business news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday on MNB, I said that I was amazed that the Southern California labor situation hadn’t been straighten out during my vacation, and wrote:

Right now, I’m happy to volunteer my services – and those of my new partner, Michael Sansolo – to go to Southern California and help management and labor come to some sort of agreement that makes sense. And when that’s done, we’ll figure out whether Barry Bonds should be banned from baseball, whether Scooter Libby should be pardoned, what the national immigration policy should be, and how to deal with Islamic fundamentalists. I mean, what the hell. I’ve been on holiday and I’m feeling frisky.

One MNB user wrote:

Your comments today made me laugh. It's a shame that there can't be some middle ground to be found here. I'm a union meat cutter in the Midwest and we are facing all of this coming this fall...I dread the thought of it. I see both sides of the issue. I am seeing first hand the impact the rising costs have impacted our budget. I've had a 25¢ raise in the last 3 years. We have been able to maintain good insurance coverage and I know that is where my raises are going, but what about the cost of fuel, heat, electric and oh by the way, food? Yet my store has just had a nonunion wal-mart (notice on caps) about a mile from our store and the impact has been felt. I'm not stupid...I know this effects my owner’s bottom line.

I guess if I truly believed that the owners were doing their best to get me a raise and were willing to curtail their expansion just a bit to give us a small increase I could more fully support trying to absorb some of the increases today with not as much of an increase as I believe that my family needs. I know it's a awful problem dealing with competition, but sacrifices need to be made on BOTH sides. Without that type of an attitude I'm afraid that even your "feeling frisky" isn't gonna do it!

I’m at least glad I made you laugh.

MNB had a story yesterday about states looking to measure the impact of big box retailers and perhaps restrict development, which led me to comment:

While I’m not in favor of protectionism in general and think that (as I’ve written ad nauseum) “compete is a verb,” I’m not sure this is a bad idea. I think it is in every community’s best interests – whether that community is as small as a hamlet or as large as a country – to find out whether the dominant forces in the economy are having a positive or negative impact on overall community conditions.

In fact, I’ll go one step farther. I think that communities that do not sit in judgment on such things aren’t doing their jobs.

To put it mildly, MNB user W. Alan Burris disagreed:

This is the silliest item I have seen in your mostly great emails in a long time…

To begin, what you are endorsing is protectionism and saying that you don’t like protectionism is not mitigation.

There is no such thing as a “community” in the people sense you are using the word. In any community (in the geographical sense) there are people with different interests. There are landowners who would like to sell their property for a good price. There are contractors and their employees who would like more and better paid work building the new store and improving the infrastructure. There are prospective employees who want the jobs to be offered by the new business. There are prospective customers who want better selection and service at lower prices. Etc. On the other side there are small local merchants and their employees who are offering less selection at higher prices and fear for their investment and jobs. And there are people that are concerned about the view, possible congestion, etc. or who just don’t like change. There is no “positive or negative impact” on the your imaginary community, only on individuals. When you say that the “community” should decide, you are really saying that politicians should decide (impose their personal will) based on the wishes of their political supporters (contributors) and people with the most political clout, and on their perceived self interest. If the “community” doesn’t like a project, the people in the community have only to not sell the needed land, not help build the store, and most critically, not patronize the store. Your “community” can only thwart the preferences of individual members of the geographical community for the benefit of other better connected people. The issue that I am concerned about is collectivism vs. individual human rights, not where stores should be located.

BTW, I just finished reading a fascinating book, given to me by a friend, titled “Radical Son” by David Horowitz. This autobiography describes how he came to change his political philosophy from collectivism to individualism. You should read it.

I’ll pick it up. You make some interesting points.

I do know one thing, though. As I get older, I tend to mistrust “isms” more and more. Because I find that what I believe generally doesn’t fit any pat philosophy or theory.

Unless, of course, you count Marxism.

As in Groucho.

On the subject of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL), MNB user Wayne Barrett wrote:

My family has made a conscious decision to not consume any food that we do not know where it came from. This is quite hard to do without COOL, but we have given up all seafood unless it's caught by family or friends in the Chesapeake Bay or the Atlantic Ocean.

Our decision not only affects the local grocery stores but also restaurants.

Maybe retailers and restaurants can step up to the plate and let us know where our food products are coming from.

It's interesting that Congress does not want COOL for food products, but non food items have "Made in China" or "Made in (name the country)" on them. Interesting?

Yesterday, MNB had a story about how a number of the nation’s major food manufacturers plan to announce “dramatic,” “impressive” and – perhaps most important to industry execs - voluntary restrictions on how their products are marketed to children – enough so that a federal task force that would have suggested mandated restrictions decided to postpone its recommendations from a July release to September.

Gary Knell, coordinator for the task force as well as president/CEO of Sesame Workshop, was quoted as saying: "I am led to believe that we will get some impressive commitments from major advertisers. I am looking forward to dramatic statements on the part of the food companies so we can begin to look at media companies as part of the solution, rather than part of the problem."

Which led MNB user Eric B. White to observe:

I am very confused/intrigued by the comments of the CEO of Sesame Workshop and see them as being point being that my 2 ½ year old watches Sesame Street and PBS Sprout (each day and on demand at night etc.), and one of its major sponsors has been McDonald's. So much so that my son thinks Ronald is somehow a Sesame Street spokesperson!

Does this mean that Mr. Knell will turn away all the ad $$ that Mickey D's throws their way? Sounds like double talk.

It has been years since I’ve watched “Sesame Street,” so I was unaware that Mickey D’s was a sponsor. I suspect that whatever message the fast feeder is sending via the program, the focus probably is on healthy eating and exercise…though I agree with you, the message can be a little confusing to a two-year-old.

It is an excellent point. The day that Ronald McDonald is confused with Bert or Ernie or Big Bird or, my personal favorite, Elmo, will be a sad day indeed.

Regarding the 100-calorie portion sizes that have grown so popular, MNB user Bob Warzecha wrote:

Maybe, as you pointed out, that consumers don't want to think. But I offer up another theory: consumers have no self-control. What's wrong about buying a larger container of crackers, chips, cookies or candy, count out the exact amount that would equal a 100-calorie serving and put away the box until tomorrow? The consumer would save a huge amount of money this way versus buying the 100-calorie packages.

You’ll get no argument here.

Finally, in writing about the 100-calorie sized packages, I said that my favorite soon-to-be-released product is 100-calorie bags of Twizzlers, “which are only the best candy in the marketplace. (Okay, maybe that’s a little over the top. But it is the one candy that, on a desert island, I’d chose to have cases of washed up on shore.)”

One MNB user agreed:

Also, while I eat about 99% healthy foods, I do have one weakness in the candy area (other than dark, dark good chocolate) and that's Twizzlers. I don't buy them because I could never open a bag and just eat a little. So, I was glad to hear you mention they are available in 100-calorie bags. I can open a bag of those and just eat that.

Of course, in movie theaters they’ll probably charge eighteen bucks for those little bags…which is why you have to go to the supermarket, buy them there and then sneak them in.

But MNB user Bob Vereen wanted a clarification on my opinion:

I hope you aren't a fan of strawberry Twizzlers. The only "real" ones are licorice.

KC's View: