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    Published on: June 20, 2011

    Notes and comment from the Content Guy...

    MNB’s Exclusive, On-The-Scene Coverage of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) Global Summit is sponsored by TCC Global, a leader in Best Customer Marketing

    BARCELONA - What is the nature of growth? And what is the responsibility of the food industry?

    These are the questions, among others, that were front and center on the third and final day of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) Global Summit here.

    In an abstract way, the issue was addressed by Dr. Bertrand Piccard, captain of the first non-stop around-the-world balloon flight and a leader of the Solar Impulse project, which has as its goal flying a piloted fixed-wing aircraft around the world using only solar power - something that at one point was believed to be impossible because of the inability of batteries to store enough power to fly through the night. In his closing speech to the Summit, he talked about how important it is to get rid of habits and paradigms and assumptions that ties us down, to work from the “blank page that drives the future.” And he suggested that one way to look at the future is to imagine yourself in a museum 25 years from now, and thinking about what artifacts of the past will be on display that today we think of as being irreplaceable in our daily lives.

    It can be scary, he said. “But people who are never afraid have never invented anything, have never gotten outside their comfort zones.” Fear, he suggested, is intrinsic to the acts of discovery and innovation.

    (Call me a sucker, but every time I hear balding guys named Piccard or Picard speak, I’m ready to follow them into battle. There must be something about the name....)

    Piccard’s comments concluded a day in which Indra Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo, conceded that the food industry has a bifurcated challenge - dealing with a global society in which half the population eats too much, and half eats too little, leading to problems of both obesity and starvation. And she said that these problems require multi-faceted solutions, driven by leaders who act not just as CEOs, but also as parents and citizens.

    A day on which Guido Maria Barilla, chairman of Italy’s Barilla Group and Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition, suggested that the industry had a moral responsibility to help its customers eat less, and needed to redefine the nature of corporate growth for its shareholders in a society where current policies are growing increasingly unsustainable.

    It was a day in which Dick Boer, the CEO of Royal Ahold, said that one of his main challenges is to make sure that low-tier private brands are as healthy as upper tier brands.

    And a day on which Allan Thornton, president of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) challenged the business leaders in the room to move faster on the issue of phasing out HFC refrigerants, that such an acceleration could help change the world by eliminating billions of tons of emissions.

    Now, it isn’t a perfect world.

    At the end of the day, Nooyi will be judged on whether she can get kids to eat two bags of chips instead of one, and Boer will be judged not on the healthy qualities of his private brands, but on how many of them he can sell.

    Barilla runs a family owned company, and he can afford to be idealistic. And Thornton’s idealism is untempered by the practical realities of infrastructure and short-term expense.

    But it seemed to me, walking away from the Summit, that its never been a perfect world, and that progress is measured not in what cannot be done, but in the steps we take in the right direction.

    There was one panel discussion on the final day that seemed to hinge on a series of “either-or” propositions. Are business imperatives at odds with the notions of sustainability and responsibility? Will online shopping replace the brick-and-mortar store?

    And the response to such propositions, of course, is only once in a while there is a day with an absolute right and an absolute wrong. (And those days, as Jeb Bartlet once said, “almost always end in body counts.”)

    Of course profit and responsible behavior can work hand in hand. Companies like Whole Foods and Wegmans have been proving that for years. One can even argue that Walmart, with its sustainability and healthy foods initiatives, is placing one of its big bets on the conviction that these moves will give them a long-term differential advantage.

    And of course online shopping won’t kill the concept of stores. They co-exist now, they’ll co-exist in the future. The balance of power may shift some, and we have no idea what the next iteration of each will be.

    And that’s the point.

    Bertrand Piccard in said that the great achievements - flying, handing on the moon, climbing Mount Everest - were not new ideas. They were old ideas, old flights of fancy, made real by people who refuse to accept the limitations of thinking and dreaming, but who work past those things, and their fears, to define a new reality ... even though those ideas may be seen by some as a threat.

    I have no idea if the executives who left the Summit see the possibilities in these arguments, or just the limitations of their circumstances. Hopefully, it isn’t an “either-or” proposition.

    While the CGF Forum considers issues of global importance, retailers all over the world still have to cope with the day-to-day challenges of doing business. How to build customer traffic and loyalty. How to generate higher sales and higher average transactions. How to differentiate oneself from the store across the street or down the road.

    That’s where TCC Global comes in. For many of the companies attending the CGF Forum, TCC has been a proven marketing partner, helping them develop meaningful and demonstrably effective programs that change shopper behavior. Because that’s the name of the game when it comes to improving store-level bottom line performance.

    To learn more, click here.

    KC's View:

    Published on: June 20, 2011

    by Kevin Coupe

    The Washington Post over the weekend published what it says will be the first in an occasional series about pay disparity in America, and here is how it framed the issue at the beginning of a 2,800-word story:

    “It was the 1970s, and the chief executive of a leading U.S. dairy company, Kenneth J. Douglas, lived the good life. He earned the equivalent of about $1 million today. He and his family moved from a three-bedroom home to a four-bedroom home, about a half-mile away, in River Forest, Ill., an upscale Chicago suburb. He joined a country club. The company gave him a Cadillac. The money was good enough, in fact, that he sometimes turned down raises. He said making too much was bad for morale.

    “Forty years later, the trappings at the top of Dean Foods, as at most U.S. big companies, are more lavish. The current chief executive, Gregg L. Engles, averages 10 times as much in compensation as Douglas did, or about $10 million in a typical year. He owns a $6 million home in an elite suburb of Dallas and 64 acres near Vail, Colo., an area he frequently visits. He belongs to as many as four golf clubs at a time — two in Texas and two in Colorado. While Douglas’s office sat on the second floor of a milk distribution center, Engles’s stylish new headquarters occupies the top nine floors of a 41-story Dallas office tower. When Engles leaves town, he takes the company’s $10 million Challenger 604 jet, which is largely dedicated to his needs, both business and personal.”

    The story notes that “in 2008, the last year for which data are available, for example, the top 0.1 percent of earners took in more than 10 percent of the personal income in the United States, including capital gains, and the top 1 percent took in more than 20 percent.” And, the Post writes, “executive compensation at the nation’s largest firms has roughly quadrupled in real terms since the 1970s, even as pay for 90 percent of America has stalled.”

    The story also points out that one argument for the rise in executive pay is that, in Dean Foods’ case, the current CEO makes 10 times more than his corporate ancestor because the company is 10 times larger. But, the Post reports, “Over the period from the ’70s until today, while pay for Dean Foods chief executives was rising 10 times over, wages for the unionized workers actually declined slightly. The hourly wage rate for the people who process, pasteurize and package the milk at the company’s dairies declined by 9 percent in real terms, according to union contract records. It is now about $23 an hour.”

    This isn’t just a Dean Foods issue. As the Post says, the company is typical of what has happened in America over the past 40 years.

    It reflects a lot of trends.

    It reflects a trend toward short-term thinking, because CEOs need to get their money now, because the average CEO tenure in America is so short.

    It reflects a “whoever dies with the most toys wins” philosophy in America.

    It reflects what could be argued is a growing disconnect between the people at the top and the people on the front lines - the people who get laid off in tough times, news of which often generates cheers among investors. Even though those layoffs mean that these people no longer can stimulate the economy by buying food and clothing and cars and houses.

    It reflects a certain hypocrisy among people at the top who argue that unions are irrelevant and that union leaders are out of touch with their membership ... an argument, one could suggest, that is a little tough to make from the penthouse of a corporate skyscraper.

    Now, this is America.

    The nature of capitalism is that success is rewarded, and that greater success often is rewarded in opulent fashion. This didn’t start in the last four decades.

    In many cases, layoffs may be necessary, and unions may be irrelevant and out of touch.

    But to me, senior executives ought to read this story with their Eyes Open.

    It ought to make them think about how they define success. And, as was argued at the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) Summit, the nature of growth.

    It ought to make them think about their responsibility to their employees, and their shareholders, and if they are doing their best and fairest.

    it ought to make them think about how they are perceived in the marketplace, by the very people who they hope will buy their goods and services.

    And it ought to make them wonder if their companies are headed down an unsustainable path.

    They ought to think about these things with their Eyes - and their minds - Open.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 20, 2011

    Politico reports this morning that The American Bankers Association (ABA) “plans to send a letter to Fed Chair Ben Bernanke urging the central bank to rethink its approach to implementing the debit card interchange fee limit.”

    In the letter, Frank Keating, the ABA president, writes: “I wanted to once again reiterate our concerns over aspects of the proposed ... rule ... that will do great harm to banks throughout the country, and particularly to community banks. I strongly urge you to make revisions to the rule to mitigate those harms. “

    He goes on, referring to a failed attempt in the US Senate to delay the new regulations: “As you are aware, the Tester-Corker amendment received 54 votes in the Senate last week. ... While short of the 60-vote procedural threshold reserved for many controversial issues, it is clear that a majority of the world's greatest deliberative body has sent a very strong message of concern over the approach taken by the Board in this rule.”
    KC's View:
    It may be “the world’s greatest deliberative body” when he’s looking something, but I suspect Keating and his bank cronies may have a different word for it if the new regulations go through as planned. (I’ll probably get some grief for use of the word “cronies.” Should I have said, “men in expensive suits, wearing two-toned shirts and getting exorbitant renumeration without actually making anything”?)

    And I would remind Keating that “the world’s greatest deliberative body” passed financial regulation only last year. And that despite the fact that questionable banking policies helped to push the nation to the edge of a depression, nobody that I am aware of from the financial services industry has been held to account for those missteps.

    I suspect the banks will find plenty of other ways to gouge consumers. They probably should let this whole swipe fee thing go, before some smart politician catches lightning in a bottle and figures out a way to hit the banking industry over the head with it, like it was a cudgel.

    Published on: June 20, 2011

    The Washington Post reports that, “arguing that the U.S. food supply is 99 percent safe, House Republicans cut millions of dollars Thursday from the Food and Drug Administration’s budget, denying the agency money to implement landmark food safety laws approved by the last Congress.

    “Saying the cuts were needed to lower the national deficit, the House also reduced funding to the Agriculture Department’s food safety inspection service, which oversees meat, poultry and some egg products. And lawmakers chopped $832 million from an emergency feeding program for poor mothers, infants and children. Hunger groups said that change would deny emergency nutrition to about 325,000 mothers and children.”

    To implement the new food safety laws, President Obama was looking for $955 million in funding, but the House has pared that back that to $750 million, which the Post says “is $87 million less than the agency currently is receiving for food safety.”

    The Post notes that “no Democrats voted in favor of the agriculture appropriations bill, which passed by a vote of 217 to 203. Nineteen Republicans joined the Democrats in opposition.”
    KC's View:
    The Post says that food safety advocates believe that the Senate will restore the funding, but then the Senate and House will have to come to some sort of compromise, which seems to be a dirty word these days.

    There’s no question that the US has a largely safe food supply. But there are so many imports, and the potential of so many problems slipping through the cracks, that cutting back on funding increases - that seemed like such a good idea just last year - doesn’t make sense.

    The oil industry, which is incredibly profitable, gets billions of dollars in tax subsidies each year. Maybe the Congress could take some of that money and apply it to food safety improvements.

    Then again, the oil industry probably has better lobbyists and deeper pockets for campaign donations/bribes than the food industry.

    (I think I’m feeling a little cranky this morning. First I’m referring to bankers as “cronies,” and now I’m referring to legal campaign donations as “bribes.” Must be jet lag.)

    Published on: June 20, 2011

    The Chicago Sun Times reports that Walmart has signed a lease that will allow it to build one of its new Express stores in an existing space on the corner of Chicago and Franklin, in Chicago’s River North district.

    According to the paper, the space is 14,300 square feet in size, and will feature “groceries, fresh foods, office supplies and a pharmacy.”
    KC's View:
    This is like a duck floating along on the Chicago River - the body seems serene, but underneath the water, the duck is paddling along like crazy.

    It is going to be interesting to see how Walmart’s Chicago offensive plays out as part of the larger strategy. Internal Walmart documents say that the company wants to have a total of 10 of these Express units open nationally by the end of the fiscal year, with plans to quickly ramp up to 300 a year until the company has 1,000 in pretty quick order.

    At the same time, Walmart will use Chicago as a laboratory to see how its urban strategy works, especially addressing the food desert issue that other companies have ignored. (More on that in another story below...)

    Other cities will find other ways to deal with Walmart.

    In New York, for example, the Daily News reports that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn - an avowed Walmart critic - “is working on a deal where the chain would agree to buy Hunts Point market produce for any city stores it opens ... Quinn said a Hunts Point deal alone wouldn't be enough to persuade her to drop her opposition, but she's open to a broader agreement.”

    And there will, of course, be critics and naysayers, for whom Walmart can do nothing right.

    Like I said, it’s gonna be interesting.

    Published on: June 20, 2011

    The New York Times reports that 137 employees at a Target store in Valley Stream, NY, voted against unionizing, as opposed to 85 workers who voted for the measure, handing a defeat to the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). Had the vote gone the other way, it would have the store the first Target in the US to be unionized.

    The UFCW responded to the vote by demanding a new election and accusing Target of intimidating its employees there. Target said that it had followed the law, and that its goal is to “have a culture where our team members don’t want or need union representation.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 20, 2011

    Tesco-owned Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market announced that it won 39 medals at the 72nd annual Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition, where more than three thousand 3,200 wines were entered from around the world and tasted by a 64-member panel comprised of international judges.

    Fresh & Easy has now received 275 medals in wine competition since 2007, largely for under $10 wines crafted in California, Washington, Oregon, Italy, Spain, Australia, France, Chile, Argentina and New Zealand.
    KC's View:
    If you’re going to create private brands, seems to me it makes a lot more sense to create something distinguished as opposed to just a me-too lower priced alternative. Something that is not, if you will indulge me, lowest-common denominator.

    Published on: June 20, 2011

    The Huffington Post reports that while Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sat down with supermarket chain executives last week to address the city’s “food desert” problem, on May 23 a coalition of concerned citizens and companies actually started doing something about it.

    “A few years ago,” the story says, “Steven Casey, Jeff Pinzino and Sheelah Muhammad hatched the idea for the Fresh Moves bus, a mobile grocery store that would bring fresh groceries directly to the communities that needed them most ... The group was helped by a few key partners. The Chicago Transit Authority donated a bus for them to use, Architecture for Humanity helped transform the bus into a grocery store, and EPIC helped build their website.

    “On May 23, the bus began running routes in Lawndale and Austin, making three stops a day, two days a week. And the demand has been overwhelming: in its first five days, project manager Dara Cooper told HuffPost the bus served over 600 customers ... The most important lesson for both Muhammad and Cooper...was debunking the myth that low-income people didn't want fruits and vegetables, that they preferred fast food and junk food.”

    Witness the fact that on day one, in a pouring rain, the bus sold out of organic collard greens the first hour, and then, quickly sold out of mangoes and cherry tomatoes.

    Plans already are being made to expand the bus routes into new neighborhoods.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 20, 2011

    The Associated Press reports that the US House of Representatives has approved an amendment to the current Farm Bill that would “prohibit the Food and Drug Administration from approving genetically modified salmon for human consumption.”

    According to the story, “The FDA is set to decide this year whether to approve the modified fish, which grows twice as fast as the natural variety. An advisory panel said last year that the fish appears to be safe to eat but more studies may be needed before it is served on the nation's dinner tables. If the salmon is approved, it would be the first time the government allowed such modified animals to be marketed for human consumption.”
    KC's View:
    Here’s what makes me crazy about these kinds of stories.

    First of all, I probably would not eat GM salmon by choice. It is my favorite fish, and I like the real stuff. And no matter what anybody says, genetically modified stuff ain’t the real stuff.

    Second, I have no problem with the selling of GM salmon if it is clearly labeled as such. Which I know the government is loathe to do, probably because somebody in the GM business wrote a really big check to somebody’s campaign. (Actually, somebody probably wrote lots of checks .... because the House approved the amendment by voice vote, so nobody actually would have to go on the record so they could later be called to account for how somebody bought their vote.)

    But here’s the thing that pushes me over the edge. The story says that “Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young offered the amendment to a farm spending bill ... Young argued that the modified fish would compete with wild salmon in his state.”

    So, it isn’t about science. Or health. It is about competition, and this guy protecting a business in his state. It certainly isn't about right or wrong or true or false. Just about politics. And money.

    Just like most of the rest of the GMO debate.

    Published on: June 20, 2011

    The Boston Globe reports that two private equity firms, Leonard Green & Partners LP and CVC Capital Partners, have made a joint bid to acquire BJ’s Wholesale Club.

    The offer was disclosed in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), but the size of the bid was not revealed. BJ’s said it would consider selling the company last February, and hired Morgan Stanley to advise it during the process. Leonard Green already owns a 9.3 percent stake in the company.

