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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Winter Olympics

  • I thought Vancouver and NBC did a great job putting on and covering the XXIst Winter Olympics.

  • I know the weather was uncooperative and the opening ceremonies had glitches and, I assume, the buses didn't run on time and sometimes the beer was warm but, watching from my couch in Historic Old Town Alexandria, Virginia I thought they were just swell.

  • The only thing that kept the Olympics from being perfect is there were not 17 straight days of Women's Biathlon events. If they would have the women competing in the Super G sling rifles on their backs, that would be excellent on a number of levels (if-you-know-what-I-mean-and-I-think-you-do).

  • I watched the Women's figure skating because I think they are the absolutely perfect combination of grace and athleticism. The three young women who won, deserved to win. Yu-Na Kim (South Korea, Gold) and Mao Asada (Japan, Silver) are only 19. The winner of the bronze medal was 24-year-old Joannie Rochette lost her mom to a heart attack earlier in the week, but skated, skated beautifully, and won a medal.

  • For long-time MULLINGS readers you know that I cry at coffee commercials at Christmas, so every time someone recounted the story of Miss Rochette I sobbed.

  • She carried the home-town flag - the Canadian flag - into the stadium for the closing ceremonies and I didn't just cry … I sobbed.

  • The final event was the Gold Medal Hockey Game which was between the USA and Canada. The other day I wrote that I hoped we wiped the ice up with the Canadians, but I was just pretending to be macho.

  • Hockey is the home sport of Canada and they reeeeeeeely wanted to win the Gold. Last weekend a pretty young USA team (every player on both teams are NHL professionals) beat the Canadian team and that set up a really great final.

  • The Canadians broke to a two-zip lead. The US team fought back to make it 2-1 after two periods. Then, with only 24 seconds left in the third period, the US tied the score.

  • In the end the Canadians joined their female colleagues (who had won the Gold a few days earlier) by winning overtime.

  • Men's hockey was the final event and I thought that was a fitting end to a fun games.

  • That said, I have some technical questions. The USA team won Gold in the Four-Man Bobsled event for the first time since 1375.

  • I understand what the driver does - he steers the sled.

  • I understand what the brakeman does - he keeps his hands off the brakes until they get to the bottom.

  • I'm not exactly certain what the numbers two and three guys do. If their duties include wetting the bottom of the sled when you realize you're going 95 miles-per-hour down an ice-tube, then I think I'm well qualified.

  • My favorite quote - because it is has so many existential overtones - comes from the Gold Medalist in the Men's Half-Pipe, Shaun White.


    I'm not much of an X-sports fan but I saw an interview with White in which they had footage of him in third world countries teaching kids how to use a skateboard.

    He was asked about his work with children and he said that when he was young he had asked some famous adult for an autograph and the guy blew him off.

    White said he has never forgotten how he felt and will never do that to another child.

    Pretty good kid, I'd say.


  • Anyway, after he won the Gold he was so taken by the moment that, when asked for an interview, he said:
    "I can't even talk right now. Know what I'm saying?"

  • Which ranks right up there with my favorite Government Printing Office weirdness:
    "This Page Intentionally Left Blank."

  • The closing ceremonies of the Vancouver games ended with a passing of the torch - so to speak - to the host city of the 2014 games, Sochi, Russia. A chorus from Moscow took the stage and sang the same song that the crew on the Red October sang which, I now realize, is the Russian national anthem.

  • When it comes to being a man o' the world, I am the number three man in the four man bobsled of life.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Pretty good links - the link to the winners of women's figure skating, the Wikipedia entry for the bobsled, the official Vancouver link to Shaun White and a link to the official Sochi2014 page.

    Also a Mullfoto left over from Valentine's day and a laugh-out-loud Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Thursday, February 25, 2010

    Wasting Time in Washington

  • If you are looking for a reasoned and thoughtful analysis of the Health Care Summit yesterday … you're looking in the wrong place. I did not watch a single minute. And I don't regret it at all.

  • You may remember that I said I would rather watch three hours of Tiger Woods apologizing than watch this thing. Nothing in the run-up to the event made me change my mind.

  • I commend to you the trenchant analysis by Susan Page - one of the best reporters in the history of Washington reporters - who is the senior writer for USA Today which is available on the Secret Decoder Ring page.

  • According to Page's reporting, I was right:
    Seven hours and thousands of words later, Obama made it clear that unless Republicans made significant and unexpected compromises, Democrats would press ahead on something akin to the $950 billion, 10-year health care plan he outlined on Monday - presumably by using a parliamentary maneuver that would bypass a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

  • Good use of time.

  • The best part of the coverage was Vice President Joe Biden being caught on an open mike saying, "It's easy being Vice President. You don't have to do anything."

  • If true, Biden is the most perfectly suited citizen in the land for that job.

  • The U.S. doesn't have a corner on the worldwide market for stupid. The Wall Street Journal has a story about Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi calling for a "'jihad' or armed struggle against Switzerland."

  • Whoa! Check, please!

  • Switzerland? The guys who dress up in clown suits and walk around the plaza in St. Peter's square at the Vatican? That Switzerland?

  • Old Moammar said that Muslims should:
    -- Go to all airports in the Islamic world and prevent any Swiss plane landing,

    -- Inspect all shops and markets to stop any Swiss goods being sold, and

    -- Go to all harbors and prevent any Swiss ships docking.

  • Yeah, well, I don't know much about gee-AH-gruf-EE, but I know that Switzerland isn't generally known as a world shipping power. In fact as search on the phrase "Swiss Shipping" comes up with exactly three - THREE - ships which belong to "Swiss Shipping Line, Gmbh."

  • Turns out this is the latest volley in a long-running spat between Gadhafi and Switzerland stemming from the time when, according to the WSJ:
    Libya detained two Swiss businessmen, after Geneva police arrested Col. Gadhafi's son Hannibal for allegedly beating two servants.

  • Hannibal? What are his other kids names, Genghis and Charlemagne?

  • In other news, the Canadian women beat the U.S. women in the gold medal hockey game in Vancouver yesterday. The U.S. women had gone through the tournament beating their previous opponents by a combined score of 46-2, but they lost to Canada 2-0.

  • Good for them. The U.S. has, as of this writing, won 32 medals (8 gold, 12 silver, 12 bronze). None in women's biathlon.

  • Canada is in fourth place in the medal count with 16 (8 gold, 6 silver, 2 bronze). Hockey is the home sport of Canada, so I'm glad they won.

  • Having written that, I will be rooting hard for the U.S. men's hockey team to make it into the gold medal game against the Canadian men and wipe the ice with them.

  • This North American solidarity ice hockey horse hockey has its limits.

  • In other good news, lead investigative reporter for the Associated Press, Larry Marasak, is reporting that the House Ethics Committee has found that House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel
    "knowingly accepted Caribbean trips in violation of House rules that forbid hidden financing by corporations."

  • Margasak identifies Rangel as "a New York Democrat" (which is sort of a redundancy) and writes that the Committee found that
    "Rangel's staff knew that corporate money paid for the Caribbean trips, the committee said, but it could not determine whether Rangel's aides told him about it."

  • Even in Washington, DC, where the suspension of disbelief is a drinking game, who can believe that Rangel jetted off to Antigua and St. Martin; where he assumedly ate, drank, and slept, but never asked who was picking up the tab?

  • Remember that pesky Sarbanes-Oxley law which requires that when filing official statements, the corporate officer in charge has the responsibility to certify that,
    1. The signing officer has reviewed the report; and,

    2. Based on the officer's knowledge, the report does not contain any untrue statement of a material fact or omit to state a material fact necessary in order to make the statements made, in light of the circumstances under which such statements were made, not misleading.

  • In real life Rangel would be sharing a cell with Bernie Madoff.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to everything plus an amusing Mullfoto and a Catchy Caption of the Day featuring a Pakistani fashion model.

  • Tuesday, February 23, 2010

    Obama's Legacy

  • It doesn't take a PhD in history to figure out that the reason President Obama is so closely - make that, utterly - focused on health care reform is because he and his people have decided this will be his FDR moment.

  • I have no reason to know this is what happened, except I know how people in Your Nation's Capital think. Immediately after the election in November 2008, Barack Obama and his advisors got together to decide how they were going to make Barack Obama's Presidency the most significant since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930's and 1940's.

  • The election results convinced them they had a plenty big canvas and a lot of paint and they were going to cover it with brilliant colors from edge-to-edge.

  • There was global warming - which, way back then, his people believed was based on real science and a full year before we would enjoy three feet of snow dumped upon us over a five day span.

  • There was labor law - card check would reverse decades of labor losses in the private sector, even though public sector labor unions were doing well.

  • There was America's reputation overseas - shattered by George W. Bush, which Obama would fix by (a) closing Guantanamo Bay; (b) getting out of Iraq; (c) nice-ing Iran and North Korea into submission; and, (d) turning over the governing of Afghanistan to Afghans.

  • There were also the issues of bailing out the financial system; bailing out the international insurance industry; and bailing out the U.S. automobile industry (see "labor law" above).

  • The unemployment rate was 7.7 percent in January 2009 but was on the way up and has remained stubbornly above 9.4 percent since July 2009.

  • And, there was health care, which is the only one left.

  • The White House along with the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate believed they could use their huge majorities to ram a Social Security-like health care plan through the Congress shortly after Labor Day, 2009 with a signing ceremony which would have rivaled that Obama election night event in Chicago.

  • Alas, those same legislative geniuses sent the Democratic Members of Congress home for the August recess with the equivalent of a major health care reform bill written in crayon on a three-by-five index card.

  • What happened? The dreaded TOWN HALLS happened. And whatever forward momentum the Ds had built up on a health care reform bill disintegrated right before their very eyes.

  • Undaunted, the Congress returned after Labor Day, the Democrats negotiated with themselves in private, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi forced a bill to the House floor in November. The House passed the Democrats' bill by an overwhelming vote of 220-215 - a five vote margin.

  • Meanwhile over in the U.S. Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid kept the Senate in seven days a week for weeks on end, bought off Mary Landrieu (D-La) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb) with tens of billions of dollars paid for by taxpayers in the other 48 states, and finally got to the necessary 60 votes on December 21.

  • In January, Scott Brown won the Senate election in Massachusetts and cut the Dems' margin in the Senate from 60-40 to 59-41. No more filibuster proof majority.

  • Regular readers know how loathe I am to blow my own horn. However, in this case I must take exception to my rule against personal horn-blowing to remind you that way back on December 16 - this would be about a month before the election in Massachusetts - I wrote the following:
    Because of the enormous budget implications of this legislation, it is quite likely that Harry Reid (D-Nev) will bring up [health care reform] under reconciliation. Republicans will scream bloody murder. Democrats will sheepishly withdraw to the cloak room.

    The bill will pass the House and the Senate and, healthy or not, it will go to the President for his signature.

  • I got a stack of nasty-grams from senior Congressional and White House reporters informing me that I was an idiot because that simply could not, and would not happen.

  • Well. Guess. What?

  • According to yesterday's Los Angeles Times:
    Democrats in the Senate are rallying behind the use of a bare-knuckle legislative procedure known as budget reconciliation to push through a separate package of healthcare measures to satisfy liberal Democrats in the House.

  • Apologies accepted.

  • Health care reform will pass and Obama's legacy will be secure, but like King Pyrrhus, the price of his victory may well be the loss of Democrat majorities in the House and Senate.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to a cool page showing unemployment rates over time, the House and Senate roll call vote, the LA Times piece on reconciliation, and King Pyrrhus.

    Also a Mullfoto of the damage done by a snow plow to an innocent car and a Super Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Sunday, February 21, 2010

    Health Care Theater

    Happy 278th Birthday to George Washington. He was born in 1732 which means he was 57 when he was sworn in as the first President under the U.S. Constitution on April 30, 1789. Pretty old for the day, no?

  • Speaking of old, how tired are you of the Great Health Care Debate of 2009-2010 and Beyond? President Obama has invited Democrat and Republican leaders from the House and Senate to a meeting at Blair House on Thursday to discuss health care reform. The half-day event will be televised on C-SPAN.

  • I'd rather watch a three-hour Tiger Woods apology.

  • Anyone who was expecting a formal Oxford Union debate is going to be disappointed.

  • The President has made it clear that this is not in any way, shape, or form starting from a blank sheet of paper. It is part of a continuing process of attempting to recover from the disastrous start to this process last August when Democratic Members of the House and Senate ran into the buzz saws known as "Town Meetings" with no idea of what they were attempting to sell, and even less of an idea about how to handle the anger.

  • In the run-up to the meeting the Administration is scheduled to publish an amalgam of the bills adopted by House and Senate Democrats on the WH web page today.

  • On the Sunday talkers yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate Republicans would attend but said, "if they're going lay out the plan they want to pass four days in advance, then what are we discussing on Thursday?"

  • Not only is the President pre-selecting the discussion items, but the Democratic Leadership in the House and Senate has made it known that they are prepared to use the "reconciliation process" to shove a plan through the House and Senate as a budget item requiring a simple majority in each Chamber rather than the 60-vote gauntlet the legislation has had to run previous to this.

  • It is not clear to me how, by signaling Republicans that no matter what happens on Thursday, Democrats are prepared to torture the rules to shove through a plan they like will be helpful to the fiction that this will be an open and thoughtful debate.

  • Speaking of bonehead moves, whoever is the head of PR for Anthem Blue Cross (and/or its parent, Wellpoint, Inc.) should be forced to buy their own health insurance for not throwing themselves in front of the bus which was Anthem's recent announcement that it would be raising rates on Californians who have individual (as opposed to group) insurance by 39 percent beginning March 1, 2010.

  • Even assuming the rate hike is actuarially necessary, is the company in such bad financial condition that the announcement couldn't have been delayed a month or two until they had seen how the health care debate played out in Washington?

  • According to the total Blue Cross/Blue Shield (which includes more than Wellpoint, Inc.) lobbying tab in 2009 was $22,715,439.

  • W.A.S.T.E.D.

  • The House and Senate come back to work today following a week of snow days followed by a week of recess. What do you think the chances for success will be of a BC/BS lobbyist trying to get in to see a Representative or Senator in advance of the Thursday meeting?

  • If I were a Republican Strategist (which I used to be) and I had been asked what I thought the GOP should do (which I was not) this would have been my idea:
    Have some 30-second TV and 60-second radio ads written and produced which simply and directly make the four or five points that the GOP wants in any health care plan.

    Leave five seconds at the end for Republican Members of the House and Senate to put their "disclaimer" on it.

    Have each Member - whether running for re-election or not - agree to buy some significant, but not exorbitant, amount of advertising in their District or State; and have the RNC make up the difference in states which have little or no GOP representation.

  • That would have allowed the Republicans to march up Pennsylvania Avenue to Blair House secure in the knowledge that, at a minimum, their constituents knew what they stood for - no matter what theatrics President Obama and the Dems throw at them on Thursday.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Lots o' Links; to George Washington's official bio, the health care summit, the Blue Cross rate hike, Blue Cross lobbying, and to the Oxford Union website.

    Also a composite Mullfoto showing the horrors of global warming on the glacier in front of my house and an Olympic Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Thursday, February 18, 2010

    Just Do the Job We're Paying You to Do

  • The President, in an attempt to show that he is still The President, yesterday appointed a National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The colloquial name of the group will be the Deficit Reduction Commission but it should be named the "Throw the Bums Out" Commission.

