Category: Corruption

Petition: Require Lawmakers to Wear Logos of Financial Backers on their Clothing

Suggested attire for members of the House and Senate

Petition’s suggested attire for members of the House and Senate

A new petition appeared on the Obama administration’s “We the People” web site March 18 asking that members of the Congress and Senate be required to wear the logos of their financial backers on their clothing, NASCAR style. The petition says, “Since most politicians’ campaigns are largely funded by wealthy companies and individuals, it would give voters a better sense of who the candidate they are voting for is actually representing if the company’s logo, or individual’s name, was prominently displayed upon the candidate’s clothing at all public appearances and campaign events. Once elected, the candidate would be required to continue to wear those ‘sponsor’s’ names during all official duties and visits to constituents. The size of a logo or name would vary with the size of a donation. For example, a $1 million dollar contribution would warrant a patch of about 4″ by 8″ on the chest, while a free meal from a lobbyist would be represented by a quarter-sized button. Individual donations under $1000 are exempt.” Some people have commented that the NASCAR-style clothing requirement would break Congress’s dress code, but the code only requires a coat and tie for men and “appropriate” dress for women. Others say members of Congress and the Senate would have to wear floor-length robes, perhaps with trains, to accommodate all of their corporate backers. So far, the Congressmen-in-NASCAR-clothing petition has gathered 9,378 signatures in just four days. The Obama Administration has raised the number of signatures needed to get a response on a petition to100,000 within 30 days, up from 25,000. The petition can be seen (and signed) here.

Main source: Huffington Post, March 20, 2013

 

Gun Maker Freaks Out, Retaliates Against Colorado Gun Safety Bill

Magpul's Internet Ad

Magpul’s Internet Ad

Magpul Industries of Erie, Colorado, which makes and sells  high-capacity ammunition magazines, has declared war on Colorado over a gun safety bill currently moving through the state’s legislature. HB 1224, currently in Colorado’s House of Representatives, would limit high-capacity magazines to 15 rounds, and add a more restrictive 8-round limit for shotguns. Magpul makes 30-round magazines. Magpul threatened to move its business out of state if the bill passes. The House then voted to amend HB 1224 to allow Magpul to keep making its high-capacity magazines and selling them in other states, but that wasn’t enough for the company.  Magpul launched an Internet-based campaign to flood the state with high-capacity, military-grade magazines and weaponry in advance of a vote on the bill. Magpul posted a cold-war style ad on its Facebook page announcing that the company will sell up to ten 30-round AR or M4 ammunition magazines per customer directly to Colorado residents, and will expedite shipping for a discounted price of just $5.00. The ad shows a little girl with pigtails, smiling and reaching up to catch 30-round gun magazines as they are dropped, airlift-style, from an airplane. The copy reads, “In the battle for Colorado Freedoms, support for second amendment rights is being delivered by Magpul Industries Corporation. Fielded in the millions by US and its allies since 2007, the PMAG is the magazine of choice for those defending freedom and democracy around the world…Now, with the ability of Coloradans to purchase new standard capacity magazines in jeopardy, Magpul Industries is working to supply as many as possible to the good people of Colorado. Similar to the Berlin Airlift, the Boulder Airlift will bring much-needed gun supplies to freedom-loving residents trapped inside occupied territory.” In addition to high-capacity magazines, Magpul also makes rifle grips, buttstocks, rifle sights, gun mounts and other gun-related parts and accessories. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has said he will sign the bill if it makes it to his desk. Colorado has a history of gun massacres, including the Aurora Theater massacre in 2012, the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, and the Chuck E. Cheese massacre in 1993, also in Aurora, Colorado, in which a gunman killed four restaurant employees.

“Legion of Christ” Documents Show Wide Cover-Up

Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legion of Christ, circa 2004. He died in 2008.

A photo of Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legion of Christ, circa 2004. He was revealed to have molested underage seminarians and fathered three children with two women. He died in 2008, and was never prosecuted.

A lawsuit in Rhode Island brought by the niece of a wealthy, deceased widow has cracked open thousands of previously secret documents of the Legion of Christ, a disgraced Roman Catholic order of priests and young men studying to enter the priesthood. The lawsuit charges that the Legion of Christ unduly influenced a wealthy banker’s widow named Gabriel Mee, who died in 2008 at the age of 96, to alter her trust and will to bequeath $30 million to the Legion, while the Legion withheld from Ms. Mee information that the order’s founder, the Reverend Marcial Maciel Degollado, had sexually abused underage seminarians and secretly fathered three children by two women. The documents in the case were under seal until The Associated Press, the New York Times, the National Catholic Reporter and the Providence Journal petitioned the court to have them unsealed, saying they were in the public interest. A Rhode Island Superior Court judge agreed, and ordered the documents released to the public. Pope John Paul II praised and supported Rev. Maciel through the years, calling Maciel an “efficacious guide to youth,” even after 1998, when Maciel was formally accused of sexually abusing Legion seminarians. Pope Benedict, who is retiring from the papacy this month, continued the coverup until he finally pushed Maciel to retire “to a private life of penance and prayer” in May of 2006. Pope Benedict failed to involve legal authorities in the Maciel case, nor did Benedict acknowledge Maciel’s sexual transgressions or his victims. The Legion of Christ only officially acknowledged Father Maciel’s sexual transgressions on March, 25, 2010, when the order issued a formal communique’ titled, “Regarding the current circumstances of the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement.” The Legion of Christ has branches all over the world and is still operating. 

Main Source: The National Catholic Reporter, February 18, 2013

Documents Show Philip Morris Yielded to Scientific Blackmail

This tobacco industry document from the Philip Morris collection is a translation of a letter written by a German scientist named Dietrich Schmaehl, who was performing biological research for Philip Morris in 1979 in a quest to find a “safer cigarette.” Schmaehl was doing experiments to determine the carcinogenic effect of the smoke condensates, so-called “tar,” from specific brands of cigarettes.  Philip Morris performed such research overseas to help prevent any findings from being discoverable in American courts.

Philip Morris had threatened to cut off funding for Schmaehl’s research.  After finding this out, Schmael wrote to PM consulting scientist Dr. Franz Adlkofer (presumably his boss), saying, “In our conversation it was argued that the Industry could not support such experiments since this might prove that the previously manufactured products have a carcinogenic effect and that such experiments could especially not be supported because they would be financed with Industry funds.  I am totally unable to follow these arguments.”

In no uncertain terms, Schmaehl threatened that if his funding was cut off, he would continue performing the investigations on his own and publish the results, naming the brands (currently on the market) that he used in the experiments:

“I want to tell you again that in case this project . . . is refused support by the Industry, I will carry out such investigations in my Institute on my own account; in that case I will, in my publication of this work, call a ‘spade a spade’; this means I will name the brands currently on the market which were used to prepare the smoke condensates.”

A related internal memo about Schmael’s letter from Alexander Holtzman, PM’s Assistant General Counsel, to Thomas Osdene, PM’s Director of Research, shows that PM clearly considered Schmaehl’s threats blackmail, but decided to fund his work anyway to keep him quiet.  Holtzman says,  “I do feel that this letter is tantamount to blackmail by Schmaehl. I am very much afraid that unless financial support be provided to Schmaehl he will chastise the industry.”

Main Source: Letter, (Author: Schmael) October 12, 1979, Philip Morris Bates No. 2016000963/0964A

 

Subway Finds Size Really Does Matter

Subway's trademark "Footlong™" subs are coming up short all over

Subway’s trademark “Footlong™” subs are coming up short all over

Subway stores are in big PR trouble. It all started when earlier this month an Australian man posted a photo on Subway Australia’s Facebook page of a Footlong™ sandwich he had just bought, and asked why it was only 11 inches long. Soon, other Subway sandwich buyers started making similar posts and uploading images of their too-short “footlong” sandwiches. Then two men from New Jersey filed a lawsuit against Subway accusing the stores of selling trademark Footlong™ sandwiches that were really just 11 inches. Stephen DeNettis, the lawyer who represents the plaintiffs, said he measured sandwiches from 17 different Subway stores and they all came up short. He says Subway should either make sure its Footlong™ sandwiches are really a foot long, or stop advertising them as such. For its part, Subway issued a statement apologizing for it’s short sandwiches, saying “With regards to the size of the bread and calling it a footlong, ‘SUBWAY FOOTLONG’ is a registered trademark as a descriptive name for the sub sold in Subway Restaurants and not intended to be a measurement of length.” For good measure, Subway added that the length of each bread cannot be assured every time because the “proofing” process may vary. Buzzfeed called that answer “amazingly stupid.” One commenter on Buzzfeed wrote, “So…when I pay them with my TWENTY DOLLAR BILL™, and it turns out to be nothing more than an envelope of grass shavings, there will be no hard feelings, right?” Another wrote, “After closer measurement, I’m returning those inch worms I bought at a yard sale.” Who knows? Maybe Subway is shorting people as part of their  sponsorship of NBC’s reality show “The Biggest Loser.”  After all, shorter Footlong™ sandwiches will help people lose more weight and shorting patrons like this makes Subway customers the Biggest Losers.

In Wrongful Death Suit, Colorado Catholic Hospital Argues Fetuses are Not Viable Persons

hypocrisy-meterOn New Year’s Day in 2006, 31 year old Lori Stodghill went to the emergency room at St. Thomas More Hospital in Cañon City, Colorado, short of breath, vomiting, and seven months pregnant with twins. As they wheeled her into the examining room, she passed out. The ER staff tried to resuscitate her, but a blockage in the main artery going to Lori’s lungs caused her to have a massive heart attack, killing her and her twins less than an hour after she arrived at the ER.  Her obstetrician, who was supposed to be on call for emergencies that night, never answered a page. Stodghill’s husband subsequently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the owner of the hospital, Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) based in Englewood, Colorado. Catholic hospitals do not offer abortion services or even contraception based on their belief that legal personhood starts at contraception, not at birth, and that fetuses are viable people. CHI even has an advocacy website that implores visitors to help them oppose the provision in Obamacare that requires employers to pay for contraceptives, because “Our mission and our ethical standards in health care are rooted in the Catholic Church’s teachings about the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.” But to get its client out of this wrongful death suit, CHI’s lawyers are arguing the opposite — that Lori’s fetuses weren’t really viable persons. In a brief the defense filed with the court, CHI’s lawyers say the court “should not overturn the long-standing rule in Colorado that the term ‘person,’ as used in the Wrongful Death Act, encompasses only individuals born alive. Colorado state courts define a ‘person’ under the Act to include only those born alive. Therefore Plaintiffs cannot maintain wrongful death claims based on the two unborn fetuses.” 

Source: Colorado Independent, January 23, 2013

Updated Jan. 26, 2013

Dick Armey’s Tobacco Ties

Dick Armey in his younger days

Dick Armey in his younger days

Former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who recently left his job with the astroturf group Freedomworks, has a history of taking tobacco money and doing Big Tobacco’s  bidding. The tobacco industry was a friend to Armey throughout his career on Capitol Hill, but Armey, who was an uneven ally to the industry while in the House, arguably became a more reliable ally when, under his guidance, FreedomWorks reflexively opposed higher cigarette taxes in states all across the union. Despite this, we found that some in the industry has less-than-complimentary things to say about Armey. We also found  Armey engaged in dubious and dishonest tactics get new members an increase his group’s muscle while at FreedomWorks.  Read all about Dick Armey’s tobacco ties and how he used FreedomWorks in a three-part series on my new blog at DeSmogBlog.com.

Virginia Republicans Rush Through Redistricting Vote While Key Democrat Attends Obama’s Inauguration

Virginia State Senator Henry Marsh

Virginia State Senator Henry Marsh

While Virginia State Senator Henry Marsh, a 79 year old African-American civil rights advocate and a Democrat, was out of the state attending President Barack Obama’s inaugural ceremonies, Virginia’s Republican legislators seized the opportunity afforded by his absence to rush through a vote on a new Congressional redistricting map that maximizes the number of seats safe for Republicans. Virginia’s legislature is evenly split with 20 Republican members and 20 Democratic members, but while Marsh was out of town, there were 20 Republicans and 19 Democrats present to vote. Republicans seized upon that short window of time when they had a voting advantage to take a vote on the redistricting measure. It passed by a single vote, 19-20 with 19 Democrats voting against it, and handed an electoral advantage to Republicans. Virginia Democrats said they would challenge the measure in court.

Main Source: Talking Points Memo, January 21, 2013

Stealth Anti-Science Bills Disguised as “Academic Freedom” Bills

Creationist cartoonThe National Center for Science Education is warning that a bill introduced in the Colorado House of Representatives on January 16,  HB13-1089 (pdf), called the “Academic Freedom Act,” is really a trojan horse anti-science bill. The bill directs teachers “to create an environment that encourages students to intelligently and respectfully explore scientific questions and learn about scientific evidence related to biological and chemical evolution, global warming, and human cloning.” It sounds innocent enough, but such bills use an “academic freedom” guise to tacitly permit teachers to misinform students by allowing the teaching of creationism as a scientifically valid alternative to evolution, or by allowing teachers to misrepresent evolution as being scientifically controversial. The last time such an anti-evolution bill was introduced in Colorado was in 1972, when a lawmakers tried to put a measure on the ballot that would have allowed “all students and teachers academic freedom of choice as to which of these two theories, creation of evolution, they wish to choose.” That measure never made it onto the ballot. All of the primary sponsors and co-sponsors of Colorado’s 2013 “Academic Freedom Act” in both the House and the Senate are Republicans. These tricky, shifting strategies state and local school boards, state legislatures and teachers are using to undermine the teaching of scientific subjects like evolution, climate change and cloning are described in depth an article published in a September, 2010 article in the Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics titled Dispatches from the Evolution Wars: Shifting Tactics and Expanding Battlefields

Republicans’ REDMAP Strategy to Skew Future Elections in Their Favor

Voter ID wasn't enough; Republicans still tinkering with election processes to disadvantage voters on the other side

Voter ID wasn’t enough; Republicans still tinkering with election processes to disadvantage voters on the other side

Republicans, finding themselves less able to win elections on the merits of their candidates and policy positions, are continuing to tinker with election processes at the state level to disadvantage voters who disagree with their policies and dislike their candidates.  In 2010 and 2011, Republicans worked frenetically in state legislatures to pass so-called “voter ID” laws, which, just prior to the election, were officially outed as a strategy to make voting harder for the people most likely to vote against their candidates: African Americans, the elderly, the poor, students and those with disabilities. As voter ID laws were increasingly discredited and blocked by the courts, Republicans started working on a new strategy: REDMAP, short for “Redistricting Majority Project,” an effort to skew the redistricting process to assure Republicans maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives even though more Democrats than Republicans are now casting ballots across the country. The GOP’s REDMAP strategy involves a plan to win control of state legislatures. Once they achieve that, they initiate an aggressive gerrymandering campaign to redraw the states’ electoral maps and create districts that are completely safe for Republicans. But beyond eliminating competitive elections in Congressional races, a new part of the GOP’s strategy is to change the rules about how the states apportion their electoral college votes. The new strategy will magnify the effect of Republican votes in the Electoral College in future elections. The GOP wants to change the current winner-take-all rule for apportioning electoral college votes to instead apportioning electoral votes based on the winner in each individual Congressional district within the state. The change would hand beleaguered Republicans a huge process advantage over Democrats. As an example, if the GOP’s hoped-for rule had been in place in Pennsylvania in the November, 2012 election, for example, Mitt Romney would have won 13 of that state’s 20 electoral college votes, even though Obama won the state with 52 percent of the popular vote.

Main Source: Huffington Post, January 17, 2012

Praise Jesus and Pass the Taxpayer-Funded Football

Logo of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, whose mission is to use school athletics as a platform to spread Christian evangelism

Logo of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, whose mission is to use school athletics as a platform to spread Christian evangelism

Christian evangelicals are hard at work recruiting young athletes into Christianity in publicly-funded schools all across the country, and taxpayers are footing the bill. The injection of Jesus into school athletics is being carried out by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), a Christian group that encourages and rewards school sports coaches for using their influential positions to spread Christianity among youth.

For those who are unfamiliar with FCA, it is a Christian religious group whose existence is dedicated to turning school athletic departments into missionaries for Christ. FCA’s website states, “The purpose of [FCA’s] Campus Ministry…has been to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the lost and to seek and grow a mature follower of Jesus Christ. The ‘win’ of Campus Ministry is to see campuses impacted for Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes.” An answer to the question of “What is FCA?” on the group’s website states, “Since 1954, FCA has been challenging coaches and athletes on the professional, college, high school, junior high and youth levels to use the powerful medium of athletics to impact the world for Jesus Christ.” FCA also encourages coaches to conduct Bible studies on campus.  The group is open about its use of the platform of athletics to spread Christian “evangelism, discipleship, outreach and fellowship.” One of FCA’s corporate sponsors is Chick-Fil-A, the fast-food restaurant chain whose president, Dan Cathy, expressed strong views against same-sex marriage in a July, 2012 interview in the Biblical Recorder.

Oklahoma Judge Orders Church as Punishment for Manslughter

ChurchOrJailOklahoma 17 year old Tyler Alred pled guilty to first-degree manslaughter after drinking and driving last December 3 and getting into a vehicular crash that killed his 16 year old passenger, but instead of sentencing Alred to prison, Oklahoma district judge Mike Norman sentenced Alred to complete high school, finish welding school, take drug and alcohol tests for a year, wear an alcohol monitoring bracelet and attend church for ten years. Judge Norman had sentenced people to attend church before as punishment, but never for manslaughter. The Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) cited the sentence as a clear violation of the free exercise clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Judge Norman himself acknowledged the sentence is illegal, but believes he can get away with it because he doesn’t think anyone will appeal it. No parties who have standing in the case are likely to object to the sentence because it keeps Alred from having to go to prison. The pastor of the church Alred has attended in the past questioned the judge’s use of church as criminal punishment, saying “What will the judge do if the young man changes his [religious] affiliation in the next few years? Will he be allowed to switch to a mosque or become an atheist?” The ACLU is particularly concerned that the judge was fully aware that the sentence he handed down was illegal, but did it anyway. Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the Oklahoma ACLU said, “The Constitution is not exercised at your discretion. You take an oath to uphold it all the time, not just sometimes.”

NRA Blocks Data Collection on Public Health Impact of Guns

stopsignbulletholesThe U.S. government has invested billions to determine the causes behind traffic fatalities and used that information to make policies that have markedly reduce traffic deaths in the United States. Government research on traffic safety has led to the widespread use of seat belts, front and side impact air bags, child safety seats and other advances that have greatly advanced road safety and reduced vehicular deaths for Americans. The number of deaths annually from firearms in the U.S. closely approximates the number of traffic fatalities — roughly 30,000 deaths per year from each. Yet there has been little research into, or advances made in reducing gun deaths. Why? Because the National Rifle Association (NRA) has long worked behind the scenes to block laws allowing the collection and dissemination of data about the impact of gun ownership on Americans’ safety. The NRA quietly pushed a provision that was inserted into the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) restricting the data doctors can collect from their patients about their ownership and use of firearms. From 1986 and 1996, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control conducted peer-reviewed research into the impact of the presence of guns in people’s homes. While there is a widespread belief among gun owners that the presence of guns in their homes makes them safer, the CDC found the opposite — that having a gun in the home creates a 2.7 times greater risk of homicide and a 4.8 greater risk of suicide for the occupants. The NRA took action to prevent CDC from publicizing these results, and blocked continued funding of government research into the impact of firearms on citizen safety.

Republican Senator Michael Crapo’s Religious Hypocrisy

Senator Crapo's mug shot (Source: Alexandria, Virginia Police Department)

Senator Crapo’s mug shot (Source: Alexandria, Virginia Police Department)

U.S. Senator Michael Crapo (R-Idaho), a Mormon who has portrayed himself to the media as a teetotaler due to his religion, was arrested Sunday morning, December 23 in Alexandria, Virginia on a charge of drunken driving. The arrest occurred at 12:45 a.m. after Senator Crapo blew through a red light. No one was hurt. The officer who pulled Senator Crapo over arrested him after he failed several field sobriety tests. Senator Crapo’s blood alcohol level was .11%, which is above Idaho’s legal limit of 08%.  Crapo was named a bishop in the Mormon church thirty years ago, when he was 31 years old. He attended Brigham Young University, a Mormon institution, and graduated from Harvard Law School. The Mormon church prohibits use of alcohol, coffee, tea and other substances containing caffeine. Despite this, in 2010 Crapo sponsored a bill to cut taxes on microbreweries. At the time he told the Associated Press that he does not drink due to his religion and that if the bill passed, he planned to celebrate by drinking root beer. Crapo issued a public apology after getting his DUI: “I am deeply sorry for the actions that resulted in this circumstance,” Crapo said. “I made a mistake for which I apologize to my family, my Idaho constituents and any others who have put their trust in me. I accept total responsibility and will deal with whatever penalty comes my way in this matter.

NRA Uses Classic Corporate PR Dodge

Wayne LaPierre, Executive VP of the National Rifle Association

Wayne LaPierre, Executive VP of the National Rifle Association

National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre gave an instructive lesson in PR techniques during his talk last Friday about NRA recommendations to prevent further machine-gun massacres of innocent people. LaPierre completely dodged the central safety issues on everyones’ mind — the rise of public massacres and massive numbers of gun deaths in the U.S., — and instead switched the subject to video games, a lack of armed guards in schools and other topics well-removed from the central issues at hand. In so doing, La Pierre applied the classic PR playbook techniques of changing the focus and broadening the issue. It goes like this: If you can’t wage a successful battle on the issue you currently face, then change the issue to one you think you can win more easily.

PR techniques like this were first used to great effect by tobacco industry, which provided a model for other industries to follow. Back in the 1990s, when the EPA labeled secondhand smoke a Group A Known Human Carcinogen that kills 3,000 people a year, the cigarette industry reacted by redirecting public concern at great cost onto entirely new, previously-unknown issue called “sick building syndrome,” that focused on poor building ventilation and the supposed off-gassing of new carpet, drywall and other building materials. Thus it was no longer secondhand smoke that was making people sick in their homes and workplaces, it was bad construction materials and poor air circulation. Proposals to ban smoking in restaurants and bars were portrayed as threats against private property rights. Cigarette taxes became issues of fairness and effective tax policy, cigarette marketing became an issue of freedom of commercial speech, cigarette-related fires become an issue of fire safety programs, and so on.

ALEC Authored Michigan’s Wage-Depressing Law

Michigan's Right-To-Work Legislation Draws Large Protests At Capitol

Michigan workers, locked out of their state capitol, protest a so-called “right tow work” bill that cuts wages and depresses benefits

The wording of the union-killing bill Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed this week was taken virtually word for word from “model” legislation crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a stealth lobbying group for corporations.  The Natural Resources Defense Council has calls ALEC “Corporate America’s Trojan Horse in the States.” ALEC is essentially an exclusive club for state-level legislators and corporate representatives that masquerades as a charitable, non-profit group. ALEC charges legislators just $50 a year to join, while corporations pay anywhere from $7,000 to $25,000 a year. In return corporations get ongoing opportunities to have their lobbyists hobnob closely with thousands of state legislators.  ALEC puts on corporate-sponsored confabs at tony beach and golf resorts where lobbyists get plenty of face time with state legislators and influence them to introduce their favored legislation in state houses back home. Legislators never intentionally reveal that the bills came from ALEC when they introduce them. One of ALEC’s highest legislative priorities has been passing so-called “right to work” (RTW) bills across the country to slash the political power of unions.

Hostess Fleeced its Workers, Showered Execs with Extra Cash

TwinnkieDeath

The Hostess Corporation, not labor unions, killed Twinkies through corporate greed.

Hostess Brands publicly blamed its workers’ union for forcing it out of business, but now Hostess CEO Gregory Rayburn has admitted to the Wall Street Journal that the company had been quietly ripping off its own workers. Hostess took money out of workers’ paychecks that was supposed to go towards their pensions and put it towards company operations instead, Rayburn admitted. Rayburn said the company was not under his management when those diversions occurred. During its dispute with the union, Hostess pressured employees to take another pay cut ostensibly due to financial difficulties, but in November, 2012 — while the company was undergoing bankruptcy filing — Hostess  asked a judge to allow it pay out $1.8 million in bonuses to 19 of its top executives. The judge approved the bonuses, but did not, however, include any bonus pay for Rayburn, who was already being paid $125,000 a month, nor did the company seek any bonuses for its factory or other non-executive-level workers. The story that the union was responsible for tanking the Twinkie maker, then, is a myth designed to cast labor unions in a bad light.

Main source: Huffington Post, December 10, 2012

The City of Grand Junction, Colorado’s Shameful End-Run Around the Constitution

Grand Junction’s Ten Commandments tablet, donated in 1959 by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, which only admits people who believe in God.

Anyone who thinks that electing narrow-minded people to city councils in small American towns doesn’t get expensive, think again. The parochial minds of just five elected city council members in the town of Grand Junction, Colorado cost city taxpayers $64,000 and led to the creation of a big, permanent public reminder on City Hall grounds of how they spent that huge sum to evade the law and collectively thumb their nose at the U.S. Constitution.

It all started in 1959, when the City of Grand Junction accepted a gift from the Fraternal Order of Eagles (FOE), a do-good civic group that restricts its membership only to people who believe in God. The gift was a stone tablet engraved with the Ten Commandments, a religious symbol commanding people to worship God, which City officials installed on City Hall grounds. There it sat, little-noticed, for the next fifty years, its presence often obscured by mature landscaping. All that changed in 2000, when the City put the finishing touches on construction of a new City Hall building and relocated the Ten Commandments to a much more visible location on the grounds.

The tablet’s more prominent location made it more noticeable, and some local citizens also finally happened to notice the Constitutional violation it represented. As a result, in April, 2001 five local citizens and the American Civil Liberties Union sued the City over the monument, asking them to remove it because it made members of minority religious groups, nonbelievers and community political outsiders feel unwelcome. The plaintiffs also contended it represented a government establishment of religion.