Friday, November 18, 2005

Wal-mart the Movie

Wal-mart the Movie

I haven't seen the movie yet, but I have watched many clips from it on the above website. I have long been aware of how Wal-mart devastates small community businesses when they move into town and build a store along with all of the complaints they have against them for how they treat their employees.

Many people argue that Wal-mart is great because they bring low prices to communities and provide products not currently sold in these areas and that they offer jobs to people who are unemployed and so forth. What I think this movie does is illustrate the fallout from these things. Yes, they employ people, but at abysmally low wages and they are treated very poorly and often cheated out of their wages. Yes, they offer low prices, but they drive small family owned businesses into bankruptcy and that affects many lives.

This it a typical example of how corporate greed is ruining this country. Wal-mart is the largest corporation in the world and they regularly abuse that position. Low prices aren't always the answer. Selling low means putting incredible pressure on the organization itself to cut corners, shave payrolls and find the cheapest quality merchandise from the lowest bidder. Personally, I don't mind paying a fair price for a quality product. Of course, I like a deal when I can find one, but if the item is important, I don't mind paying a little more for it as long as it's good quality.

I think it's important for people to see this film so that they can get a better idea of what corporate greed does to this country. At a grass roots level, we should be careful as to where we spend our money because it's a powerful weapon to have the ability to "choose". If we choose to buy our products from somewhere other than Wal-mart, I guarantee that Wal-mart will suffer. Utlimately, we hold the power to determine whether or not Wal-mart survives and I think we have to evaluate our positions on these issues carefully.

An example is what has happened in my hometown. I have a friend who once lived in a quiet subdivision with an empty field behind it. It was on the edge of town but far enough away from the interstate to still be quiet and peaceful. Along came Wal-mart and decided to relocate their existing store from a boxed in strip mall to the area behind his house. I am sure that enormous pressure was placed on the owner of this land to sell it to Walmart so they could build a new Super Wal-mart on the land and bring other businesses to this area. I say this because I am sure he was offered a handsome price for this land and it would be difficult for any of us to turn down the kind of money that Wal-mart can offer for a few acres of land. It is this buying power which has made them into a huge worldwide corporation.

Now, my friend can sit on his deck around back where it never gets dark and listen to the noise coming from this Super Walmart. Foot traffic by immigrants and others through his property was non-existent before this, but now his dogs regularly bark each night at trespassers traversing through his property. In an attempt to mediate the constant flood of light, he planted trees at the edge of his property to block as much of the light pollution as he could. During the building of some of the structures, dynamite was used and there are now cracks in the foundation of his house, even though seismic monitors were placed in his yard to measure the effects of the blasting. He has never received any compensation for damages from anyone.

We should all think about these things and ask ourselves if these kinds of issues are worth the cost of Wal-mart's low prices. I encourage everyone to see this movie and to comment about your reactions here. I think this is a good topic and I look forward to hearing your thoughts and opinions.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Perverted Justice

For those of you who did not see the Dateline story on this all-volunteer group, I'd like to introduce you to what they do. You can find their website here Perverted Justice. I watched the story on Dateline and was surprised at the prevalence of this kind of crime.

Basically, Perverted Justice logs in to chat rooms and instant messaging systems masquerading as underage boys and girls and strike up conversations with sexual predators and engage them in a conversation that leads to some sort of sexual meeting. The Dateline people set up a house where they could instruct these men to come under the impression that they were going to meet a young boy or girl who was home alone and was interested in sex with these men. All transcripts were saved and printed out along with any other evidence like web cam images and photos sent to these Perverted Justice volunteers posing as underage children. Many men actually showed up. They were instructed to enter the house through an unlocked door and go into the kitchen and wait there for the boy or girl to come and meet them. After entering the kitchen area, they were immediately confronted by a reporter from Dateline who asked them to sit down and interrogated them as to why they were there.

Many of these men were prominent citizens including a teacher, a Rabbi and a Sargent in the Army. One man even came into the house and undressed in the garage as instructed by the accomplice at Perverted Justice. Most just lied and said that they did not know the boys and girls were underage, even though the transcripts clearly showed them acknowledging that they understood the age of the accomplice. Several became very upset when they were confronted with the cameras and begged the Dateline reporter to stop what they were doing. All of them swore it was the first time and they all said it would be their last. Many stated they knew they had a problem and were under the care of a psychiatrist. One man who said he would never do it again was observed later on line using the same screen name again and trying to solicit sex from the accomplice posing as another underage child. He even picked a location and agreed to meet there. Of course, Dateline's camera's were there to capture and confront him again. He seemed visibly shaken and pleaded that he was just there to get something to eat (McDonald's).

I was disturbed by the fact that so many men were willing to actually meet up with these underage accomplices but I strongly support what Perverted Justice is doing. I think they are right on track. I am glad they exist and I think they deserve support from of all of us. They are actually doing something to catch sexual predators who target underage kids. The Internet and instant messaging services have long been the hiding places for these very sick men and I am glad that they are being flushed out by Perverted Justice.

It is important to remember, though, that parents must help protect their children from these on line predators. They suggest several guidelines for protecting your children here: What Parents Can Do. I advise all parents to read this and to consider if they are doing all they can to protect their children from these kinds of on line predators.

The Power of MySQL

I have been using MySQL for about 4 years and have been very pleased with the performance and reliability it offers. I needed a relational database that could provide speed and and efficiency while adhering to the open-source standard. I researched the benchmarks of other databases and MySQL blew them all away. It is faster, more efficient and has all of the capabilities of it's competitors, as far as I can tell.
As the popularity of MySQL continues to grow, more and more applications are being developed for Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP or Perl (affectionately know as LAMP). I currently have 2 websites that use this blend of open source. One is a photo gallery developed by Coppermine and a genealogy website by PHPGeDView. Both websites are easy to install, configure and administer and utilize the speed and power of MySQL. They are quick, responsive and and perform flawlessly.
Recently, I began exploring the ability of MySQL to replicate among other MySQL servers. Replication allows you to increase your uptime by having a master MySQL database copy it's files to a slave MySQL database. In the event there is a disaster of some sort, you can easily direct your applications to use the slave server or "backup". I currently have one of my website servers backing up information to the other one in order to preserve the data in the event the master server goes down. Many other MySQL servers can be chained together to have many servers backing each other up. However, there is a drawback to this kind of arrangement because when you make changes to the master server, the backup server almost immediately makes the same changes. So, if you make changes in error, they will also propagate to the slave server.
Overall, I believe MySQL is one of the best databases available. It's popularity is only improving it's development. As with all open-source software, the more it's used, the better it gets. More people are available to debug it and to send in bug reports to developers and that makes it even better. Now with replication and clustering technology available for MySQL, it is even suitable for large corporate networks as it can be infinitely scaled to size.