retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday, Kate McMahon laid out the various arguments for and against the NYC ban on jumbo sodas and concluded that she agreed with the proposal made by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Not surprisingly, some folks disagreed.

One MNB user wrote:

First let me say Kate that by supporting a ban on soda you are a Nanny Stater!  But you think the ends justify the means, you have admitted as much, so therefore it must be ok.  Not so fast!

Imagine for a moment if the tables were turned, that the right wing conservatives were in control of NY city and a reinstitution of a ban on abortion were being argued and put forth.  Let that sink in a moment, that your voice is in the minority.  I bet you’d be singing a different tune!  Now I just compared soda to abortion which probably isn’t all that fair but this issue of government power in it all is.

Trampling rights no matter the polling data or who’s in the majority is never a good idea, and neither is giving that power to the government lest you like the idea of the tables being turned.  Whether you like it or not it creates a precedence for more power in the hands of government than is necessary.  The only thing constant in life is change.

Besides, in my view it was education even more than the silly sin taxes that killed cigarettes, why not give that a chance rather than trample everyone’s rights?


Another MNB user wrote:

Your last two sentences read, “If subtle changes can help our nation’s young people, in particular, live healthier lives, then I’m all for it. This is a start.” It’s the “subtle changes” that always scare me. The small taking away of a person’s rights, or in the case of your sentence, a parent’s right to parent, always cause some inner alarm in me to go off. What happened to adults being responsible for themselves or parents being responsible for their kids? I’ll grant you that a lot of time, adults and parents fail, but that’s life and that’s the joy of choice – to screw up.

Honestly, I think the whole thing is ridiculous – don’t we have a lot more to worry about these days? Maybe instead of Bloomberg worrying about his constituents’ waistlines, he could focus on how the city can create jobs and share those successes with other mayors or governors struggling in the same area.

… And anyway, isn’t that what we pay psychologists for as adults – to work through all the ways our parents screwed us up?


From another reader:

I’d like to see the government involved more along the lines of pushing insurance practices to drive behavior modification versus banning anything. I’ve said it before, until insurance companies begin providing measurable & meaningful cost breaks to people who take care of themselves versus premiums charged to people who CHOOSE NOT TO take care of themselves I don’t see much changing. Why get the government involved in debating which foods are good vs. bad? Why not let the health care professionals and your own health condition, resulting from your diet and exercise choices, determine what you can eat…and I mean literally what you can afford to eat – assuming it were to impact your medical insurance premiums of course.

Kate noted in her piece that studies have shown that NYC seems to be healthier these days than just a few years ago, and that some of the credit can go to some of the health-related policies promoted by the Bloomberg administration. Which led MNB user Steve Kneepkens
to write:

Where is the data that aggressive restrictions on smoking, discontinuing transfats, and posting calories is the sole reason for an increase by 10 years to the life span. How about a 35% decrease in homicides? Naaa that had no impact.

Here is the counter agreement. Smoking restrictions and zero transfats have happened in every city and state in America.. so NY is no different. Are NYers so much smarter than the rest of us that this had such a dramatic effect in NY?

Listing calories does not restrict anyone from anything.. it informs them. So banning appetizers with 1,000 calories did not lift the quality of life – INFORMATION DID... that is according to some statistic that you said exists. So consumers acted on their own – without the government invading their fridge.. at least according to the “government statistics”. Ahhh so consumers acted on their own.. Hmm how novel.

You won't complain until it is something that effects YOU. Just wait.

I don’t drink soda but who am I to say you can or cannot have a gallon of soda? My goodness it is easy to pick out other’s habits or choices. It is much more difficult to stand up for a freedom that does not directly benefit you.


To be clear ... unlike Kate, I am uncomfortable with the proposed NYC ban. However, unlike some readers, I attribute only the best motives to Bloomberg on this one. I see little political benefit, and so I think he's genuinely trying to do the right thing, believing that the broader public good is more important than the ability to buy and sell a 24 ounce sugared soft drink.

I'm not sure I agree, and I'd rather find another way. I do not think, however, that government has no role in these matters. I think the government approach to tobacco has been absolutely appropriate, for example. (Yes, I know some folks disagree with me on this. The same folks who think that second hand smoke does not cause cancer. It is hard to take their objections seriously.)

I do hope that the Bloomberg proposal leads to a civil and extensive discussion about public health policy. It is a subject that cannot and should not be ignored, and if he has generated discussion with his proposal, that, at least, is a good thing.




I wrote admiringly yesterday about a Wall Street Journal piece reporting on how some businesses are being more aggressive in making sure that their employees use proper English, believing that anything less hurts their businesses and their reputations.

MNB user Steve Rash wrote:

Like you, I was thrilled when I read this article in the WSJ.  My mother was an English major in college and a school/town librarian still to this day at the age of 75.   Your writing is a pleasure to read due to the subject matter (I'm in the CPG industry), the wit (I'm from New England and get your humor), and the proper use of grammar.    Your blog is the only one that I read daily.

So, it was somewhat disconcerting to see that you began three sentences in this story with the word "and".    Is this acceptable now, or are you trying to keep the prose conversational?


Thanks. And yes, I am trying to keep it conversational.  And informal.  And still reasonably literate.

From another reader:

Your points on the decline of the proper usage of the English language are very well taken.   It appears that this has recently become even more of an issue with the use of electronic media where digits and abbreviations are replacing words.

It is incumbent on us as parents to supplement the education being provided to our children by correcting their improper use of verbal language as well as acting as proofreaders for their written submissions.   Both my wife and I were taught by demanding teachers and had many principles of English usage drilled into our heads (kind of like your Jesuit education, but in a public school setting).    For the most part, if our kids can get their writing past the two of us they have few issues when their papers are graded by their instructors.   We have made it a source of humor in our house to point out spelling and grammatical errors that we find in the newspaper or on television, thereby discouraging our children from making the same mistakes.

Like so many other issues, this is just one more where the primary responsibility for solving the problem begins at home.


MNB user Russell Thomas wrote:

Irregardless of the public’s reaction to poor grammar, we need to nip this in the butt!  I heard a new one yesterday during a software demo.  We were told the software could be “configurated” to do what we wanted.  I wanted to go nucular.

MNB user Liz Boyd wrote:

Regarding your concluding statement in Wednesday’s Eye-Opener: “Anything else is pure laziness. And, contributes to the slow decline of western civilization.” Hurrah! Sometimes I feel as if I’m the only person in the universe who still cares about proper grammar and spelling. It comforts me to know that some companies are cracking down on the many egregious offenses to our language. I don’t know where to begin. Topping my long list of pet peeves in this regard are the countless times a day that I see “your” where “you’re” should be, “everyday” used in cases where “every day” should be used (look it up, people!), and the never-ending instances of “it’s” (contraction for “it is”) where the possessive “its” belongs.  I chuckled when I read your observation of “fifteen items or fewer”.

Kevin, I couldn’t agree more. Oh, and “I couldn’t agree more” reminds me….how often do we hear “I could care less”? If one says that, it means that one still cares a little, right? “Could” means you’re capable of caring less. The correct phrase, if you indeed are not capable of caring any less about something is “I couldn’t care less”. Speaking is one thing, but a few extra seconds of thought, or a minute to look something up or proofread a note before we hit “send” can make a world of difference in how we are perceived. Thanks for making my day.


One final note.

It was pointed out to me with some degree of irony that my piece about good English had a couple of typos in it. I apologize for that, and fixed them as soon as they were pointed out to me.

Typos are the bane of my existence, and I try hard to avoid them. I always appreciate your patience and good humor about them ... I work weird hours, on short deadlines and without a net, and spellcheck doesn't always pick things up.

I do try, however, to write a good sentence - well-constructed, rhythmic, literate, and entertaining. I don't always make it, but it is my goal, and one always worth pursuing.
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