business news in context, analysis with attitude

...with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

• The New York Times this morning reports that nearly 100 companies - including technology heavyweights such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Uber, Twitter, Airbnb, Intel and Snap, as well as a few non-tech companies including Levi Strauss and Chobani - "have joined the court fight against President Trump’s immigration restrictions," warning that "the limits could hurt the country’s economy." In a filing with a federal appeals court considering the executive order, the companies "argued that Mr. Trump’s temporary ban on all visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries would hurt their businesses and violate both immigration law and the United States Constitution. A lower court on Friday temporarily halted crucial parts of the ban, but the Trump administration said it would fight to have them reinstated.

“'The tremendous impact of immigrants on America — and on American business — is not happenstance,' the companies said in a friend-of-the-court filing. 'People who choose to leave everything that is familiar and journey to an unknown land to make a new life necessarily are endowed with drive, creativity, determination — and just plain guts'."

The Times notes that "an estimated 37 percent of the workforce in Silicon Valley is foreign-born, according to the think tank Joint Venture."

Reuters reports that Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said last week that it was important for him to be part of an executive group that met with President Donald Trump at the White House. McMillon said that while the focus was supposed to be the economy and job creation, several execs took advantage of the access to express "concern about a travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries traveling to the United States."

McMillon described the conversation as ""constructive" and "candid," and added, "It's always better to be engaged in trying to shape solutions than sitting on the sidelines."

Fox News reports that while Starbucks has been criticized in some circles for its announced intention to hire 10,000 refugees globally over the next decade - which clearly was in opposition to what chairman Howard Schultz sees as an unacceptable Trump administration policy toward immigrants and refugees - it is being defended by a veterans' group.

According to the story, "Many supporters of the president became outraged, arguing that Schultz should be hiring American veterans instead of refugees and vowing to boycott the coffee chain in response. But Starbucks has been actively hiring veterans since 2013–- 8,800 to be exact."

And a group of veterans that has been working with Starbucks to facilitate hiring released a letter saying, in part, that it has “seen first-hand the hard work and dedication of our fellow employees to transform Starbucks into one of the preeminent veteran-friendly companies in America ... We respect honest debate and the freedom of expression. Many of us served to protect that very right. Some of our brothers and sisters died protecting it. But to those who would suggest Starbucks is not committed to hiring veterans, we are here to say: check your facts, Starbucks is already there."

• Call it "Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Politics."

The Washington Post reports that JK Rowling, the author of the hugely successful Harry Potter books, has gone to war with some of the people who bought the books, went to the movies and turned her into one of the UK's richest women. According to the story, " Some fans of Harry Potter are burning their copies of the books to protest author J.K. Rowling’s views of the U.S. president. And she’s fighting back on Twitter, insulting those very fans."

The story notes that Rowling is no stranger to taking political positions, and she is a "dedicated progressive. She’s a strong believer in welfare, which she relied on during a particularly rough period in her life." And even the Potter novels have a political subtext: they are about "the triumph of marginalized peoples, be it the mixed-heritage Hermione, a “mudbl–d,” the poverty-stricken Weasleys, the stigmatized Hagrid (essentially an ex-offender reintroduced to society who can no longer practice magic as a result) or the “lower class” house elf named Dobby (the most obvious analogue to American slavery)." And even Harry "was an orphan and survivor of attempted infanticide."

While Rowling is not backing away from the controversy, the story also notes that she is embracing the debate: "While attacking her own fans might seem like a poor marketing choice, it’s important to note one of the values that Rowling holds most dear: freedom of speech."

Usually not a good idea to attack your customers, but it probably seems like less of a poor choice if you have hundreds of millions of dollars in the bank.
KC's View: