Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Grey Town of St. Louis County

If a person wants to read about racist policemen killing Black men or using excessive force against them, there's no shortage of stories this week. New York City has come again into the spotlight, which isn't surprising, given their long history of questionable policing. But for this post, I want to continue to focus on Ferguson, Missouri, and Saint Louis County, where Ferguson is located.

An early indication of the fairness of the “justice” which Michael Brown's family can expect is the refusal by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to appoint a special prosecutor to replace Robert McCulloch, the St. Louis County district attorney who will likely be prosecuting the case against the officer who shot Mr. Brown to death while he was unarmed. I see no justice coming for Michael Brown or his family from St. Louis County or the Missouri state government.

But a Business Week story that caught my eye a few days ago provoked a few strands of thought. The story concerns the description of the causes of the extreme fragmentation of St. Louis County. Over time, the county has fragmented into 91 municipalities that “range from small to tiny, along with clots of population in unincorporated areas.” Why this fragmentation? First, because the law allowed residents to fragment themselves. Secondly, because of the hellishly selfish motives of the residents, who “set themselves up as municipalities to capture control of tax revenue from local businesses, to avoid paying taxes to support poorer neighbors, or to exclude blacks.” One of the municipalities has only thirteen members – all of whom are white. And according to the Business Week article, the extreme fragmentation of St. Louis County is a key factor holding back economic development in that county.

This description of St. Louis County reminded me of the description of Hell in The Great Divorce, a short novel written by C.S. Lewis in the early 1940's. In the story, Hell was likened to a shabby gray town (or grey, if you prefer the British spelling) that seemed to go on forever, where the time was always evening, and where it was always raining. Why was the town so big? Because all the residents were so selfish and self-centered that within 24 hours of arriving from Earth, a new arrival would have quarreled with his or her neighbors and decided to move on. Because their selfishness was by now incurable, the residents continued to quarrel, and to move farther and farther apart. When the narrator in the story asked whether one could meet any famous people, he was told that they all lived really far apart. He was also told of an expedition undertaken by a few ordinary people to visit Napoleon Bonaparte – a journey which took 20,000 years. In order to locate his house, the expedition had to use a telescope. It seems those who hold power in St. Louis County have turned it into a little bit of Hell, which is ironic considering how many churches there are in the county. Truly “the salt has lost its flavor!” (Matthew 5:13)

But St. Louis County seems also to be a shining example of Dmitry Orlov's Fifth Stage of Collapse, in which “faith in the goodness of humanity is lost.” People lose their capacity for selflessness and concern for others, and become like the Donner Party, except that they don't wait for each other to die before trying to chew on each other. Anglo-American supremacist culture is an organism born already collapsed, with its emphasis on self-reliance, “freedom” from responsibility to anyone but oneself, and unrestrained competition. Even the privileged members of our society cannot rest easy, as their identity depends a great deal on who and how many people they can identify as being beneath them.

And that leads to the third strand in this web of thought, namely, how typical St. Louis County is of a narcissistically disordered family, whose head cannot stand the presence of people different from himself unless they are under his heel as scapegoats and dumping grounds for unresolved anger and insecurity. The thing that many white supremacists in this country don't realize is that even if they succeed in ridding themselves of the “named” scapegoats, that won't be the end of scapegoating, for some of their own number will be selected as the replacements for the old scapegoats. They don't seem to have the imagination to picture what that will be like.

St. Louis County, Missouri. This is the sort of place where Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, was shot to death by a white policeman.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How to Digitally Fake A Video (or, They Only See What They Want To See)

My attention was drawn this week to some rather arrogant and ignorant comments made by a blogger/gadfly/wanna-be pontificator who, it seems, would like to dictate to everyone in the world what their assigned places in the world should be. This particular blogger mentioned the murder of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager, by a white policeman in Ferguson, Missouri, and stated that a surveillance camera video had surfaced that showed Mr. Brown allegedly robbing a convenience store shortly before he was shot. Thus, in the mind of this particular blogger, the shooting of Mr. Brown was no crime, but rather the judgment of a righteous society against a Black population that insists on remaining stubbornly dysfunctional.

There are only three problems with this argument. First, it is very easy nowadays to alter digital video – assuming that the original video was authentically made by a convenience store video camera. If you want to know just how easy video can be altered, read this 2007 article from Scientific American. Or you can read this, or this.

