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    Published on: December 16, 2021

    by Kevin Coupe

    CNN has a story about how Kraft is trying to turn the current cream cheese shortage into a marketing opportunity.

    Some background from the CNN story:

    "Cream cheese is the latest hard-to-come-by grocery item in a year of shortages. A spike in cream cheese demand during the pandemic has made it difficult to keep shelves stocked, Kraft said.  Last year, with more people baking and eating at home, demand for cream cheese jumped about 18% compared to 2019. It's stayed at that high level in 2021, according to Kraft (KHC). Meanwhile, restaurants are also ordering more of the product.

    "Junior's Cheesecake, which sources its cream cheese from Philadelphia, said last week that it has been struggling to get enough supply of the key ingredient, and it's been forced to occasionally pause cheesecake production, according to the owner. New York City bagel shops have also reportedly struggled to get enough cream cheese."

    While Kraft is trying to ramp up production to meet demand, there also seems to be a recognition that this may be impossible in the short term.

    And so, the company has decided to reimburse a total of 18,000 consumers $20 each - they will have to submit a receipt from a store or restaurant indicating they bought a dessert or dessert ingredient that would've gone well with cream cheese - via a website called SpreadTheFeeling.com.

    By implication, of course, Kraft will also be getting data on those 18,000 shoppers … which will allow it to dig deeper in the long term and use the information it gleans to shape strategies and tactics.  

    Which I think is really smart.  It is only 18,000 people, of course, but the company is getting a lot of free publicity from simply making the offer, and while it is never a good thing to disappoint shoppers, this is a moment that is reinforcing why, at least for some people, cream cheese is an essential product.

    The Kraft offer can't help me with my quest, unfortunately.  Mrs. Content Guy makes this incredible clam dip that we always have over the holidays, but she says it requires the use of Temp Tee cream cheese;  the flavor and consistency are different, she says.

    And so yesterday, I hit the stores - managed to pick up two small containers (all that remained) from Palmer's, the local independent, but found the shelves bare at two different Stop & Shop stores, at the local Grade A ShopRite, and Walmart.

    Stew Leonard's couldn't help me - they only carry Kraft's Philadelphia Cream Cheese and their own private label.

    But, for the record, just as it has throughout the pandemic, Stew's was killing it in terms of its in-stock position:

    And that's an Eye-Opener.

    (If anyone in Fairfield County, Connecticut, has some Temp Tee they'd like to sell me, please let me know.)

    Published on: December 16, 2021

    Raley’s yesterday announced the completion of its acquisition of Bashas', in the process creating a new entity, The Raley’s Companies, which combines Bashas’ with its larger portfolio of retail and technology holdings.

    Keith Knopf, President & CEO of The Raley’s Companies, said that “as promised, we are committed to preserving and enhancing the existing Bashas’ brands, including AJ’s Fine Foods, Bashas’ Diné Market, Bashas’, Food City and Eddie’s Country Store. Now part of a larger organization, the increased resources will ensure that reinvestment in stores, new store growth, expansion into new markets, enhanced technology, and charitable giving is amplified.”

    Raley's also confirmed that Bashas’ Corporate Office will remain in Chandler, AZ with continued service from their leadership team, including Trey Basha as President of the Bashas’ Operating Company, Michael Basha overseeing distribution, and Johnny Basha supporting the Native American Tribal Communities, Real Estate, as well as other administrative responsibilities.

    KC's View:

    A harbinger of a future in which independent and regional companies look for alliances and mergers that will give them a better ability to survive.  We can expect only more of these deals, hopefully as companies find fellow travelers that can extend and enrich their journeys, as opposed to falling into the clutches of investment bankers who prioritize short-term financial gains over long-term dedication to community.

    Published on: December 16, 2021

    In an interview with the Associated Press, Target CEO Brian Cornell said that "holiday sales have continued to stay strong even amid worries about the new omicron variant."

    The AP writes that, "like its big box rivals, Target has been able to defy industrywide challenges like labor shortages, inflation and supply chain snarls as the discounter keeps its shelves full and arms itself with a full seasonal staff of 100,000."

    Some excerpts from the interview:

    •  The impact of Omicron … "I’m seeing guest shopping at our stores, shopping all of our categories. So I haven’t seen any changes in the shopping patterns that we were expecting. But as you’ve seen us throughout the pandemic, we know we’ve got to flex based on the guests' needs so that if they suddenly decide to shift from using stores or going back to the same day services, we’re ready for them."

    •  Brick-and-mortar … "I expect stores will continue to be really important going forward. And obviously, Americans have learned how to use their smartphones and tablets to shop online. And I think we’re seeing all cohorts embracing both shopping in-store and using our same day services, and I think same-day services are going to be sticky for years to come."

    •  Inflation …"We're going to learn a lot more about how the consumer reacts to inflationary pricing over the next six months. And do they choose an alternative brand? Do they decide to purchase one of our own brands? So, we’ll watch that very carefully."

    •  Supply chain issues …"I think this is going to be something that’s going to take place over a number of years as we make the investments and really take our supply chain capabilities across the United States to another level. We have the inventory in the system in place to meet their needs. But it’s the supply chain pressures that are not going to go away on January 1st. It’s really driven by just incredibly strong demand and a very healthy U.S. consumer."

    KC's View:

    Target continues to make solid moves across the board, apparently finding the kind of balance that a lot of other companies have been unable to achieve.

    Published on: December 16, 2021

    Business Insider has a story about how retail pharmacists at the major chain drug stores - CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid - are saying that they are feeling burned out because of overwhelming workloads, under-staffed departments, and continuing stresses created by the demand and need for vaccinations as a reaction to Covid-19.

    The story makes the point that the chains have said they are doing their best to hire enough people to ease the strains, and in the meantime are doing things like free pizza for staffers.  But those actions are being seen as being inadequate to the moment.

    KC's View:

    Stories like these point out the degree to which these chains' intentions to invest more  and become more significant players in the healthcare continuum are going to be challenged by simply market realities.

    Published on: December 16, 2021

    Nielsen is out with new research suggesting that consumers are more likely to put their faith in advertising that stresses brand values as opposed to products, with humor also being a major factor in their ad preferences.

    In a global survey that included North America, 49 percent of respondents said they were most interested in humorous ads … 47 percent said they liked family-oriented ads … and 43 percent said they preferred advertising that stressed family values.

    Far less appealing, according to the survey were ads that featured celebrity or athlete endorsements, or any sort of automobile ad.

    KC's View:

    I found this last bit to be ironic because there's a Chevrolet Christmas ad currently running that I have to say is one of the best commercials I've seen in a long time - stressing values, family connections, and the broader brand value proposition.

    This is a slightly longer, online version of the commercial running on television.  I shed a tear.  Maybe you will, too.

    Published on: December 16, 2021

    Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic and how businesses and various business sectors are trying to recover from it, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  In the United States, there now have been a total of 51,290,979 cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 823,390 deaths and 40,343,561 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 272,589,694 total cases, with 5,348,575 resultant fatalities and 244,999,858 reported recoveries.   (Source.)



    •  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 76.8 percent of the US population age five and older, and 72.3 percent of the total US population, has received at least one dose of vaccine, while 65 percent of the five-and-older population and 61.1 percent of the total US population has been fully vaccinated.

    In addition, the CDC says, 30 percent of the 18-and-older population and 27.6 percent of the total population in the US has received vaccine booster doses.



    •  From the Washington Post:

    "Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Wednesday that an omicron-specific coronavirus vaccine is not needed at this time because early data indicates existing booster shots bolster disease-fighting antibodies.

    "Protection against severe illness should remain intact, though somewhat diminished.

    "'Our booster vaccine regimens work against omicron. At this point, there is no need for a variant-specific booster,' Fauci said at a White House coronavirus briefing. 'If you are unvaccinated, you are very vulnerable not only to the existing delta surge we are experiencing but also to omicron'."

    "At this point."  Those are the key words here, for those people who don't understand why advice and guidance change as time goes by.



    •  From the Financial Times:

    "France will block entry from UK tourists, tightening its border restrictions in an effort to slow the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

    "Travel from the UK will be largely limited to French nationals, residents and their families, although there are exceptions for students and some professions such as doctors who have a work-related reason to come.  The prime minister’s office said the new restrictions would apply from midnight on Friday.

    "The emergence of the Omicron variant, which was first identified by South African scientists in November, has led many countries to impose fresh travel restrictions. Omicron has dozens of mutations that scientists expect make it more transmissible than earlier variants and more likely to evade the immune protection provided by vaccines or previous infection."



    •  From NBC News:

    "Covid-19 is disrupting the NFL, NBA and NHL, sidelining dozens of players, including some of the leagues’ biggest stars.  New cases this week have battered the leagues and prompted NBA and NHL postponements. The NFL is grappling with the virus’ wrath with the playoffs beginning next month.

    "The NFL reported the number of positive cases Monday and Tuesday ended up at 88, but with players coming and going on the list, about 100 is more accurate, the league's worst two-day stretch during the pandemic.

    "Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said Wednesday, the omicron variant has been found among the dramatic increase in Covid-19 cases throughout the league."



    • The Wall Street Journal reports that "a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases on several campuses is prompting some colleges and universities to reinstate remote learning and require booster vaccination shots, upending the last days of the fall term and casting doubt over whether schools will remain in-person heading into next year.

    "Princeton, Cornell, Middlebury and some others shifted to remote exams, while still others, such as Tulane, gave students the option of finishing the semester online. The current rise in newly reported cases on some campuses comes as many students are taking final exams and preparing for winter break."



    •  In New York City, the New York Times writes, "The coronavirus pandemic has upended the theater industry’s longstanding 'show must go on' philosophy, supplanting it with a safety-first strategy. The result: a raft of cancellations unlike any in history.

    "On Wednesday, 'Tina,' a jukebox musical about Tina Turner, canceled both of its performances; 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,' a stage sequel to the novels, canceled its matinee, and 'Hamilton' canceled its evening performance. A new musical adaptation of 'Mrs. Doubtfire' had already canceled four performances between Sunday and Wednesday, while Lin-Manuel Miranda’s improv troupe, 'Freestyle Love Supreme,' canceled three, and 'Ain’t Too Proud,' the Temptations jukebox musical, canceled one. At an Off Broadway theater down the street, a strong-selling revival of 'Little Shop of Horrors' scrapped four shows last weekend.

    "All cited Covid.

    "In each case, at least one member of the show’s cast or crew tested positive for the coronavirus, and, either because of a lack of enough people to replace those who test positive or a concern about contagion, performances had to be canceled. They were not the first, and almost certainly won’t be the last, as the persistent pandemic continues to pose a challenge to an industry struggling to get back on its feet after a lengthy and damaging shutdown kept theaters dark for more than a year … Broadway has taken precautions — there is an industrywide vaccine mandate for audiences and workers, and patrons must wear masks — but nobody lives in a bubble, and frequent testing (daily at some shows) is turning up a steady stream of breakthrough infections. And as the Omicron variant causes caseloads to rise, some performing arts institutions are starting to go further: The Metropolitan Opera said Wednesday that, starting Jan. 17, it would require booster shots for both employees and audience members."

    Published on: December 16, 2021

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  From CNBC:

    "Amazon’s former Prime boss has been moved to a role overseeing the company’s health efforts.

    "Neil Lindsay last month was elevated to senior vice president of health and brand within Amazon’s worldwide consumer business … Lindsay’s responsibilities now include overseeing Amazon’s combined health care efforts, including its online pharmacy, telehealth and health diagnostics units, according to a person familiar with the matter. He continues to oversee Amazon’s global brand and marketing efforts, said this person, who declined to be identified discussing internal company matters.

    "Lindsay has held roles across a number of divisions during his more than 11 years at Amazon, including heading up the company’s key Prime subscription business and managing worldwide marketing. He also helped shape the branding for popular Amazon devices like the Kindle e-reader, along with the Fire and Echo products.

    Lindsay sits on the 'S-team,' a highly influential group of executives that report to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy.

    "Amazon is tapping Lindsay to lead its health efforts as the company deepens its presence in the health care industry. The company last year launched Amazon Pharmacy, which seeks to make it easier to order prescriptions online and was a result of its 2018 acquisition of PillPack."



    •  CTV reports that delivery company DoorDash "has opened DashMart locations in Toronto, London, Kitchener, Vancouver and Winnipeg," with plans to expand the concept elsewhere in Canada.

    "DashMart locations operate through a 'dark store' model, where walk-in customers are not accepted because sales are only made through deliveries processed on apps.

    "DashMart locations operate from 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily and carry more than 2,000 grocery and convenience store items, including fresh fruits and vegetables, meat and dairy, pantry staples and household essentials."

    They also, by their very definition, compete with the retail clients that DoorDash also serves.  You'd think that this might make some of these businesses reconsider whatever deal they have with DoorDash.



    •  From Food & Wine:

    "The rideshare service isn't creating a platform like Uber Eats, but Lyft drivers will now have the option to get paid for grabbing your takeout … Yesterday, Lyft announced a new partnership with Olo, a company that can help restaurants use their own online ordering platform by partnering them behind the scenes with drivers from other services. Olo already has partnerships with DoorDash, Grubhub, and Uber Eats, and now, they are working with Lyft as well, giving Lyft drivers the opportunity to handle restaurant deliveries funneled through Olo's Dispatch service."

    Uber was an early player in this space, launching Uber Eats in 2014.



    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that Amazon Web Services, the largest cloud-computing provider in the US, "suffered a brief outage Wednesday, stoking fears of a repeat of the hourslong outage last week that caused much of the internet to stop working.

    "This time around, Amazon said on its site Wednesday that it identified issues in Oregon and Northern California after 10:43 a.m. ET and fixed both problems in less than 30 minutes.

    "An Amazon spokeswoman said the issues were resolved.

    "The brief disruption comes after Amazon’s issues last week took many businesses and services offline, causing Roomba vacuum cleaners to stop working and popular streaming services to go blank.



    •  Yesterday we took note of a Fox News story about how "police in Blaine, Minnesota say charges are likely to be filed in the near future against an Instacart delivery driver accused of leaving a derogatory message on an elderly couple’s grocery receipt and running over their groceries with her car. The driver allegedly did this in response to a 'Thank you Blaine PD' yard sign supporting the police department."

    Well, it happened.   Former Instacart driver Tara Olivia Plum of Coon Rapids, Minnesota, was cited by local police for criminal damage to property.

    Local news stories pointed out that the police said she could not be cited for a hate crime because the crime wasn't committed based on the victim's perceived race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, or national origin.

    Stupid is as stupid does.  May we never again hear of Tara Olivia Plum of Coon Rapids, Minnesota.

    Published on: December 16, 2021

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that "sales at U.S. retail stores, online sellers, and restaurants rose by a seasonally-adjusted 0.3% in November from the previous month, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That was a slowdown from October’s robust 1.8% increase.

    "Broadly consumer demand is strong, and is well above last year’s levels. Retail sales rose 18.2% in November from a year earlier, showing low unemployment, rising wages and savings from stimulus payments are giving Americans the capacity to spend more this year.

    "Barriers stand in their way, however, with inflation at a 39-year high and supply chain and labor issues causing shortages of goods and depleted capacity in the service industry."



    •  The Washington Post reports that "colleges around the country are worrying about outbreaks of the coronavirus, leading some to pivot online and cancel events, and others to abruptly change rules on campus in the waning days of the fall semester.

    "At Cornell University, where cases of the omicron variant have been confirmed and many more are suspected, more than 1,100 students tested positive for the virus this week. The spike led school officials to switch final exams online, close libraries, and call off activities, including a ceremony for December graduates.

    "In the nation’s capital, George Washington University officials announced on Wednesday that all in-person social gatherings and events were canceled effective immediately, and remaining exams for the semester would be held online starting Friday. The school had said a day earlier they would require booster shots after the omicron variant was detected.

    "Across the country, many colleges are grappling with the fear of worsening pandemic conditions as they wrap up final exams and prepare to send students home for the holidays. And as they look ahead to the spring semester, many school officials are pledging to be agile as more data emerges worldwide about the rapid spread of the omicron variant."



    •  From the Financial Times:

    "European supermarket chains J Sainsbury, Carrefour and Ahold Delhaize will stop selling several Brazilian meat products after an investigation found they contributed to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

    "Pressure to halt deforestation has ratcheted up since last month’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

    "It resulted in more than 100 countries pledging to end by 2030 meat production supported by livestock reared on land where rainforests and savannahs had been cleared — a main source of carbon emissions.

    "As the world’s biggest beef exporter, Brazil’s meat’s processing industry has long faced scrutiny over its supply chain and its impact on climate change.  The decision by Sainsbury’s, the UK’s second-largest supermarket chain, the Belgian stores of Carrefour, the French retailer, and Albert Heijn, the biggest chain in the Netherlands and part of Ahold Delhaize, follows an investigation by environmental campaigners Mighty Earth and NGO Repórter Brasil, which was published on Thursday."



    •  McDonald's has announced that it plans to open 200 new locations in Italy over the next three years, a significant increase from the 630 that it currently has there.

    "Italy is seen by the group as one of the markets with the greatest potential on a global scale," says Dario Baroni, who runs McDonald's Italian business.

    An MNB user sent this story to me yesterday, asking whether the McDonald's approach to food is consistent with Italy's culinary tradition.  The answer to that, obviously, is no … even if McvDonald's were to offer something like McArancini.  But that doesn't mean that it won't be successful in its growth plans there.  I sort of gave up hope when a McDonald's opened on the Champs-Élysées.

    Published on: December 16, 2021

    The conversation about vaccinations - prompted this week by Kroger's decision to eliminate some Covid-19 benefits for unvaccinated employees - continues, with one MNB reader taking umbrage at my endorsement of the Kroger decision:

    I have had about enough of your support for authoritarianism.

    If you think that's what I'm supporting, then either you are misreading me or we have profound and perhaps irreconcilable views on what freedom requires of us.

    I hope it is the former.  I fear it is the latter.  But it is at least somewhat reassuring that we can continue to have the conversation;  when that becomes impossible, well, to paraphrase Raymond Chandler, we will then be living in a world so cold that it wouldn't melt a slice of spumoni.

    From another MNB reader:

    Perfect example of continuing the narrative.  Omnicron.  Fact , the effects of Omnicron are less then Covid.  So why the huge scare? Fact, when viruses mutate, they tend to become less severe. So why the scare?  Over 70% vac rate in the us, and this does not even include the covid survivors who have natural immunity.  So why the scare?  Stop the rhetoric of control and let nature take it’s course.

    First, it is Omicron, not Omnicron.  Second, barely more than 60 percent of the total US population is fully vaccinated, and less than a third has received a booster shot.  Third, if I am understanding the public health officials right, what we don't know about Omicron is more than what we do know at this point.

    I think that as we go into the winter season, when the infection rate is likely to go up and we try to make sure that our healthcare system doesn't get overwhelmed - something that a lot of doctors are concerned about - it makes sense to be vigilant, if only so we minimize the impact of this variant and are able to go on with our lives.

    It seems to me, based on my reading, that as a nation we're a lot better off as we face off against the Omicron variant and other forms of Covid.  We have vaccines and boosters.  We know a lot more about degrees and methods of contagiousness.  We have more medicines that can treat people who have Covid.

    But the simple fact seems to be that people who, for whatever reason, are vaccine-resistant, they are far more vulnerable that people who have gotten the shots.  And that vulnerability has societal and economic implications.  Freedom may be another word for nothing left to lose, but we still have a lot to lose if we do not do battle with the pandemic using all the weapons at our disposal.

    One MNB reader wrote:

    When we talk of freedom, it is regarding the freedom to make your own choices based on your beliefs.  If you don’t believe the vaccine is the way to go then you take that risk upon yourself.  If you have vaxxed up then you have made that choice.  Either way, there is no way that the government should mandate and eliminate your freedom of choose.  That overreach is, what I see as the crux of the matter.  I too live in NY and find it refreshing that certain counties are not following the lead sheep over the fence of mask mandates.  People are finally starting to allow choice and not blindly follow.  Personally, I have vac’d and booster’d up.  If someone else hasn’t, then it is up to them to protect themselves.  Their issue is not my mine.    Regarding Kroger and their directive to charge more for non vac’s eee’s.  A totally a political move.  Imagine the backlash if they charged more for obesity, which BTW is related to 1-5 deaths in the USA.  I see it as a baaaah-d move.

    Except that if you don't behave in a responsible way, you aren't just taking the risk upon yourself.  You're potentially enabling spread of the virus and its variants, which affects a lot of other people.

    And then, when businesses say, "Okay, make your choice, but there are going to be implications in terms of things like insurance coverage," these same people get all whiney about it.  They want choice, but without any repercussions from the choices they make.

    That doesn't sound like an argument for freedom to me.  Sounds a lot more like entitlement.

    Yesterday, we pointed out:

    "Officials stress that early data shows that individuals who are fully vaccinated and received a booster shot remain largely protected against severe illness and death from Omicron. But they worry about how few Americans have been boosted to date. Over 55 million people in the United States have gotten the additional shots, out of 200 million who are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC."

    Prompting one MNB reader to write:

    Could it possibly be that 200 million were eventually sold on the idea that vaccines were the end all/be all … now are being told that is basically not true.  This is in context of masks previously being the end all/be all … which of course again are also mandatory many places.  Maybe ‘moving the goal posts’, or the lack of accountability in the first place about the virus origins – is creating doubt.  Simple human nature.  What if we all just became robots … ??

    Maybe it is just because I am the product of a Jesuit education, in which I was taught that knowing the questions to ask was at least as important as knowing the answers.  (As distinct from my earlier education from Dominican nuns and Irish Christian Brothers, who taught me that asking questions was the best way to get smacked.). But I never, ever assumed that there was any answer or recommendation from public health officials that would be a be all/end all.  In fact, few public health officials made such claims.  Only some politicians did that.

    Responsible health officials did the best they could with the information they had, and they adjusted their recommendations as more information became available.  I was a crappy science student in school, but that much I remember - science is about gathering data, reaching conclusions, challenging conclusions, and adjusting conclusions based on more information.  This is the antithesis of being robotic.  It is, in fact, human.

    MNB reader Tim McGuire wrote:

    Claiming that employers charging higher healthcare premiums for unvaccinated employees is unfair because they don’t do so for other situations that cause high healthcare costs (examples cited included being overweight, having a drug addiction, or needing sex-change surgery) totally misses the point.  First, the comparisons are ludicrous - your being overweight is clearly a danger to your health, and will likely increase your healthcare costs, but it is not a danger to your co-workers’ health.  Obesity is not contagious - COVID-19 clearly is contagious and transmissible from one employee to another employee (or customer).  If you choose to accept being overweight, you’re risking your own health.  If you choose to be unvaccinated, you’re risking the health of everyone around you.  Why should employers stand by and allow some of their employees to endanger the rest of their employees, customers and communities?

