Thursday, April 25, 2013

"Boston Strong" propaganda downplays martial law

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I didn't hear the media refer to what happened in Boston, for one day while the manhunt was going on, as martial law; however if that isn't what it was, it was way too damn close. The traditional media showed a lot of cheering people when they caught the suspect and ended the lock down and they even ran a tape of one individual who seemed quite amused by the situation while she explained how she was initially shocked when the police pointed guns at her but understood why they did it and seemed to approve after the fact and laughed it off. there was no reporting in the traditional commercial media about anyone that was outraged by it but that doesn't mean that there aren't people outraged by it. Alex Jones posted "Shocking Footage: Americans Ordered Out Of Homes At Gunpoint By SWAT teams" by Steve Watson on his web site (more on Alex Jones and his conspiracies later in post); clearly implying if not showing that at least a few people in the area might not have been quite so pleased with the activities of their own government.

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Since then there has been an enormous amount of hype about the new "Boston Strong" campaign.

It may sound good to many but the problem is that is does absolutely nothing to help understand what happened and why; instead it is clearly designed to stir up emotions and get people to get excited about this event as if it was a sporting event. In fact they're mixing this hype up with sporting events instead of providing serious coverage for it. They made a big deal out of having hockey players give their jerseys to police officers and baseball players had a similar ceremony which does a lot to glorify both the police officers and the sports players but does absolutely nothing to address the issues.

Are they even looking at this as something they want to understand and solve?

They say they are of course but there activities don't seem to imply that they're serious at all. They have routinely been very selective about which so-called experts that they invite to speak before the majority of the public and the ones that they present to most people are rarely if ever the most credible people whose work will stand up to scrutiny in the long run assuming scrutiny is applied at all. One of the most important things that they routinely ignore is how early childhood abuse might have led to violence later in life, or in this case how it might have contributed to the "radicalization" of the bombing suspects. If some people relied on the commercial media for all their information they might get the impression that this is a magical event that happens when they talk to a charismatic religious leader. There might actually be something to this but it is almost certainly not the beginning of what they call the way they might be "radicalized."

I'm not saying that the police are responsible for this, for the most part, but the assumption that we should wait to the last minute before any disaster happens is clearly implied when few if any people take a close look at the long term contributing causes and at the last minute it at least appears as if drastic measures are necessary.

What they refer to a "radicalization" process almost certainly begins at an early age where children are taught violence from an early age and it might continue into adulthood through follow up indoctrination process and in some cases the truth, although not necessarily the version of the truth that the commercial media is presenting to the public. I went into how early child hood abuse has often led to additional violence in several posts in the past including Does child abuse and bullying lead to more violence? and Child abuse and bullying link in study long over due so I'll keep that brief. These blogs include an enormous amount of research to indicate that this is a major problem and that by reducing violence early in life it could go a long way to reduce crime and violence later in life as well and it is backed up by plenty of reliable sources that have been peer reviewed. This tends to escalate as an adult and people that are raised in an authoritarian manner are much more likely to be subject to indoctrination of one kind or another and act violently. Some of these people might be inclined to obey orders blindly but not necessarily from the people some of us might consider authorities. Many of them may chose charismatic cult leaders or other demagogues as leaders later or they might strike out violently; this may be more common if they have a cause that they think is worthwhile, whether it is or not.

Recent news has some out to indicate that they may have been motivated by the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the war on terrorism. There has also been recent testimony to indicate that many of the people in Yemen and many other areas have become increasingly angry over the drone strikes which routinely kill innocent people. I have no idea if the bombers in Boston were also motivated by this but even if they weren't it could serve to "radicalize" many other people that are angry with the USA. There is no guarantee that terrorists arte always reacting for rational reasons, in fact they often aren't; however there is a possibility that the truth could support their reasons in some cases when the news is selectively reported differently to people here than they are to people in many other countries.

Many of the people from many other countries are fully aware of the fact that the USA has been participating in illegal wars for decades. They're much more inclined to acknowledge the fact that the USA has supported several coups suppressing democracy and also supported many terrorists when the leaders of the USA seem to think it suits their purposes. The list of these activities is long and it includes coups in Iran and Guatemala in the fifties, support of the Nicaraguan Contras and the Mujaheddin, which later partially turned into Al-Qaeda or the Taliban in the eighties and apparently the Chechen rebels as well which is near Dagestan, according to Chechen Terrorists and the Neocons. This may mean that in many cases the "radicalization" process may include news reports that are accurate; however these accurate news reports are routinely downplayed in the commercial media and by high profile politicians but they're not ignored by those that we are fighting.

This means that many of the most important facts that might be contributing to the terrorist threat aren't even being considered; while all the hype and emotional appeal is being used to make arguments to justify the look down of a city which was damn close to martial law for a brief while if not martial law, as well as the opportunity to reduce people rights including the right to to a trial a lawyer the Miranda warnings and more. John W. Whitehead elaborated more on it in the following excerpts from his article.

‘Boston Strong’: Marching in Lockstep With the Police State by John W. Whitehead

Caught up in the televised drama of a military-style manhunt for the suspects in the Boston Marathon explosion, most Americans fail to realize that the world around them has been suddenly and jarringly shifted off its axis, that axis being the U.S. Constitution.

For those like myself who have studied emerging police states, the sight of a city placed under martial law – its citizens under house arrest (officials used the Orwellian phrase “shelter in place” to describe the mandatory lockdown), military-style helicopters equipped with thermal imaging devices buzzing the skies, tanks and armored vehicles on the streets, and snipers perched on rooftops, while thousands of black-garbed police swarmed the streets and SWAT teams carried out house-to-house searches in search of two young and seemingly unlikely bombing suspects – leaves us in a growing state of unease.

Mind you, these are no longer warning signs of a steadily encroaching police state. The police state has arrived.

Equally unnerving is the ease with which Americans welcomed the city-wide lockdown, the routine invasion of their privacy, and the dismantling of every constitutional right intended to serve as a bulwark against government abuses. Watching it unfold, I couldn’t help but think of Nazi Field Marshal Hermann Goering’s remarks during the Nuremberg trials. As Goering noted:

"It is always a simple matter to drag people along whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country."

As the events in Boston have made clear, it does indeed work the same in every country. The same propaganda and police state tactics that worked for Adolf Hitler 80 years ago continue to be employed with great success in a post-9/11 America. ...... Complete article

This hype and excitement has been repeated by one politician and celebrity after another in the mainstream media including Elizabeth Warren, who has been portrayed as a "consumer advocate" and perhaps the greatest defender of the lower and middle class in a long time judging by the propaganda that rose suddenly that enabled her to win an election for the senate without a primary challenge or addressing many of the most important issues as I tried to explain in several posts including Elizabeth Warren is NOT a “consumer advocate!!” The past posts explain the details but the basic impression I have been getting from Elizabeth Warren is that she is better than many of the other politicians on a few of the issues that have been taken to extremes and she has been using them to grandstand and create a good image for herself but on many other issues she is catering to the same campaign contributors and political activists as the other party members. Her recent appearance on the Rachel Maddow show was no exception. She repeated the same hype that all the other politicians about how Boston is so strong that we will get over this without addressing any of the contributing causes. this may make many people feel better and it may stir up a lot of emotions to imply that anyone that isn't going along with the program is challenging how great we are but it does absolutely nothing to understand what is going on and prevent it from happening again.

It has become politically correct to call these bombers idiots, jerks or losers; but, whether they are idiots jerks or losers or not, it isn't politically correct to address the more import question about how to prevent this from happening again.

Another propaganda tactic that they've been using is to portray many people that disagree with the official version of events as wild conspiracy theorists. This is an old effort that routinely avoids the actual definitions of conspiracy and theory and focus on the stereo types of conspiracy theorists and attempts to present the irrational conspiracy theorists and the rational researchers in the same category and dismiss them all by association instead of sorting through the details. This effort often attempt to portray all these people rational and irrational alike as mentally ill or close minded.