  • There are 535 voting members of the House and Senate. For the most part they make an annual salary of $174,000. Members of the leadership make more, but that only makes me more angry.

  • If you multiply 174,000 by 535 you get $93,090,000. That's 93 MILLION and change. Just for salaries. Add to that health and retirement benefits, taxpayer paid staff (personal in Washington, personal in their home state, and Committee staff) and office space, thousands of hard working men and women who do everything from deliver the mail to clean their offices, assorted perks which include paid visits to France, Italy, London and other important hot-spots; and who-knows-what tax benefits and you see that being a Member of Congress is not all that much of a sacrifice.

  • In fact, keeping Members of the House and Senate living in the style to which they have become WAY too accustomed will cost us about $4,656,000,000 for FY 2010.

  • For those who, like me, are comma-deficient, that's a bit over 4.6 BILLION dollars. For one year.

  • We are paying these Members of Congress over $4.6 billion to, among other things, make decisions on our behalf. That is the working definition of a representative democracy. We don't have to vote on every little thing because we pay - a lot - for these 535 Representatives and Senators to do it for us.

  • Except the system has gone awry. Incumbent Members of the House and Senate don't want to make decisions. Quite the opposite; they want to avoid making decisions. At any cost. Even if that cost is $4.6 billion.

  • Thus, the appointment of a Deficit Reduction Commission.

  • This is not the first time the Congress has bailed out on its responsibilities. Aside from post offices in every ZIP code, the next biggest barrel of pork a Representative or Senator can deliver is a military base.

  • Over the course of a couple of hundred years, the bases which had been established based upon seniority rather than national defense had become so ridiculous that it became obvious - even to the Congress - that something had to be done to close many of them.

  • You might think that a serious person could stand before his or her constituents and say that in the interests of national security the military base here in Upper Iguana has outlived its usefulness and should close.

  • Yeah. Right.

  • What the Congress did was punt by passing legislation appointing a Base Relocation and Closing Commission (BRAC) which would present to the Congress a full slate of which bases should close, which should stay, and which should be expanded which the Congress could accept or reject in total.

  • I'm not at all certain about the Constitutionality of this extra-Congressional activity, but its been going on since 1988 and no one has raised the issue.

  • The 2010 version of the U.S. Congress cannot bring itself to cut any amount from any program whether that program makes sense or not and so they are allowing Barack Obama to appoint people to do it for them.

  • Here's my suggestion. For every year that the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform is in business, every Member of the U.S. House, U.S. Senate; every staff member and every employee of, and contractor to, the Legislative Branch should have their pay reduced by 15 percent.

  • If that $4.6 billion is correct that will save taxpayers a touch under $700 million a year. Ever year. In an era of multi-trillion-dollar budgets that might be a drop in the bucket; but it will be coming out of the buckets of the people who are supposed to be making the tough decisions, but who aren't tough enough to make them.

  • If Members of the House and Senate won't do the job we're paying them to do, we'll pay them less to do the job they are doing.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the Deficit Reduction Commission, Congressional Staff, Legislative Appropriations, and the history of the Base Closing Commission.

    Also, a Mullfoto which puts to rest the issue of Global Warming and a Catchy Caption of the day which asks an important question.

  • Tuesday, February 16, 2010

    The Evan Doesn't Fall Far From the Birth

  • The announcement by Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind) that he would not be running for re-election was abrupt, surprising, and as Vice President Dan Quayle put it, stunning.

  • Bayh's statement that just wasn't much fun to be in Washington anymore would have made more sense if he had made it in January, or even after the early February election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts.

  • It would have given Democrats in Indiana a chance to weigh their options, check their bank accounts and their e-mail lists, and make a rational decision whether to run for the U.S. Senate seat in what is looking more and more like a tough year to run as a D.

  • To be on the ballot for statewide office in Indiana a candidate needs signatures from 500 registered voters in each of the state's nine Congressional Districts. Under normal circumstances that might take a couple of weeks of work by the CD organizations, but certainly not a steep hill to climb for a legit candidate.

  • But, by leaving only a matter of hours, not weeks, Bayh guaranteed that the Democratic who will run for the open Senate seat in November will be hand-picked by the State Democratic party.

  • Before the Democrats at the Senate Campaign Committee start doing the "He Went to Jared's" dance o' joy, I have two words: New York 23.

  • Ok, three words.

  • In the election to fill the Congressional seat left vacant by the appointment of Rep. John McHugh to be Secretary of the Army the GOP county chairs in the 23rd District picked State Assemblywoman Dierdre Scozzafava to be the Republican nominee.

  • The GOP lost the seat as conservatives from around the country jumped in and split the vote allowing the Democrat, Bill Owens, to win the seat.

  • The early betting favorite to take the seat is former Senator Dan Coats who started his political career as the district representative for Congressman Dan Quayle in 1976, won Quayle's Congressional seat when Quayle moved onto the Senate, and then was appointed to Quayle's Senate seat when Quayle was elected Vice President.

  • Coats easily won the Senate seat in his own right in the special election to fill the unexpired term and then was just as easily re-elected to a full term.

  • Quayle, for his part, had been elected to the U.S. House against an 18-year incumbent Democrat and served two terms before running for U.S. Senate against Evan Bayh's daddy, Birch Bayh - another 18-year incumbent Democrat.

  • The election of 1980 was the election in which Ronald Reagan carried enough Republicans running for the Senate into office with him that the GOP took control in January of 1981. Congressman Dan Quayle became Senator Dan Quayle at age 33 (three years over the Constitutional minimum) and went on to win re-election six years later by what was at the time the largest percentage in Hoosier history.

  • I happened to have been the press secretary on that 1980 campaign and an unknown Congressman from Huntington, Indiana having the temerity to run against Birch Bayh was considered laughable and no one gave Quayle much of a chance.

  • In 1980 the polls in Indiana closed at 6 PM. We were ready for a long, long night of counting but Quayle had beaten Birch Bayh so soundly on the campaign trail that the race was the first one called by the networks in what became a national wave of GOP victories.

  • If the election of Scott Brown was a lightning bolt striking the Democratic Party, then Evan Bayh - who was also a Wunderkind, having been elected Governor at the Quayle-esque age of 33 - announcing he is retiring is the functional equivalent Harry Reid and the Senate Democratic caucus being run over by a semi.

  • There is no way to spin Bayh's departure as somehow good for Democrats. Beating Coats is not a sound bet. Along with North Dakota and Delaware, Indiana now presents at least the third Senate seat likely to switch from D to R in the 112th Congress.

  • With analysts now seriously discussing Republican takeovers of one or both chambers in the U.S. Congress - neither is likely, but the odds are shrinking fast - it is only a matter of time before Dems running for re-election decide the time has come to begin ignoring - if not actively opposing - President Obama.

  • Now you understand why the White House and the Democratic Congressional leadership was in such a projectile sweat to get health care, card check, cap-and-trade, and energy legislation done before we got into the even-numbered year.

  • When Birch Bayh left the Senate in 1980, the GOP took over. It is not out of the question that the same thing will happen when his son leaves 30 years later.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Bios of Quayle, Coats and Bayh. Also an unbelievably cute photo of my cat not enjoying the Westminster Dog Show and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Thursday, February 11, 2010

    Winter Olympics

  • The Winter Olympics begin today with ski jumping qualifications this morning and the opening ceremonies at 6:00 pm local time. I looked this up for you: Vancouver, Canada is on Pacific Standard Time.

  • The Olympics will end on February 28 with the closing ceremonies. The last medal event? The Men's Ice Hockey finals earlier in the day. I guess we have the 1980 U.S. Hockey team and Al Michaels to thank for that.

  • The men's downhill should be transferred to Franklin Street in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia which is right outside my front door and on which there has been about 36" of snow this past week. I've bought a cowbell and am prepared to do that "yah-yah-yah-yah" thing that people who watch skiing events do. Or, at least, that's the way it has always sounded to me.

  • If global warming gets any worse I'm going to have to buy a snowmobile.

  • My favorite Winter Olympic event? Women's Biathlon. It is a combination of cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. Why is it my favorite? Athletic, attractive women. In skin-tight outfits. With guns.

  • If they allowed beach volleyball players to carry side arms I do believe it would be the perfect spectator sport.

  • Where was I? Oh. The Olympics. NBC has the TV rights again and I found the web page which tells me which events will be televised on which NBC-owned channel (NBC, USA, CNBC, Universal HD or MSNBC) and when. I couldn't find the Women's Biathlon but I'll study it more closely after I've finished this.

  • One of the best things about the snow in Your Nation's Capital was the Government - including the Congress - has been shut down since Monday. It will be open tomorrow, then closed again Monday for Presidents' Day.

  • The Congress, exhausted from not meeting this week, will take the next week off to rest up for the five straight weeks of work they will have to do until the two week Spring Recess starting March 28.

  • Really. How. Do. They. Do. It?

  • Forever I have hought that Will Rogers said, "The nation never sleeps so soundly as when the Congress is in recess," but if he did, Google didn't find it. I don't think I made that up. Let me know if you find it.

  • According to the Washington Post, government offices will open two hours late this morning and employees can take unscheduled leave but have to call their supervisors so it can be duly recorded.

  • The Post piece also pointed out that: "Telework and emergency employees are expected to report for work on time."

  • Emergency employees, I understand. But how do you know if a "telework" employee has hitched the bow in their bathrobe, stepped into their bunny slippers, come downstairs, made coffee, read the paper, and turned on their TV to start watching Law & Order reruns on USA on time or not?

    Dear Mr. Mullings:

    Don't you very often work from home? Doesn't that make you a "teleworker?"

    Yes. But it's completely different in my case. I don't own bunny slippers. Anymore.

  • Final issue. This is serious. Consider this a finger being wagged under your nose.

  • Former President Bill Clinton had two stents inserted into a cardiac artery yesterday. The good news is that he went to the hospital and had the procedure done, which is fairly routine and should allow him to get back to work quickly.

  • The bad news is, according to some reports, he had started feeling chest discomfort a couple of days earlier.

  • I know a little something about this. I was diagnosed with cardiac artery disease when I was 39, had a long string of angioplasty procedures, and had by-pass surgery in 1998. I have been told a hundred times by my cardiologist: "Don't deny the symptoms."

  • President Clinton denied his symptoms and is lucky that he got away with it.

  • If you are of a certain age, and you feel any kind of discomfort in your chest, back, chin, and/or left arm - get to a hospital. Don't worry about being embarrassed. If it's nothing you don't have to tell anyone about it.

  • Think about how much more embarrassed you will be if you die of a heart attack.

  • Ok. I've got my nitros handy, and I'm going to look for the TV listings for the Women's Biathlon competition.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: LINKS to the Vancouver Olympics official schedule of events, to the Women's Biathlon page, to the final 15 seconds of the 1980 Men's Ice Hockey game, and to that NBC webpage which lets you find what's on and when. Also a link to an animation showing what happens during a cardiac procedure such as President Clinton had yesterday.

    Also a really pretty Mullfoto from the snowstorm and an astonishing Catchy Caption of the Day - the Canadian Women's Biathlon team calendar!

  • Tuesday, February 9, 2010

    Snow Jobs

  • I can never remember what the Punxsutawney Phil rules are. Actually, until I typed this, I didn't know that Punxsutawney was spelled "Punxsutawney." I thought it was "Puxatawney." And so did you. Bless you, Bill Gates, for your spell-check.

  • Anyway, I can never remember what it means if the rodent sees his shadow or doesn't see his shadow in terms of winter's duration. Much like that right-brain, left-brain thing. I can never remember which side does what and, as I am left-handed, I am unsure whether the rules even apply to me.

  • I have received dozens - perhaps hundreds - of emails from among my 35,000 readers telling me to, in effect, "man up." This, because they live in places like North Dakota or Buffalo or Aspen, or where ever.

  • I don't care where you live. Twenty inches of snow is a serious snowfall. Ten to 16 inches of additional snow 72 hours later is … grounds to move to Pompano Beach, Florida. And buy a Cadillac. And drive 13 miles per hour. With your left blinker on. As you drive to Herb's Deli for the Early Bird at 4:30 in the afternoon. For the meat loaf.

  • If you know what I mean, and I think you do.

  • In other, non-weather-related developments, the U.S. Senate blocked the confirmation of President Obama's nominee to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Craig Becker by a vote of 52-33.

  • If you are unfamiliar with the NRLB, the Wall Street Journal describes its mission as:
    "the independent quasi-judicial federal agency that supervises union elections and referees disputes between employers and employees."

  • The Senate rules require 60 votes to proceed. Even though 52 votes out of the 85 cast are 61 percent, that doesn't make the grade.

  • Becker has been a lawyer for the SEIU - Service Employee International Union - which has been the single most aggressive labor union in the nation in terms of organizing and on issues like card check. Appointing Becker to the NLRB making rulings on organizing votes would be like appointing me to the … I can't think of anything I could or should be appointed to, so let's let that go.

  • Even as a mathematically challenged individual, I know that 15 Senators didn't vote on this nomination. I assume that at least some of those 15 missing Senators couldn't get back to Washington because of the heavily restricted flight operations at Dulles and Reagan airports due to the aforementioned snow.

  • That leaves some of us to ponder (dare I say mull?) as to why the Democratic leadership called up Becker's nomination yesterday instead of waiting until all the Senators were back (which, given this new snow storm a'brewin' might well be June).

  • Two Democratic Senators - Ben Nelson (D-Neb) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark) joined with the GOP to block Becker's nomination, but even if they had voted with the Ds he would have fallen six votes short.

  • So. Why?

  • It is because of the labor vote in Massachusetts a couple of weeks ago. If you remember, the AFL-CIO paid for a post-election poll which showed that labor households voted for Republican Scott Brown 49-46.

  • The Washington-based Democrats are tone deaf to the reasons for that vote and believe they can rally an iron-worker in Boston or a brick-layer in Missouri to return home to the Democrats by forcing a vote on Becker and drawing headlines like this from the Wall Street Journal:

    Senate Republicans Block Labor Board Nominee

  • Rank and file union members are not community-organizer-wannabees. They tend to be socially and culturally conservative and, given a choice between voting for a Republican who promises to protect their health care plan and a Democrat who is in favor of taxing them on that health care plan … guess what? They voted for the Republican.

  • If the old saw that "all politics is local" is true, then there is no more "local" than an individual's paycheck. So long as Obama and the Liberal wing of the Congressional Democrats insist on looking for new taxes to impose on more working people - union members or not - they will continue to fail at the ballot box.

  • Union members are no different than any other person working for a living: Threaten to tax the income they worked so hard to earn, and they will revolt no matter which political party is doing the taxing.

  • Most people can recognize a snow job when they see it.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the Reuters and the WSJ coverage of the Becker vote. Also a pretty nice Mullfoto of the latest snowstorm and a good Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Sunday, February 7, 2010

    Obama v Palin … Palin?


    The Federal government is closed today in the National Capital Area. Please let me know if you notice.


  • Here's how you know, if you are the President of the United States, that things are going in the wrong direction.
    You have scheduled a speech to the Democratic National Committee meeting in Washington, DC.

    It snows about 20 inches in Washington, DC weakening your arguments for cap-and-trade legislation

    A car spins into the press van travelling with your motorcade

    You do the speech and generate headlines like this one from the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram:

    Obama Seeks to Rally Glum Dems Amid GOP Challenges

  • Meanwhile Sarah Palin's keynote speech to the Tea Party meeting in Memphis, Tennessee, is covered like your State of the Union Address had been two weeks earlier, leading the chattering class to compare your appearance with that of Gov. Palin.

  • Palin's speech generated headlines like this in the Nashville Tennessean:
    Palin: Tea Party Movement is a Call to Action

  • Here's a basic rule of political counter-punching: You want your lowest ranking person in a public fight with your opponent's highest ranking person - preferably your opponent.

  • For example, if you are managing the campaign for the guy running against an incumbent for Congress, you want to have the kid who does the morning clips in a public argument with the Congressman.

  • That diminishes the Congressman and enhances the clips kid.

  • Over weekend the losing candidate for Vice President was, for all intents and purposes, treated as the political equal of the President of the United States.

  • This, if you are in the political shop at the White House, is not good.


    I am writing this as I am watching The Game.

    The Who (of whom I have been a fan in while I was in high school and through lo these many decades) is performing the half-time show.

    I am unclear as to why the NFL has an affinity for British bands which have been together for 45 years, even if they have sold 100 million albums which, ironically, is precisely 100 million albums more than I have sold.

    That wasn't what got my attention, though. What did, was the level of political-incorrectness involved with the Who beginning their set with an excerpt from "Tommy" whose refrain is: "That deaf, dumb, and blind kid sure can play pinball."


  • The Democrats are going backwards at an increasing rate. For example, during the week, U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) said, in a display of classlessness unique even for him, that the new Senator from Massachusetts, Scott Brown's candidacy was "a joke" because he was sworn in a week early - having buried his Democratic opponent so thoroughly that even the Democratic Secretary of State couldn't find a reason to delay certifying the election.

  • Everyone in politics knows that if Patrick Kennedy's name were anything but Kennedy he would have long-since been thrown out of office, and rightfully so.

  • No one poked their head out of the snow to agree with Kennedy, but neither did any Democrat suggest he should zip it.

  • In New York, former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford is wreaking havoc by sampling the air to see if there is enough oxygen for him to mount a primary challenge against Senator Kirsten Gillibrand who was appointed from her U.S. House seat after Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State.

  • That potentially puts Northeast Dems in the uncomfortable position of having to choose between a Black man and a White woman in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senator from New York.

  • In the first post-primary Rasmussen survey in Illinois for the Senate seat briefly held by President Obama, the Republican Mark Kirk "holds a modest 46% to 40% lead over Democrat Alexi Giannoulias."

  • How embarrassing, how debilitating, would it be if Democrats were to lose Obama's U.S. Senate seat?

  • The good news for the nation is, Obama now realizes that he can't govern without the buy-in of the GOP and is asking for a bi-partisan leadership meeting on health care for next week.

  • Republicans should go.

  • Just as Sarah Palin is being treated as the political equal of Barak Obama, Congressional Republicans are now the political equals of Congressional Democrats.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the Who and to Patrick Kennedy. Also a Mullfoto of what would be the Mullford if it weren't under 27 feet of snow and a Catch Caption of the Day.

  • Thursday, February 4, 2010

    Oh, the Weather Outside is ...

  • At 10:00 last night this was the official language from the National Weather Service winter storm warning:
    A Winter Storm Warning remains in effect from 10 AM Friday to 10 PM EST Saturday.

    Precipitation type: Heavy snow.

    Accumulations: Storm total accumulations of 18 to 24 inches.

  • Now, I know those of my many readers who live in Antarctica or along Prudhoe Bay in the Arctic consider this a mere dusting. But, for those of us who live in normally habitable climes this is a lot of snow!

  • In Your Nation's Capital and its environs we consider 2-4 inches of snow grounds for schools closing for at least two days, invoking "liberal leave" policies in Federal, state, and local government offices; and gathering up enough bread, milk, eggs, and toilet paper to last the 82nd Airborne Division three weeks; a good three weeks.

  • The good news about this storm is it is coming over a weekend, just as the 16.4 inches of snow we got from the storm in mid-December. The bad news about this storm is that even at the low end of the NWS' estimate - 18 inches - it would qualify as the third or fourth heaviest snow in DC history.

  • The top snowstorms have been:
    1 - 28" Jan 1922

    2 - 20" Feb 1899

    3 - 18.7" Feb 1979

    4 - 17.3" Jan 1996

    5 - 16.6" Feb 1983

    6 - 16.4" Dec 2009 & 16.4" Feb 2003

  • If this storm comes anywhere near what is being forecast, plus the four inches we got earlier this week the snowfall for the winter of '09-'10 will total over 38 inches. That is somewhat higher than the average of 15.2 inches for Washington.

  • The natural tendency for someone who is in the business of being snarky would be to make the point that we might not need much more evidence than this much snow in one year to support the notion that someone's been fudging the global-warming-climate-change data.

  • I know … I know. "Climate Change" means that unusual weather events will become more common. That's how the "Climate Change" lobby (previously known as the "Global Warming" lobby) explains these decidedly non-warm kinds of events.

  • This would be jolly cocktail party fodder if it not for the fact that we are pouring tens of billions of dollars into trying to find ways to reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere so as to reverse what used to be known as "Global Warming."

  • President Obama's 2011 budget, which was released on Monday, calls for $36 billion in loan guarantees for nuclear power plants.

  • Why nuclear power plants? Because if you want to replace the 250 million cars and light trucks in American which are currently running on gasoline (mostly imported gasoline if you believe T. Boone Pickens) with 250 million cars running on batteries, you have to have a whole bunch of additional electricity generation capacity so when those vehicles get plugged in every night there are enough electrons to re-charge them.

  • If you want to be able to power all those electric cars without pouring even more crap into the atmosphere from more coal-burning power plants, you have to build nuclear power plants.

  • Nuclear plants tend to need a rather long lead time as the people who live in the neighborhoods in which they are going to be built generally would prefer to have them built in someone else's neighborhood and so they go to court to make this preference clear to all parties involved.

  • Also, the Secretary of Energy, Stephen Chu, happens to be a Nobel Prize winning physicist, not a Nobel Prize winning novelist, so you can see where his interests lie.

  • $36 billion is really a big slush fund to help off-set a climate which may not be as changing as quickly as we had been told. And I think it is fair to ask if there might not be a better use for those loan guarantees than for the construction of nuclear power plants.

  • At least here in the Washington, DC metro area, this weekend will be one of those rare occasions when those who are believers in climate change and those who are not will be in absolute agreement.

  • The weather outside is frightful.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the historical snowstorms in the Washington area; the official definition of "snarky," and to Sec. Stephen Chu's bio.

  • Also, a Mullfoto of disappointment and a Catchy Caption of the Day with another "Princess Bride" reference.

  • Tuesday, February 2, 2010

    A Certain Attack

  • President Barak Obama is working as hard as he can to re-invent himself as a man o' the people who is worried about jobs on Main Street, about bonuses on Wall Street, and about lobbyists on K Street.

  • Maybe he is. But meanwhile the rest of the world, especially that part of the rest of the world which is trying to destroy us, is hard at work, trying to destroy us.

  • I know you remember the well-deserved scorn and derision (if not outright dread) at the way in which the President and his hand-picked band of anti-terror experts handled the tighty-whitey-bomber on Christmas Day and its immediate aftermath.

  • We didn't know quite how immediate was the handling of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab by the Obama Administration until later when we found out he had been read his Miranda rights after 50 minutes which also included medical attention for his burned … area and, for all we know, a nice mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich with the mutton being nice and lean.

  • Those of us who are pre-disposed to look for minor errors in the way Mr. Obama has gone about trying to figure out this whole confusing President thing for the past 54 weeks were taken to task by our friends on the Left for jumping on the way the Abdulmutallab incident was handled.

  • As you shake your head sadly over how I have become a tool of the Right, consider an essay by Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen which appeared yesterday morning.

  • Mr. Cohen is anything but a tool of the Right. It would not surprise me to find that he has trained himself to be left-handed just so the word "right" never has to enter his vocabulary. Nevertheless his column was titled:

    Obama Administration is Tone-Deaf to
    Concerns About Terrorism

  • Yikes!

  • The opening of Cohen's piece read thus:
    There is almost nothing the Obama administration does regarding terrorism that makes me feel safer."

  • Go back and read it again …

  • Sounds like … Dick Cheney, doesn't it?

  • Cohen points to Abdulmutallab having been read his rights "after just 50 minutes of interrogation and he, having probably seen more than his share of 'Law & Order' episodes, promptly shut up."

  • He also writes about the non-witted decision (apparently by Attorney General Eric Holder) to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed in New York City which would have had the effect of
    "cordoning off much of Lower Manhattan and placing a security perimeter around the financial district, not only costing something like $200 million a year but also would destroy the economy of the area [giving] KSM, as he is called, a second shot at devastating downtown New York."

  • And, on the Obama plan to close Guantanamo:
    "It is now apparent that there are some bad people there who should be detained way past the time they are eligible for AARP membership."

  • Then, as if to add to my sense of impending doom, it was reported by the Wall Street Journal, CNN, and others last night that,
    "The U.S.'s top intelligence officials said Tuesday that an attempted al Qaeda attack on the U.S. in the next three to six months was 'certain.'"

  • "Certain?" That's a long way from "probable." And light years away from "possible."

  • The officials were testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, which includes, as a senior Member, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia.


    Reading the name "Rockefeller" and the word "Intelligence" in the same sentence never fails to make me chuckle.


  • Obama may not be able to protect us against an al Qaeda attack over the next three to six months, but that appears to be an intelligence success compared to what America's head spy, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, told the committee about our "inability" to deal with nearly constant cyber-attacks. In his written statement Blair said:
    "Sensitive information is stolen daily from both government and private sector networks, undermining confidence in our information systems, and in the very information these systems were intended to convey.

    "We often find persistent, unauthorized, and at times, unattributable presences on exploited networks, the hallmark of an unknown adversary intending to do far more than merely demonstrate skill or mock a vulnerability."

  • And what is President Obama doing about that?

  • Running around the country trying to make us forget we're at war.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the Richard Cohen column as well as the WSJ and CNN coverage of the Intelligence Committee testimony yesterday.

  • Also, a Mullfoto which I am taking much more seriously since I wrote this column and a Catchy Caption of the Day which will make you scratch your head, if you can get to it.