A more frequent publishing of Rich Galen's take on politics, culture and general modern annoyances. This is in addition to MULLINGS which is published Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays at

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Turn Your Head and Cough

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  • One Thousand, Nine Hundred Ninety pages.

  • That's how many pages it takes to change health care in America, if the House Democrats get their way.

  • How great is this bill? According to Dave Espo of the Associated Press,
    "Congressional budget experts predicted the controversial government insurance option would probably cost consumers somewhat more than private coverage. [Emphasis mine]

    "The cost of additional coverage alone was slightly more than $1 trillion over a decade.

    "Another $230 billion or more in higher fees for doctors treating Medicare patients was stripped out and will be voted on separately.

  • Espo also point out that "Other items, including billions for disease prevention programs" were not included in the spending estimates.

  • The bill requires insurance companies "to spend 85 percent of their income from premiums on coverage, effectively limiting their ability to advertise or pay bonuses" and places a new tax on the makers of medical devices - like pacemakers - to help pay for the scheme.

  • Hold it. Wait. Does this mean the end of the Aflac duck?

  • As you might expect, John Boehner, the Republican leader in the House was less than enthusiastic, saying:
    "It will raise the cost of Americans' health insurance premiums; it will kill jobs with tax hikes and new mandates, and it will cut seniors' Medicare benefits."

  • According to Janet Adamy's coverage in the Wall Street Journal,
    The bill requires most Americans to have health insurance by 2013, with fines as much as 2.5% of income if they don't. It would leave 96% of legal U.S. residents with health insurance by 2019, up from 83% today.

  • Also
    Employers that don't offer health insurance face fines equal to 2% of their payroll in companies with minimum annual payrolls of $500,000 a year. The fines increase to 8% of payroll for employers whose annual payroll exceeds $750,000.

    Firms with a payroll of less than $500,000 would be exempt.

  • I'm not certain, but let me work though this. If I had a firm with 20 employees making an average of $50,000 per year each, my payroll would be $1 million per year. If I were offering health insurance, my premiums would be, what about $400-500 per month per employee?

  • If I stopped offering health insurance, my one million dollar payroll would be subject to a tax of $80,000 per year - or $333.33 per month per employee which is probably less than what I'm paying now.

  • I might well be ahead of the game to turn the process over to the Feds, pay the tax, and get out of the health insurance business.

  • The Washington Post analysis by Shailagh Murray and Lori Montgomery
    "Like the Senate measure, the House bill would be financed through new taxes and more than $400 billion in cuts to government health programs, primarily Medicare."

  • Isn't that what caused all the furor during the August recess town hall meetings? Cutting Medicare?

  • But, this is no done deal. According to the WashPost
    The Senate is expected to propose a series of annual fees on the health-care industry and a 40 percent tax on high-cost insurance policies …

    House Democrats remain adamantly opposed to the Senate's tax approach, arguing that a tax on high-cost health policies would strike many … union members who have bargained away wages in exchange for better health benefits.

  • So, the real cost of this thing will be upwards of $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years, it will raise taxes, cut Medicare benefits, and put new Federal restrictions on a whole new class of private businesses.

  • I feel like I do when I'm getting my annual physical and my doc tells me to "turn your head and cough."

  • Please subscribe so I can afford health insurance under this new plan.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the Associated Press and Washington Post articles, a pretty good Mullfoto and a column-appropriate Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    Tenth Amendment


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    Amendment X

    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
    Constitution of the United States.

    New York Times

    The Senate health care legislation will include a government-run insurance plan, but states would be allowed to "opt out" of it, the majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, announced Monday afternoon.
    David M. Herszenhorn and Robert Pear

  • If the American press corps were as concerned about the Tenth Amendment as it has been protecting the First and trying to get rid of the Second, this would be a far different country.

  • The Constitution limits the powers of the Federal government as it pertains to the States, but the Federal government has its ways. For instance when the Federal government decided that the national speed limit should be 55 miles per hour they couldn't require that states adopt a Federal speed limit, but what the Feds could do was to pass a law saying that any state which refused to adopt a 55 MPH cap would be ineligible for Federal highway funds.

  • In civilian life this is known as "coercion" and will buy you some time in the slammer. In government this is known as sophisticated legislating and will buy you a sub-committee chairmanship.

  • We brushed up against this Harry Reid scam the other day - the business about allowing states to opt-out of a public health care plan. That allows Senators who have to run for re-election next year to say "Well, I voted for the bill, but only after we made a provision for the people here in North Iguana to decline to participate."

  • This is not Harry Reid suddenly getting religion over the 10th Amendment. This is Harry Reid passing the trillion bucks.

  • If this passes, the poor schlubs in the various State legislatures will be required to go through this same legislative steel cage match - forty nine times.

  • The 10th Amendment has never been construed as an absolute limit to Federal powers. Nevertheless, according to
    "For approximately a century, from the death of John Marshall until 1937, the Tenth Amendment was frequently invoked to curtail powers expressly granted to Congress."

  • What was going on in 1937? Franklin Roosevelt had just won a landslide re-election and the Supreme Court was threatening to declare unconstitutional the National Labor Relations Act and Social Security.

  • Roosevelt came up with a plan to "pack the Court" by raising the number of Justices from nine to 15.

  • However, in the end, according to
    "The majority opinion acknowledged that the national economy had grown to such a degree that federal regulation and control was now warranted."

  • Too big to fail?

  • Back to Harry Reid.

  • Olympia Snowe has a different view of how this should work. Shailagh Murray and Lori Montgomery, wrote in their Washington Post article:
    Under Snowe's approach, a public plan would be available only in states where private companies do not offer policies at broadly affordable rates.

  • In essence an opt-in.

  • Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman - one of the 60 votes needed by Reid - opposed the plan yesterday saying,
    "The last thing that we want to do now is create another Washington-run health insurance company."

  • Oh, here's a little something you can take to your 10 o'clock coffee klatch. According to the Washington Post
    Because the program would begin taking in premiums immediately but would not start paying benefits until 2016, congressional budget analysts have forecast that it would generate nearly $60 billion over the next 10 years.

  • Who's the legislative counsel on this bill, Bernie Madoff?

  • And, who is going to be paying those $60 billion in premiums?

    Dear Mr. Mullings

    Enclosed please find a bill for your share of the National Health Insurance plan. On the off chance that you are still alive in 2016, you will be eligible to participate in the benefits of this excellent plan if, and only if, the state in which you are then residing has not opted out.

    Until then, pay up, bub.

  • Read me that 10th Amendment, again?
    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

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  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the NY Times, and the Washington Post. Also a pretty amusing Mullfoto and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Sunday, October 25, 2009

    H1National Emergency


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  • The President has declared the H1N1 flu …


    According to a piece in yesterday's Washington Post by David Brown, "Little is known about the origin of the novel H1N1. But one thing is virtually certain: The bug now infecting the people of more than 190 countries began in a pig."

    As you may remember, H1N1 flu used be called "swine flu" until the Pork Producers got edgy about the Other White Meat being blamed for a world-wide pandemic and convinced everyone to refer to it by its scientific name.

    Pretty good marketing.


  • Where was I? Oh, yes, someone must have told President Obama that if he didn't declare H1N1 flu a national emergency this past Saturday, then it would be difficult to blame it on George W. Bush on the Sunday morning shows.

  • I think H1N1 is a real problem which could easily turn into a real tragedy. This isn't global warming, where you can argue over the science. N1H1 is a different strain of flu - different from the annual flu variety which is known as "seasonal" flu.

  • In the United States alone, seasonal flu typically affects about 40 million people, sends 200,000 of them to the hospital and kills about 36,000 each year. In a typical year, the elderly account for 90 percent of flu deaths.

  • Swine flu appears to be affecting children and those in the prime of life. Just like the pandemic of 1918. About 1,000 people have died from H1N1 - including about 100 children which is more than die in a full year of seasonal flu.

  • According to an AP piece last week, the Centers for Disease Control's figures "showed more than half of all hospitalizations were people 24 and younger; more than a quarter were ages 5 to 18 years."

  • The article by Mike Stobbe went on to say, "Swine flu deaths were concentrated in young and middle-aged adults. A third of all deaths were people ages 25 through 49; another third were 50 to 64. Only 12 percent of deaths from swine flu have occurred in the elderly, so far."

  • In a National Institutes of Health paper written about the time of the "Bird Flu" scare a couple of years ago, the researchers pondered why the 1918 flu seemed to target those in the prime of life:
    "One possible explanation, supported by recent studies in mice with a reconstructed version of the 1918 virus, is that an over-responsive immune system may release a "cytokine storm," or excessive amount of immune system proteins that trigger inflammation and harm the patient in the process."

    Flu season hasn't even started in earnest yet. According to the CDC the four months starting in December and ending in March tend to be the big flu months, with February (based on historical data) likely to be the worst.

  • One of the issues facing the Obama Administration - the very touchy Obama Administration - is the lack of vaccine. In a Baltimore Examiner article, "120 million doses were supposed to be available by now, but only 10 million have been delivered. Additional doses of the [H1N1] vaccine won't be ready until November and December" well into flu season.

  • Look for a Flu Czar to be announced this week.

  • In spite of having been able to deliver only eight percent of the expected vaccines, the President's written statement in conjunction with the declaration of a national emergency contained this:
    "The foundation of our national approach to the H1N1 flu has been preparedness at all levels - personal, business, and government."

  • Also good marketing.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the AP piece on young people and to the NIH paper, and a brief explanation of cytokines (which may well be on your mid-term). Also a Mullfoto of angry White Liberals Downtown the other day and a Catchy Caption of the Day which is an electron microscope image of the H1N1 virus.

  • Thursday, October 22, 2009

    Let Them Go to Dubai

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  • The Obama Government (used to be the Obama Administration but they're way WAY beyond just being an "Administration") has decreed how much the senior executives at all those companies which got run into the ground should make.

  • It seems that the starting point for what they should be paid is about 10 percent of whatever the executives were making before the Obama Government made its decisions.

  • I am of two minds.

  • My first mind says: The executives of those huge brokerages and banks which darned near made evry ATM on the planet as useful as a boat anchor attached to the side of a building deserve to make minimum wage.

  • And they should be chained in their offices so they can't escape to their homes in the Hamptons which they bought after they had brought the world financial system to its collective knees.