    According to the story, analysts say that “taking the company private would allow BJ’s to expand beyond the Northeast and Southeast, where it has about 185 stores.” To date, the company has not seemed interested in taking on either Costco or Sam’s Club on a national basis.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 20, 2011

    Walmart appears to be shuffling the cards when it comes to some of its Asian operations...

    Bloomberg reports that Walmart has said that Shawn Gray, the senior vice president of
    operations in China, has left the company, effective immediately. The company said the departure was “for personal reasons,” and did not announce a replacement.

    The story notes that Gray is “at least the third executive from (China) to depart in the past month ... Roland Lawrence, Wal-Mart’s chief financial officer in China, and Rob Cissell, chief operating officer there, left the company in May to ‘seek new development opportunities’.”

    And this morning, Walmart sent out an email saying that Toru Noda, its chief executive officer for Japan, resigned “for personal reasons,” and will be succeeded by Steve Dacus, who has been COO for its Japan business.
    KC's View:
    Sounds like a bunch of guys are going to be seeing more of their families. I hope their families are going to enjoy seeing more of them.

    Published on: June 20, 2011

    • The BBC reports that Tesco will give all of its UK store employees a minimum 2.5 percent raise, as of this July.

    According to the story, “The increase is below the current 4.5% rate of inflation, although it is higher than the 2% rise in UK average earnings seen in the year to April ... Last month, the firm said 225,000 staff would participate in a £110m bonus pool - almost £500 on average - based on the firm's profits for 2010.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 20, 2011

    Clement Pappas and Company, Inc. has signed an agreement to merge with a subsidiary of Lassonde Industries, with Lassonde owning a controlling interest in the new company and the Pappas family maintaining a significant minority stake.

    According to the company, “This strategic combination will enhance our leadership role in the private label beverage industry while developing new capabilities to better serve our customers.”

    The announcement notes that “Lassonde Industries is an outstanding company that shares a number of similarities with Clement Pappas. Lassonde is the leading juice company in Canada, with a strong presence in both shelf-stable and refrigerated juices/drinks. Although Lassonde is traded publicly on the Toronto Stock Exchange, the Lassonde family maintains a controlling interest in the company. Both companies stress growth and long-term vision; both have entrepreneurial and resourceful cultures; both are actively engaged in the development of innovative products.”

    The new company will be run as a subsidiary of Lassonde Industries, retaining the ‘Clement Pappas’ name, management team and Carneys Point, NJ headquarters.

    The closing is expected to take place in August.

    Full disclosure: Clement Pappas is a longtime and valued MNB sponsor.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 20, 2011

    • The International Business Times reports that “six children were hospitalised on Thursday in the northern French town of Lille after being infected with the rare strain of E.Coli bacteria recently traced to Germany, health authorities said ... All six had eaten defrosted burger meat made by the French company SEB who told officials the meat was taken from animals slaughtered in Germany and processed in France ... Health authorities said the infection was a rare strain of the E.coli bacteria but that it was not linked to a similar outbreak in Germany where 38 people died and thousands more sickened.”

    Reuters reports on a new study from the US centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) saying that only 10 percent of American teenagers are getting enough - meeting “U.S. targets for both aerobic and muscle strengthening activities exercise” - and 25 percent are having at least one sugared soft drink a day.

    As the story notes, “Both studies raise concerns about the health of U.S. teens, and call for increased efforts to get them moving more and consuming fewer sweet drinks ... CDC said the findings are worrying because studies have shown that sugar-sweetened beverages add calories to the diet and often are substituted for healthier beverage choices.

    “And among teens, specifically, sweetened beverage consumption can contribute to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, a risk factor for diabetes, the CDC said.”

    • The Business Journal reports that Balistreri-owned and Milwaukee-based Sendik’s has applied for a liquor license in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and that it “is actively seeking expansion opportunities in southeast Wisconsin, but can’t confirm any plans for new stores.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 20, 2011

    • Clarence Clemons, the saxophonist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band whose soulful, muscular and evocative style was critical in establishing the band’s legendary sound, died over the weekend at age 69. The cause was complications from a stroke he had suffered a week earlier.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 20, 2011

    Got the following MNB email from MNB user Tom Devlin:

    Since you have been in Barcelona the past week you may have benefitted from not being bombarded by the news and the Anthony Weiner scandal.  It was not a real topic in your MNB week ( THANK YOU !! ) I was curious if this was by design and you prefer to talk about topics more relevant. If this is the case I salute you whole heartedly. However, There may a business lesson even is this sad and pathetic story.

    That is any business executive or company who are leaders and think that only they know that they are doing things not ethical  and not just in the sexual conduct that can affect consumers, investors and anyone related to your business, in today's world of technology and data overload.... you will be found and when you do, the higher you are on the pedestal, the harder people want to knock you off it.... And enjoy doing it, especially your competitors.  We already have a long list of Madoff, Spitzer,Food Lion, Enron etc. It takes a long time to correct your image for the issues that only they created.   Maybe if they read this , they can start the coverup or better yet, start the clean up.

    In the end, it is always the cover-up that’ll get you. Because it is increasingly difficult to cover up anything.

    MNB took note on Friday of a NY Times story saying that the US Senate has voted to end the $5 billion annual ethanol subsidy, though for various reasons it seems unlikely that the bill will become law in its current form.

    The Times wrote that “it’s clear that a combination of pressures to cut the deficit, concerns about food prices and clearer information about the dubious merits of most existing methods of producing ethanol has overcome the political heft of farm states.” And, the vote also overcame objections by Tea Party activists that “a vote to kill this subsidy, if not accompanied by a tax break elsewhere, constituted a vote to raise taxes.”

    I commented:

    I have to admit that I don’t understand the last part. Ending subsidies that need not exist - such as for ethanol production, or even or the oil companies - is not the same as raising taxes; it is just saying to industries that it is time to stand on their own two feet. Wouldn’t it make sense to subsidize efforts to find energy sources that don’t pollute, that don’t contribute (potentially) to climate change, and would help establish the US as a beacon of innovation when it comes to alternative energy that also give us great geo-political independence?

    As a taxpayer, that strikes me as a good investment.

    One MNB user responded:

    The reason you don’t understand the last part about ending tax subsidies being a tax increase is because it actually doesn’t make any sense.  For transparency, I would identify myself as a Tea Party supporter and a practicing Catholic (which mean I generally disagree with you on your social issue commentary). 

    Here’s the way I read this.  The New York Times and the media in general have latched on to Grover Norquist and his “Americans for Tax Reform” that put a “no new taxes” pledge out there that many Republicans signed.  The Times is very slanted in their reporting and is always anxious to make Republicans, and conservatives in general, look bad at any cost.  So the storyline here that they are trying to communicate (and basically making up) is not that Republicans are trying to the right thing (which is the truth), but that they are promise breakers and haven’t kept their word – which of course, it this case, in nonsense.  The storyline on Bush Sr. breaking his no new taxes pledge helped Clinton win on 1992 and the Dems and media have kept this in their playbook ever since.

    As indicated above, I often disagree with you but keep reading and try to keep an open mind.  I hope you will ponder on my thoughts above and give it some serious consideration.  I think you’ll find out my thought process about the Times and this storyline (in particular) has merit.

    Lastly, if you decide to print this, please keep my name and company affiliation private.  I try to keep politics and work separate – particularly in the tough economic climate.

    So my feelings about this issue are reduced to my being a) anti-Tea Party, b) anti-Catholic, and c) pro-liberal media?

    I’d like to think that while I am capable of taking positions reflecting all three positions, I’d like to think I am do not do so in a knee-jerk and intransigent way. I try not to be an ideologue; I try to think about these issues and take them on their own terms. (How else to account for the fact that I am often anti-union, and I have long argued against reimposition of an estate tax? I know some people would like to believe that this means that I occasionally see the light, and that the rest of the time I am wrong. Because heaven forbid they consider the possibility that sometimes they could be wrong, that political purity is not necessarily a virtue, and that compromise often is the only way to get anything done.)

    For the record, I think that the Tea Party is perfectly right to raise questions about government spending being out of control. I’ve also met plenty of individual Catholics with an amazing capacity for goodness and ability to give of themselves, and I am the product of a Jesuit education. And I get plenty frustrated sometimes at all media, liberal and conservative.

    But you know what I really get frustrated about? Being reduced to a glib sentence.

    On the same issue, another MNB user wrote:

    I enjoyed the remark about the Tea Party saying ending subsidies is in fact a tax increase.

    The House just voted  to reduce programs that offer food to the poor.  Following their ethanol subsidy, that would then be a TAX INCREASE ON POOR PEOPLE.

    The question is will they defend the poor like they defend an industry?  This could get interesting!

    Heaven knows what you’ll now be accused of.

    Got the following email about Apple’s Steve Jobs:

    Can you imagine what goes on in that dude’s head, after he’s created the Apple brand? Every MP3 player tried to mirror the IPOD, then every smart phone did the same from the IPhone. You’d never really seen a ‘tablet’ until the IPad came out, now ever CE company has one.

    And how he has everyone trying to copy his retail stores also? I don’t think there’s ever been anything like it in business in my opinion. And I’m not even an Apple homer in the slightest bit.

    MNB user Warren Love had some thoughts about the civil disorder that took place in Vancouver last week after the Boston Bruins defeated the Vancouver Canucks for the Stanley Cup:

    As a Canadian I'm obliged to apologize if I offend anyone with the nature of my comments - sociologically valid or however mildly speculative.

    As an ex-pat Canadian,  and a two bit philosopher,  that kind of American domination can only release the repressed feelings of losing control of one of the few unsocialized aspects of Canadian life.  Did you know, in Canada:

    • Canadian police can hold you for an undetermined amount of time without any explanation of the charges?

    • Banks only offer 5 year terms on Mortgages and only 25 year amortization?

    • You have to buy beer and liquor, in most provinces, at government outlets?

    • Radio and television stations have to air at least 75% Canadian content?

    So anything as upsetting as ex-pat Canadians, Americans and Europeans beating Canadians at their own game has to be expressed in a hockey game like way.  Brawling and testosterone gone wild.

    Oh, Canada...
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 20, 2011

    • Rory McIlroy, a 22-year-old Irish golfer, won the US Open yesterday, with a 268 that the said “obliterated” the Open scoring record by four shots. He also is the youngest US Open champ since Bobby Jones in 1923.
    KC's View:

    Published on: June 20, 2011

    The US Supreme Court unanimously ruled this morning that a class action gender discrimination lawsuit against Walmart cannot afford, essentially saying that as many as 1.6 million plaintiffs must now pursue their cases individually.

    The decision, which overrules last year’s ruling by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, takes the position that the cases were too dissimilar to link together.

    Politico reports that, “Writing for the majority on that part of the suit, Justice Antonin Scalia said that for a case to qualify as class action, there needs to be commonalities linking ‘literally millions of employment decisions at once.’ In the Wal-Mart case, Scalia wrote, that connection ‘is entirely absent,’ noting that the company’s official policies bar gender bias. All four other conservative justices agreed with his view.”

    Bloomberg reports that “the court ruled unanimously on some aspects of the case and divided on others. Four justices -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan -- said they would have returned the case to a lower court and let the workers try to press ahead with a class action under a different legal theory.”

    As noted by the Financial Times, “Walmart was accused by six plaintiffs of paying women in the US less than men and of passing them over for promotion, but they had sought to represent a larger group of current and former female employees ... Walmart said the class was too broadly constituted to be meaningful and the US Chamber of Commerce had warned that if it was allowed to go ahead it would unleash an ‘avalanche’ of class action litigation that would hobble business.”

    Walmart said in response to the ruling: “We are pleased with today’s ruling and believe the Court made the right decision. Walmart has had strong policies against discrimination for many years.”

    Bloomberg concludes: “The case was one of the most closely watched Supreme Court business disputes in years, in part because the justices hadn’t looked at the standards for certifying a class-action suit in 12 years. Billions of dollars were at stake for Wal-Mart, the world’s largest private employer.”
    KC's View:
    Not being a lawyer, it is hard for me to judge the legal aspects of this case.

    There’s never been much doubt in my mind that Walmart didn’t officially sanction discrimination against women in the ranks. But there is something other than official discrimination that can affect women in the workplace - it can be a kind of unspoken culture that supports the status quo, that relegates certain people to lesser jobs and lesser salaries because, well, that’s just the way things are done. And this can take hold, insidiously, in any organization.

    Walmart won. This is the moment to declare that not only does Walmart have policies against any sort of discrimination, but that it remains steadfastly and relentlessly on guard against any sort of bias anywhere in its ranks. This isn't just a legal obligation, but a moral and ethical one. And to use a word that gets thrown around a lot these days, it is the only sustainable approach that an organization can take if it wants to be relevant and vital as we move through the 21st century.

    A ruling like this has to be the beginning, not the end.