Crime

Norman Shy and Larry Shy: like father, like son

Even as far as Detroit Public Schools corruption is concerned, Norman Shy is certainly one of the worst offenders. For many years, his company Allstate Sales was a vendor for DPS, where they were selling them school supplies.

Unfortunately, Norman Shy was in cahoots with a dozen DPS principals and administrators. He provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks in order to become a DPS preferred vendor, and he profited handsomely from his corruption. Now, at 74, he is facing several years in prison.

One thing I haven’t seen in the news, however, is the corruption in his family. To be specific, Lawrence (Larry) Shy, who has operated Shy Enterprises here in Ann Arbor for many years now. Shy Enterprises is a Kirby Vacuums distributor, and a cursory Google search of “Larry Shy” or “Shy Enterprises” will show you that the son is almost as corrupt as the father. The first page of Google searches is basically Better Business Bureau complaints, and even some dedicated websites bent on exposing how shady Larry Shy was/is.

 

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Larry Shy, complete with tacky collarbone tattoo.

 

When I was a teenager, I saw a “$400/week” job posting in the newspaper (remember those?) classifieds. Of course, the job postings were purposely vague. One way you could always tell it was a Shy Enterprises job posting was if it said “Sports Minded People Wanted”, as if selling overpriced vacuums was some sort of sport. The job postings would never quite explain what the job actually entailed. Either way, a promise of $400 a week was a lot in the late 1990’s, especially to a broke homeless teenager. Screw it, I said, and I went to apply.

I got to Shy Enterprises, and the 5 minute interview process was just as vague. The hiring representative still didn’t specify what the job was, only that it was in sales. She told me to come back the next day.

So I returned, and Mr. Shy was kind enough to have ordered some pizza for the dozen or so prospective employees. We ate and socialized, watched films that bragged about company trips and huge paychecks, and then Mr. Larry Shy finally graced us with his presence.

We found out that the $400 per week was only for the first week, and only if you made a minimum amount of sales. All income afterwards was commission based, with no base pay. The job turned out to be driving around cold-selling Kirby Vacuums, which sell for thousands of dollars and performed no better than vacuums for fractions of the cost. Examples of ways to impose high pressure sales tactics were discussed and encouraged. Financing was available for the people who didn’t have thousands of dollars readily available to spend on a vacuum cleaner. We were also expected to cold-call on the phone to find prospective leads. I looked around at my fellow interviewees, and figured that few, if any, of us were actually going to take this job.

Personally, I stuck it out for 2 days, where I made a few cold calls but never got to make in-person sales pitches. After that, I quit out of frustration and a need for a legitimate paycheck. I would later hear that Larry Shy would refuse to pay commissions due to his employees, and would withhold paychecks for no reason whatsoever. He did talk a good game though, and he still must be as conniving if he is still in business. As of the writing of this article, Shy Enterprises is still a licensed Kirby Vacuum distributor, and his address is at the exact same Ann Arbor office park that I walked into to apply almost 20 years ago.

Norman Shy has been screwing Detroit for many years, and his son Larry Shy has been screwing Ann Arbor for many years. I am a true believer in karma, and what goes around will come around. It came around for Norman Shy, and eventually it will come around for Larry Shy.

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A critical look at police shootings in the U.S.

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The week of July 4th, 2016 may go down in infamy as a catalyst in the United States. Two cases of police killings have dominated the media, as has the case of a citizen who decided to take personal vengeance against the police and “white people” by killing 5 and injuring 10 police in Dallas, Texas. People of all sides are pissed off. Everyone’s a victim, it seems. Blacks are tired of what they see as a systematic and targeted killing of themselves, cops are tired of getting blamed by pissed off citizens and a largely unsympathetic media, and everyone else in the middle is getting pissed of hearing about it so much. There has certainly been inflammatory rhetoric from all sides, and most of it is unfortunately based on sheer emotion and ignorance of the true facts.

But what you may not know is this: In 2016, the amount of white people killed by police has been 238. The amount of black people: 123. The total: 509 citizens killed by police from the beginning of January 2016 to the end of June 2016. (Washington Post)

Now, since white people are still the majority population in the United States, a larger proportion of whites being killed by police is a logical if unnecessary outcome. It must be kept in mind, however, that the white population in the U.S. is approximately 4 times the black population, and there is an even wider racial discrepancy when it comes to incarceration statistics. These are also approximate numbers: some websites report more shootings. I used the Washington Post for my statistics because they are (in my opinion) reputable and non-biased. It also must be kept in mind that not all shootings are being properly documented and tracked, although with the increased media scrutiny I would wager that it will be thoroughly documented one way or another.

