Algorithms, Statistics and Lies

The MSM reacts to certain keywords or combinations, which when present, will send it into a frenzy. You know like, SUV, shooting and (name a store or venue). Once those words pop up, the story writes itself, facts be damned. In this case it was Wal Mart and shooting. Journalists are firm believers that lightning does strike twice.

The headline conjures vision of another shooting due to the existence of a Wal Mart. But the facts of the story don’t back up the headline. In fact, there are no facts. The story doesn’t divulge whether the shooting was inside, outside or merely in close proximity to the Wal Mart. There is no indication that the victim was targeted specifically, randomly, or accidental. But, but, but there was a Wal Mart.

We used to joke that HEB (Texas grocery chain) was the site of more dope deals than anywhere else in town. On one occasion, we ran afoul of SAPD. Two separate investigative units, two different deals, one parking lot. We got it sorted out. We packed up and went down the road to Home Depot. The MSM would have Joe Public believe that dope deals occur under two circumstances. The first is the ghetto street corner.

The other fallacy that the MSM likes to perpetuate is that dealing dope is no different that a basic retail model.

Both assertions are wrong. Dope deals take place damn near anywhere. The location is subject to negotiation. They do not follow a bricks and mortar retail model. If anything, a dope deal is a classic direct marketing scheme. Thank god Mary Kay limited her activities to cosmetics. The final word on dope dealing was uttered by street level crack dealer who, upon his arrest stated: “I didn’t sell no dope to the man! Everybody knows it be illegal to sell dope to the po-lice!”

I was assigned to a narcotics task force for fifteen years. A bread and butter operation for any undercover unit is what is called a “buy bust”. This is where an undercover officer posing as a crook agrees to meet a real crook to negotiate a deal. Once the deal is consummated the undercover officer gives a signal. The bust team moves in and arrests the miscreant.

Contrary to TV, these deals do not place on board yachts, in hotel suites or in mansions. They take place on neutral ground, usually in a public location. The choice of venue is part of the negotiation. High on the list of acceptable locations are large parking lots for big box stores. It is considered bad form to show up at a dope deal along with six heavies wielding automatic weapons. A public forum prevents such a display and discourages shootouts.

So what? Pick any shopping center. In San Antonio the default location for dope deals was HEB. I spent more time in HEB parking lots than the kid retrieving shopping carts. I don’t know if we were that discrete in our busts. It could be that HEB shoppers were used to seeing long haired dudes wearing raid jackets pointing guns at other dudes on the ground. We were rarely disturbed. What is your point?

Dope dealers don’t maintain a database of where they did dope deals. Cops do. Cops and dopers agree to do a dope deal and they end up at HEB. When the bust goes down the address of the offense is where the arrest occurred. MSM comes along and a lazy journalist discovers that HEB is ground zero for dope deals (statistics). HEB didn’t have a choice in the matter. The only fault HEB bears is that their parking lots are perceived as a safe and secure location for the public.

What’s my point? If Wal Mart fires an employee or an irate shopper twists off, then Wal Mart is an integral part of the story. If an irate husband or gangbanger finds the object of their ire shopping at Wal Mart then the location is incidental. Sometimes there is no identifiable reason why one location becomes ground zero.

Forty years ago, I opened an account at a bank. The account executive asked why I chose this bank as opposed to the one across the street. I guess she was fishing for feedback. Did the advertisements for her bank influence my decision? Was it the wide range of services?

I replied that there was only one consideration in my decision. I didn’t have to cross traffic (left turn) in order to reach the bank.