The irony is if the official explanation is true it is a conspiracy.

That's right, if the official explanation is true it is a conspiracy between the Tsarnaev brothers and possibly other people that might have worked with them or "radicalized" them. A conspiracy is when two or more people secretly communicate or act in a manner that affects other people. This is what the Tsarnaev brothers are alleged to have done and it involved a conspiracy to bomb innocent people so the government and the commercial media are conspiracy theorists. Somehow we're supposed to believe that they're not irrational people that fit the stereo type of "conspiracy theorists." This is a standard routine that has been going on for decades. The same thing happened with the 9/11 bombings and Jim Marrs made the same argument in his book about it.

In Jim Marrs and for that matter Alex Jones case they often might be irrational conspiracy theorists in many cases but sometimes they both get things right, as well, that the government is trying to distract people from. Dismissing one group out of hand with addressing the details is highly irrational and unscientific although I must say that I am skeptical of a lot of their work and wouldn't prefer to use them as primary sources for most research into the subject. Recently Chris Hedges has appeared on the Alex Jones show which seems to imply that he might be open to some degree of scrutiny; and this is just as well since I think some of his ideas about climate change and gun control need scrutiny and people should be advised to avoid appeals to emotion; however that doesn't mean they should remain complacent.

Another thing that is worth considering is what Philip Zimbardo referred to as "the foot in the door" psychological tactic. As I explained in Philip Zimbardo, Lucifer Effect, Stanford Prison Experiment and Corruption or Bias in the American Psychological Association Philip Zimbardo has done research for the Office of Naval Research and based on some of the material that he has provided as well as research from Alfred McCoy I suspect he may have done research for the CIA as well. He has indicated that this is a commonly known tactic that once people accept small steps for minor deceptive obedience tactics they might be more inclined to accepts larger steps that lead to a larger con. The same would presumably go to accepting a police state with martial law. I don't really expect that this will come to that but they have already taken more steps than I would have previously expected so I don't completely rule it out anymore. Whether this is inclined to happen or not it would be helpful to recognize the propaganda tactics that might lead to it and prevent it before it gets any farther. If people recognize it and discuss it then nothing happens and people say "see there was never anything to worry about," then it will have served it's purpose even if we never know whether or not educating people about propaganda was what prevented martial law.

In many cases many of the most important facts aren't part of a conspiracy by it's, strictest definition, because they aren't completely secret. Many of the details about the contributing causes of this are public knowledge; however they aren't presented as widely as the propaganda from the government, or in many cases the irrational conspiracy theories from people that might be considered less rational. This leads to a situation where both the irrational conspiracy theorists and the government are playing into each others hands because in many cases both sides are ignoring inconvenient facts and both are making appeals to emotion to get people to believe them without scrutiny.

The most effective way to avoid falling for either of the deceptive tactics involves sorting through the details more effectively; or at least relying on researchers that do a better job sorting through the details and doing a minimal review of those researchers. As the following excerpt indicates George Carlin might have agreed although he isn't the most thorough researcher that I would recommend. To the best of my knowledge Mike Barnacle didn't plagiarized these excerpts.

And the war got good ratings too, didn't it? Got good ratings. Well, we like war. We like war, we are war like people. We like war, because we are good at it. You know why we are good at it? Because we did a lot of practice. ......

Can't built a decent car, can't make a TV set or VCR where the fuck. Got no steel industry left, can't educate our young people can't get health care for our old people, but we can bomb the shit out of your country alright?! ......

You probably noticed that I don't feel about that war the way we were told, we were supposed to feel about that war, the way we were ordered and instructed by the USA government to feel about that war. You see, I tell you, my mind does not work that way. I got this real moron thing I do, its called thinking and I am not a very good American, because I like to form my own opinions! I don't just roll over when I am told to. ......

And I don't take very seriously the media or the press in this country who in the case of the Persian Gulf war were nothing more than unpaid employees of the Department of Defense and who most of the time, most of the time function as kind of unofficial public relations agency for the US government. So I don't listen to them, I don't really believe in my country and I got to tell you folks, I don't get all choked up about yellow ribbons and American flags. ......

That is the way the ruling class operates in any society. They try to divide the rest of the people. They keep the lower and the middle classes fighting with each other, so that they the rich can run off with all the fucking money. Fairly simple thing, happens to work. Complete article

photo source

The following are some web pages that may provide some additional information that might help reduce violence even though they may not address this specific incident.

American Empire Project provides extensive information about the history of US activities that have been under-reported by the traditional commercial media.

“The Roots of Violence are NOT Unknown” and accompanying articles that explain how early childhood abuse leads to more violence later in life by Alice Miller.

Home page for Barbara Coloroso, an internationally recognized speaker and author in the areas of parenting, teaching, school discipline, non-violent conflict resolution and reconciliatory justice.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

107 Wonders of the Ancient World

Colossi of Memnon

The Colossi of Memnon are just a couple of many ancient wonders that haven't been fully explained; in fact efforts to prove that they have been moved with ancient technology have actually done the opposite indicating that the leading experts clearly have no idea how these and many other ancient wonders happened at all. They weigh 720 tons and were transported 420 miles across land. Many experiments to move megaliths using ancient technology have been done and practically all of them were below ten tons and they only succeeded with and enormous amount of effort and coordination.

A couple of them have gone over ten tons including one that experimented with moving a 25 ton megalith and another that involved a 40 ton megalith and as far as I can tell both these had very limited success and apparently they didn't even include getting the megaliths onto the sledges. The one that involved a forty ton megalith didn't do a good job describing many of the details as far as I was able to find and quite frankly it appeared as if they were confusing the issue without addressing many of the simple question. This enabled them to present in a manner that they claimed was a partial success although it didn't seem very successful to me at all. Even if I did accept their explanation they didn't try to claim they moved it a large distance at all and they still didn't attempt to explain how they got it on the sledge.

The one involving a twenty five tone megalith was done in a little clearer manner although it wasn't presented as well as they could have. However this may have done more to raise additional unanswered questions and it ignored or down played several problems they had. In a video for PBS Roger Hopkins, who was the lead organizer of the experiment, along with Mark Lehner, made a passing comment about how he wasn't there when they put the megalith on the sledge but they made no attempt to explain how they did this. They had a major problem with broken ropes and they didn't move it forward more than an inch or two at a time and they probably didn't even move it more than ten feet although they attempted to imply that they might have moved it up to twenty feet.

There are many more megaliths that have been moved a long distance listed on Wikipedia at a List of largest monoliths in the world. This also includes a list of the efforts to move the megaliths and an explanation on how to calculate the density and weight of the megaliths since there are many exaggerations and misrepresentation of them this enables people to confirm the most reliable estimates. The vast majority of them are backed up by sources from traditional archaeology sources and I confirmed them personally a few years back; actually I put most of them there myself and others have had plenty of time to confirm them by now, including a few skeptics.

The other wonders of the ancient world include the columns of Karnak, many obelisks in Egypt as well as some in Axum Sudan and columns that had to be erected in ancient Rome as well as India. They also includes some megalithic burial chambers that weigh over a hundred tons and had to be lowered into extremely tight openings for them that only hasd a small fraction of an inch clearance; this means that not only did they have the ability to move these large megaliths but they lowered them in a very tight area which would be extremely difficult and yet they hardly even considered this when doing experiments to replicate these past wonders.


If you add to that the enormous amount of temples and the megaliths within them it must easily come to well over a hundred million tons of stone that they carved and towed anywhere from a few hundred yards to hundreds of miles. this includes dozens if not hundreds of megaliths that were over a hundred tons and it almost certainly includes thousands of megaliths over fifty tons which is bigger than the largest one that was barely moved in modern experiments. On top of that they did an enormous amount of detailed stone carving which hasn't been replicated today either and many of their joints, whether they are in the temples or the pyramids are incredibly precise. It appears that some of the carving may have been done on stucco that is covering the stones but a lot of it was directly on the stone itself. Either way it is far more than we could come close to doing today with much better technology.

Angkor Wat

This is of course not limited to Egypt, the Romans and many other sites throughout Europe Asia have also moved an enormous amount of megaliths including Angkor Wat and many of the other Angkor temples. This was done out of Sandstone that had to be hauled twenty-five miles through winding rivers that were tough to navigate. Experiments to replicate this were done and they were successful; however they had an enormous amount of difficulty and they couldn't do it nearly as fast as the ancient civilizations did. In this case they didn't use megaliths as big but they allegedly hauled and carved as much stone in in forty years as there was in the pyramid of Khafre, over five million tons. These are all installed dry without any mortar, which is virtually unheard of today in buildings that tall or even close; this type of construction is almost always reserved for paving stones or relatively low retaining walls that taper back.

Moai at Easter Island

One of the greatest mysteries is of course Easter Island. This isn't because they carried as much stone as either the Egyptians or the Angkor's; although they did carve and enormous amount and the largest ones were over eighty tons. However the island is only thirteen square miles and it could only support a relatively small population that would have had enough trouble just providing enough food and water to support themselves under the circumstances let alone find the time and energy to carve and haul these megaliths. One source claims that at their peak they had up to a hundred thousand people on the Island but this is almost certainly an exaggeration since that would mean seven thousand and seven hundred people per square mile; and they had a very limited supply of fresh water to support these people. A large portion of their diet was presumably seafood but they would have needed some vegetables to and this would only provide about 3,600 square feet (and area 60 x 60 feet) to grow food for each person and part of this was rough terrain and not useful for farming. Wikipedia lists the peak population at 15,000 which is more reasonable but it is still high considering the resources and low when you consider how many people they would need to support themselves and make these monuments. The fresh water that they had available was primarily from three crater lakes on the island which couldn't have been too large. The climate seems to include a significant amount of rain year round so droughts are rare but there are no streams to flow into these crater lakes so they only collect the rain that falls directly into them.

There have been numerous high profile attempts to explain these wonders; however as far as I can tell all the most popular ones have some serious flaws in them and they don't add up in their entirety. These range from God to Aliens or Atlanteans and more. Efforts to attribute them to all of these cases have many flaws especially when they attempt to attribute it to a higher intelligence that is benevolent. If this was done with the help of benevolent aliens or gods then they would have kept an open line of communication and explained what they were doing and why; also they would have provided better advice on how to avoid the wars and corruption that led to the destruction of these societies; and instead of encouraging indoctrination they would have encouraged education and peer review. These explanations are also routinely accompanied by blunders so obvious that they fall apart as soon as anyone thinks about it like one individual who cited as evidence the fact that his lighter wouldn't work due to lack of oxygen in one of the Egyptian tunnels. If this was what caused his lighter to stop it would have also caused his own death since he wouldn't have been able to breathe. Amazingly though the explanations of the so called scientific or rational skeptics also include many blunders and they don't explain how these monuments were built.

This leaves an unsolved mystery.

Regardless of they were built this is commonly cited as an example where the local people destroyed their own environment and became extinct as a result of that. This makes sense to a large degree although some of the explanations that are related to this may be false. Any society that destroys their own environment will inevitably have to pay the price eventually although in many cases it can be put off for a significant amount of time; but eventually it becomes unavoidable. This has happened many times throughout history although most of them have been forgotten. This includes major problems with an enormous amount of garbage piling up in ancient Athens, throughout Europe during numerous plagues which they contributed to and at the end of the nineteenth century when the Tammany Hall political machine was in power.

Thanks to globalization this is now happening once again on a scale that is unprecedented; however by setting up a system that protects a relatively small percentage of the planet where the most powerful people live and declining to report on the vast majority of the public many people may not be fully aware of the scope of it.

This is also being accompanied by many of the other problems that faced all these ancient civilization. The records of most of these societies are very limited but some of them provide an enormous amount of detail and many of the others provide a more limited amount of evidence to indicate that they all declined for very similar reason. Most if not all were involved in an enormous of escalating amounts of corruption, war and income inequality; and they were all involved in an enormous amount of activities that does absolutely nothing to maintain their societies at all, the monuments themselves. We look on these monuments with awe and presumably so did the people that built them but they didn't actually provide any benefit to the majority of the people that did the work to build them at all. In many of these societies the people that built them weren't even allowed on the premises once they were built. This includes Egypt and Angkor where only the royalty were allowed in these vast temples; the only exceptions were the servants that served them and they weren't allowed to stay there in there free time assuming they had much of it.

As much as we admire these temples they were a complete waste of time from the point of view of the people that built them assuming they thought about it rationally, which they almost certainly didn't. This is why I described them as cult structures. These were almost certainly used as part of a control process to keep their people following their leaders blindly but the leaders weren't making rational decisions and inevitably their societies collapsed.

This is in the process of happening again. Our leaders aren't taking care of a growing number of people and they're obsessed with fighting a war on terrorism that they can't win because they refuse to acknowledge inconvenient facts that contradict their ideology. They're unwilling to acknowledge that an enormous percentage of this terrorism problems is a result of blow-back from their own activities abroad or the fact that they're not addressing social problems in the US either.

Large portions of the rain forest have already been destroyed there is more environmental devastation in many oil regions around the world and it is even happening in the United States although not in the back yards of those with power. West Virginia has largely been destroyed because of coal mining many other areas throughout rural America where there isn't as much population or wealth have also been destroyed due to fracking or other activities by the energy companies; many of the largest industrial cities have been devastated as a result of outsourcing that shipped all the manufacturing jobs over seas and left them with little or nothing. A sample of these have been described in "Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt."

A few years back I compiled a long list of these wonders along with some other related material including why I consider them cult structures and explanations about how to sort though the exaggerations so that people can recognize which weight estimates are more reliable and compiled them at 107 Wonders of the Ancient World if anyone is interested. The following is an excerpt from it.

The ancients around the world created an enormous amount of spectacular structures that can't be fully explained by modern historians and scientists.

They created many wonders that modern technology would have a difficult time replicating. In many cases modern technology can't recreate them at all. How were these structures built?
How did they move colossal stones up to 1,000 tons?
How did they carve colossal statues out of cliff sides without dynamite, drills, jackhammers etc.?
Did the ancients have technology that was lost and still has yet to be found?
Does this raise doubts about the social evolution of ancient civilizations?

In order to figure out what happened in the past it would help to present this information in as organized a manor as possible. I know there are experts more informed about archeology than me and with better organizational skills; however they aren't presenting this information to the public in the most effective manor possible. In many cases simply organizing the facts and checking simple math raises doubts about the official explanation for sites like Egypt, Baalbek, Angkor Wat and Thom, Teohuanico etc.

I have listed well over 107 ancient wonders of the world as well as a few more modern wonders to compare them. I have attempted to organize them by location and marked which ones moved colossal stones, carved large volumes of statues, carved colossal statues out of living rock and made structures that had extremely tight joints that can't be replicated today. I have provided links to help understand each wonder. I have attempted to use the most reputable links I could find but there are no guarantees. Sometimes the "reputable sites" make obvious mistakes and the "suspect" ones get things right so use your own discretion. I am attempting to sort out the hard facts and speculation so that if one hypothesis is disproved you'll still have hard facts that can be confirmed and you can be sure of when someone comes up with another hypothesis. I have also considered several ways that people can find out more about these structures. Some of the weights of these colossal stones are subject to confirmation. I explained that more in the section about calculating the weight of Colossal Stones. The most reliable source will always be the stones themselves. 107 Wonders of the Ancient World

If there is an exception to whether or not all these monuments might be worthwhile it might be the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial; however I am even skeptical of this.

Martin Luther King Jr. was protesting for equality and that has eroded enormously since his death and until the "Days of Revolt" described by Chris Hedges a stunning segment of the public has been largely complacent while this has been happening. While they were putting a lot of effort into building this monument they weren't putting that effort into increasing equality as Martin Luther King Jr. might have wanted. One of the sponsors was apparently the Tommy Hilfiger which has a history of relying on sweatshop labor and has been involved in an enormous amount of deceptive marketing to promote his product and make it seem like it is worth much more than it actually is. He is almost certainly trying to target the African American community for his over priced products. Barack Obama also attended and used the opening for political purposes but regardless of what color he is he hasn't done much if anything to address the inequality that is currently continuing for blacks or any other minority.

The monument is up now so we might as well make the best of it but caution should be taken not to adopt it as an object of worship while the issues that Martin Luther King Jr. attempted to address are swept under the rug by the politicians and sponsors who are attempting to use this for their own purposes. If this is used as an object of worship instead of a reminder that there is more that needs to be done then it could serve the opposite purpose that many people intended for it.

If on the other hand these monuments are reserved only for a modest amount of our efforts while we put other more important priorities ahead then the destruction of past societies does not have be replicated by ours; but this will almost certainly involve reform from below since the current establishment has clearly indicated that they aren't going to do it. If they wanted to do so they could have and would have already done so.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

There is no "collateral damage" at the Boston Marathon!!

None of the high profile coverage of the Boston Marathon Bombing even think about calling it collateral damage, nor do I think they should. Kevin Cullen went on TV and asked a rhetorical question when considering how the bomber might respond to a question about what he did during the war and he might say, "I killed an eight year old kid." This is of course outrageous as it should be. But the obvious question is why shouldn't this logic apply to all examples where children were killed. During the same appearance they mentioned the belief that the bomber knew what he was doing clearly implying that he would have known he was killing innocent people to accomplish his goals what ever those goals might be.

Why is there little or no effort to consider the same thing about the victims of the drone attacks that have dramatically escalated under Obama including many children? The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has listed 175 children that have been killed by US drones; and as far as I know neither Kevin Cullen or any other commentator with access to the commercial media have expressed the same outrage.

Typically the way they address this involves declining to address it at all if they can get away with it. Occasionally they are forced to do so and when they happens they have a history of referring to them as "collateral damage," or finding some other way of downplaying it.

This shouldn't be limited to drone attacks which are much newer than many of the other attacks that are being made on children or adults for that matter. Many of these other forms of "collateral damage" continue to go on but it has become so routine that we don't pay attention to it anymore. This could and probably should also include concern for the many people including children that are dying for other reasons like the sweat shop fires that happen from time to time including the one last fall in Bangladesh, the large number of people that are dying because of environmental destruction or lack of health care and many other things. This is much worse in most parts of the world but it is happening here in the US as well. Many people in the West Virginia area are dying as a result of the damage being done by Massey Coal; others are dying because of pollution caused by Fracking done by the energy companies as well.

The list could go on much longer.

Banks are looting this country blind; oil companies are destroying the environment; corporations have consolidated and no longer provide real competition but the workers now have to compete with people half way around the world.

Politically connected people committing massive crimes are unaccountable. A Wal-Mart worker eating a few Oreo cookies is prosecuted to the full extent of the law at tax payer expense. Shoplifting incidents involving the theft of sandpaper or underwear are turning into shootings. A hostage incident happened to get the power company to turn the power back on. A sixty something year old man is tasered and bean bagged into submission for wielding a knife by at least half a dozen if not a dozen or more police on camera.

The massive corporate corruption is creating a terrorist breeding ground and there are peaceful protests by well informed people every week but the commercial media only provides sporadic coverage of them as isolated incidents.

Cenk Uygur recently asked how we can call our selves a democracy based on the Guantanamo activity if you add all these other inequities the answer is obvious. If you want to be honest we can't.

I don't know why this happened but it is just one of many problems with this country and we aren't trying to address any of them in a rational manner. The political system and the commercial media is controlled by a very narrow segment of our society and this seems to have provided them with yet another opportunity to create an enormous amount of hype about one of many issues that can be blamed on someone besides the most powerful people in this country that continue to do much more damage.

When the attack Sandy Hook took place many people around the world including some children in Pakistan expressed condolences; in our country at the grass roots level this might not be that uncommon either among those who are reasonably well informed but the commercial media and the political establishment isn't even trying to keep the public informed about many if any of the most important issues, presumably because they seem to be primarily concerned with advancing the agenda of a small percentage of the public that have a very narrow ideology that seems to focus almost entirely on short term profit and control of power.

photo source

Now there is another explosion that seems to be as bad if not worse in Texas and it is still to early to know for certain what caused it but some of the most credible information seems to imply that the most likely cause may have been safety violations and I wouldn't be surprised if this turns out to be an accident that might have been a result in inadequate precautions as a result of cuts to increase profits.

We have enough knowledge about most if not all of the most important issues that need to be addressed in this county to dramatically improve them but the entire media and political establishment is very selective about what views they will allow to be presented to the majority of the public and the result is that we wind up expressing an enormous amount of outrage over a relatively small percentage of the public and ignore the vast majority of the others that have also faced serious consequences. The truth is that if we had been addressing these problems properly for the past few decades it is much less likely that either the Boston Bombings or the Texas explosion or for that matter the Sandy Hook shootings would have happened.

This outrage didn't stop the last 8 year old innocent child from being killed nor will it stop the next; however if we allow a more even handed reporting that covers all the issues in a much more balanced manner that enables people to obtain the information they need to make decisions then the next one could be prevented.

Going through the same old rituals of mourning and glorifying a hero here and there didn't work before and it won't work now.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Should Bradley Manning get the Nobel Peace Prize?

Roots Action, War is a Crime and at least a few other peace organizations and individuals have been lobbying to get the peace prize awarded to Bradley Manning. It is hard to doubt that he should get it if the Nobel Peace Prize has much if any meaning anymore; or if it ever did. The following is an excerpt from David Swanson suggesting that people sign a petition to give him the award.

Bradley Manning's Nobel Peace Prize

Whistleblower Bradley Manning has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and he should receive it.

No individual has done more to push back against what Martin Luther King Jr. called "the madness of militarism" than Bradley Manning. The United States is the leading exporter of weapons and itself spends as much preparing for more wars as the rest of the world combined. Manning is the leading actor in opposition to U.S. warmaking, and therefore militarism around the world. What he has done has hurt the cause of violence in a number of other nations as well.

And right now, remaining in prison and facing relentless prosecution by the U.S. government, Manning is in need of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Alfred Nobel's will left funding for a prize to be awarded to "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."

The intent of the prize was to fund this work. As a result of enormous legal expenses, Bradley Manning is in need of that funding, unlike some other peace prize recipients. In addition, his secret trial -- with a potential death sentence -- could use all the attention that can be shined on it. Complete article

I'm sure that some of his critics might argue that he is a traitor or that he violated the law or some reason like that therefore he shouldn't get the prize; however if it was reviewed properly I have no doubt that it would be clear that what he did was to expose those that are the real traitors or people who either violated the law or did things that should have been a blatant violation of the law. It is no longer easy to tell whether or not the law should have any legitimacy now that people who participate in torture are protected by the law but those that expose it are prosecuted.

I'm not going to worry about that case too much since I'm sure there will be plenty of other people who will be doing it anyway.

If I were to play a devils advocate and argue against it it would be because the Nobel Peace Prize and many other Nobel prizes have turned into a bad joke along with many other politically correct awards. Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Henry A. Kissinger, Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, and Barack H. Obama all won the Nobel Peace Prize and most if not all of them have been involved in more activities to promote war a lot of the time than they were to prevent it. Bradley Manning shouldn't be in the same category as them nor should some of the legitimate candidates like Martin Luther King Jr.

If the leading criteria for the prize involves taking a break from war mongering long enough to gain some political backing to claim they're promoting peace they might all deserve the prize; but if that isn't the case you might wonder of many of the recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize believe in Orwell's claim that "War is peace" is a rational belief.

There have of course been some candidates that appear to have been legitimate including many that actually won it like Martin Luther King Junior, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela etc. but in some cases even when the candidate who won seems legitimate there is still major controversies around it. In 1997 when the prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and Jody Williams from Vermont there was some concerns expressed by the enormous number of people involved in the grass roots effort about the possibility of the media event at the time being staged and that they thought Jody Williams should have done more to share the credit with those that worked with her. When it was reported the media flocked to Vermont where Jody Williams met them on her property alone barefoot and attracted an enormous amount of attention and hype. At the time some of the people that worked with her took offense to her grandstanding and thought she should ahve done much more to let people know that this was a result of an enormous effort at the grass roots level. Right or wrong this enabled her to become the leading spokesperson for the campaign and hardly anyone even remembers the incident any more.

The Nobel Pace Prize has almost always been awarded based more on politics than on merit. The few exceptions were probably at least partially a result of a massive grass roots effort and the willingness of the establishment to allow those efforts to have some degree of success. Lately the establishment seems much less likely to allow good candidates to win than they might have been at times in the past especially when you consider Obama's relatively recent prize. Roots Action has also called for a revocation of that award and it is accompanied by a Facebook effort with the same goal. I it is ahrd to even imagine why he received it in the first place when you consider the timing. Many people claimed that it was because after the Bush years they were willing to award it to anyone that wasn't Bush and hope that he would earn it after the fact. Absurd as it sounds it seems to fit the circumstances.

If that was the hope he clearly didn't earn it at all; he has been involved in as many other atrocities as many other presidents including the Drone attacks that are unprecedented and unjustifiable and the fact that he has been prosecuting many whistle blowers while letting the real criminals off the hook. The irony of awarding both Badley Manning and Barack Obama the Peace Prize would be hard to miss and it would clearly indicate a major problem with the process.

According to someone that refers to himself as a "Wise Geek" there is little or no chance that this award will be withdrawn because...

The committees which administer the Nobel Prizes are very cautious. They investigate nominees very carefully, often awarding prizes 20 years or more after the Nobel-worthy accomplishment. In some cases, the committee has lingered so long over a prize decision that the honoree has died before the prize can be awarded, which explains why some seemingly Nobel-worthy individuals have failed to receive Nobel Prizes. Complete article

When considering how long they investigated Obama's "Nobel-worthy accomplishment" I'm not convinced this geek is as wise as he seems to think he is; nor am I ruling out the possibility that he is just creating propaganda for the public to prop up the credibility of the Nobel Peace Prize committees. The fact that they don't seem to have conducted this investigation very well at all seems to be good grounds to revoke it and it would do more to restore part of their credibility; although more would have to be done if they wanted to be considered sincere by well informed people.

However it wouldn't be the first time something as ironic as that happened. In 1939 apparently Erik Brandt nominated Adolf Hitler for the prize not because he thought he deserved it but because he wanted to satirize the process that was surrounding the prize at the time.

Adolf Hitler was nominated once in 1939. Incredulous though it may seem today, the Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1939, by a member of the Swedish parliament, an E.G.C. Brandt. Apparently though, Brandt never intended the nomination to be taken seriously. Brandt was to all intents and purposes a dedicated antifascist, and had intended this nomination more as a satiric criticism of the current political debate in Sweden. ( At the time, a number of Swedish parliamentarians had nominated then British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlin for the Nobel Peace Prize, a nomination which Brandt viewed with great skepticism. ) However, Brandt's satirical intentions were not well received at all and the nomination was swiftly withdrawn in a letter dated 1 February 1939. Complete article

Brandt seems to have been both shocked and surprised when he realized that most people, including the media, didn't get his irony. Many people even wrote him telegrams and letters to express their thanks and appreciation for his nominating Hitler. Even the German leadership seemed happy and content about the nomination (when he actually intended to make them feel offended by the irony), so Brandt quickly turned tail and withdrew it just a few days later. Complete article

The political activity surrounding the Peace Prize isn't limited to this award either; the vast majority of high profile awards that I can think of seem to be political awards that have little or nothing to do with merit. Sam Walton was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George H.W. Bush while his corporation was already in the process of restoring an oligarchy system that has reduced freedom for many; Louis IX was named a Saint despite the fact that he led two of the Crusades and killed an enormous amount of innocent people. This isn't an isolated incident for Catholic Saints; many of them have led other wars or inquisitions that couldn't be justified to day and they continue in their efforts to make many other questionable candidates like Pius the XII Saints as well. at the same time many people that might deserve are routinely passed over. The Seeds of Peace and Gandhi were both nominated at one time or another but neither won.

In fact if you consider all these wars or inquisitions that have been led by both Catholic Saints and several winners of the Nobel Peace Prize mass murder, as they probably should be considered, then the percentage of mass murders among the Catholic Saints or Nobel Peace Prize winners would be much higher than the percentage of mass murderers among the general public.

And when someone that deserves an award doesn't get it it is difficult if not impossible to say so in a graceful way even if it is justified. I could cite one Sociologist who has done an enormous amount of good work that stands up to scrutiny who expressed thanks for getting second prize in some kind of award but couldn't understand why he didn't get first. Anyone that wasn't familiar with his work would almost certainly consider this inappropriate but he's probably right and the reason might be that his work didn't back up the beliefs of those with the most political power. At the Same time Robert Hare who has done an enormous amount of work in a related field has received an enormous amount of awards; and his work is terrible but he supports the beliefs of those with political power. Robert Hare has a long history of either being sued by others for one reason or another or threatening to sue others in some cases even to suppress academic criticism. This was explained more in "Children Psychopaths? And Mitt Romney’s Bullying History" for those of you who might be interested. If you have to threaten a lawsuit to back up your work instead of refuting the criticism it is hard to imagine how he would deserve all these awards.

It is hard to imagine that Bradley Manning has much of a chance at winning the prize although he clearly does deserve it far more than most if not all of the people with much more political backing that will almost certainly be nominated. However if enough people at the grass roots level make it clear that they think he deserves it then they could make the Nobel Peace Prize committee either choose him or lose the last of their credibility.

As it stands the people that know enough to sort through the details recognize which of these winners deserved the Prize and which nominees should have gotten them but didn't but a large segment of the public doesn't do this. Under these circumstances the more important thing might be to expose how flawed the practice of giving these awards away is. If the best way to do that also involves lobbying to give the prize to someone that deserves it then we should support that.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Customer feedback for Wal-Mart and elsewhere

As I previously indicated in my blog about, Negotiating at Wal-Mart, I haven't finished giving Wal-Mart customer feedback and won't until the last of a gift card has been used up. However this may not be good enough. Wal-Mart isn't the only corporation that takes a portion of the money they collect from consumers and uses it for political purposes without passing on the political influence to those that ultimately pay for this political speech; which is why I think that most if not all business with large corporations is political activity as well. If you start plugging the name of any national or multinational corporation at Open you will almost always find that they're involved in political activities which they finance with money they get from their customers and they rarely if ever look out for the best interest of the customer who indirectly provides those funds.

In the long run it would be better to shop at businesses that aren't conducting political activities that threaten democratic participation or are involved in all these scandals at all; in this case it would still be a good idea to give them positive feedback that might include suggestions about how they might be able to obtain a competitive advantage over corporate oligarchies like Wal-Mart by buying locally which in many cases is better for the environment and saves money on shipping and in the case of food it may mean fresher food that could also be healthier. Buying locally also means that they're helping the local economy without trying to make people compete for work with those that have little or no worker rights. Presumably they already know this but they might not know how much their customers care. A small number of people that express sincere concern could make a difference.

As long as I'm going to use up this card I figured I might as well give them feed back in writing each time I make a purchase and mention what it about briefly while leaving the store. This might include a statement "This is customer feed back to ask the management not to support voter suppressant laws either through American Legislation Exchange Counsel or any other ways," or "please ask them to drop charges against Penny Winters for eating an Oreo cookie; with all the scandals that Wal-Mart executives are involved in it is highly inappropriate for them to be using tax payer money to intimidate their employees." I have little doubt that Wal-Mart would almost certainly not care much about the feedback that they receive from me unless it impacts their sales as well and they will have no way of knowing exactly how much it might do so. The bigger impact on their sales won't be from me; it will be from the enormous amount of stories about their activities that are being reported from sources that are much more widely read and from the fact that many other customers have also had major problems with the quality of their merchandise as well; however I can still provide a small contribution.

For every one letter that I have given them I have attempted to give away at least a few others to other people suggesting that they consider this too either with this letter or their own; and I have recommended that in most cases at least with Wal-Mart the best thing to do is to just boycott them when ever possible. Considering the fact that Wal-Mart has responded in draconian manners to many of the protests that they have encountered and that they routinely attempt to intimidate their critics including any employee that stands up for their rights or anyone that raises issues including former customers that sued them over their defective bikes it might be a good idea to let other people know about their complaints about Wal-Mart first then bring them to Wal-Mart. The old saying that many retailers used to have, "If you like our service let your friends know; if you have any concerns let us know," is based on the assumption that the business will actually try to address these concerns; this no longer seems to apply to Wal-Mart. They seem to think they can rely more on their deceptive advertising, public relations and market share to keep their customers than actually addressing anyone's concerns. Unfortunately there are many areas of the country where people don't have any other options since Wal-Mart has wiped out the competition, often with the help of government subsidies in the form of tax breaks or road construction paid for by local tax payers. In the long run more needs to be done to give them better options, but in the short run anything that can help let them know people are going to start standing up to corporate corruption even if our politicians don't will help.

The following are a couple of the letters that I have written to Wal-Mart and given to the cashiers or the people at the service desk asking them to pass it on to the management; if anyone else thinks this is a good idea for Wal-Mart or anywhere else feel free to use this or improvise with your own comments.

This is from a paying customer

I write this to inform you that just because I am conducting business at this store doesn’t mean I want a portion of the money you collect from me to be used for political purposes that I may not agree with. Over the past thirty years many corporations have dramatically increased the amount of money they have spent on lobbying, campaign contributions, including some to encourage voter suppression laws, advertising (most if not all of which is deceptive), shipping from half way around the world, activities to promote the privatization of schools even thought they have been overwhelmingly proven to be detrimental to the education of children by organizations like the “National Education Policy Center” at Colorado University and many other credible sources that receive little or no attention from the commercial media. This has been happening at the same time that corporations have consolidated into a much smaller number of outlets for goods that no longer seem to be providing real competition against each other. These corporations or oligarchies have simultaneously been cutting the cost of many activities that have contributed to the value of their merchandise, including worker pay or safety. A recent NYT article has quoted a Wal-Mart representative as saying “It is not financially feasible for the brands to make such investments,” in reference to the safety conditions of workers. They claim this was taken out of context which to some degree is true; however when it is put in proper context it may not make Wal-Mart look that much better. The safety of the workers also has an impact on the quality of the merchandise they pass on to the consumers. This has been indicated by the fact that many products being manufactured in these sweatshops half way around the world that have to go through expensive shipping and distribution subcontractors and add up additional bureaucratic expenses haven’t been that much cheaper but the quality has been gradually reduced over the past thirty years. This seems to mean that worker safety and quality control doesn’t seem to be “financially feasible” but advertising lobbying and campaign contributions and many other expenses that don’t benefit the customer is “financially feasible,” judging by the fact that these expenses aren’t being cut.

We have been told that corporations compete against each other to provide quality products at a low price. This clearly doesn’t appear to be true anymore; now that they have gone through an enormous amount of mergers and acquisitions. Most if not all corporations now rely on merchandise that is produced in sweat shops half way around the world, they add on the same bureaucratic expenses and the products fall apart much faster than they used to. An enormous amount of evidence from many reliable sources, unlike the commercial media which has a financial incentive to withhold information about the people that provide advertising money, is available to back this up and indicate that there are many more problems. In some cases they have become so extreme that even the commercial media has found it needs to report on it to maintain what they seem to consider a minimal amount of credibility.

Please redirect the money now being used for political purposes, whether it is through the American Legislative Exchange Council or other sources, back to manufacturing and services that actually benefit the customer that ultimately pays for corporate speech which is, justifiably or not, protected. If customers have to pay, indirectly, as a cost of business that is passed on to consumers, for corporate speech they should be entitled to influence on that speech whether that speech is in the form of advertising or political activities. The customer should also have equal rights to their own free speech, especially when there is overwhelming evidence that many activities are being conducted that result in fraudulent activities that cost the customer money. If corporations continue behaving in this manner and politicians that collect campaign contributions continue looking the other way then greater peaceful efforts will have to be made to inform more people of these activities before this country is ruined, if necessary.

This is from a paying customer

Please ask the people in they appropriate position to drop charges against Penny Winters for taking a package of Oreo cookies. The fact that she appears to have been charged at all should be considered outrageous by any reasonable person. Wal-Mart has been using highly unethical methods to suppress wages for decades and this has led to a much greater poverty rates in the US. At the same time they have managed to find ways to donate an enormous amount of money to political campaigns and lobby to suppress the voting rights of many of their own customers with the money they collect from them. Wal-Mart executives have also cut manufacturing expenses so much that the quality of their merchandise has been suffering dramatically; and this has even led to safety violations and human rights violations. A Wal-Mart memo has stated that, “It is not financially feasible for the brands to make such investments.” They claim this was taken out of context which to some degree is true; however when it is put in proper context it may not make Wal-Mart look that much better. The safety of the workers also has an impact on the quality of the merchandise they pass on to the consumers. This has been indicated by the fact that many products being manufactured in these sweatshops half way around the world that have to go through expensive shipping and distribution subcontractors and add up additional bureaucratic expenses haven’t been that much cheaper but the quality has been gradually reduced over the past thirty years. This seems to mean that worker safety and quality control doesn’t seem to be “financially feasible” but advertising lobbying and campaign contributions and many other expenses that don’t benefit the customer is “financially feasible,” judging by the fact that these expenses aren’t being cut.

Wal-Mart has benefited from an enormous amount of tax subsidies and they have done little or nothing to provide a return to the tax payer for these subsidies. Instead they have used this to gain a competitive edge over business that may have actually done a better job than Wal-Mart; in many cases by taking advantage of factory direct sales to cut costs for consumers without cutting the quality. By having her charged with this crime it will cost tax payers much more money and add to the subsidies that they have already received. At the same time the Wal-Mart executives seem to be able to avoid any accountability for their abuses of workers, bribery scandals, use of undocumented aliens and many other activities that probably should be considered illegal. Some might conclude this might be because of their political connections; whether this is true or not it is highly inappropriate to ask tax payers to spend an enormous amount of money to intimidate their workers while the executives are reaping enormous profits without providing customers with nearly as good a quality product as they attempt to convince people they do. Most if not all corporations now rely on merchandise that is produced in sweat shops half way around the world, they add on the same bureaucratic expenses and the products fall apart much faster than they used to. An enormous amount of evidence from many reliable sources, unlike the commercial media which has a financial incentive to withhold information about the people that provide advertising money, is available to back this up and indicate that there are many more problems. In some cases they have become so extreme that even the commercial media has found it needs to report on it to maintain what they seem to consider a minimal amount of credibility.

