business news in context, analysis with attitude

We've had several stories about voice-activated computers from companies like Amazon, Apple and now Google, that are designed to enable the smart-home and help draw users into one ecosystem or another by allowing them to easily place orders or even track packages.

One MNB user commented:

Last night I said “Alexa, order a refrigerator water filter”, “she” described the one I ordered in the past and the cost.  I said PIN and voila, ordered.  It amazes me every time and I LOVE IT!

And from MNB reader Nathan Williams:

Awesome.  Just tried it.  Amazing.  She responded my package will arrive today. How cool is this thing!

Totally cool.

The other day, I made a joke when commenting about a Washington Post report that McDonald's "has ended a controversial practice of giving nutrition advice to students in schools, pulling back on a program that critics said was a subtle form of fast-food marketing that could imperil kids’ health and understanding of nutrition." The fast feeder had hired John Cisna - a formerly 280-pound Iowa teacher who ate McDonald's for 540 straight meals, got regular exercise, and lost 56 pounds - as a 'brand ambassador'."

I commented:

The idea that McDonald's was offering nutrition advice to anyone is a joke. The fact that schools were letting them do so, to kids they are responsible for educating, is malpractice.

That said, I've never been surprised that Cisna was able to lose 56 pounds after eating McDonald's for 540 straight meals. Eat that much of anything - but especially McDonald's - and you're gonna spend a lot of time throwing up.

One MNB user was not amused:

We all know that you don’t like McDonald’s but your comment today jumped the shark.

It was totally a cheap shot. I hate myself for it, but sometimes I just can't help myself.

MNB reader Jim Mahern also thought I was off-base:

Your comments regarding McDonalds are very interesting, but somewhat misleading since you seem to believe their business is nothing but "burgers and fries". To go even further and state that the fellow who lost 56 pounds may have lost it because "if you eat that much of anything, especially McDonalds, you're going to spend a lot of time throwing up" is unfair. McDonalds currently has some of the following on their menu: chicken, fish, biscuits, hotcakes, bacon, sausage, fruit 'n yogurt parfait, oatmeal, 5 different salads, yogurt, apple slices, apple juice, milk, coffee, lattes, ice cream and shakes. Sounds like a pretty diverse menu to me. I would also be willing to bet that many of those students in Portland for whom you seem to have a great deal of respect, are McDonalds customers at least on a casual basis. Maybe you should join them occasionally.

McDonalds always seems to bear the brunt of people who like to criticize the "fast food" segment and theorize that they are responsible for a lot of the obesity in America. On the flip side, I wonder how many people are  alive today because McDonalds is the best and most affordable option for them.

(I am not a McDonalds franchisee. I am an occasional customer who believes in fair play on all issues).

I never claimed to always be fair.

But I'm also not sure to suggest that it is often a best and affordable option. Easy, maybe. But really less expensive - when you take everything into account - than buying some hamburger meat and a roll, and maybe a fresh tomato and some onion, and cooking it up yourself?

From another reader:

McDonalds can't win, furnishing caloric content of their foods just simply is not good enough. In a prior life I was a Clinical Dietitian and often spoke to people about moderation. I would tell them if you wanted a candy bar have a candy bar. Too often people jump on diets that are so restrictive that they cannot follow and very soon leave them behind.

I don't care much for McDonalds but I do like their coffee and stop a few times a week for a warm cup. Obviously you have a real problem with McDonalds but seem to have zero issues with Starbucks who's caloric content of some of their drinks is more than a Big Mac. I would also add that McDonalds has more of a balanced selection than Starbucks. You can also stop by a Starbucks and be reminded about the social issue of Black Lives Matter. So I would rather learn about nutrition from McDonalds than a $7.00 an hour barista on why I should care more about our society.

Fair enough. But for the record, my coffee of choice at Starbucks is a venti nonfat two Equal latte, not one of their calorie-busters.

The other day, MNB reported on a Fox News story that Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, has gone on the offensive against Amazon founder/CEO Jeff Bezos, saying that he bought the Washington Post in order to use it to influence corporate tax policy.

"Amazon is getting away with murder, tax-wise," Trump told Fox host Sean Hannity on his program. "He's using The Washington Post for power so that the politicians in Washington don't tax Amazon like they should be taxed." And he suggested that Bezos and Amazon might have antitrust problems if he is elected president.

I commented:

If the Washington Post plans to run exhaustive investigative pieces about all the things that Trump and Hillary Clinton would not want us to know about their lives and careers, I suspect they'll have a pretty busy five months between now and the election.

By the way, y'think maybe Rupert Murdoch created Fox News and bought the Wall Street Journal because he wanted to have some influence? Of course he did.

And hasn't Trump bragged about financially supporting both Democrats and Republicans over the years because he wanted to exert influence? Yup.

But let's not let the facts get in the way.

One MNB user responded:

The irony of this comment, coming from a presidential candidate who is refusing to release his tax returns, shouldn’t be ignored.

Another MNB user wrote:

I agree Trump has played it both ways but he is openly stating that he did whatever was necessary and played both parties for the success of his businesses.  I don’t think him calling out that all businesses are doing the same thing and that they are looking out for themselves, their bottom lines, NOT their consumers, NOT the country as a whole, NOT unemployment and that he is going to try to rectify the problem is an issue.  There is nothing wrong with calling a spade a spade – including himself.

You are always talking about transparency – I think Trump is being transparent – might not be pretty but he is not denying what he did/has done.  He has made millions (maybe billions)  on the backs of others and taken advantage of our government system and he is calling out that everyone else out there has done the same thing and continues to.  Don’t think this is a surprise to too many folks out there but it’s not talked about. Just like in business,  if you don’t truly understand and call out what the problem is,  how do you fix it?

Finally, we had a reader the other day who wrote that millennials ought to be referred to as the "snowflake generation," because "they melt in the face of any heat, they cannot be faced with any opinion that differs from what they are spoon fed by the liberal professors and an even more liberal media.

I profoundly disagreed with this characterization, and so did MNB reader Chuck Jolley:

Spoken like a true old fogey who has reduced himself to standing on his front porch and yelling at the neighborhood children to get off his damn lawn.

Can I get an amen?
KC's View: