business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from an MNB reader:

Thank you for your recommendation to read “The Secret Life of Groceries.”  I just finished the book.  It is written so that it develops into a sobering reflection of the consequences to our drive to remove cost and price.  The story about Tun Lin and the working slavery that developed in the Thai shrimp industry is a heartbreaking reminder to those of us on the other side of the world, and life.  Mr. Lorr states that the most amazing thing about this story is that he is able to tell it.  Knowing this forces us to understand the repercussions of our conscious capitalism and the unconscious decision we make into what we want to eat.

I work at the bottom of the grocery buying and supply chain.  From here, I get to see the silly amounts of money that are spent, and in some cases taken, ostensibly to reduce costs for shoppers but actually to feed the investors and owners.  That drive has consequences which this book demonstrates.  Ultimately, at Mr. Lorr points out, we are to blame.

Regarding the decision in Berkeley, California, to ban the sale of sugary products from checkout lanes, one MNB reader wrote:

I'm so glad to hear that the local government is spending its time so wisely!  (tongue in cheek)   Of course people cannot be left to their own devices and choices when it comes to their health.   Next up on the council docket will be the placement height of sugary breakfast cereals; the amount of space devoted to chocolate bars, banning Betty Crocker, limit of one vanilla frosting container per shopper, and don't get me started on single serve ice cream or the overall weight of a popsicle.

Berkeley isn't progressive.  Berkeley needs Al-Anon.

You may not agree with the decision, and I may not agree with the decision.  But it seems to me that it is entirely possible that this is a decision made by legislators who are very much in synch with the majority of the local electorate.

If that's true, aren't the lawmakers just doing their job?

I had a FaceTime last week about a wholesale grocery delivery company called Cheetah that has been putting refrigerators on the sidewalks of communities ranging from San Jose, California, to Brooklyn, New York … refrigerators stocked with juice, eggs, bread vegetables  -  all items that were extra and that Cheetah was providing to communities in need rather than throw it out and waste it.

In the FaceTime, I made the point that New York Times columnist Maeve Higgins wrote that about Robert Weide, who teaches a course on anarchist theory at California State University, Los Angeles, and says that "anarchy does not mean chaos. In fact, it’s a form of social order, just different from what we’re used to. It has many definitions."

One of those definitions, Weide told Higgins, is that "in a crisis, people revert to what comes naturally to them, which is mutual aid."

By that definition, I commented, what Cheetah is doing is an act of anarchy.  (I was surprised by this.)

MNB reader Dave Ahrens responded:

If that’s the definition that they’re teaching at Berkeley, it’s no wonder we’re having the issue.

Anarchy refers to the state of a society being without authorities or a governing body, and the general confusion and chaos resulting from that condition.

Can’t find anywhere is states that anarchist are benevolent or concerned about anything other than overthrowing a current government.

The worse thing is that our current anarchists have hijacked a purposeful protest and not helping that cause in the least.

I think you conflated the other Berkeley story with this one … Weide teaches at California State University, Los Angeles.

Put that aside for a moment.  I was surprised by this definition, but less surprised by the idea that I might not know everything about anarchy theory, and that there might be definitions and implications more nuanced than I expected.

That's what I like best about my job.  I learn stuff.  All the time.

Another MNB reader took a shot at California, this one related to the order that all new cars sold there as of 2035 need to not be gas-fueled, as just one way of addressing climate change:

We left California (Marin County, not a rural, impoverished area) in 2000 after the Gen 1 utility crisis – rolling blackouts and water rationing when my wife, a Cambodian refugee, observed that “When I was in grade school in Phnom Penh we had mortar attacks more and more often at night as the city was increasingly surrounded by the Khmer Rouge.  I don’t remember any blackout that lasted more than an hour and we had the electricity on and plenty of tap water for faucets and toilets up to the day the Khmer Rouge knocked on the door and marched us out of the city.”

So are so many places I would like to live in California if they weren’t in California.  State is f#@&ed up beyond belief.

Perhaps.  On the other hand, it seems at least possible that the fifth largest economy on the planet - trying to deal with issues that many countries have to deal with - is doing its best to create a system that is less f#@&ed up.