August 29, 2004

As the Saying Had It: If Silence is Golden, They'd Be Bankrupt

Oh No!
It’s Time for Yet Another Installment of …
YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED!

A Recurring Rant Feature

NOW THAT The Rant is becoming more popular, according to our Information Technology Department, we have noticed that an increasing number of visitors are arriving here via search engines. This phenomenon has allowed us to harvest a significant amount of data from these visitors, and concurrently enabled us to draw several conclusions about the American search-engine-using public at large.

Dear God in Heaven – what in hell goes through people’s minds when they enter these search terms? We know we are not the only blogger to encounter such things, but this is getting rather ridiculous. Anyway, here are a few of the things we have learned about this group of search-engine users:

Item. Many people who arrive at The Rant via search-engines appear to believe they can find vast quantities of high-quality sexually-explicit material here, and furthermore, receive this material for free. Our question is simple: what are these people thinking? We mean, come on. Aside from the fact we have no supply of such things, everyone knows that when there is a great demand for a given product or service, the supply will be priced accordingly – and that applies for these goods too. We do cede the possibility the search-engine users may simply be canny, but this is still ridiculous.

Item. Others who arrive at The Rant via search-engines appear to believe they will find "scoops" about how certain celebrities lost weight or otherwise achieved figures that in an earlier age were associated with those living at municipal poorhouses. They will find no such things here, as it is fundamentally impossible for the regular citizen to achieve similar results. For one thing, regular citizens do not have the luxury of time, something which popular entertainers can use to exercise and such. For another, regular citizens do not have the benefits of makeup artists, tailored clothing, fancy hairstylists, etc. etc. We do not mean to be cruel pointing these things out, only to suggest people’s drive for such things may be a negative externality arising from the celebrity-driven entertainment industry. So please stop worrying over such matters.

Item. Lastly, we would note that many people seem to arrive at The Rant over and over again using the same search queries, as if they thought we’d have something new and exciting even when we didn’t the last time. So, for those of you who KEEP LOOKING for information about “transformed organizational models” and “how far can I go on $40,000,” it’s NOT GOING TO BE HERE.

But enough. Let’s see what the 10 percent of our total visitors were looking for when they arrived here via search engines:

QUERY: sample legal client letters defamation

ANSWER: You know, it’s a serious offense to practice law without a license. To assist you in avoiding possible criminal penalties, though, here’s a quick little example:

Dear Mr Jones,

We were recently notified about your claims regarding our client, and your assertions as to his moral character and standing in the community. Furthermore, we wish to inform you that your statements (“Damned Lies”) have caused our client emotional distress, mental anguish, back pain, loss of consortium, and a wicked bad case of the gout.

As such, we write to inform you (“The Rotten Bastard”) our client has directed us to sue The Rotten Bastard at our earliest opportunity, unless The Rotten Bastard retracts his Damned Lies to our client’s neighbors, friends, and the television news crew to which The Rotten Bastard spoke. Furthermore, our client wishes for The Rotten Bastard to inform his relations and in-laws (“Scumbags”) to cease and desist from impugning our client’s integrity among residents in town.

We trust you will take appropriate action to rectify this unfortunate (“Avoidable”) matter in a timely fashion.

Sincerely,


John Smith, Associate
Blood, Sweat, Tears & Phlegm, P.A.

QUERY: build condo land cost

ANSWER: Location, location, location. Dude. You should know that already.

QUERY: net worth mean distribution 2003

ANSWER: You want the median distribution. It’s a better statistical picture.

QUERY: investment blogspot

ANSWER: You’d now have to buy shares in Google (NASD: GOOG) -- *cough* -- to do that. If you’re willing to pay $100+ per share to do that, well, that’s your business.

QUERY: blogspot bandwidth what is

ANSWER: From our own experience ... well, we have not used the service in a year, so it may have changed.

QUERY: first class cabin lavatory

ANSWER: If you’re looking to join the Mile-High Club, you had best not do it on any flight on which we’re flying.

QUERY: wall street alpaca 2004

ANSWER: We don’t know why everyone is so interested in alpacas as an investment opportunity all of a sudden. They’re alpacas, for God’s sakes.

QUERY: utilitarian view on bribes

ANSWER: The utilitarian view on bribery is that it is a bad thing. Let us say that Employee A of Company B bribes Poor Corrupt Official C in the small Central Asian nation of Stanistan. This might be eventually uncovered some time down the line, in which case Federal Agency D (the Department of Justice) will make life living hell for Company B due to that pesky Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Therefore, we can see that bribery would be a most unfortunate course of action for any company official to consider if he is attempting to win business overseas. You’re going to have to do things the old-fashioned way and get a local partner, who will proceed to loot the enterprise and make lots of dubious commitments on your company’s behalf, for which you will still be footing the bill some two decades later..

