Good Reading Friday

While I’m taking a day off from writing, I can’t stop reading good stuff on the Internet. And good stuff there is.

Kill fees. Even that’s a rarity these day.

Chick-fil-A is taking over Manhattan.

Designer nipples are a thing. Who knew?

How are the teachers’ strikes going to impact November’s election?

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29 thoughts on “Good Reading Friday

  1. So, apparently Michael Cohen was the go-to guy for married rich guys to pay off the other women. I wonder how much of that comes out and how quickly.

  2. I didn’t get the point of that Chick-fil-A article. Is the author just complaining that the owners of the chain are Christian? That is out-and-out, shameful bigotry. Is it that they have embraced political positions that most New Yorkers may not agree with? Last I heard, it’s a free country. I personally don’t believe in boycotting businesses because of their owners’ political positions, because it leads to further balkinization of our society, which will eventually make liberal democracy impossible, but in any case, the author doesn’t seem to be calling for a politically-motivated boycott. Is it that the mood and decor of the restaurants is kind of hokey? Is that really true, that Chick-fil-A is hokier than most other family-oriented chains? I mean, Ronald McDonald isn’t exactly known as an ironist. The article really exemplifies the intellectual decline of upper-middlebrow literary culture, when you compare, say, Mary McCarthy’s genuinely funny descriptions of women’s magazines with this bit of witless, jejune carping.

    1. “Last I heard, it’s a free country.” Not for long, if our betters can get control back! The Gramscian warriors continue their Long March Through The Institutions!

    2. Do you not really see the irony in arguing that people choosing to spend their own money how they see fit is a sign of the decline of freedom?

      You know what says freedom? Forcing people to shop at places that for whatever reason they don’t want to.

      1. I know I should be used to it by now but it still irks me when people who pretend to believe in the free market then whine about the free market.

      2. I don’t agree. I never boycott businesses because of the political activities of their owners. Obviously, I don’t shop at businesses that don’t offer goods or services that I want, but that is totally different. An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind, and if everyone refuses to patronize businesses owned by their political opponents, you end up with two sides who never interact and who have ceased to inhabit a common culture and polity. We have enough of that already; we shouldn’t make it worse.

        My recommendations as to how people should live–generally ignored, I should note–are not infringements on their freedom. They are just my recommendations.

      3. And why this tone of perpetual insult? I’m not whining. I’m making a serious argument, and you respond with catty rudeness.

      4. No, it really isn’t. It doesn’t matter if you don’t eat somewhere because you hate the food, once found a cockroach in your fries, think the manager is ugly, or don’t like the politics of the place. You’re allowed to not patronize a business for whatever reason you want, no matter how silly or stupid other people might find it. That is really the fundamental freedom of living in a free market society. Arguing that people choosing to spend their own money how they see fit is fascism is really peak stupidity, and that’s saying something for 2018.

        There are plenty of boycotts that I find stupid. People boycotting Starbucks for using red cups, or Nordstroms for dropping Ivanka’s unprofitable line are all examples of boycotts I personally find stupid. I would *never* in a million years argue that these boycotts are bringing about fascism because again, it’s a free country and people have the right to spend their money how they see fit. If they don’t want to spend it on Starbucks or Nordstroms, then all power to them.

    3. I didn’t get the point of that Chick-fil-A article. Is the author just complaining that the owners of the chain are Christian? That is out-and-out, shameful bigotry.

      This is an example of whining right wing persecution complex 101. The reason some people are boycotting chick-fil-a actually has its own wikipedia page. If you google “chick-fil-a boycott” it’s the first link (at least for me).
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chick-fil-A_same-sex_marriage_controversy

      Instead of bothering to spend 3 seconds on google to get facts, you jump to a spurious conclusion (I.e. Is the author just complaining that the owners of the chain are Christian? ) based on nothing but your own prejudices that can also make you feel like you have the higher ground. (i.e., “That is out-and-out, shameful bigotry”). You’re making yourself outraged over facts you’ve entirely invented in your own head, drawn wild and overwrought conclusions, and then expected people to treat you seriously. Those three things don’t go together.

  3. Laura said,

    “How are the teachers’ strikes going to impact November’s election?”

    Maybe nothing on the national level, but absolutely fatal at the local level for whoever is seen as responsible?

    Chik-fil-a is clean, fast and has good fast food for the price. Throw in a playground, and it’s virtually paradise on earth for young parents.

    I’d love to take our youngest there more often and just chill with coffee, but you have to choose your time carefully, because it’s just packed anywhere near lunch.

    Our local Chik-fil-a deals extremely capably with surges in traffic from large groups.

    Also, if you show up in any semblance of cow costume on a particular day, you get free chicken.

    https://www.chick-fil-a.com/Cow-Appreciation-Day

    I know this sounds like a press release–but they are that good and they totally deserve their success.

    1. http://www.businessinsider.com/how-chick-fil-a-is-dominating-fast-food-2015-8

      “Chick-fil-A is dominating fast food.
      The fried chicken chain generates more revenue per restaurant than any other fast food chain in the US, according to a new QSR report. Chick-fil-A’s average sales per restaurant in 2014 were $3.1 million, according to the report.”

      “Chick-fil-A has only 1,887 restaurants primarily located in the Southeast, and none of its restaurants are open on Sundays. For comparison, McDonald’s has more than 14,000 locations in the US, Taco Bell has 5,921, and KFC has 4,370 — most of which are open seven days a week.”

      “Yet Chick-fil-A generates more annual revenue than dozens of other chains that have more than twice as many locations, such as KFC, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, and Arby’s.”

      Given that level of volume and profitability-per-restaurant, Chik-fil-a is a very good match for a high rent area like Manhattan.

      1. I went there once and was totally underwhelmed–the sandwich was soggy and it didn’t live up to the hype. It might have just been a bad day, but it didn’t compare to Chinese KFC.

        In terms of profitability, that doesn’t surprise me. Chicken is cheaper than beef and sandwiches are less labor intensive than pizzas.* There’s also a lot of savings across the board in picking one product and getting good at serving it, something that more comprehensive fast food joints can’t compete on. At one point KFC could have been real rivals, but they seem to have given up on the US market by and large and focus all their energies overseas. I don’t think I’ve eaten at a KFC in the US in 20 years, but they absolutely dominate the Chinese fast food market (among others), and they’re quite good there.

        *Also looking up the menu online, they charge $4 for a basic sandwich. That’s fast-casual dining prices for bread, chicken, and pickles. Five guys charges about a dollar more for beef with as many toppings as you want. That’s both more ingredients, plus more time needed to assemble the made-to-order combos.

      2. B.I. said,

        “I went there once and was totally underwhelmed–the sandwich was soggy and it didn’t live up to the hype. It might have just been a bad day, but it didn’t compare to Chinese KFC.”

        I think you got a bad one.

        “There’s also a lot of savings across the board in picking one product and getting good at serving it, something that more comprehensive fast food joints can’t compete on.”

        Right.

        “At one point KFC could have been real rivals, but they seem to have given up on the US market by and large and focus all their energies overseas.”

        There’s a bit of a branding issue, in that Chik-fil-a has a more middle class image than KFC and better locations (like mall food courts).

      3. “There’s a bit of a branding issue, in that Chik-fil-a has a more middle class image than KFC and better locations (like mall food courts).”

        KFC in the US seems to be decidedly downmarket. It’s possible it always was (I grew up in a bad neighborhood as a kid but didn’t realize it), or it’s gotten worse. Impressionistically, the only time I see KFCs is taking the bus to the subway through some of the worst neighborhoods in my city, and then I see about 3 of them on about a 2 mile bus route. As a kid Popeye’s was always the preferred choice, but I don’t know if that’s a regional brand. I haven’t seen any in the midwest but I also haven’t been seeking them out.

        In China, KFC is sort of in the fast casual plus niche. It’s a full price point above cheap noodle shops (and more expensive than McDonald’s), but easily affordable for the aspiring middle classes. It’s spacious, clean, and well-decorated but still casual, and it serves “Western food” tailored to Chinese tastebuds.* It’s a popular choice for families or parents with groups of kids, young people on dates, teens doing homework or hanging out with friends, or even people holding certain types of business meetings.

        *Examples include rice porridge with pickled vegetables, corn, and chicken, Peking duck wraps (made with fried chicken), and taro pie (like apple pie but filled with taro paste).

  4. From the kill-fee piece:

    “Without looking at the first draft, she offered me $100 on a $400 story and told me to take it elsewhere. I eventually sold it to Mic for $150. At the time, $400 was a hefty sum for online-only pieces, since legacy publications like The Atlantic were paying $100 to $125 a story for digital work, often regardless of word count or required reporting.”

    Publications that pay that low for reported pieces (rather than here’s-my-story pieces) are begging to be flim-flammed by people who take Jayson Blair type shortcuts.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jayson_Blair

      1. B.I. said,

        “At the end of the day you get what you pay for.”

