John Mackey and Whole Foods: Biting The Hands That Feed Them

My local Whole Foods Mkt.

My local Whole Foods Mkt.

When I first moved to Boston in 1967, there was an amazing natural food store on Newbury Street called Erewhon. It was started by Michio Kushi and his wife Aveline and focused on Kushi’s macrobiotic diet. You could get all kinds of interesting foods there like tamari sauce, miso, natural peanut butter made out of just peanuts, and all kinds of strange grains, beans, and vegetables. The store had sawdust on the floor and big barrels with foodstuffs in them. I used to take the T downtown to shop there and then drag my purchases home in great big cloth bags. Eventually Erewhon expanded and opened a store in Cambridge and it got easier to shop there. Erewhon was a pioneer in making organic foods available to the public.

In the late 1970’s another natural foods store opened in Brookline. It was called Bread and Circus, and the company soon expanded into Cambridge, Wellsley, and a few other Boston suburbs. It was a great place to shop and didn’t have the “health food” aura of Erewhon, where you would see lots of sickly-looking macrobiotic mavens. Unfortunately, in the early 1990’s Bread and Circus was bought out by the Texas company, Whole Foods Market. And it’s been pretty much downhill from there. The prices are sky high and the standards for what constitutes “whole foods” have slipped.

Under co-founder and CEO John Mackey, Whole Foods is much more focused on marketing than on health. Mackey is an obsessive libertarian, who in 2009 wrote an obnoxious op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in which he suggested that Obama’s health care initiative was socialistic. Here’s just a taste.

With a projected $1.8 trillion deficit for 2009, several trillions more in deficits projected over the next decade, and with both Medicare and Social Security entitlement spending about to ratchet up several notches over the next 15 years as Baby Boomers become eligible for both, we are rapidly running out of other people’s money. These deficits are simply not sustainable. They are either going to result in unprecedented new taxes and inflation, or they will bankrupt us.

While we clearly need health-care reform, the last thing our country needs is a massive new health-care entitlement that will create hundreds of billions of dollars of new unfunded deficits and move us much closer to a government takeover of our health-care system. Instead, we should be trying to achieve reforms by moving in the opposite direction—toward less government control and more individual empowerment.

john-mackey

In 2010, Mackey tried to save the company some money by punishing employees with exercise and garcinia cambogia supplementation for those whom he deemed to be too fat, giving them smaller discounts for their purchases from the stores than thinner employees got. The reaction was swift and negative, and from what I can tell, the initiative was quietly dropped. The company would have been sued over it anyway. Oh, and Mackey hates unions too.

I don’t know who shops at Whole Foods in Texas, but around here it’s mostly the ex-hippies like me along with what we used to call “yuppies” and other politically liberal types. As Mackey found out in 2009 and 2010, his libertarian lecturing doesn’t go over too well with his clientele. After each of these episodes, I became less interested and wasting my “whole paycheck” at Whole Foods. I still go there sometimes, but usually only to buy things I can’t find anywhere else. After today, I’m going to feel even less enthused about shopping in Mackey’s Markets.

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that today Mackey told NPR that Obamacare is worse than socialist–it’s fascism! It’s seems Mackey has a new book out called Conscious Capitalism. He told NPR that his goal is to convince people that corporations aren’t really “primarily selfish and greedy.”

Mackey sat down with Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep to discuss his philosophy and the new book he co-authored, Conscious Capitalism. Part 1 airs Wednesday, Part 2 on Thursday….

When Inskeep asks him if he still thinks the health law is a form of socialism, as he’s said before, Mackey responds:

“Technically speaking, it’s more like fascism. Socialism is where the government owns the means of production. In fascism, the government doesn’t own the means of production, but they do control it — and that’s what’s happening with our health care programs and these reforms.”

Apparently NPR has been dissing Whole Foods for awhile now. There was funny piece about it at The Atlantic in 2011: NPR Is Slowly Breaking Up with Whole Foods. Mackey would probably be more comfortable appearing on right wing talk shows; but he wouldn’t reach his target demographic that way, so he has to go on NPR. There’s a real mismatch between this CEO and his customers.

Well, around here, lots of the supermarkets carry organic fruits, vegetables, eggs, butter, dairy products and meats now, so there isn’t as much need to go to a specialty store with sky-high prices. My biggest problem is that Whole Foods recently bought out a local food chain that ran the most inexpensive and convenient store in my neighborhood. By next fall, the closest grocery store to me will be a Whole Foods. Can I resist stopping there and drive 15-20 minutes to get to another store when I’m in a rush or tired? It won’t be easy but I’m going do my best.

Anyway, this is an open thread. What’s on your mind tonight?


Michael Bloomberg Suggests Elizabeth Warren is a Socialist, Will Bring Back USSR

Michael Bloomberg’s worst nightmare

WTF?! NYC Mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg gave an interview to The New York Times on Friday in which he criticized both President Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney. Today, the Caucus blog reports that Bloomberg also had a few choice words for Elizabeth Warren, who is running to unseat Bloomberg’s chosen candidate Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown. Check this out:

“What I’ve tried to do is find liberal middle-of-the-road Republicans and Democrats. In the Senate, Scott Brown, who single-handedly stopped the right-to-carry bill. You can question whether he’s too conservative. You can question, in my mind, whether she’s God’s gift to regulation, close the banks and get rid of corporate profits, and we’d all bring socialism back, or the U.S.S.R.

Really? I’d say Bloomberg’s policies are a lot more reminiscent of the Soviet Union than Warren’s, e.g. stop and frisk and his violent crackdown on Occupy Wall Street.

Bloomberg claims he supports Scott Brown because Brown is for gun control.

“The biggest reason the mayor is supporting Senator Brown is the senator’s help on one of our biggest gun issues: opposing concealed-carry reciprocity that would let people with gun permits from rural states like Arkansas and Kentucky carry hidden handguns in New York City,” Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser told the New York Times.

But Scott Brown has an “A” rating with the National Rifle Association, supports concealed carry laws, and opposes bringing back the assault rifle ban. Elizabeth Warren supports most gun control policies and wants to renew the assault weapons ban. I think we all know why Bloomberg supports Senator Brown (R-Wall Street), don’t we.

This is an open thread.


What the Socialists just said …

Well, here goes my shot at ever working again.  I’ve not only proclaimed this week ‘I love Senator Bernie Sanders Week’, I’m going to quote the World Socialist Web Site and agree with socialist Barry Grey.

To be honest, the U.S. really doesn’t have an active Socialist movement or anything  close to the socialist left in Europe let alone other places.   WSWS is one voice of socialism.   Glenn Beck and the Tea Party are regaling themselves as mainstream and the dude they’re reading these days thought President Dwight Eisenhower was a communist agent.  If that’s the new normal, then, maybe I am a Marxist by that silly ruler.  But, anyway, at the risk of being labeled a red, here we go.

Grey’s article talks about Progressive (TM) hand wringing over Obama’s supposed lurch to the right.  There was no lurching involved imho.  Obama is  just one of those pols that says one thing and does another.  I frankly have no idea what he actually thinks.  So, the fun part of this blog post is reading Grey dissect what  is “more repugnant”, the villager’s “stupidity or their cynicism”. Grey cites a bunch of whiny, disillusioned villagers in the process.   He identifies their central theme as:

The general theme of these commentaries—amidst the pleading, scolding and whelps of despair—is that Obama must reclaim his “core values” and start fighting the Republican right. It is summed up by Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, who writes: “At this point, the strategy is to shame [Obama] into fighting.”

So, this is my first issue.  I just was talking to BB earlier and I personally believe that Obama has no “core values’.  He just says what’s expedient for the moment that gets him where he wants to be.  He’s like the ultimate pragmatist; whatever works for the moment.  I even wrote a post to that effect years ago here that accused Obama of always “doing the chameleon”. It’s his past MO that convinced me of this two years back.  There are way too many ‘present’ votes in the Illinois legislature and tales of Obama hiding in the bathroom to avoid votes for there to be evidence that he’ll fight for anything other than a chance to get to higher office in a shorter period of time.  He seems to have joined and ditched groups–ask Jeremiah Wright–more for the connections than for the higher purpose.  As my post notes, he flip flopped all over the place during 2008.  Why should we expect anything different?

The article cites lots of examples of villagers looking for Obama redemption.

Among the notable examples of such lamentations is Frank Rich’s column in the December 5 New York Times, which makes the tongue-in-cheek suggestion that Obama has been taken hostage by the Republicans and his behavior is best explained by reference to the Stockholm Syndrome.

Rich writes: “The captors will win this battle [over extending Bush-era tax cuts for the top 2 percent of US households], if they haven’t already by the time you read this, because Obama has seemingly surrendered his once-considerable abilities to act, decide or think.”

Liberal economist Paul Krugman, in a December 2 New York Times column written in response to Obama’s announcement of a two-year freeze on federal workers’ pay, is harsher:

“After the Democratic ‘shellacking’ in the mid-term elections, everyone wondered how President Obama would respond. Would he show what he was made of? Would he stand firm for the values he believes in, even in the face of political adversity?…

“It’s hard to escape the impression that Republicans have taken Mr. Obama’s measure—that they’re calling his bluff in the belief that he can be counted on to fold. And it’s also hard to escape the impression that they’re right.”

David Corn, the Washington bureau chief of Mother Jones and a columnist for PoliticsDaily.com, writes, more in sorrow than in anger:

“President Obama, in the instance of this apparent tax cut compromise, seems to be settling without waging a principle-driven battle, and that is puzzling many of his progressive loyalists… His reasons for eschewing a showdown remain a mystery… A deal like this … will drive many progressives crazy, for they’re looking to Obama to lead a charge against the Republicans, not yield to their threats.”

Michael Lerner, the editor of Tikkun, suggests that the best way to “get Obama to become the candidate whom most Americans believed they elected in 2008” is to challenge him from the left for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2012. The idea is not to defeat the incumbent, but to “pressure Obama toward much more progressive positions and make him a more viable 2012 candidate.”

As Eleanor Clift notes in Newsweek, “MoveOn.org is running ads with the theme ‘Bring Obama Back,’ calling on the president to ‘be the president we fought to elect’ and to hold firm on his promise to end tax breaks for the richest Americans… It’s a chance to reclaim his convictions, and Obama should seize it.”

Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of the Nation, bemoans “Obama’s Disastrous Path” in her December 7 column in the Washington Post. Defining herself as a “progressive supporter” of Obama, she lists the president’s right-wing moves since the mid-term election debacle, ranging from his abject apologizing to the Republicans to effectively abandoning his July 2011 date for beginning to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

Vanden Heuvel objects to Obama’s leaning toward the notion that “we should impose austerity now, instead of working to get the economy going.” The operative word here is “now,” as it implies her agreement with the official line of the administration that whether sooner or later, austerity must be imposed.

Absurdly inflating Obama’s stature, she declares: “This president has a historic mandate. Just as Abraham Lincoln had to lead the nation from slavery and Franklin Roosevelt from the Depression, this president must lead the nation from the calamitous failures of three decades of conservative dominance.”

This, she continues, “is the necessary function of a progressive president… If he shirks it, [Obama] risks a failed presidency.”

I still don’t know what some of these people have been smoking or drinking.  I don’t see anything in Obama’s past history that would give me the impression he would wage a “principle-driven battle” on anything.  He says he supports GLBT rights and then he shows up with some of the most notorious homophobic religious nuts in the country and expands their role in ‘faith driven’ government GOTV grants. He doesn’t appear to be using his bully pulpit or his pen to remove DADT. The most he appears to be doing is a few symbolic finger waggings.   He says he supports a woman’s choice on reproductive health and then immediately sells every women’s uterus to the Stupakistan terrorist groups to drive through Romney/DoleCare; the healthcare reform that was less liberal than Richard Nixon’s plan.  He says he doesn’t support War or torture, but then sends Holder on an endless mission to defend the Dubya policies and people at every turn.

What core values?  What principled actions?

I even read an Ismael Reed Op-ed this morning that says that Obama can’t afford to get angry without being tagged a militant black man.  Was any one ever intimidated or upset when Steven Urkel got really mad?  Even the Steven Urkel character had scripted moments when he took principled stands.  No one wrote any thing about intimidation into the script and TV scripts love stereotypes.  We can’t get a little righteous anger from our Nerd-in Chief?

Better questions come from Grey:

They all proceed from the premise that Obama is a “progressive.” Why? On what basis? There is nothing in his political career either before or after his election that suggests anything other than a conventional—i.e., right-wing—American bourgeois politician.

In the end, they brand Obama a progressive on the grounds that he is Democrat and an African-American. Here on full display is the political bankruptcy of the rejection of social class as the basic criterion in politics and its replacement by race and other forms of personal identity.

Yes,  yes, yes.  That is it.  (Well, except I wouldn’t call him an “American bourgeois politician” since I really am not a socialist by nature.) The richest among us slice and dice us into neat little angry groups of Tea Partiers and New Black Panthers so that we get more mad at the idea of Raj in Bangalore taking a job or the idea that civil rights can cause ‘reverse discrimination’ against white men or that we’re being invaded by Mexicans who are driving all of our wages down or all white people are natural born racists. It’s all the poison flowers of the same ugly little divide and keep them in corporate serfdom seeds.

Continue on with Grey.  He’s so worth reading.

What are the “core principles” that Obama has supposedly abandoned and must now reclaim? The only principles he has evinced are the defense of the global interests of US imperialism and the wealth and power of the American financial aristocracy. Aside from occasional cheap demagogy, he has shown nothing but indifference and contempt when it comes to the American people.

The apotheosizing of Obama by this political milieu is ultimately a function of their own social being. They represent a very privileged, comfortable and complacent layer of the upper-middle class, and their pro-Obama, pro-Democratic Party politics reflects very real, material interests—interests that are sharply at odds with those of the working class.

One need only ask, in precisely what does their “progressiveness” consist? They do not advocate serious social or political reforms, let alone socialist policies. On the contrary, they tenaciously uphold a political system dominated by two utterly corrupt and reactionary parties of the American plutocracy.

They do not, for the most part, even call for an end to the US wars of aggression that are killing hundreds of thousands and destroying entire societies in the Middle East and Central Asia.

The people who are writing these words are–as Grey writes–writing from the comfort of their own social being.  Dana Millbank and  the other villagers  are the constituents defending the Obama tax cave-in because they will be some of the few beneficiaries.   Check out this FDL Diary from Blue Texan and check out the comments. You can check out more on this vapid Dana Millbank column at Economist’s View. Krugman, Thoma, and Dean Baker all take a punch at Millbank who just loves him some hippy punching. Krugman has a statement about the topic here too.

So look at how the Village constructs its mythology. The real story, of pretend moderates stalling action by pretending to be persuadable, has been rewritten as a story of how those DF hippies got in the way, until the centrists saved the day.

The worst of it is that I suspect Obama’s memory has gone down the same hole.

Grey states it eloquently.

What really upsets them about the crass manner in which Obama prostrates himself before the Republicans and Wall Street is how thoroughly it exposes their own role in promoting him and aiding the marketing campaign that was used to get him elected. They are terrified that their political dog and pony show built around Obama has so quickly and ignominiously collapsed.

So, this is what REAL socialists say about Obama.  Actual socialist thought is not  the Glenn Beck/Rush Limbaugh fantasy philosophy that scares working class whites into seeing brown people as the threat.  It’s not found at all in progressivism (TM) that has warped like some magical Madison Avenue Marketing brand enshrouding Obama and the village into enabling the misguided notion that  it’s only white men that can prevent liberty and justice for all.  Ultimately, socialism asks people to look at how the very rich and the very powerful use divisive tactics to stop us little people from realizing who is taking the fruits of our labor from us. Even if you aren’t a socialist, this is an exercise worth entertaining.  Now, comrades, have fun with those links!!!


On Redefining Illiteracy and Innumeracy

left-wingI’ve been highly frustrated recently by the appalling level 0f uncivil discourse at town hall meetings. Here’s the latest experience for Howard Dean as reported by the Hill. Yesterday, I watched Senator John McCain’s meeting and his was booed several times for making statements that were true by definition. The hatred in the air is palpable even over a TV screen. What reasonable person could argue with something that is true by definition? It’s the most basic proof of all.

Well, we seemed to have lost our ability to present opposing viewpoints with the use of logic, data, and information. I was thinking about this on my drive across the bayous to campus this morning for several reason. First, I had a run-in with a group of Beck worshipers (yes, he’s a loser babee, but he’s not the singer). Second, I’m in my first set of lectures where I have to set up some definitions so we can move forward with the rest. That’s when I figured it out. There’s an entire misinformation industry out there making money on confusing the intellectually vulnerable on standard definitions. It’s now so bad,that you can say that’s untrue by definition or it’s a tautology and folks will tell you it’s just skewed data or your opinion.

How can you possibly reason with any one who thinks your data is bad because their basic definition is flawed? How do you debate some one who has refitted and redefined a definition to match their argument rather than some one who looks at the definition and tries to fit the argument to the definition? Well, you can’t. Especially when they actually believe that the generally excepted definition is arguable. To me, this redefines both illiteracy and innumeracy.

