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A New Way to "Cook the Books"

October 19, 2003 - With all the financial scandals lately, we've all come to know the phrase "cook the books" only too well. The latest corporate scandal involves HealthSouth corporation and the former CEO Richard Scrushy. Allegations have been made that HealthSouth overstated earnings estimates to meet Wallstreet expectations to prop up the stock price and that Scrushy cashed out $99 million in stock options shortly before the bottom fell out.

But I'm not talking about that right now. :)

No, the new kind of cooking the books I'm talking about is in the education system. Specifically, allegations that have been made about schools in Houston, Texas under the watch of superintendent Rod Paige, the man chosen by President Bush to be the Secretary of Education. Paige's focus on quantification of results became known as the "Houston Miracle." There was a dramatic decline in dropout rates and an increase in test scores.

But critics have alleged that these results that sound to good to be true were, in fact, completely fabricated. Houston schools claimed a dropout rate of 1.5% when in fact the actual dropout rate is estimated to have been higher than 50%. This incredible discrepancy, some critics say, was deliberately done through false student transfers and other means to cover up for students who had dropped out. Some former students were surprised to learn that they had been "transferred" to schools they had never even heard of before.

At the same time, test scores were directly manipulated through a sinister process that hurt the very kids the school system was supposed to be educating. The plan was simple: educators evaluated students potential to pass required standardized tests. Those who were judged as potentially failing the tests were reclassified as "special" and therefore, no longer required to take the tests. Only students who were predicted to achieve passing grades were allowed to participate. This scam was brought to light when parents became angry and questioned why their children were reclassified.

Thus, the "Houston Miracle" is now becoming known as another notorious example of "cooking the books" and the alleged architect behind it all has been chosen by our president to be the highest educator in our country.

MCI/Worldcom Logo

What Would YOU Do for Money?

July 27, 2003 - These last few years, the curtain has been pulled back on some of the world's biggest corporations. Now, MCI has been exposed ... again.

A question has been nagging at me for quite some time.


Would you pose nude on the internet? Lie? Cheat? Steal? KILL? Sell your own children? What, I ask, is your personal limit?!?

Or, would you be TOTALLY and COMPLETELY honest in EVERY way, willing to accept the financial gains (or lack thereof) that come by following a higher moral standard?

Unless you are Ghandi or Mother Theresa, you probably fall somewhere in between. I would hope that most of us, as individuals, would be more likely to do the right thing.

How about companies? Big companies, perhaps like Worldcom/MCI? Do they do the right thing? Sadly, no.

It is being alleged that Worldcom/MCI, already known for the largest accounting scandal in U.S. history, improperly rerouted long-distance calls to make them appear as if they were local calls. It is estimated that Worldcom/MCI has been doing this since 1994/1995, and that they may have stolen "multiple billions of dollars" in telephone network access charges. Additionally, Worldcom/MCI may have been aided in this conspiracy by smaller, local phone companies, thereby making the scam possible.

For companies like Worldcom/MCI, the answer to my question seems to be, "Whatever you can get away with."

Message Board is Open!

July 20, 2003 - The message board is now open again. The link on the left menu takes you there.

Soft Drink Company Admits to Rigging Taste Tests

June 18, 2003 - No need to be so mysterious. I'm talking about Coca-Cola. The company has admitted that tests conducted at Burger King restaurants three years ago were rigged. The tests involved something known as "Frozen Coke." (Whatever that is.)

Apparently the product failed the tests or they wouldn't have had to rig the results. :)

Oh, and by the way, the company also said it had "improperly valued some equipment" so the company will take a pre-tax writedown of $9 million to properly reflect the equipment's value.

Finally, a self-audit by the company said there is no evidence the company discriminates against minorities or women.

I just hope that the people who ran the audit aren't the same people who ran the taste tests.

It's Time For An Update!

McDonalds restaurant

May 8, 2003 - Wow. It's been what? Something like 17 months since I last updated this web site? As we all know, too much quantity can be bad, but this is ridiculous. A recent flurry of feedback, though, has restarted my creative juices and thoughts of McDonaldization are once again swimming in my head. It's time to start working on the site again.

Let's review some of the events that have occurred in the world since the last update.

