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

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Nappy, You're Doing a Heck of a Job

  • On September 2, 2005, after his delayed trip to the Gulf Coast to view the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, President George W. Bush said of Michael Brown, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

  • Brownie, as we now know (and which I knew at the time because I was actually in the FEMA command trailer watching him) was an abject failure in organizing the post-hurricane recovery operation to the point that the United States Army had to be sent in to take control of the situation in New Orleans.

  • FEMA is a sub-unit of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The Secretary of DHS is Janet Napolitano, the former Governor of Arizona (GovAz - ok, I made that up).

  • Janet Napolitano was interviewed on CNN's Sunday show "State of the Nation," following the failure of the Tightey-Whitey-Bomber to bring down a flight just outside of Detroit on Christmas Day and said,
    "One thing I want to point out is that the system worked. Everybody played an important role here. The passengers and crew of the flight took appropriate action."

  • Of course that is preposterous. The system pretty obviously did not work because if the system had worked "the passengers and crew of the flight" would not have had to take any "appropriate action" other than whining about the agents taking too long to bring the jet bridge up to the plane.

  • According to Napolitano the system that "worked" had allowed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (UFA), a guy from Lagos, to take time out from sending me spam e-mails about how I had won the Nigerian national lottery because my e-mail address had been selected out of the 87 trillion e-mail addresses on the planet and if I would just send (1) a signed copy of a check showing my account and bank routing number, (2) a credit card number (including the security code and expiration date), and (3) the last four digits of my social security number, he would be happy to send me the $125 million which is now sitting in a bank in Cote d'Ivoire in an account with my name on it.

  • That same guy went to terrorist band camp in Yemen where he learned how to:
  • Put on a pair of panties which had a very powerful explosive sewn into them;

  • Talk his way onto airplanes in Lagos and Amsterdam having paid only cash and having only a small carry-on even after his father had told U.S. authorities that his son was crackers;

  • Get the seat most likely to set the plane's fuel on fire, and;

  • Inject a liquid into his … well where the explosives were located, which was supposed to blow the plane out of the sky.

  • That's the system which Secretary Napolitano thinks worked.

  • Checking on the Delta website last night, a one-way coach ticket from Lagos to Detroit was priced at $3,654.30. The unit of currency in Nigeria is the naira. One US dollar is worth about 152.29 nairas. So, that ticket to the U.S. would have required UFA to cough up 556,513.35 nairas. In cash.

  • Hefting more than a half million nairas up on the counter to pay for his ticket must have required UFA to be wearing a truss, in addition to his Big-Bang-Briefs, but that raised no eyebrows anywhere in Napolitano's well-oiled, highly-effective system.

  • Nor did the fact that he had been refused a visa to return to the U.K. where he had lived long enough to get a college degree, yet has been granted a valid US visa, where he has never lived for any length of time. Ok. Maybe that system needs a little tweak.

  • It took about 24 hours for Secretary Napolitano to come up with a clarification of her shockingly stupid statement. After calling in all the geniuses in the Administration's stable of communicators, "Nappy's" explanation of saying that the system worked was: It was taken out of context.

  • I was at CNN on Monday and spoke with a reporter who was in the Bureau when Nappy was on the air.

  • "It was a live interview," the reporter said. "How can it have been taken out of context?"

  • Nappy did a heck of a job.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the White House transcript of the GWB "Brownie" remark and the CNN coverage of "Nappy's" appearance. Also another of those really cute Mullfotos of my cat and a topic-appropriate Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Sunday, December 27, 2009

    Flying from London to Washington

    Aboard Delta Flight 4

    LHR - JFK


    Delta Flight 6731

    JFK - LHR

  • You may be wondering what it was like getting on this flight in the wake of yet another Islamic extremist jackass, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, trying to attack a U.S. airplane by lighting himself on fire and/or blowing himself up.

  • This, like the flight Abdulmutallab tried to blow up on Christmas day, is an international flight on Delta Airlines, originating in the U.K., headed for the United States. Same set of circumstances, different route.

  • The flight was scheduled to leave at 9:05 AM so we left St. James via taxi at 6:00 AM. It was a 30 minute trip so we were in the check-in area at about 6:40. We flew business class so the line issue wasn't what it would have been had we been in coach, but procedures were the same.

  • We were asked the usual questions regarding our luggage: Is it ours; did we pack it; has it been in our control since we packed it; had anyone given us anything to carry for them; and so on.

  • At the ticket desk we were told that on flights to the U.S. we were permitted only one carry-on instead of the standard two; and that the Mullings Director of Standards & Practices' hand bag counted as one.

  • Shoes to be worn during the flight were stuffed into my backpack; newspapers were folded into her bag and we were off to security.

  • Security (which in the US would be the TSA area) was likewise standard. Shoes on the belt; jackets off; computer out. There didn't appear to be any additional attention being paid to what might be in our bags; my backpack - which is hauled out for re-screening about two times out of five - sailed through the x-ray examination.

  • We were called for boarding at 8:05, an hour before takeoff , instead of the standard 30 minutes. The reason - and I'm not giving away any secrets here - was the individual examination of persons and bags at the departure gate.

  • Every passenger was asked to remove all outer garments; empty pockets; undergo a thorough pat-down; and then my examiner went through every item in every pouch and pocket in my backpack.

  • My search took about five minutes. There were four examiners to deal with about 250 people on the flight.

  • We started boarding an hour early, and the plane finally left an hour late. No one was left at the gate pending the final security check, so if this procedure stands, look for flight schedules to change over the next few months to account for gate delays.

  • In-flight we were told that for the final hour not only did we have to remain in our seats, but that we couldn't use any electronic devices nor have anything, including magazines and newspapers, in our laps.

  • In the event, the flight attendants took pillows and blankets and stuffed them into the overheads, but they didn't enforce the no reading materials rule, perhaps on the theory that an hour staring into the seat back in front of you at the end of an 8-hour flight might cause more problems than that rule would resolve.

  • When you come back to the U.S. from overseas, you have to go through immigration. My favorite thing is when the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) person hands back your passport and says, "Welcome home."

  • After immigration, you pick up your bags from the belt as if you were leaving the airport, whether you have an onward flight or not. You wheel them past the Customs inspectors and, if they don't think you look like you're trying out for a part on "Locked-Up Abroad" they wave you through.

  • If you're going on, you have to check them again to your final domestic destination, and go through security as if you had just come in from being dropped off at the curb. This isn't different. It's been this way for a long time, and the procedures to get out of the international arrivals area and into the terminal for our trip from JFK to DCA was, as far as I could see, hadn't changed from any other domestic TSA screening over the past several years.

  • Boarding the flight from JFK to DCA aboard a Comair commuter flight was no different than any domestic flight I've boarded since 9/11. There was no "one-bag" rule, there was no individual search. and there didn't appear to be any additional security at the gate or on the plane.

  • If, in the wake of the Abdulmutallab attack, extra security were going to be put on any plane, a flight from New York to Washington would likely be it.

  • In the end our trip was uneventful. But, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab reminded us yet again: We have to be right every time. The bad guys only have to beat the system once.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: A link to the UK Telegraph's coverage of Heathrow Airport yesterday, also a pretty nice photo from inside Westminster Abbey and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Thursday, December 24, 2009

    Christmas 2009 - Six Words

    From London, England

    [NOTE: This is an edited version of the column from Christmas 2003 which was written from Tikrit and Baghdad. This year I am in London with my wife, my son, and my daughter-in-law.

    This is better.

    But, that was then …


    It is 10:45 PM on Christmas Eve here in the Palace in Baghdad, eight hours ahead of the east coast of the United States. The space in which I work is a large barn of a room we call the Green Room.

    The Air Force folks set up a white board against one of the greenish walls, borrowed a projector used for presentations, and loaded the DVD of "It's a Wonderful Life" into a computer.

    George Bailey has been declared, by his brother, "the richest man in town," and Clarence has just won his wings.

    Still holds up.

    Starting at about six this morning the bad guys tried to prove that neither Saddam's capture [about two weeks previous] nor Christmas meant anything to them by launching mortar attacks. They didn't hit much but they kept us all on edge all day.

    Because of the attacks, the young Marines who nightly come in to use our phones to call home are absent because they are out protecting us. They will probably patrol all night. We will let them use our phones tomorrow.

    All over Iraq - all over the globe - there are young people like our Marines who are out protecting us. They are American service personnel who are not home tonight and will not be home tomorrow nor the day after that.

    Most of them will get to a phone or, at a minimum, a computer with which to share a moment with their families.

    They are not sad, these young people. They are committed to doing what they have been trained to do.

    They want to go home. And they will, most of them. But for tonight, it is another night on duty, in a building, a ship, or a tent which, depending upon where they are, might or might not have inside plumbing.


    Christmas goodies are strewn everywhere in the Green Room. Care packages of candy and cookies have been flooding into the Palace as, I suspect, they have everywhere in the theater.

    The rule is: You open the box, take out what you want, and leave the rest of the treasure on the floor next to your desk. Anyone who comes by is welcome to take whatever appeals.

    The big winner is Oreo's Double Stuff. Can't keep them in stock.


    It is now just after midnight; and so it is Christmas in the Middle East, not all that far from where it all began.

    The military's chief public affairs officer, Col. Bill Darley, just stopped by my desk to tell me, in that sad professional way military people have, that two soldiers have been killed by explosive devices this evening. That makes five this Christmas Eve day. We had heard that the terrorists would be using today to make a point.

    They have.

    They have proven themselves to be heartless cowards who have nothing but hatred in their souls.

    A remarkable man, that Bill Darley. One of 130,000 remarkable men and women here on this Christmas Day, 2003.


    It is now the evening of Christmas Day. All over Iraq these men and women - old enough to have children, but young enough to be someone's child - all over Iraq they will have called home this day, or e-mailed, or instant messaged; renewing the connection between parent and child; or child and parent.

    Each renewal will end with the same six words, six words I share with you this day and which come from my heart and from the hearts of every person who is here to do this vitally important job.

    You can watch them, the men and women - even the battle-hardened Marines - as they use our phones, staring across the 10,000 miles between a desk in the Green Room in the Palace in Baghdad, and the phone on the wall of their mom's kitchen. The phone that has been there since before they were tall enough to reach it.

    They stare across that 10,000 miles and they talk, and they listen.

    And then so quietly.

    And so gently.

    And so tenderly.

    These tough, young war-fighters; just before they have to hang up the phone and break that most cherished connection, they each say the same six words:

    "Merry Christmas;
    I love you, too."



    As I noted at the beginning, I am in London staying at the Safford Hotel which is a far, far cry from Baghdad. As we returned from a Christmas eve concert at Royal Albert Hall I saw this note taped to the front door of the hotel.

    I suspect, no matter how old they get, all children are like Archie and Florence; concerned that if they are not at home Santa won't be able to find them.

    God bless them all.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: A photo from Iraq that night showing the indomitable spirit of Americans - civilians and military - who will make the best of the worst of circumstances.

    --END --

  • Tuesday, December 22, 2009

    Workin' in a Coal Mine ...

    From London, England

    If you are looking for a last-minute Christmas gift - or a post-Christmas gift to deal with that person you now realize you under-gifted - I'd like to recommend two books.

    The first is by long-time pal and ally, Craig Shirley. The title is "Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America." It is a close examination of the 1980 Presidential campaign and is the book Teddy White would have written had he the time, dedication, and access to documents and people that Craig has had.

    "Rendezvous with Destiny" is a fascinating look at what can be accomplished if you are comfortable with your values and stick with them no matter what the "experts" tell you. It is the perfect gift for a Reagan fan, or someone who hasn't yet realized they should be a Reagan fan.

    Here's the link to Amazon if you want to order " Rendezvous with Destiny" online.

    The second book I want to recommend is a coffee-table book (I'll wait until you get the Cosmo Kramer vision out of your head) by Jennifer B. Pickens. The book is titled, "Christmas at the White House" and contains photos and commentary of and about White House Christmas decorations from JFK to GWB.

    This is a wonderful book which will be displayed on the table next to the Christmas tree for decades to come. Here is the Amazon link for " Christmas at the White House ".


  • On CNN Monday afternoon the was a great deal of wailing, keening, and rending of flesh over the fact that members of the United States Senate were going to have to work on Christmas Eve to vote on final passage of their version of health care legislation.

  • I suggested that we stop crying crocodile tears because as a rule Senators only work three days a week and that's just the weeks that they are actually in session. If they had planned ahead they could have started working five days a week last April and been out of here by Thanksgiving.

  • "It ain't," I said affecting that common touch which endears me to you nearly as much as my daily typos, "like working in a coal mine or driving a cross-country truck."

  • I didn't say on the set, but wish I had, that there are some 15 million people who would love to have to work on December 24, or December 26 or any other day. They are among the 15 million Americans who are unemployed and will not be helped one bit by the Senate, House, or Administration version of health care reform.

  • If the GOP were presiding over double-digit unemployment, the SEIU, AFL-CIO, UAW, and maybe the NFL and UNICEF be screaming about the fact that the poor, overworked members of the Senate were totally unconcerned about the unemployment rate in America at Christmas time.

  • Speaking of unemployment, two data points to make your Christmas a little merrier: First, the states are running out of unemployment insurance money and second, the third quarter Gross Domestic Product numbers have been restated - downward.

  • The Washington Post had a front pager highlighting the fact that 40 (that would be 80 percent) of the 50 states in the Union will run out of unemployment funds over the next two years and will have to borrow $90 billion from the USG to pay for benefits.

  • According to the piece by reporter Peter Whoriskey:
    The shortfalls are putting pressure on governments to either raise taxes or shrink the aid payments.

  • Oh … I get it now. Obama said he wouldn't raise taxes on middle class Americans. But between unemployment benefits and the health care bill which, remember, loads states up with new, largely unreimbursed, Medicaid liabilities (except for Nebraska which will not have to pay because Harry Reid needed Ben Nelson's vote) states will have to raise taxes which Obama will claim does not violate his pledge.

  • Ya gotta love these guys.

  • On top of that, the Feds restated the third quarter GDP numbers which shows the economy didn't grow quite as quickly as had been reported, thus, it is not likely that unemployment will ease as quickly as we have been promised.

  • According to Reuters:
    The main factors behind the downgrade were that consumers didn't spend as much, commercial construction was weaker, business investment in equipment and software was softer and companies cut back more on their stockpiles of goods.

  • Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

  • Workin' in a coal mine, goin' down, down, down…

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the stories above, plus a link to the lyrics of, "Workin' in a Coal Mine" and a GREAT Mullfoto contributed by Mullpal Bill Fitzpatrick. Also a Catchy Caption of the day which isn't worth your wasting your scroll-down muscle on.

  • Sunday, December 20, 2009

    All Flash, No Substance

  • I was on a conference call the other day which included a senior Democratic consultant. The issue of whether a health care bill would become law came up and this consultant (whom I like and respect) said, "Yes. There will be a health care bill."

  • Which, of course, I could not let go without saying, "But what, if anything, will be below the title?"

  • Laughter all around, but I was right about it. Obama paid off Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb) the way he and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev) had paid off Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La) last month.

  • Put enough money on the table and just about any Democratic U.S. Senator will think, gulp, blink, and drag the pot with the rationalization that "this is all for the greater good."

  • Pelican Pellets.

  • This is no different than putting a horse's head into Jack Woltz' bed to force him into giving Johnny Fontaine a part in his movie in The Godfather. It was a deal Nelson couldn't refuse.

  • There is no Socialized Option in the bill. Abortions will not be covered. It is unclear who will have to pay how much or when for what coverage. All in all it is health care reform that has nothing to do with health care and contains little, if any, reform.

  • Other than this: If Democrats continue to control all the levers of power at the Federal level, this will change and change and change over the next two or three Congresses until health care in America is pronounced equal for everyone and mediocre for all.

  • Then there is the Copenhagen debacle. Obama and the other chickens little spent several months leading up to the U.N.- led conference telling us that it would probably not lead to a legally binding agreement.

  • That is called: Lowering the bar so when Obama got there and nothing came out the other end, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs could tell the press corps that "we told you not to raise your expectations too high, if you didn't listen to us that's your look-out."

  • Obama has spent some part of every week since he has been in office blaming the George W. Bush for something. One of the somethings Obama constantly blames Bush for is being a cowboy - going it alone without the love and support of all the other nations on the planet.

  • So, Obama saddles up and rides off to Denmark to save the day.

  • The day didn't want to be saved because India, China, Brazil are sort of at the top of their industrialization cycle and aren't all that interested in having Barack Obama tell them what they can and can't do.

  • So, after Obama's speech - which drew few kudos - I, C, and B were in a meeting. Sheriff Obama heard about it and, spurs a-jingling, threw open the swinging doors of the saloon and invited himself into the card game.

  • Who's the cowboy now?

  • One hundred and ninety two nations meeting for two weeks came up with what USA Today described as:
    a three-page document called the Copenhagen Accord in which rich nations, including the United States, agreed to cut emissions of greenhouse gases.

  • Chief White House apologist David Axelrod, again according to USA Today,
    "called the agreement a 'great step forward' in a long-term negotiation. 'Nobody says that this is the end of the road,' Axelrod said."

  • Axelrod sounds like he is describing Dorothy, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion starting out on the Yellow Brick Road en route the Emerald City to see the Wizard.

  • Who do we think the phony-baloney man behind the curtain is in this incarnation?

  • According to the NY Times - not exactly the Fox News of the publishing industry:
    "The most tangible outcome of the climate agreement announced here Friday turned out to be cash … The accord calls for the establishment of the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund to support immediate action to help curb emissions and to help communities adapt to the effects of global warming."

  • How much? Up to $100 billion PER YEAR.

  • So, we have a health care bill that does nothing to improve health care but costs over $800 billion and a global warming agreement which compels no country to do anything to reduce greenhouse gasses at a cost of $100 billion per year.

  • It's not so much "All flash, no substance." Obama should take note of that Texas saying, "All hat, no cattle."

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the stories reference in the column, plus an explanation of the Jack Woltz reference. Also a Mullfoto from my back door the night of the Big Snow Storm and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Thursday, December 17, 2009

    Buy 'em Off Politics

  • About a month ago, Barack Obama, in complicity with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev), bribed Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La) with $300 million of our tax money to add her vote to the 60 needed to bring some form of health care legislation to the floor.

  • That was not the last time Obama and his pals, continuing a long-cherished Chicago tradition, have offered to pay someone off to get what they want.

  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton - no stranger to hardball politics herself - offered in Copenhagen to buy off the entire Third World by offering $100 billion A YEAR over the next ten years to … I'm not sure what the money is for but she threatened them by saying:

  • "In the absence of an operational agreement … there will not be that financial agreement."

  • Hillary can promise to spend a trillion dollars helping poor nations cope with the struggles of not having millions of automobiles belching carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but she didn't say where that money was going to come from.


    The Third World countries, which are demanding to be paid not to pollute, are known as the G-77.

    There are 131 countries in the G-77 which says to me that either they can't count to 131, or they made up 54 countries (Upper Iguana, Eastern Salamander, Western Camel Spider, and the like) so they could hold us up for more money.

    If they're not that good at arithmetic then we should offer them 24 dollars in wampum - which, as you remember from Mr. Mirandi's high school American history class, was enough to buy Manhattan Island - and tell them that's the equivalent of a bajallion Altarian dollars which, according to the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," are freely convertible anywhere in the Milky Way other than the planet Earth.


  • President Obama, in his role as President of All the World, is en route Copenhagen for what the AP's Jennifer Loven writes will be "approximately nine hours there Friday." Just enough time to pull out the old checkbook and give a bunch more of our money away to people who haven't done a thing to earn it.

  • At some point it became an article of faith that the United States and the EU have to pay reparations to these 131 countries because the citizens of these western nations have been successful, have produced a lot of things, have purchased a lot of things, and have paid a lot in taxes, a good deal of which have been used to fund foreign aid to these same 131 countries which have largely produced nothing and are likely to continue producing nothing and so they are not likely to contribute greatly to carbon pollution.

  • Methane from water buffalo, maybe.

  • Am I wrong about this?

  • The last time Obama did a drop-by in Copenhagen was that really terrific pitch to get the Olympics for Chicago. That was so successful the U.S. didn't make it through the first round of voting. The Olympics went to Rio. Maybe Obama figures he due for a win there.

  • Ok. Who else is Obama trying to buy off? Yes? You in the back? Senator Ben Nelson (D-Neb) to be the 60th vote on the Senate health care bill? That's correct. Five Points to Griffyndor.

  • Take a look at this lead from the New York Times' Jeff Zeleny and Robert Pear piece last night:
    WASHINGTON - The White House and Senate Democratic leaders seem willing to give Senator Ben Nelson just about anything he wants to win his support of major health care legislation.

  • Even in these days of Obama and Reid "just about anything" is a very, very big number. Maybe TWO bajallion Altarian dollars.

  • Nelson is strongly pro-life and is insisting on language which will prohibit use of tax money to fund abortions.

  • The problem for Obama and Reid appears to be: If language is added which is sufficient to gain Nelson's vote, Liberals in the House and Senate may revolt and scrap the whole deal.

  • Earlier this week, the massive Service Employees International Union (SEIU) boycotted a planned press conference in support of the legislation because the public option had been excised from the Senate version.

  • Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has called for the defeat of the bill because it doesn't have a public option.

  • The President might pull out wins in both Copenhagen and Capitol Hill. But it will cost you and me more money than we can ever repay.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Lots 'o links! Everything including the official definition of an Altarian dollar. Also a wistful Mullfoto of what may be the last Accenture airport ad featuring Tiger Woods and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Tuesday, December 15, 2009

    Is Any of This Healthy?

    From New Orleans, Louisiana

    The Louisiana Pachyderms

  • The President called the Democrats in the U.S. Senate to the White House and gave them the "Thou Shalts.

  • "Thou Shalt pass a bill with the words 'Health' and 'Reform' in the title before you go home for Christmas," Obama told them.


    Someone once told me, I think it was Mullpal Larry Halloran, that the title of a bill in the U.S. Congress is like the title of a Marx Brothers movie: It has nothing whatever to do with the content.


  • According to reporters Lori Montgomery and Shailagh Murray writing in the Washington Post:
    President Obama urged Senate Democrats on Tuesday to overcome lingering disputes and push a health-care overhaul through the chamber before Christmas, as vigorous negotiations continued behind the scenes to lock down the last votes needed for final passage.

  • The Medicare buy-in proposal - which would allow people to buy into Medicare at 55 instead of waiting until they are 65 - was opposed by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) so Harry Reid dropped the proposal leaving Lieberman to say, "We've got a great health insurance reform bill here."

  • The problem is … one of the many problems is so few people know what is in the 2,000 page legislation. In an effort to win her over, the Post reported that Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) was given a "one-on-one briefing on details of the emerging Democratic compromise."

  • Wait. What? The Ds gave Snowe a secret briefing on what is in the bill? Harry Reid is calling the plays on health care like an NFL coach holding a big white card in front of his face so the opposition can't read his lips.

  • If this is really the biggest thing since Social Security, why not have a meeting of ALL the members of the U.S. Senate and let them in on the secret? And why is it a secret anyway?

  • Two-thousand-pages. I mean, really. You don't really think these people are going to read a 2,000 page bill, do you? United States Senators can serve for a quarter of a century and not read 2,000 pages total - if you don't count the daily clips in which they (or the other Senator from their state) are mentioned.

  • There is no "public option" provision in the Senate bill. At least not yet. The AP's Dave Espo wrote of the WH pep rally:

  • The AP's Dave Espo wrote
    Liberal supporters of the bill vented their frustration at having to abandon the last vestige of a government-run insurance option in the legislation, a slow-motion concession made over many months.

  • Which leads us to the dreaded … Connnnnnnffffffferrrrrrence Committee.

  • Assuming all goes according to plan and the Senate passes whatever version of this thing gets to the floor on December 23, sometime early in January, Democrats from the Senate will meet with Democrats from the House to resolve any (and there are many) differences between the two versions.

  • This is where the mischief really happens.

  • In the movie biz there is a phrase for an actor flubbing a line in his 27th take, or dropping a glass in an otherwise perfect performance: "We'll fix it in post." Which means "We'll repair any errors in post-production.

  • The Congressional version of "We'll fix it in post" is: "We'll fix it in Conference."

  • The House-Senate conferees will meet in secret. They will craft a bill which looks nothing like what either chamber passed and they will each bring that version (known as a "Conference Report") back to their respective floors for a final vote.

  • This is a little complicated, but it is worth the typing. Conference Reports are privileged, meaning they can be brought up at any time and the motion to do so is not debatable. However, the Conference Report itself - in the Senate - is subject to filibuster and so needs 60 votes to pass.

  • Unless … It is a Conference Report presented as a "budget reconciliation bill" in which case 51 votes suffice. What is a "budget reconciliation bill?" That phrase is understood by only two people … and they don't agree.

  • Seriously, though. Because of the enormous budget implications of this legislation, it is quite likely that Harry Reid (D-Nev) will bring up the Conference Report 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.

  • Alas.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: A link to the Washington Post article and the Wikipedia entry on "Conference Reports." Also a Mullfoto with Mullfave Mary Matalin and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Sunday, December 13, 2009

    It Just Doesn't Matter

  • 'Tis the season for holiday receptions and dinners. At a dinner we attended last night, with good friends, all smart, all high achievers in business and government (with one obvious exception) a word which was never mentioned was "Copenhagen." A word which was mentioned often was "Tiger."

  • The Tiger Woods opera is an August story in December. This is the kind of thing which, when there is no other news because the Congress is out and the President is on vacation, attracts our attention and sticks with us because in August we have to be obsessed with something.

  • But this is December and the world is waiting for some non-toxic smoke to come out of the chimney atop the meeting hall in Copenhagen to announce a global agreement on greenhouse gases.

  • Americans are waiting for the smoke to clear in the U.S. Senate so we know the nature of the nationalized health insurance with which they will attempt to saddle us.

  • In the Washington, DC metropolitan area we are waiting for the Congress to go home so traffic will ease for the final weeks of the decade.

  • People who are embarrassed to stand near the, er, safe sex display at the drug store while waiting to pick up their blood pressure prescription are consumed by the latest body count:
    "It's twelve." "No. I heard it was 13!" "Really? Who?" As if it matters.

  • People who have never even known an agent, much less been represented by one, spend cocktails discussing the loss of sponsorships:
    "Accenture announced last night they were dropping Woods." "And, Gatorade. Don't forget Gatorade." "You think Nike will stick with him?" "Sure. They sell to men." As if it matters.

  • People who have never played a round of golf that didn't include a windmill and a clown's mouth speak with great fervor about the state of Woods' game if and when he returns from his exile.
    "He won't have his competitive edge." "Yeah, he will." "He won't be able to deal with the heckling." "Heckling? He's not playing right field for the visiting team at a Met's game. These are golf fans!" As if it matters.

  • The thing about the Tiger Woods saga is that there don't appear to be many people - none, that I've spoken to - who think "it's about time he's gotten taken down a notch."

  • Everybody liked watching Tiger play and darned near everyone liked watching Tiger win.

  • Woods is different than Muhammad Ali. A lot of people loved Ali when he was at the top of his skills. But a lot of people hated him. Changing his name from Cassius Clay to refusing to serve in the military didn't sit well with a bunch of folks.

  • Woods is different than Michael Jordan. Who didn't love watching Jordan go to the hoop with two ticks on the clock at the end of a close game? But you know and I know that there were NBA fans who wished there was a White guy who could match up with Jordan.

  • Woods is clearly different than Barack Obama. I have heard people sneer about the President once having gone by the name "Barry." I have never heard a single person mock Tiger for not going by his birth name "Eldrick."

  • Ok. I wouldn't go by Eldrick, either. Nor would William Blake have written his famous poem about an Eldrick:
    Eldrick, Eldrick burning bright,

    In the forests of the night,

    What immortal hand or eye

    Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

  • Even in 1794, that probably wouldn't have made it through his editor:
    "Ah, Bill? This "Eldrick, Eldrick" poem you sent over? I just don't think it's for us. Maybe you can punch it up a little. You know, add a little something about "sinews of thy heart." And you wrote that verse about a "dread hand" and "dread feet" a couple of weeks ago. Maybe you can work that in.

    And, I know you're touchy about my asking this Bill, but just what is an "Eldrick" anyway? We think this might work if you wrote it about a tiger, instead.

    Lemme know.

    Luv ya, baby,


  • Two excellent quotes I read over the weekend about this whole thing: The first was from a former NBA player, "Why are we treating Tiger like he's elected to public office? He plays golf, man."

  • The second was from a man who knows a little something about playing golf. Jack Nicklaus said simply, "It's none of my business."

  • Jack's right. It just doesn't matter.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the William Blake poem and to an analysis of Tiger's sponsorships. Also a Mullfoto which amused me and a Catchy Caption of the Day which will amuse you.

  • Thursday, December 10, 2009

    Obama: As Cold as Frozen Lutefisk

  • President Obama stopped off in Oslo to pick up his Nobel Peace Prize. He declined to participate in many of the traditional appearances previous winners had done, spending just a few hours less in Norway than he had spent in the Oval office before being chosen for the award.

  • Without rekindling that argument, he gave a nicely written and delivered speech in which he acknowledged he was awarded the Peace Prize not for what he had accomplished in his first 12 days in office, but what the committee members hoped he would accomplish.

  • However, in in its coverage, the Washington Post had this less-than-reverential paragraph from reporter Michael Fletcher:
    Since taking office, Obama has tried to engage North Korea and Iran in a bid to rein in their nuclear programs, called for stronger protocols to limit nuclear proliferation and pushed for an agreement to combat global warming. He has also tried to coax the Israelis and Palestinians into a new round of peace talks. None of those goals has been met.

  • Barack Obama is not, by most accounts, the warmest of people in his interpersonal relationships. Take the traditional White House Christmas/holiday parties, of which there can be as many as a dozen.

  • We have been honored to have been invited to one of these events. The White House was decorated beautifully. People were dressed in their holiday finery for the occasion. There was a buffet table stocked with food at one end of the building and back toward the East Room all the halls were decked with boughs of holly and the other accruements of Christmas.

  • At some point a line forms at the top of the main staircase and the several hundred people in attendance queue up to go through the ritual of having a holiday photo with the President and First Lady.

  • It is a pain for the First Couple; they have to smile and shake hands with their guests as they come up to the photo position; and every guest wants to remind them about the time they met at that fund raiser in Upper Iguana when it was so cold - or some similarly forgettable event.

  • Yet, every First Couple in the modern era has gone through the ritual night after night to thank their best supporters, the Executive Branch staff, and the media, depending upon the nature of that night's guest list.

  • According to Politico, the first Christmas party of the year did not include a photo op.

  • Former Clinton press secretary, Dee Dee Meyers told the news outlet that the President "worked the room for a few minutes, shaking hands and posing for candid pictures - not taken by the White House photographer - before leaving the party."

  • I know what you're thinking:
    Aww. How awful for you. You have to go to a party at the White House but won't get photo with the President. Tell you what. Give me your invite. I'll go and suffer on your behalf.

  • Most people never get to go to the White House for a Christmas party. Those who do, may get to go but once in an eight-year Presidency. Almost anyone who has gone has that photo with the President and First Lady framed and displayed on the mantelpiece for decades - perhaps for generations.

  • Sounds like a small thing, but it is further evidence of the growing impression that Barack Obama is cold, distant and doesn't play nicely with others.

  • We voted for change. That's what we're getting.

  • Mullpal Ginny Wolfe pointed out that the increasingly-anti-Obama group, is incensed about the health care deal apparently making it its way to the Senate floor which not include a public option.

  • According to the Left-wing group's web page:
    "Instead of pulling out all the stops, they've bargained away the heart of health care reform - allowing conservative senators like Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson to hold the process hostage and protect Big Insurance."

  • When President Obama was riding high in the polls a threat by might have gotten some notice on Capitol Hill. But a quick peek at the RealClearPolitics Presidential approval poll summary is shocking.

  • Of the eight polls listed, only one - ONE - has Obama's approval over 50 percent. Three have his approval at only 46 percent.

  • Not a pretty picture.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: A description of (and a recipe for) lutefisk, links to the Washington Post piece about Norway, and the Political article on WH Christmas parties. Also a link to the webpage and those RealClearPolitics polling numbers. A Mullfoto showing why proof reading is so important and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Tuesday, December 8, 2009

    ANOTHER Bad Week for Obama

  • Regular readers of MULLINGS know that I am not the least bit shy about taking credit for the thinnest sliver, of the smallest smidgeon, of the tiniest dot of evidence that I might have possibly been correct about something.

  • Well, here we go again. On Friday, I brazenly wrote a column titled, Kiss the Money Goodbye in which I wrote:
    Mark my words. Before this is all over GM will be a Chinese-controlled (if not outright Chinese-owned) car company.

    And we can kiss our $52 billion zài jiàn [more-or-less Chinese for "good bye."]

  • My point was Obama took $82 billion of our money and gave it to Chrysler and GM and I didn't think we were going to see much of it back.

  • The bailout of the auto industry, by the way, was really a bailout of the United Auto Workers Union. As Obama said yesterday,
    "We … took steps to prevent the rapid dissolution of the American auto industry, which faced a crisis partly of its own making, to prevent the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs during an already fragile time."

  • Yesterday a piece on the Detroit News webpage written by David Shepardson claimed:
    The Obama administration will tell Congress Wednesday that it expects to lose about $30 billion of the $82 billion government bailout of the auto industry, two administration officials familiar with the report said today.

  • Let's go to the calculator.

  • A couple of months ago I bought a Ford Focus which had a sticker price of about $20,000. Let's use that because it makes the math easier.

  • At 20 grand a car, for thirty billion dollars the government could have bought 1.5 MILLION automobiles for worthy Americans.

  • Like you. And me.

  • And, for those of you who are keeping track, Obama gave another $13.5 billion to GM's finance arm: GMAC. Who knows if we'll ever see a dime of that back.

    Next item:

  • The Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee is a Democrat from Michigan, John Conyers. Mr. Conyers is among the most Liberal members of the Democratic caucus and is the second longest serving Member of the House.

  • Conyers has been pretty open about his disdain for President Obama to the point where Obama, according to Molly Hooper's piece in The Hill newspaper, "picked up the phone several weeks ago to find out why Conyers was 'demeaning' him.

  • Republicans demean Obama just about every day; just about every time they hit the coffee machine in the Cloakroom. But, they're pretty far to the President's right so that's not much of a surprise.

  • But, someone like Conyers dissing Obama is a very different story. According to The Hill report, when Conyers told Obama that it was "an honest difference of opinion" the President said, "Well, let's talk about it."

  • However, Conyers said he "wasn't in the mood to chat."

  • Hooper wrote, Conyers said he
    "was 'getting tired of saving Obama's can in the White House,' after progressive Democrats were forced to vote for a healthcare bill that did not call for a 'robust public option' and includes language opposed by abortion-rights supporters."


  • As if having to admit he has lost nearly as much money as Bernie Maddoff and is in a public fight with a senior Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives wasn't enough, that pesky, low-rent polling firm, Gallup, announced that Obama's approval records had sunk to a new low at 47 percent.

  • Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, compared Gallup's numbers to a child with a crayon saying,
    "You know, I mean I'm sure a six year old with a crayon could do something not unlike that. I don't put a lot of stake in, never have, in the EKG that is the daily Gallup trend. I don't pay a lot of attention to meaninglessness."

  • Yeah, well, Robert Gibbs might not pay attention to a little-known start-up polling firm like Gallup, but I guarantee you that every Member of Congress running for re-election next November has got Obama's numbers memorized.

  • The tracking poll released last night showed Obama bouncing back to 50 percent approval, but his disapprove is at 45 percent. Only five percent of the population has no opinion.

  • As the President of All the World prepares yet again to leave the U.S. to pick up his Nobel Peace Prize and solve Global Warming in Copenhagen he is leaving behind a country which appears to be unconvinced that he can lead it out of its troubles.

  • Not a good week for Obama. Not a good week at all.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the articles above. Plus a Mullfoto showing the excellent view from the window of my room in New York City the other day and a Catchy Caption of the Day which proves the old saying: "Mama's don't let your children grow up to be FEMA administrators."

  • Sunday, December 6, 2009

    Tinkering with the Jobs Numbers

  • We have previously established in MULLINGS that I am mathematically challenged. It's not arithmetic dyslexia; I just can't do the calculations properly. The Lad, sadly, has inherited my non-functional math gene.

  • Having said that, I am hoping that one of you will be able to explain how the unemployment number went from 10.2 percent in October to 10.0 percent in November, in spite of the economy shedding 11,000 jobs.

  • It seems to me that the unemployment rate should not go down unless the number of people working goes up.

  • Oh, wait. This might help. From the Bureau of Labor Statistics web page FAQ:
    The basic concepts involved in identifying the employed and unemployed are quite simple:

  • People with jobs are employed.

  • People who are jobless, looking for jobs, and available for work are unemployed.

    [In another area, the BLS defined unemployment, thus: "Persons are classified as unemployed if they do not have a job, have actively looked for work in the prior 4 weeks, and are currently available for work."]

  • People who are neither employed nor unemployed are not in the labor force.

  • Sounds like something Emmanuel Goldstein might have said in George Orwell's novel 1984: People who are neither employed nor unemployed are … non-people.

  • Nope. That's not it. According to the BLS' stats, in October 138,275,000 were employed. In November that number was 138,502,000 which appears to be an increase of about 250,000 people having found employment.

  • Yet, according to the BLS:
    Total nonfarm payroll employment was essentially unchanged in November (-11,000). Since the recession began, payroll employment has decreased by 7.2 million.

  • To recap: 11,000 people lost their jobs. 250,000 more people are employed. Unemployment went down from 10.2 to 10.0.

  • ?

  • Someone … Is … Fiddling … With … The … Numbers.

    New Topic I:

  • While most of us blissfully contemplated the BSC bowl games on Saturday and watched the NFL on Sunday, our hardworking U.S. Senators were working, working debating provisions of the healthcare legislation.

  • About which, David Espo, the senior reporter for the Associated Press wrote this:
    "Across hours of rhetoric, poll-tested charges and countercharges proliferated. Partial truths vied with inflated claims."

  • That kind of writing tells you why Espo is among the most respected journalists in Your Nation's Capital.

    New Topic II:

  • I have resisted writing about Tiger Woods because I don't want to hold myself out as a paragon of virtue. But yesterday a fifth woman spoke up and said she'd had an affair with the golfer.

  • The Mullings Director of Standards & Practices asked me what I thought of that and I said, keeping faith with my gender, "That's only one per year of marriage."

  • If you need me I'll be in the den for the next few nights.

    UPDATE: While I was writing this column, MSNBC's gossip columnist Courtney Hazlett filed a story saying:

    The number of women connected to Tiger Woods could topple a dozen by week's end, according to several sources familiar with Woods' behavior during his frequent trips to Las Vegas.

  • That's more than two per year of marriage. I guess I'll be sleeping in the garage.

    New Topic II:

  • That couple that crashed the White House State Dinner last week might be having some second thoughts. According to local reporting, they had to appear at the local courthouse to answer for having stiffed a guy who did some work on their property for about $2,000. According to the AP
    "Tareq Salahi was forced to give up a Patek Phillipe [watch] he was wearing to pay the couple's $2,000 debt to a landscaper."

  • Not only that, but according to the Washington Post, when they came out of the courthouse sans watch, old Tareq had a ticket on his car for having an expired inspection sticker.

  • Not done yet, though. Montgomery County, Maryland where the fantasy couple lives, controls liquor sales. Again, according to the AP,
    "The Montgomery County government filed a lawsuit Thursday against Michaele and Tareq Salahi" for "bouncing a nearly $24,000 check for liquor purchased … for America's Polo Cup World Championship, a charity polo event they held in the county last May."

  • How long do you think it will be until until Michaele Salahi claims she (a) had an affair with Tiger Woods and (b) she is unemployed?

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links, links, links. Links to all the stories above (including that Emmanuel Goldstein reference). Another Missy Cat Mullfoto (in tune with the season) and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Thursday, December 3, 2009

    Kiss the Money Goodbye

    From New York City

  • What's good for General Motors is no longer good for America - if it ever was. In fact, it is not even clear the General Motors period is good for America.

  • Since last spring when you and I poured $52 billion into GM they have accomplished the impossible: More chief executive officers have been fired by GM this than Daniel Snyder has fired Redskins head coaches.

  • In a big hoo-hah announcement a couple of weeks ago, GM announced that in spite of the fact it had lost $1.1 billion in the third quarter of this year, it would make a payment on the $6.7 billion we lent them - as opposed to the other $46 billion which represents our owning 60-something percent of the company.

  • I am not that terrific at high finance or sophisticated accounting practices, so I wondered how a company, which was bankrupt, could lose $1.1 billion and still say it was going to repay its debt ahead of schedule.

  • Well, the answer is easy. According to the Associated Press in a November 16 piece:
    The automaker will draw on about $13 billion that remains deposited in escrow by the government to help make the payments.

  • See? This is why you and I will never own car companies. Who among us would have had the audacity - or chutzpah - to use part of the money we got from the U.S. government to pay the U.S. government back?

  • Earlier this week the GM board fired its second CEO of 2009, Fritz Henderson, pretty suddenly. Seems he couldn't sell off GM assets fast enough. The Saturn deal had fallen through and then the Opel sale collapsed, and no one even wanted to talk seriously about buying Saab.

  • Ok, so, that's yesterday's (or at least Tuesday's) news. Last night's news was that GM was selling off some more assets - actually giving away assets - to China.

  • GM and the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (S.A.I.C. which must annoy the dickens out of the US engineering and defense contracting firm Science Applications International Corporation, better known as …SAIC) have had a 50-50 deal.

  • Follow me here. GM has a big subsidiary in South Korea called Daewoo. Daewoo, according to the NY Times, "lost $2 billion last year on a bad bet on financial derivatives based on the Korean won (which is the Korean unit of currency).

  • GM's subsidiary in India is also hemorrhaging money, so GM sold half of that business to S.A.I.C.

  • Because the geniuses in Detroit were busy running the mother ship into bankruptcy, there was no money available to bail out Daewoo there, so GM had to go looking for handouts elsewhere.

  • The handout came from the Chinese who will get an additional one-percent ownership stake in the joint venture tilting the scale to 51 percent for the Chinese to 49 percent for US. And by that I mean us, you and me. Our $52 billion is being treated like fake money in an international game of Monopoly.

  • Although reporter Keith Bradsher points out that the deal appears to preserve GM's voting rights, you and I both know that sooner or later there will be a disagreement and the Chinese will hold up 51 percent of their ownership and ask GM to count its share and guess what?

  • We lose.

  • Refresh my memory. How many times have we been told that GM is doing wonderfully everywhere except North America? I guess they meant to say everywhere except North American, Europe and Asia.

  • Mark my words. Before this is all over GM will be a Chinese-controlled (if not outright Chinese-owned) car company.

  • And we can kiss our $52 billion zài jiàn.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: A link to the NY Times article which helps explain all this. Also a Mullfoto which will thrill satellite radio fans and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Tuesday, December 1, 2009

    Two Views

  • I watched President Obama's speech at West Point and thought it was a pretty good political speech.

  • That's not entirely correct. I thought it was a very good political speech.

  • On behalf of everyone, I bristled at the knee jerk "blame it on Bush" section of the speech. And I'm still trying to understand how, if it will take six months to get 30,000 troops to Afghanistan and you have already declared they're coming back out 18 months from now, how much they can accomplish in the 12 months you have allotted.

  • But, overall, I thought the content was good and the delivery was polished.

  • Remember, Obama has to protect himself from his own left. House Democrats have all but declared war on Obama's War [the Washington Post's phrase, not mine], Michael Moore took out a full page ad in advance of the speech to announce his opposition, and the and Pink Slip organizations are threatening to … be really, really, angry.

  • Obama did what he could to mollify those groups by blaming Bush - always a safe bet when trying to curry favor from the Left - and by declaring there would be a time limit on the new deployment and they would be withdrawn starting in July 2011 - just as the 2012 re-election campaign would be getting underway.

  • I know Obama hedged his bet by saying that the timing of the withdrawal would ultimately be decided by "taking into account conditions on the ground," which was the rhetorical equivalent of the sticker on a new car - say a MullFord - which, having listed the required EPA information, tells you that your mileage may vary.

  • An additional 30,000 troops will bring the total of American forces to near 100,000. It is unclear to me how many NATO troops are in Afghanistan.

  • According to the NATO web site:
    Since NATO took command of ISAF (the International Security Assistance Force) in 2003, the Alliance has gradually expanded the reach of its mission, originally limited to Kabul, to cover Afghanistan's whole territory. The number of ISAF troops has grown accordingly from the initial 5,000 to around 50.000 troops coming from 42 countries, including all 28 NATO members.

  • But if the U.S. already has 60,000 troops and is one of the 28 NATO members then the other 41 countries must have negative 10,000 troops, which I think may be incorrect.

  • Shortly after the President finished, my phone rang. It was Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt (Ret.) calling to ask me what part of speech the word "successfully" was in this sentence:
    "I will end the war successfully."

  • "Successfully," I said, "modifies the word 'end' which is a verb. Hence 'successfully' is an adverb."

  • This military man immediately understood that the President's goal is not to succeed in Afghanistan, but to end the war in Afghanistan.

  • "Pretty smart," I said. Kimmitt is a graduate of West Point and has an MBA from Harvard. I, as you know, took something over seven years to get a bachelor's degree from Marietta College, Marietta, Ohio 45750.

  • "Imagine," General Kimmitt said, "if FDR had done a fireside chat during World War II and told the American people he was going to end the war in Europe rather than saying he was going to defeat the Nazis."

  • There is precious little to recommend Afghanistan. For every ten kilometers you go outside of a major city, you go back in time 50 years. It is a desperately poor, illiterate, arid country run by tribal warlords and corrupt public officials.

  • Why do we care about Afghanistan? Because, if the Taliban takes back control of the country then Al Qaeda will once again use Afghanistan as Band Camp for terrorists.

  • Thus, the Obama strategy is dependent upon the Karzai government about which the NY Times' Dexter Filkins wrote:
    But that is the heart of the problem: in laying down the gauntlet for the Afghans, Mr. Obama is setting criteria for success that he and his field commanders may be able to influence, but which ultimately they will not be able to control.

  • So, there you have the two views of President Obama's speech. From a political standpoint it was very good. From a military standpoint it was very weak.

  • Barack Obama has been fixated on being known as the Franklin Delano Roosevelt of the 21st century. This speech will do nothing to help him get there.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the text of the speech, the Dexter Filkins analysis, the Washington Post fact checking, and the NATO web page.

  • Also, a Mullfoto of the Northeast gate to the White House taken at noon yesterday and the Catchy Caption of the Day which is the front page of yesterdays "Washington Express" which is the Washington Post free edition.