By Doug Porter
One of the big stories in the media this week concerns the decision by CVS/Caremark to discontinue selling tobacco products at its 7600 stores. In the short term this move will cost the company $2 billion a year in sales,or about 1.5% of their total volume.
I expected to see debate over whether this was a prudent business decision. After all, no good capitalist likes to walk away from a profit. And questions about the viability of the company’s long term strategy are to be expected. Will a large enough number of consumers actually react positively to the concept of hard-core retailing of health care?
I also expected the ‘yahoo’ element to chime in, filling comment sections with trollish chatter about how, liquor, candy and sodas would probably be next. But I was astonished at how quickly Fox News spun this story into yet another Obama-centric controversy.
Perhaps they were concerned about viewers becoming inured to the constant stream of Benghazi!, Benghazi!, Benghazi! Or maybe the favorability ratings declined on this year’s “War on Christmas”campaign.
The decision by CVS to go big with its announcement about ending tobacco sales come next October was universally praised by health care advocates starting with the American Cancer Society. Then President Obama (I have no doubt this was coordinated by CVS PR folk) chimed in, saying it would help advance efforts “to reduce tobacco-related deaths, cancer, and heart disease, as well as bring down health care costs.”
Cue the crazy. If Barrack Hussein Obama liked the idea, it must be part of the Conspiracy.
From Media Matters:
On Fox’s The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson approached the CVS decision with suspicion and a remarkably uninformed premise, asking, “Is it OK legally … to restrict tobacco availability in a private store like this?” She questioned her guests as to whether they would continue shopping at CVS and observed that, “For people who smoke, you know, they have a right to buy cigarettes. It’s not illegal.”
On Your World, Fox host and VP Neil Cavuto noted that President Obama supported CVS’ decision, and speculated that CVS was “getting scaredy cat” because “with the health care law and the changes and everything else,” selling tobacco products “didn’t look good.” In the same segment, Fox Business host Melissa Francis expressed concern that snack foods and alcohol could be cut from CVS shelves next.
And on Fox’s The Five, co-host Dana Perino tried to use the decision to attack President Obama’s signature health care law, saying, “I just wonder, is this President Obama now saying that corporations are allowed to have values and express them? Because if that’s the case, maybe corporations then don’t have to provide contraceptive care to their employees or their health plans. And the Supreme Court justices might want to think about that.”
I toured the conservative media hive this morning, looking to see if this meme had any traction. While many were skeptical (the tobacco industry funded much of the right for many years, and like smoking, it’s a hard habit to break) most seemed to taking it in stride. Years of actual science combined with real life tragedies seem to have had their effect.
Typical was the commentary by UT-San Diego’s Dan McSwain, who grew up around tobacco farmers and also lost both parents to lung cancer:
With the trend of being “responsible” in full flower, why stop at tobacco? After all, activists have lobbied to remove everything from sugary sodas to alcohol to ammunition from the nation’s retailers.
One answer is that tobacco stands alone in its lethality.
In moderation, alcohol has health benefits. Even chemical relatives of methamphetamine have productive uses, from unclogging sinuses to helping a military pilot stay awake in combat.
Not tobacco. The plant has no productive uses, yet when consumed it reliably raises death rates from heart disease and a long list of cancers.
The Wall Street Journal (owned by Fox) did jump on the Conspiracy Bandwagon. From their Market Watch column:
The speed of the president’s statement indicates that CVS’s decision was likely coordinated with the White House. Every day, countless business decisions are made without any comment from the White House. Something unusual was going on.
This is troubling. It gives the appearance of preference for those who curry favor with the powerful, and it squeezes out smaller entrants who can supply innovative products and services to consumers.
An online reader poll accompanying the article indicated that 50.6% supported the CVS decision (“They shouldn’t be in the business of selling cancer sticks.”), 19.7% said meh (“So What? It was a business decision.”) and 29.7% disapproved (“We’re increasingly becoming a nanny state’.)
Full Disclosure: I lost my vocal chords due to smoking related cancer. I thought Fox News was batshit long before my diagnosis.
Pio Pico Power Plant Approval Pummeled
Local environmental groups are unhappy over a decision made yesterday in San Francisco by the California Public Utilities Commission approving construction of a gas fired power plant in Otay Mesa.
The Environmental Health Coalition and which fights toxic pollution in communities south of I-8, and California Environmental Justice Alliance, its statewide ally, issued an angry press release saying “the decision moves the region away from a healthier future and from climate goals outlined by the City of San Diego, other cities in the region, and the state, and is an example of environmental racism.”
A big part of their exasperation over the decision stemmed from the decision by the PUC not to meet in San Diego.
