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The Kleptocracy of Nimrod

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Self-Indulgent Essay 2: Electric Boogaloo [May. 2nd, 2005|06:17 pm]
The Kleptocracy of Nimrod

[music |Kronos Quartet-Pandit Pran Nath / Aba kee tay]

I walked along the border between privilege and insanity again. Where I am not welcomed, where I am shunned and leered at for my wealth and skin. Where I gawk and stutter at the alien landscape my pearly white hands dare not get too close to, lest it snap back at them. I am surprised by poverty, like the pampered son of royalty. Who am I to traverse this territory? Bestriding the lands I have no deed to, like a benevolent prince who dares to gaze at those poor commoners who work his clanking war-machines and become the gears within his stygian factories. No prince, though, more like a usurper overseeing his spoils. Who am I to judge the world wrought as payment for my luxury? Descending from my cloud to breach the cavern that lies beneath paradise. Intruder is the only appellation for a figure like this; that is all I am. Even I can't stand it sometimes, but I keep returning because I'm a fool, and prideful, and guilty, and self-loathing, and "I just have to see".

There was a women today. She shuffled around the front of an old bank, lost in the fog spewed forth courtesy of her addiction. The structure behind her was great and beautiful, a gravestone to lost opulence. A legacy of the hierarchy that brought this women to where she was now. An alley ran along the side of the bank, overgrown with foliage. A man hurried out of the lane, as she tottered about, she still forcing her ample proportions back into her too-tight clothes. There were old seals lining the top of the bank's boxy frame that I fell into studying when I should have been concerned with walking. The sidewalks near the bank were broken and jagged, in my distraction I misstepped and kicked one of the pieces of glass that pave the earth here. Noise resonated in the canyon of row-homes. She noticed me and beckoned for my company, touching herself in way that was seductive in her mind; palsied limps moving awkwardly over her body. She uncurled her lips into a smile that bared her shattered teeth. Her eyes were as hollow as the collapsing vault that stood as the backdrop to her madness. I kept walking, and she slowly dissolved back into the refuse littered growth that ran along the side of the old repository.

She was once a little girl, somewhere, sometime. She had had a father, a mother, and someone that had cared for her, once. To what degree they influenced her, I can't say, but they must have been someone to raise her. One, two, all of these things fell away, if they ever truly existed in her life, leaving just the shell she was now. There must have been a child there once. When was the innocence stolen? When did the circumstances she was ensconced in desiccate all of the spirit and sanity to which she had clung? When had the twin specters absolute poverty and neglect rape her consciousness, and had they taken it long before she had ever been touched by a man? When did a drug steal her life from her, leave her a gibbering automaton, wandering the streets? In a matter of time, someone would steal whatever spark was left within her, then she would glide into the darkness after light. It will be a release from where she is now.

Or was I wrong? Again, the rich prince bravely lowering himself to cast pity on those below him. Sickening; even the people here hate me for transgressing. And I'm just passing more judgments; it seems that is the constant product of these blighted sojourns. I forget the people who live and build their communities here, I get preoccupied with the wicked. I tell myself that I just don't want to forget it, like most choose to do. But, I have the luxury to leave whenever I want, to say, "Enough!", and flee back to my castle. Cowardice is all that I bare. Maybe one time I'll bite it out there, and that would show me who's boss.

I know they would never kill one of us, not unless they were mad enough to bring the hammer of god down on their lost province. 10 people were shot over the last weekend alone, but in a century, they had never killed one of us. The wealthy, they were more untouchable than the police. The outrage over a slain plutocrat would resonate across the state, there would be marshall law in whatever little neighborhood was foolish enough to touch the higher castes. They killed five of their own yesterday alone. It didn't even make the front page. Cowardice.

It started to rain, and I turned back home, back to the fortress.
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Weekend at Bernie's 2: Electric Boogaloo [Apr. 6th, 2005|12:59 am]
The Kleptocracy of Nimrod

[mood |stressedstressed]
[music |The Police-Don't Stand So Close to Me]

I produced this for a philosophy course I'm taking, but I felt like it had enough merit to be posted as it's own article. Also, I haven't written anything new in ages. Part of the assignment was to incorporate a course document into the essay, so that's why there's so many references back to Marx's "Communist Manifesto". Anyone who actually reads the entirety of these leftist ravings gets another "#1 Dad" award. I realize updates have been few, but things have been hectic 'round here. This is indicated by the fact that I'm listening to music created by the artist formerly known as Gordon Sumner, and my "stressed" emoticon. Oh, Internet, your mediums of expression are infinite!


Karl Marx penned more than a century and a half ago, “The need of a constantly expanding market for [their] products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe.” Though his words are dated, their meaning is more poignant now than ever. With the modern capitalistic machine so engorged, there can be nothing more certain at this juncture of human civilization than the negative effects of free trade upon all nations of the world. None would claim that such a system is without it’s sparse benefits, or that it has not accomplished it’s goal of generating the outrageous fortunes implicit in it’s doctrine. Nor can any deny the great monuments to commerce edified in the heart of every city, looming as glimmering watchtowers over the great slums that commingle with such displays of commercial might. However, these achievements have come at a terrible cost, and a cost which will continue to be paid many times over to facilitate the further expansion of the global market, as Marx predicted. For contingent with capitalism is the hunger for profit; contingent with free trade the abolition of regulation. These needs encourage the emergence of societies based around profit, and the subjugation of government to commercial authority. This ruthless pursuit of monetary gain and deregulation has already begun to lead the world down a path of globalization which may soon be too encompassing to halt. All vestiges of familiar civilization, culture, government, family, philosophy, are being dissolved into a single global incarnation of the capitalist ideal. Marx’s “Communist Manifesto” is correct in predicting the rise of damaging globalization and bourgeois oligarchies, because of the inherent tendencies of capitalist societies.

As a necessity of a “constantly expanding market”, no nation can be allowed to maintain true self-sufficiency apart from global commerce. As maximally successful capitalism is dependent on free trade, all impediments to this goal must be eliminated or undermined. In this case, the impediment is a strong, independent or overly democratic government. The government is the greatest obstacle to international commercial control, and, by necessity, the first to fall. With it’s demise or pacification all other regional aspects of cultural individuality are free to be assimilated into the larger corporate landscape.
“Strong”, or socialized, government is de-socialized in order to open up more efficient, privatized markets. Just as in the collapse of old feudal mercantilism, “all old-established national industries [are] destroyed or are daily being destroyed.” Though modern “national industries” do not entail the guilds of old, they are forged in the same spirit. These new, governed markets typically encompass health care, education, defense, and social service; services cannot safely be run for profit. Privatized defense makes it profitable to go to war, privatized medicine makes disease profitable, privatized education and social service discriminates against the poor, and on and on. Yet, even these domestic markets can be ripped open by corporate interests for exploitation and government enervation. These interests demand the engorgement of every market to consolidate commercial power, and so falls the strong government, privatized into enfeeblement.
The independent government cannot be allowed to maintain self-sufficiency, because their people and lands represent an untapped market, and potential resources. They are an impediment to free trade. Again, one can reflect on history to see that mercantilism was inefficient and a growing world demanded less barriers on trade. Capitalism filled this void, but it expanded beyond any expectation. Soon destroyed were “…the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency,” only to be overtaken by “intercourse in every direction,” as Marx contends. Independence was made impossible by the cheap goods of the world market, and any country that did not want to be left in the dust of market expansion acquiesced. Marx said of the phenomenon that,
“It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.”
The old imperial armies are now only specters; the conquering legions of the modern era are the merchants of the past. One can only expect a ideology bent on increasing trade to take such action. Consideration is not given to locality, or culture, or rights; profit is the only determining factor. As the boundaries of trade are stripped to the bone, sovereignty falls from the hands of government and is taken up by those international corporations endowed with the new authority of commerce. Self-determination becomes just another right stolen from the public and thrust into the aegis of bourgeois dominion.
Be the government strong or weak, independent or multicultural, it is the good, democratic society which is dealt the greatest blow by these globalizing forces. Marx speaks of the “battle of democracy” that will be waged between the proletariat and the bourgeois. The impetus for this battle is the simple fact that great wealth and true democracy can never exist side by side. In any democratic society, every person must have an equal say in the government. Power is invested in elected leaders, who are held to task by the citizens who elected them into office. Capital is the tool which circumvents this system. It gives the rich greater say than others. Corporate interests supersede individual interests, as the government is paid off to re-prioritize. Money creates power independent of the government; creates rulers who answer to no one but themselves. All of the principles that a democracy is founded on can be undermined with coercion of wealth.
So, the governments are dissolved by the vitriol of global trade, the sovereign are forced into place, and the democratic are corrupted by with the fetters of excessive wealth. And from all of this “progress” the disparity of wealth is maintained, now only on a much greater scale. Logic dictates that the rich colonizers become more wealthy and scant, and the poor colonies become more impoverished and populous, their lands useful only as the bourgeois’ “raw material drawn from the remotest zone.” Springing from these changes comes a great and terribly unifying force. With the floodgates opened for the engorgement of capital in all lands, the wealthy begin the exporting the dread product of their own culture to the poor vassal states.

It is in this homogeny of corporate domination that society is being reformed in the image of the system it has embraced, and cultures diffused into the seething mass of globalizing commerce. In the “Communist Manifesto”, Marx addresses a hypothetical bourgeois on the nature of cultural impression, stating,
Ideas are but the outgrowth of the conditions of your bourgeois production and bourgeois property, just as your jurisprudence is but the will of your class made into a law for all, a will whose essential character and direction are determined by the economical conditions of existence of your class.”
With wealth as the new social focus, those with money begin to dictate the new dimensions of society. Cultural direction is steered by wealth, instead of the collective thought needed for moral growth. The values of the rich are laid upon all, and validated as the key to “success,” which is now quantified by material gain. Law is derived from the wealthy rather than the wise; culture is divined from the few instead of the many. Power and influence is heaped upon fewer and fewer, and the role of the populous relegated to that of adherent. This is exemplified in Marx’s statement that, “…man's consciousness, changes with every change in the conditions of his material existence, in his social relations and in his social life[.]” As social relations and life become fixed around materialism and desire for capital gain, none can be left untouched; all fall victim to social assimilation.
Furthermore, individual cultures are steamrolled by the colossal force of the new bicameral “global culture”. Even within the system cultural aspects are relegated to fewer entities, as international corporations buy out weaker companies. The oligopoly emerges, with several conglomerates deciding what shops and products will be in each city, each town, building a new landscape in their image. Needless to say, the individual artisan is elbowed out by the efficacy of their larger, corporate brethren. This result is simply the logical end stage of competitive capital; cultural unification, for better or worse. As Marx puts it, “separate interests, laws, governments, and systems of taxation, [become] lumped together into one nation, with one government, one code of laws, one national class interest, one frontier, and one customs tariff.” The only cultural dissension comes between the wealthy and the impoverished. With the need to mass produce the products to feed the materialistic desires of any capitalistic society, the poor are forced to fabricate products for the wealthy. As a result, the proletariat culture becomes that of one based solely around production and manufacturing. “That culture…is, for the enormous majority, a mere training to act as a machine,” as Marx says. The logical extension of the free market is a world horribly united under one homogenous global culture, with a rift only for those in paradise and those in penury.