    Second, these companies aren’t increasing the premiums to cover higher costs - they’re doing it to encourage people to get vaccinated.  And despite the reader’s claim that people who haven’t gotten vaccinated yet are holding their ground and won’t get vaccinated - “Punishing them will not help convince them to get vaccinated” - real-world evidence shows that is simply wrong.  Countries, states, cities and companies all over the world have shown time and again that requiring vaccinations to participate in public activities - going to restaurants, bars, plane trips, sporting events, colleges and, yes, workplaces leads to increased vaccination rates every single time.  Making their lives less convenient, less fun, less public and less interactive convinces many unvaccinated people it is just not worth the aggravation, so they go get vaccinated.  Not everyone, but many.  And every additional vaccination reduces the risk for all of us.

    Just get the damn shot!

    From MNB reader Kelly Dean Wiseman:

    Good job on standing firm on vaccines.

    I’m guessing the folks who are chiming in against increased health costs and/or mandates for the un-vaxxed probably didn’t have to wear a mask all day, behind plexiglass, dealing with angry and intentionally mean people. Many of us did. Must be nice to be a ‘freedom loving’ exec up in the suites ranting without the slightest notion about everyone’s public health responsibilities.

    Thanks for your smart position on this.

    I wrote yesterday:

    Me, I'd like to be free of people who keep talking about freedom but never talk about mutual responsibility.

    To be honest, I had second thoughts about that crack later in the day.  Seemed maybe a little glib.  But I left it up, because it also was an honest reaction.

    One MNB reader, however, had no second thoughts:

    Your best comment ever!

    Another reader felt the same way:

    LOVE your comment!!!  CHEERS!!!!

    From MNB reader Rich Heiland, a "big picture" commentary:

    Interesting discussion in "your views" on Kroger and its vaccine policy. In my opinion it ignores the elephant in the room. Which is, our healthcare system, unique among developed economies, that requires employers to provide health care. I have long advocated for some form of national care, like Medicare for all. In Australia they have that plus private supplements with the added plus that any out-of-pocket expenses are tax deductible. While in Australia for business I had a chance to discuss this with clients and they consider our approach appalling. They are happy not to be in the healthcare business.

    Bear with me. Currently in the States many employers lose good employees, who are happy with the job, OK with the wages, because of health care. They will leave to get better coverage. Studies have shown it costs 1.5 times a fully-loaded salary to replace an employee. I tell my clients, many of whom have a conservative bent and oppose any national system, that they are suffering by being made to provide health care. In Australia, employers do not lose employees because of health care. Any additional taxes they pay to help support a national system in my opinion will be much less than the costs of being forced to be "the healthcare system."

    If a client wants to oppose a national system because they believe in less government, well, OK. But don't try to tell me it makes business sense because it does not.

    And finally, MNB reader Julielynn Covar noted that yesterday, one MNB reader wrote:

    "When they start mandating and adhering to the same rules they want for the American people, for themselves and all the illegal immigrants coming into this country, then maybe I will reconsider my position.  This is America.  The best Country in the World.  A Free Country (for now).”

    And she responds:

    Are we the best country, though?  Really?  Our criminal justice system is deeply flawed (and racist), our healthcare system is deeply flawed (and racist and sexist), our educational systems are flawed (and classist and racist and sexist).  We lead the world in gun violence, our infrastructure is crumbling, women rights are crumbling, and a not insignificant number of people aggressively reject science and willingly buy into crazy conspiracy theories. I am not sure “best” is the word.  But that statement (and buying into the insane eliminating cow meat thing, I mean……...) does pretty effectively identify the comment as a regurgitation of ridiculous talking points without any real thought behind it.

    Sounds to me like Julielynn is channeling Will McAvoy: