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Season of 'the cliff': A half-baked metaphor defies gravity

Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz said on Nov.

Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz said on Nov. 10 that the acquisition of a juice company is an effort by Starbucks "to position ourselves, in a broad way, to build a multibillion health and wellness business over time." (Oct. 4, 2011) (Credit: Getty Images)

News media have for weeks accepted "fiscal cliff" as the buzz-phrase for legislative tax and expenditure deadlines. Distortive as it may be — implying a danger that may or may not exist — at least it's all very dramatic.

But with the International Longshoremen's Association raising a potential strike that could paralyze east coast ports, the wispy term gets even further diluted. "Port cliff" and "container cliff" are now making the rounds.

Just like the so-called "fiscal cliff," the image implies that an object is hurtling toward the brink, off some high place, threatening to accelerate at 32 feet per second squared to its final destruction — as if there have never been deadlines, extended deadlines, strikes, or hard negotiations of big consequence.

If the stores closed before you finished shopping this week, did you go "over the Christmas cliff"? Or did you just come up short on gifts?

Here's a CNBC citation of the "container cliff."

This is another by WSJ.

Here's one that posits a port strike a "second fiscal cliff."

Then there's word of this arguably insipid development, via The Washington Post:

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has posted a letter online explaining that for the rest of the week, employees in the megachain’s Washington, D.C., stores will write “Come Together” on customers’ coffee cups.

“Rather than be bystanders, we have an opportunity — and I believe a responsibility — to use our company’s scale for good by sending a respectful and optimistic message to our elected officials to come together and reach common ground on this important issue,” Schultz wrote. “My hope is that this simple message will serve as a holiday reminder from Starbucks of the spirit that has always bridged differences and that we all have the power to come together and make a difference during every season of the year.”

Treacle aside, does this concerned CEO think we should raise taxes on corporations and CEOs, or cut Pentagon spending, or . . . what? Does Starbucks support or oppose the provisions that would "automatically" kick in if there is no deal? Is there any reason to care whether it does? The 'come together' message is as lightweight as the foamy head on a cappuccino.

Photo: Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz

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Which was the most fevered lunge for self-promotion by a power player?

Hollywood actor and director Danny Glover urging New York City to keep horse carriages. Actress Edie Falco making a TV ad to abolish horse carriages. Ex-Sony exec Mitch Singer, last week: “Why do so many believe that this is Sony’s war to fight?"

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