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

Monday, August 31, 2009

Yesterday's Gone

  • September first. Already. You know my theory on this: As you get older, time goes by faster because each year is a smaller percentage of your age. When you were five years old, a year was 20 percent of your life. If you get to be, say, 62 then a year is only 1.6 percent of your life.

  • Seems to go a lot quicker.

  • Even though Labor Day won't be here until next Monday and the Congress won't be here until Tuesday, Summer is over. The kids are largely back in school, we're down to about 13 hours of daylight on the East coast, and the high temperature today in Your Nation's Capital is forecast to be about 78 degrees.

  • So, how to best celebrate the end of Summer? Let's look at Barack Obama's poll numbers!

  • According to's polling summary (as of Monday night) the current approval numbers for the President are:
    Gallup: 51 - 42

    Rasmussen: 46 - 53

    NBC: 51 - 40

    ABC/Wash Post: 57 - 40

    Pew: 51 - 37

  • Using our "The-East-Germans-and-The-French-are-Cheating" theory of scoring Olympic figure skating and political polling we throw out the high number (ABC/WashPost) and the low number (Rasmussen) and end up with a pretty consistent number of 51 percent job approval for Obama.

  • According to Gallup, at the 100-day mark in this Administration, Obama's job approval stood at 67-28.

  • That isn't just a drop of 16 percentage points over the past four months; that is an outright collapse in the public's view of how well - or how badly - this Administration is doing.

  • By the way, at about this same point in the Presidency of George W. Bush, his approval rating was 57-34. Not much higher than Obama, but still higher than Obama.

  • The fact is, not much is going right for Obama right now. Unemployment appears to be stuck at about 9.4 percent (the next official Bureau of Labor Statistics number will be released on Friday).

  • Keep in mind the party which has ruled Japan for the past half-century was tossed out of office over the weekend in part because unemployment there reached 5.7 percent. The unemployment rate (in June) for the EU was about 8.9 percent.

  • Michael Hirsch (who is sort of a cousin of mine) writing in Newsweek pointed out that the Obama/Bernanke team has failed to solve the "too big to fail" problem which has cost all of us hundreds of billions in Wall Street bailouts.

  • According to Cousin Mike's reporting:
    The administration's June financial-regulatory proposal actually "formalizes" the too-big-to-fail pathology by providing loans, purchasing assets, guaranteeing liabilities, and making equity investments in faltering giant firms.

  • Recent reporting indicates commercial real estate loans are going south at an increasing rate putting more pressure both on the big banks and, of more concern, regional banks who were largely insulated from the derivative debacle of last year.

  • According to the Wall Street Journal, in addition to the $700 billion which is bound up in those pesky commercial mortgage backed securities which we've all helped pay for,
    "banks hold $1.7 trillion of commercial mortgages and construction loans, and delinquencies on this debt already have played a role in the increase in bank failures this year."

  • That's just the domestic side of Obama-World. On the foreign affairs agenda we have everything from Muammar Gaddafi celebrating the homecoming of the Lockerbie bomber and now wanting to pitch a tent in Englewood, New Jersey; to Afghanistan, Iran, and North Korea.

  • According to Boone Pickens we're still importing about two-thirds of the oil we use and too much of that comes from places like Saudi Arabia, Angola, Nigeria, and Venezuela meaning we are only the turn of a valve somewhere thousands of miles away from being plunged into a gas-shortage-created economic disaster.

  • So, Summer's over and as the Obama team returns to its desks in the White House they would do well to listen to that Chad & Jeremy tune, "Yesterday's Gone" on their official White House iPods:
    I loved you all the summer through

    I thought I'd found my dream in you

    For me you were the one

    But that was yesterday and yesterday's gone

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Way lot's of links to all of the polls and stories listed above. Also one final self-serving Mullfoto from Afghanistan and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Thursday, August 27, 2009

    Kennedy - A Flawed Force

    From Statesville, NC

    Fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx

  • I was never a particular fan of Senator Ted Kennedy, but I did hold a grudging admiration for amount of work he did and the passion he brought to it.

  • We all know all of the personality flaws with which Kennedy was afflicted. We know about Chappaquiddick and the rest. I get all that, but Kennedy was a man who didn't have to do much of anything with his life yet decided he was going to do as much as possible with his life.

  • For that, he deserves a great deal of credit.

  • A story:

  • In 1981 when the GOP took over control of the Senate on the tails of Ronald Reagan's victory the previous November, a young freshman Senator from Indiana became the chairman of the Subcommittee on Employment of the Senate Labor Committee.

  • Senator Kennedy was the senior Democrat on that Subcommittee.

  • That was how Kennedy and Dan Quayle came to know each other, work together, and become friends.

  • The Quayle-Kennedy connection resulted in the creation of the Job Training and Partnership Act (JTPA) which was the controlling federal jobs legislation from its passage in 1982 until 1998.

  • I was Quayle's Senate press secretary at the time and my last assignment was to organize the press conference at which Quayle and Kennedy would announce the bill's introduction. The Kennedy people were - um - aggressive in their desire to control where, when, and how the presser would be conducted. But they were representing the ranking minority member while I worked for the chairman and so they came to see the wisdom of a jointly-planned operation.

  • Came the day of the event and we all believed that, if nothing else, the uniqueness of Quayle and Kennedy agreeing on anything, much less having worked together to produce a major piece of legislation would pack the room.

  • In the event, about the only reporters who showed up were the people who wrote for the trade press covering employment.

  • It turned out that the Vice President, George H.W. Bush, was being driven to work that morning when something hit his limousine. The Secret Service didn't know whether it had been hit by a bullet or not, but they treated it that way and every bureau in the Washington mounted up to cover this potential attempt on the Veep's life.

  • It turned out that a rivet or a bolt had fallen from a construction site and happened to hit the car as it drove under it, so all was well, but it wrecked my press conference.

  • I have used this as a lesson for communications types: No matter how closely you plan your event, you will never account for a bolt hitting the Vice President' limousine on Massachusetts Avenue.

  • Quayle had just beaten another huge presence in the Democratic Senate caucus, Birch Bayh, in the 1980 election. He was in his early thirties. Kennedy was already a major force in the Senate as an 18-year veteran about 50 years old.

  • Nevertheless, Kennedy - unlike some of their colleagues on both sides of the aisle - took Quayle as a serious Senator and together they forged a long-term professional relationship.

  • The coverage of Kennedy's death has the breathless feel of the coverage following Michael Jackson's demise. In fact, it would not surprise me to learn that producers and news division presidents from across the spectrum ordered their self-important young assistants to the viewing rooms to count the hours spent on Jackson to ensure the Kennedy coverage would not fall short.

  • Another thing about Kennedy. When the Chappaquiddick affair ruined his chances to be President, he didn't sulk his way out of the Senate as a certain Secretary of State appears to have done. He focused on the Senate and, according to one biography, produced over 300 pieces of legislation.

  • Ted Kennedy is a good object lesson for something I've preached for years: We can be passionate political opponents; without being mortal enemies.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: A link to the JTPA and to a Kennedy bio. A Mullfoto of a headline from a newspaper in Dubai and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Monday, August 24, 2009

    Is Obama Up to This?

    From Dubai, UAE

  • Let's take these one at a time and then we'll hide under our desks like we did in a 1950's duck-and-cover drill at Hillside Grade School in New Hyde Park, NY.

  • First the Lockerbie bomber release.

  • The only person was ever convicted of his involvement in the terrorist plot to plant a bomb aboard Pan Am flight 103 which exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, was released by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

  • MacAskill said the decision to release the terrorist was taken on humanitarian grounds because al-Megrahi has terminal cancer.

  • Yes? And? His life sentence might have been shorter than anticipated at sentencing, but it still would have been a life sentence.

  • MacAskill, as the Justice Secretary would be the equivalent of Attorney General Eric Holder deciding - on his own - to release someone like Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh, without checking with President Barack Obama. I know McVeigh was executed which, had Scotland had a death penalty, would have been the fate of al-Megrahi.

  • Remember that 270 innocent civilians were sentenced to death by al-Megrahi.

  • But, noooooooo. Instead al-Megrahi was sent back to Libya to be greeted by Moammar Gadhaffi (with those hugs and kisses they do which are uncomfortable for Westerners to watch) which, according to MacAskill "broke a promise by giving the convicted terrorist a hero's homecoming welcome."

  • Moammar Gadhaffi broke a promise? Really? Who could have foreseen that?

  • Anyway, there is a poll which indicates 82 percent of Americans think this was a bad idea and there are calls to boycott Scottish stuff.

  • I am OFF mutton. Period. That's it. I am also not drinking French wine again, just because I'm still not over that whole thing. Remember when the U.S. House of Representatives made its mark on the French perfidy by renaming "French Fries" in the House Restaurants to "Freedom Fries?" Guess we showed them.

  • Let's rename "Scotch Whiskey" to "French Whiskey." That will make them both crazy.

  • Second issue - the CIA interrogation techniques.

  • It seems that the CIA used about the same level of harsh interrogation we see every night on USA Network reruns of Law & Order but because it is the CIA and not Detective Eames it is really, really bad.

  • It seems that a CIA officer, while he was interrogating the guy who we think masterminded the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, used an electric drill, a gun, and a phony assassination to get him to talk.

  • They didn't use the drill ON Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, he threatened him with the drill. He didn't use the gun ON Nashiri, he threatened him with the gun. According to the Washington Post, it's sister pub, Newsweek, reported that "officers staged a mock execution by firing a gun in the cell next to Nashiri's to make him think another detainee had been executed.

  • Note, the CIA didn't actually assassinate anyone in the next cell - they fired off a gun (don't know if it was the same gun or not) in the next cell and TOLD Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri that they had just shot a guy who wouldn't talk.

  • By the way, 17 American sailors were killed in the attack. They didn't have

  • For this, Barack Obama has decided to set up yet another White House unit to take control of an executive department or agency. According to that right-wing mouthpiece MSNBC, Obama has approved the "creation of a special unit supervised by the White House for questioning terrorism suspects."

  • Let's think about this. The Obama Administration and the Democrats in Congress have been in a projectile sweat about whether Karl Rove had any influence over the hiring or firing of U.S. Attorneys; the thinking being, if he was in the White House he was always acting and thinking politically.

  • Yet, the Obama White House believes that giving the White House direct control over CIA interrogations will somehow make them more acceptable to the ACLU and the same Democrats in Congress.

  • Bush White House interfering: Bad. Obama White House interfering: Good. What am I missing?

  • Finally, Afghanistan.

  • I don't know much more than you about what's going on there, but I do know that Obama is going to have to make some really tough choices. If he follows public sentiment and sets a deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops, then Afghanistan will once again become the world's summer camp for terrorist training.

  • If, on the other hand, he builds U.S. troop strength over the objection of much of his base, then he is will run afoul of his allies in the House and Senate.

  • Lesson? It is easier to be a candidate for President than to actually be President.

  • I hope Obama is up to all this.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the Lockerbie story and to the USS Cole story. Also another Mullfoto from Afghanistan and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Thursday, August 20, 2009

    Post-Election Observations - Afghanistan

    From Mazar-i-Shareef , Afghanistan

  • The election for President of Afghanistan is over. Maybe. If you've followed this at all, then you know that incumbent President Hamid Karzai has been in a battle for re-election (not counting minor and vanity candidates) against three other men.

  • The Taliban said they would disrupt the proceedings and, in the areas they control, it appears they did. Overall turnout in this country of about 33 million, was estimated to be about 30 percent of registered voters, of whom there are about 17 million.

  • In a country where the median age is just over 17 years, that might still be a fairly decent number given the minimum voting age is 18 and the average life expectancy is about 45.

  • The published voting hours were from 7 AM to 4 PM. To help drive up turnout, the government to issued a order keeping the polls open an extra hour, although not every polling place here in Mazar-i-Shareef (pronounced mah-ZAHR-ee Shar-EEF) got the word.

  • My colleagues and I visited some 20 polling sites in this northern city yesterday and, having seen only a few polling places in one city in Afghanistan, I am hesitant to extrapolate those few data into any kind of coherent pronouncement, although as I type this at 4:30 AM Friday morning local time, I see others are not having the same difficulty. President Obama has already declared the process a success.

  • Some anecdotes: Voting is segregated by gender largely to keep the men from influencing the women. As men, we were told we would not be permitted to go into the women's voting areas. That was, of course, wrong.

  • Of the eight polling places I personally visited during the day, a woman was in charge of the entire operation - the men's AND women's sections - in three of them.

  • Everyone registered voter had been issued a laminated card with personal information and a photo. This being Afghanistan, however, many women did not want her face shown, so that space was blank. If so, she had to tell the poll worker (also female) her name, her husband's name, and her father's name - all of which is on the card.

  • At one stop a woman came in, completely covered, and couldn't answer the questions. She was ushered out but came back a few minutes later and was allowed to vote.

  • Through our translator we found out that when she saw three men standing in the polling place she got so flustered she couldn't remember the answers.

  • The Heisenberg Principle operates even in Northern Afghanistan.

  • When voters came in they presented their card to be marked using a simple one-hole punch. However, the "punch machines" did not work so poll personnel used either a knife to cut an approximation of a triangle or, more frequently, simply cut off a corner of the card.

