Monday, November 06, 2006

Retail and the economy (Betty)

Betty here, guest posting for Kat. For all the good it does. I'm sorry, and this isn't modesty, but I read the other posts this week and everyone's tackling something big. Seriously, Ruth and C.I. do all the heavy lifting. But, I can note that I had a letter in the mail from Kat today. It's several pages long and she's starting and stopping throughout because she's not on a vacation.
One thing she noted was that Tower is closing and that at least she doesn't have to be around to see that. But I actually think, from what I've been told, that Tower will still be open when she gets back. I think the gang was telling me the stock was only down to something like 40%. They're assuming that Tower will stay open till Christmas at this rate.

I don't have a Tower near me. Or at least I don't know that I do. I should probably check with my niece who would know. When I've been out in California, it's always been fun to go to Tower with Kat. She really does love and know music. I love music too but who has the time? I'm cleaning or I'm cooking, or I'm doing something with the kids. Or I'm at work. There are whole weeks where I feel like I haven't had time to breathe deeply once.

But Tower is fun with Kat because she's really like a little kid. I don't care if we'd been there the day before and went back the next day for a "quick stop," she always gets excited. And she knew the stock, better than anyone who worked there, and was always able to just sense something new. C.I. does this thing where it likes speed reading. Like, say you're in the A's. C.I. can down two rows at once and tell you exactly what was there. Kat will tell you she just noticed the bulge -- meaning they've added something. She always checks out her favorites.

The Mamas & the Papas is a good example because she has the boxed set. (I have my brother's boxed set.) The four disc set that just came out last year. It has everything they ever released and all the known unreleased tracks on it. But that's one of her favorites so on a long trip, she's still going to check to see if there's anything new. Same thing with Carole King, Stevie Wonder, and a lot of others. About once a year, she'll find something. Usually something re-released with bonus tracks but she always checks to see.

So it's really sad that she won't be able to do that. Tower was her pick me up. If she was feeling down or anyone else was, the answer was always Tower Records. She'd joke about 'kidnapping' C.I. some nights when she knew C.I. was exhausted. When C.I. was doing the Troops Home Fast, there was one day where Kat could tell it was a rough one. (C.I. stayed on that fast for over thirty-days.) So Kat did her kidnapping and they were having fun.

I really hope the place is closed before she gets back. She's thinking it will be. But, as I understand it, the chain's been bought and it's in liquidation so they need to sell off everything. To do that, they're going to need more than 40% off. Or I would think so. I know Ty and Jess are surprised that with the going-out-of-business signs they really don't have any bargains.
All the % off comes off the list price. Ty was saying the CDs they'd always have for $7.99 and $9.99, on sale, the older ones, were now up to their list price. So if they raised Otis Blue from $7.99 to $12.99 40% (if they're even that high) isn't really a sale.

Rounding up that's $5.20 off 12.99. Which means you're paying $7.79 for a CD, an old one, that before the 'going out of business sale' you would have been paying $7.99 for because it would have been on sale. Despite that, everyone says some stuff is selling. They aren't getting new stock in because they're closing and they owe the distributers money. So all the stuff is basically 'old.' I don't know that 20 cents off is a sale and, in the case of Otis Blue, 20 cents off would only be that if the store was at 40% off. It may not be that high.

I've been trying to figure out what happened because I read stories online about the closing. As best as I can tell, the box stores (Wal-Mart, Best Buy) were able to be loss leaders which meant you'd be paying more at Tower and despite that, the company was trying to expand and expand. Some stores were less successful and the company grew too big (especially in a bad economy). There's also the impact from online sales (both at online stores like Amazon that mail purchases and online sites that let you buy music and download it).

When the news first came out, Kat's attitude was that it was sad the chain would be closing but she didn't think it would effect her store which was either the oldest or one of the oldest. But they all are going out of business. That surprises me because everytime I'd been in that store, it was always packed.

She was depressed when she found out that it would include her store and then she got the bad news and had to go to Ireland. I hope there's some good news for her in the year before it ends.
There have been a few clothing stores, that I went into high school, which have closed but I never really had a 'my' store. My sister was furious, my oldest sister, when a movie theater closed. This was when she was still in high school.

I try to think, "Well, it's just the way." Because obviously, there would never be new stores if old stores didn't close but the second reason I've been following the Tower Records (first reason because it's Kat's favorite) is because the only thing I really see growing are the Dollar Stores. C.I. and I were talking about that last week and wondering if they, the Dollar Stores, were just the new Five & Dimes (which pretty much all faded away) or if this was some indication of where the economy was really at?

It's sort of sad if the only thing that can triumph these days is a Dollar Store. It says where the economy is for most people. I have a friend who lives at a Dollar Store. It's not called a "Dollar Store." It has "Dollar" in the name but I forget the rest of it. She's in and out of it all the time and she was so excited when they started carrying milk. Even grocery stores are shutting down. Is the Dollar Store what we'll be left with? If so, that's really not any different from the little hole in the walls in bad neighborhoods that have little or no fresh produce. People in those neighborhoods would love to have a real grocery store. I don't see the expansion of Dollar Stores as a good thing when everything else is tanking.

While I was following the Tower story, I also noticed that Wal-Mart's geared up for new customers. (I don't shop at Wal-Mart.) They're trying to palm off the customers who built them. The 'low prices' hasn't paid off for the last two Christmas shopping seasons so now they're attempting to go upscale with flat screen TVs and other items.

So those are my thoughts for tonight. Maybe I raised something interesting?

I did post another chapter Friday, Thomas Friedman enlists" and let me also note Trina's "Meatloaf in the Kitchen" because she and I really are the once a week posters. Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Monday, November 6, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, a US war resister is denied refugee status in Canada while another remains 'underground,' and as this and more fails to get coverage, we're all supposed to pretend that a verdict will bring about that long promised 'turned corner.' Operation Happy Talk -- remember wave breaking takes places in shallow water as well as deep. For examples of the former, pick up any daily paper today.

On Sunday,
Tom Godfrey (Toronto Sun) broke the news that the Canadian government had denied refugee status to US war resister Tom Godfrey. Joshua Key became the third war resister denied asylum by the Canadian government. The two who came before, Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey, are still awaiting word of their appeal.
Key's case was seen as the strongest of the three due to what Key saw while serving in Iraq. One example can be found in Michelle Mason's documentary Breaking Ranks, where Johsua Key states: "As we got down the Euphrates River and we took a sharp right turn , all we seen was heads and bodies. And American troops in the middle of them saying 'we lost it.' As soon as I stepped and I walked out the back of my APC, I seen two American soldier kicking the head around like a soccer ball. I stepped right back inside the tank and I told my squad leader . . . 'I won't have no part of this'."

In December 2003, Joshua Key returned from Iraq on leave and decided to self-check out. He, Brandi Key (his wife) and their children moved to Philadelphia where they lived 'underground' with Joshua doing welding jobs and Brandi waiting tables. The story of Jeremy Hinzman's war resistance was something Joshua Key learned of online. In March of 2005, the Key family crossed the border into Candada where Joshua, Brandi and their four children have have made their home since.

Tom Godfrey (Toronto Sun) notes that Jeffrey House, the attorney for Joshua Key, states he's "filed refugee claims in Canada" for "[a]t least 35" war resisters. None have yet to be awarded refugee status by the Canadian government which is in stark contrast to the Vietnam era. House tells Godfrey that he believes Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board "doesn't want to hurt relationships with the U.S. by granting refugee status to deserters".

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.

Joshua Key, in his own words (France's Le Monde translated by New Socialist):

My name is Joshua Key. I was born in 1978 in Guthrie, in central Oklahoma. My family worked on a ranch. We had a hard time making ends meet, but I loved the outdoor life, amongs cowboys, and where we didn't have to wear shoes until we started school. I married Brandi after high school. We were the same age, and from the same background. I dreamt of becoming a welder, but I didn't have money for school. So I looked for work doing anything. But there was no future in Guthrie, which has no industry. We went to Wisconsin, then returned, as we found nothing. Our future seemed dim, and we already had two children. It was then I met the recruiters from the Army. It was February, 2002. They knew how to talk to me, that's for sure!

On the topic of military talk,
Kyle Snyder remains 'underground.' Last Tuesday, US war resister Kyle Snyder turned himself in at Fort Knox after self-checking out and moving to Canada in April of 2005. Jim Fennerty, Synder's attorney, worked out an agreement regarding Snyder's return with the US military. Fennerty had done similar negotiations for war resister Darrell Anderson when he returned to the United States.
While Darrell Anderson had a Purple Heart and family members who would be actively and strongly making their voices heard, Kyle Snyder grew up in foster-care and appeared to have less of a support network than Anderson.
Courage to Resist is asking supporters to call 502-624-2707 to speak to Major General Robert M. Williams and tell him "Discharge Kyle Snyder!" In addition, Brett Barroquere (AP) reported on the reaction in Canada to the US military burning Synder yet again and notes that war resisters Corey Glass and Patrick Hart have no faith currently in their own fates should they return.

Last Friday,
Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) interviewed Kyle Snyder who explained: "I had jointed the military October 22, 2003, and I had originally joined for basically, the verbal promises that were given to me at the time then, too. I was 19 years old." When the verbal promises were again broken last week, Kyle Snyder self-checked out again. Snyder, Hinzman, Key, Anderson, Glass, Hart and Hughey are part of a movement of war resistance within the US military that also includes Camilo Mejia, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Aidan Delgado, Ricky Clousing, Mark Wilkerson, Ivan Brobeck, Robin Long, Ryan Johnson, Clifford Cornell, Katherine Jashniski, Agustin Aguayo and Kevin Benderman.

While the US government fights war resisters,
AP notes the rumors tha Zalmay Khalilzad, US ambassador to Iraq, may be pulling his own self-checkout according to an unnamed White House official. Possibly the White House had to drop the ignorant 'stay the course' motto because of the high turnover at the top?

In Iraq,
Riverbend (Baghdad Burning) surveys the chaos and violence and notes: "Iraq has not been this bad in decades. The occupation is a failure. The various pro-American, pro-Iranian Iraqi governments are failures. The new Iraqi army is a deadly joke. Is it really time to turn Saddam into a martyr? Things are so bad that even pro-occupation Iraqis are going back on their initial 'WE LOVE AMERICA' frenzy. Laith Kubba (a.k.a. Mr Catfish for his big mouth and constant look of stupidity) was recently on the BBC saying that this was just the beginning of justice, that people responsible for the taking of lives today should also be brought to justice. He seems to have forgotten he was one of the supporters of the war and occupation, and an important member of one of the murderious pro-American governments. But history shall not forget Mr. Kubba."

Riverbend notes the shutting down of two Iraqi TV stations.
Al Jazeera reports: "Iraq's interior ministry has ordered two televesion stations off the air" on charges of 'inciting violence.' In July, that was a popular talking point for the puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki. As noted last night: "That's the four-part 'plan' that you don't hear much about, that you never heard much about other than empty praise and the first two-parts. One of the 'steps' was curtailing press freedom. You didn't hear much about that because it's kind of hard to pass the lie of 'democracy' off at the same time Nouri al-Maliki's going to destroying the press."

As all outlets cover the topic of the day, the reality of life in Iraq goes little noted. Some of the small reporting coming out of Iraq includes the following.


AFP reports that a bus bombing killed two people and left ten more wounded. AP reports a mortar attack in Baghdad with "no immediate reports of damage or casualties." New Zealand's Newswire reports that, in Baghdad, "mortar rounds slammed into areas around Baghdad's Green Zone".


In Amil,
AP notes, three people were wounded. Borzou Daragahi (Los Angelse Times) reports that two firefighters were shot dead in Baghdad.


On today's
KPFA's The Morning Show, Alieen Alfandary noted that "the bodies of 50 murder victims were discovered yesterday, the bulk of them in Baghdad."

In other news of violence,
the US military has announced five deaths today bringing the total US military deaths in Iraq to 18 for the month thus far. Iraq Coalition Casualty Count places the death toll for US troops in Iraq since the start of the illegal war at 2836.

AP reports on "Desert Crossing" -- a series of war games by the US government ("70 military, diplomatic and intelligence officals") in 1999 which found that a war in Iraq "would require 400,000 troops, and even then chaose might ensue." No word yet on if or when the aspect of starting an illegal war might cause chaos was also commissioned.

In deployment news,
Friday's snapshot noted Jamie McIntrye (CNN) reporting that convicted prisoner abuser (for Abu Ghraib) Santos Cardona was being redeployed to Kuwait. On Saturday, Reuters reported that press attention had been followed by the announcement, by the military, that Cardona "would return to his base at Fort Bragg, N.C. The Army offered no explanation as to why Mr. Cardona's unit commanders had plan to deploy him, given his record in Iraq."

In peace news,
Jenna Russell (Boston Globe) notes that a number of anti-war vets are gearing up for the Veterans Day Paradeparade seasons including Members of Veterans for Peace in Portland (ME) and Veterans for Peace in Machester (NH) and quotes Doug Rawlings: "War is not just flags flying and people in uniform. The reality is, death and destruction go along with it. We're tired of the pagenatry glorifying war." Remember that as a Veteran's Day offfering, David Zeiger's documentary Sir! No Sir! is available on DVD at the discounted price of $14.95. That's a limited time offer. The amazing documentary documents the war resistance within the military during the Vietnam era. How powerful is the documentary? Henry Kissiner should declare: "See this film! It changed my life! After one viewing, I confessed to international war crimes!"

In other peace news, historian
Howard Zinn spoke with Andrea Lewis and Philip Maldari on today's KPFA's The Morning Show and he noted that, regardless of the outcome of tomorrow's elections, his hope was that Americans were waking up: "I have no doubt that the Bush administration and the Bush program, they're on their way down and I hope the American people are waking up." Zinn and Anthony Arnove's Voices of a People's History of the United States will be presented this Thursday at 7:30 pm, Berkeley Community Theatre (1930 Allston Way) and participants will include Alice Walker, Mos Def and others.

Ehren Watada's father, Bob Watada, and his step-mother, Rosa Sakanishi, continue their speaking tour to raise awareness on Ehren -- the first commissioned officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq. Upcoming dates include:

Nov 6, 2-4:30PMBoston, MALocation: University of Massachusetts/BostonSponsor: The Institute for Asian American StudiesWilliam Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social ConsequenceTime: 2-4:30 pm
Nov 6, 7PM Worcester, MA. Location: Clark University – University Building, Lurie Room Sponsors: Veterans For Peace Chapter 10 Contact: Bob Flanagan, 508-755-1479,
IrishBob54@aol.comNov 7, 4:30PM Portland, ME Location: Meditation Center Sponsor: Veterans for Peace, Chapter 1 Contact: Doug Rawlings, 207-293-2580,,
Nov. 7, 6-9PM Brunswick, ME Location: Morrill Room, Curtis Memorial Library, 23 Pleasant Street Pot luck supper and speaking engagement Time: 6 - 7:30pm
Nov 8, 7PM Albany, NY Sponsor: VFP National Location: TBAContact: Elliot Adams, 518-441-2697,
Nov 9, TBA Philadelphia, PA. Location: Annenberg School of Communication, Penn University, Room 109 Sponsors: Iraq Veterans Against the War, Delaware Valley Veterans for America, Military Families Speak Out, Gold Star MothersContact: Bill Perry, 215-945-3350,
BpVetforPeace@aol.comNov 10, 7:30PM New York City, NY Location: St. Paul/St. Andrews Methodist Church West End Avenue and West 86th Streets, Sponsor: NYC Area Chapters of VFP & IVAW Contact: Thomas Brinson, 631-889-0203, ltbrin@earthlink.netGeorge McAnanama, gmacan@aol.comNov 11, 11AM-5PM New York City, NY Veterans Day Parade Sponsor: NYC Area Chapters of VFP & IVAW Contact: Thomas Brinson, 631-889-0203, ltbrin@earthlink.netNov 12, TBA Long Island, NY TBANov 13, 7PM Ann Arbor, MI "The Ground Truth" and Bob Watada Location: TBA Sponsors: Michigan Peace Works,Contact: Phillis Engelbert, 734-761-5922,