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Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 35,297

Journal Archives

Bernie Sanders is wrong about breaking up the "big banks"

Madoff Investment Securities put a $64.8 billion ding in the economy, and it had five employees including Bernie Madoff.

Enron also cost the taxpayers billions, and they weren't a bank at all.

Senator Sanders' plan to break up the "big banks" SOUNDS good, but it won't fix the root problem: that banks have become one-stop shopping centers for financial evil. If the government breaks up the ten biggest banks, the people who are doing all this evil will simply move over to smaller banks that haven't been broken up and go right back to business.

Also...since a big bank and a small bank have the same intrinsic capabilities, and therefore the same potential to destroy the economy, the worst lawyer in America could get this declared unconstitutional in about two seconds.

The reason Glass-Steagall was so successful at stopping the banks from destroying the earth is it looked at the functions of banks rather than their size. Glass and Steagall realized the big problem in the banking sector was banks being allowed to sell securities, and their law was written to stop banks from doing that.

If you REALLY want to fix the problem, this is how: There are six branches of the financial-services business: insurance; commercial banking (checking accounts, savings accounts, personal and business loans); investment banking (stocks and bonds); credit cards; mortgage banking; and derivatives trading. Allow a financial-services firm, like Wells Fargo, to operate in one of those six branches and require it to divest itself of the other five. If we go with Sanders' plan, there will still be another collapse but this time, it'll be at little firms like the Idaho Independent Bank.

Oh, and we also need a 2 cent per share transaction tax on all stock trading, which is small enough to not be harmful to legitimate traders and large enough to stop high-frequency trading.

Perfect gift for Florida Men and Nevada Squatters

Tell me something about this Trumperlin Wall

Anyone familiar with the GOP field in the 2016 presidential race knows Donald Trump is planning to build a wall all the way across the Mexican-US border, and to have the Mexican government pay for it.

Ignore the biggest problems with this wall (namely, he doesn't have the terrain on his side, the world can't make that much portland cement, and as long as the Donald Trumps of the world insist on hiring illegals to work for cheap people WILL figure out how to get through it) and concentrate on the financial part.

Delirium Tremens over there claims he's going to force the Mexican government to pay the yooge bill for putting up the wall. What will DT do when the Mexican president tells him to go fuck himself?

Isn't the Malheur NWR headquarters closed in the winter?

Back in "the day" when the government actually had money to do things like build wildlife refuge headquarters and remote ranger stations, places like the Malheur headquarters would only be open from early spring to late fall. Since usage of the area was expected to be very light during the winter, they designed the roofs of these places to withstand snow weight, took all the paperwork and office equipment out of them on Closing Day, left the headquarters building unlocked in case snowshoers might want to use it, and had one Forest Service employee go up there on a snowcat every couple of weeks just to be sure the place hadn't fallen in.

Moral of this story: If Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is like Idaho's Red Ives Ranger Station was before Ronald Reagan took office, Bundy's "patriots" are occupying an abandoned building.

Disaster Status Report 1

As you may remember, on Thursday afternoon my car burned up in the middle of the street with half my wardrobe in the back seat. Fortunately, Thursday was also payday and this month features three paychecks, so I have one to spend on whatever I need.

On Friday I went to Spokane and bought five shirts, three pair of pants and some socks. After I get a new laundry basket or something similar, that part will be rectified.

Strange thing: my house key got distorted enough it was almost impossible to use, so I replaced my lockset with a nicer one. I was gonna anyway, but decided now was the time.

I also went car shopping. My original intent was to stash $1100 and buy an old shitbox off Craigslist, but I went around and looked at the shitboxes and...well, the name is pretty fucking accurate. Fortunately, my parents are old enough that they have to take distributions from all the IRAs they have scattered around, and they are able to loan me enough money to buy a decent car. So, on Tuesday night I'm going to take off early from work, jump on a bus for Seattle with my F4 and bank account number in hand, and buy a nicer car.

Infinite America, Part 7: A fiery end to a fantastic journey

The Story So Far
Part 1: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1018825480
Part 2: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1018825709
Part 3: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1018825986
Part 4: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1018826315
Part 5: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1018826928
Part 6: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1018827194

Let's see...we've braved the fog-shrouded wastelands of America's northern tier...

scaled the heights of the Windy City...

risked life and limb in Mos Eisley Washington, DC...

absorbed our seditious heritage in Boston...

and been Bewitched in Salem!

Then we noshed on a truly excellent pastrami Reuben in New York...

before stopping to check our watches in Chicago...

and taking a very quick pass through Denver...

before leaving our hearts in San Francisco.

Now we're heading home...

The name of this train is slightly false advertising: the only "coast" you're going to see is in the Los Angeles area, which of course I didn't go to. On my trip you go through Oregon cropland during the daylight hours. In October it's not wonderful; in the summertime it should be superb.

Now I'm in Seattle. I've been here two other times for a full week both times, so I had quite a few pictures. I decided to visit Bainbridge Island by ferry - which I hadn't been to before. When I got to the ferry terminal, that ship had left but the Bremerton ferry was still there. Hmm...wait an hour for the Bainbridge ferry to make another run, or go back to Bremerton...Bremerton, please.

Returning from Bremerton, I walked up to Third Avenue and caught a bus to Fremont, where I visited the Troll...

and made sure Lenin would be warm this winter...

before firing off my very last frame.

So...what have we learned?

Traveling by train is great. Everyone should do it.
Spending two days in one town would be better than spending one day in each of two.
Larger backpacks! They're critical!

I had to call the cops on myself today. They were very nice.

After writing today's installment in my Infinite America series (tomorrow's the last day!) I got dressed, put my laundry in the back seat of my car, and drove off to the laundromat. I never made it. Smoke started coming out from under the back seat. Okay, no problem: I'll just put this thing in neutral, turn off the engine and coast home. (I wasn't far and it was downhill.) Then a LOT of smoke, then flames...I found the nearest place to pull over, did so, pulled the handbrake and got the fuck out of the car. Dude, there ain't NOTHING left. Flames thirty feet in the air. It looked like something out of a movie. The fire was so bad the windows melted. (I will, however, attest to the high quality of Saab gas tanks: The car was burning so fiercely I thought it would explode, but it didn't.)

I called 911 right after I got out of the car. A fire engine showed up and put the fire out. Two cops also arrived to direct traffic and take a statement, which didn't take long..."1987 Saab? Electrical fire? Yeah, that happens...no problem, we'll call a rollback to get it out of here."

I didn't get hurt, no other cars were around so no one else got damaged, and I didn't have anyone else in the car. Tomorrow I'll get new clothes to replace the ones that got burned up. At the end of the month I'll have a different car.

Infinite America, Part 6: From coast to coast in one fat post

The Story So Far
Part 1: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1018825480
Part 2: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1018825709
Part 3: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1018825986
Part 4: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1018826315
Part 5: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1018826928

When I left you, we were in New York City getting ready to go west. I saw Yankee Stadium...

...34th Street...

...the United Nations...

...midtown Manhattan...

...the Brooklyn Bridge area...

...the new World Trade Center...

...and, of course, the famous New York subway system.

You hear all these horror stories about the New York subway. It's dirty, it's dark, it's worn-out, it's full of criminals, it's just this awful, awful place. I used four subway systems on this trip: Washington, DC; Boston; New York; and San Francisco. The only one I'd count as "dirty" and "worn-out" is the DC Metro. All subways are "dark," no matter where in the world they are - which is a side effect of building a train station twenty feet underground. And as for "full of criminals"...I don't think I saw any "criminals" even on the DC Metro, but I haven't memorized what all the Republican congressmen look like. But they forget to tell you the REAL fun part about the New York Subway: how unbelievably hot the stations are. New York City has a huge public steam system. The steam system parallels the subway system, and the heat off the pipes winds up in the stations. Anyone sensitive to heat should only ride buses in New York City in the summer.

Now it's time to do a little nighttime training...

We rolled out of Penn Station a little after 3:30 pm bound for Chicago...

...passed through the Adirondacks...

...and returned to Union Station a little after 9 am.

The westbound California Zephyr is a very well-scheduled train: it goes through the flat, boring parts in the middle of the night. It also goes up the eastern side of the Rockies then, depositing you at Denver's Union Station very early in the morning...

which leads us to...