“By having this hearing in San Francisco, the Commission made it clear they really have no interest in hearing from the community most directly impacted by Pio Pico,” says Roddy Jerome, resident of San Ysidro. “Now, SDG&E ratepayers in San Diego face financial and environmental burdens for at least the next 25 years and all Californians will feel this ripple effect on our climate, our health and our economy. The worst part is, it doesn’t have to be this way.”
The groups opposing the decision say “the Commission’s negligent approval of Pio Pico as another example of San Diego’s long-time trend of dumping pollution in South Bay communities and SDG&E’s trend of refusing community needs to benefit its own profits”
Mayoral Race Gets National Attention
The upcoming February 11th runoff between City Councilmen David Alvarez and Kevin Faulconer was spotlighted at Politico.com yesterday:
A race that looked at first like it might be dominated by the ugliness of Filner’s fall has instead become a contrast of big-picture themes, between a youthful Democrat stumping on inequality and inclusion and a more seasoned Republican emphasizing moderation and competence with the government ledger. The mayor’s post would be a national prize for either political party: Alvarez would join a vanguard of unabashedly liberal Democratic mayors elected over the past year, while Kevin Faulconer would be the only Republican mayor of a top-10 U.S. city.
Faulconer, a second-term council member, was initially viewed as a solid favorite. He’s a self-described moderate and environmentalist with an even-keeled personality that seemed like a good fit for San Diego after the tumult of Filner’s brief administration. He has made a point of distancing himself from the national Republican Party; asked if he could imagine himself delivering the national GOP radio address as the party’s most prominent mayor, Faulconer laughed: “Unlikely.”
But polls now show the race is sharply divided, with strategists on both sides saying it’s too close to call. Faulconer says union firepower has made the difference.
The Alvarez campaign Tweeted a photograph (above) of their candidate being interviewed by Jenny Medina for the New York Times yesterday, so we can assume that more national attention is on the way.
Faulconer Friends at the Lincoln Club Busted (Again)
I know it’s normal for independent expenditure committees working in support of a candidate to engage in hyperbole, but the Lincoln Club’s mailers supporting Kevin Faulconer are setting new standards for just how far into falsehoods political consultants are willing to go.
City Beat’s John Lamb, who pens the Spin Cycle column, busted the Lincoln Club bigtime this week, looking into a mailer featuring Tania Hernandez, a Latina Democrat who said she was voting for Faulconer based on the earlier fabrication that Alvarez would only favor “three chosen neighborhoods.”
It turns out the woman pictured on the mailer doesn’t even live in San Diego.
Via Spin Cycle:
For weeks, Spin Cycle has searched for Hernandez, curious about how she’d formulated such a strong opinion of the first-term District 8 council member. This week, Spin received a tip that Hernandez appeared to be a resident of National City. An address was provided, and Spin reopened Operation Pinpoint Photo Location.
Lo and behold, less than half a block away from the address Spin found the spot where the mailer photo was taken. Again, in National City.
Spin Cycle tried to get a comment from the Lincoln Club, whose anti-Alvarez independent-expenditure committee—Working Together for Neighborhood Fairness—paid for the mailer (along with a group calling itself Stuck in the Rough LLC, which is battling residents to develop homes on the former Escondido Country Club).
Through a spokesperson, Lincoln Club President and CEO T.J. Zane told Spin: “The Club doesn’t discuss its tactics or strategy in the middle of a campaign, sorry.” Zane declined further comment.
Hypocrisy, Thy Name is Aguirre
Mayoral wannbe and fourth place candidate Mike Aguirre announced his support of Kevin Faulconer at a press conference yesterday, jumping on the Republican ‘blame the unions’ bandwagon in a big way.
Aguirre is also frustrated with the amount of money in the race — particularly millions coming in from local and national unions. He said the city is making a more natural, demographic-based move from Republican to Democrat, but the unions are “trying to take over that transition to line their own pockets.”
“The typical democratic constituent who lives in City Heights, in North Park — they’re libraries aren’t open, they’re streets aren’t paved — but at the same time we have the best pensions.” Aguirre said. He said he thinks that shows the unions are trying to control the focus of policy coming out of democrats, and he called that a squandered opportunity.
Really? I think I’ll just quote from an email I received shortly after the announcement was made:
“It should be noted that Aguirre came and asked for Labor Council support himself in the primary and touted his support of labor unions without uttering a single syllable about his deep concern about public sector unions. Thus his concern for the influence of unions is the rankest of hypocrisy.”
I wonder if any local Republicans will apply the same standards of invective to Aguirre they did with Nathan Fletcher’s move in 2012?
On This Day: 1778 – The United States gained official recognition from France as the two nations signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and the Treaty of Alliance in Paris. 1919- The first day of the 5-day Seattle general strike 1987 – Sonny Bono declared his candidacy for mayor of Palm Springs.
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