Friday, December 29, 2017

Wasting Your Hard-Earned Money at McDonalds

It’s lunch time and either your children are clamoring for McDonalds or you want a dependable fast meal.  It used to be that McDonalds was a place to feed yourself and your family cheaply, getting some reasonable nutritional value although accompanied by too much sugar and carbs.

Today I was on the Massachusetts Turnpike and went to a McDonalds in a service area.  I hadn’t been to a McDonalds for several years and when I looked up at the menu board, I couldn’t believe what I saw.  A fish filet meal cost almost $10, and the various burger and chicken options were close to $11.  This is what you would pay for a high quality sandwich at many cafes or a burger, albeit usually without fries.

In 2002, the cost of a Filet-o-Fish sandwich was $1.89.  Today it was over $5.  A Big Mac was $2.39. today it was around $6.  So in the last 15 years, there was an increase of almost 200% for the fish fillet sandwich, and more than 150% for the Big Mac.  

How did that happen?  Given that the cost of ground beef and fish filets in the grocery store have barely increased during that same time, and that the cost of living has increased only 37% during that period, what can account for this huge increase?  

I’d say it was corporate greed, knowing they could get away with it because their consumer would pay what was charged without giving it any thought.  More recently, there have been increased labor costs in certain markets because of an increase in the minimum wage.  These have, of course, been passed on to the consumer.  One certainly couldn’t expect the corporation to eat the increased expense and have profits reduced!  It’s still ultimately corporate greed.

The time has come for the American public to stand up and say, “NO!”  If we’re going to spend this kind of money … a family of 4 could easily spend $40+ for lunch … we’re going to get real, more nutritious, food in a more comfortable environment.  If you're an adult who is eating on the fly, slow down.  Taking some time to breathe while eating is important for your health.

For those of us traveling on the interstates, we really don’t have much choice.  We’re a captive audience because finding a decent place off the road is not easy; most options near interchanges are going to be other fast food options.  So we have to grin and bear it.  But if you’re not traveling the interstates, there is no excuse to spend that much money for the product received.

Monday, December 11, 2017

American Spirit v American Character

Recently I saw two very interesting and seemingly inconsistent interviews.  The one was with David McCullough about his book, The American Spirit.  The other was with Kurt Andersen about his book, Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History.  

McCullough talks about the American spirit in familiar terms.  It is based on the aspirations of the Declaration of Independence and those of the Founding Fathers:  equality, fairness, truth.  He spoke of the men who have lead this country as, for the most part, having had a certain gravitas.  They may not have always been wise or even good presidents, but they understood the responsibility, not just the power, of their office.  

A blurb for the books says: “The American Spirit reminds us of core American values to which we all subscribe, regardless of which region we live in, which political party we identify with, or our ethnic background.”  I certainly believe in those core American values and in their importance in guiding our country, witness my book, We STILL Hold These Truths.  However, I would not say that all American’s subscribe to these values.  Hardly.  And that is not just a fact today; it has always been a fact.

That brings me to Andersen’s book.  His argument is that the American character is composed of two very different strains.  On the one hand you have the religious fundamentalists, starting with the Puritans, who were beyond fervent in their often fantastical beliefs and would brooke no disagreement.  To believe was to be right.  As the population spread westward, religion followed often in the form of ministers who were hucksters, making show biz out of religion.

The other strain was formed by those who came to America searching for a pot of gold.  To them it was a land of opportunity, a chance to become rich.  There was no truth for them beyond the quest for money.

In both cases, he argues, fantasy was a core aspect of people’s belief system and character.  And they believed in their own truths.  I don’t know if Andersen makes this point, but I would say that this character is very much a self-centered one in both cases.

McCullough looks at the current political scene as an aberration from our historic spirit.  Andersen looks at it as the logical culmination of our historic character.

They are both right.  How can that be?  The tendencies that Andersen sees in our history have indeed always been there; the evidence is ample.  But for most of our history, the political and media establishment adhered, at least in form, to the higher American spirit.  The quote from John Adams that is inscribed on a mantle in the East Room of the White House says it all: “May none but Honest and Wise Men ever rule under This Roof.”  

And the power and prevalence of that establishment kept the lid on the unruly character of the people.  Even the largest corporations, which until the early 1900s were a law unto themselves, came to be regulated to enforce standards of fairness, equality, and truth.

But the political and social movements of the 60s upended much.  Everyone became entitled to their own truths and authority became suspect.  Watergate reinforced this.  Reagan legitimized this movement with his, “Government is the problem,” and the start of the Me generation.  Then, with cable television and the internet, the avenues for people to both express and listen to their own truths, their own facts, morphed exponentially.  Fantasy and hucksterism became the lifeblood of conservative talk radio.  And that has brought us today to the presidency of Donald Trump.

With pandora’s box opened, will we ever be able to return to a world where the American spirit prevails over the self-centered character of the people?  Painfully, it is hard to imagine.  The judgments and emotions are running so strong

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Exposing the Predator in Chief

In the midst of the tsunami of allegations of sexual harassment and assault against a variety of public figures and their resulting fall from power, I kept wondering where is the media’s coverage of the allegations against Donald Trump?

Finally, The Atlantic recently recounted the accusations of each of the nineteen women who have in the past made allegation against Trump. Given that in the Access Hollywood tape he boastingly states that he has committed such assaults in the past … as he put it, “When you’re a star, you can do anything” … he must be held to account, just as the other’s have.

At the time the tape was made public, he did not raise questions about its veracity, but now he says it wasn’t his voice.  And so Billy Bush has come forward and stated that it was Trump who made those statements and that there were 8 witnesses.

Republicans took President Clinton to task for his sexual lapses or predation in the impeachment proceedings.  Donald Trump invited several of Clinton’s accusers to be his guests at the second presidential debate.

Where are the Republicans now when their own leader appears clearly guilty of such misbehavior?  To them everything is political.  They were against raising the deficit when it was part of Obama’s plan to help the economy.  Now that they are in charge, they have no problem with raising the deficit.  They speak against Democrats who have been accused of sexual harassment and call on them to be censured or resign, yet they support Roy Moore in his candidacy for a Senate seat.  

These are more example of Republican hypocrisy.  But the mainstream media cannot be a part of that hypocrisy.  The New York Times and all the major newspapers and media outlets must cover this story in thorough detail, following The Atlantic’s lead.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Is It Justice to Apply Social Standards Retroactively?

We have recently seen a rash of accusations against public figures involving various levels of sexual harassment/assault.  Most have been fired by their employers or Boards.  Only Roy Moore continues to receive unqualified support from both the Alabama Republican Party and his base.

That these acts were committed is beyond disappointing.  To become aware of the extent to which women are subjected to these types of actions, even by respected, upstanding people, both liberal and conservative, is a shock.  

As women have come forward and received a receptive hearing, more women have been empowered and found the courage to come forward with their own stories.  This is a healthy development.   Too long have women feared speaking the truth against men with power over them.  

The question is, what should society, what should organizations/employers do in the face of such accusations.  There is no question that society is quickly developing a new standard as to what is considered acceptable behavior of men towards women.  

While some have always abhorred such behavior, society as a whole has accepted the fact that “men are pigs” and that they do such things.  As long as they didn’t cross the line of criminal sexual assault or the age of consent barrier, society just shrugged its shoulder.

That is clearly no longer the case.  The question is, should people be punished … and firing someone from their job is being punished … for behavior which at the time, while reprehensible, was accepted by society.  Should these standards be applied retroactively?

When laws are passed, they are almost always applied prospectively.  Someone cannot be accused and convicted of a crime when the activity was not a crime at the time it happened.  That is the way the criminal justice system works; that is essential to its fairness.

I think the same standard should be applied here.  If someone’s behavior was either criminal or clearly unacceptable under community standards at the time it occurred, then if the accusation has indicia of truth, the person should be held accountable, punished.  

However, if the behavior was not criminal or unacceptable under contemporary standards, then the new standards should not be applied retroactively.  The person should, however, offer an abject apology and admit that the complained-of behavior occurred. And they should be called on the carpet and told that if this ever happens again they will be fired.

With regard to someone who is up for election, however, such as Roy Moore, it is for the people to decide whether someone with such a history should receive their vote.  A history of sexual harassment or assault is certainly relevant when one is seeking a position of public trust.