What causes people to kick, shove and even stab each other on Black Friday?
Each year there are reports of violence during the Black Friday sales. Last year, in Philadelphia - the City of Brotherly Love, no less - two families fought until one of the women ended matters with a stun gun. In a New Jersey Walmart, a belligerent shopper had to be pepper sprayed by police. And in Virginia, one man slashed another with a knife in an argument over a parking spot. This year, there are sure to be similar cases.
The reasons are primal.
We are all “hardwired” for violence under the right set of circumstances. Fortunately, those circumstances are rare (increasingly so), but do occasionally occur.
So what conditions set the stage for possible violence on Black Friday? The first is a valuable reward - something we are highly motivated to obtain. On Black Friday, the reward is a bargain. And people love bargains. In part, this is because we tend to view price reduction as a gain — as something for nothing. Consider that, shopping and saving at the very same time!
But getting a deal is also affirming, exciting, and allows us to enjoy products that would normally be out of our reach. People will wait overnight in freezing weather for the chance to get a good deal. They will also buy stuff they have absolutely no need for, simply because it is on sale. How many of us can look no further than the closet to see evidence of this?
That alone shouldn’t inspire people to violence though — a few more key ingredients are needed.
The second condition is competition. And the competition originates in the limited number of products that are typically offered at the most heavily discounted prices, the “door-buster” items. Not only are these items more desirable due to their larger discount, but there are typically only a small number of them available.
This means one shopper’s gain is another shopper’s loss, a psychological zero-sum game. Factor into that the sheer quantity of people waiting to rush once the doors open - last year Macy’s saw over 15,000 eager shoppers waiting to get in - and you have a level of competition like no other time of year.
Now we’re starting to talk about some classic violence-inducing conditions: massive competition for a very limited number of high-value resources. Our behavior, however, is also severely constrained by relevant social norms. That brings us to the third relevant condition: the presence or absence of norms that might promote or prevent violent behavior.
There’s still a month left in the year, but it’s probably not too soon to crown “Tiny Hamster” the breakout animal-meme franchise of 2014.
Since his debut in April, this oddly adorable rodent has eaten oddly adorable burritos. He’s tried birthday cake and devoured hot dogs. (Though the hot dogs were made of grapes, dates and carrots, because hamsters can’t actually eat hot dog meat.)
All told, the tiny hamster has starred in four two-minute videos of him eating things. Each video has averaged roughly 3.5 million YouTube views. And his latest installment, “A Tiny Hamster Thanksgiving,” may just be the best one yet: Jezebel has already crowned it “the goddamn greatest thing you’ve ever seen.”
That’s good news for both Denizen, the creative firm that produces the videos, and Joseph Matsushima and Joel Jensen, the creative duo behind it. Matsushima and Jensen have produced work for Budweiser, FedEx and Nissan, among others. But after four years in the business, Denizen’s probably best known for those hamster videos. Of all things.
“We have a policy on pitching stupid ideas,” Jensen said with a laugh, “because the most stupid ideas are often the best ones.”
The hamster idea, for its part, was born of desperation — and a whole lot of Internet browsing. Among other things, Denizen produces “branded content,” or social-media-friendly videos that will, they hope, go viral, to the benefit of the companies that sponsor them. It’s still an emerging industry, and one that bewilders more conservative executives. So, frustrated by many brands’ unwillingness to take on their zanier concepts, Jensen and Matsushima decided to just start a YouTube channel and film zany videos on their own.
That ended up being a bit more difficult than it initially appeared: One does not merely plop a burrito in front of a hamster and expect him to eat it. First, Denizen had to find an animal trainer with trained hamsters willing to endure a 12-hour shoot. (Yes, trained hamsters are a thing that exist — though not in large numbers, because hamsters aren’t the “sharpest little animals” around.)
Then they had to work with a set designer to create tiny hamster-sized tables and chairs. Then a food stylist, in consultation with the trainer, had to devise miniature, all-natural versions of human foods that hamsters could, and would, actually eat. In the birthday episode, for instance, the hamster (and a guest-starring hedgehog) are eating a mash of apples, bananas and rice flour, frosted with yogurt and beet juice. Yum.
Last night President Obama announced an executive order granting amnesty to a certain class of undocumented immigrants. The #tcot responded with their usual eruptions of rage and racism, turned up to 12.
Jerusalem - Clergy representing Christians, Jews and Muslims met Wednesday near the Jerusalem synagogue where five people died in a grisly Palestinian attack to plead for tolerance amid spiking regional tensions.
The group stood in a sun-dappled courtyard outside the synagogue where two Palestinian cousins armed with meat cleavers, knives and a pistol killed four worshippers and a policeman Tuesday. After a brief gun battle, security forces shot the assailants dead.
Absent from the meeting were Muslim authorities from Jerusalem and senior Israeli rabbis. [VB: Except here is a photo of Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Imam Mohammed Kiwan==>]
“People from all religions which are here in the Holy Land want to express the common belief that this is not the way,” said Rabbi Michael Melchior, a former Israeli legislator who is active in interfaith efforts. “We can have our differences, political differences, our religious differences, but this is not the way.”
Melchior’s moderation seems an increasingly scarce commodity in this region, which in recent weeks has been riven by religious tensions. During that time 11 people have died at the hands of Palestinian attackers — most in Jerusalem, but also in Tel Aviv and the West Bank.
The ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood is uniting to mourn the Druze police officer killed in the terror attack at a synagogue on Tuesday.
Postings on social media are urging ultra-Orthodox community members to attend the funeral of Zidan Nahad Seif, who was critically wounded while trying to stop the attack at the Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue.
Seif succumbed to his wounds after being hospitalized in critical condition and his funeral is scheduled to take place Wednesday at 2 P.M. in his Western Galilee village of Yanuh-Jat.
At least one bus departed from the Jerusalem International Convention Center at 12 P.M. that was carrying mourners to Seif’s funeral.
“We are asking anyone from the ultra-Orthodox community who is able to attend the funeral of the police officer who protected our praying brothers with his body,” the post on social media read. “Come show him your gratitude,” it added, describing his actions - being killed while protecting Jewish worshipers - as kiddush hashem.
Ariella Sternbuch, one of the organizers of the drive to honor Seif, told Walla! news that she was touched by a photograph of him with his baby daughter. “I was moved by the thought that he chose to sacrifice his life for the Jewish people,” she said. “Haredim [ultra-Orthodox Jews], who were the main victims of this attack, should come pay him their last respects.”
It’s not clear at present which, if any, Palestinian militant organization was behind Tuesday’s attack at an Orthodox synagogue in Jerusalem. The incident led to at least four deaths, including those of three Israeli-American citizens.
But the two men who carried it out are now believed to have ties to the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla group. Udai Abu Jamal and Ghassan Abu Jamal, said to be cousins, were shot dead by police after they burst into a synagogue in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood, wielding axes, knives and guns. The Islamist group Hamas praised the attack but did not take credit for it. Israeli authorities have authorized the demolition of the assailants’ homes in east Jerusalem, a tactic they believe will dissuade other militants.
The PFLP dubbed the attack a “heroic operation,” according to Reuters. The latest communique on its English language Web site is dated from Nov. 13; in it, the organization urges an “escalation of uprising” in the West Bank and Jerusalem, a city which has seen a sharp rise in tensions between Arabs and Israeli Jews in recent months.
The group is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and other Western countries, but its ideology has very little in common with Hamas, whose jihad against Israel has blown hot and cold over the past two decades. Its legacy is a reminder of the older, secular nature of Palestinian militancy against Israel and Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza since the 1960s.
The PFLP was founded in 1967 by George Habash, a Palestinian Orthodox Christian animated by the pan-Arabism of then Egyptian President Gamel Abdel Nasser and the insurgent socialism that inflamed anti-colonial struggles in many parts of the world at the time. At its peak, the PFLP was one of the leading factions within the Palestinian Liberation Organization, alongside the Fateh party of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, the beleaguered current president of the Palestinian Authority.
One of the most shocking aspects of the murderous attack on a Jerusalem synagogue this morning by men with guns and axes is not the attack itself—we’ve seen, from time to time, this sort of sectarian barbarism take place in places like Jerusalem, and Hebron. The most shocking aspect is the wholesale endorsement of this slaughter by Hamas, a group that, during this summer’s war in Gaza, half-succeeded in convincing the world that it wasn’t what it actually is: a group with actual genocidal intentions.
According to witnesses, the two attackers entered the synagogue, in the Har Nof neighborhood, and began killing worshipers with pistols and axes. (Both assailants were killed by police, but not before they murdered four worshipers and injured at least six others, including two police officers.)
“To see Jews wearing tefillin [phylacteries] and wrapped in the tallit [prayer shawls] lying in pools of blood, I wondered if I was imagining scenes from the Holocaust,” said Yehuda Meshi Zahav, who leads an emergency-response team, according to The New York Times. “It was a massacre of Jews at prayer.”
This is how a Hamas spokesman reacted to the massacre of Jews at prayer: “The new operation is heroic and a natural reaction to Zionist criminality against our people and our holy places. We have the full right to revenge for the blood of our martyrs in all possible means.”
Twenty years ago, shortly after the Jewish fanatic Baruch Goldstein massacred Muslims at prayer in Hebron, the then-prime minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, said of the killer, “You are not part of the community of Israel. … You are a foreign implant. You are an errant weed. Sensible Judaism spits you out.”
Hamas’s endorsement of the massacre of Jews at prayer in their holy city confirms—as if we needed confirming—that its goal is the eradication of Israel and its Jews. We should pray for the day when the leaders of Gaza react to this sort of massacre in the manner of Yitzhak Rabin.
The Palestinian Authority leader, the more moderate Mahmoud Abbas, has condemned the attack, but it is also fair to say that he helped create the atmosphere in which attacks like this one become more likely. As the Times reports, the attackers “were described as being motivated by what they saw as threats to the revered plateau [the Temple Mount] that contains Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has repeatedly asserted that he will not alter the status quo at the site, where non-Muslims can visit but not openly pray, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority has called on his people to protect the area and has warned of a ‘holy war’ if it is ‘contaminated’ by Jews.”
Defending his fellow Republican governors’ decision to block Medicaid expansion in their states, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) on Friday suggested that denying health coverage to additional low-income Americans helps more people “live the American Dream” because they won’t be “dependent on the American government.”
Walker has recently leveled some criticism at other GOP leaders for accepting Obamacare’s optional Medicaid expansion, saying they shouldn’t necessarily trust the government to come through with the federal funds to cover the policy. During an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Friday, Walker was asked whether his position stemmed from an “ideological criticism,” and if he believes the handful of Republican governors implementing this provision of the health law are not “genuine conservatives.”
The governor didn’t explicitly answer that question, pointing out that every state has different needs. But he did offer a broader criticism of the public health program.
“Beyond that, I just ask the basic question: Why is more people on Medicaid a good thing?” he said. “I’d rather find a way, particularly for able-bodied adults without children, I’d like to find a way to get them into the workforce. I think ideologically, that’s a better approach, not just as a conservative, but as an American. Have more people live the American dream if they’re not dependent on the American government.”
In reality, however, the majority of people who stand to benefit from the Medicaid expansion are already in the workforce. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which has been closely tracking the policy effect of states’ decisions on this Obamacare provision, most of the people in this coverage gap are part of a demographic group known as the “working poor.” Two thirds of them are part of a family where someone is working, and more than half of them are working themselves — often in sectors like the agricultural and service industries, which have a history of failing to provide insurance benefits to their workers.
Last fall, the New York Times analyzed the data about the coverage gap and confirmed that the Americans being denied Medicaid are cashiers, cooks, nurses’ aides, waiters and waitresses, and janitors. Most of them are people of color, and many are single mothers. They don’t fit the conservative trope of the lazy individual who is overly dependent on the government programs — and, as the New York Times reported at the time, they are actually “the very kinds of people that the [Medicaid] program was intended to help.”
ROCKVILLE, Md. - Montgomery County Public Schools will remove religious labels from school holidays, but members of the Islamic community say the adjustments to the school calendar do nothing to gain parity and a day off for the Muslim holiday of Eid.
The school board approved the school calendar for the 2015-2016 school year Tuesday. The calendar will no longer reference specific religious holidays but rather state simply that school will be closed on dates that correspond with holidays like Eid, Yom Kippur and Christmas.
Saqib Ali, a former Maryland state delegate and co-chair of Equality for Eid, was not happy with the board of education’s action Tuesday.
“Equality is really what we’re looking for,” Ali said. “Simply saying we’re not going to call this Christmas, and we’re not going to call this Yom Kippur, and still closing the schools, that’s not equality.”
School board members said they were sympathetic to the desire to have Eid recognized and close schools but that legal precedent in Maryland bars them from closing for religious purposes.
“We can’t close for religious holidays. We can only close for operational purposes,” like high absenteeism, school spokesman Dana Tofig said.
That explanation doesn’t sit well with Zainab Chaudry, with the Council on American Islamic Relations. “What’s really concerning to us is that similar conditions weren’t placed on any other faith community.”
In the 1970’s school officials decided to close on Jewish holidays because of high absenteeism.
But school board member Michael Durso said that the schools effectively close for a religious reason: the schools had high absenteeism because of a religious holiday in the community.
Noting the attempt to move away from favoring religions by instead referring to school days off as “winter break” and “student holidays,” Durso said as long as the Islamic community’s concern for parity wasn’t somehow addressed “it comes off as insensitive, and I just think we cannot afford to be in that light”.
Read more: wtop.com
I think this is really, really stupid. Wingnut rage erupting in 4…3…2…1…
The note is just a single sheet gone yellow with age, typewritten and tightly spaced. It’s rife with typos and misspellings and sprinkled with attempts at emending them. Clearly, some effort went into perfecting the tone, that of a disappointed admirer, appalled by the discovery of “hidious [sic] abnormalities” in someone he once viewed as “a man of character.”
The word “evil” makes six appearances in the text, beginning with an accusation: “You are a colossal fraud and an evil, vicious one at that.” In the paragraphs that follow, the recipient’s alleged lovers get the worst of it. They are described as “filthy dirty evil companions” and “evil playmates,” all engaged in “dirt, filth, evil and moronic talk.” The effect is at once grotesque and hypnotic, an obsessive’s account of carnal rage and personal betrayal. “What incredible evilness,” the letter proclaims, listing off “sexual orgies,” “adulterous acts” and “immoral conduct.” Near the end, it circles back to its initial target, denouncing him as an “evil, abnormal beast.”
The unnamed author suggests intimate knowledge of his correspondent’s sex life, identifying one possible lover by name and claiming to have specific evidence about others. Another passage hints of an audiotape accompanying the letter, apparently a recording of “immoral conduct” in action. “Lend your sexually psychotic ear to the enclosure,” the letter demands. It concludes with a deadline of 34 days “before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation.”
“There is only one thing left for you to do,” the author warns vaguely in the final paragraph. “You know what it is.”
When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. received this letter, nearly 50 years ago, he quietly informed friends that someone wanted him to kill himself — and he thought he knew who that someone was. Despite its half-baked prose, self-conscious amateurism and other attempts at misdirection, King was certain the letter had come from the F.B.I. Its infamous director, J. Edgar Hoover, made no secret of his desire to see King discredited. A little more than a decade later, the Senate’s Church Committee on intelligence overreach confirmed King’s suspicion.
Since then, the so-called “suicide letter” has occupied a unique place in the history of American intelligence — the most notorious and embarrassing example of Hoover’s F.B.I. run amok. For several decades, however, only significantly redacted copies of the letter were available for public scrutiny. This summer, while researching a biography of Hoover, I was surprised to find a full, uncensored version of the letter tucked away in a reprocessed set of his official and confidential files at the National Archives. The uncovered passages contain explicit allegations about King’s sex life, rendered in the racially charged language of the Jim Crow era. Looking past the viciousness of the accusations, the letter offers a potent warning for readers today about the danger of domestic surveillance in an age with less reserved mass media.
The F.B.I.’s entanglement with King began not as an inquiry into his sex life but as a “national security” matter, one step removed from King himself. In 1961, the bureau learned that a former Communist Party insider named Stanley Levison had become King’s closest white adviser, serving him as a ghostwriter and fund-raiser. The following year, Attorney General Robert Kennedy approved wiretaps on Levison’s home and office, and the White House advised King to drop his Communist friend. But thanks to their surveillance, the bureau quickly learned that King was still speaking with Levison. Around the same time, King began to criticize bureau practices in the South, accusing Hoover of failing to enforce civil rights law and of indulging the racist practices of Southern policemen.