“Drinking ourselves into a stupor waiting for the Bush presidency to end.”

July 24, 2009 at 3:53 pm | Posted in Department of Commerce | Leave a comment
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Invictus points out interesting data over at Blah3.

Alcoholic beverages purchased for off-premise consumption (booze we buy to drink wherever) — peaked right around the time of the presidential election and has declined dramatically since.

So, the question needs to be asked: Were we a nation just drinking ourselves into a stupor waiting for the Bush presidency to end, or is there some other explanation?

SOURCE: BEA Table 2.4.5U, Line 84

SOURCE: BEA Table 2.4.5U, Line 84

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OMG!!1!

March 2, 2009 at 8:38 pm | Posted in Department of Commerce, politics straight up, State Department | Leave a comment
Everybodys doing it, Doing what? Paying taxes, of course  Large group of people filling out tax forms in Internal Revenue office. (c1920)

"Everybody's doing it, Doing what? Paying taxes, of course" Large group of people filling out tax forms in Internal Revenue office. (c1920)

Tales of woe and scandal with respect to Ron Kirk’s “tax problem” are highly overblown.

(National Journal) Finance staff briefed aides to committee members today on the revelations, which indicate the former Dallas mayor underpaid taxes to the tune of $9,975 during 2005-07, and that he has agreed to promptly file adjustments. The underpayments deal in part with speaking honoraria he received that he listed as charitable donations to his alma mater, Austin College.

Kirk instead should have reported the honoraria as taxable income and then deducted the donations. The panel also asked Kirk for substantiation of other charitable donations he has made, including a television set, and it has questioned Kirk’s write-offs of business expenses, including those for Dallas Mavericks season tickets.

Oh noes!!1!

Taking Census.

February 13, 2009 at 7:43 pm | Posted in Department of Commerce | Leave a comment
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Taking census  (between 1918 and 1920)

"Taking census" (between 1918 and 1920)

The Census Bureau is looking for a few good people for the 2010 census.

The U.S. Census Bureau is recruiting temporary part-time census takers for the 2010 Census. The pay is good, the hours are flexible, and the work is close to home.

Census taker jobs are excellent for retirees, college students, persons who want to work part-time, persons who are between jobs, or just about anyone who wants to earn extra money while performing an important service for their community.

The Know-Nothings Score.

February 12, 2009 at 7:54 pm | Posted in Department of Commerce | Leave a comment
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Taking census, 1920

Taking census, 1920

I could not understand for the life of me why President Obama had nominated Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) for the position of Commerce Secretary. According to the White House, Gregg asked for the nomination.

Thankfully, Gregg has withdrawn his acceptance of the nomination, citing “irresolvable differences” on economic issues.

It’s now pretty clear why Gregg accepted and why he has now changed his mind.

Republicans hoped to control the 2010 census through Judd Gregg.   How do we know? Because they lost control of their collective bowels upon learning that the President would be closely monitoring the Census Bureau’s conduct of the census and Senator Gregg lost his desire to be Commerce Secretary.

At a White House press conference on February 6th a reporter asked Robert Gibbs, “Has the White House moved the control of the Census Bureau into the White House for the purposes of the 2010 census, and if so why?” Robert Gibbs basically said no, pointing out that the director of the census “works for the Secretary of Commerce, the President, and also works closely with the White House, to ensure a timely and accurate count. And that’s what we have in this instance.”

Despite the White House denial that the 2010 census would be done “in-house,” a great wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) called for an immediate investigation by the House:

“In the past few days, local elected leaders have expressed to me their grave concern that the census might be politicized. They worry that political influence from the White House will steer resources and representation away from the rural and suburban communities that I represent and towards larger urban areas. Honest and dedicated people direct the Census Bureau. The White House needs to let them get an honest count in 2010, free from undue influence.”

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) had a full-scale conniption:

“The Obama administration’s recent actions regarding the census are outrageous and unprecedented,” Issa said in a statement.

“Commanding the census director to report directly to the White House is a naked political power grab and transparently partisan,” he added. “The need for an independent Census Bureau is recognized by Republicans and Democrats alike — and every living former census director is on record supporting an independent Census Bureau.” (FoxNews)

The Republicans score multiple times with this one.

Point One:  Their demand that a Republican be appointed to replace Gregg in the Senate was granted, making Democrats look like a bunch of pussies for agreeing.

Points two and three:  Gregg’s withdrawal gives the Villagers more opportunity to chatter about the President’s “failed nominees” and about how the very-principled Senator Gregg couldn’t stand to soil himself by direct association with a Democratic administration, choosing to remain among the “loyal opposition” in the Senate where he could do more damage without having to do actual work be more effective.

And for bonus points, the public salting of the field has begun so that the 2010 census results can be declared unreliable and unfair.

I’m beginning to wonder where President Obama is getting some of these Cabinet suggestions from. Whoever suggested Gregg is no friend of the Obama administration or the country.

UPDATE: Nice. Apparently Gregg did not bother to notify the White House before he announced he had changed his mind about being Commerce Secretary.

Given that Gregg also announced that he would not be running for re-election in 2010, perhaps he’s just hoping to slide out before anyone looks at him any more closely.

UPDATE (2/13/09): My sense that this Gregg/Commerce nonsense is field-salting only increases. “The census has not been removed from the Commerce Department’s purview, as Ambers explains below. And past censuses have long been conducted with coordination from the White House staff.”

UPDATE (2/13/09): It took me a while but I finally discovered the basis of Republican hysteria about the census. As one would expect, it’s much ado about nothing. In fact, Ken Pruitt, who was appointed by George W. Bush and managed the 2000 census, has been asked to act in the same capacity for the 2010 census.

Samuel L. Rogers, Director of Census (1915)

Samuel L. Rogers, Director of Census (1915)

(CQ Politics) After black and Hispanic leaders raised concerns over Commerce Secretary-nominee Judd Gregg ’s commitment to core functions of the Census Bureau, a senior White House official told CQ on Wednesday that the director would report directly to the White House.

That brought fire Thursday from Republicans, who accused the White House of attempting to gain advantage in the politically delicate process of counting Americans and of violating the law by circumventing the Commerce secretary. The decennial census is used to determine the apportionment of congressional districts among the states and federal funding for numerous programs.

The White House took a small step back from what the senior official told CQ, releasing a statement late Thursday that couched the relationship between the Census Bureau director and the West Wing as one in which the director would work with the high-level officials rather than report directly to them.

FURTHER UPDATE (12/13/09): FiveThirtyEight reports: “Emanuel said the idea for Gregg as Commerce Secretary had come to the White House through Harry Reid, that it was not the White House’s original idea.” Sam Stein of Huffington Post got confirmation of Reid’s involvement from Reid’s spokesman Jim Manley.

FURTHER FURTHER UPDATE (3/4/09): Oh, look! An inexplicably salted field!

Bill Richardson Stands Down as Commerce Secretary Nominee

December 3, 2008 at 10:58 pm | Posted in Department of Commerce | 1 Comment
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Department of Commerce, 15th and Constitution Avenue, Washington DC

Department of Commerce, 15th and Constitution Avenue, Washington DC

UPDATE (1/4/09): Bill Richardson has stepped down as President-Elect Obama’s candidate for Secretary of Commerce due to potential legal issues.

When I was writing the post yesterday about New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson’s nomination as Commerce Secretary for the Obama administration (which was apparently “lost” by the movers), I realized that although I had a very good impression about Richardson, I did not fully comprehend why.

I learned some things by looking at the websites of the New Mexico Governor, the Department of Energy, wikipedia, a Frontline interview of Richardson, and a variety of other documents for which you will, I trust, find the pertinent links herein.

Born November 15, 1947, Richardson (a Scorpio) started his political career as a Republican, first working for Congressman F. Bradford Morse, a Republican, from Massachusetts, then taking a job as a staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before working for the State Department during the Nixon Administration under Henry Kissinger.

Richardson won election in 1982 as Congressman for New Mexico’s then new 3rd District and served in that position until 1997 when he was appointed US Ambassador to the UN by President Clinton. In August 1998 he was appointed Clinton’s third Energy Secretary, serving through the end of Clinton’s last term. On nominating him to the position, Clinton is reported to have said, “If there’s one word that comes to mind when I think of Bill Richardson, it really is energy.”

While in Congress, Richardson served on the Energy and Commerce Committee, was the second-ranking Democrat on the Select Intelligence Committee and served on the Natural Resources Committee, chairing the Native American Affairs Subcommittee created in the 103rd Congress (1993), as well as a chief deputy whip.  Working with President Clinton on NAFTA, the 1993 Deficit Reduction package and the 1994 Crime Bill, the two developed a close personal relationship.

Although Richardson was not named UN Ambassador until 1997, President Clinton began sending Richardson to negotiate in a variety of hot spots beginning in 1994. As a result of his success at these international negotiations, Richardson was nominated for the Nobel peace prize three times and developed a reputation as a consummate negotiator — “no showboat, had no partisan animus.”

In February 1994 Richardson went to Burma and convinced military leaders to negotiate the July 1995 release of Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel laureate and leader of the Burmese democracy movement.  Unfortunately, except for a period of 19 months, she has been held under house arrest since September 2000.

In July 1994 Richardson to Haiti met with General Raoul Cedras to “[lay] the groundwork” for the successful negotiations led by former President Jimmy Carter to remove Haiti’s military leadership and restore its constitutionally-elected government.

During 1994 and 1996 Richardson spent time in North Korea, successfully negotiating return of the remains of a US pilot (a constituent of Richardson’s) whose helicopter had been shot down after crossing the DMZ (1994), helping to set up four-party talks between the US North Korea, South Korea, and China to settle the final disputes of the 1950-53 war (1996), and negotiating the release of an American peace activist who had been arrested as a spy after trying to swim across the Yalu River (1996).

By 1995 even Saddam Hussein knew who Richardson was and is reported to have requested Richardson’s participation in negotiations for the release of two American oil mechanics who had “wandered” over the Iraqi border.

An unfortunate footnote to Richardson’s time as US Ambassador to the UN is his involvement in President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, offering her a job at the UN, at Clinton’s request, an offer she declined.

Richardson’s handling of the “espionage scandal” and accusations against and treatment of Wen Ho Lee was a costly disaster. He made attempts to tighten security but that appears to be a tough nut to crack.

It wasn’t all bad for Richardson at DOE, however. His powers of persuasion did have some effect. He got a nuclear weapon waste disposal pilot project off the ground, something his predecessors had been unable to do, and in the spring of 2000 convinced OPEC members to boost oil production, something George Bush was unable to do despite his close relationship with the Saudi Royal Family.

A June of 2000 Slate article about Richardson, in the aftermath of the Wen Ho Lee fiasco, summarizes his weaknesses and strengths:

Richardson’s career, in short, testifies to the power of the schmooze. Unlike Clinton, he doesn’t marry schmoozing to wonkery. He is weak on policy, often skipping complicated discussions for a cigar and a party. He has no great beliefs, which may be why he didn’t mind flattering despots. In Richardson’s world, personal relationships may trump principles, and friendships may supersede treaties.

Will Richardson be the Commerce Secretary the country needs? A lot is going to depend on whether he has competent Under Secretaries to help him manage the vast Commerce Department. Let’s hope he will serve the country well.

Truly interesting times.

(Photograph courtesy of The Library of Congress; photo credit: Theodor Horydczak)

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