Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Pomposity on Parade

I have been trying to make the case lately that most of the opposition to Wal-Mart is based on snobbery of one form or the other.

My fellow Town Crier, Kathryn Meier, most convincingly displayed that elitist snobbery in her column in today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News.

Professor Meier feels the answer to all of Pullman's problems is for everyone to move into dilipidated (I'm sorry, "vintage") housing on College Hill. It seems Professor Meier and her husband are just delighted with their "classic home" and its turn of the century lighting fixtures and parquet wood floors.

She asks, "Do we seek the charm of downtown Moscow and its neighboring historic district, or do we want only a series of modern subdivisions surrounding generic big box stores?"

Personally, I'm happy with my little suburban tract home. I'm quite satisfied not having to stumble over beer bottles and used condoms on the way to my car in the morning and that my kids don't have to be subjected to the sight of coeds puking behind a bush on the weekend. I like having a big back yard and not having to call the plumber or electrician every few weeks. As far as historic goes, I know of a bunch of old barns in Whitman County that are historic, but I don't want to live in one.

What is it with these snobs? Can't they just live and let live? I don't care if Proesssor Meier chooses to live in her version of "The Money Pit", but why does she feel the need to condemn my lifestyle? It never occurs to the elites that suburbia, with its McMansions and Wal-Marts, ARE WHAT PEOPLE WANT!

Meier also asks, "where are the City Council and the community at large, with respect to this issue. That's an easy answer. They're approving and buying "soulless suburban sprawl" as fast as they can. In a front page story in today's Daily News , it was reported that the City Council approved the plats for two new subdivisions and enough new housing construction took place in 2005 that the property tax rate in Pullman will not increase in 2006.

As with Wal-Mart, people overwhelmingly vote to reject the idea of Professor Meier's quaint Utopia with their wallets and their feet.

Dead End Jobs

This is a great column written today and posted at WorldNetDaily. It is written by Dr. Walter E. Williams who posts a column there called A Minority View. Williams is the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

Certain jobs are derisively referred to as "burger flipper" or "dead-end" jobs. I'd like someone to define a dead-end job. For example, I started out as a professor of economics at California State University, Los Angeles, and then at Temple University and for the past 25 years at George Mason University. It seems as though my employment might qualify as a dead-end job, for all I'll ever be is a professor of economics.

Those who demean so-called dead-end jobs probably aren't talking about my job. They're mockingly referring to jobs such as clerks at Wal-Mart, hotel workers, and food handlers and counter clerks at McDonald's. McJobs is the term applied to these positions. The term has even found its way into Merriam-Webster and the encyclopedia Wikipedia. Putting down so-called dead-end jobs is a destructive insult to honest work.

How dead-end is a McDonald's job? Jim Glassman, an American Enterprise Institute scholar, wrote an article in the Institute's June 2005 On The Issues bulletin titled "Even Workers with 'McJobs' Deserve Respect." He listed some well-known former McDonald's workers. Among them: Andy Card, White House chief of staff; Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com; Jay Leno, "Tonight Show" host; Carl Lewis, Olympic gold medalist; Joe Kernan, former Indiana governor; and Robert Cornog, retired CEO of Snap-On Tools. According to Glassman, some 1,200 McDonald's restaurant owners began as crew members, and so did 20 of McDonald's 50 top worldwide managers. These people and millions of others hardly qualify as dead-enders.

The primary beneficiaries of so-called McJobs are people who enter the workforce with modest or absent work skills in areas such as: being able to show up for work on time, operating a machine, counting change, greeting customers with decorum and courtesy, cooperating with fellow workers and accepting orders from supervisors. Very often the people who need these job skills, which some of us might trivialize, are youngsters who grew up in dysfunctional homes and attended rotten schools. It's a bottom rung on the economic ladder that provides them an opportunity to move up. For many, the financial component of a low-pay, low-skill job is not nearly as important as what they learn on the job that can make them more valuable workers in the future.

Some demagogues charge that jobs at Wal-Mart and McDonald's only pay the minimum wage. That's plain wrong, as are many other things said about jobs that start at the minimum wage. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: 63 percent of minimum-wage workers receive raises within one year of employment, and only 15 percent still earn the minimum wage after three years. Moreover, only 3 percent of all hourly workers and 2 percent of wage and salary earners earn minimum wages. Most minimum wage earners are young - 53 percent are between the ages of 16 and 24.

Furthermore, only 5.3 percent of minimum-wage earners are from households below the official poverty line; 40 percent of minimum-wage earners live in households with incomes of $60,000 and higher, and over 82 percent of minimum-wage earners do not have dependents.

My stepfather used to tell me that any honest work was better than begging and stealing. As a young person, I worked many jobs from shining shoes and picking blueberries to delivering packages and washing dishes. Today's tragedy for many a poor youngster is that the opportunities I had for learning the world of work and moving up the economic ladder have either been destroyed through legislation or demeaned by today's do-gooders.

This article is enlightening on several accounts for those who espouse the "living wage" theory. It certainly gives the rest of us more information.

Impervious to the Truth

I appear to be running a close second to Chuck Millham in annoying the PARD intelligentsia.

In today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Bob Gruenewald, PARD's "Business Outreach Coordinator", joined Cynthia Hosick in attacking my Town Crier column from a couple of weeks ago. He took issue with my "rosy-hued" summary of the EPS Bozeman study. But that's okay, the anti-big boxers on the Bozeman City Council didn't like the study's findings either.

First, Mr. Grunewald made a slight error. It's ECONOMIC Planning Systems, Inc., not EDUCATIONAL Planning Systems, that conducted the study. Must be a Freudian slip.

As Cynthia "Impartial Private Citizen" did, Grunewald stated that no two market areas are alike and each requires study. And again I say, why then does PARD persist in using the House Democratic and Berkeley studies, among others, which are both sharply critical of Wal-Mart, to support their position? Those studies weren't conducted in Pullman (or Moscow, as PARD's new strategy seems to be to absurdly link the two cities together for purposes of an economic impact study). For that matter, why did Greg Hooks and Cynthia Hosick bring up Bozeman in their letters to the editor months ago? And why is PARD showing the Greenwald anti-Wal-Mart fantasy movie again tonight? That wasn't filmed in Pullman or Moscow. Could it be that comparisons CAN be made to other similar communities, and just as in science, hypotheses formed? Or is it just a case of cherry-picking what you like and what you don't like?

One thing that neither Hosick or Gruenewald can dispute are the facts:

FACT: The EPS study concluded that there is no legal basis for treating big box stores differently.
FACT: Pullman's city government has resisted the tempatation to treat Wal-Mart differently than any other business.
FACT: PARD's anti-Wal-Mart city council candidates were thororughly defeated at the ballot box, validating the city's handling of the Wal-Mart issue.

Why don't they address those issues in their letters?

Look, I have never said whether an economic impact study of Wal-Mart would be a good thing or a bad thing. The bottom line is that the city doesn't require such a study for other businesses looking to open in Pullman, so it can't do it just for Wal-Mart. It's not fair and it's not legal. That's my objection to an economic impact study.

In any case, if an economic impact study study were done that had positive things to say about Wal-Mart in Pullman, PARD wouldn't accept it. They only want negative data that supports their narrow and biased viewpoints. Look at the way the Global Insight study of Wal-Mart's effects on the American economy has been received. The refrain has been, "Wal-Mart paid for it, so of course it favors them!", even though Global Insight is one of the most respected economic consulting firms in the world and there are some less-than-flattering findings about Wal-Mart in the study, which critics have been playing up.

The members of PARD are zealots, on a closed-minded jihad against Wal-Mart with eyes wide shut. They are like idelogical windbreakers, impervious to the truth.

Putting Moscow out of Business!

Helen Wootton, who wrote the Daily News with the following, has come up with a wonderful plan to close down most of the businesses in Moscow. This is great news for Pullman as it would push all the Moscow shoppers to Pullman, for a change.

Since the main objection to Wal-Mart seems to be that it makes its fortune on the backs of poorly paid workers, I have a suggestion.

How about a city ordinance requiring all employers of more than, say, 10 hourly employees, to hire 90 percent of those hourly workers as full-time employees with a benefit package approved by the City Council? That way Wal-Mart could choose to alter its hiring practices or stay away from our community.

Helen Wootton

So if Helen gets her way all the business in Moscow would have to hire most of their part-timers to be full-time which would wipe out the business in many ways.

First for the small businesses like gas stations, fast food places, small stores downtown and in the mall - With a large number of students working part-time around their class schedule, the business owner would either require those people to go full-time or he would have to fire them. Many students would not give up going to college for a full-time daytime job at the Stinker Gas Station. So many, if not all, the students would have to work evenings. With more potential employees than jobs available in the evenings, students would not be able to get the jobs they need to pay for their needs. These businesses could not afford to make everyone a full-time employee which would mean that they would have to jack up prices (pushing people to other purchasing options) or they could close their doors. I cannot think of anything WalMart could do that would hurt a town more than the idea Helen proposes.

Second the larger stores, like Hastings, Macy's, Office Depot, et al - They already have a fair number of full-time workers. But they would have to hired a bunch more to fill out the hours necessary to keep the store open. Once again, this would hurt the student population who need a part-time job with hours that are flexible to fit around their school schedule. Those bigger stores would experience some of the problems the smaller stores do, but they could probably afford to hire more full-time employees assuming there were enough to be hired. But then at what point does corporate look at the numbers from the store and decide that the full-time requirement is too high of a cost and to move their store to a near-by community -- say Pullman?

Hmmm. The more I think about this horrible "living wage" idea, the better I like it, as long as it only happens in Moscow. That really would drive business to Pullman.

I think the members of the Pullman community should work along side PARD and push the Moscow City Council to adopt Helen's idea.

"Attention, Wal-Mart Critics"

Great column in today's Seattle Times by Michael Medved:
IF you're among the 100 million Americans who shop at Wal-Mart weekly, it probably never occurred to you that you're supporting a malevolent institution described by critics as a new "Evil Empire." The retail colossus remains so popular and so powerful (its 1.2 million workers make it the nation's biggest private employer) that the persistent sniping about Wal-Mart's business practices inevitably sounds like irrelevant sour grapes.

Nevertheless, filmmaker Robert Greenwald has just unleashed a bitter documentary ("Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price") that has been shown in November in some 3,000 private homes, union halls and churches across the United States before its general DVD release. Produced with support from labor organizations (which resent their inability to unionize Wal-Mart), and endorsed by Hollywood comedian-activists Al Franken and Jeaneane Garofolo, Greenwald's film accuses the company of exploiting employees, despoiling the environment, destroying small businesses, and flooding the United States with sweatshop merchandise from abroad.

Neither Greenwald nor his backers expect to connect with an eager mass audience; it's safe to say more people will visit Wal-Mart stores in any single day than will watch the film over the next 10 years. In fact, all the angry debates over Sam Walton's legacy occupy an elitist, abstract atmosphere utterly disconnected from the real world of shopping and spending.

"Progressive" activists may hate Wal-Mart, but they must recognize that if the company closed tomorrow it would throw hundreds of thousands out of work and make the lives of millions of customers vastly less convenient.

Critics insist they don't want the retail giant to fail: They merely want better salaries and benefits for workers. But even the most rudimentary understanding of economics indicates that paying more for employees leads inevitably to higher prices, leading in turn to less business, less growth and fewer new jobs — particularly the entry-level jobs our economy so desperately needs.

If critics challenge Wal-Mart's business model as woefully misguided, they should be able to press rival companies to deploy their more enlightened notions, thereby displacing the Bentonville behemoth from its position of dominance.

At Arkansas headquarters, corporate leaders aren't exactly holding their breath, but they do seem annoyed by the latest attempt to discredit their brand name. Their public-relations firm has researched Greenwald's filmmaking background and focused new attention on his long-ago creative triumphs such as "Portrait of a Stripper" and "Beach Girls," along with Greenwald's one big budget film, "Xanadu" (which made the dishonor roll in my own 1986 bad-movies book, "Son of Golden Turkey Awards").

More recently, Greenwald has focused on unabashedly left-wing documentaries, including last year's "Outfoxed," an angry "exposé" of Fox News Channel — another profoundly profitable institution that has earned enthusiastic support from the American heartland.

In fact, a consistent contempt for ordinary Americans seems to connect both poles of Greenwald's career: In his earlier, populist "Portrait of a Stripper" phase, he attempted to connect with a mass audience by insulting its intelligence; in his more-recent work as a high-minded documentarian, he has portrayed the people as helpless boobs manipulated by evil corporations, and unable to make appropriate decisions about their own long-term welfare.

One of the sponsors of the new film's premiere, Liza Featherstone of The Nation magazine, begins one of her frequent diatribes against her least-favorite company by sniffing: "Wal-Mart is an unadorned eyesore surrounded by a parking lot, even its logo aggressively devoid of flourish." Of course, most middle-class shoppers will care far more about getting decent value for their money than a logo's flourish or a store's architectural amenities.

Intellectuals have always despised the "bourgeoisie" (In the '20s, H.L. Mencken ceaselessly derided the "boob-oisie") for its hard-headed practicality, refusing to recognize that most people simply don't have the luxury to look beyond narrow notions of self-interest and affordability.

It's true that thousands of (mostly well-heeled) liberals may find hours and dollars to sponsor showings of a new documentary looking down on Wal-Mart, but few of their fellow citizens have the inclination to join them. Most of us work too hard and save too little, struggling to pay credit-card minimums and hoping, some day, to finance braces for the kids.

In this context, it's still possible to walk into a vast, bustling sanctuary of a Wal-Mart store and feel dazzled by the startling array of products, reassured by the clockwork efficiency of the whole operation and, yes, unapologetically gratified by the low prices.
Very apropos for tonight's screening of "Portrait of a Stripper" and "Xanadu" director Greenwald's latest fantasy movie.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Public Disclosure

Poking around the PDC web site, I have found all kinds of interesting things. For example, go here, select "WHITMAN CO DEMO CENT COMM" and enter "2005" as the election year. Looks like our local Dems spent $369.60 on yard signs, buttons, etc. back in August. That's weird. There wasn't a single Democratic candidate on the ballot this year. But August is when Judy Krueger signs started appearing around town. Hmmmm.

If you go here select "WHITMAN CO DEMO CENT COMM" and enter "2005" as the election year, you will see that the Whitman County Democrats have raised a respectable $1,929.14 in an off year. A certain well-known PARD member even chipped in $50 and there were some $156 in "anonymous" cash contributions.

Again, no record of any Whitman County Republican contributions or expenditures for this election year.

Dark Shadows

Thank God Wal-Mart is building a Supercenter in Moscow. The Moscow anti-Wal-Mart letters to the editor are still fresh and somewhat funny. The PARD letters have gotten defensive, shrill and frankly monotonous. How many letters can Chris Lupke, Cynthia Hosick and Janet Damm write anyway?

The letter from Bill Bonte in today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News is a scream! The letter itelf is typical hyperbolic liberal rubbish. But I love the references to "a dark shadow has fallen over our small Idaho town" and "corporate vampires". Bill is obviously also a baby boomer like myself and a fan of the campy Sixties British soap opera "Dark Shadows" that featured vampire Barnabas Collins.

"Dark Shadows" was recently released on DVD. Perhaps Bill can slip into Wal-Mart and pick up a copy.

The Empire Strikes Back

A statement from Wal-Mart:

Critics haven't offered any solutions for working families

More than 100 million Americans shop at Wal-Mart every week, and they're tuning out groups like Wal-Mart Watch, Wake-Up Wal-Mart and their union benefactors.

Working families haven't heard a single idea from these groups -- no solutions, no vision, just criticism. But what they're hearing from Wal-Mart are solutions to the challenges facing working families.

In recent days, we've learned from Global Insights, one of the world's most respected economic research, analysis and forecasting companies, that Wal-Mart saves the average American household more than $2,300 per year.

We've announced environmental initiatives that will reduce greenhouse gases at our current facilities by 20 percent within seven years. And early indications are that our new health benefits will cover an additional 100,000 Wal-Mart associates and family members.

Have the negative attacks of the "no-idea critics" saved working families any hard-earned money? Have the negative attacks created a single job? Have the negative attacks reduced greenhouse gases? Have the negative attacks helped any families get health insurance?

Without a single idea, the critics are just talking to the critics. And the American people aren't taking them seriously. We at Wal-Mart pledge to continue talking with our associates, our customers and communities all across America about how we can offer solutions to the challenges we all face together.

Wal-Mart, Xbox 360 and Snobbish Hypocrisy

Throughout time, the wealthy have engaged in conspicuous consumption. When rich teens spend $1,500 on a handbag, it’s considered “good living” and “classy”.

Marketers focus on the children of upper-middle class parents who have lots of cash to burn. These spoiled kids are somewhat benignly referred to as “spendthrifts” and “consumer junkies” in need of some parental guidance.

In any case, there is little pontificating from the liberal media or the leftist elites. But let a crowd of working class people line up at a Wal-Mart, and commentators start frothing at the mouth. Following every Black Friday, newspaper columnists and bloggers decry the “mindless materialism”, “crass consumerism” and “greed for cheap Chinese crap/junk/garbage” exemplified by the long lines and shoving at Wal-Mart Supercenters across the county. Whenever the lumpenproles try to get their share of the good life, the revolutionary class howls in protest.

In contrast, I have hardly seen anyone condemn the “Midnight Madness” that accompanied the launch of the Xbox 360 (which included some Wal-Mart stores). Oh, there have been jokes about the “geeks”, but no moralistic denunciations. Bill Gates himself was at a Best Buy in Bellevue when the store opened at 12:01 AM on November 22 to sell the new Xbox. One buyer had been in line for 77 hours. The story was similar all over the U.S. and Canada. There was even a celebrity-filled, invitation-only gala in a hangar in the desert of California. Gosh, it’s not greed, it’s just a clever marketing strategy.

At a Maryland Wal-Mart (of course, the elites will mumble), where 300 people had waited in line for as much as 12 hours for an Xbox 360, a fight broke out that took 10 police officers to end. The store had to stop selling the video game console.

Why no outcry? Why no accusations that Microsoft "drives up community policing costs"? In my opinion, it’s simple snobbery. The Xbox 360 is expensive ($300-$400, plus $50-$60 for each game). Microsoft is a “name” brand. The people lined up to buy the Xbox 360 were for the most part young, well educated and affluent. According to Ziff-Davis, the average family income of a video gamer is $62,000. The average Wal-Mart shopper tends to be older, less educated and less affluent (average family income of $40,000, below the American average of $43,000). The goods they can afford to purchase lack the cachet of the Xbox. For example, there has been much sniggering about the $399 laptops Wal-Mart was offering, yet that is the same price point as the Xbox, which is basically just a computer itself.

I agree that many of our young people seem to be engaged in vacuous material pursuits and there is generally too much spending and not enough saving by American consumers. But those are discussions best suited for the pulpit or around the dinner table. I don't need the intellectual and cultural elitist arbiters of taste passing judgement on, or even worse, trying to restrict, how I choose to spend my hard-earned dollar.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Sour Grapes

My hat is off to Chuck Millham. Anyone that can get under PARD's skin so badly MUST be doing something right.

Today, "Baghdad Chris" Lupke, the PARD Minister of Disinformation, had a SECOND letter to the editor published in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News refuting the allegations Millham brought against PARD in his last two "Their View" columns. Other recent letters from PARDners (Janet Damm, Joan Harris, et. al.) have done the same thing.

Professor Lupke does not refute that the Whitman County Democratic Party actively helped Judy Krueger and Gary Johnson. He just juvenilely whines about how the Republicans also helped Ann Heath. The Whitman County Republican Party never officially endorsed any city council candidate and no one in a leadership position ever worked on any city council campaign. That's simply an outrageous lie. What is it with the Left? Anytime they lose an election, it can't possibly be their fault. It MUST be some "vast right-wing conspiracy".

Then he personally attacks Millham in general. Very sad. Lupke suggests that editors at the Daily News start censoring Chuck Millham's column. What?? The Daily Evergreen has virtually become PARD's mouthpiece. Lupke himself had a column in the Evergreen a few weeks back in which he claimed Wal-Mart was going to "destroy the public education system". How about T.V. Reed in another column claiming Target was coming to Pullman? Talk about "blatant misrepresentations of the truth" and "falsehoods that do not belong in print".

I do agree with Lupke in that I too am growing weary of having to correct PARD's "unsubstantiated innuedos".

My message to PARD is simple: GET OVER IT!!! YOU LOST!!!!!

You decided to turn the city council election into a referendum on Wal-Mart. Then you got an old-fashioned butt-whupping at the ballot box. People in Pullman want a Wal-Mart. At the very least, they don't want arrogant and intellectually elitist Ph.D's telling them where they can and cannot shop. Don't you get it yet???

You were the ones that politicized the city council race. Don't get upset if Republicans (and some Democrats) took umbrage and worked/voted for Ann Heath in response.

The last time Lupke pontificated publicly and denied Chuck Millham's allegations of PARD's union affiliations, a story ran the next day in the Daily Evergreen about how a UFCW member spoke at PARD's screening of the anti-Wal-Mart movie. Oops.

So what shoe will drop next? Go to the Public Disclosure Commission web site here and conduct a search for "HEATH ANN M" then conduct one for "KRUEGER MARGARET J." Ann Heath has filed all of her campaign finance reports, and I can't find the Whitman County Republican Party listed among the donors. I see some individual Republicans, as well as some individual Democrats, and some people with no political affiliation.

Judy Krueger has yet to file a report.

"The War on Wal-Mart"

Another great column from Townhall.com, this one by Bill Murchison from April 12, 2005:
Wal-Mart's chief executive went on the attack the other day against the critics of the world's largest retailer. Just what is it, he wanted to know, that some noisy, nosy folk have against free choice?

H. Lee Scott Jr. didn't put the matter nearly so bluntly, but he certainly might have, if the spirit had so moved him.

Offering middle-class America the widest selection of goods at the lowest prices that market position and hard negotiating can achieve has become a form of oppression: That would seem to be the core of the hardening case against Wal-Mart.

Who pleads that case? The United Food and Commercial Workers Union, backed by no-growthers and take-your-progress-and-shove-it types who want the chain's expansion halted.

Weary of watching his company denounced as a grinder-down of the working class and a despoiler of the environment, Scott, in a meeting with the news media, called Wal-Mart "great for America." He extolled the chain's approach to business. He defended wage rates and benefits programs as fair. He wanted, not unreasonably, to know why "people would line up for jobs that are worse than they could get elsewhere, with fewer benefits and less opportunity."

Good question. We'll see what kind of answer it gets. What is heartening is to sniff the prospect of good, open combat between those who presume to judge where Americans should shop and those who say to these same Americans: It's up to you!

Possibly my first task here is to declare relative impartiality regarding Wal-Mart. Haven't shopped there or at a Sam's Club in 10 years or more. Couldn't tell you offhand where to find the nearest Wal-Mart. Can't think of anything I'd want to do there if I knew where to go. Don't really enjoy shopping, come to think of it!

Well, that's my own business. Others make it their business to trade at Wal-Mart or Sam's Club as often as humanly possible. Is it my business to discourage them, then, through trying to block the building of new stores or agitating for the overthrow of the present employer-employee relationship? I'd say on the whole, no. Though others clearly wouldn't.

The whole merit of free markets is supposed to be customer choice. If you don't feel like trading with Neiman Marcus, why, go on over to Wal-Mart. Or trade both places, depending on price, convenience and specific needs. The call is up to the customer -- theoretically.

We know "the customer" isn't some paragon of wisdom and good judgment. He's not even one thing -- he's everybody. You let "him" choose what suits him best.

Ah! But only (according to the union) if he shops where the union has a foothold. It might well mean higher prices, but, if so, tough. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union's take on our national needs is more acute than our own -- if you don't mind letting a union decide what's best for you.

So with the union's inference that, even though 1.5 million people (worldwide) freely accept Wal-Mart's terms of employment, a little coercion by the union on wages and benefits would make their lives happier. Maybe. On the other hand, if the union's terms preclude profit levels that afford employment to 1.5 million people, employment is sure to shrink or slow down.

The Wal-Mart-busters, when you get down to it, aren't unduly respectful of free choice, whether exercised by shoppers or workers. They've got their own ideas, which, in their own minds, take precedence over the ideas and notions of others.

Did anyone really foresee American liberalism -- the creed, broadly speaking, of the Wal-Mart-busters -- becoming snobbish to this degree? Well, yeah, actually. From the 1930s, union organizers set out to hogtie large companies, thus restricting such latitude as those companies enjoyed to adapt, experiment and reach out.

Then, on Wal-Mart, the unions ganged up with the no-growthers -- an odd combo, indeed, given labor's constant need for new jobs. You could call it Howard Dean's America. If you wanted to call it America.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Palousitics Gets Vandal-ized

This morning, I had the honor of being the guest on "Moscow Morning Views" on KUOI (the University of Idaho radio station), hosted by Tim Lohrmann. "Moscow Morning Views" is an interview/talk show providing a forum for local political figures and newsmakers and local perspectives on national and international issues. I got to follow in Al Norman's footsteps. Woohoo.

Several callers phoned in and there was some very stimulating debate on Wal-Mart and other issues. I'd like to thank Tim for being such a gracious host.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Black Friday (or Why PARD Can't Win)

From today's Lewiston Tribune:

"An estimated 800 people line up before 5 a.m. in the Wal-Mart parking lot at Lewiston to get an early start on holiday bargains. The line started forming five hours before, at midnight, and took almost five minutes to get through the front door."

Over in Renton and Puyallup, police had to be called to deal with crowds of shoppers at Wal-Mart stores there.

Shoppers continue to vote with their wallets and feet despite the millions spent by the UFCW and other labor organizations, the Michael Moore-style propaganda movie, the moronic letters to the editor from Gerard Connelly, Nancy Maxeiner and Joan Harris, and the lies, whining and kvetching from organizations like PARD. Wal-Mart continues to laugh all the way to the bank because they give the American people what they want. And Wal-Mart will continue to prosper until someone comes along and does it better than they do.

All the nattering of the left-wing, hate-America-First activists will have no effect. As Shakespeare said, "It is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing". It is also a recipe for disaster at the ballot box. Just ask Judy Krueger and Gary Johnson. The Democrats will also find this out to their chagrin in 2006 and 2008 if they follow the doomed "Bash Wal-Mart" strategy.

This Thanksgiving season, I'm more thankful than ever that we still live in a country where the people get to decide, not the government or the intellectual and cultural snobs of PARD.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Alternatives to Intelligence on the Palouse

In their post-election wasteland, the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development struggles to remain relevant. To that end, PARDner Jane Damm wrote a letter to the editor that appeared in today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News. Ms. Damm responded to Chuck Millham's recent allegations that PARD is all about negativity and offers no positive alternatives.

After reading her proposals, I wish PARD would stick with just being negative.

PARD and Ms. Damm propose that controlled growth take place in three areas: the land adjacent to the Port of Whitman Industrial Park owned by Schweitzer Engineering Labs, south of town on the road to Lewiston, and on Bishop Boulevard. They propose one or maybe two chain stores not found in Moscow be built. After PARD learned in the election that Pullman voters DON'T want to keep exporting tax dollars to Idaho, their arguments are now reductio ad absurdum, going from advocating "smart growth" to fight "urban sprawl" to "we'll take a little sprawl just as long as it's not Wal-Mart".

