Category Archives: Cabinet Roundup

US Department of State

This is the summary page for the US Department of state. I will store useful links and general information. Here are some links for looking for news stories. These links need to be tested regularly since they do disappear from time to time.

Daily Press Briefings This is a good place to stat by watching or reading the daily briefing.
Kerry’s RemarksThese are brief and mostly useless offical remarks from Sec Kerry.

If nothing is interesting there, then maybe looking in the sub-departments (bureaus) for what they may have.
Alphabetical List of Bureaus This is a long list of sub-departments

Media Central A general link to the public affairs links.

Post #007

I am still working on this format. I haven’t got a lot of comments on format or content for that matter. There were some simple. “I liked it”, “I am going to pass this to some friends” But nothing suggesting changes. I didn’t like the video as much. I got busy and had to get it out quickly. I hope this weeks is yet another improvement. This week has highlighted why I think this video is important, well ok important to me. All I am hearing in the news is about what is going on at Penn State. It is as if the world has stopped and that is all the news. It feeds on itself and echos within its own confines. So here are some stories that got lost in the noise and have nothing to do with Penn State.

The written portion of this is at
The video is at

#1 Housing and Urban Development department under Shawn Donovan
Fetus Denied a Home Loan
I have to say that HUD has a lot of videos. I love it. For a junkie like me it gives me insight into more than what I get from press releases. Now I know a little bit about mortgages. So here we have a case where a woman wanted a loan and the underwriter said no because she was on maternity leave. Now the rules for underwriting are a little unclear and underwriters are scared. In the old days if someone made their payments then no one questioned the underwriting. Now this woman claimed that she was discriminated against illegally. The finance company was fined $12,000 which is not a lot, but if you are paying attention this is a small indication of the problems that exist

#2 The Interior Department under Secretary Ken Salazar
Interior Courts Congress like a jilted lover
It is amazing how interesting this story is. I won’t go into all of the detail, but I have to first say that the Interior Department website was wacked, there were broken links and old information. It was a mess. It took me a long time to find a current story. But it is a story I like. So the Interior department manages about 245 Million acres or about ⅛ of the United States. I could go on an on about the BLM, but I am going to narrow to the current events. The BLM manages the land in mostly Western States, but that is part of the problem. It is like The federal government controls what happens within a state. Utah in particular is not happy. They would be happy if BLM just handed over the land so they could lease it to energy companies and pocket the revenue. Oh I am getting way off topic and I haven’t even got close to the latest news. So the Interior department’s BLM sent a letter to congress saying that it has selected 18 sites that should be designated wilderness areas. This seems pretty inocuous at first glance, but designating an area as wilderness means that no roads, no motorized vehicles, and not land leases for oil exploration or other private uses. The interesting part was that the letter comes off as begging for congress to take action. It is like “come on we used to work so well together” You see Utah sued the Interior department because they wanted nothing to do with the “protect the wilderness area” stuff. And when the kind of fell flat then congress (no republican) took away all of their funding for studying wilderness areas. Well Secretary Salazar found some money and did it anyway and now here is this report saying. “Hey let’s work together, please!” Like I said I could go on and on. I have spent several hours reading about this issue. It fascinated me like almost no other. The headline is “Salazar Highlights 18 Backcountry Areas Deserving Congressional Protection as Conservation Lands or Wilderness” But there is so much more to the story.

#3 The US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak
Let’s all be farmers again
The department issued its final report on Agriculture for 2011 and it was the best year on record for farm exports. We used to be an agrarian society, but we kind of moved away from that. We do have one of the most abundantly fertile lands on the planet. Having a large part to do with free trade agreements US exports in agricultre products reached its highest level and when you combine it with all the imports we have (chilean grapes in the winter, love them) we are running a budget surplus. Great news for the sector. We may lose jobs in manufacturing, but agriculture is kicking butt. Just some interesting facts. Agriculture makes up about 10% of exports.

#4 The State Department under Secretary Hilary Clinton
Canadians are adopting American Kids
The state department is responsible for any adoptions that cross borders.  That makes sense since the new child will need to essentially immigrate to the US and become a US citizen. So there are international agreements to make sure that the adoptions are on the up and up. There was a case out of Utah where a couple adopted a child from Samoa. They thought they were saving a child when the reality was that the parents were alive and well and thought that the child was going for an education and life improvement. They were not the only family either. Anyway. The state department issued its annual report adding some new countries to the agreement. Some interesting statistics. Americans adopted 9,320 kids while other countries adopted 73 American kids. You see it goes both ways. The most popular place for adoption for Americans is China with Ethiopia coming in Second. The most frequent adopter of American kids is Canada with the Netherlands coming in second. The Netherlands adopted 27 American kids. Why? There has to be a story there. Some agency pushing it in the Netherlands or something. I find it odd. Oh they also track the average cost for an adoption. For you bargain hunters Ireland comes in at $250 which is while Canadian kids cost on average $20,000.

#5 Transportation secretary Ray La Hood announces
Cops take the bus to work
“Our message is clear. Unsafe buses and drivers have no place on our nation’s roads,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We are using every available resource to remove high-risk bus companies and drivers that threaten the safety of the American motoring public. Inspections are up and accidents, deaths, and injuries are down. Latest numbers say that 254 deaths occurred in 2009. Is it worth the cost? Here is where I think regulations help business. It is impossible for legitimate business to compete with companies that cut costs by being less safe. Now I do not know the details of the regulations I am sure that some involve paperwork violations but others are serious and most vehicle safety inspections can only be paperwork. So the transportation department told a company to cease operations this week.

#6 The Treasury department Secretary Timothy Geitner
IRS You can run but it is harder to hide
Online merchants have been getting away with murder. Well actually the problem isn’t new to online merchants. Businesses must pay taxes. They only have to pay taxes on profits. One way to hid profits is to hide income. One way to hide income is to not report it. If you give me $100 for my stuff I can say you gave me $50. Well this is called the tax gap. (A side note the IRS calls this compliance voluntary which is ridiculous) One way around this is to have all of the card processing companies report income. So if you receive payment through paypal or VISA they will be sending you a 1099 which will tell you how much they are reporting to the IRS. I am all for reducing the tax gap. The fact that this law snuck through the Housing Crisis bill and was delayed until implementation this year is typical of how government works.

#7 The department of Education under secretary Arni Duncan
Paying to Play (games)
The department of education announced grants to inovations in education. There were 23 winners. Well actually potential winners because in order to get the money they have to find matching private funds which should be a lot easier now that they were awarded money from the Federal government. Typical of education nomenclature there were categories, priorities, and tons of acronyms. For example one of the winners was the New York Hall of Science which is a museum in NYC. They won a development award which means they haven’t proven their effectiviness. Their proposal was SciGames: A Technology-enhanced Model for Bridging Informal and Formal Science Learning. There were 600 applicants and only 23 winners so competition was tough.

#8 The Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder
Samoan Criminal gets 30% return on her crime
For 10 years the executive director of the American Samoan Special Service commision siphoned off money administrating $9M dollars and stealing $325K. That is a mere 3%. She billed for flights that were never taken, meals that should not have been given, leases that never occurred. She plead guilty and could get a $250k fine. If she didn’t pay the money back that would be a decent return on her efforts. Why it took 10 years to catch her I don’t know.

#9 The Labor Department under Hilda Solis
Labor Department competes with Disney
Now I know everyone isn’t going to agree with me, but having these videos(and they are quite well done) are great use of resources. Imagine the alternative, reading a bring manual that is barely understandable by college graduates. I have been in OSHA training and everyone knew that it was about compliance not safety. The employer could say they provided the training and therefore were free from liability. These videos are great true stories. Look if the Government is going to make laws and regulations then they ought to be able to explain them. Yeah Good Government.

#10 The Veterans Department
Veterans Department in the Construction Business
One of the major pushes for the veterans department is to eliminate Veteran homelessness. You can’t help but applaud the idea, but the reality seems hardly possible. But yet another creative solution here. It turns out that there are veterans hospitals with plenty of extra space. So the department is going to add 1,000 homes on a variety of currently owned locations. Ideal because medical care will be close by. Creative because of the thinking that was required to rezone and reuse the space that already existed.

#11 The Department of Defense with Secretary Leon Panetta. Secretray Panetta
Is there anything too expensive for the military?
I mean come on Secretary Panetta was in Canada where he and the prime minister of Canada (McKay) reiterated that they both want the F-35. Talk about a disaster. This plane is getting more expensive by the minute. Current estimated costs are between $130M and $250M a piece. The whole program may cost $300B and the estimate to maintain the aircraft is coming in at about $1T. Nice work if you can get it. An talk about socialism at its finest do you think Lockheed has any skin in the game if the project overuns. Of course not. I don’t know what the answer is, but can you ever say we spent too much on the military? Is there any equipment that would just be too expensive? I am worried. Some cities can only afford Police and Fire because the costs for those services are so high and they are the only services that can’t be eliminated. Are we headed the same way with the military. I know that social programs take more of the budget. That is problem to solve too.

