Saturday, September 01, 2007


White House Secret of the Day

The White House will not identify a private company which appears to be involved in the disappearance of millions of White House e-mails. —Justin Rood writing in ABC's The Blotter

And he continues—

The company was responsible for reviewing and archiving White House e-mails, a White House official told congressional staff in May, according to a letter yesterday from House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Henry Waxman, D-Calif. Congressional investigators asked then for the name of the company and "have repeatedly requested" the information since the, according to Waxman.

They are still waiting for an answer, the chairman wrote to White House counsel Fred Fielding. Waxman asked the White House to come up with the company's name by Sept. 10.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel declined to tell the Blotter on the company's name or explain why the White House would not provide it to Congress.

In addition to requesting the firm's name, Waxman's staff has also asked to see a White House report which detailed the days on which few or no e-mails were archived; the White House has been similarly unresponsive to that request ... and asked it [to] provide the document by Sept. 10 as well.

Is the White House about to claim that private contractors with which it deals are shielded by "executive privilege"? If so, it's going to be a wee bit difficult for the White House to make this overstretch. The effort to come up with a rationale should be causing the Office of White House Counsel to lose some sleep.

Some 5 million emails "missing" and the White House won't name the company responsible? The company worked for that section of the White House bureaucracy ironically named the "Information Assurance Directorate." By federal law all White House emails must be retained.

This looks to me like a very big fish that's beginning to smell. Even the mainstream media may catch a whiff.

Related post
Some DoJ attorneys go where the crime is (5/14/07)


Friday, August 31, 2007


Sex education in America

There are libruls who claim that we do not offer enough sex education in America. That's just plain silly. It's not that we don't educate our children about sex. It's just that we don't allow it in our schools, as many countries do, where they could get hurt.

It's a matter of safety. There are live genitals in our schools, and they can be hazardous if not properly handled. America's children have some of the finest minds in the world. If we were to allow sex education in the schools, many of our brighter students would take the theory straight from the classroom and attempt to apply it in the lab. This could be dangerous. Currently none of our schools are equipped with the proper safety hoods required for safe sex experiments.

Instead the position of sex educator is assumed by our politicians and news media, who know more about sex than 95% of our classroom teachers anyway. They're good at it. And when they take on the role, it can scarcely be argued that there's a child left in America who's uninformed.

Take Bill Clinton, for instance—a role model if there ever was one. Through his endeavors (and through the kind and devoted work of his assistant Monica Lewinsky), America's children learned all they needed to know about semen, a word unfamiliar even to many adults. They learned about hygiene—about how you should try to avoid getting semen on your clothes where it can stain. They learned about alternative and safer sex practices such as oral sex; the appropriate setting for it—at the office; and the proper position of the assistant—on his or her knees, which is practical whether you're seated or standing. And surely no child in those days could have misspelled "f-e-l-l-a-t-i-o" in a spelling bee.

All this education for free at the click of the remote! And safe too!

Clinton has retired from his role as public sex educator. (Many say it's a subject so dear to him that he still gives private lessons.) But we can be thankful that many other public-spirited leaders have stepped in to assume the position.

Only recently we've seen Congressman Mark Foley who brought sex education into the 21st century by demonstrating the proper practice of chatroom sex, which is rapidly replacing the old-fashioned phone sex of the previous century. There is nothing more hygienic, and the nation's youth seem to love it.

Then came Senator Vitter of Louisiana, who taught us that sex is not always just for fun—sometime it's for money. He sought out some of the most talented ladies in his parish and handsomely rewarded them for a job well done.

For those young people still considering what they should do with their lives and unsure of where to turn, Senator Vitter pointed the way to a lucrative alternative to acts of self-destruction such as joining the military out of desperation—a pitfall into which many of our impoverished youth have fallen. And for those few who have money and a wife yet still feel lonely, he showed that a helping hand can be surprisingly affordable.

Now Senator Larry Craig of Idaho has stepped in. He is teaching that sex should not be taken lightly—or in the light, for that matter. And that you should always be sensitive to your partner.

Don't take the sexual preferences of that "significant other" for granted. If in public, eye them furtively. Ask discretely. If in a public restroom, tap your foot if you must, but do not reach into places you haven't previously explored without your partner's permission. This can lead to serious misunderstandings and an ugly disruption of the relationship may follow. This is not safe sex.

Of course our public sex educators could not do their job properly without the assistance of the media. Thanks to Fox and CNN, children are given the images, graphics and background they need to really understand just what is going on. There are video sweeps of toilet stalls, "backgrounders" on the meaning of foot-tapping and on-the-spot reporting by some of the nation's top journalists standing in front of the entrance to the men's room.

Now do you understand why we don't need sex education in our schools? In America we do things the American Way.

But is it really the "American" way? Some say it is the Republican way. There are partisans who claim that, aside from Bill Clinton, the burden of sex education has fallen almost exclusively on the private parts of the Republicans. And while the Republicans have been graceful in accepting the responsibility, you can see that it is taking its toll. It really isn't fair.

It's a shame that our country has become so divided. This year and next I'm going to vote Democratic and demand that these slacker Democrats drop their drawers and prove they care as much about education as the Republicans do. When the Republicans said "No child left behind," they meant it. It's high time the Democrats took on some of the responsibility for educating our nation's youth.

Related posts
Fox network gets spanked over pixelated breasts (10/13/04)
While we weren't paying attention - 1 (11/18/04)
The educational value of the Guckert/Gannon affair (2/16/05)
The Christian Right, STDs, monogamy and other wonders (5/30/05)
Prudery gone amuck (5/31/06)
Condoms 1 Right-Wing 0 (6/22/06)
Ooh-la-la! Cheap condoms for school kids (12/16/06)


Thursday, August 30, 2007


Bumper Sticker of the Day


This is an allusion of course to the "Sermon on the Mount" in which Jesus said "the meek shall inherit the earth."

Considering the pugnacious tone of the bumpersticker, I wasn't sure whether the car's owner thought himself to be among "the meek" or was merely trying to warn the rest of us.



An update on the update I promised

I ended yesterday's post with a promise to continue it today, and toward that end I've worked most of the day. Unfortunately, as I was putting the finishing touches on it, the software (Dreamweaver) crashed and I had not saved the file for at least 3 hours. So I'm trying to recreate what was lost, but I'm afraid I've run out of steam. I'll continue the continuation in the morning and hope to have it up soon.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Is an attack on Iran imminent?

A number of writers in the blogosphere have been asking if we're about to attack Iran. As it happens, last night I read an interesting but brief analysis of the posture of the U.S. toward Iran that I wanted to share with you, so Iran has been on my mind anyway.

American Legion Convention, August 2007

First let's look at what has set off the alarm bells—Bush's speech to the American Legion Convention yesterday in Reno, Nevada. One of the most troubling passages was this—

Iran has long been a source of trouble in the region. It is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. Iran backs Hezbollah who are trying to undermine the democratic government of Lebanon. Iran funds terrorist groups like Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which murder the innocent, and target Israel, and destabilize the Palestinian territories. Iran is sending arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan, which could be used to attack American and NATO troops. Iran has arrested visiting American scholars who have committed no crimes and pose no threat to their regime. And Iran's active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust.

Iran's actions threaten the security of nations everywhere. And that is why the United States is rallying friends and allies around the world to isolate the regime, to impose economic sanctions. We will confront this danger before it is too late.

Some say Iran's leaders are not aware of what members of their own regime are doing. Others say Iran's leaders are actively seeking to provoke the West. Either way, they cannot escape responsibility for aiding attacks against coalition forces and the murder of innocent Iraqis. The Iranian regime must halt these actions. And until it does, I will take actions necessary to protect our troops. I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran's murderous activities.

Before you could say "blowing smoke," American soldiers arrested eight Iranians—two diplomats from the Iranian embassy along with a delegation from the Iranian Electricity Ministry. They then entered Baghdad's Sheraton Ishtar hotel with the Iranians in tow, all of them blindfolded and handcuffed. Yet according to the AP, they were released just as abruptly this morning. And now the U.S. military has dubbed it "a regrettable incident."

Adding to the sense of American-Iranian confrontation that was pumped up by the media was a well-publicized statement by Iranian President Ahmadinejad that he delivered just hours before Bush's speech—

You (the United States) cannot preserve your power over Iraq with a few tanks, artillery and weapons. Today, you are prisoners of your own quagmire. You have no choice but to accept the rights of the Iraqi people.

I can tell you there will be a power vacuum in the region. We are ready with other regional countries, such as Saudi Arabia, and the people of Iraq to fill this vacuum.

He also, by the same account, "dismissed the chance of any US attack on Iran over its nuclear drive..."

American Legion Convention, August 2006

Bush's rhetoric at the convention seems quite ominous, but then you may have missed last year's speech at the same convention—

This summer's crisis in Lebanon has made it clearer than ever that the world now faces a grave threat from the radical regime in Iran.

Bush then launched into accusations that mirrored the charges he made before the attack on Iraq—

The Iranian regime arms, funds, and advises Hezbollah, which has killed more Americans than any terrorist network except al Qaeda. The Iranian regime interferes in Iraq by sponsoring terrorists and insurgents, empowering unlawful militias, and supplying components for improvised explosive devices. The Iranian regime denies basic human rights to millions of its people. And the Iranian regime is pursuing nuclear weapons in open defiance of its international obligations.