Now that we have the mandatory picture of a weed store out of the way...

I'm only going to show you two more pictures from Denver:


Denver has a lot of things to DO. Things to SEE are another story: it is a pretty, midsized Mountain West city but the really spectacular stuff is outside the city limits. If you want to go to Denver, take a week, rent a car and snag a Mile High Culture Pass. I found a food trailer selling doner kebabs, and that was kinda cool - he got the meat and the sauce right, but he is forced to use the wrong bread: American flatbread rather than the impossible-to-find Turkish doner kebab roll. I'll let him slide on that one.

Returning to

...this is where it gets really good.

This picture fairly screams, "bring a camera with between-frame data imprinting and a handheld GPS on a trip like this!" When I got the film back from the lab, I kinda thought this was a Montana picture. Then I looked a little closer. See that building just to the left of the three two-story buildings? It says "Walker's Toggery" on it. A quick Google search shows Walker's Toggery in Truckee, California. Nope, not Montana.

With as much film as I had, getting confused is understandable. If you write down the time and GPS coordinates of everywhere you expose a frame, then use Google Maps to display the locations when you get home, you'll never get confused. There are only five cameras I know of that will print the data BETWEEN frames, which is what you want: Nikon's F4 and F5 have optional data backs, the Nikon F6 includes it as a standard feature - with the price tag of an F6 being what it is, they SHOULD give it to you! - and in medium format, both the Hasselblad H-series and the Mamiya 645AF series will do it. If you want a medium-format autofocus camera and you see either of those, grab it QUICK: because both are designed to accept digital backs as well as film backs, people buy used bodies to mount digital backs on. The back itself is between $10,000 and $20,000, so you can well understand the attraction! My recommendation: Get an F4 with the MF-23 back. There are a lot of them out there, they're super cheap (less than $200, in most cases) and they work extremely well. If I'd have had enough room in my pack to hold a second camera, I would have brought mine.

There are a lot of tunnels on this route. One springs to mind quickly: The train staff got on the intercom and announced that "once we pass through this tunnel, we will be at the highest elevation Amtrak travels." Naturally, I'm sitting there staring intently through my viewfinder, finger at the ready, prepared to shoot the glorious scene from the top of the world when the mighty Zephyr roared out above the highest point in the entire Amtrak system...and then the train actually emerged from the tunnel. The trees up there were so dense, seeing anything would have been like looking through a green Berlin Wall.

Strange thing: a lot of the Rockies are bare of trees. It's not because of clearcutting; an Idahoan can spot a clearcut from twenty miles away. It's more like the ground has lost the ability to support trees there. I'd love to take a handful of Republicans on this route and ask them, "what the hell?" but you know Republicans would never support a socialist enterprise like Amtrak. (They stick to socialist enterprises like the air traffic system and the highway system.)

We coursed our way out of the Sierra Nevadas and around the Navy's floating maritime graveyard to arrive at Emeryville, California - the worst-placed station on the whole Amtrak network. Amtrak knows this, so they have bus service between the station and San Francisco. Of course, I didn't remember you could buy tickets for the bus through the Quik-Trak kiosk sitting right there, so I decided to walk (a very long walk at that) to the BART station and ride the subway into San Francisco.

Speaking of the San Francisco subway...if the word "sparkling" can apply to a subway, it applies to BART. They do things right there.

The first of my two days in SF was spent on the waterfront, or walking to it...

This is the back of the Ghirardelli factory, where the chocolate is made. Strangely enough, you can't smell chocolate on the air around here.

Please help me out here: There's a CVS drugstore where Jefferson Street becomes The Embarcadero. In it they have a good assortment of San Francisco souvenirs. One of the things they sell is an "Alcatraz gift basket" with a bunch of Alcatraz-themed crap...and also a chocolate bar labeled "Alcatraz Good Behavior Bar." (I got some chocolate, but not THAT chocolate.) Come on...did they actually give these to inmates, or is this just invented tourist crap?

This is why I'll never move to San Francisco: the houses are zero inches apart - literally; they TOUCH, which is one of the reasons every house in San Francisco is masonry - and the streets are kinda steep. Strange thing: everyone knows about Lombard Street, the "crookedest street in America." It is not, however, the STEEPEST. Leavenworth Street leading up to the base of Lombard is worse. There are streets even worse than that. Would you like to be the richest person in San Francisco? Start a company that does brake jobs in office building parking lots.

I usually shy away from "standard tourist photos" but a fella can't go to San Francisco and NOT photograph Alcatraz.

There are CABLE cars, which the tourists ride, and STREET cars, which everyone rides. This is a streetcar. There are several, and no two look alike.

For reasons unknown I have a vast collection of pictures of coves.

Did they "restore" The Castro Theater, or did they keep it nice and not have to? Either way, it's beautiful - and a lot more fun than your ordinary cineplex.

Figure this shit out: How in hell do you build a COUNTRY CLUB (that's what the sign says, "Castro Country Club") on the side of an 80-percent grade in the middle of the most densely constructed city in America?

The Castro relishes its history as the West Coast's epicenter of the Gay Rights movement, like the Haight-Ashbury district celebrates its place in hippie culture. They do not, however, seem so willing to relish actual hippies and gay people: as soon as the hippies fixed up the Haight and the gays fixed up the Castro, the landlords priced both groups out of their homes. Now the gays are working on the Tenderloin...which desperately needs it.

They're sluts. But that doesn't change the fact this bank actually LOOKS like a bank, not a dentist's office.

I returned to Emeryville and waited for the train. Ten pm comes. No train. Ten-thirty comes. "We are delayed because there is a car stalled on the tracks in Oakland." Hang on for a second kids, that's what the train is for: recruit twenty or thirty people from it to go outside and push the car back, and the problem's solved. Eventually they got the car out of the way, the train arrived, and we loaded on and immediately went to sleep.

Tomorrow: we're pointed at Seattle; that will close out our little excursion.

Infinite America, Part 5: On the joys of being Captain Asoh

Where we've been so far:

Part 1: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1018825480
Part 2: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1018825709
Part 3: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1018825986
Part 4: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1018826315

Captain Kohei Asoh was a World War II veteran of the Japanese air force who was employed as a captain for Japan Air Lines. On November 22, 1968, he landed a DC-8 in San Francisco Bay - so gently they were able to fish the plane out of the ocean, repair it and fly it for 32 more years. He then ended the NTSB investigation of the incident by telling the panel, "as you Americans say, I fucked up."

I tell you about Captain Asoh because I pulled an Asoh while writing this: I had a really nice post going, and then I closed the window and erased it all. Aargh! So...attempt number two follows.

I left Boston at 8:30 in the morning and arrived in New York about four hours later. Unfortunately, the sky was so cloudy and dark along the route I couldn't get any good pictures. (Note to all: ISO 400 film is Good.) I arrived at Penn Station just in time for lunch, and visited NY Pizza Suprema, which is right across the street from Madison Square Garden. There I learned the real reason genuine New York slices taste so much better than "New York Style pizza" anywhere else: it's the oven. Bake greasy pizza in a cast-iron Real Pizza Oven for fifty years, and the aromas from those millions of pies will saturate the pores in the metal to produce a flavor you'll never get from one of those hot-air atrocities people who've never been to New York attempt to make "New York style" pizza in. Word to the wise: Never eat New York pizza if you aren't in New York.

Manhattan is a Las Vegas Casino Buffet for the eye. The hardest part of photographing there isn't finding photos, but in holding yourself back.

Another of the (very few) pictures I preplanned: the Brooklyn Bridge - which everyone knows about - is in the foreground, the relatively unknown Manhattan Bridge in the background.

This is the side of the Brooklyn Bridge's Manhattan approach. Does anyone know why there are doors in it?

How do you get a "different" look at Yankee Stadium, one of the most-photographed things in New York? Set up in a side window of the subway station, of course!

(And be sure to get a ground-level picture of it too...)

Under the subway is also...well, interesting.

The moral of this story: New York really needs a full week.

Tomorrow: Off to Denver.

Infinite America, Part 0: Will do very large issue tomorrow

This is my earliest work day, so no time to make a new article. A thousand apologies and will make up for it tomorrow.
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