- The Current
- 🌊 The Soda is too Damn Cheap!
🌊 The Soda is too Damn Cheap!
Soda collusion?, US city with the worst traffic, and the Malice in Dallas
As much as we like to keep these intros lactose-free, we would like to wish a happy Milk Day to all of you who celebrate. There are so many milks to choose from now that the question has evolved from "Got Milk?" to "What is Milk?" It was all fun and games until microbe milk arrived. At this point, it's all just udder chaos.
In today's edition:
US city with the worst traffic
Malice in Dallas
🔑 Key Stories
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is investigating the pricing strategies by Coca-Cola and PepsiCo
Both companies are facing scrutiny over potential violations of the Robinson-Patman Act, an antitrust law that bars manufacturers from pricing strategies that undermine competition, especially small competitors. Coke represents 46% of US soda sales volume; PepsiCo 26%
The law hasn’t been enforced in decades, but the head of the FTC recently said the government needs to step up its regulation of big manufacturers
Both Coke and Pepsi deny wrongdoing
The FTC enforced the Robinson-Patman Act regularly until ~20 years ago, when the FTC and Justice Department focused more on harm to consumers, particularly higher prices, rather than harm to competitors. Under the Biden admin, the FTC has been vocal about cracking down on antitrust issues
Duggan to Fight Extradition
On Tuesday, the lawyers of an ex-marine accused of illegally training Chinese pilots said they plan to fight his extradition to the US
Daniel Duggan is a former US marine. He is now an Australian citizen after renouncing US citizenship
Last October, Australian authorities arrested Duggan at the US’ request. The US says he provided illegal “military training” to Chinese pilots over a decade ago, and last December, the US requested his extradition to face 4 charges, including conspiracy
His lawyers say his actions were legal and that the US is using him as a pawn in political disputes with China
The US indictment against Duggan alleges he provided training to Chinese military pilots in 2010 and 2012, and possibly other times, for ~$60k without proper US approval. His lawyers say he was "signaled out" for extradition to the US because of his prior US citizenship even though other Australians provided military services to foreign states. He was arrested the same week that Britain announced a crackdown on former military pilots training Chinese fliers
Classified Docs Revealed
Classified documents from President Biden’s time as Vice President were found in his private office
The Presidential Records Act requires that all records created by presidents be turned over to the National Archives at the end of their administrations
Last November, Biden's personal attorneys were packing files in a private office used by Biden as VP when they found records that should have gone to the National Archives. They reported the discovery and the National Archives took them the next morning
While the docs were found in November, their existence was publicly revealed on Monday
The papers reportedly contain briefings on foreign countries. A Republican congressional committee says it will investigate. Yesterday Biden said he was surprised to learn in November that classified files had been found at his former private office. "I don't know what's in the documents," he said
European Crop Innovations
Spain and Britain recently announced crop innovations in cocoa and wheat, respectively
Spanish scientists say they produced the very first cocoa crop in Europe. Cocoa is a main ingredient in chocolate that’s primarily grown in Latin America
Europeans are the world's leading chocolate consumers. Scientists have been trying for centuries to grow the crop in Europe
British scientists say they produced a “climate-proof wheat” that produces yields up to 50% higher than other strands in hotter temperatures, which will help maintain wheat output as average temps rise
Don't Just Drink Wine, Invest In It Too
Sponsored by Vinovest
With Vinovest, you can diversify and protect your wealth with fine wine. Not only has fine wine outperformed the S&P 500 over the last 4 recessions, but it has a fraction of the risk and volatility. Here are some highlights:
This past year has been tough for investors: The S&P 500 was down over 15% in 2022. But fine wine was up almost 19%...
The ultra-wealthy have been investing in wine for centuries, but wine investing has traditionally been limited to exclusive auctions
2 primary factors drive returns in the fine wine market: Maturity and scarcity. Most investment-grade wine takes 10 to 15 years to mature, and there’s a finite supply of it. Once a vintage is bottled, that’s it. No more can be made. As other people drink the wine, the remaining bottles become rarer and more expensive
Vinovest is a platform that lets anyone invest in wine. It uses master sommeliers and AI algorithms to build a diversified wine portfolio based on your investing preferences. Vinovest authenticates, stores, and insures your wine, but you still own it 100%
In-Da-East: In-N-Out announced that it will open its first Eastern US location in Tennessee, where it plans to add more restaurants in the future
RIP, Blake: New York Times columnist and lead political newsletter writer Blake Hounshell died in an apparent suicide after a long bout with depression
Chicago, take the... L: Chicago had the worst traffic of any American city in 2022, per a new traffic report. The average driver lost 155 hours to traffic
Keep the change, king: A Walmart cashier in his 80s can now retire after a fundraiser pulled in $100k for him. A local business owner in Maryland organized it
Better call the dean: Another AMC show starring Bob Odenkirk is set to premiere in March. Odenkirk will play a college professor amid a midlife crisis
Grandpa, stay off the weed: Cannabis-related hospital visits for Californians aged 65 and older increased by 1,808% from 366 in 2005 to 12,167 in 2019
👇 What do you think?
