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Illinois: Las Vegas of the Midwest?

By Michael Kleen

Back in May, a measure to expand gambling in Illinois was approved by a committee in the Illinois House of Representatives, provoking Governor Pat Quinn to remark, “We have no interest in becoming the Las Vegas of the Midwest.” Apparently content to continue his knee-jerk and misdirected gambling policy, I believe Governor Quinn is passing up yet another opportunity to attract business and expand freedom in Illinois. The question is, why not be the Las Vegas of the Midwest? Why not be a beacon of prosperity, tourism, and growth? More importantly, why not allow the citizens of Illinois the freedom to choose the kind of entertainment they want to enjoy?

Rather than continue to pursue piecemeal gaming regulation, I believe that most forms of gambling should simply be legalized with one piece of legislation. Currently, the gambling laws of Illinois are bewildering and if I were to read them to a stranger, he or she would think there was no sense to them whatsoever. For example, Illinois has a state-run lottery, and while land-based casinos are illegal, permanently docking a huge gambling barge in a river is not. Although I can walk into an off-track betting facility and put $2 to win on Mysunshine, it is illegal to make a bet with my friends over Sunday night football.

Read the rest of this column!

Happy Meals in the Crosshairs

by Michael Kleen

Back in November 2010, the City of San Francisco effectively banned Happy Meals by requiring any meals that included toys to meet strict nutritional guidelines. The ordinance was criticized and lampooned by many, including the Daily Show. Now, the self-appointed protectors of consumer health are at it again. This time, Monet Parham, a mother of two who is represented by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, is suing McDonald’s for allegedly violating California consumer protection laws by including toys with their Happy Meals. With one victory under their belts, it seems that these so-called “consumer advocates” have redoubled their efforts to control what we can buy at the lunch counter.

Read some of the articles about McDonald’s battle with the Center for Science in the Public Interest and you may come away with the impression that the restaurant chain is like the witch in the story of Hansel and Gretel, tempting children into their restaurants and fattening them up for a life afflicted by diabetes and heart disease. In a recent article at Salon.com, Mary Elizabeth Williams wrote, “The practice of luring families to make suspect choices based on convenience, the promise of a new plastic animal, youthful whining, and parental guilt is so deeply embedded in our culture, so much a part of childhood, that the idea it could ever change seems almost unfathomable.” [Emphasis added]

Read the entire article at Strike-the-Root!

Where’s the Beef?

by Michael Kleen

By all accounts, Taco Bell is a story of success. Since Glen Bell opened the first Taco Bell in Downey, California in 1962, the franchise has expanded to 6,446 restaurants with over 175,000 employees worldwide. In 2009, the company (which is currently owned by Yum! Brands) brought in $1.9 billion in revenue. It is no secret why this restaurant has experienced such growth. Like its rivals in the fast food industry, Taco Bell specializes in offering meals to its customers at the cheapest possible price. Today, the company is under attack by a publicity-seeking law firm and a media that is all-too-eager to exploit any potential controversy, no matter how frivolous. What should be a story about how a private business feeds millions of people for what amounts to pocket change is instead a pseudo-investigation into what qualifies as ground beef.

No one has ever gone into a Taco Bell under the illusion that they were purchasing quality food, because we are all aware that you cannot stuff 460 calories into a burrito and charge 99 cents without sacrificing something. Its cheapness is the foundation of its appeal, and even the company acknowledges this fact with its advertising slogans “Big Variety, Small Price,” and “Why Pay More?” The choice to offer quantity over quality has not come without damage to its reputation, however. For years, people have made jokes about the poor quality of their food and speculated about “what was really in the meat,” but over 36.8 million customers in the United States continue to eat there every week anyway.

Read the entire column at STR

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