December 20, 2003

"Gas man came and took out our electric stove, I helped him carry it." - Lemonheads

I was about to get on and just point out the compelling and detailed report I saw on how bad Wal-Mart is for just about everyone. But I was just minding my own business on Mass Ave a few minutes ago when I saw guys with signs imploring consumers to boycott Newbury Comics, an indie record chain in the greater Boston area that is typically considered the good guy when it comes to the record retail business. That being because they are an independent with strong local ties. But now there is this.

I have to say that personally I do find the videos described offensive and depraved. And I do think that a boycott is a good means of getting Newbury to cease distributing the videos (of course, that doesn't make them go away, but I think people have a right to speak with their dollars to get retailers they frequent to adhere to their values). But I wonder if there is a First Amendment issue here at all. What sort of protection under the law should obscene exploitation (and that is so clearly what it is) enjoy? I don't know. I am generally against censorship. But I think ultimately the interests of The State might be best served by these "filmmakers" going to jail for inciting homeless-on-homeless assault, rather than me or someone with my values just tracking them down and stomping on their gonads. Repeatedly.

Anyway, back to Wal-Mart. Last night on PBS' NOW program I heard the most well-reasoned and harrowing account of why we all must stop shopping at Wal-Mart. We all know that they underpay their workers and this lets them pass on greater discounts to the end consumer of the goods they vend. What might not have been made so clear before is that Wal-Mart management actively works to 1) terminate employees before they reach eligibility for health benefits and 2) actively counsels employees to have their health needs met by Public Health outlets for the poor. Basically Wal-Mart has crafted part of their business model around having taxpayers unwittingly pay the health benefits of its employees. Who cares? Well, it cost the state of California about $20 million last year. This -- coupled with the fact that for every Wal-Mart superstore that opens in the next five years, two other grocery stores will close -- is creating a mechanism by whole segments of population are either being put out of work and seeking medical attention financed by the government that -- while deserved and necessary -- is a result of Wal-Mart (relatively) indirectly, or are being placed there on the rolls directly by Wal-Mart management. So that's it for Wal-Mart. I will never spend another dollar there again (not that I ever shop at one anyway, but last month I bought some stuff there for the first time in a few years), and Wal-Mart management is also now pushed to the front of the line for ball-stomping. Smile.

Gotta wrap presents. That is all.

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