Category : Minnesota

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.

read more | digg story

Happy Solstice! That makes today the first day of winter, and the shortest day of the year for those of us in the northern hemisphere. Basically, we get like 3 minutes of daylight. Okay, it’s more like 7 hours, but it’s still not very much.

Here I am in Minnesota on December 21st. I look out the window this morning and what do I see? Snow falling gently on the trees? Uh… nope. No, I looked out the window and saw raindrops falling on my porch. It’s fucking raining as I type this!!

I’ve lived in and around Minnesota for most of my life and I’ve never seen anything like this. Last night I went for a walk and it was almost 40 degrees Fahrenheit outside. Un-fucking-believeable. When I was a kid we would get fuckloads of snow. It would snow all the time. We hardly ever had a brown Christmas. Usually, a white Thanksgiving was far more likely. But these last couple of years have been really weird. I mean, we had 50 degree weather for several days straight in February a few years ago. Normally, it’s probably closer to 10 or 20 degrees. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

It wasn’t so long ago that I was looking into ways to send myself into hibernation mode. I would love to be able to fall asleep in November and wake up some time in late March. That would be just fine with me (although I think I would have to get up to piss a couple times).

Now it turns out that bears in Spain aren’t even bothering to hibernate any more. The weather just doesn’t get that cold. The autumn was so warm in the Netherlands that many flowering plants could still be found in bloom in December.

This is beyond freak seasonal anomalies. This has been going on for years, and it’s getting worse. Our climate is experiencing fundamental changes; it’s being altered somehow, and the changes appear to be accelerating. I don’t think we can afford to listen to the climate change skeptics anymore. If they’re right, we will have wasted a few bucks. If they’re wrong we may have doomed our civilization. Which is the prudent choice?

Don’t ask me the lead the movement, though. I’m lovin’ this shit. Man, it could be a hundred degrees all winter and that would be fine with me; I fucking hate the cold!! And I curse the foul 23.5 degree tilt of the earth’s axis that gives us the seasons! Still, maybe we should, I dunno, cut back on the CO2 emissions until we figure out if the planet finally heating up is a good thing.

Jesus Criminey Christ on a fucking pogo-stick. The Democrats just swept to power in both houses of Congress and here they are attacking 3rd party voters in Minnesota for not voting for Mike Hatch and Patty Wetterling:

What makes Peter Hutchinson any less hypocritical than the politicians he thinks he is so different from? If he really cared about the issues that will make this a better state for Minnesotans, he would have thrown his support to Mike Hatch.

As for all those who voted for him, you too are sadly self-centered in your approach to the world. I am sorry for the personal, psychological neediness that always seems to manifest with spoiler candidates. Spoiler candidates impact the course of history — sometimes as dramatically as the 2000 presidential election. Is this the goal in the end — to leave your mark no matter how many people you drag down with you?

ELLEN WILCOCK, MINNEAPOLIS

First of all, Fuck you, Wilcock. What gives you the right to tell me how to vote? Why don’t you talk to the Republicans who elected Pawlenty rather than bitching about people who dared to vote for a candidate that wasn’t Hatch or Pawlenty? What so offends you about my right to choose who I vote for? Perhaps you would feel better in a setting more akin to Iran wherein the candidates are selected by the state ahead of time so nobody even has a chance to vote against the approved candidates. Would you prefer that, you fucking fascist?

Do you wanna know why I didn’t vote for Hatch, Mrs. Wilcock? BECAUSE OF PEOPLE LIKE YOU. That’s right, YOU are the reason that Hatch lost. You, and people like you who are so fucking sure that people who vote for independent/3rd party candidates would vote for Democrats if there wasn’t another option on the ballot. Well, guess what: You’re wrong. Don’t ever fucking try to tell me how to vote again you ungrateful, self-righteous bitch.

The Democrats are just as much a part of the problem as the Republicans. Democrats are like the abused wives who continually back down and let — even encourage — abusive husbands (the Republicans) continally beat the shit out of them. In this horrible, yet oddly appropriate analogy the third parties are like their children. The abused wife likes to take out her frustrations by screaming at the children because she’s too weak to take on the abusive father. Get a fucking clue, Wilcock, and move out! Aim your venom at the people who deserve it — the Republicans! Stay the fuck off my back.

And although you may be too stupid and weak to understand, some of my readers are not so I will explain to you how it works. Point 1: There is only one major political party in America: The Business Party. The Business Party (a.k.a. The Corporate Party) has two factions. These factions are called Republicans and Democrats. They serve the same master — the corporate interests that utterly control our country and, by extension, the world. The two-party system is a sham. The corporations simply do not allow anti-corporate candidates into their party, either faction. Try to name me an anti-corporate senator or congressman. There aren’t any. Questioning corporatism is a legitimate (even populist) position, but you won’t find any of those people in the halls of Congress. You will find candidates who are opposed to corporate power, but they are almost all Green Party candidates.

Watch this video clip of Noam Chomsky’s explanation of our political system, starting with The Business Party:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mk8pxyAWTBk]

Point 2: Democrats and Republicans have a symbiotic relationship, which is to say that they feed off of each other and support one another. One cannot exist without the other (in their present form — the names of the factions are irrelevant). You notice how the excesses of the Republican Congress/Administration pushed the American people right into the waiting arms of the Democrats? Well, it works both ways, as you’ll remember from 1994. When the Democrats go too far the Republicans step in. They seized power because of the corruption and stupidity of the Democrats in 1994 (sound familiar?). Do you see how they trade power back and forth, like a ping-pong ball? So no matter how inept and corrupt a party (faction) gets the Corporate Party still wins! They win every election. They choose every major candidate and they are never disappointed on election day.

As Chomsky pointed out, this is the way the Republic was designed. We are not a democracy any more than North Korea is. Remember, when this nation was founded the only people who could vote were white males, most of whom were rich landowners. Today, the only people who can afford to run for office are the rich, and the only people who can afford substantial campaign contributions are also rich. Thus, the rich are the only ones who matter. The rest of us merely choose between two rich guys with rich backers, both of whom support the business party and the business class.

So, Mrs. Wilcock, are you still determined to disparage my vote against the Business Party? Well, maybe that’s because you’re a part of the ruling class. Or maybe you’re too stupid to know the difference. Either way you contribute to its continued rule. My vote against the ruling elite had no effect — it’s designed to be that way. But at least I voted my conscience and I did it as an educated person rather than a bandwagon-jumping automaton who doesn’t realize that she’s voting against her own interests — assuming you’re not part of the ruling class. If you are, well then what are you complaining about?

America was never quite what it was advertised as. But over the years it’s gotten better as minorities and women (even women like Mrs. Wilcock) were given the right to vote. If we really want to change the system we have to look honestly at what we have; it’s not so great. People like me are utterly shut out of political decisions and people like Wilcock are so fucking deluded and confused that they might as well live in a completely different country. So why not make a change?

The solution to our problem is called Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). There are many ways to structure the system, but most boil down to this: Rank your preferred candidates in order of preference. Don’t rank candidates that you dislike. Then the results are tabulated so that if no candidate gets 50% the lowest vote getter is eliminated and the voter’s second-choice candidates are added to the totals of all remaining candidates. See a Flash demonstration here.

Next time, Mrs. Wilcock, rather than writing into the newspaper and screeching at people who exercised their constitutional right to vote for whomever they wish, you should write in and encourage Minnesota to adopt Instant Runoff Voting. Of course, since I called you a fascist bitch you’re not likely to do that. But the rest of you should know that Instant Runoff Voting is better than having to listen to this lecture again, which is what you’re gonna get if you try and tell me who to vote for. So support IRV!!

I’m not from Texas, but I’m throwing my political weight (think: feather) behind Kinky Friedman. He’s running for guv this year if ya didn’t know, and he’s actually picking up some decent poll numbers (around 20% last I checked) as he campaigns around Texas.

Now Kinky, who is running as an indepedent, has chosen Willie Nelson as his energy czar:

Friedman said the country singer/songwriter and benefactor of biodiesel was a natural choice to lead a state energy department or commission, which he wants to create. He also said Nelson “would never have his hand in Texas’ pocket.”

“My plan is to appoint the best people I can find, get out of the way and let them work … people whose only agenda is to do the right thing for the people of Texas,” Friedman told the Fort Worth Rotary Club. “… I really believe that musicians can better run this state than politicians.”

A Texas biodiesel supplier partnered with Nelson to develop the BioWillie brand of the clean-burning fuel for truckers. It is made from used vegetable oils or soybeans and is blended with diesel, and does not require modification to diesel engines.

Hell yeah! Now this is a campaign I can get behind! Willie Nelson is cool. Kinky is the perfect governor for a state that’s been churning out nothing but Bush cronies for decades. It’s time to either elect Kinky or get yer ass kicked out of the union, Texas!

Kinky is right. Musicians would be better at running any state than politicans. Look how infested with politicians we are currently — where has it gotten us? Now, some might say I’m biased as a musician myself, but I’m not running for anything, and I don’t live in Texas. I just see Kinky as being the best man for the job.

Kinky’s a funny guy, but he has real plans for the state; not just jokes:

Friedman, who unveiled his energy plan Thursday, said he plans to have 35,000 school buses running on biodiesel fuel, as well as his own vehicle. He said as it catches on, some 7 percent or 8 percent of Texans will be trying biodiesel, resulting in lower prices at gas stations because of supply and demand.

“What you’re going to see is Texas finally leading the way instead of following behind all the time, being first in something besides executions, toll roads and property taxes,” he said.

I think it’s a great idea to start using more biodiesel. The oil-lobby has owned Texas for years — it’s time to take Texas back from this entrenched special interest groups!

Here in Minnesota we elected Jesse Ventura back in ’98. He actually did a good job — I just used the light-rail system the other day. That was a plan that had been around awhile, but nobody really pushed it through. Jesse helped make it a reality.

Of course, Jesse got attacked on all sides. All the fucking useless partisan pieces of shit made sure to write in every day about how awful Jesse was — mostly because he wasn’t kowtowing to their preferred special interest. Fuck those partisan shitbags. I HATE partisan politics. I prefer independents. The Democrats and Republicans suddenly become best buddies when facing off against an independent.

There’s really only one political party: The Corporate Party. Democrats and Republicans are simply different factions within the One Party. Our only hope for true representation (i.e. candidates who aren’t corporate servants) is electing independent and third party candidates. In MN, that means Peter Hutchinson. I’m not sure I’ll vote for him; he’s not as fun as Kinky, but at least he’s not a Corporate-crat.

Kinky for president!

Blog of the Day

Somehow this blog was chosen as the Minnesota Blog of the Day over at City Pages’ The Blotter. I can only imagine this was some sort of horrible mistake, and they were actually trying to link to the Happy, Fluffy Bunnies Blog. Alas, they linked to me and now you’re here. So better make the best of it. I should mention that there are a few offensive sections on this blog. They would be… let’s see… everything below this post. :-)

Thanks, City Pages.

Scratching My Ass

I had a tough time scratching my ass the other day. Normally, that’s a pretty easy process, but things ain’t always easy. Well, giving in is, I suppose. That’s what I didn’t want to do. I was at the Mall of America, catching a ride on the light-rail, which is not as easy as it sounds either. For one thing, this is located on the southeast side of the Mall and it’s a fucking shithole. They don’t clean up down there, probably because they figure us bus-ridin’, light-rail-taking folks are used to it. Fuck that. Anyway, there was a lot of people down there, trying to catch the train into the city, but every single ticket-machine was busted except one. Those machines are pieces of shit, but they can’t be expected to breeze through a Minnesota winter.

So me and my crew (which is to say Matt & Nikki) are waiting in line to get ticket that they will never bother to check. This old lady in front of us gets up to the machine and promptly starts to panic. She can’t get the damn machine to take her dollar bills. Everybody starts giving her advice. She’s on the verge of tears and can’t get anything right. Somebody yells for the cop to come help. He’d been been sitting over by the gates, scratching his ass.

You see, I wanted to scratch my ass, just like him. We’re all human after all, but I saw all the video cameras as I came down to that level, and the prospect of getting my rectum-rubbing on tape (or are they digital!) was not an appealing one. It was one of those un-holy itches where you know you’ve gotta jam your hand way back there in order to get at it. It’s kind of a private moment, and there was nothing nearby to kind of hide behind. (ha! get it?) So I just went for it. I’m sure you’ll see it if I ever get famous. The Ass Scratching Tape, they’ll call it. Or maybe Urges From the Deep. Regardless, I feel a little kinship with Paris Hilton, but not much. She’s still a skanky-ass slut who needs to be tied up and sent to live in the dirtiest part of Buenos Aires.

But (and I do mean “butt”) how can we as a society tape all of our lowliest citizens as they try to get on the bus — one of the easiest challenges we face daily — but we don’t put video cameras in corporate boardrooms, where they might actually catch something that threatens our safety and security. Instead, we prefer to be titillated. We know there’s something seedy going on at the bus station. And I’m sure there is. Theft, violence, drugs and stupidity — it’s all there. But we rarely catch anything substantial. What about the people who sit behind closed doors (because they can afford great oaken doors) and plot to steal millions or billions of dollars? What about those who slash thousands of jobs in order to make the stock go up short-term, which enables them to cash out and make millions? Why aren’t we monitoring them on camera? They are the people who need watching.

Do we really need video evidence to throw Jimmy Tough-Streets in jail? No, we’ve been throwing him in jail for years — centuries. But what about James Easy-Street — why doesn’t he ever do any time? He claims to employ many. Funny, he never talks about the people he impovrishes. Or about those killed in the managed wars that he particiapes in, all for the greater enrichment of the military-industrial complex. I bet he’s very content with the sorrow he’s wrought to others, just as I would be very happy if he were behind bars.

Do you think you can look at a person and tell if he’s good or evil by the clothes he wears? I think we make many judgments about people every day on that very basis — myself included — and most of it is baseless or banal. I see those politicians on TV in their expensive suits and I know that the people inside those suits aren’t worth more than a piece of rat shit, festering under the sun. Sure, not every person in the ghetto is a glowing example of class and decency, but at least you know what you’re getting. The rich and powerful lie and cheat and steal to say in power — or maybe just for fun. They think the poor would do the same thing in their position…..but would they?

I would like to make a break in the chain and not immediately dive into despoticism as soon as the cup of power touches my lips. Somehow it’s possible to end the cycle of oppression that has continued unabated for so many millenia. We humans are not rats. But our leaders treat us as if we are — is that how they see us? I’ve often thought that people who don’t trust others are themselves untrustworthy. I’m willing to give people a chance (but I’m not a foolish glutton for fallacy — thus the rant you’re reading), but the powerful will give few such a hearing. They look at you like you’re human filth, but it is the reflection in our eyes that they see.

So I try to look kindly at the old woman who can’t figure out a ticket machine. In her defense, the user interface was extremely crappy, and I as I was watching her try to use the machine, she did things that should have worked, but weren’t implemented by lazy programmers and the non-existant UI team. She was a woman plagued by the idiocy and greed of others. Did the company that made those machines know they were making a crappy product that wouldn’t stand up to winter or usage? Of course — they’re not that dumb! But they still got paid, and probably extremely well considering that it was juicy government contract (“Lots of overtime boys! Scratch your asses and get paid for it!”). Who suffers for their mistakes? Not them certainly — they don’t take public transportation! Are you crazy?! You can’t park an SUV on a bus (although they would if they could).

I hope you enjoy a little glimpse into the base realities of our culture and economy. Afterall, it affects all of us on a daily basis, and helps determine our station in life. I guess if you aren’t a rat, willing to crawl over the backs of the poor to get yours, then you don’t deserve it. Such is capitalism.

So when you see that Ass-ilistic Scratch-tastic video of mine, enjoy it. Your tax dollars paid for the video. Maybe there was a video camera in the ticket-machine, just like in ATMs. It’ll never break, of course. Maybe you can stare right at that old lady’s face as she nearly breaks down trying to get fucking ticket. Make sure you laugh — that could never be you, could it? You’re stronger, faster, smarter, better — right?

If you’re wondering, yes, she did eventual manage to get a ticket. She needed the help of the cop and four impatient strangers behind her, but she did it. And in her fluster she didn’t grab all of her change, leaving it for us to fish out, and then experience our own frustrations with the machine.

Nobody asked to look at any of our tickets. The cop was too busy helping people (poorly) use the machine and dreaming about his imminent retirement (looks like that 401K didn’t come through). Here we are, holding up the system on our backs, trying our best to color within the lines and not make waves. We do it every day. Do our elite, jet-set, power-broker leaders give a shit? No, they’re looking for the best way to explo
it both us and the system for their own personal gain. I don’t think your have to buy tickets when you have your own learjet. Although I’m sure they can be a real struggle, too. Oh, what a pity. I’m sympathetic — really!

And so the struggle continues. Sorry to bitch so much, but I’d like to be more of a muckraker than a whiner. Now you see what it’s like to be me. Just scratching my ass brings impossibly complex questions of wrong and right inside a cracked system. Maybe one day we’ll wake up and change the system. Until then, I’ll continue to worry about scracthing my ass in public.