Please redirect the money now being used for political purposes, whether it is through the American Legislative Exchange Council or other sources, back to manufacturing and services that actually benefit the customer that ultimately pays for corporate speech which is, justifiably or not, protected. If customers have to pay, indirectly, as a cost of business that is passed on to consumers, for corporate speech they should be entitled to influence on that speech whether that speech is in the form of advertising or political activities. The customer should also have equal rights to their own free speech, especially when there is overwhelming evidence that many activities are being conducted that result in fraudulent activities that cost the customer money. There are already many calls to boycott Wal-Mart and there will be more which I will almost certainly join soon unless Wal-Mart dramatically changes their practices and improves their ethical activities and quality of their merchandise.

The workers that I hand these to aren't the ones that have been involved in the scandals that Wal-Mart has been involved in so I try to keep it polite. On one occasion when I said it was customer feed back asking them not to press charges against Penny Winters for eating an Oreo cookie the cashier had told me that she couldn't accept it and to go to the service counter; this seemed to make her a little nervous although that wasn't my intention and I tried to state this politely. At the service counter when I said it was for the management they told me that she was right there and quickly handed me off to a supervisor, which enabled them to avoid addressing the subject, not that I asked them to, previously, I just handed them the papers with a brief statement and left. Even the supervisor is low level management and almost certainly not involved in the scandals either and they probably aren't paid much more than the regular employees; however I explained a little more to her about what it was about and informed her that I thought it was outrageous that they were using tax payer money for this purpose. This made her a little nervous and she thanked me for my suggestion and I didn't push it any further. Perhaps I should have made more of an effort to inform her that I understood that this wasn't her decision and that she shouldn't take offense. The people that make all these decisions don't make themselves available to the public which is part of the reason why there is no accountability at these oligarchies at all.

This would be bound to make them a little nervous if it happened on a regular basis; they're not accustomed to having people give them much if any feedback about anything that isn't trivial except from protesters or critics that communicate through different means. My intention isn't to make the workers nervous, and most of them aren't, but I suspect that if they continue business as usual indefinitely they will find something else to be nervous about. If on the other hand boycotts, customer feedback and other forms of non-violent protests bring about real reform and businesses like Wal-Mart rapidly lose their market share to more responsible companies then they would have less to be nervous about and they might have an easier time getting jobs at companies that treat them better, at least that is the objective.

Ideally it would be better to just boycott Wal-Mart, of course; and that is what I will be doing. But unfortunately they still have an enormous market share and even though it is becoming increasingly obvious that it will continue to shrink there are still many locations where customers have few if any choice but to do at least some of their shopping at Wal-Mart; especially the complacent that don't even try. It would be helpful to shop more at stores that are much more responsible or at least don't have such a dominant impact on the market that they can single-handedly drive down the quality of a large segment of merchandise on the market or drive down worker and consumer protection. As indicated in author tag “A small success against planned obsolescence” there is at least one national store that has responded to customer feedback much better. One thing that I didn't mention previously is that when I first bought the pair of sneakers that I made them replace because the quality was so bad, when I went to the register there was a woman with a complaint at the register and she obviously had a return. The cashier was very young and had an amused look on her face. I couldn't hear every thing they said but it appeared as if this woman was taking her time instead of going straight back to the returns department as the young cashier was trying to direct her. Instead she was politely explaining to the cashier that the quality of merchandise was much better before she was born, and that it was gradually being reduced. Clearly I wasn't the first or only one that was complaining about shoddy merchandise and the people I dealt with previously at Wal-Mart openly admitted that they were also getting an enormous amount of complaints but unlike this other national store they are slower to even partially address the problem.

There are many other smaller outlets for both department store items or groceries which Wal-Mart is now also dominating. Being as out spoken as I have on some occasions is not the way I, or many other people, would prefer to address the excessive deterioration of the quality of merchandise while they cut manufacturing expenses and services while simultaneously sending advertising expenses, lobbying, campaign contributions, and shipping expenses to send things half way around the world; but with centralized corporate control of the economic system it is difficult if not impossible to get them to pay attention otherwise.

This is why I have decided that on occasion that I would try to provide more positive feedback to them to let them know they might receive a benefit from addressing the concerns of their customers. The following is just one sample of a feedback letter I might hand to a grocery store; others could just as easily be presented to other types of outlets and if anyone think this is a good idea and would prefer their own comments that would probably be just as well; although anyone is welcome to use these if it is easier. In this case there would be no reason for the recipient to express concern since ideally it wouldn't be intended to be too critical although it does include requests to boycott Koch Bothers and Monsanto's which I have no doubt that most grocery stores won't rush to do; although a few small outlets might do so. If those get business then it could reduce the dominance of these two companies as well and it could lead those that don't completely abandon these oligarchies to at least cut abck on how much shelf space they provide for starters.

To whom it may concern

It is becoming increasingly obvious that when doing business by purchasing products, especially at larger corporations, the average consumer is also conducting political activity that they may not always intend. This has been indicated by the growing amount of money many corporations have been donating to political campaigns. These campaign contributions and lobbying expenses are also a business expense and many large oligarchies like Wal-Mart are using their market power to pass these expenses on to customers without passing on the influence and they often lobby against the best interest of their own customers. Additional corporations that do this include the oil companies, Koch Industries, and Monsanto. This has led to many responsible people to boycott these companies and companies that don't adopt these practices may benefit from this.

Many of the activities of these socially irresponsible companies are also devastating the environment and even though the commercial media isn't covering this adequately environmental destruction is mounting at a much faster pace than many people realize. Many of the people protesting against this are routinely arrested while those that destroy the environment benefit from their political connections. This type of activity can't last indefinitely but if more companies provide better alternatives then even without political reform well informed people can reduce the amount of damage being done by shopping wisely.

One of the reasons I and many other shoppers may be shopping at your store might be because we have found that, as far as we can tell, your store hasn't been involved in this type of activity. If you would like to take advantage of the growing number of people boycotting these socially irresponsibly companies, and in in many cases, perhaps save money on shipping and distribution I hope you will consider buying more of your products locally. This will reduce the amount of energy used to ship merchandise and provide a factory or farm direct advantage; and in the case of produce it may mean that you would be providing fresher products and there would be much less waste. Large oligarchies like Wal-Mart don't take advantage of local suppliers. Contrary to their propaganda it isn't more efficient to ship large amounts of goods half way around the world when they could often just as easily ship them much shorter distances.

If possible please try to minimize the amount of products that you carry from Koch Industries, and Monsanto's. They have both been involved in activities that are dangerous to the health of our democracy as well as the environment and the food supply. Koch Industries has openly lobbied to make it harder to vote and privatize schools even though it has been overwhelmingly proven by reliable sources, including "The National Education Policy Center" that the privatization of schools has had a negative impact on the quality of education and it has created biases that involve suppressing education about corporate corruption and environmental damage. Monsanto's has also conducted a lot of inappropriate political activities and there products have been shown to increase the health problems in rats according to a study done by Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen and colleague; this is just one of many studies that have raised questions about Monsanto's and although they have been quick to refute many of them, a close look at the details in most cases often indicates that their rebuttals may not be as well researched and they may be based partly on a financial motive.

If you can't completely boycott Koch Brothers and Monsanto's products please don't give them the most prominent spots in the store for marketing purposes and if these are chosen as a result of slotting fees collected from manufacturers please provide disclosure of these fees and how they might effect how you chose what products to carry and which ones to display most prominently. In a free market system the customer is supposed to have a wide variety of choices from a large selection of suppliers that compete for their business by providing the customer with the information they need to make important decisions. When practices like slotting fees are used to prevent small businesses from getting into the market it clearly prevents fair competition and this should be disclosed so the consumer has the information they need to make decisions.

Excuse me if this seems a bit intrusive but by providing business for these corporations that are supporting voter suppression laws and corrupting the food supply smaller businesses and consumers indirectly and unintentionally contribute to the corruption of our own government and wind up with inferior merchandise in return, often for higher prices while those with political connections profit from them at the expense of the rest of the public.

The current practice of ignoring the escalating amount of environmental destruction and other economic and social problems which aren't being addressed properly by either the commercial media, the most dominant corporations or the two leading political parties which both collect an enormous amount of money from the oligarchies that dominate the economy cannot be continued indefinitely without paying a high price. Fortunately there are a growing number of alternative media outlets exposing this and sorting through the good ones can indicate a better alternative. It is also beginning to appear that at least Wal-Mart is almost certainly declining much more than currently being acknowledged and smaller companies that act more reasonably can pick up the business that they are rapidly losing. There latest public relations campaign to convince the public that they're donating to the needy isn't going to fool a growing number of people that have already recognized that all their past public relation campaigns have been based on lies that can be easily exposed. The more money they spend telling people they're donating to the poor the less money they have to actually donate to the poor and any rational person can recognize this simple fact. Such a campaign would be much more credible if they used in expensive tactics like the web or small in store ads to promote it and by now it is clear that it would no longer be a credible claim if it were coming from Wal-Mart anyway.

Clearly if I am the only one that does something like this it won't make much if any difference at all but there are already many other people that are doing similar things; in fact this idea partially came from many of them although I can't give credit to all the individuals and organizations that have expressed similar ideas. It could have an even greater impact if more people did similar things. If it became common place for people to make a few statements while making a purchase that supports political causes indirectly it is bound to draw some attention and it would be highly unreasonable for those that collect this money and use some of it for political purposes to complain if the people that provide their business want their own influence in the political system that they're indirectly financing.

Consider how it would sound if they had their cashiers say "Thank you for doing business with us; a portion of the money you gave us will be used for political purposes which you might disagree with and we would appreciate it if you ignore this inconvenient fact and settle for much fewer rights to free speech than the corporate CEOs routinely have."

Of course they would never say anything like that but if they did they would be accurately describing the business practices that they routinely use.

Another way to make this more effective might be if multiple people from the same area did the same thing and after handing over a few of these customer feedback statements, or more likely a variety of them that the individuals wrote themselves, if they continued to see Koch Bothers products that were in the most prominent spots in the store, for one reason or another, they could do their shopping together, without buying Koch products of course, and before leaving the store ask to see the manager and request that they consider changing their displays and hand them a request in writing before leaving. This feedback statement might be one that they all agreed on while the ones that were written by individuals could be more extensive. An immediate response to the might be unlikely but the management would almost certainly have to at least consider this request. If they continued to display Koch products prominently while another store that faced the same situation responded by changing their displays then the entire group might abandon those that continue to support the Koch Bothers and their voter suppression and environmental denial policies.

This method of boycotting could make it more effective by drawing more attention. Then if it worked in one store and word got around more people might try it across the country. This could lead to Koch and Monsanto's free towns and attract much more attention at least from the alternative media outlets and eventually the commercial media will have to cover it to present a token amount of credibility. Then the Koch Brothers and Monsanto's could lose more sales as Wal-Mart already seems to be. Boycotting Wal-Mart is much simpler since it is clear what they sell and where but Monsanto's and the Koch Bothers will require more awareness and planning.

Koch Brothers Exposed

photo source

The claim that the customer received a benefit from these sweat shops have always been false with the possible exception of when they have the sweat shops locally and even then I doubt if there is much benefit for the customer and most customers wouldn't want to obtain that benefit that way. Any savings that are obtained from using sweat shops half way around the world are for the most part lost due to the higher cost of shipping and handling to get them here or they're kept in the form of higher profits. When the products are made under these conditions they tend to be much lower quality and have to be replaced two or three times as often or in the case of Wal-Mart merchandise perhaps four or five times as often; which enables them to take a cut more often but doesn't benefit the customer. Furthermore there are many more negative externalities like the dramatic increase in pollution that is involved in shipping low quality merchandise half way around the world that has to be replaced much more often.

When they report another fire that kills more people half way around the world this should be an reminder that the customer is also paying the price in the form of lower quality merchandise and still footing the bill for the bureaucracy getting the merchandise half way around the world or worse when they don't report it as well as they could or should. The fire in Bangladesh was reported widely for a little while but it has for the most part been forgotten by the commercial media and there is little more mention of it. Even when they were reporting it the commercial media only covered it as an isolated incident in many cases while some of the alternative outlets have reported more extensively including Common Dreams which reports that there have been over 300 deaths in Bangladesh alone since 2006. The following article which I didn't spot until more than two months after the fact also reports even more deaths, presumably not limited to Bangladesh, in garment factories. This was from ABC news but it wasn't repeated nearly as often as they repeat the material that they want people to take notice of so it is much easier for many people like me to miss it when not watching too closely.

Another Factory Fire Kills More Garment Workers

Another garment factory has burned in Bangladesh and killed seven more workers sewing clothes for Western customers, according to groups that monitor working conditions there.

It is the latest in a rash of deadly fires in the high-rise factories that have made Bangladesh the second largest exporter of clothing to the United States behind China. More than 700 workers have died in factory fires in the past five years. Two months ago, a ferocious blaze at a factory making clothes for major U.S. retailers killed an estimated 112 workers there.

This latest deadly fire occurred in the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka at a factory called Smart Export Garments Ltd., which was believed to be manufacturing clothes for the Spanish parent company of the American retailer Zara, as well as several European brands, worker rights groups told ABC News overnight.

"After more than two decades of the apparel industry knowing about the risks to these workers, nothing substantial has changed," said Judy Gearhart, executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum, one of several groups advocating for a fire safety overhaul in the country. Complete article

The following are a few more articles about related material that you might be interested in.

Wal-Mart to pay $2.1M for overcharging customers

"Wal-Mart Executives Sweat Slow February Start in E-Mails" Bloomberg News

"WalMart's Mexican Bribery Scandal Will Sink It Like an Iceberg Sank the Titanic" Forbes

"Wal-Mart Protests Pit Workers Against Shoppers" Rick Newman This may not be entirely accurate; first of all it may be the management that is trying to "Pit Workers Against Shoppers." Second of all they're scamming both the customers and the workers with deceptive business practices and if this is considered carefully it won't work and many customers may realize that they have more common ground with the workers than with the management that is involved in fraudulent business practices.

"Putting Wal-Mart's Green Moves in Context" Stacy Mitchell

"Why Walmart’s Death Grip on Our Food System Is Intensifying Poverty" Stacy Mitchell

Institute for Local Self-Reliance

"Here are many MORE things NOT to buy from Koch…" Mark Crispin Miller

"Debunking the GMO Talking Points with Ease" Nick Brannigan

"STUDY: Agriculture Giant Monsanto’s Products Cause Tumors, Organ Damage In Rats" Aviva Shen based on study by Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen and colleagues

Monsanto products to avoid and alternatives to buy at food freedom group

Monsanto products to avoid and alternatives to buy at ethical investing

More Monsanto products to avoid at natural femina

"Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America from Monsanto to Wal-Mart" Democracy Now

"Walmart Falling Flat with Not-so-Fresh Foods" The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union