Friday, December 21, 2012

NRA Blames Music Videos For Gun Violence

The National Rifle Association has decided to issue a press release in response to last weeks horrific shootings but you might be surprised as to what the NRA places the blame on for these violent gun attacks - decades-old video games and movies.  

That's right.  The NRA points to 1992's Mortal Kombat, 1997's Grand Theft Auto, and 1988's Splatterhouse.  Sure these titles have been remade as recently as 2010 but the NRA fails to understand one simple fact - video games are not responsible for these acts of violence.  How would the NRA explain shootings that happened before the era of graphic video games?  Did Donkey Kong make those people do it?

And the NRA's solution?  More guns.

That's right.  The lobbying giant that represents gun owners wants to increase their membership, and subsequently their lobbying power so they are promoting greater gun usage to prevent gun crimes.  This line of reasoning is very reactionary.  Instead of preventing these crimes and finding the root cause, the NRA just wants to put guns into more hands and hopes that when someone starts killing people there is a armed civilian around to try and prevent that, and as we have witnessed over the years that is not the case.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mike Huckabee Uses Sandy Hook Shooting To Make Case For School Prayer

Since the horrific massacre of school children in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, a discussion on a variety of topics from media coverage to gun control has gripped this nation but some public figures have seemed to use this tragedy to advance their religious and political agendas.  Conservatives, who are the self-proclaimed defender of the Second Amendment, have used this shooting to preemptively attacks any calls for gun control with some politicians either brushing off the tragedy altogether to even calling for more guns (and even more guns in the classroom).  While there can be some arguments made for and against gun control, the attacks from conservatives have seemed to overstep a boundary.

Take former governor, minister, and current Fox News personality Mike Huckabee.  After the shooting, Huckabee blamed the absence of God in schools for the reason why the shooting occurred.

"We ask why there's violence in our schools, but we've systematically removed God from our schools," Huckabee said. "Should we be so surprised that schools become a place of carnage, because we've made it a place where we don't want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability. That we're not just going to have to be accountable to the police if they catch, us, but one day we stand before a holy God and judgment. If we don't believe that, then we don't fear that."

Huckabee's comments seem to ignore the fact that crime occurs in places where God has been systemically present, such as recent shootings at churches in Florida, Georgia, and Pennsylvania.  And don't forget the countless church sex abuse scandals, and if you would like to get personal, how about Reverend Huckabee's own son perpetrating acts of cruelty while a camp counselor in the nineties?  How would Huckabee explain that away?

Also, if you think about it, Baptist minister Huckabee seems to have the same stance as the crazy Westboro Baptist Church, who plan to picket the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting, claiming the shooting occurred because of the failure to recognize God and follow his plans.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Hostess Stole Money From Workers, Rewarded Executives

When Twinkie-making bakery Hostess Brands, Inc. announced that it was shutting its doors due to union greed, the company was interjected into a larger debate about American labor practices and if organized workers should be treated the same as their corporate counterparts.  Conservatives quikcly latched onto this story as a means to push their anti-labor agenda.  After all, look at Michigan, which recently saw a lame duck congress ram right-to-work legislation straight to the governor's desk, or really any Republican-controlled legislature working to diminish the strength of unions while granting corporations unprecedented powers.  So what makes Hostess an interesting case for organized labor?  The fact that after years of mismanagement and concessions from the workers, corporate executives froze worker pay while granting themselves massive pay increases by stealing worker pension contributions, and then getting a judge to approve millions in bonuses for the top executives to help disassemble the company they helped ruin.

Let's look at the facts surrounding the labor contracts with Hostess.

During the 2004 bankruptcy of Hostess, the unions took significant wage and benefit concessions bringing Hostess' employee compensation below their national competitors saving the company around $110 million annually.  The first bankruptcy also saw a reduction in union represented employees by half, from nearly 10,000 to around 5,000 union employees.

Post-bankruptcy Hostess saw a supposedly streamlined company run by private equity firms and hedge funds promising an investment into newer equipment and technology.  Instead, they demanded more concessions from the workers (including things like elimination of the 8-hour work day!) and eventually filed for bankruptcy a second time in less than ten years, and in those proceedings Hostess demanded even more wage cuts and increase employee contributions to benefits packages.  Hostess also unilaterally stopped paying its pension obligations in violation of federal law.   Meanwhile the corporate executives quickly gave themselves pay increases and asked for a judge to grant bonuses to the executives.

Despite being mismanaged for years, labor unions, which have conceded to the corporation in the past, were continually being blamed, even while the executives were looting the company.  What makes the executives' actions even more egregious is the fact that they had been diverting money paid by the employees for their pension plan to pay for other things... like pay increases for the top executives.  That's right - the company, which wanted increased employee contributions for their benefit packages, was taking those employee contributions to pay for god knows what.  And do you know what the CEO's excuse was?

"Whatever the circumstances were, whatever those decisions were, I wasn't there," CEO Gregory Rayburn told The Wall Street Journal, evoking The Shaggy Defense.

Rayburn's comments are very interesting because the CEO of the company that asked a judge for bonuses for top executives and even more concessions from the workers while undoubtedly knowing that the company he is running stole millions from the workers in the past - money that the employees paid out of their own pocket for their retirement.  And this is in addition to their recent illegal cessation of payments for their pension obligations.

Now after that, do you think that the sale of Hostess' valuable brands would go to replenish the stolen funds from the workers or would it go to the mismanaging private equity and hedge fund executives who have already ripped-off the company to insure their payday?