business news in context, analysis with attitude

I love it when I get email from MNB users who even want to comment on stories that haven't run on the site. For example, one MNB user wrote:

In the newest Forbes 400 Wealthiest issue, received in the mail today, the following is said about Ron Burkle:

"$3.2 bil, supermarkets, investments, Beverly Hills, 56. Grocer's son timing market impeccably. Nine months ago his Yucaipa funds paid $100 million for 6% stake in gourmet food chain Whole Foods, shares up 180% since. Joined union local as box boy at age 13. Formed investment firm Yucaipa 1986. Made fortune buying & selling supermarket chains: Fred Meyer, Jurgensen's, Ralphs. Hired Bill Clinton as advisor 2001; Clinton left last year to stump for wife Hilary. Recently acquired Icelandic cold storage & shipping company Eimskip."

My projection, watch what is happening at A&P /Pathmark and Whole Foods for repeat of the past.


It isn’t hard to imagine that he’s going to parlay his position in those two chains into a lot of profit…one way or the other.



MNB reported last week that Amazon.com has reached a $150,000 settlement in a lawsuit filed by 17-year-old Justin Gawronski, who objected to Amazon’s decision to delete electronic copies of two books that it had been selling for its Kindle e-reader without actually having the rights. The deletions were made without the permission of the Kindle owners, and the move created outrage about the e-retailer’s ability to invade their privacy; others said it was akin to Barnes & Noble sneaking into people’s houses in the middle of the night to take back books that were the subject of copyright questions. Gawronski sued because he lost his electronic homework notes on the Orwell books along with the texts when Amazon deleted them.

I commented:

While I find Amazon’s behavior in this case to be outrageous, and it says positive things about the plaintiff that he is donating the money to charity, I do worry that he’s also learned another lesson – that litigiousness pays.

MNB user Sandra Hannan disagreed:

Congratulations to Justin Gawronski for using a very adult method of highlighting a growing problem of ‘electronic thieving’. Amazon got off easy, if all they have to pay is $150K for:

1) Violating the original material copyright by distributing “1984” and “Animal Farm”.
2) Stealing back the material which consumers believed they had purchased in a legal transaction.

The ease of ‘sharing’ in our e-society has exacerbated intellectual property copyright problems. If our largest and most respected companies do not have an ethical conscience about protecting copyrights in this electronic age, how can I expect my daughter to believe me when I tell her transferring Lady Gaga’s newest hit to her friend’s iPod is illegal? And how can I expect her not to do it when ‘all her friends do it’ (with their parent’s knowledge no less).

If Pepsi somehow was able to duplicate ‘Coke’ and sold it in a red can labeled ‘Coke’ would you blame Coke for suing? If yes, then you can honestly “worry that he’s also learned another lesson – that litigiousness pays” ; otherwise you should congratulate the kid for making Amazon change their policies, and hopefully be more responsible before distributing something in the future.


I get your point, and am sympathetic. But I still think that litigiousness is a major problem in our society, and I wish that there were another way for a 15-year-old kid to resolve his issues.




We noted last week that with its newest commercial promoting its Via instant coffee, Starbucks has managed to upset some conservatives.

The reason? In portraying a number of groups – ranging from nurses to civil War re-enactors - that cannot tell the difference between Via and fresh brewed coffee, the commercial shows a town hall meeting and portrays one man yelling, irately, “I can't taste the difference!” Some conservative blogs reportedly are expressing outrage that Starbucks seems to be mocking the people who were speaking out – sometimes angrily – about health care reform at town hall sessions around the country this summer.

My comment:

It generally has been my experience that if you can’t laugh at yourself, you probably can't laugh any anything. And if you don't have a sense of humor…well, you probably aren’t worth spending a lot of time with. That goes for people on both sides of the aisle.

One MNB user responded:

I agree with you that we need to all laugh at ourselves. But surely you must admit there is some bias with the media in casting tax protesters and government healthcare protesters as "angry mobs" yet gay marriage and climate and anti war protesters over the last eight years are viewed as patriots. They are all patriots exercising their rights to debate the issues that are important to them. Starbucks would have never, never, never had a good laugh at the expense of any liberal protest group.

But another MNB user wrote:

Seems to me the Starbucks ad complainers should switch to decaf.




In OffBeat on Friday, I wrote that not only are men apparently feeling the brunt of the recession, but there also are studies suggesting that they are earning fewer college degrees than women. And, I wrote:

Now, I’m not entirely surprised by this, since it always has been my contention that women are smarter than men and better able to adapt. If we’re talking survival of the fittest, I’m generally willing to bet on women.

I do find it amusing that the Tribune quotes Christina Hoff Sommers, described as an “anti-feminist scholar,” as saying that this trend could lead to “a lot of strong women and a lot of disaffected men," prone to crime and unable to form stable families. Because while men may not be as smart as women, that doesn’t mean that we will descend into depravity and chaos if we live in a female-dominated society.

I also find it amusing that some people think that we are close to actually becoming a female-dominated society. There may be more women in the workplace and more women completed college, but that doesn’t mean that there is a sudden and profound power shift taking place. Far from it. And suggesting that one is taking place is probably a way for men to convince themselves that they are victims. Which is utter nonsense.

And by the way…I have one daughter. I hope she’s a feminist. We’ve raised her that way. (It seems to be working. She even gets annoyed when I refer to something as a “chick flick.”)

And I hope my two sons are feminists, too. Because that will only mean that they respect strong women, enjoy relationships with strong women, and don’t engage in old-world beliefs about the superiority of one gender over another.


MNB user Cale Evans wrote:

I’m struggling to reconcile two comments from you that appeared just 3 paragraphs away from each other:

“it always has been my contention that women are smarter than men and better able to adapt. If we’re talking survival of the fittest, I’m generally willing to bet on women.”

“.. and don’t engage in old-world beliefs about the superiority of one gender over another.”

It would seem that you subscribe to an old-world belief that you imply would be detestable for your sons to hold.


Good point. I was being inconsistent. Still, it strikes me as common sense for my sons to work under the premise that women are smarter than us.

Another MNB user wrote:

Historically, female dominated societies were peaceful. Might be a nice global change…

Also interesting that an “anti-feminist scholar” is being quoted in the Tribune. Shouldn't she be at home baking cookies or something? Without the feminist movement, she would not be a scholar and her voice would never be heard.





Finally, we had a piece on Friday about how Ralphs seems to winning the Southern California supermarket wars, which led one MNB user to write:

The most recent edict to Albertsons-SoCal from the corporate headquarters at Supervalu is 75% pass through of all promotional allowances, no exceptions. Prices wall to wall jumped up while advertising ‘1000’s of prices reduced!” from banners hanging across the store fronts.

I now shop at Stater Bros.

KC's View: