Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Private prisons another example of big business exploiting states

The undocumented immigrants issue had been seething in many states across the country and finally came to a head in April of 2010 when Arizona passed the first law attempting to ban those who were illegal from the state.  Alabama followed in April 2011, with its own law somewhat patterned after Arizona’s but even more stringent.  Then Florida passed a watered-down version of both bills in May of 2011.  Other states have passed similar laws.  

Private prison industry

It quickly became obvious to the private prison industry that when these illegals were arrested they would have to be housed somewhere.  It was the perfect opportunity to profit from a newly defined crime, so companies like Corrections Corp. of America (CCA) and GEO Group decided to focus on states with the harshest laws.  For the last ten years and leading up to the current immigration dilemma, CCA and GEO have doubled their annual revenues.

The idea is to buy up state prisons or open up new ones when expansion is justified.  There’s something called the Corrections Investment Initiative between the companies and the states that requires a guarantee of 90 percent occupancy rate over the term of the contract, according to the Huff Post.  Which means the states must come up with prisoners from somewhere and what better way to do this than to go after the undocumented immigrants.

Jan Brewer

The most famous purveyor of this required supply of inmates is Arizona’s Joe Arpaio, Sheriff of Maricopa County, billed as the toughest sheriff in the U.S.  His counterpart in the state is Paul Babeu, Sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona.  Both are carrying their own baggage with Arpaio about to be indicted by the feds for abusing his power as a law-enforcement official, and Babeu, who was outed as gay, and accused of threatening to deport his former lover.  Only in Arizona.

Arizona’s sham Gov. Jan Brewer was caught with her hand in the private prison dole when she accepted campaign contributions of $60,000 from CCA.  Her campaign chairman and policy adviser, Chuck Coughlin, is a lobbyist for the largest private prison company in the country, and one of two people in the Brewer administration with ties to Corrections Corporation of America.

Florida recently killed a state bill that would have privatized South Florida prisons.  Passage of the bill could have eliminated around 4,000 prison jobs in 24 facilities in South Florida.  Those in favor of the bill claim it could save the state $16.5 million a year but opponents say that public safety situations like corrections should not be contracted out.

Apparently the private prisons industry relies on three factors to thrive: One is lobbying; two is campaign contributions; and three is knowing people in the right places.

Private prison philosophy

When you look at the undocumented population there are over 11 million in the U.S.  Because Arizona was the leader in anti-immigration laws in the country with over 700,000 undocumented, they are a good state in which to evaluate the private prison system.  The Tucson Citizen released a report recently by the American Friends Service Committee, a group that is working to prevent private prisons in Arizona. 

One of the main findings of the study was the fact that “the private prisons under contract with the state cost more than equivalent units operated by the Department of Corrections.”  There’s more.

  • The Arizona Auditor General found a total of 157 security failures in the 5 private prisons under contract with the Arizona Department of Corrections
  • California’s Inspector General found serious security flaws and improper treatment of California inmates held in three CCA prisons in Arizona
  • AFSC found evidence of at least 28 riots in private prisons since 2009.  The number of riots is likely underreported
  • There were at least 6 escapes from inside Arizona private prisons in the past 10 years
Free enterprise is one of the foundations of our democracy, but it is clearly inappropriate for private prisons to coach states with the following rhetoric:

“The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws.

In other words, ramp up the searches and arrests of illegal immigrants to keep our jail cells full.  Remember the 90 percent rule.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

More…gun insanity…state by state

Gun insanity

This is a continuation in my series to point out that there is gun insanity all over the country that needs to be corrected with sane gun control.  Of course, there is no better place to start than Arizona.

ARIZONA: Add animal abuse to the charges against this suspected gun freak.  It seems that Mark Donald Arneson gave his pit bull “Buddy” to another man and somehow the animal ended up with two rounds in his head.  Arneson has a criminal history which makes it illegal for him to have a gun, if in fact he did.  Arneson said Buddy had become aggressive and he decided to unload him on this other man.  The cops say at the least, he facilitated the dog’s death.

WASHINGTON: Another school shooting of an 8-year-old girl in an elementary school in Bremerton, Washington.  They had the shooter in custody but there was no report as to whether he or she was also a student.  School shootings are becoming more and more prevalent, but some states still want to legalize bringing a gun on college campuses.

ARIZONA: In a “Walmart Special” recently, a man from Mesa, Arizona dropped his Ruger .357-caliber Western-style revolver in the restroom as he started to sit for his constitutional.  The gun went off when it fell out of his holster and hit the floor, the bullet passing through the stall door, ricocheting off the wall into a light on the ceiling then back at the floor almost hitting a man at a urinal.  It wasn’t clear whether Andrew Seals would be prosecuted for endangerment.  In Arizona?  HA!

Following is a must-see video on Arizona gun laws:

PENNSYLVANIA: Tyrirk Harris is accused of killing his neighbor, Franklin Manuel Santana, in Philadelphia over his dogs running free and making a mess.  Police say it was an ongoing dispute that eventually prompted Harris to pull out his 9-mm handgun and shoot Santana several times.  The victim left a wife and 2-month-old baby.  Harris was charged with murder and was not licensed to carry a gun at the time.

ARIZONA: A 42-year-old man, from Mesa again, was arrested on suspicion of threatening his 19-year-old son at gunpoint.  Jeffrey Higgins is a Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office detention officer; one of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s boys.  He was booked into jail on suspicion of aggravated assault and criminal damage and was placed on administrative leave by the Sheriff’s office.  Higgins has a history of threatening his son with guns but the incidents have been unreported.

Sarah Palin with best pal

Jared Loughner, Tucson shooter

MISSOURI: Several Democratic state lawmakers found stickers on their office doors with rifle crosshairs on them.  Shades of Sarah Palin and her 2010 crosshairs on Gabby Giffords Arizona district.  Coincidentally, it was just one day before Giffords announced on Capitol Hill that she would resign to concentrate on her recovery from being shot at the 2011 Tucson massacre.  Some lawmakers removed the stickers only to return later and find even larger ones.

ARIZONA: In Mesa, once again, a 7-year-old boy brought a handgun on a loaded school bus and discharged it.  There were about 30 students on board when the boy manipulated the gun in his backpack, firing a single shot.   His father,
Mike Place
, was “grateful nobody was hurt.”  The kid found the weapon in a closet at home and had carried it around school all day.  What kind of moron gun owner leaves his handgun unsecured in a closet?  One from Arizona, of course.   

From accidents to intent to harm, there are too many guns on the streets and too many of those guns are in the hands of those who either legally should not possess a weapon or are not educated well enough to carry a gun.  More coming up on the lack of gun education later. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Arizona mock Gov. Jan Brewer takes racism back to pre-1964

It was July 2, 1964, when President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act that outlawed major forms of discrimination against African Americans and women, including racial segregation. 

AZ Gov. Jan Brewer

It was bad enough that a troubled, less-than-capable head of state Jan Brewer greeted the President of the United States to Arizona with a finger-wagging in his face in an attempt to dominate him.  That was more than adequate to prompt charges of bigotry against the leader of a state known for its racists and an intolerant conservative legislature that, along with much of the state’s population, also hates Hispanics.

Now Brewer is not the greenest saguaro in the desert but Politico thinks she has ignited a “firestorm” around the potential of race becoming an issue in the 2012 election.  And there is no state better than Arizona to coddle this movement with known racist, bigot and recalled state Senator Russell Pearce and his buddy J.T. Ready, another racist and also a neo-Nazi, to fan the flames.  However, jaundiced Jan didn’t stop with her finger in the face of Barack Obama.

Following the incident and on Fox News and various other media outlets, she offered up several versions of the incident.  She accused Obama of being “thin skinned,” and said that she felt threatened by his attitude.  Harry Shelton, Sr. VP for the NAACP commented: “What were you afraid he would do, steal your purse?”  Although there are those who support her in Arizona, she and other state politicians like her continue to bring unbridled ridicule to the state.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson pointed out that we are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War but are seeing an awakening of the States’ Rights movement of the 1940s, that fought the federal government because of its opposition to federally mandated racial desegregation.  I grew up during that movement and experienced several Dixiecrat Party political rallies in Tennessee that opposed integration.  The party was formed in 1948 and dissolved in 1948.    

PoliticusUSA says the fact that we have a black President doesn’t indicate any progress toward race equality.  Further, “The racism in America is not limited to hatred of African-Americans, and the past year’s negative rhetoric against immigrants, the poor, and Muslims has been a display of white supremacy that has permeated the general population and many of our politicians.” 

In other words, the feeling of superiority over others knows no bounds when they are different than we are.

PoliticusUSA also said, “Conservatives’ attacks on ACORN, NAACP, and the Southern Poverty Law Center were not for their activism or defense of civil rights, but an attack on African Americans.”  Their concern is rooted in the fact that blacks, Hispanics and other minorities will eventually organize and use their voting power to oust the conservative bigots and make equal rights mean what the Constitution originally intended.

If you want a demonstration of Arizona racism, you must see the following Russell Pearce and J.T. Ready video:

Politico reports, “An AP-Ipsos poll taken just before the 2008 election showed that Obama’s support would have been as much as 6 percentage points higher had he been white.”  Because of the concerns over the economy, this “racial bias” will be played down in 2012.  Although the racial effects were there in 2008, they didn’t decide the election, according to Tammy Frisby, a research fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution.

Getting along

If you must have your specific illustration of racism against Barack Obama, Politico says it is “visceral,” providing the following example: “That was true in 2008 — when a handful of rabid Obama haters sent out emails that included crude caricatures of Obama as a Muslim, a monkey, Buckwheat or worse.

Mary Frances Berry, former chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, thinks we should focus on how the President handled the tarmac finger wagging and ignore Jan Brewer’s motives.  Obama characterized the moment as “no big deal” and moved on from there.  Unfortunately, Arizona, and much of the rest of the nation, isn’t able to do the same.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Eliminating the penny could shut down the junk mail industry

When is the last time you saw anything in a junk mail catalog that didn’t end in 99 cents?  Well maybe sometime they fudge with 95 cents but that’s pretty rare.  I spent 35 years in this business as a data broker and consultant and when I first started it was impressed on me the value of using the word “free” and never using a rounded off price.  And it’s not only junk mail; traditional retail establishments use the same ploy.

Gasoline prices end in 99 cents.  Dollar stores even sell many of their products at 99 cents. has a 99 cent Lady Gaga album and authors sell their e-books for 99 cents.  The Dish Network has 99 cent movies and one game maker was selling its games for 99 cents.  Some companies have an offer to ship your merchandise for only 99 cents and one 99 cent chain is in the middle of a huge buyout that will no doubt end in a selling price that includes 99 cents somewhere.

Do they think we’re stupid?  No, so thought David Gold in 1982 when he opened his first 99 Cents Only store in California.  The move was prompted when he tried using the 99 cent approach to selling wines in his liquor store he wanted to move, and friends told him he had a concept that should be expanded.  Dollar and 99 cents stores are now found in most cities around the country.  One of Gold’s first promotions was selling a limited amount of TVs for 99 cents.

Wikipedia calls it “psychological pricing,” which it is by using odd prices like 99 cents with the theory that it increases demand.  I doubt that and firmly believe that if you sold an item for $5.00 instead of $4.99, consumers would buy it for the sheer novelty.  At least until the impact of the change wore off.  From a study done back in the late 1990s, it was found that 60 percent of advertised prices ended in the digit 9, 30 percent 5, 7 percent in a zero.

Just think of the money that could be saved by rounding prices off.  Without all the 99 cent digits gone, catalogs could be smaller or contain more products and junk mail could lower prices even more.  Gas pumps could be narrower without the .99 extension and fuel prices could be lowered.  Retail outlets could use smaller signs in stores without all the .99s meaning they could hold more sales with more price reductions. 

In 1970 when I entered the junk mail business they were already using the 99 cent price calculation so David Gold might have gotten his idea from receiving one of their catalogs.  In case you don’t know, the purpose of the junk mail offer is to “get your attention,” then get you “involved” so you end up buying something.  It was determined early on that a round figure was not attention-getting, thus, the move to just one cent lower than the round figure. 

You might wonder, had the industry gone with the round figure, just how much more profitable could it have been.

Typical Victorias Secret ad

On the other hand, junk mail companies sell your names from their mailing list at round figures.  It’s almost as if they think the buying public is dumb enough to fall for the 99 cent subterfuge but other junk mailers they are selling their lists to are not.  Based on my 35 years in the business, I would take exception with that.  For perspective, the lingerie catalog Victorias Secret sells its customer names for a base price of $115 per thousand names.  This can increase dramatically to over $200 per thousand names if junk mailers want things like age, income, etc.

My gut tells me that the public has seen this 99 cent thing for so long that it doesn’t do anything to incite them to make a purchase anymore.  However, when you have developed a habit like this based on, hopefully, some logic that was inspired years ago, you’re not likely to dump the idea without new logic.  Junk mailers are much busier at this time trying to figure out how to wring even more bucks out of your names; they gross over $4 billion annually now.

Read more here about eliminating the penny.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Rick Santorum can eliminate Mitt Romney in Arizona…just use a gun

It’s all but guaranteed.  Mitt Romney supports the 2nd Amendment but his more moderate politics may lead some to believe it is also where he stands on gun rights.  Even if not true, his conservatism is not quite fanatical enough for Arizona Republicans, some of which think a middle-of-the-roader is a bleeding liberal.  Rick Santorum, on the other hand, goes all the way with his views, so far to the right that he almost circles the political globe back to the left.

All the polls report that Santorum and Romney are close in the latter’s home state of Michigan leading into Wednesday’s debate in Arizona, and the Christian Science Monitor reports that a new CNN/Time poll announces that Santorum may now be closing the gap in Arizona.  Romney does still have a lead prior to Wednesday. 

But all Ricky boy has to do to get the majority’s attention in Arizona is to swagger into the debate wearing a Glock 19 at his side, an AK-47 over his shoulder.  I can see it now.  With a tumultuous applause including standing ovation, Santorum tells his loving audience, I feel your pain and one of my first acts as President will be to pass a law that will make it legal to shoot illegal immigrants as they cross the border.  Forget the fence; just work on improving your aim.

Typical Arizona lawmaker

Now, of course, Rick Santorum would never do that but there are some in Arizona that would welcome a law like this.  The Arizona Republican state legislature, after hearing of this idea, is probably already checking out the concept to see how they might turn it into legislation.  And if they don’t get them at the border, just confront the first immigrant at your local bar, starting an altercation that ultimately ends up in you shooting them, illegal or not.

I know.  Purely bizarre and maybe I am pushing the envelope, but all within the realm of possibility in a state that hates a huge portion of its workforce, and loves its guns more than it does the safety of Arizona’s citizens.  I don’t want you make-believe vigilantes protecting me with your concealed weapons.  You don’t have the proper training, nothing even remotely close to law enforcement, and it is time you cowboys understood that.

The National Victims Action Council (NVAC) has an interesting illustration of how those packing heat probably would never have the chance to react, even if they had enough training.  It’s a fantasy, they say, advanced by the gun lobby, that gun owners need their weapons with them at all times for self defense.  Like walking down a street in Dodge City waiting to draw and shoot.  Doesn’t happen that way.  The criminal almost always has the element of surprise. 

Mitt Romney, Mr. 1%
In most instances a police officer would have the upper hand by most likely being in uniform, trained to spot the bad guys before they get the upper hand.  He or she can anticipate their moves and already has a strategy for almost any kind of confrontation.  Gun fanatics take notice: you don’t have any of this talent but if you do it is no doubt limited to watching TV cop dramas.  I keep bringing this up but two gun nuts almost shot each other in the Tucson massacre.

Let’s be realistic.  Because of a lousy economy law enforcement has been cut back but I’ll still wait for the police any day rather than put my life in the hands of a vigilante cowboy.

NVAC says in a 2009 study commissioned by the National Institutes of Health and published in the American Journal of Public Health, “…guns did not protect those who possessed them from being shot in an assault.”  Further, “The study found that people carrying a gun were 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not carrying a gun.”  Go to the NVAC site, above, for more facts on this issue.

In the meantime, when you read this post, it will probably already be evident how both Romney and Santorum stand on gun rights from the debate last night; that is if anyone dares bring it up.  My exposition above is simply to shed light on the fact that gun rights in Arizona, and several other states, are simply insane.  I would settle for just one of the candidates saying, ‘Ah, come on Arizona and the rest of the country.  Can’t we just agree on sane gun control?’  Yeah, right.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Doctors dump parents that refuse to vaccinate children but where do they go?

I did an article back in November of 2011, “Reckless parents endanger children by not vaccinating,” when this whole fiasco started about parents who adamantly decline to have their children inoculated properly.  It all started over a study done by a doctor in Great Britain that was proved to be wrong.  But families persisted in their refusal to vaccinate and now some pediatricians who have lost patience with this attitude are “firing” them from their practice.  Good riddance!

Child with measles

As a result of this denial, whooping cough is back, mumps are back, measles are back.  As of November 2011, there were 152 cases of measles, double a typical year; the biggest outbreak in 15 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  In the pre-vaccine days, this disease killed between 3,000 and 5,000 Americans a year.  Doctors are only attempting to protect their other patients when they tell the stubborn ones to take a hike.

But, where do they go? 

In a Wall Street Journal piece, it was reported that “Medical associations don't recommend such patient bans, but the practice appears to be growing, according to vaccine researchers.”  And the docs aren’t giving in; a study done in Connecticut showed that around 30 percent of 133 doctors had asked this group to leave their practice.  In the Midwest, the figure was 21 percent.  Who wants to sit their child down next to another who could have God knows whatever?

Another concern of these misled parents was that mercury was used as a vaccine preservative, also disproved like the autism scare by numerous studies.  The WSJ found another interesting fact, that more medically educated parents these days are willing to challenge their doctors, thus, these physicians do not want to deal with patients that outwardly confront them.  This alone I cannot condone since a well-informed patient is the best kind of patient.

Some doctors said that they have not had much luck in persuading these misinformed parents to change their minds so the only alternative is to fire them.  Pediatricians do not agree on their obligations to these families but do know they want them to get the best medical care possible.  Unfortunately, those let go from these practices are “…probably going to gravitate toward another practice with unhealthy practices."  

And that is one answer to where will they go.  But there is yet another possibility; they won’t go anywhere and that is worse.

With the economy in the shape it is and affecting so many financially, along with a number of families without health care coverage, the ingredients are there for a real health care emergency.  40% of parents say they have deliberately skipped or delayed a shot for their children.  In another study, 1 in 10 parents vaccinated their children outside of the recommended schedule developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The doctor's pledge

A lot of younger parents today have not seen the havoc diseases like measles, mumps or whooping cough can cause.  They are willing to opt for the other side based primarily on emotionalism, reading material on the Internet without really checking its source for authenticity.  One Atlanta mom made the statement that any doctor should feel “obligated” to discuss vaccine risks. 

True, but if that doc tells you that you are endangering your child in what you are doing, and if you trust his or her judgment, then you should also take their advice.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Gun nuts are right, guns don’t kill people; the NRA does by forcing loose gun laws

Why the NRA gets its way

In talking about the “Fast and Furious” fiasco, Democratic California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said, “anyone can walk in and buy anything,” referring to firearms.  F&F occurred in Arizona, which just happens to have the loosest gun laws in the USA, perhaps in the world.  The Senator’s home state has more stringent weapons laws such as a ban against assault weapons compared to Arizona that allows their sale. 

The National Rifle Assn. (NRA) filed a lawsuit in August of 2011, challenging a new federal regulation requiring gun merchants in states along the border with Mexico to report bulk sales of certain semiautomatic rifles.  The key word here is “bulk” as if NRA members need 10 or more assault rifles to protect their homes.  The organization was prominent in the appeal of the assault weapons ban

The NRA has the state of Arizona by the balls and yet it continues to push for more laws that will allow firearms everywhere in the state.  The latest to come out of this demented Republican legislature is a bill to force guns onto college and university campuses; you can already take them into bars.  The NRA has succeeded in diluting Arizona weapons laws to the extent that anyone can buy and carry a handgun concealed with absolutely no training.

In the following video you can watch one of the NRA's Exec. Dir. Wayne LaPierre's ludicrous answers to why the government should not monitor multiple gun sales along the Mexican border: 

In all fairness, the National Rifle Assn. has several gun safety programs available to its members, which it recommends on its site, but hardly the kind of thing that would appeal to a Jared Loughner before his Tucson massacre or Seung Hui Cho in the Virginia Tech bloodbath.

NRA new member
This all stems from a branch of the NRA, the Institute for Legislative Action, which is their lobbying arm.  It places its strength in the 4-million members of the organization and gun manufacturers that both contribute generously to the NRA.  The ILA depends heavily on grassroots efforts in the states to pass pro-gun reform legislation. 

Although it says its efforts are to “recognize the right of honest citizens to carry firearms for self-protection,” the ILA fails to mention that these same laws also allow lunatics to buy and carry around weapons with which they create mayhem on innocent citizens.

Other NRA approved state legislation includes: In Mississippi when you have a concealed carry permit and take an eight-hour education course, you can now carry a gun on college campuses, in bars and in courthouses; Despite Iowa loosening its gun law regulations back in 2010, the NRA demanded more, wanting more firearms on the street; In Tennessee gun laws look almost as loose as the state of Arizona.

Here’s an example of the NRA’s arrogance and misplaced priorities: "This is all a coordinated approach to respect that human, God-given right of self defense by law-abiding Americans," says Chris W. Cox, the NRA's chief lobbyist. "We'll rest when all 50 states allow and respect the right of law-abiding people to defend themselves from criminal attack."  From the Nashville, Tenn. Herald Sun.

NRA's Wayne LaPierre laughing at gun control
In Pennsylvania a bill is going through the legislature that would penalize municipalities - including Philadelphia and 29 others - that have enacted laws to curb illegal gun sales by requiring them to pay damages and penalties to plaintiffs who challenge those laws in the courts; Virginia is considering a bring your gun to work bill; And at the federal level, the “National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011” would make it easier for people to carry concealed handguns across state lines.

You can take a look at your state on Wikipedia’s “Gun Laws in the United States site.  Then compare it with bizarre states like Arizona, Tennessee and Texas.  If your state has reasonable gun control laws, I can guarantee you that the National Rifle Assn. is lurking close.  It is simply a matter of time, unless you do something to stop it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Occupy Movement must dump camps for mission and strategy

If you look at the latest stamina of President Obama’s rhetoric on issues you would have to agree that it is far more forceful than a year ago.  And it was just a little more than a year ago that the Occupy Movement started; Occupy Wall Street held its first demonstration on September 17, 2011.  At that time the Tea Party was going full blast and deciding much of what was going on in Congress. 

TPers still have their influence but it is waning, evidenced by recent GOP conciliations on the payroll tax cut.

Arlen Grossman, writing in OpEdNews, talks of how the President was willing to make all kinds of deals with the GOP on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the taxing of the rich back in early to mid-2011.  And then the Occupy Movement began to do their number in September and the American public suddenly realized there were several inequities in the system that needed to be fixed. 

It all centered around the 1% that controlled all the wealth, leaving the other 99% to fend for itself in an arena that was clearly weighted toward the 1%.

“Issues of class and economic fairness that had been swept under the rug for years suddenly became issues for discussion. Middle class Americans began to understand that corporations and the wealthy were paying a lower tax rate than they were,” says Grossman.  And Barack Obama became “bolder,” more resolute in where he stood on the issues he had had to appease Republicans on just a year ago.

Grossman adds: “I can't help but think that the Occupy movement has played a major role in reversing the focus of politics from last fall until now. If Occupy disappeared right now, they could get credit for accomplishing quite a bit in a short time.”

The New York Times says that although the Occupy camps are dismantling, it is “far from dissipating.”  They are only regrouping for the next thrust which will include larger marches and strikes coming up in the spring, designed to rebuild momentum, returning to the issues of inequality and corporate greed.  New York City is still the center of the movement but expansion nationwide, even worldwide, has proved the dedication of those involved.

William A. Galston, a senior fellow and an expert on political strategy at the Brookings Institution in Washington said, “They’ve gotten the people’s attention, and now they have to say something more specific.  Average Americans want solutions, not demonstrations, and their patience for the latter won’t last indefinitely.”  Demonstrators have been hearing this for months, but like any new movement, they had to wear through the emotionalism first.

An editorial from USA Today says the Occupy Movement is “…fading out in a whimper.”  The paper also says the movement hit a rich vein of dissent with Wall Street, “But after successfully tapping into this vein, the Occupiers chose a course best described as doing nothing.”  They may have a point that the demonstrators put too much stock in their physical presence in an encampment, but others might counter that they were simply taking time to reorganize.

Pew Research Report

One thing is very clear.  “Occupy must include minorities.” is an article from the Pasadena Sun that comments on the economic regression of the middle-class in America.  It goes on to say, “According to a 2011 Pew Center report, the median wealth of Hispanic households dropped by 66% between 2005 and 2009. That is a larger drop than experienced by black households, 53%, and far worse than the 16% experienced by whites.” 

In other words, who is more likely to be affected by the Occupy Movement that blacks and Hispanics?

The piece made another excellent point that in good times the U.S. favors immigration because of the work force available to do a number of jobs.  But in bad times immigrants are “scapegoats,” evidenced by the anti-immigration law SB-1070 enacted by Arizona.  With the surge in the Latino population, and in particular their recent enterprise toward activism, this should be one of Occupy’s top priorities.

The unemployment rate for black Americans is at 15 percent, compared to around 8 percent for whites.  But the majority of the movement is white as reported by A Fast Company survey recently that found that African Americans, who are 12.6 percent of the U.S. population, make up only 1.6 percent of
Occupy Wall Street
.  The Washington Post also said, “We can’t expect our civil rights organizations and political leaders to help blacks rage against the corporate machine when they are part of it.”

There is no other group of Americans more entrenched in activism for their rights than blacks and it will be a tragedy if they are not encouraged to fight for them alongside the Occupy Movement.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Starbucks position on open gun carry laws creates nightmare

If you are a Starbuck’s fan, and I am, and if you are an advocate of sane gun control, which I am, you might be looking for a place other than your local Starbuck’s store to get your daily coffee fix.  And I might just do that too if the gun bubbas attempt to bully their way around where my wife and I migrate to at least three or four times a week for our favorite brews. 

So far I have not seen one open-carried weapon where we frequent—we are in Arizona and that’s not normal—so maybe there is still hope.  However, that doesn’t mean that half the people we’re sitting around with don’t have a Glock in their pocket.  Hey, they can carry loaded handguns into bars in this state so why not their local Starbucks?  The whole concept amounts to sheer lunacy.

This past Tuesday the National Gun Victim's Action Council (NGVA) called for a boycott on all Starbucks stores because the company allows guns and assault weapons to be openly carried in its stores (in 43 states) and concealed and carried in its stores (in 49 states).  There is the implication by NGVA that Starbucks has been pressured by the National Rifle Assn. (NRA) due to its 2010 Pro-Gun Agenda where the "open carry" movement began meeting in popular major retail chains.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz

All the chains but Starbucks banned guns from being carried in their stores.  As a loyal customer, I asked Starbucks to email me their current policy on open gun carry which they did.  It dates back to March of 2010 which coincides with the NRA’s Pro-Gun Agenda so I decided to ask the company a question I felt might shed some light on the matter. 

The question was: “Is Howard Schultz (Starbucks CEO) a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA)?  If you cannot answer this question, please forward this email to Mr. Schultz's office.” 

I waited for over 10 days and when I received no answer sent this email: “As of this date I have not received an answer and would like to hear from someone at your earliest convenience.  Otherwise, I will proceed and write my article with the information I have indicating your response to the above.  That was on February 9, with still no answer yet.

Whether Howard Schultz is or is not a member of the NRA makes absolutely no difference in this matter other to simply clarify his personal position on guns.  If an NRA member, he could be as radical as certain factions of this organization that believe that guns should be available to anyone in the world and be able to be carried by their owners anywhere in the world.  But Howard decided to keep this information to himself and that is his right.

NGVA made this additional statement: “Starbucks has the legal right to ban guns but despite having been petitioned by thousands, asked at a shareholder meeting, and a direct appeal made to their Board, Starbucks clings to this policy that puts millions of Americans at risk every day and encourages the spread of guns being carried in public.”  They add, "Open and conceal and carry are among the reasons there are 12,000 gun homicides each year in the U.S.

NGCA thinks "Starbucks’ steadfast support of the NRA's lethal pro-gun agenda damages its 'socially conscious company' brand.”  They said the boycott will continue until “Starbucks rejects the NRA's Pro-Gun agenda by banning all guns from their stores and committing to be an Aggressive Corporate Advocate for sane gun laws.” 

The Brady Campaign says: “Fifty six percent of those polled - favor Starbucks and other retail establishments establishing strict ‘no guns’ policies for their businesses - and far more gun owners support a “no guns” policy for Starbucks than believe Starbucks and other businesses should allow firearms on their premises,” this according to a poll conducted for the Brady Center by the polling firm Lake Research Partners. 

That is a pretty strong mandate that Starbucks has opened a can of worms it had better close before the boycotts start to affect their business, and there are even additional gun control organizations threatening more of the same.  Or…before someone is injured or even killed at one of their stores, which, based on daily reports of shootings that occur in Arizona, could happen at my favorite location.

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