Archive for January, 2007

The neocons push closer to war with Iran, as shown by the blunt comments made by El Presidente Cheney in Newsweek:

He repeated the Bush administration’s stance that the United States seeks to resolve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program through diplomatic means, but that all options are on the table.

“I think most of the nations in that part of the world believe their security is supported, if you will, by the United States. They want us to have a major presence there,” Cheney said in an interview with Newsweek magazine, according to a transcript released by the White House on Sunday.

“When we — as the president did, for example, recently — deploy another aircraft carrier task force to the Gulf, that sends a very strong signal to everybody in the region that the United States is here to stay, that we clearly have significant capabilities, and that we are working with friends and allies as well as the international organizations to deal with the Iranian threat,” Cheney said.

Allow me to translate in case Captain Cheney’s comments were too subtle: “Iran, you best watch THE FUCK out, ya heard? We’re comin’ for your shit, so you might as well run now, bitches. Represent, sluts!!! We gonna fucks you up!”

The above is an official translation.

Cheney proceeded to whip out his dick and let the fucker smash on a table with a menacing thud:

Responding to other comments — including criticism from Brent Scowcroft, and others who have worked with Cheney in the past — he says, “Well, I’m vice president and they’re not.”

Yeah, you’re a big man, Dick. The whole article sounds like one big “fuck you” to everyone who’s ever criticized him… which means: just about everybody. I’m sooo glad he isn’t even bothering to hide his megalomaniacal tendencies or paranoid hatred of all who disagree with him. It’s refreshing.

Now, is anyone planning to remove Bush/Cheney from power soon? I dunno, like maybe the Democrats? They sure don’t seem to be moving very fast. They’d better hurry the hell up ’cause from the sound of things we’re gonna be having a blood kegger in Tehran by the end of the year. I’m sure Persian blood may not taste as sweet as Arab blood, but Cheney will still do a fucking kegstand on their country unless we get him the fuck out of office.

The neoconservatives like to point to “appeasement” by the UK during Hitler’s rise to power in order to justify their invasion of Iraq. I think we should use Chamberlain’s appeasement to justify removing Cheney from power before it’s too late. Appeasement of fascists is never a good idea. Cheney, as a fascist, should know.

In an interview in GQ Magazine, Republican Senator Chuck Hagel reveals that the Bush administration tried to get Congress to approve military action anywhere in the Middle East — not just in Iraq — in the fall of 2002 during the run-up the War in Iraq.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

GQ: It’s incredible that you had to ask for that.
Hagel: It is incredible. That’s what I said to Andy Card. Said it to Powell, said it to Rice. Might have even said it to the president. And finally, begrudgingly, they sent over a resolution for Congress to approve. Well, it was astounding. It said they could go anywhere in the region.

GQ: It wasn’t specific to Iraq?
Hagel: Oh no. It said the whole region! They could go into Greece or anywhere. I mean, is Central Asia in the region? I suppose! Sure as hell it was clear they meant the whole Middle East. It was anything they wanted. It was literally anything. No boundaries. No restrictions.

GQ: They expected Congress to let them start a war anywhere they wanted in the Middle East?
Hagel: Yes. Yes. Wide open. We had to rewrite it. Joe Biden, Dick Lugar, and I stripped the language that the White House had set up, and put our language in it.

This is really chilling stuff. Right here, in front of our faces, we have evidence (from a Republican no less) that the Bush regime was planning a war of global aggression back in 2002. What more is there to say? The neocons have been planning a series of invasions for years (probably long before 2002) which would allow them to reshape and control the whole Middle East, from Iran and Syria to Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Iraq is only the first step; that’s why the neocons are so determined to stamp out opposition to the war.

Do you still think the talk of going into Iran is just talk? I’m betting battle plans have been drawn up and they are entering the final phase of preparations. The key is to trick us into war. Keep your eyes open for a false flag attack.

Idiocracy is Brilliant

I just saw Mike Judge’s new movie, Idiocracy, and it’s such a brilliant satire that I can see why Fox tried to bury it.

It’s a potent look at our present, despite the fact that the movie is set in 2505. Intelligence declined precipitously over 5 centuries, leaving the people of 2505 incredibly stupid. Luke Wilson’s character, Joe, is frozen cryogenically for 500 years and when he (implausibly) wakes up to discover this horrific fact he is arrested for not having a barcode like everyone else in the future. Though arrested, he simply talks his way out of jail and runs off to try and find a time machine to take him back.

Although Joe is the smartest man alive in the 2505 he certainly isn’t very smart by 2007 standards. It is with this dark idea that Judge weaves his vicious comedy. If this idiot can solve the world’s problems, why can’t the rest of us?

The idiots of the future think Joe’s intelligent points are actually the pompous ravings of a “fag”. During Joe’s speech to the nation at the end he says, “… And there was a time, a long time ago, when reading wasn’t ‘just for fags’.” When was that, exactly? I’m afraid the idiocy Mike Judge is skewering is our own.

Idiocracy is very good, but Fox decided to release the movie the same way most of us release a monster piece of shit; quietly and discretely. (I hope that’s how you take a dump anyway. It could be loud and with a huge PR campaign, but I’ll be discrete and refrain from asking) The movie was quickly flushed away and won more praise from reviewers than it did from Fox’s publicists. Surely, the world is upside-down and the idiots are in charge. There can be no doubt at the end of the movie that the decision to bury the movie was a political act. The movie’s depiction of corporate and political life hits too close to home. And the best part is: it’s funny! You might even learn something.

Blog Constipation

I want to blog, but I have nothing to say. So now you have to read this pointless post. Go on, try to stop. You know there’s nothing of value here, but I bet you’re still reading this anyway. I already told you that I am without a point. But here we are. I’m posting, and you are, presumably, reading this. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

Well, here’s to life and football. Oh, and mad props to MPEG2 Works 4 Advanced, while I’m at it. It’s a great way to convert video files to DVD format.

Man, we got fucked at band practice on Saturday. The neighbors complained a few songs into our set. We hadn’t even gotten loud yet. Fuck, man, we were so pissed, but we continued playing an acoustic set.

See, I told you this post had no point.

“I installed it, I started it, and in 5 seconds I was watching television.”

That’s a good start. TV might never be the same.

2007 is shaping up to be the year of TV on the internet (TVoIP?) with the closed-beta unveiling of Joost, the new application from the creators of Skype and KaZaA. Until yesterday it was referred to by its codename “The Venice Project.” Well, now it’s Joost for better or for worse, and it looks like we may have a world-changing app on the order or Napster (or Skype) on our hands. Read on for a full review.

But Joost isn’t the only game in town. I haven’t gotten my hands on Joost yet, but I’ve already been playing around with SopCast on my old PC. SopCast merges Windows Streaming Server, WM Encoder and the BitTorrent protocol to provide an open format for home TV watching, and TV streaming. Basically, anybody with a TV capture card and some decent bandwidth can start their own stream of their favorite TV show or the big football game on sunday. As viewers join in they simultaneously become broadcasters, similar to the way BitTorrent downloaders automatically become uploaders.

TVUplayer is another TV over IP client/server setup, but I haven’t tried it yet. Please leave some comments if you’ve installed it.

I’ve watched a few games on SopCast and although the quality is pretty poor, the concept works. The main thing holding TVoIP back is the stingy upload caps most ISPs put on their customers’ lines. 384 kbps is simply not going to cut it. We need at least a megabit, preferably more. If TV on the internet is going to become a reality the ISPs need to loosen the choke chain on our bandwidth.

David Monson is a North Dakota state legislator who’s been trying to get permission to grow hemp for about 10 years. He may finally be getting close, but first he must go through an onerous set of flaming hoops set up by the DEA.

Last month, the state Agriculture Department finished its work on rules farmers may use to grow industrial hemp, a cousin of marijuana that does not have the drug’s hallucinogenic properties. The sturdy, fibrous plant is used to make an assortment of products, ranging from paper, rope and lotions to car panels, carpet backing and animal bedding.
Applicants must provide latitude and longitude coordinates for their proposed hemp fields, furnish fingerprints and pay at least $202 in fees, including $37 to cover the cost of criminal record checks.
Johnson said the federal Drug Enforcement Administration still must give its permission before Monson, or anyone else, may grow industrial hemp.
“That is going to be a major hurdle,” Johnson said.

Yeah, the DEA are basically a bunch of assholes when it comes to common sense and hemp. They won’t give permission unless they feel cornered. Keep the pressure on; some more media coverage would be nice.

But all this obscures the larger and more potent question: Why is “marihuana” still illegal? Certainly industrial hemp should be legal since it has none of recreational ganja’s psychoactive properties. But why is cannabis in general illegal? Most people would agree that Prohibition was a titanic failure. But we’re still stuck with many of the after-effects of the prohibition mentality, including the idiotic, wasteful, racist and anti-freedom War on Drugs. The War on Drugs is a total failure and a fraud and even many former cops and DEA agents will testify to that fact.

An excellent article called Why Is Marijuana Illegal? tackles that very issue, with some surprising revelations… Or not-so-surprising. I guess it depends on how jaded you are when it comes to politics and business.

America’s first marijuana law was enacted at Jamestown Colony, Virginia in 1619. It was a law “ordering” all farmers to grow Indian hempseed. There were several other “must grow” laws over the next 200 years (you could be jailed for not growing hemp during times of shortage in Virginia between 1763 and 1767), and during most of that time, hemp was legal tender (you could even pay your taxes with hemp — try that today!) Hemp was such a critical crop for a number of purposes (including essential war requirements – rope, etc.) that the government went out of its way to encourage growth.
The United States Census of 1850 counted 8,327 hemp “plantations” (minimum 2,000-acre farm) growing cannabis hemp for cloth, canvas and even the cordage used for baling cotton.

But racism may have been the weapon that was used most effectively against hemp and cannabis. Harry J. Anslinger (who looks like a gangster/mafioso to me) led the charge against “marihuana” (the word itself is a propaganda invention designed to draw up racial fears).

Anslinger immediately drew upon the themes of racism and violence to draw national attention to the problem he wanted to create. Some of his quotes regarding marijuana…

“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others.”

“…the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.”

“Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death.”

“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”

“Marihuana leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing”

“You smoke a joint and you’re likely to kill your brother.”

“Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind.”

There were a lot of lies said about pot back in the day. But it’s 2007 and we know better, so why is it still illegal? I mean, people don’t seriously believe that pot causes “insanity, criminality and death” — everyone knows it only causes the munchies and drymouth. But we still allow the government to lie to us every year and keep spending millions of dollars to send inner city youth to jail for with harsh mandatory minimum sentences? Pete Guither’s article does a great job of explaining how cannabis first became illegal, but it does not really tell us why it’s still illegal 70 years after the Marijuana Stamp Act.

Part of the answer to that question lies with the CIA. The CIA has long turned a blind eye to drug smugglers in exchange for a small cut of the profit. These illicit funds can be used to fund illicit wars around the globe. (Wonderful cycle our dear CIA is engaged in, isn’t it?) The Iran-Contra “affair” was actually a drug smuggling operation to fund an illegal war (is there an echo in here?):

On October 31, 1996, the Washington Post ran a follow up story to the San Jose Mercury News series titled “CIA, Contras and Drugs: Questions on Links Linger.” The story drew on court testimony in 1990 of Fabio Ernesto Carrasco, a pilot for a major Columbian drug smuggler named George Morales. As a witness in a drug trial, Carrasco testified that in 1984 and 1985, he piloted planes loaded with weapons for contras operating in Costa Rica. The weapons were offloaded, and then drugs stored in military bags were put on the planes which flew to the United States. “I participated in two [flights] which involved weapons and cocaine at the same time,” he told the court.

Funny how the news doesn’t do investigative reports on stuff you might actually want to know. The press could have found a lot more dirt on this scandal, but they steered clear after a limited hang-out. That’s because the whole system is set up to demonize drugs so that they will be so much more profitable. Legalization would utterly destroy the CIA’s little “fundraising” operation and it would effectively end the careers of many DEA agents, who’ve become like a parasitic wasp, sucking at our nations’ failed and painful drug policy.

It’s time to end the lies, the racism and the idiocy of the War on Drugs and declare peace. It needs to end, and there needs to be an investigation. Those who profited from the war by playing both sides should be punished according to their own rules.

The video above is Dealing with the Demon, an excellent look into the CIA’s activities in Afghanistan during the war against the Soviets. Perhaps we should not be surprised that Afghan poppy production has exploded since we “liberated” it from the Taliban. How… interesting.

Updated on 1-16-07 with new links, a video and various spelling-error fixes.

Digg this story, man.

Update 2 (Oct. 30, 2010): In the process of moving this blog over from Blogger to WordPress I imported all posts to the new platform. However, certain posts didn’t survive the process and this was one of them. I have reposted it above, but because the post didn’t transfer correctly I lost all of the comments that were posted to the original. I have a backup of the original so I was able to save them. I’ll post them below (but above WordPress’ comment system) for posterity’s sake:


14  SICK LITTLE MONKEYS SAID:

Anonymous screeched…
funny. no one’s ever just randomly offered me a marijuana cigarette like that poster warns. i must be doing something wrong ….
18 JANUARY, 2007 12:25

Vemrion screeched…
yeah, you better work on that.
this propaganda is only hurting their cause. That dime-store novel looks pretty good, and that tagline is classic: “a cheap and evil gril sets a hopped-up killer against a city.” Nice. I like how they mention that she’s “cheap.” Does this mean she’s a prostitute or a miser? So many questions, I must read it! :-)
18 JANUARY, 2007 21:45

greg screeched…
Just wanted to thank you for the excellent article and let you know that it made the front page on Newsvine.com yesterday, 1/25 — http://rochester92.newsvine.com/_news/2007/01/25/536949-why-is-cannibis-still-illegal-in-2007
26 JANUARY, 2007 18:24

sean paul screeched…
legalize it, time to recognize it!
31 JANUARY, 2007 13:31

Anonymous screeched…
Not many things make me mad. But damnit! Legalize the bloody hemp before I kill ya! :P
03 FEBRUARY, 2007 05:23

Anonymous screeched…
I’m not sure that the government will ever legalize marijuana. Think about it. There is no way (at least at this time) to detect how much marijuana that you had to smoke today. If you have a few drinks, a breathalizer test can be administed or a blood test and you can get a reading of how much alcohol is in your system. Thus, a police officer can determine if you are over the legal limit. With marijuana, you can test positive for it but they cannot tell if you smoked it today or a week ago. For this one reason, I don’t think that the legalization marijuana will happen any time soon.
30 JULY, 2007 12:30

freedom screeched…
Im tired of feeling like im doing something wronge for smoking pot, I think its time for us to realize that we were born FREE… not free to kill or commit true crime, but free to live our lives the way we choose, not the way the govt has choosen for us. What is it going to take to make lawmakers realize that a war on pot hurts people more than pot does. What good is it to throw a person, who has a family, in jail ruin their career and their life over a bag of pot, a bag of naturally grown plants, shouldnt cops be trying to prevent real crime. Im sure in the time it takes a cop to arrest a person for posetion, he/she could have been helping someone who truly needed help. OPEN UP YOUR EYES…FREEDOM
28 AUGUST, 2007 21:27

Anonymous screeched…
ok 1 pot does not make you do ofter druges its the persons dicishion to do otfer druges and 2 pot is better for you then tabaco so they sould make pot legal and tabaco ileagale or both legale
21 OCTOBER, 2007 19:17

snoop dogg screeched…
legalize the danm thing ho!
21 OCTOBER, 2007 19:19

Anonymous screeched…
FUCKING LEGALIZE POT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
21 OCTOBER, 2007 19:20

Anonymous screeched…
I’m very torn on the issue. But I agree with Anonymous on July 30, 2007. If you want to legalize marijuana, someone needs to invent a device to detect current levels in your system so that individuals are not driving under severe influence. This will eliminate at least one (if not the most prevalent) argument as to why marijuana is illegal.
20 NOVEMBER, 2007 17:18

Anonymous screeched…
his topic always fires me up because of how ignorant people can be. Its our decision and making it legal could help hrthe economy, eliminate the badass feel of it that makes people so it just because it is illegal. We need a strong leader who has the balls to speak out about the truth of marijuana. Legalize it now
16 JUNE, 2008 19:42

Anonymous screeched…
Using pot irresponsibly should be regulated the same as alcohol. But a Federal ban against everyone who does use the drug responsibly is wrong. I’ve smoked for years and I’m a productive, functional member of society. If I went to jail for smoking I would no longer pay taxes and more of your tax money would go into the court & correctional systems. And when I got out of prison after a harsh mandatory minimum do you think I’d be a better citizen after hanging out with murderers and rapists for the past 3 years?
No one gets high and beats their wife. No one gets high and passes out in a gutter. People get high and eat too much and annoy their friends who are not high. Just don’t get high when you have something important to do and don’t get high everyday or you’ll become a douchebag hippie. There’s no reason for the government to punish you any further. Being a douchebag hippie should be punishment enough.
20 MARCH, 2009 00:01

Please feel free to add additional comments below:

There’s a discussion over at Slashdot concerning the income disparity we face today. I expect it to be modded into oblivion by fascists, capitalists and morons, so I’m reposting it here:

So, who got a check from the government last year to make up for all the money you lost to inflation? Anyone?

