Sunday, August 26, 2012

Who Cares About Looting?

George Carlin has got me thinking. In the below clip on Bill Maher the topic is Katrina and they discuss (among other things) black men taking TV's from Best Buy. Maher points out that Bush's rhetoric in response was some encouragement to shoot such people on sight, which of course is ridiculous. The right winger replies "Well at least we can agree the looting is terrible." Carlin basically says "To tell you the truth I'm not too worried about it."

This got me thinking about our two tiered justice system. I'm reading a book right now called "The New Jim Crowe." Our justice system is simply skewed against blacks and other minorities. Blacks use illicit drugs at the same rate as whites, blacks are 13% of the population, and yet blacks are over 50% of the people in prison for non violent possession only type drug crimes. This YouTube video which purports to be a documentary of the book I'm reading, is kind of just a mash up of interviews and news pieces that show that this is not an accident. The Reagan administration realized that fear of the black man was a winning political issue. Divisive. Funnels dollars from the private prison industry into the coffers. And drug money can be used to fund terrorist operations in Latin America. So the CIA piped in the drugs and Reagan/Bush coordinated with the media a big "crack cocaine" scare campaign. They filled the prisons with black men, generating enormous profits.

It sounds too crazy to be true. The idea that the CIA was the source of crack. But even the CIA admits this now. Now, we know many black men have been incarcerated for use and distribution of crack. Who from the CIA is incarcerated? What about the very top people, like Bush Sr or the at the time CIA director? The very source of the problem? Well of course they are not only free but living in luxury. Ollie North is celebrated. He had his own show on Fox News.

Something like 50% of black males of this generation have either been in prison, jail, or probation. It becomes difficult to enter mainstream society with a record like that. What happens when men of this age are locked up or develop this history to where making a living is difficult? If they have children those children suffer. The father, struggling to make a living even for himself, may be tempted to leave and deprive these children of a good role model. These children might grow up and do stupid things, like steal a TV from Best Buy. People on the right are ready to shoot them on sight. The root cause of the problem they ignore. Those people get away.

One more economic thought on this situation. Who is harmed when a TV is stolen from Best Buy? Not the person that made the TV. He's in Mexico making $1 an hour or so and he has already been paid. Not the workers at Best Buy. Their salary doesn't change. In an economy where corporations have record cash and only hire to meet the demand the people harmed are the investors. The poorest half of people in this country don't own any stock, so they obviously are not harmed. By and large it's the richest people in the world that are harmed when a poor person steals a TV from Best Buy.

Mitt Romney made $20 million in 2010 and he didn't work. He's the kind of guy that gets the largest share of the money due to the profits generated by workers. So you can kind of see why the right wing would want to shoot a black man for stealing a TV. He's stealing from Mitt Romney, a super rich guy that won't actually notice because he already has money coming out of his ears. But so what? Serving the needs of the rich is of prime importance.

Romney doesn't actually "steal" because "stealing" means illegally taking something. He takes the value created by the Mexican factory worker, but it's not stealing because it's legal. Let's say the Mexican worker is paid $5 to make a TV. Other costs related to delivering that TV to a buyer amount to maybe $300. The TV is actually sold for $1000. So Romney gets $695, even though he may have been asleep through the whole process.

It's kind of like how nobody is concerned about higher level CIA personnel that created the crack epidemic. They go free and the black man that smoked some goes to prison. In the same way nobody is concerned when Romney takes all the value created by others (we can't call it stealing because it is legal). We're not worried about that. Only when the black man does the same. When he takes a TV he didn't create then he's to be shot for it.

I think Carlin is saying that we should concern ourselves first with the much larger "thefts" and the people at the very top of the drug trade. People like Mitt Romney and Bush Sr. I think that's right.


Ken said...

Before there were drug laws, there were no drug problems. There were no black markets in drugs, run by criminals. There were no muggers on the streets, trying to support a $100 a day habit- no pushers in high schools, trying to hook kids on drugs- no gangs fighting over territories and profits- on drive by shootings killing innocent children- no crack babies- no epidemic of overdoses. All these things began in the 1960s when the the War on Drugs created a black market and turned the drug buiness into a criminal enterprise.

Ken said...

My question. Who were the the bigger looters? Law Enforcement.

NRA: The untold story of gun confiscation after Katrina. You Tube.

Law abiding citizens legally owned firearms taken by force when they needed them the most.

Jon said...

I agree 100%. The drug war is a huge boondoggle. Another awful thing is the chemical warfare perpetuated against Colombian farmers and others. They call it "fumigation" but if Colombia was dumping chemicals on our tobacco fields in N Carolina, which call far more people than cocaine or all hard drugs combined we'd know what to call it. Chemical warfare.

I've heard of that Katrina thing but only know about it vaguely. I'll have to check that out.

Examinator said...

I admire your passion and the principal of how the cycle of dispossession is entrenched. Sadly I can't say the same for either your logic or grasp of the facts.
Firstly. We do pay in part for the looting firstly through our insurance premiums they go up and the dividend to say your superannuation.
Secondly . In your taxes when the govt pays damages.
Thirdly. It makes police etc necessary
Fourthly. Romney doesn't get $600 per TV he gets a tiny proportion of that. The figures you quoted are BEFORE costs of selling the TV showroom rent, staff, operating costs etc. Then there are well other investors etc get their cut too.

Let's be clear I'm no fan of Bain in fact I'd suggest that the world of Capitalism would be better off with out what I view as parasites. All they do is move money around for THEIR OWN benefit. If they disappeared tomorrow I doubt that they would be missed. It is a demonstrable myth that they actually add anything that the market couldn't achieve by less traumatic ways...However they do make profits if that is your sole goal.

Shoot to kill? I'm not that sure. Neither am I that sure that among those in prison black, white or green all are victims of the system as you put it. That is NOT to say it and the lack of options didn't play a role albeit in varying degrees. Contrary to Chad's view of me my experience at the dirty end of crisis intervention has taught me to be cautious on issues like this. BTW this statement is equally to all races.
Notwithstanding the point you make that the statistical predominance of those behind bars are from low opportunity backgrounds is indicative of the failure of the neocon (white) prejudice ridden philosophy(ies).

Examinator said...

I'd suggest that 'guns as a time when they need them most' with regards to Katrina is more than a little one eyed and self serving for the NRA.
There were larger issues at stake.
The facts are guns are a hindrance to peace keeping and justice in situations like Katrina. There is a heightened anxiety at times like this and statistically 'accidents' mistaken identities,revenge killings, family abuse/violence etc.
If the policing presence was sub par that is a clear failing of the Fed response. I have no doubt the neo coms were bean counting. Keep in mind too they have a history of it, UNDERESTIMATED badly (ignoring military advice) troop deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan for the same reason....
The extra cost to mobilise the forces.
Personally I'd have declared martial law and had so many boots on the locals ground that locals would have assumed it was a military convention.
Army, marines, National guard Navy Airforce the lot under the direct control of the Chief General.
Recover first egos later.

Jonathan said...


I think you might find these stories by NPR interesting regarding Bain Capitol. I think it's too simplistic to say they are just parasites...

Examinator said...

Take a look at this story and tell me it doesn't send shivers up your back .

Examinator said...

I understand your point. And I accept that from your perspective that to some degree maybe true for Bains.
But as I also said 'the same thing could have been achieved via the market' and considerably cheaper.
They didn't do anything that a good manager wouldn't have done.
Just for interest did you notice the product ...Just what the world needs hey. And by the way the factory is in Puerto Rico why? so they can fleece the workers and make more profits...

I'm old enough to remember a company called 'Sweat Hog' (tough clothes for tough times) they made an enormous hit and lots of money then franchised
(mom& dads)....two years later they went belly up (fashion changed sweats became passe) the equity Company that helped him maximise his business walked away prior to the crash with an enormous profit too.
There were some claims that they knew the market was a flash in the pan.
Anyway for every good (questionable) story there's 100's of others about quick profit that aren't.
NB my comment wasn't intended solely for Bains and Romney but for the (on principal) unnecessary 'industry?'.
I accept that we have very different criteria.
From what I read Romney's experience with Bain has no bearing on his competence of running a country.
Countries simply can't run on a balance sheet mentality...their goal isn't to have a profit and run . They are about the welfare of the people therein.

Jon said...

Ex, two things in reply. I do understand there are costs to others. The phrase "by and large" is meant to mean that I think the primary sufferers are the rich, though there are costs to others.

And on costs for a TV, I am in fact well aware that the mark up is not $700 on a $1000 TV. I just used easy numbers in a way that conveys that owners get a huge portion of the revenue generated as contrasted with workers. The real story is a lot more complicated. I imagine an individual worker creating a single TV gets more money than the owner, but since there are 500 people on the factory floor and few owners the accumulated effect is that the richest owners get a lot compared to an individual worker. But I would just be guessing. Whatever I guess would be way off. So I don't feel like doing the math and coming up with something more realistic, but still wrong. So I just put the simple math down because it does convey the point.

Jon said...

Ex, yeah, I had seen that story regarding Iran. Sounds like a crazy plan to initiate a provocation. But it's very sad how much punishment is being served to those that try and inform others of terrible and illegal behavior. Not only sad but also dangerous and destructive.

Ken said...

EX. I would like to see the evidence where in a situation like Katrina, that the stats support your point. Accidents, revenge killings, mistaken identity? Ask the Korean shop owners that protected their stores during the Los Angeles riots.
Why do you have an insurance policy? To protect you against a catastrophic event that might bankrupt you. If such a thing happens and the insurance company doesn't make good on its promise,the company can be prosecuted. Why do we have police? To protect you against people who do violence against you. But if someone hurts you in spite of the existence of the police,no one will prosecute the police for not delivering on its implied promise. The insurance company has a strong motivation to make no promises it can't keep, and to keep every promise it makes. The police have no such motivation. Thus you can't rely on the police( or any government agency) to protect you. You must depend upon your own ability to repel an attacker.

When someone asks why I carry a firearm, I tell them because a cop is too heavy.

Examinator said...

I wasn't quibbling about the actual math rather the notion that Romney personally got the lion share as this can be seized on by the right as unfair and anti capitalism.
The corollary to what I said was that the likes of Bain generally don't use their own money in deals like those cited by Jonathan put rather it's borrowed largely from institutional investors (superannuation funds etc). This in turn is from premium payers . Bain and their ilk are vampiristic in that they have little or no 'Skin' ($ risk) in the game it's everyone else.

Sure there can be the single source but rarely. This feeds into my view that they are parasitic i.e. they're another competitor for capital that could be better used by productive uses.
In short they put up a proposal to investors then do what they do, charging a ridiculous "management fee" .

It is accepted that the investors in a company get more out of profit than what the average worker gets in wages. However the largest recurring cost in manufacturing is wages.
In fact it's probable that the yearly wage bill for all workers can exceed the "dividends" paid to the investors.
Mind you this is not always true, Apple, Nike, Adidas are prime examples. This Mexican TV manufacturer maybe another . Your principal is still sound but with qualifications.
No offence intended it is just that reading all the sites that I do it is amazing how many people simply don't know the true ratios and tend to make unrealistic claims.
Notwithstanding it is clear that 'management' (Bains) is generally OVER PAID. Particularly when it comes to perks vehicles, jets, and the one thing that utterly shits me ...the Golden Parachute. Which means no matter how badly they screw up they still get more than most people earn in a lifetime as a pay off.

Examinator said...

Two points LA riots can't be reasonably compared to :
a. you 'protecting(?)' your property.
b. Katrina.
The point I was making that it is a proven fact (behavioural psychological research) that in moments of High anxiety i.e. AFTER Katrina, and DURING riots the average person is more inclined to over react...part of the flea or fight drive.
suppose one is 'cut off' while driving your vehicle...the average male immediate inclination is to respond to it as a threat aggressively i.e. abuse, fingers or retaliation. (a emotional brain response) Statistics suggest that the victim is more 10 times more likely to be injured in a the subsequent road rage Incident. Fortunately many people will then automatically respond with the reasoning section and dismiss it.
However, if that 'cutting off' interrupted a row with a passenger the reasoning response the victim is already in a emotional state and is 50% more likely to react violently.
Now super impose the anxiety stress of a riot in action and the probable response is More likely to be disproportionate.
AFTER Katrina etc most people would be suffering some degree of PTSD.....The judgement is reduced ....PSTD sufferers are known to have explosive or disproportionate reactions to stress.
psychologically speaking the different portions of the brain are active.

The objective of the police is to 'keep the peace'...not necessarily to protect property per se. Even when they do there is a priority set down based on convertibles and the risk of life.
I can see where you are going but as I've said before...The chances of home invasion is far lower than say that of a shop. There are actuarial tables that rank shops..hence some shops pay more premium because of the associated risk criteria.

When I had pet shops (3) I instructed my staff NEVER PUT UP RESISTANCE to a hold up.Nothing in the shop is worth being injured or dying for. NO heroics. do as you are told and observe.
Any shop owner who isn't fully insured is a fool.

Examinator said...

By the way the video in the topic told you the facts that are the proof.
The problem is the source(s) for this are many and varied . there is no single 'potted' answer. Security was/is part of my career. I read extensively to keep up to date.I subscribe to many journals and subscription information services.

Examinator said...

Off topic but
Here's one that makes me nervous

Cyclone in Tampa hmmmm is God trying to tell the Republicans something? ;-)

Jon said...

Ex, global warming honestly scares the hell out of me. And like I discuss at this blog post:

the global warming skeptics we don't hear too much from are the ones that say things are much worse than the worst case IPCC estimates. As best I can tell (and your link is more evidence) they are more correct. I'm afraid they will be proved right, and the suffering will be off the scale.

Jonathan said...

Jon wrote:

One more economic thought on this situation. Who is harmed when a TV is stolen from Best Buy? Not the person that made the TV. He's in Mexico making $1 an hour or so and he has already been paid. Not the workers at Best Buy. Their salary doesn't change. In an economy where corporations have record cash and only hire to meet the demand the people harmed are the investors. The poorest half of people in this country don't own any stock, so they obviously are not harmed. By and large it's the richest people in the world that are harmed when a poor person steals a TV from Best Buy.

Who's hurt when someone loots from bestbuy? How about the community for starters. I don't think people feel any safer to know that looters are breaking in and stealing things. How about those doing the looting. They know it's wrong, and when people violate their own conscious, it not only hurts them, but those around them.

Do I agree that there are much worse things out there than looting, especially against the backdrop of everything going on in Katrina? Absolutely. But by saying that X is way worse than Y, therefore I'm not concerned about Y seems naive at best, and endorsing moral relativism at worst.

And to clarify my terms, I'm not referring to a universal moral absolute vs some sort of immergant naturalistic/altruistic framework, I'm saying the second someone points to the guy who take 99.99% of the profits, and Romney's only taking 95%, then suddenly I'm not concerned about Romney any more, he's only bad when he's the worst kid on the block...

Jon said...

What I'm seeing though Jonathan is that we have a greater crime and a lesser crime. You say don't ignore the lesser crime. Fine. But the fact is we are ignoring the greater crime. I'm saying don't ignore the greater crime.

Bush Sr, Reagan, and the CIA are like the drug kingpins. These are the absolute top dogs that made the whole thing happen. The ringleaders. A way down the line consequence of their actions is a black man steals a TV from Best Buy and on the right they say "Shoot him!" Bush's crimes are worse and nobody is suggesting we shoot him.

When you complain about the black man stealing a TV you are complaining about the speck in your neighbor's eye and ignoring the beam in your own. I'm not in favor of these specks in the eye, but let's talk about the beam.

Jonathan said...


I think the parable/analogy would be more like “that guy has a huge plank on his eye, so I’m not worried about all the people who have specs in their own eyes”. And what I’m wondering, is what actionable step you wish for people concerned about all the folks (including myself) with specs in their eyes. I think perhaps your beef is with people who get indignant and judgmental if you will with the low level and more “petty” crimes and offenses. And to those who like to sit around and complain about how bad the petty crimes and offenses are, and not lift a finger in help or compassion, I’m right there with you.

However, I think it goes both ways, and you can also extend that to those who sit around and complain about how bad the big bosses at the top are as well, and do it with 100% indignations. That’s honestly what turns me off by a lot of the Bill Mahers of the world. It’s easy to get on our soapbox and talk about the massive injustices in the world, and then go home and be a jerk to our wives and kids (I’m preaching to the choir here to extend the church analogies…) .

I think it’s not just the size of the plank in one’s own eye that the parable is getting at, but also the refusal to take even the smallest of steps in our own lives. By refusing to eliminate the injustice we can directly prevent, while demanding justice for others, we are in effect, blind in many ways to the situation, as well as being hypocritical.

And in that way, given that the smallest injustice can cause people to be blind, it bothers me when we find it ok to let comparatively small crimes slide, due in large part to the damage these crimes will have on those perpetrating the crimes. How much credibility do you think you’d lose if fires and riots broke out in Detroit, and you hopped on the beltline and grabbed yourself a nice plasma TV? I bet you’d lose your voice and impact to influence in a hurry for a lot of people.

While my ethics do not center on maximizing happiness, I would think that if one’s goal is to provide maximum happiness for the maximum amount of people, then it should be a pretty clear path from removing the barriers to crime to increased crime, to guilt and rationalization, to ultimately increased unhappiness for those committing the crime. Rule of law isn’t just a tool used by the corrupt ringleaders, just laws help keep us all in check. 

Examinator said...

Yes looting is a lessor crime but than what? the unmitigated prejudice against blacks? are you telling me that white people didn't loot after Katrina? I hope not.
FYI petty crime like smash and grab is largely influenced by both poverty and sense of helplessness. Generally it is opportunistic disorganised. The REAL crime tends to be by hardened crime is by organised gangs the really big stuff requires capital.
e.g. Common B&E is usually by a single person occasional two. By definition they take what they carry and cash.
The really big stuff( house loads and or upper end jewelry,art, collections) is 99% targeted and organised and usually specific and to order.
80% of Louisiana's prisoners are from the first group. Much of the second group it never reported. Further risks.
Also What you are ignoring is that the media PROFITS from division, sensation, and conflict. they pander to where the money is. In Louisiana the demographic reality is that the money is largely in the hands of the white...Who are paranoid about the poor robbing them (aka blacks). So the media favors by sheer weight of numbers the few blacks that are dumb enough to 'freelance'.
If one looks at Auto theft, re-birthing, parts in NY etc . The actual 'lifters' are blacks BUT the one paying the lifters are generally not poor blacks or gang blacks they are Mr bigs Organized crime(ex USSR is the current flavor).

the problem the news papers and some state law enforcement and prisons focus on the lifers and the petty crims because its more profitable and easy .
The same goes for drugs as indicated by Jon.
Contact an major police stats. divn. and if they are allowed they'll confirm the context of what I'm saying.
In Aus Aboriginals constitute 2% of the total population yet in some states up to 40% (in one state) of inmates. However 70% of their crime is petty . Of the serious crime 92% is Black on black ... murder rape/ assault paedophilia etc.

Interestingly the same overall tendency is the same in the US and the UK (the 3 I've tracked).

Likewise the exploitation of cheaper employees at less than survival PLUS by US companies only exacerbates the problems in Mexico.Which in turn encourages illegal immigration et al.
My concern with Right wing reasoning is that it tends to be myopic and insular.(bubble like ..that US capitalism's excessive exploitations won't do harm. Patent rubbish.

Jonathan said...


Petty crime is real crime, and it is harmful even if it pales in comparison next to larger crime. Do you disagree?

All I'm saying is that when we talk of lesser and greater crimes, all the mitigating factors that come into play, who is benefiting, etc, at the end of the day, each one of us bears out the consequences for our actions. It might be in the form of an unjust system, and that is tragic in it's own regard, but even if we are not caught, or even if others are doing far worse actions, when we make wrong choices, there are harm done to us and our community.

I'm saying nothing about class, race, social status, etc. I agree that the justice system can be very unjust and disproportionately weighted against the poor, black, uneducated, etc, and of course this is very tragic.

But again, I think in our zeal to point out the injustices there is a tendency to go too far, and justify when people do wrong things, which is moral and ethical fallacy, and also can be quite harmful to the individuals and communities we are trying to protect.

Jon said...

Yes, Jonathan, you are right that the parable is about looking inward. I agree with you that even if it's a large crime, if it's outside our sphere of influence it's kind of pointless to talk about it.

It's like N Korea. You can complain all day long about it, but we are not there and we can't do any good, so we should look at ourselves, our own lives, and our own communities first, even if Kim Il Sung does worse things.

But I think I am doing that when I look at the black community and a looter. I'm a priviledged white guy. My Dad didn't go to prison for whatever crimes he did. Not that my Dad was especially criminal, but in his younger days he was a drinker and a bit of a brawler. When you are middle class and white you can get away with that. But if you are lower class and black then things like that can see you end up in prison. A few stints in prison, even if they are brief, can put a lot of stress on a family. Mayble lead to spouses fighting. I didn't have to deal with that. I could do my homework without distraction. My parents had a car I could borrow to go to work when I was 16. And now here I am. Living pretty decent. My community is upper middle class. Recently I was going for a walk in a nearby neighborhood. A friend pointed out that the large house in front of us on the lake was my county's Tea Party leader. Huge mansion. This is my community. A lot of people that rub elbows with real thieves and real criminals. Politicians.

Bill Cosby is out talking about the black male role model. That's his place. That's (sort of) his class. He can do a lot of good right where he is. And that's what I'm saying. The black looter is not the kind of person you find in my community. It is my job to look inward. Look at the kinds of things priviledged white people do, not what a disadvantaged black kid has done. And that's all the more true when my class is responsible for the greatest crimes of all and the crime of the black man is miniscule.

But that's not what people in my community want to do. They want to talk about how the black looter should be shot on sight. I'm here to tell them to look at themselves. Fine, looting is wrong. If I really care about it I should look at what me and my community are doing to contribute to it.

Examinator said...

Thank you for your response.
We all agree that crime is crime.
You and I disagree with the degree of unfairness/injustice in the system.
Read this:
I also repudiate the suggestion that I am justifying (mitigate) anything... rather I'm saying that *generally * people's analyses tend to be superficially shallow … based incomplete information or limited by a predetermined philosophy that limits objectivity.
I have stated many times that I don't subscribe to the accepted predetermined political philosophy.

I'd argue with some backing that if one is intending to solve or discuss possible *viable *alternatives one has to objectively drill down to the root cause and deal with it at source. That necessitate the absence of the above philosophies. It's a bit like the difference between analysing a fossil with the predetermination of 'intelligent design' (sic) or for that matter Darwin's version of evolution.

What I am saying is that in effect is treating a brain tumor by taking a analgesic to resolve the head ache.
In context the issue with looting generally is a symptom not the disease.
One must understand that deterrents (analgesics) simply have limited value for stopping petty crime per se especially when the root cause is NEED as opposed to Want. ( see 18th century English capital punishment ..hanging or 7 years deportation to Australia ...for stealing a loaf of bread...clearly if one steals bread it is more likely a NEED rather than a want... an equivalent to a TV)
The latter is often confused in the public's mind. It is arguable that this is directly due to advertising et al focusing on the emotion deliberately by passing the cognitive centre of the brain.

The lessor cognitive enhanced 'average person' (statistical generalization... Joe 6 pack and children) is bombarded with ad's/ disproportionate media reports reinforcing the emotional (fear)response... note my criticism of the the program that informs him how he should vote and the emotive nature of political ads/super pacs. i.e. how many such events have you actually personally been through? Personally 2 cyclones and 3 riots. Was my houses actually! Were any of the people I knew or any they knew ? No again. There was one incident where there was a risk but Dad was the colonial authority and bears no relationship continental USA .

As I said much of the fear of looting is exactly that rather that a significant probability. There are a lot of generally unconsidered contributive circumstances that determine the likelihood after a Katrina even as opposed to an LA riot..
If one really wants to stop say organized car theft … eliminate the buyers.... need or perceived need will always supply expendable front line troops.... to eliminate them then deal with the option is alternative opportunities for improvement (realistic hope) . This means solve their deprivation. The inhibitor here is the public's expectation of instant gratification and limiting (myopic) philosophies.