  • The executives at GM and at Chrysler - which are both probably going to go out of business in spite of the 70-or-so billion we pumped into those brilliantly run companies - should make whatever the lowest paid member of the autoworkers union makes. Without the health benefits.

  • And they should be required to drive a used Yugo which, as it happens, is the only kind of Yugo which exists in these United States.

  • My first mind thinks there would be nothing better than for all of those clowns to have to go through foreclosure on their beautiful homes and have to move in with their kids.

  • My second mind says, it is very dangerous for the Obama Government to decide it can make this kind of pronouncement because the company in question took government funds.

  • Putting aside defense firms - which exist on government funds - there are thousands and thousands of companies which get local, county, state or federal contracts. Does every executive of each of those companies fall under the same rule?

  • Should the Governor of Missouri decide how much the owner of the company which provides the janitorial services in the State House in Jefferson City can earn because he takes State money? Or, the executives of airlines on which government employees fly?

  • Think I'm making this up? Here's the lead paragraph from this morning's Washington Post:
    The Federal Reserve joined the Treasury Department on Thursday in imposing new limits on executive pay, extending the government's control over compensation at taxpayer-owned companies to institutions that are merely government regulated.

  • Oh! Wait! How. About. That. Guy. John? From Papa John's? Because they deliver to the Old Executive Office Building when the staff is working late. Who's going to be in charge of deciding how much he should make?

  • See what I mean?

  • My second mind says that the logic is somewhat flawed.

  • The argument in favor of paying these guys is that they will go somewhere else where they can be paid the market rates for the jobs they hold. Like London. Or Berlin. Or Dubai.

  • Here's what both my minds think about that: If you can do for the U.K. or Germany or the Arabs what you did for America I have one word: Let me help you pack.

  • The good thing about them going to Dubai (in addition to going snow skiing when its 121 Fahrenheit outside) is, if they screw up as badly there as they did here, Gitmo will seem like the Caymans by the time the Arabs are done with them.

    New Topic

  • Hold off on that new edition of "Profiles in Courage." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is pushing an idea which lets him, like the worm that he is, wriggle off the hook on that pesky public option part of health care reform.

  • His idea? Have the Congress pass it, but let individual states opt out. Is the word wuss spelled the same way in Nevada as it is where you live?

  • Harry? You are a United States Senator and you should have some pride. If you want the public option, take it to the floor of the U.S. Senate. Don's send it to the floor of the State Senate in places like Jefferson City, Missouri.

  • They already have their hands full trying to decide how much the owner of the janitorial service should make.

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  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the Wash Post article and the Wall Street Journal account of the "state option." Also a Mullfoto from Reagan National Airport and a silly Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Tuesday, October 20, 2009

    Another Afghan Election


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  • There will be another election in Afghanistan on November 7 between President Hamid Karzai and his former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah.

  • The first election, on August 20, was fraught with fraud. You may remember that I was an official observer during that election but I was in the far north and most of the mischief apparently occurred in the south and southwest of Afghanistan.

  • The rules of the election were that if any candidate got more than 50 percent of the votes then he would be declared the winner and be sworn in as President of Afghanistan. If no candidate got more than 50 percent the top two vote-getters would compete in a second round.

  • After the first count, Karzai ended up with 54.6 percent of the votes, to Abdullah's 27.8 percent.

  • Reports of cheating had begun even before the polls closed on election day. Many polling places in the south never opened, or if they did open, there were technical problems with allowing people cast ballots.

  • In the far northern Balkh Province, where the election was conducted under my watchful eye and which is at the center of Abdullah's strength, he beat Karzai by about seven percentage points, 46-39. In Kabul, Karzai beat Abdullah and the third place finisher 55-35.

  • But, in the southern-most major population center, Kandahar Province, Karzai got about 88 percent of the votes compared to 3.7 percent for Abdullah.

  • Oh, yeah. That sounds about right.

  • The Taliban had threatened people that if they were found with their fingers stained by the blue ink indicating they had voted, the offending finger would be amputated.

  • Anecdotal reports suggested the Taliban made good on the threat at least twice, which was more than enough to make people stay away in the areas they control.

  • The Electoral Complaints Commission, the United Nations-backed recount body which was charged with investigating complaints ended up tossing out hundreds of thousands of ballots which were cast for Karzai in polling places where no one had actually voted.

  • Karzai wasn't all that interested in a second round. According to all reports, as recently as Monday he was still resisting but calls from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and a series of meetings with Sen. John Kerry (D-Ma) in Kabul, convinced him to back down and accept the new election.

  • Part of the negotiations were to have Karzai end up just short of the needed 50 percent, so the official record will show that he ended up with 48.3 percent, but we may never know what the real percentage was.

  • Folks in Kabul have said that in order to get the election rewound in just two weeks there will be fewer polling places and fewer voting stations within each polling place. That will mean fewer poll watchers to recruit and fewer polling places to protect. It will also mean fewer voters will probably come out.

  • All this gives President Obama another two weeks to decide upon a strategy for Afghanistan, because he can and should wait until the Afghans choose a President so he knows with whom he will be dealing.

  • Obama has more time, but the extra time won't make that decision any easier.

  • The economy is still non-existent. According to the CIA World Factbook the principal sector is agriculture and the major products are, in this order:
    Opium, wheat, fruits, nuts; wool, mutton, sheepskins, lambskins

  • And, the Taliban. According to a London-based group, tne International Council on Security and Development,
    "Confident in their expansion beyond the rural south, the Taliban is at the gates of the capital and infiltrating the city at will."

  • The only thing everyone agrees on when it comes to Afghanistan is, there is no good answer.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to the site for the International Foundation for Election Systems' news summary since August 20, and the Wall Street Journal's look at the role Sen. John Kerry played in all this.

    Also a really amusing series of e-mails from StubHub, a Mullfoto showing how global warming is destroying West Virginia, and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Sunday, October 18, 2009

    Enemies List

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  • You may only know about "Watergate" because every scandal since then has been appended with the word "-gate." A part of the Watergate scandal was the publication of what became known as Richard Nixon's "Enemies List."

  • According to a memo from White House Counsel John Dean, this was a list of people whom were determined to be political opponents of the Nixon Administration and how the White House intended to "use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies."

  • Most of the "enemies" were union executives, major fundraisers for Democrats, and cultural "radic-libs" as they were apparently called in the White House, like Paul Newman.

  • But what caught the public's attention was when the list was released and the Nixon White House targeted the managing editor of the Los Angeles Times, the chief political columnist for the Washington Star newspaper, and CBS correspondent Daniel Schorr.

  • According to broadcast lore, Schorr, who was covering the Watergate Hearings for CBS, found out he was on the list as he was reading it aloud on the air.

  • The notion of a President wanting to use the full power and force of the Federal government to intimidate people who disagreed with him, was appalling. It might have happened in every Presidency since Washington, but no one had taken the time to codify the process by putting it into an official memorandum.

  • And the concept of attempting to intimidate the press was, for many people, among the most serious of misdeeds by Richard Nixon.

  • So, where is the outrage over the public war the White House is waging against the Fox News Channel?

  • Can't find it.

  • The whole thing started last week when Anita Dunn, WH communications director, said during an interview on CNN:
    "Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party. Let's not pretend they're a news network the way CNN is."

  • The drama continued on the Sunday news shows when Senior Advisor to Obama, David Axlerod said on ABC's "This Week" of Fox,
    "It's not really news. It's pushing a point of view. The bigger thing is that, other news organizations, like yours, ought not treat them that way."

  • I can remember when CNN was a new concept and ABC, CBS and NBC news divisions didn't treat CNN like it was a serious news organization.

  • The Lad called last night and asked why the White House was doing this.

  • "The need an enemy," I said. The Democratic base is disenchanted with the Obama Presidency - even Saturday Night Live has decided Obama's stature has been sufficiently diminished that they can do a skit about how he hasn't accomplished any of the major goals he ran on.

  • The war in Afghanistan is a huge problem with the Liberal base, and Obama's apparent inability (and/or unwillingness) to hold Congressional Democrats' feet to the political fire over a public option in the health care debate is further causing head-scratching among that group.

  • Add to that, he hasn't paid off on "card-check" which he promised unions, and has limited his support for gay rights to speeches and dinners, and you can see why his polling numbers have settled in at just above 50 percent mark.

  • So, the Administration has decided to start a fight to re-energize the base. It doesn't do any good to fight with someone who is not worthy, if you want to make this strategy work you have to have the fight with someone your base already knows - and already hates.

  • Fox News Channel fits that bill.

  • If Obama can make the point stick, that Fox News is not "news", and gets his base to buy into the theory that Obama is the victim of unfair coverage, it gives the White House a rallying point.

  • I don't think it's having the desired effect. One of the outcomes of the political wars between Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich is that the American audience for political news has become very sophisticated. They know what they want, and they know where to find it, whether it's Rachel Maddow on MSNBC or Glenn Beck on Fox.

  • The bigger issue is that few other news outlets - print or broadcast - have chosen to report on how dangerous this tack can be. The most dangerous type of news censorship is self-censorship.

  • That's where an "enemies list" can all too easily lead.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the AP's summary of where this stands, and the Wikipedia entry on the Watergate Enemies List. Also, a nice Mullfoto of a tree in Marietta, Ohio 45750 and a catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Thursday, October 15, 2009


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    From Marietta, Ohio


  • I am in Marietta, Ohio 45750 where I went to college, where I met and married the Mullings Director of Standards & Practices, where I was elected to the City Council, and where The Lad was born.

  • It is homecoming at Marietta College and I am here to convive with people I went to school with and many of whom I haven't seen in over four decades.

  • For those who have followed my adventures, you have seen photos of me in my Marietta College sweatshirt in Babylon, Iraq on the stone platform where King Nebuchadnezzar's thrown sat; and in Bamiyan, Afghanistan standing in front of the holes in the mountain where the Taliban blew up the giant statues of Bhuddah.

  • There are Marietta, Ohio's throughout America.

  • These are the small cities where everyone may not know everyone, but everyone recognizes everyone enough to say "hello" when they pass on the main street.

  • These are small cities which have suffered population losses as the kids have left to go to college and found employment in Philadelphia, Columbus, Tulsa, Atlanta, Denver, or Sacramento.

  • And, that's too bad. The Marietta, Ohio's of America, to a great extent, define "community."

  • That is not to say that every Friday afternoon the townspeople march down Main Street to the strains of "76 Trombones" but it is a place where, if you have a real problem, someone will come by your house to see if they can help.

  • Marietta, Ohio is the kind of place were an elderly gentleman - whose driver's license had been taken away - fired up his riding lawn mower and drove it to the grocery store. Sort of makes sense, when you think about it.

  • This is the place where, when I was a young reporter at WMOA, the local radio station, wandered into the police station to ask the police chief why he didn't shut down the local bookie joint which was - this is true - in the back room of the only pool hall in town.

  • The Chief told me a story about how just that afternoon he had gotten a call from a woman whose husband had bet, and lost, the grocery money on some football games the previous weekend.

  • He called the bookie, told him to give the man his money back, and to ban him from the pool hall until further notice.

  • "Practical justice," he said. "I can keep track of what's going on and keep it from getting out of hand."

  • Marietta College was founded in 1835 and is a major addition to the city. Marietta is not a small college town, it is a small town with a college.

  • Unlike some communities which are overwhelmed by a university, Marietta is a town where the college provides diversity and culture which, otherwise, would be absent to the culture, but does not define the city.

  • I drove over for homecoming. Last night there was a "pork roast" sponsored by the Lamda Chi Alphas. I was a TKE when I was at school, but at a small school - long about the second semester of your junior year - those distinctions disappear.

  • My long-time friend and ally Ross Lenhart (an Alpha Sigma Phi and a Democrat) and I laughed via Facebook last week that a TKE and a Sig were going to meet at a party thrown by the Lamda Chi's.

  • We did.

  • Sounds like a small thing, but in an era when too many people, spend too much time, being too ugly to each other, over too many things, its nice to know that in a place named Marietta, Ohio old friends can cast aside old enmities and buy each other a beer 40 years on.

  • Seventy six trombones led the big parade …

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  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the Marietta College website, also to Bamiyan and Babylon. A reprise of the Mullfotos of me in my Marietta College sweatshirt and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    Let it Snowe, Let it Snowe


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  • I know your knickers are in a twist about U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) having voted to approve the Senate Finance Committee's version of health care reform.

  • I'm certain, by now, you have received 1,362 e-mail pleas, 742 phone solicitations and, this afternoon when the mail comes, there will be 48 URGENT! - OPEN IMMEDIATELY! direct mail pieces asking you to donate to any Republican who might deign to challenge Senator when she runs for re-election.

  • Save your money.

  • In the elections of 2006, you may remember, the GOP didn't do all that well. It was the sixth year of George W. Bush's term. There was that uncomfortable Mark Foley thing. There had been that awful Duke Cunningham thing. And that astonishing Jack Abramoff thing was still resonating.

  • Democrats picked up six seats in the Senate, 31 in the House and the world has been treated to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi as Senate Majority Leader and Speaker of the House respectively.

  • The Senior Senator from Maine was up for re-election in 2006. Olympia Snowe voted for acquittal in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton she is unabashedly pro-choice.

  • In spite of all that, Sen. Snowe won re-election with about 74 percent of the vote.

  • She doesn't have to run again until 2012, so if you think any of those people begging for money to defeat Snowe have a prayer-in-school of doing it - save your money.

  • Senator Snowe is on record as opposing a "public option" in health care. I am not certain whether the Senator would oppose a co-op in public option clothing, but I haven't tracked her every statement.

  • The bill which came out of the Senate Finance Committee does not contain a public option which raised another issue earlier yesterday when 30 - count 'em - 30 unions announced they would be opposing the Baucus bill.

  • According to the Associated Press, the unions "will run a full-page ad in newspapers Wednesday announcing their opposition to the Senate Finance Committee's health overhaul bill."

  • Well, well, well. It seems that the reports of the birth of health care reform may be premature.

  • According to Chuck Loveless, legislative director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the ad will state, "Real health care reform and nothing less."

  • That isn't going to win any Nobel Prizes for Literature. If I were AFSCME would have gone for "Real health care reform … or else." And then followed it up with:
    … or else no driver's license renewals;

    … or else no garbage pick up;

    … or else no sewer treatment

  • And like that.

  • It would also mean no parking tickets so, it's not exactly black-and-white.

  • Oh, according to the AP "sponsors also include the AFL-CIO and the Communications Workers of America."

  • Help me out here. Unionized workers have health care, don't they? If the main reason to join a union is to have someone negotiate for benefits like health care, then what is their standing in this argument?

  • What the Left will do is flood the media with people being quoted demanding the public option. … or else.

  • If the Left demands Senators vote against a bill that doesn't have that provision, then Harry Reid may be staring down the barrel of not even being able to get to a vote on the Senate floor, because he may not even get 50 Senators to agree, much less 60.

  • As the title suggests. The weather out here is frightful.

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  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to a bio of Sen. Snowe, the AP story, and the Mark Twain quote. Also a popular license plate Mullfoto and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Sunday, October 11, 2009

    Peace Prize Punditry


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    Subscription Drive Update!

    The 2009 Subs Drive is going very well. Interestingly, the subscription drive has been going on exactly as long as the Obama Administration was going on when he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Eleven days.

    If I don't win a Pulitzer, I'm going to be very disappointed.

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  • Let me clarify my position on the Nobel Peace Prize committee awarding the Prize to Barack Obama: He didn't twist any arms, he didn't campaign, he didn't mount an e-mail write-in campaign. or a gigantic meet-up in Oslo.

  • If you think - as I do - that this award is, at best premature, then the fault lies with the committee, not with the President.

  • CBS's Bob Schieffer said in his Sunday morning commentary that the
    "Nobel Committee did [President Obama] no favors by giving him the award before he had anything to show for his efforts. What the Nobel Committee has managed to change - and I am sorry to say it - is the way we look on the prize."

  • The best serious response to the whole thing was the NY Times' resident genius, Tom Friedman. Friedman's Sunday column was titled "The Peace (Keepers) Prize" in which he wrote the speech the President should give in Oslo in December.

  • Obama, according to Friedman, should say he hasn't done anything yet to merit the Prize but,
    "I will accept it on behalf of the most important peacekeepers in the world for the last century - the men and women of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps."

  • He then goes on to list the kinds of things American peacekeepers have done over the past 60 years including:
    Normandy and the European campaign, and the island-by-island fighting of the Pacific campaign in World War II.

    The Berlin Airlift preventing the Soviet Union from starving Berliners into submission.

    The thousands of U.S. service members who continued to protect Europe for the next 50 years during the Cold War.

    The American men and women who are stationed today in Afghanistan and Iraq, in South Korea, in the Sinai Desert, and who keep the sea lanes open for world shipping and trade.

    And finally, all the American men and women service members who race to offer aid and comfort on "humanitarian rescue missions after earthquakes and floods" anywhere on the planet to friend or foe.

  • Then Friedman said the President should remind the Nobel Committee:
    "I accept this award on behalf of all these American men and women soldiers, past and present, because I know - and I want you to know - that there is no peace without peacekeepers."

  • Pretty good stuff. No wonder he's won three Pulitzer Prizes.

  • As for me, a reporter for the NY Daily News called Friday afternoon and asked me what effect the announcement might have. I said it wouldn't have any effect. The President will decide what to do about Afghanistan based upon what he believes to be the best course for America and the world; not because he thinks he has to live up to - or can use political cover from - the Peace Prize committee.

  • It is like asking what the lasting effects of being Time Magazine's Person of the Year. I'm pretty sure for most of us we are likely to remember a higher percentage of Super Bowl champions over the past five years than Peace Prize OR Person of the Year selections.

  • I have it on good authority that the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences has decided to present President Obama with an honorary Oscar at their ceremony in February for "Lifetime Achievement."

  • I am nominating Obama for the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physics for having helped his daughters with their science projects this year.

  • And that's why I'm not likely to win a Pulitzer Prize in this or any other year.

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  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to the Friedman column, a Mullfoto of my cat which I may have blown up to the size of my house for Halloween, and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Thursday, October 8, 2009

    I'm Not Rooting Against Obama


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  • In the "You Know How Much It Pains Them to Have to Publish This" Department, the Washington Post released the result of their poll on the Governor's race in Virginia which showed the Republican is leading in the race 53 - 44.

  • For those of you who, like me, are arithmetically challenged that is a nine point lead for Bob McDonnell over the Democrat Creigh Deeds.

  • In a similar poll three weeks ago, McDonnell had only a four point lead suggesting, According to the AP, "McDonnell is pulling away."

  • Virginia and New Jersey are the only two Governors races in the nation which, "are being closely watched as early voter verdicts on President Barack Obama and a Democratic Congress."

  • In New Jersey a new poll shows the Republican in that race, Christopher Christie, is leading the incumbent Governor Jon Corzine 43 - 40. There is a third candidate in the race who is getting 14% of the vote which accounts for the low total between Corzine and Cristie.

  • The problem for Corzine is, according to the poll, "Christie leads 44 - 32 among independents."

  • A twelve percentage point lead among independents is not good news for Corzine, but we'll see what happens there.

  • These races are the first two regularly scheduled statewide elections without Barack H. Obama on the ticket, or George W. Bush in the White House.

  • Dan Balz and Anne Kornblut, writing the Post's analysis say,
    "The findings paint a portrait of the electorate that, if replicated elsewhere, stands as a warning sign for President Obama and Democrats who will be running in next year's midterm elections."

  • Oh! Wait! Is this going to generate more hate mail for my rooting for Barack Obama to fail?

  • I'm not. I'm rooting FOR the GOP candidates to win. Go ahead and hit the send key.

  • Speaking of not very good news for the President, the Associated Press' senior diplomatic correspondent, Barry Schweid has an analysis on the wire titled, "Obama's Woes Keep Piling Up Around Globe."

  • According to Schweid who has been covering foreign affairs for the AP for nearly four decades, Obama appears to be buffaloed on Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Israel.

  • Schweid, to be fair, says Obama is on better terms with China and Russia based on "Obama's decision to shelve a plan for installing an anti-ballistic missile system in the Czech Republic and Poland."

  • Nevertheless, Schweid's bottom line - literally - is: "At this point, the bad news outweighs the good."

  • I'm not rooting against Obama. I'm reporting what the Associated Press wrote.

  • Finally.

  • Way too many of you caught the error in Wednesday's column when I wrote that Copenhagen is in Holland and wrote to me to tell me that Copenhagen is now located in Denmark. I am also geographically challenged.

  • Here's what I wrote to everyone who took the time to correct me:
    All those Southwest Asian Countries run together in my mind.

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  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the AP, Washington Post, NY Gov, and foreign policy stories. A Mullfoto which I took out of sheer terror and a pretty funny Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Tuesday, October 6, 2009


    From Charleston, South Carolina

  • Lost in the unseemly, inappropriate, and childish cheering and jeering about Barack Obama's trip to Copenhagen to try and win the 2016 Olympic games for his hometown of Chicago (of which I was a willing and enthusiastic participant) was the matter of the monthly unemployment numbers for September.

  • They checked in at 9.8 percent.

  • According to Slate Magazine, more than 5.5 million jobs have been lost since June 2008. That means this pattern of job losses started during the administration of George W. Bush, but that doesn't leave the administration of Barack H. Obama off the hook.

  • It is going to get worse. As Alan Greenspan said on ABC's "This Week" after the numbers came out,
    "[My] own suspicion is that we're going to penetrate the 10 percent barrier and stay there for a while before we start down."

  • Nobel Prize laureate Paul Krugman - who wears his Liberal bias as proudly as I proclaim my predisposition toward Conservatism - wrote on his NY Times blog (which is aptly named "The Conscience of a Liberal"):
    Bear in mind that if you add in people who have stopped looking because it's hopeless, who are working part-time when they want a full-time job, and so on, the unemployment rate is actually 17 percent."

  • Yikes! Can you imagine the bleating from Democrats on the House and Senate floor if these numbers hit during a Republican administration?

  • When was the last time you read that someone in a position of power or influence was complaining that Wall Street is doing fine, while Main Street is starving.

  • If they both Greenspan and Krugman are correct (which is hard to type, much less believe) and this maintains for months or even years, there are going to be serious implications, culturally and politically.

  • The last time unemployment rates of more than 10 percent met a mid-term election, was October, 1982. Just before the midterm elections of Ronald Reagan's first term, the unemployment rate hit 10.4 percent and the GOP lost 26 seats in the House.

  • No one should cheer for high unemployment rates. Anyone who has had to go look for a job - when they didn't already have one - knows that it is one of the most demeaning of modern human activities.

  • Who wants to have to tell their child he or she can't go on a field trip because there isn't enough money. Or watch a tow truck take the family car because they couldn't make the payments.

  • You can think about other examples.

  • None are funny.

  • Friday's spike in unemployment, not a Presidential trip to Holland, should have led the news all weekend.

  • Foreclosures will increase. Retail sales will decrease. The economy will bump along until people go back to work.

  • Extending unemployment benefits is a must. Extending COBRA is a must. This is not a time for economic ideological purity.

  • Long term real unemployment numbers of 17 percent will lead to civil disorder which will make the post-Katrina looting look like an Easter egg hunt. Think about your local Safeway having to board up its windows and provide armed guards, not bag boys, to get you and your groceries to your car.

  • The Obama Administration should stop everything else it is spending its time on and focus on two things: Afghanistan and jobs.

  • Not necessarily in that order.

    Absolutely New Topic:

  • Elizabeth Taylor is going to have surgery to repair a faulty heart valve. While I wish her well, that's not what got my attention. What got my attention was a Reuters report that Taylor announced this to her Twitter followers, thus:

  • Dear Friends, I would like to let you know before it gets in the papers that I am going into the hospital to have a procedure on my heart. It's very new and involves repairing my leaky valve using a clip device, without open heart surgery, so that my heart will function better. Any prayers you happen to have lying around I would dearly appreciate. I'll let you know when it's all over. Love you, Elizabeth

  • Which is, including spaces, 408 characters.

  • Twitterers know that the limit for any given Tweet is 140 characters which means either (A) Reuters lied about Taylor having announced this on Twitter, or (B) Twitter has a super-secret method for the Elizabeth Taylors of the world to double or triple the character limits which is not available to you or me.

  • Either way, I want an investigation.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to Slate Magazine, the Greenspan article, the Krugman blog and an interactive chart showing unemployment and election results. Also a Mullfoto showing another insult from Holland and a Catchy Caption of the Day which will make you smile.

  • Sunday, October 4, 2009

    Myth Met Reality


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  • On Friday the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to award the 2016 Summer Games to Rio de Janeiro. As you now know, not only was Chicago not chosen to host the 2016 games, but it was the first city knocked out in voting for the four cities still in the running.

  • In addition to the U.S. and Rio the other two were Tokyo (which came in 3rd) and Madrid (2nd).

  • I was quoted in several places on Friday. David Jackson quoted me in USA Today:
    "Republicans, meanwhile, could barely contain their glee after Chicago became the first contestant eliminated in the four-city race. We're number four! We're number four!" joked Republican strategist Rich Galen."

  • Kristi Keck quoted me in her piece as saying this would not be fatal but will be a running joke in the halls of Congress for the next few weeks or months. As a serious matter for the Obama Administration, I also said:
    "Given the last two months starting with the August recess and all of the issues that surrounded that, I think that the White House staff, the senior staff, needs to get together somewhere and figure out how they are going to fix this, because they are in a deep slump."

  • Which is pretty good advice especially since the Olympic story completely buried the news that unemployment ticked up to 9.8 percent and is likely on its way to the magic 10 percent mark.

  • I also said that this was not an embarrassment for Chicago - only one city was going to get the 2016 Olympics. It was not an embarrassment for the United States - Brazil is still a pretty good ally. According to the Congressional Research Service:
    President Obama has made strengthening U.S.-Brazilian relations a major part of his policy toward Latin America, meeting with President [Luis Inácio] Lula a number of times since his inauguration.

  • It is a personal embarrassment for Barack Obama because he truly believed, or was told, or both, that if he showed up personally to make the final pitch, the IOC would not be able to deny Chicago the Games.

  • Because he is B*A*R*A*C*K O*B*A*M*A   the President of All the World!

  • I told someone else that by the end of the weekend this would all be George W's fault. I was right about that, too.

  • That political genius and historian extraordinaire, Jesse Jackson, blamed it on the fact that Bush refused to sign the Kyoto Treaty. Jesse must have been otherwise engaged (if you know what I mean, and I think you do) the day (July 25, 1997) that the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to refuse to accept the Kyoto accords on which was during the administration of BILL CLINTON.

  • If we're going to go with this "It's the previous President's fault," excuse for the failure of Michelle, Oprah, and Barack in Copenhagen, then isn't it fair to suggest that the decision - four years ago - to bounce New York City out of the competition for the award of the 2012 games was the fault of BILL CLINTON?

  • Actually, according to Phillip Hersh writing in the LA Times, it was the IOC's dislike of the way United States Olympic Committee (USOC) operates which probably doomed the Chicago bid.

  • Hersh wrote:
    IOC member Denis Oswald of Switzerland cited the USOC instability as a problem and said it was his impression "this was a defeat for the USOC, not for Chicago."

  • But, even at that, how could the White House have thought Obama could turn that around AND the Kyoto Treaty thing?

  • The Myth of Obama met the Reality of Obama.
    Obama lost.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the Congressional Research Service report on Brazil, and the LA Times piece on what really happened. Also a Mullfoto which made me giggle and a Catchy Caption of the Day which made me smile happily.

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  • Thursday, October 1, 2009

    Subscription Drive


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    Subscription Drive

  • It's October. That means it's what? Yes? You in the back? Correct! It's Subscription Month.

  • This is the one month of the year where I beg, plead, supplicate, beseech, entreat, implore and kvetch at you to send me thirty bucks to keep MULLINGS alive for another year.

  • There are about 35,000 of you on the database and about 21,000 of you actually get MULLINGS three days a week. On top of that, about 6,000 of you go to the MULLINGS.COM webpage on any given day.

  • So, 21 thousand times three is 63,000. 6 thousand times seven is 21,000. 63 + 21 = 84. 84,000 times 4 weeks = 336,000 readers a month.

  • Pretty a lot.

  • I need some of you to agree this whole exercise is worth $30 per year.

  • I know that when NPR and PBS have their subscription drives they run programs featuring folk groups rowing the boat a'shore; '60's do-wop groups telling us who wrote the book of love, and Irish dance troupes featuring women with 6'3" legs.

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  • The Empire State Building - which has a tradition of colored lights along its top floors - according to the NY Times, "On Wednesday and Thursday nights, the top of the Empire State was bathed in red and yellow, the colors of the Chinese flag."

  • Why? To mark the anniversary of the Communists coming to power in China which the Times, not exactly the Glen Beck of newspapers, described the light show thus:
    "It honored the 60th anniversary of Communist rule, which in the past caused millions of deaths and whose standard-bearers are serial human rights offenders.

    "In its most recent report on human rights around the world, covering 2008, the State Department said that China's record "remained poor and worsened in some areas." Extrajudicial killings, torture, repression of ethnic minorities and imprisonment of dissidents were but a few of the abuses cited."

  • Here's the awful truth. If China stops buying U.S. Treasury bonds - in reality funding our enormous debt - the U.S. government will stop dead in its tracks. No more stimulus package. No more earmarks. No more salaries for Members of the House and Senate or their staffs.

  • The Cash for Clunkers program is over and I already scored on that, so I'm more-or-less agnostic on the whole running out of money thing, but it would also mean no more pay, ammunition, or meals for U.S. troops overseas.

  • If you are the Secretary of the Treasury and your largest debtor calls to say it would be happy if you convinced one of your most famous buildings in your most famous city to put the colors of its national flag on display for two nights, you are likely to salute smartly, pick up the phone and make the call.

  • It's not the end of the world, but it is yet another indication that the 20th century was the "American Century" and that century is over.

  • The 21st Century is likely to be the "Chinese Century" and we will have to decide, as we drop into second place, if we want to act like the United Kingdom and have a seat at the table, or like France and stand with our national nose pressed against the window demanding to be taken seriously.

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  • Have a good, crisp, Fall weekend.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to the New York Times article on the Empire State Building, a Mullfoto which will make you feel MUCH better and a Catchy Caption of the Day.