Saturday, February 27, 2010
While everyone sits back to determine how seriously to take the weakest Governor in the State's recent history as he tries the most aggressive and, frankly, ridiculous attempt to shut down the Native tobacco business, we have to decide what we will do to protect ourselves. It is fine to dismiss the actions of Governor Paterson, but perhaps just being dismissive will end up creating a situation where we miss an opportunity to thwart attempts by future governors as well future State legislatures.
Even if we look at Paterson's attempts as a weak political ploy for a guy who already has been forced to throw the towel in on a run for re-election, it doesn't change the fact that state politicians have been dogging us for years. Even the local state representatives have catered to downstate interests. Only George Maziarz has stood unflinchingly with us and we appreciate it.
We are now a position we always longed for and that is to have control over the product we sell. If the State wants to regulate their wholesalers out of our business then we should let them. There are enough Native tobacco products to support our businesses. We no longer need the products sold by non-native retailers. Our products by and large are just as good or better and priced where theirs can't compete even with coupons and buy downs. The fact is that big tobacco used us to pushed their sales and then turned on us when we started producing our own. Philip Morris has been colluding with state and federal authorities to specifically attack our businesses. They are allowed to advise and actually help craft anti-Indian legislation. Why should we sell their product anyway?
The one issue we need to address is any involvement by State wholesalers in the transportation and distribution of Native product. This never should have been allowed to develop in the first place. Theirs is an unnecessary step in the process of transporting Native product to our territories. We have the right to carry goods to our people without interference from anyone. Native to Native business does not require State involvement. The current situation is tantamount to extortion by the State. We pay their wholesalers to move our product for us and the State leaves us alone. The State gains an accurate count on our trade and uses that info against us.
By taking the logical step towards Native product only in our shops we wipe out all three issue the State has bitched about for twenty years. Revenue will be lost both from the inevitable death of State wholesalers and the loss of MSA payments collected from our sales of premium brands. Information Sharing will be lost with the elimination of the State licensed wholesalers from our territories. We certainly will not provide information to them. Parity will never happen. In fact they will not even have a product to compare. In the past they could look at the price of a carton of Marlboros on and off our territories, all the while ignoring how much buy downs and special promotions by those manufacturers added to the disparity. Now they will have compare Senecas to Marlboros, a comparison that Philip Morris dreads. And the prices will never compare.
The other thing we need to do is break down the barriers to trade between our people and our territories. Mohawk products should be promoted in Seneca territory and Seneca products should be pushed in Mohawk territory. Of course every Native territory in between should included and those Native territories outside the Six Nations as well. At some point we need to address the interference of our commerce by the feds, but the start of this battle is with our own people and those bent on working with the State. Unified opposition to the State will be an easy fight especially with a Governor hanging by a thread.
March will see the laucnh of Making A Visible Impact Magazine. Many Native Pride posts will be featured from the past and going forward. The printed version will be available at Native retailers free of charge. As always my desire is to start the conversations and discussions needed to engage our people. MAVI will be a little on the lighter side featuring photos and promoting artisanship as well. Continue to check in here even as MAVI makes its way around for day to day news and views. See Making A Visible Impact at http://mavimag.com/.
Monday, February 15, 2010
It appears that the latest attempt to push through a ban on the use of the U.S. Postal Service for the shipping of tobacco products may be to attach the bill to Homeland Security and Anti-Terrorism legislation. In the America of uber-patriotism, or at least the politically correct need to appear so, hoards of politicians line up to pass anything dubbed Homeland Security or Anti-Terrorism. These mindless "servants of the people" check common sense, or any sense for that matter, at the door without even considering the absurdity.
Can anyone actually believe that a sale that takes place on Native soil by Native retailers direct to a consumer can some how be supporting Al Qaeda? The two most influencing arguments for making tobacco not mailable are claims that terrorist organizations may be benefiting from this trade and that children are purchasing cigarettes from Native retailers. Both of these worries are ridiculous and hide the truth behind the legislation. While it is possible for both a child or a terrorist to buy cigarettes from a Native retailer and have that product delivered, by mail, to them; it is neither a practical process for the type of instant purchase and under age smoke would employ or the clandestine path a terrorist would choose. Minimum and maximum purchases apply. Age and identification must be verified. Payment is done with a clear paper trail through checks or credit cards and it can take a week to ten days for the product to come. Not to mention, it is a government agency making the delivery.
There is nothing sinister or immoral about remote sales. No matter what your opinion about smoking is, tobacco sales are legal as is the mailing of tobacco. Native participation in this industry is both appropriate and thoughtful. No one really believes our sales are supporting Al Qaeda or Hammas nor does anyone believe children are indiscriminately being shipped cigarettes for them and all their friends to become addicted. These claims as well as some of the numbers associated with lost revenue are all a smoke screen for following Big Tobacco's lead and crushing the Native tobacco business. We no longer do the grunt work of pushing Philip Morris' Marlboros or RJ Reynolds' Winstons and Salems. We now have Native brands that threaten their market share. So now what appears to be socially acceptable anti-smoking laws are in fact protectionist measures for Big Tobacco. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the benefits to these guys. Hell, even a lowly public servant should be able to do it.