The Research Is In: Americans Love McDonald’s More Than Jesus


[An expansion on Wired’s excellent article theorizing about the biggest business partnership since Johnson & Johnson…]

As Phil Cooke put it, there’s no question that McDonald’s restaurants have enormous influence in our culture. Some sources indicate that Ronald McDonald is the most widely recognized name among small children, and when the sign says “billions served” you can count on it. That kind of influence in the culture is the Holy Grail for business leaders.

While we’re talking about Holy Grails:

Any American who has traveled more than 10 miles from their home has seen the ubiquity of McDonalds outposts with their own eyes. If ever asked to opine on the matter, I would suggest that in the U.S.,  there are few institutions with greater reach than Ronald McDonald.

And I would have been very, very wrong. There is a statistic provided by The Barna Group that is startling, and has sparked a fascinating theological debate (yes: Jesus and Ronald are at it again…)

According to the Barna Group research:
For every McDonald’s in America, there are roughly 19 churches.

McD-v-God_pieChartQuoting David Kinnaman of Barna Group:

“Think about that for a moment: If there are 19 churches for every one McDonalds, why does the church today have so little influence in our culture?  Obviously its not just a numbers game, but when it comes to “presence” the church should have a much greater influence.

“The comparison was very striking to me. What about you? Why does the church have so many “offices in the field,” but has so little influence in the culture?”

This is wandering deep into apples-and-oranges territory, but if we put aside our own beliefs and biases we can ponder a profound question: what does all this say about the United States and what we’ve  become?


Discuss. Then a quick poll question…


Next slide, please:


Exhibit A:

Studies Show American Kids Recognize Ronald McDonald More Than Jesus



Exhibit C:

Report Says Americans Love One Brand More Than All Others:

Did you guess ‘McDonalds’?



SOPA / PIPA News: Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) sends robo-reply to my NO ON SOPA/PIPA letter



This morning, I received what looks like a robo-response email from Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) in response to a letter I sent two days ago urging her to vote NO on SOPA and NO on PIPA.

I appreciate the prompt reply from her staff (and the robot responder in her office), but unfortunately it appears from her email that BOTH senators from my state, Minnesota, are still using language that supports the interests behind both bills.

We made ourselves known to the world and Congress…
I guess we need to turn the volume up even higher.

Here’s the text of the letter
SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR sent me this morning:

January 20, 2012

Dear Jonathan:

Thank you for contacting me about the Protect IP Act. I appreciate hearing from you and especially appreciate hearing the concerns you have raised.

On January 20th, 2012, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced an indefinite postponement of the scheduled Senate vote on the Protect IP Act.  As Congress continues to consider this issue, please know that I will work to make sure your concerns are addressed.

The internet has dramatically altered the manner in which we communicate, conduct business, seek entertainment and find information.  It is vital to ensure that online innovation and openness are preserved so the American people can continue to freely to express themselves and pursue personal and economic endeavors over the internet.

It is also important that foreign criminals not be allowed to steal the property of others without consequence.  The pirating of intellectual property is not a victimless crime.  Rather, it threatens the jobs and livelihoods of millions of middle class American workers and businesses.  However, we must seek ways to protect people from online piracy, particularly foreign piracy, without limiting web-based innovation or a free exchange of ideas.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me.  One of the most important parts of my job is listening to what the people of Minnesota have to say to me.  I am here in our nation’s capital to do the public’s business and to serve the people of our state.  I hope you will contact me again about matters of concern to you.


Amy Klobuchar

United States Senator




STOP SOPA: An Open Letter to Senator Al Franken


This is a letter I sent to Senator Al Franken on 12 January 2012. I live in Minnesota, the state for which Franken is a senator. In 2008, I was a campaign activist for Al Franken’s senate campaign, operating volunteer call operations on behalf of his campaign and canvassing door-to-door to solicit votes on his behalf.

In this letter, I am asking Senator Franken to withdraw his support for the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). 

Senator Franken,

My name is Jonathan Bates. In 2008 I was precinct captain at the DFL caucus in Upper Lowry Hill in Minneapolis, and from the day following our success in securing your nomination as Minnesota’s DFL candidate for Senate, my fiance and I were tireless in working to ensure that you would become our senator.

Why did we sacrifice all of those hours hosting ‘cell phone parties’ to shore up support for your campaign during the general election? What led us to participate in your campaign at a level far more passionately than we had previously?

Because the constant that came through in all your books, in your Air America radio show, and during your campaign, was integrity and a disdain for those who parsed or finessed the facts. You told us that you would go to Washington not only with your moral compass intact, but with the intent of continuing the mission of Paul Wellstone.

Senator Franken, with all due respect: in light of your recent support for SOPA, PIPA and your bizarre willingness to allow pizza to be substituted for vegetables in our public school lunchrooms, I’m seeing less of Paul Wellstone’s vision and integrity and more of Norm Coleman’s politics-as-usual being channeled through your actions as our senator.

Even from a thousand-plus miles away, I cannot imagine the toxic and difficult environment you must work in every day; I realize the GOP has made it their stated mission to prevent Democrats from achieving anything in Washington, and being at the center of the ‘Storm of No’ must be disheartening at best.

Nonetheless, you are a leader and you are our senator. Your election was a mutual contract based on a promise you made to stand up for what was right, do what best served all Minnesotans, and demonstrate that decent and good people *can* go to Washington without falling prey to corruption, cynicism, apathy or greed.

Remember Paul Wellstone, Senator Franken. Think what he would do, then go to the Senate floor and withdraw your support for SOPA and PIPA.

If your conscience tells you Paul would have differed on other policy matters as well, know that there are thousands of Minnesotans who will support you for doing what you know to be the morally and just thing to do.

Your constituent, respectfully,

Jonathan Bates


The key to compromise? Human dignity


The [Minnesota] Legislature and governor are locked in impasse, largely because it is difficult to find compromise unless transcendent values are held in common.

I’d like to suggest one value that liberals and conservative share: the human dignity of every person.

Consider the human dignity of Freddy, working all of his adult life, primarily in factory jobs — until he developed glaucoma. He lost 35 percent of his eyesight, is unable to work and must turn to the state’s General Assistance program for $203 a month, while the two-year process of determining his eligibility for federal disability support moves through the system.

Or consider Angie, who has gone through intensive therapy for disabilities caused by antipsychotic medication used to treat her mother before doctors realized she was pregnant. Angie is an adult now and able to walk and talk, but still suffers seizures and developmental delays.

She is also the mother of 3-year old twins, whom she raises thanks to support services. Angie and her children live on a combination of her disability income and their state assistance that totals less than $14,000 a year.

Gregg is the CEO of a major Minnesota corporation. He lives a very dignified life. He earned $25.2 million last year, which works out to about $203 every minute of the workday and places his household at about 100 times the federal poverty guideline.

Guess whose human dignity is put into peril to solve our state’s $5 billion deficit?

Freddy’s and Angie’s.

Why the poorest and the sickest? Why must they solve a shortfall caused by an economic downturn and past tax cuts that leave our state short of revenue?

Because the predicament of Freddy’s and Angie’s lives is not well-known. On a recent radio interview, one legislative leader said he didn’t know much about the state’s General Assistance program — its key strategy for insuring human dignity for disabled adults.

The Legislature proposes eliminating General Assistance for adults who are unemployable because of disability or incapacitating illness. Instead, counties would be left to decide whether to provide any assistance to these adults with block grants that total $20 million less than the state currently invests.

The Legislature has also unveiled a proposal to cut assistance to very poor families with disabled parents by $50 a month. The assistance those families currently receive is just enough to reach the poverty line. In most cases, the parent is disabled — so severely disabled that the federal government has designated him or her unemployable.

Because that parent receives federal disability support of less than $700 month, she doesn’t receive any state assistance. But her children do —  they are the ones who are asked to give up the $50 a month.

So why do we have to resort to pushing more people, especially those with disabilities, into homelessness and deep poverty? Why can’t lawmakers compromise a bit and ask people like CEO Gregg and, indeed, most of us, to fix this budget shortfall?

Doesn’t human dignity play a role in giving taxes a second look?

The protection of human dignity may be the very thing to bring about compromise. There may be disagreements about the wisdom of tax hikes and the virtue of reallocating spending reductions, and the need for reform and efficiencies, but we should all agree that fellow human beings should not be cast out of our care. We challenge the governor and the Legislature to compromise.

Not to agree with the other’s stance, but to agree to a transcendent value that guides the way we govern in Minnesota — a commitment to human dignity so that Freddy and Angie may safely live.

Read the full article at the Minneapolis StarTribune

MPR: “Shoot First Bill” would encourage Minnesotans to shoot first


by Heather Martens, Minnesota Public Radio News

In January, Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, tried to repeal the state’s background check system for gun sales. This week, he wants to legalize a kind of murder.

House File 1467, which ought to be called “Shoot First,” will be heard in the House Public Safety Committee this Thursday. It would allow the killing of anyone who enters another’s yard, even when the person is unarmed and posing no threat; and it would allow the killing of anyone in a public place who seems threatening — again, even if the person is unarmed, and even if walking or driving away is a safe option.

Also buried in this bill is a loosening of concealed-carry permit laws to recognize all other state’s pistol permits in Minnesota, even states with lax background checks that issue permits valid for life. It also makes it harder for local law enforcement to prevent prohibited purchasers from getting permits to buy guns, and limits law enforcement’s ability to confiscate weapons in domestic violence situations.

The Shoot First bill includes the words “self-defense,” but it uses obscure legalese and a bizarre redefinition of the common word “domicile” to make the bill apply to much more than self-defense. “Domicile” is redefined to include not just a person’s home, but also the “curtilage” (fenced yard), “appurtenances” (outbuildings or garages), and even occupied cars (or conveyances). If someone enters “by force or by stealth” — in legal terms, that means as little “force” as turning a doorknob or opening an unlatched gate — then the person is “presumed” to intend to badly hurt someone. In court, a presumption cannot be rebutted, so no evidence would be allowed that showed the dead person had entered the yard by error, by invitation of the homeowner, to rescue a drowning child, or for any other reason.

Read the full story at Minnesota Public Radio News Online