Magazine | July 7, 2014, Issue

Begin GChat 0754

ITDept: Hi, this is the IT department at the IRS. Thank you for using GChat for your support session. How can we help you?

LLerner: This is Lois Lerner. Wondering about the missing e-mails from 2009 to 2011.

ITDept: Right. As we mentioned, we’re working on those. Can you tell us a little about your process when sending and receiving e-mail correspondence?

LLerner: Sure. Happy to help. This whole thing has really been a mess. Can’t believe what people are saying about me. Just amazing. Like I would erase e-mails that contained sensitive or incriminating evidence. Ridiculous, right? I mean, LOL, am I right?

LLerner: Am I right? LOL? ROTFLMAO?

LLerner: Lulz?


ITDept: Sorry, Ms. Lerner. We had a short delay as the system backed itself up. As you say, it is indeed ridiculous what people are saying about the missing e-mails. Especially because we can probably get them all back with a little bit of effort.

LLerner: Oh, good. Good. Good good good. Phew. Load off my mind.

ITDept: So, how can I help you?

LLerner: Wait. So the system keeps backing itself up? Even these IT support chats?

ITDept: Oh yes. Happens roughly every 60 seconds. That way we know for sure that nothing is ever truly lost. Just a matter of following the trail to where it’s archived.

LLerner: Oh, super! Super to hear!

ITDept: So, in your particular case, we’re right now just trying to find the mirror site that all e-mail backups go to. We designed the system to have lots of redundancy –

LLerner: That sounds like the federal government! LOL!

ITDept: Yes, LOL.

LLerner: So should I turn my computer off and turn it on again?

ITDept: No, that wouldn’t be a good idea.

LLerner: Because I’d lose all of my data? I did that, you know. I did that a lot between 2009 and 2011. Maybe that’s what happened. Oh well! We tried! I just turned off my computer! Thanks for helping. Guess there’s no way to retrieve those e-mails. Damn. Oh well.

ITDept: Actually, that wouldn’t mean a loss of data. Just an interruption in the data-fingerprint chain. We can still find the e-mails.

LLerner: Oh thank God! Wait. I spilled coffee on my keyboard a few times during that period. That must have been it! I would hit “send” and then be so clumsy I’d spill my coffee all over the place! Damn! It was my klutziness all along! I feel like such a fool. Thanks for helping, but I guess it’s impossible to find those e-mails.

ITDept: Well, if you hit “send” first, the e-mails are still there, in the backup archives and probably the client server.

LLerner: Backup archives? Archives plural? What the hell are you doing over there?

ITDept: We’re just following standard procedure, ma’am. Archives of archives. Backups of backups. And so far, nothing you’ve said leads me to believe that your e-mails are truly lost.

LLerner: Well, that’s good news, huh?

ITDept: Certainly is!

LLerner: Well, what would it take? To erase them, I mean? What would it take?

ITDept: Gosh, Ms. Lerner, that’s almost impossible to answer. The truth is, and I know this is ironic, but the only foolproof way an e-mail can ever be “lost” is if it’s never sent in the first place.

LLerner: Can we go with that, then?

ITDept: What?

LLerner: Can we just say that between 2009 and 2011, the reason that no e-mails can be found is because I didn’t send any?

ITDept: You didn’t send any e-mails for two years?

LLerner: What can I say? I’m a pen-and-ink freak. I’m old school. What the kids call “Original Gangsta.” When I want to talk to someone, I dip my pen in the inkwell and I scratch out a letter.

ITDept: I’m sorry?

LLerner: Don’t be sorry. We’ve solved the mystery. The reason there are no e-mails is because there were no e-mails. I’m a Luddite. I’m flustered by all of these newfangled computer doodads and whatnot. I don’t log into my modem with my browser cookie or whatever! I don’t surf the online second life! I don’t have a Facebook or a Tweeter! You want to talk to me? Pick up the phone! I’m a lady who lives IRL!

ITDept: But then why did you have a computer at all? And why are there mail headers on the server from all of those e-mails if you didn’t send any?

LLerner: Why is there anything? Why is there war? Why is there hepatitis? See where we go when we keep asking “Why”? We go in circles. Why can’t we find that Malaysian plane? Why can’t we breathe underwater? Why did a low-level IT contractor get audited by the IRS for 17 years in a row? Why? So many whys, don’t you think? I mean, LOL, right?

LLerner: Lulz, am I right?

LLerner: You there?

LLerner: ??

ITDept: I think I understand now, Ms. Lerner.


In This Issue


Politics & Policy

Paying Their Way

In the wake of House majority leader Eric Cantor’s political defenestration at the hands of GOP primary voters, we’ve been told comprehensive immigration reform is dead. Before it rises from ...


Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

Protecting The Republic

This is a serious book about a serious subject: the abuse of constitutional authority by President Obama and whether he merits impeachment for it. Some, undoubtedly, will try to dismiss ...
Politics & Policy

Murphy’s Law

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong: So goes Murphy’s Law. And so demonstrates another Murphy, Lafayette College professor Bruce Allen Murphy, in his new biography of Supreme Court ...
Politics & Policy

Into the Past

Ida, a small black-and-white masterpiece currently getting its American release, is set in Poland in the 1960s, and it feels as if it could have been filmed in the ’60s ...


Politics & Policy


Pollard’s Punishment I have been reading National Review since I was a teenager and mostly respect and admire your writers and appreciate your professionalism. However, the short paragraph about Jonathan Pollard ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ Funny, the IRS never seems to lose track of us. ‐ Almost as stunning as the defeat of House majority leader Eric Cantor are the lengths some people have gone ...
The Long View

Begin GChat 0754

ITDept: Hi, this is the IT department at the IRS. Thank you for using GChat for your support session. How can we help you? LLerner: This is Lois Lerner. Wondering about ...
Politics & Policy


MY WRECK Somewhere Hopkins refers to his great long Ode as my wreck, as possessive as a salvager Tossing sand dunes for rubble the day after. And somewhere a critic says Hopkins thought Volpone a ...

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National Security & Defense

So Long to the Iran Deal

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Nancy MacLean Won’t Quit

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Rolling Back Dodd-Frank

The Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would roll back parts of Dodd-Frank. The vote was 67–31, with 17 members of the Democratic caucus breaking party lines. If the legislation passes the House and is signed, it will be the largest change to the controversial financial-reform package since it became law in ... Read More

How Germany Vets Its Refugees

At the height of the influx of refugees into Germany in 2015–17, there was little doubt that mixed among the worthy cases were economic migrants taking advantage of the chaos to seek their fortunes in Europe. Perhaps out of instinctive pro-immigrant sentiment, Germany’s Left obscured the difference. Its ... Read More
National Security & Defense

Leave McMaster Be

About every two months, there are rumors that Gen. H. R. McMaster might be let go as Trump’s national-security adviser (along with many other stellar appointees). The world, however, is a much more logical and predictable place than it was 14 months ago. We’ve restored ties to the Gulf monarchies; Israel ... Read More