I have my theories as to why police shootings are as high as they have ever been, but I’ll leave the analyses to someone that knows better. Instead, I’m just gonna stick with the facts.

One thing’s for sure: in 2016, in America, everyone truly does like to play the victim.

Unfortunately, in 2016, in America, most people really aren’t the victims that they make themselves out to be. The pejorative terms of “privilege” being thrown around are as outdated as seersucker suits and sockhop dances. In 2016, in America, the vast majority of people, of all races, have relatively equal chances to succeed. The only legitimately differing factor is socioeconomic: if you are poor, you will, quite frankly, not have as good a shot to succeed. That isn’t to say that it is impossible, but there will be additional obstacles.

This isn’t to legitimize the fact that people in America have been victims in the past. The treatment of blacks and Native Americans has been horrendous, and has only recently improved in the past half century. There are legitimate cases of racism in this world, and there is a legitimate trend of far-right political posturing that is permeating many governments worldwide. But the vast majority of “social justice warriors” are people who spend more time worrying about social media stats and spreading controversy, instead of using critical thinking skills and attempting to look at an issue from multiple angles. I remember when I was a kid myself: it was all about A.C.A.B. and anti-authority. It may seem shocking, but I have actually been profiled as a white man by the police in the city of Detroit, where it is well known that the inner city had animosity toward the suburbs, and especially suburban people who came to Detroit and dared to venture out of the downtown area. I have had guns held to my head by the police on multiple times, not because I was a threat, but because they wanted to intimidate me. It pissed me off, but eventually I became to see these instances as anomalies. Now I am a grown man with a family of my own, and the colors of my worldview aren’t as sharply defined in black and white (the colors, not the races). Simply put, there are a LOT of gray areas in this world, and we could use a lot more self-accountability and honesty from ALL groups of people, and especially from the police where self-accountability, honesty, and transparency should be a top priority.

But, back to 2016: I have to believe that there is no systematic conspiracy to commit genocide in this country. Now, there are isolated cases of people committing genocidal acts, such as when Micah Johnson murdered the policemen in Dallas. There are isolated acts of police murdering citizens, and sporadic acts of police shooting citizens for unjustifiable reasons, but I refuse to believe for a minute that the average cop wakes up in the morning with racial retribution on their minds. That doesn’t give them a free pass, however. We have the absolute right to examine the critical thinking skills and reasoning of any policeman who decides to shoot a citizen because they are sworn to serve and protect us, and as public employees, the taxpaying citizens pay their salaries. I am also a public employee and a union member, and while I am not a policeman, I welcome any chance for constructive criticism or improvements. Police officers, as anybody else in any other line of work, should be accountable for their actions and should strive for self-improvement at their job. Taking out frustrations on citizens will do nothing but get you a stack of paperwork and a pissed off populace. To quote Isaac Newton, “For every action, there is an equal but opposite reaction.”

While 509 people being killed by police in a 6 month time frame may seem absurdly high (and if you really want an absurd statistic, consider the fact that children aged three and younger have shot at least 25 people in the United States so far this year), the facts remain that there are thousands of policemen and women in the United States that conduct millions of traffic stops every year. The vast majority of cops do their jobs to the best of their abilities, and are only concerned with upholding the rule of law regardless of outside circumstances.

The problem that I truly have, is the arbitrary application of the rule of law in the U.S. If a policeman shoots a citizen, there needs to be a higher standard applied. Being a cop in this country must be tough: you get yelled at by citizens, the administration, city councils, the media, etc. That still doesn’t excuse a lack of critical thinking skills. If you are going to be licensed and deputized to carry a firearm, you damn well better treat using it as a last resort. When you pull somebody over for a taillight violation, you don’t shoot them when they reach for their identification, as in the case of Philando Castile in Minnesota. Castile was a licensed CPL holder and was carrying, and immediately disclosed that fact to the policeman, as is required by law.

If a policeman does kill a citizen or seriously wound them without justification, there needs to be a mandatory minimum punishment, such as the Reagan-era mandatory minimums that overfilled our prisons by giving people 10 year sentences for dime (crack) rocks. Don’t just give them desk jobs for six months. If criminal charges can’t stick, they need to be barred from working in the police force again.

Bodycams and police cruiser video cameras are great tools…when used correctly (i.e. not turned off at convenient times). Citizens with smartphones recording video of traffic stops is also a great tool and an important equalizer.

But realizing that the vast majority of people in this country are law abiding citizens, and realizing that the vast majority of police in this country do their jobs commendably, is arguably an even better tool.

 

 

 

 

The worst mass shooting in U.S. history

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Orlando, Florida has had a horrific weekend. On Friday June 10th, Christina Grimmie, who was a musician that was best known for being a contestant on the popular TV show “The Voice”, was murdered during an aftershow meet-and-greet session at the Plaza Live Theater in Orlando.

And now, the worst shooting in U.S. history has taken place in Orlando, just a single day afterwards. At the nightclub Pulse, a popular LGBT venue, a gunman opened fire on clubgoers and killed 49 people and injured many more. The assailant, Omar Mateen, was a Muslim who had apparently made anti-gay comments recently. This is currently being investigated as a terrorist act.

At this point, the perpetual gun rights debate is in full swing. But the real conversation should be about proper security for musicians and entertainment venues. Many venues hire private security for low wages, and these security guards are invariably under-trained, underpaid, and under-armed. If I were a venue owner, I would gladly charge patrons extra in order to have the money to hire proper security. Proper security that is fully armed and defended, is aware of how to handle emergency situations such as gun shootings, and that works with artist management in order to provide the best security for entertainers.

The liability is too high. The potential cost in human lives is even higher. If a venue has a strong security presence at the door, is able to conduct proper pat-downs, and is able to monitor all areas of the venue including the stage, then that will help to deter shootings such as this.

My thoughts are with all of the families impacted by this senseless tragedy.

The CEO of Inland Regional Center is a racist?

 

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The Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California was the site of a horrific mass shooting today. Not many details have been released thus far, but apparently this was a holiday party gone terribly awry, with 14 people dead and at least 17 injured.

Marybeth Feild, the CEO of Inland Regional Center, obviously has much more pressing matters than updating her Facebook page, so I won’t be TOO hard on her. It is highly questionable, however, for a CEO of a company that is supposed to help people with developmental disabilities to post racist memes on Facebook. And it is just plain stupid to post these things, period, while leaving your page open to be viewed by anyone. I’m sure she oversees quite a diverse clientele at Inland Regional Center, and maybe some remedial diversity training is in order for her.

I could have posted screenshots of how she thinks the media needs to “be nicer to Ben Carson”, or how she still believes the Barack Obama is a Muslim myth in 2015, or her sketchy recipe ideas as well. But, like I said, she’s had a rough night and I promised not to be too hard on her.

My thoughts are with all the families affected by this tragedy.

UPDATE, 12/3/2015: Two suspect names have been released: Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, who are Arabs. Which makes this article terribly ironic, since Feild posted that picture on her Facebook page approximately two weeks before this incident. It is also ironic because it will probably serve to reinforce her world view (and many others, I would imagine) that Arabs are “inbred savages”. So far in 2015, we have had an average of over one mass shooting A DAY, shootings committed by many people other than Arabs. I won’t pretend to know the answer, but until we reach a paradigm shift in enforcing gun control in this country and we take a hard, honest look at ourselves in the national mirror, things will never change. I hope, for your sake as well as mine, that they eventually will…

A statement on the November 13th Paris shootings and bombings

My thoughts are with the people in Paris this morning. I’ve noticed people pointing the blame at many different things, but the only thing to blame is religious extremism. These types of cowardly attacks under the guise of religion have gone on for many centuries, although this is apparently the worst tragedy in Paris since WWII.

Prayers aren’t the solution, because the terrorists who perpetrated this massacre are also praying right now…except in gratitude.

What we need is constructive and decisive action to defeat ANY religious extremists, especially the Islamic State/ISIS, who are bent on terrorizing peaceful societies. And, most importantly, we need to realize that terrorism against NATO countries will continue to happen as long as we perpetrate civil wars in the Middle East just to maintain our oil interests and spheres of influence.

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” – Isaac Newton

How to improve our correctional facilities, one meal at a time

This is called Nutriloaf, and is used punitively to feed inmates. It is a delightful concoction of soy protein, mashed potatoes, raisins, vegetables, and other things. I have personally tried it, and it tastes even worse than it looks.

This is called Nutriloaf, and is used punitively to feed inmates. It is a delightful concoction of soy protein, mashed potatoes, raisins, vegetables, and other things. I have personally tried it, and it tastes even worse than it looks.

VICE, one of the few news sites that is unbiased and that actually does investigative journalism regularly, has been spending the last week reporting on jail and prison conditions in the United States. They just wrote an article detailing the sorry state of food service in Michigan’s jails, and since I am uniquely qualified to talk about this (as I have been in those jails myself, and have experience with Aramark and union food services as well), I decided to debunk some common arguments made against giving inmates proper meals.

They are in jail, my taxpaying dollars shouldn’t pay for them to get good food. If they wanted better meals, then they shouldn’t have gotten locked up!

First off, for those who are unaware, any inmate in Michigan who isn’t considered indigent (poor) is required to pay restitution for their jail stay. When I was last locked up (well over a decade ago), the cost was $60/day. Hell, you can get a room at the Motel 6 for cheaper than that. One of the correction officers working the intake desk even had the nerve to tell me that “hey, you’ve got a job, so you can afford to pay us back!” And I told him, “Well, I USED to have a job, until I ended up here! Sorry, but my employer doesn’t have ‘jail leave’!” I can only imagine how much it costs now…

Secondly, if you are so concerned about taxpaying dollars, shouldn’t you be concerned about how those monies are spent? Shouldn’t your hard-earned money be spent toward something that is productive, and makes sense? Ever since Michigan decided to privatize their food services in their correctional system, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been taken from taxpayers to compensate for cost overruns and fines due to incompetence. As is mostly the case, privatization may save money in the short term, but will almost always cost more in the long run.

Inmates shouldn’t get special treatment, they are there to get punished! Give them bread and water, and tell them to shut the hell up!

Are correctional facilities supposed to rehabilitate, or are they supposed to be strictly punitive? Anybody who oversees these facilities will tell you (at least in public) that they are made to rehabilitate. The fact that inmates have limited access to high school and college classes is but one example. But one of the most important things for inmates, period, is the food. Inmates don’t have much to look forward to, and a decent meal is something that can boost morale and help to keep them out of trouble. Most riots are usually predicated on inmate mistreatment, and poor quality food or lack of food is always a main factor. Hey, you want inmates to behave? Give them decent meals, and I will bet you that those inmates will be as well behaved as John Boehner was when he met the Pope.

It costs too much to feed these inmates as it is, we can’t afford to give them better meals.

As of right now, it costs a little over $2 per day to feed each inmate. Multiply that by the number of inmates, for hypothetical purposes we will say 500. Which brings us to a $1,000 per day cost to make 3 meals. Hell, I could go to Costco and feed 500 people three tasty and nutritious meals for $1,000 EASILY. I have over 10 years of experience in high-level institutional food service, where I was responsible for feeding approximately 800 per meal. Our per person cost was around a dollar per meal, and we were able to feed people some tasty stuff. It wasn’t steak and lobster (as it shouldn’t be), but I made things such as chef salads, shepherd’s pie, chicken enchiladas, beef stroganoff, apple crisps, etc. We had a three-week rotation, meaning that the menu would rotate every three weeks. People, it’s not rocket science: if you have access to fresh wholesale food, and take pride in the preparation in it, you can make some decent meals.

Aramark is a special breed of stupid, however. I work at the largest employer in southeast Michigan, and they use Aramark for staff and visitor food services, while thankfully (so far) retaining union employees for hospital food services. Even the average meal in the cafeteria (let’s say a hamburger and french fries) became considerably more expensive after the transition to Aramark. I used to be able to buy a burger and fries for $4.50, now it costs close to $7. Of course, I refuse to patronize Aramark if I can help it, and have no problem walking a mile or so to get a cheaper and better meal.

As is most things in life, this ultimately boils down to money. For instance, how do you think that contraband such as drugs get smuggled into jail? The only feasible way for things to get smuggled in nowadays is by corrupt correctional officers, many of whom make salaries of less than $40,000 a year. Which brings me to another idea: pay the CO’s more, and guess what would happen? Less contraband, less instances of correctional officers beating up inmates for no reason, and better officer morale. Man, this common sense thing is easy, they should make ME a warden!

Even if you feel that we shouldn’t give “special treatment” to inmates (and if you consider decent meals that have the federally approved caloric and nutritive content to be special treatment), then you really can’t argue with me that using private contractors to feed inmates maggot-infested mystery meat is going to save taxpayers dollars in the long run, rather than using union employees that do the job right THE FIRST TIME, and not leave correctional facilities exposed to lawsuits and accusations of mistreatment.

As Jay-Z once famously said, “Men lie, women lie, but numbers don’t lie”.

Incompetent workers across the nation rejoice

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Thanks to either thinly veiled racism, or an inexplicable sense of gratitude for our public servants killing our fellow citizens for very questionable reasons, people across the nation are holding rallies to support police departments for police brutality. In Ferguson, MO, a man barely out of his teens was shot multiple times and killed. In New York City, a man was strangled to death by the police for the crime of selling cigarettes to people on the street. And at a Wal-Mart in Ohio, a man was killed by police for holding up an air rifle, despite the fact that air rifles usually have orange tips signifying that they aren’t even real firearms.

Of course, this begs the question: why couldn’t the police simply disarm a gun wielding citizen? (The people killed in Ferguson and NYC weren’t even holding guns, let alone any weapons.) Despite what they tell you, it is standard protocol to only “shoot to kill” when a cop’s or citizen’s life is in imminent danger. Cops are specially trained in how to disarm gunmen (and gunwomen and gunchildren), yet they are too quick to pull the trigger. Especially when people aren’t even holding guns, but knives, toys, and even when people hold up their wallets. Killing a defenseless citizen surely shouldn’t be grounds for celebration. Disarming a criminal without any casualties…now that would be something to be impressed about.

But, hey, I guess that would be too hard for cops who decide it’s easier to use their guns than it is to use critical thinking skills under pressure. If you read a story in the news about a contractor who was asked to re-shingle a house, and the roofer showed up and burned the customer’s house down, would you go to the contractor’s place of business to give them more money and to throw a celebration? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Why reward extreme and incompetent behavior on the job? I mean, this guy got voted in to office twice, so I shouldn’t be surprised, but still…

People get fired all the time for minor things, especially in states such as Michigan, where we have a “right to fire work” law. So why are people actually celebrating these incompetent cops when they KILL people? Not only that, but why in the hell has the cop in Ferguson actually gotten more in donations than the family of the man who was killed? Wait…don’t answer that one, that was a rhetorical question.

I decided to go down to the Wal-Mart in Ohio, where people were holding a rally to support the police this weekend, and talk to some of these protesters who were out supporting their police department. I talked to an older lady named Sally Smith, and asked her why she was supporting the police department in this matter. She said, “We need to support our police department against these thugs.” I thought for a second, and replied, “Would it change your mind if I told you the person they shot was holding an air rifle?” Ms. Smith said, “Nope, our policemen wouldn’t be able to tell if it was a real gun in the heat of the moment.”

I asked her, “What if it was a member of your family that got killed by the police?” She said, “My family are law abiding good Christians, we would NEVER break the law or mouth off to the police!”

I then asked her, “Would it change your mind if I told you it was a white woman who got killed?”

Sally screamed, “WHAT? Oh…my…God, are you kidding me? What a trage….WAIT, it wasn’t a white woman, it was one of those THUGS! Nice try, mister, who are you again? Do you work for those CNN communists?”

So I decided to leave and go inside the Wal-Mart to cool off. I walked in, and saw that all of the workers were in the front of the store, holding up signs and chanting loudly. I asked one of them why they were protesting.

“Because I don’t restock the shelves, am purposely rude to people, and yet my manager STILL doesn’t treat me with respect!”, one lady said.

Somebody else yelled, “These cops get celebrated for not doing THEIR jobs correctly, why the hell shouldn’t we get a rally?”

A manager replied, “I make it a point to only staff one cashier during the busiest times of the day, making the lines to check out insufferably long. Shouldn’t I get a medal for this?”

I then posed the question: “If you’re going to protest about something, how about the fact that your employer has made over $128 billion in profits over the past year, yet they don’t even give you enough wages to support your families, or enough benefits to take your kids to the doctor?”

The crowd went silent.

Then somebody yelled, “1, 2, 3, 4, we aren’t incompetent anymore!”

I shook my head, turned around, and walked away.