Letters to the Editor

From the week of December 26, 2002

Up Against the Wal-Mart

How low can you go? Bravo to Stuart Steers for helping bring to light what Wal-Mart is really about ("The Wal-Mart Crusade," December 12). For two years, I've been trying to get friends and family to realize that Wal-Mart is bad for the American economy. To realize that the low prices they pay for their low-quality goods come at a great expense to everyone from the high-school-educated single mother not allowed to work more than 32 hours (paid) at her "full-time" associate job, barely allowing her to provide care and shelter for her child (let alone pay Wal-Mart's outrageous health-care benefits), to the foreign child workers who are made to deal with working conditions that would be considered barbaric in the U.S., because Wal-Mart forces its foreign suppliers to constantly lower expenses.

I guess to some people, paying fifty cents less for the jumbo-sized toilet paper is a lot more important than how that cost savings is made possible.

Always Low Prices. Always.

Domonic Garcia
Thornton

Smiley farce: I've always known that Wal-Mart's prices are too good to be true -- and after reading Stuart Steers's story, I now know why. Still, thanks to Rollback Ralph (now I know the smiley guy's name, too), it's about the only place I can afford to shop this holiday season. I'm embarrassed to say that I go there...but I do.

Jill Harvey
via the Internet

Editor's note: Attorney Frank Azar and his clients were validated on Thursday, December 19, when an Oregon federal jury found Wal-Mart guilty of forcing hourly employees to work extra hours without pay.

In "The Wal-Mart Crusade," Azar's grandfather was incorrectly identified. George Saliba, owner of the Saliba ranch, was Azar's maternal grandfather. His paternal grandfather, William Azar, owned a different ranch near Trinidad. Our apologies.


Privy Information

Bathroom humor: I read with great interest Harrison Fletcher's article on Colorado outhouses and Kenneth Jessen's book ("The Unflushables," December 19). We have a working privy at our summer house in Maine, and as far as I know, we are the only family in our island community who still has one, uses one and, once a year, goes "honeydipping" -- shoveling out the waste and burying it in an ever-shrinking woodlot containing the remains of lobster dinners past.

Some have asked us why we persist in this quaint tradition. My Uncle Bucky's answer explains it best: "The minute you install an indoor toilet, your guests will never leave." Although none of my guests has ever complained about the privy (and all are informed -- quite solemnly -- about the facilities before being invited), each and every one of them eventually quits the island. The whole family agrees: Our much beloved outhouse is our best insurance policy against guests overstaying their welcomes. As for the family, we never seem to tire of it.

For the foreseeable future, our "wee house in the spruce" will keep the same tradition alive in rural Maine that Jessen's privies are perpetuating in the great state of Colorado.

William G. Harris II
Boston, Massachusetts


Jailhouse Rock

The Fender trap: Thanks for Laura Bond's "House of Blues," in the December 12 issue. I don't know Durward Minor personally, but as a local bass player for 27 years, I know of him by reputation, and I have heard him perform. I wonder if I could visit him at the jail and show him my old Fender bass, which he could play a little during our visit. I'd be willing to go once a week if they would allow the bass in, and he could give me a lesson while he played, keeping chops and spirit up a little. This just tears me up, a man kept away from his instrument.

A possible solution to his problem would be for him to teach music, if a music store would be willing to put him on a W2 and give him enough hours.

Steve DiSciullo
Saxxon Woods Band

Minor key: I just finished reading the sad story of D. Minor. While I realize it might go against musician union rules, what if each of Mr. Minor's regular gigs changed his compensation to an hourly basis and scheduled his practice, writing and arranging time as part of an hourly job? So instead of receiving $50 or $100 per gig, he could get $50 for ten total hours of work: the five-hour gig and five hours of practice/arranging. The total cost wouldn't change...just the employment conditions. If the club owners can't do this, perhaps one of the bandleaders can. I'm sure that for each hour he's on stage, he would put in at least twice that in preparation.

If that plan fails, surely there are some musicians who could use lessons from Mr. Minor. Paying a minimum-wage rate for a couple hours' instruction from such a wonderful resource would certainly be a deal. If the state accepts McDonald's and Grease Monkey work at $5.15 an hour, why not music lessons at the same rate? I know the going rate for a lesson is much higher, but if you turn each lesson into a three-hour, rather than one-hour, session and factor in the time out of jail, I'd think it's win-win for everyone.

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