The deepest wound of all, that inflicted on the possible future of world research, social thought, and child development, has not yet been fully realized. This potential harm is the most difficult to observe, for no one can measure the impact that the free market has had, and will have, on those institutions which toil for the betterment of mankind. Medicine and other sciences are forced to meet the tides which sway the global markets, and research what is potentially profitable over what is most valuable to mankind. Just as capitalism has the capacity to waste effort by producing luxury goods over clothing for the poor or food, so too can viable research be ignored in favor of technological fripperies. Government, like research, is also directed towards accommodating the global hegemony of capital. Policy is formed based on the desires of the commercial interests which have taken hold of the political structure, instead of accommodating the people. What hopefully more altruistic ends these institutions might have explored, had they not been shackled to imperious weight of the market is open to hypothesis.
On a more individual level, the system has converted every life under it’s auspices into a quest for monetary satisfaction above all else. Though societal effects on the human psyche are nebulous, having all from “the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science” exist as nothing more than “paid wage laborers” cannot be an innocuous alteration. Lives spent in an obsession with capital gain will never be as satisfying as those spent in pursuit of personal fulfillment. By diluting the mass of population into vassals of an oligarchic authority even greater disenfranchisement with authority could take hold than is already experienced in most countries. Nihilism will promulgate, not because people perceive their roles as unimportant, but because their roles will become less important. The cog in the machine will cease to be a metaphor, and become a reality. Family too, is reasonably estimated by Marx to be another crucible for the tempest of capitalistic social engineering. Even in Marx’s era he believed that, “the bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation into a mere money relation.” That family units should function only as a larger method of generating capital undermines every virtuous intent behind child-rearing and marriage. Families are broken from pursuit of wealth in the sense that parents are away toiling for the necessary labor to produce extraneous capital goods rather than nurturing their children, which says nothing of the impact that a profit based society might have upon the formative minds of the young. As traditional family role models will be vacated by toiling parents, they will be filled again by the corporate culture foisted upon children through advertising and media. All old and distinct culture will be washed away by successive generations raised under the trademarked lifestyle of commercialization. The vestiges of the past will disappear from the memory of the new youth culture, born into a culture they’ve never known an alternative, and that they didn’t create. Here again, only speculation can be levied as to the possible damage done to man’s own mind, and that of his offspring, and his very own future.

Capitalism’s nature encourages brutal competition, and out of each successive trade war of the past has emerged fewer companies, with less bondage to morality than the last. This pure capitalism is animalistic, and decidedly uncivilized in it’s irrationality. Each commercial entity must evolve their ability to exploit the populous and circumvent authority in order to survive. The global players devour each other, each refinement bringing about a more efficient company, leaving only a dearth of oligarchs to rule. They must then continue to spread their bile outward, like a consuming juggernaut, grasping at what foreign markets are left and incorporating them into a cobbled network of profit. Like a wildfire they consume all in sight to fuel their own existence, leaving a scorched plain in their wake; a plain united as one neutral, identical swath of ash. The fire shines with the utmost decadence until it exhausts the last of it’s fuel, and collapses in on itself. Marx has warned of the flames licking at the world’s heels; immolation is the reward for acquiescence.
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C-130J and Pork Barrel Spending [Apr. 2nd, 2005|02:07 pm]
The Kleptocracy of Nimrod

[mood |Perturbed]

Has anyone heard about about the C-130J transport aircraft that congress has been buying hand over fist? Sounds good, right? The military always needs new equipment to complete it's mission as successfully as possible. Besides the whole industry around the aircraft (the actual production plus the accumulation and refinement of raw materials) creates jobs and keeps towns thriving. Except there is one tiny problem, the military doesn't want them. Do you know why the military doesn't want them? IT CAN'T FLY IN BAD WEATHER! Now, I was always under the impression military aircraft had to fly in bad weather and in fact, they do. But not in this case. The normal C-130 Hercules is a fine aircraft. Tough and rugged it has been used by all the services (including the Coast Guard) for over 30 years. The J variant is not any of those thing. Why, I don't know. I do know, however, that each cost 66 million dollars and Congress just put in an order for 80 of them. Now since the military doesn't want them this fiasco is a 5.28 BILLION dollar waste of tax-payer money. This is one the worst examples of Congressional...hell...I don't even know what it is. It's like a mix of pork barrel spending, contribution searching, and vote pandering all rolled into one. The odd thing is that this isn't some honest mistake where the military is keeping its mouth shut except to say thank you like a child whose Aunt gives him socks every Christmas. No, in fact Rumsfeld (when was he ever the good guy before?) keeps telling Congress, "Stop buying these planes. Stop buying the planes. You are wasting tax-payer money. STOP BUYING THE GODDAMN PLANES!" This is such a fucked up situation. A good analogy is this, say your Mother (Congress)packs your lunch every day and every day she gives you a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich (a C-130J). You (the Military) hate Peanut Butter and Jelly so you keep handing them to the poor kid who will take what he can get (in this case the National Guard). Whenever you ask your Mother for a turkey sandwich or something she responds with a, "But you love Peanut Butter and Jelly." and goes back to spreading peanut butter. This is basically the situation and I don't what to think. Does Congress really think this will fly under the proverbial radar? Yes and it will to the population at large. The spending isn't about planes or our money, its about votes and lots of people will get lots of votes because the constituents got jobs. Welcome to America.
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Terri Schiavo [Mar. 23rd, 2005|04:47 pm]
The Kleptocracy of Nimrod

[mood |Peeved]
[music |YMSB (12-31-01) & SCI (11-27-04)]

This whole Schiavo case is really pissing me off. For all intents and purposes she is dead. She has been in her current state for the last 15 years. 15 years! I can certainly understand her parents love for her, but its time to let go. She will not get any better, ever. Her parents claim that with therapy she could improve since her seems to respond to stimuli. People in her state do respond, but it doesn't mean they actually fell anything. The woman is brain dead and will never cover. Keeping her alive is only selfish. The parents claim Mr. Schiavo is acting selfishly by letting her die. Acting selfishly! If this was the second minute of her state, maybe you have a point, but this is the 15th year! If she hasn't gotten better yet, she never will. The parents are selfishly clinging on to a false hope and running up the bills. The case is based around "What Terri would want". Call me incredulous, but personally I find it hard to believe someone would want to be kept on a feeding tube for 15 years. People are also claiming right to life. Terri has a right to life, sure, but she also has a right to die. People seem to forget this little tidbit of info. And while I agree that starving someone to death isn't the way to go, even in state where they can't tell, its seems that the same people bringing up this point are those who say euthanasia is an evil. Well what is better removing a person's feeding tube and letting them strave or flooding their system with Morphine so they can painlessly fade off into the night? Please I'd like know.
Another problem of mine in this case is the fact the government is getting involved. In a move so blatantly obvious to everyone as a way to get even more support for the ultra-right, the republicans are trying to put forth federal (FEDERAL!) legislation to put Terri's tube back in. WHAT! The President even cut his Crawford trip short to sign it. Uh, Mr. President, you do realize that while Governor of Texas you signed into law a bill that allows doctors, in cases of futility, to remove patients from their support machines (which is, for the record, a law I support for reasons of common sense) and this law allowed a 6 month old child in a similar permanent vegetative state to be removed from support even without the consent of the child's parents? Do you also remember that you were the Governor of Texas, as in the capital punishment capital of America? Please, don't give me this hypocritical sanctity of life bullshit when you obviously don't mean it. I respect people that people that stick to their guns, but what is I can't stand pandering and hypocrisy. This brings me to my final point. Even though both sides, husband and parents, can be accused of acting selfishly, the most selfish are the politicians using this situations for political gain only. It disgusts that people can act so callously and shallow and this the reason I can't stand domestic politics.
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a tall glass of shut the fuck up... [Mar. 19th, 2005|03:29 pm]
The Kleptocracy of Nimrod

[mood |_somber_]
[music |moe. - Y.O.Y.]

Despite my best efforts to ignore trivial and frustrating news stories, it seems the tale of a feeding tube in Florida is too important for America to avoid.

The problem here is that America is up to the same impassioned frenzy over bullshit agendas. We are talking about a tubular form of plastic that delivers medical slush to an invalid. This story conveniently draws the attention away from important matters such as the environment and America’s military machine.

But since we’re already talking about it…
A feeding tube is an intravenous line attached to a tube that is wrapped around an asymmetrical cog. At regular intervals, the cog turns and forces precious sustenance down the line and into the dying patient.

I like to take a pragmatic approach to these kinds of matters. Let’s look at the benefits of prolonging the magic of life via a feeding tube. I’d be hard-pressed to find one beyond fulfilling the interests of the family members to keep a loved one alive.

How about the negatives? Feeding tubes prolong an already difficult road to death. They enable a person, who is naturally dying, to continue to live. If every dying person were on a feeding tube, it would take a tremendous amount of energy to keep them alive and I sincerely doubt they would have much to gain from the endeavor.

It is no surprise that my position is to leave the family alone. Let them kill their wasted-away relative in peace, America. Don’t come around the hospice with “life” taped over your lips to torment an already grieving family. That is cruel and hateful and awfully familiar to me.

You see when my grandfather was dying of Alzheimer’s disease, he entered a care facility and had a feeding tube inserted. They tube was the only thing standing between his ultimate peaceful rest. Bed sores and complete incoherence filled his days. It was not really a situation worth living for. My grandmother wrestled with letting him go. It was an extremely difficult decision for her. She didn’t want to let the love of her life go. After much loving counsel from her four children, she finally agreed to have the tube pulled. It was a dignified act. It was right. In nature’s book, he was already gone.

At the funeral, all of the family turned out to honor Granddad. Clearly, Grandmom was suffering and needed a lot of support from her family. We all sat in the temple for a brief service followed by speeches to remember my grandfather. My mother spoke of his adoration for her. My father about the kind of character Granddad had. All of it was very appropriate. Then came Alan’s turn to speak.

