Tales from the Trail

Steven Chu: Energy Secretary, Nobel Laureate, Zombie

67613_449706237290_79707582290_5525360_4352855_aYou sort of have to like a U.S. cabinet secretary and Nobel Prize winner who knows how to have a little fun while getting out a message.

That would be Steven Chu, who posted a picture of himself as a green-faced, blood-dripping zombie on his Facebook page. Just in time for Washington’s scrupulously-observed Halloween weekend, Chu used his own zombification as a platform to point out power-sucking appliances — energy vampires, he called them.

“Garlic doesn’t work against these vampires,” Chu wrote. “But by taking some simple steps – like using power strips or setting your computer to go into sleep mode – you can protect yourself, and your wallet.” Then he linked to the Energy Department’s “energy star” page .

Perhaps it’s a profile-raising approach?

Chu’s got nearly 15,000 Facebook followers but he’s near the bottom of a recent accounting in Politico about which cabinet secretaries can claim the highest media profile. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tops the list, based on how often her name showed up in major newspapers, network evening television news shows, the White House blog and its Flickr feed in the last year. Only Gary Locke, Hilda Solis, Shaun Donovan and Eric Shinseki ranked lower than Chu (you can see which departments they lead by clicking on the link in this paragraph).

But how did Chu come up with the zombie angle? Turns out that my alert colleague Tom Doggett, who reports on energy issues, saw the zombified version of Chu online last week and passed it along to Energy Department spokeswoman Stephanie Mueller. To soften the blow, Tom urged her to tell Chu not to take it personally: “I hear (Interior Secretary Ken) Salazar looks much worse.” She wrote back: “Your email inspired a Facebook posting … The Secretary loved the zombie website. Be sure to check out his Facebook page.”

Fed Chair: No Night of Living Dead Banks

They won’t stay dead!


Members of the U.S. Senate grilled Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Tuesday on whether the next gruesome episode in the U.S. economic horror show could include an appearance of “zombie” banks. 


During Japan’s economic stagnation in the 1990s, the government propped up failing banks and firms that came to be known as zombies.  The failure to let such institutions expire prolonged Japan’s agony, many analysts believe.


Now that the U.S. government is struggling to keep the banking system alive, Senator Bob Corker worried aloud that the government is propping up banks that deserve to die.