Sunday, November 18, 2012

Let Them Eat Cake.... Or Not (Update)

The Twinkie obits are bloating the blogosphere, so I won't add anything further to the Dirge of the Ding Dongs. But let me take this (lazy) opportunity to repost what I wrote about the Hostess debacle last February. (The original post starts right below the Angry Twinkies pic.) You can't say you were not warned, junk food junkies of America! You've had almost a year to start hoarding. There are no bargains to be added to the Grand Bargain. Vulture capitalists are not only putting the company out of business, they are on a price-gouging rampage as well, adding insult to artery injury.
 Now that the once-grand striking Teamster truckers have been reduced to effective minimum wage slaves, they can at least take comfort from the fact that they will no longer be ridiculed as the people who transport cupcakes. They will probably make more money by filing for unemployment benefits.
 I suppose that Hostess will now magically off-shore its brand to China. Any day now, Twinkies will be flying off the shelves at Walmart. If they taste funny, it will probably be a result of the sugary filling being replaced by the same poisonous glycerin anti-freeze precursor they put in Walmart toothpaste and Walmart pet food.
(Originally posted last February)
Urban legend has it that Twinkies have a shelf life of decades: not only do they contain no actual food, but one ingredient is the same chemical used in embalming fluid. Even though this claim is probably bogus, all you Hostess junkies (and you know who you are) might want to start hoarding your supplies. In what has become a tried and true tactic of vulture capitalism, the private equity firm that bought out Hostess several years ago, and already forced it into bankruptcy once, is at it again. Wonder Bread, that miracle of unhealthy enzyme-enhanced sculptable softness beloved by kids, is in danger too. Either the worker bees cave, or Hostess may shut down for good.

It seems that the debt-riddled owners (they have been predatory, many, and varied) sloppily forgot to eviscerate the union's pension plan last time around, and are heading back into court to force the Twinkie-transporting Teamsters and the factory food workers to give up their contracts. Hostess executives from the Texas HQ went judge-shopping, and finally settled on a friendly New York bankruptcy court.

The judge with the reputation for coercing concessions from unions in bankruptcies to make the capitalist vultures happy and whole is one Robert D. Drain. I am not kidding. This guy is a living legend in the world of legal union-busting for fun and profit. Writes labor journalist Robert Vail:
Between 2005 and 2009 Drain presided over the infamous Delphi auto parts bankruptcy, in which the United Auto Workers saw its Delphi membership decimated.
More recently, he has been overseeing the case of the A&P supermarket chain. Just six weeks ago, about 30,000 grocery clerks and store employees represented by the United Food & Commercial Workers union were forced into broad concessions under circumstances just like those faced by the Hostess workers.
The workers are being asked to give up $659 million in wages and benefits over three years, in addition to relinquishing their pensions. All for the good of the bottom line, of course. Management will apparently try to appeal to the employees' sense of junk food junkie grass-roots solidarity and job security. They might even stir up anti-union sentiment by threatening to raise the price of SnoBalls to $5 for the already-struggling indigent middle class. Divide and conquer -- works every time.

The union boss is not having it. He represents the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union. (Not to editorialize or anything, but the combo of Twinkies and cigs doesn't exactly inspire sympathy. On the other hand, it is pretty cruel and irresponsible for a company whose products contribute mightily to America's bloated health care costs to cut the medical benefits of its own employees. I call this the WWDBA-- the WalMart Way of Doing Business in America). Anyway, the union boss's name is Frank Hurt, and he is mightily pained:
I find it deeply offensive and highly disingenuous for the company to claim that its financial woes are the result of its union contracts and pension and health benefits obligations. We contend that the company is in dire financial shape because of a string of failed business decisions made by a series of ineffective executives who have been running the company for the past decade.
For a junk food company, you'd think they'd know better than to indulge in that no-no of snacking: the double-dip. It previously filed for Chapter 11 in 2004, when it was known as Interstate Bakeries. The company also named a new chief executive, James R. Elsessor, who had taken over as CEO for Charles Sullivan, replaced by Tony Alvarez. Confused yet? Mitt Romney, amazingly enough, is nowhere to be found in this labyrinth, but that doesn't mean he's not lurking nearby. Interstate Bakery's stock, which had been at one time $34/share, fell to $2.05/share as they declared bankruptcy.
At the time it was the longest bankruptcy in U.S. history. During that time, it fought a 2007 bid from Mexican baked goods giant Grupo Bimbo and ex-Bill Clinton vulture capitalist pal Ron Burkle of the Yucapaipa Companies. With the leadership of Craig Jung, the company emerged from bankruptcy as a private company on February 3, 2009. The plan included a 50 percent equity stake by Ripplewood Holdings and lines/loans by General Electric Capital and GE Capital Markets, Silver Point Finance and Monarch Master Funding. Interstate's union workers made contract concessions in exchange for equity. Since declaring bankruptcy in 2009, Interstate closed nine of its 54 bakeries and more than 300 outlet stores. It also reduced its work force from 32,000 to 22,000 people and pulled out of some markets. (Wikipedia).
The next trial in New York's Southern District Bankruptcy court is scheduled for next month.

While you're waiting, do read the wonderful Charles Pierce's "In Defense of Twinkies", a masterpiece of junk food gourmandism and caloric history. An excerpt:
The Twinkie's formidable shelf life has aroused curiosity among bored undergraduates, the scientific community, and people who are, well, members of both. Most seriously, the Twinkie was subjected to a grim series of experiments eight years ago by a pair of young scientists at Rice University in Houston. They tested Twinkies for artificial intelligence (the cakes failed), electric resistivity (the filling bubbled a little, but that was all), and gravitational response, in which test a Twinkie was launched from a sixth-floor window, with the result that, upon contact with the sidewalk, only a small crack opened on the Twinkie's side. The pair also performed a solubility test, immersing a Twinkie in a glass of tap water. After 24 hours, they reported "the beginnings of a creamy ooze at the surface of the water."
"After 48 hours in the water," they continued, "the Twinkie had not changed any more in size. However, the creamy filling somehow oozed out of the center and was collecting on the surface of the water. The water itself was a very dark brown. When we attempted to pour the water out of the cup, it quickly became apparent that the Twinkie had no structural integrity at all. It ... turned into a lump of goo in the sink."
Pity. You should probably eat them if you're going to do anything with them. Or not.

Okay, I think it's time for a Twinkie run. Watch out for vulture capitalists scarfing up the supplies in the snack aisles, and attack if you must. I won't tell if you don't.


John in Lafayette said...

Much better than Hostess.....

Homemade Twinkies
Adapted from
Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Nonstick cooking spray or vegetable oil
60 grams ( 1/2 cup) cake flour
30 grams ( 1/4 cup) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 large eggs at room temperature, separated
12 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
165 grams (1 1/2 cups) confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup Marshmallow Fluff
2 tablespoons heavy cream.
1. For the cakes: Heat the oven to 350 degrees and adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position.
2. To make single-use Twinkie molds, cut 12 pieces of aluminum foil 12 inches wide by 14 inches long. Fold each piece of foil in half lengthwise, then fold it in half again to create a rectangle that’s about 6 inches long and 7 inches wide. Repeat to make a dozen rectangles.
3. Place one sheet of folded foil on a work surface with a standard-size spice jar on its side in the center of the foil. Bring the long sides of the foil up around the jar, folding the sides and ends as necessary to make a tight trough-shape from which the jar can be removed. Repeat to make 12 foil molds. Spray generously with nonstick spray or coat with vegetable oil. Place the molds on a baking sheet.
4. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt. In a small saucepan over low heat, heat the milk and butter until the butter melts. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla. Cover to keep warm.
5. Using a standing mixer, beat the egg whites on high speed until foamy. Gradually add 6 tablespoons of the sugar and the cream of tartar and continue to beat until the whites reach soft peaks.
6. Transfer the beaten egg whites to a large bowl and add the egg yolks to the standing mixer bowl (there’s no need to clean the bowl). Beat the egg yolks with the remaining 6 tablespoons sugar on medium-high speed until the mixture is very thick and a pale lemon color, about 5 minutes. Add the beaten egg whites to the yolks, but do not mix.
7. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the egg whites and then mix everything on low speed for just 10 seconds. Remove the bowl from the mixer, make a well in one side of the batter, and pour the melted butter mixture into the bowl. Fold gently with a large rubber spatula until the batter shows no trace of flour and the whites and yolks are evenly mixed, about 8 strokes.
8. Immediately scrape the batter into the prepared molds, filling each with about
3/4 inch of batter. Bake until the cake tops are light brown and feel firm and spring back when touched, 13 to 15 minutes. Transfer the pan containing the molds to a wire rack and allow the cakes to cool in the molds.
9. For the filling: Using a mixer, beat together the butter, confectioners’ sugar and Marshmallow Fluff. Add the cream and beat just until smooth.
10. Just before filling the cakes, remove them from the foil. Using the end of a chopstick, poke three holes in the bottom of each cake. Wiggle the tip of the chopstick to make room for the filling. Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch round tip. Pipe frosting into the holes in each cake, taking care not to overfill, until it gently expands. Unlike real Twinkies, these won’t last indefinitely. They’re best served still slightly warm.
Yield: 12 homemade Twinkies.

