Why I (don’t) hate McDonald’s…

Man, it seems like everyone is down on McDonald’s these days. This supremely successful icon of American style capitalism just doesn’t get any respect, not with today’s “enlightened” demographic, anyway. Along with most of its ilk, the segment of the restaurant business known as fast food, it is frequently the butt of derisive jokes, accused of callous disregard for the health and well being of its patrons, even a part of some sinister conspiracy to undermine the very foundation of our culture.

Ok, so there are some aspects of McDonald’s corporate “big business” nature that I’m not too crazy about, but, it is what it is. They don’t profess to be a health food or gourmet restaurant, do they? No, they’re a value and service oriented, prepared food vendor and I know that going in. And when I do go to McDonald’s that’s exactly what I’m looking for, and usually get. That, a predictably clean and orderly dining area (ditto on the restrooms), a familiar menu, including excellent coffee and biscuits, plus a few amenities such as complimentary Wi-Fi (at more than 11,000 participating U.S. restaurants).

So, to my friends who roll their eyes whenever McDonald’s is mentioned, and oft-as-not feel compelled to relate some horrifying experience they, or someone they know, had at a McDonald’s, I say: if you don’t like it then don’t eat there. But stop looking down your noses at, and feeling superior to, those of us who appreciate, even enjoy, the experience.

I’m lovin’ not hatin’ it!

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Meet Todd Stiefel: Capitalist, Skeptic, Humanist, Philanthropist…

Stiefel Freethought Foundation

Stiefel Freethought Foundation

” Todd Stiefel lives in Raleigh, NC. He is a Secular Humanist, an Atheist, and full-time Freethought activist. Todd serves as an adviser to many of the top non-theistic organizations. He has given over $3.5 million dollars to charities in the Freethought Movement.”

“Todd’s activism was featured in a front page article in the Raleigh News & Observer. He has been seen on the Christian Broadcasting Network and has been quoted in the New York Times and Church & State. His is a Humanist Celebrant and the co-host of the Humanist Hour podcast.”

Han Hills’ interview with founder Todd Stiefel, Part 1

Han Hills’ interview with founder Todd Stiefel, Part 2

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Coming Q1, 2012 to the East Coast

Rock Beyond Belief Handbill/Poster

Just wanted to plug a couple of events coming to the U.S. East Coast in Twenty-Twelve that visiting netizens may find of interest. To wit:

The Reason Rally (Washington, DC, March 24, 2012)

is a movement-wide event sponsored by the country’s major secular organizations. The intent is to unify, energize, and embolden secular people nationwide, while dispelling the negative opinions held by so much of American society… and having a damn good time doing it! It will be the largest secular event in world history. There will be music, comedy, great speakers, and lots of fun… and it’s free!

Rock Beyond Belief (Ft. Bragg, NC, March 31, 2012)

is an ambitious project that will be putting on a free festival consisting of secular speakers and musicians, both big name and small. We are a small grass-roots outfit, but we have the backing of many major secular and military foundations. Currently we are focusing on a large-scale event that will be on the main post parade field on Fort Bragg. Eventually Rock Beyond Belief wants to spread the message to many other military installations.

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Less Feeling, More Wasted?

Pit Stop '05

Less feeling, more wasted.

According to the CDC, http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/alcoholdrug/index.htm, “Alcohol use and binge drinking among our nation’s youth is a major public health problem.” [To wit:]

  • Alcohol is used by more young people in the United States than tobacco or illicit drugs.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with approximately 75,000 deaths per year.
  • Alcohol is a factor in approximately 41% of all deaths from motor vehicle crashes.
  • Among youth, the use of alcohol and other drugs has been linked to unintentional injuries, physical fights, academic and occupational problems, and illegal behavior.
  • Long-term alcohol misuse is associated with liver disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurological damage as well as psychiatric problems such as depression, anxiety, and antisocial personality disorder.
  • Drug use contributes directly and indirectly to the HIV epidemic, and alcohol and drug use contribute markedly to infant morbidity and mortality.

To those in fields such as health, education, law enforcement, and just about anyone else who possesses a modicum of awareness, this isn’t, or at least shouldn’t be, news. But are we really doing anything about it, other than wringing our hands? What’s the role of our institutions, and do popular media, TV, movies, music videos and in particular, marketing, help as much or more than they hurt? What do makers and sellers of alcoholic and other psychoactive products add to, or subtract from, these issues?

As an impressionable teenager in the 1960’s I couldn’t wait to start drinking, legally or otherwise, and advertisements for products containing alcohol were, by today’s standards, subdued. We’re talking black & white TV and billboards touting the benefits of Burma Shave! To be sure, there were admonishments from some elders regarding the pitfalls, but they were no match for other, seemingly more relevant and certainly more exciting, influences. Yes, we weren’t as broadly aware then about the multitudinous health risks associated with alcohol/drug use, but that goes to my point, that the problem hasn’t diminished and may actually be worse.

Are libertarians right: Substance abuse, indeed any essentially behavioral issue, is the problem of the those involved and we have no collective responsibilities, e.g. legislatively, to meddle, or attempt to engineer corrective solutions, even when those affected are too young or otherwise ill-equipped to deal effectively with the issues? Is it really ok to treat these issues only as Big Picture Items and nevermind the noisome details, alcoholic children for example, and let the marketplace work it out? After all, producers of products that have potential for misuse logically find it in their best interest to warn users against pitfalls – Or is this just clever marketing and a thinly veiled means of indemnifying themselves against the inevitable?

Just how involved should we be, beyond our everyday lives and collectively speaking, in the lives of those outside the fence, not just on the aforementioned issues but generally speaking? Are we not all in this thing together? For the duration? Do we not all suffer, or more hopefully, celebrate the same fate? Well?

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Free Will you say…


“‘If I hadn’t spent so much time studying Earthlings,’ said the Tralfamadorian, ‘I wouldn’t have any idea what was meant by ‘free will.’ I’ve visited thirty-one inhabited planets in the universe, and I have studied reports on one hundred more. Only on Earth is there any talk of free will.'” ~Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse-Five)

Do we have contra-causal free will? Or, as some Naturalists insist, is free will merely illusory, and we are haplessly bound by our genetic predispositions, as shaped by our environment, to respond to stimuli in typical, even predictable ways, much as the so-called lower lifeforms? Tom Clark’s interview with D.J. Grothe on this topic is interesting, to say the least.

Tom Clark – Scientific Naturalism and the Illusion of Free Will on Point of Inquiry (Podcast)

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“Nice, nice, very nice — So many different people in the same device.” Really?

The Culture Wars: Notes Towards a Working Definition

What does this excerpt from the Fifty-third Calypso from the Books of Bokonon mean to you? Are we made better/stronger because of our diversity? Like Vonnegut, I’m primarily concerned with western/new-world, specifically American, culture here. Are internal culture wars useful to, and ultimately good for, the evolution of a society’s culture, en todus, with all of its implications, political and otherwise? Or does diversity engender what’s essentially just so much noise, even babel, polar opposites yelling and rudely gesturing at each other across the divide, with our ears stopped and our eyes blinded?

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Humor Among Thieves?!

Can would-be urban thieves be reasoned with via irony and humor?

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