We know the death and suffering that Iran's sponsorship of terrorists has brought, and we can imagine how much worse it would be if Iran were allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. Many nations are working together to solve this problem. The United Nations passed a resolution demanding that Iran suspend its nuclear enrichment activities.

And Iran's "deadline" was announced in that very same speech—
Today is the deadline for Iran's leaders to reply to the reasonable proposal the international community has made. If Iran's leaders accept this offer and abandon their nuclear weapons ambitions, they can set their country on a better course. Yet, so far, the Iranian regime has responded with further defiance and delay. It is time for Iran to make a choice. We've made our choice: We will continue to work closely with our allies to find a diplomatic solution -- but there must be consequences for Iran's defiance, and we must not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.

Laid side by side, the two speeches are remarkably similar insofar as they touch upon Iran. But to my eye, this year's speech was just a wee bit less threatening than last year's.

Détente, anyone?

Are we then moving toward détente? Hard to say, but I do not expect to see the "shock and awe" bombing of Tehran on CNN in the coming few weeks.

Certainly the attendance by the U.S. at a regional conference on Iraqi violence in which both Syria and Iran participated has been interpreted as a positive sign. U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad spoke directy to Iranian diplomats and did not slap them with his glove.

That March meeting was followed by a higher level meeting arranged by Egypt in early May to which Iran sent its foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari. The U.S. sent Secretary of State Condi Rice. They didn't actually talk, but they were to be seated across from each other at dinner and might have touched knees. Unfortunately the Egyptian hosts provided a violinist wearing "un-Islamic dress"—perhaps a belly-dancer accompanying herself on the violin—which gave the Iranian foreign minister an excuse to bow out. In diplomatic circles this was understood to be a protest against the continued detention of 5 Iranians held by the U.S. in Iraq.

Is there no cause for concern then?

There is every cause for concern, but not because Bush was trotted out to read a bellicose speech before a bunch of right-wing Legionnaires. And that brings me to a couple of interesting analyses from The Swoop, "a source of intelligence about U.S. international policy" that claims to enjoy "insider access to the centers of power in Washington DC." From their writing my guess is that the authors are retired employees of the Pentagon and State Department.

On August 25 they published a summary analysis titled "Iran: Containment and Deterrence, not Confrontation?"

Harsh US criticism of Iran continues. However, last week we described indications that US policy toward Iran is changing, with more emphasis on a long-term “deter and contain” policy. The deterrence aspect comes with the development of a new generation of nuclear weapons such as the Reliable Replacement Warhead. Regarding containment, this strategy involves strengthening of regional counterweights to Iran like Israel and Saudi Arabia so that, even if Iran successfully acquires a nuclear weapon, its options will be severely limited. US officials tell us that the increased military aid announced on July 30th for the region should be seen in this light. “We are signaling to Tehran that it will not be able to dominate the region – even if it develops nuclear weapons,” a Pentagon official commented to us. Further, the new aid will require a strengthened US military presence in the Gulf Coordination Council countries – another check on Iranian ambitions. While containment ideas are attracting increased attention, the Administration is not united on its Iran policy. Officials associated with Vice-President Cheney believe that economic and diplomatic measures are insufficient. Instead they advocate military action before the end of the Bush Administration. In the short term, they want a new UN Security Council Resolution that, alongside tougher economic sanctions, would permit the US to board vessels headed for Iranian ports. By acting on this, they hope to stimulate an international incident that would lead to military action. Our contacts say that this thinking is not in the ascendant but, as they tell us: “Cheney has not abandoned his goal of attacking Iran.”

Along with "Mad Dog" Cheney, neither have the Neocons nor Israel.

But if we were to attack Iran, how would this be done? Another analysis from The Swoop, written over a month ago, may be helpful—

In recent days Michael Chertoff, the head of the Department of Homeland Security, has warned of a heightened risk of a terrorist attack inside the US over the summer.... While intelligence officials tell us that they do not have evidence of specific terrorist plans, some thinking is underway at the White House about the implications of such an attack. An uncontested assumption is that the US would retaliate with military strikes. As one senior official put it to us: “This brings Iran into the picture. To strike back we have to have an address.” By this, he meant that the US would look for a meaningful target to attack. An obvious target would be an Al-Qaeda camp in Pakistan’s Western border regions, but the risks to Pakistan’s stability may rule this out. Iran offers an alternative. Given the upsurge in statements by the White House, Pentagon and State Department about Iran’s role in international terrorism, officials tell us that “Iran would immediately be suspect.” We see this as a credible scenario, one that would allow advocates of military action against Iran to gain influence. For the time being, these voices – most prominently Vice-President Cheney – are in the minority. The recent progress on North Korea has also strengthened supporters of a more balanced approach, as have the prospects of a second meeting between US and Iranian officials in Baghdad. An international crisis arising from a terrorist attack in the US would change these dynamics. A State Department official explained to us: “The risks associated with an attack on Iran would take second place to the political pressure on Bush to respond.”