Or, you can just watch the video yourself. And that leads to the second problem.  The video sample I have selected is representative of the quality one would expect from typical store surveillance cameras; in other words, you don't use cameras like these to take pictures of the rings of Saturn or to shoot blockbuster movies. You tell me: who can positively identify the faces of anyone in the video? (If you want another version of the video, watch this. See how much clearer the image of the Fox News liar is than the images of any of the people in the alleged robbery video? Also note in the beginning of this clip, that Michael Brown wasn't the only person in the world who liked red hats and white T-shirts.)
The third problem, of course, is that the police let slip the fact that officer Darren Wilson did not know about the alleged robbery when he stopped Michael Brown. Thus Mr. Wilson's act looks increasingly like what I have called it: murder.

A person who has learned how to think would ask the following questions about video evidence: first, what are typical surveillance camera capabilities (i.e., image quality, resolution, low-light performance, etc)? Second, how easy is it for an ordinary person to alter a digital video (and the vast majority of videos nowadays are digital), or to create a fake video from scratch? Third, are there unaltered, untampered 9-1-1 calls from Ferguson, Missouri, describing a convenience store robbery on the day that Michael Brown was shot? Fourth, what motivations would the various players in this drama have for lying? Fifth, what sort of track record does the Ferguson police department have in regard to misconduct? Sixth, how often are unarmed Black men shot in this country?

The answers to all these questions might be deeply upsetting to those who enjoy the rapidly fading vestiges of Anglo-American privilege. But the willingness to ask the questions and to face the answers would separate honest people from dishonest gadflies who hold and voice opinions simply because they like them, regardless of the facts. Again, I am thinking of the blogger I mentioned at the first, who said during the most recent race riots in England that the British had a problem with immigration (and who disregarded the way the British violated and victimized nonwhite residents and citizens), and who said that Haitians were starving because Haiti had a population control problem (without considering how multinational corporations had stolen everything they could steal from that country). How easy it is to blame the victims for the injuries you have inflicted.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Clocks Can't Be Run Backward Without Breaking

I've been following the events in Ferguson, Missouri, with more than a little interest. For those who don't know, that is where Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot to death by policeman Darren Wilson several days ago. The Black community in this country is not amused, to say the least. Most of us believe that the case of Trayvon Martin was a miscarriage of justice. It also seems to many of us that the institutions of “justice” in this country are by now little more than organs of self-expression for narcissistic, sociopathic elites. One interesting thing about narcissism is the need for people who are narcissists to project a grandiose image of themselves. The other thing is that narcissists need an audience to reflect that grandiose image back to themselves. Without that audience, narcissists don't know they exist.

One way to project a grandiose image on to others is to intimidate and oppress others. That way, a narcissist can say, “At least I'm better off than this person whom I am kicking around, this person on whom I project all my insecurities and inadequacies, this person whom I can use as a convenient dumping ground for all my hostility.” For a while the cowboy narcissistic society known as the USA could use the entire world as a mirror to reflect its grandiosity back to the eyes of the chief beneficiaries of that grandiosity. And Anglo-Americans didn't even have to leave the country to find people to kick around – what with slavery, Jim Crow, separate-but-equal laws, and “institutional,” covert racism, there were plenty of victims to dominate.

Then something happened – a critical mass of unrest and unwillingness on the part of the victims of this oppression to take any more. The unwillingness was expressed in such a way that the beneficiaries of American privilege saw that they couldn't continue in their evil ways without risking the loss of that privilege, and maybe even of anything resembling a civil society. That, I am sure, was one thing that persuaded the leaders of American society to lighten up a little.

But now, the privileged sector of the United States is losing its place in the world, due to forces beyond its control. This seems to be provoking a psychological crisis, and some of these people seem to want to roll back the clock to a time when they could use nonwhite people in this country as a punching bag/target stop/dumping ground for their unresolved insecurity and hostility. In their clock-fixing attempts, they are quite bold. But this shouldn't be happening, should it? After all, we have a black President!

Yes we do. But over the last five years, Barack Obama has very obviously proven himself to be nothing more than the lesser of two evils. By now, when one says, “the lesser of two evils,” the eyes of his audience usually glaze over – the phrase has become a cliché. So let me present an illustration. If a gang of thugs breaks down the door of your house and tells you that you have a choice between having your teeth punched down your throat or having your car torched, you have a choice to make between the lesser of two evils! If we add a few more evils to choose from, such as having your house burned down, having your identity stolen, or being sexually assaulted (“raped” in plainer language), you have the smorgasbord that American politics has become with our token inclusion of third-party candidates like Ron and Rand Paul. (Is a choice for Ron a choice to be raped?  Is a choice for Rand a choice to drink battery acid?)  I voted for Barack Obama twice because I didn't want my teeth punched down my throat. But I have very little hope that he will keep my house from being burned down. Obama does seem quite hot to “protect” people in other countries from not being raped by the West – even to the point of sending American bombs, arms and troops where they're not wanted. What evil can you live with, dear reader?

But to those who want to roll back the clock, I have just one warning. By trying to make a clock run backwards, you may wind up breaking the clock. I vividly remember the overt racist garbage (utter garbage!) I had to put up with growing up in this country, and the more covert and insidious attempts to destroy me made by others whom I met in my adulthood. And why? Because my skin looks different from theirs? What utter garbage! What did I ever do to these people? Here's my policy: I want my home and my life to be a clinic of mercy to anyone who needs it, anyone who walks in the door – red or yellow, black or white. But here's my warning to the clock-tinkerers: you won't peaceably roll the clock back on me.  I'm not putting up with it again.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Military Service, Patriotism, Guns, and The Church From Hell

Yesterday, I went to attend a tutoring group where I've been helping immigrant children with math.  "Did you know," one of them said, "there was a shooting at our high school today?"

I already had some idea of the details of the shooter before this morning, even though I know almost no one at that high school.  I knew that the shooter was a white male whose learned pathological narcissism and monstrous sense of entitlement had been threatened by the presence in this world of other people - people different from and independent from him.  But I did not know until today that the shooter was a devout Mormon from a gun-packing right wing military family who had gotten upset a week before when his fellow students disagreed with him about a speech he had made concerning Adolf Hitler.

The shooter is typical of the sort of young people many right-wing Anglo-American families are producing nowadays - people who feel monstrously threatened by the emergence of a world which they no longer control, which they can no longer dominate, and in which they will have to exercise the sort of politeness that goes with an accurate estimation of their real place in the world.  In response to the loss of their imagined specialness, these people kill and destroy indiscriminately, proving that they are not special, but worthless. 

There's a lot that can be said about malignant Anglo-American narcissism at the tail end of the American empire,  but I don't have time to say it.  I'll just say this: Jared Michael Padgett - an all-American, a patriot, a gun nut, a Mormon! is dead of a self-inflicted wound after indiscriminately killing an innocent young man.  Now Jared knows how wrong he was about life, about his cult church, about his place in the world, about his relations with his fellow human beings.  Try as I might, I can't feel sorry for him right now.

Friday, March 14, 2014

For Those Who Don't Have Time for 1,000 Words

...A Picture!

I first saw this on  If you agree, feel free to post it on your blogs as well.  You can also find it at 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

An Anglo-American Monkey Dance

I too have been following the unfolding situation in Ukraine.  I too have noticed the parallels between Ukraine and Syria ("democratic" revolutions instigated by means of mercenaries and other unsavory types financed by the West in order to prepare a country for rape by rich Westerners).  The revolutions are ending badly, and the speckled past and checkered character of the instigators is being brought to light for anyone who is willing to pay attention.

There is another parallel between the situations in both countries, namely, the
monkey dance which was enacted by Anglo-American media along with the Executive and Legislative branches of the British and American governments during the manufactured Syrian nerve gas attack which Messrs. Obama, Biden and Kerry tried to use as a basis for military action in Syria.  The same monkey dance is being enacted again by all the organs of American media over the Ukrainian crisis.  One way to defuse a monkey dance is to respond calmly and rationally - even indifferently - to the monkey who is dancing, while going on with your business.  That seems to be the course which Mr. Putin is taking.  I think he is a wise man.  On the other hand, I wish the American, British and European monkeys would shut up and realize that they can't own the entire world.  If I thought voting would do any good, I'd be up for throwing a few monkeys out of office.

By the way, did anyone notice that in the controversy surrounding Edward Snowden's leak of NSA documents revealing NSA snooping on world leaders, it was the British and the American governments who spied on everyone else?  I sometimes wonder if Anglo-American global policy isn't governed by a British wish for rich, blond Anglophones to re-establish British global hegemony, coupled with a somewhat clueless American willingness to play the stooge.  One thing that fuels such a suspicion is the extensive coverage of the British royal family by the American media - especially by the gossip magazines that one finds next to the checkout stands of many American supermarkets.  But then again, maybe I'm a bit paranoid...

Saturday, August 31, 2013

NPD Nation

I've been reading a lot lately about Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD for short. My reasons for doing so involve people in long-playing difficulties of the sort which I don't want to discuss on this particular blog. However, in my reading I have discovered a few principles which seem to apply to the current world situation, and to the response of the people and politicians of the United States to that situation.

One of the things which has impressed me about NPD is the way in which malignant narcissists blame their victims for the abuse perpetrated by the narcissists. Often the blaming takes place as part of a combat which is solely verbal. Even when the combat is confined to the merely verbal, the narcissist's blaming tactics can become quite bizarre, to the point of reality-altering distortions of events (also known as “gaslighting”). But without a doubt, one of the most bizarre instances of victim-blaming and gaslighting of which I have read involved physical violence. It seems that while a narcissist woman was physically attacking her sister (who did nothing to retaliate), the attacker started yelling through open windows demanding that the victim stop attacking! (What Makes Narcissists Tick, 2004-2007, Kathleen Krajco, pg. 196.)

Which brings us to current events. I am in Southern California this weekend to visit family, and as I did during my last trip, this time I rode the Amtrak train down here. I had dinner in the dining car, sharing a table with an elderly retired couple who live in Klamath Falls, Oregon. We didn't really hit it off very well, though there were attempts at polite conversation. One of the difficult points came when the wife mentioned recent weather in Klamath Falls, observing that there had been a few days this summer during which the temperature had gotten above 90 degrees, and that “we usually never get that hot! Usually the temperature doesn't get much above 80!”

Well,” I remarked, levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide have recently exceeded 400 parts per million. What you are experiencing is a consequence of climate change.”

Yes,” she said, “and I think the whole world should do its part to reduce pollution,” indicating by her tone and emphasis that she considered the rest of the world to be equally as culpable as the United States.

The United States has five percent of the world's population and uses over a third of the world's natural resources,” I replied.

Yes, but there's lots of pollution in other countries,” she replied, a bit desperately.

That's because the United States has exported much of its manufacturing capacity to those countries,” I rejoined.

And that's terrible,” she said, then, “and I'm sure you don't want to wreck a perfectly good evening.” Then her husband started talking. “What college did you graduate from, since you've been saying all this about global warming?” I told him, having earlier told him that I had an engineering degree. “Good school,” he remarked. The conversation died out shortly thereafter. Later in the evening, I thought, “How American – to blame others for the problems we ourselves cause.”

I got off the train at Bakersfield, having discovered that one can make the remainder of the trip from Bakersfield to So. Cal. much more quickly by car than by train. While driving a rental the remainder of the distance to my destination, I tuned in to KNX Radio 1070, a CBS news station whose broadcasts cover most of Southern California. I was listening to the news that the United States is preparing to attack Syria for allegedly using chemical weapons against its own citizens, and that no other nation on earth supports the United States in this course of action. I also heard a great deal of hand-wringing on the part of spokesmen describing the “terrible humanitarian toll which has been exacted by the ongoing civil strife in Syria.”

Having learned long ago to read between the lines of mainstream news, I know that American eagerness to attack Syria has nothing to do with “democracy” or alleged cruelty by the Syrian government toward its people or the possible existence of weapons of mass destruction. It has everything to do with the fact that the United States is hopelessly addicted to a lifestyle of undeserved extravagance, and that this country can no longer afford to pay for that extravagance. Therefore, we are exporting violence to the remaining corners of the earth in which significant reserves of natural resources (particularly, oil) may be found, in order to obtain something for seemingly almost nothing. Our glorious country has therefore tried a steadily escalating series of destabilizing moves designed to remove the sovereign government of Syria, starting with trying to engineer a “revolution” through means of mercenaries.

Now we are at the point where, “while beating Sue [Syria], Mary [the United States] screams at her to stop attacking.” Naturally, we will try to scream loud enough for the neighbors to hear. But by now, the neighbors have our number.