McDonald’s french fries wars; or, just because they’re old Asian men doesn’t mean they’re right

mcdonalds-french-friesThere was an interesting story in today’s New York Times (yes, I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but still. . . .) about a war between a McDonald’s and some elderly Asian men.  The men want to treat the fast-food franchise like a fin de siècle Viennese coffee house, where one could buy cup for coffee and, by doing so, essentially rent a chair for a day. The McDonald’s ownership is hostile to this, saying that its business model isn’t built to accommodate daily chair rentals for $1.39 in french fries:

For the past several months, a number of elderly Korean patrons and this McDonald’s they frequent have been battling over the benches inside. The restaurant says the people who colonize the seats on a daily basis are quashing business, taking up tables for hours while splitting a small packet of French fries ($1.39); the group say they are customers and entitled to take their time. A lot of time.

“Do you think you can drink a large coffee within 20 minutes?” David Choi, 77, said. “No, it’s impossible.”

And though they have treated the corner restaurant as their own personal meeting place for more than five years, they say, the situation has escalated in recent months. The police said there had been four 911 calls since November requesting the removal of the entrenched older patrons. Officers have stopped in as frequently as three times a day while on patrol, according to the patrons, who sidle away only to boomerang right back. Medium cups of coffee ($1.09 each) have been spilled; harsh words have been exchanged. And still — proud, defiant and stuck in their ways — they file in each morning, staging a de facto sit-in amid the McNuggets.

I’m with McDonald’s on this one. Not only is it a fast food model, which by definition precludes linger, but as a business it still has the right to assert that an invitation to enter the business premises for the purpose of buying and consuming food cannot be construed as an invitation to buy minimal food and then occupy the premises indefinitely.  And it makes no difference that old Asian men can be seen as sympathetic characters.  This is a form of theft insofar as the men are wrongfully depriving the franchise of revenue.  Despite laws and court decisions mandating that Christians make gay wedding cakes or party balloons, the law probably hasn’t gone so far that it insists that a restaurant customer gets to dictate to the business how to manage its tables.

As for me, after having read the article, I’m really craving an order of McDonald’s Chicken Tenders (3 pieces), with a regular Coke, and a side of fries.  Yum.  Don Quixote and I used to have that about once a month, and I always enjoyed it tremendously.  As far as I’m concerned, there is not a single restaurant in Marin County (possibly in the whole Bay Area) that makes better french fries than McDonald’s does.

The problem with monopolies

My poor mother is struggling with a monop0ly in her care facility.  She and the gal who does hair there are at odds.

Two things before I go any further:  First, when it comes to her looks, my mother is extremely vain and, therefore, when it comes to hair stylists, she’s a PITA.  At her age, she’s entitled to be.  Feistiness is one of the things that keeps her going.  Second, because of her mobility problems, my mom cannot go elsewhere.  She needs the specially-designed chair that they have at her care facility.

So, as I said, Mom and the gal are at odds:  Mom wants a perm every six weeks and a cut that looks exactly as poodle-cuts did circa 1955.  The hairstylist wants Mom to have a softer, yet more tailored, look, so she’s trying to get her to have fewer perms and a slightly more architectural cut.  I tend to agree with the stylist, but it’s Mom’s hair after all, right?  And she’s the customer, right?

Unfortunately for Mom, the answer to those questions is, “No, not right.’  The hairstylist has a monopoly.  Mom can’t go anywhere else, so the stylist refuses to give her perms until at least two months have gone by and she makes the cuts more architectural than Mom likes.  I try to tell Mom she looks fabulous, but Mom doesn’t like what she sees in the mirror.

Equally unfortunately, Mom has fallen back on the only tactic she can think off:  she’s abusive to the hairstylist.  I’ve tried telling her that it’s not a good idea to pick a fight with the woman who wields scissors on your hair, but Mom is determined to yell and insult so loudly that the hairdresser will, of course, yield.

My Mom seems to be too elderly to understand that she has no leverage whatsoever.  There is nowhere else she can go and no one else who can do her hair.  Her choices are to make nice with this gal (which will not change the gal’s behavior, but will make their interactions more pleasant), or to let her hair go wild and free.  That’s the nature of a monopoly:  when there’s only one provider of goods and services that you need (or that you think you need), that provider has all the power.

The Obamacare exchange, of course, proves this point perfectly.  Ignore for a moment the fact that the government is dictating the nature of the product sold, and just focus on the exchange.  The exchange is the sole portal through which people can purchase goods.  To the extent there’s still a limited marketplace, it’s hidden behind that portal.

In the real world, if I’m having problems finding flights with Kayak, I switch to Expedia.  Or, as I recently discovered, I turn to a good, old-fashioned travel agent, who got me a better price on flights than I was able to do on my own.   With the exchange, however, if I can’t get past the gate’s guardian, I’m done.  No amount of cajoling or invective will change that fact.

Competition is the beginning, the middle, and the end of good service for consumers.  Take away competition and you’ve got tyranny, whether in the marketplace or the political theater.

Crowd-sourcing question: Why is the stock market still going up?

I understand that the Dow Jones average consists of a very cherried-up bunch of stocks.  Nevertheless, it usually is at least somewhat tied to what’s going on in the real world.  That doesn’t seem to be true lately.

In the face of Middle Eastern instability; Iran being months away from having a nuclear bomb; a stagflation economy; a potential shutdown and, if Obama ignores the 14th Amendment, a default; and the Obamacare exchange’s disastrous, with all the future trouble that portends, the stock market keeps going up.  That seems very counterintuitive.

I have to believe that what’s going on with the stock market now is a bubble.  After all, because a stagnant job market, a weak economy, and unstable national security are all inconsistent with a strong, healthy market.  Add in the fact that the constantly-changing Obamacare rules, regulations, and crony exemptions keep employers and investors befuddled and cautious, there should be no reason for the market to rise.  And yet it’s rising. . . .

My question is twofold, I guess:  Am I right that this is a bubble?  And if I’m right, what the heck is causing it?  Nothing I look at today signals to me that investors should be cheerful and optimistic.

Getting nickeled and dimed to death in Europe

One of the things that’s striking about traveling in continental Europe is the way you have to pay up front for things that we, in the United States, take for granted should be free.  The most notable things in this regard is public toilets.  Everybody has to use the restroom sometime, but if you’re at a European theme park, open air museum, or shopping mall, you’d better be prepared to cough up as much as $2 for the privilege of relieving yourself at some place other than a roadside ditch.  Stores, the handy stand-by of the American with a full bladder, are also unavailable.  That’s not surprising with small boutique stores, which often don’t have public restrooms, but it is surprising with huge department or grocery stores, which either make customers pay for the privilege or that have no public bathrooms at all.

Rightly or wrongly, in my mind, the lack of free public restrooms ties in with yet another study showing that the caring European socialists are much less generous than their capitalist cousins in America:

A European either living off or managing a nanny state would say that Americans’ contempt for welfare regimes is based on greed. But if Americans are so selfish, how can they be so charitable?

In no European economy are the people more generous with their own money than the people of the U.S. According to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development data, which have been thoughtfully assembled by Cato scholar Dan Mitchell, the total of Americans’ voluntary social spending reached 10.2% of GDP in 2009, the latest year for which numbers are available.

The only country that is remotely close in its generosity is the Netherlands, where the total was 6% of the nation’s economy. Only two other nations, Canada and the United Kingdom, exceeded 5%. The U.K. totaled 5.3% of GDP, Canada 5.1%.

The rest hardly even register on the chart. The French totaled a mere 2.8%, the Germans 2%. Greece, Italy, Norway and Spain all failed to break the 2% mark.

(Read more here.)

 

Nailing the heart of Benghazi

I wrote a lovely post, right here, last night.  Cheerfully hit the “publish” button and went to bed — only to wake up this morning to discover that the post not only didn’t get published, it vanished entirely.  I’m not sure I can replicate it, but I’ll try.

The point I was trying to make was about the morality that can or should undermine political systems.  I’d had a talk with a very mature, thoughtful teen, whose parents raised her to revile capitalism as an evil system that needs to be tempered by big government.  I said that it needed to be tempered by morality.  I pointed out that Adam Smith came up with his “invisible hand” theory at a highly religiously moral time, when it was inconceivable that any government would exist in a moral vacuum.  He knew, of course, that there were hard, cruel people who had no truck with morality, but it was also probably inconceivable to him that there could a paradigm without an overarching moral sense.

Texas booms, I suggested, not just because it’s capitalist, but because it’s in the Bible Belt.  China has slave labor, practically slave labor, and tainted goods (melanin in foods, antibiotics in bees, etc.) because it’s capitalism without a moral paradigm.  The State has no room for morality and when the state is the only thing Left, morality leaves society.

The next day, I read Darren Jonescu’s scathing indictment of the particular brand of evil that Hillary and Obama exemplify.  I’m quoting a lot, but there is a lot more to read, and I urge you to read it all:

In the first months after the Benghazi attack, the most urgent question, and one only rarely asked, was “What were Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton doing during the seven and a half hours between the initial emergency communications from Benghazi and the final American deaths?” A negative answer was provided in February by Leon Panetta: they were not engaging with their subordinates; they were not contacting anyone to discuss options; they were giving no orders for action; they remained entirely uninvolved.

