WUI (Writing under the influence)

Somebody once said we are all Americans, sometimes born in the wrong places.
On a warm autumn day in 1986, while enjoying beer with my college buddies,
I decided to join my new homeland.

I've come to appreciate the ideals that helped create this great country.
Liberalism, political-correctness, multiculturalism and moral equivalence
are destroying it.

This old house Grovenet Wal*Mart Visiting Poland American wine better than French.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005



I've long suspected that many people hate Wal*Mart simply because it's a very successful red-state corporation that uses free-market principles to do right by its shareholders and customers, and, in the process, benefits host communities in a way the liberal elites reserve only for governments.

Of course, Wal*Mart foes can't honestly state their true motives for opposing the retail giant. But two columns I've read recently do a pretty good job exposing them.

First, Michael Medved, my favorite talk show host and movie critic, explains why a certain new movie (advertised recently on GroveNet) is simply another anti-capitalistic manifesto.
[...] 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.
As usual, there is plenty of arrogance directed at the stupid Americans in this and other Greenwald's movies.
More recently, Greenwald has focused on unabashedly left-wing documentaries, including last year's "Outfoxed," an angry exposesé" 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.
The other column by Sebastian Mallaby entitled appropriately Progressive Wal-Mart, disputes many "facts" presented by Wal*Mart detractors in their fight against it and shows how Wal*Mart actually does a better job then governments to improve lives of so called working poor. Mallaby also makes fun of anti-capitalistic elites by pointing out that their critique of Wal*Mart is really critique of the free market system.
There's a comic side to the anti-Wal-Mart campaign brewing in Maryland and across the country. Only by summoning up the most naive view of corporate behavior can the critics be shocked -- shocked! -- by the giant retailer's machinations. Wal-Mart is plotting to contain health costs! But isn't that what every company does in the face of medical inflation? Wal-Mart has a war room to defend its image! Well, yeah, it's up against a hostile campaign featuring billboards, newspaper ads and a critical documentary movie. Wal-Mart aims to enrich shareholders and put rivals out of business! Hello? What business doesn't do that?

Wal-Mart's critics allege that the retailer is bad for poor Americans. This claim is backward: As Jason Furman of New York University puts it, Wal-Mart is "a progressive success story." Furman advised John "Benedict Arnold" Kerry in the 2004 campaign and has never received any payment from Wal-Mart; he is no corporate apologist. But he points out that Wal-Mart's discounting on food alone boosts the welfare of American shoppers by at least $50 billion a year. The savings are possibly five times that much if you count all of Wal-Mart's products.

These gains are especially important to poor and moderate-income families. The average Wal-Mart customer earns $35,000 a year, compared with $50,000 at Target and $74,000 at Costco. Moreover, Wal-Mart's "every day low prices" make the biggest difference to the poor, since they spend a higher proportion of income on food and other basics. As a force for poverty relief, Wal-Mart's $200 billion-plus assistance to consumers may rival many federal programs. Those programs are better targeted at the needy, but they are dramatically smaller. Food stamps were worth $33 billion in 2005, and the earned-income tax credit was worth $40 billion.

Set against these savings for consumers, Wal-Mart's alleged suppression of wages appears trivial. Arindrajit Dube of the University of California at Berkeley, a leading Wal-Mart critic, has calculated that the firm has caused a $4.7 billion annual loss of wages for workers in the retail sector. This number is disputed: Wal-Mart's pay and benefits can be made to look good or bad depending on which other firms you compare them to. When Wal-Mart opened a store in Glendale, Ariz., last year, it received 8,000 applications for 525 jobs, suggesting that not everyone believes the pay and benefits are unattractive.
Both columns underscore one very important point: Wal*Mart represents the free-market system we still enjoy in this country. Most Americans still believe in this system and are not ready to embrace socialism just yet, especially when they see the failed economic models of France and Germany. This makes them less dependent on the government and thus more difficult to control, which is the ultimate goal of the liberal elites.


Cable TV and DSL

I have no cable. The reason is the price. I just can't imagine spending $30/month for even more TV that I already get with an antenna installed on the roof. However, if I could buy just a few channels for a fraction of the cost, I just might do it.
The head of the FCC says consumers could save money if they're allowed to choose what cable channels they want. Kevin Martin says this 'a la carte' approach would also help parents keep closer tabs on what their children watch, and keep channels they don't want out of the house.
Not surprisingly, however, cable companies hate this idea.
The head of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association said requiring the cable industry to offer 'a la carte' pricing is a dangerous idea. Kyle McSlarrow likened it to telling newspapers they have to sell the business and sports sections of their newspapers separately.
But I think they have no choice if they ever want me as their customer. Of course, they fear that their existing customers may drop the channels they don't like to save money. But should they be so afraid?
Maybe not. My local phone company, Verizon, offered a new DSL service about two months ago: $15/month for about 768kbs. I signed up immediately. I used to pay $10/month for dial-up access and $7/month for voice mail because I was too cheap to get another phone line. So by switching to this new DSL product I actually save money. When the only product Verizon offered was 1.5Mbs for $30/month I wasn't even tempted.

The question now is: will existing Verizon customers switch to the less expensive product when they realize they don't all that bandwidth? If not, cable companies may just follow this model to increase their customer base. Otherwise, I will just keep on getting cable TV for three months every four years to watch the soccer cup.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


More on illegal immigration

IBD reports on interesting developments regarding the 14th amendment in Monday's editorial.

In testimony this past October before the House Judiciary Committee, John C. Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University and a fellow at the Claremont Institute, argued that the prevailing interpretation gives too much weight to place of birth than originally intended and should be changed.

Eastman argued: "Birth, together with being a person subject to the complete and exclusive jurisdiction of the United States (i.e., not owing allegiance to another sovereign) was the constitutional mandate."

Indeed, the 14th Amendment reads: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and (italics added) subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

As Eastman argues, illegal aliens from Mexico are still foreign nationals and are not subject to U.S. jurisdiction, except for purposes of deportation. Therefore, their children born on American soil should not automatically be U.S. citizens.

During debate on the 14th Amendment, Sen. Jacob Merritt Howard of Michigan added the jurisdiction language specifically to avoid accident of birth being the sole criteria for citizenship.

And if citizenship was determined just by place of birth, why did it take an act of Congress in 1922 to give American Indians birthright citizenship if they already had it?

Rep. Nathan Deal of Georgia seeks to clarify the situation through HR698. It would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to deny automatic citizenship to children born in the U.S. of parents who are not citizens or are not permanent resident aliens.

The current interpretation of birthright citizenship may have been a huge mistake. And, given the burden illegal aliens have imposed on our welfare, educational, health care and legal systems, it may have been a very costly one.

Becoming a U.S. citizen should require more than your mother successfully sneaking past the U.S. Border Patrol.


I first heard about something happening in the House in October from this piece in the Human Events.

U.S. Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind., presided at a House hearing last week entitled "Birthright Citizenship, Dual Citizenship and the Meaning of Sovereignty." It's unfortunate that this important subject received little media coverage.

The statistics are shocking. At least 383,000 babies are born in the United States every year to illegal immigrants; that's 10 percent of all U.S. births and about 40 percent of indigent births.

The cost to U.S. taxpayers is tremendous because all those babies, called anchor babies, claim birthright citizenship. Their mothers and other relatives then sign up for a vast stream of taxpayer benefits.
I wonder why my local paper is not talking at all about the costs of illegal immigration. There is so much discussion going on about how Wal*Mart ruins communities around the country and not one word on how illegal aliens affect our schools, health care and crime.

In another editorial, IBD talks about interesting study on the subject.
Conventional wisdom says immigrants are not a financial burden to taxpayers because they work hard, pay taxes and rarely go on the dole. But it's a myth, and a new study blows another hole in it.

The University of Florida finds that immigrant families have been costing that state a net $1,800 per household per year, a financial burden much larger than previously thought.

The findings surprised the study's author, who is a pro-immigration Democrat. After crunching the numbers, economist David Denslow discovered immigrants — legal and illegal — were consuming much more in public services and paying much less in taxes than the average resident.

Chief among the government services they were consuming were education and Medicaid.

But wait a minute. Didn't last decade's welfare reform push a lot of immigrants off the dole?

Yes, but the decline in immigrant cash aid and food stamps has not resulted in a significant savings for taxpayers, because it has been almost entirely offset by increases in the cost of providing Medicaid to immigrant households.

In fact, a recent study by the Center for Immigration Studies found that the average welfare payout to immigrant households, both legal and illegal, has changed little and remains about $2,000 a year, which is 50% higher than the payout for natives.

In 1996, 22% of immigrant households were on the dole (compared with 15% for natives), according to CIS. By 2001, the share rose to 23%. Over that period, average Medicaid payments to immigrants jumped to $1,495 from $1,203.

Immigrant households account for a growing share of the welfare caseload.

The number of immigrants using at least one major welfare program has steadily increased, with the exception of a small drop in 1997.

Between 1996 and 2001, the number of immigrant households using the welfare system grew by 750,000 to more than 3 million — accounting for almost 18% of all U.S. households on welfare. That share is expected to rise with continued high rates of immigration.

And if you think immigrants, most of whom are poor Mexicans, will stop depending on U.S. welfare as they settle into jobs and even careers here, think again.

CIS found that welfare use actually increases significantly with duration of stay in the U.S. Not until they have lived here more than 20 years does it start to go down on average.

"To some extent, assimilation for many immigrants means assimilation into the welfare system," the report said. "This is the case for both immigrants in general and for legal immigrants."

The Florida and national studies show that immigrant use of the welfare system remains well above that of natives and creates a significant cost to taxpayers. Their findings tip the debate over the cost of immigrants in favor of immigration reformers.
I said in this post that this issue would most likely cost Republicans dearly in 2006.

I'm not at all impressed with what the president had to say about his plans to deal with the problem. In fact, for the first time, I do not believe he is sincere. I'm all for free markets but the status quo punishes tax payers and rewards employers. I sympathize with some of them as they can't just move their operations to another country like other businesses can. But I'm for fair free markets. And the current laws allowing illegal immigrants to use public services are not fair.

So what should Republicans do? When Bush and the Congress back their rhetoric with serious actions and serious measures, I may start to listen again.


No harm done

What would happened if I started cheating on my taxes? According to this editorial I would be causing no harm and my actions shouldn't be called illegal. After all, I'm only pursuing my American dream. And some arbitrary laws shouldn't prevent me from taking care of my family.


Roads for jobs

Leaving aside its racist and sexist implications, this new government initiative wouldn't be a complete waste of money if we finally started building new roads in this state.
The Portland Community College Skills Center on Monday received a $150,000 state grant to expand training and apprenticeship opportunities for women and minorities interested in pursuing careers in heavy highway construction.

Monday, November 28, 2005


Back to work

I'm back from a 1,500 miles Thanksgiving trip to Utah. I'm looking at my e-mail box and the backlog of things I want to post here. Not being sure where to start, I've decided to go to bed. Will try again tomorrow night.

Saturday, November 19, 2005



Are Democrats outsourcing Bush-bashing because the political price they have been paying for the past 5 years have been too high?

Friday, November 18, 2005


Chuck Riley vs. ???

So who is running against Chuck Riley to retake House District 29 for the Republicans? Nobody knows. In the mean time, just in case, Chuck is preparing and playing some pool with his supporters.

Rep. Chuck Riley represents Western Washington County and is being targeted by the Republicans who want desperately to take back the Oregon House of Representatives. He needs help from all of us and he deserves it, considering the way he votes. Below is a notice of a fundraiser but don't be discouraged by the "lowest" figure on this notice; I'm sure that smaller donations will be appreciated.
-- Lee Coleman

Representative Chuck Riley Invites you to join him at Moe's Billiard Hall in Forest Grove for the 2nd annual Chuck Riley Invitational Pool Tournament

Tuesday, November 15, 8-9:30 pm
Moe's Billiard Hall

2036 Pacific Ave.
Forest Grove, OR 97116

Gold Sponsor: $2,500
Silver Sponsor: $1,000
Bronze Sponsor: $500
Individual Attendance: $100


(Old) Europe just can't catch a break

Everything seems to be going wrong for the old Europe these days. As much as I try and avoid buying European wine, Europeans seem to be buying American further depressing already highly subsidized European wine market.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Quote of the day

Not only do the liberal Democrats apparently want their own congressional votes from 1998 and 2002 back. It sometimes seems that they are actually nostalgic for the same period, when Saddam Hussein was running Iraq, and there were no coalition soldiers to challenge his rule, and when therefore by definition there was peace, and thus things were more or less OK. Their current claim to have been fooled or deceived makes them out, on their own account, to be highly dumb and gullible. But as dumb and gullible as that?
-- Christopher Hitchens, Monday, Nov. 14, 2005 at http://www.slate.com/id/2130293/nav/tap2/

Yahoo! FareChase - Search multiple travel sites in one click.

Thursday, November 10, 2005



Just one thought on yesterday's elections. Beware of public employees' unions. They already have so many members, and so much power and influence that they may have reached the critical mass needed to paralyze the political system so as to make it completely ineffective.

What we are observing in France is partially caused by the French economic model, which employs so many people in the public sector that a mere threat of a strike renders any mention of reforms a moot point.

This is what happened in California yesterday.

So while Democrats celebrate, we all should worry.

The teachers' strike in the Oregon Trail School District is in its 13th day and there seems to be no end of it in sight. The teacher union's arrogance comes form its power. We have to take that power away from public employees' unions.

There is some talk of measures similar to those that failed in California being prepared in Oregon for the 2006 election. We have to do better than Californians did yesterday.

Lest it be too late.


Will Oregonians be next?

And put some damper on the light rail?



This has to be some kind of a record. Only two months after parliamentary elections, the winning party, PiS, is facing a vote of confidence today. It's almost guaranteed that all members of PO will vote against PiS given how badly PiS treated PO by preventing its members from holding any major positions in the new government. It's not clear however if this will be enough to bring the new government down. PiS has been actively seeking support of minor parties like LPR and SO.

The whole mess if already costing Poland's economy and the final price could go much higher.

[The minor parties are] demanding a boost in social spending, an increase in the minimum wage and a renegotiation of terms with the EU over farm subsidies [...].

Investors are worried about the comments of new Finance Minister Teresa Lubinska who has said that large, foreign-owned supermarkets are not needed in Poland and has called for an increase in the budget deficit by PLN 2 bln (over the proposed PLN 30 bln by Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz).

These worries are reflected in the fall of the zloty against the dollar and euro in the past two days.

The budget deficit may rise in 2006 if PiS has to compromise with LPR and Samoobrona in return for their support in the vote of confidence.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005



It would be too simplistic to say that what's going on in France is totally Muslims' fault. I don't think that any other group would cause so much damage. But there is something that, while not excusing their actions, explains the behavior of so called "North African immigrants".

My wife lived in Algeria when she was a teenager and graduated from a French high school. When I met her, she had just returned from Oran. She remembered Arabs rather fondly. But she had very mixed views of the French. Not only were they condescending of the Arabs, they treated other nationalities not much better.

In fact, the French (and I know I'm generalizing here) think very contemptuously of the Italians and the Spanish. Within France itself, the French from Paris consider themselves Gods comparing to the French from Marseille.

So given that the French model is an utter economic failure and the jobs as scarce, the predisposition of the French to treat foreigners with disdain creates the alienation that the French Muslims feel.

I also think the French know this. And this is why they are so defensive about the coverage the riots get in world media.

But I can't find much sympathy for the French. Especially after their reporting and lecturing of Americans in wake of the Katrina fallout.

Monday, November 07, 2005


Good news for (moderate) rant-ers

I have to admit. Some things get to me from time to time and I rant about it to whoever is willing to listen. It doesn't last long and I feel good afterwards.

And now I know why.


From coalition to opposition?

After the September victory, the two conservative parties that wiped the parliament's floor with Polish ex-communists had no choice but to create a coalition and try to reconcile their differences since each alone would not be able to rule. I had my misgivings about PiS because, although I liked its social-conservative platform, the economic policies it advocated were the last thing Poland needed.

It seems it was also too much to take for PO, especially after PiS also won the presidency and prevented PO from holding any major positions in the new government. So PO has decided to vote against PiS now and threatened to move into opposition.

It's not clear yet whether PiS can rule without PO. I'm sure that at least two other parties, SO and LPR, would consider joining.


25 and 40

Two anniversaries. Let's hope for the next 25 and 40. Heck, as the Poles say, how about 100 lat?

Friday, November 04, 2005


Fence 'Yes'; anchor babies 'No'

When I first heard about it I thought it was a good idea but somehow I didn't believe it would happen. I still don't have a lot of hope. But something positive is happening. I'm talking about so called "anchor babies" and the fence. Some House Republicans think the former has to go and the latter has to go up.

Wouldn't it be ironic if the federal government hired illegal immigrants to build the fence? Once built, they would be all asked to "try" it and see if it works.

Thursday, November 03, 2005



March 7, 2006: Wal*Mart as city square
March 6, 2006: The editor comes clean. Sort of.
February 28, 2006: Wal*Mart
February 17, 2006: Wal*Mart
February 15, 2006: How can you tell when the hell freezes over?
February 01, 2006: Dereliction of duty
February 01, 2006: There is a story
January 24, 2006: Wal*Mart
January 18, 2006: WA may again beat OR
January 16, 2006: Wal*Mart watch
December 19, 2005: Wal*Mart
December 13, 2005: Wal*Mart
December 13, 2005: Wal*Mart
December 06, 2005: Wal*Mart
December 05, 2005: The price of lettuce
November 30, 2005: Wal*Mart
November 29, 2005: More on illegal immigration
November 03, 2005: Wal*Mart


One week, one more to go

After one week, the American media started paying some attention. It will take another week before we are told who those unidentified rioters are.


Public schools

Why my children don't attend one.


One for good guys

Let's hope there is still some common sense left.



I second it.


Can we ever win?

This makes me doubt.


Bias by omission

Wal-Mart may be bad but this is worse. And the media are willing accomplices.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Wu is against free speech


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