Guarding the mouse

John McCaslin
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Posted: Oct 28, 2003 12:00 AM

A classic Monty Python skit about a woman ordering breakfast at a restaurant was performed by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) just before the Senate unanimously passed a bill designed to crack down on Internet spam.

"She wanted to order a Spam-free breakfast at a restaurant," Leahy began. "Try as she might, she cannot get the waitress to bring her the meal she wants. Every dish in the restaurant comes with Spam; it is just a matter of how much. There is eggs, bacon and Spam; eggs, bacon, sausage and Spam; Spam, bacon, sausage and Spam; Spam, egg, Spam, Spam, bacon and Spam; Spam, sausage, Spam, Spam, Spam, bacon, Spam, tomato and Spam, and so on."

Leahy wasn't trying to be funny. In fact, because of the large quantity of pornographic spam, the senator now logs onto the computer for his grandson, cleans out the egregious material, and only then will let loose of the mouse.

"It is something he could do himself, but we don't let him log on himself because of the problems with some sites that appear to be for children, and are anything but," Leahy notes. "So I log on for him, and he climbs up on my lap, takes the mouse out of my hand and says, 'I better take over now because it gets very complicated.'"

MORALE SWING

A popular green-camouflage button reads: "Support the military, vote Republican in 2004."

Yet on the flip side, one wonders now if armed forces stationed in Iraq could be the next swing voters.

Some pundits say yes - President Bush will certainly lose military support at the polls - while the White House maintains military morale overall remains high to finish the Iraqi mission.

Meanwhile, a panel discussion to be held Nov. 5, sponsored in part by the New America Foundation, will address whether the Republican Party as a whole could lose the military vote in 2004.

Given the significance of military votes during the 2000 presidential election, the 107th Congress directed the Pentagon to ensure that absentee military ballots are processed quickly come 2004.

NEW ADAGE

Ironically, the same day the Bush administration announced a record $374.2 billion deficit for fiscal 2003, the House went on a 24-hour spending spree - authorizing $3.6 billion in spending.

Worse yet, taxpayers got stuck with the bill by voice vote, meaning members never voted on record.

Instead of the old adage "another day, another dollar," Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) provides an updated version: "Another day, another $3.6 billion."

GLASS HOUSES

There is a "continual drumbeat" among Democratic presidential candidates in particular regarding the "faulty intelligence" that President Bush relied upon before marching into Baghdad.

But Sen. Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah) says anybody asking the question, "How could the president have been so stupid?" should be reminded that intelligence "is never hard and fast. It is always an estimate. It is also a guess. And it is often wrong."

He recalls traveling with a U.S. delegation to China after U.S. troops under the command of Gen. Wesley Clark, now a presidential candidate critical of Bush and his war in Iraq, mistakenly bombed the Chinese Embassy in Serbia.

"We said: 'It was a mistake. It was an error.' And the Chinese ambassador, with whom we were talking at the time, said: 'You have the best intelligence in the world. You must have known that was the Chinese Embassy. ... You did that deliberately.' "

Bennett said Congress later investigated the bombing, and "we found the reason that happened is because General Wesley Clark, the commander of NATO, was demanding targets: 'I need more targets. I'm running out of targets.'

"And under the pressure of those demands from that commanding general, the CIA came up with targets, and they came up with an old target with bad information, under the pressure from a commander who was anxious to keep bombing even though he had run out of legitimate targets."

WHO NEEDS FOOD?

Ever question what some eligible Americans are buying with their taxpayer-funded food stamps? Suffice it to say, it's not spinach. According to General Accounting Office Report 01-749, between 1999 and 2002 the food-stamp program spent $5.13 billion in "improper" payments.

SEX 'ACTION ALERT'

When House Republicans found out the National Institutes of Health was spending taxpayer dollars on sex research projects - including a $147,000 grant for a Northwestern University study that paid women to watch pornography - they started asking questions.

In July, the House narrowly rejected a bill offered by Rep. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Penn.) that would have eliminated funding for some of the NIH sex projects.

Now, it seems, the sex researchers are fighting back.

An attorney for the American Psychological Association has sent out an e-mail "action alert," urging APA members to write or phone their congressmen "about the important public-health implications of your research." Karen Studwell, legislative and federal affairs officer in the APA's Washington office, offered several "talking points" for the psychologists, including:

"Sexual behavior is a legitimate subject for scientific research. Diminished research in this area will lead to fewer interventions for promoting sexual health and responsible sexual behaviors. The public-health consequences could be severe. ...

"Taxpayers can take comfort in the rigorous scientific merit review process in place at NIH."

What kind of research are taxpayers funding? To get an idea, take a look at the Kinsey Institute's just-announced fall "Interdisciplinary Seminar Series," funded by grant money from the NIH.

Oct. 31: "An Erotic Curriculum? Launching a Comparative Study of Collegiate Sexual Cultures."

Nov. 12: "Intersexuality in 19th Century America."

Dec. 5: "Testing the Effects of Exposure to Virtual Child Pornography on Viewer Cognitions and Attitudes toward Deviant Sexual Behavior."

COPING WITH COST

Speaking of taxpayers footing federal fiascos, this column was the first to tell you about a Federal Emergency Management Agency "celebration of trees, gardens and other healing spaces" to help Northern Virginians cope with the aftermath of Sept. 11.

Given other critical demands on FEMA, 18 congressmen have now written to agency Undersecretary Michael D. Brown, demanding he provide "the rationale" for spending $13.4 million for "healing spaces" and similar peace workshops.