Published on Wednesday, December 21, 2005 by Daily News

TOWN CRIER: A Moscow Christmas carol with thanks to Dickens
by Lois Blackburn

I am shrouded, save for one outstretched hand. Here, take my cold hand, and fly with me over your city of Moscow. Here we are at the cemetery. But do not tremble, for this is no longer a sacred place. All the spirits have flown away. No longer is there a lovely, peaceful view of the Palouse.

Instead, across the street is a parking lot with 2,500 parking spaces, a parking lot one-half mile wide. Beyond these are three inconceivably large, flat, gray buildings, each the size of 3 1/2 football fields. The largest of these three buildings, with a retail space of 203,819 square feet, is Wal-Mart Supercenter, a corporate monster that has sucked the life from Moscow's local businesses.

Its 31 acres house groceries, general merchandise, garden supplies and an automotive service. The two other gigantic buildings soon will also have tenants. There are paved loading and storage zones, sewage, drainage, and other facilities necessary for 77 acres of colonization.

Look, it's Christmas, and people are shopping here, with packages in their arms. Of course, they must shop here, for they have no other choice. People are here from surrounding small towns, too, because their local shops have failed in the wake of the behemoth.

From inside come the sounds of recorded Christmas carols: Let heaven and nature sing. Neither heaven nor nature is present here.

This great acreage of asphalt has covered ancient Nez Perce trails and sacred land. This is ironic, since the trinkets that are sold here have been manufactured by other ethnic peoples being exploited in other countries. But these items are cheap, and you have always held tightly to your purse strings.

Take one long look at this vast corporate complex; it stretches from the Troy Highway to Palouse River Drive, with Mountain View Road as its western boundary.

Now, let us fly over the rest of your town. There is where Safeway was, an employee-owned store, is similarly boarded-up. Their employees have thus lost their jobs. Some are employed by Wal-Mart at very minimum wages.

You ask, Are there no workhouses? Indeed there are. Wal-Mart is itself a workhouse. Its slaves cannot live on their wages, cannot afford health care, and often are forced to work off the clock. The Wal-Mart suppliers in other countries live and work in appalling workhouse conditions.

Les Schwab is closed. Tri-State is gone, its still-new remodeled building dark and empty. Spence Hardware could not survive, since it is so close to the corporate purveyor of trash tools. The hospital is not doing well; it is struggling to care for the working-poor employees of Wal-Mart who cannot afford health insurance.

There are so many more victims of this invasion of greed. But here is my hand. Let us look down on what was once the heart of Moscow, the little gem of a downtown retail area that charmed visitors and attracted new residents. Look at it. There is nothing there but a group of educational institutions that settled in with conditional-use permits. The stores selling clothing, books, music all are gone. Locally owned business is dead, helped in its demise by a Chamber of Commerce that supported the colonization by Wal-Mart and educational institutions.

Ghost Marley

Remember the ghost of Marley told you he was condemned to roam the earth because, as a man of business, he had neglected his true business: Mankind, the common welfare, charity, mercy, forbearance and benevolence. Charles Dickens had him say, The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!

I am the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. I have shown you the very-near future of Moscow, Idaho. All this might not have happened, if only the mayor and the City Council had taken a strong stand against it.

No, No, you cry. Why show me this, if (it is) past all hope?

Perhaps, Scrooge, it is not. From now on, the future is up to you.

I want to donate:

Subscribe to the discussion group here.

Keep informed
Subscribe to the Alert list at

click here to
display full calendar

Moscow City Coucil Public Hearing
Monday June 4th, 7:00 pm, Council Chambers, City Hall.

all City Council meetings
and Planning & Zoning meetings are held in the City Hall,
206 East Third Street.

The inaugural issue of Wal-Mart Watch's issue paper, In Depth, focuses on gender discrimination at Wal-Mart and the massive class action lawsuit female employees are waging against the company. More info, or download Spring 2007 issue (pdf).

"Is Walmart Good for America?"
watch PBS-Frontline here

[ This is not a group to debate the merits of a SuperWalmart in Moscow
The intention of the group is to defeat a Super Walmart project.

Subscribe to the discussion group listserv here: