Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Monday, December 15, 2003
Welcome to the homepage of BloopWatch, where the Mythos meets Reality. This webpage was founded in tribute to H. P. Lovecraft, the Providence-born writer of "weird tales" who has sometimes been called the father of modern horror. The mission of this page is to document ways in which Lovecraft's writings intersect, or seem to intersect, reality.
Thursday, December 11, 2003
by Richard Freeman
During the last 20 years, Wal-Mart has moved into communities and destroyed them, wiping out stores, slashing the tax base, and turning downtown areas into ghost-towns. This is accomplished through Wal-Mart's policy of paying workers below subsistence wages, and importing goods that have been produced under slave-labor conditions overseas. Often, communities will even give Wal-Mart tax incentives, for the right to be destroyed.
Wal-Mart both reflects, and is, a major driving force for America's deadly implementation of the Imperial Rome model. Unable to produce physical goods to sustain its own existence, the United States, like Rome, sucks in imported goods from around the world, using, in this case, a dollar that is over-valued by 50-60%. America has been transformed from a producer to a consumer society. From the 1940s through the early 1960s, through its technologically-advanced manufacturing-agricultural economy, America produced new value that contributed
to mankind's advancement. Through a "post-industrial society" policy, the bankers have pushed Wal-Mart to the top of the heap, so that it is now the world's largest corporation, with $245.5 billion in sales last year. Wal-Mart,
which produces no value-added whatsoever, dominates the geometry that governs the U.S. consumer society. America consumes goods that others produce, which Wal-Mart markets. Wal-Mart dictates, through its demand for low prices, that its suppliers outsource their production to foreign nations, further ripping down America's battered domestic manufacturing and agricultural capability, in a self-feeding process.
Here, we look at how Wal-Mart has laid waste communities from Iowa to Mississippi, from Ohio to Oklahoma.
Iowa represents the paradigm of Wal-Mart's destruction of a state and its communities. Iowa is a leading agricultural state, with an industrial center in its northeast. In 1983, Wal-Mart opened its first store in the state. Since that time, the number of other retail stores that Wal-Mart has forced to close in Iowa, in communities of
5,000 or fewer people, is immense.
Sam Walton started Wal-Mart in his home town of Bentonville, Arkansas in 1962. At first he concentrated on Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, along with a few other southern states. Beginning in the 1980s, he spread Wal-Mart out as a national chain, shifting from discount stores with 40-70,000 square feet of sales space, to increasingly building Sam's Club and supercenters, which typically have 150-200,000 square feet. The idea was to use its ability to sell a huge volume of goods, its sweat-shop pay to American workers, and its flood of cheap imports, to blow apart any competition. In the October 1996 issue of Wal-Mart Today, an internal company newsletter, Tom Coughlin, executive vice president for operations, summed up the approach: "At Wal-Mart, we make dust. Our competitors eat dust."
In looking at Iowa, we encounter a myth: that when Wal-Mart opened a store in Town A, it may have hurt by a small amount the sales of stores in other towns neighboring Town A-as the people from the other towns went to Wal-Mart to do some of their shopping; but nonetheless, Wal-Mart so increased the volume of sales at its own store and other stores in Town A, that the stores in the overall region experienced significant sales growth and job growth. Wal-Mart hired compliant research and marketing firms to "prove" this point. This is a lie.
We look at what happened to Iowa communities of 5,000 or fewer people. Significant research has been done in this area by Prof. Kenneth Stone of Iowa State University, which we draw upon. Since it is difficult to see what effect occurred after only one or two years, we look at the effects after ten years or longer.
Using sales tax records, Professor Stone compared the change in sales volume at stores located in towns where Wal-Mart opened one of its stores (a "Wal-Mart Town"), and in the neighboring towns where Wal-mart did not open a store ("Neighboring Non Wal-Mart Town"). In cases selected from the study, the sales at Wal-Mart stores themselves are not included, since the focus here is to measure the "Wal-Mart effect": Once Wal-Mart opens a store, what happens to all the other stores in the neighboring communities, in Iowa communities of 5,000 or fewer people?
Figure 1 presents the change in sales volume for Iowa home furnishings stores (furniture stores, major appliance stores, drapery stores, etc.). One year after Wal-Mart opened a store in a town, in the Neighboring Non Wal-Mart
Towns, at home furnishing stores the sales volume collapsed by 14%. People from the Non Wal-Mart Towns travelled to the towns where a Wal-Mart had opened, to purchase a share of their home furnishings at the Wal-Mart store. However, by the tenth year after the Wal-Mart store had opened, in the Neighboring Non Wal-Mart Towns, at home furnishing stores the sales volume had fallen a stunning 31% below the level it had been ten years earlier. A large number of home furnishing stores were forced to close.
In the Wal-Mart Towns, by the tenth year after the Wal-Mart store had opened, the sales volume at home furnishing stores had declined by only 1%. Clearly, the home furnishing stores located at Neighboring Non Wal-Mart Towns, had suffered the brunt of the damage.
Figure 2 presents the change in sales volume for Iowa specialty stores (sporting goods stores, druggists, jewelry stores, card and gift shops, florists, etc.). In the Wal-Mart Towns, by the tenth year after the Wal-Mart
store had opened, the sales volume at specialty stores had plunged by 17%. In the Neighboring Non Wal-Mart Towns, by the tenth year after the Wal-Mart store had opened, the sales volume at specialty stores had tumbled by 28%.
Figure 3 presents the change in sales volume for Iowa apparel stores, showing a 28% decline by the tenth year in both Wal-Mart Towns and Non Wal-Mart Towns. The Wal-Mart Towns had not escaped the Wal-Mart effect.
Thus, Wal-Mart's assertion that the sales by a range of stores in Neighboring Non Wal-Mart Towns would fall by a small amount, and that the sales volume by a range of stores in Wal-Mart Towns would rise significantly, is completely false.
Putting aside this myth, Figure 4 shows the catastrophe caused by the Wal-Mart effect in Iowa, inclusive of towns that did and did not have a Wal-Mart store. The period under consideration is 1983-96, three years longer than the
earlier study, giving three more years of the devastation. By 1996, 13 years after a Wal-Mart had opened in a town, the volume of sales at department stores, which includes Wal-Mart and other large discount chains, rose by 42%. However, since 1983, sales at grocery stores fell by 11%; sales at drug stores fell by 32%; and sales at men's and boys' stores dropped headlong by 59%. Iowa's retail and grocery stores, which form the underpinning of communities, had been ravaged.
Table 1 shows the second phase of the Wal-Mart effect: the closing of stores whose revenues had collapsed. All told, a staggering 7,326 stores closed in Iowa communities of 5,000 or less people (the table covers a ten-year period through 1993; were it to cover the longer period through 1996, the number of store closings would be even greater). The health and vitality of these communities, including employment at rising wages and benefits, the generation of taxes, etc., will not be restored.
Wal-Mart destroyed other communities and cities. For example:
Toledo, Ohio. Author Al Norman describes the effect of Wal-Mart and Home Depot (another outsourcing chain) on Toledo: "When I went for a walk in downtown Toledo, I passed the old Lamson dry goods store: 9 stories of empty retail space. Each floor is the size of a football field. The building served as the home of a Macy's Department store from 1924 to 1984. For the past fourteen years, the store has been empty. The City now owns it, which means the taxpayers of Toledo are paying the freight for its upkeep."
Nowata, Oklahoma. In 1982, Wal-Mart opened a store on the outskirts of Nowata, a town of 4,000 people. Half of the small businesses in downtown Nowata shut down. Then in 1994, Wal-Mart abruptly closed this store, as well as another in a nearby town, and opened up a supercenter in Bartlesville, which is 30 miles away, leaving Nowata prostrate.
Mississippi. A study found that in small towns in the state, five years after the opening of a Wal-Mart, the dollar volume of grocery store trade had collapsed 17%.
Vermont. In an attempt to stop Wal-Mart from becoming large in the state, various towns passed restrictions that would halt Wal-Mart construction. Wal-Mart built stores in the neighboring New Hampshire and New York, which
sucked business out of Vermont.
Collapsing Tax Revenue
Despite all this, many states and communities are using taxpayers' money to finance subsidies to Wal-Mart, to come in and rape them.
In 1999, it was reported that in Olivette, Missouri, a developer received a tax incentive of up to $38.9 million for a construction project including a Wal-Mart and a Sam's Club-more than a third of the projected total cost of the
project. In 1998, it was reported that the city of Chesterfield, Missouri was supplying $25.5 million in tax incentives toward the construction of a $100 million-plus mall, anchored by a Wal-Mart. In 2001, Ohio approved $10 million in tax credits and other assistance for Wal-Mart to build two distribution centers and an eyeglass-manufacturing facility.
These insane subsidies draw down the public finances. At the same time, Wal-Mart decimates the tax-base through other methods:
* Many stores which, unlike Wal-Mart, did not get tax breaks, are closed.
This causes the loss to many states of sales taxes, and to all states of corporate profit taxes.
* Workers at established stores that have been closed by the Wal-Mart effect, who were paid higher wages than workers at Wal-Mart, have been fired,causing a drop in state income taxes.
* Wal-Mart's outsourcing caused the loss of 1-1.5 million manufacturing production jobs, and thus the taxes that these workers and the manufacturing plants that they worked at, would have paid.
* States and cities often have to finance downtown revitalization programs for the areas devastated by Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart certainly produces a wealth effect: the loss of wealth. Just walk through any community downtown with its empty or boarded-up stores, to see the workings of the Wal-Mart effect.
This article appears in the Nov. 21, 2003 issue of Executive Intelligence
Science confirms that men can't think rationally when confronted with a beautiful woman.
Tuesday, December 09, 2003
Animals with an innate phobia of novelty have higher levels of stress hormones after a new experience and die significantly younger than their braver kin, new research has found. The work suggests that a lifetime of fearful stress can take an accumulated toll on health.
Report from Baghdad by member of the Global exchange delegation. He says things are much WORSE than what is being shown on TV.
Sunday, December 07, 2003
This person blogs about a letter her husband has received from the National Institute of Standards requesting his aid with their investigation into the collapse of the towers during the attack on the World Trade Center. They are requesting reports from all tenants of the building. Only one problem. He died in the collapse. Are these people complete and utter fools or what? Didn't they even consider crosschecking the tenant list against the casualty list? UN-FUCKING-BELIEVABLE!!!!
Miss Molly on why W seems unable to see the connection between his actions and the damage done by them.
Saturday, December 06, 2003
Looking for the perfect place to take the new date you just met over at ImSoLonely.com? Check out this great resource. 100's of gross and disgusting bars from all over the world, from Moscow, Russia to Bellefonte, PA. Sure to impress.
Slipstream does not define a category, but suggests an approach, an attitude, an interest or obsession with thinking the unthinkable or doing the undoable. Slipstream can be visionary, unreliable, odd or metaphysical. It's not magical realism: it's a larger concept that contains magical realism. Some familiar recent slipstream examples: Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale, the films Memento or Being John Malkovich, the opera Jerry Springer. Other novelists who have from time to time carried the slipstream torch include Anthony Burgess, Haruki Murakami, Don DeLillo, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, John Banville, John Fowles, Paul Auster and Dino Buzatti.
Teresa Nielson-Hayden on the art of the Mary Sue. A nice intro to the hidden complexities with many good links. Especially good on the use of Mary Sue-ism as lit-crit. Is "The Left Hand Of Darkness" really a Mary Sue? Who'd have thunk it?
The Grand PooBah Sleeze of All Sleezes among the neocons has outdone himself. His financial chicanery has been so blatant this time that even BushCo might have to act against him. Tsk...Tsk...Tsk...
A Chick Tract crossed with The Old Ones. It's a Truth that had to be told.
View from Australia of the general cultural failure of globalization.
The terrorist group that BushCo forgot (so that they could go after Saddam) has returned with a vengence. Scary footage of a training camp and new views of the 9/11 attacks that prove these guys aren't a bunch of pathetic amateurs. These guys are the main threat.
Good article on the use of computers in the Republican gerrymandering effort in Texas and elsewhere. Scary stuff.
Friday, December 05, 2003
Clarke on the future of communication, from OneWorld.SouthAsia
A BBCinteractive channel webcasting classic BBC Radio comedy, drama, and book intepretations. A spoken word lover's dream. The Goon Show, Dr. Who, Terry Prachett's Wyrd Sisters, Pickwick Papers, 39 Steps and more this month. A real feast.
OH HAPPY! HAPPY! JOY! JOY! Mike Nichols is planning to bring "The Search for the Holy Grail" to the Broadway stage...as, of course, "Spamelot." At last, a reason to think past next year's fearsome elections. A reason to carry on regardless...
(and about an hour of editing by the poster...)
On my Harley Davidson I ride
Dear Persephone at my side,
Thanks to plans well thought and laid
For the easy smighting of sweet Hades.
Beginning past our castles dear.
Swiftly diving into lakes of drear
Slowly now appears the sea.
No silk'd ever known arranity,
We're idly watched by distant kin,
So sound of mind, yet not true in.
'Til then I had never been a madman
Made of shiny uncontrolled abandon,
Singing loudly of my soul's contempt,
Of hair brushed dreams I'd sadly dreamt,
Yet how easily did those dreams depart,
When shown the opium den of your heart.
O Love profound, what strange thing are ye?
Clearly now thou doest unnerve me.
Upon fresh bellflowers dripping dew
I cry hard now, the loss is you.
Quickly then, claw doors held closed
Cast in circles--pain exposed
But hope for me no morning dove,
Rather sits here a mourning love.
This will sure rev up that 18th level half-orc assassin you've been playing lately.
Lot Description: A ROMAN GLASS GAMING DIE
Circa 2nd Century A.D.
Deep blue-green in color, the large twenty-sided die incised with a distinct symbol on each of its faces 2 1/16 in. (5.2 cm.) wide
Estimate: 4,000 - 6,000 U.S. dollars
Provenance: Acquired by the current owner's father in Egypt in the 1920s.
Lot Notes: Several polyhedra in various materials with similar symbols are known from the Roman period. Modern scholarship has not yet established the game for which these dice were used.
Christopher Allbritton is returning to Iraq as an indepedent journalist. This is A VERY GOOD THING. We will have a source we can trust for information on how the war is going. He is looking for donations to help pay his way to Baghdad.
Welcome to Poetry 180, a project from Billy Collins, Past Poet Laureate of the US. Poetry can and should be an important part of our daily lives. Poems can inspire and make us think about what it means to be a member of the human race. By just spending a few minutes reading a poem each day, new worlds can be revealed.
Top US climate scientists say (listen up BushCo) there is no doubt about the human cause of global warming.
Thursday, December 04, 2003
Once again, the totally surprising Robert Byrd proves why he is becoming known as the conscience of the Senate.
Bravo, Senator! Bravo!
Website promoting the art of freeway blogging, using large signs on overpasses as protest venues. Lots of examples and a decent how-to section. Good Stuff.
Peter Jackson returned home for the triumphant premiere of the third LOTR film.
Well, now there's hard evidence that males have been around for at least 425 million years. Lots of time for us to have gotten into trouble...
Thanks to a swan dive in the price of swans, the 12 Day Index is sharply lower this year.
This is good news indeed. It means that we may be able to replace our use of oil as a fuel and use a greater part of our remaining oil reserves as material for manufacturing instead.
A blending of two of my favorite things, SF and opera. Sadly, the great SF operatic masterpiece has yet to be written.
A congressional candidate in Alabama, Michael Williams, has a unique proposal: Create a Science Fiction tax.
A nice fat monetary prize for poetry.
So, scoff not, thou ticklish fiend
Fetched like this bone,
That the fair dog gripped in his teeth.
Solstice hunted, but did not find thee,
Tossed and turned, his lustful eye useless,
For, as ever, thy beak had taken its toll.
The US military has discharged nearly 40 Arabic translaters because it has found out that they were -GASP- gay. So this rabid homophobia serves as a justification for weakening our fight against terroism. Of course, we have so many Arabic speakers in the military already that losing a few shouldn't matter, right? It is to weep.
Kevin Phillips on the hidden dangers to the Republicans of having their convention in New York. And the opportunities that a vigorously fought primary season could present to the Democrats
As an asthma sufferer, I take BushCo's attacks on the Clean Air Act personally. Here is Dr. Dean's position paper on the issue. It's another in a growing list of reasons I will vote for him for President.
Lesley at Plum Crazy reminds us that even on the best of days life is merely a Monty Python skit.
Peter Bergen on Laurie Mylroie, the Neocons' favorite conspiracy theorist. She seems to find it easier to believe in the existence of a vast cabal of thousands of bureaucrats in the US government dedicated to protecting Saddam rather than overwhelming evidence showing al Qaida to be a loose organization of independent terrorists.
Wednesday, December 03, 2003
In the latest attack on the Clean Air Act, BushCo proposes loosening the standards on mercury emissions from power plants.
Mercury is a potent neurotoxin, particularly dangerous to pregnant women, babies and small children.
It has become obvious that the only thing miraculous about the performance of the Houston school system was its ability to teach kids how to take the Texas Achievment Test. Most graduates do no better, many in fact even do worse, than their national counterparts when in college. The kids are scammed on two counts. They are cheated out of an education and they are set up for failure in the real world.
A perspective on BushCo from one of the more 'liberal' Egyptian newspapers. This view is shared by most in the Middle East and many people are even harsher in their rhetoric. It's information I'm certain the Resident is not being given by his news screeners.
Umberto Eco on the future of the book and why we will always want and need it.
Correspondents' Corner, if this were still Friday:
Name: Charles Pierce
Hometown: Newton, MA
Eric - Because Every Day - even Thanksgiving Day - is Slacker Friday. Part XXIII.
During the extended JFK obsequies last weekend, I had one of those toss-the-remote moments when I heard Gerald Posner explain the stubborn persistence of conspiracy theories concerning the events in Dealey Plaza. It happened when Posner's speculated that conspiracy theories survive because We - you know The People, see Madison, James: The Collected Works - find it hard to believe that a nut with a $12 rifle can take down a major historical figure.
I'm sorry, but this is all bollocks, as my cousins say. It is a perfect statement of the kind of infantilization that is central to our devalued national discourse. You heard the same sort of thing during the extended mishigas in Florida three years ago. 'We' had to short-circuit the constitutional process because 'We' couldn't stand the length of time those processes would have taken. This, despite the fact that the country was doing just fine, and it had a president who, you know, really liked the job and likely would have worked the extra couple of hours it would have taken for Tom DeLay to steal the election in the House, the way the Founders intended. Instead, we had Tim Russert holding our binkies for us while Nino and Silent Clarence threw the Constitution under a bus.
Look at the pathetic doings in Washington this week. The Republicans passed a campaign commercial.There is not a single serious person who believes that the new Medicare feedbag - Subsidies for HMO's and the Democrats couldn't beat that? - will affect no change on any public problem at all. (And I will bet Bill Frist a dead cat that, when the prescription drug benefit is supposed to kick in in ?06, 'budgetary considerations' will call for it to be 'postponed.') It has to do with positioning for the 2004 race, because all 'We' are interested in is the horse race. The Congress passed a myth, a fairy tale, the equivalent of a Sense Of The Senate resolution that Unicorns Shall Be Preserved On All Federal Lands. But we got coverage of The Big Win and The Big Loss.
Bad things are making themselves permanent, and it's time for people to notice. Barney Frank, who does not easily panic, has looked around himself and has seen the 'end of parliamentary democracy' in America. HRC sees it, too. A general says one more bad terrorist episode and we're Pinochet's Chile. Mainstream political journalism is bad kabuki theater at best. We are spoken to like children, and we deserve (and should demand) better. Grow up, the lot of you down there. We're already there, waiting.
Time reports on the hell that is Guantanamo. A place where attempted suicide is branded "manipulative behavior" by those administering the base, where innocent men who have been sold to the US by Afghan warlords out for the al-Qaida bounty wait years for "a politically propitious moment" to be released, a place in Cuba where the US does all the things to its prisoners that we have accused Castro of doing to his. It makes you proud to be an American. .... Gag......Retch.
A review of a new collection of the work of Franz Rosenzweig, German theologian and teacher of Leo Strauss.
From the review: "The coming millennium will go down in world history as a struggle between Orient and Occident, between the church and Islam, between the Germanic peoples and the Arabs," proclaimed Franz Rosenzweig in 1920. These ominous words appear in a collection of the German-Jewish theologian's writings about Islam, published in Berlin earlier this year. It is the most dangerous book I have read in a generation, for Rosenzweig (1886-1929) considered Islam a pagan "parody", "caricature" and "plagiarism" of Christianity and Judaism.
Object shows that neanderthalers were sophisticated enough to produce 'art.'
Get your mojo working. Origins and usage of some familiar idioms.
Paul Krugman on the electronic voting machine scam.
Tuesday, December 02, 2003
The imminent and inevitable decline in world oil production is leaving politicians speechless. None of them want to talk about it.
New York is a major battleground for the SuperTuesday primary on March 2.
With jobs running for the border and their bravest coming home dead and wounded from Iraq, are the "red" states really that secure for BushCo? Never underestimate the common sense of the American middle.
Is this the end of the local community booksale? Will used bookstores lose one of their traditional sources of stock and will local donators lose the chance to keep books in their community?
Monday, December 01, 2003
Ah, that's much better. Another web quiz reveals that I am actually Fidel. Light me up a nice cigar. The truth at last....
Revolutionary Dictator - Down with the System!
What Kind of Dictator Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla
I'm so utterly embarrassed to report that the best I could do was being Tony Blair. I'm terribly sorry, Mom. Don't let Grandad throw me out of the Wobblies. I'll do better next time.
To the outside world, Post executive editor Leonard Downie is a mild-mannered working stiff who will never be Ben Bradlee. Inside the Bush White House, he's a journo-terrorist. One senior administration official called him "Osama bin Downie" and said the Post was "leading a jihad against the Bush administration."
Once again, the Bushies show that they want to dish it out, but are unable to take it in return.