  • At one place we asked the woman in charge how the punch system was working. She said with a twinkle in her shockingly blue eyes, "Accidentally, our punch machine works."

  • Of course I could not be in a place like Afghanistan for the better part of a week without having a MULLINGS moment.

  • One day we were having lunch at the military base up here which is largely populated by German soldiers. It is an ISAF base which stands for "International Security Assistance Forces," although in that dark humor which soldiers worldwide are likely to adopt I came across a gag ISAF badge in the PX which was subtitled: I Saw Americans Fighting.

  • Anyway, we were sitting in the dining hall surrounded by some 800 or so German soldiers and got to talking about where we had gone for our undergraduate degrees such as (to pick one out of thin air) Marietta College, Marietta, Ohio 45750.

  • One of our number said he went to Middlebury College in Vermont, and that he had run the College Republican club there. Some of us giggled and to the others I explained, quite innocently: Middlebury? They're so far to the Left they think Liberals are … Nazis.

  • Actually, I don't think any Germans heard me, but there was a small group of American Air Force members sitting at a nearby table, so I slid in and visited with them while my colleagues beat a stealthy, but rapid, retreat.

  • One more report from overseas, then home.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Mullfotos from Afghanistan.

  • Monday, August 17, 2009

    Afghan Election Week

    From Kabul, Afghanistan

  • Afghanistan will hold its second-ever elections for President on Thursday. The Afghans will also be holding their second-ever elections for provincial councils. It will be the first time the two elections are held on the same day.

  • I am here as a member of the official observer mission with the International Republican Insititute and will be leaving Kabul, later today, for a location outside of the capitol city, but I'll tell you where after I've arrived there.

  • Afghanistan is not known for its long periods of calm and peace. In 329 BC it was invaded by Alexander the Great who found the Afghans impossible to subdue and for the ensuing 2,338 years every other conqueror has met the same fate.

  • The most recent conquerors have been the Soviet Union, the United States, the Taliban, and the United States - again.


    The word "Taliban" comes from the Arabic word for student talib. One of the mechanisms for making a noun plural is to add "an" to it, thus Talib-an or Taliban - the Students.

    The Taliban are among the most fundamentalist adherents of Islam and are criminally intolerant of any deviation from what they perceive to be the pure form of their religion.


  • Following the attacks of September 11, the United States invaded Afghanistan to throw out the ruling Taliban on the grounds that the Taliban had been harboring - indeed had welcomed - Osama bin Laden who, in turn, set up camps to train al-Qaeda terrorists.

  • The Taliban retreated to Pakistan, regrouped and have rebounded in, especially, the southern part of Afghanistan although they have re-established themselves in other regions of the country as well.

  • There is not much to recommend Afghanistan which, according to the few Afghans I have spoken to, is just fine with the locals. When I was here in 2005 to watch the first provincial elections, I was sent to Bamiyan which is the place where the Taliban blew up those huge statues of Buddha which had been carved into the mountainside.

  • We went overland which was a longish trip. As I wrote at the time:

  • Although Bamiyan is only about 100 miles from Kabul as the crow flies, the trip takes 11 hours, because crows don't fly between Kabul and Bamiyan.

  • With all that as background we come to the national elections on Thursday in which the current president, Hamid Karzai will be joined on the ballot by 40 other candidates for the job.

  • Recent polling shows Karzai - for whom Western enthusiasm appears to be waning - leading the pack, but it is unclear whether he can get the 50% plus 1 necessary to avoid a runoff against the man most likely to come in second, Abdullah Abdullah.

  • I know, I know - so good they had to name him twice. But it's like naming your kid Bob if your last name is "Roberts" or Bill if it is "Williams."

  • As an election observer I'm supposed to watch what goes on and report on it. I am not supposed to be an election judge nor an enforcer of Afghan election law. As I will only be in one province, I can only report on what I saw in that province. It is a little like looking through a straw and trying to describe the Grand Canyon.

  • However the National Democratic Institute has observers, as does the European Union. Japan has sent a contingent and the United Nations will be easily in evidence. The hope is, if you put all those straws together a more-or-less accurate determination of how the election was run should be reachable.

  • The success bar appears to have been set pretty low by the people, mostly foreigners, who are in charge of this election. The short hand is: If the Afghan people think the election was legit, then the election was legit.

  • The betting line has Karzai winning with just a bit over the 50% margin needed. If its just over 50 percent, then the charges of ballot stuffing and/or ballots being tossed off the side of a mountain will certainly follow.

  • It is important for the civil government of Afghanistan to continue to grow in strength and reach. The U.S. is leading the fight here and President Obama has put the task of defeating the Taliban near the top of his foreign policy agenda.

  • According to the BBC
    [Obama] is sending 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan and success or failure there will help determine how history views his administration.

  • Two presidents - Obama and Karzai - have a lot riding on Thursday's election.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: A link to a brief history of Afghanistan, links to the two MULLINGS from my last visit here (with some pretty good photos), and a link to the BBC's analysis of Obama and Afghanistan. Also a Mullfoto of my arrival here and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Thursday, August 13, 2009

    Hillary Needs a Time Out

  • During the primary season last year, Hillary Clinton claimed she was more qualified than Barack Obama to be President of the United States because of the skills and knowledge of international affairs she had gained at the side of Bill Clinton.

  • I know there's a domestic affairs joke in there, but I'm passing on it because I want to make my point.

  • We have discussed previously that the Hillary camp made a deal with the Barack camp that they would not blow up the Democratic National Convention if Hillary were to be appointed Secretary of State.

  • Obama's other choice for Secretary of State was soon-to-be-convicted-felon and current New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, so he took the deal.

  • Hillary Clinton is a dreadful Secretary of State.

  • In May, Clinton announced that the Iranians were building a huge "mega-embassy" in Nicaragua. Why? "You can only imagine what that's for," she said.

  • The operative word there was "imagine" because that's apparently what America's chief diplomat was doing about the Iranian embassy. The other answer is that the Iranians have, while they have been developing their nuclear bomb technology, the ability to build an invisible embassy.

  • Could happen.

  • According to that front for Right-Wing interests, the Washington Post,
    Nicaraguan reporters scoured the sprawling tropical city in search of the embassy construction site. Nothing. Nicaraguan Chamber of Commerce chief Ernesto Porta laughed and said: "It doesn't exist." Government officials say the U.S. Embassy complex is the only "mega-embassy" in Managua. A U.S. diplomat in Managua conceded: "There is no huge Iranian Embassy being built as far as we can tell."

  • Oops. Musta been George W. Bush's fault.

  • More recently you have seen the footage of Hillary - looking like Jabba the Hutt in a light blue outfit - lashing out at a student during a - dare we say it - town hall meeting in Kinshasa, Congo who had asked about what President Clinton thought about the Chinese moving in and taking over the heavy construction biz.

  • Hillary flashed and said,
    "Wait, you want me to tell you what my husband thinks? My husband is not secretary of state, I am. If you want my opinion, I will tell you my opinion. I am not going to be channeling my husband.''

  • Yikes! Could it be that Barack Obama and Bill Clinton made the deal for Bill to go to North Korea before anyone mentioned it to the Secretary of State who, as we now know beyond any doubt, is Hillary Clinton and she was feeling a little left out, once again, of the boy's club?

  • Over the ensuing days it was explained that it was the mistake of a nervous student mis-speaking Mr. Clinton when he meant to say "Mr. Obama." Then it was the mistake of a nervous translator. Or, and I think this is the real answer, it was George W. Bush's fault.

  • Hillary's latest example of why she should be fired came the other day when she suggested that the 2000 election was stolen.
    "You know we've had all kinds of problems in some of our past elections, as you might remember. In 2000, our presidential election came down to one state where the brother of the man running for president was the governor of the state, so we have our problems, too."

  • Put aside the fact that major news organizations, desperate to claim that Al Gore should have been elected, hired a major auditing firm to recount the recount and found that, no matter which set of rules they used, Gore still lost. Hillary probably hadn't read about because it wasn't widely reported.

  • This, in Hillary's mind, was not George W. Bush's fault. It was Jeb Bush's fault.

  • But, to be in a place like Nigeria and hold America's democratic process up to scorn is an outrage.

  • If Hillary were a Republican in a Republican Administration there would be howls of outrage from the press corps demanding to know if the Republican President stood behind what was dribbling out of the mouth of his Republican Secretary of State.

  • But … nooooooo. Barack Obama takes responsibility for nothing and is asked to take responsibility for even less.

  • Obama should cut his losses. If he can't fire Hillary, he should bring her home and give her a time out.

    New Topic:

  • From a Facebook "friend"
    "Rich, this evening my husband traded in his 1994 Clunker for a brand new, fuel efficient (worthy of a suit) Volkswagen CC. We (actually I) paid for the balance with my credit card. Which the dealer was not happy to accept, although in the end it turned out making the sale was important after all.

    "Thank you for the inspiration! But for your Facebook post, I wouldn't have even considered using my REWARDS credit card. And some people scoff at social media!"

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the embassy deal, the melt-down in the Congo, and the Florida comment. Also a Mullfoto of everything I've packed for my trip to Afghanistan and a Catchy Caption of the Day which proves the existence of global warming.

  • Monday, August 10, 2009

    HUAC is Back! HUAC is Back!

    Dear Mr. Mullings:

    Before you start on today's diatribe against Nancy Pelosi, we were wondering if you were going to be taking a vacation this year?

    Yes. In fact, I am leaving Friday for about 10 days.

    Where? Can we ask?

    Certainly. Kabul.

    Kadoka? Kadoka, South Dakota?

    No. Kabul. Kabul, Afghanistan. The Afghans are holding their second national election and I will be part of the official election observation mission.

    It's August. The temperature is, what. 115 degrees?

    What can I say? Democracy doesn't come cheap.

  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer have single-handedly returned us to, as the opening to the Lone Ranger used go, "to the days of yesteryear" by saying in an op-ed piece in USA Today that:
    These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views - but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades.

  • Joe McCarthy would have been so proud of them. McCarthy, you may remember from your H.S. History class was the Senator from Wisconsin who claimed there were Communists in every nook and cranny of the U.S. Government (which there might well have been) and kept secret lists of who they were.

  • He was so good at this that the term "McCarthyism" is named after him - not after Edgar Bergen's dummy, Charlie, as you might have thought.

  • Back in the days following World War II when the Soviet Union was …


    Can you imagine what cable news would have been like if it had been in existence during the Red Scare era?

    As amped up as we get about things like Barack Obama's birth certificate, we would have had Lefties' and Righties' heads exploding right on-set during the Russians-Are-Coming era.


  • When the Soviet Union was threatening to bury the United States this was big stuff. The U.S. House of Representatives even had a whole committee devoted to nothing but sniffing out McCarthy's Commies. It was called the House Un-American Activities Committee: HUAC.

  • In 1947, this was the committee which held hearings into the influence of communists in Hollywood. Called before the committee to testify about who else might be a Communist was the end of a career in acting, directing or writing because the studios simply refused to hire someone who was connected to the Red Scare.

  • So, Nancy and Steny have resurrected those glory days of demonizing dissent by calling those who are attending town halls and announcing their opposition to the nationalization of our health care system (whether that's what is in the bills or not) "un-American."

  • Let's go to the rule book. The Constitution of the United States. Says here in the very first Amendment:
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

  • Note the construct of this Amendment. Each of the freedoms is separated by the word "or:" Religion, speech, press …

  • Then look at the last clause:
    … or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

  • The petitioning the government for a redress of grievances is part of the right of the people to peaceably assemble.

  • Ok, you say, but is shouting at a town hall "peaceably" assembling? Who is going to make that call? How loud is too loud? When does too loud become no longer "peaceable" and thus un-American?

  • Do union hires pounding on the bottoms of large plastic tubs for hours on end to protest a non-union construction project in downtown DC count as "peaceably" assembling? Or are they un-American?

  • And the "facts themselves?" The facts themselves are Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer sent their caucus home without a clue as to what they were supposed to be selling.

  • So, what Pelosi and Hoyer really want is to have Americans accept anything the Federal government chooses to impose upon us with no dissent, no discussion, no pesky First Amendment.

  • That, my friends, sounds un-American. Maybe we do need to bring back HUAC.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the USA Today essay, Joe McCarthy, and HUAC. Also a Mullfoto proving that my Cash-for-Clunker deal was worthwhile and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Thursday, August 6, 2009

    Summer "Times" and the Livin' is ...

  • The New York Times had an amazing front page story yesterday which I would have thought would have jumped to the top of every cable news cycle except for the Senate's confirmation of Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

  • The headline of the story was: "White House Affirms Deal on Drug Cost" by David Kirkpatrick.

  • I want you to read the lead paragraph very slowly:
    Pressed by industry lobbyists, White House officials on Wednesday assured drug makers that the administration stood by a behind-the-scenes deal to block any Congressional effort to extract cost savings from them beyond an agreed-upon $80 billion.

  • Whoa! Check Please!

  • How can the words "industry lobbyists" and "White House" be in the same sentence? We have been told - to the point of needing Compazine (an anti-nausea drug) - that this administration was, is, and will always be a lobbyist-free zone.

  • Yet, here it is; in the newspaper of record. The White House had reached a secret deal with the pharmaceutical industry to put a ceiling on the amount of money the government could save by negotiating for lower drug prices. In the words of the NY Times, the White House "had committed to protect drug makers from bearing further costs in the [health care] overhaul" but "had never spelled out the details of the agreement."

  • Oh, here we are in graf seven:
    The new attention to the agreement could prove embarrassing to the White House, which has sought to keep lobbyists at a distance, including by refusing to hire them to work in the administration.

  • Embarassing? Ya think, DiNozzo? (To quote Leroy Jethro Gibbs).

  • It turns out that there is a quid pro quo for keeping the drug companies out of the rough and tumble world of free markets. Again, from Mr. Kirkpatrick's piece:
    Failing to publicly confirm [the drug lobby's] descriptions of the deal risked alienating a powerful industry ally currently helping to bankroll millions in television commercials in favor of Mr. Obama's reforms. [emphasis mine]

  • So… let me walk through this. In strange world in which Obamaville is located, lobbyists are bad only if and until the White House needs them to do things like run ads in favor of nationalized health care and then lobbyists are good.

  • So, what if the previously dreadful, greedy, self-serving oil companies sent their lobbyists in to cut a deal with Obama to support a cap-and-trade bill though heavy advertising? Might they trade for removing any caps on their profits?

  • I think I'm beginning to get how this works.

  • It works like … Chicago!

  • Unfortunately for Da Mayor of all the American People, the U.S. Congress isn't likely to roll over like a bunch of in-his-pocket Aldermen. The co-chairman of the House progressive caucus, Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz) was not thrilled to find out that while he has been working the halls of Congress, the White House has been working the watering holes of K Street.

  • Mr. Grijalva whined to the Times:
    "Are industry groups going to be the ones at the table who get the first big piece of the pie and we just fight over the crust?"

  • Well, not to put too fine a point on it but … yes, Raul, put in your Sunday teeth and learn to enjoy the crust. It's all you're getting.

  • The insurance companies, who have been a recent talking point in Obama's speeches, have not lined up to cut a deal the way the drug guys have. Thus, they are being singled out.

  • Will the insurance companies get any help from the pharmas? Yea, right. According to the Times piece, having made its own deal, the drug industry's "lobbyists acknowledge privately that they have no intention of fighting" nationalized health care.

  • I don't blame the drug companies for making a deal. That's what lobbyists are paid to do. I do think that Mr. Obama might use his summer vacation to straighten that halo just a little bit.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the NY Times story, to the Leroy Jethro Gibbs reference and to this weeks baseball column. Also a Mullfoto from Nationals Park yesterday and a really unfair and mean Catchy Caption of the Day of Bill Clinton.

  • Tuesday, August 4, 2009

    Washington Nationals: A Bunch of Hits

    In the bottom of the 7th inning, sitting in the press box for the first game of the series against the Florida Marlins, someone mentioned that the crowd didn't seem to be very much into the game. The paid attendance had just been announced as 19,828 which, in a stadium which holds about 42,000 looks exactly like the small crowd it is.

    There was a bigger problem. Josh Willingham, leading off for the Nationals, popped out to first. Willingham had been the last National to reach base which had been in the bottom of the 1st, an hour-and-a-half earlier.

    One of the biggest cheers of the night was the first time long-time Nats first baseman, Nick Johnson came up to bat - as a Marlin - having been traded a week earlier.

    The second biggest cheer of the night came when Thomas Jefferson stumbled during the Presidents' Race and landed face down in the grass; a tumble so inglorious that it made the in-game highlight tape.

    By the end of the 7th the Marlins pitcher had retired every batter he had faced since there was one out in the opening frame. The tally stood at 20 Nats in-a-row who had come up to the plate and 20-in-a-row who had failed to get on base.

    The reason for drilling down into that one inning is to, unhappily, make the point that not much has changed for the Nats since the All Star break when they fired manager Manny Acta and replaced him with acting manager Jim Riggleman.


    All right, this is the danger of writing a column at the end of the 7th inning. In the bottom of the 8th, trailing four-zip the Nationals rallied with three singles, a double and an infield out to close the gap to 4-3, with one out and a man on third. The crowd was standing and cheering.

    Shortstop Christian Guzman stepped in. The infield was playing on the edge of the grass to cut off the run with a play at the plate if Guzman hit a grounder. He worked the count to 3-2 and then smacked a single between the drawn in infielders to right field to score the tying run. The crowd went wild.