First of all, it's the free market and developers with their capital that determine what will and won't be built. The sheer unadulterated arrogance of these people is stunning. They have no money. They have no business experience. But now presumably the PARD/Moscow Civic Association cabal will discern what town gets which store. Unbelievable.

An important point to note is this: EPS, when conducting a big box study from Bozeman, MT, found that one big box store generates twice as much taxable revenue as five smaller stores of the same combined size. Therefore, it stands to reason that the one "moderately" sized, PARD-endorsed chain store would only generate a tenth of the revenue that a Wal-Mart Supercenter would generate. Bigger really is better.

PARD's "proposal" also does not address the national chain supermarket monopoly that Pullman is currently enduring. This is the monopoly that drives WSU international students to take the Wheatland Express over to Moscow and walk a mile to and from the Kibbie Dome to shop at WinCo. But why would it? We already have a nice overpriced and unionized Safeway in town.

The SEL land is not being planned for dense retail, but rather mixed residential and retail, so it would not be an acceptable substitute for a Wal-Mart. Remember, this whole battle is about increasing our retail sales tax base. And what is PARD's fascination with the road to Lewiston? Lewiston/Clarkston residents comprise only a tiny fraction of Pullman shoppers, as their retail choices are considerably greater down in the valley. The south part of town is also the farthest away from students. One of the reasons that Target rejected the proposal to move into the old Safeway building was that there was not enough traffic in that part of town.

I'm a bit confused by Damm's reaffirmation of Bishop Boulevard for retail development, something the city decided on almost three decades ago. The last time PARD Chairman T.V. Reed descended from the mount to impart his wisdom to us, did he not say, and I quote: "A Target, if of modest size and located away from Bishop Boulevard..."? Do I smell a flip-flop? I know PARD's logic is painfully twisted, but this is even more incoherent than usual. How does putting a "chain store" on Bishop, even a "modest" one, not have all the same problems PARD is currently appealing (i.e. traffic effects on the retirement home, the schools, the hospital, the cemetery, light pollution, etc.) with Wal-Mart?

PARD claims to have contacted a number of such stores and received "positive responses". Give me a break. That would be the equivalent of Jerry Falwell contacting al-Jazeera and asking for permission to run the "Old Time Gospel Hour" on their network.

PARD also wants development in the "moribund" areas on both sides of the Cordova. Excuse me??? Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't PARD recently before the Pullman Board of Adjustment fighting the move of the Pullman Foursquare Church into the Cordova Theatre by claiming that there wasn't enough parking and that would negatively affect the businesses nearby??

Damm concluded her letter by saying that "we" shouldn't "replicate what we have eight miles away". First of all, who is "we"? She should have said what MOSCOW has eight miles away, what IDAHO has eight miles away, or what a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT TAX JURISDICTION has eight miles away. Why don't the PARDners just move over to Moscow and be done with it? Yes, I'm officially asking now that they be run out of town. They can continue their "class struggle" over there with the Moscow Supercenter. I'm sick and tired of their pedagogic inanity.

Who wouldn't want to replicate the hundreds of thousands of tax dollars that Wal-Mart and WinCo collect from Pullman shoppers IN PULLMAN?

The Lowe's Site Plan Gets Higher (Square Footage)

Remember the WA/ID border strip mall site plan featuring a Lowe's here that has been the subject of much speculation on the Palouse as of late? All the publicity in the paper last week must have generated some interest. April Coggins points out that the site plan has been significantly modified by adding a THIRD 135,000 sq. ft. yet-to-be-named big box store. That brings the total retail space to well over a staggering 400,000 sq. ft.

The new design is more of a "shopping village" than the "strip mall" design (perhaps the developers are already anticipating a fight).

This has all the trademarks of that yucky "urban sprawl" that the PARDners get so worked up over. However, when the County Commissioners were having the final public hearing on the zoning for the corridor, PARD was off trying to keep the Pullman Foursquare Church out of the Cordova. Still makes me chuckle.

"Snobbish Tendencies"

A few years back, Gregory J. Hand, a weekly columnist with NewsCorridor.com, and a contributing columnist with OpinioNet.com, wrote an excellent column on snobbery in America. I'm going to post some excerpts I think most apply to the current situation in Pullman (and Moscow) with Wal-Mart and rampant political correctness on campus:
Intellectual snobs have no money, or if they do, it is not something with which they use as a means of being snobby. In fact, intellectual snobs are often socialists or communists. This is shown by what they tend to support, which oftentimes necessitates despising money or at least pretending to do so, even if they, or their parents who are sometimes paying for the lifestyle, have a lot of it.

Indeed, it could be successfully argued that the distinguishing characteristic of an intellectual snob is an embracement of such 'progressive' causes and specific remedies to cure them that habitually requires an end to capitalism and the American way of life. Look at how leftist politicians, environmentalists, peaceniks, feminists, gay activists, homeless and animal rights advocates, and on and on, condescendingly sneer at anyone not wholeheartedly embracing their various agendas. If you cannot see their vision for a better global society, then you deserve the disdain that you get.

Where do these people come from? Visit a college campus today and see what is going on there (not most of the professors, who tend to be culture snobs, to be discussed next.) No, the faux intellectual snobs, while including some professors and graduate students, are the teenage and early twenty something undergraduate students. These are the ones who are so brilliant as to be enlightened (indoctrinated) by the liberal orthodoxy taught at most schools today, but ironically not intelligent enough to realize that with all these rights that are demanded come corresponding responsibilities.

To answer the question, yes, they are; and they are because of this supposed superior intellect that has given them an enlightenment that most dolts like you and I don't have, protesting for a variety of inane causes (Free Mumia! Save the suckerfish! Stop global warming!). It is unfortunate, but their grasp of the issues, despite their strenuous arguments to the contrary, is rudimentary at best. They have no realistic idea, beyond their utopian pipe dreams, of the ramifications of the policies that they advocate. It is difficult to rationalize with them, because they immediately snobbishly dismiss any opposing arguments as inferior ones coming from intellectually substandard people.

The most rapidly rising class of snobs are the cultural/society snobs. These are people who go to symphonies, operas, wine tastings, foreign films, coffee houses and various other stylish venues not because they necessarily enjoy it, but because they like to be seen at such events, and they enjoy bragging about going to those who did not attend. On the flip side they also get pained looks on their faces when discussing amusement parks, NASCAR, public beaches, Wal-mart, chain restaurants and any other place where Grubman's 'white trash' might be hanging out. How déclassé.

They tend to congregate either in San Francisco or LA on the West Coast or New York, DC or Boston on the East Coast, as anywhere not attached to an ocean is 'flyover country.' They love the words 'diversity' and 'culture,' and often praise both lovingly just because it makes them look more sophisticated to be discussing such things.

Like the intellectual snobs, the cultural snobs are part of the 'hate America' crowd, albeit for different reasons. The intellectual snobs hate America because they are all socialists and communists looking to create some naïve workers paradise and destroy capitalism. Cultural snobs, on the other hand, hate America only because it looks better when they travel to Europe to put down other Americans, and to lament to anyone who will listen that France is better then America because it is more 'diverse' and has better 'culture.' Besides, who are snobbier, and therefore can appreciate the attitude, than the French?

Target can stay out of Pullman

Well, last year they turned their back on the Salvation Army, this year it is Christmas. Target has eliminated all references to Christmas in all their displays and advertising. Even if they are selling Christmas decorations, they will not use the word Christmas. This to me is another reason why Target is one of those places I would not shop at, near Christmas time or any other time.

Also, now that I am speaking out it, I would like to talk about the fact that many companies are taking Christmas Icons and turning them into "Holiday" Icons -- Santa, Christmas Trees, the colors Green and Red, Stockings, Reindeer, etc. http://www.savemerrychristmas.org/ is a website that is protesting Macy's for the way they have turned their back on Christmas.

Hershey's Kisses - They are in the shape of a Christmas Tree, they ring out "We Wish you a Merry Christmas" and it ends with Happy Holidays.

Coke - Santa is used and they do not mention Christmas.

to name a couple....

Monday, November 21, 2005

Three Questions for PARD

A certain PARD member, after a prolonged and deeply-felt absence from the opinion pages of The Moscow-Pullman Daily News was back today wheedling again for an "economic impact study".

I have three questions that this person might be kind enough to answer in a future letter:

1. It was pointed out that data derived from a study applies only to that specific community. Why is it then that PARD persists in using "data" derived from "studies" conducted in other communities, such as the George Miller/House Democratic "study" and other such "studies" cited in PARD's position paper, to oppose a Wal-Mart in Pullman? For example, why would crime at a Utah Wal-Mart have anything to do with crime at Pullman Wal-Mart?

2. If an economic impact study were conducted and it proved that Wal-Mart would be beneficial to Pullman, would PARD fold up its tents and go home (or perhaps just confine themselves to opposing the Moscow Supercenter)?

3. The proposed Moscow Supercenter and the Lowe's rumor were brought up and it was suggested that Lowe's also be asked to help pay for an expanded economic study of Pullman, Moscow, Whitman County, and Latah County (which is a patently absurd idea as the communities involved have totally different and competitive tax bases). I'm curious. T.V. "Rerun" Reed tried a couple of weeks ago to influence the city council election by "announcing" that Target was "opening in Pullman". Gee, funny we've heard nothing about that canard since. Why shouldn't Target be asked to pony up for the study while we're at it?

Another Pullman Export

Pullman is exporting something else over the border to Idaho, but luckily it isn't any more of our tax dollars.

The "Pullman" Alliance for Responsible Development has failed miserably in the PR battle over Wal-Mart in Pullman, suffering a scalding defeat at the polls two weeks ago, so now they are taking their act on the road to Moscow:
Message to Everyone Concerned about the Proposed Development of a WalMart Supercenter in Moscow:

On Tuesday, November 29th at 7:00 the Social Action Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse will host a meeting for those who would like to be a part of the community opposition to the proposed WalMart Supercenter in Moscow. The Meeting will be held at the Unitarian Church in Moscow at 420 East Second Street.

Leaders of the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development will give a presentation about the structure of the organization they set up to oppose the WalMart Supercenter in their town, and will be available to answer questions.

We are looking for concerned citizens who would like to participate in the effort. We need letter writers, petition distributors, flier distributors, neighbor persuaders, and members of local churches, schools, universities and organizations.

We are also looking for attorneys, web designers, public-relations experts and others who want to help lead and coordinate this effort. If you can help provide leadership or expertise, please send an email to nomoscowsupercenter at yahoo.com.

Please forward this announcement to others who might like to join in the effort.

For up to date news about this effort, check out http://nomoscowsupercenter.blogspot.com/. For more information about WalMart and its impact on communities, go to http://pullman-ard.org/paws_campaign_docs/paws.php.

For More Information Contact Peggy Jenkins at 877-2208.
And why not? The voters of Moscow just installed an anti-growth regime. PARD has always seemed more interested in Moscow than Pullman anyway, seeing the two communities as somehow joined at the hip for tax purposes.

All I can say is, let's see some of those petitions against a Moscow Supercenter over here. And will the Moscow anti-Supercenter group use the objection that a Moscow Supercenter will affect jobs in Pullman the way PARD claimed a Pullman Supercenter would impact Moscow? How about the argument that there is already a Supercenter planned for Pullman? You could get a migraine thinking about all the twisted logic that these lefties use.

It's all about Pullman, not just Wal-Mart, right PARDners?

"The Freedom to Hate Wal-Mart"

Moses Lake blogger Joel just sent me this link to the latest TownHall.com column by Paul Jacob:
Some folks don't like Wal-Mart. Okay. Fine. It's a free country. No one should be forced at gunpoint to shop at Wal-Mart. Or to work there.

And no one is. That's what a free market is all about: the freedom to trade goods and services, to trade one's time and labor as an employee, one's dollars as a customer. Or not to.

Wal-Mart has found enormous success in the marketplace only because many people have voluntarily chosen to shop and work there. Wal-Mart employs more than 1.6 million people worldwide and, according to the company's published calculations, its lower prices saved the average American family $2,329 last year.

Now I know why, when my wife sends me to the store, she says, "Go to Wal-Mart."

Still, we witness a sustained and hysterical assault against the company. There's even a newly released documentary by Robert Greenwald, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. Greenwald's previous credits include an anti-Fox News documentary and he clearly stands in the Michael Moore tradition of filming political rants and calling them documentaries.

How on earth is offering lower prices so evil?

We're told Wal-Mart doesn't pay its employees enough. It doesn't offer generous enough benefits. It puts small mom-and-pop stores out of business. Wal-Mart isn't environment-friendly. And the company uses government to help it expand.

As for employee pay and benefits, if Wal-Mart is so terrible, why didn't these employees choose to take the better jobs offered elsewhere? Or, were there no better jobs available? Is it remotely possible that Wal-Mart should actually be given credit for creating jobs? Could it be that the company has helped its employees escape unemployment and poverty?

However, this is all moot. The free market offers Wal-Mart haters an easy way to hit Wal-Mart right where it hurts. These wizards should start their own companies and pay entry-level retail workers as much as they think is "enough," and of course offer a generous package of health care and other benefits to both full and part-time employees. Problem solved!

Isn't the free market great?

Critics have every right to criticize, but no right whatsoever to interfere in the rights of Wal-Mart, its employees, or customers to make their lives better through trade.

But interfere they do. Unions and Wal-Mart's competitors are pushing a bill in Maryland that would require businesses with over 10,000 employees to provide health benefits to every employee. The only company affected? Wal-Mart.

All over the country Wal-Mart is being attacked and blocked by a cabal of union bosses and corporate competitors teamed up with politicians. And when Wal-Mart is forced to defend itself, they charge the company with throwing its weight around. Still, despite all the roadblocks and attacks, Wal-Mart's basic business model continues to win in the marketplace.

What about the charge that Wal-Mart puts lots of mom-and-pop stores out of business? While there is evidence that Wal-Mart creates more jobs than are lost by its competition, that's beside the point. If mom-and-pop stores cannot win enough customers, what are we to do, force citizens to shop where they would prefer not to?

And there seems to be an assumption that these mom-and-pops pay lavish salaries and benefits. That's just not the case. Here's an idea: go to a small town, walk in to a corner market and ask the clerk what his or her salary and benefit package are. And then, towards the end of your survey, let your coat slip a bit to show a Wal-Mart name tag. I bet you the employee will begin asking about job opportunities at Wal-Mart. For good reason.

Still, talk of poverty is not off point. It may be that much of the hatred of Wal-Mart is a byproduct of a fear and hatred for the poor. Lots of folks don't want to shop around poor people. And poor people do shop at Wal-Mart. I, too, would prefer to shop at the fancier stores, where the employees and fellow customers are slimmer and better dressed.

But my wife tells me to save a buck . . .

This is not to say that the problem with Wal-Mart lies entirely within ourselves. Some of the charges against Wal-Mart on environmental concerns have merit. Yet, the companies' transgressions have often been minor, like failures to file government-required paperwork, or lapses on the less-than-life-threatening order of allowing too much storm-water runoff during construction. There exists no Wal-Mart-created Love Canal.

And yet attacks on Wal-Mart often go over the top. An attack by Lindsay Robinson with the Illinois Student Environmental Network and Students for Environmental Concerns offers a peek at the prism through which some demonize Wal-Mart:
Wal-Mart and other "big box" retailers gobble up prime farmland and other natural habitat every day. While we worry about feeding the more than six billion people on this planet, our cities and counties allow the destruction of lush farmland that could provide sustenance for more people. The problem, generally referred to as "urban sprawl," continues to grow. . . . Sprawl also increases car-dependency for a community, raising the amount of greenhouse gases emitted and causing consumers to use more gas.
Apparently, Wal-Mart is the prime example of the butterfly effect: build a store in the U.S. and children starve in Africa. And if that weren't bad enough, the company is somehow especially responsible for global warming. Robinson went on to lambaste Wal-Mart for only giving away $190 million to charity last year and only $1.3 million to environmental causes. Ahhhh, there's the rub.

Wal-Mart has even been demonized as totalitarian. Harold Meyerson recently wrote in The Washington Post that, "Wal-Mart is in China because it's been able to forge a symbiotic relationship between its own dirt-cheap and inherently abusive labor practices and the Chinese government's totalitarian suppression of worker rights."

Imagine lumping the late Sam Walton, the company's founder — who, even while a billionaire, drove around his hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas in a beat-up old pickup truck — in with the butchers of Tiananmen Square! For some Wal-Mart haters, there's no limit to the hysteria allowed. They'd even side with ritual murderers over Wal-Mart.

The most serious charge — in fact, the only serious charge — made against Wal-Mart is that the company has received subsidies and favors from government . . . in particular, with use of eminent domain to gain valuable land on which to build stores. The company is not unique in allowing government to bully folks on its behalf; lots of big companies have benefited from government's abusive power to take land from one owner and give it to another.

But this is something left and right and center should all be able to agree upon: such subsidies corrupt the marketplace as well as politics. They should be ended not just for Wal-Mart but for all businesses everywhere at all times. To the extent that Wal-Mart planners and managers seek to use government power to get ahead, let's stop them. Neither Wal-Mart, nor the forces arrayed against Wal-Mart, should have any special governmental powers on their side.

Is there something more to do, after establishing rules of fair play? Sure. To those who talk trash against Wal-Mart: Boycott the company. Teach Wal-Mart a lesson. That's your right.

And it'll leave a little more room for the rest of us to get our shopping carts through those crowded and narrow aisles.
Wow. I'm envious. Paul Jacob just managed to sum up in one column what I have said over the course of many posts over the last few months.

PARD has the option to criticize and boycott Wal-Mart. They have every right to collect petition signatures (just so they don't disingenuously portray them as being Pullman voters or residents), and if people don't want to work or shop at Wal-Mart, more power to them. That is the free market at work.

The amateur entrepreneurs who make up PARD should pool their funds together and start a retail business they think can pay "living wages", provide excellent benefits, be sustainable, and environmentally friendly AND still be profitable rather than just bash Wal-Mart continually.

However, I totally agree with Mr. Jacob that PARD has NO RIGHT WHATSOEVER to interfere with the rights of Wal-Mart, its employees, or customers. And yet that is exactly what they are doing by dragging out this process with their frivilous appeals. The city has spoken. The voters have spoken. Let's "move on dot org".

