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    Published on: August 16, 2018


    This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either ... they are similar, but not exactly the same. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.

    Hi, Kevin Coupe here and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy … coming to you this week from Cryo-PDX, and doing the closest thing I’ve ever done to a nude scene, at least here on MNB.

    Cryo-PDX specializes in cryo-therapy, which is something I’d never really heard of before I saw this place while walking through Portland’s Pearl District. Over the past six or so years, during my summers in Portland, I’ve always made the effort to try things I might not try when back home in Connecticut. I’ve become a complete massage enthusiast because of a great masseuse that I found out here, and I’ve even tried a sensory deprivation tank, though it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t shoot a FaceTime video while in that thing.

    So, since I didn’t really know anything about cryo-therapy - when I hear the word “cryo,” I tend to think about Ted William’s head - I decided to try it. After all, I have knees that ache because of some 45 years of jogging, and I can use all the help I can get.

    While shooting this video, I found myself immersed in a metal chamber where the temperature was below minus 200 degrees, created through the use of liquid nitrogen. It was, in fact, surprisingly comfortable … they say that it is good for “reducing pain and inflammation, and speeding up recovery from muscle fatigue and injury,” as well as “mood elevation, increased energy and injury prevention.” I was only in the tank for about two and a half minutes, but I have to admit that I felt pretty good afterwards. Not life-altering good, but pretty good.

    Afterwards I went through what they call Normatec Sequential Pulse Therapy, which essentially is using compression sleeves that covered my legs and created a kind of pulsing sensation designed to the blood, lymphatic fluid and lactic acid moving. Again, when it was over, I felt pretty good.

    Now, I must admit that the improvement was fleeting - they say that one must come in regularly to get the full and sustained impact. If I were living in Portland full-time, I’d certainly consider a membership…I really liked the facility and the people, and I’d be interested to find out if extended treatments would have a significant impact on my aging body.

    But the real reason I did it, and am sharing it with you, is because I think there’s a business lesson here. Too often, I think, businesses do the same thing over and over, because that’s how they’ve always done them. In the end, if you keep doing the same stuff, you’re going to get the same results. It is important to get out of one’s comfort zone and try new things … even if that means getting into a tank where the temperature is below -200 degrees.

    You never know. A little improved circulation and physical therapy isn’t just good for a 63-year-old body. It also can be food for a business.

    Anyway, that’s what is on my mind this morning, and as always, I want to hear what is on your mind.


    KC's View:

    Published on: August 16, 2018

    by Kevin Coupe

    Here we go again.

    BuzzFeed reports that the same baker who recently won a Supreme Court case in which he argued that he was not legally required to sell a custom wedding cake to a gay couple - his rationale was that it conflicted with his religious beliefs, which include disapproving of same-sex marriage - is back in court. This time, he is arguing that he is within his rights not to make a birthday cake for a transgender woman, and once again, he is citing religious freedom as his rationale.

    The baker, Jack Phillips, is the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado. His lawyers argued in US District Court on Tuesday that the cake’s design “would have celebrated messages contrary to his religious belief that sex — the status of being male or female — is given by God, is biologically determined, is not determined by perceptions or feelings, and cannot be chosen or changed.”

    BuzzFeed notes that the court case stems from a call made to the bakery by Denver lawyer Autumn Scardina. In her complaint, the story says, Scardina wrote:

    “They asked what I wanted the cake to look like, and I explained I was celebrating my birthday on July 6, 2017, and that it would also be the 7th year of my transition from male to female. When I explained I am a transexual and that I wanted my birthday cake to celebrate my transition by having a blue exterior and a pink interior, they told me they will not make the cake based on their religious beliefs. The woman on the phone told me they do not make cakes celebrating gender changes … The woman on the phone did not object to my request for a birthday cake until I told her I was celebrating my transition from male to female. I believe other people who request birthday cakes get to select the color and theme of the cake.”

    BuzzFeed points out that it is unknown whether Scardina deliberately chose the bakery because of the gay wedding cake case; the 2017 phone call was made roughly a year before the Supreme Court decided that case. (I know how I’d bet on this; it seems highly unlikely that Scardina did not know.)

    In addition, the story points out that Phillips won the Supreme Court case on “narrow grounds.” He had been sued by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which the Supreme Court said demonstrated overt hostility to his religious freedom in its original ruling. Legal experts said the Supreme Court decision did not actually consider the broader issue of discrimination vs. religious freedom, though it may eventually have to now under this new case.

    BuzzFeed points out that in public comments made in the earlier case, Phillips said he only objected to same-sex weddings, and therefore to same-sex wedding cakes. Now, “Phillips is asking the court to block Colorado from enforcing its nondiscrimination law in this case, foremost because its application violates his First Amendment right to religious exercise. He argues that the nondiscrimination law’s enforcement, which lacks an exemption for religious shopkeepers, fails a legal standard of being generally applicable and neutral — instead, he alleges, the state ‘targets, shows hostility toward, and discriminates’ against people of faith.

    “Phillips further argues the state violated his First Amendment right to free speech, which allows him to abstain from speech, such as refusing to make a pro-transgender expression in a cake.”

    This is, of course, not just an isolated incident. It is a situation with which many companies and people holding certain beliefs could find themselves, especially in a world that has become vastly more diverse.

    My opinion has not changed. I believe in religious freedom, but I do not believe that religious beliefs should be used to justify discrimination and intolerance. (And yes, I recognize that I now will be accused by some of being intolerant of religious freedom. I guess it is inevitable, especially these days, that choices have to be made, or priorities set, between civil rights and religious freedom.)

    Where does the line get drawn? What if Phillips’ religious beliefs also opposed mixed-race weddings? Should he be allowed to deny them service? What if he were anti-Jewish? Or anti-Muslim? Can he deny them cakes or cookies of muffins as well?

    And what of other people, much in the news lately, who would suggest that their core beliefs include the conviction that certain people - because of their religious beliefs or ethnic backgrounds - are of lesser value than they are? Should they only be allowed to do business with caucasian Christians?

    Here’s the deal. If you are a baker, bake and sell cakes. If you don’t approve of gay marriage, then don’t marry someone of the same gender. If you don’t approve of transgender people, then don’t go through gender reassignment.

    Providing people with the service that you are in business to provide, or selling people the products that you are in business to sell, is not the same thing as approving of their lives.

    Alas, that’s not what everybody believes. And so there will be headlines and news stories and court cases.

    Here we go again.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 16, 2018

    Best Buy yesterday said that it will acquire GreatCall Inc. for $800 million, adding the company’s health services products to its portfolio of items designed to appeal to aging consumers.

    GreatCall makes devices that provide personal emergency response services. (Think, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”) Best Buy said that GreatCall has more than 900,000 subscribers, largely senior citizens.

    Reuters notes that Best Buy “currently sells health and wellness-related products and has been shoring up on health-related assets focused on the aging U.S. population.”
    KC's View:
    This is very smart on Best Buy’s part - compiling a portfolio of products that will be both relevant and resonant to the aging population, a group that is replenished every day. Companies have to find advantages and differences wherever they can, and then do their best to define and dominate them to the best extent they can.

    Published on: August 16, 2018

    The Los Angeles Times reports that Constellation Brands, which owns beer brands such as Corona and Ballast Point and wine brand Robert Mondavi, will spend $3.8 billion to increase its stake in Canadian marijuana grower Canopy Growth Corp. from 10 percent to 38 percent.

    The story says that Constellation is “betting legalization will gain traction around the world and especially in the United States … The record investment reflects a world in which pot has become ubiquitous as its counterculture stigma fades. In the United States, a patchwork of state laws and relaxed enforcement under the Obama administration have made its pungent odor common from Colorado ski towns to the sidewalks of New York, Seattle and Los Angeles.”

    The Times notes that Constellation is not alone: “Molson Coors Brewing Co. has started a joint venture with Hydropothecary Corp. to develop nonalcoholic, pot-infused beverages for the Canadian market. Heineken’s Lagunitas craft-brewing label has launched a brand specializing in nonalcoholic drinks infused with THC, marijuana’s active ingredient.”
    KC's View:
    I think that it won’t be long before marijuana is going to be commonplace and accepted pretty much nationally, seen by most people as the equivalent of alcohol.

