Category : scam

The Oligarchy won’t allow impeachment.

However, if you want to remove the Oligarchy you have to remove Bush first. It’s a Catch-22 born in Hell and swaddled in conspiracy. Some people suggest that the Democratic Congress is simply incompetent and divided. I think it’s much more likely that they are servile and paid-for.

Check out this awesome article from Glenn Greenwald. He nails the Democratic-controlled Congress for being the sell-outs they are.

Impeachment is necessary, but the Democrats resist where there’s merit while the Republicans rushed forth without the People behind them. Both parties are a bunch of fuck-ups. They’re so incompetent that there’s no difference between that and evil. When that’s the case you have evil hiding itself behind a Cloak of Stupidity. Ironically, it’s a brilliant plan.

Whoever said “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity,” was essentially writing evil a blank check. It seems the quote itself is stupid…or evil. Hanlon, however, created the quotation as more of a joke, not a axiom set in stone. Foolish are those who set store by it.

The Dark Ones will gladly use the Cloak of Stupidity to escape perceived culpability because the repercussions for negligence are much less severe than those for malice. It’s a simple cost-benefit analysis for the neocons: “We’re not evil, we’re stupid!” I predict you’ll be hearing that excuse a lot in the near future. Don’t fall for it. If you wear the Cloak of Stupidity you deserve to be stripped naked, warts laid bear.

The Oligarchy reacts to sunlight like a vampire does. Expose the Hidden Hand and you’ll be one step closer to impeachment and true liberty.

I’ve been thinking about music a lot lately. Okay, I always do that, since I’m obsessed with music, but you wouldn’t know it from this blog. I don’t know why, but I don’t usually like to write about music (it’s like “dancing about architecture” or so says Frank Zappa).

There’s an article over on Slashdot that got me thinking. It’s about the decline of the CD as a medium. Yeah, an article on that subject comes out every couple weeks, but I didn’t even read it. More important, I thought, was the ensuing discussion. It seems everybody has a different take on the state of the music industry. For me, no, CDs are not dead. I prefer my music uncompressed and pre-backed-up before I put it on my iPod. Plus, if you count CD-Rs, CDs are more popular than ever. I burn CDs all the time, whether its a copy of a CD a friend gave me or mixes from my band’s recording sessions.

Band Update – finally
Speaking of the band, I know I haven’t posted about us in awhile, probably because I didn’t want to jinx anything. People have been asking me when our album’s coming out for years and I keep telling them, “pretty soon. It’s right around the corner!” For the last few months I’ve been saying, “in a few months!” Well, it’s been a few months and it’s not out yet, but not for lack of effort. To be honest, we don’t know what the fuck we’re doing, but whatever we’re doing is shaping up pretty nice. We’ve got about 7 songs pretty much in the can — which is to say 90% or more recorded. They all need some mixing, but we’re going to try to bust out 2 more tracks before mixing begins in earnest. The songs are heavy but not punishing. They are melodic, but not sappy. They are all fairly unique but I think they will sound pretty cohesive together on an album (except for maybe one oddball).

We’ve learned so much about recording over the last 7 months, I don’t know where to begin. But we’ve also had some setbacks. I’m not blaming anybody (*coughMattcough*), but my Digi 001 suddenly went from an 8 track recorder to 6 tracks. Not good. But we’ll pull through. We’re recording all of the instruments separately for maximum flexibility (and it just sounds better in my opinion), so this shouldn’t cause too many problems. After all of the overdubs are added on we typically end up with over 20 tracks anyway, now we’re just limited to recording 6 tracks at a time.

So anyway, the band: I haven’t even told you the name yet. We’re Darkfold. We’re on UnderUtopia Records, which is our own independent net-based label and our album is yet to be named. Darkfold consists of me, Matthew R. Coon (esquire) and Andy Riedinger (esquilax). We trade off instruments. Matt does much of our singing, but I do a bunch, too. We play heavy rock music, at least that’s what we’re focusing on at the moment. The second album could be totally different; who knows?

Anyway, I’ll try to keep y’all better informed as the album nears completion. We hope to start gigging soon, but we want to get this album done before Armageddon (which could be any day now… in fact… we’d better hurry!). This making an album thing is fucking difficult, especially with 3 fulltime jobs between us. Of course, it would be impossible without money coming in. I really respect anybody who can start a band, even a shitty one, because there’s so much that goes into making it work.

Music, Money & Class
I’ve been thinking about music and money — more specifically, music and class. A question to ponder: How much music is the world being robbed of because the would-be musicians are too poor to start a band? I mean, becoming a professional musician is basically like taking a vow of poverty to begin with (unless your name is “Paul McCartney”), but you have to have a certain level of wealth before you can even take that plunge. Buying guitars, drums, amps and assorted gear is expensive. So is buying recording equipment and practice space and a van for touring. Then, after doing that you need to find time to practice — but how can you do that if you’re working all the time to afford food, clothing and shelter, let alone the aforementioned gear/space?

So needless to say, I’m kinda shocked anybody can afford to start a rock band these days. That’s why I wasn’t too surprised to find out that many successful rock musicians were wealthy before they hit the top of the charts. Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst, for instance, had rich parents to help him out when he was just getting started:

Conor: Dark? Not really. Actually I had a great childhood. My parents were wonderful. I went to a Catholic school. They have, I had money, so it was all easy. I basically had everything that I wanted anytime

Gee, wouldn’t that be nice. If my parents were bankrolling my musical endeavors I think we would’ve released 5 albums by now. Curse my middle-class upbringing! (j/k) It seems like every other star is the child of someone famous, from Norah Jones to Jakob Dylan. Rock and roll music was sparked by working class kids like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Elvis. Would those same kids have a chance in today’s cut-throat economy with all its barriers to entry?

America’s Famous Poverty Machine
So my question is: Do you have to be upper-class or at least well-off to have a good chance of making it in music these days? Do the rich people in America make the rules? Music has evolved and the bar for “good” music has been raised and if you don’t want to sign your soul away to a near-extinct dinosaur of a record label what choice do you have?

Personally, I get the feeling that we’re being fucked. The economy seems to be devised to deprive of us our hard-earned money. After inflation, college loans, housing bubbles, gas prices and the fucked up healthcare system, most people are barely scraping by. I have several friends who are still living with their parents because moving out just doesn’t make economic sense. Rent is sky-high and wages are down (even as productivity is up!). Most of my other friends have massive debt (myself included) and no easy way out.

This is the richest, most prosperous nation on earth?! Bullshit. We are being fucked by the rich. The fascist/capitalist oligarchy that controls our government is all about extracting ever more money from the poor and the middle class, not because the rich need another yacht (they don’t) but because the whole system is set up this way. It all needs to come crashing down. And at the rate the dollar is falling, it might just do exactly that. And we’ll have Bush to blame. The “legacy” they keep talking about will be one of fascism, terrorism, poverty and incompetence.

Music and class is not something most people like to talk about. It’s fair to ask, “does it matter? If the music is good, so what?” I would argue that it does matter, and we miss their unique perspectives. If you need a lot of equipment or players (like rock
and classical, respectively) the poor simply can’t play that game. And music education is already cut to the bone in inner city schools.

We’d be condemned to hearing only music created by the offspring of rich people if it wasn’t for hip-hop. Hip-hop, thankfully, can be made on the cheap if you know your way around the software (and if you have a computer) or mixer. But not everybody wants to be (or can be) a rapper. And what is the manifest goal of almost every single rapper on the radio — that’s right; getting filthy rich. (not every rapper is like that)

I don’t wanna be rich; I just want to make some music. I would love to do it for a living, but that just doesn’t seem possible these days. Signing a record contract is a great way to feel rich for a couple years before you discover the terms of the contract have impoverished you and stolen the most valuable thing you have — the copyright to your own songs. So we’re going the indie route, even if it kills us (and it might). In the meantime, I urge you to give some thought to the idea that lower and middle class folks are being shut out of the music game. Just like the other games.

I should make it clear that the most valuable commodity the rich have is time; specifically the time that comes from not having to work.

If only rich people are able to make popular, radio-friendly music we’d lose about 90% of all potential music, and we’d be subjected to endless songs about Jacuzzis, Mercedes Benz’s and Courvoisier. Thankfully, there are a lot bands out there struggling against impossible odds and making songs about real shit, like trying to pay the rent, finding their way in the world and dealing with relationships. Shit, music used to be the province of poor folks — look at all those old blues albums. Leadbelly was poor as piss, but now people think there’s a lot of money in the music game so the rich’s kids have invaded… and conquered.

Shit, the music business ain’t even worth that much, monetarily. But its cultural and entertainment value is immense! I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m whining, but I certainly have a new respect for musicians of modest means who have managed to carve out a good living for themselves without signing to a major label. I just don’t know who those bands are… -

Oh yeah — The Goodyear Pimps!

And WookieFoot! Represent, bliss junkies!

Do you know any others? Give me a shout-out!

This needed to be said. This was a long time coming. In fact, I feel like we should’ve had this discussion and stopped the stupid practice back when I was knee-high to a grasshopper (that was many moons ago, ya see?). But here we are in 2007 and women still expect a diamond ring from a guy as if diamonds were some sort of magical talisman that grants access to her vagina. And guys know diamonds are like gigantic “No Trespassing!” signs that keep other (honest) males away. Are we really so base and banal?

Slate’s running an article about the insidious practice of giving/receiving diamond engagement rings. O’Rourke goes after the engagement ring in particular because it’s like giving a “pre-gift” gift and it’s only for their girl (the price for access?), but I think the whole practice of buying absurdly expensive rings for the purposes of betrothal is antiquated, offensive and stupid. Let’s have a look into how this scam by the diamond industry got started:

In fact, the “tradition” of the diamond engagement ring is newer than you might think. Betrothal rings, a custom inherited from the Romans, became an increasingly common part of the Christian tradition in the 13th century. The first known diamond engagement ring was commissioned for Mary of Burgundy by the Archduke Maximilian of Austria in 1477. The Victorians exchanged “regards” rings set with birthstones. But it wasn’t until the late 19th century, after the discovery of mines in South Africa drove the price of diamonds down, that Americans regularly began to give (or receive) diamond engagement rings. (Before that, some betrothed women got thimbles instead of rings.) Even then, the real blingfest didn’t get going until the 1930s, when—dim the lights, strike up the violins, and cue entrance—the De Beers diamond company decided it was time to take action against the American public.

De Beers proceeded to brainwash the public into thinking they needed to buy diamonds, wedding bands, engagement rings, matching trinkets and assorted crap. Fuck all that status-seeking consumerist bullshit. Diamonds are not even that precious. Their value has been greatly inflated by the diamond industry’s tricks, which have revoked supply and demand through the power of advertising and a monopoly on distribution. The whole diamond wedding ring “custom” is a tradition manufactured and sold to the American public through marketing, PR and Hollywood glamour.

Don’t believe me? Try to sell a diamond.

De Beers proved to be the most successful cartel arrangement in the annals of modern commerce. While other commodities, such as gold, silver, copper, rubber, and grains, fluctuated wildly in response to economic conditions, diamonds have continued, with few exceptions, to advance upward in price every year since the Depression. Indeed, the cartel seemed so superbly in control of prices — and unassailable -that, in the late 1970s, even speculators began buying diamonds as a guard against the vagaries of inflation and recession.

The diamond invention is far more than a monopoly for fixing diamond prices; it is a mechanism for converting tiny crystals of carbon into universally recognized tokens of wealth, power, and romance. To achieve this goal, De Beers had to control demand as well as supply. Both women and men had to be made to perceive diamonds not as marketable precious stones but as an inseparable part of courtship and married life. To stabilize the market, De Beers had to endow these stones with a sentiment that would inhibit the public from ever reselling them. The illusion had to be created that diamonds were forever — “forever” in the sense that they should never be resold.

When you give your loved one a diamond, you give them a symbol of greed, albeit one of ingenius avarice far outpacing your standard, run-of-the-mill greed. It’s a pretty fucking impressive pyramid of greed and faux-glamour, I’ll admit. But it is fake and empty nonetheless. Blood Diamonds, they call’em, and not for nothing.


And what are you saying about each other if you need a diamond to seal the deal? Does the man have to be a breadwinner of a certain caliber to merit your hand in marriage? Guys, does the girl not sparkle enough without a diamond on her finger? If that’s the case, let her go. Girls, refuse those rings. Your affection should not be for sale, and all you’re accomplishing is putting a guy in debt. Then you marry him in a lavish ceremony and — bingo!you’re both in debt. Brilliant.

I know we’re all concerned about De Beers’ profits and whether its CEO can afford that third yacht, but try to think of yourself first. Do you really really need a sparkly rock at the end of your finger?

If so, might I suggest quartz?

AG Alberto Gonzales, wounded by his recent string of lies and spin before Congress, is proposing a crackdown on copyright infringement.

  • Permit more wiretaps for piracy investigations. Wiretaps would be authorized for investigations of Americans who are “attempting” to infringe copyrights.
  • Allow computers to be seized more readily. Specifically, property such as a PC “intended to be used in any manner” to commit a copyright crime would be subject to forfeiture, including civil asset forfeiture. Civil asset forfeiture has become popular among police agencies in drug cases as a way to gain additional revenue, and is problematic and controversial.
  • Increase penalties for violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s anti-circumvention regulations. Currently criminal violations are currently punished by jail times of up to 10 years and fines of up to $1 million. The IPPA would add forfeiture penalties too.
  • Add penalties for “intended” copyright crimes. Currently certain copyright crimes require someone to commit the “distribution, including by electronic means, during any 180-day period, of at least 10 copies” valued at over $2,500. The IPPA would insert a new prohibition: actions that were “intended to consist of” distribution.

This is typical of the neocons. The wind is blowing against them, so they’ve redoubled their efforts rather than wondering if it’s a good idea to pursue the same goals so mindlessly.

She’s a witch! Burn the witch!!
It might also be an attempt to woo Hollywood Democrats by making them an offer they can’t refuse. Many Democrats (and Republicans too, of course) take large amounts of money from the MPAA and RIAA (collectively known as the mafiaa), which is fully in support of this legislation. One gets the idea they’d be in support of a bill that called for executions on the spot for suspected pirates. Piracy is much like terrorism that respect; it’s a word used almost exclusively to demonize a certain group, which gives power to those who are able to prosecute and persecute them. Basically, it’s a 21st century witch-hunt.

Instead of burning people at the stake we need to take a look at the laws on the books and find ways to make them less draconian in an age of easy file-sharing. The ability to share/copy files is one of the greatest uses of the internet and it demands a new way of thinking about copyright and intellectual property. The endless roadblocks we get from politicians and businessmen (including legislation like the DMCA, copy-protection like DRM and lawsuits like the RIAA’s campaign against music-sharing) only serve to slow down innovation and erect huge barriers of entry that make it hard for start-ups and small businesses to make a dent in the marketplace with a new idea.

This legislation (the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2007 [pdf]) might backfire if it is passed. It will push more and more people to use free and open source software in order to avoid potential liability. Even having a copy of Microsoft Word is dangerous if you don’t also have a receipt proving ownership.

The War on Common Sense
Add the War on Piracy to the growing list of ideological wars we’re fighting, including the War on Terror and the War on Drugs. If it seems odd to you that we’re waging “war” against a tactic (terrorism) and an inanimate object (why don’t they put the drugs in jail?), that means that you don’t have sufficient faith in our dear leaders.

I would argue that the Big 3 Unwinnable Ideological Wars constitute an undeclared War on Common Sense. The War on Common Sense is designed to make the general populace believe that up is down, day is night, freedom is slavery and George Bush is a genius.

Please notice the tremendous power that is derived from a war, even a fake one. There’s a reason why we don’t still wage the War on Poverty (well besides the fact that the ruling elite don’t give a fuck) — there’s not an easily-demonized enemy that the ruling class can disparage in order to increase their own power and prestige. If such an enemy exists, it’s almost certainly the ruling class itself. That’s not gonna work! It’s best to have a war on somebody who can’t really fight back.

So what’s next? Well, I’d guess we’ll have a War on Illegal Immigration, which will do nothing to stop the flood of immigrants coming into the country because it won’t go after the root problem: the economic disparity between the U.S. and Mexico. Like the War on Drugs, illegal immigration is a problem caused by the policies of the wealthy elite and far from suffering from this problem the elite actually make a shitload of money from it. The CIA runs drugs to pay for their illegal black ops and a whole parasitic class of DEA agents and police officers have grown fat arresting nonviolent drug offenders in order to continue the charade.

Similarly, the corporate elite have grown even more wealthy from illegal immigration. Instead of paying their workers a fair wage they employ illegal immigrants for a fraction of the salary a naturalized citizen would earn. This simultaneously impoverishes Americans who can’t find a job and enslaves illegal immigrants to a corrupt system that gives them just enough money to get by and not a penny more… all while making the CEOs of these corporations even richer by saving money on labor costs, which is reflected in their end of the year bonus. What a great scam!

The War on Terror is a money-making scheme as well. If you doubt this, I suggest you watch Iraq for Sale, a documentary about war profiteering in Iraq. The government sends incredible amounts of money to private contractors like Blackwater and Halliburton, then some of this money is funneled back to the very people who came up with the idea of going to war in Iraq in the form of campaign contributions (you know: legalized bribery). It’s an endless loop of corruption! Legal corruption!

The War on Piracy will have to evolve to a similarly corrupt state if it wishes to become self-perpetuating. Certainly, there is some money to be made by suing college students, but that’s chickenfeed. Clearly the RIAA is getting better at extortion so they don’t even have to go to trial in most cases, but I’m guessing there’s still a lot of overhead. If they really want to make a mint they should look into what Canada is doing. Making innocent people pay for “crimes” they might or might not commit is so much more fun and profitable. The copyright tax is applied to everybody and it’s institutionalized so it will be damn near impossible to get rid of. As bad as the RIAA is, they haven’t managed to achieve something that evil… yet.

How long before people wake up to the fact that these ideological wars are always ineffective at achieving their stated goals because the real goals are hidden — and they involve profiting off the situation, not solving it. I suppose it takes a certain amount of cynicism to believe your fellow man is capable of such two-faced corruption. But that’s the way it is, folks.

Maybe we should declare a moratorium on bullshit wars.

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. I’ve been working on a big post, but I’ve also been stranded without an internet connection at home. I canceled Comcast since it turns out they are a bunch of lying, thieving bastards. While I’m waiting for my DSL modem to arrive I’m experiencing life without a constant internet connection. It’s scary and lonely. I don’t recommend it.

As far as my dear, departed cable modem goes, please allow me to bitch (god i love having a blog). FUCK COMCAST!!!

Why does Comcast suck? Oh, I’m glad you asked; let me explain. Long ago, in a time known as 2005, things were good. I had a fast internet connection through Time-Warner. It was about 6 Mbps and it set me back about 43 bucks a month.

Then, I get a letter informing me that Comcast swapped all of Time-Warner’s Minnesota subscribers (like me) and that I would now be a Comcast customer. Okay, this is where the creepy, ominous music kicks in.

The letter makes clear that there will be no price adjustments. In fact the FAQ is still online, which says exactly:

Will my monthly fee change with Comcast High-Speed Internet?
Price adjustments will not be required because of this change. All prices reflect the increased value of our service, new product enhancements, and investments to continually improve the quality of our network and customer service. Any price adjustments going forward will be planned and communicated to customers well in advance of any change.

You can see where this is headed, can’t you?

“Price adjustments will not be required” — weasel words, if I’ve ever read them. Fucking liars. Despite the promises, both of stable prices and advanced notice, it turns out that Comcast is run by a bunch of lying, thieving scumbags who exist only to squeeze every last dime out of their unwilling customer base in order to fatten their own undeserved bonuses at the end of the year — you know the bonuses, I’m talking about. They’re 10 times the size of their average employee’s yearly salary.

I must say that every Comcast employee I dealt with — 3 customer service reps and a technician who picked up my modem — were great. Fine folks, didn’t lie to me any more, and were very apologetic. But the fact remains that they work for fascist goons who are planning to rape, pillage and plunder this fresh, unearned subscriber base in an apparent effort to show just how stupid and short-sighted management teams can be. They’re going for the gold medal in poor decision-making skills. Bravo.

So, do I even have to tell you what happened? Isn’t it obvious from my venom? Well, I’ll tell you anyway. Comcast sent me a notice, dated December 26th (yes, the day after Christmas — “Happy holidays from Comcast! Fuck you!”) informing me that my rates were going up to 60 bucks a month — plus modem rental (3 bucks a month), starting…. February 1st! Yay!

So the lying fuckers tried to squeeze me for 20 bucks more a month and gave me only a month notice. This left me no choice. I wasn’t going to stand for this shit. 20 bucks isn’t much, but 20 bucks every month adds up to quite a lot. It’s almost $250 more per year. I am not that rich, Comcast. But idiotic, greedy ploys like this explain how they can afford to pay their CEO 27.8 million dollars a year. I guess I know where my $250 would’ve went.

And so, instead of sending them a check for 40-some bucks a month they managed to convince me to send them a whole lot of nothing every month. Congrats, Comcast. Your short-sighted greed and stupidity has only managed to cost you subscribers like me. Fucking morons.

Instead of collecting money from people like me, Comcast managed to piss away subscribers like a drunk after a night of drinking cheap domestic beer. Instead of getting my money every month they’ve assured Qwest of my business instead. Bravo, fuckheads!

Check out MNspeak for an awesome thread full of pissed off former subscribers. Comcast’s goose-stepping management team deserves an award for monumental stupidity. It’s hard to motivate internet-addicted people like me to do without and overcome the inertia required to make the switch. But Comcast managed to fill me with so much revulsion that Qwest could implement a policy of jabbing me with sharp objects and I would still be happier with them.

Fuck off, Comcast. Take your golden parachutes and cram them up your ass.

Did I mention I fucking hate Valentine’s Day? It fucking sucks. I didn’t set out to be a wet blanket for those of you who enjoy this crappy Hallmark Holiday (e.g. those of you with significant others), but I don’t give a flying fuck, and you’re too wrapped into each other to notice anyway.

It always starts the same. You meet a girl/guy, who’s like “oh I hate Valentine’s Day. It’s totally lame and wasteful.” Next thing you know you’re spending hundreds of dollars on your VD gifts to each other. Each of you feels a need to both give and receive gifts because everyone else is doing it. You don’t want your partner to feel unloved and left out do you? Corporate America has made it quite clear that you are a bad person if you don’t spend half your paycheck on flowers, chocolates, romantic dinners, and more.

No matter how anti-VD you start out, once you’ve been in a relationship awhile you start to break down. You feel neglectful if you don’t get your sweetie something on February 14th (because lord knows there’s something soooo different about February 14th. All those other days are for neglecting your lover). Even if you hate the holiday as I do you find yourself cheating a little with flowers or maybe a little something extra.

Because of all the pressure on couples it becomes exceedingly obvious who has a significant other (SO) and who does not. Thus, the real purpose of VD is revealed: Shaming those who don’t have SOs. It’s pretty obvious who is who. The person without an SO is writing angry, anti-Valentine’s Day screeds on his blog while those in a relationship are dipping into their kids’ college funds to pay for increasingly elaborate and expensive gifts (gotta top last year!) in order to convince both your SO and yourself that you still love her/him.

Normally, I don’t encourage people to burn down flower shops (make sure your firebombs are wrapped in pink packaging), hunt down and eviscerate candy-company executives (despite their hard exterior they’re gooey on the inside), or use VD cards to give Hallmark employees a million little papercuts (bind them with caramel so they can’t move), but because Feb. 14th is apparently so different (it’s the day you actually love loved ones!!!!!11!1), I’m going to make an exception.

I’m working on some candy-themed weaponry for next year, including a railgun that shoots Smarties and a rose-thorn chainsaw that is more fantastically bloody and painful than effective at sawing through limbs. The R&D budget is quite high because of all the money I’ve saved from not having a girlfriend. This means the Napalm-based chocolate hearts are right on schedule (Agent Orange version coming soon). I’m still working on the engagement rings made out of depleted uranium, but the VX-based chocolates are deliciously deadly. I suggest getting the sampler pack.

You can’t say I don’t get into the spirit of the holiday. Besides, as Nazareth taught us, Love Hurts. Of course, in this case it also causes 3rd degree burns, internal hemorrhaging, vaporized limbs, blindness, cancer, liquified flesh, post-traumatic stress disorder and some zombie-ism.

But it comes with free gift wrapping!

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.

Merry Mithras’ Day

We’re all familiar with the story of Mithras, right? He was born of a virgin on December 25th and lay in a manger where he was attended by shepherds who brought gifts. He took a last supper with his followers, died, and then rose to heaven. He was worshiped on Sunday and was often depicted with a halo around his head. You know this guy, right?

Mithraism precedes Christianity by as much as 1,400 years. Much of the myth of Christianity appears to have been grafted onto Mithraism in order to make it more palatable to the Roman Empire at large, which had adopted Mithraism as one of many state religions. Roman Emperor Constantine was a follower of Mithras before he added Christianity to the list of religions he ascribed to. It was Constantine who moved worship day of Christianity to Sunday (previously it was Saturday, springing from Christianity’s Jewish roots) and declared that Jesus’ real, official, because-I-said-so birthday was December 25th. Constantine decided this in 313 AD without any evidence. It was just more convenient to stick it on Mithras’ Day, which as already an important holiday in Rome because it corresponded to important days in Sol Invictus and Saturnalia. December 25th is important to pagans because it was clear that the sun was returning by then, after months of the days growing colder and shorter. By December 25th, court astrologers could assure the Emperor that yes, the sun had decided to return. The head priest of Mithras was called papa or pope.

So when you’re celebrating Christmas this holiday, don’t forget to sacrifice a bull for Mithras. After all, he is the true origin of many of the rituals that Christians celebrate every year. Jesus, it’s worth noting, venerated Saturday as his holy day. Jesus was probably born in February or September and he was not born of a virgin. But in order to compete in the crowded marketplace of faith in 300 AD you pretty much had to be born of a virgin. Oh, and Jesus was probably not very keen on the Romans since they had conquered his people and forced them to worship strange gods (like Mithras). In fact, the whole point of becoming a messiah was so he could throw off the yoke of Roman oppression. Something to think about for all the Roman Catholics out there.

This isn’t a problem at this low-ranked blog, but apparently it is for Dean Hunt, owner of DeanHunt.com and the blog that resides there. He has recently received vaguely threatening letters demanding that he give up his domain because:

You have to understand Dean that an online business should be higher in Google than a blog.

Don’t forget that Google is a business as well, they obviously make more money from other businesses than they do from blogs, so it is in their interest that I am higher than you for certain searches.

I have also contacted my lawyer about this issue, so you should expect a letter in the post very soon.

Let me be the 472nd to say, “AAAAAhahahahahahaaaaaaa!!! Haahahahaa! What a fucking moron!

Yes, Google is a business, but no, they don’t think businesses should be ranked higher than blogs. In fact, I bet they love it when that happens because then the business is compelled to start buying Google AdWords to bump up their ranking (well, really, they’re a “sponsored result” at that point).

This guy (who hasn’t been “outed” yet by Deano) is clearly a bully, and a particularly stupid one at that. Dean intends to stand strong and I support him all the way. People shouldn’t have to fear success on the internet, nor should bloggers be preyed upon by ruthlessly inept businessmen who seem to view the world only in terms of money and power. Fucking moron. I’ve got your back, Dean, and I know a lot of other bloggers do too.

You know, the internet really does have the power to change things for the better. We’re more connected now than ever before, and that gives power to “the little guy” who would’ve been steamrolled as little as 10 years ago. This inevitably must have a profound affect on our society, including the political realm. People are going to start demanding more transparency in government and business, and people are less likely to be cowed by bullying demands from the elite and those who dream of becoming the elite (like this fucktard).

Consequently, there are no more excuses. Is there something you don’t know that you wish you did? Have you encountered a challenge that is beyond your present abilities? Well, it’s time to step up to the plate. You’ve got an incredible resource like at your fingertips if you’re reading this, so don’t let limitations that would’ve previously been crippling get in your way! You now have the power to change your lot in life. Educate yourself. Better yourself. Rally your allies. Stand up to your enemies. Embrace the change that now must come. In previous centuries most of us would be nothing but peasants, living under the rule of some despotic king or lord. With no access to learning, no power to organize resistance or communicate with distant allies there was no way to fight against the yoke of oppression. But now, most of us are “free” and we have been given a great gift — a gift that our ancestors would have died for. The internet is the greatest gift to democracy in 200 years. Use it!

Update: Some folks on slashdot are saying that this is a hoax by Dean Hunt. That’s certainly a possibility. Let’s wait to see for sure that he’s telling the truth, but I think my rosy description of the potential of the internet is still valid. Just gotta remember to check our sources, verify info and don’t forget our assumptions. As for Dean, let’s hope he wouldn’t resort to something like this, but his blog is about SEO, which is about as respectable a profession as prostitution. Perhaps less so.

They make it so easy to hate them. The RIAA is trying to screw artists even harder, even as it steps ups its anti-consumer lawsuit campaign. The Recording Industry Association of America has always claimed that they are defending artists when they sue consumers (nevermind that few recording artists seem to be all that keen on suing their fans), but now it’s clear that the only thing driving their insane lawsuit campaign is what most of us long suspected: Greed.

Watch the RIAA make their case for lower royalties by complaining about a changing business landscape (that they have failed to adapt to, unlike the publishers):

During the period when piracy was devastating the record industry, the RIAA argues, profits for publishers rose as revenue generated from ringtones and other innovative services grew. Record industry executives said there was nothing strange about seeking a rate change that would pay less to the people who write the music. “Mechanical royalties currently are out of whack with historical and international rates,” RIAA executive vp and general counsel Steven Marks said. “We hope the judges will restore the proper balance by reducing the rate and moving to a more flexible percentage rate structure so that record companies can continue to create the sound recordings that drive revenues for music publishers.”

Oh, so since you RIAA guys fucked up and sued your customers and failed to bring out a quality digital music store until Apple did it for you, that means you deserve a better deal from music publishers/songwriters? How the fuck does that add up? This is a capitalist system, fuckheads. Survive or perish.

I should also mention that the RIAA represents the evil record companies who insist on paying lower royalties to musicians for downloaded music — including taking a cut for “breakage” in shipping. Newsflash, dudes: If your MP3s are “breaking” you’ve got some serious fucking problems with your distribution model.

The RIAA is pleading with the government for help, but I doubt they’ll be able to push people around as easily since the publishing companies have their own teams of lawyers (most of whom aren’t tied up suing fans — although they do sue lyric sites and tab sites). Let’s hope the publishers string the RIAA up by the balls and demand higher royalty rates.

The RIAA is almost as bad for rock ‘n’ roll as MTV. I hope they all burn in hell.

On the plus side, there are some innovative new ideas out there for musicians and music fans to bypass the RIAA. Check out SellaBand.com for a cool new business model.