Denis Neville said...

We are the prey.

First, they cut “costs” - wages, health benefits, and “staff,” so we have to run faster, like squirrels in cages.

We no longer can afford to buy anything.

Job creators? Hell, they make more money by giving us all those damn credit cards that charge exorbitant interest rates.

Our wages cut so far that many of us don’t make enough to pay income taxes.

We become the “47 percent” – the freeloaders, the losers.

Still they want take our money from us.

“It’s just business, folks - beating older people, retirees and sick people and people who are likely to become older, retired or sick…Republicans and Democrats alike are slavering at the opportunity to destroy Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, led by the kinder, gentler Barack Obama…But they can’t do it the way the thugs do it, brutally and directly. They have to come up with some other explanation. So they talk about “shared sacrifice,” as in “we have a fiscal problem, and we all have to share in the sacrifice to fix it…We are all sinners in the hands of the angry God of Debt.” – Masaccio, Firedoglake

The predators have been emboldened.

We must offer ourselves and all that is ours in painful sacrifice.

We are the prey.

“It is horrifying to see Obama preach morality to the hard-working people of the United States while allowing the people who murdered the economy to go free.”

d12345 said...

Thanks Denis.

If I hear one more Democrat say "if the middle class is going to sacrifice so much....the rich should pay a little bit more..."

How about....the rich should pay a lot more. And the middle class has sacrificed enough.

Incidentally are Federal workers ever going to be unfrozen?

BTW...It was exciting to see the Green Party mobilizing people to demonstrate against any cuts at all...oh wait, I must have been dreaming.

On the other hand...the Walmart uprising is so good!!! and the occupy relief program.

As bad as things are...the forces for good are still out there.

Pearl said...


Thank you for sending in the recipe for homemade Twinkies. But all that work and expense for only 12 Twinkies!!!!

Thanks anyway.

Denis Neville said...

Bravo! Karen’s comment on Paul Krugman’s “The Twinkie Manifesto” today.

“When the world has once begun to use us ill, it afterwards continues the same treatment with less scruple or ceremony, as men do to a whore.” - Jonathan Swift

More irony from our poseur Nobel Peace Prize winning President:

“Speaking at a joint press conference with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Obama called for an end to the firing of missiles into Israel by militants inside Gaza, saying “there is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.”

“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.” – Voltaire

Pearl said…“all that work and expense for only 12 Twinkies!!!!”

My rule, as I have gotten older and crankier, is that a recipe must not have more than five ingredients. KISS!!!

Kat said...

Krugman's column seemed like the same old, same old to me. Not that I'm not for a more progressive taxation schedule but why does he never mention the role of trade pacts which favor capital in creating the huge imbalance between the rights of employers and the rights of workers? The TPP is in the pipeline right now.