Category Archives: American Greed

Stop and Frisk Scam on Amtrak

One of the things which I believe should be on everyone’s “Bucket List”, if you can beg, borrow, or steal a way to pay for it is to take one of the few remaining Great Train trips in the US. If you are willing to go to Canada, there are still a number of unbelievable Trans-Canada, Rockies, and Northern excursions.

The last of the great trains in the US is the California Zephyr linking the Windy City and the west coast, the daily two-night California Zephyr is Amtrak’s longest route at 2,438 miles. It cuts right across the center of the US, traversing cornfields, cattle country and the Great Plains before climbing great S- and U-shaped curves to reach the Continental Divide inside the six-mile-long Moffat Tunnel at 9,239 feet above sea level and the highest point reached by an Amtrak train.

You cross the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, follow the Colorado River for more than 200 miles, cross the Oregon Trail, touch the old Rock Island Line immortalized by Lead Belly and Johnny Cash and pass the wooden covered bridges featured in the film The Bridges of Madison County.

As a train buff, I have done the Zephyr , the Sky Chief (LA to Chicago), The Crescent (NYC to New Orleans), The Great Northern, and the Empire Builder (Chicago to Seattle). Fun…fun…fun!

Apparently the local Police (at least on the Zephyr) have taken to harassing the passengers and absconding with their money.

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The Dangers of Going West on Amtrak

Another traveler reports being harassed by police officers on the California Zephyr.

Due to high costs and low ridership, Amtrak loses money on the California Zephyr, the passenger train that traverses a picturesque route from Chicago to the Bay Area. Its balance sheet would improve if more people could be persuaded to buy tickets for a “Superliner Roomette,” where there’s a picture window to watch passing scenery, two fold-down beds, and private space to get a good night’s sleep.

But the few passengers who forgo a faster, cheaper flight, shelling out upwards of $800 in hopes of an unusually pleasant journey, are setting themselves up for unpleasantness: On the route, law-enforcement officers are prone to treating passengers who’ve done nothing wrong as suspects in the drug-trafficking business.

This harassment has been going on for years.

In previous articles, I’ve written about Joseph Rivers, a 22-year-old who boarded an Amtrak train with his life savings, only to have it seized by DEA agents with no evidence of any lawbreaking, forcing him to hire a lawyer to get back what was rightfully his. I’ve written about mathematician Aaron Heuser, who traveled aboard Amtrak around the time he left his job at the National Institutes of Health—near Reno, law-enforcement officers violated his rights and took money from his wallet. I’ve noted the ACLU’s work to document behaviors deemed “suspicious” on Amtrak trains:

Among them:

Unusual nervousness of traveler
Unusual calmness or straight ahead stare
Looking around while making telephone call(s)
Position among passengers disembarking (ahead of, or lagging behind passengers)
Carrying little or no luggage
Purchase of tickets in cash

Purchase tickets immediately prior to boarding
After publishing those stories, I received correspondence from other innocent people allegedly harassed by law enforcement on Amtrak trains, many on travel to California. And I’m sorry to report that despite my efforts to shed light on these abuses, and similar articles in other publications, I still receive new emails with the same old story.

The latest comes from Evan Rinehart, an engineer who lives in New Orleans, Louisiana. He recently took an Amtrak to Chicago without incident, save for chilly temperatures and a passenger seated beside him in coach whom he found unpleasant.

He decided to buy a private compartment for the rest of his journey west.

On the last morning of his trip, he wrote, he was prematurely awoken from the good night’s sleep he purchased at a premium. A plain-clothes police officer was knocking at his door.

“He asked if I was transporting large amounts of drugs, large quantities of currency, or illegal weapons. Obviously I said no, which was true,” he wrote. “Then he asked me about the purpose of my trip and how long I would be in San Francisco. I didn’t have much of a plan, but I told him I was visiting friends there, which was true. Then he wanted to search my luggage, all two small bags in the roomette, ‘with your permission of course, with you present.’ I knew that there needed to be a warrant to justify such an unreasonable search, but being intimidated as all hell I let him. When I backed into the hallway he introduced me to his partner who was standing some distance away who just stared at me the whole time.”
All this when at most the search would uncover an amount of drugs so tiny it could fit in two small travel bags. How would that change the drug scene in the Bay Area?

Most law-enforcement officials would consider this a non-incident: cops got consent for a search and found nothing at no cost beyond their time. In reality, these sorts of “nothing to see here” interactions unnerve people, spoil their journeys, and cause them to feel that they’ve been mistreated by their own government. The experience is only more galling when the public employees conducting the search adopt a hostile attitude, treating innocents like they are lying criminals.

The person who searched Rinehart’s bag started to engage him about what he had packed. “At one point he remarked that I didn’t have enough clothes with me for the length of my vacation, however long he thought that was,” the passenger recalled. “This remark pissed me off, but at the time I continued treating these guys like normal people hoping they would leave. As the train was getting ready to leave he abruptly ended the conversation, thanked me for being patient and they left.” Rinehart has been seeking a refund from Amtrak without success, complaining that his treatment aboard the train was “less than first class,” though he paid $917.

More troubling was what happened when he tried to file a complaint about the interaction with law enforcement. “Thinking these police may not have been real, I called Amtrak police to report suspicious circumstances,” he wrote. “Without confirmation that this was standard procedure, the operator suggested that I definitely should call Reno police to get the specific unit and reasons for being selected. So I called Reno police and the woman I talked to was quite unprofessional, also didn’t confirm that it was standard procedure, or seem to be concerned that I thought it might be fake police. Then she suggested I call internal affairs.”…More Here



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Speaking of Failing Systems

In Europe and probably China – the train system has a number of safety controls which prevent operators from…Driving a train into a platform. Or, as in the case of the wreck in Philadelphia last year, going around a turn at speeds in excess of what the train can handle.

This is all accomplished by the existence of a digital radio system, which monitors and manages the train for unsafe conditions.

The reason we don’t have this is in part the FCC, and in second part Congress, which is often paid by special interests to suppress technology.

So we just get along with what happened today…Again

So far in 2016 – 11 of the rail crashes in the entire world have been in the United States. That’s 22% of all the crashes.

Train Crashes Into Hoboken Terminal, Killing 1, Injuring Scores Of People

A commuter train in New Jersey crashed into Hoboken Terminal in New Jersey on Thursday morning, resulting in multiple injuries and visible structural damage.

One person was killed and at least 65 people were injured, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York. New Jersey transit officials said at least 100 people were hurt, Stephen Nessen of WNYC reports.

Joseph Scott, the CEO of Jersey City Medical Center, said the hospital had admitted some victims in critical or serious condition.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey told MSNBC and CNN shortly before noon Eastern that everyone trapped on the train has been rescued or removed, and that there was no indication that the crash was anything but an accident.

The train that crashed originated in Spring Valley, N.Y., and “collided with the platform” at Hoboken Terminal at around 8:45 a.m. Eastern, Cuomo said in a statement.

Nessen reports that passengers on from the train that crashed say it approached the station at “full speed” before slamming into the barrier at the end of the track, with the impact throwing riders onto the floor.

WNYC’s Nancy Solomon arrived on the scene shortly after the crash, and says she personally saw 20 to 30 injured people, including at least four who were unable to walk.

She says a train had traveled “all the way into the station — not into the waiting room but into the outdoor part where people transfer.”

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Posted by on September 29, 2016 in American Greed


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Why Can’t America Build Anymore?

Before Raygun, America was known as a country of engineering marvels. The worlds tallest buildings, the Hoover Dam, the best highway system, soaring bridges…

Not anymore.

You want to see engineering marvels anymore – you have to go to China or Europe.

We got nothing.

The reason for that isn’t “little fish in creeks” which might go extinct…It is conservatives. People who bought into the idea that everything is free. You don’t need taxes, you don’t need bonds – no money at all, because the rich folks are going to take care of it.

In China and Japan – the commuter trains between major cities run 200 MPH. There are a couple which run 300 MPH. In the US – the fastest train runs 125 MPH…over about 50 miles of track, the rest of the time it is running well under 80 MPH.

Rode the TGV in France a few years back from Paris to Marselles. 482 miles in 3 hours or less at 200 MPH with stops. The TGV is capable of speeds of over 320 MPH in perfect track conditions.

The funny thing is, a lot of the engines and engine parts for these super-fast trains are made right here in the USA by General Electric – even though GE is more known for building Freight Engines. GE builds about 80% of the world’s electric motors. GE also owns Alstom, the French Company that makes the TGV.

So the only reason you don’t see those beautiful Orange liveried babies taking you from DC to Boston in 2 hours, or NYC to Chicago in 3 hours…Is political will, and mostly right wing perfidy.

Now Trump, despite Hillary wiping the floor with him in the first debate, made on very good point. Why is it that it costs billions and trillions of dollars to build these weapons systems for the Military anymore…Only to keep winding up with failures?

The new F-35 Fighter jets cost over $200 million apiece to build. One of the aircraft it was supposed to replace was the A-10 Thunderbolt (AKA “Warthog”)…which cost $18.6 million. And, besides being too expensive to lose – the F-35 can’t do the job. Need we discuss tens of billion on the Coast Guard’s new fleet…Which won’t float?

Here are some of the other failures.

What we need here is a new vision. Something similar to President Eisenhower’s Interstate road system… Hopefully the grown-ups will be in control once again after this next election…

And the Yellowback Democrats don’t make another disastrous appearance.

China plans world’s deepest high-speed rail station, right under the Great Wall

Ancient China’s greatest feat of engineering, meet modern China’s.

The Chinese government plans to build the world’s deepest and largest high-speed railway station under a popular section of the Great Wall, as part of plans to link the capital with the site of the 2022 Winter Olympics, state mediareported Thursday.

The station will be situated at Badaling, 50 miles northwest of Beijing, which is already the most popular spot on the Great Wall. It received 30,000 tourists in just one day during the Chinese New Year holiday week, according to the China National Tourism Administration.

The new high-speed rail line will cut the journey time between Beijing and Zhangjiakou, the site of the Winter Olympics, to 50 minutes, from more than three hours now.

Passenger Trains being readied for service in China – capable of speeds over 200 MPH

“The Badaling station will be located 102 meters below the surface, with an underground construction area of 36,000 square meters, equal to five standard soccer fields, making it the deepest and largest high-speed railway station in the world,” Chen Bin, director in charge of construction for China Railway No 5 Engineering Group, told state media.

China’s superlatives rest on some semantic fine-tuning, however. The planned station would be the deepest high-speed rail stop, China says, but not the farthest underground station for passenger rail. In Kiev, for example, the Arsenalna subway platform is billed at more than 105 meters, or 344 feet, below the surface.

Badaling will be one of 10 stations on the 110-mile route, designed to cope with maximum speeds of 215 miles an hour. There will also be a branch line to Chongli, which will host skiing events during the Olympics.

Image result for US Passenger Train

US Passenger train…80 MPH

There was controversy earlier this month when it was revealed that authorities had laid concrete over a crumbling section of the Great Wall in a restoration project criticized as “crude” and “ugly.”

But railway engineers said they will be careful to ensure this construction project does not damage the Unesco world heritage site.

“It will run through mountains where the Great Wall is winding, so we adopted some of the world’s advanced explosion technologies to guarantee it would not affect the Great Wall,” said Luo Duhao, chief engineer of the railway group for the Badaling section.

China has in the midst of an ambitious program of railway construction that is supposed to see it invest $400 billion to build in a 10,000-miles network by 2020.



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“Hiawatha” Goes to War

The reason Republicans despise Elizabeth Warren (and thus the “Hiawatha” jab) is she is effective at demanding accountability for the biggest thieves, liars, and crooks in the country. Wll Street, and heads of the major banks.

Here – she lights a fire under Wells Fargo President Stumph for crooked dealing, and profiteering.

I hope like hell for a change, the DOJ prosecutes and sends this sucker to jail where he belongs. Folks are getting real tired of this “special justice” for “special people.” crap.


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Posted by on September 20, 2016 in American Greed


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Half of America’s 330 Million+ Guns Owned By 3% of the Population

Hard to believe isn’t it?

A very small group of “Gun Nuts” who own each over 17 guns apiece, owns over half the guns in the country.

Not surprisingly, many of the folks who own multiple guns live in the country. That is because they are hunters, and hunting different types of game require different types of guns.  A guy who hunts Birds is going to have a shotgun. If he hunts deer, in many areas he will have a rifle. Rabbits and squirrels? Generally a smaller shotgun, or a small caliber rifle. So – having 6 or 8 long guns around the house isn’t at all unusual. Kind of silly to have a pistol in the country, especially in a lace like I live in, where most folks don’t even lock their front door or cars. But – never underestimate the fear-mongering of Faux News and the NRA… They are coming to get you!

Now – most of the gun deaths in the US are actually Suicide… By a ratio of well over 2-1. And the majority of those gun suicide victims…

Are white males.

50% of American guns owned by 3% of population – study

Half of America’s guns are owned by just 3 percent of the population – and those people own an average of 17 firearms each, a new survey says. It also found that the number of male gun owners is decreasing, while female ownership is on the rise.

The unpublished Harvard/Northeastern survey – which was obtained by the Guardian and the Trace – estimates that America’s gun stock has increased by 70 million guns since 1994, with the current number totaling 265 million.

However, the rise in guns hasn’t come with a rise in owners. In fact, the number of people owning guns has actually decreased from 25 percent to 22 percent.

Females v males

The 3 percent drop in gun owners was heavily influenced by a dramatic decrease among men. In 1994, 42 percent of American men described themselves as gun owners, compared to 32% of in the new study.

Meanwhile, female gun ownership is on the rise, with 12 percent saying they own guns in the new survey, versus 9 percent in 1994. Females were also most likely to be in the category of those who only owned handguns.

However, the researchers were quick to stress that the jump is not significant, as female gun ownership has fluctuated between 9 percent and 14 percent in various surveys since the 1980s.

But the numbers do align with the National Rifle Association (NRA) figures which claim that the number of women enrolling in its pistol course almost doubled from 2011 to 2014, from about 25,000 a year to nearly 46,000 a year.

Political & racial trends

Despite any increase in female gun owners, the majority of owners tend to be white, male, conservative and live in rural areas.

Thirty percent of conservatives said they were gun owners, compared to just 19 percent of moderates and 14 percent of liberals. The strongest predictor of ownership was military service, with 44 percent of veterans saying they owned a gun.

Twenty-five percent of white and multi-racial Americans said they owned a gun, compared with just 16 percent of Hispanics and 14 percent of African-Americans.

Those most likely to only own handguns were African-American (44 percent) and Hispanic (33 percent). People in the“handgun only” category were also more likely to live in an urban area, and were less likely to have grown up in a house with a gun. Only 21 percent of whites fell into the “handgun only” category.

What fuels gun ownership?

Lead author Dr. Deborah Azrael, a Harvard School of Public Health firearms researcher, said the data points to gun ownership being driven by “increasing fearfulness” which must be addressed.

“If we hope to reduce firearm suicide, if we hope to reduce the other potential dangers of guns, my gut is, we have to speak to that fear,”Azrael said.

She went on to state that the answer is not to focus on the gun owners with dozens of weapons, but on the nearly 50 percent of gun owners who have just one or two firearms.

“To change their behavior with respect to guns, and the ways in which they store them, or their decision-making – we could have a really big impact on suicide,” she said.

Azrael also noted that she doesn’t “know anybody who thinks or talks seriously about confiscating guns,” but went on to compare the situation to that of cigarettes.

“From a public health perspective – you don’t seize cigarettes.” But, she said, “You do try to make good science available. You do try to help people think about the risks and benefits of the behavior they choose to undertake.”

Approximately 20,000 of America’s more than 30,000 annual gun deaths are suicides.

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Posted by on September 20, 2016 in American Greed, Domestic terrorism


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The Star Spangled Banner…Made by Slave Owners

As usual, there were black hands behind the creation of the US Flag which flew over Ft  McHenry and inspired the Star Spangled Banner.

The Slave Owner Who Stitched the Original Star-Spangled Banner

Mary Young Pickersgill’s deeds made herself an American icon. The name of the slave who aided in her most famous labor has been lost to history.

Image result for Ft MchenryThe 30-foot by 42-foot star spangled banner that inspired the national anthem was made in the summer of 1812 by a 37-year-old Baltimore widow named Mary Young Pickersgill.

She completed the task in six weeks, working late into the night with the assistance of her 13-year-old daughter Caroline Pickersgill, 13-year-old niece Eliza Young, and 15-year-old niece Margaret Young. They were joined by a 13-year-old indentured servant, Grace Wisher, who was African-American, but not a slave and likely working under the same arrangement as she would have been had she been white. 

By some accounts, they were also aided by an African-American who was a slave and who is listed by the census as living in the rented premises that served as Pickersgill’s residence as well as place of business.  The slave’s name is lost to history.

The flag was commissioned at the start of the War of 1812 by U.S. Army Major General George Armistead, the commander at Fort McHenry at the entrance to Baltimore Harbor. Armistead wrote in his instructions: “It is my desire to have a flag so large that the British will have no difficulty seeing it from a distance.”

That meant Pickersgill needed a bigger space than the flag-making shop she had opened after the death of her husband to support herself and the only one of her four children to survive past infancy. Her daughter would write in a letter to Armistead’s daughter:

The flag being so very large, mother was obliged to obtain permission from the proprietors of Claggetts brewery which was in our neighborhood, to spread it out in their malt house; and I remember seeing my mother down on the floor, placing the stars.”

The task would later be termed Herculean, but Hercules was a guy and therefore not likely to have been able to demonstrate such precision along with considerable endurance. Call it Pickersgill-ean. She added a final touch, without which Francis Scott Key might never had been inspired to write the poem that became the lyrics for “The Star Spangled Banner.”