    I noticed this recently in Portland, where I bought a CBD-infused beverage that was on tap at Green Zebra. I was careful not to drink it until I was done with MNB, but when I did, I slept like a baby. But I’m not sure what that means, because I almost always sleep like a baby. It was good, though.

    Published on: August 16, 2018

    CNet reports that Amazon is getting into a bidding war to acquire the Landmark Theatre chain from a group backed by billionaire Mark Cuban.

    At its core, this represents yet another potential move by Amazon into the bricks-and-mortar world.

    According to the story, “Purchasing a movie theater chain would represent a new component in the streaming giant's ambitions to become an entertainment giant. The e-commerce titan was expected to spend $4.5 billion on video-streaming content last year -- not far behind rival Netflix's $6 billion video budget.

    “But while Netflix's business is streaming video, Amazon's is about selling a wide variety of topics, including shampoo, cloud services and its own smart speakers. By expanding its universe, Amazon hopes to draw consumers further into its ecosystem of devices, apps and other services, making it tougher to switch to a competitor.”

    The story notes that “a chain of theaters dedicated to showing Amazon's original content could go a long way toward improving the company's reputation with the film industry. Netflix reportedly eyed making an offer for the Los Angeles-based chain, but backed off the idea because executives feared the purchased price would be too high.”
    KC's View:
    I’m a little confused by this, because there was a 1948 Supreme Court ruling that forced existing movie studios to sell the theaters they owned; that ruling said that such ownership violated antitrust laws, and allowed the studios to own too much of the film supply chain. This ruling, in fact, was against the kind of vertical integration that Amazon would be pursuing with such a purchase.

    Now, to be clear, I’m not a lawyer, so there may be circumstances that make this decision irrelevant to such a move by Amazon.

    I do think that just the fact that Amazon is considering a theater chain purchase reflects the degree to which it is willing to test how far it can move outside its traditional businesses and into the bricks-and-mortar world. These theaters even could have little Amazon Go-style stores that sell food products for consumption during the movie.

    Published on: August 16, 2018

    Food Dive has a story about Basics Market, a new supermarket scheduled to open next month on the east side of Portland, Oregon. What makes this supermarket different is that it is the brainchild of Chuck Eggert, founder of Pacific Foods, and Errol Schweizer, who led the grocery department at Whole Foods for eight years.

    At just 7,500 square feet, the story says, Basics Market is “an intimate setting that carries a curated selection of just 500 or so items, including fresh meat and eggs from Eggert’s family farming operation, which he started more than 15 years ago and is now one of the largest sustainable agriculture outfits in Oregon. The focus will be on healthy and nutrient-dense foods, with availability reflective of the seasons.”

    In addition, the space will include stations that will “bundle together ingredients needed to make meals developed by the Basics Market's culinary team and approved by the store’s in-house nutritionist,” and even classroom space for a cooking school.

    The larger strategy, Eggert says, “is to impart essential knowledge and skills — not just how to make delicious dishes.”

    Another location is scheduled to open in Tualatin, Oregon, later this year, and a third next year in Beaverton.
    KC's View:
    This is how bricks-and-mortar retailers differentiate themselves … they become more than a source of product, and evolve into being resources for the consumer. Smart.

    Published on: August 16, 2018

    • Target and its Shipt delivery service announced that they “will begin same-day delivery of more than 55,000 groceries, essentials, home, electronics, toys and other products from Target to Portland, Maine residents beginning August 21 … To celebrate the announcement, new Portland-area Shipt members who sign up before Aug. 21 will receive an annual membership for $49 (regularly $99) … The annual membership grants access to free, unlimited delivery on orders of more than $35.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 16, 2018

    • The New York Post reports that Walmart will partner with “comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres to launch a women’s fashion line, its latest attempt to make deeper inroads into the apparel space … The partnership is likely to help Walmart recover lost ground against Amazon and others in the rapidly growing fashion category. If Walmart succeeds, the move could advance its effort to access more affluent, younger, millennial customers who usually do not shop at Walmart.”

    The line, “dubbed EV1, will feature nearly 60 items,” the Post writes, “ranging from denim, tees bearing Ellen quotes, accessories and footwear, all priced at $30 or less, with new items seasonally…”

    In its story, CNBC writes that “DeGeneres notably served as J.C. Penney's spokesperson in 2012, while the department store chain was being led by CEO Ron Johnson. Her role was met by a wave of outrage from a conservative, anti-gay and Christian group, ‘One Million Moms,’ which complained that the openly gay DeGeneres was diluting the Penney brand, and that group's members would refuse to shop there.”
    KC's View:
    Does this mean that Jack Phillips will no longer buy any baking materials from Walmart? I suspect so…

    Published on: August 16, 2018

    • The New York Times writes that the Environmental Working Group is out with a report saying that trace amounts of glyphosate, described as a “controversial herbicide,” has been found in Cheerios, Quaker Oats “and other breakfast foods” and “could increase cancer risk for children.”

    The report comes as debate over glyphosate continues to rage. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has gone on record as saying that glyphosate does not cause cancer, while the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified it as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

    Just last week, a California jury ruled that Monsanto was culpable in a case where a school groundskeeper’s cancer by the company’s weedkillers, including Roundup, which includes glyphosate. Monsanto has been ordered to pay $289 million in damages, though it says it will appeal the verdict, maintaining that its weedkillers are safe and did not cause his cancer.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 16, 2018

    Yesterday, we took note of a story in Montana’s Independent Record saying that “WinCo Foods is making progress on an 84,000-square-foot grocery store in Helena … In addition to Helena, WinCo is building a store in Billings. The two locations will be the first WinCo stores in Montana.”

    The story noted that “WinCo does not require a membership, but keeps down costs by not bagging groceries for customers and only accepting cash, debit, checks, WIC and EBT cards.”

    I commented:

    I love the WinCo model, largely because of the employee-ownership that creates a wonderful customer service culture within a price/value model.

    But there’s something else sort of interesting in this story. It points out that “the Helena store is expected to employ more than 140 full-time and part-time employees,” but also that “there are only 500 to 600 unemployed people in Lewis and Clark County, meaning a great deal of WinCo's workforce would have to leave an existing job.”

    So two things are going to happen. One is that WinCo is going to drive down the unemployment level. The other is that it may raise the benchmarks for what makes an employer of choice.


    This prompted an email from MNB reader Gail Nickel-Kailing:

    We live in Helena MT and we REALLY don’t need another supermarket, especially one that encompasses 84,000 square feet. We already have these stores in Lewis and Clark County - population ~67,000:

    Chains:
    • Albertsons
    • Safeway
    • Super 1
    • WalMart Super Center
    • Natural Grocers (Natural food store)
    • Target (Grocery items, no produce/meat)

    Locally-Owned:
    • Van’s Thriftway (family-owned “mainstream” supermarket)
    • Real Food Market and Deli (family-owned natural food store)
    • Bob’s Valley Market (family-owned small market, a step up from your “usual convenience store”)
    • Heritage Food Store (family-owned “mainstream” grocery, East Helena)
    • Allen’s Manix Store/The Trading Post (family-owned “mainstream” grocery, Augusta) - residents are actually closer to Great Falls (not in Lewis and Clark County) for shopping, where there are the usual array of chain stores.
    • D & D Foodtown (family-owned “mainstream” grocery, Lincoln)

    (I’ve only lived here 2 years so may have missed one or two.)

    And to tell you frankly, most of the food available is pedestrian at best. You can walk into any one of the major stores and find exactly the same products - very, very few locally produced products, next to no local produce, and nearly no local meats (considering that livestock is the second largest agricultural “product” in the state, second only to wheat and cereal grain). The produce that does make it to western central Montana looks like it has arrived on a slow train that has made too many stops. And almost all meat is “boxed meat” from the major processors.

    WinCo is just going to duplicate that and be one more drain on our local economy. Please note that according to a number of studies, shopping at locally owned stores provides a vastly increased “economic multiplier” compared to shopping at chain stores.


    And, from another reader:

    WinCo will have a huge impact on both of these markets.
     
    First, I would expect many local food retailers will be losing employees to these Winco’s. There are 4 Albertsons in Billings alone.
     
    However, the biggest impact will be a few food stores will close up within 2 years of the opening of the WinCo.




    Responding to our stories about Sears’ travails, MNB reader Mark Boyer wrote:

    If Sears were thrust into your lap what would you do?
     
    I’m not trying to be snarky; I’m just not sure what the next best move would be, and wondered if there is anything to do now but make sure you’re not a creditor.


    At this point, that may be all that is possible. I just don’t know why anyone would sell anything to Sears without the terms being COD.
    KC's View:

    Published on: August 16, 2018

    by Kevin Coupe

    Here we go again.

    BuzzFeed reports that the same baker who recently won a Supreme Court case in which he argued that he was not legally required to sell a custom wedding cake to a gay couple - his rationale was that it conflicted with his religious beliefs, which include disapproving of same-sex marriage - is back in court. This time, he is arguing that he is within his rights not to make a birthday cake for a transgender woman, and once again, he is citing religious freedom as his rationale.

    The baker, Jack Phillips, is the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado. His lawyers argued in US District Court on Tuesday that the cake’s design “would have celebrated messages contrary to his religious belief that sex — the status of being male or female — is given by God, is biologically determined, is not determined by perceptions or feelings, and cannot be chosen or changed.”

    BuzzFeed notes that the court case stems from a call made to the bakery by Denver lawyer Autumn Scardina. In her complaint, the story says, Scardina wrote:

    “They asked what I wanted the cake to look like, and I explained I was celebrating my birthday on July 6, 2017, and that it would also be the 7th year of my transition from male to female. When I explained I am a transexual and that I wanted my birthday cake to celebrate my transition by having a blue exterior and a pink interior, they told me they will not make the cake based on their religious beliefs. The woman on the phone told me they do not make cakes celebrating gender changes … The woman on the phone did not object to my request for a birthday cake until I told her I was celebrating my transition from male to female. I believe other people who request birthday cakes get to select the color and theme of the cake.”

    BuzzFeed points out that it is unknown whether Scardina deliberately chose the bakery because of the gay wedding cake case; the 2017 phone call was made roughly a year before the Supreme Court decided that case. (I know how I’d bet on this; it seems highly unlikely that Scardina did not know.)

    In addition, the story points out that Phillips won the Supreme Court case on “narrow grounds.” He had been sued by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which the Supreme Court said demonstrated overt hostility to his religious freedom in its original ruling. Legal experts said the Supreme Court decision did not actually consider the broader issue of discrimination vs. religious freedom, though it may eventually have to now under this new case.

    BuzzFeed points out that in public comments made in the earlier case, Phillips said he only objected to same-sex weddings, and therefore to same-sex wedding cakes. Now, “Phillips is asking the court to block Colorado from enforcing its nondiscrimination law in this case, foremost because its application violates his First Amendment right to religious exercise. He argues that the nondiscrimination law’s enforcement, which lacks an exemption for religious shopkeepers, fails a legal standard of being generally applicable and neutral — instead, he alleges, the state ‘targets, shows hostility toward, and discriminates’ against people of faith.

    “Phillips further argues the state violated his First Amendment right to free speech, which allows him to abstain from speech, such as refusing to make a pro-transgender expression in a cake.”

    This is, of course, not just an isolated incident. It is a situation with which many companies and people holding certain beliefs could find themselves, especially in a world that has become vastly more diverse.

    My opinion has not changed. I believe in religious freedom, but I do not believe that religious beliefs should be used to justify discrimination and intolerance. (And yes, I recognize that I now will be accused by some of being intolerant of religious freedom. I guess it is inevitable, especially these days, that choices have to be made, or priorities set, between civil rights and religious freedom.)

    Where does the line get drawn? What if Phillips’ religious beliefs also opposed mixed-race weddings? Should he be allowed to deny them service? What if he were anti-Jewish? Or anti-Muslim? Can he deny them cakes or cookies of muffins as well?

    And what of other people, much in the news lately, who would suggest that their core beliefs include the conviction that certain people - because of their religious beliefs or ethnic backgrounds - are of lesser value than they are? Should they only be allowed to do business with caucasian Christians?

    Here’s the deal. If you are a baker, bake and sell cakes. If you don’t approve of gay marriage, then don’t marry someone of the same gender. If you don’t approve of transgender people, then don’t go through gender reassignment.

    Providing people with the service that you are in business to provide, or selling people the products that you are in business to sell, is not the same thing as approving of their lives.

    Alas, that’s not what everybody believes. And so there will be headlines and news stories and court cases.

    Here we go again.
    KC's View: