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Stuff I learned while looking up other stuff

Robert Downes - July 5th, 2007
There were more horror stories in the Detroit Free Press last week about the continuing meltdown at Northwest Airlines. Of course, this meltdown has been going on for about 20 years now, so it’s just more business as usual for the airline which is one of our chief flight links here in Northern Michigan.
One story was of a passenger who waited more than seven hours for a 60 mile flight from Detroit to Flint that was eventually cancelled.
And then there was the news that Northwest had canceled 825 flights in the space of a few days for lack of pilots and crews. Imagine all the vacations, business trips and long-awaited family visits up in smoke.
The usual suspects? Northwest’s management can’t get it together to make their employees happy. Pilots and crews are calling in sick. Jets are developing mysterious maintenance problems. No one can manage to pull a ramp up to the jets, or open the door from the outside to free the passengers.
One lawyer suggested last week that passengers consider suing the airlines for “unlawful imprisonment” if they are held on a plane for longer than two hours. This in the wake of a news story about a planeful of passengers who were held on a runway in sweltering heat on a Comair flight for four hours.
But who can blame the employees of Northwest for dragging their feet when they’re handed such an obscenely raw deal by their management? According to the Free Press, Northwest employees were asked to give up $623 million in annual concessions. Meanwhile, according to the Free Press, the airline gave “$297 million in shares to CEO Doug Steenland and other high-ranking officials.” PLUS a $26 million bonus to Steenland when Northwest was freed from bankruptcy in May.
Wealthy conservatives in the media often warn that Americans should never get involved in “class warfare,” as if this would be the worst thing possible. Yeah, for our country’s insanely compensated CEOs, that’s true. But the truth is, we are in a state of class warfare right here, right now with the cavalier abuse of American workers and their disposal.
When the average Standard & Poors 500 Index company CEO makes $14.8 million per year; 430 times the pay of the average production worker, that‘s an ugly trend that needs addressing.
There was a similar time in American history. In the early 20th century, farmers, miners and industrial workers got so fed up with being pushed around by the CEOs of their day that they threatened a socialist revolution. Anti-trust reform by leaders such as Teddy Roosevelt ended some of the exploitive business practices of that time, giving rise to the give-and-take negotiations of labor unions, rather than socialism.
But now the old union safety valve is in serious disrepair. We need similar reform of economic inequality in America today before planes start falling out of the sky, or worse.

So long, torture porn...?
It looks like the horror film genre known as “torture porn” may have croaked its final scream... for now.
“Hostel II,” about a group of young women who are kidnapped and tortured for fun by evil Europeans, has been a bomb at the box office, indicating that teens who get their jollies watching films like the “Saw” series are starting to get bored with torture. Imagine.
In a whiny blog posting, “Hostel II” director Eli Roth claimed ‘twas Internet pirates who made his sick film a flop. He made a plea for folks to do their part to support more films about mutilation and torture: “... right now the R-rated horror film is in serious jeopardy,” Roth said, adding that as a result, he’s decided to scuttle another torture porn flick, “Cell.”
Oh, get over it. Mr. Roth should spend time sawing off one of his fingers to atone for his failure as a human being.
Elsewhere, the LA Weekly reports that a new sadistic video game, “Manhunt 2,” has been rejected by stores such as Target, Best Buy and Walmart. The game is about an amnesiac doctor and a psychotic killer who break out of a mental hospital and go on a sadistic killing spree with meat cleavers. Nice, huh? Anyway, the game’s rejection by retailers has been a disaster for the company, Take Two Software, which also produced the “Grand Theft Auto” games that glorified murder, drug-dealers, pimps and armed robbery. The company is in a tailspin.
Who says there’s no good news?

Speaking of the movies...
Read a good quote in the New York Times a few weeks ago about “Spider-Man 3.“ It went something along the lines of: “There‘s nothing duller than nonstop excitement.“
Amen to that, brutha‘. I‘m a sucker for the summer blockbusters, but this is the most brain-dead season in many a year.
Endless explosions, shoot-em-ups and karate fights have replaced characterization in the “big“ movies this summer, with more of the same promised in flicks like “Live Free or Die Hard.“
Suspense? It no longer exists. It‘s been killed off in the big budget films. If I know that Captain Jack is going to survive every preposterous situation that brews up every 30 seconds in the “Pirates“ series, why should I care about him as a character? He‘s more like Gumby.
After two hours of the “non-stop excitement“ of “Pirates of the Caribbean,“ I was yawning widely, wondering when the jackhammer ride would be over.
I‘m looking forward to “Sicko“ because it‘s got something most films seem to lack: a sense of reality, with real people facing real problems.
 
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