Archive for the ‘Finance’ 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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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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larry-flynt3200I imagine he’s just being Larry Flynt. But I also imagine there are some in Congress giving this serious consideration.

Larry Flynt Asks For $5B Porn Bailout

Day to Day, January 8, 2009 ·

The Adult Video Network will hand out long-awaited awards at its Adult Entertainment Expo Thursday in Las Vegas. But even a popular trade show can’t hide the fact that adult entertainment is slumping. Profits are down for porn, prompting industry mogul Larry Flynt to ask Congress for a $5 billion bailout. Alex Cohen talks with Monty McMahon, publisher of AVN’s online magazine.

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The Euro

010201349233001I once paid 99 cents for one Euro.  Today, I would have to pay about 45% more for the same thing.  I don’t think the exchange rate is going to improve anytime soon.

1 EUR = 1.44017 USD
Euro (EUR) US Dollar (USD)
1 EUR = 1.44017 USD   1 USD = 0.69436 EUR

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I got this from an Associated Press story from December 14th, and though I would add my own two cents worth to each.

The Top 10 quotes of 2008, as compiled by the editor of the Yale Book of Quotations:

1. “I can see Russia from my house!” — Comedian Tina Fey, while impersonating Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on the TV comedy show “Saturday Night Live,” broadcast Sept. 13.

Not sure if a line from a comedy routine qualifies as a quote, but it’s number one on this list. The editor of the Yale Book of Quotations must be a fan of SNL. Palin actually said you can see Russia from Alaska, which I suppose is techniclly possible.

2. “All of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years.” — Palin, responding to a request by CBS anchor Katie Couric to name the newspapers or magazines she reads, broadcast Oct. 1.

If not by nature, Sarah is by heart, a blonde.


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More Bad News

The European Central Bank just cut the “leitzins” interest rate by three-quarters of a percent to 2.5 percent.  This is equivalent to the rate of interest the Federal Reserve plays with in America to try and control the economy. The Bank of England, the Swedish Riksbank (and for sure others soon to follow) are also dropping interest rates.   This drastic reduction is going to have an impact on US stock markets today.  I don’t expect it will be good.

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