Wednesday, May 29, 2013
By using the GDP as the leading indicator of economic strength we have created a system where it is more profitable for many of the most powerful corporations not to minimize crime or war, intentionally or not. This does little or nothing to consider whether or not financial transactions are beneficial to society or not.
The result is that crime and war profiteering are excellent for the GDP based economy, based on the way most economists measure things, even though they're devastating for the vast majority of the public!!
Some of the simplest examples would be if your house is broken into and you are robbed then you have to buy stuff to replace the products that were stolen; this results in an increase in the GDP but you receive no benefit since it is a replacement expense that might not have happened if social problems were solved in the most effective manner possible and crime was reduced. If on the other hand you pay more for security systems to prevent this from happening then the GDP also increases but you have no way of knowing whether it worked or not, and it won't improve the quality of life for the majority as much as preventing the social inequities that contribute to crime in the first place.
Another simple example is that if there is an increase in availability of guns to the most violent people in society then they will be much more likely to participate in violent activity that scares the public and leads to an arms race which makes guns much more wide spread. Once there are more guns then it leads to increased crime and increased panic and more calls for more guns.
These two examples might not seem quite so clear cut to many but I have little doubt that if the details were reviewed and alternatives were considered they would prove to be legitimate claims; however until then a much more obvious example might be the private prison industry. In a government controlled system the theory is at least that they will try to rehabilitate the criminals so that they wouldn't commit more crimes. It may not always work that way but at least they try to do it. In a private prison industry, like any other industry, they want to maximize their profits and expand their business. So right off the bat they have an incentive not to rehabilitate the criminals and they make more money of they conduct more crimes and help them expand their business.
This creates an incredibly obvious conflict of interests without even studying the private prisons that have already been put in place; and when studying them it seems clear that it only gets worse.
The basic problem whether it is home security systems, prisons, guns or any other thing that might relate to crime or war instead of trying to figure out how to reduce crime in the most effective manner possible it is often assumed that an increased GDP will solve the problem or they just put much more emphasis on this without even considering whether or not it decreases crime. Measuring the success of the economy solely on the GDP without taking into consideration whether the customers get their moneys worth or is accomplishing their goals in the most effective way possible isn't designed to benefit the vast majority of the public; instead it is designed to assume that when ever money changes hands and profits for those that run major corporations increase it is beneficial even if there is little or no benefit to those that aren't getting their share of profit.
Many of these corporations make their profits when crime is high so they don't want to eliminate crime that eliminates their profits; instead they want to see crime stay high so they can continue offering a method to address it that doesn't actually work, although they attempt to make it appear as if it does. In the case of home security systems which have been widely advertised they offer perceived security for those that have their system installed but a closer review indicates their are many problems and they have had an enormous amount of complaints. Ironically people who put the stickers on their house, from ADT or any other security system, without paying for the whole system may receive as much benefit as a deterrent than the actual system. These systems are also subsidized by the local police since mainly what they do involves calling in alarms to the police and many of them turn out to be false alarms costing the tax payer money and even when they do turn out to be real alarms the police rarely get their before the burglar leaves. David Cay Johnston has written about this in his book "Free Lunch" and elaborated in an interview on the subject.
Graham Martin has done a review of their Home Security Services Terms and Conditions which clearly indicates many more problems and if you Google ADT complaints there are plenty more where that came from; but the biggest problem might be that they offer a perceived solution that gets an enormous amount of air time while real solutions that work much better don't get much if any air time.
These commercials are played over and over again on TV and they do nothing to address the social problems that contribute to crime. there are actually a large variety of contributing factors including the vast economic inequalities and violence against children that lead to escalating problems with crime and many other contributing issues that are fairly well researched but none of the best research gets much if any time on commercial TV. Instead what the vast majority of the public that relies on commercial TV gets is an enormous amount of appeals to emotions that do absolutely nothing to address many of these problems. there is a financial incentive to air these commercials that don't actually reduce crime but there isn't a financial incentive to offer solution that do address the root causes of the problem under the current system. This means that commercials for ADT are profitable and the cost of these commercials is passed on to the customer but the more effective methods of solving problems never get widespread attention; instead we receive an enormous amount of coverage from demagogues like Nancy Grace and Jane Velez-Mitchell that provide an enormous appeal to emotion but no discussion on how to find effective ways to reduce crime.
More effective researchers that have done a lot to explain how violence at an early age escalates to more violence later in life don't get much if any air time. They don't appeal to emotion; instead they encourage people to think rationally. If more people think rationally about this subject and many others they might also think rationally about all the deceptive commercials and appeals to emotion that the commercial media is profiting off of. This means they might be less likely to fall for many of these advertising scams. Rational education through commercial means doesn't have a financial incentive but deceptive scams do.
This may essentially mean that one of the the biggest, if not the biggest, crime and war profiteers is almost certainly the centralized commercial media establishment.
The vast majority of us fund the commercial media indirectly but they are almost completely unaccountable to the majority of the public; instead they answer to their share holders and their advertisers. Since the massive amount of consolidations and acquisitions led to a heavy concentration of the economic system in the hands of a relatively small percentage of the public the majority of the public has no choice when they buy some of the most basic necessitates but to finance the commercial media indirectly since the amount of money corporations spend on advertising has become a necessity, and this expense has to be passed on to the public without any accountability. This means that speech is protected much more when it has a financial incentive but the ultimate financier of the speech, consumers, have no control over it; instead the corporations that control the oligarchy system virtually monopolize speech on the commercial media while the rest of us only have a much more limited right to free speech that can only reach a much smaller percentage of the public.
A closer look indicates that crime profiteering may not be limited to the most obvious businesses although many of them might not be intentionally involved in crime profiteering the results may be the same. There are an enormous amount of business translations that lead to an enormous economic inequality and this often means that many of the poorest people in society don't have the resources they need to deal with their economic and social needs; and this often leads to increased crime although most of it is almost certainly indirect.
An enormous amount of economic activity could easily fall into this category including gambling, insurance, which is a reverse form of gambling, advertising, which is designed to convince the customer they're getting more than they actually are; and an incredibly large volume of products that are promoted that don't actually have much if any practical benefit for the customer despite an enormous amount of advertising to convince them that they're worthwhile; I have listed many of these in a previous blog about Truth in Advertising Store Now Open!!
In some cases they even backfire on the profiteers who often become the victims of the violence they indirectly instigate as a result of their business practices. One of the most blatant examples of this might be Wal-Mart as I indicated in a previous post about Wal-Mart shoplifting vigilantism gone wild? There have been an enormous amount of crimes on their property including a lot of shootings which have been listed at Wal-Mart Shootings, and a lot of shoplifting incidents and property damage that has impacted their profits. Unfortunately the worst damage in these cases have been done to low level employees, customers or even the shoplifters themselves who have often been injured or even killed in these incidents, including some that are started over petty things like underwear or even sandpaper. Wal-Mart rarely has to pay for these even when they are partially a result of their policies that almost certainly lead to increased crime. The standard operating procedure involves putting all the blame on people at the low levels. mostly the shoplifter or other perpetrators, but often the people that overreact as well with excessive force, not on the Wal-Mart executives that make many of the decisions that could dramatically reduce these incidents.
This means that Wal-Mart continues to have a financial incentive to implement policies that indirectly increase crime. they even use their marketing and stocking practices that set the stage for a dramatic mount of Black Friday riots on their property. Amazingly the blame for these riots is routinely put on the participants without much if any attention to the practices of Wal-Mart that make these much more common on their property. Not that the participants deserve some responsibility but they clearly shouldn't be completely ignoring the possibility that Wal-Mart policies are instigating these riots.
An additional amount of crime profiteering takes place at prisons, including those that are run publicly, which is still most of the, due to the fact that they already privatize many of the activities that are involved including providing products and services for the prisons that don't directly involve security or perceived justice. This includes the meals they receive and the use of phones and commissaries, which are all controlled by the government but they often give monopolies to well connected corporations who don't have to compete for their business so they charge much more money than they would in the somewhat free market elsewhere. This adds on a lot of expenses to the people that are caught up in the prison industrial cycle. It may be easy to say that this is all their own fault; but when considering the most effective way to rehabilitate people it should be more important to consider what is more effective and guaranteeing that they will never get out of debt is not the best way to rehabilitate them. As tempting as it is to say that they should pay for their crimes they can't pay what they don't have and if it only leads to more crime than it isn't working.
Furthermore if that line of logic is legitimate it should be more important to hold those guilty of white collar crime since they often do have the money to pay back a large portion of what they stole; but in practice white collar crimes often have political connections so they not only don't have to pay for their crimes but they don't even have to stop committing them and they rarely ever have to fear going to jail.
Being required to pay for their crimes is clearly something that only applies to lower classes of criminals.
Both Robert F Kennedy and Dwight D Eisenhower also raised serious questions about whether we should evaluate the US this way or divert money from eduction to weapons; a couple of these quotes were cited on my previous post about Semi-Secret Fundamentals of Economics. We no longer seem to have any high profile politicians or media people who are willing to even discuss this let alone suggest that we should find another way to judge the economy and the political establishment.
One of the most important aspects of this is the fact that the GDP based economy is also devastating the environment as well; if we provided products and services that we need in the most effective way possible and stopped wasting an enormous amount of money on things we don't need then we would save an enormous amount of money and do much less damage to the environment while shrinking the GDP. As it stands we will have to spend even more money to repair the damage being done to the environment if we keep it up or allow it to deteriorate beyond the point where we still have this option eventually.
The result is that our economic system has turned into something that probably should be considered a white collar extortion operation. Over the past thirty years the cost of advertising, lobbying, shipping products half way around the world have gone through the roof while expenses designed to benefit consumers and workers have been cut to the bone. The result is that we have to replace things much more often and the corporations are funneling all the wealth to the top with little or no benefit for the majority.
The purpose of the GDP based economy doesn't have much if anything to do with serving the best interest of the majority of the public at all; instead it is designed to make us spend much more than we should have to to buy products that really do benefit us and selling and enormous amount of products that don't provide benefit so that people who are already rich can keep taking a cut out of every thing and that cut has been skyrocketing while merchandise gets crappier due to the consolidated control of the economy and the information that people make their decisions with.
For additional information about crime profiteers see the following articles.
The Prison Industry in the United States: Big Business or a New Form of Slavery?
By the Numbers: The U.S.’s Growing For-Profit Detention Industry
U.S. Private Prison Population Grew 37 Percent Between 2002-2009 As Industry Lobbying Dollars Grew 165 Percent
Keep Private Prison Interests Out of Our Schools!
Abused inmates cannot sue Wackenhut/GEO in federal court
This Is What Happens When The Gun Industry Sees Kids As Customers
Who’s really running the NRA?
Top Dem on Gun Control Says She's Working With GOPers—But Won't Give Names or Numbers (photo source)
Friday, May 24, 2013
The following are two guest posts from Earth First Newswire who is currently reporting on a surprising number of protests that aren't being covered by the commercial press. They're not the only ones reporting on many more protests and activities to educate the public but very little of it is being covered by the commercial media which is why more people should rely more an alternative media outlets some of which I have listed on a Wiki.
For a long time I thought Bono was one of the few high profile exceptions that stood up to corporations; thi8s is the biggest of several signs that I have seen over the past couple of years to indicate this might not actually be the case. To see some of the other protests that aren't being covered see Earth First Newswire or other news outlets listed above.
For a long time I thought Bono was one of the few high profile exceptions that stood up to corporations; thi8s is the biggest of several signs that I have seen over the past couple of years to indicate this might not actually be the case. To see some of the other protests that aren't being covered see Earth First Newswire or other news outlets listed above.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
I don't doubt Lewis Black but I can't figure out how Mark Twain managed to refute these people that weren't even born until after Mark Twain died. I'll have to ask him the next time I see him.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
60 Minutes just reran "North Korean prisoner escaped after 23 brutal years," a story about Shin Dong-hyuk who was allegedly born in a North Korean prison camp. The evidence to support this seems to be limited but they have someone who was a so-called expert who says that his story is consistent with other stories.
I'm not convinced this story will hold up to scrutiny and there might be many problems with it, if it is as they present it; however it might be far more reasonable if it was presented as propaganda for political reasons; if this is true it doesn't necessarily mean that it was completely made up, exaggerations of some sort might be more likely. This hypothesis may also have problems because it isn't very good propaganda at least not if it is presented to reasonably well informed people about certain related subjects; however it might be much more effective if it was presented to a large majority of the public that isn't quite so well informed and it is backed up by an enormous amount of other propaganda, which is the way successful propaganda often works.
One of the problems with this story seems to be the way he escaped without any resources and made his way to China and then on to South Korea which is described in the story. It is hard to believe that someone who didn't know anything about the outside world would have been able to do this on his own almost entirely with luck. This story seems to simple when thinking about the details but the biggest problem might be the fact that he is so well presented for someone who was supposedly born in prison and raised under horrifying conditions.
There is an enormous amount of evidence from many foster homes or orphanages including state run orphanages that indicates that the early education of a child when they're first born is extremely important and it has a long term impact on their development throughout life. One of the most extreme examples of how much damage can be done in the early years of a child's upbringing is in Romania and the state run orphanages that began when they were still a communist country and their leader decided that the state can raise children just as well as families. The state established many orphanages and arranged for many mothers to hand over their babies and the result was a disaster. These babies were poorly treated and there have been many stories about how they have been extremely dysfunctional and could never recover. If Shin Dong-hyuk was abused this badly while in the prison camp he almost certainly wouldn't have been able to escape alone in the manner that they described, nor would he have been able to present himself nearly as well while telling people in his speaking tour about Korean prison camps.
This was widely reported in the mid to early nineties and there is still plenty of information about the Rumanian orphanages on the internet for those interested in looking including, Inhumane Conditions For Romania's Lost Generation; and there are also other studies to show how dysfunctional children brought up in such abusive environments have long term effects at other locations including many in the orient including some studies that were cited in an article, Study says foster care benefits brains.
Another example that might be more sincere and show how much trouble children abused in war time situation might be the example of Ishmael Beah author of "The Making, and Unmaking, of a Child Soldier," who was allegedly forced to fight a war as a child and had a difficult time recovering from it after he was rescued.
According to the research into childhood development the less trauma children go through in the early stages the better and the sooner they are removed from the tragic situation the more likely they are to recover. In the case of Ishmael Beah he was raised with his family until he was 12 years old and forced to fight a a child soldier for about two years according to his book; and then he underwent a rehabilitation process that was tough and it didn't go perfectly by his own account. To understand how this appears to be far more credible it would help to go into greater detail but that would be too much for this post and his story is told in his book.
This story was also disputed for different reasons by "the Australian," Rupert Murdoch's Aussie broadsheet, The feud over the truthfulness of Ishmael Beah's A Long Way Gone. They claim that it was greatly exaggerated and that he made up large portions of it. However if you read the book and other books on the subject including Peter Singer's "Children at War" or Jimmie Briggs' "Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers Go to War" it may be clear that even if some of Ishmael Beah's claims are exaggerated there is still an enormous problem with child soldiers and many of the activities and problem is consistent with the problems that other child soldiers have although most of them don't have the help that Ishmael Beah had and didn't go on speaking tours.
As far as I can tell Ishmael Beah's story seems far more credible than Shin Dong-hyuk's however it suits a different purpose that is less likely to cater to the beliefs of the most powerful people so while some of the people from the corporate press raise questions about the story that doesn't suit their purposes they ignore more legitimate questions from the one that does suit their purpose.
this wouldn't be the first time the corporate press used this type of propaganda to promote war or the threat of war to justify their agenda and the need to keep secrets; they also used lies about Iraqi incubators to sell the first gulf war, "How PR Sold the War in the Persian Gulf: Iraq incubators lie;" and of course the widely disclosed Weapons of mass destruction to sell the second gulf war and they have often propped up their own puppets that have been widely discredited including Manucher Ghorbanifar in Iran and he was used again during the run up to the 2003 war ass well and Ahmed Chalabi, both of whom were widely discredited. (see "Dick Cheney, Ahmed Chalabi Contemplated Value Of Iraqi Oil To U.S.," David Frum Writes)
This doesn't mean that the most likely explanation for this is that it was entirely made up; if this was the case it almost certainly wouldn't have worked at all. It seems more likely that they would have found some truth to their story and exaggerated it although it would be hard to tell how much without additional information. In both the case of Ishmael Beah and Shin Dong-hyuk they would have relied on personal memory which isn't perfect so a certain amount of mistakes would be inevitable. In the case of Ishmael Beah they more likely to be smaller mistakes if my assessment is correct and his critics could easily latch onto those if they can find them and exaggerate them for propaganda purposes. In the case of Shin Dong-hyuk, who suits the propaganda purposes of the elite they could simply ignore the same problems and repeat the propaganda over and over again even though there appears to be a greater possibility that the lies or exaggerations might be much larger.
This wouldn't be the only example of their propaganda efforts against North Korea; they also use North Korea's own propaganda to discredit them. This is actually quite common, by exposing propaganda they create a different version of propaganda for the opposition. What makes this propaganda instead of accurate reporting is when they use a double standard or conveniently highlight some aspects and repeat them over and over again and ignore others which don't suit their purposes.
The corporate press has been widely reporting on the propaganda efforts by North Korea to indoctrinate their own people. This has included testimony about how some Koreans that have been subject to it from birth actually believe it even though this propaganda seems absurd to most of us in America. This may actually be credible at least to some degree if you consider it from the point of view of those that are brought up with this propaganda and never hear anything else. they live with it all their life so they believe it since they have nothing else to go on. However it still serves as propaganda for the US since they can promote this as part of what makes North Korea a threat. This may be partially legitimate but they don't report on their own propaganda the same way. And more importantly they don't mention the fact that they have come close to improving relations with North Korea on several occasions including some where Jimmy Carter negotiated or tried to negotiate better agreements.
The irony is that in both North Korea and the United States the last people to recognize the propaganda being targeted against them may be the people that are being targeted. Many in the United States may have an easy time recognizing the propaganda North Korea uses against their own people but unless they do their own fact checking they might not recognize the propaganda targeting them.
During the nineties Jimmy Carter made several trips and eventually made an agreement that would have ended there efforts to pursue nuclear programs but he didn't receive much cooperation from those in power at the time. He did succeed in convincing Bill Clinton to support a deal at the end of his presidency but this fell apart almost as soon as Bush took over when he arbitrarily declared he didn't support it without much explanation and after he declared them to be part of the "Axis of Evil" they escalated their plans for nuclear weapons. This story has been told in several locations that aren't repeated nearly as often as the propaganda, including at least one of Jimmy Carter's books and a Guardian article, Jimmy Carter leaves North Korea after peace mission
This is the way propaganda works, the version of the truth that is supported by the elites that control the press repeat their version over and over again even when it doesn't stand up to scrutiny and only those that know what to look for and how to check different sources including those that are repeated much less often get the more accurate version of the truth. Additional stories that have raised doubts about this possible propaganda include "The Shin Donghyuk Story: In Search of Useful Information: Scratching away at the propaganda" and a comment on the CNN web site to the story that started with, "Characteristic propaganda, with gaping holes."
If you are skeptical of my assessment of this or the other critics that might be just as well; if you believe it it would be better if you did so after considering both sides and perhaps doing some of your own fact checking as well; otherwise you might run the risk of perceived expert dictating the truth for another.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
There might be some doubts about the Clarence Thomas and William Casey quotes; but the Kissinger quotes came from reliable sources and I thought they were all worth considering.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
In the past on at least one occasion I have cited Carolyn McCarthy as one of the few people in congress that may have sponsored legislation that is good for the majority of the public on a variety of issues. In Continued withholding of solutions in Clackamas and Newtown I cited her positively because in addition to supporting reasonable gun control legislation, which has been her signature issue since getting into the Congress she also sponsored legislation to eliminate corporal punishment in schools and apparently she has also sponsored legislation to ban texting while driving. My impression of her was that she might be one of the few members of Congress that might be worth keeping.
So it was somewhat of a surprise when I found out she was one of the congressional members listed on Open Secrets as holding stock in Wal-Mart. This may create a major conflict of interest for even one of her most important issues, gun control, since Wal-Mart is almost certainly the biggest supplier of guns in the country; and furthermore, with the discussion about background checks for guns it is already subject to those; so it would benefit if gun shows had to make them and lost their advantage over Wal-Mart.
Not that I'm opposed to background checks; I'm not; but it could give the opposition a legitimate claim that she is supporting this to benefit Wal-Mart. More importantly it could give her an incentive, subtle or not, to focus on aspects of this that don't impact Wal-Mart while ignoring those that do. even if she isn't inclined to do so it still creates what they often refer to as the "appearance of a conflict of interest," when they want to avoid coming right out and saying that someone is corrupt. In most cases when they use this phrase it is obvious to many people that it is more than just the "appearance of a conflict of interest," however in this case it may not be so obvious; and as I have indicated she has often sponsored legislation that is quite good unlike many other members of Congress who appear to be blatantly corrupt.
Last year Wal-Mart Shootings (Blogspot) began compiling an enormous amount of information on gun related incidents that have been happening at Wal-Mart including many shootings and murders. This isn't the first time questions were raised about safety at Wal-Mart; in 2006 "Is Wal-Mart Safe?" a statistical study based on incidents in 2004 (PDF) came out and raised some serious questions about Wal-Mart's policies. To this day many of them still haven't been addressed properly. I did my own review of some of this in "Wal-Mart shoplifting vigilantism gone wild?" where I tried to explain why I believe that a major part of the problem is the policies that they implement that involve maximizing profit at the expense of everything else including worker safety, the quality of their merchandise and the dramatically increased amount of crime that occurs on their own premises as well as elsewhere. Addressing the problem with guns will surely require a closer look at all these details as well as efforts to market to children which Wal-Mart may be involved in. this could mean that Carolyn McCarthy and other legislators with a financial incentive in Wal-Mart might be inclined to focus more on the policies that won't impact their profits than those that do. This may not even be intentional especially when it is so hard to get anything through. This makes it easier to make a strong argument for one aspect, like background checks, while ignoring others which should also receive discussion. And that is exactly what is happening in the mainstream media.
Wal-Mart Shootings has reported numerous incidents where people have bought their guns at Wal-Mart or even attempted to steal them and used them later in crimes. Clearly this should raise doubts when one of the leading lawmakers for gun control holds stock in the company that is heavily involved in gun sales and many of them have lead to many crimes.
If I wanted to target someone who was the worst I might have asked Joe Barton or John Boehner to divest; and frankly I also think they should as well; however at the same time I think they're both severely lost causes and they should just be run out of the Congress as effectively and quickly as possible. Joe Barton is the one who famously apologized to BP for the treatment they received after they polluted the Gulf of Mexico with their spill. Even if these two were to divest their stock they clearly indicated on numerous cases that they couldn't be trusted to do anything.
Another reason why I think she should divest this stock is that the candidates that obtain the support should be subject to the highest scrutiny not the least. It is tempting to look the other way when it comes to wrong doing by the lesser of two evils. I remember I supported Bill Clinton and in 2000 John McCain who was on the "Straight talk express" for a while when I had doubts about some of their activities; in both cases it became clear that they were much worse than they seemed and overlooking their flaws only helped escalate the race to the bottom in the political world.
There are several other representatives that have liberal or progressive reputations that hold Wal-Mart stock including Joe Kennedy III and Linda Sanchez. This should raise serious doubts about the political system where even the politicians that seem the most sincere turn out to have conflict of interests. The gun control issue is just one of many other issues that raise major problems with Wal-Mart. They have also been implicated in a massive bribery scandal; the use of illegal imagrants for their cleaning crews; sex discrimination; cutting so many corners in the manufacturing section that it endangers lives and results in low quality merchandise that falls apart in a fraction of the time products used to last; overcharging customers and under paying workers. this is just a small sample of the problems they have; it would take much longer to go through all of them and one of the most important things they have been doing is lobbying to suppress voters rights so that it will be tougher for their critics to hold them accountable. This is beyond corruption; it is also an attempt to undermine democracy itself.
pics on Sodahead
If these aren't enough reasons to boycott and divest Wal-Mart stock there are many more some of which I have compiled under the author tag "Wal-Mart Watch and more that were provided by Activist Post or many other locations if you look around the web. If you would like to contact Carolyn McCarthy or any of the other representatives that hold Wal-Mart stock and ask them to divest please do so. Or if you can repost some of this information or draw attention to it any other manner feel free to do that as well. Carolyn McCarthy's home page is here.
Friday, May 3, 2013
Two year old Caroline Starks was recently shot by her own five year brother with his own gun that he received for his birthday. The commercial media often reports on these incidence with an enormous amount of shock and acts as if they're completely isolated; this is misleading even if there doesn't seem to be a direct connections to the various similar incidents. There is almost certainly many common causes including the gun culture that is currently being debated as well as early child abuse that leads to escalating violence and violence in the media. In the case of accidental shootings like this the leading cause might be largely that a child so young even had a gun.
The following is an excerpt from Kid Shootings who have complied a much more comprehensive list of the surprisingly large number of these incidents than the commercial media has.
This is just one of many incidents that they have listed; their category for accidents includes 336 entries and they have only begun compiling them since last year. A large portion of these are about children who accidentally kill other children or themselves with guns that are apparently readily available to many children although most of us that aren't involved in the gun culture might not even realize this is so common.
The media coverage on this is long overdue but like the media coverage on just about everything else it is still highly inadequate. They have been focusing almost entirely on this one case as if it is isolated or they have been provided a limited amount of coverage of the other incidents by mentioning quick statistics in most cases. The primary focus of this debate seems to be based on the gun control issue which is certainly part of it but they're doing very little to discuss many of the other contributing causes.
Ironically when the NRA claims that the problem is metal health they're right although it is clearly not the sole contributing factor.
If the NRA had it's way we would focus solely on mental health or at least pretend to while we do everything we can to make sure that while we're doing this all the people with these problems with mental health continue to have access to guns so they could continue to cause more shootings. The most likely contributing cause to most mental health issues including violent behavior and the obsession that many people have with guns is almost certainly closely related to early childhood upbringing and the values they're taught at a young age.
In previous posts including Continued withholding of solutions in Clackamas and Newtown I have attempted to explain how escalating violence starts at a young age and it is often taught to them by adults who use corporal punishment to discipline them or abuse them in more obvious manners and this escalates to bullying and other forms of violence including domestic violence later in life and many murders or other forms of violence. this almost certainly also leads to more authoritarian behavior where they're more likely to follow the crowd without question. In this case the crowd they often follow is devoted to total deregulation of guns without any scrutiny or rational thought or review of the specifics. Fortunately as most polls seem to indicate this doesn't seem to apply to the majority of the public but it does seem to apply to a large and vocal minority that gets an enormous amount of influence from the political and media establishment.
As discussed in the blog previously cited violence in the media also needs to be addressed but one thing that might be especially important in this case appears to be the marketing to children that the gun industry has been doing.
Apparently there has been a large effort to market guns to children for quite a while now but those of us who haven't been involved in the gun culture might not have been aware of it. As I mentioned in Wal-Marts unethical marketing to children apparently this is more common than many of us realize and I didn't even know about it until I started Googleing about that and since it was shortly after the Newtown incident I also considered the marketing of guns while I was at it; however if anything this type of marketing is even more common than I realized at the time. A Mother Jones article, Here's How the Rifle That Just Killed a 2-Year-Old Girl Is Marketed for Kids sheds a little light on this type of marketing and there's much more where that came from.
The people that represent the NRA and the corporations that sell us products that have much more consequences than many of us realize seem to have there way with the commercial media and the government until there is a major disaster and it has to be brought to the attention to the public. Even then they don't cover it nearly as well as they could or should which is why this type of thing happens over and over again. It is becoming increasingly obvious that we need to do much more to rely on alternative media outlets in the short term including Kid Shootings Blogspot which does a much better job compiling data on this subject and many other outlets that cover different aspects of the issue. In the long run we clearly need much better coverage from the traditional media which would involve major media reform that wouldn't allow a small percentage of the public with a common motive, profit, to have overwhelming control of the mass media.
Under the current circumstances it should be clear to most people that pay attention that the commercial media has turned into a massive propaganda machine where even the most moderate pundits or reporters don't do nearly as good a job as they could or should.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
It appears as if there might be an unusually large amount of shootings and assaults at Wal-Mart and many of them seem to involve shoplifting. It is hard to tell why but it is worth considering the possibility that many of them might be the result of their training of these workers and Wal-Mart policies on how to handle the situation. In many cases the shoplifters have been killed but in others they have been the ones that pulled out guns and shot at others often over items that aren't that expensive like underwear or sand paper, although some other cases have been over more expensive items.
The following is just a small sample of the shootings or other incidents that have been happening at Wal-Mart; the most common season for these incidents might be during the Christmas season especially on Black Friday; but there are many others year round.
This is only a small sample of the shootings and other incidents that have been going on at Wal-Mart for a long time and the media rarely reports more than one or two at a time. They certainly don't try to report on any possible trend or attempt to figure out whether or not there is a higher rate of these incidents at Wal-Mart than elsewhere or why. However there have been at least a couple other attempts to study the subject including one internal study done by Wal-Mart itself; according to “Walmart: The High Cost of Low Prices.” (available at Wal-Mart shootings or Youtube) when this study showed that they could reduce crime to almost zero if they posted a roving guard in the parking lots instead of doing so they squashed the study so they could avoid the extra cost. In 2006 "Is Wal-Mart Safe?" a statistical study based on incidents in 2004 (PDF) was done and this found that they had four times as many incidents at Wal-Mart than their closest competitor, Target. In her book "Big-Box Swindle" Stacy Mithcell indicated that crime was a bigger problem in Bog-Box stores in general so Target is probably also a bigger problem than the small business that have been replaced by Big-Box stores. Furthermore the 2004 study cites several police chiefs across the country that have indicated that when Wal-Mart stores opened in their areas they had dramatic increases in demand from them and it was costing the tax payers much more money to attend these high rates of crime. In 2004 incidents at Wal-Mart store cost tax payers and estimated $77 million dollars to respond to close to one million incidents. This means that in addition to the tax incentives that big-box stores often receive to encourage them to locate in any particular location they may also receive another subsidy in the form of higher police costs that aren't covered by their property taxes. The small businesses that don't get these breaks often go out of business which leads to less money available for roads and schools in many local communities.
More recently Walmart Shootings Walmart. (Save money. Die faster.) began compiling stories on their blog about all the gun related incidents they could find at Wal-Mart stores. They apparently haven't gone back farther than 2012 but they have reported a surprisingly large number of incidents along with sources from a variety of media outlets around the country. They found that there were 54 shootings on Wal-Mart property in 2012 and the trend continues in 2013. This might not be a thorough statistical study but it does provide an enormous amount of information that would be helpful for such a study and it also provides a lot of additional information that might not be helpful statistically, but they could still be informative in other ways. Since the criteria for their blog is limited to gun related incidents there are clearly many other incidents that won't even be reported on their blog including a few that I cited which didn't involve guns but still led to serious injuries or crimes.
It might be tempting for many to assume that the at least when it comes to the shoplifters who have often been beat, shot or even hit by cars that they had what was coming to them. In that case it might be worth considering how many of the Wal-Mart executives have been treated when they have been implicated in activities that have been much worse, whether they are considered crimes or not, and they often have been. These activities include the long list of factory fiers that recently came back into the spotlight thanks to an exceptionally large one a few months ago that killed at least 112 workers and a more recent building collapse which Wal-Mart claims that hasn't been authorized to produce their products but that they're investigating to see if they're doing it without authorization. This is an amazing claim and a routine one for Wal-Mart when this happens; they have a history of getting caught so it seems to imply that they're essentially saying, "we haven't been caught yet so we deny it and if we do get caught we'll blame someone else," without actually using those words.
They've also been involved in bribery scandals sex discrimination scandals and many other things that anyone else would have been prosecuted for if they didn't have the political connections that the Walton family has. On top of that they've been using their market power to pressure their suppliers to cut cost which also reduces quality and they force their workers to compete with other workers around the world to suppress wages; while they avoid real competitions since the market is now dominated by oligarchies with the same motivational incentives that don't provide a significant amount of competition with each other.
What this has essentially led to is a dramatic escalation in poverty and lower standards of living for the majority of the public while the people running them reap enormous profits without providing good services. It is virtually guaranteed that one way or another this is also indirectly contributing to higher problems with shoplifting since many people that might not be inclined to do so have no way of supporting themselves due to a dysfunctional economic system; and at the same time the corporate sector, including Wal-Mart is doing an enormous amount of advertising to tempt people to buy stuff that they can't afford. This isn't limited to Wal-Mart's activities, the oil and banking industries are also doing the same things; but Wal-Mart is a major contributor and they clearly appear to be worse than even the other big-box store.
The simple argument that they shouldn't blame society may sound good but under the current circumstances the economic system isn't serving the best interest of the vast majority of the public and this is almost certainly a major reason why there is so much more problems with crimes at Wal-Mart.
Although I don't think it should be used as an excuse there is an old saying, perhaps from Russia, that "the fish rots from the head down," which means if those that the top are corrupt then you can expect that everyone else will be as well. Even though the commercial media doesn't do an adequate job reporting on how incompetent the economic system is, although they do report some of it, the people that have no opportunities for years on end or their entire lives know that it is corrupt and this isn't the land of opportunity for everyone as commercial propaganda implies. Many people that pay enough attention to the news whether it is the traditional media or alternative media recognize that the enforcement of the law is highly uneven so they're less inclined to worry about if they're abiding by it since the most powerful people don't; or they twist it so they can get away with their scams.
It is difficult to even know what Wal-Mart's policies are on the subject and there is even some doubt whether many of their employees know it; in many cases they're fired for violating a policy that they don't even know about. In 2006 according to "Wal-Mart's Shocking New Shoplifting Policy Revealed by WakeUpWalMart.com; Concerned Workers Question Policy Shift" they implemented a policy that indicated that their workers should let shoplifters go if they were taking items lower than $25 in value; this was considered shocking to some. This article cites Sam Walton who believed that shoplifting was "one of the biggest enemies of profitability in the retail business," and linked employee bonuses to reducing the "shrinkage," which includes broken products but it most often refers to shoplifting, in each Wal-Mart store. Pursuing shoplifting with reasonable discretion might not be a bad idea but when it is for a trivial item and it costs much more to prosecute and possibly even leads to risks of violence there should be some alternatives. It may be true that the cost of stolen goods has to be passed on to the consumers but this also goes for many other expenses under Wal-Marts control like advertising, lobbying, campaign contributions and union busting activities; these activities don't benefit the consumers and they actually cost society an enormous amount and almost certainly lead to increased shoplifting by creating social problems. Reducing these expenses and the social problems they create would be more important if they were accountable to society for their corrupt business practices. This change came shortly after the "Is Wal-Mart Safe?" study but apparently it didn't last long. The next year, according to "Wal-Mart toughens theft policy" they may have at least partially reversed the policy.
One thing that does seem to be consistent is that regardless of what they say on some occasions the primary motive is profit above all else including worker or customer safety or the expense to tax payers or anything else; and most of their statements actually seem to back this up. If we had a more sincere political system then they would impose regulations to look out for these other things but most politicians seem to be more concerned with collecting campaign contributions from corporations including Wal-Mart than actually representing the public.
It is no surprise that many employees can't keep track of these policies including many who have been fired like Heather Ravenstein as reported in "Wal-Mart employee foils a shoplifter — and loses her job" Wal-Mart has a long history of encouraging loyalty and pride in their stores to keep their employees motivated to work but when there is a problem they often indicate that the loyalty doesn't work both ways and she is just one of many that have been fired with little or no compensation for doing the best they knew how to under the circumstances. This is a common Machiavellian tactic which Wal-Mart uses routinely.
Getting fired isn't the worst thing that aha happened at Wal-Mart on at least one occasion an employee was killed for trying to stop someone from stealing undershirts valued at $16 (presumably the retail cost not the replacement cost which would have been lower since it doesn't include retail mark-up) as reported in "Shoplifter at Florida Walmart shoots and kills employee." These stories don't generally report whether the victims families receive much if any compensation for these incidents but it is almost certainly not much at all. Another incident began as a result of an attempted theft of sandpaper, "Elderly shoplifter in Kentucky Walmart exchanges gunfire with police and is injured."
Both Barbara Ehrenreich author of "Nickel and Dimed" and Bob Ortega author of "In Sam We Trust" have reported about what they call the Wal-Mart culture and how they encourage an enormous amount of loyalty. They have also reported about their training seminars which they teach them about all of their policies and they even used to have Wal-Mart cheers that made them feel like a family although when it came time to share the wealth it was mostly all hype and for one reason or another the employees didn't make out nearly as well as they were led to believe they would be. According to Bob Ortega Sam Walton used to lead store cheers to keep moral up:
Workers would be gathered at the front of the store. "Gimme a W!" he'd shout. "W!" the workers would shout back, and on through the Wal-Mart name. At the hyphen, Walton would shout "Gimme a squiggly!" and squat and twist his hips at the same time; the workers would squiggle right back. The cheer always ended with Walton shouting “Who’s number one?” and the workers shouting back “The customer!” (Bob Ortega “In Sam We Trust” 1998 p.91)
They're often encouraged to adopt a mythological belief about how great Wal-Mart is and how Sam was always looking out for them even though he was a major union buster and when you got past his folksy manner they were often let down. But this was part of what some people called the "Cult of Sam," they were taught to take pride in their store even though they may not have been properly compensated. This is almost certainly part of the reason why many of these employees go to so much trouble to stop shoplifters, as if they're the ones that are being robbed not a corporation that is more interested in profit than the best interest of either the customer or their employees. I can't imagine why I would worry so much about shoplifting from a corporation that was only concerned about profit for the few at the expense of the many nor do I know anyone else that might be so concerned; yet Wal-Mart seems to have a lot of employees that are motivated in this manner; and in return they risk getting fired or worse getting shot.
Psychological manipulation of workers is much more common than most people realize. Corporations including Wal-Mart have often resorted to using consultants that specialize in breaking the will of unions and turn them against each other as part of a divide and rule tactic so that they can suppress workers rights and increase profits; what is rarely recognized is that the consumer doesn't receive any benefit from this and may actually wind up with inferior quality merchandise and service as a result since the people that perform productive work don't have the proper incentives; instead the money that could go to the workers is going to the union busters or the higher profits for the corporations. John E. Tate was one of the leading union busters at the Wal-Mart corporation, as reported in Bob Ortega's book.
This has also been studied by the psychological community including psychologists that woirk for the FBI and the CIA; this work is also available to members of the public that know what to look for and there is ample evidence by the behavior of Wal-Mart executives and other corporations that many of the heads of business know to look for this when setting their policies. They have hired many consultants for various reasons and this is almost certainly one of them; however they may adopt selective acknowledgement of these research studies that benefits their short term profits and ideologies. this means they may only be acknowledging a selective portion of the research. the following excerpt from former president of the American Psychological Association, Philip Zimbardo's book may indicate what corporations try to train their workers to do. This is from a segment where people fell for what they called “Strip-search scams” where an individual called many fast food restaurants and falsely told them he was a cop and that they should detain a specific employee suspected of petty crimes and the manager or assistant manager obeyed orders from this person when he told them to strip-search them. They often obeyed.
This scam didn't work on all of the people they tried this on and they aren't all "blooming idiots" but the basic idea that corporations try to train their employees to blindly follow orders and not to question authority is true; although it isn't always completely successful. The reason it isn't always successful isn't for lack of trying on the part of the corporations but because many of their employees don't completely submit to indoctrination tactics. In many cases those who don't are often fired or let go for some other reason and they wind up with the most obedient employees; and these people often don't have the thinking skills to deal with certain problems so this often backfires on the company and leads to worse service for the customer.
And when it comes to dealing with dangerous situations they may not have the discretion they need and they simply do what they think their bosses would want and if it back fires then they are the ones that take the blame. This type of indoctrination is also detrimental in a democratic society because it reduces the ability of those that are indoctrinated to understand important issues that they're expected to vote on.
It shouldn't be much of a surprise if one of these workers, who are often mistreated by manipulative corporations, occasionally instigates the shooting whether we have adequate knowledge to know if it retaliation for mistreatment or not; there is no way for most of us to know if that is what happened when a Man at Virginia Walmart distribution center opens fire, injuring manager and then killing himself or many other incidents.
The more accurate closing of that cheer might be "profits for the board members are number one!" but that wouldn't sound as good.
It is hard to tell how much Wal-Mart's policies or other business practices might be contributing to this but there is far more than enough information to indicate that a much closer look should be taken and if the government is going to provide subsidies to companies like this, or even if they don't there should be a much better effort to look out for everyone's interest including the safety of the customers, workers and fair compensation for those that might deserve it.
Major decisions are being made about many activities including these shootings, that affect the vast majority of the public. in corporate board rooms without much if any scrutiny. In many cases the secrecy of these decisions may even be protected by trade secrecy laws. The government is doing little if anything to hold Wal-Mart accountable or even look into this to see if their policies are a contributing cause, as I'm sure the evidence would show at least to some degree if they did investigate. The commercial media isn't doing much to report on this properly even though they have much more resources than many other members of the publi8c. With all these stories on file in a searchable database they could almost certainly do much more to report on the full extent of these incidents so that people would understand better what needs to be done. The people at Wal-Mart Shootings almost certainly have much less resources and yet they do a far better job compiling the stories that are reported as isolated incidents around the country.
Tax payer money is routinely used to file charges against all these people and in many cases they result in major manhunts and panic in some communities while the manhunts are in progress. When people are getting killed over thefts of sandpaper or undershirts and Wal-Mart enforces prosecutions over eating Oreo cookies, at tax payers expense, for an employee that is underpaid due to relentless union busting tactics and off-shoring to drive down wages and poverty up; while at the same time Wal-Mart executives face little accountability for their bribery scandals and even negligent mass murder in the Bangladesh factories and perhaps even in the US on one occasion when Alice Walton was involved in an auto accident that killed a woman and no charges were filed, and the political system does nothing to understand this there is something seriously wrong.
The political establishment has no problem implementing regulations that protect the secrecy of corporations so that many of their policies are not subject to scrutiny and more regulations that help subsidize these corporations but when it comes to regulations that protect the public there is a massive effort to eliminate them on the assumption that if we let the corporations do what they want without any scrutiny then they will look out for the bet interest of the public and they will pass on their savings to us in a free market, or so we're led to believe. At the same time they admit that they're trying to maximize profits and that is their primary concern and we're not supposed to see the conflict of interests here.
For additional related stories see the following:
Opening fire in Walmart: Common-sense gun bill under assault
Police seek shoplifters who pepper-sprayed Wal-Mart security in Cascade Township
Armed Shopper (Wanna-Be Hero) Charged For Shooting At Walmart Shoplifter In Broad Daylight! [Caught On Tape]
Floridian Busted For Robbing Peter To Pay Paul: Teen stole air conditioner to settle Walmart restitution
Woman cooked meth at Walmart while being held for shoplifting, authorities say
Despite Arrest For Shoplifting, Tennessee Man Leaves Walmart With A Smiley Face
Shoplifting arrest sparks excessive-force allegations, investigation
I probably could make up stuff as bad as some of these stories but I didn't.
To Match Walton Heirs' Fortune, You'd Need to Work at Walmart for 7 Million Years
Walmart's Internal Compensation Documents Reveal Systematic Limit On Advancement