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Not Exactly 20/20

By Al Kamen
Friday, January 27, 2006

Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) recently unveiled his campaign for House majority leader with a 37-page manifesto -- "For a Majority That Matters" -- to rally GOP members to his candidacy.

"We've taken our lumps over the last year," he began, according to his House Web site. "Morale is low within our Conference and among our strongest supporters," he said. "It's time to bounce back," Boehner exhorted them, saying, "We need to identify a vision."

"That vision doesn't have to be achievable in the foreseeable future," he explained. But if it's "powerful enough and the commitment to it great enough, it might even come true."

For example, Boehner says, " President Reagan left the White House with America much as he hoped it would be in that first inaugural address. The Nazis were defeated. And in August 1989, Poland became free."

Boehner's eloquent appeal echoes Bluto Blutarski 's historic 1978 speech rallying his disconsolate frat brothers in "Animal House." John Belushi , playing the legendary Blutarski, urged the Deltas to stand up against rich preppie tyranny:

"Over? Did you say 'over'?" Belushi shouts. "Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell, no!"

U.S., Iran Not Poles Apart

Administration officials scrambled yesterday to come to grips with the radical Hamas's stunning election victory in Palestinian elections. President Bush rejected dealing with a party that has an armed wing and vows the destruction of Israel.

But there's precedent for a more optimistic view in the long run. Take, for example, U.S. relations with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad . He advocates nuking Israel and is allegedly developing his own bombs.

Even so, Washington has discovered there are always ways to work together, to find common ground. For example, human rights groups Monday condemned a U.S. move "back[ing] an Iranian initiative to deny United Nations consultative status" in the Economic and Social Council to gay rights organizations.

Well, gotta start somewhere.

Afta NAFTA

News yesterday was that Washington and Seoul were on the verge of closing a free trade agreement and, if they could do so, the South Korean trade minister would come here Sunday to make plans for an official ceremony Thursday. If it happened, we were told, it would be the biggest free trade deal since NAFTA.

But why the "ifs"? We thought this was all locked up. After all, a noon announcement on Wednesday from Brown Lloyd James, the Korean PR folks in New York, said, "U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement Reached."

Four hours later, a "correction statement" came by: "The information sent regarding the . . . agreement was written in preparation and sent in error. It was NOT authorized by the Korean Embassy, and any discussion at this stage about the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement is premature."

We really mean it, they said in a follow-up "correction statement" about an hour later. "The information . . . was not correct."

Fugghedaboudit. Don't even think about it. Not only is "discussion unwarranted," the new release said, but "any speculation . . . is premature."

Warrantless Redactors

Government censors are deeply worried about ensuring that they black out "sensitive" information from official documents. This is information that could harm national security or, much worse, could embarrass administration officials by showing preposterous stupidity or mis-, mal- and nonfeasance.

Not to worry. The National Security Agency has put out the equivalent of a "Dummies Guide to Censorship" to make sure voters never find out your boss's misdeeds. It's "Redacting with Confidence: How to Safely Publish Sanitized Reports Converted from Word to PDF."

NSA warns that you've got to be careful about scrubbing data that might be hidden. For example, hidden data in the White House's "Strategy for Victory in Iraq" in December showed it was written by a Duke political science professor who had concluded that people would support the war, despite fairly heavy casualties, as long as they believe it will ultimately succeed.

The NSA report, according to Government Computer News, gives step-by-step instructions to make sure the public never sees such highly classified information.

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