- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Ehrlich, Wal-Mart and jobs

Maryland residents should breathe a deep sigh of relief after Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. vetoed a bill aimed at the heart of the state’s economy (“Ehrlich vetoes Wal-Mart bill on job benefits,” Page 1, Friday).

The “Wal-Mart bill,” yet another back-stabbing attempt by unions frustrated with Wal-Mart’s success at keeping unionization out of its stores, would have forced the company to spend 8 percent of employee salaries on health benefits.

Some basic facts: Wal-Mart sold about 25 percent of the toothpaste sold in America on its way to about $290 billion in total sales in fiscal 2004. Because of its low-price strategy, Wal-Mart’s pretax operating margin is less than 6 percent, the lowest among similar companies I researched.

Because there is little reason to tie up money in a business with margins lower than this, a forced increase in health- care spending would not — indeed could not — come out of profits. Instead, these benefits could only be instituted by cutting salaries.

Wal-Mart’s choice would not be the one the bill provides (to pay the benefits or pay a $250,000 fine) but rather to break the law or leave Maryland. Mr. Ehrlich understands this, which is why he vetoed the bill; unions understand this, which is why they got Democratic legislators to pass the bill.

Wal-Mart employees are not highly paid. However, given the company’s employment of the young, the old and minorities, its wage rates are far superior to the likely alternative of unemployment for many.

If Wal-Mart went along with the proposed law, the lower salaries that might require would play into the hands of unions that want to urge Wal-Mart employees to join them. This bill should be called the “Coercion to Unionize Bill.”

Unions are not in business to protect the consumer but to maximize their dues. Don’t be fooled by their crocodile tears for Wal-Mart employees. Closing down a large nonunion business is their real goal, regardless of the cost to society.

With his veto pen, Mr. Ehrlich saved thousands of jobs for Maryland workers and low prices for Maryland customers.

ROSS G. KAMINSKY

Boulder, Colo.

Belarus-U.S. relations

Jeffrey T. Kuhner’s ” ‘White Revolution’ stirring in Belarus” (Commentary, May 4) is a splendid example of anti-Americanism. President Bush said, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said … Who else is in line to say one’s truth about Belarus? The article is full of distortions. Mr. Kuhner, there is no need to cry for Belarus, it needs neither your appeals, nor you.

I understand your desire to achieve something, to make an exhibition of yourself. But what do Belarus, its people and its leader have to do with all that? It makes an impression that you want to carry out in Belarus what you cannot carry out at home: “white revolution.”

The miserable and primitive arguments of Mr. Kuhner stir among American people hatred as regards Belarus and its citizens, who traditionally consider Americans as kind, compassionate and helpful people. Remember Chernobyl.

You should not, Mr. Kuhner, go to the public with your truth and shout that you are endowed with it from above.

Since 2004, I have been observing the development of an anti-Belarusian campaign in the United States, unleashed with the aim of propagandistic support of the next revolution. A pre-arranged soap opera “Everything is bad in Belarus” has started.

There is no truth in this soap opera. The international community understands that. No truth from the point of view of objective reflection of the situation and public opinion in Belarus.

MIKHAIL KHVOSTOV

Ambassador

Embassy of the Republic of Belarus

Washington

Dean’s latest outburst

In his latest outburst, Howard Dean has shown himself to be the hypocrite and the one who has no compassion as a physician (“Dean defends imitation of Rush,” Nation, Monday). To make the statement he did about Rush Limbaugh he had to be on the close side of insanity, and then to say he truly believes that he is a man of moral values and that his political party represents the same is more of his bizarre rantings.

When Mr. Dean made his screaming outburst during the primaries, I was quick to defend him and say that he was just showing enthusiasm and someone was out to get him out of the race. Well, his latest comments are not those of qualified, sane leadership; but that seems to be irrelevant in this day of “do and say anything as a Democrat and get away with it.”

SHARON I. RIDEOUT

Hermon, Maine

Sensitivity training isn’t the answer

Diana West’s column on the supposed flushing down the toilet of the Koran was the most insightful analysis of this piece of misreporting I’ve seen yet (“Aftermath of toilet caper,” Op-Ed, Friday). She scored a bull’s-eye when she said the reaction in the Islamic world to the story has nothing to do with Newsweek and everything to do with the differences between Islamic-based dictatorships and democracies that value free speech and hold life precious.

Islam is sensitive only when it comes to itself, not when it comes to desecrating the places of worship of other religions. Throughout history, when Muslims have conquered other countries with other religions, they have done their best to obliterate those religions or relegate them to secondary status, converting churches into mosques, as they did in Turkey and Bulgaria, or building mosques on the site of razed Hindu temples, as they did in India, or on the site of the Jewish temple, as they did in Jerusalem.

Yes, the Christian Crusades attempted to do the same — but that was in the 12th century. The examples given by the West article — the destruction of the Bamiyan statues in Afghanistan, Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus and the Orthodox churches in Kosovo — are from this century.

This is not to say that there are no examples of tolerance in Islam — there was tolerance shown to the Jews of Spain under the rule of caliphs and there was coexistence between Muslims and Christians in Central Europe for centuries. But the harmonious coexistence in Central Europe was eroded by the introduction of Wahhabism paid for with Saudi Arabian oil money.

Sarajevo today has a new $20 million mosque complete with imported Saudi clerics who preach hatred and intolerance and who are resented and feared by the “indigenous” imams that the Saudis have displaced.

There is no sensitivity shown by the Saudis to religious persuasions of any kind but their own, as U.S. soldiers who were asked to give their lives to liberate Kuwait from the Iraqi invasion learned during the first Gulf war — they were not permitted to display crosses around their necks or carry Bibles.

Importing Bibles into Saudi Arabia today is a criminal offense.

Let’s stop fooling ourselves that it was our “insensitivity” that set off the riots in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Sensitivity training is not the answer.

JULIA WELLER

Bethesda

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