Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Let's just stop taking showers...

We should go back to the days of the old-West where the downtown mattered (that was for our PARD friends) and where people showered once a year.


The city of Seattle announced Thursday that it will seek sanctions against manufacturers of water-guzzling shower heads, armed with lab results showing that the products tested far exceeded the federal "maximum water flow rate requirement" standard.

"The people of Seattle have a very strong environmental ethic, and I think most people would be appalled at others who are wasting energy or water," said Dietemann, water conservation lead for Seattle Public Utilities.

Way to lead the way Seattle! Yet again, we are in awe of your awesomeness!

Coombs acknowledged that many of today's shower head products, such as Zoe's "rainhead" and multiple shower heads, provide what customers want: more water.
He added that individual customers often remove the restrictors themselves.

"Most people want to know how to take them out," Coombs said. "Generally, they don't like the water savers; the flow of water is too weak and they feel as though they haven't gotten a shower."

The thing I like about low-flow shower heads is that I spend about four to five times longer in the shower getting soaped up and rinsed off. Actually if the government would add a law on the books that makes illegal for shampoo companies to have the directions for use include the directive to "repeat", that would equate to less shower time for everyone. That could save minutes a day. Wow, anyone want to vote for me for State Senate?

Dietemann and other city officials said such behavior is worrisome and
counterproductive, recalling when consumers years ago tried to remove anti-pollution devices on new car engines.

"Our real concern is if even 3 percent of our customers adopt these shower heads, it could negate all the achievements of the programs we've been running for decades," Dietemann said.

This last statement made me scratch my head. You're telling me that for decades people have been conserving water and it can be wiped out over night by 3% of the population?

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas, Pullman

May the joy and peace of the Lord Jesus be with you and your family.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A Tale of Two Cities

I will not even begin to address Lois Blackburn's bombastic, over-the-top display of left-wing extremist moonbattery in her Town Crier column in today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News. I'll leave that in the able hands of Dale Courtney.

I absolutely LOVE unhinged rants like that, because it lets normal, mainstream residents of the Palouse see exactly what kind of people are opposing Wal-Mart.

Since Blackburn is a Dickens fan, she is no doubt familiar with another of his works; one which is much more applicable than "A Christmas Carol". The story begins thusly:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness . . . it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair...
Pullman's leadership and citizens have been wise and soon a spring of hope will lead to the best of times for the city.

If the newly-elected government of Moscow acts foolishly (as they probably will, as many of them share Blackburn's ideology) in this winter of despair, then I guarantee it will be the worst of times ahead for them.

The Top Ten Pullman News Stories of 2005, Part Two

Continuing from yesterday, #5-#1:
5. Title Town Washington
First, the Pullman High School Greyhounds won the Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association 2A Baseball State Tournament on June 4, topping Lakewood 7-3. Then the Lady Greyhounds won their first ever WIAA 2A State Volleyball Tournament on November 12 by defeating Mt. Baker 25-16, 25-14, 25-19. This triumph was followed a few weeks later by the Greyhound football team being crowned as WIAA 2A state champions on December 3 at the Tacoma Dome following a gutsy comeback 28-24 win over Archbishop Murphy. Coach Wollan and his boys knocked off several prep powerhouses, including 3A runner-up Prosser, enroute to a perfect 14-0 season.

EDIT: Thanks to April for reminding me about the baseball championship.
4. "Passion of the Musical"
Student playwright Chris Lee created a furor with his controversial satire "Passion of the Musical" in April. In addition to offending some religious groups, WSU administrators expressed their disgust with Lee's use of the N-word. A university office purchased tickets for 40 some hecklers who disrupted a performance of the play. Campus security refused to remove the hecklers and the show had to be cancelled. WSU President V. Lane Rawlins said the hecklers had just been exercising their "free speech rights". Lee, who is African-American, claimed his right of artistic expression had been violated and contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a national civil liberties organization,. WSU's behavior was widely condemned, providing yet another black eye to the university's image. The flap may have prompted the resignation of Vice President for Student Affairs Charlene Jaeger. Another Lee play in the fall, "The Magina Monologues" avoided similar controversy after WSU administrators said heckling would not be tolerated.
3. Frederick Russell Apprehended in Ireland
"Pullman's Most Wanted" was arrested in October by police in Dublin after four years on the lam. Russell is facing three charges of vehicular manslaughter and four charges of vehicular assault in Whitman County arising from a 2001 auto accident in which three WSU students were killed and four other people were injured. The notoriously difficult Irish extradition process is set to begin in January 2006.
2. "Dispositions Criteria"
Conservative Christian student teacher Ed Swan got in trouble with the WSU College of Education for revealing his views on abortion, gay marriage, that "white male dominance" does not exist, etc. in a written disposition that was supposed to gauge his committment to "social jistice". Swan refused to sign a contract agreeing to go to "sensitivity training" and was about to dropped from the education program when he contacted FIRE for help just like Chris Lee had done. FIRE publicized Swan's case and he quickly became the national "poster child" for political correctness run amuck on college campuses. Dean Judy Mitchell further exacerbated the situation by telling the Moscow-Pullman Daily News in October that she did not know whether Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia could make it through WSU’s program because of his political beliefs. The AP picked up the story and WSU was berated in a column in U.S. News and World Report. The university became a nationwide laughing stock. Swan's status is still up in the air. WSU has promised not to use its "dispositions" criteria unconstitutionally as a left-wing ideological litmus test, but it remains to be seen if Swan's beliefs will prevent him from becoming a teacher. The College of Education got more bad news in November as sexual harrassment complaints and lawsuits by students against two of its faculty members were made public.
1. Big Boxes
Wal-Mart announced plans in October 2004 to construct a 223,000 sq. ft. Supercenter on Bishop Blvd. in Pullman. This story dominated the local news throughout 2005 as Wal-Mart submitted its application to the city planning department in May, receiving SEPA environmental checklist approval in September and site plan approval in October. The Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development (PARD) was formed in January to oppose the construction of the Supercenter. PARD conducted a petition drive all over the Palouse, issued a position paper, held press conferences, screened an anti-Wal-Mart movie, and most importantly, appealed both of the city's approvals of Wal-Mart. The appeals, which will be heard at the same time, are scheduled for January 2006. A grassroots group called Businesses & Residents for Economic Opportunity (BREO) was formed in October to support growth in Pullman, including Wal-Mart. The group was formed after citizens took out a full page ad in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News in August supporting Wal-Mart and economic development. Several other prominent Pullman residents have publicly endorsed the Wal-Mart project, including Ed Schweitzer. Plans for a Moscow Supercenter were announced in November, with PARD helping to organize the opposition there. About the same time, the long-envisioned Pullman-Moscow Corridor plan was approved and almost immediately rumors concerning a large shopping complex in the corridor, anchored by Lowe's, were started by plans that appeared on a developer's Web site. At year's end, anti-Wal-Mart efforts in Pullman appear to have run out of steam after their arguments were rejected by the mainstream.
On a personal level, 2005 has been life-changing for me. Early in the year, I grew increasingly frustrated over the Wal-Mart issue and the liberal elitism being demonstrated by PARD. Finally, I could no longer idly stand by and watch. "But what can one man do?", I asked myself. Quite a bit, as it turns out.

Since May, I started this blog which now gets over 100 visitors a day. I have been on interviewed by TV, radio, and newspaper reporters from Lewiston to Spokane. I helped found a grassroots group to support economic growth and development in Pullman. I assisted with collecting signatures and payment for a full-page ad in support of economic growth and development in the Daily News, I worked on political campaigns and got to know our city leaders. I have become intimately familiar with local issues. I became a Town Crier for the Daily News. I have written enough letters to the editor that my name is well-known among both Wal-Mart supporters and opponents. I have even been frequently attacked by name in the paper. It's been hard at times, but it's been worth it. The Supercenter is on the verge of beginning construction, we have a solidly pro-growth City Council, and soon Pullman residents can stay at home to shop and the city will have enough tax revenue to meet its growing needs.

None of these efforts have been for Wal-Mart, per se. It's been for this town that I love so much and the people who call it home. My greatest reward has been getting to know people like Russ and April Coggins, Ray, Sarcastic Housewife #1, Scotty Anderson, Joshua Coke, Fritz Hughes, Dale Courtney (honorary resident!) and scores of others.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Top Ten Pullman News Stories of 2005, Part One

2005 was the long season of our discontent. All things considered, Pullman residents should be happy to see it torn off the calendar. The year began and ended with contentious and divisive debate over the future of our city, with unwanted negative national attention focused on WSU, protests, petitions, cries about "sprawl", press conferences, repression of free speech and artistic expression on campus, investigations, appeals, lawsuits, "heckler's vetoes", searches for "lost" cemeteries, SEPA comments, "dispositions", ideological litmus tests, name calling, dueling letters to the editor, city budget troubles, negative political campaigns and tragedy in between. And believe it or not, it was even worse over in Moscow. But thank goodness our economy is still going strong and our kids gave us some respite from all the bad news.

Over the next couple of days, I'm going to be counting what I saw as the Top Ten Pullman News Stories of 2005. Today, #10-#6:

10. "Racism" at WSU
A female Korean-American WSU student filed charges of racial harrassment in February against two male basketball players after they performed an attention-getting dance she found offensive. The two were exonerated following an investigation by the Office of Student Conduct. This led to inflammatory fliers being distributed around campus, heckling at a basketball game, and a raucous march on President V. Lane Rawlins' office that ended with students pounding on the locked door. The Washington State Human Rights Commission investigated the incident and concluded that it showed "...an undergraduate penchant for revolutionary drama more than anything else..." The report went further in its indictment of the protesters, "Some students and apparently some of their mentors ... acted in fairly extreme fashion, sometimes with a significant failure of civility..."
9. Double Murder-Suicide
Tragedy struck normally safe and quiet Pullman on December 10 as Pullman single mother of two Louissa Thompson and former WSU honor student Peter Zornes were found dead along with convicted rapist Trevor Saunders in a double murder-suicide. Pullman police reported that Thompson had been dating Saunders and wanted to break off the relationship. Saunders then began exhibiting stalking type behavior. ShopKo co-worker Zornes escorted Thompson home after work, where they were both shot in the head by Saunders, who then turned the gun on himself. Ironically, the same condominium complex, The Statesman, was the scene of Pullman's last murder back in 1996.
8. Building Boom
The white-hot Pullman real estate market got even hotter in 2005, which saw a record number of building permits issued. Population growth continues to outpace both the state and national average at 1.3% per year. The building boom should continue into 2006 as several new subdivisions had plats approved in the last few months of 2005. For all the activity, however, there is still a lack of affordable housing in Pullman. The average new home price, based on the building permits, was around $191,000
7. Budget Woes
The twin albatrosses of I-695 and I-747 came home to roost in 2005. Despite a record year for building construction, the city struggled finding enough tax revenue to balance its 2006 budget as required by law. No services will be cut, but there will be no growth and the reserve fund had to be tapped for almost three-quarters of a million dollars. Both the Pullman Fire and Police departments did not get all the funding they requested. Finance Director Troy Woo said back in July that the city's reserve fund would be drained within three years at the current pace. Mayor Glenn Johnson and City Administrator John Sherman called for increased retail growth to cover the revenue shortfalls. This revenue crisis was a major issue in both thr Ciy Council election and the debate over Wal-Mart.
6. City Council Election
The Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development turned the 2005 City Council election into a referendum on the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter by running candidates Gary Johnson and Judy Krueger against incumbents Bill Paul and Ann Heath. As a result, the two contested council races were the most contentious in recent memory. On November 8, voters in Wards 1 and 3 returned Paul and Heath to office by resounding double-digit margins, refuting PARD's claim that the majority of Pullman citizens were opposed to Wal-Mart. WSU student and political newcomer Joshua Coke had a very respectable showing in the Ward 1 council race. Al Sorensen took over for departing Sue Hinz and Barney Waldrop was reelected in the two other unopposed council races.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Enough is Enough

In today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News, there is a front page story about how WSU College Republicans feel their free speech rights are being violated, particularly in the College of Liberal Arts. "The faculty in Liberal Arts preach free speech until they get to something don't agree with," said (Jeffrey) Kromm, treasurer of the Republican club. "They're all for open-mindedness until you disagree with them...if you speak up in class, the faculty are likely to be the ones who jump all over you and rant and rant."

It's not just on campus either. T.V. Reed, the Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Chair of the Department of American Studies, Chris Lupke, Assistant Professor of Chinese, Birgita Ingemanson, Associate Professor of Russian, Ray Sacchi, Psychology Graduate Student Supervisor, and Richard King, Associate Professor of Comparative Ethnic Studies are all in the College of Liberal Arts, and all have publically attacked Wal-Mart supporters (mostly Chuck Millham and myself).

The members of the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development comprise a virtual Who's Who of the College of Liberal Arts, including Reed, Lupke and Chair of the Sociology Department, Greg Hooks.

A quote from the Daily News article:
The College Republicans report that some faculty feel free to "preach" their views on local political matters, such as the possible building of a Wal-Mart store in Pullman.

"And one of my profs showed an anti-Wal-Mart movie in class, then didn't have any discussion of it," said club president Daniel Ryder. "If you ask to discuss something like that, then you're being 'disruptive'."
PARD members have also felt free to use WSU computer resources and theaters to screen the anti-Wal-Mart movie and to use the CUB to campaign both for public office and against Wal-Mart. And the Daily Evergreen is essentially the PARD official newsletter.

But all of these taxpayer-funded shenanigans have been lost amongst the other left-wing stenches that have arisen from WSU this year, including:
An alleged incident of "racism" and subsequent virulent student protests that the Washington State Human Rights Commission concluded showed “...an undergraduate penchant for revolutionary drama more than anything else...” The report went further in its indictment of the protesters, "Some students and apparently some of their mentors ... acted in fairly extreme fashion, sometimes with a significant failure of civility..."

A performance last April of WSU student playwright Chris Lee's satire "Passion of the Musical" was disrupted by a group of about 40 students whose tickets were paid for by WSU. Members of the WSU administration took exception with Lee's (an African-American) use of the N-word. There were even threats of physical violence directed at the cast. Campus security officers refused to remove the hecklers, so the performance had to be stopped. President V. Lane Rawlins later defended the heckler's actions as "free speech". The incident was reported to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which now has a whole page devoted to WSU and has given the university a Speech Code Rating of "Red".

Conservative Christian student-teacher Ed Swan nearly was flunked out of the College of Education after he shared his politically incorrect views on a written "disposition". WSU drew national criticism and scorn after Dean Judy Mitchell stated in an interview with the Daily News that she didn’t know if conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia could pass the “dispositions” evaluation.
Enough is enough. Provost Robert Bates said in the Daily News that without formal complaints, the university is limited in how it can respond. He stated, "...if faculty are discussing personal views not relevant to the class, that's not appropriate". It's time the people of Pullman let President Rawlins and Provost Bates know that if WSU wants to drag down its reputation with Politically Correct Stalinism and leftist moonbattery, that's one thing. But keep it up on the hill and off of Main Street. We're sick and tired of seeing our tax dollars funding the anti-Wal-Mart campaign being waged by PARD. So, I'm going to file a formal complaint with Bates. I hope the CRs do also.

Of course, as CR vice-president Joshua Urness put it, "Most Republicans have jobs. We don't have time to do all that." That goes for us Pullman residents as well. We just don't seem to have the time to protest that the liberal faculty and students do.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

It's in the Daily News

The Moscow-Pullman Daily News had a banner headline today on the Wal-Mart appeal hearing.

There are just a few things I would have like to have seen added to the story.

In the paragraph on PARD's objections, small businesses, downtown, small-town economies, competition and pushing low-wage workers into the welfare system were addressed. The crux of PARD's appeals, however, are environmental (i.e. increased traffic, water, noise air, and light polution, infrigement on the cemetery, etc.) The article made it sound as if PARD's arguments are strictly economic/business-related, when they aren't. Those are their worst arguments. A letter to the editor earlier this week referred to "the idiotic economic arguments that failed the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development so completely".

In fact, 85-90% of Pullman Chamber of Commerce members are in favor of Wal-Mart. PARD is largely made up of current and retired university faculty and students with no business interests in Pullman. The November City Council election was also mentioned, but not the fact that PARD's candidates both lost by double-digit margins.

The paragraph on Businesses & Residents for Economic Opportunity did mention our belief that business success and propsperity will accompany Wal-Mart into Pullman. But it failed to address what we see as the vital importance of increasing sales tax revenue by keeping our retail dollars local. We have all recently read of Pullman's budget travails. That is THE major issue for BREO.

Some of the key findings of the Global Insight study were left out as well. The 2.2% decline in wages attributable to Wal-Mart was more than offset by the drop in overall consumer prices. Wal-Mart reduced the Consumer Price Index by 3.1% in 2004 so that the net effect on U.S. workers was to increase their real disposable income by 0.9% as reported in the article. This translates into $338.64 added to the annual income of an American who earns the average wage and works 40 hours a week. For consumers, that 3.1% CPI impact translates into an annual net savings of $895 per person or $2,329 per household, which is almost half the cost of tuition at a public four-year university.

With regards to the increased number of people reliant on government health care, Global Insight found that Medicaid expenditures for Wal-Mart employees are consistent with other low-wage workers across the U.S. In Washington, only 2.3% of Wal-Mart workers receive Medicaid, the lowest number in the country. Wal-Mart did not have any effect on food stamp or AFDC/TANF expenditures.

The increased employment reported in the story translates into 210,000 jobs by 2004, a 0.15% increase relative to the number of jobs that would have existed without Wal-Mart

The press release for the Global Insight study can be found here. Links to the individual papers can be found here It is wortwhile reading and I highly recommend it.

Friday, December 16, 2005


The end is finally in sight. The city has set the dates, times and locations for the PARD appeals to the SEPA and site plan approvals to be heard.
Hearing examiner sets Wal-Mart Appeal Hearings

The city of Pullman announced today that Hearing Examiner John Montgomery has set January 13, 2006 and January 20, 2006 for the hearing dates on the appeal of Public Works Director Mark Workman’s site plan approval and State Environmental Protection Act (SEPA) determination on the proposed Wal-Mart.

The hearings will begin at 10:30 a.m. on both days. The first day of the hearing will be held at the Gladish Auditorium and the hearing will be concluded on the second day in City Council Chambers. Public testimony will be taken during the hearing.

City Attorney Laura McAloon commented, “This is the next step in the appeals process and the city expects that the hearing examiner will be able to issue a decision by the end of January based on the hearing schedule.”
It's going to be vitally important that as many of us as possible attend these hearings to counteract the anti-growth forces. Stay tuned to Palousitics and the BREO home page for updates.

Another Slam Dunk for Wal-Mart

A Wal-Mart Supercenter has just been approved for the small Wisconsin town of Monona, population 8,000. The Monona Plan Commission rejected the tired old arguments against Wal-Mart sucj as it "devastates downtown", "they're unethical", "they exploit Third World countries", blah, blah, blah, blah. The Wal-Mart haters really need a new playbook.

One interesting thing to note in this story: Wal-Mart is often accused of leaving "black" stores in its wake, but in this case, the Supercenter is being located on the site of two other vacant stores. My favorite quote is at the very end.

From the The Capital (Madison) News:
Monona mayor lauds Wal-Mart store approval
By Bill Novak
December 13, 2005

MONONA - The world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, is coming to town, and while opponents see a Grinch, supporters say the company will deliver 300 to 500 jobs in a big box just south of the Beltline.

The Monona Plan Commission voted unanimously Monday night to issue a zoning permit for a Wal-Mart Supercenter, with construction on the $19 million, 203,393-square-foot building expected to begin next spring on commercial land currently home to two vacant buildings.

The doors to the Supercenter should open in March 2007, according to Nathan Bryant, Wal-Mart's land development manager, adding that demolition of the existing buildings will start early next year.

The Plan Commission took three hours to fine-tune the conditions under which a zoning permit would be granted to build the bi-level Supercenter, but the final vote was 8-0 in favor of issuing the permit.

The vote to approve the zoning permit was the key step necessary to be taken by the city for approval of the massive project. No action is needed by the City Council, but the commission will still have more work to do later, such as approval of the store's signage.

Mayor Robb Kahl, chairman of the Plan Commission, was excited about what the approval will mean for this city of 8,000 people, especially for the area south of the Beltline, which has suffered since Kmart and the Sentry Food Store closed their doors.

"This signals the resurgence of the south side," Kahl said. "I already know of several retailers who are interested in moving to the area because of Wal-Mart. The area has been struggling in the past, but Wal-Mart will be a magnet attracting others to come here, so this is a significant economic boost."

Continental Properties, the property owner leasing the land to Wal-Mart, will pay $50,000 a year for 15 years to the city for such things as police and fire protection and infrastructure improvements, including a "roundabout" circular intersection at South Towne Driveand Industrial Drive to help traffic flow.

All the upfront costs incurred by city planners and staff have also been paid for by the retailer and landowner.

"This is the first time I can remember where the developer is writing a check to us rather than the other way around," Kahl said.

About 500 spaces of underground parking are planned for the Supercenter because of limited above-ground space. Customers will use elevators large enough for shopping carts to get purchases to their vehicles in the garage. The store will be the first bi-level Wal-Mart in Wisconsin.

Opponents of Wal-Mart coming to Monona made one last-ditch effort to persuade the commissioners to deny the zoning permit during a public hearing before the vote.

Brent Denzin of Midwest Environmental Advocates said more jobs in Monona would be lost than gained with Wal-Mart coming because of the economic impact on existing retailers.

"I think this will devastate the downtown of Monona," Denzin said.

Peggy Chung of Madison said Wal-Mart is "bad all around".

"They have unethical business practices, they take advantage of undeveloped countries and they undercut American businesses and retailers," Chung said.

Others supported having the world's largest retailer and the subsequent hundreds of jobs coming to Monona.

"This will be a tremendous benefit to my tenants," said Keith Decker, a commercial building owner with three buildings on Industrial Drive that total about 100,000 square feet, with about 30 percent now vacant. "I've had inquiries from potential tenants because they want to be where the traffic is."

Ed Folger of Madison said the Wal-Mart naysayers should butt out.

"If you don't like Wal-Mart, don't shop there," Folger said. "If you don't like their practices, don't work there. I'm tired of seeing that area be empty."
We'll be reading a story like this very soon in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News.

HT: Right Mind

Thursday, December 15, 2005

"Achtung, Wal-Mart!"

Sabine Barnhart wrote a very hard-hitting column about Wal-Mart a couple of weeks ago. I particularly like how she addresses the Wal-Mart haters' argument about the "greater good". Seems we heard that not too long ago...
Freedom must be a difficult concept to comprehend for those people who support the call to boycott Wal-Mart. Hating Wal-Mart has become a new sport. A leading voice in the "I hate Wal-Mart" campaign is an old socialist, Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass), who came up with the 10 Commandments of Leadership that Wal-Mart needs to adopt by making all things equal for their employees. He joins the loathsome endeavor by filmmaker Robert Greenwald whose film "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price" is warmly received by the faux proletariat of ill ilk. His low-budget "documentary" is filled with his political rants against the giant retailer.

The inflamed hatred against Wal-Mart is attracting all the usual left-wing suspects, from women’s rights activists, environmentalists, as well as the academia elite. All groups are eager to join the madness. With the support of the political Left, the anti-Wal-Mart activists want to prevent the expansion of the retailer into their communities. Protesters want to enforce internal policy changes as well as interfere with the retailer’s merchandising.

The charges made against Wal-Mart by the "I know better than thou" crowd, include paying low wages to its employees, the company’s steadfast opposition to forming labor unions, environmental issues, not paying overtime and not stocking emergency contraception for women (the morning after pill) in their pharmacies and lack of providing adequate health insurance for its employees. One of the biggest complaints is that Wal-Mart destroys small businesses. The list goes on, and we can probably include that Wal-Mart is responsible that there is no world peace on earth as well as global warming and every hurricane from Andrew to Gamma.

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer had a phenomenal growth over the past 20 years that currently generates annual sales of $250 billion. The fast expansion in the US that began during the mid-1980’s has now reached 3,700 US stores. When Wal-Mart began entering the urban markets it increased its sales area from a modest 40,000 square feet to over 100,000 square feet of space. During the mid-1990’s the company expanded abroad with 1,500 stores worldwide. It has locations in South America, Canada and in 1996 entered China. In 1998 Wal-Mart began opening stores in Germany and currently employs over 1.6 million associates worldwide. For the past 43 years the discount store chain provided low-priced goods to its customers, which by 2005 includes 138 million customers per week.

The company’s sheer size invites unwelcome attention, usually from those interested in a parasitic source of income. The meddling of busybodies in Wal-Mart’s private affairs has specifically become popular in blue states like Maryland, where unions and competitors are urging the state legislator to pass a bill that requires companies with over 10,000 employees to provide health insurance benefits. Anyone who understands a little bit about retail knows that there is a high turnover of employees. The majority of people employed in retail stores are part-time employees, such as students and teenagers who are often covered by their parents. Part-time workers require no health insurance. Many are married looking for a second income that already have insurance through their spouses, or are hired as seasonal help. The majority of full-time employees receive medical and dental benefits, with profit sharing and 401(k) plans as well as stock options. The company also offers life and disability insurances to its associates. Benefits offered by employers are, after all, a privilege in the first place, and not an entitlement. The employer, as the owner of his own business, has the right to see what’s best for his business. It is the private decision of the employer that determines how he wants to reward those who work for him.

California’s reliable proto-Marxist UC Berkley Labor Center wants to hold Wal-Mart responsible for $86 million a year in state aid. The research claims that Wal-Mart employees rely on food stamps, Medicare and subsidized housing in order to make a living. Should the Wal-Mart hater crowd in California succeed in forcing the company in raising its wages and providing more benefits to its employees, prices will raise to cover the extra cost.

The desire to up Wal-Mart’s cost-price structure completely ignores the fact that the majority of customers are lower income citizens. The higher cost will invariably be passed on to the customer. The retailer operates on a fixed and very low profit margin. A recent independent study completed by Global Insight found that Wal-Mart saved each American household on average $2,329 in 2004. The study also concluded that Wal-Mart also had a net positive economic impact in the form of a .9 percent increase in real wages and the creation of 210,000 jobs nationwide. The availability of goods and groceries at a low cost to poorer neighborhoods supplies an economic group that would otherwise not be able to afford the higher priced goods from Wal-Mart’s competitors.

While it is true that competition with and from Wal-Mart can result in similar but less efficient businesses closing their doors, it can save its average customers money that can be spent in other business and investments. The additional savings can be invested in retirement funds, a car payment or even an overdue vacation. Many towns had to reinvent on how to attract new business to replace those that closed.

East Texas is known for its many antique stores in its small towns. North Texas towns, such as Grapevine and Granbury, are popular for their specialized stores of arts and crafts. The empty buildings attracted new businesses like day spas, ice cream parlors, deli shops, pubs with live bands, and wine shops. It has attracted tourism from upscale clientele who like to settle in the formerly rural areas as urban metropolises spread out further and further. New restaurants have sprouted up as well as custom-made clothing stores. It requires creativity and ideas to attract a new and often wealthier customer base that supplies different kinds of goods and services not found at Wal-Mart.

The average savings of groceries can be 10 percent or more when comparing Wal-Mart’s cost to major grocery store chains. Many stores such as Kroger, Tom Thumb and Albertson’s require the customer to attain a card in order to receive the daily or weekly specials from their ads. If one does not have the card, the customer is out of luck and will have to pay the higher prices. Wal-Mart on the other hand, has no such gimmicks. The prices are available to all customers who will be able to benefit from their specials without the usage of their preferred customer card. Here the retail giant makes no privileged distinction toward its customers. Yet, Wal-Mart’s direct time- and often money-saving approach is the one being foolishly criticized.

Another factor that rubs socialists the wrong way is Wal-Mart management’s socially conservative leaning. It occasionally influences the type and marketing of the chain’s merchandise. It chooses not to sell sexually explicit magazines and books but maintains the rights to sell firearms. Both decisions can be seen as a moral issue. Wal-Mart pharmacies decided not to keep the morning after pill because of its low shelf life, which faces vociferous protest from the left-wing groups such as the Farmington State College student. They envision themselves entitled to having the product easily available. The protesters claim that the company harms women’s health. College students want to blow this issue into a woman’s issue that is entirely outside the responsibility of the company. More than likely a competitive pharmacy will carry the item in question.

This animosity comes from a long held and unfortunately popular belief that a business has no right in making its business decisions. According to their anti-business philosophy, private companies must conform to a "public interest" as defined by them. Surely the Wal-Mart protesters would only purchase items they decided to own without being coerced into making this decision. Yet, they ignore that free market is what truly defines this so-called private interest.

This is not to say that a business has no moral obligation. Any success of a business depends on its moral conduct not to steal and rob others of their property, not to murder for a profit nor to lie about its products. It shall not envy the profit of others, but achieve its success through honest competition. It has no other responsibilities and certainly has no "social responsibility" towards people whose own lifestyle can be considered morally corrupt. The company voluntarily gives $170 million a year to local communities and non-profit organizations.

This of course gets overlooked when self-anointed environmentalist like one Lindsay Robinson thinks that Wal-Mart destroys lush farmland that could provide sustenance for more people. Her claims are that it makes people more car-dependent and the drive to Wal-Mart raises the amount of greenhouse gases emitted and causing consumers to use more gas. By this logic, we would be back to using the sickle – no doubt, with the hammer attached – in no time. How does Robinson propose to feed 138 million people weekly?

Wal-Mart is a supplier who can feed and clothe the poor. The population growth in both urban and rural areas relies on an efficient supply line that brings the needed goods to the people at the best prices. In general, if people can afford a $900 flat-screen TV at Wal-Mart they can also afford a car and the required fuel bill. The majority of low-income families live better than a family did 100 years ago. These families possess items that were considered luxury items only 40 years ago. Does Lindsay Robinson propose to control all supplies and goods as done in the former USSR where people arrived at empty shelves after standing in line for several hours waiting? Population growth requires adequate supply of food to the people. The many choices to shop for goods at an affordable level have never been as available as it is today. Removing these choices from the consumer would create far more trouble for the urban population than Robinson’s concern of greenhouse emission.

The recent Kelo decision by the US Supreme Court to legalize the immoral behavior of removing privately owned property for bigger business has concerned many private citizens and small businesses. Wal-Mart has been known to be a willing partner with city officials in attaining some of their properties in that manner. Although some of the businesses only leased the property, city officials still offered Wal-Mart subsidies in favor of their business. Wal-Mart plays a part in this scheme but it is the cities themselves who play favoritism in their politics. Wal-Mart should closely examine their involvement, since freedom and wealth can only exist without the coercion of government action. Wal-Mart’s own future depends on exercising their freedom. As a private business, success largely depends on maintaining these values and morals.

A point that has not widely been discussed is the vendors and services that benefited and grew as Wal-Mart did business with them. Many services employed by Wal-Mart remained competitive and aggressive in their innovation of new technology. The company I work for has grown and moved abroad with Wal-Mart because of the service we offer to them. Not only did this growth create dedicated teams of roughly 600 of our own employees that service Wal-Mart exclusively, it also spurred on the development of our own technology and invention that was able to meet the growing needs of Wal-Mart. The newly developed technology kept us competitive in that we could generate even more business from other retailers with similar needs.

The accumulation of new capital gained through the association with Wal-Mart allows both small and larger businesses to upgrade their technology that can only improve business. That in turn only creates the demand to hire more employees creating new jobs. We currently employ over 40,000 people on three continents, because to a large part our growing success was jump started with Wal-Mart.

The hate campaign against Wal-Mart reflects the late Weimar Republic Nazi oratory when Hitler’s election slogans were directed against free economy in general and certain prosperous businesses – many of them Jewish owned – in particular. They were deemed "Non-German in their zeal for profit." Never mind that their reason for being profitable was in their success in catering to the German citizens themselves. Hitler’s dubious grasp, his promises of greater Germany despite the NSDAP's destructive economic planning do seem to resonate once again.

Today’s socialism still has contempt for those who produce for themselves and their target markets without paying at least a lip service to the "greater social good." It completely disregards the benefits and freedom the market has brought to a growing population that can meet the basic needs of all people. Culture and progress only come through private ownership and freedom of choice. Neither socialism nor its destructive legalism can produce what the moral power of a free market can do.
HT: Right Mind

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Party of God?

The liberals are asking us to consider where Jesus would shop, but they are leaving little doubt about how He would vote. From today's Seattle Times:
The state Democratic Party is catching heat for posting an item on its Web site that parodies the popular Christian fish symbol commonly seen on the back of cars.

The item — a magnetic version of the fish, emblazoned with flames and the word "Hypocrite" alongside a cross — appeared last week on the Democrats' Web site. It was displayed along with other political-message magnets, bumper stickers and buttons that the party sells.

State Democratic Party Chairman Paul Berendt said he first found out about the hypocrite fish posting on Friday when someone from KIRO radio called to ask him to go on the air to give an explanation.

"The moment I became aware of it, I insisted it be taken down," Berendt said Tuesday. "I'm sorry if anyone was offended. It's embarrassing."

Berendt said the item had not been "properly vetted" and was on the Web site for less than 48 hours. He said the party didn't even have any of the magnets in stock.

"We didn't sell any of them, and we're not going to," he said.

State Rep. Doug Ericksen, R-Bellingham, put out a news release Tuesday criticizing the Democrats for posting what he described as an "anti-Christian" symbol.

"It's just amazing that they have people sitting in their office who think that way," Ericksen said. "You would never see anything on a Republican Web site demeaning Judaism or the Islamic faith."

The fish magnet is copyrighted by a Mount Vernon company called Reefer Magnets. The company mostly sells magnets with pro-marijuana messages such as "Hemp is Patriotic" and "Jesus is coming, roll another joint."

Berendt said he wasn't sure what the fish symbol is supposed to mean but said he thinks it is aimed at "people who claim to be pro-life but are for the death penalty."
The dope-smoking radical atheists of Blue Washington show us once again why the rest of the country is mostly Red and will stay that way.

Murder-Suicide Update

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Chris Tennant, PPD Commander
Pete Martin, Whitman County Coroner


PULLMAN—Pullman Police today released the findings of the autopsies following the double-murder suicide Saturday in Pullman and named the person responsible for the shootings.

Whitman County Coroner Pete Martin said the autopsies of Louissa Thompson, 27, Peter Zornes, 25, and Trevor Saunders, 29, showed the three individuals each died from a gunshot wound to the head.

According to Pullman Police detectives the crime scene evidence, the autopsy results and other information gathered during the investigation clearly show that Trevor Saunders fired the shots that killed Thompson and Zornes before turning the semi automatic pistol on himself. The official ruling of the Coroner was that the manner of death for both Zornes and Thompson was homicide and that Saunders died by suicide.

Detectives have determined that Saunders and Thompson had a prior dating relationship that Thompson was attempting to end. The police investigation, that included interviews, determined that Saunders wanted to continue the relationship, to the point of exhibiting stalking type behavior that was never reported to police.

Police say that Zornes was a recent acquaintance of Thompson. Detectives are still investigating details of the relationship of the two, who were co-workers at a Pullman business.

Police emphasize that the investigation is still on going but are confident of the above conclusions.

"Does Wal-Mart Destroy Communities?"

William Anderson, an adjunct scholar of the Mises Institute and a professor of economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland answered the question in May 2004 often asked by many Wal-Mart opponents: Does Wal-Mart destroy communities? His answer was illuminating. Anderson eloquently addresses most of the criticisms leveled at the company. I particularly like how he addresses the issue of "mindless consumerism", an objection often raised by our local snobs in letters to the editor.

In a recent poll on the CNN website, viewers were asked the "poll" question of whether or not they believed that Wal-Mart stores were "good" for the "community." Perhaps it is not surprising that a large majority answered "no."

Now, this by itself does not mean much, since these online "polls" are not scientific and reflect only the views of the moment by people who choose to participate. What is more significant, however, was the anti-Wal-Mart content of a speech recently given by Teresa Heinz Kerry, John Kerry's wife and an influential person in her own right. Speaking at a Democratic Party rally, Mrs. Kerry declared that "Wal-Mart destroys communities."

Indeed, Wal-Mart bashing is in vogue. Whether one journeys to the sight of Sojourners Magazine or reads even mainstream news publications, the charges against Wal-Mart abound. According to the consensus of the critics, Wal-Mart is guilty of the following:
-Paying low wages to workers, and generally abusing them.
-Intimidating shoppers by having them "greeted" by an elderly person at the door. (As one writer said, the real purpose of that greeter is to let shoppers know that they are being watched.)
-Putting small stores out of business, as shoppers stop patronizing the little "mom-and-pop" boutiques for the big box, thus "destroying" the look of "Main Street" in small towns and cities.
-Purchasing low-priced goods from abroad, which puts American workers out of jobs.
-Contributing to that allegedly harmful disease known as "consumerism," in which Americans are constantly purchasing goods that the Wal-Mart critics insist that they really don't need. As the bumper sticker of one of my faculty colleagues proclaims: "Mal-Wart: The Source of Cheap Crap."
Of course, what really bugs the critics is that people choose to shop at Wal-Mart instead of the places where they would want people to spend their money. (Activists on both left and right often will invoke the name of the "people" when their real goal is to restrict the choices of those "people.") Yet, while up front I question the real motives of the Wal-Mart haters, it still behooves us to answer the charges using economic logic, since many of the arguments against this chain store also appeal to economics.

In a recent article, "Always Low Wages," Brian Bolton declares that Jesus would not shop at Wal-Mart, since the company's employee pay scale is not up to Sojourners' standards. Furthermore, he all but declares it a "sin" for Christians to patronize the store because it imports cheap goods made by people who make even less money than Wal-Mart employees. As Bolton writes, "lower prices equal lower wages."

Nearly all of us would accept higher payment for our services, and Wal-Mart employees are no exception. Yet, that condition alone hardly makes a company's pay scales illegitimate, as Bolton and other critics contend. If my employer were to double my pay tomorrow (which is highly doubtful), I doubt I would object, although I'm sure that most of my colleagues would see the event in a different light. That Frostburg State University does not make that offer to me does not make my current salary illicit, nor does it make my employer the second coming of Silas Marner.

The point is this: payment for services involves mutually agreeable exchanges. They are not manifestations of power, as some would say. No one is forced to work at Wal-Mart; people who choose to work there do so because they prefer employment there to other circumstances.

At the local Wal-Mart where I shop (contrary to Bolton, I do not believe that shopping at Wal-Mart violates the Holy Scriptures), I have noticed that many employees have stayed with that company for a long time, and there does not seem to be much turnover there. Furthermore, from what I can tell, they seem like normal people, not the oppressed slaves that the critics claim fill the ranks of Wal-Mart workers.

Now, my personal observations hardly constitute proof that Bolton and the other Wal-Mart critics are wrong, but unless they can repudiate the opportunity cost argument, they have ground upon which to stand. Wal-Mart is not engaged in a grand conspiracy to push down wages in any given market, and twisted logic cannot prove otherwise.

For example, Bolton writes that part of the problem faced by recent striking union grocery store workers in Southern California was that Wal-Mart super centers in the area paid lower wages, which placed pressure on the other grocery stores. Thus, he reasons, it was Wal-Mart that ultimately kept workers from receiving "just wages" for their work.

No doubt, Bolton can appeal to the anti-capitalist mentality of many people, but his work stands economic logic upon its head. By paying lower wages, Wal-Mart makes grocery stores like Vons and other places that pay union scale more attractive to workers (although labor unions do not exactly welcome some potential employees with open arms). The success of Wal-Mart does not have to do with the pay scale of its employees, but rather with the perception by consumers that the store will have the goods they want at an affordable price.

Bolton claims that Wal-Mart can charge lower prices and still be profitable because it pays its employees less than do other companies. As anyone with even cursory training in Austrian Economics knows, such an argument is false. As Murray Rothbard points out in Man, Economy, and State, economic profit exists because of temporarily underpriced factors of production. Over time, as the owners recognize their position, they will either refuse to sell their factors at current prices and look to other options, or accept the current price because the opportunity costs of selling to other buyers may be higher than they wish to incur. If it is the latter, then one cannot say that these particular factors are even underpriced, as their owners are not able or willing to do what is necessary to gain higher prices for their employment.

In places like Southern California, where there are numerous employment opportunities, to say that workers are "forced" to work at Wal-Mart for "slave wages" is ridiculous. As noted before, the fact that workers there would be willing to accept higher pay is not evidence that they are enslaved. That they would prefer more to less simply means that they are normal, purposeful human beings.

One can easily dismiss the charge about the "greeter" at the door—unless one truly is intimidated by the presence of a diminutive 60-year-old grandmother. (What I have found is that if I select merchandise and actually pay for it, then no one there bothers me at all. If activists are upset that Wal-Mart does not like individuals to steal goods from their shelves, then they are advocating theft, and one does not have to pay attention to their arguments at all.)

The "Wal-Mart destroys the community" charge, however, needs more attention. It goes as such: Wal-Mart enters a geographical area, and people stop shopping at little stores in order to patronize Wal-Mart. The mom-and-pop stores go out of business, the community is left with boarded-up buildings, and people must leave the small businesses and accept lower wages at Wal-Mart. Thus, while a shiny new store full of inexpensive goods is in the locality, in real terms, most everyone actually is poorer.

Again, these kinds of arguments appeal to many people. For example, all of us have heard of the theoretical owner of the small, independent hardware store who had to close his shop when Wal-Mart or Home Depot moved into his community, then suffer the indignity of having to go to work at the very place that put him on the streets. The former owner has a lower income than before, which is held up as proof that the "big boys" create and expand poverty.

A few items need to be put in order. First, no one forced the hardware owner to close his shop; he closed it because it was not profitable enough for him to keep it open. If the new chain store meant that many of his former customers had abandoned him, that is not the fault of the new store. Instead, consumers faced with choices and lower prices that they had not previously enjoyed freely chose to patronize the new store.

Second, while the owner of the smaller store has suffered a loss of income, everyone else has gained. Third, if the employees of the smaller store go to work at the new chain store, it is almost guaranteed that their pay will be higher than before and they will enjoy new benefits that most likely had not been available to them previously.

Third, the presence of Wal-Mart means local consumers will pay lower prices for goods than before, and also will benefit by having a wider array of available items than they had previously. (And they save on time by being able to stay under one roof while shopping for different items.) Whatever the reason, we can safely assume that consumers in that particular locality are exercising their free choices, choices that they perceive will make them better off than they were before the store existed. Activists may not like their reasoning, but that is irrelevant to our analysis.

Having dealt with the "Wal-Mart" creates poverty argument, we now turn to the more nebulous claim that the chain store "destroys" communities. Now, I have never seen a place that has been severely damaged or "destroyed" by Wal-Mart. (I have seen places that have had their quality of life spoiled by rent controls, "urban renewal," and other statist interventions that so-called activists have championed, but that is another story for another time. Suffice it to say that activists are unhappy that individuals freely choose to shop at Wal-Mart, and they want to restrict their choices in the name of "community.")

In fact, I would like to make a reverse argument; Wal-Mart and stores like it add to the quality of life in large and small communities because they provide consumer choices that otherwise would not be available. Take the area near Cumberland, Maryland, where I live, for example.

Cumberland is something of a time warp, a place that 50 years ago was a manufacturing center and was the second-largest city in Maryland. Today, most of the large factories are long shut down and the population is less than half of Cumberland's heyday numbers. Furthermore, the area has a relatively high unemployment rate and many jobs do not pay very well.

The presence of Wal-Mart and Lowe's (a large hardware store), along with some large grocery chains, however, means that people here can stretch their incomes farther than we would if those stores did not exist. If they suddenly were to pull out, one can be assured that our quality of life here would not improve in their absence. Furthermore, the fact that Wal-Mart and other large stores are willing to locate in smaller and poorer communities also makes these areas more attractive for people who wish to live here but do not want to have to give up all of the amenities of living in a larger city.

Others on this page and elsewhere have dealt with the charge that Wal-Mart destroys American jobs by purchasing goods from abroad, where the goods often are manufactured in what activists call "oppressive" conditions. (In fact, Sojourners elsewhere has openly stated that Third World peoples should simply be supported by American aid, and that the West should do all it can to make sure that the economies of these poor nations do not grow, all in the name of environmentalism. In other words, none of us are poor enough to satisfy the anti-Wal-Mart activists whose real goal is to eviscerate our own standards of living and "turn back the clock" to an era when life expectancy was lower and people generally were more deprived.)

The last objection—that Wal-Mart helps create "mindless" consumerism—is easily refuted by Austrian economics. The very basis of human action is purposeful behavior; to call human action "mindless" is absurd. Consumers at Wal-Mart and other chain stores are not zombies walking aimlessly through the building with glassy stares. They are human beings with needs and desires who perceive that at least some of those desires can be fulfilled through the use of goods purchased at Wal-Mart.

In a free society, activists would have to try to convince other individuals to change their buying habits via persuasion and voluntary action. Yet, the very history of "progressivist" activism in this country tells us a story of people who use the state to force others to do what they would not do given free choices. Yesterday, Microsoft was in their crosshairs; today, it is Wal-Mart, and tomorrow, some other hapless firm will be declared guilty of providing customers choices that they had not enjoyed before. A great sin, indeed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Murder Victim Was Samaritan, Mayor Says

From today's Lewiston Tribune:
Oakesdale resident Peter Zornes may have escorted frightened co-worker Louissa Thompson home the day they were allegedly killed by Thompson's ex-boyfriend Trevor Saunders, the mayor of Oakesdale said Monday.

"Unfortunately, it looks like he was playing the Good Samaritan role and was in the wrong place at the wrong time," Mayor Russell Rickett said of Zornes.

Pullman police found the bodies of Pullman resident Thompson, 27, Zornes, 25, and Moscow resident Saunders, 29, Saturday evening at the Statesman Condominiums in northwest Pullman. They are calling the deaths a double murder-suicide.

Police also found a semiautomatic pistol in the condo they believe may be connected to the deaths.

Pullman Mayor Glenn Johnson, acting as spokesman for the police department, said the three were apparently shot to death sometime Saturday.

Police have not named any suspects. Police Commander Chris Tennant said autopsies on the three bodies will be conducted today in Pullman. A suspect likely will be announced sometime this afternoon after the autopsies are done, Tennant said.

Rickett had been to Zornes' family home in Oakesdale Monday to pay his respects. Zornes' father is Tom Zornes, a former Oakesdale mayor and city councilor.

Tom Zornes told Rickett his son had just worked one of his first shifts at the ShopKo department store in Pullman. Thompson told Peter Zornes she was afraid to go home because of trouble with Saunders, and he agreed to escort her, Rickett said.

Tom Zornes raised the initial concern that led police to the bodies, Tennant said. He called ShopKo to talk to his son, but he hadn't shown up for work. A worried ShopKo manager then asked police to do the welfare check at the Statesman Condominiums, Tennant said.

Saunders pleaded guilty to rape in Latah County in 1996, a check of his court records revealed. He was listed as a registered sex offender in Idaho at the time of his death.

According to court records, Saunders was depressed and suicidal in the late 1990s while he was on probation for the crime, attempted suicide once and threatened to kill all the people involved in his rape case.

"(Saunders) said he had attempted suicide by taking a whole bottle of aspirin and Tylenol," according to a report written by an unidentified job counselor in 1998, and included in Saunders' court records. "Said if he had a gun he would shoot" everyone involved in his case, the counselor's report continued.

The counselor wrote that Saunders continued to vent, and when he was told by the counselor that the threats had to be reported, Saunders backed down.

"He said he didn't really mean it, he was just packing a lot of anger around," the job counselor wrote.

Saunders had violated his probation multiple times by not holding down a job or receiving sex offender counseling, according to the court file.

In one of several probation violation reports, Saunders' probation officer wrote that Saunders felt he got a raw deal because two others had sex with the same 16-year-old girl he pleaded guilty to raping, she was a willing participant, and didn't complain to police until seven months after the incident.

"Mr. Saunders sees himself as the victim in the crime he has been charged with and has only shown immaturity and resentment when attempts to motivate him have been offered," wrote probation officer Tom Blewett.

Saunders attended Moscow High School, but never graduated, according to the court file. He was most recently employed as a deliveryman at the Furniture Center in Moscow, said Latah County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Jennifer McFarland.

There is nothing in Saunders' court file after 1999. He has a clean record after that, McFarland said.

Chuck Janssen, ShopKo's regional human resources supervisor from Spokane, said Thompson was a valued employee of eight years and that Zornes had been hired as seasonal help a week before his death.

Janssen was in Pullman Monday to help console employees, as was a counselor who will stay at the store as needed, Janssen said.

"It's definitely a sullen environment in the store right now," Janssen said.

Thompson has two young children who were found safe at their father's house in Pullman, Tennant said. Thompson and the father are divorced, he added, and the father has been eliminated as a suspect.

Washington State University spokesman James Tinney said Zornes was a student there. He graduated with honors in 2003, earning a bachelor of science degree in neuroscience in four years.

Oakesdale Mayor Rickett said Zornes was well known in his community.

"He was quite active in high school," Rickett said. "It's a tragic affair. The town is, I'm sure, really going to support them (the Zornes family)."
I agree. Young promising lives were senselessly snuffed out and two little boys are now without a mother. This is a tremendous tragedy that will ripple through the Palouse for a long time to come.

Execution of a Killer.

So for the last 25 years Stanley Tookie Williams has been fighting his death... how many years did his victims live while waiting on appeals to their death?

Oh that's right. They were killed in cold blood and had no appeals not even an initial trail.

I do not feel sorry for Williams.

Monday, December 12, 2005

"Fear and Loathing Wal-Mart"

Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, wrote an excellent op-ed on Wal-Mart last Tuesday. He makes the argument that there have always been groups that have opposed innovation and progress in America. PARD is just the latest manifestation of that opposition.

I'll have more about the Furman and CEI papers to which Lowry refers later in the week.:
A new documentary, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price trashes the much-maligned discount retailer. What the company’s executives are now encountering is the high cost of progress. The political reaction against Wal-Mart is the latest iteration of the fear and loathing that greets any major innovation in American retailing.

A new paper from the Competitive Enterprise Institute details the long history of resistance to retail advances. In the late 19th century, the advent of department stores caused outrage. The same reaction met the rise of mail-order catalogs, which were burned in public at the behest of local retailers. The rise of chain stores in the 1920s also inflamed local merchants, who claimed that they threatened "the future of the children."

Now, it’s Wal-Mart’s turn. Founder Sam Walton realized that by offering customers discount prices he could make more profits based on increased volume. Hence, the Wal-Mart revolution, and the movement against it that The High Cost celebrates. Wal-Mart is faring the film surprisingly well, since its release has coincided with the publication of studies that debunk the image of the company crucifying its employees on a cross of low wages and nonexistent benefits as it forces them onto welfare.

The first thing to know about low price is that it has a wonderfully low cost for Wal-Mart customers, a category that includes 8 in 10 Americans a year. A study by Global Insight — paid by Wal-Mart to study the company’s economic effects, but granted independence — estimated that Wal-Mart lowered the consumer price index by 3.1 percent between 1985 and 2004, making for $263 billion in consumer savings by 2004. In a widely cited report, Jason Furman of New York University notes that Wal-Mart and other discount stores make "consumers better off by the equivalent of 25 percent of annual food spending."

But only at the price of wage slavery? No, Wal-Mart’s average wage of roughly $9 an hour is on par with other retailers. Because the jobs tend to be low-skill, retail workers earn less than the average wage for all U.S. workers. According to Furman, this has been the case for the past 20 years and holds true even in areas without Wal-Marts.

Three-quarters of Wal-Mart workers are full time. Other retailers have work forces that are only 20 percent to 40 percent full time. And Wal-Mart offers health insurance to full-time and part-time employees, which is rare in retail. Eighty-six percent of Wal-Mart employees have health insurance; 48 percent through Wal-Mart’s plan.

Although The High Cost attacks Wal-Mart as a welfare queen, only about 5 percent of Wal-Mart employees are on Medicaid, the same proportion as other retailers. Furman points out that a Wal-Mart worker who has to decide whether to buy the company’s family insurance policy at a cost of $1,800 annually or take Medicaid coverage instead is wise to go on Medicaid. "The beneficiary of choosing Medicaid is the worker," Furman writes, "not Wal-Mart."

Because Wal-Mart is a behemoth, critics assume that it can change its wage and benefits policies on a whim. According to Furman, Wal-Mart earns $6,000 per employee. That’s below the national average of $9,000 per employee. Wal-Mart makes $288 billion of revenue on $277 billion of costs, a 3.7 percent profit margin on costs, which leaves little room for error.

It is true, as the CEI paper notes, that Wal-Mart jobs are poorly paid compared to unionized jobs. Grocery clerks at unionized stores in California get paid nearly $18 an hour. But Wal-Mart passes its lower costs on to customers, who pay 17 percent to 39 percent less for groceries there.

In this sense, the self-styled humanitarians who object to Wal-Mart are narrowed-minded defenders of a special interest. If they get their way, they might better the lot of retail employees, but at the cost of the community, including people who aren’t fortunate enough to have a retail job but who still have to buy clothes and food. And so the anti-Wal-Mart zealots oppose the general welfare and an innovation that has promoted it. Hasn’t it always been thus?
HT: Right Mind

Sunday, December 11, 2005

3 Found Dead in Pullman

From today's Lewiston Tribune:
Three people were found dead by "violent means" in a Military Hill condominium in Pullman Saturday night, Mayor Glenn Johnson said.

Johnson said police discovered the bodies of two men and one woman under the ages of 40 at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Statesman condominiums at 1220 NW State St.

Police had recovered a weapon that may be connected to the killings, Johnson said, but didn't specify what kind of weapon.

There was no word on any suspects in the killing, Johnson said, adding murder-suicide was a possibility.

A friend of one of the victims had asked police to do a welfare check at the residence when the victim didn't show up for a planned meeting, Johnson said.

The officers entered the condo through an unlocked back door, he said.

Johnson, also a spokesman for the city, was speaking by cell phone after 11 p.m. Saturday from a command post police had set up near the condo. He said he planned to stay through the night with investigators as they continued to work on the scene.

He said Pullman officers were waiting for a team from the Washington State Patrol crime lab, and few details of how the three were killed were available.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Wright is Wrong

Another day, another contumelious letter to the editor.

In yesterday’s Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Tracy Wright of Moscow made a woodenheaded and unintentionally hilarious attack on Wal-Mart. Again, I’m so happy there’s going to be a Supercenter in Moscow. The writers from Moscow are quite amusing.

Wright claims that Wal-Mart opponents are being portrayed as “un-American aesthetes who are unsympathetic to the needs of the working poor”. Yep, they are. What’s the point? Is Wright perhaps feeling pangs of conscience?

Wright compares the battle over Wal-Mart to “jobs and cheap diapers” versus “Main Street USA”, a la Disneyland. That’s true. We locals are just here to look quaint for the amusement of the university intelligentsia who reside here temporarily, just like the animatronic robots at Disneyland. Who cares what we want? The elites just need us to be shining happy faces working in shining happy “fair trade” espresso stands and “fair trade” craft shops to play out their post-modern, neomercantilist Utopian fantasy. These liberal intellectuals crave a little 1890’s style town, but with all the enlightenment, diversity, tolerance and personal lifestyle choices of the 21st Century. Heck, one anti-Wal-Mart Pullman City Council candidate even wanted Pullman to get a trolley, just like “Main Street USA”.

Without debunking the fact that Wal-Mart really does provide jobs and help the poor, Wright jumps into the main objection against Wal-Mart: the people that work at Wal-Mart will never own Wal-Mart or any other store. Of all the silly arguments against Wal-Mart I have seen, that has to be one of the silliest.

Microsoft and Boeing are widely regarded as being great employers, but does anyone who works there have a chance of one day “owning” those companies? Let’s look a little closer to home. Do those heroic UFCW union brothers at Safeway have a shot at “owning” the mega-grocery chain one day? How about ShopKo? RiteAid? Dissmores? You think someone working at Tri-State is going to take over the company, or is Gerard Connelly going to pass it on to a family member the way ownership was given to him? Let’s close ‘em all down, since no employee can realistically “own” those stores like they could own a hardware store, a stationery store, a toy store, a children’s clothing store, a sporting goods store, or a small grocery.

First of all, Wright fails to realize that someone could be working at Wal-Mart as a starter job, or as a second job, to save money to open his or her own business one day. Working at Wal-Mart is a quicker way to realize your dreams than being in the unemployment line. Plus, working at the world’s most successful retail store is like getting a Ph.D. in how to run your own business. Whether you work at Wal-Mart or not, saving $895 a year shopping at Wal-Mart also puts you further down the road to business ownership. In any case, not every worker wants to have his or her own business. What a sweeping and erroneous generalization.

Secondly, Wal-Mart workers and other people CAN own a piece of Wal-Mart. It’s called stock. Being a shareholder in Wal-Mart has enriched countless people. Many have Wal-Mart in their 401(k) or CREF portfolios and are counting on it to help meet their financial needs after they retire. Large companies like Wal-Mart provide fiscal benefits no Mom-and-Pop store could ever hope to provide. What’s wrong with that?

Wright says that what we are debating is individual autonomy versus “corporate paternalism”. Again, 100% correct, but in the opposite context in which Wright applies it. Individual autonomy does not exclusively mean owning your own business. It means having the economic freedom to do what you want with your own money and your own property. That can mean starting a business, choosing to shop at Wal-Mart, or simply stuffing it under your mattress. It’s freedom baby, yeah!! Very groovy! The “American Dream” of the opportunity for ownership and self-determination, as described by Wright, cannot exist without free enterprise and freedom of choice.

“Paternalism” is exactly what these statists are advocating. They will tell us where to shop, where to live, and what to think, while telling businesses how they can compete, where to purchase their goods, how much to pay their employees, how big their stores can be, and what benefits they have to offer. They know best about everything. Wright mentions the “security of serfdom” and a “hive where workers are cared for but only to the extent necessary to maintain productivity”. That sounds just like the modern American socialist welfare state that the liberals have worked so hard to attain (except for the productivity part).

The “American Dream” is not about guarantees and entitlements. You just may have to “work slavishly in a hive making honey for the queen bee”. I have before and so have most people. In many ways, that’s what it is all about. It’s a dream, not a giveaway. You earn it through hard work. Maybe you’ll get there and maybe you won’t. That way you appreciate it and then you won’t be so quick to judge others. The Declaration of Independence only enumerated the “pursuit” of happiness as an inalienable right, not its actual attainment. Life isn’t always fair. There are winners and losers. But ultimately, life is what you make it, not what these nattering nabobs of negativism say it should be.

Wal-Mart and other big-box stores do not “present an attack on the most traditional of American values”, as Wright claims. They are monuments to those values. The problem is that leftists like Wright don’t like the traditional American values of entrepreneurship, property rights, competition, laissez-faire, consumer choice and raw capitalism they represent. They obviously prefer the values of East Germany. Now that was a worker’s paradise. Technically, everyone owned everything. I can’t imagine why that didn’t work out.

Opposition to Wal-Mart is not un-American, as the Daily News tag line read. I celebrate the First Amendment rights these moonbats have to whine about Wal-Mart continuously or to say I’m not a Christian because I shop at Wal-Mart. But Wal-Mart opponents’ motives and message are indisputably un-American. Trying to usurp what someone can do with his or her land is not patriotic. Condemning the 8 out of 10 people that willingly choose to shop at Wal-Mart because you think they are crass consumers of cheap Chinese crap is not patriotic. Telling me where I can or cannot shop based on your personal taste is not patriotic. And proclaiming “let them eat cake” to the poor, students, seniors and working families to further a union’s political agenda is most definitely not patriotic.

The American Revolution was largely fought because of protectionism, tariffs, and other unfair restrictions that were being put on free trade and the free market. Tracy Wright and other anti-Wal-Martians would do well to learn those lessons again.


Hold on to your hats. You're not going to believe this.

An Associated Press story in today's Seattle Times:
W.W.J.S. -- Where would Jesus shop?

According to union-backed critics of Wal-Mart Stores, not at the world's largest retailer. WakeUpWalMart.com unveiled a religious-themed campaign Thursday asking shoppers whether God wants them to buy things from the Bentonville, Ark.-based company.

The group, funded by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, launched a TV ad and released a letter signed by 65 clergy members and religious figures. The group says Wal-Mart's policy on wages, health benefits and other issues harms families and communities.

Wal-Mart accused the group of using union dues to exploit religion and said it would give nearly $200 million in cash contributions to charities this year.

The 30-second TV spot, starting today in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Texas, is part of the latest seasonal-themed campaign against Wal-Mart. The TV ad starts with a picture of a Bible-like tome and a narrator who says, "Our faith teaches us 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'

"If these are our values, then ask yourself: Should people of faith shop at Wal-Mart this holiday season?"

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Sarah Clark criticized the ad.

"Surely Americans are deeply offended that the union leadership would use religion as just another tactic in a negative attack campaign against a company that donates more money to good works than any other company in America," she said.

The letter from clergy members took a line similar to the ad's.

"Jesus would not embrace Wal-Mart's values of greed and profits at any cost, particularly when children suffer as a result of those misguided values," the letter said.

Clark said the clergy had been misled.

"We share their compassion for people just like we continue to provide jobs to those who want a better life. We save the average American family $2,300 a year per household," she said.
This is a new low, even for the anti-Wal-Mart moonbats. It shows the true desperation of their "cause". Average people just aren't tuning in to their message.

Of course, this religious angle to the anti-Wal-Mart movement is nothing new. United Christ Church recently held a "Wal-Mart Week of Action". Both the Pullman and Moscow anti-Wal-Mart groups hold their weekly meetings in churches.

8 out of 10 Americans shop at Wal-Mart. That’s around the same number of people who profess to be Christians in the U.S. Many Wal-Mart opponents are self-avowed agnostics or atheists. The highest concentration of Wal-Mart stores is in the Southeast, where there is also the highest concentration of churches. But the ultra-liberal denominations opposing Wal-Mart, such as the UCC and the Unitarian Universalists are not the kinds of churches you find there. I have a feeling this sacrireligious ad campaign using the Lord’s name to promote a political agenda is going to backfire in a huge way. The left-wing union strategists in New York and Washington, DC need to get out more. I only hope they run that ad on the Palouse. It will show once and for all just how out of touch with the mainstream those who oppose Wal-Mart really are.

I don’t presume to know where Jesus would shop. But I think I know what He might say: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”

Thursday, December 08, 2005

STOP the presses!

Streisand Cancels LA Times Subscription

Link from Yahoo

In a major news story, worthy of being on the front of Yahoo.com, Streisand cancelled her subscription to the LA Times!

Okay, you may go back to your puny-little worthless lives.

Oh Tom, next time you get a haircut, you should post about it, I guess anything you big stars do is newsworthy! ;)

"Wal-Mart's Critics Are Short-Sighted"

Newspaper editorialists all over the country are expressing their opinions on the anti-Wal-Mart movement. Op-ed pieces have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Seattle Times, and in countless smaller local papers. The message is the same: leave Wal-Mart alone.

Jay Ambrose had the following column published in the Kitsap Sun(free registration required), a small paper on the west side of Washington state, this past Monday:
Wal-Mart, go away, or at least become something vastly different, say lefties and an occasional commentator on the right. But the American people voted on the issue on the day after Thanksgiving, and guess what? Once more they came out heavily for the discount retailer.

The vote was not the sort where you go to the polls and cast ballots, but where you go to the store and spend your dollars. When the Christmas shopping season officially began, Americans did not show up in numbers pleasing to most retail outlets. They did descend in something closer to hoped-for hordes on discount operations, and especially on Wal-Mart, which saw a nice spurt in sales from 2004.

It was no accident, but a consequence of aggressive, smart marketing and, most of all, of the factor that sets Wal-Mart apart from so many of its competitors, very low, affordable prices. To some critics, these low prices have too high a cost — that's the theme of an anti-Wal-Mart movie making the rounds. The prices, say the critics, are a consequence of such factors as low wages and imports from abroad and of driving some small businesses out of town.

Yes, OK, and let's add something: The prices are a boon to the poor.

A boon to the poor? Absolutely. Among those making the claim, I discovered in scanning newspaper commentaries on the subject, is Jason Furman, a top economic adviser for Democrats, a visiting scholar at New York University and very much a liberal.

He notes in a Web discussion that the "price differences" between Wal-Mart and other outlets "are staggering."

"Wal-Mart prices are, on average, 8 to 40 percent lower than what people would pay elsewhere," he writes, referring to a study showing that the annual savings for consumers could be as much as $2,300 per household. "There are few public policies that I've advocated that would make a difference as big as that," he said.

Low-income Americans don't have to have the fact beaten into them. Along with those making more money, they flock to Wal-Mart to stretch their dollars. The Wal-Mart critics harp on the low wages of Wal-Mart employees even though the firm's successful business model might face disintegration if the firm were made to pay low-skill positions much above their market value. Besides keeping prices low, this model has enabled the chain to create 1.3 million jobs, more than created by any other single U.S. employer. Many of those employees might be jobless if not for a relatively non-interventionist economic system that allows Wal-Mart to thrive.

This vital truth is not keeping some state legislatures from seeking out ways to force higher pay. The legislators, none of whom have probably ever served their constituents a fraction as well as Wal-Mart, should look over their shoulders at how Europe's welfare-state forays have led to unemployment rates twice as high as in this country. The insistence of some pundits that Wal-Mart embrace unions forgets a history voluminously affirming that unions are far from an unmitigated good. It forgets tough federal law makes it impossible for companies to prevent unions if enough employees genuinely want them.

One critic — denying that it's essentially look-down-their-noses elitist types who frown on, oh dear, that very common place, Wal-Mart — says those who fight new stores are folks who hate what the auto traffic will mean, that sort of thing. I guess so, but local governments tend to heed majority sentiment, whatever this critic thinks. The leftists who complain about Wal-Mart selling many products from abroad just refuse to get it that free trade is a great benefactor to people of all lands, including ours, even if the extent of globalization is currently disorienting.

A conservative critic — Stephen Bainbridge, a professor of law at UCLA — is more on track when he worries about the ugliness of Wal-Mart buildings and about small businesses folding as Wal-Mart stores prosper. His solution is that local governments should respect their zoning plans and do nothing to subsidize Wal-Mart.

He is right, of course.

I don't adore Wal-Mart, but I do shop there sometimes and find that it pays. In the final analysis, it seems to me, it is deeply American: a business reaching out democratically to people of every income status, and the product of an entrepreneurial vitality that many societies routinely smother. Its critics, with important exceptions, have a withering socialist glare in their eyes, despite all we have learned about the life-diminishing misconceptions of socialism.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

"The Wal-Mart controversy"

U.S. News & World Report Senior Writer Michael Barone made some good points on his blog about Saturday's Wall Street Journal editorial on Wal-Mart, comparing non-unionized Wal-Mart with unionized General Motors:
The Wall Street Journal ran an editorial in its Saturday edition on the various controversies over Wal-Mart. It makes the point that the attacks on Wal-Mart are led by union leaders who are frustrated that Wal-Mart employees have refused to vote for union representation. The editorial makes some interesting factual points. "Wal-Mart's average starting wage is already nearly double the national minimum of $5.15 an hour. . . . [F]or many workers those wages are only a start. Some 70 percent of Wal-Mart's executives have worked their way up from the company's front lines. . . .The company has also recently increased its healthcare options for employees on the bottom rungs of the corporate ladder. Starting in January, one of those options will be a high-deductible health savings account."

Here, I would contrast Wal-Mart with the currently beleaguered General Motors, where workers have been represented by a powerful and aggressive union, the United Auto Workers, since 1937. The UAW has imposed on General Motors what other unions would like to impose on Wal-Mart: a one-size-fits-all wage and benefit structure. General Motors' starting wages are much higher; but there are many fewer entry-level jobs. General Motors provides uniform healthcare and pension benefits to all its workers; but those benefits are now jeopardized because the company may not be fiscally able to finance those benefits when they go to more retirees than current workers. At General Motors, there is an impenetrable barrier between management and labor. Nobody moves from the assembly line to management positions. The union represents workers in adversarial bargaining and grievance procedures. No one can cross the line.

The adversarial labor-management arrangements were arguably justified in 1937. Management micromanaged workers according to the work-study principles of Frederick W. Taylor, who saw workers as mechanical cogs who should have zero initiative and instead should perform their jobs in the way that time-study experts determined was most efficient. (On Taylor, see the excellent biography by Robert Kanigel, The One Best Way: Frederick Winslow Taylor and the Enigma of Efficiency.) Workers and union representatives argued, plausibly, that these experts were demanding too much work per hour or minute. The workers, union leaders argued, again plausibly, needed someone to represent their interests against the demands of the efficiency experts.

But as Wal-Mart executives might argue, Toto, we're not in Taylorite America anymore. Wal-Mart certainly isn't. Wal-Mart does a superb job of keeping track of inventory and sales and putting on its shelves products consumers want. But it also encourages employees to go out of their way to help customers—to show initiative in their work. Those who do a good job can hope to get management jobs.

Wal-Mart critics look back to post-World War II America and express nostalgia for what they call the family wage. It was assumed that all workers were men who were the heads of families, who needed and wanted a job that would pay enough to raise their families, who sought to retire as soon as possible (remember, workers hated those Taylorite jobs) on a decent pension. A much smaller percentage of working-age Americans were in the labor force in those days, and very few of them were women. At the same time, the divorce rate was much lower, and so there were very few women in need of a job to support their families. Also, much lower percentages of those above 65 worked or wanted to work. There were many more jobs involving hard physical labor, and many men were physically worn out even before reaching 65.

We live in a different America today. Many men in their older years and many women of all ages want part-time work; Wal-Mart has jobs for them. Many adults have not done particularly well in our schools but still want a chance to rise in their jobs; Wal-Mart has opportunities for them. Many workers don't need expensive health insurance, because their spouses have it, or because they're eligible for Medicare; Wal-Mart doesn't force them to forgo wages in order to pay for an expensive healthcare package.

So the Wal-Mart flexible model is more responsive to the needs and desires of the work force than the one-size-fits-all General Motors model. Certainly, Wal-Mart provides a lot more jobs than General Motors does. And, of course, Wal-Mart has done yeoman work of providing low prices for consumers—and especially for low-income consumers. You may not like Wal-Mart—and, remember, no one can force anyone to shop there—but it does seem more in sync with the way America works today than does General Motors.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Wall Street Journal Weighs In on Wal-Mart

As I have said, the recent efforts by Wake Up Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart Watch and the Robert "Portrait of a Stripper" Greenwald anti-Wal-Mart movie have roused America'a columnists and editorialists into action to condemn the anti-Wal-Mart movement.

PARD has previously claimed that The Wall Street Journal opposed Wal-Mart. That's ridiculous. This past Saturday, the Journal, America's most-respected business newspaper, ran an editorial making the paper's feelings clear on Wal-Mart and its critics. The editorial validates what Chuck Millham and myself have been saying all along. It's all about the unions and the elitist snobs. I also agree with the editor of the Journal that Wal-Mart is wrong to try and curry favor with their opponents by advocating a rise in the minimum wage. Nothing Wal-Mart can do will ever please the Wal-Mart Haters.

I'll bet you won't see a link to this on PARD's resources page:

Is Wal-Mart Good for America?

The campaign against the company is about union politics.

Saturday, December 3, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST

It is a testament to the public-relations success of the anti-Wal-Mart campaign that the question above is even being asked.

By any normal measure, Wal-Mart's business ought to be noncontroversial. It sells at low cost, albeit in mind-boggling quantities, the quotidian products that huge numbers of Americans evidently want to buy--from household goods to clothes to food.

Wal-Mart employs about 1.3 million people, about 1% of the American work force. Its sales, at around $300 billion a year, are equal to 2.5% of U.S. gross domestic product. It is not, however, an especially profitable company. Its net profit margins, at about 3.5% of revenue, are broadly in line with the rest of the retail industry. In fiscal 2004, Microsoft made more money than Wal-Mart on just one-eighth of the sales.

The company's success and size, then, do not rest on monopoly profits or price-gouging behavior. It simply sells things people will buy at small markups and, as in the old saw, makes it up on volume. We draw your attention to that total revenue number because, in a sense, it tells you most of what you need to know about Wal-Mart. You may believe, as do service-worker unions and a clutch of coastal elites--many of whom, we'd wager, have never set foot in a Wal-Mart--that Wal-Mart "exploits" workers who can't say no to low wages and poor benefits. You might also accept the canard that Wal-Mart drives good local businesses into the ground, although both of these allegations are more myth than reality.

But even if you buy into the myths, there's no getting around the fact that somewhere out there, millions of people are spending billions of dollars on what Wal-Mart puts on its shelves. No one is making them do it. To the extent that mom-and-pop stores are threatened by Wal-Mart, it's because the same people who supposedly so value their Main Street hardware store find that Wal-Mart's selection, or prices, or parking lot--something about it--is preferable. Wal-Mart can't make mom and pop shut down the shop any more than it can make customers walk through the doors or pull out their wallets. You don't sell $300 billion a year worth of anything without doing something right.

What about the workers? In response to long-running criticisms about its pay and benefits, Wal-Mart's CEO, Lee Scott, recently called on the government to raise the minimum wage. But as this page noted at the time, Wal-Mart's average starting wage is already nearly double the national minimum of $5.15 an hour.

So raising it would have little effect on Wal-Mart, but calling for it to be raised anyway must have struck someone in the company as a good way to appease its political critics. (Bad call: Senator Ted Kennedy quickly pocketed the concession and kept denouncing the company.) The fact is that the company's starting hourly wages not only aren't as bad as portrayed, but for many workers those wages are only a start. Some 70% of Wal-Mart's executives have worked their way up from the company's front lines.

The company has also recently increased its health-care options for employees on the bottom rungs of the corporate ladder. Starting in January, one of those options will be a high-deductible health savings account, which is a great way to insure yourself if you're relatively young, relatively healthy and yet want to protect against the onset of some catastrophic illness. Mr. Kennedy, who recently called Wal-Mart one of the most "antiworker" companies around, has been a chief opponent of these pro-worker, pro-market health insurance vehicles.

But suppose Wal-Mart did look more like the company its detractors would like it to be, with overpaid workers, union work rules, and correspondingly higher prices on goods. It would not only be a less attractive place to shop, and hence a considerably smaller company. It would drive up the cost of living for the millions who shop there, thus hurting those in the bottom half of the income-distribution tables that Wal-Mart's critics claim to be speaking for. One might expect this fact to trouble the anti-Wal-Mart forces, except that their agenda is very different from what they profess it to be.

As our Holman W. Jenkins Jr. pointed out in a recent column, the vanguard of the Wal-Mart haters is composed of unions that have for decades kept retail wages and prices artificially high, especially in the supermarket business. Those unions have had next to no success organizing Wal-Mart employees and see Wal-Mart's push into groceries as a direct threat to their market position. And on that one score, they may be right.

But seen in that light, it becomes clear that much of the criticism is simply a form of special-interest lobbying in socially conscious drag. And why an outside observer should favor the interests of unionized supermarket employees over those of Wal-Mart shoppers and employees is far from clear (unless you're a politician who gets union contributions).

Any company as successful as Wal-Mart will invariably run afoul of such vested interests. It is in the nature of the rise of a new giant on the scene that it disrupts established ways of doing things and in the process upsets established players. So it was with Standard Oil at the beginning of the 20th century, IBM in the middle and Microsoft at the end of the century. Wal-Mart, perhaps because it restricted itself to towns of less than 15,000 people as a matter of policy into the 1990s, at first avoided and later seemed blindsided by the attacks that have come its way.

The company has never been shy about defending its interests. But some of its recent ripostes--such as Mr. Scott's call for hiking the minimum wage or its gestures toward fighting global warming--seem to be addressed to the wrong audience.

Its customers don't need to be told what they like about Wal-Mart. But the company's management would do well to bear in mind that it is those millions of shoppers, and not the elites with which the company has sometimes of late been seen to be currying favor, that have made the company what it is.