Archive for the ‘Breaking the Chains’ Category

FUBAR Tuesday: Highway to Hell

August 24, 2010 1 comment

A few years ago when I was regularly negotiating the I-71 slalom back and forth between Cincinnati and Cleveland, I would usually spend half the trip cursing the oil, automobile and highway construction lobbyists. You see, it was their fault that I was making a dangerous and boring (boringly dangerous?, dangerously boring?)  four-and-a- half-hour automobile drive instead of riding comfortably on high-speed rail where I could work, read, flirt or even have a cocktail (while flirting). The trip from cities like Cleveland to Cincinnati is ideal for rail because it’s too far to safely drive and too short to fly (by the time you get through the check-in and security bullshit you might as well have driven).

Americans have been stupid enough to allow lobbyists to deprive us of an efficient, low-polluting, pleasant mode of transportation enjoyed by the civilized world, (notice I didn’t say “rest of” as I don’t consider America civilized). Yes, high speed rail would have to be subsidized but so is the automobile and so is aviation. The real cost of gas is about $15.00 but we only pay $2 to $3 dollars. As a buddy of mine is fond of saying, conservatives only call it subsidized socialism if it rides on a rail.

In the Sep/Oct edition of Miller-McCune magazine (if you haven’t heard of it and I’ll bet you haven’t, you need to rectify the situation ) Bruce Selcraig lays out the details of the American transportation travesty in his article, “A Track to the Future”. I’m going to excerpt portions of it below but you need to go read the whole piece.

“…Unthinkable in Europe, America has metro areas with more than a million people – such as Nashville, Tenn., Columbus, Ohio, Phoenix and Las Vegas, – with no inner-city passenger rail of any kind, at any speed.”

“…In virtually every developed nation except the United States, although there may be pitched battles over immigration, foreign policy and soccer, hardly anyone argues about the wisdom of fast trains.”

“… Building a new system of high-speed rail in America will be faster, cheaper and easier than building more freeways or adding to an already overburdened aviation system…”

“… in America it [subsidies for rail] has become a call to arms for libertarians and “fiscal conservatives” who insist that high-speed rail pay for itself, while ignoring the massive subsidies received by the auto and airline industries.”

“…Since 1983, mass transit has only received about one-eight of those highway taxes, and none went to true high-speed rail because, to date, the U.S. has no high-speed trains.”

“… not be enough to alter the course of a me-first, car-first nation, until, of course, $8-a-gallon gas does the altering for us.”

Categories: Breaking the Chains

FUBAR Tuesday: Onward Christian-Right Soldiers to the Corporatist’s Crusade

August 10, 2010 1 comment

I’ve had it up to here with Tea Bagger propaganda. Creeping Socialism, my ass.

Creeping Socialism is the smoke screen behind which Corporatists pursue a quite opposite, neo-feudalistic agenda. When the Corporatists manage to privatize everything, the same 2% (of which I doubt few Tea Baggers hold membership) will own everything. The public realm will disappear. No more Social Security, no more Medicare, no more National Parks, no more Public Libraries or Schools. No more public anything because, you know, the private sector does it best, say the scriptures.

Turning free market capitalism into a religion allows the Lords to turn their agenda into a Crusade. And hyper-religious, Puritanical America so loves a Crusade. Truth is, the Corporatists give a rat’s ass about free markets only to the degree that it depresses wages and gives them free reign to exploit the environment and us. They’ve proven time and time again that they are not at all interested in the competition side of the equation. They love monopolies. Free markets to the Corporatists is a euphemism for cheap labor and deregulation.

Once the middle class has been safely eradicated like so many rats in the Lord’s mansion, the only way American serfs will survive is to pledge an oath of fealty to their coporate masters. The Master can then choose to provide or deny health care or retirement or even a liveable wage as there will be no government to provide even a modicum of protection.

We will be free no more. We will be indentured slaves lapping the few crumbs that spill from the Lord’s sumptuous table and Crusader words like socialism and capitalism and free markets won’t mean shit because we will be unable to eat the rhetoric or clothe ourselves in the thin ideology. And even then the Tea Baggers won’t realize they’ve been duped, used as pawns by chess masters, because they were successful in their Crusade against the infidels, against all who think or look different than they. They will have won out against science and enlightenment and humanitariansim. They will have done the job they were asked to do. They will be able to live in the purified and homogenous Homeland. The land of fear and hatred and bigotry and anti-intellectualism.

And slavery will be such a small price to pay for having served the Lord.

Categories: Breaking the Chains

FUBAR Tuesday: The Possessed

Author Tom Robbins once wrote, “that which you hold, holds you”. He could have said, “he who possesses, is possessed”. As the economy languishes or, as some would argue,  American-style capitalism goes through its final death throes and as our political discourse becomes more shrill, it may be time for a lifestyle change. Even if you have more confidence in consumerism than I have, there are lots of reasons to “go lean”.

In a similar period of economic distress and political upheaval, Nazis were able to energize the German people through hatred and fear. Hitler served up the Jews as the bogey man in order to consolidate power and lead a nation to its destruction. Currently, the Right Wing element of the Republican Party is using the same formula by serving up blacks and gays.

With Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, et al manipulating the Tea Bagger (a modern version of the Brown Shirts) with race baiting, the Right moves closer and closer to their end goal  – a race war – as an excuse to oppress and to put the finishing touches on the corporate police state.

Millions of Jews lost their lives, not because they didn’t see the danger (though, like us, they surely under-estimated it), but because they couldn’t take their material wealth out of Germany with them. They couldn’t bear to abandon a lifestyle.

As froth-at-the mouth, howl-at-the-moon, bat-shit-crazy Tea Baggers openly advocate violence, including the lynching of President Obama, as fools like Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin are treated as credible by mainstream corporate media, we tip-toe closer to the abyss.

I am neither gay nor black but I live in a neighborhood where whites are a minority and I understand that when the shooting starts I’m right in the cross-hairs and it won’t matter which side picks me off. It’s time to divest, to prepare to bail at a moments notice – not just from OTR or Tea Bagger infested SW Ohio, where health care and streetcars are viewed as Socialist plots, but from America, the land of the Lost and the home of the Sheep. I no longer want to live in a place where the only things that are valuable are those which can be purchased and where people are gauged by their ability to consume.

And neither should you.  


Categories: Breaking the Chains

The U.S. is #1. Yay! No wait. I mean, Boo!

As the sun sets on the American Empire, a divided nation is distracted and reeling from two wasteful wars and an economic meltdown brought on by the unprecedented act of  waging war while cutting taxes for the wealthy and putting deregulated foxes in charge of our hens. We are desperate for something to celebrate. We’ve always been winners but we find ourselves in a severe batting slump. How deep is our malaise? Areas where we find ourselves, at best, also-rans or, at worst, broken down beside the road and no longer in the race include:

Health Care (According to the World Health Organization the U.S. ranks 37th)

Most Livable Place (23rd according to the World Factbook)

Literacy (A United Nation’s Study has us tied with 26 other nation for 21st place)

Quality of Life (13th according to The Economist Intelligence Unit)

We’re not even 1st in GDP anymore.

But there are many areas where the U.S. is the undisputed leader. Before you don the party hats and break out the bubbly you better take a gander.

The U.S. is #1 in:

Indebtedness (according to the CIA World Factbook 2010)

Oil Consumption (again according to the CIA even though we are no longer 1st in GDP)

Military Spending (according to Global and more sources than I have room to quote  we spend more than twice the rest of the world combined on our military)

Obesity (according to the OECD Factbook)

Prison Population (again OECD)

Health care Spending (W.H.O. says that despite having one of the worst health care systems among economically advanced nations we spend, on average, double the money)

Our differences have never been greater, the debate more shrill. At the center of that debate is the size of our government and, specifically, taxes even though we rank 47th in tax burden among developed countries.  47th!  Maybe it’s not the level of our taxation that matters but what we are getting for our tax dollars. Instead of health care, we get military adventurism. Instead of education, job security and sufficient leisure time we get corporate subsidies.

Civic pride and boosterism is great. We should be proud of the things we do well. But our boastfulness too often degenerates into myopic, xenophobic, ethnocentric, jingoistic sound bites. Our corporate controlled media is not informing us of the truth of our situation. Conservatives like to get on their high horses about freedom and personal responsibility but we can be neither free nor accountable if we are deceived and manipulated, if our decisions are prompted by lies.

The truth is that we are #1 in a lot of areas. And it’s not something to cheer about.

Categories: Breaking the Chains

The Museum of Lies

I had planned something light-hearted for today but after the experience I had last evening you get this:

I was meeting Ben at Neon’s for a drink at 5. Ben had a balky back and couldn’t make it. Other friends were there instead as part of a Museum of Advertising event. I was prepared to get comfortably numb with or without Ben but the gregarious MOA’s slapped a badge on my shirt and insisted I join them. The Museum of Advertising is a virtual museum they want to turn into an actual museum. A museum that isn’t real is perfect for advertising. They should leave it the way it is.

One of the MOA spokeswomen announced that we were “celebrating advertising”. I didn’t have the heart, intruder that I was, to say that I didn’t want to celebrate advertising. I admit that ads can be clever and funny and, at rare moments, can even rise to the level of art. But at they’re core, they are propaganda. Celebrating advertising is celebrating consumerism and lying to encourage consumerism. We as Americans absorb commercial messages at an absurd rate compared to educational ones. I’m not sure that’s something worth celebrating.

Once the MOA crowd had largely dispersed, my friends stayed and we engaged in conversation with a couple of MOA remnants. Somehow health care became the topic. I don’t know how we wandered into that thicket. Did I mention the comfortably numb thing? One young MOA gentleman began to defend the travesty that is the American health care system. In the same way that Americans who are fed a steady corn based diet with empty calorie, high fructose corn syrup can become, simultaneously, obese and malnourished, Americans who are fed a steady diet of corporate propaganda can become Intelligent Idiots (I.I.). They feed us this bullshit and we lap it up. We smile and wallow in it and ask for more. Advertising has taught us not to just accept lies but to expect them. To hunger for them. That’s why we’re not shocked when our politicians lie to us. Give us the lies. More gruel, please. Please master, please! 

I.I. defended 45 million uninsured Americans. I.I. defended spending twice what the rest of the world spends on health care despite the legions of uninsured and without better outcomes overall (Socialist Germans outlive us by more than a year largely based on superior health care). I.I. defended the obscene profits that health insurers earn off our broken health system: profits that go into the pockets of health care industry executives and shareholders rather than being spent on, say…health care. I.I.‘s claim to fame was having the shortest waiting time for health care services.

The worst lies are the ones we tell ourselves. We say our health care system is the best in the world when it clearly isn’t and we tell ourselves that it provides the shortest wait for services when it doesn’t. Our wait times are, on average, longer than what Canadians experience (with specialty exceptions) and longer than the Germans. The French, who enjoy the best health care system in the world, despite spending half what we do, have virtually no waiting lines. Think of what our wait times would be if 45 million of us weren’t doing our waiting in the emergency room. France provides basic health insurance for all its citizens. The French see any doctor or specialist they want, any time they want without the intrusion of a gatekeeper. I know this is stuff that propaganda fed Americans don’t want to hear…especially about the French.

Now that I think about it, I’m not sure Cincinnati needs a Museum of Advertising, virtual or otherwise. This country has become a giant museum of corporate propaganda; a nation-wide museum of lies. It isn’t a virtual museum. It’s real and it’s killing us.


Findlay Market: June 5, 2010

     A guitar strummer in a straw hat. Voice higher and sweeter than his aging, portly persona would suggest. Black boy sawing away on a violin like the child in Fitzcarraldo. The open violin case fills with dollar bills. The child is garnering more support than the old guy.

     No shopping carts, no acreage of processed and frozen food, no Muzak. Am I remembering this right? It has been so long since I’ve wandered the aisles of a corporate supermarket chain that I’m not sure. I no longer worship at the Cost Cutter alter.

     Everything that I need is here at Findlay Market. Well, almost everything. I must deal with Walgreen’s for prescriptions and toilet paper. And Findlay desperately needs a saloon, Mike Maxwell’s Market Wines with yummy tastings and the temporary Moerlein Beergarten not-with-standing. A deeper and more permanent watering hole is required where the pathos of the drinkers is a torrent rather than a trickle.

     A mechanical pony outside the soon to open Urban Feed Market (pet food store). Little blonde girls lined up with their quarters. The horse rocks and plays a jaunty tune. Neighs while one girl rides beaming and the others bounce on the sidewalk awaiting their turn. Findlay breathes, sweats and smells like something alive. People meander and talk and sit and watch. The antithesis of the zombie death march through the aisles of Kroger where dead people fill carts with dead food; sustenance for a dead, air conditioned existence. A hermetically sealed mausoleum.

     Krause’s cheese. Fresh pecorino, the most fabulous snacking cheese  known to man. Unfortunately, no idiazabal  or garrotxa, so manchego instead. Black forest salami shaped like a flower. A meat flower. Blue oven bread. If you’re not here by at least 10:00 a.m. you’re too late. A loaf of Bad Boy loaded with fennel. The Saigon Market for fresh ginger and garlic. Frank’s Fish for escolar (also known as white tuna or butter fish), super high in oil to the degree that some people can’t tolerate it. Did I mention that you must buy your toilet paper elsewhere? Ohio City lemon pepper and cilantro lime pasta from Brouchard’s. The broiled escolar will top the cilantro lime angel hair. Olives and feta on the lemon pepper.

     Market Wines is tasting beer instead of wine. I’m in the mood for wine today but beer will suffice. Troeg’s Sunshine Pils, a light but flavorful lager. Zesty and refreshing. Dark Horse Brewing Co. Boffo brown Ale, malty but also light. Fort Collins Brewery Wheat Wine Ale, a vague sweetness but not cloying. Slightly effervescent and tingly on the tongue. Brew Kettle Red Eye Pale Ale, nice fluffy head. An Amarillo hopped, grapefruit orgasm from a Cleveland brewery I need to visit. Southern Tier Mokah, bitter chocolate. My usual tasting compatriots are otherwise occupied so I talk with Cary, seated next to me. She is a transplanted Minnesotan. Dark and athletic with beautiful blue-as-the-sky eyes. Cary, on the rebound, loves wine but her new boyfriend, who lives in Fairfield with all that that entails, doesn’t. Not a chance in hell for those two I’m thinking. Cary and I compare notes. Pinot grigio for her, astringent sauvignon blanc for me, blended reds for her, assertive single varietals for me. Cary doesn’t care for the Brew Kettle or the Southern Tier. She likes the Pils best. Not a chance in hell, I think.

     German Fest or German Day or German Something. A band plays traditional polka music for a bunch of old Germans in lederhosen and dirndls in the Moelein Beergarten. Little hats with bushes sticking out of them like the Martian on Bugs Bunny. “Being disintegrated makes me soooo angry.” I’ve carried my black bean burger (I’ve considered vegetarianism but then I’d have to give up the meat flower, wouldn’t I?) from the outdoor stand at Eckart’s to be paired with a Northern Liberty India Pale Ale, the best Moerlein Beer.

     Prosit. Oy! Oy! Oy! Lots of enthusiastic German being spoken. An uncostumed dark haired beauty with exquisite wrists has settled in beside an aging matron in a dirndl with a garland of flowers crowning her grey hair. The dark beauty, long-waisted and with a small boyish behind, reminds me of a former lover and fiancée. The beauty with dark eyes and a prominent but attractive nose looks Jewish. Has the world forgiven Germany for the two world wars? I’m not sure. I’m looking over at Leader Furniture. Maybe proprietors Gary and Jerry Malin have taken refuge in the attic.

      Fabulous and nearly fabulous make their way through the crowd. Both women have sunglasses perched atop dark hair and mousy brown hair respectively. Both have great legs. Nearly fabulous is a little thick in the upper arms but she has a softer, more vulnerable and searching face. Given my druthers, I’ll take nearly fabulous.

     A dancing couple are light on their feet. Her heels never touch the pavement.

      My fish and cheese shouldn’t be spending this much time in the sun. I’m going to have another Northern Liberty anyway, as I wonder how much fun the Supermarket crowd is having.

The Coffee Emporium @ The Emery on Central Parkway

I call it my Branch Office. I join the mutitude with laptops taking advantage of the ample work space, numerous electrical outlets and the free WiFi.

The Emery Coffee Emporium is an enormous industrial style space with concrete floors and exposed ductwork. They even have room for their own coffee bean roastery (is that what it’s called?). Plenty of windows and natural light. Eclectic music (a refuge from classic rock) competes with the thump and hiss of the cappucino-espresso process. There is a single uni-sex bathroom accessible with a key attached to a giant spoon hanging on the wall next to the serving station. Don’t let yourself get caught with a full bladder before you go for the spoon.

I lived upstairs in the newly renovated Emery apartments for a couple of years before the Emporium moved in downstairs. Had I know they were coming I would never have moved.

The coffee is much better than Starbuck’s, which I find too acidic. I’m limited to mostly decaf these days (Doctor’s orders) but I’ll cheat on occasion, even going so far as a Doppia Espresso if I feel like rolling the dice.

Coffee House staff, unless they are of the artificially cheerful, Employee Handbook driven, chain store variety can be dark and brooding  but the Emporium staff are universally pleasant and accomodating. The Baristas are, of course, very young and I’ve witnessed some turnover over the months. It comes naturally with a restless young workforce.

The morning crowd is a mixture of stop-overs on their way to work, policemen, self-employed entrepreneurs  having meetings, writers and other creatives. Roxanne Qualls is a regular, one of the in and out in a flash group. Lunch is busy with local office workers. The Emporium has a full lunch menu with delicious sandwiches and a really terrific Central Parkway salad of field greens, raisins, apples, walnuts, feta and balsamic vinaigrette dressing. My friend Janice hikes all the way over from Directions Research in the flat iron building for the salad.

The Emporium closes at 6:oo p.m. A travesty. They have plenty of space for acoustic music or even a jazz combo. All they need is a liquor license and late night hours. Ah. Nirvana, that would be.