (www.globaldialog.com/larryt/aindex.htm) is essentially a one-man operation with occasional contributors. It can also be brutally funny, as with its page of capsule movie reviews that mimic the campaign cadence of Bob Dole:

"Every year Liddy and I warm up our old American-made Zenith and watch this fine American classic. What could be more American than Dorothy's quest to return home to Kansas? Kansas, a fine state, big, flat, lots of wheat, that's where I am from, Kansas. Liddy and I get back to Kansas every chance we can so we can talk to average Americans, with average concerns, and average problems, and average points of view. People who know that we need to end the capital-gains tax, not like those namby-pamby Democrats in Washington. 'The Wizard of Oz' is a good wholesome family film. Besides, those flying monkeys make me laugh."

It's about ideas

Like a cranky uncle with opinions on everything -- and many of them right -- the Paine News delivers monthly loads of crotchets and common sense.

It's a journal of commentary on American culture whose editors say it's "about ideas, not ideology." Like the World Domination Review, it usually uses humor to strip away the pseudo-solemnity that keeps people from appreciating politics for the interesting institution it often can be.

Here, at www.painenews.com, there's a compendium of election-year gleanings that could be indispensable at the next dinner party, or could spark conversation while waiting at the post office.

Bob Dole was not the oldest candidate on the trail this campaign year: Leslie Lummis, born in 1913, is 10 years older than Dole, and she's worth double trivia points as the only presidential candidate who hailed from Guam, according to the Paine News' "Great '96 Presidential Circus" page.

The site also points out that we voters were blessed with two convicted felons running this year, convicted being the operative term. Lyndon H. Larouche Jr., running this year as a Democrat, got a room with bars for his 1988 conviction on a conspiracy rap. In a bizarre twist that, considering the source, doesn't seem so out of place, the Paine News says that Larouche erroneously boasts in his campaign literature that he is the "only presidential candidate to have been convicted in a federal criminal case." The other convicted felon whose hat was in the ring: Libertarian Irwin Schiff, who served time in a federal pen for advocating the nonfiling of federal income taxes.

Looking for work

Confidence in government is near historic lows, according to several polls, so it makes sense that those within government might be having lapses of faith. And, of course, there's always the chance of an election-day upset that will fill the bars in Georgetown with sobbing functionaries. Worried government workers can find solace in the pages of Government Executive (www.govexec.com). There's a searchable list of the top 200 government contractors, any one of which could provide career continuation for a deposed manager -- especially if your agency administered one of those contracts.

Pub Date: 10/27/96

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