Does that sound familiar?

[There is quite a bit more to be said here, but unfortunately I have run out of time. Please check back tomorrow for the continuation and perhaps a sprinkling of footnotes.] [8/30 8:45 pm--I ended yesterday's post with a promise to continue it today, and toward that end I've worked most of the day. Unfortunately as I was putting the finishing touches on it, the software (Dreamweaver) crashed and I had not saved the file for at least 3 hours. So I'm trying to recreate what was lost, but I'm afraid I've run out of steam. I'll continue the continuation in the morning and hope to have it up soon.]


Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Science Headline of the Day

Israelis discover how to erase long-term memoryIsrael Today

My first reaction was "uh-oh!" The possible implications are staggering, so I hit the Google button. Would you be surprised to learn that this story has not been carried in the American press, at least according to Google?

The study by Reut Shema, Todd Charlton Sacktor, and Yadin Dudai published in the August 17 edition of Science is very interesting indeed, since it overturns the prevailing theory of how long-term memory is maintained. It has long been conjectured that long-term memory storage involves the permanent strengthening of connections (synapses) among the nerve cells (neurons) of the brain. But this new research suggests that the synaptic arrangement has to be maintained by the presence of an enzyme. If you remove the enzyme, the strengthened connections that form the memory collapse.

Rats were given a drug that made them nauseous when they drank saccharine-sweetened water. Wiser than most humans, they learned to avoid the saccharine. The researchers then injected a drug that interferes with this "memory enzyme" into the area of the brain that processes taste. After treatment, the rats went back on the saccharine, which was taken as an indication that they had forgotten what they had learned.

Though the rats could be retrained to avoid the saccharine water, the memory did not return over time without retraining. Put another way, it's likely that the memory loss is permanent.

The reports from Scientific American and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation end by suggesting ways the research may be beneficial but make no mention of malevolent possibilities. A news summary by the Israel Hasbara Committee ends with the note that—

As with many recent medical discoveries the implications of how such knowledge could be used in the hands of evil as well as good is worthy of further investigation and contemplation.

Before the public can contemplate this research, it would be nice if they were informed of it.

But an online popular science journal World Science got to the point quickly—

In the science-fiction movie Men in Black, a top-secret team uses a “memory eraser” to make people forget that they’ve seen aliens. Memory erasure is a recurrent theme in science fiction, but until recently it has stayed in the realm of fiction only.

The findings can serve to benefit people, such as for treatments to enhance memory or erase traumatic recollections, the researchers added. But some authors have also predicted potential for abuse of such treatments. For instance, one might blot out a memory to keep someone from testifying about a crime. “Only the inherent goodness of our fellow men and women” can prevent abuse, wrote one of the scientists, Todd Sacktor of SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., in an email.

Yivsam Azgad, a spokesman for the Weizmann Institute, wrote in an email that he thinks abuse of the findings can be prevented only through “ethics, and by the laws of each country.” As with all research, he added, it’s [the] scientists’ job to gain new knowledge, and society’s to use it responsibly.

Scant hope for that.


Monday, August 27, 2007


Quotes of the Day

Gonzales gives me the impression that he is someone to whom telling the truth does not come naturally. I don’t trust him. I told him that, and I have never said that to a Cabinet member, even some highly partisan ones. —Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, as quoted by Roger Simon

It’s sad that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person like Alberto Gonzales is impeded from doing important work because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons. —George Bush, as quoted by practically everybody

Who, oh who, will Bush find to replace a man like that? A man with Gonzales' talents will not be easy to find, and if found, have confirmed by the Senate.

You might enjoy reading the post "Coffin Nail of the Day" for a list of the names of possible successors that were floated by "Republicans close to the White House" in March.

CNN ran a news banner today suggesting that Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security, might be named. He was on the list, and he certainly has many of the qualities that endeared Gonzales to Bush—an ability to lie and keep his mouth shut. But he has less hope of passing the Senate than a black man has of getting out of New Orleans in a hurricane.

I would be surprised if the nominee turns out to be anyone on the list from March. As an unnamed official was quoted at the time, "I think it is going to come down to who is willing to take the job." The position has become much less attractive since then, but the administration has a plentiful supply of lowlifes looking for attention.

Related post
Coffin Nail of the Day (3/24/07)


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