        Indeed.

        Although the NYT and the New Republic were getting a lot less from Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass than they paid.

      2. dave s. said,

        “You always pay for what you get. Only sometimes do you get what you pay for.”

        Nice. Can you get a Rolling Stones song out of that?

        B.I. said,

        “KFC in the US seems to be decidedly downmarket. It’s possible it always was (I grew up in a bad neighborhood as a kid but didn’t realize it), or it’s gotten worse.”

        Even back in the 1980s in WA, my family scrupulously avoided Kentucky Fried Chicken.

        You’re really selling me on the Chinese KFC, though.

  5. I’m not really up on the ethics of journalism, but isn’t it a pretty big omission to defend a guy on TV and not mention that he’s your lawyer?

    1. MH said, “Lots of men are bad at sex, but only three are Hire-Michael-Cohen-bad at sex.”

      OH DEAR!

      Popehat on Twitter is must-see these days.

      Some quotes:

      “Dear Sean: You have lots and lots of money. Next time, pay a competent professional lawyer if you need legal advice. You’re acting like a super rich dude who got hungry so he bought discount shrimp from a guy in a pickup truck behind Joann’s Fabrics.”

      “I mean, normally I would say it’s entirely incredible that someone with unlimited resources would go to Michael Cohen for legal advice. But we’re talking about Sean Hannity.”

      “I don’t get the sense that Cohen and Hannity have thought this all the way through — the impact of their positions on the attorney-client privilege, and how they may be waiving and/or undermining privilege.They need to be playing chess. They’re playing Hungry Hungry Hippos.”

  6. Chik-fil-a’s raging success in NYC suggests that NYCers (and visitors) don’t hate Chik-fil-a as much as they are supposed to.

    https://nypost.com/2016/05/09/chick-fil-a-is-dominating-nycs-fast-food-rivals/

    That’s from 2 years ago, but probably still holds true.

    “While rivals are struggling, Chick-fil-A opened up a second Midtown store last month and plans to open in the New York metro area — one of the most unforgiving markets in the country — 12 eateries over the next year.

    “And judging from the long lunchtime lines that can stretch out the door and around the corner, plenty of New Yorkers don’t give a cluck about the founder’s son saying four years ago that he was opposed to same-sex marriage.”

    “Nor have efforts by Mayor de Blasio to foment a boycott of the privately held chain seem to tamp down the company’s expansion momentum.

    “On a national scale, Chick-fil-A, with 2,000 outlets, has now become the eighth-largest fast-food company in the US, up from 19th at the end of 2014, industry statistics show.

    “In terms of revenue, the chain is on track to become No. 4 by 2020, according to Nomura analyst Mark Kalinowski, who pegs its 2014 sales at $5.8 billion.”

    “With customers flocking to stores, it’s no surprise that restaurateurs are clamoring to own a Chick-fil-A franchise. But 99.3 percent of the 20,000 applicants last year were rejected, the company said.

    “In fact, it’s easier to get into Harvard than to become a Chick-fil-A franchisee.”

    !!!!

    “Plus, the vast majority of franchisees are only allowed to operate one restaurant. That differs from their rivals that allow franchisees to own hundreds of locations.”

    That probably contributes a lot to quality control.

    To have a very successful business, you don’t need everybody to like you–you just need a small number of passionate repeat.

    1. They fry their chicken in peanut oil, which gives it a certain extra something.

      Everybody is free to spend their money where they like, but I do have to say that these days BUY-cotts tend to go hand in hand with boycotts, so there is always the risk of accidentally giving free publicity and a surge in business to the business one is attempting to punish. (Consider it a corollary to the Streisand Effect.)

      For example, when Bill de Blasio urged New Yorkers not to eat at Chik-fil-a, I wonder how many people suddenly realized that they wanted to check it out, or who liked Chik-fil-a but hadn’t realized that there were any Chik-fil-as in NYC?

      1. I agree completely, which is why it’s usually not a great activism strategy. Sometimes it works (I vaguely remember grapes and the United Farmworkers), but unless it’s a large number of people that would otherwise patronize the business, it’s more likely to be counterproductive if it has any effect at all. The people boycotting Chick-fil-a were probably not going to eat there anyways, just like the people boycotting Nordstroms weren’t exactly in their target clientele demographic.

        It does seem that calling advertisers on shows and threatening to boycott is effective at getting them to pull advertising. I’m not sure why that works when general consumer boycotts don’t.

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