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It was reported yesterday that a 16-year-old boy has been arrested in New Jersey for allegedly using a phone connected to a Walmart public address system to order all black people to leave the store last Sunday. He had been identified through the use of the store’s security camera system. If convicted, he could face up to a year in a juvenile detention center.

My comment:

I hope this kid’s parents were appalled when they found out what their son did. (If they weren’t ... and if they are more angry at Walmart and authorities than they are at their son ... then we begin to understand what the problem is.)

He’s 16. I hope that Walmart and the authorities use this as a teachable moment. A year in detention strikes me as an absurd sentence for what I agree was a stupid and reprehensible thing to do. There’s got to be a more sophisticated way to deal with this.

MNB user Richard Lowe thought that a year in a detention facility seemed about right:

Sounds like a just punishment as an example for being so stupid!

MNB user Marlene Cohn wrote:

What this 16 year old did amounts to a Hate Crime.  At 16 you should be responsible for your actions.  If someone at that age could even mutter something like that makes me believe he heard this behavior somewhere and since the schools don’t teach this, home is the next logical place.  Maybe a year in a juvenile detention center will teach him and others how serious this crime is.  It is not a joke.  Consider any children that were in the store at the time and the fear they must of felt!!!!

I understand the outrage...but I wonder if a year in a detention facility is the best way to teach this kid. There have to be more innovative ways to mete out punishment that also teaches him something.

One MNB user wrote:

They should make him work at the nearest Walmart everyday after school and weekends packing groceries for the next year along with counseling….maybe the parents too.

I was thinking something a little more community-oriented. But you’re headed in the right direction...

MNB user Hayley Perschau wrote:

I have to say that I'm not too sure that a one-year sentence in juvenile detention is that absurd, depending on the involvement and moral capability of his parents.  The courts may have a hard time getting that type of sentence to stick; however, my concern is that if that kid could pull a racist stunt like this, what else could he do?  He is heading down a really bad path.  If he doesn't have "good parents", a sentence to juvenile detention may be the help he needs.

MNB user Jeff Folloder wrote:

About the Walmart idiot... When this story first surfaced, I commented out loud to my wife that "it must be another idiot kid".  Sadly, I was right. Some background: Our youngest child was the recipient of similar idiocy. During the middle of the school day, she went to her locker and discovered a hate-laden written missive filled with anti-Semitic epithets and swastikas. The little cretin was immediately caught, but not after my child burst into tears in a very emotional and public meltdown. The principal issued a 3-day suspension (the most he was empowered to dole out) and the school district's police department began an investigation to see if charges could be filed under the Texas hate crime statutes. The DA's office determined that since there was no physical violence... no hate crime charges. The kid got a municipal citation (read: speeding ticket).

The entire school is watching the kid for any deviation from "the rules or expected behavior". Just about every kid has ostracized the guy. And that's it. I'm supposed to be happy with how this turned out. I suppose I could just be thankful that my daughter has moved on. But I keep thinking to myself about what causes these kids to be such complete and total idiots? Where do they learn such stuff? I'm sure that the misguided Walmart DJ thought that his little stunt would be fun, too. How did we get from being the last person picked for kickball to wanting to crush another's spirit?

Again, I believe that punishment is necessary. I just think it ought to be something other than a year in a detention facility ... mostly because I’m not sure that kids come out of some of these places more enlightened, compassionate and fair-minded.

But one MNB user thinks I am being overly harsh:

It was a joke!  An impulsive, stupid, sophomoric joke.  It is inconceivable that anyone who heard it didn't know immediately that it was a joke.  The "problem" is people who can't take even a totally-harmless joke.  The kid would have gotten less punishment if he'd pulled a knife on a cashier.

I’m not trying to be politically correct here, but I’m not sure I would call it harmless. And I suspect I might feel differently if I were an African-American.

Responding to yesterday’s story about how a new study suggests that there could be a connection between the consumption of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and the exacerbation of liver disease, MNB user Kevin C. Lavin  wrote:

I have been saying for the last couple of years that issues with HFCS will be the next "big thing" in the grocery business.  I have heard many rumblings about it and I have encouraged my vendors to get it out of their ingredient list.

Another MNB user wrote:

As a person who has had heart surgery, then came diabetes and lasts non alcoholic fatty liver I can tell you that fructose is something EVERY doctor in the US that I saw said to stay away from and DON’T give your kids…. I was lucky and got my liver functions and blood sugar back to normal with a special diet that allow me to lose weight.  My liver condition cleared up as did the diabetes issue. This is a Huge issue with African American who do not do well with liver transplants and that’s what happens with fatty liver. Carbs are killers. Green is good, so are berries. Mankind can live without or very little carbs per meal, less than 50g. Ever wonder what there is not government regulations or standards for carbs ?? It’s because you don’t need them. Grains and not good for you . When you look at trans-fat, salt, sugar and  fiber please make sure to look at the amount of carbs you in taking…. Bread, pasta, cereal, cookies . In fact doctors now telling me that they are rethink our diets. In fact they’d rather have you have an egg (egg white only and they taste good) rather than a piece of toast…… Today there are 400 doctors in the US trained to help people with fatty liver overcome this before it’s too late. Once your liver goes, you go… This is the real deal trust me. I was lucky.

MNB user J. Schindler wrote:

While my knowledge of carbohydrate chemistry makes me a bit skeptical in regard to the study linking HFCS consumption to the metabolic syndrome of insulin resistance that can lead to liver injury (among other things), I agree with your comment that  "this may be a problem and is worth taking a closer look at."

For many years the experts at FDA and elsewhere dismissed concerns about trans fats, and well, you know the rest of that story.  However it is worth noting that the marked rise in use of HFCS is in large part due the politics of special interest lobbying that protected the domestic sugar industry from imports.  The result was artificially high sugar prices that made HFCS such an attractive alternative.  So if you have suffered damage from excessive consumption of HFCS, sue your Congressman.

Good luck with that.

The story about Safeway taking greater control of its private brand strategy prompted MNB user Tom Robbins to write:

I think that they are directionally correct. Moreover, I just don't have the same view that the recession is "receding". Unemployment still out of control at near 10%, no "real" jobs for those who are looking, unemployment payments extended by many states, out sourcing continuing, no manufacturing or processing plants re opening, gas prices advancing, shall I go on?

Yes, the stock market has market has moved up a bit but consider that in Phoenix there are over 40,000 homes for sale and the specter of "shadow homes" is looming and could tip off another foreclosure situation as big as the past two years. That said, with the passing of the "health care bill", I'd say recession is more likely to be with us for some time and people will really be watching their pennies.

To clarify, I noted yesterday that “there have been some suggestions - including a story in the Wall Street Journal - that with the recession receding, private brands will be less important than they were when people were counting every penny,” but I disputed the simplicity of this conventional wisdom.

Economists have said that the recession is over, but it has been our contention that the vast majority of consumers still have a recessionary mindset.

So I agree with you.

And another MNB user wrote about the Safeway decision:

Good for Safeway. Managing your own brands is the best and only way to go. If you can’t manage it yourself then you shouldn’t get into it in the first place. After all who knows better what you want, when you want it and how you want it than you?
And another MNB user chimed in:

The quality of the Private Label brands along with the additional savings in cost to the consumer will hold these SKU’s in place. The chain that supports these programs will continue to do well. Most agree that the post consumer mindset will not just move away from Private Label items. Whether you want to call it a recession or not, the consumer does not like the continued rise in food prices and will show it at the checkout. People still fear for their jobs, savings accounts are on the rise, downsizing continues, and now healthcare costs will continue to rise for the middle class and upper middle class since now they are burdened to pay the brunt of this new package. The old ways of spending will not come back any time soon…this administration will continue to scare those of us who run businesses.

Finally, I related the following in last Friday’s “OffBeat”:

I was getting a cup of coffee the other day, and had the opportunity to listen in on a job interview being conducted with a very attractive young woman. (She reminded me of my was like seeing what she’s likely to look like in about 10 years. All I can say is that she is going to be a heartbreaker. And the first one she’s likely to break is mine.)

Anyway, the question from the interviewer struck me as a good one: “Can you give me an example of a time when you found yourself completely overwhelmed, and how you dealt with it?”

And the answer, after a moment’s thought, started like this: “Well, it was probably my first day in China...”

I couldn’t hear the rest of the answer, but it occurred to me that any answer that starts out with “it was my first day in China” has to be a pretty good answer, and one likely to advance the likelihood that she was going to get the job. (Just one of many good reasons for kids to spend a semester abroad.)

Which led MNB user Chris Connelly to write:

I spent all weekend thinking about your comments regarding the interview you overheard and repeated the story several times…..first of all, to my two teenaged sons.

I don't know which impressed me more------the interviewer's question or the interviewee's answer.    I thought both of them were excellent.   Had I been there, it would have taken all the gumption I could muster to keep me from pulling up a chair and listening to the rest of the conversation.   I've been fortunate to have conducted hundreds of interviews in my lifetime and I'm keeping that question for future use.

My older son and I will be spending a week in July on a mission trip at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota working with the members of the Oglala Lakota Nation to do cleaning and repairs where needed.  I'm hoping that it will be the experience he can use to best answer his interview questions in the future.

Just another outstanding observation on your part that doesn't necessarily pertain to only the grocery business.

My pleasure.
KC's View: