Tag Archives: Black Friday

Gun background checks hit a new record on Black Friday

people buying guns
Shannon Watts hardest hit.
From USA Today: The FBI was flooded Friday with more than 200,000 background check requests for gun purchases, setting a new single day record, the bureau reported Saturday.
In all, the FBI fielded 203,086 requests on Black Friday, up from the previous single-day highs of 185,713 last year and 185,345 in 2015. The two previous records also were recorded on Black Friday.
Gun checks, required for purchases at federally licensed firearm dealers, are not a measure of actual gun sales. The number of firearms sold Friday is likely higher because multiple firearms can be included in one transaction by a single buyer.
The surging numbers received by the bureau’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), comes just days after Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered a sweeping review of the system, which allowed a court-martialed Air Force veteran to purchase the rifle used earlier this month to kill 25 people inside a Sutherland Springs, Texas, church.
The victims included a pregnant woman whose unborn child also died in the Nov. 5 massacre.
Following the shooting, the Air Force acknowledged it had not provided the FBI with details of the court martial, which likely would have blocked the 2016 sale of the murder weapon to Devin Kelley.
In a memo issued Wednesday, Sessions ordered the FBI and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to review the NICS system.
The breakdown in the Kelley case highlighted longstanding problems within the system, which for more than 20 years has served as the centerpiece of the government’s effort to block criminals from obtaining firearms. Yet it has largely struggled to keep pace with the volume of firearm transactions and still properly maintain the databases of criminal and mental health records necessary to determine whether buyers are eligible to purchase guns.
Last year, the FBI official overseeing NICS was forced to transfer personnel from construction projects and units that oversee the gathering of crime statistics to keep up with the surge of requests for background checks. The office processed a record 27.5 million background checks in 2016.
Stephen Morris, a former assistant FBI director, told USA TODAY after the shooting that the NICS system has long been plagued by incomplete or outdated information.
In many cases, a background check may show a record of arrest, but there is no additional information to indicate whether the case was dismissed or resulted in a felony conviction which would prohibit a gun purchase.
The mere record of arrest is not enough to prohibit a gun sale, so FBI analysts must race to fill such information gaps within the three-day time period allotted for each check. The search sometimes requires inquiries to police departments, courthouses and prisons across the country to match final dispositions to the incomplete records.
Read the rest of the story here.

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2014 Black Friday sales a bust

elections have consequences
So much for the much-touted economic recovery.
The U.S. economy depends on consumerism, i.e., retail sales, for as much as 70%, and the bulk of retail sales is conducted in the all-important Christmas season that traditionally begins the day after Thanksgiving. That day is dubbed Black Friday because that’s when U.S. retail businesses begin to go into black, i.e., make profits, for the year.
Black Friday sales, therefore, are a bellwether for Christmas sales.
ZeroHedge reports, Nov. 30, 2014, that last year’s Black Friday retail sales were bad. This year is an outright disaster.
According to ShopperTrak data, the first two days of the holiday shopping season were already showing a -0.5% decline across bricks-and-mortar stores. But figures just released from the National Retail Federation (NRF), the traditionally cheery industry organization, show that:

  • Sales during the four-day Thanksgiving holiday period crashed by a whopping 11% from last year’s: $57.4 billion to $50.9 billion.
  • The number of Americans who went shopping over the four-day weekend declined 5.2% from last year‘s 141 million to 134 million.
  • Shoppers spent an average of $380.95, down 6.4% from $407.02 a year earlier.
  • There was a decline across virtually every tracked spending category, including online sales, as the NRF charts below demonstrate (source). Shoppers spent an average $159.55 online, down 10.2% from $177.67 last year.


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Christmas retail sales slump

Christmas ornaments
We all know that U.S. retail sales depend on the Christmas season for as much as 40% of their annual revenue. But all signs are pointing to a rather dismal retail sales for Christmas 2013.
That’s Hope and Change for you! 
ZeroHedge reports on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, that average holiday spending is expected to decline for the first time since the Great Recession-Depression began in 2008, despite record promotions and an ever earlier start of the buying frenzy on Thanksgiving day instead of the traditional Black Friday after.

Although Black Friday is the busiest day of the year for U.S. retailers, the week before Christmas is traditionally the busiest week in the most important shopping season of the year. But Shoppertrack reported that retail traffic actually plummeted by an unprecedented 21% in the last week before Christmas, and in-store sales decreased 3.1% from the year before, dashing retailers’ hopes that the final stretch before Christmas would offset soft sales numbers earlier in the holiday shopping season.
ShopperTrak’s founder Bill Martin called the disappointing numbers “kind of staggering” and attributed the slump to strong sales in early November (an increase of 4.7% from 2012), bad weather in the Midwest and other central states, and an increase in virtual (i.e., online) window-shopping that prevented consumers from setting foot in mortar stores to look, feel and compare prices. But even online sales aren’t growing at the expected pace. Although online spending from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15 was up 9% from the same period last year to $37.8 billion, according to the most available data from comScore, that’s still below the 14% growth that the Internet research firm had forecasted for the season.
What Martin did not factor in is the plain fact that many Americans have discovered their health insurance costs have gone up, thanks to Obamacare, and as a result, have fewer dollars to spend on gifts.
But Martin is not revising his forecast of an overall growth of 2.4% in retail sales for November and December because he’s counting on the post-Christmas sales and redemption of Christmas gift cards. The latter are not recorded as sales until they are exchanged for merchandise. As many as 80% of shoppers had said they were planning to buy gift cards this year, which would total $29.8 billion.
USA Today reports that retailers across America are rolling out huge after-Christmas deals. Some online sales, including at Target.com and Kohls.com, actually started on Christmas Day.
Final sales figures for the Christmas holiday shopping season are expected in January.
FOTM is doing our own poll. How much did you spend on Christmas gifts this year? 


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Stores friendly or hostile to Christmas

The first day of the Christmas shopping season, the day after Thanksgiving, is called Black Friday for a good reason. It’s the point at which retailers begin to turn a profit, or are “in the black“. Many retailers depend on Christmas sales for as much as one quarter of their annual revenue.
According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spent $563 billion in Christmas shopping in 2011. For 2012, that figure is expected to increase 4.1% to $586.1 billion.
Despite the importance of Christmas shopping to their profit margin and, in many cases, their very survival, increasing numbers of retail stores in America now refuse to say “Merry Christmas” or even recognize Christmas, out of “political correctness,” which is really just cowardice or worse.
At the same time, while dissing Christmas, these stores still want our hard-earned money! What hypocrisy.
It makes no sense for us to do our Christmas shopping in anti-Christmas stores because in so doing, we are simply aiding and abetting those who don’t even have that elemental ounce of courage to stand up for the truth.
For the simple truth is that every year, Americans go into a buying frenzy NOT because of the Jewish Hanukkah, NOT because of the entirely made-up black holiday called Kwanzaa, and NOT because of the wiccans’ Winter Solstice.
The simple truth is that every year, Americans go into a buying frenzy, buying hundreds of billions of dollars of stuff, because of CHRISTMAS.
The American Family Association has compiled a list of top retailers in accordance with whether and how they recognize Christmas. Use the list as your guide for your Christmas shopping!

Just remember: Shop in Blue and Green stores. Shun the Red stores!

Color Code:

BLUE: An AFA “5-Star” rated company that promotes and celebrates Christmas on an exceptional basis.
GREEN: Company uses the term “Christmas” on a regular basis, we consider that company Christmas-friendly.
YELLOW: Company refers to Christmas infrequently, or in a single advertising medium, but not in others.
RED: Company may use “Christmas” sparingly in a single or unique product description, but as a company, does not recognize it.

Companies that are pro-Christmas

AFA Online Store
ACE Hardware
Bass Pro Shops
Bed Bath & Beyond
Best Buy
Big Lots
Collective Brands
CVS Pharmacy
Dick’s Sporting Goods
Dollar General
Dollar Tree
H.E.B. Stores
Hancock Fabrics
Harris Teeter Stores
Hobby Lobby
Home Shopping Network
JoAnn Fabrics & Crafts Stores
Michael’s Stores
Neiman Marcus
Office Max
Pier One Imports
Rite Aid
Scheels Sporting Goods
Super D Drug
TJ Maxx
Toys R Us

Companies marginal on “Christmas”

  • 1-800-Flowers.com
  • Bath & Body Works
  • Cooking.com
  • Hy-Vee Stores
  • L.L. Bean
  • Safeway
  • Sam’s Club
  • Starbucks
  • True Value
  • UncommonGoods.com
  • Walgreens
  • Whole Foods

Companies AGAINST “Christmas”

  • Banana Republic
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Family Dollar
  • Foot Locker
  • Gap Stores BOYCOTT!
  • Limited Brands
  • Maurice’s
  • Office Depot
  • Old Navy BOYCOTT!
  • Radio Shack
  • Staples
  • Supervalu
  • Victoria’s Secret

Here’s a handy pocket-sized list of all three groups of stores, which you can print and take with you on your shopping trips:
Christmas shopping
Want to report on a company? Send your detailed report to christmas@afa.net.
H/t Patriot Action Network

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Why Eurozone's Fiscal Crisis Should Concern You

For several weeks now, the government leaders of West Europe grappled with what to do as, beginning with Greece, country after country approaches insolvency, buried under mountains of debt.  But Americans seem oblivious, with half of the U.S. population going on a giddy buying spree on Black Friday after Thanksgiving, in stubborn denial of the European fiscal meteor that can and will impact the United States.
One after another, alarm bells are sounded.
The Economist says on Nov. 26, 2011:

A euro break-up would cause a global bust worse even than the one in 2008-09. The world’s most financially integrated region would be ripped apart by defaults, bank failures and the imposition of capital controls (see article). […] The survival of the EU itself would be in doubt.[…]

The panic engulfing Europe’s banks is no less alarming. Their access to wholesale funding markets has dried up, and the interbank market is increasingly stressed, as banks refuse to lend to each other. Firms are pulling deposits from peripheral countries’ banks. This backdoor run is forcing banks to sell assets and squeeze lending; the credit crunch could be deeper than the one Europe suffered after Lehman Brothers collapsed.

Add the ever greater fiscal austerity being imposed across Europe and a collapse in business and consumer confidence, and there is little doubt that the euro zone will see a deep recession in 2012—with a fall in output of perhaps as much as 2%. That will lead to a vicious feedback loop in which recession widens budget deficits, swells government debts and feeds popular opposition to austerity and reform. Fear of the consequences will then drive investors even faster towards the exits.”

Agustino Fontevecchia writes in Forbes, Nov. 28, 2011, that the Eurozone crisis is spreading to the private sector:

“The European situation continues to deteriorate and has now spread even to Germany, the eurozone’s economic engine, as evidenced by a failed bond auction last week.  As sovereign debt markets deteriorates, the risk of a credit crunch looms, raising the stakes for policymakers and the private sector alike.”

Wolfgang Münchau warns in the Financial Times, Nov. 27, 2011, that the Eurozone has only days to avoid a collapse:

“With the spectacular flop of the German bond auction and the alarming rise in short-term rates in Spain and Italy, the government bond market across the eurozone has ceased to function. The banking sector, too, is broken. Important parts of the eurozone economy are cut off from credit. The eurozone is now subject to a run by global investors, and a quiet bank run among its citizens.”

As a matter of fact, quiet or not, there was a bank run in the Baltic country of Latvia on September 24, 2011.
The event that triggered the bank run was the arrest of two former shareholders of Bankas Snoras AB, for embezzlement, document forgery, accounting fraud and abuse of authority. Kinda like what New Jersey’s former Democratic governor and senator Jon Corzine did as CEO of MF Global.
In Latvia, the arrests precipitated a bank run. The Latvian government stepped in. Depositors could withdraw only 50 lati (about $95) a day, as the government moved to liquidate the bank.

Indeed, Europe’s banking sector is broken.
More than a month ago, on September 21, 2011, just when European banks and their regulators were trying to reassure investors and customers that lenders have enough capital to withstand a default by Greece and slowing economic growth caused by governments’ austerity measures, Lloyd’s of London, the world’s oldest insurance market, abandoned those banks.
Lloyd’s pulled deposits from European banks because of concerns that European governments may be unable to support lenders in a worsening debt crisis. As Lloyd’s finance director Luke Savage explained,

“There are a lot of banks who, because of the uncertainty around Europe, the market has stopped using to place deposits with. If you’re worried the government itself might be at risk, then you’re certainly worried the banks could be taken down with them.”

I didn’t know about that, did you? I only learnt of what Lloyd’s of London did, two days ago. Some news media we have in the United States!
And if you think what happens in the Eurozone doesn’t affect us, think again.
Already, the Eurozone debt and banking crisis has led to the 8th biggest bankruptcy in U.S. history — that of the giant financial derivatives broker MF Global. The brokerage had used its clients’ funds to invest in European government bonds. But the investments went bust and MF Global went bankrupt, taking hundreds of millions of its clients’ dollars with it.
Who knows how many other U.S. brokerages, banks, and credit unions have invested in European government bonds?
Meanwhile, we in the United States have our own humongous national debt to worry about. The news today is that Fitch, the credit-ratings company, just downgraded its outlook for the United States to “negative.”

Update (Nov. 29, 2011):

Fox Business reports that yesterday, Standard & Poor’s cut its credit ratings (from A to A-) for many of the world’s largest banks, including Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Morgan Stanley.
The move follows S&P’s shift, announced earlier this month, in the methods it uses for rating the banks. Dozens of other banks were also affected by S&P’s new criteria and many of the downgrades stemmed from the affected banks’ exposure to the European debt crisis. S&P cited weaker confidence in governments’ ability to bail out struggling banks.

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Occupy Black Friday a bust

Occupy Black Friday / Joshua Trujillo Seattle PI

Those whacky OWS protestors.  They decided to stage protests to occupy Black Friday across the country.  Some don’t want people to shop at all. Others just want to divert shoppers from big chains and giant shopping malls to local mom-and-pops. And while the planned protests don’t appear coordinated, they have similar themes: supporting small businesses while criticizing the day’s dedication to conspicuous consumption and the shopping frenzy that fuels big corporations.
They occupied Black Friday in New York, Oklahoma City, Seattle, Oakland, and plenty other cities across the country. 
But alas, their movement didn’t stop consumers from spending their hard-earned money how they see fit.  The AP reports that Black Friday sales were up 7 percent over last year. Buyers spent $11.4 billion at retail stores and malls, up nearly $1 billion from last year.  Online shopping was strong as well, with a 24.3 percent increase in online spending on Black Friday.
Good to know consumers kept their annual traditions and were able to participate in the capitalist system.  Take that OWS!

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Zombies For Stuff

Once upon a time there was a country called Q that was the richest in human history.
Despite its recent bout of economic downtown, the people of Q still were awash in money and material possessions, as measured by average per capita income and just plain accumulated “stuff” that far exceeded what each person actually needed.
Even Q’s poor people were not absolutely poor, for Q’s government defined “poverty” in relative terms, which means the government calls you”poor” simply because you have less stuff than others. Absolute poverty means a person is without the food, clothing, and shelter for survival.
And so, as the country of Q became richer and its average per capita income increased, so too did the poverty threshold, which in turn meant that Q would always have “the poor” even when Q’s poor had indoor heating, television, microwave ovens, cell phones, and other amenities and goods that were considered by the world’s really poor countries to be only possessed by the rich. That was why many of Q’s “poor” were not just fat, but clinically obese, unlike the starving emaciated poor of the rest of the world.
Despite their being awash in oceans of stuff, the people of Q wanted more, more, and ever more stuff. To feed their insatiable hunger for more stuff, they even went into debt with double-digit interest rates — which meant most of them would never be freed of debt but would be bound in life-long servitude to their debtors.
Special days, called “holidays,” were set aside for the people of Q to buy more stuff for their families and friends — all of whom also were awash in oceans of stuff.
There was one special day in the year when the people of Q went into a stuff-buying frenzy.
It was called Black Friday, the day after a holiday called “Thanksgiving.” On that day, Q’s people would line up for hours –some camped in the bitter cold the night before — to be “the first” to buy stuff when stores opened.
On Black Friday in the year 2010, even though the people of Q already were neck-deep in debt and even though Q had a record and persistent official unemployment rate of nearly 10%, they still turned out like zombies to buy yet more stuff. There were even reports of violence [Source: The Economic Collapse]:

  • At a Target store in Buffalo, New York, the crowds that were waiting impatiently outside suddenly became a chaotic mob when the doors opened at 4 AM. Shoppers trampled each other in a mad dash. One man who was lying on the ground thought “I don’t want to die here” while he was being trampled by the other shoppers.
  • At a Wal-Mart store in Sacramento, California, the crowds became so violent that the police had to evacuate the store.
  • In West Palm Beach, Florida, three women reported to the police that $1,000 in presents they had just bought at Best Buy were stolen from their vehicle within minutes of being purchased.
  • In eastern Georgia, a U.S. Marine reservist who was collecting donated toys for children was stabbed with a knife when he tried to stop a shoplifter.
  • At a popular convenience store in Garden City, police were brought in to break up a huge brawlA group of customers were pulling and tugging at products and punched each other in their faces and stomach.
  • In Middleton, Wisconsin, a 21-year-old woman was arrested when she threatened to shoot other shoppers when they objected to her moving to the front of line to get into a Toys R Us store.
  • In Douglasville, Georgia, customers tore apart a store display at a Wal-Mart store, as they pushed and shoved each other in an attempt to grab the best deals.
  • In a shopping mall in Cerritos, California, the police locked down a section of the mall after a wild fight broke out in the food court, with people flinging chairs at other customers.
  • In Texas, a near-riot broke out in the middle of a Wal-Mart store as a huge crowd of customers pushed and shoved each other to get special deals that were being wheeled out onto the floor.

So what is this hunger that is insatiable?
At the same time as the people of Q acquired more and more stuff, their families broke down, divorces and single parenthood increased, along with a decline in religiosity and church attendance. And as the people of Q became increasingly atomized and alienated, their yawning maw for more stuff became a bottomless chasm.
The more self-aware (or honest) among Q’s citizens said that when they felt blue, they would anesthetize themselves by buying stuff much as a drug addict seeks a fix. But the feeling of elation was fleeting, lasting mere minutes. Some of Q’s more learned denizens maintained that owning a lot of expensive stuff was a way for the rich upper classes to distinguish themselves from the rest, and that the masses’ consumerism was their attempt at class mimicry — though at the cost of their increasing indebtedness.
When the people of Q behaved like this, all to buy stuff, how do you think they’ll behave when things really go bad and they are desperate for food or shelter?
[H/t Igor for the video]

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