When we are very young toddlers, we start learning to posit definitions with the help of our elders. Every one who has seen a toddler call every four legged furry animal a doggie has seen this happen. We say, no, that’s not a doggie, that’s a kitty or a horsie or a moo cow, until the toddler can put the animal into the correct set. The correct set is the universally agreed upon definition of the term. The toddler does not argue that your definition of kitty is your opinion. We’d never be able to communicate with any one if we each had unique definitions for every word. Yet, there are those with political and personal agendas that would make it so.

This is what has happened in political discourse. The generally accepted and agreed upon definitions of socialism, right-wingfascism, liberalism, racism, and other related terms are now malleable and debatable. Glen Beck is one example of a person that redefines and distorts these generally accepted definitions for a living. He’s the reason I beat my head against the wall whenever I have to tell person, that by definition, Barack Obama is not a socialist or a fascist. Keith Olbermann is another example. He’s the reason I beat my head against the wall whenever I have to tell a person, by definition, that Bill Clinton is not a racist. These ‘misinformants’ have completely made up their own definitions. As a result, those of us that follow the traditional, universally agreed upon definitions set up by scholars in the fields cannot have a civil discourse with any of their minions.

Here, let me show you. I’m going to borrow the Merriam Webster Dictionary of definition of Socialism. It’s short and sweet.

Main Entry: so·cial·ism

  • Pronunciation: \ˈsō-shə-ˌli-zəm\
  • Function: noun
  • Date: 1837
  • 1 : any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods

    2 a : a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b : a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state

    3 : a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done

    Take a good look at that definition and tell me, just once, when anything Barack Obama has said or done to date has had anything to do with advocating collective or governmental administration of the means of production and distribution of goods. He didn’t do it with Chrysler, he didn’t do it with GM, and he hasn’t done it to any financial institution that was held in momentary receivership, given TARP funds, or pushed towards bankruptcy. What he has done has been to take public funds and pour them into privately owned means of production and distribution of goods. GM is still owned by stockholders and now, very much, by its unions who have been enriched by tax payer dollars. All those financial institutions have not been nationalized but they have been given sweetheart loans. If he was a socialist he’d have jumped at the opportunity to grab their assets and he did nothing of the kind. If anything, he typifies cronyism. He is not a socialist.

    I lifted this from the Black Agenda Report!!!

    I lifted this from the Black Agenda Report!!!

    Also, the socialists themselves don’t claim him. I’ve been reading the very left leaning Black Agenda Report for months. They can’t stand him. The one openly socialist Senator we have, Bernie Sanders, doesn’t agree with Obama’s policies on health care or corporate bail outs or trade. Heck, even Socialist activist John Pilger thinks he’s a “clever corporate marketing creation.”

    So, give then definition above and the data below it, can I get a shout out that BY definition, Barack Obama is NO socialist !

    No? Are you going to give me the guilt by association argument? He knows a few socialists, therefore he is a socialist? (In that case I should be a Christian and a Republican because most of the folks I know, work with, live by and are related to are those and I’m neither.) What else can you do? Well, if you’re a Glenn Beck Acolyte you will take his misdefinition and tell me, just wait because I will eventually be proven wrong or that my data is skewed or that I really don’t know a thing about real socialism. I was even told by several Becksters that my data was skewed and my facts were wrong when I sent them to look at the CIA website containing the CIA factbook. I was told that all sites can be hacked. What do you say to people that think the CIA website can be hacked and that they manipulate their data to make Cuba look good?

    Anyway. I picked this example, but I could’ve just as easily deconstructed the Bill Clinton is a racist meme which I just

    One of the Media Ministers Of Misinformation

    One of the Media Ministers Of Misinformation

    may do when I get pissed enough about that too! This is the deal. We are letting a few on air personalities turn people into illiterate and innumerate shrieking morons. It’s a problem when you’re in a democracy. I may have a captive group of students with whom I can reasonably demonstrate what socialism is and is not because that’s part of my job. But how do you reach the millions of folks that listen and watch these gasbags? They all need to be removed from whatever airwaves because they’re damaging the democracy for their own personal gain. Their corporate masters need to be boycotted and punished for profiting from the proliferation of ignorance.

    Please Digg!! Tweet!! Share!! and Boycott Media Misinformants and their corporate Sponsors!!!

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