Secretary of Transportation

December 25, 2008 at 5:27 pm | Posted in Department of Transportation | Leave a comment
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President-Elect Obama has nominated soon-to-be-former Illinois Republican Representative Ray LaHood for Secretary of Transportation. Mr. LaHood had announced his intention to give up his House seat in July 2007.

I am more than a little baffled by this choice as Mr. LaHood does not appear to have any background or previous interest in transportation issues except as it relates to highway construction and protecting the trucking industry. His highest praise comes from Bill Graves, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations, who applauds Mr. LaHood’s “efforts to enhance the state’s infrastructure, including the reconstruction of Interstate 74, expansion of U.S. Route 67, and completion of Route 336.” In 2002 Mr. LaHood thought the best use of his legislative position was to attempt to delay implementation of Environmental Protection Agency rules cutting emissions from diesel trucks.

That does not sound particularly promising to me.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) was established by an act of Congress on October 15, 1966. The mission of the Department is to

Serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future.

Unfortunately, too often that is interpreted to mean “build more roads!” and “add capacity to existing roads!” while transportation alternatives are badly neglected. Building and maintaining roads and highways is expensive but the hidden costs are even greater.

The Office of the Secretary (OST) is responsible for national transportation policy and promoting intermodal transportation.

Agencies within (DOT) include:

  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
  • Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
  • Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)
  • Federal Transit Administration (FTA)
  • Maritime Administration (MARAD)
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Office of Inspector General (OIG)
  • Pipeline and Hazardous Waste Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)
  • Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA)
  • Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC)
  • Surface Transportation Board (STB)
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Who’s Representing Who?

December 25, 2008 at 3:33 pm | Posted in Historical, Miscellany | Leave a comment
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Children playing in De Frees Alley, N.E. near the Capitol building. One basement room rents for nine dollars a month; two rooms upstairs for sixteen dollars; one bath and cold water in the hall for entire building.  September 1941

Children playing in De Frees Alley, N.E. near the Capitol building. One basement room rents for nine dollars a month; two rooms upstairs for sixteen dollars; one bath and cold water in the hall for entire building. September 1941

Senators and representatives work for the people but you would never know that from the past eight years.

Congressional Quarterly has a searchable and sortable table to illustrate 2008 Party Unity, Presidential Support and Voting Participation scores for individual lawmakers who served in the 110th Congress

It’s a pretty cool little toy although I doubt it will reveal anything that is not already known, and what it does not show is that senate and house Democrats voted with “the president” on the most despicable legislation and only broke with him when it was “safe” to do so, leaving you and me hanging out to dry.

You can find out how your reps and senators are voting on different bills throughout the year by checking in periodically with Thomas.

Use your phones, people. Better yet, send snail mail, and lots of it.

Secretary of Labor

December 19, 2008 at 1:21 am | Posted in Department of Labor | 1 Comment
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Breaker boys, Woodward Coal Mines, Kingston, Pennsylvania.  Circa 1900

Breaker boys, Woodward Coal Mines, Kingston, Pennsylvania. Circa 1900

Hilda Solis, congressperson from California, is President-Elect Obama’s nominee for Labor Secretary.

The Department of Labor is summarized into the following categories:

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) are separate agencies and not part of the Department of Labor.

UPDATE (1/9/09):   Confirmation hearings have begun.

UPDATE (1/19/09): Republicans are attempting to block Hilda Solis’ confirmation.

UPDATE (2/4/09):  Anti-worker Republicans continue to block Hilda Solis’ confirmation; President Obama appoints Ed Hugler, a career Labor employee and the deputy assistant secretary for operations, to serve as acting secretary.

UPDATE (2/6/09): “The big unions are preparing their first major public campaign of the year, an effort to target GOP Senators who are slowing the nomination of Hilda Solis as Labor Secretary …”

Secretary of Agriculture

December 17, 2008 at 1:20 pm | Posted in Department of Agriculture | Leave a comment
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Poster for the U.S. Department of Agriculture promoting victory gardens, showing carrots, lettuce, corn, tomatoes, and potatoes growing.  NYC WPA War Services (between 1941 and 1943)

Poster for the U.S. Department of Agriculture promoting victory gardens, showing carrots, lettuce, corn, tomatoes, and potatoes growing. NYC WPA War Services (between 1941 and 1943)

President-Elect Obama has nominated former Governor of Iowa Tom Vilsack to be was confirmed as Secretary of Agriculture by the Senate on January 20, 2009.

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) has the following “mission areas”:

Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services

Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services helps to keep America’s farmers and ranchers in business as they face the uncertainties of weather and markets. They deliver commodity, credit, conservation, disaster, and emergency assistance programs that help improve the stability and strength of the agricultural economy.

  • Farm Service Agency (FSA)
  • Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS)
  • Risk Management Agency (RMA)

Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services

Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services works to harness the Nation’s agricultural abundance to end hunger and improve health in the United States. Its agencies administer federal domestic nutrition assistance programs and the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, which links scientific research to the nutrition needs of consumers through science-based dietary guidance, nutrition policy coordination, and nutrition education.

  • Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP)
  • Food and Nutrition Service (FNS)

Food Safety

Food Safety ensures that the Nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, and properly labeled, and packaged. This mission area also plays a key role in the President’s Council on Food Safety and has been instrumental in coordinating a national food safety strategic plan among various partner agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency.

  • Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)

Marketing and Regulatory Programs

Marketing and Regulatory Programs facilitates domestic and international marketing of U.S. agricultural products and ensures the health and care of animals and plants. MRP agencies are active participants in setting national and international standards.

  • Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
  • Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA)

Natural Resources and Environment

Natural Resources and Environment ensures the health of the land through sustainable management. Its agencies work to prevent damage to natural resources and the environment, restore the resource base, and promote good land management.

  • Forest Service (FS)
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Research, Education and Economics

Research, Education and Economics is dedicated to the creation of a safe, sustainable, competitive U.S. food and fiber system, as well as strong communities, families, and youth through integrated research, analysis, and education.

  • Research, Education, and Economics (REE)
  • Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
  • Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES)
  • Economic Research Service (ERS)
  • National Agricultural Library (NAL)
  • National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS)

Rural Development

Rural Development is committed to helping improve the economy and quality of life in all of rural America by providing financial programs to support essential public facilities and services as water and sewer systems, housing, health clinics, emergency service facilities and electric and telephone service. Rural Development promotes economic development by providing loans to businesses through banks and community-managed lending pools, while also assisting communities to participate in community empowerment programs.

Attorney General/Department of Justice

December 16, 2008 at 11:42 am | Posted in Department of Justice | Leave a comment
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One of these days I will do a post about the Department of Justice and Eric Holder.

Despite the fact that Mr. Holder is a known entity, the Republicans are playing games, demanding that his nomination hearing be delayed. Senator Leahy has complied, somewhat.

State Department & Private Mercenaries

December 16, 2008 at 11:35 am | Posted in State Department | Leave a comment
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Justin Elliot over at TPM asks a good question:

“Will Hillary Follow Through On Campaign Pledge To Ban ‘Private Mercenaries’?”

Mr. Elliott is awaiting answer from the Obama transition office as to their plans. He provides this information:

Between 2003 and 2007, the State Department awarded contracts for security and non-security work in Iraq totaling a massive $4 billion, according to an August report (pdf) by the Congressional Budget Office. Six thousand seven hundred contractors are working in Iraq for the State Department – about 40 percent of whom work on security, and another 25 percent of whom are classified as “police and correction advisers,” the report found. Of the total 6,700 contractors, only a third are U.S. citizens, and nearly half are citizens of neither U.S. citizens nor “local nationals.”

A congressional investigation found that private State Department security contractors from Blackwater alone were involved in nearly 200 “escalation of force” incidents between 2005 and 2007, including multiple killings of Iraqi civilians.

Secretary of Energy

December 16, 2008 at 10:01 am | Posted in Department of Energy | 1 Comment
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President-Elect Obama has nominated Dr. Steven Chu for Secretary of Energy. PE Obama had the following to say at the time of the announcement on December 15, 3008:

Dr. Steven Chu is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who has been working at the cutting edge of our nation’s effort to develop new and cleaner forms of energy. He blazed new trails as a scientist, teacher, and administrator, and has recently led the Berkeley National Laboratory in pursuit of new alternative and renewable energies. Steven is uniquely-suited to be our next Secretary of Energy as we make this pursuit a guiding purpose of the Department of Energy, as well as a national mission. The scientists at our national labs will have a distinguished peer at the helm. His appointment should send a signal to all that my Administration will value science, we will make decisions based on the facts, and we understand that the facts demand bold action.

Secretary of the Interior

December 16, 2008 at 9:45 am | Posted in Department of the Interior | 1 Comment
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Democratic senator Ken Salazar of Colorado has been nominated by President-Elect Obama to be his secretary of the Interior.

Some biographical information:

Age: 53

Home: Denver and Los Rincones, family ranch near Manassa

Family: Wife, Hope; two daughters, Andrea and Melinda; granddaughter, Mireya

Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science, Colorado College, 1977; juris doctorate, University of Michigan, 1981.

Career: U.S. Senate, 2005 to present; Colorado attorney general, 1999-2004; lawyer in private practice, 1994-98; executive director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources, 1990-94; chief legal counsel, Gov. Roy Romer, 1986-90; lawyer in private practice, 1981-86.

Senate committees: Finance; Agriculture; Energy and Natural Resources; Select Committee on Ethics; and Special Committee on Aging

The NYT fleshes Mr. Salazar’s biography out somewhat. NYT has a firewall wanting registration, but you can get at the article by googling “the new team ken salazar frosch”. The story date is 12/17/08.

The Interior Department is rampant with dysfunction, corruption and mismanagement, not to speak of its anti-science, anti-environmental bent under Bush.

Keeping the President Cool.

December 14, 2008 at 5:43 pm | Posted in Historical | 1 Comment
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Sleeping porch on the roof of the White House Erected during the Taft Administration.

Sleeping porch on the roof of the White House Erected during the Taft Administration.

The Solarium, or Sun Room, was added to the White House in the early 20th century by William Howard Taft in the form of a “Sleeping Porch” to give the first family a cool place to sleep on hot nights. It was improved in 1927 when the third floor was expanded, and Grace Coolidge called it the “Sky Parlor.” It was redesigned again in the 1952 Truman reconstruction and now includes a kitchenette.

Secretary of Housing & Urban Development

December 14, 2008 at 5:14 pm | Posted in Department of Housing & Urban Development | 3 Comments
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Shaun Donovan, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) since March 2004, was confirmed by the Senate on January 23, 2009 as Secretary of Housing & Urban Development (HUD).

HUD’s mission is to increase homeownership, support community development and increase access to affordable housing free from discrimination.

Block of slum houses with outside toilets and water supply, Washington, D.C.  July 1935

Block of slum houses with outside toilets and water supply, Washington, D.C. July 1935

Through the combined efforts of President Franklin Roosevelt, Catherine Bauer, Mary Simkhovitch and other Progressive reformers, the Housing Act of 1937 was passed, creating the United States Housing Administration.

Work starts on Swanson House, USHA (U.S. Housing Administration)-financed defense housing project, Virginia.  July 1941

Work starts on Swanson House, USHA (U.S. Housing Administration)-financed defense housing project, Virginia. July 1941

Stiff opposition continued even after its passage. In 1939 the National Association of Real Estate Boards newsletter opined, “United States Housing Authority projects now underway are undiluted socialism…”

There is plenty of fresh air and sunlight for the workers children in the FHA (Federal Housing Administration) low income housing project. Holyoke, Massachusetts.  September 1941

There is plenty of fresh air and sunlight for the workers' children in the FHA (Federal Housing Administration) low income housing project. Holyoke, Massachusetts. September 1941

The Lanham Act of 1940 amended the Housing Act of 1937 in part to fund development of housing for low-income rural residents migrating to the cities to take defense industry factory jobs.

Slum housing conditions on the outskirts of a steel mill. Ensley, Alabama.  February 1937

Slum housing conditions on the outskirts of a steel mill. Ensley, Alabama. February 1937

World War II also put pressure on the rural housing markets as a result of expansion of military bases, training areas and defense contractor facilities.  To accommodate this expansion, thousands of American families were relocated off their farms.

Mr. M.B. Kiechle watching his grandson moving out of the area being taken over by Pine Camp expansion. Mr. Kiechles own farm is just outside the boundary line of the area.  August 1941

Mr. M.B. Kiechle watching his grandson moving out of the area being taken over by Pine Camp expansion. Mr. Kiechle's own farm is just outside the boundary line of the area. August 1941

In response to continued opposition of business interests, the Lanham Act required that housing built for the war effort be demolished or sold after the war so it would not compete with .the private housing market.

FHA (Federal Housing Administration) low income housing project. Holyoke, Massachusetts.  September 1941

FHA (Federal Housing Administration) low income housing project. Holyoke, Massachusetts. September 1941

Returning GIs had access to low-interest, no-money-down home loans. The housing shortage caused many communities to abandon the requirement to demolish. Although some of the housing built for the war effort was demolished, some was sold off to returning GIs.

Federal Housing Administration housing. San Diego, California.  May 1941

Federal Housing Administration housing. San Diego, California. May 1941

The Department of Housing and Urban Development Act of 1965 replaced a number of federal housing agencies, including the US Housing Administration, with one new, Cabinet-level agency, HUD.

Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (also known as the Fair Housing Act or simply the Civil Rights Act) was passed to address some of the failures of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to adequately protect people from discrimination in housing.

Detroit, Michigan. Looking over slum houses. These are conditions under which families originally lived before moving to the Sojourner Truth housing project.  February 1942

Detroit, Michigan. Looking over slum houses. These are conditions under which families originally lived before moving to the Sojourner Truth housing project. February 1942

HUD continues to be a controversial agency impeded in its mission by mismanagement, corruption and opposition to its goals.

HUD urban development in Baltimore, Maryland.  2008

HUD urban development in Baltimore, Maryland. 2008

(Black & white photographs courtesy of The Library of Congress; photograph of HUD housing courtesy of HUD)

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