Which would you prefer to drink?
What’s a life skill that can’t be taught?
Reply to this email with your answers!
See yesterday's results below the Wrap!
🌯 Roca Wrap
In 1990, Southwest Airlines faced a trademark dispute. Instead of a court battle, it was settled by an arm-wrestling match.
The story begins in 1968, when Herb Kelleher decided to build a different type of airline.
At the time, the government regulated the airline industry by setting prices for inter-state airline tickets.
Kelleher looked at his home state of Texas and saw a gap in the market.
Texas was large enough to sustain its own in-state airline, and such an airline – because it wouldn’t fly between states – wouldn’t be subject to many government regulations. The airline would thus be free to set its own prices, allowing it to undercut the market.
Soon, Southwest Airlines was born.
Southwest grew rapidly — in part due to low prices, but also because of its unique, playful marketing. Among other gimmicks, Southwest hired all-female flight attendants in bright orange shorts and go-go boots who were told to “cheerlead” passengers.
Catchy slogans became their thing: "Somebody Up There Loves You,” "THE Low Fare Airline," “Grab your bag, It’s On!,” and “Just Plane Smart.”
That last one, introduced in 1990, was similar to that of an aviation parts company called Stevens Aviation. Their slogan was “Plane Smart.”
Instead of filing a trademark claim, however, a Stevens marketing employee had an idea to both avoid legal fees and generate publicity for both brands.
In the spirit of Southwest’s fun-loving attitude, the employee sent an open letter that suggested Kelleher, Southwest’s CEO, battle Steven’s CEO Kurt Herwald in an arm-wrestling match for the rights to the slogan "Plane Smart."
The CEOs agreed, and the companies organized an event at a stadium in Dallas: “Malice in Dallas.”
On March 20, 1992, the showdown began with 4000+ fans in attendance.
The first 2 rounds were pure spectacle. During the first, Kelleher called in a "replacement" and brought out the 1986 Texas arm wrestling champion.
Southwest Airlines, 1; Stevens’ Aviation, 0.
During the second, Herwald brought an employee of his who was nicknamed the "Killer.”
Southwest Airlines, 1; Stevens’ Aviation, 1.
The real match began in the third round, though, when the CEO’s faced off. Southwest’s Kelleher’s arm went down in 30 seconds, technically costing them the slogan.
In the end, though, Southwest Airlines kept “Just Plane Smart” after Kelleher agreed to donate $5k to a charity of Herwald’s choosing.
Keller told the New York Times that a court battle could have cost ~$500k and several years. Instead, both companies credited the event with increasing profits. Stevens Aviation was making ~ 4x times as much 3 years later; Southwest’s manager of public relations estimated the event generated returned ~$6M in publicity.
The event garnered so much publicity that then-President George H.W. Bush wrote the CEOs to praise them for it, calling the solution a "win-win." Southwest would go on to become one of the most consistently profitable airlines in history.
If you have thoughts, let us know at [email protected]!
🌊 Roca Clubhouse
Better orange snack?
Cheez-Its: 66%Goldfish: 34%
What's a goal you have that you've yet to achieve?
Kirstin from Brooklyn: "Just started training for the Brooklyn half marathon in may! Have yet to break 4 consecutive miles but I’m determined to get to 13.1!"
Fantin from Paris: “A goal I have yet to achieve is learning a third language, I hope my Erasmus semester in Norway will help me achieve it."
Kathy from Georgia: “I am working on my masters degree. I’m 49 and didn’t get my bachelors until I was 48. Then I went straight into a masters program. I’m on track to graduate in Dec. 2023 from The University of Georgia! Go Dawgs!"
🧠 Final Thoughts
Congratulations to all of you who won Golden Globes last night — we didn’t watch. The Hollywood awards circuit could take some notes from college football bowl season and have a Golden Globes presented by Duke’s Mayo next year where all the winners get a mayonnaise bath. Would love to see how Joe Pesci likes that.
Hope you’re having great weeks. Both of us are currently on trips for Roca stories — can’t wait to share with you soon!
Max and Max