Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Credit Card Saint?

Over the last couple of years, we’ve heard plenty about a certain person who now has his name attached to almost every major building in this state. He’s given fifty million here, another hundred million there. Oh my, here’s a half billion for you folks.
Yes, despite what the Beatles once sang, money can buy you love. He’s become almost a saint. Anybody who dares say a negative word about this guy routinely hears words about how he’s giving out of the goodness of his heart. Or that he desires no publicity. How dare anybody criticize such a godly figure! Just for stating this paragraph, I’m sure I’ll hear a few of these lines within minutes of posting this.)
I’ve never bought into this public relations miracle. Sure, it’s fantastic for the organizations that receive these portions of his fortune, even if their Fantasy Island ideas for using the money are a bit far-fetched. (A medical dome? Underground tunnels in a portion of the city with flood issues? Come on.)
I guarantee one thing, though. If the man in question has any skeletons in his closet, we’ll never hear about it. Would any of our local television stations dare investigate anything that’s attached to his name? I just can’t see a television program that features the man’s name on 90% of their broadcast and commercials daring to piss off their funding.
That doesn’t prevent the “normals” on the street from talking, though. Stories have been making the rounds from day one regarding various reasons about his decision to liquidate a good portion of his fortune. There are also stories floating around about his half-billion dollar namesake hiring his company to handle collections, which leads one to wonder if the entire gift is really just a tax-deductible business investment.
The past few days our daily paper has actually dared to criticize the man, albeit in a round about way. Since Sunday there’s been a series of articles investigating the state’s credit card industry, including the company led by this man. We read horror stories of people signing up to what they thought were no-fee, yet admittedly high interest cards, only to discover multiple fees that were well over half of the card’s limit.
I have to believe some angry phone calls were made, as Tuesday’s edition of the paper featured a smiling picture of the man, accompanied by an interview that can only be described as the best oral he’s ever experienced. Rich people tell him on the golf course that he’s the reason they’re successful, any unwanted fees can and will be waived, and he’s just there to help people. Come on. He’s a businessman – nothing wrong with that – whose legal team saw that our state was the perfect place for a scheme that was easier and cheaper than printing up his own money.
Yes, his credit card business is certainly legal, but it’s really just a short step up from the payday loan businesses. It’s another industry that thrives on the stupidity and desperation of their customers, and there are plenty of people who fit at least one of those two characteristics. I’ll give him credit for throwing his money to worthy fields, but let’s cut out the glowing fake-news stories every time that hospital installs a light bulb or digs a hole.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

I Need Some Help!

Twenty years ago, the Replacements played at the old Coliseum. Since I was an investor in the show and it was a very important night in my life, I really should know the exact date. But I don't. Any old-timers out there that remember, or may have an old ticket stub?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Ohio Moralists Are Not Needed in South Dakota

One thing I’ve never understood is the concept of pay-per-view movies. Why spend five or six bucks (or whatever it is) on a movie that’s either out on DVD or will be soon? Even spending cash on sporting events seems silly. I learned my lesson almost 20 years ago when a $20 MikeTyson fight ended in less than a minute…all of which I spent in the kitchen making a whiskey-Coke. (Plus, boxing matches always end up on HBO or Showtime a week later.)
Ok, over the years I have purchased a few WWE and WCW pay-per-views, but that’s a personal problem. Seriously, though, at least you always get what you pay for from one of these events. If you’re paying for a three-hour show, you’re going to get the full amount of time. You never end up missing anything due to just being thirsty.
But I’m going a bit off-point here. I’m here today to talk about the pay-per-view selections at hotels. When I travel, I love to stay at hotels but have never rented a movie. Why would I? That’s what my computer and Ipods are for. Plus, the movie selection is always a bit too geared to the Tom Cruise/Julia Roberts crowd. I have no desire to watch the latest computer-generated blockbuster three months after they were at the theaters.
Yet I inevitably scan the selections, particularly the so-called “adult” section. For the most part, even those selections are a bit too “safe”. They’re generally just a little bit harder than what you see on Skinemax or Showtime. Hell, Showtime’s recent reality show on the remake of Debbie Does Dallas shows more than what these selections appear to allow you to see.
However, I realize that certain hotel chains may offer selections a bit more risqué than I’ve seen offered. I don’t think there are too many companies that give you this option, and I would bet that those that do are not nightspots that are geared to families. Even if they do, those people that are concerned about what they call “filth” have every opportunity to have these options blocked from their room.
One of the major players in distributing entertainment of all types to hotel is located right here in Sioux Falls. Lodgenet is the provider of over 9,000 hotels around the world, and also provide internet connections to 175,000 hotel rooms. More importantly, they have been good to this city by employing over 1500 people. I know a number of employees who absolutely love their job.
Yet once again, outsiders have decided to infiltrate our city to tell us what we should think about this fine company. The Ohio-placed Citizens for Community Values put up a sign on Minnesota Avenue a few weeks ago that said “Lodgenet Promotes Pornography”, and on Thursday they will be teaming up with the always self-serving South Dakota Family Policy Council for a news conference to promote a competing company that doesn’t air any racy material. I would bet that it’s not just so-called porn that’s not allowed, as any organization that aligns itself with these nutjobs is against anything that’s dirtier than that awful CW show about the preacher and his bazillion kids.
What bothers me is the false proof these organizations use. In an interview that aired on the local news this past week, South Dakota Family Policy Council spokesman Chris Hupke used the same tired clichés we hear over and over. “It has an extreme effect on individuals”, he said, “desensitizing them and affecting relationally how they deal with spouses, how they deal with children, offspring.”
Say what? That’s the biggest crock of shit I’ve ever heard. Just like I stated during the debate a few weeks ago about the toy store in Tea, sexually explicit materials shared by consenting adults can have a positive impact on a couple’s sex life. I’m sorry, but watching an occasional nudie flick has never had an affect on how I look at or treat women.
And let’s get one other lie out in the open. In at least one of the stories that aired, it was stated by the reporter that for an adult title to pass First Amendment standards there has to be any sort of plotline. That’s not the case. The Supreme Court has ruled that the law is what’s vaguely termed “local standards”, and it’s because of this ruling that porn companies cannot distribute their materials to a handful of states. If the plot rule was indeed true, every porn company and video store would be busted for what’s erroneously called “amateur” porn. Plus, given the current state of pop culture, I would have every theater that shows Lindsay Lohan movies arrested for the no plot rule.
Look, if adult material is not your type of thing don’t watch it. You have every right to personally boycott any company that you wish for any reason. I boycott companies just because I hate their commercials. But how dare anybody tell me what I can’t enjoy in the privacy of my home, and I particularly have no interest in the opinions of people who don’t even live here. There’s also no doubt in my mind that these people will never be happy. Give them this victory, and they’ll move on to HBO, R-rated movies, video games, and the boogeymen that kept them in business for the last 50 years, rock ‘n’ roll. I will never give up Taylor Rain, Teagan Presley…or the Stooges and Sex Pistols.