Alan is an orthodox Jew. He joined one of those ultra conservative cult-like movements akin to the kind of religious fundamentalism that afflicts millions of Americans. The tragedy of this affliction is an inability to love those standing right before you when they need it most. Alan got up, cleared his throat, and proceeded to condemn the family for making a difficult decision. He said that the Torah commands that we preserve life at all costs. That is his interpretation. He said that we should be ashamed for disobeying this holy commandment.

I made the mistake of listening intently to his words. I care what people say, and when they take the time to speak to me, if I am not already engaged in something else, I listen. Nobody else listened to Alan. Well, except for my uncle who looked as if he wanted to strangle him. Uncle Gary booted Alan off the stage before Grandmom realized what was happening.

But something deep inside me ached when he spoke. It had nothing to do with religion. It was the penetrating sorrow of hate. I could feel the hate in this person too wrapped up in a ritual to love those bleeding at his feet. And, in Alan’s damning speech, I heard the voice of terrorists and murderers. I felt the sorrow rush back—the same sorrow I felt when I visited New York two months after the attack. His was an act of the fanatic. It was irrational. Who could sin so much to abandon the broken soul of an old lady who just let her life companion go? Is that not a greater evil than pulling some trivial man-made contraption from an already dead man?

Sitting there in the temple, I began to sob uncontrollably. It was subtle at first, but then built to an overwhelming intensity. It was the overwhelming defeat of looking hate directly in the face. As my family watched me walk out with the procession, they assumed I was crying for Granddad. Given my distant relationship with him, it probably seemed disproportionate yet touching. It took a full forty-five minutes to compose myself, but I’ve never forgotten the feeling.

So I really wish that people would just let these Floridians be. I haven’t taken the time to learn the victim’s name because I don’t think it is America’s business. America needs a reality check. Let the goddamn woman die. She’s already past due. Leave her family alone. And please, for the love of God, turn your attention to some more pressing matters for a change and open up a little.


The News Story…
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Yatta! [Dec. 30th, 2004|10:58 am]
The Kleptocracy of Nimrod

[mood |_mellow_]
[music |R.E.M. - Feeling Gravity's Pull]

There is no line between need and want. Such a line may or may not have ever existed. Supposedly, “need” means only those things that fulfill our requirements to physical functioning. I, for one, do not live based on need. My needs have been unquestioningly fulfilled since I had an extravagantly warm blanket wrapped around me following my exit from the womb. Today, there are a host of enticing temptations to continue the leap beyond the line of need. We all just accept that we sit above that line by default. Yet there are many mechanisms in place to assure that Americans collectively surpass the lines of necessity to a continually unprecedented degree.

Take the entire retail market as an example of a facade made to serve the purpose of superfluous consumption of material goods. Somehow, it took me eighteen years to realize that the entire concept of “retail” and “discount” is a brilliant fabrication by America’s most keen entrepreneurs. Retail price is an incentive. We are so easily tricked by the lure of large, flashy decimal numbers that the deliberate reduction of these numbers to satisfy our self-indoctrinated shopper savvy is an apt justification to buy unneeded items. Consumerism in America is a drama acted out on the fine stages of store floors across the nation. Profit margin and intense cost management studies indicate to companies how to set the ridiculous retail prices so we can get a “deal” and feel okay raping the earth and wasting what we have. It is all such an insipid game of desire and guilt, justification and greed.

Despite the continued diminished state of natural environments, the ever menacing advance of pollution, and the continued alienation of people unable to participate in excessive consumer spending, we condone and embrace our consumer ideologies with zeal and dedication. How many times have we justified a purchase “just too good to pass up” for an item that was totally unnecessary? The idea is ludicrous. Every irrational purchase we make is another step to our demise as a global community. Our astounding rate of consumption is simply not maintainable, and we pay dearly for it.

Americans suffer by sacrificing national integrity to maintain an insatiable habit of acquisition of goods. While others starve and suffer abroad, sometimes laboring intensely to produce our futile exploits, we continue to ignore their plight. We are not a compassionate nation. Instead, we behave with belligerence and an air of entitled right to determine the course of history for the world. Other voices are not respected and heard and people are frustrated. Internally, we live in a judgmental community that pressures people into irrational spending in order to fit into ever changing trends. Each year, companies rigorously revise style while leaving function untouched. In order to keep with this calculated redefinition of the acceptable good, we waste items whose value often exceeds the annual income of a great deal of the world’s inhabitants.

A nation titled as a global leader ought to lead with compassion and responsibility. In the end, the remedy to our outrageous consumption lies with the individual, as does the remedy to every social ill. People need to think about the consequences of completely unjustified consumption of energy, resources, and life of those who labor to make our lives possible. America is fixated on money. Everything is too easily justified by saving money. People in other nations suffer while we throw billions of dollars into a fifth pair of sneakers or into weapons to destroy others. We drown out other views and tell the world we do not need their support to act militarily and lay destruction on regions of Earth. This issue is escalating, as evidence by the now front-and-center acts of terrorism against us. In an age where the effects of our actions stretch thousands of miles beyond our borders, we need to be able to involve those affected by such actions in our decision-making process. We need to be responsible and compassionate. The time to reevaluate our national behavior in an effort to create a healthy global community of participation and cooperation is now.
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MAKEOVER! [Dec. 30th, 2004|10:49 am]
The Kleptocracy of Nimrod

[music |Shellac-Shoe Song]

I'm off to Europe. I'll see if I can get to a computer in Estonia to post, but I'm sure whoever is running this non-Anglo-Saxon country can barely speak as it is. My time among these noble savages will be something I doubt I will ever forget.

