Jewish World Review March 24, 2004/ 2 Nissan 5764


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Consumer Reports

John Edwards' new calling | One childhood yarn that my kids never tire of hearing is about the first time I ever ate at McDonald's. The parents were out of town-Mom had won a trip to Puerto Rico, the Bahamas or Mexico, I forget which-and so my oldest brother, holding a small wad of cash for the week, took the rest of us out to dinner one night, claiming we were on our way to a fancy restaurant. I was about seven at the time, and when he said, in a goofy accent "Yup, we're going to have steak ba-guuuherrr, French fried patats and crème de chocolat," this sounded like putting on the Ritz.

As it turned out, we arrived at one of the original McDonald's franchises, and it was better than any restaurant I'd ever been to, save Howard Johnson's. My own boys, who've supped on Happy Meals, Big Macs, large fries, Chicken McNuggets and the like since their stroller days, get a real charge out of how "sheltered" I was.

McDonald's is having a number of problems in this new, increasingly paranoid century. Worrying about terrorists blasting a subway station, destroying the Brooklyn Bridge or White House is one thing, but all this nonsense about obesity is grating.

It was interesting to compare the March 8 editorials on this subject in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. The Times, of course, applauds McDonald's decision to phase out their "supersize" deals, where it actually costs less to receive more food. Completely missing the point for this edict, the Times decrees: "It would be nice to pretend that this sort of corporate assistance isn't necessary, that we could all just exercise a little more self-control. But by the time you're standing in McDonald's, it's probably too late. Whatever comes over the counter is going to be eaten, and the best you can hope for is that there won't be too much of it."

Getting too tubby? Don't eat as much.

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The Journal, on the other hand, got the core of eliminating the sales gimmick of more for less. In a word, litigation. The editorialist writes: "[W]hat the Supersize dump is really about is the mau-mauing that the hamburger chain has received from the nation's food nannies for selling what increasingly overweight Americans love to eat. This public shaming has led to a crush of trial lawyers, who've already started a tobacco-like assault on the food industry. McDonald's has seemingly thrown in the wrapper and moved to damage control."

Jackson Browne's discography, with a few exceptions, makes me cringe, but I do agree with his March 22 New York Times op-ed that travel and trade restrictions ought to be relaxed with Cuba. Obviously, that won't happen this year, with Florida's electoral votes in the balance. Yet Browne, typical of wealthy celebrities, distorts the decades-old embargo of Fidel's hovel. He writes: "This policy is an outdated relic of the cold war and exists only as a political payoff to Republican-leaning Cuban-American voters in Miami."

Doctor, open Jackson's eyes. If the washed-up entertainer would consult recent history, he'd realize that Bill Clinton was president for eight years after the Cold War ended and didn't do a damn thing about normalizing relations with Cuba.

I don't agree with the Justice Department's attempt to obtain the medical records of women who've undergone abortions in scattered cities across the country. The procedure is legal, and the government has no right to that information.

That said, a March 19 Los Angeles Times editorial on the subject was appalling. The paper said: "Of all the moments when a patient consults with a doctor, few could be sadder than when a woman concludes she must end a pregnancy. Sadder still is when this occurs after the first trimester, and it's true that one technique [the Times can't possibly use the term "partial-birth abortion"] used in late-term abortions can be grim. With anguished deliberation, the American people and the judiciary have decided that women should have the right to make a choice."

I'm generally pro-choice, although ambivalent about third trimester abortions since it seems a woman after six months ought to have come to a conclusion about having a child. But the Times trivializes far more serious visits to a physician by saying that "few" moments are "sadder" than when a woman decides to terminate a pregnancy. Sadder than when a doctor tells a patient she has ovarian cancer at the age of 29? More heartbreaking than a diagnosis of premature Alzheimer's Disease? Worse than receiving the news that you're going blind or deaf at a rapid pace? I don't think so.

And while it's true that the decision to have an abortion is wrenching for some individuals, for others, such as the devotees of horrid special-interest groups like NOW, Roe v. Wade amounted to a get-out-of-jail-free card. Let's call a scalpel a scalpel: It's true Justice has overstepped its bounds, but the Los Angeles Times' view on abortion is just as sickening.

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JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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