#12 The Department of Energy with Secretary Steven Chu
Foriegn Cars are better
Energy with EPA announced the top fuel economy leaders. Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV is #1 at 126 MPG city 99 highway. The EPA had to create an “electric” mpg equivalent for electric and hybrid cars. The only American car in the top 10 is the Chevy Volt, which to its credit is the top hybrid.

#13 The Department of Commerce with Secretary John Bryson
Announces a new initiative to encourage no one come to the US unless you are going to spend money and leave
Really the travel and tourism corporation came up with a new brand to promote travel to the US which oddly enough is considered an export. The website claimed that the tourism was the the largest export which is not true. They may slice the data in a way that makes it a somewhat true argument, but generally is not. We export almost three times as much in consumer goods. Anyway the corporation spent a lot of money and time (shared with private sector) to come up with an brand that will promote travel to the US and the brand is BrandUSA. I guess they thought that couldn’t just call it generic brand. They could have done worse. The corporation is renamed Brand USA website was taken so the website is Now my opinion is that this really should be 100% a trade organization. If the US government is going to get involved they should be promoting goodwill and statesmen ship. but that is a narrow interest and I can buy that the benefit of BrandUSA is a national interest. If you want to go to the actual promotion website (not the corporation) then is the place to go. I am a little surprised that there is not the Red White and Blue of the brand, but this is not for selling Americans on America.

#14 The CDC under Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebilius
Healthcare law slowly making its way inspite of Supreme Court indecsion
There are announcments on the HHS website about healthcare and how the healthcare act is slowly being implemented. One of there announcments was that there is a new tool to help small businesses find private insurance options. So I went to the website and first entered in the information to find out what it would cost for me to ensure my family. The cheapest was about $700 per month. Then I went and entered in as if I were a small business and the cost was lower, why?

#15 The Homeland Security Department under Secretary Janet Napalitano
If you see something say something.

Now you can’t argue that the hot dog vendor who reported the smoking vehicle in Times Square didn’t save lives. That car bomb was averted not by the billions of dollars on survelience and intelligence, but the one citizen observing. Accordingly the Homeland security is rolling out its campaign. If you see something say something. The videos are high quality movie studio like. The videos are PG, but the vitriol on the you tube channel is definitely R. It does make me feel uneasy about being encouraged to spy on our neighbors and report on suspicious activity. It feels wrong. I know that is not what they are promoting, but it feels that way. I don’t know how else they can rely on US Citizens to help out with what is an impossible problem. We spend a billion to thwart terrorism and the terrorists spend a dollar to thwart our thwarting. It is a battle we cannot win. You can see the video here:

Post #006

I got some more feedback some of it positive. One person suggested an intro of sorts. That is what you just saw. I want to try some other ones before I decide to keep it or not. I am also going to try a different format where I summarize and offer links to more. I don’t know if there is any chance I can get this under 5 minutes. Maybe I can get the summary under 5 minutes. I also want to start including more video clips and pictures. We’ll see I am not unhappy but there is a lot more work to do and I have to balance the time I spend on this.

The written portion of this is at
The video is at

#1 The Homeland Security Department under Secretary Janet Napalitano

Mexico is the new Pakistan

The US Customs and Border Patrol got its second predator drone. I didn’t realize that they had one in active use. They operate them out of Corpus Cristi Texas and Sierra Vista AZ. Although these drones are capable of firing missles I doubt that will be useful in guarding the border. I don’t know how Republicans are going to make the border an issue. President Obama has done more to secure the border than anyone else. I suppose the Republicans will say anything. Who knows maybe next they’ll build a triple wide electric fence. Oh and did you hear one of the things they discovered on Al queada computers. Predator drone video. It turns out that with SkyGrabber (an internet shareware program) you can capture video. The video was unenqcrpted because they needed real time video in order to command and control from across the world. and the equipment to real time encode would be too heavy. Hey here is an idea. Make the border patrol video available to the public.

#2 Housing and Urban Development department under Shawn Donovan
HUD celebrates losing $1B
HUD seems to have a video every single day. There were no press releases so I went and watched Friday’s video. It was a celebration for a department in HUD (Public and Indian Housing PIH) for having greatly improved there improper payment numbers. I picked up a lot of information watching the 30 minute video. I even searched on the Internet and found more interesting information. That is why i love doing this. OK so first of all I think it is a great thing to celebrate success. This little video taped meeting was there to celebrate that they had reduced improper payments. There were single households where people had died and still got paid and there were under reported income which means people got paid too much. I don’t know how they track improper payments, but the system they have in place sounds awesome. The field offices can type in a SSN and find out information from the HHS and SSA about a person’s income. I want something like that for my business. So the good news they recovered $3M from deceased single member households. They only paid $1B in improper payments which is 3%. The federal government as a whole paid nearly $125B so their part was less than 1% of that. Evidently HUD is the leader in this focused effort to reduce improper payments. That is good news and the government is just big. So $1B is a lot, but in context it is cause for celebration. Meanwhile while I was trying to find out more about this I found an article this week on the HUD success. It turns out it was put out by an organization I had never hear of. the Parntership for Public Service which has as one of there goals to Raise awareness and improve public attitudes about government service” I love it. They wrote an article for the Washington Post. (Hey isn’t that their job) about the success at HUD. Of course because it was not written by journalist there was no investigation. It is like lobbyist writing legislation.

#3 The Interior Department under Secretary Ken Salazar
100 New National Parks!
Well not quite. In advance of a report outlining some of the ways the Interior department will help America connect to the outdoors the Interior department started announcing two projects in some states. I assume the report will announce 100 new projects, 50 in each state. This is after the Secretary of the Interior visited each state and asked about promising projects that the Federal government could help with. So one of the projects helps connect a river walk in Chatanooga Tennessee. The project will be funded 80% by federal grants. Now I am a believer in National Parks. I am not sure there is a national interest in creating what is essentially a local park. It may make the area nicer and may attract business, but I doubt that it will attract visitors from across the nation. This is part of Presidents America’s Great Outdoor initiative. I am not completely skeptical, but for the Federal government to be involved I would want to see less local issues. Now if the walk way connected walkways in two states or were part of a larger walkway system, maybe. It feels too much like dollar solutions looking for a problem. I didn’t look at all of the projects (there are 100) but at first glance this one doesn’t seem like such a great one. Couldn’t Tennessee come up with something better?

#4 The US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak
Illegal Watermelons
I didn’t know there was a Plant Variety Protection Act. But this law was enacted in the 70’s It essentially protects breeders of new plants. Parts of the law were challenged and actually made it all the way to the Supreme court. The results were that a farmer can collect seeds from a protected or patented plant and use them himself but he could not sell them. So anyway there is a new watermelon developed in the Netherlands which now is protected by law.

#5 The State Department under Secretary Hilary Clinton
Libyan fighters coming to the US
When Secretary Clinton visited Libya she visited with some of the wounded fighters. Now 25 (or is it 24, maybe one died) are coming to be treated in the US. That seems like such a strange request one because the number seems so few. I wonder how these 25 (or was it 24) were chosen. Were there only 25 who really needed the help. The announcement said that it was being coordinated with private US companies. Are they footing the bill? What’s in it for them. Is this just a photo op, promotion? I don’t know.

#6 Transportation secretary Ray La Hood announces
Airlines only make money from bagage fees.
A little bit of an exaggeration, but not much. Airlines made $2B after operating expenses (this is not the same thing as profit I know) They collected $1.5B in fees. The only two fees that are currently monitored are baggage handling fees and reservation handling fees. Not that airlines haven’t lost money before, but the fees saved them. So if you fly without checking bags and you do not change your reservation you are flying at cost. Again an exageration of the facts, but noteworthy. BTW Jet Blue and Southwest are both profitable but do not charge any fees.

#7 The Treasury department Secretary Timothy Geitner
Buy a car from this dealer and you could pay a fine of $1M
The Treasury department designated a couple of people and business as money launderers. As part of the King Pin act if you do business with one of these business you can be fined $1M. If you are a business you can be fined $10M. So I went to one of the business website (they have to have domain names don’t they? and I found this notice “Este dominio se encuentra vencido” Which means the domain has expired. Hmmm. Anyway don’t do business with these guys or you may fined big time.