    The very same Josh Willingham who started this column came up and popped out to first in foul territory. [I am typing this in real time as I am watching the action] That brought up Adam "27-Home-Runs-So-Far-This-Year" Dunn who had struck out three times in his previous at-bats. On a 3-2 pitch Dunn parked an opposite field homer into the left field stands to give the Nats a 6-4 lead. The crowd was delirious.

    Which only goes to prove that old baseball adage: "If you're going to get 8 hits in game, it's good to get six of them in the same inning."

    In the top of the ninth, the Nationals put in their defensive team and brought in their closer, Mike McDougal who, after putting two on with one out got Jeremy Hermida to ground into a double play to end the game.

    The crowd stood and roared as the home team slapped hands in the middle of the diamond and then went home happy.

    What a game, this baseball. What a game.

    -- Rich Galen

    Monday, August 3, 2009

    Just Say No!

    NOTE: During August MULLINGS throttles back from three days a week (M-W-F) to two days a week (T-F). When I started doing this I thought I would just publish "The Best of MULLINGS" during August but there were two problems.

    (1) It took so long to describe what was going on when I wrote the original MULLINGS that it was easier and faster to simply write a new column, and

    (2) there ARE no "Best of MULLINGS."

  • The House has already headed home for its August break, but the Senate is still in session. Among other things, the Senate will hold a confirmation vote this week on Sonia Sotomayor to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court which she will be when the Court opens for business on the first Monday in October probably with 65 or so votes.

  • But, it's the House which is made the news on the first day of their "District Work Period." A number of Members held town hall meetings which in most cases are nothing more than opportunities for them to remind their constituents that they are back there in Washington trying beat back the crazy (choose one) Left or Right wingers from destroying this great nation of ours.

  • For most folks a sitting Member of Congress is the most senior public official with whom they will ever be in the same room - except if they live in Iowa or New Hampshire in which case, sooner or later, they will have beeen in the same room with every sitting Senator in their lifetime.

  • So, town halls meetings are generally pretty easy going things. Members of the House generally know enough of their constituents so they can call on friendly faces to ask public policy questions about which the Member knows way more than the constituent and so can sound very smart, concerned, and well-informed.

  • Except for yesterday when a number of Members had town hall meetings at which the Obama Health Care Plan (OHCP) came up followed by shouting and chanting, followed by at least one Member of Congress scooting out of his own town hall meeting only to be followed by those same shouting and chanting constituents.

  • The Member of Congress in question here is Lloyd Doggett of Texas. His district includes Austin which is so liberal that I was once quoted as saying there are more committed Communists in Travis County than there are left in the Kremlin.

  • CBS News pointed out that "although Texas went for Republican John McCain in last year's election, Doggett's district voted for Mr. Obama by almost a 20 point margin."

  • This liberal district in this liberal city is the place where his constituents shouted "Just Say No!" to Obama care and chased the Congressman out of the hall.

  • Meanwhile, up in Philadelphia Democratic Senator Arlen Specter held a town hall meeting with the Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius on Sunday. According to the Fox News website they were "booed and jeered" by audience members.

  • At one point, Specter explained that the way he deals with these 1,000 page bills is to split it up amongst the staff and they read sections and report to him.

  • More boos and jeers.

  • In the latest Quinnipiak poll Specter is leading his likely GOP challenger in the 2010 Senate race by … one percentage point 45-44. And, according to that poll, by a 49-40 margin Pennsylvanians don't think Specter deserves re-election.

  • That poll was taken two weeks ago. Sunday's performance will not help.

  • These things feed on each other. Opponents of the Obama Health Care Plan - whatever it is - will have seen footage of these town halls and will be emboldened to duplicate them.

  • As other Democrats hear and read about how their colleagues were treated, we will see an avalanche of "scheduling conflicts" as town hall meetings are deleted from schedule after schedule.

  • No Member of Congress in his or her right mind is going to walk into a meeting knowing that opponents of Obama Care are armed with cell phone video cameras and instructions on how to upload to YouTube.

  • The Pelosi plan to sell the health care plan will have lasted even less time than the Cash-for-Clunkers program.

  • This has a real effect on public policy. No amount of arm twisting by the Democratic House leadership and no amount of angry phone calls from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel will offset 400 angry constituents at a town hall meeting.

  • When it comes down to a vote on any meaningful recasting of America's health care system, it is quite likely that a majority of the Members of Congress will "Just Say No!"

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: A pretty good Secret Decoder Page. Links to the stories above including that Specter poll also a funny Mullfoto of an electric car and that Obama-Joker poster as the Catchy Caption of the Day. If you haven't seen it, click HERE.