Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

The news isn’t always bad when it come to the dollar. Here is a chart showing a decline in the Euro, which corresponds to an increase in my real income here in Germany. This was from an article in Spiegel On Line International about the currency and debt problems in the Euro zone. May this trend continue, and may I finally begin receiving my retirement pay, if there’s any left after Washington gets done with the budget.


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The Nobel Peace Prize was recently and surprisingly awarded to Barack Obama. Everyone has their own opinion on this. Al Gore, former U.S. Vice President and 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner, said it was “extremely well deserved.” I have a different opinion.

I think this year’s award is the Nobel Committee’s attempt to influence American policy on one or more issues, such as Afghanistan or the detainees in Guantanamo, Cuba. Obama is smart enough to know he has not done anything worthy of this (formerly) prestigious award. I just hope he’s smart enough not to succumb to Norwegian political bribery.

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“Popular cereal is a drug, US food watchdog says”

See full size imageAt first, it sounded ridiculous – the Food and Drug Administration calling Cheerios a drug? That was the headline which caught my attention. I half expected to read about the millions of kids becoming addicted to the little round bits of processed “oats”  I should have known better. It was a misleading headline about the misleading claims of one of America’s leading breakfast cereals. Cheerios is no more a drug than it is a cure for high cholesterol.

The FDA did not say Cheerios was a drug, per se. It sent General Mills a warning letter, telling them their health claims make Cheerios look like a new drug. As protectors of America’s health, the FDA takes exception to the manufacturer’s claims and threatens to seize boxes of Cheerios from retailer shelves. General Mills has 15 days to do something about all this, and they aren’t taking it lying down. The good folks at Cheerios are in a “dialogue” with the FDA over this dispute, and they hope to resolve it soon. 

In the mean time, I would like to point out that General Mills is in business to make money, not improve your health. This is only an advertising strategy and advertising is the method by which cost is added to a product without a corresponding increase in value. 

So how are Cheerios made?

Cheerios are produced in a factory. General Mills takes whole grain oat flour and then adds in some more oat bran and oat fiber (as well as a little sugar and salt.) The flour is then mixed together in a big vat with water and some “binders” like corn and wheat starch and pushed through machinery (also called “dies”) to create the little “Os”. The “Os” are then cooked in a pressurized steam cylinder, dried some more and sprayed with synthetic vitamins.


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3483994905_8e7bf13f41_mPete Souza is the chief White House photographer and the guy who takes pictures of the President when all of the other photojournalists are sent out of the room. You can see his work on the official photostream of the White House. Only a fraction of the photographs he takes will make it to this on-line album, but they show a lot more than I normally would expect to see. And all are available to the public, not just the one or two that make it into the newspapers and magazines. While this isn’t the pictorial equivalent of the Nixon tapes, it is revealing. Especially of the major and minor players surrounding the President and who aren’t paying attention when the invisible man with the camera gets busy. 

I don’t know if it was Souza who came up with idea of posting pictures to Flickr. While he is a published freelance photojournalist who has been around for a while, Flickr is the MacDonald’s of the on-line photography world. The two don’t seem all that compatible to me. 

These official White House photographs are being made available for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photographs. The photographs may not be used in materials, advertisements, products, or promotions that in any way suggest approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

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Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army

Der Spiegel reported the Danish Supreme Court has ruled six members of Denmark’s tee-shirt producing ‘Fighters+Lovers‘ group are guilty of supporting terrorism — but handed them all suspended sentences.

It started as an experiment in low-end radical chic — a business to “produce funky street wear” and send money to “freedom fighters” in various parts of the world. But Fighers+Lovers, a small Denmark-based activist group, stands accused of providing financial support to two armed terrorist organizations outside Denmark — the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC).

The group produced tee-shirts with PFLP and FARC logos, donating about €5 ($6.75) from each sale — or around 20 percent of the total price — to the two movements. 

My question is this – who the hell was paying €25 ($33.75) for a damn tee-shirt?

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Calgary, Alberta

Calgary, Alberta

George W. Bush gave his first speech since leaving office. It was in Alberta, Canada, where nearly 2,000 people paid $3,100 per table for “Conversation with George W. Bush.” If you figure there were ten guests per table, invitees were paying over $300 for dinner with the former President. I don’t know how much Bush was paid for the evening, but he joked that he would do more speeches to pay for his new house in Dallas.

I actually paid for a house last fall. I think I’m the only American to have bought a house in the fall of 2008.

That isn’t funny, George. A lot of Americans can’t afford to keep the house they have, let alone buy a new one. Take off!

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The Fall Girl

The Fall Girl

Linda Chatman Thomsen recently resigned as the Director of the Division of Enforcement for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, a kind of “Sheriff of Wall Street.”  She worked her way up in the division, carving notches in her gun for her part in the Enron and Martha Stewart cases. Wall Street complained Thomsen was too hard on business, which to me means she must have been doing her job. When she first took the job as director, then SEC Chairman Donaldson said – 

I am pleased that Linda has agreed to take on this new role at the Commission. Linda is a highly accomplished attorney with a proven record of effective advocacy on behalf of the nation’s investors. The skills Linda has exhibited during her tenure at the Commission instill great confidence in her ability to lead this important division.”

Thomsen is out now, largely because she didn’t pay attention to a private citizen named Harry Markopolos when he said Bernie Madoff was running the world’s largest unregistered hedge fund. I think this is another way of saying “Ponzi scheme.” Of course, no one else at the SEC (or Congress) paid any attention to Markopolos either. That is until the the defecation came in contact with the rotating oscillator, which is another way of say the sh** hit the fan. When greedy rich people lost money invested in Madoffian madness, it made headlines. These headline set off a round of Congressional salutes, This is an  index finger, pointed anywhere but back at its owner. Heads have rolled, and I am sure more are on the block. But will the right ones be there?

Did Thomsen cozy up to Madoff and others? No, I don’t believe she did. I believe Linda Chatman Thomsen took the fall. In Washington and on Wall Street, the call girls don’t have anything to worry about – they will always have a job.

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A quick update on the Tiger Team post from February 7. Quick, because there isn’t anything to say except the good folks over at DOT must be pretty busy “. . .  getting ready to distribute funds and developing common reporting standards to track the highway, road, bridge, transit, rail, aviation and other intermodal [sic] investments.” They haven’t had time to moderate a single comment to the Tiger Team announcement.

As a matter of fact, there hasn’t been a comment posted in The Fast Lane since December 9, 2008. Maybe this blog should be renamed “The Breakdown Lane.” I get more comments than the DOT?

Mr. LaHood did note that word about his Tiger Team is getting out in this Friday the 13th post in the Official Blog of the Department of Transportation. He has $46 billion in taxpayers money to get in and out of the DOT’s doors, but that should be an easy task for a man that talks to states. Or is that states within the states? LaHood met with state transportation leaders recently to discuss  “. . . the opportunities and responsibilities facing us . . . ” in implimenting the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

I talked with every state represented at the meeting and learned about challenges and projects in their states.

By the way, check out this photo taken at the meeting. At least at the state level, diversity hasn’t made many inroads (sorry about that)  into the transportation field. 

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Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood

I am concerned with how much money the “TIGER team” will keep in the DOT’s budget and how much will actually be sent to the states. When you dump a bunch of money into a government agency and tell them to spend it, there is a temptation to spend on spending. If it takes money to make money, then it stands to reason it costs money to spend money. I have seen first hand the creativity used to justify spending my tax dollars on questionable goods and services. How much of a cut will the DOT take to “. . .  make sure that DOT’s portion of recovery funding goes out to states and localities . . .

Charities are often rated on how much of each dollar donated actually goes to help the cause for which it was intended. Will this information be available to the taxpayer?

February 04, 2009

U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Creates Team to Coordinate DOT Role in Economic Recovery

Today I announced the creation of a new team at DOT to coordinate the Department’s role in President Obama’s economic recovery program.

The team, known as the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) team, is composed of officials from across the Department’s operating administrations and offices.  I created the TIGER team to make sure that DOT’s portion of recovery funding goes out to states and localities as quickly as possible in order to immediately create jobs and strengthen our economy and transportation system.  The team is co-chaired by Lana Hurdle, deputy assistant secretary for budget and programs, and Joel Szabat, deputy assistant secretary for transportation policy.

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Here’s one item on the President’s agenda I can check on myself. I can’t really influence spending, but I can see if there is a change in how government employees spend public money. I’ll give it about three months and see if there has been any change in the way our agency spends money.

We’ll launch an unprecedented effort to root out waste, inefficiency, and unnecessary spending in our government, and every American will be able to see how and where we spend taxpayer dollars by going to a new website called recovery.gov.

via The White House – Blog Post – President Obama delivers Your Weekly Address.

By the way, “recovery.gov” doesn’t quite exist yet.









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