Goodbye, my beloved, imaginary readers!.
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Humorless Post #2: Progression or Death [Dec. 23rd, 2004|12:55 am]
The Kleptocracy of Nimrod

[music |Galaxie 500 - Decomposing Trees]

What is the duty of a government? A manifold question, but I would argue that it can be reduced to only a few basic responsibilities. To protect it's people is one such charge. In a world of violence, I consent that a country must be militarily prepared. Though I wish this were not the case, pragmatically I cannot admit that this is the nature or our world. However, I feel it is often forgotten that there are more means of protection than simply the sword, held as an aegis over a government's subjects. This is a remedy for only one threat. It is in this sense that I contest that a government must also defend it's citizens from the specter of poverty. Though many belligerent voices today call for the fires of our war machine to burn ever brighter, ignorance is cast upon the rot within our society. What good is an opulent fortress if it's inhabitants starve to maintain it? I believe our inhabitants are starving, and all the while we build our ramparts higher and higher.

We do not engage in the building of arms with hesitation or regret; we do not proceed down this path purely with the aims of survival. For although I condone the building of arms, I do not speak of profligate spending in regards to war. I speak of this national armament as an apparatus of defense, as a means of preserving citizenry amidst the tempest of our restless world. It is this end that has been ignored; our weapons are forever augmented for the sake of feeding the industrial and imperialistic interests of this nation. We have placed greed before duty, and the populace languishes for it. We arm ourselves in the name of the people while allowing them to wither away; I ask where is the logic in this decision? We have been granted stability within our borders and Instead of forging the plowshare, we continue to manufacture the blade. Before we look beyond our borders for our enemies, we must conquer those that lie within.

The greater paradox is that our nation has built purely for offensive purposes. At a time when domestic security is truly needed, the military leviathan that is modern America has left it's belly exposed to it's enemies. Our intelligence services are ineffectual and divided, our police forces are in budgetary regression, and our defensive forces have evaporated to serve the offensive conflict overseas. We are the most frightening military force in the world, an image created at the expense of our own people, and yet we cannot even guard our own borders. We cannibalize our country to build the great and terrible juggernaut, which cannot even properly protect us. For these reasons, I would argue that the government is failing it's primary duty of protecting it's people.

I would term this above goal as survival. In meeting this goal, a country can advance to a secondary goal of progression. One cannot think of bettering it's situation until it first has the luxury of thought. A being living in subsistence cares little for philosophy when hunger dominates it's mind. Once a nation has insured it's survival, it can contemplate it's own development. Although I argue that we are failing this first point, I would not be naïve enough to claim that we do not already possess, or utilize, the tools for progress. For brevity's sake, we will define America as a special case, as it so frequently is. I would argue that the massive wealth of the few is sufficient to offset the failure to provide for the many, and force our nation forward. I don't personally care for the moral implications of this system, but nonetheless, that is where I believe our country lies in the brief outline I've created. So it is through our great wealth that we develop, and this aspect I also wish to analyze.

To achieve progression, a nation must educate, and once more this is an area where I feel we are failing to fulfill our obligation. We abandon our cities' youth as readily as we abandon their poor. Our schools are failing, and this is a grave danger. The only hope we have for true progress is to continue the social evolution of our country through effective schools and a society open to discourse. I fear that our schools grow continually less effective, as our fiscal priorities are shifted away from education, and again towards the military, in a manner similar to the previous dilemma. Moreover, our society grows gradually less apt to discussing world events, especially concerning the body that governs us. If this discourse does not occur, there can be no new thought, no change, and as a result, no progress. A mental stagnation is a poison to any society which would claim a reverence for this aim of improvement. If stagnation is what occurs, it will be the end of this nation. We cannot continue on the course we have laid before ourselves. The American dream is a farce, it cannot be sustained.

The necessary infinite growth of a capitalistic society is unmaintainable; corruption, monopolization, environmental strain, and the continually exploited populous preclude this system from perpetuating itself. Eventually, we will run out of the physical space needed for our selfish dream. Or perhaps we will first destroy our own environment, or be held to the light of our imperialism by those we abuse to achieve hegemony. There are still other termini for the eternal free market; corporate domination and monopolization is crippling our voice as a people, effectively overpowering our own government. Whichever end might come to pass first is irrelevant, for If we are locked in our present state, or prevented from ameliorating these crises, we will fall. We can see the harbingers of all possible endings already. The land is envenomed, the countries we have left in the wake of our commercial empire have come to our gates to return the favor. Corporate domination of the economy is ironically destroying the competition capitalism needs to operate viably and fairly. It seems that soon development will cease to be a secondary goal; the situation will necessitate that we progress to survive.

It is for this reason that a government must also keep a paradoxical third goal, that of eventually ensuring it's own destruction. Although we have established that progression will soon become obligatory, where to progress to has been left unresolved. I would argue that the only realistic end is the eventual elimination of the government. I am not unaware of the immense task this entails. The requirements of this system are so great, that they would call for the righting of so many wrongs, that it is the only ideal worth achieving. An educated populous must first be achieved, to ensure that people can competently govern themselves, and pass down their knowledge to future generations. An altruistic society must be achieved, to achieve an environment where self governance would not be taken advantage of. Finally, and most trying, this atmosphere need be extended across the globe before a transfer of power wholly back to the individual can occur.

The first ideal is the most readily in our grasp, yet it remains unfulfilled. Education must first occur for any of the other aspects to materialize. The only hope for this society's fruition is social evolution through education and progression. I would say that many of the kinds of corruption and supposedly unavoidable evils that would plague any attempt at an altruistic society are products of the society we live in now and those we have recently emerged from. Social evolution is the crux upon which these ideals stand, for the concept of a society bettering itself is what civilization is built on. Restraining the base instincts that overtake men in trying times is a core tenant of civil behavior. Greed is amplified by a society which encourages selfish behavior, and plainly greed itself. I would not be so blind as to suggest we could completely stamp out evils such as these, but I believe it is possible for a sustained society built on altruistic roots will largely evolve itself away from these vices. Society as a whole can change if it is bade to, and the values constructed by these changes can pass themselves on from generation to generation until they become the bedrock upon which new thoughts are structured. Just as an immoral society's offspring will inherit the debt of virtue passed on by their progenitors and degenerate further into evil, so too can the opposite end be achieved. If one country can achieve this end, then so might all others.

I call these ideals because they are the epitome of idealism. To create a society accommodating to self governance is such an enormous task in itself, it would take generation to come to pass. To enact anarchy would take more time. However, the outcome is the only one which can lead to the freedom and sustainability needed for true civilization to exist. An end to nationalism and borders, an end to the pillaging of the environment and the corrupt trappings of government. The outline for achieving this end is loose for the scope of this article, I include it to stress the necessity of a government always keeping a third objective of self destruction at the back of it's mind. A time will come when this must occur to truly grant freedom and equality to the people. To truly create the utopia which man inherently strives for in his forward progress, government must eventually regress. To forever ensure the aims of survival and development, this third goal must eventually be met. It goes without saying that we are nowhere near even beginning to undertake this trial.

We must now shift our priorities away from the short term and well into the future. If a government cannot meet even the basic virtues laid out here, what use does it have? It is a ship steering itself into a shoal. We may choose to abandon it, or we may right the course while there is still the time to do so. I say this first option is tantamount to death. If this great experiment of America should fail, it would be only the beginning of a greater collapse. The people must take up the standard of virtue and lead this nation forward to a new era. There is no fleeing from this task.
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Depression Ho! Grinding Poverty and Utter Hopelessness abound! [Dec. 16th, 2004|12:59 am]
The Kleptocracy of Nimrod

[music |Big Black-Bad Houses]

I wanted to start this entry with a metaphor, like my partner Brandon, but I don't have the right to do that yet. What I've seen is only a sliver of the lives that are touched by a decaying city everyday. I don't want to give the impression that my life is now comparable to that of one that lives in the true destitution of the city, for I have only glimpsed what they are immersed in. I speak as a traveler; I observe, but I always have the comfort of knowing my home is elsewhere, and that what I see is transient. I can flee back to my fortress if I descend to deeply.

My fortress is the university that protects this oasis of North Philadelphia through the employ of the most disproportionately large police force in the state. 150 officers of the law patrol a five block by five block radius or the city, which amounts to six cops on every block. To stand in the center of campus is to forget that you're in North Philadelphia. Even my room on the outskirts is really not in a bad spot. Aside from two corporate eyesores, its an okay view, and not a really bad area.

See, it's quaint in a way. Sorry that it's so such a terrible panorama. I had to throw it together myself. Hopefully, you get the gist of it.

I've walked about twenty blocks north (to the left of the picture), and about 7 blocks east, to where the cathedral is off in the distance. With some exceptions, as you move outside of two blocks off campus, things fall apart. The eastern sections have deteriorated to the greatest extent, with houses crumbling apart and yards of sidewalk wrenched apart. Trash is everywhere. I don't know how to make this more apparent, the ground is untouchable in some of places. Though Temple sweeps the streets where I reside, the city no longer bothers with the sectors up here. Garbage piled up on the sides of the street has likely been there months or more.

Philadelphia is immensely spread out, it at one point boasted the greatest home ownership of any city. This is within the actual limits of major urban areas, so as you can imagine that's quite a few houses. The remnants of this culture are still around, so most of the blocks stretch out of view, lined with rowhomes. Many have yards, though those are largely filled with garbage, heaps of rusted cars or other indeterminate mechanical hulks. The houses are beautiful, or at least they once were, their roofs are gilded with intricate molding, and complex tilework adorn many of the entryways. Occasionally there is an old Victorian style turret, or crumbling French gabled roof. They are not rarities either, many of the old houses are adorned in this manner; though now many lay in relative collapse. It's a shame to see such fine architecture decaying.

The people that live in these areas struggle every day with problems those as privileged as ourselves never worry about. There are virtually no commercial endeavors in these regions, and unemployment is rampant. Those who have to move about are forced to utilize Philly's expensive and inadequate transportation service (SEPTA) to get to work. Many people own cars, but that is just another expense and liability. City insurance is prohibitively expensive, and auto thefts run rampant.

This is, of course, for those who work at all, and some cannot or do not. Crack-cocaine proliferation is rampant, there are junkies and whores in all corners of the northern city. Street violence flares up periodically in more distant regions. It is relatively lawless in some areas, and descriptions comparing those areas to Sao Paulo or other third world barrios are only marginal exaggerations. The police force is less corrupt than it once was, but like most aspects of city government, they don't bother much with the ghettos. Homelessness is less of a problem than one might think, as it's generally inadvisable to be out on the street after dark, especially to sleep. Many of the bums have migrated to the center of town to find safer havens. Those that stay squat in abandoned homes, which are not difficult to come by.

In Philadelphia, all workers that live within the city limits pay a 4.5% tax on the wages they make, in addition to normal state and federal taxes. It strikes me as odd that middle class Americans so frequently complain about their hard earn dollars being taken by the government to fund welfare programs in distant cities. Meanwhile, the working poor here get their money taken to fund city programs they never see, and pay taxes for services that are denied to them. A working man living in northern Philadelphia gets about 15% of his cheque taken each week by the government, and they don't get a thing. Streets never get paved, and sidewalks never get repaired, as the city has neither the time nor money to bother with maintaining unprofitable sectors of it's territory. Water pipes in the area have had numerous problems with lead and arsenic contamination; but they too are rarely fixed until a lawsuit is filed, which is even less common than new pipes being installed. There is no police protection. There is no education here. The money that is taken gives the residents all the storm drains and public lighting they can stomach, but leaves these communities veritable orphans of the city.

Crime is an obvious problem, but, of course, the large majority of residents are honest, hard working people. There is a tangible community here, and it is likely all that holds the few strands of these streets together. Ironically, in the areas that are less destitute, where people move about and do business such as the region adjacent to where I currently reside, people are more vibrant and jovial than many of the suburban areas I've seen. People in the relatively affluent area where I hail from are easily more stoic and cold, though they have decidedly less problems in their life.

The area to the far north is colloquially called the Badlands. It's a fitting term in most respects, as the core residents of the city will never visit this frontier. The Badlands may as well not exist for most people here, including the city government. Things haven't changed there in decades, and from what I've observed, they won't improve anytime soon. The streets and avenue names are alien to many in Center City. It's a problem that either no one talks about, or no one knows how to fix. The worst bit is that it is wholly and completely unexceptional. Anyone that has even driven through the hood or read about an American city could tell you the things I've depicted. I could be describing the ghettos of dozens of cities in this country, and they have all been in this shape for decades.

We are the wealthiest nation on the planet. Why does this still go on? When do we reach the point where we admit that we need to shift the priorities of our government? Our fellow citizens are living in unconscionable conditions, and nothing is changing. My view is skewed perhaps, because I see this everyday, but one needn't have to see poverty in person to know it must be combated. The fact alone that our ghettos are compared to third world nations instead of our wealthy counterparts ought to tell us that something is wrong.

I'm sorry this update is so generic and bleeding heart, but I would feel remiss for not having mentioned this by now. I'll have something acerbic and witty later, but this has been on my mind for a while. I'd like someone to respond to this so that I can develop these thoughts more.
This is a shot towards the rest of the campus, southward. A little bit nicer.

There is an interesting Presbyterian church across the street. I think it's Byzantine architecture, but whatever it is, it's quite peculiar. The other bizarre thing about North Philly is that in the midst of every swath of desolation is a beautiful cathedral. Oh, and those aren't housing projects behind the church, those are Temple's dorms.
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The Demon in the Freezer... [Dec. 3rd, 2004|06:53 pm]
The Kleptocracy of Nimrod

[mood |_sigh_]
[music |Green Day - Platypus (I Hate You)]

Troy - The city where RPI is. Troy is cold like a freezer.
RPI - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute... a college (don't try to pronounce it)

In response to the following quote in RPI's school newspaper:
(this is a story about an armed robbery at a local pizza shop)
The student did not get a clear view of the
suspect as his back was facing the robber when
he entered and the robber was wearing a ski-
mask. However, he described the robber as a
black male that who is tall and skinny. Ac-
cording to a crime alert released by RPI Public
Safety, the suspect was described as being ap-
proximately six feet tall.

It is now officially safe to say that author Richard Preston missed the mark when he called level four biological agents “demons in the freezer.” Thanks to the Polytechnic, it is apparent that a “black male [sic] who is tall and skinny” and happens to be wearing a ski mask is the more appropriately titled demon in the freezer of Troy. It is safe to assume that there will be demons of this type abound in the cold winter months ahead, ensuring that we, as a student body, are given a healthy dose of anxiety looking out for them. I hope nobody told the true “robber” responsible for the recent armed robbery at Pizza Bella that it would be a good time to take his mask off. After all, without the mask and the characteristic black skin and slender build, how are we to identify him?

It isn’t just the newspaper at this fine institution that is responsible for perpetuating the damaging racial stereotypes we all hold so dear. These misguided creeds of warning proliferate throughout our extensive and often omnipotent mass media voices. They serve to perpetuate what has been called the “black pathology biz” that is exemplified in sensational television shows such as “Cops” on Fox. Perhaps it is in the public’s best interests to omit such an apparent lack of details surrounding a story rather than indulge our largely racist assumptions about the typical perpetrator of devious acts. If the goal is to remind students to be careful then there are far healthier means to this end that do not involve the continuation of harmful anxieties and a general distrust of black people. For many privileged, white, middle-class students like me, Troy is the first example of diverse culture experienced to date. Messages like these that instill anxiety only serve to create a population of students scurrying about campus in fear of crime. Perhaps it is time to practice a more socially responsible form of journalism that informs the student body without manipulating behavior through fear.
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