Whenever topics like this come up all the libertarians, fascist/corporatists and foaming-at-the-mouth capitalists come out of the woodwork to say that “anybody can make it in America!” even though none of them have been poor, black, suffering from disease and fleeing from hurricanes while still succeeding in business. Hey, I like kool-aid, too, but this is total horseshit. Let me be absolutely clear:

THE RICH “CREATE” POVERTY. Clear enough? Without rich people actively trying to fuck over poor people we wouldn’t have the income disparity that we presently have. To see it in action, all you have to do is look at the Republican party and their collaborators in big business. They try their best to cut taxes for the rich and slash spending on social programs, no matter what the human cost. The Democrats help by increasing federal spending to obscene levels thereby necessitating increased taxation. We get fucked from both ends, like a double-sided dildo.

As amusing as it is to read white-bread, middle-class slashdotters talking about how easy it is for anybody in America to become a captain of industry, I feel compelled to take a shit on your Capitalism Cake. Fascism is alive and well in this country, which should be no surprise to anyone who knows what Fascism is: Corporatism. Basically, it’s the merger of the state and big business. Fascism is the governmental system that is most favorable to business, bar none. Big Business is fascist not because they believe in Hitler’s aryan fantasies but because they stand to gain from a government hopelessly devoted to improving market conditions for greedy multinationals.

The income gap is not a new thing because greed is as old as humanity. There is no such thing as being “rich enough.” There is only MORE. More money, more power, more disparity. And how do you really know that you’re rich unless somebody else is poor? How can you really enjoy being wealthy unless you have servants? The rich mindset is dead set on creating inequity because the rich benefit from it, and like I said, there is no limit to their desires.

This is aided, abetted and made possible by the Federal Reserve System. Each year the Fed increases the money supply, and each year money becomes worth less and less. That’s the problem with fiat currency. Since it’s not backed by gold the dollar bill has no intrinsic worth. It is just paper. Since it’s just paper/electrons it can be created with a flick of the wrist. And so it is. When that money is created, who gets it? You? Does the government/private industry send you a check each year to account for inflation? No, the money is simply stolen from you by those who create it: The bankers. Bankers are the Kings of Capitalism. They are the new aristocracy, the ruling class that maintains control with an iron fist. They control the corporations and our government.

But this system, which appears impossibly strong from the outside, is actually rotting from within. Things are falling apart. If there was a run on the banks our economy would collapse into a pit that would make the Great Depression look like a tea party. That’s because of the deposits vs. cash-on-hand ratio. Banks are able to create money simply by making loans. How? Well, they don’t really have your money in the vault, you know. For each dollar you put in your savings account the bank is able to lend 10 dollars out because bankers have figured out that they only need to keep 10% of their total deposits on hand at any given time. (I’d like to have a 9x or 10x multiplier on my wealth. Maybe I should start a bank and screw you people over! It’s the American way!) The Fed backs them in case of a run, but they don’t have the money either. The money doesn’t exist. It’s imaginary. It’s not backed by anything like gold and it is only accessible during normal business climates. In the event of a nationwide run on all banks the first 10% might get their money out. The other 90% are totally and completely fucked.

Our economy is based on smoke and mirrors. The Federal Reserve is a privately owned corporation that loans our government money at interest, even though the money is completely fake. This is why we have a 9 trillion dollar federal debt (well, that and profligate spending by Congress). It’s a total scam. And most importantly, it’s a system of control, courtesy of the ultra-rich. They know that money is worthless; it’s only a means to an end: Power.

So does income inequality matter? Of course it does. It matters to the rich, who count on poor people for cheap labor (thus, the love affair with illegal immigration — would you rather pay $2.50 an hour for a Mexican gardener, or $10.50 for a citizen gardener?), and it matters to the poor, who can’t afford to go back to school to get more skills and get a better job… working for a rich guy who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, went to Harvard’s kindergarten, etc.

So please, spare me the platitudes about how anybody can make it in America. If you do make it you’ll have to spend the rest of your life looking after your money, investing it properly and being successful at it or inflation will turn your wealth into a big pile of nothing. This should be nothing new to anybody who’s familiar with the ruling class. It’s the same in this country as it was 2,000 years ago during the Roman Empire. One of my favorite scenes from Mel Brook’s History of the World: Part 1 is the one in the Roman Senate:

Leader of Senate: All fellow members of the Roman senate hear me. Shall we continue to build palace after palace for the rich? Or shall we aspire to a more noble purpose and build decent housing for the poor? How does the senate vote?

Entire Senate: FUCK THE POOR!

Jeepers, Ireland! Lay off the coke!

The BBC is reporting that 100% of Irish Euros were found to have traces of cocaine on them by a recent study.

Researchers used the latest forensic techniques that would detect even the tiniest fragments to study a batch of 45 used banknotes. The scientists at Dublin’s City University said they were “surprised by their findings”.

Some of the notes had such high levels of cocaine on them that it is thought they were used to snort the drug.

Others had much lower traces and may have been cross-contaminated, perhaps in the wallets or pockets of users.

Man, Ireland. Maybe it’s time to slow down, okay? I think you’ve had enough.

Since they studied with only 45 notes it’s quite possible that a percentage closer to 95% would result from a more randomized study including thousands of bills. Presumably a bank note fresh from the bank would be free of cocaine traces. … Presumably.

The study also found that higher value banknotes, such as 20 and 50 euros, were more likely to contain greater traces of the drug.

Hmm… so that means that rich people handle a lot of coke. (Presumably) Perhaps the rising cocaine usage rates in Ireland are the result of a burgeoning business class. They like to party you know, after a big sale or meeting or whatever. Lotsa 50s flyin’ around to pay for drinks and to stuff in a stripper’s outfit, I’m sure. But I’m sure this will be mostly blamed on the poor and destitute, some of whom may use coke or speed to stay awake so they can work two 8 hour shifts. I’m sure the cops will continue to hassle the lower class while the upper class gets away with everything. That’s the way it’s always been.

So put down the coke, Ireland. Chill. … Smoke a doobie if you need to calm down.

Apple Computer became Apple, Inc. today as the computer maker dropped the “Computer” from its name to more closely reflect its recent forays into consumer electronics with the iPod, and now the iPhone.

The phone features a radical new interface which they’ve named MultiTouch. Basically, there is no keypad on the phone. You do everything with your fingers on the touchscreen interface. The screen overlays a number pad or a full keyboard when you need it, which then disappears when it’s not needed. The phone plays movies in widescreen and can be used to surf the internet (for real, not that hokey shit on most phones).

According to Steve Jobs, the phone is actually a combination of 3 devices: An iPod, a smartphone and an internet communicator (since it can surf the web). Oh, and it has a 2 megapixel camera built in. So you can surf the web, take pictures, call your friends, listen to music, send emails (with attachments) and watch TV/movies all on one little device. Now, I may be jaded and cynical, but that’s pretty fucking cool. And at 500 bucks, it damn well better be.

Now, I won’t be getting one of these anytime soon because I hate cellphones, but I appreciate the idea and the coolness factor of this thing. It’s about time we got some real innovation going on in that space. This device is damn close to a tricorder. You know, we won’t be getting flying cars anytime soon, but I think that we could come close to the tricorder. If it’s doesn’t analyze the atmosphere for its gaseous makeup… well, that’s okay as long as it has the web.

Okay, this is probably not a news flash for most of you, but there is a new article on the AP wire about the insurance industry’s record-breaking profits in the face of tumult (rather like the oil industry, wouldn’t you say?):

The Consumer Federation of America’s insurance director, J. Robert Hunter, accused the biggest players in the industry of “gouging” the public on their way to an estimated combined after-tax profit of nearly $60 billion in 2006.

Hunter’s comments followed the release of a study by the federation that showed automobile and home insurers’ profits have surged in recent years — despite billions of dollars in damage from Hurricane Katrina and other storms — in part because they have shifted more costs to consumers and taxpayers.

The portion of premiums paid in benefits by the largest insurers has dropped from 75 percent in the late 1980s to about 60 percent today, the study found.

“It’s a combination of gouging” and being too conservative, Hunter said.

I’m not sure why people buy insurance. Oh wait, yes I am; They are forced to by law! In my state (Minnesota), we are forced to buy car insurance whether we want to or not. It’s a requirement in order to drive a car. So basically, the only question is which insurance company gets my 800 bucks every year. I wish I was in a business that was propped up by the government in such a manner. I wish I made an invisible substance (I’ll call it, “enshurence”!) that was legally mandated for anyone wishing to drive a car. And the best part is that I could screw over customers who make claims and there’s nothing they can do but go to a different company because they’re legally mandated to buy it!! Muuhahahahahaaaaa!!!

If you couldn’t tell from the preceding paragraph, I think insurance is a gigantic scam. Do I really have to back that up? I mean, all you have to do is look at how much money they made collectively this year — 60 billion in profit — to figure out who’s getting the better deal. So if you don’t believe me, you’re probably a sucker. And there’s nothing insurance salesmen like better than a sucker!

Why, if insurance is so great, are there laws forcing us to buy it? And why, if the insurance companies are providing us a valuable service, do they end up making so much money off of it? These are the questions they don’t want you to ask.

All it takes is a simple glance at the corporate headquarters of an insurance industry giant and you can probably gather who’s getting the better deal. Their highly-polished tower of steel and glass was financed by your monthly checks, whether you sent them in because you wanted insurance or not.

I guess insurance wouldn’t be a bad idea if you are constantly getting struck by lightning, or by cars. But then, of course, your premiums will go up. Insurance companies are masters at assessing risk. Basically, they’re gamblers. Each time they take on a new customer they’re betting that the customer will pay them more in premiums than they will pay the customer in claims. And the house always wins.

It helps that the insurance companies are the penultimate arbiter of who gets a payout. That may explain why the insurance industry still managed to turn record profits in 2005 and 2006 despite the many claims relating to Hurricane Katrina. I’d like to think it was just good money-management by the insurance companies, but I think we all know that there’s a lot of Katrina victims who got screwed. Even Republican Senators get screwed by the insurnace companies reluctant to hand out money… although that might be a little comforting (everybody in the same boat, etc.), Trent Lott has been accused of using his influence to better his own situation. Go figure.

I guess the rest of us will continue to suffer through. When I bought a house I found out (the hard way) that there’s more to this scam. Technically, I don’t own my house because I haven’t paid for it yet (that will take 30 years of mortgage payments), so in the meantime, the bank that owns “my” house has insisted that I pay for insurance coverage on their house. Pretty sweet fucking deal for them, eh? It’s even ironically named “homeowners insurance.” I guess the homeowner in question is the bank. And a quick glance at the policy indicates that it doesn’t cover the house in the event of a flood or earthquake. Good. I’d hate to pay all that money and actually get some useful coverage in exchange.

Much of the Midwest and the East Coast are going through a remarkably warm winter, with temperatures running 10 and 20 degrees higher than normal in many places. [/digg]

Be sure to check out the map of the US in the article. It shows the much of Minnesota is at least 8 degrees over “normal.” Not sure what “normal” they’re referring to. None of the last 5 winters have been very harsh. But this one is crazy. After the last snowfall I didn’t bother to shovel my driveway. Lazy? Nope, just smart. Now the snow on my driveway has pretty much melted. It’s only been a few days and there’s hardly any snow left in my yard.

“No cause for alarm. Enjoy it while you have it,” said Mike Halpert, head of forecast operations at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center.

You’re damn right I’m gonna enjoy it. I love this shit. Normally it’s about 10 degrees outside. Today it’s pushing 40 and I’m about to go out and play some disc golf. See ya.

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The US Veterans Administration has quietly dropped this bombshell during the holidays: 150,000 US troops returning from Iraq are receiving disability benefits. 70,000 have asked the VA for mental health care. 1,502 are 100% disabled. At least 1,000 vets are homeless.

Excuse me while I go vomit in anger. Have you ever puked in anger before? It’s extremely fucking painful.

But not as painful as what these guys are going through. Don’t read this article if you’ve eaten recently….. but DO read it. Please. Our nation depends on it.

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