“After the completion of the flag, she superintended the topping of it, having it fastened in the most secure manner to prevent its being torn away by (cannon) balls,” the daughter reported in the letter. “The wisdom of her precaution was shown during the engagement: many shots piercing it, but it still remained firm to the staff.”

Following the battle, Armistead must have understood that this was not just any flag and that Pickersgill was not just any flag maker. Pickersgill’s daughter would write to Armistead’s daughter:

“Your father (Armistead) declared that no one but the maker of the flag should mend it, and requested that the rents should merely be bound around.”

With her renown as the maker of the original star spangled banner, Pickersgill prospered enough to purchase the building where she lived and worked. She was also able to found America’s first organization dedicated to assisting women who had fallen on hard times. Her Impartial Female Humane Society arranged for employment and housing for its beneficiaries, as well as school vouchers for their children. She subsequently established a home for aged women and then one for men.

Pickersgill was a pioneering feminist ideal of all-American entrepreneurship and civic responsibility and she would have seemed the perfect person to have made the Star Spangled Banner were it not for a document dated April 14, 1857. 

As cited in the book Mary Young Pickersgill Flag Maker of the Star-Spangled Banner,” the document passed title of Pickersgill’s building to her daughter at the time of her death six months later. It added:

“Also the following described or mentioned Negro slaves for life to wit: Emily aged thirty years, Jane aged twenty four, and Julia aged twenty four years and Maurice boy three years and also all the furniture goods and chattels and effects belonging to me and now in the dwelling house.”

Pickersgill apparently no longer had the unnamed female slave, who would have been older than those who are listed. The new slaves – for whom no last names are listed — were all born subsequent to the making of the Star Spangled Banner. …More Here

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Posted by on September 19, 2016 in American Greed, Black History, Women


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More Massive Corruption at Wells Fargo Bank

I have said here that Wells Fargo is the most corrupt bank in America. They paid $1.2 billion a few years ago, then the largest fine ever levied on a financial institution for their part in the Mortgage scams leading up to the Great Depression of 2009. IN 2013 the Bank was forced to pay $203 million in restitution and penalties for fake overdraft fees in Gutierrez vs. Wells Fargo. In 2012, the Justice Department ( Justice Dept. vs.Wells Fargo) the court reached a verdict based on Discrimination against African-American and Hispanic borrowers who were steered into high-cost, subprime mortgages. $175 million to be paid to the victims – 34,000 black and Hispanic Mortgage holders.

Here they are again paying a record fine for screwing the customers again…

Supposedly the company has terminated 5,300 employees as part of an internal review. How much you want to bet not a single one of them is one of the crooks at the top?

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Wells Fargo making a get away after a robbery…


Wells Fargo Fined $185 Million Over Creation Of Fake Accounts For Bonuses

Wells Fargo Bank has been ordered to pay $185 million in fines and penalties to settle what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau calls “the widespread illegal practice of secretly opening unauthorized deposit and credit card accounts.”

Thousands of Wells Fargo employees opened the accounts in secret so they would get bonuses for hitting their sales targets, according to investigators. More than 2 million deposit and credit card accounts may have been created without customer authorization.

The bank must pay $100 million to the CFPB — the largest fine ever levied by the federal consumer watchdog. It also will pay $50 million to the City and County of Los Angeles, along with a $35 million penalty to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

It’s also on the hook to pay full restitution to all victims of the scheme.

“Because of the severity of these violations, Wells Fargo is paying the largest penalty the CFPB has ever imposed,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Today’s action should serve notice to the entire industry that financial incentive programs, if not monitored carefully, carry serious risks that can have serious legal consequences.”

The CFPB’s consent order says the bank has already terminated 5,300 employees as part of an internal review.

Wells Fargo said in a statement that it has fired managers and employees “who acted counter to our values” in carrying out the schemes. It also refunded $2.6 million in fees it collected from customers. The bank said that “accounts refunded represented a fraction of one percent of the accounts reviewed, and refunds averaged $25.”

In addition, the Sioux Falls, S.D.-based bank says it is taking steps to keep this type of scheme from occurring again, noting that it will now send a customer an email confirmation shortly after a deposit account is opened.

“This is a major victory for consumers,” said Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, whose office sued Wells Fargo in 2015 after a Los Angeles Times investigation into the fake accounts. “Consumers must be able to trust their banks. They should never be taken advantage of by their banks.”

Feuer’s office says that after the suit was filed, the city attorney received “more than 1,000 phone calls and emails from customers and current and former Wells Fargo employees across the nation about the issues raised in the litigation.”


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Posted by on September 8, 2016 in American Greed


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