Category Archives: satire

McDonald’s Thinks Leadership Not Product or Culture, Cause of Sales Decline

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The first McDonald’s in Illinois  circa 1955 was constructed in Des Plains, a Chicago suburb

 

I have a crystal ball here on my desk that predicts McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson stepping down and  their replacing him with Steve Easterbrook, the company’s “chief brand officer” will make no difference what-so-ever on increasing their bottom line. Nope, the new branding guy won’t really be able to convince us (the general public) that their luke warm burgers, rubbery chicken nuggets, their pretend lattes and everything under-the-sun- wrapped in a, you know, wrap, is really good food. Or even a facsimile. We know too much.

We’ve learned “fast food” doesn’t have to taste mediocre or not fresh. We’ve learned fast food doesn’t have to sacrifice taste to be healthy. And some of us have learned that we don’t have to give our hard-earned money to companies that we feel don’t treat their employees fairly by handing out low wages and/or shorter hours so they don’t have to pay benefits. They should really just hire me to run a focus group of “regular people” and they could save themselves a ton of money on executives and pass that money down to the “real” employees that do the work. Surely they understand “trickle down” right?

Sales at McDonald’s have been declining since 2013 so I assume Thompson will be the fall guy. His salary and perks are in the millions so gee, I’m sure he’ll land on his feet. Unlike many McDonald workers who can barely make ends meet and end up being subsidized by taxpayers in the form of food stamps, healthcare subsidies etc. when we know the CEO’s are walking away with golden parachutes and we are in essence subsidizing McDonald’s.  Could some of us just  be plain mad at McDonald’s and their apparent greed? Of course, but we also know we have many good options.

Many of us have been turning to chains like Panera, Five Guys, Smashburgers, Chipotle, In n’ Out Burger, and Chick-fil-A to name a few. These chains are not trying to be all things to all people. They specialize in fresh, made to order, reasonably priced food. What they prepare they do well. You won’t find 100 items on a Five Guys menu. They make fantastic burgers and hand cut fresh french fries. There is always a line and you don’t mind waiting a short time because you know it is being made fresh for you.  McDonald’s has up to 100 items on its menu and when you go to the drive-thru you better not take the time to read it because in three seconds they are asking you what you want.

But taste and freshness aside, McDonald’s recent 21% drop in profit in the most recent quarter compared to last year at the same time ( this according to their own stats) isn’t a fluke.  While they are busy playing around with their menu and firing CEO’s our culture has changed to putting our money where our mouths are, literally and figuratively. But McDonald’s and their so-called McFamily culture doesn’t really have a clue.

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Hey U.S. Government; Tap my Phone and Listen Too, I Double Dare You

Antique phone

Antique phone

I realize that our U.S. Government is only “collecting” phone records from regular Americans, non-regular Americans, possible terrorists, people who wouldn’t hurt a fly and various and sundry people who fall into virtually no category at all, kind of like an ex spouse or well, some government employees. They say they aren’t really listening to our day to day drivel but I think they should. It would give them a dose of the average American’s reality so they can quit making up statistics, theories and studies about what it is “really” like to live in the U.S. for 99% of us.

I will willingly grant the government access to my most intimate phone conversations with such entities as the Walmart pharmacy department, Macy’s billing department, Comcast Cable, my local DMV office, any insurance company I deal with and any person/place/thing with a government affiliation that I have to correspond with in some fashion or another. It doesn’t matter if it is local, state or federal they all speak or e-mail in that super-suave governmental-ese language, with notes of condescending and you are but a mere mortal attitude. I also have a hate/hate relationship with Bank of America but this list is getting boring and way too long. Suffice it to say that anytime I have to “interact” with a large corporation, I the consumer, come out on the short end of not just the stick but everything.

My Walmart pharmacy conversation was quite the lesson in economics, capitalism, and what I like to call; maybe we will get a stupid one that won’t notice. A medication I take is usually about $20. I order it online from Walmart, they give me a robot call and tell me it is ready and how much. Last week the robot told me my med was $157.00. I figured the robot got his/her wires crossed so I called Walmart pharmacy to talk to a real person (ha ha). Real person told me the $157.00 price was not an error and that they filled my prescription with a different company than my last order.

It is the same exact prescription I noted, how can this be? Well, different pharmaceutical companies charge different prices for the exact same thing, she said. So I asked her to tell me what other prices she had for my exact same medication. she put me on hold to go talk to the supposed head pharmacy guy. She came back and I swear to God, she said they had it for $157, $35 and $19.97. She then PROCEEDED TO ASK ME WHICH ONE I WANTED. I wish I could say that I am making this up but I’m not. I told her I want the one that she would pick if she was purchasing this medication and was paying out-of-her own pocket.

This happened the following month also when I ordered online. This time the $20 med cost $127. I called and asked if an online order prompted some default highest price trigger. She said I should call and tell them I wanted the lowest priced manufacturer for my prescription. I said they should call every customer they fleeced in this manner that might not be aware of the numerous prices for a simple medication and apologize. I know people who assume they are getting the cheapest price just because it is Walmart. The cheapest available should be a given not a game of Russian Roulette. I can only assume that people with drug insurance pay the premium price because they might not notice, don’t care or possibly even realize that this practice raises premiums on everyone. Needless to say, I no longer purchase anything at Walmart.

Macy’s billing department (you know, the one in India) tried to charge me $25 to pay my bill by phone a few months back because THEY were having trouble with THEIR online website. When I laughed and said I was going to cancel my card, I swear the guy said “well, how about $5?” I said “How about drop dead?” It took me 45 minutes to quit Comcast and I had to talk to three people to do it. On the other hand if you want to upgrade on Comcast you are never put on hold and it will take you two minutes. My local DMV office said my birth certificate, passport and bills with my new address on them weren’t enough to renew my driver’s license. They said I needed high school or college transcripts, my marriage certificate and divorce decree showing my name change (from a million years ago). I thought they were joking, I have renewed my license with the same name for 35 years. I ended up going to a different much smaller DMV office and got it renewed with just my birth certificate and proof of residency.

We all have these ridiculous stories of course and many of them are so unbelievable that only a phone tap could prove them true. So please U.S. Government, forget Wiki Leaks and others, just listen in on my phone for a short time and you will discover the fleecing of America is alive and well and I’m only one out of millions.

I don’t necessarily judge a book by its cover but this book;  “Idiot America: How Stupidity Became A Virtue, in the Land of the Free” caught my attention by the title alone. You can purchase it here:  http://amzn.to/1pqKSpH  at Amazon, or I’m sure other places as well. It was on the New York Times Bestseller list when it first came out but quite frankly, I rarely pick books by their rather snooty or in many cases laughable lists that have movie stars that can’t write at #1 for about 5 minutes or pop stars at 21 writing biographies when they haven’t really lived, so NYT lists are pretty much useless to me.  Anyway this book was funny and sad at the same time and I felt very, very true about our land of the free and the brave and the stupid. I am an Amazon affiliate so I receive a small commission if you purchase through my link.

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Punditry is the New Black

Punditry is the new black (photo;Lightfoot)

We are becoming a nation of pundits.  Pundits have turned much of our news into a “style ” like the eternal little black dress and the idea that black is chic to wear everywhere and anytime. The problem is pundits should not be everywhere and anytime– it’s annoying.

The term pundit originated in the 17th century from the Hindu word Pandita, meaning “learned.”  A more recent American dictionary meaning of pundit is; usually an elderly person noted for wisdom, knowledge and good  judgement–an authority. Does this sound to you like anyone we see or hear, day in and day out on any of our 24/7 media outlets on TV, radio, print or web?  I can think of only a few pundits that fit this description because true pundits aren’t in-your-face constantly, they are too busy honing their expert skills.  People like Glenn Beck, Nancy Grace, Ann Coulter, Elliot Spitzer and Bill O’Reilly are considered pundits of politics, pop culture or law. So, obviously the meaning has evolved.

Do I value the judgement of pundits? Mostly, no. I do however, value my own judgement, so if you want to just hand me the unfiltered news I think I might be able to make heads or tails of it myself. On the other hand, I would be open to a well-researched, knowledgeable opinion from someone totally in-the-loop, an expert in the field, as it were. Any takers?

The pundit label has a much more casual meaning today in a sort of casual-Friday type way. It seems you can sort-of  have knowledge and kind-of  have wisdom and flip-flop that good judgement around like well–flip-flops. Even some of the pundits that I sometimes agree with like Ed Schultz or Rachel Maddow of MSNBC , get on their TV and radio soap boxes and talk til’ I drop.  I like opinion, I even have one but I don’t necessarily need it dissected and spoon fed to me, with a dose of  bias lacking in any facts, which some pundits are prone to do.

Some radio pundits show their knowledge to listeners by cutting off their callers with differing views and TV pundits have been known to cry and yell on the air, in order to get across their infinite wisdom. These people are doing nothing to elevate the stature of pundit. There really should be levels. We have A list and B list movie stars, why not common ratings for pundits?

A “real” pundit should have the knowledge and credentials to back up an informed opinion.  It wouldn’t even hurt for some topics, to expect pundits to have serious academic or scholarly experience in a subject.  A kind of,  know-before-you-go type of thing rather than a shoot-from-the-hip style. I’ve actually heard people say that many years ago in media land, experts or pundits used to at least attempt to be unbiased and didn’t affiliate themselves with a specific movement or even align themselves with media outlets–imagine that!

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Difference between news analyst, commentator and pundit? None

Danse Macabre: The Pundits.

Image by quirkybird via Flickr

I decided just yesterday for no reason in particular, to throw my hat into the pundit ring. I’ve heard through other reliable pundits (pretty funny huh, using reliable and pundit in same sentence) that all you need is an opinion and a forum. I figure I have both.  My forum might be small by Fox or CNN standards but never-the-less a blog is a blog and you just never know who drops by.

I was in the newspaper business for many years, and the only words we ever used to describe who we were and what we did were typically reporter, correspondent, columnist and of course editor.  The editorial was the newspaper version of opinion along with columns, which were the express opinion of the writer who wrote them. As reporters or correspondents (which were our part-time reporters) we wrote news backed up with plenty of facts and sources or it didn’t fly. Pretty cut and dried.  But,  people even then,  expressed confusion about what exactly an editorial  was,  no matter that I once wrote an editorial explaining to readers exactly what an editorial was.  So evidently, opinion and fact and how they are packaged  has always been confusing for some. Myself included.

Today of course, we have been enlightened with so much opinion in our news, especially TV news, that the lines seem especially  blurred between pundit, commentator and news analyst. I have been researching these three terms for quite a while and have come to the conclusion that pundits, commentators and news analysts are completely interchangeable.  For a while, I thought a news analyst was not supposed to have a personal opinion. That he/she was supposed to gather the facts, have some extra deep knowledge to add to those facts that us dummies don’t know and present same to us in an unbiased manner.

But, my new pundit opinion thinking cap got in the way. If you are analyzing a situation how do you do that without bringing your own bias into the mix? How is an analyst going to analyze without coming to some conclusion? And you can’t come to a conclusion and be unbiased. If you just throw out the facts and don’t analyze then you aren’t an analyst anymore just a reporter or a correspondent or someone who just reads the news on TV with no comments whats-so-ever (an unheard of phenomenon). Even interpreting the news, which is something news analysts do often, is still interpreting the news by the standards of the analysts themselves or who ever they work for. So they still have a point of view.  A point of view cannot be void of opinion.

This is certainly not think-tank stuff but since a commentator is an opinion person, and a pundit is most definitely an opinion person (think Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck) and since I have personally dropped the status of news analyst to mere opinion person I think a new word to describe all three interchangeable words is in order.  Maybe something like anal-puntator or…I’m sure you come can up with plenty of your own.

(If you are a news junkie like I am you might want to pick up a copy of this; http://amzn.to/1rIhuzD “The News: A Users Manual.” It definitely shows how the 24hr. news cycle affects our lives. Now, the author does analyze in this book but maybe I like it because I agree with most of it.)  I bought it in hardcover rather than digital just because I find it easier to skim.  I am an Amazon affiliate so I do get a small commission If you purchase through my link.

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Are Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert our “real” news media?

What does it say for journalism today when the best and most accurate news is delivered by comedians such as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert? It says a lot, actually. It says that somebody over at Comedy Central does their homework and research. It says that even though their news “bits” are funnier than hell, their opinion based news is actually founded on FACT. Imagine that. Opinion based on fact and not “made-up stuff”.

It’s no wonder that a Time magazine poll last year named Stewart the most trusted man in news. He has literally replaced the deceased Walter Cronkite. And no, that is not a joke but most of our main stream media is. Both Stewart and Colbert (or their staffs) actually go digging for news. They call out our politicians on their absurdity and lies. In the old days they called this “investigative journalism”. Today it is called Comedy Central.

Thanks to the social news website of http://www.reddit.com  Stewart and Colbert will be holding dueling rallies at the Washington D.C. Mall Oct. 30. Stewart’s is called “Rally to Restore Sanity” and Colbert’s dubs his “March to Keep Fear Alive.” While they are obviously both parodies of Glenn Beck’s recent “Restoring Honor Rally” in the same location and on the date of Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech, (which many thought was awful timing) they joke that maybe 400 million people could show up.

Joseph Laughlin, who frequents the Reddit site started the ball rolling recently by putting up a message that said Colbert should hold a satirical rally in response to Becks’s rally. He started the campaign rolling and it took off. He and a handful of other Reddit commentors started sending messages across the country in e-mails, Facebook, Twitter and any other means they could find. They even raised $240,000 for one of Colbert’s favorite charities to entice him. It worked.

It will be more than “funny” to see how Fox, ABC,NBC,CBS,CNN,MSNBC et al, handle this rally. Will they “cover” it like they did Beck’s rally, acting like it was “real” news. Will they distort the number of people who show up in order to downplay the power of people and humor. Will they even understand that although it is satire, the crowd that does show up is among other things, thumbing their noses at the main stream media and its robotic and shallow reporting of what really is going on in America today?

Will there be a politician alive who will understand that this is an outlet for frustrated and unhappy voters to vent, mingle and maybe with a whole lot of humor, decide to vote them out of office? I guess we’ll all have to tune-in and see..

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Bank of America won’t let me go!

How is it that Bank of America, a “Too big to fail bank” can fail miserably at even the simple things in life?  Like, closing a checking account. We all know too well that they do a great job of failing at the big things. like helping to put the economy in the gutter but the process of closing an account at the request of a customer, is evidently beyond the scope of what they can handle.

I have it figured out that by marching myself in person into the bank back in April, must have thrown them for a loop. It wasn’t enough red tape for them. I walked in, said I wanted to close my account and take whatever meager funds I had left in the account. They said okay, I signed something, they gave me the money and I walked out. I figured that in essence, should have been the end of it.

But, of course it wasn’t. I keep getting statements from a supposedly closed account that says I owe them money for “fees”. Fees that are a monthly charge for a “closed” account that now have me in the red. And yes, I’m seeing red.  As near as I can figure, for every month since I have closed my account and pulled my money down to zero, they have been assessing me fees for not having enough money in my closed account to cover their fees.

No, I am not joking on this. Dead people vote in Chicago and closed accounts ring-up big bucks in fees for Bank of America.  So, I did the sensible thing and e-mailed them a zillion times about the error of their ways. I kept getting those robotic e-mail messages back that lead you to believe; Nobody is home there!  My last e-mail was not pleasant, stating something about being to big to fail and too stupid to close an account…

I can’t e-mail them anymore because I know my comments will probably be in violation of some kind of banking FCC rules for common decency and decorum in e-mail correspondence and they will probably get to add more fees on to my closed account.

I finally got an e-mail from possibly a real person at  Bank of America that stated this problem really couldn’t be handled online and that I would have to go into my nearest Bank of America IN PERSON and discuss the matter with a personal banker.  This will happen when the proverbial hell freezes over!

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The Fox News viewer primer

The definition of a fox; carnivorous, alert, mammal, most are predators, sly, crafty, to bewilder or baffle, cunning, confuse, to trick or fool. That pretty much sums up FOX News for me. Lest they be mistaken for a “fair and balanced” news outlet, I feel a Fox News viewer primer is in order because as we all know what you see isn’t always what you get.
1. If Glenn Beck starts crying on air it is what is known in the biz as a diversion/tactic. He has either run out of news copy, forgot what he was supposed to say, can’t make up stuff fast enough or has run out of guests. Sure to bewilder and baffle.
2. If Bill O’Reilly is doing a full-blown on-air apology, you better believe that someone who has a better than 50/50 chance of winning has threatened to sue his/Fox’s you-know-what. Crafty indeed.

3. If you see or hear a headline on Fox News that has little or no connection to the actual news story they ultimately show or tell do not be concerned. This is part and parcel of their “fair and balanced” policy. Some parts of the story can be fair, or the headline can be balanced or parts of the story can be balanced or some of the headline can be fair or everything can be just made up. Confusing? Of course.

4. In a real news world there is a distinct line between “news” and “editorial commentary”. One is of course, fact and the other is opinion.  Most good commentators use facts as a basis for an opinion.  In the Fox News world it appears the boundary lines are skewed. With opinion showing up as fact, opinion being based on a right-wing and a prayer  and facts either obscured or deleted. Cunning indeed.

5. Fox News has many names. Some self-imposed, some handed out by viewers or non-viewers. So if you hear people call it Faux News or Faux Noise or as  www.msnbc.com Keith Olbermann recently coined “the Perpetual Fraud Machine” it is one and the same. By the same token if you hear Fox News on-air “personalities” referred to as bobble-heads, Barbie dolls and if I only had a brain commentators, these too are the real deal Fox staffers.

Just in case you might think that Fox is indeed a predator and trying to trick or fool us into believing that everything they say is true, fair and balanced , you would be correct.  But by knowing this we have already out-foxed them.

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