Monday, April 29, 2013

Picking a leader - How the Obama Administration gets sideways (again) at the Department of Commerce

Various news outlets, including the Wall Street Journal and Greenwire are reporting that President Obama intends to nominate Penny Pritzker as the next Secretary of Commerce.  Pritzker, whose family owns and runs the Hyatt Hotel chain (along with a number of affiliated brands) would bring a wealth of corporate management experience to the post, as well as a number of international connections that would no doubt be useful to the President's foreign trade relationship needs.

Unfortunately for Ms. Pritzker, her corporate experience has probably not prepared her for the majority of her day job - namely overseeing the 63% to 65% of her budget that is spent by NOAA.  You see, it's a closely guarded open secret that the largest single part - or Bureau - of Commerce is not really all about commerce per se (certainly not in the same way that the International Trade Administration, the Census, or the Bureau of Industrial Security or the Patent and Trademark Administration are).  Former Secretary Gary Locke (now Ambassador to China) understood this, but he had a head start in his learning curve having worked closely with NOAA on Pacific Northwest Salmon issues during his years in Olympia.

Unfortunately for our rebranded hotel leader, NOAA is all about forecasting the weather, protecting Endangered Species, setting national and regional commercial fishing quotas, understanding the linkages between climate change and drought, and conducting basic ocean and atmospheric research.  Some of those things require telling business sectors "No" rather loudly and often. It may be true that Ms. Pritzker's managerial experience will benefit NOAA - it's an organization of 12,000 or so staff - but that will only occur if she's briefed properly, trusts the civil service career staff to do their jobs, and the White House supports her by nominating a NOAA Administrator and other NOAA political appointees who actually understand what the organization does and how to best run it.  With the departure of Dr. Jane Lubchenko in February as NOAA Administrator, that chair is open.

So we'll see how it goes, particularly if and when there are confirmation hearings.  If Ms. Pritzker can answer ocean and weather questions, and maybe at least get climate terms correct , then there will be hope for her tenure as Secretary of Commerce.  Otherwise, she'll wind up like a long line of Commerce Secretaries before her who, as former Secretary Carlos Gutierrez (he of Kellog CEO fame) once said, had no idea they were coming to Washington to be Secretary of NOAA.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Music to think by

I meant to publish way back when (and I honestly don't remember) but it seems to be a good thought for us today, as we reel from another militarized overreaction to a criminal act on our soil.

Whining the Sequester - Congress realizes there are consequences when it acts

I have two simple questions for all the Senators and Congressmen - mostly Republicans according to the MSM - who are complaining like little girls about the layoffs of FAA air traffic controllers:
  1. Why aren't you whining and blubbering about all the OTHER federal workers (Like DoD Civilians) who are also being laid off?  If you can stand to see fewer staffers in the Pentagon, and Department of Interior offices closed in your Districts, why can't you stand air traffic slowdowns?
  2. More importantly - what the hell did you think it meant when you wrote and passed a law that said ALL Program, Project and Activity combinations in the federal government shall be reduced by 5%?  You exempted uniformed service members from the cuts - if air traffic controllers were that important you could have exempted them too ya know since you WROTE THE DAMN BILL.
But that's sort of the point about the Sequester - it was meant to be so ugly no one would actually let it happen.  Only the Republican Party has gotten so doctrinaire, and the Democrats so weak kneed to large corporate donors, that the Sequester did, in fact, become real.   Its one of those unintended consequences my friend and fellow blogger Mike Dwyer is always gigging me about (and in this instance he'd be right).

So, stop your bitchin.  You tugged Sally's hair, got caught, and got put in the Time Out corner.  Grow up, grow a pair, and learn to accept that you too, Mr. & Mrs. Congress-critter - you too can fuck up in ways that have real impacts on your constituents, who may be thinking about replacing you anyway because you keep voting against things they support (like universal background checks).

Oh wait, that's almost what I have to say to  my 4 year old when I discipline her (absent the F bomb) - imagine that.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

REBLOG: How Boston exposes America’s dark post-9/11 bargain

Apparently Andrew has not ever read my blog (!) but his point is well made.  He is clearly no Glenn Greenwald, but with Glenn Greenwald doing his own writing,  one need not go to that extreme to make the point.

America is no longer a democracy, and here's a concise, gut wrenching summary of why:
How Boston exposes America’s dark post-9/11 bargain