  • Enron files for bankruptcy, followed by scandals at: WorldCom, Tyco, and ImClone (a name Martha Stewart no longer wants to hear)
  • Other companies where accounting practices were questioned: General Electric, AMR, J.P. Morgan Chase, K Mart, Xerox, EDS, Qwest, IBM and Coca-Cola
  • Stock market declines, economy on shaky ground
  • Child abductions prompt the creation of the "Amber" alert system
  • 10 people killed when snipers terrorize the D.C. area
  • US airline industry loses about $7 billion and tens of thousands in the industry lose their jobs
  • Republicans take control of the Senate
  • The Catholic church was rocked by more sex scandals as 300+ priests were suspended or resigned
  • North Korea admits ongoing atomic weapons program
  • Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan flirt with full-scale war
  • The Department of Homeland Security was created
  • The California Milk Processors Board tries to lure a California city to officially change their name to "Got Milk? Calif."
  • I have continued my personal journey of exploration in the world of "voluntary simplicity"
  • A Swedish study found that a flame retardant used in TV sets, computer circuit boards and casings, foams and fabric called polybrominated diphenyl ether, or PBDE, is rapidly accumulating in human breast milk
  • KFC, boycotted due to the treatment of chickens, announces an "Animal Welfare Program," but insists, of course, that the boycott had nothing to do with it
  • McDonalds Corp. posted first ever quarterly loss
  • And last (but not least): A new McDonalds opened in my home town just two miles from another McDonalds

Wow. 17 months is a long time!

I am currently re-thinking the web site's overall design and format. Some things, like the bulletin board, need fixing right away. For others, I'm seeking suggestions. I'm considering a headline-style format that will make the site more active and interactive. One new area I'd really like to see is a library of submitted articles and editorials; the site needs more diverse content!

For now, here are some recommended links:

Nov. 25, 2001 - I want to stress that this web site needs to be interactive. Most of this web site features my personal interpretation of George Ritzer's book. As such, it should be taken with a grain of salt. In other words, question everything! If you take issue with something you see on the web site, let me know! Offer a different opinion. That's how I want to see this place work. Also, I have seen some people discount the web site and/or McDonaldization in general as simply "anti-globalization." I think that this is a simplistic criticism. It is my personal goal to present the topic of McDonaldization in a factual and unbiased manner as possible. I have no particular agenda against McDonalds or anyone else. If you were a botanist studying the growth rate of a plant, you might record concrete measurements on a chart. Cold, hard, factual data. I view the study of McDonaldization no differently. It may be an inflammatory subject to some, but is still worthy of open-minded attention.

Nov. 12, 2001 - As I write this, just enjoyed its highest number of visitors in a single week - ever. A new record has been set! I find this very interesting since I don't advertise or do anything to promote the web site. Something prompted you to find your way here. At the same time, I see that the book Fast Food Nation is #22 on's Top Selling Books List for 2001. It seems that interest in McDonaldization is growing!

This growing interest has motivated me to get back to work on the web site. I do this for fun and the occasional five percent on books sold. You won't find ad banners or pop up windows here! I'm not a writer or a sociologist - I'm more like a McDonaldization "hobbyist" who has translated my enthusiasm into a web site. My plan is to expand the content and polish all areas of the site, but I need your help! The site needs fresh material from people other than me like articles, news items, research studies, artwork, editorials - you name it! Anyone, regardless of your skill level or background, is encouraged to contact me if they'd like to help.

Wendy's restaurant So, what is your interest in McDonaldization? Perhaps you're a student looking for a topic for your research paper. Good idea, because McDonaldization is an exciting and unique topic that offers many rewarding avenues for you to explore! It seems like McDonaldization can be found everywhere and it's easy to find many examples that pertain directly to your own life. The world of fast food is the prime example, but the effects of McDonaldization can be found in virtually every other form of business and human activity including health care, religion and education to name a few.

Some of you may have found this site while investigating some of the curiosities of McDonaldization such as "McScam" (the theft of millions of dollars in McDonalds contest prize money since the 1980's) or the recent lawsuits regarding "beef flavoring" injected into french fries. To me, these events are examples of the "irrationality" that is spawned by McDonaldized systems. Just for fun, another example is this: "The FDA Total Diet Study found that fast-food hamburgers, across the board, contained 113 different pesticide residues." (Source: The Schwarzbein Principle, page 287.) Pesticides are used to bring added control and predictability to the fast food cultivation process, but the irrationality is that those same pesticides can end up in your food.

Whatever brought you here, I hope you'll appreciate my efforts to spread the word about this worthy topic.

The term "McDonaldization" was originally coined by George Ritzer, Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland and author of the book The McDonaldization of Society - An Investigation into the Changing Character of Contemporary Social Life.

Ritzer defined McDonaldization as "...the process by which the principles of the fast-food restaurant are coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society as well as the rest of the world."

Although there are some benefits of McDonaldization, in general, this process, in my opinion, can overall be viewed as harmful to our society. In fact, Ritzer calls the McDonaldized society a system of "iron cages" in which all institutions come to be dominated by the same principle.

The purpose of this web site is to help spread the word about McDonaldization and explore the wide-ranging impact this process has on our society.

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