#8 The department of Education under secretary Arni Duncan
Our report card is and we got an E
I think that means e for effort. My first complaint is that if it is going to be called a report card could they simplify it for people like me. I mean I want to see a pass or fail or even a letter grade like an A or F. I didn’t even know there was a website called
I think just the mathmatics portion of the report card is 98 pages. The site is actually very impressive and I think it is worth digging into.

#9 The Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder
Just a friendly reminder to Alabama “Don’t break the law”
The justice department sent a letter to Alabama reminding them that the law states that they cannot deny a child access to an education based on their immigration status. Of course Alabama one uped Arizona and made a very strict immigration law stating among other things that the schools need to know the immigration status of the children attending. Now I was a school teacher for a brief moment in my life and a woman came in that did not speak English and so I helped the administration figure out what was going on. Now they asked questions that I thought were discouraging like if the mother had identification papers. I think they were just trying to determine whether she lived in the district. If she were an illegal immigrant she would have heard a different message. Anyway. The justice department is taking a preemptive position with Alabama asking them to provide statistics in order to see if they are not providing access to schools. This is a little tricky because if the law is that they have a right to schools, but are discouraged from exercising those rights then it is the same as denying them the right. I have some unique thoughts on immigration that I won’t go into here, but I think that ALL laws should be followed whether they are good or bad, whether I agree with them or not. This goes both ways.

#10 The Labor Department under Hilda Solis
Government Loses jobs
I know there was a lot of stories around the jobs report. One thing that I think was missed was the loss of government jobs. So as reported there was a gain of 80,000 jobs in October, but in that same report from the Labor department there was a change to what was originally reported in August and September. There were an additional 100,000 jobs added. And of that 80,000 number that includes a lost of 24,000 government jobs. People should be cheering those numbers but I think the below expectation and the deep hole we are in are discouraging and that is the leading story.

#11 The Veterans Department
Free Food for Veterans
The veterans department really is going to try and end veteran homelessness. You can’t help but hope they are successful. This week they announced that at 170 sites around the country veterans can come in and get a free meal. The point is to encourage the veterans to start interacting with the veterans department with the free meal. This is just one of many programs that are going to come out to try and end homelessness among veterans. There are caveats to the program etc etc.

#12 The Department of Defense with Secretary Leon Panetta. Secretray Panetta
Yard Sale in Iraq
The military is committed to getting out of Iraq by Dec 31st. The man in charge of logistics explained the process and said that the planning is taking into account problems that may arise such as weather or warfare. Some of the military equipment will be handed over to the State department as they will still need security and such, but one of the most interesting aspects of the rush to get out of town is that we are leaving behind $198M worth of stuff for the Iraq’s because it would have cost is $298M to ship it home. That is amazing. I would hope the Iraq’s would at least give us yard sale compensation for it. “here is your country back, how about some love?”

#13 The Department of Energy with Secretary Steven Chu
Energy Department brings out their inner Ghandi
There is an agency in the Energy deparment called the Advanced Research Projects agency. This is a very new agency just created in 2007 and just funded in 2009. But all of that aside I was looking there for any news announcements and there was this quote prominently displayed

#14 The Department of Commerce with Secretary John Bryson
Mom’s a minorty
Actually the percentage is a lot higher than what I would have guessed. It has stayed at around 24% for awhile. The Census department has a ton of data and more reports than just the census that occurs every 10 years. I guess they have to stay busy the other 9 years. There is so much interesting information. The data for 2011 was just released and can be accessed on line.

#15 The CDC under Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebilius
Walgreens the dealer of death
It turns out that overdose from prescription drugs such Vicodin and Oxycontin (my favorite) kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined. There are state differences and UT is worse than CA. What does that say about the Mormons?

Post #005

I got some people to actually watch some of the videos and I think there was consensus that I was too boring. Some said that I should act like I am having a conversation. Others said i should be funnier. I know funny people, and I am not one of them. I will give you clever or creative, but funny, probably not. Anyway I will take that into consideration plus other comments like fixing the lighting into consideration. Here we go.

The written portion of this is at
The video is at

#1 The CDC under Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebilius
It is nice to start off with this opening piece. It is nice that our government might have a sense of humor and fun. The CDC released a piece on emergency preparedness, but instead of a boring notice or a lame advertisement, they went for it and created a graphic novel on Zombies. I don’t know if it was because of the current Zombie craze or if it was for upcoming Halloween, but it was actually well done. My favorite part is the first Zombie that they encounter is Mrs. Clements. That was too funny. I will have to ask my mom if she thought there was a resemblance. Now if the other departments could do something similar. How about a cautionary tale of fright on what happens if we stop paying taxes and lose all the services of government. Something along the lines of Charles Dicken’s Oliver Twist. I think that might be more scary than Zombies. Wait a minute is the government decided that the only way to talk to us is down to us like little children. I don’t know if that is a good sign. Warranted and fair, but not nice

Here is the link to the CDC Novella

#2 The Homeland Security Department under Secretary Janet Napalitano

Written Statement of Deputy Administrator Richard Serino for Federal Emergency Management Agency, before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs’ Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery and intergovernmental Affairs, “Accountability at FEMA: Is Quality Job #1?” First of all that is an ad campaign that Ford tried to use to convince us that their cars were as good as Japanese cards and I hate to say it, but if you have to say your cars are quality cars then you have already lost the PR campaign. Second the name of the committee meeting (which was 80 minutes long and which I watched) Is Quality Job #1 which is a questioned and it was not answered. It seems like the testimony should have started with. Yes it is!  So I guess the answer is we don’t know, maybe it is. On the more serious side he did discuss the improvements that were made which is an improvement of 14 error in payments post Katrina to 1 percent error in payments with procedures to recover funds. The committee started off stating that FEMA has responded to 87 incidents this year (Wow, really?) One of the reasons for the meeting was that they estimated that nearly $650M was issued erroneously and there was a lot of discussion about how to stop that from happening in the future and what they were doing to get it back. One of the reasonable proposals was that if FEMA gave out money erroneously it should take the blame and eat the cost. The Senator told a story of a couple in his state that was given money buy FEMA at their urging and then after using the money to make repairs on their house 2 years later FEMA was asking for the money back. It was kind of sad.

#3 Housing and Urban Development department under Sean Donovan
Poverty can make you fat. Well sort of. In 1995 families were chosen to receive housing vouchers. They were assigned to three groups. The first group got section 8 vouchers and were allowed to use the vouchers anywhere. Section vouchers are not accepted everywhere bu more importantly they were allowed to remain in their current neighborhood. The second group got vouchers but could only live in certain neighborhoods. The neighborhoods were selected based on their low poverty rates; or in other words they were better neighborhoods. The final group or the control group got nothing. The results which will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at the families in 2010 and found out that the ones who were forced to move to nicer neighborhoods were not as fat. Why? And what do we do with this information. And oh by the way if you were one of those control families who got nothing. Sorry about that. I know some red eye rabbits who feel your pain. The full report is due out next month. The link to poor neighborhoods and obesity was like a sneak preview.

#4 The Interior Department under Secretary Ken Salazar
The National Park Free days were announced for 2012. On those days visiting a national park will be free. We paid $20 as an entrance fee to Yosemite this Summer. We may want to plan our next trip. There are 17 days that are free next year. I looked at the budget for the National parks and divided by the number of visitors and I figured out that if we had to pay to cover the costs of the National Park Service our entrance fee should have been $400. That is hard to believe. It makes $20 seem like a real bargain. So the first free days are over the Martin Luther King Holiday. I am glad they are thinking like a public servant. If this was a business they would have made it on a Tuesday and require a Saturday night stay over.

#5 The US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak
Standards Night for Organic Food. Only Mormons would get that reference. So there is a National Organic Standards Board and they are taking public comments. So if you think food can be shot with laser beams and still be classified as organic, you can weigh in. I can tell you who will weigh in. People who want to do all the things they always do and still call their food organic. I actually have a problem with the word organic. We cannot make synthetic food so all food is organic. I have been to “organic” farms. Some of them are cute, but messy. The farm factories seemed more sanitary. I guess if you want to say your food is grown with out using pesticides therefore you ought to pay more for it, having a national standards board defining the term makes sense. As for me I prefer cheaper factory food but that is just me.

#6 The State Department under Secretary Hilary Clinton
GM is a long way from Detroit. So I was reading about Secretary Clinton’s trip to Uzbekistan.With everything happening in Libya, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and Syria I didn’t realize that she was going to Uzbekistan. Tashkent is the capital by the way. The discussion centered around human rights. Uzbekistan borders on the north with Afghanistan so the President want to know what our plans were post 2014. But then after blah blah blah it mentions that the Secretary will visit the GM plant there. What!? There is a GM plant in Uzbekistan. Yes since 2008. I had no idea. And maybe next year we will see the M300 in the US. Will they have to stop showing those Detroit is a car town commercials? I was really surprised and I shouldn’t have been.

#7 Transportation secretary Ray La Hood announces his resignation and then goes to Disneyland. Well the two weren’t actually connected. But the cars are! Well that is a really bad intro to what is going on. The Secretary is going to preview some car connectivity technology at the Disney World speedway. I didn’t know they had a speedway. The idea is that cars will talk to each other and tell each other to watch out for their owners who don’t know what they are doing. The idea is to make driving safer (the machines are taking over) and to make the technology standardized so that a GM car doesn’t hear a Ford say crash into me when he meant to say look out. All very futuristic stuff.

#8 The Treasury department Secretary Timothy Geitner
Geither and Snow go at it. Secretary Geitner testified at the Small Business Senate committee. He said she said. She thinks that the average person is not making a move because it wants lower regulation and lower taxes. Geitner said that surveys show that yes those are on the list of concerns but the overwhelming concern is demand from customers. I am going to call BS on Snowe. She seems like a reasonable person, but she talks anecdotally and he talks facts. She was making points he was stating facts. Meanwhile Senator Landrieu said these are passionate points, but this committee is about the Small Business bill. Then Senator Levin backed up Geitner and said number 1 problem is demand not taxes and not regulatory reform. It was a fascinating exchange. bottom line the US Government made availabe $30B for SBA lending and a year later we are still in a recession. That is true. Some of the most interesting exchange was between Geitner and Paul. Exciting. Nothing to do with the committee work, but fascinating. Honestly Geitner held his own.

#9 The department of Education under secretary Arni Duncan
Education should mean gainful employment. There are a lot of new rules with student loans. One of the requirements is that in order to qualify to receive student loan funds the institution must either be a public or non-profit or it must lead to gainful employment So forget about using your student loan to get a liberal arts degree at the university of phoenix.

#10 The Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder
OMG = Outlaw Motorcycle Gang
The justice department released its annual national gang threat assessment. It isn’t pretty. They broke gang classifications down to three different types. Street, OMG, and Prison My favorite OMG is the Wheels of Soul. According to the report gangs are getting more sophisticated they are participating in activities that are not typical gang activities like illegal immigrant smuggling. They are even committing crimes for other gangs to confuse law enforcement. Not an encouraging report  The most discouraging is that the biggest concentration is in SoCal however every state has some gang activity, even Utah who has the juggalo’s

#11 The Labor Department under Hilda Solis
CA still leads
Weekly new insurance claims were down a little. These are new applications for unemployment benefits. Overall the numbers were down but there were some big differences. CA increased by 13,000 while WI decreased by 1,500. This is some indication that maybe something is improving.

#12 The Veterans Department
Give the Veteran a debit card. The Veterans department had a contest to see what great ideas might be out there to help veterans who have been injured integrate back into society. It picked 6 winners. I wasn’t overwhelmed with the winners. One of the ideas was to give the Veterans debit cards. I did like the a solution in RI which was to pay for internships. I wish I had more time to explore that program and what it does.

#13 The Department of Defense with Secretary Leon Panetta. Secretray Panetta
Panetta reacts to leaving Iraq by traveling to South Asia. One of the reasons people are suspicious of US military presence is that once we establish a base, we tend to not ever leave.The secratry highlited this by visiting our troops in Japan and Korea how long have those conflicts been over. So people are suspicous as am I that we are developing permanent presensec in the middle east  Of course this is a philisophical question. So we are leaving Iraq, really leaving.

#14 The Department of Energy with Secretary Steven Chu
Fish friendly damm! A revolutionary new fish friendly turbine is getting close to its first deployment. This is great. Initial test showed that 100% of the fish survived. Hydro electric power is great and if they can figure out a way to do it without killing fish that would be a great advance and would mean hydroelectric power can be expanded. I wonder if they will test it on Humans.

#15 The Department of Commerce with Secretary <blank>
I know I have mentioned it before, but when the secretaries position goes unfilled having blank step in is such a natural selection. That really is her name, blank. She is holding down the fort since Gary Locke left to be ambassador to China who had to fill in for John Huntsman who decided to run fro president in 2016 and thought he better start campaigning 5 years early Well all of that comes to an end with Blank being replaced by the new secretary John Bryson. Secretary Bryson was the CEO Edison which is a power electric company. This guy comes straight out of business being on the Boards of Boeing and Walt Disney. This did not stop a single Senator from holding up his nomination since May. Somehow Inhofe finally gave in and Secretary Johnson was finally approved. You would think that this guy would be the ideal Republican dream secretary. I guess the Senator didn’t like his environmental views. It seemed more petty politics to me.

Post #004

I have started thinking that maybe shorter videos daily might be better. But, I can get so caught up in a story sometimes I think that daily might be too time consuming. I think for now I will continue to try this format. I gather the stories on Friday and Saturday. I write up the blog on Saturday and Sunday. I record the individual items on Sunday or Monday. I think I need to speek faster. My recording and editing is not where I want it to be.

The written portion of this is at
The video is at

#1 The Department of Energy with Secretary Steven Chu had to reach a pretty big decision that had to do with long distance transmission lines. Most often transmission lines are a local or a state issue. Deciding when and where the lines can be installed, how to grant access to the area that will get the transmission lines etc. This can be controversial and parochial. For example transmission lines are about moving electricity generated in one area to another. Sometimes states like to have transmission lines move electricity to other states. Sometimes they don’t. If AZ can get twice the amount for its electricity by sending it to CA rather than selling it to its own customers that can mean that rates will rise in AZ. Well the federal role is to look at solutions at a National level, balancing the needs of system as a whole etc. So the agency that provides permits for specific projects could be given the authority to override state objections for national interests such as alternative energy transmission or power grid reliability. The idea of having the agency that issued permits also having the authority to override state objections would streamline the whole process.  I read a lot of the comments that were submitted and it was pretty clear that state agencies opposed and everyone else was in favor of it. The energy department decided not to delegate the authority. So much for streamlining government.

#2 The CDC under Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebilius
Published an annual survey of teenagers, their sexual activity and contraceptive use and child bearing. The general idea is that unmarried teenagers having children is something that should be watched and influenced. The number of births per female is the lowest it has ever been, but amazingly three times higher than Canada, four times higher than Germany and over five times higher than Italy. Part of the goal of the survey is to see what is happening.

The obvious first step is to see how often unmarried teenagers are having sex. And like the birthrate it has declined over time. When asked why they haven’t had sex the number one reason given is that it is against their moral or religious beliefs. It seems to me that it is not illogical to try and use that data to influence moral behaviour. There is a lot of data in the report. It also covers areas such as birth control and contraceptives. It also has some breakdowns by ethnicity. There is a difference. I would have liked to see a breakdown by state and a comparative study to countries with lower birthrates; what seems to be working for them. Good news, birthrates are at historical lows, fewer unmarried teenagers are having sex, the number one reason for not having sex is for moral reasons. There is hope for the future. Bad news. The US has an incredibly high birthrate for unmarried teens when compared to other countries.

#3 The Homeland Security Department under Secretary Janet Napalitano

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement got 9 people on immigration fraud. The basic scam was that US citizens would travel to Morocco and then would agree to marry Moroccan citizens in order for them to get US green cards and then eventually US citizenship. The travel to Morocco was to create the appearance of a relationship. One US woman stated that she received $900 a month and only saw her husband on the day they got married. The US citizens and the Moroccans are all indicted. It seems to be centered around one family that seems to have discovered the supposed loophole and was getting other family members into the country. My sister married a Frenchman and they spoke to a lawyer before they got married to make sure that they were following all the rules. He was told at one point that if he lied to immigration or did something shady that he would not be able to come back to the United States for 10 years even if they had a child together. Evidently in the indictment there was revealed recorded testimony of some of the perpetrators confessing how they got away with it. One woman said that after her husband got his US citizenship she divorced him and married another Moroccan.

#4 Housing and Urban Development department under Sean Donovan
Announced that Lend America the company and Michael Primeau the president of the company were prohibited from doing mortgages with the government. I was surprised that there were no criminal charges announced. Evidently he was directing employees to send funds that should have paid off the customers first mortgage to pay for operating expenses. It was a cash flow issue. I guess he figured that the 5% interest rate that they would assume for the customer’s first mortgage was a better loan than the small business loan they might not have been able to get anyway. There are a lot of decisions like this that happen in small fast growing businesses. For example I knew of a case where a man didn’t pay his taxes on time counting the expense of late fees become a finance charge of sorts. I suspect that there was more to the investigation and that customers were being taken advantage of. This is really easy to do in a mortgage because it is not something that is easy to follow and even if a company is technically following all the rules they can take advantage of the customer. Lend America specifically targeted customers who were in trouble with their mortgage which makes them more vulnerable.

#5 The Interior Department under Secretary Ken Salazar
The final report on the Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico was issued and three companies were cited for violations. The violations were lame. The violations did not cite specific things that the companies had done, but cited the results of the accident as violations. For example one of the incidents of non-complaince was they failed to ensure a safe environment. Well, obviously, since people died. I had to read the whole report to find out what happened. The report was very interesting even though it was long (200 pages). One of the many things I thought was interesting was that there seemed to be a hurry to get out of there. The project was a exploration for oil. It was not a setup for actually extracting the oil. The rig was scheduled to start work elsewhere. That push to cap the well and get on the move probably contributed to the accident.

#6 The US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak
Clarified the rules around non-citizens getting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance. (Formally called food stamps) I had no idea that non-citizens could get assistance. I read through the rules and the rules are pretty strict and make sense. Those who claim (in order to promote a false narrative) that illegal immigrants are getting help are wrong. Illegal immigrants are strictly prohibited from getting assistance. In fact many legal residents are prohibited. For example those on tourist or student or even work visa are not eligible. To read the requirements about which non-citizens can get help is actually encouraging. So for example non-citizens who served in the military can be eligible. This requirements are more extensive and interesting to read. It says a little bit about who we are as a nation.

#7 The State Department under Secretary Hilary Clinton
This notice came in late Friday. So late that the Friday daily briefing did not cover it. The president notified congress, because he was required by law to do so, that last Wednesday 100 personnel (troops and support) were sent to Africa to help get rid of the Lord’s Resistance Army. That group has terrorized African nations for years. If there is evil in the world this is it. The tough question is what is the US interest. Supposedly the personnel will not engage the army, but will support other nations in finding and fighting them. Whatever type of government this supports this is an evil group that should be eliminated. But this is a matter of me picking and choosing. Other people might choose a different group to combat. This is in line with the Obama doctrine which is to not be trapped by a doctrine, but to treat each situation uniquely. It will be interesting to see how this develops. Obama was successful in getting Osama Bin Laden. Getting Joseph Kony would, in my opinion, be equal in accomplishment.

#8 Transportation secretary Ray La Hood gave a speech in which he cited Ronald Regan as a model for improving America’s infrastructure. Secretary La Hood is the only Republican in the cabinet. He stated that, “America’s roads are so choked with congestion that the average commuter spends 242 percent more time stuck in traffic than when President Reagan signed that surface transportation bill in 1982.  This drains $100 billion in wasted fuel and lost productivity from our economy annually.  That’s as much as the United States spent on R&D for the entire Apollo Space Program, adjusted for inflation.At the same time, bridges are crumbling beneath our wheels.  More than one in four of America’s bridges are substandard – including an astonishing 12 percent that are structurally deficient.  That’s 68,858 bridges that, while safe to drive on, are nearing the end of their intended life-spans.” He was obviously pushing an agenda that would increase spending on America’s infrastructure which doesn’t seem likely since the Republicans got religion on shrinking government. I am assuming that some would claim that this should not be a federal issue.

#9 The Treasury department Secretary Timothy Geitner
The treasury announced the end of the year results. We actually took in more money than we expected and spent less than what we had planned. In terms of GDP we are still at 15% for receipts and 24% for outlays. That means we need to get receipts up and outlays down. I think the balanced budget people are usually calling for 18% GDP. Which off course means increasing taxes (or fees or whatever you want to call them).

Table 1. Total Receipts, Outlays, and Deficit (in billions of dollars)




FY 2010 Actual




   Percentage of GDP




FY 2011 Estimates:
   2012 Budget




   2012 Mid-Session Review




FY 2011 Actual




   Percentage of GDP




#10 The department of Education under secretary Arni Duncan The nation’s top education official made two public appearances in Oregon Wednesday. He was there to meet with teachers and with business leaders. can you guess which one boo’d him. The teachers. They felt like he had given them too little time and attention and was paying too much attention to the business leaders and their proposals which seem to want to blame teachers for students bad performance and focus on standardized tests. The business leaders applauded him even after he laid into the Republicans who he claim want to do nothing while the US gets passed in education.

#11 The Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder
At a time when some people in Washington want to cut regulation in theory and mention the EPA specifically the news about a refinery in Louisiana comes out. They are pleading guilty to a number of violations and are supposed to shut down until they get things fixed. Besides not even having an office of compliance which might monitor their behaviour my favorite violation was that for over a year it was routine practice to light the flare tower by taking turns shooting a flare gun at it. Man does that sound like boys running the place. Those flare towers, which are visible at refineries, burns off excess flammable gas rather than having it released into the atmosphere. Evidently theirs didn’t have a functioning pilot light. I couldn’t make this stuff up.

#13 The Labor Department under Hilda Solis
A division of the Labor Department is the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. This division makes sure that company pensions are funded adequately among other things. So employees are told they will get a pension when they retire this agency ensures that the funds are there. In my opinion the pension fiasco has not been explored enough. You see a lot of the money for the financial collapse came from pensions. That money is supposed to be sitting waiting for the employees to retire. Pension funds have lost billions. This is where a lot of the money that got invested and then lost came from. This week the government announced it was fighting efforts of the company Friendly’s from wiping out the the pension. The company went into bankruptcy and so all of its assets and liabilities are in play. Sun Capital is trying get rid of the pension obligation. Not atypical of company trying to emerge from bankruptcy, unfortunately.

#14 The Veterans Department
The VA is launching an outreach campaign to eliminate verteran homelessness. Their goal is to end homelessness by 2015. That seems completely unrealistic. It will be interesting to see how they progress. A noble effort and this initiative will be one of many that will be tried. Here is a quote from the Secretary ”have served this nation as Veterans should never find themselves on the streets, living without care and without hope,” I agree with the sentiment, but I am not sure we really understand all of the issues around homelessness.

#15 The Department of Defense with Secretary Leon Panetta. Secretray Panetta
Announced its deployment of troops to Central Africa.

During an Oct. 4 military strategy forum, Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command, commented on the LRA. “If you ever had any question if there’s evil in the world, it’s resident in the person of Joesph Kony and that organization,”

The 100 U.S. personnel whose deployment the president announced today are going to regional capitals and other areas to work with governments, their militaries, and the peacekeeping missions in order for these forces to counter the LRA threat and protect civilians, the official said. This includes both military and nonmilitary personnel, he added, stressing that these U.S. troops will be working to advise and assist regional efforts, not acting independently.

Post #003

I am still working on the format of this blog/vlog. Finding the time to do it is difficult especially while I am visiting family in CA. I am finding somethings a little easier/quicker. I am also finding that I enjoy this more than even I initially hoped. So here we are with really my 2nd attempt. I am still leaning towards a combination Blog/Vlog with this written portion being posted on

#1 The Department of Defense with Secretary Leon Panetta. Secretray Panetta was at NATO headquarters and while there announced that 4 Aegis ships will be stationed in Southern Spain. He made the announcement along side the president of Spain Zapatero. I didn’t see the announcement anywhere else. I spent too much time researching this because I found it so interesting. The ships are primarily anti-missile ships. The Russian reaction was very negative. The Russians had hoped to eventually work out a deal with the US in regards to missile defense and felt that this move, along with previous moves of placing missile defense systems in other parts of Europe, like Poland, were not helpful. The Spanish people were completely taken by surprise. The president’s trip to NATO was a complete surprise and many questioned whether he could broker such a deal on his own. Some Spaniards question having over 1,000 troops in Spain, which will support the ships, is really in Spain’s best interest. Some believed that joining NATO would mean fewer US troops in Spain. I am generally not in favor of expanding US military reach. I would much rather see Spain spend its own money at the same time I think more cooperative relationships will strengthen US interest.

#2 The Department of Energy with Secretary Steven Chu announced along with a several other agencies that long haul electrical transmission lines would be built in seven separate projects. Now the governments role was to facilitate the private industries work. There were no loan guarantees with these projects. The key point was that the Obama administration was trying to show it could help companies get the permits and approvals to accelerate the process of building the long haul transmission lines. I have believed that the electrical grid was not getting enough attention. There is enough wind in some remote areas of the United States to supply the entire country with electrical power, but the storage and transportation of that electricity was a problem that had not been adequately addressed. I always thought this was a perfect role for a strong Federal government as long haul transmission lines cross state’s borders. I investigated one of the projects, Sun Zia. Now this project which will build lines from New Mexico to Arizona and possibly CA has been under work since 2008. They are still projecting that it will not be operational until 2014. Another interesting aspect is that although this project is not about generating electricity the Sun Zia project is specifically designed to transport Wind generated electricity from the remote mountains of New Mexico to larger populations. So it really is a renewable energy project. I am not a huge fan of wind generated electricity. It will be interesting to see if this project pans out. Some of the hurdles that the project has had to overcome is that the lines cross Department of Defense test areas and the Department of Defense does not like to have to watch out of things like transmission lines when it is training. That is just one of the many hurdles that need to be overcome.

#3 The FDA under Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebilius announced an overall plan to spur Biomedical inovation. One the proposals is a fellowship program where new and mid career scientist could work at the FDA to get experience working in the industry and working with the FDA. Part of the concern of the FDA is that during these high unemployment times there should not be open positions in biomedical.

#4 The Homeland Security Department under Secretary Janet Napalitano released its first ever National Preparedness Goal. The Goal is:

A secure and resilient Nation with the capabilities required across the whole community to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk

There is a lot in this announcement including a 20 page PDF which I read in its entirety and the presidential directives that created demanded this work. Instead of going off on a tangent I will just list the parts of the work that go into meeting this goal

Preventing, avoiding, or stopping a threatened or an actual act of terrorism.

Protecting our citizens, residents, visitors, and assets against the greatest threats and hazards
in a manner that allows our interests, aspirations, and way of life to thrive.

Mitigating the loss of life and property by lessening the impact of future disasters.

Responding quickly to save lives, protect property and the environment, and meet basic
human needs in the aftermath of a catastrophic incident.

Recovering through a focus on the timely restoration, strengthening, and revitalization of
infrastructure, housing, and a sustainable economy, as well as the health, social, cultural,
historic, and environmental fabric of communities affected by a catastrophic incident.

I read references to an assessment risk document which would list the priorities and likelihood of some of these risks, but I could not find the actual document. I believe that it exists but they may not want to release it because it may state things like terrorism is not very likely and climate change is a bigger risk and that is political fodder for haters.

#5 Housing and Urban Development department under Sean Donovan announced more legal actions against those who are discriminating against families. I don’t know if it is just coincidence or not, but once again someone advertised on craigslist that they wanted to rent to someone who did not have kids. This weeks action was against a management company not an individual, so it was a little different. It is interesting that there were several of these actions recently, all to do with discriminating against families with kids. I have mixed feelings about this, but if the law says you can’t do that, then it should be enforced.

#6 The Interior Department under Secretary Ken Salazar announced that the grey wolf was coming off the endangered species list. This meant that the program to restore the gray wolf to a viable group was successful. The job of monitoring and managing the wolf population was now in the hands of the states that have those populations. This is significant good news.

#7 The US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak made a statement that congress should pass the 3 trade agreements that are in their hands. Those agreements are with Korea, Columbia, and Panama. This is pretty significant for agriculture as we are the best producer of agriculture products in the World. It will create billions of dollars in new trade. However I know why the trade agreements are being held up. The democrats want to include Trade Adjustment Assistance meaning that if a worker loses their job as it moves to the new country they would get assistance. Republicans want nothing to do with that. The trade agreements are supported by most industries as they hope to sell more to the countries although it is assumed that the other countries exports will grow more than the US exports. This is what we have seen in other free trade agreements.

#8 The State Department under Secretary Hilary Clinton held their daily press briefings which I find completely fascinating. Some of the reporters ask questions that the press secretary has to answer honestly that she hadn’t heard that or that for the feelings of another country they would have to ask them. Then this exchange occurred:

QUESTION: On Pakistan, please. I’m looking for State Department reaction on the Pakistan Government recommendation of treason charges against the doctor who is suspected of assisting the United States in targeting Usama bin Ladin.
MS. NULAND: I’m not going to have any comment on that issue.
QUESTION: Have there been conversations between the United States and Pakistan about the detention of the doctor?
MS. NULAND: I think I’m not going to have any comment on this set of issues at all.
QUESTION: Is there – is it – in a – like if we just widen it out, isn’t there a negative signal being possibly sent here that a person assisting the United States will not be supported or stood by?
MS. NULAND: Well, now you’re getting me into intelligence issues, which I’m certainly not going to talk about.
QUESTION: But aren’t you concerned about someone who should have been felicitated by – for helping nab one of the most – world’s deadliest terrorist, murderous people? He’s being now – been imprisoned and been charged with treason.
MS. NULAND: Again, I’m not going to have any comment on this issue at all.
QUESTION: But can you just say that – have there been any discussions in the past between the United States and Pakistan officials over the fate of this physician?
MS. NULAND: I’m not, from this podium, going to get into this set of issues at all.

It was obvious a difficult subject for the State department and rather than mislead the reporters she stuck with the department line that she was going to have no comment on the issue. This is an extreme contrast from other exchanges and that is what made it stick out so much. I don’t know what is going on with Pakistani relationships, but there is trouble there.

#9 Transportation Department secretary Ray La Hood announced that Nevada was the 9th state to outlaw banning hand held cellular devices. In some aspects I can be a libertarian. I am not fond of seatbelt and helmet laws even though they have been very successful and have saved lives. In AZ where it is still legal to text and drive I have seen a lot of drivers texting while driving. Usually they are driving a lot slower and meander in their lane. If I were a cop I would pull them over for driving dangerously regardless of the reason. Since AZ does not have a helmet law I do not know if we will ever see a texting law. It is gaining a lot of momentum.

#10 The Treasury department Secretary Timothy Geitner testified before the House Banking committee. I went to CSPAN archived video and was able to watch the whole exchange. The secretaries remarks that were posted on the the departments website was pretty much read by the secretary. It outlined somethings that the Secretary thought the committee should do and what changes were upcoming. The chairman of the committee really wanted to make a big deal out of the President’s remarks saying that the President didn’t think the Banks should be able to make a profit and that the solution to a lot of the problems was that there was too much regulation. The minority leader said that it is nice to be against regulations in general but he has yet to hear of a single specific regulation that they were against. The chairman asked the Secretary to give one example where the department needed more regulation and the secretary said that they needed a head of the Consumer Protection Agency to start enforcing and writing the regulations that were already passed into law. It was an interesting exchange.

#11 The department of Education under secretary Arni Duncan had some announcements that were pretty unimportant to the general public, but which lead me to look at somethings I didn’t know existed. The announcement that I started following was about the Gainful Employment Stats that were starting to be required. Now this is about student loans. Evidently educational institutions that accept student loans have to report how well the students are doing in their programs. How long it takes them to graduate, what percentage graduate, what amount do the students typically spend on graduating, and what employment occurs because of their program. It is a brand new reporting requirement that is very interesting and should be watched. While I was reading about these new student loan requirements I found other data that was interesting for example the single largest beneficiary of student loans is the University of Phoenix which got almost $4B from the student loan program and it makes up 80% of their revenue. Compare this to BYU which has about 10% of its students getting student loans. Other interesting data that I never knew existed.

#12 The Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder won a judgment against Wells Fargo. This was interesting because the judge ruled that Wells Fargo purchase some debt in order to realize losses and therefore decrease its tax burden. The judge ruled that there was no business purpose for the transaction other than to avoid paying taxes and that is not allowed. The tax avoided was $80M. So Wells Fargo purchased some assets for $3M and saved $80M in taxes. That is a pretty good deal, however it did not fly and Wells Fargo lost.

That is all I had time for this week. I will try and include Commerce, Labor, and Veteran affairs next week.

Post #002

#1  Defense Leon Panetta
The Department of Defense announced today that the Convening Authority, Office of Military Commissions referred charges to a military commission in the case of United States v. Abd Al Rahim Hussayn Muhammad Al Nashiri. The referred charges allege, among other things, that Al Nashiri was in charge of the planning and preparation for the attack on USS Cole (DDG 67) in the Port of Aden, Yemen, on Oct. 12, 2000. That attack killed 17 sailors, wounded 37 sailors, and severely damaged the ship.
This case is quite controversial and surprises me that it has some how slipped under the radar. If things weren’t a mess in Yemen due to the “Arab Spring” I would have recommended that he be extradited to Yemen where he has already been tried in abstentia and found guilty. I think the only unacceptable solution is that Al Nashiri remain locked up with no charges and no trial. That to mean is the heart of un-American which is what the Obama adminstration seemed to be wanting to do.
#2 Energy Steven Chu
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced that the Department finalized a $132.4 million loan guarantee to Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass of Kansas, LLC (ABBK) to support the development of a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant.  ABBK’s parent company and project sponsor, Abengoa Bioenergy US Holding, Inc., estimates the project will fund approximately 300 construction jobs and 65 permanent jobs. The project will be located in Hugoton, Kansas, about 90 miles southwest of Dodge City, Kansas.
This is part of the end of the year spend the money while it is budgeted activity. It isn’t that these grants and applications hadn’t been in the works for a long time. Last week I highlighted the GeoThermal plant in Nevada. This week it is a biomass plant in Kansas. Ethanol was a large part of Brazil’s move toward energy independence. I am not a believer in using our corn to create ethanol. Sugar cane is much better suited, but this seems like an inovative project because it is essentially using agriculture scraps that would not be used for feed. Nothing can beat the price of oil and coal.
#3 Health Kathleen Sebelius
A drug that can be taken orally to treat internal contamination from radiation after a radiological attack will be developed under a new contract issued today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).
The 18-month, $4.8 million contract can be extended for a total of up to five years and up to $31.1 million and is as part of a federal effort to develop drugs to protect health and save lives in a radiological emergency.
BARDA, an agency within the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, provides a comprehensive integrated portfolio approach to the advanced research and development, innovation, acquisition, and manufacturing infrastructure for vaccines, drugs, therapeutics, diagnostic tools, and non-pharmaceutical products for public health emergency threats. These threats include chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats, pandemic influenza, and emerging infectious diseases.
I had never heard of BARDA. It is nice to know that advance thinking and planning is being done. Of course avoiding a radiological emergency is the preferred option. I would also highlight that this is prime example of how people misconstrue how the government works. These are not government companies that are developing these products. These are private companies that are getting grants. Not as effective as pure free market capitalism, but what market, other than government, really exists for researching and developing this type of solution. 

#4 Homeland Security Janet Napalitano
The travel period for the upcoming Jewish holiday of Sukkot is from September 26 through October 23, 2011. The holiday begins October 12 (at sundown) through October 19, 2011. U.S. Customs and Border Protection understands that observant Jewish travelers entering the United States during the Sukkot holiday might carry religious items (ethrogs, palm fronds, twigs of willow and myrtle) in their vehicles if arriving at land borders, or in their personal baggage if they are arriving by aircraft. These items are regulated to prevent the introduction of invasive pests and diseases, however, these items might be allowed into the U.S. after inspection by CBP agriculture specialists. Thus, the following guidance is provided for travelers:
I was not aware of this Holiday and that there needed to be a travel advisory. 
#5 Housing Sean Donovan
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that it is charging Craig Robbins, a Springfield, Massachusetts landlord, with violating the Fair Housing Act for allegedly refusing to rent or show an apartment to families with children because he claimed he did not have certification that the apartment was free of lead-based paint.According to HUD’s charge, Robbins first advertised the available one-bedroom apartment on, stating a preference for “working singles/college grad.” In response to the ad, the Housing Discrimination Project, a HUD-supported fair housing group, sent in testers to determine whether Robbins was discriminating against families with children. The testers found that when they called to ask about the advertised apartment, Robbins repeatedly refused to show the unit once he learned that young children would also be occupying the apartment, claiming he did not have a “lead free certificate.” When asked if he would consider obtaining a certificate, Robbins refused, and in one case, allegedly hung up the phone.
Who else would enforce these laws. I feel for the landlord. He didn’t want to discriminate against people, but he didn’t want to pay for making his apartment lead free. I had no idea that we actually had people looking on craigslist investigating this stuff. 
#6 Interior Ken Salazar
Grand Teton National Park rangers finalized an investigation stemming from a search and rescue response in August that was initiated by the activation of a SPOT rescue locator. Dave Shade, 33, from Missoula, Montana was issued a citation because his actions that day created a hazardous situation during a late-hour rescue operation to retrieve his stranded climbing partner, Jesse Selwyn of Florence, Michigan. Shade was charged with disorderly conduct.
I thought this was interesting. So the two men went hiking. One got exhausted and decided that he couldn’t go on and couldn’t go back. They notified the rescue and then the one hiker, Dave, took off. He was charged with a crime. I am sure that he just thought that Search and Rescue would rescue his friend. I guess they would have preferred that he stay with his friend until he was rescued.
#7  Agriculture Tom Vilsak  

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded 36 grants totaling $18 million to organizations that will provide training and assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers to help them run successful and sustainable farms. Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture, East Point, Ga., $675,750 – This project will develop a training curriculum consisting of classes, internships and mentorships Truly Living Well (TLW) traces its roots to founder Rashid Nuri’s undergraduate years at Harvard College.
Truly Living Well is promoting urban farms. This is not a typical farming situation. The founder believes that he can create enough farming in downtown Atlanta to feed the entire population. Interesting experiment. They must be good at Grant Writing. 
#8 State Hilary Clinton
I actually didn’t get a chance to see his Facebook posting today. I can tell you, as Mark did yesterday, precisely what happened from our point of view – first of all, to say his convoy did not hit anyone. That’s Syrian disinformation. He went straight back to the Embassy with no incident. He was headed to see this opposition leader and his group. They parked a block or so away in order to be discreet, to walk up to the meeting. When they got outside the meeting place, there was a, for want of a better word, Syrian rent-a-mob outside throwing tomatoes and others things and harassing him. They took refugee inside the building, where they called Syrian security. As compared to the almost instantaneous response that Syrian security seems to be able to mount when there’s an opposition demonstration, it took them almost two hours to come and disperse the mob and extract him from the site. And then he and his Syrian escorts went right back to the Embassy without incident. I would add to that that you often ask about Syrian Ambassador Moustapha here in the United States. He was called in to the State Department by Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs Feltman last night and read the riot act about this incident. He was reminded that Ambassador Ford is the personal representative of the President, and an attack on Ford is an attack on the United States. He was also asked for compensation for our damaged vehicles. As you know, we had also asked the Syrian Government for compensation to the damage to our Embassy back in July. That is not yet been forthcoming, but a very strong set of representations were made, again, about their Vienna Convention responsibilities.
I had not idea that this happened. Wow talk about exciting. I have nothing to add other than what was said. 
#9 Transportation Ray LaHood
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today fined Virgin Atlantic Airways, an airline based in the United Kingdom, $50,000 for violating federal aviation laws and the Department’s rules prohibiting deceptive price advertising in air travel. For a period of time, Virgin Atlantic displayed advertisements on the Internet that did not provide direct access to information on taxes and fees that were in addition to the base fare. Instead, consumers who clicked on the advertised fare were taken to a page showing sample routes and prices where the type and amount of taxes and fees could be found in fine print only after scrolling to the bottom of the page.

Virgin Atlantic’s website violated DOT rules requiring any advertising that includes a price for air transportation to state the full price to be paid by the consumer, including all carrier-imposed surcharges.  The only exception currently allowed is government-imposed taxes and fees that are assessed on a per-passenger basis, such as passenger facility charges, which may be stated separately from the advertised fare but must be clearly disclosed in the advertisement so that passengers can easily determine the full price they must pay.  Internet fare listings may disclose these separate taxes and fees through a prominent link next to the fare stating that government taxes and fees are extra, and the link must take the viewer directly to information where the type and amount of taxes and fees are displayed. The rules apply to both U.S. and foreign carriers as well as ticket agents.

Under DOT’s recently adopted consumer rule that enhances protections for air travelers, carriers and ticket agents will be required, among other things, to include all government taxes and fees in every advertised fare beginning Jan. 24, 2012.

This is a good rule. I actually prefer the French system where taxes are hidden in the price. So if the price on an item is listed as $4 then when you get to the cash register you pay $4 and nothing more. Of course some would argue that having retailers be tax collectors is a bad idea.
#10 Treasury Timothy Geitner
The performance of first-lien mortgages serviced by large national banks and federal savings associations declined slightly during the second quarter of 2011, according to a report released today by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC).
This is a brief small statistical item that indicates that economy is not improving yet.
#11 Education Arni Duncan
The U.S. Department of Education announced today charter school grants totaling $25 million to replicate and expand high-quality charter schools that have demonstrated success.
This is really interesting because Democrats do not generally support charter schools because of their coziness with teachers labor unions. This is an example of how the Obama administration is not entirely political in everything it does.  Some might disagree with that. I think the Education Department is looking for solutions from any quarter
#12 Justice Eric Holder
“Most medical expenses for people under 65” result “from the ‘bolt-from-the-blue’ event

Two California Real Estate Investors Agree to Plead Guilty to Bid Rigging at Public Foreclosure Auctions Investigation Has Yielded Charges Against 10 Individuals to Date Two California real estate investors have agreed to plead guilty today for their roles in a conspiracy to rig bids and to commit mail fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California, the Department of Justice announced.

I was going to put a blurb about the submission of the Health Care Act to the Supreme Court, but some newspapers did pick that up. I did read the whole brief. It was obviously written by more than one person. I really liked the bolt-from-the-blue comment. But any way the news item that it is investigating the cash foreclosure deals is a good deal. I went to a foreclosure auction and there is something funky about the whole deal and I have heard stories of people being threatened.
#13 Commerce Unfilled since Gary Locke left
The Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act, (CWPPRA pronounced kwǐp-rŭh), is federal legislation enacted in 1990 that is designed to identify, prepare, and fund construction of coastal wetlands restoration projects.Acting Secretary Blank Announces $102 Million in Wetlands, Barrier Island Restoration Awards for Louisiana Blank also highlights benefits to Louisiana of American Jobs Act
I spent way too much time on this. They have their own website and YouTube channel and everything. There are two things. 1 Announcing these awards at the end of the spending season has a lot to do with the announcement. The money was already allocated by congress it was about assigning the money to a project. 2. In the announcement acting secretary Blank talked about the Jobs act which had nothing to do with this announcement so it seems that the word went out to push the act when given the opportunity. Now that is political

Post #001

Commerce Unfilled since Gary Locke left
1. Acting Commerce Secretary Blank Celebrates Patent Number 8,000,000, and the America Invents Act passes. with today’s rhetoric you would think nothing is getting through congress and yet this significant change to the patent office went through just fine. I think it is interesting that all I hear is that congress can’t get anything done. This was a bill that was passed and signed into law. It may not be as exciting as something that causes a lot of drama, but congress is getting things done. The most significant aspect of the new law is that now it is the first inventor to file a patent that gets the patent. In the past it was the one who could prove that they invented the item first. This could be good or bad. It aligns with international standards which is good. It allows an individual patent applicant to get a patent without having to worry that some one in a large company is working on the same thing. I think the patent process is still not completely fixed. I experienced a lot of patent disputes in past companies. My biggest complaint was patent holding companies that had no means to produce a product; they just bought patents to hold real innovators hostage. That is very biased view. Besides I am a patent holder (US 2007/0027813 A1)
Defense Leon Panetta
2. End of don’t ask don’t tell and the first 16 troops in Libya

Yes I had heard the end of don’t ask don’t tell, but there were somethings that I had missed. One was that the General in charge of the Marines had been opposed to the repeal. The Secretary and the Chief of the Joint Forces both agreed that if the military was good at anything it was following orders and executing commands. They did not see it as a problem. I don’t want to overplay it, but we do have troops in Libya. There are just 16 and they are there just to provide security for the State department.

Energy Steven Chu
3. Secretrary of  Energy Chu Finalizes Loan Guarantee for Ormat Geothermal Project in Nevada (Davis Bacon requirements) which in light of the Solyndra debacle looks a little crazy although I am a big fan of GeoThermal
I think that this is interesting on the heels of the Solyndra debacle. I am in favor of these time of programs. I think they are risky and therefore are capable of failing spectacularly. I am a fan of Geothermal energy (and nuclear for that matter) but alternative energy projects will always more expensive than cheap oil. Well maybe not always, but for a very long time.

Health Kathleen Sebelius
4. Secretary of HHS Sebelius released a report on waterborn disease Surveillance for Waterborne Disease Outbreaks and Other Health Events Associated with Recreational Water — United States, 2007–2008 Cryptosporidium – Interestingly the biggest problem was in Utah where over 5,000 people got sick prompting them to create a PSA you can watch on YouTube. Essentially if you have diarahea don’t swim in public poolsThis report came out of the CDC. Interestingly the CDC spends 85% of its budget on grants. I don’t know what I think of that. Even though this report is 3 years old it is the most recent. I don’t know why it takes them so long to compile.
Homeland Security Janet Napalitano
5.  Secretary of Homeland Security Napaletano announced CBP Officers At South Texas Port Seize 30 Assault Rifles, 39 Magazines from an 18 year old woman in a Nissan Altima trying to take them into Mexico
I think 18 is pretty young. I would be interested to know how this woman got recruited. She was stopped as part of a routine check on Southbound traffic. Good catch, but not a real reliable way to stop the flow of guns in to Mexico
Housing Sean Donovan
6. Housing Sectrtary Donovan announces $60M for the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Family Self-Sufficiency this program helps families get off assistance by continuing to help them for 5 years while they work and then taking the money that is put in an escrow account and giving it to them when they get off of welfare
I like this program. We should spend more money on programs like this. They are expensive, but the idea that it will help some one move from Welfare to self support is something that I think everyone should get behind. The program has been in effect for a number of years. It would be interesting to know how well it has worked.
Interior Ken Salazar
7. From Interior Secretary Salazar In the morning report the national park service caught 3 men stealing Galax leaves from a national park. Survellience caught them with 30,000 leaves which are normally sold to flower shops for 5 cents a piece.
Looking at the budget for the National Park Service. They spent $3B and collected $200M in fees. That means that if my entrance into Yosemite was to pay for all of the park expense it would have cost me $300 to enter the park. The other option is that other people will pay for my use of the park. 
Labor Hilda Solis
8. As part of the Labor Departments Bureau of International Labor Affairs Secretary Solis announced her support of action against Guatemala for unfair labor practices
I haven’t explored all of the departments of Labor. I want to know more about the department that tries to make sure the global labor practices do not hurt American labor. How would they even be able to do that.

Agriculture Tom Vilsak
9. Secretary of Agriculture Vilsak US Forest Service seeks five-year extension of Secure Rural Schools Act. This act is supposed to help communities that have been hurt by the drop in timber harvesting on public lands. It is an outgrowth of agreements that have existed for a hundred years where the communities would receive a portion of the timber proceeds but since the timber proceeds are down they are just getting handouts.

This program seems like a left over addiction. I have no doubt that the communities benefit. I don’t think the Forest Service should be looking out for Rural communities it is kind of an historical left over. I would like to research this more because I may be simplifying the situation. I certainly don’t want to trivialize the need or the fact that it might be doing good, but having it tied to previous century’s timber sales is a little strange. I mean what about the rural communities that are in the middle of pastureland. Do they have equal opportunity if so why?


State Hilary Clinton
10. The Quartet (which I had never hear of but has been around for 10 years) announced that Isreal and Palestein should start direct negotiations. As if this should even be news. They said talks should start in a month, but they said last year they should start in a year and that never happened.

I am sure that a lot has been said of the Quartet and I wasn’t paying attention. I have zero confidence that Israel and Palestine will start negotiations in a month.

Transportation Ray LaHood
11. From the Secretary of Transportation The  FAA Proposes $207,200 Civil Penalty Against J.R. Simplot Company for shipping a 5 gallon container of unlabeled hazardous material through UPS on a US Plane. UPS found out when the container started to leak.

That is one expensive 5 gallons of goo. What was the rush that they had to ship it on a plane. This is good use of government resources. It would not have been a good day if that goo had leaked and caused the plane to crash, not that it was likely.

Treasury Timothy Geitner
12. Treasury Secretary Geitner announced the selling of the last  warrants in SunTrust Banks for $30M, ends investment in bank. Of the $245B of TARP money given to banks. $255B has been paid back. TARP is still in the red $100B because of AIG and the Car Industry

I am very pro TARP even though the money was not used the way it was supposed to be used. It was a great example of how the government can react to a crisis with flexibility and tons of money. It saved the auto industry or I should say the US auto industry. It saved the financial industry for sure and we took back a profit. I would have preferred reform or something else because this was not a simple cash infusion this was a savior to the whole industry.

Veterans Eric Shinseki
13. The Vetrans department has a goal to end Vetrans homelessness in 5 years as part of that goal the HUD, VA to Provide Permanent Housing, Case Management to Nearly 100 Homeless Veterans

Not much new happens at the veterans administration. They just do their job. I would like to know more about how their healthcare performs

Education Arni Duncan
14. The Secretary of Education Duncan announced that there would be moreFlexibility from No Child Left Behind. The 10 year old law required defined benchmarks like 100% proficiency in certain subjects. This relaxes rules and looks to see if progress is being made

I am really confused why states complained. They did not have to take the money. I am torn on a national education policy. I think the education comes right behind energy independence in my important things to get done, but education is such a local issue I am not sure what I think of the Federal role. 

Justice Eric Holder
15. The Justice Department under Attorney General Holder announced that the Founder of NinjaVideo Pleads Guilty to Criminal Copyright Conspiracy
Matthew David Howard Smith, 23, of Raleigh, N.C., pleaded guilty today for his role in founding a website that provided millions of users with the ability to illegally download copyright-protected movies and television programs.

It seems like all of the Justice Department announcements are so small. I mean it is important to catch people who break the law, but do we need the full weight and expense of the Federal law enforcement to bring this guy down? Maybe we do. And ensuring the integrity of the system is priceless so no matter what the cost for the triviality of the crime is worth it to protect the confidence people have. That is another lecture for another time.