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Thanks for the Memories

Jerome, Will, Troy, Kyle, Trandon, Greg, Riley, Nick, Norvell, Marty, Graham, Brandon, Adam B., Adam W., Alex, Wally, Bryan, Carlton, Cory, Tommy, and probably Jason, good luck in the NFL or wherever your future takes you.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Back to School

I had the privilege today of addressing the morning and afternoon blocks of Mr. Riley’s Eighth Grade Civics class at Lincoln Middle School. BREO co-chair Russ Coggins accompanied me in the morning. This afternoon Executive Director of the Pullman Chamber of Commerce, Fritz Hughes, joined me.

Mr. Riley and his students have been debating both sides of the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter controversy. Previously this week, they heard from PARD members Greg Hooks and Cynthia Hosick. Mr. Riley informed me that his morning class was in favor of Wal-Mart by nine to seven, and the afternoon class around fifteen to seven.

The kids were great and they had a lot of thoughtful questions to ask. I was more than happy to make the case for Wal-Mart and to share facts with them so they could reach their own conclusions. I think it’s terrific that they are being educated now in the democratic process and how local government works. They will be able to vote in a few years, and hopefully they will learn how to make informed choices.

Big personal thanks also to Michael Riley for being such a courteous host. He is personally against Wal-Mart and wrote a letter to the editor over the summer stating his reasons why, which I took exception with on this blog. He knew that, and invited me to speak anyway. He’s the kind of teacher we need more of in our schools.

Personal Attack on a Good Man

I was looking at the online edition of the Daily Evergreen and I found this letter to the editor:

If (Ed Swan) considers himself "a basic conservative," then
perhaps he should reevaluate how his philosophy might influence his choice of

It seems to me that he has no compunction for using his community to
further his goals and that perhaps in Othello he feels superior where in a
larger, even more diverse community he might not be able to cope.

Carole Reid

The name Carole Reid seems to ring a bell, but I don't know why. Anyway, I don't know why she felt compelled to write such a mean-spirited letter about Swan. Liberals always charge that conservatives are mean-spirited, but it seems to me as we have seen time and time again, the liberals strike with pure venom.

Does Carole even understand the situation? A man who is from Othello, who drives to Pullman to get a degree to become a teacher, who has bi-racial children has been treated poorly by his professors. He has been called a whitsupremacistst. Hessentiallyly was told implicitly that he hates his own children.

What horrible crimes has he committed in the College of Education? He believes in God. He believes in right and wrong. He is conservative.

This is an interview I had with Mr. Swan last month on The PES. http://radio.thepes.com/show/audio/101005/PES%20101005%20(40kbs).mp3

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The New Lowe's Low-Down

In today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Michelle Dupler addressed the "rumor" of a Lowe's opening up in the Moscow-Pullman Corridor. She contacted both the developer (The Hawkins Companies in Boise) and Lowe's, who both declined to comment on plans for either a Pullman or Moscow store. The Whitman County planning office has not received any paperwork or plans as of yet. And signs announcing the proposed shopping center mysteriously disappeared about a week after the commissioner's approved the zoning for the corridor.

Well, there's a lot more legs to this story than T.V. Reed's Target rumor.

With big box stores, discretion is paramount. This may come as a shock, I know, but big box stores are not always welcomed with glee in the towns in which choose to build. It doesn't surprise me at all that Hawkins and Lowe's would be mum with the press, especially with PARD blathering on their website about the Corridor. They will get all their ducks in a row, maybe for months, before they submit an application with the county, much as Wal-Mart did in Pullman and Moscow.

Pullman business maven April Coggins reports:
"Whitworth College is making a push to expand to Whitworth University. The proposed Lowes site/land on the Corridor was willed to Whitworth College. It is a property that Whitworth wants to sell to raise money for their expansion to a university."
And the mysterious disappearing signs?:
"The signs were on state right-of-way. WSDOT asked that they be removed since the signs were competing with WSDOT signs. I'm sure Hawkins Companies will repost the signs at some point in the future on their property."

It Ain't Just Wal-Mart

Scotty brought up the Washington minimum wage and "living wages" the other day. An AP story published today says that "living wage" jobs are hard to find in the Northwest:
Study: Living wage jobs tough to nab in Northwest
The Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — There's a wide gap between the number of job seekers and the number of open jobs in the Pacific Northwest that pay a living wage, according to a new study by a coalition of social justice groups.

The regional analysis, released by the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations on Thursday, found that the economy in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Montana is failing to create enough living wage jobs for those looking for work. In Idaho, 29 percent of available jobs don't pay enough to adequately support a single person without children, the study found, and 78 percent of open and available jobs don't pay enough to adequately support a single adult with two children.

"That's not too surprising. In terms of what it takes to support a household in Idaho, it's not something that can be done with one wage-earner," said John Church, a visiting economics professor at Boise State University who was not involved in the study. "A lot of jobs don't pay exceptionally well in Idaho, so it takes two people working, sometimes a job and a half each, to keep up."

The study found that the gap between available jobs paying a living wage and the number of job seekers is largest when it comes to single adults supporting two children. There are eight such adults for every living-wage job opening in Idaho, the study found, and 21 such adults for each living wage job opening in Oregon. The ratio in Montana is 14 to 1, compared to 12 to 1 in Washington.

The federation used 2004 data from agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and state Labor and Industry statistics to come up with the cost of living, the number of job seekers and the jobs currently available in each of the four states.

A living wage is one that provides enough money to cover the basic necessities, cover taxes and other obligations and save a little for emergencies, all without public assistance, said Leo Morales, spokesman for the Idaho Community Action Network, one of four state organizations that make up the federation. The living wage has increased by more than 7 percent since 2002, in part because of rising energy costs and other expenses, Morales said.

"The stark reality of the job gap is that there's just not enough out there to support Idaho families," Morales said. "The government needs to be more responsible for bringing jobs into the state."

Idaho lawmakers have made some efforts to boost wages, setting $15.50 an hour as a benchmark. During the 2004 legislative session, lawmakers enacted a $1,000 tax credit for every new job created that pays more than $15.50 an hour and includes health care. But the effectiveness of the incentive won't be clear until all the extended tax returns are in, and that won't happen until Dec. 1, said Dan John, the state's tax policy manager.

The federation is a group of four statewide social justice organizations in the Northwest Besides the Idaho Community Action Network, member organizations are Montana People's Action, Oregon Action and Washington Citizen Action.

It defined a living wage for a single adult in Idaho as $9.30 an hour. Montana was slightly less, at $9.07, and Oregon and Washington were higher at $10.77. Give that single adult two children to support, and the living wage jumps to $20.28 an hour in Idaho or more than $42,000 a year based on a 40-hour work week, and more than two dollars more an hour in Oregon and Washington.

In a family of four, both adults must bring home a combined wage of more than $26 an hour in Idaho, or more than $54,000 a year, and more than $28 an hour in Oregon.

That's far more than the federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour — which both Idaho and Montana adopt. Oregon and Washington have higher minimum wage requirements, which are $7.25 and $7.35 an hour, respectively.

"The state needs to consider increasing the minimum wage," Morales said. "$5.15 an hour is just not enough for families."

But research by analysts at the Idaho Department of Commerce and Labor suggests that raising Idaho's minimum wage by a dollar an hour would only affect 5.7 percent of Idaho's work force.

The state offers a work force development training fund designed to help workers earn higher wages, said Bob Fick with the Idaho Department of Commerce and Labor. The program has been in effect since 1996, but is scheduled to end at the start of 2007 unless the Legislature decides to extend it.

"Historically, the people who are trained wind up making 27 percent more than when they started, and the retention rate is about 87 percent," Fick said.

Such programs help, but the best way for states to boost wages is by attracting a variety of jobs, said Church, the BSU professor. With more jobs, companies will be forced to offer higher pay and benefits to compete for workers.
Obviously, everyone doesn't work at Wal-Mart, so the reason the numbers of "living wage" jobs are so low is not because of them, as PARD so disingenuously claims. I really take issue with these "social justice" groups that expect anyone, regardless of capability, training, or motivation, to be paid $15.50 an hour or more. First of all, it would destroy small business as we know it. Secondly, all unskilled workers would be eliminated from the workforce and you would see mass unemployment and rioting as in France now. Lastly, whatever happened to the good old American work ethic? What happened to getting educated, working hard, and moving up the ladder? Now, like everything else, a good salary is just one more thing everyone feels they are entitled to.

Sign of the Apocalypse?

What is this? Has Wal-Mart begun "raping a hillside"? Are they paving over a wheatfield and destroying sensitive wetlands?

Not exactly. Construction has begun on Schweitzer Engineering Lab's new five-story corporate headquarters and conference center off NE Terre View Drive in Pullman.

Superficial Elitist Anti-Big Box Activists

Another great column from Don Brunell, President of the Association of Washington Business. Notice the scary similarities in his column between the San Francisco superficial elitist anti-big box activists and our own superficial elitist anti-big box activists right here on the Palouse.
Consumers want low prices, good value, and convenience. People want jobs and opportunity, and elected officials want tax revenue.

So you’d think a new Home Depot would be just the thing to reinvigorate a depressed neighborhood in San Francisco. Yet, after ten years, the store has yet to gain city approval.

Opponents have battled the store since the very beginning, and that battle is still raging. Recently, hundreds of people turned out to watch the Planning Commission vote on an environmental study for the project. Protestors and supporters spilled out of the main meeting room into three hearing rooms and hallways. After four hours of public comment, the commissioners voted to accept the study. Opponents immediately appealed the decision.

What could cause such chaos?

Home Depot wants to build a two-level, 140,000-square-foot store in the Bayview neighborhood of San Francisco on the site of an old vacant lumber yard. The rejuvenated location would stop the flight of Home Depot buyers to adjacent suburbs to shop.

Opponents say the store would increase traffic and destroy mom-and-pop businesses in the city. Supporters point to the 200 new jobs – half of which would go to residents in surrounding communities – and $500,000 a year in new tax revenue.

Ironically, some of the project’s most ardent supporters are neighbors who hope the store will rejuvenate their economically depressed neighborhood. "Right now, what do we have? Nothing," said lifelong resident Darnell Helton.

Unmoved, opponents dismiss the jobs and tax revenue the Home Depot would provide, saying they’re more concerned about maintaining the character of the neighborhood and the charm of small businesses in the area.

But many nearby residents want their neighborhood to change. “It's just two totally different realities," said Angelo King, head of the Bayview-Hunters Point Project Area Committee that is counting on Home Depot to provide 100 entry-level jobs. "They're talking about traffic, and we're talking about dodging bullets," he said.

Anti-box store activists like those in San Francisco are in danger of appearing to be superficial elitists who care more about neighborhood charm than the neighborhood people who need affordable merchandize and good jobs.

When you think about it, the pitched battles being waged across the nation against Home Depot and other big box stores overlook the most basic principle of capitalism: Consumers, not the government or the courts, make the ultimate decision about where they shop.

As The San Francisco Examiner editorial board pointed out, “…no one can make San Franciscans spend money at Home Depot, and if people continue to spend money at the homegrown businesses they say they want in their neighborhoods, those businesses will continue to thrive. Businesses that are conveniently located, provide unique goods or services, and enjoy the support of the community have survived or grown even when cheaper alternatives have been available.”

Those editors have it just right.

Consumers are in charge of the American marketplace. They always have been. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.
In my opinion, it is elitism and classism that ultimately drive the opposition to Wal-Mart more than union politics or environmentalism. The modern left wing abhors what they see as the mundane 9-to-5 existence that 99% of the rest of the world experiences. The intellectual elite choose to be professors, lawyers, doctors, activists, professional students, or just unemployed ne'er-do-wells, anything but conform to the meaningless capitalist world. Chuck Millham's column in the Daily News two days ago did a great job touching on the disconnect between the modern Democratic Party and the working class people it supposedly represents.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Target -- Much better than WalMart

I saw something today that reminded me how much better off our community would be with a Target. Yes, that is right, our community would benefit by having Target.

How many other mega-chain stores prohibit the Salvation Army from ringing their bells at Christmas Time? That is what Pullman needs. Why was it that WalMart is being rejected and Target is given a free pass?

Triumph of the Elitists

Since we're talking about the new agitprop film called "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of a Low Price" that PARD screened last night, you should know that Fox News reporter Brit Hume interviewed Byron York of the National Review about the movie.

Mr. York has spoken with Don Hunter, the former owner of H&H Hardware in Middlefield, Ohio. H&H is portrayed in the movie as a "Mom-and-Pop" store ruthlessly destroyed by Wal-Mart. The truth is that Mr. Hunter's store closed THREE months before Wal-Mart opened and the closing of the store had NO CONNECTION with Wal-Mart. But Mr. Hunter hates Wal-Mart, so why let the facts get in the way?

Leni Riefenstahl and Sergei Eisenstein would have been proud.

For a compete list of Greenwald's over-exaggerations, goofs, and truth stretching, click here.

The Prattling Prevaricators of PARD

Webster’s defines “spokesman” as “a person who speaks as the representative of another or others often in a professional capacity”.

It seemed odd therefore when “Baghdad Chris” Lupke, the PARD spokesman, attempted in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News yesterday to dismiss Chuck Millham’s allegations of PARD’s union ties:
I have no special expertise nor have I received any help, training, support or funding from any such national union movement. I am not a member of a union nor is anyone in my family.

At a recent Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development meeting, I asked if anyone was – no one raised their hand.
Lupke used the pronoun “I” four times in those two paragraphs. What about “PARD” or “we”? That, my friends, is a non-denial denial. “Nor is anyone in my family” was great, very reminiscent of Nixon’s famous “Checkers” speech.

And what is Lupke running? A quiz show? Why ask for a show of hands at the PARD meeting? Isn’t he in a position to know whether or not PARD is receiving outside contributions from the UFCW or associated anti-Wal-Mart groups. Embarrassingly for Lupke and PARD, the day following Lupke's pathetic letter, a story ran in the Daily Evergreen about PARD’s screening of the anti-Wal-Mart movie directly contradicting this “denial”:
“It’s slavery,” said Anthony Walters, a representative of UFCW Local 1439, who answered questions after the video presentation. “When workers are kept in the workplace, forced to pay rent and utility fees that exceed their wages, it is slavery.”
Whoa! Hey! Who let that guy in here?! BTW Brother Walters, anyone who works for Wal-Mart does so voluntarily. In Washington, state workers have to pay union fees, whether they are a member of the union or not, or face being fired. That may not be slavery, but it sounds like indentured servitude at the very least.

Lupke may have no special expertise in activism but some PARD members have written books and given papers at professional conclaves on the subject. The whole “we’re just plain folks” spiel is unseemly coming from former Fulbright scholar Lupke.

On a different note, according to the Evergreen article, there was a sighting of former city council candidate Gary “The Phantom Menace” Johnson at the PARD cinema absurdité event. As you may recall, Candidate Johnson refused all interviews from the media and did not appear at a public League of Women Voters candidate forum:
“Some people are discouraged because they feel the City Council is in favor of Wal-Mart,” said Gary Johnson, who has lived in Pullman for more than 40 years. “They figure, ‘Why speak up?’ ”
Considering Johnson was outvoted by nearly a five-to-one margin by pro-Wal-Mart candidates in Ward 1, the statement should be rephrased to “Some people are encouraged because they feel the City Council is in favor of Wal-Mart. They figure, ‘Why vote for a PARD puppet regime?’”

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Lowe-Down

A few weeks back I mentioned development on the Pullman-Moscow Corridor (SR 270). Rumors have been swirling ever since the Whitman County Commissioners finalized the zoning for the corridor that a Lowe's was moving in to the site on the border with Idaho.

From this site plan, it looks like it's more than just a rumor. Lowe's apparently will anchor a new strip mall with 310,000 sq. ft. of retail space and 7 pads for smaller stores or restaurants.

The combined square footage of this strip mall will exceed the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter by almost 100,000 sq. ft. and the parking lot looks to be as big or bigger. Where was PARD at the public hearing when the corridor zoning was approved? Their website states: "We applaud the recent decision of the Pullman City Council to resist County Commission pressure to extend services to the Moscow-Pullman highway. We believe a far more prudent and economically lucrative option for Pullman would be to push development of any county properties south of town on the route to Lewiston/Clarkston." Ooops.

Hat Tip: April Coggins

"The System Works If You Let Consumers Decide"

Excellent new column from Don Brunell, the President of the Association of Washington Business:
At first blush, it sounds like something out of the old Soviet Union in the 1950s. “You must sign this pledge, or you will not be allowed to do business.”

But it’s not Russia, it’s happening right here in Washington, and Thurston County Democrats are drawing national attention in 2005. In their October newsletter, they highlight an effort by so-called social justice activists to pass a “community values” ordinance for businesses in Olympia and Tumwater.

This Orwellian ordinance would create a values report card for “large corporations” on everything from the environment and labor law to “employees’ and customers’ civil rights.” Companies would be forced to pay a fee for the privilege of being graded against these standards, and businesses that fail to measure up would be denied permission to locate in the city or forced to leave town. The ordinance would also allow activists to file lawsuits if the standards are not enforced to their satisfaction.

Proponents admit that this is their latest salvo against Wal-Mart. Labor unions have tried unsuccessfully for years to convince Wal-Mart employees to join a union. This latest gimmick is just a scheme to use government to accomplish what they could not.

In a recent letter to the editor published in The Olympian, activist Susan Bee writes, “The community values ordinance asserts citizen authority over corporate actions and is an exercise of our democratic right of self-determination.” Bee claims the ordinance is the only way individual citizens can have leverage over big corporations.

Not true.

Under capitalism, consumers have the ultimate power over businesses. If they don’t like how a company operates or the products it produces, they “vote with their feet” and shop elsewhere. A company without customers will go out of business. In fact, some of America’s industrial giants have learned that lesson well when consumers started buying from their foreign competitors.

The fact is, it’s in a company’s best interests to provide good pay and benefits in order to attract and keep good employees. Jim Senegal of Costco says paying good wages and benefits isn’t altruism, “It’s just good business.” That’s true. Happy, productive employees work harder and provide better customer service, and that translates into higher sales. Companies that pay poorly lose money because of higher employee turnover and lose customers because of poor service. That’s how the system works.

Despite a multi-year “education” effort, so-called social justice activists and union leaders have failed to mobilize consumers to support their campaign against Wal-Mart. Now, they want to use the power of government to do what they could not. These people seem to have forgotten that it was Wal-Mart and its foundation that contributed $26 million cash and millions in products and services to Hurricane Katrina victims, despite several of its stores being looted and ransacked in New Orleans.

But this is not about Wal-Mart.

This so-called values ordinance may be aimed at Wal-Mart, but it’s a shotgun blast that will cause a lot of collateral damage. Businesses are already required to comply with thousands of laws and regulations. In fact, the cost to American businesses to comply with just federal regulations exceeded $1.1 trillion in 2004. Establishing a set of nebulous standards, ever-moving goal posts, and the constant threat of lawsuits is a recipe for disaster.

Frankly, this concept of government-approved values is scary. Which bureaucrat decides the values that business owners must follow? Which businesses should be required to comply? Today, Wal-Mart. Tomorrow…? And why not adopt a set of “values” that individual citizens must comply with or be run out of town?

The activists pushing the values ordinance are not trying to give the people a say. The people (consumers) have already spoken – the activists just don’t like the answer.
"The people (consumers) have already spoken – the activists just don’t like the answer." Sounds like Pullman.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Washington Leads Nation in Minimum Wage

Leading the nation in minimum wage is not something we should be proud of. Why do people insist that by increasing the amount of money someone earns, that they will be better off? Why do people earn minimum wage to begin with?

People earn minimum wage because they are working an unskilled job that does not take any kind of higher education to get. College graduates don't go out and solicit jobs at Burger King for minimum wage, well, unless they are a liberal arts majors. Instead college graduates go out and work in jobs that offer benefits, high wages, and typically job satisfaction. People who go to community colleges and vocational colleges typically earn more than minimum wage. No one applys to be the greeter at WalMart once he graduates from high school and expects to retire with the job.

Those who fight for a high minimum wage and/or a "living wage" think that those who don't aspire to do anything more than flip burgers or greet people at WalMart should some how be rewarded, the same as those who choose some sort of higher education.

According to the Washington State Department of L&I Website Washington's, minimum wage will increase on Jan 1, 2006, from $7.35 an hour to a nation-leading $7.63 an hour. How does that help anyone?

Assuming all food, goods, and service prices were to freeze and only the minimum wage increases then, yes, it would be a help. But those who want a minimum wage increase do not seem to realize that when the minimum wage goes up, so does the cost of doing business.

Lets look at a fictional pizza place in Pullman. There are the ingredients that are needed to make the dough, cheese, sauce, and boxes to name a few items. Each of those items that come from Washington will be more expensive as the farmer, paper-mill, printer, and trucking company all have to potentially pay more to create their respective product or service. So once those more expensive items make it to the pizza place, the owner must pay more. He of course will pass along that increase to the customer.

Then the employees of the pizza place will also be making more money. Many pizza places have several employees on the clock at any given time during their hours of operation. Typically opening at 11:00 am and closing around 1:00 in the morning, plus the time for prep before opening, and cleaning after closing. It is not a huge amount on any given day, but it adds up each week. Anyone who actually runs a business will tell you their employees are the biggest cost to any business.

So with the higher costs involved with the ingredients for the pizza place and the increased cost for the employees, the owner will raise his prices. But it is not just the pizza place, all the business will see some costs increases and price increases. So in the end the extra money that someone is making because of the higher minimum wage is eaten up in the higher costs of purchasing goods and services. But the increase will cause some inflation and, in Washington at years end, we will see a new increase in minimum wage and the cycle will start all over again.

PARD and other groups are calling for a "Living Wage". A living wage, according to Universal Living Wage (http://www.universallivingwage.org/) is the amount of money someone working 40 hours a week would need to make to afford a 1 bedroom apartment at a cost of 1/3 of the monthly income.

They use the HUD Fair Market Rate for the cost of the 1 bedroom apartment. In Pullman the calculation for this is as follows:
1) $421.00 -- HUD Fair Market Rate for a 1 bedroom apartment in Whitman County
2) $421.00 / .3 = $1403.33 -- Monthly Wage with 1/3 of the income going towards housing
3) $1403.33 x 12 = $16,480 -- Yearly wage
4) $16,480 / 2080 = $8.10 -- Hourly Living Wage in Whitman County

The Universal Living Wage Website includes all sorts of "myth-busting". Here is one example:

Myth #12: "If wages increase, the cost of everything else will increase."

FACT: Wages are just one of many factors that make up the cost of an item. Factors such as manufacturing, transportation, equipment, rent, advertising, business location, income demographics of the community, employee recruitment and training, expenses all add together with wages to create the cost make-up of an item. Clearly, the cost of goods does not have to automatically rise just because one small portion of their make-up increases.

As I wrote earlier, the biggest cost to a business is the employees. The Website "Fact" tries to argue that wages are a "small" portion of the make-up for the cost of goods and services. They also forget that the minimum wage will probably also effect the "factors such as manufacturing, transportation, equipment, rent, advertising" which in the end also effects the costs of goods and services.

WalMart is planning on a Supercenter in Pullman and one in Moscow. We should be thankful they would like to put a store in each city. Let me demonstrate with a simplistic example.

In Moscow, assume 15 workers on duty at any given time. The store will be open for 24 hours in a day. So that is 360 man-hours per day. At Moscow's minimum wage of $5.15 an hour, it would cost WalMart $1,854 a day to run. Lets assume WalMart is only closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas, so there are 363 days in a year they are open. $1,854 x 363 days is $673,002 a year to operate assuming they are only paying minimum wage.

In Pullman, assume 15 workers on duty at any given time. The store will be open for 24 hours in a day. So that is 360 man-hours per day. At Pullman's minimum wage of $7.63 an hour, it would cost WalMart $2,746.80 a day to run. Lets assume WalMart is only closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas, so there are 363 days in a year they are open. $2,746.80 x 363 days is $997,088.40 a year to operate assuming they are only paying minimum wage.

That comes out to a $324,086.40 a year savings by only operating in Moscow. So, yes PARD, would should be happy a business like WalMart is willing to locate in a place where they will pay nearly 1/3 of a million a year more to operate.

The whole point being; Washington State voters are known for making poor choices when it comes to money. They made a poor choice when they voted for the minimum wage to be tied to inflation. Maybe it is time for us to re-evaluate that tie.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Colton Teachers May Decertify from WEA

From today's Seattle Times:
...other small Washington districts also were considering decertification, and pointed to the Colton School District.

...Tim Sperber, who teaches English and social studies and is the athletic administrator at Colton High School, is spearheading the effort. Sperber said, however, that the possibility of decertification is way off on the horizon.

He quit paying dues to the statewide union last year and joined Northwest Professional Educators, to save money and because he feels a lot of union money goes into the Democratic Party and he is a Republican.

"We've just started looking at options," Sperber said. Of the 16 teachers in the district, five or six have joined the non-union organization.
I wish the Colton teachers the best of luck in getting out from under the corrupt left-wing union rackets just as the Sprague-Lamont teachers and WSU skilled workers have managed to do recently.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Reality Check

Some misguided folks in Pullman believe that "urban sprawl" is ruining our "quality of life". Then there's the way the rest of the world views Pullman.

From Sports Illustrated On Campus's Top 10 PAC-10 Road Trips:
9. Washington State

One former Washington State coach used to half-joking say that Pullman wasn't the end of the world, but you could see it from there. Pullman is a college town in every sense of the word as its population of about 25,000 people is all about Washington State. Despite the civil pride -- Cougars emblems are found everywhere from intersection signs to license plates -- the town offers little in the area of nightlife, and the annual snow storms and chilly temperatures make getting around an adventure. Most visitors, including visiting teams, must stay in neighboring Moscow, Idaho, closer to the University of Idaho.
We should invite SI back after the all-night student party zone in the Wal-Mart Supercenter parking lot gets going. I'm sure we'll move up the list then.

The full WSU profile goes on to state:
You can get anywhere in Pullman by foot in less than 45 minutes, though it seems longer when it's snowing at 2 a.m. and it's your only option to get home. You can get anywhere on campus in less than 20 minutes.
And to think some people believe we need a trolley to get more students into downtown.

Can that really be discrimination?

I was floored this morning when I read an article in the Seattle Times about the federal government threatening to sue Southern Illinois University for discrimination against, get this, white males. I cannot say this is the first of its kind, but wow. It was a shock to see. I just love the last two sentences of the articles' excerpt.

From The Seattle Times

CHICAGO — The U.S. Justice Department has threatened to sue Southern Illinois University next week unless the college opens up three paid fellowship programs once reserved for minority and female students.

The government says it will file the lawsuit because the fellowships discriminate against "whites, nonpreferred minorities and males," according to a letter dated Nov. 4.

Federal officials say the graduate programs, which include stipends, violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bars employment discrimination.

In its reply, the university has asked for more time to "consider appropriate modifications" and to provide the Justice Department with information about the programs, a spokeswoman for the university in Carbondale said.
How about a modification such as DROPPING RACE AND SEX as a factor?

"We have no reason to believe that these programs are discriminatory," said spokeswoman Sue Davis.
Silly federal government... it is not discrimination when you do it against a white male.