It’s the kickoff for hurricane season and forecasters are predicting as many as 14 named storms with anywhere from 3 to 6 of these storms growing into major hurricanes. Here on the Gulf Coast, we certainly perk up when this time of year rolls around. For years, a good story in south Louisiana went like this:
“I’m a Catholic, so I certainly know a good bit about suffering,” she would say.
“Yeah, I’m a Louisiana homeowner, he answered.
“Oh, so you understand.”
Louisiana homeowners know a good bit about suffering, particularly when it comes to being stuck with the highest property insurance rates in the nation. The Clark Research Group determined that Louisiana has some of the highest insurance costs, coming in at an average of more than $6000.00. No other state in the South comes close. If you live in industrialized New Jersey, the cost is $1,318.00, a drop of some $300.00 in the past 10 years. California, with wildfires and massive rain caused mudslides, pays an average of $1,988.00.
But that’s not the whole story. Congress merely put its finger in the flood insurance dike with legislation that supposedly capped the skyrocketing rates of property owners in flood prone areas. But what our minions in Washington didn’t tell us is that the rates will continue to climb dramatically in the years to come. The legislation is just a quick fix to hoodwink voters in order to get through the next election cycle.
Because of the devastating hurricanes that seem to hit the gulf coast at least once a decade, the federal government has bailed out these southern states, literally and financially, time, and time again. Some cynical members of Congress have even suggested that it’s time for many homeowners to relocate. But attitudes are beginning to change, because other oxen are being gored. Mother Nature has given the Gulf South a pass in recent years, but she is causing havoc in other parts of the nation.
Oklahoma has suffered an unprecedented surge in both earthquakes and tornadoes and are clamoring for federal help. New York and New Jersey have a long way to go to recover from last year’s Hurricane Sandy. In Texas, hurricanes and wildfires have cost some $28 billion in recent years. California witnessed rapid growth in both drought and wildfires, and earthquakes remain a constant threat. A Wall Street Journal study published recently concluded that almost every state in the nation is subject to some major disaster.
So has a national plan that doesn’t use taxpayer dollars been proposed which is both comprehensive and affordable? Yes. Such a proposal was unveiled in New Orleans in May of 1995 at a catastrophe insurance conference sponsored by the American Insurance Services Group. I attended as Louisiana’s Insurance Commissioner. The proposal called for a Natural Disaster Insurance Corporation (NDIC) that would sell disaster reinsurance for residential and commercial properties while also providing primary coverage for residential properties. We all agreed back then that there would be a huge problem with catastrophic insurance losses all over America unless a national disaster program was put in place. And that’s just what’s happening across the country now.
Here is how it would work. Private insurance would take a small portion of its premiums and contribute to a state created fund. The state fund would then be backed up by a nationally created fund. The national fund could borrow to pay for any shortfall, but no federal tax dollars would be involved. Each state could buy in and have a rate set according to the risk. Hurricane prone states like Louisiana would pay more than a state like North Dakota that experiences much less in natural disaster damage. That was the plan then. And the good news is that in reaction to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and the tornados in Oklahoma and Missouri, a number of states are coalescing around this same plan now.
It’s taken almost 24 years, but it looks like it could be the right time for problem solving. It’s just not a handout for the coastal states. The whole country will benefit. And at a price that’s affordable. We certainly cannot be any worse off than we are now.
James Harden’s beard is starring in an ad campaign for Trolli candy—without James Harden. So it stands to reason that if not for his beard, The Beard wouldn’t be making $18 million from endorsement deals in 2018, according to Forbes. That’s fourth amongst his NBA peers, but only The Brow (Anthony Davis) has a trait like The Beard distinguishing him from his peers or other celebrities in general. So what is the net worth of James Harden’s beard, and for what amount could it be insured?
In the past, exotic facial hairstyles were indicative of social status and a man’s ability to provide. Maintaining some of the mustaches of the past required investments of time and money. But these days men are spending less on grooming products, not because of increased competition in the marketplace from companies providing automatic delivery services like Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club, but because men are grooming their facial hair less often.
Facial hairstyles are in style, especially amongst hipsters. Unshaven Millennials are even causing a crisis in the razor industry. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology found that “men are less attractive when clean-shaven than when they are stubbled or bearded,” but how much less attractive?
The study gives us a means to quantify the value of James Harden’s beard relative to other facial hairstyles, at least when considering a market of females of European descent who find men sexually attractive. Men were also considered as possible respondents for the study, but the 8,520 female participants were chosen based on Kinsey scale scores. Basically, the participants had to be at least as interested in men as they were in women.
The study investigates beardedness and its effect on women’s ratings of men’s facial attractiveness relative to three other facial hair lengths: clean-shaven, light stubble (five days of beard growth), and heavy stubble (10 days of beard growth). Beards consisted of at least 28 days of facial hair growth, and results showed “a significant interaction between beardedness and...attractiveness ratings.”
A full beard like Harden’s was preferred to a clean-shaven face by almost 12 percent, and when it came to finding that soulmate for a long-term relationship, women preferred bearded men over clean-shaven men by almost 10 percent.
Sports fandom, as you know, is a long-term relationship, so James Harden’s beard bodes well for the Houston Rockets as well as the companies he endorses. Women, at least, are more likely to consider and potentially establish a long-term relationship with a James Harden brand because of his beard, and that increases Harden’s earning potential. According to research conducted prior to the 2016 study, “Men with beards report higher feelings of masculinity, have higher testosterone and endorse more masculine gender roles than clean-shaven men,” so Harden’s beard might even have an effect on his play given the increased confidence, testosterone, and aggressiveness. But even if the beard was The Beard’s key to becoming MVP, quantifying that potential effect is impossible.
Regardless, The Beard makes more money in endorsements because of the beard. There’s just no way he’s the clean-shaven face of Trolli candy. How much more Harden makes because of his beard is difficult to determine because we can’t apply a similar percentage at which men prefer men with beards. If social media is any indication, men also prefer bearded men over clean-shaven men. We know how much men loved Chris Evans’ bearded Captain America in Avengers: Infinity War, and we know facial hair to be one way men advertise their admiration for other men.
You probably grew up imitating the swing of your favorite baseball player or the signature move of your favorite basketball player. You might even employ “The Harden Scoop” or initiate contact on dribble drives like The Beard. I adopted a combination of Kirby Puckett’s leg kick and Chuck Knoblauch’s batting stance. But I also bought a Puckett jersey to advertise my admiration of him off the field.
We can’t control who we are, but we can control, to some extent, our appearance and attire, which is how most of us advertise our admiration for our idols. Clothes are the most common and easy means of advertising our admiration of people. Sometimes you actually feel like your favorite player when you wear his or her jersey or branded sportswear on the field or court. But when the game is over and you shed your sweaty James Harden jersey, the increased attractiveness that might have resulted from wearing that jersey dissipates. Unless your game relative to your peers is as good as Harden’s relative to his, which would mean your Mr. Basketball in your state and lead the league in free throws, only a beard like The Beard’s can augment your attractiveness when the clothes come off.
You likely tried to reproduce the hairstyles of your favorite celebrities growing up, learning that your skull is too oddly shaped for the Michael Jordan look, or discovering cowlicks that make your hair stand up in all the wrong places. Even hair is something we can’t completely control, but hair extensions and installations, hair dyes, gels and sprays help.
We men can’t control how or where our facial hair grows either. I have one sideburn that comes in beautifully and another that looks more ridiculous the longer it gets. I also have a small, bald spot on my neck. Despite all that, I’ve mostly sported the same facial hair since I was first inspired to do so.
Just before my senior year of high school, my father, sister, and I drove from Eastern Montana to Branson, Missouri. My dad played the same CD for an entire day of driving, and we had another nine hours to go the next day. Knowing we’d spend around 36 hours in a car, I thought there was no way I’d enjoy this trip. But I was pleasantly surprised by Branson. It’s like a Vegas for senior citizens without gambling. There were plenty of shows to see, though, ranging from comedy to magic to music—lots of music.
One night I saw Blues Brothers impersonators give one of the most inspired performances I’d seen from anyone besides MC Hammer (even my dad, who disliked his music, was impressed with his performance because of his intense, nonstop dancing). I was a huge fan of the Blues Brothers movie and music, so I appreciated their effort to emulate two of my idols, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. At 17, I had both the movie soundtrack and their double-platinum, live record “Briefcase Full of Blues,” one of the best live performances ever recorded. Yes, two comedic actors backed by some of the best blues musicians in the country cut one of the best selling blues records of all time that climbed to the top of the Billboard 200 in February of 1979.
This was 2008, and after that performance I started growing my soul patch and sideburns. Since then I’ve retained the look except for a few job interviews and first dates and No-shave November. Women I’ve dated have asked me to shave the soul patch, and I’ve refused. Like James Harden’s beard, my soul patch is part of my identity. It’s representative of my soul. But I never considered my stubborn refusal to shave it this past decade as an indication of my social confidence until now.
The soul patch might be one of the least common facial hairstyles rocked these days, so you’ve got to have confidence to rock it. Not the confidence Michael Jordan had to sport a Hitler-stache in a Hanes commercial, but confidence nonetheless. Handlebar mustaches, which seem to be making a comeback, require both confidence and care-taking few facial hairstyles demand. When properly maintained and presented, the handlebar mustache screams social dominance...or at least advertises an ability to pay for mustache wax.
Speaking of handlebar mustaches, this one belonging to Aussie cricket fast bowler Merv Hughes was insured for $370,000, according to Time Magazine. That got me wondering if James Harden’s beard is insured and for how much.
Insuring facial hair seemed frivolous to me at first, but then I thought about Michael Jackson’s hair catching fire on the set of a Pepsi commercial. What if he lost a gig because of his burnt hair? Worse yet, what if he was unable to ever grow that hair back? James Harden might not be doing many commercials featuring pyrotechnics, but what if he required facial reconstructive surgery for a broken jaw and couldn’t grow his beard back? Could he end up losing endorsement deals like the one with Trolli candy?
We do know Harden would be 12 percent less attractive to women if he couldn’t grow any facial hair. Whether that affects his marketability and resulting endorsement earnings is debatable given his MVP-caliber play on the court. But a man nicknamed The Beard sporting a beard that stars in its own candy commercial stands to lose something if Harden loses the ability to grow that famous facial hair.
He’d at least lose the chance to make $10 million, which is apparently what it’d cost to convince Harden to shave. But given his endorsement earnings, what would an insurance policy for James Harden's beard cover and for how much could Harden’s beard be insured?
State Farm doesn’t cover facial hair, and multiple requests for comment from Harden’s agent didn’t receive responses. But we do know Harden sought out Trolli because he likes the candy and the brand being unique like him and his beard. While there's no report of what Harden is making with Trolli, his endorsement earnings were estimated at $17 million prior to the deal and $18 million after the deal. And unlike Harden's $200-million, 13-year deal with Adidas, the Trolli deal might not have materialized without the beard.
So if we ignore Harden's endorsement deals with Adidas, Beats, Electronic Arts, Foot Locker, State Farm and even BodyArmor, James Harden's beard is likely worth more than a million dollars. That estimate is comparable to Head and Shoulders insuring Troy Polamalu's hair for $1 million back in 2010 and all of these also insured by Lloyd’s of London, including Betty Grable’s million-dollar legs, Dolly Parton’s breasts, and Merv Hughes’s mustache. If he hasn’t already, Harden should be insuring his beard upon reading this.
So have you purchased your gun insurance yet? In case you shoot someone, there are insurance policies available to cover any liabilities you might face, pay for your bail if you are accused of a crime, cover your attorney fees, and even pay for any psychological therapy you might need. So if you are going to fire away, nice to know that you are financially covered, right?
Legislation has been introduced in six states that would make gun insurance mandatory for all gun owners. New York, Hawaii, Washington, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts would require government-mandated firearms insurance, and several insurance companies are considering offering such a product.
In fact, the National Rifle Association offers scaled down coverage called Carry Guard right now in all 50 states. The organization’s website states rather dramatically that: “There is a whole team of lawyers attached to every bullet that leaves the barrel of your weapon. If the suspect goes down, even if you’re justified in shooting, we guarantee you the world is going to come crashing down on you.”
Should every gun owner be required to buy liability insurance? After all, if you drive a car, you are required by every state in the U.S. to have liability insurance. So, if drivers have to have auto insurance, why shouldn’t gun owners have to have gun owner’s insurance?
First of all, courts nationwide have determined that driving is a privilege. And not a (second amendment) right as defended by gun owners. A driver is generally on a public highway, built with taxpayer funds, and the “rules of the road” require liability insurance. It should be pointed out that a driver is not required to have either a driver’s license or insurance if the vehicle is driven on private property. I taught my kids and assorted nieces and nephews to drive at our family camp in rural Louisiana, where they could practice on dirt roads. No license or insurance necessary.
Based on my experience as a former Louisiana insurance commissioner, I can also tell readers that the cost of such proposed gun liability insurance would not come cheap. New York is presently considering in their legislature a proposal to require every gun owner to have a minimum of $1 million in liability coverage.
I have not sat down with insurance actuaries to figure out specifically what the premium would be, but I would estimate that a gun owner is looking at a minimum of $2,000 a year to pay for such insurance. The insurance premium could be significantly more for someone living in the inner city. Such a cost would price the ownership of a gun outside the reach of the average citizen.
Unless the activity to be insured is considered a privilege, there is no requirement or a “right” to insure any object or undertaking. I do not have to insure my house, but it just makes good financial sense to do so. There is no requirement that an individual have life insurance. One makes such a choice to protect their loved ones when they die. Many people have general liability insurance coverage on any activity that might subject them to a lawsuit. That would include protection against a lawsuit involving a gun accident. But purchasing such insurance is not mandatory. It’s a choice.
With so much interest in gun safety, numerous ideas will be floated in an effort to regulate gun ownership. Certainly there are some people who should not be in the possession of a gun. To many gun owners, the issue is about restrictions on hunting. But to others living in crime-infested areas, and in the face of violent criminal threats, your weapon and your wits may be all you have to protect yourself.
There are no easy answers here. But it’s unrealistic to think that gun fatalities will decline simply by making gun insurance mandatory.
“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.” Benjamin Franklin, 1759
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. His column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show, Common Sense, each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Communication Network.
Hurricane Harvey has caused property owners along the Gulf and East Coasts to panic over projections of outrageous property flood insurance rates that, in some cases, could lead to increases of greater than 1000 percent. Is there really a problem finding affordable flood insurance along America’s coasts? Yes, and a growing one.
The current national flood insurance program has been around since 1968. Actually, it was created not so much because of hurricane damage, but due to widespread flooding along the Mississippi River in the early 1960s. More and more levees were built up and down the river, which created major flooding in unprotected areas. Private insurance companies could not handle the damage claims so the federal government stepped in. The program was extended to cover hurricane damage along the Gulf Coast, and if a homeowner didn’t get flood insurance, they were unable to get their home financed.
A year ago, Congress reauthorized the national flood insurance program through 2017. But in the process, a number of changes were made to make the program more financially sound. The new program caused rates to skyrocket along the Gulf Coast.
How do we begin to solve the affordability problem? First of all, we need to recognize how vast this exposure for national disasters has become. I live in hurricane alley, and we all understand that hurricanes are a major part of the puzzle to be solved. Hurricane Sandy, which devastated coastlines of New York and New Jersey, show that this is not just a regional problem. All coastlines are at risk. Over half of all Americans live within 100 miles of the coast.
But hurricane protection is just one part of the problem. Torrential rains in the Midwest have unleashed a wave of damage that is wiping out thousands of homes. Without flood insurance, they are out of luck. And what about wildfires out west? Wildfires are a rampant and growing problem that needs a national insurance response. Then there’s the massive destruction caused by tornados in Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, and a host of other states.
Get my point? Natural disasters happen all over America, and have increased way beyond the ability for state programs to be effective and affordable. So has any plan been proposed which is encompassing, and yet affordable for homeowners that doesn’t use taxpayer dollars? Yes. Louisiana’s Insurance Department, during the time I served as Commissioner, took the lead back in 1995 by proposing a comprehensive plan that could assist property owners following disasters all across the country. The proposal called for a Natural Disaster Insurance Corporation (NDIC) that would sell disaster reinsurance for residential and commercial properties while also providing primary coverage for residential properties.
In making this proposal, I commented at the time that “if a major hurricane strikes New Orleans, it could put 26 feet of water in the downtown area and cause insurance losses greater than $26 billion.” That’s right on the money as to what happened during Hurricane Katrina ten years later. I concluded by saying: “We are going to have a huge problem with catastrophic insurance losses all over America if we don’t get a national disaster program in place.”
I testified a few months later before a Senate panel in Washington on Senate Bill 1350. Private insurance would take a small portion of its premiums and contribute to a state fund. The state fund would then be backed up by a national fund. The national fund could borrow to pay for any shortfall, but no federal tax dollars would be involved. Each state could buy in and have a rate set according to the risk. Hurricane prone states like Louisiana would pay more than a state like North Dakota that experiences much less in natural disaster damage.
The U.S. Senate adopted my proposal, but the legislation became hung up and died in the U.S. House of Representatives. That was the plan then. And the good news is that a number of states are coalescing around this same plan now following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, and now Harvey.
It’s taken almost 20 years, but it looks like it could be the right time for problem solving. It’s just not a handout for the coastal states. The whole country will benefit. And at a price that’s affordable. We certainly cannot be any worse off than we are now.
“Do you know what happens when you give a procrastinator a good idea? Nothing!” -- Donald Gardner
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Genesis Communication Network. His column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show, Common Sense, each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Communication Network.