Saturday, December 13, 2008

In PE Obama's Saturday YouTube/radio address he named Shaun Donovan as his choice to head the Housing and Urban Affairs Department. With experience in New York City and federal government, business and academic research, Donovan looks like another stellar pick. He trained as an architect so, Obama says, he knows houses down to the wiring--an interesting qualification to point out, since making housing energy efficient and green energy capable will be an important energy, environmental and economic policy. Then there's this article that say Donovan foresaw the home mortgage crisis four years ago. There's some footage of Donovan in this YouTube, so you can see if you get an instant sense of confidence just looking at him, as I did.


So the Bushites avoided a stock market meltdown Friday by announcing they will pony up some money somehow to prevent GM failing and beginning a cascade that will result in millions--perhaps tens of millions--of Americans losing their jobs.

Among the many ironies is that it was Dick Cheney who told the Senate Republicans that if they failed to act they risked Republicans again becoming defined as the party of Hoover.

And that's just what they are. The Bushites are bowing out, and here come the Hooverites, the new name for the Republican party.

Props on Friday to the news media that covered this story. On TV I note Campbell Brown and especially Rachel Maddow, but I didn't watch all that much so maybe there were others, too.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Perils of Stupidity

“The consequences of the Senate Republicans’ failure to act could be devastating to our economy, detrimental to workers, and destructive to the American automobile industry unless the President immediately directs Secretary Paulson to explore other short-term financial assistance options.” So said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and so say we all.

But while all this was going on Thursday what were the cable news channels chattering about? Trying to pin the scandal caused by a delusional Illinois governor on Barack Obama. Why? Because it's a story they understand. It's scandal. It's politics. And as outrageous as the charges against Gov. B are, it's irrelevant.

It's clear from Fitzgerald's charges that Blago's desperation to find some way to make bucks from the Senate appointment was because he knew he couldn't get anything out of the Obama transition. Everything after that is a minor political story, maybe a minor legal story, and ordinarily worth following. But not 24/7. And not yesterday.

Because in the meantime, a particularly venal, self-important, narrow-eyed nasty and stupid group of Senate Republicans were trying to hold millions of people hostage to satisfy their union-busting cravings.

That was the truly important story of December 11, but it was just too hard for them to report. (The exception to an extent is Rachel Madow and to a lesser extent, Keith.) If the news media isn't all over this story Friday--assuming that by 9 a.m. Paulsen hasn't released some billions of chump change out of his $350 billion which represents tax money paid by those millions who are going to lose their jobs if he doesn't--then there's really no reason to watch them anymore. They are irrelevant.

We're in very, very dangerous waters right now. The usual stupidity may well be enough to sink us.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Early Wednesday it was supposed to be Jennifer Granholm but by later in the day several news organizations settled on someone else as Obama's Energy Secretary: Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize winning scientist and current head of the Livermore Lab at Berkeley. A truly excellent choice! An actual expert in the field, with administrative experience, and most particularly, with a proven record of turning around an institution--Livermore--towards developing alternative green energy, specifically to address the Climate Crisis.

"A Rocket Scientist in the Cabinet" says Ambinder, and a man "untainted by Washington's caution on climate change..." Fabulous! This guy really gets it--so much so that he transformed his life to address the Climate Crisis. Plus another Asian American in the Cabinet, this time of Chinese descent.

The same reports say that Obama has chosen Lisa Jackson for Environment. That she is a black woman is in itself an enormous step forward, partly for reasons I deal with in this post at Dreaming Up Daily. She happened to grow up in New Orleans, and did college at Tulane--another significant connection because New Orleans is where a mostly black and largely poor population bore the brunt of a disaster with a large environmental component, at several levels. It's simply crucial to involve nonwhite Americans in the mostly white environmental movement.

Before Jackson became chief of staff to current New Jersey governor Corzine, she was the state's environmental commissioner and worked for 16 years in the federal EPA--so she's got tons of applicable experience.

One of her bosses at EPA was Clinton's director Carol Browner, and Browner is expected to be named to a new White House position, coordinating energy and environment. So there's an established working relationship. The caution is that the Clinton environmental record is not particularly bold--my impression was that in 8 years they mostly managed to undo some of the previous GOPer damage and make incremental moves forward. That lack of boldness may not have been Browner's fault--we'll see.

Said to be the choice to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality is Nancy Sutley, Los Angeles deputy mayor for enviro, and a politically prominent Lesbian. Her previous posts were in the area of water and water quality--a very important issue as the Climate Crisis dries up the West, as well as other areas of the world.

Not such great news involves Interior, although these stories are more speculative. This one says there are three names: John Berry of the National Zoo, Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva and my member of Congress, Mike Thompson. In the Eureka paper today, Thompson seems pretty adamant that he's not been contacted by the transition team, so his appointment seems less likely than these press reports indicate. I know nothing about John Berry except that he was former head of Fish and Wildlife Foundation and an assistant secretary at Interior, but I suspect that if any of these three but Grijalva is named, it might indicate that Interior isn't getting the status it should have. Maybe white guys need a token appointment (Berry is being pushed by gay groups), but not to this post. It should be as high powered and forward looking as Energy, Environment, Commerce etc. It's not a sop to the "sportsmen" lobbies.

Native American issues are important for Interior, and to be fair, Thompson has the support of at least one local Indian tribe-- Native peoples are a higher proportion of his constituency than most-- and he has a good record on Native issues. Kevin Gover is another name, less prominently mentioned, who is actually Native (Pawnee and Comanche), but is a bit controversial due to allegations of favoritism to gaming tribes in a previous post at Indian Affairs. (He's currently head of the Museum of the American Indian in DC.) But any Native is going to be controversial within the Native community. At least according to this report, Gover's chances have improved lately as Thompson and Grijalva have drawn fire. But Gover's office also denies he's being considered. As I've said before, a Native American as Interior Secretary would be a huge step forward.

Thursday Obama announces Tom Daschle as Health and Human Services Secretary, and holds a press conference that's supposed to be about health care. But this Illinois governor farce is likely to derail that. If you're interested, the best analysis of what we know so far--at least what's in Patrick Fitzgerald's findings--is here at 538. Basically it says that RB's most outrageous statements were made to his own staff, and he was much more cautious in what he said--and asked for--with others. The only contact indicated that's anywhere near the Obama transition is with a union official, and the language of the document indicates RB was contemplating more direct communication but hadn't yet tried, and his conclusions about Team Obama not offering anything could well have been more common sense and third party judgments than based on having asked the questions himself.

Anyway, this is going to come up and I hope Obama either says a lot more about any contacts with his transition team or explains more fully why he can't talk about this. I also hope he gets in the face of the GOPer Senators threatening to kill the auto company deal, and makes the stakes plain--the devastating effect on jobs and the economy and future capabilities--as well as the clear motivation: union-busting.

By the way, Granholm (Gov. of Michigan) got mentioned in media buzz because she met with Obama on Wednesday, stating later that they talked about the economic recovery proposals. But there is still a post directly concerning that--Secretary of Labor.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Massive Distraction

This is the first test of the Obama administration: will the pulp fiction-level scandal created by the governor of Illinois distract the Obama government and the country from what really, really needs to get done, and fast?

Obama has been very good at handling this stuff before, so there's every reason to hope he will this time. He starts with an incredible 79% approval rating (according to CNN) so he's got a lot of margin. People really, really want him to succeed. He'll need to balance being forthcoming with moving on.

As for that governor whose name I can't spell and refuse to ever learn how to spell, here's my bet: by the time you read this, he will have checked himself into a psychiatric facility claiming he's been under stress and acting irrationally. That is, he'll do that if the dude isn't really, really crazy.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Forty Days and Forty Nights

That's how much longer we're stuck in the desert of the Bush administration. I can almost handle Bush's burnishing bullshit legacy interviews, although the attention the media is lavishing on them is infuriating. Is saying that al qaeda and Iraq had some connection the same as saying Iraq was implicated in 9-11? WHO CARES? The sooner we forget about these assholes, the sooner we can concentrate on the immense real problems we've got to solve.

But I'm also beginning to suspect that forty days is more than enough time for the Bushites to screw things up even worse than they have. This is a very delicate moment, and if the Democrats and the Obama team allow the Bushites to manipulate things like the bridge loan to the auto companies so that Obama's hands are tied for years to come, they and we will be reaping the whirlwind very soon.

There has to be some order very soon. Already the most vulnerable are suffering, and it won't be long before many more are added to that list. Already the effects of this Great Recession will be felt for years after it's over, as investments, retirement and savings deplete and disappear. Then it gets worse.

We really only have to get through the next two weeks without significant damage. Then the Obama cabinet will be complete, everybody goes on Christmas vacation, then the new Congress comes in after the new year, and we're off.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Cabinet Watch

Today, PE Obama appoints General Eric Shinseki as Veterans Affairs Secretary. Apart from the brilliant multiple significance of this appointment (here's Ambinder, here's me), it was a Surprise.

More surprises in store, since nobody's sure what's coming next. Especially since (Politico reports) Governor Kathleen Sibelius has taken herself out of the running. She was among the favorites for several posts. According to the Wall Street Journal (which has been right but also spectacularly wrong on appointments), a new job may be created for someone to supervise Climate Crisis and energy policy across departments, and that is a factor in who might be appointed to Environment, Energy, etc.

The Journal thinks Interior is between Arizona Rep. Raul M. Grijalva and former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber. As I've mentioned before, it's policy vs. executive experience, but there's no reason they both can't get Cabinet jobs. (Kitzhaber at Transportation, for example.) Similarly, this HuffPost columnist makes a strong case for Grijalva as a progressive environmentalist, also good on Native American and environmental problems. But a lot of what he says also makes Grijalva a good EPA choice. And there are other White House posts for policymakers in these overlapping areas. Maybe we'll know more on Monday, but again, I'm hoping for some voices from the progressive side (like Grijalva) in the new appointments.

As for who replaces Hillary in NY... I've got increasingly mixed feelings about Al Giordano at the Field, but his piece on why Caroline Kennedy would be a great as well as popular and sentimental choice is pretty convincing.