LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD

IN THE FREE MARKET CAPITALISTIC MATERIAL WORLD THAT IS
WASHINGTON'S UNION STATION
Was making arrangements for a trip up to NYC yesterday, thinking that maybe we’d take the train rather than MegaBus this time.  Want to visit the new Whitney Museum designed by Renzo Piano down in the old Meatpacking District.  Well obviously given the derailment last night, that’s not going to happen.  At least by train.  AMTRAK is my preferred means up to Manhattan since it’s about the same time as the bus, although more expensive, but much cheaper than flying and you don’t have to get to Midtown from Queens or Jamaica Bay.  As an aside, when Congress created both AMTRAK and Conrail back in 1971, Conrail got the lucrative freight operations while AMTRAK got stuck with the money losing passenger side.  Also, it’s Conrail who’s responsible for track maintenance so if you’re concerned about AMTRAK derailments, look to Conrail. 

Anyway, I’m hoping that the Philly tragedy results in some substantial changes to our 19th Century rail system.  But let’s get real.  It ain’t gonna happen given the current state of affairs in Congress.   But it should. 


I was searching for hotels yesterday too, attempting to find a room for less than $300 a night (there were three) since spending $1000 bucks or more on a tiny 200 square foot room with a view of a airshaft is not exactly my idea of the ideal accommodation.  I do miss the times when my hotel rooms (including the Ritz Carlton in Cairo) were paid by the U.S. Department of State rather than out of my own pocket.  And that room in Cairo that had a rack rate of $600 per night?  I made some inquiries and found out that the State Department paid $160 bucks a night to put me up for six days.  Not a bad deal for us taxpayers I’m thinking.

I didn’t make the booking – thinking I would come back today to “book and pay” -  and went on to check my Facebook account when I finished my hotel room search.   When I logged in, I noticed that there was an ad from one of the hotels I had just researched.  And this was no more than 15 minutes later.   Now I’m not a fan of the NSA’s spying on me by monitoring my phone calls and internet communications and I think most folks are with me on this one.  But I’m equally – if not more so – against our private corporations monitoring my activities.  So far, though, I’ve not seen any righteous outrage and patriotic indignation about how insidious and invasive Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Amazon, et. al. truly are. 



I’ve gotten used to seeing ads pop up after I’ve purchased something on Amazon, usually offering the same or related products.  Buy a LeCreuset stock pot and you get ads from Sur La Table for dinnerware.   While I’m not thrilled about it, I recognize that I’ve completed a transaction – buying something online – that would leave data that Amazon can (will) sell to some other corporate enterprise to tempt me with more purchases.  As I said, this does not make me happy, but I get.  After all, the United States of Corporate America is all about Unfettered Free Market Capitalism as all the world knows.    And I’m sure, too, that corporate America has a list somewhere of all the porn sites I patronize as well.  (And you too, by the way.)  Am I bothered by this situation?  Hell no!  Do I sound like someone who’d be running for public office anytime soon?    

But simply researching something online?  That really is intrusive.  I’m glad that there are miniscule efforts afoot to reign in a modicum of NSA’s power to locate us when we take a dump in a bathroom anytime and anywhere, but where are the parallel efforts to stop corporations from doing precisely the same thing?  And I ask you, is it OK that our corporate overlords get to spy on us and follow our every activity much the same as the NSA?   One could logically argue that at least the NSA’s spying does have a national security rationale while corporations are just trying to make a buck.  Are these – national security and making a buck - equivalencies in 21st Century America?  Are we so inured to the intrusive nature of corporate domination that we no longer care? 



Well there you have it.  My moderate rant for the day.



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