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Rich people less empathetic than the poor

Boy, that one’s a shocker, huh?

Accidents will happen

When a gun is involved, even minor accidents can kill people. And that’s the thing about guns, right? Someone else’s slip of the hand, carelessness or anger can result in the death of another human being. It doesn’t seem like it should be so controversial to have more common-sense rules in place. Unfortunately, the NRA believes that any rules are an affront to reason and they’ve bought enough politicians to block them.

I don’t know what it’s like in rural areas, but most cities have laws against firing guns in the air for this very reason. If you don’t understand that the bullet can still kill people, maybe you shouldn’t have a gun:

An Ohio sheriff says Rachel Yoder, 15, was shot in the head Thursday night while riding in her buggy after a Christmas party at a produce farm, the Associated Press reports.

She was heading to her home in Wayne County, between Columbus and Akron, when she was hit, according to Wayne County sheriff’s Capt. Douglas Hunter.

Hunter says his department had traced a trail of blood along the road for about three-eighths of a mile into Holmes County in an area of farms and rolling hills.

Holmes County Sheriff Timothy Zimmerly says investigators figured out what happened after the gun-cleaner’s family came forward and after his neighbors reported hearing a shot at about the time the girl was wounded.

The man had fired the gun in the air about 1.5 miles from where Yoder was shot, Zimmerly says. State investigators are checking the rifle for a ballistics match, he says.

“In all probability, it looks like an accidental shooting,” Zimmerly says. No charges have been filed.

Zimmerly said he informed the Yoder family that the shooting appeared to be accidental, the AP reports.

This post is written as part of the Media Matters Gun Facts fellowship. The purpose of the fellowship is to further Media Matters’ mission to comprehensively monitor, analyze, and correct conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. Some of the worst misinformation occurs around the issue of guns, gun violence, and extremism, the fellowship program is designed to fight this misinformation with facts.

My favorite time of the year

Yes, it’s Global Orgasm for Peace Day! Make an “O” face for peace…

Grumble, grumble

Last night, I fried my ergo keyboard by spilling a glass of water on it. (Yes, I did take it apart and tried to dry it. No dice.)

So not only did I have to order a new ergonomic keyboard, I had to go pick up a $10 cheapie this morning so I can continue to work. And let me tell you: It’s hard to use a regular keyboard when you’re used to the ergonomic kind. I keep hitting the function keys and the caps lock by mistake, and I can’t touch-type on this thing at all. So I’m typing VERY S-L-O-W-L-Y while looking at the keys. What a pain.

The joys of swearing

I wish my mother could see this. She was always telling me my vulgar language was the mark of a poor vocabulary, and I’d respond, “Well, I guess I shoot that theory to shit!”

How companies stole worker pensions

Via Alternet, this excerpt from Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit From the Nest Eggs of Americans Workers, by Ellen E. Schultz:

In December 2010, General Electric held its Annual Outlook Investor Meeting at Rockefeller Center in New York City. At the meeting, chief executive Jeffrey Immelt stood on the Saturday Night Live stage and gave the gathered analysts and shareholders a rundown on the global conglomerate’s health. But in contrast to the iconic comedy show that is filmed at Rock Center each week, Immelt’s tone was solemn. Like many other CEOs at large companies, Immelt pointed out that his firm’s pension plan was an ongoing problem. The “pension has been a drag for a decade,” he said, and it would cause the company to lose 13 cents per share the next year. Regretfully, to rein in costs, GE was going to close the pension plan to new employees.

The audience had every reason to believe him. An escalating chorus of bloggers, pundits, talk show hosts, and media stories bemoan the burgeoning pension-and-retirement crisis in America, and GE was just the latest of hundreds of companies, from IBM to Verizon, that have slashed pensions and medical benefits for millions of American retirees. To justify these cuts, companies complain they’re victims of a “perfect storm” of uncontrollable economic forces—an aging workforce, entitled retirees, a stock market debacle, and an outmoded pension system that cripples their chances of competing against pensionless competitors and companies overseas.

What Immelt didn’t mention was that, far from being a burden, GE’s pension and retiree plans had contributed billions of dollars to the company’s bottom line over the past decade and a half, and were responsible for a chunk of the earnings that the executives had taken credit for. Nor were these retirement programs—even with GE’s 230,000 retirees—bleeding the company of cash. In fact, GE hadn’t contributed a cent to the workers’ pension plans since 1987 but still had enough money to cover all the current and future retirees.

And yet, despite all this, Immelt’s assessment wasn’t entirely inaccurate. The company did indeed have another pension plan that really was a burden: the one for GE executives. And unlike the pension plans for a quarter of a million workers and retirees, the executive pensions, with a $4.4 billion obligation, have always been a drag on earnings and have always drained cash from company coffers: more than $573 million over the past three years alone.

So a question remains: With its fully funded pension plan, why was GE closing its pensions?

How to make colleges free

By dismantling all the provate-sector supports for which we’re already paying. Via Rortybomb.

Pushing back

Egyptian women against the military’s treatment of female protesters.

‘You’re a f#@cking asshole’

An Iowa man tells Newt what he thinks of him:

The rich, they are different

Ryan Chittum points us toward a piece written by Bloomberg’s Max Abelson in which he recounts many inadvertently funny quotes from the 1 percent, bemoaning the fact that they get no respect:

Today, Abelson has one of his best yet, reporting on how some of the super-elite are on the attack against the 1 percent meme.

What makes this story very good is that Abelson has found some of the least self-aware people you can imagine and got them on the record, either himself or via others’ interviews. Take Blackstone multibillionaire Stephen Schwarzman, whom he quotes from Bloomberg TV bemoaning the fact that poor and lower-income people don’t pay federal income tax (almost all of them do federal payroll taxes and the like). That was in response to a question about whether he, who Abelson points out surely pays just a 15 percent tax rate on much or most of his income, should pay more taxes.

The quotes alone make this piece worthwhile, but Abelson’s attention to detail makes it even better. He sits down with Ayn Rand-loving former BB&T CEO John Allison, who has co-founded something called the Job Creators Alliance that gets lots of airtime on Fox News and Fox Business, and who is aggrieved by the provision of Dodd Frank that requires companies to disclose its CEO-to-median-employee pay ratio. He calls something that could be done with an Excel spreadsheet and an hour or two “incredibly wasteful.” The point, of course, is that forcing such disclosure might help keep executive paydays, which are incredibly wasteful to shareholders (the owners of capital), down.

Abelson is also good to track down Leon Cooperman, the hedge fund manager who wrote the open letter to President Obama about how his feelings were hurt or something:

Cooperman, 68, said in an interview that he can’t walk through the dining room of St. Andrews Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida, without being thanked for speaking up. At least four people expressed their gratitude on Dec. 5 while he was eating an egg-white omelet, he said.

Then there’s Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone, speaking forthrightly from his Manhattan dressing room:

“I am a fat cat, I’m not ashamed,” he said last week in a telephone interview from a dressing room in his Upper East Side home. “If you mean by fat cat that I’ve succeeded, yeah, then I’m a fat cat. I stand guilty of being a fat cat.”

And the billionaire founder of Paychex Incorporated with his thirty-something ex-tennis star (Monica Seles) girlfriend who wants to vomit when he hears about paying his “fair share” is fun stuff.

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