retail news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB reader Jerome Schindler wrote me yesterday about the judge’s ruling that coffee retailers have to put a cancer warning on their products:

Prop 65 - making California lawyers rich for 30 years:  The roasting process is responsible for a small amount of acrylamide in coffee.  I am sure that this is true with a large number of foods that undergo heat treatment, or that include ingredients that underwent heat treatment.  For example, many dairy foods are heat treated or made with milk ingredients that were pasteurized or dried using heat so I suspect those might be the next target.

At some point I think Congress is going to have to step in and enact federal food labeling preemption for foods regulated by FDA as presently exists for foods regulated by USDA.  Otherwise we could face a situation where a cheese pizza (regulated by FDA) has a Prop 65 warning, but a pepperoni pizza has no such warning requirement as it is regulated by USDA.

The current situation brings to mind this line from a Star Trek movie, “Beam me up Scotty, there is no intelligent life down here.”

Recent events would suggest that if the federal government tries to tell California it can’t do certain things, California will respond with a lawsuit.

Some would call it an example of the nanny state. Others would call it states’ rights, I guess.

On the subject of Amazon’s health care aspirations, one MNB reader wrote:

Ok, Amazon could be disruptive in health care (the low hanging fruit is medical products and maybe the cash/uninsured Rx biz), but with the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica debacle…how willing do you think patients are going to be handing over confidential healthcare info to an Alexa cube?  The backlash from Facebook could be huge and disruptive to the growth of FAANG companies …then again, if the media and politicians ignore it (which are key to anything becoming an issue these days), it could blow over in a few months (weeks?) as the average consumer goes back to its precious screens. 

Regarding the social media battle taking place between David Hogg and Laura Ingraham, one MNB reader wrote:

She has learned a valuable lesson in free speech. She isn't being persecuted for her speech, but her advertisers (basically employers) will be. It presents the argument to me that networks need to get back into reporting the news without bias, stop interjecting their beliefs, or posing it as questions that lead to the viewers to interpretations. It is very difficult to find news programs that tell it straight, everyone seems to have a bias one way or the other.

Actually, I’m glad that we have people like Laura Ingraham and Rachel Maddow on television … they have every right to express their opinions, and I think we’re all better off if we listen to both of them.

Where Ingraham went off the rails, in my opinion, was that she went after Hogg personally, as opposed to offering a nuanced response to his positions.

And, from another reader:

This story really shows how low we are going as a society. In my view, both sides are at fault.

What the Fox person said was rude and stupid. Yes, she should be held accountable for her words and the hurt they caused. It is freedom of speech, but a poor use of the right. When did it become OK for people in power say something rude and then provide a non heartfelt apology and act like it never happened? The damage was done. It's like saying something in court that the Judge tells the jury to ignore, but in reality, you know they are holding on to that piece of information. Rude and stupid statements should never be acceptable and considered the norm. We, as a people, should demand that we have civility and understanding in our national dialog.

On the other side, the teenager is expecting an eye of an eye. He did stoop to her level when he asked sponsors to pull their revenue and refused her apology. He is lashing out in anger, embarrassment, and hurt because of what she said. He wants to hurt her financially. What results does he expect? When will his pride be satisfied? Does she have to lose her job and become unemployable before he is happy?  Ruining someone career over a rude  statement seems extreme.

Unfortunately, social media is becoming anger waiting for a cause. It can and has been used for good, but it also has a dark side which is become more and more assertive. Just because you have thousands of "likes" doesn't mean you are right. 

We all come from different walks of life, so we will sometimes say hurtful things without meaning to.

If we can learn to forgive, we will be a much happier society. If we can put ourselves in the other person's shoes, then we will start to become a better functioning society. We may not always agree, but at least we can talk without threats of violence, financial retribution, or pent up anger.

I get your point, but respectfully disagree.

Boycotts, in fact, are in the great tradition of American democracy. They are one of the ways in which citizens/consumers can make clear their opinions, and effect change. Columnist Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times writes that “this week, as we mark the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s death (on April 4), it behooves us to remember that among his most notable efforts was the bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., which led to federal court rulings invalidating segregation on that city's buses.”

There have been no threats of violence. The companies that pulled their advertising from Ingraham’s show didn’t have to, and Fox doesn’t have to cancel her show (and, it appears, it won’t). Free speech isn’t being threatened. In fact, in some ways it is just paid speech that is under attack.

Yesterday, MNB took note - with a certain amount of ironic glee - of a comment from former Walmart CEO Bill Simon in which he called “on Congress to consider breaking up online retail behemoth Amazon,” saying that it is “destroying jobs, and it’s destroying value in the [retail] sector … They’re not making any money and they’re putting retailers out of business.”

The story quoted Simon as saying that “while large, national big-box chains including Costco can adjust to Amazon’s pressure, small retailers and specialty chains are getting hurt: ‘You see what’s happened to Toys R Us and department stores. J.C. Penney is in trouble. That’s because Amazon sells below cost and continues to do that.”

MNB reader Rebecca Warnick wrote:

The fact that the former CEO of Walmart is pretending to advocate for small retailers and specialty chains is guffaw inducing. This was my LOL for the day!

No kidding.

Simon’s comments were a crock, and all he proved that he appears to have very little sense of irony or self-awareness.

Got the following email yesterday from MNB reader Mike Bruce:

Firstly, I appreciate each and every one of your daily updates and the views you pose with them.  Sometimes I agree whole-heartedly with your position on a topic, sometimes I don’t, and when I don’t, I actually learn something after thinking through your positioning.  There are times I cringe on some of your opinions, not because of agreeing or disagreeing, but thinking of how others are taking it and how they’ll react.  And today’s MorningNewsBeat is a prime example of some of the negative responses I was expecting to see.  I’d like to point out to all the negative responders, this IS a FREE newsletter you’ve opted into, and you’re just as free to opt out if you don’t like the author’s comments.

Kevin, I hope you’ll continue sharing your unabashed views in your commentary with the news of the day.  And I hope you’ll get over having to say in every line, “this is not intended to be political”, as it’s your newsletter and you can cover any topic and any view you desire (unless it possibly runs afoul of agreements with your sponsors).  The country has become too focused on who’s right or wrong, as opposed to what IS right or wrong, and your views, IMHO, seem more focused on right and wrong, or to put in today’s over-used terms, truth or fake news.

That’s all I’ve got for today.  Thanks for sharing the news and your views with us daily, and hope you’ll continue to do so without putting too much thought to who will be offended and whether to tone down anything because of it.

Though, if you do ever get tired of this gig and the naysayer responses, I’m sure there’s a place in late night TV for you.  I understand those folks get paid really big bucks to offend everyone.  And I’d stay up late to watch you.

Well, wow.

I appreciate the vote of confidence.

I actually think it is okay that I think about who I may offend when I write MNB each day … just as I think it is okay that, having thought about it, I go ahead most of the time. I think the act of thinking about such things actually forces me to consider other people’s opinions, and try not to be be gratuitous or offensive just for the hell of it. (Though I am willing to do both things when I think it is appropriate, or just funny.)

When I write “this is not intended to be political,” it is because my goal is to avoid weighing in on political issues just because I want to. In the majority of cases, I’m only talking about politics because there is a business component to the story and I think it would be intellectually dishonest to ignore it, just because my opinion might offend some folks.

From another reader, responding to my sense of humor:

Wow...when did people become so thin skinned if they aren't the one telling the joke? Calm down people, it's a JOKE!!!

I thought your comments regarding Trump shopping on Amazon were a hoot as well as being right on target.

Keep up the great work and I for one will continue to look forward to your updates every morning.

KC's View: