Monday, December 05, 2005

Clarifications on Wal-mart

Yep, Walmart gives primarily to Republicans. So do lots and lots of businesses. Target, for example. And Home Depot, and Macy's for a few others.

Yes, I've heard of the Walmart movie. I read in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago, for example, that the hardware store owner in it who claimed he was being driven out of business by Walmart actually lost his business three months before Walmart even opened.

There's now a new small hardware store right where the old one used to be. According to the owner of the new store, they guy on the documentary's business had been floundering for years. The new store is doing well, Walmart or no.

Naturally, the filmmakers didn't mention that.

I don't understand why Michael Moore, Morgan Spurlock and now the people behind this documentary think they need to lie or obscure the facts.

In most instances, I think the liberals are correct and shouldn't have to hide the truth.

I, for one, would love for poor people to be able to buy fresh vegetables from small farmers markets. In my area, however, the farmers markets are more expensive, mostly open wacky times like Wednesday mornings and none of them take foodstamps. Walmart sells fresh vegetables and sells them really cheaply.


Added after theCSO's post:

I really don't get the filmmaker thing.

I mean, when Michael Moore splices parts of two different Charlton Heston speeches together to imply that he gave a really offensive speech in Colorado right after Columbine, that's straight up lying with film. (For anyone who has seen the movie, Heston said the bit about his cold, dead fingers at a speech in Charlotte a year before Columbine. Moore mixed that footage in with the Colorado footage. You can tell if you watch the tape carefully because Heston is wearing a slightly different suit and a very different tie. Moore did tape Heston's Colorado speech, but there Heston prayed for the victims and didn't say anything offensive, so Moore had to imply that he did for Heston to look as bad as Moore wanted him to.)

When Morgan Spurlock claims in his book in McDonald's that:

"Leftover bits and pieces [of dead cows] are scooped up, ground together and fed back to the cows. And then those cows are ground up and fed to you"

He provides no source for the accusation.

If he hates McDonalds so much, he should prove it. That's called "ruminant feeding" and it is way illegal and has been so for years. If he can prove it, McDonalds will face huge, huge fines. My guess? Spurlock doesn't have any proof or he would have turned McDonald's in and become the Erin-Brockovich-style folk hero he'd so clearly like to be.

A lot of Moore's and Spurlock's mistakes can be written off to bad research, which is what Moore always claims.

But I'd say both Moore's Heston thing and the Walmart folks' accidentally not telling us the real deal with the hardware store has to be intentional.

The worst part to me is, it's so lazy. Can't Moore figure out another way to get across the message that Charleton Heston is an asshat without lying? (The lie didn't fool me, and I still think he's an asshat.) Couldn't the Walmart people find another little town with a real business going under because of WalMart?

I guess lying was just easier and they assumed we'd never notice a different tie, know about the laws against ruminant feeding, or that the New York Times would send somebody to look into that hardware store. Like Howard Dean acting like the cocky kid who hasn't studied and trying to fake his way through a bible question, it just blows up in their faces every time.

I'm really starting to think Joel Monka has a point when he says that liberalism's greatest mistake is assuming people are stupid.



TheCSO said...

There actually is a program in DC for farmer's markets to accept food stamps. It's a supplemental program that gives separate vouchers, and unfortunately is misimplemented to the point that it doesn't do any good. The City Paper had a good article on this program a few months ago. Apparently farmer's markets just aren't a good venue for handling food stamps.

I do agree that the major problem here is the truth-bending. If Moore, Spurlock, et al. are really so right, why do they feel that they must bend the truth over and over? I know why Fox News bends the truth. I know why the Washington Times bends the truth. It's hard to not assume that Moore and Spurlock have a similar underlying motivation, just towards different ends.

indrax said...

*Disclaimer: My mother and brother work for walmart.

They need to lie because it's propaganda, and propaganda needs to be over-the-top. It's not enough that your opponent is just corrupt, you have to convince people that he strangles kittens.

I never really got the argument about Walmart driving out the smaller stores. I like low prices. If you keep wal-mart out and I have to shop at a store that charges more, how does that help me? (and nearly everyone else in the town) Yes downtowns are nice, but are they worth subsidizing with high prices?
No business has a right to exist.

One thing that does concern me
is where this cheap stuff is coming from. This is really an issue larger than walmart. Much of our prosperity is fueled by horrendously cheap labor overseas. I think that's a serious moral issue.

Joel Monka said...

While cheap foreign labor is an issue, it's a separate issue. I say that because any store can buy from overseas, and any chain can get same price Walmart pays. Cheap foreign labor may explain why a foreign product is cheaper than an American product, it does not explain why Walmart is cheaper than K Mart or Target. Walmart's price advantage comes primarily from superior operating systems and management. (superior in a competitive sense, not morally) For example, Walmart does not have wharehouses or distribution centers; computerized inventory and ordering has the factories shipping directly to the stores- a tremendous cost savings. They went to the effort of taking computers to these foreign factories to do this; K Mart did not. To sngle out Walmart from any other importer would only reward sloppy management- it is indeed a much larger issue than Walmart

smijer said...

..."I say that because any store can buy from overseas, and any chain can get same price Walmart pays."...

True any store can buy from overseas. Untrue that any chain can get the same price WalMart pays... For many suppliers, if you cannot sell to WalMart, you cannot stay in business. Only so much product can be sold through competitors. WalMart puts very tough pricing demands on its suppliers... meaning that they a) have to make up the lost profits selling to smaller outlets at higher prices, and b) have to cut cost at every level, meaning lower quality products, cheaper labor, etc.

Being from the south, I have personally seen the death of locally owned business after WalMart comes to town. I've seen throughways become parking lots, and taxpayers subsidizing new traffic lights, truck parking, and widened roads to accommodate traffic.

..."Walmart does not have wharehouses or distribution centers; computerized inventory and ordering has the factories shipping directly to the stores- a tremendous cost savings."...

Actually Walmart does have distribution centers, strategically located all over the U.S. Only small portions of inventory are shipped directly to the stores. This is actually more efficient than bringing product directly to stores, because it allows inventory levels to be kept low, and by consolidating full truckloads to individual stores, it allows shipping costs to be minimized. It's true that they use a smart and advanced just-in-time inventory control system, which they are able to afford because of their gargantuan cash flow... an advantage that not every chain can afford (though it is becoming more affordable as time goes on). And, that is a smart business practice... I won't bitch about it.

I agree with CC & CSO... Although I have no love for WalMart (they are currently building the umpteenth Chattanooga store. They bulldozed a beautiful little foot hill of Lookout Mountain. Our long-time small-town suburb has little time left as a tightly-knit small community, I fear), there is no need for dishonest filmmaking. It's a tactic that undermines the debate and undercuts the credibility of the argument against WalMart. And, it's just wrong. I didn't see the WalMart movie and have no intention to.

It remains true, however, that Always Low Prices do come at a social price. I would rather see more people making a decent living rather than having to depend on cheap vegetables from WalMart, personally.

Chalicechick said...

What great comments. Y'all rock...

I have to say that Walmart does have weaselish business practices, but I'm not certain this particular for of weaselhood should be illegal.


Ender's Girl said...

You people are sick. These are real issues that Moore and Spurlock are talking about. Ruminant feeding DOES still go on - why the hell do you think we have a problem with mad cow disease cropping up here and there, or downed cows? Every time someone goes undercover in a slaughter house ( they always find evidence of this practice. Spurlock's main point with all the work he has done is of course that Americans are killing themselves because they are all so damn fat and he's right about that. Does anyone here really want to argue that point?
As far as Michael Moore goes he was OBVIOUSLY playing a compilation of Charleton's speechs, I have seen the film many time and I never once thought it was the same speech.
And yes occasionally bad research does slip through. Moore especially has a lot of people working for him because he is envolved in many projects at once. Considering he has written serveral books, made quite a few documentaries and had a TV show for two seasons (not to mention hundreds, if not thousands of speaking engagments, interviews, college campus lecture tours etc) - to be able to point out *maybe* 2 mistakes in the last 15 years ???? Come on, the average person makes more mistakes before breakfast. Moore and Spurlock aren't Gods, they're not 100% perfect but considering they are like 99% accurate I think you need to find a stronger argument agianst them. Besides - he who is without sin cast the first stone.
And no one ever said that Wal Mart should be illegal, anti-walmartsits are simply encouraging people to think about their purchases, their purchasing power and what that supports. I am a single mother on food stamps myself. I am a vegan/85% raw foodist and I make it work for my son and I every month using just my food stamps and I buy at least 75% organic foods and nothing from Wal Mart. We need to give low income people creative options, focus on a living wage for everyone, and redistribution of the nations wealth - not cheap Wal Mart crap.
Wal Mart is PURE evil. They create job loss, other businesses suffer, dowtowns die, tax payers foot the bills, entire towns die out or suffer, they manipulate existing zoning laws, treat their workers terribly, run their suppliers out of business if they wont comply with WM unreasonable demands, use false advertising, use sweat shop labor, over charge the consumer, don't pay their fair share of taxes, have a horrible record with women and minorities and stamp out the free market.
What it boils down to is you have two kinds of people who shop at Walmart A) The poor who think (or in small towns may not have) any other option and B) people too LAZY to go to two or three stores to get their shopping done at the best prices.

Please read Why Wal Mart Is Destroying America (and the World), and what you can do about it by Bill Quinn

TheCSO said...

The problem with Moore is not exactly that he gets some facts wrong. To be more precise, the problem is that he gets his facts right in an extremely misleading manner, and encourages his audience to make incorrect conclusions.

When someone makes honest - or even negligent - mistakes of fact, they often get things flat-out wrong. However, when someone makes *malicious* 'mistakes' of fact, they're slippery weasels about it.

Let's take the assertion that the sky is green. Here are two ways I could phrase that assertion:

Honest mistake: "The sky is green."
Malicious 'mistake': "There is green in the sky."

See the difference? You can't exactly say that the dishonest 'mistake' is *wrong* - after all, maybe I was referring to that green airplane over there. Or maybe I was referring to the green component of the white light reflected from the clouds. Still, it leads you towards an incorrect conclusion, and is too convoluted to be an honest mistake. In that sense, it's more damaging than the simple assertion that the sky is indeed green.

PETA is hardly a reliable source either. Like Moore and Spurlock, or the Bush administration for that matter, they have been very clear that they have a specific agenda and aren't interested in letting reality interfere with it.


For a more comprehensive discussion of the intellectual dishonesty in Farenheit 9/11, take a look at War, Lies, and Videotape from the EPPC. There are a number of similar discussions out there; this is the most comprehensive I've found. It contains some good links to other discussions on the subject as well.


As for the assertion that Walmart abuses zoning law, I strongly disagree. I've seen Walmart zoning battles. All they insist on is that the zoning regulations be consistent with state law, and that they be applied equally to all big box stores. This often does mean that they argue for doing what the law actually says, and I have a hard time finding fault with that.

Any local community has the power to control its own development. The exact details vary from state to state, but the basic model is similar. Citizens can first choose whether or not to have zoning at all. In some rural areas, the locals don't want "the government telling them what they can do with their land" and so they choose to have no zoning regulations. Then suddenly after some developer comes in and does something they don't like, they wish they'd zoned after all. Happens a lot on the Outer Banks of NC with these huge quasi-hotel rental developments. The locals hate them, and could have prevented them from being built if they hadn't refused to avail themselves of the mechanisms available for ensuring self-determination of their area's development.

A community that strongly does not want a Walmart can simply zone such that no big box stores over a certain size are allowed. That will exclude Walmart, but it also excludes Target and Home Depot on an equal basis.. and many communities don't want to do that. (Saying "No Walmarts" explicitly would not be allowed; to permit that would make a mockery of equality before the law.) Or the community can implement zoning provisions that shift the cost of infrastructure improvements back where they belong, on the business causing the additional strain on that infrastructure. Sure, Walmart (or whoever) could still request a variance, but then there is public debate and the community, through its elected representatives, does have a legal way to say no.


As for the assertion that Walmart doesn't pay its workers enough, well, raise the minimum wage then. You could even do what Maryland has done and place a special health-insurance surcharge on private-sector employers with 50,000 or more employees. (In Maryland, Walmart is the only private-sector employer with that many employees.) Again, that's legal because it targets all companies of similar size, not just one.

I don't know if it would be legal to implement a higher minimum wage for employees of larger companies. Can't think of a reason it wouldn't be allowed, so long as the lowest allowed wage was still above the federal minimum. In any case, I think that minimum should be raised substantially, for all employees and all employers, and that the 50% pay reduction for tipped employees should be eliminated. I still don't see a problem with Walmart doing the minimum it's required to do by law - and since I'd like to see them do more, I advocate changing the law.

Chalicechick said...

Ah, blogger is finally working again.

(((You people are sick. )))

I like to have actual discussions, not swap monologues. I'm not sure what the point is in responding to someone who is so very convinced she's right that she's actually calling people who disagree with her names.

Other than to say, "can we please respect Thumper's mother's rule and argue like adults?"

No namecalling, please.