We are left to speculate about the positive answer to that question. Were they sleeping? Curled up by the fire with a good manifesto? Playing poker with Huma and the gang? Practicing jokes for a fundraising speech? Your guess is as good as mine.

And none of these guesses really matter in the end, compared to the looming horror that attends any of thepossibilities, namely this: the president and secretary of state of the most powerful nation on Earth are impervious to shame. They can do — they have done — what you hope you could never do, what you pray your children will never be able to do, what psychologists fill academic journals attempting to explain. They were informed that their countrymen — their appointees — were being attacked, were issuing repeated cries for help, and, if nothing were done to intercede, were likely to be killed. Knowing this, and knowing, further, that they had at their disposal the most powerful military in the world, no risk of personal harm, and many subordinates prepared to leap into action at their word, they blithely walked away from the desperate men pleading for their help, and carried on with whatever they happened to be doing that night. They let other men suffer unto death without lifting a finger to help, or even indicating a moment’s regret for their inaction after the fact.

They demonstrated a cold lack of interest in the suffering of others — not the abstract, theoretical suffering of collective interest groups, such as “the poor” or “gays” or “women,” but the real physical pain and mortal terror-style suffering of individual human beings in mortal crisis.

Walking home one evening, you hear men across the street shouting for help, as they are in the process of being overwhelmed by a gang of thugs. You walk away, unconcerned with their cries or the sounds of bats smacking down on their flesh. You do not call the police or volunteer any assistance. You go to bed and sleep well. The next day, and each subsequent day, you carry on with your life of fun, friends, and self-indulgence, never giving a second thought to the men who died because you did not care to help. If a neighborhood reporter asks you about the crime, you put on your gravest voice and say, “Gosh, that’s so sad; I hope they find the creeps who did it.”

Right.  What he said.  Both Hillary and Obama claim to have been raised religiously.  Hillary showed up for church in her days as First Lady, but doesn’t seem to bother to do so now.  Obama gave up the pretense of religion the moment was elected.  For both, there are only two Gods:  the state and their particular political needs at the moment.  Neither has a sense of right or wrong independent of their particular pragmatic concerns at any given time.

I’ve mentioned before a year 2000 movie called The Contender, about an upstanding Democrat woman whom the evil Republicans falsely accuse of group sex to derail her appointment to fill a vacant Vice Presidency.  The most interest part of the movie comes when the woman, played by Joan Allen, makes her statement to Congress, a bastion of wholesome Democrats and foul Republicans:

And, Mr. Chairman, I stand for the separation of Church and State, and the reason that I stand for that is the same reason that I believe our forefathers did. It is not there to protect religion from the grasp of government but to protect our government from the grasp of religious fanaticism.

[The Founders could not have made it more clear that Freedom of Religion, which is contained in the First Amendment, protects religion from government, not vice versa.  The Amendment's language is unequivocal:  "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." There's nothing in there mandating that no religious person can serve in Congress or have a say in America's government.]

Now, I may be an atheist, but that does not mean I do not go to church. I do go to church. The church I go to is the one that emancipated the slaves [that would be the Republican sect of the church], that gave women the right to vote, that gave us every freedom that we hold dear. My church is this very Chapel of Democracy that we sit in together, and I do not need God to tell me what are my moral absolutes. I need my heart, my brain, and this church.  [And there you have it -- President Obama's creed writ large:  "I do not need God to tell me what are my moral absolutes.  I need my heart, my brain, and this (Progressive) church.]

Bees are capitalists, while mice are Marxists

Honey Bee Macro

My son begged for mice and then, when he got them, discovered that he didn’t really like them.  I’ve always had a fondness for pet rodents (having gone the mouse, hamster, and guinea pig root when I was a child) so, rather than giving them away, I moved them into my office.  Cleaning them is a minimal job, and I like having them around.  While I work, they hunker down in their little house, occasionally cheeping and chirruping in a companionable way.

What I find especially endearing about the mice is that they remodel constantly.  Every morning, I come into to my office to discover that they’ve moved around all the wood shavings in their cage.  Those that were here yesterday, are there today, and vice versa.  When they are awake (and they’re out and about if I’m up late at night or early in the morning), they are perpetually busy:  climbing, running, gnawing, and moving those shavings.

“Busy as a mouse,” I thought to myself.  And then wondered why the popular expression is “busy as a bee.”  I mean, both are busy, so why bees?

The answer was obvious — mice labor only for themselves and produce nothing useful for others.  Bees labor only for themselves, but in the process, they (a) fertilize plants and flowers; (b) make one of the world’s best food products; and (c) create a pleasant-smelling wax that once helped light people’s homes.

Bees are, in a way, the ultimate capitalists.  Good capitalism harnesses the bee principle:  in a free society, as people labor to better themselves, they produce excess to benefit others.  That’s why a healthy capitalist economy isn’t the finite pie that Marxists always envision and that powers their redistributive policies.  Marxists think like mice:  lots of motion, but no benefit beyond the immediate motion itself.  Or, as Milton Friedman said, if the benefit is to get the most people moving, don’t hand a few of them shovels to dig pointless holes; instead, give more of them spoons to dig those same holes.  Mice and Marxists move things hither and yon, but they produce nothing.

The bees, concerned only with feeding and protecting themselves nevertheless create many things that are far great than the sum of their parts.

Think about it this way:  In agricultural times, the farmer who ran around a lot but only managed to plant, cultivate, and harvest enough crops for himself was a mouse.  The farmer who put the energy into planting more grain than his family needed, who spent his busy time actually cultivating that excess land, and who then harvested a bountiful crop, not only fed and enriched himself (by selling the excess), he also fed others, making him a bee.  And hey, if he could create some super plow or harvest machine, not only would he produce more but, as a coincidental byproduct, so will others, and as a further byproduct, more people will avoid starvation.

Mice are cute and fuzzy.  They’re also foolish, selfish, and vicious.  Like Marxists, they are parasites who keep busy, decimate food sources, and have nothing to show for it other than the nice fat body of the mouse most successful at this parasitic lifestyle.

Bees are cute and buzzy.  Like a good capitalist, their primary goal is to benefit themselves, but they’ve figured out that the greatest benefit occurs if their labor products byproducts that coincidentally and pleasantly benefit others as well.

Daisy among the daisies

 

Found it on Facebook — Socialism versus Capitalism

In an earlier post, I ranted about the nasty vapidity that characterizes the “posters” my liberal friends put up on Facebook whenever an election draws near.  I also mentioned that my conservative friends consistently post more substantive articles and images.  This one, from my brother-in-law, manages to be both pithy and substantive.  It packs a world of ideas into a picture and two sentences:

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything before that so clearly distinguishes the fundamental differences in the premises from which socialists and capitalists operate when they make their political arguments.  This poster provides a perfect visual to Winston Churchill’s own epigrammatic statement that “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

Pictorial commentary on Obama’s “they didn’t do it themselves” speech

A friend sent me a couple of great posters celebrating the message behind Obama’s speech.  Which speech?  This speech:

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

Distilled to its essence:  Barack Obama is saying that only government makes things happen.   He fundamentally fails to understand that a healthy, stable society, one in which government does its job (such as letting the military work on defense and communication systems that might also aid the general public), is one that enables the hard workers, the innovators, the — yes — the lucky ones to rise above the crowd.  When government tries to innovate for innovation’s sake — essentially substituting itself for the wisdom of the marketplace — we end up with TSA and Solyndra.

Anyway, here are the posters:


If you’d like to see other wonderful examples of individual innovation in the pursuit of political satire, check out this PJ Media page.

Obama’s supporters do too believe in free enterprise *UPDATED*

Obama has been going after traditional American capitalism with a vengeance.  He’s graduated far beyond his Joe the Plumber kerfuffle, and his vague murmurings about the fact that it’s possible for people to earn too much (excluding, of course, Obama himself and all his rich friends).  With his attacks on Bain, he’s saying straight out that the American way of doing business is evil and should replaced by something more friendly, such as a completely government controlled economy.

I therefore found it tremendously amusing to learn that one of his main bundlers was herself something of an entrepreneur in the old days:

A major Obama campaign fundraiser wrote, directed, and produced a 2004 film titled “I Want To Strip For My Man But I Don’t Know How … Unleashing the Naughty Girl In You!” that instructs “everyday women” how to strip.

Stacii Jae Johnson, who currently serves as special events director in the office of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed (D) and has bundled between $50,000 and $100,000 for the Obama reelection campaign, is a former Hollywood actress with extensive connections to the film and television industries.

I wonder if sex will still be allowed to sell in the new Obama economy or if everyone will just have to give it away for free, per some government code akin to the health care mandate….

UPDATE:  For more serious thoughts about Obama’s attack on capitalism, Jay Cost has (as always) smart things to say.