Seriously, don’t fret, he’s OK!  I just snapped the photo to the left, where he is safe and sound after returning home from kindergarten.  The story begins with the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, who has his own blog.  You can find it here at http://fastlane.dot.gov/.  It’s a nice blog, usually with daily content that is often relevant to traffic safety.  As bloggers ourselves, we try to give props to other blogs that relate to child passenger safety, no matter how big or small.  After all, we are essentially partners in the war on traffic fatalities!

Recently, after LISMama’s great guest blog on the topic of air travel safety, a little bird told me that Ray LaHood had a blog on a similar topic.  Nothing unusual about that, as it was just before the Thanksgiving travel season.  What was unusual about it is the large photo at the top of the blog.  The child had an uncanny resemblance to my son.  Coincidentally, it also looked a lot like the interior of my van, complete with an old can of Del Valle fruit juice like I use for testing cupholders.  I thought it pretty unlikely that the Department of Transportation went to all the trouble of finding a look-alike child and then went out and bought the same child seats, minivan and obscure juice, just to enhance a daily blog.

I guess it just didn’t occur to me that a presidentially appointed cabinet member of our executive branch would be using a photo of my dear son for his own blog!  Still, I had to check.  Sure enough, here’s a blog I wrote from May 21, 2008 with a review of the Britax Frontier.  Clicking on the very first thumbnail, it turns out it is exactly the same photo that appeared in the November 22, 2010 Fast Lane, the Official Blog of the US Secretary of Transportation!  Funny thing is, our humble blog is copyrighted, and nowhere in my emails or other correspondence have I ever seen any request from the Department of Transportation to display a photo of my young child on their very public and very high profile government website.  They didn’t even bother to include a caption indicating the source of the image or the [great] photographer who took it!

So, I did what any good internet citizen would do.  I left a snarky comment in reply to their blog!  Sure, there was a bit of sarcasm, as I noted how familiar the child and van looked. I also mentioned how it would have been nice had there been a request for permission to use a photo of my young son, or at least the courtesy of a link and reference to the source.  Though a week’s worth of new blogs have appeared since I left the comment, my comment has not yet been published and the photo remains in use, sans permission.  I’d send an email, but there isn’t any clear contact information present on their website.  Perhaps I need to leave a comment on the Secretary’s Facebook page!

Well, I do have to commend him for selecting such a fine looking and safely restrained child to feature in his blog, even if the photo was in a minivan and not on an airplane.  We are honored that the Secretary even thought of our little blog when he needed a photo to use!  Unless, of course, he doesn’t actually write his own blogs (though I do note that many are written in the first person).  Anyway, I guess the moral of the story is that I need to start watermarking my photos.  If only there was an agency that could give me a government grant to hire an expert to go back and do that for all the photos in the archives.  Perhaps there would be enough left over to fund some other upgrades for the blog and forums that reach over 10,000 unique visitors a day, all seeking information on how to keep their children safe in cars!

Editor’s Note: A day after this blog was published, the photo in question was quietly replaced by one of another child, seated in an airplane.   I note that other comments have been published, but mine apparently was rejected (even though at least two obvious spammer comments made after mine were approved!).  If you click the photo at the top of this blog for the full size version, you can see the original photo on the Department of Transportation blog on the computer screen when you zoom in.