QUERY: historic tulips bulbs

ANSWER: They’re tulips, for God’s sakes. We went through this once. Do you really want to start trouble in Holland again?

QUERY: labor shortage demography

ANSWER: This is so cool. Basically, in about ten years, all the baby boomers are going to start retiring, meaning a wonderful shortage of labor will result. As such, all of us young folks are going to make out like bandits.

QUERY: early to bed early to rise crap

ANSWER: No disagreement here, my friend.

QUERY: sacto volkswagen bugs for sell

ANSWER: Sale. S-A-L-E, sale. Aiya.

QUERY: what is mandatory retirement scheme?

ANSWER: How old are you? Sixty four? Well, buddy, you’re about to find out.

QUERY: dennett where am I?

ANSWER: Hey, if you don’t know, don’t look to us for any answers.

QUERY: serenading your girlfriend

ANSWER: You know, quite frankly, we can’t think this is a good idea. This goes especially if you are in high school and trying to think of great ways to impress your date. We would suggest that taking her to a restaurant where she could order, we don’t know, lobster or something, would work better.

QUERY: the torture scene in 2fast 2furious isn’t possible

ANSWER: Son, NOTHING in 2fast 2furious was possible.

QUERY: define acedic

ANSWER: Being in a state of acedia, that is, spiritual sloth. Great, great word.

QUERY: sexy female friend in dhaka

ANSWER: You like asking for trouble, don’t you?

QUERY: essays about impact of hotels logos in dubai

ANSWER: Drop the class. Drop it now.

QUERY: pittsburgh steelers america’s team

ANSWER: Right on.

QUERY: celebrities who are impulsive

ANSWER: Most of them, if the "news" reports are any guide.

QUERY: the lyrics to the chipmunks song things out there

ANSWER: It’s queries like this that make us fear for the safety of the Republic.

QUERY: why people enslaved in vices?

ANSWER: Why indeed? Personally, we believe it’s because the vices – which offer short-term happiness but long-term trouble – are easier to obtain than the long-term benefits of living a virtuous life.

QUERY: wicca spells to give me the powers of speed good hearing high jumps good fighting and fast healing.

ANSWER: There are two possible answers to your query. The first is that Mortal Kombat, no matter how fun, is just a game. The second is that these things may be possible, but only if you invoke Dieter, God of Health Club Membership Contracts. Sacrifice to him, on each Tuesday of every other month, mind you, the following: four raw carrots, one rose bush and an alpaca. In six months, or less, you will receive a letter which you must forward to ten of your friends or risk contracting the scabies.

QUERY: black spots on the ceiling

ANSWER: You might want to call your insurance company. That, or get mildew remover.

QUERY: i feel depressed because of the crucifixion

ANSWER: Understandable, but do recall that in the Christian tradition, there was a bright side to it.

QUERY: plastic surgery christians sin?

ANSWER: All depends on your personal motivations for having it. If you are having plastic surgery because of your own self-conceit or to get back at someone else or what not, then yes. If you want to feel better about yourself, then no.

QUERY: simon einspahr sick day

ANSWER: He’s over here.

QUERY: escorts kalamazoo

ANSWER: First we laughed at this. Then we realized it was theoretically possible, although not probable, that perhaps some of the students who attended our high school back in the day could have ended up in such a position. Now we are depressed.

QUERY: we’re not going to take it we are not going to take it anymore lyrics

ANSWER: This is a tough one.

QUERY: new haven best pizza in america

ANSWER: What are you, coked up? Everyone knows that the best pizza in America is in New York, if they like thin crust, or, if they like deep dish, Chicago.

QUERY: eighties movie featuring rejuvenated senior citizens

ANSWER: That would be “Red Dawn.”

QUERY: i worship celebrity

ANSWER: Get help.

QUERY: wormsley w. the white man will eat you!

ANSWER: OK, the questions are starting to get a bit weird.

QUERY: which auto company’s name is adapted from the latin word meaning i rolled?

ANSWER: That would be Mitsubishi.

QUERY: ugly nude playing cards

ANSWER: Oh dear.

QUERY: how to do a legal grind

ANSWER: Dip it low. Pick it up slow. Continue as directed. Now if you’ll excuse us, The Rant’s Standards Department has just sent us an angry memorandum.

QUERY: what age to teach children to use a gun?

ANSWER: This is a better question for someone with familiarity with weapons, as we not only do not own a weapon, we have never fired one.

QUERY: dear god we could use some good news right now

ANSWER: Couldn’t we, though?

QUERY: should a woman wear something under her white shirt?

ANSWER: No.

QUERY: This is The Rant’s Standards Department. Please review Subject Matter Memoranda 14 through 16, which you authored last December, regarding prurient or otherwise objectionable content.

ANSWER: All right, all right, all right.

QUERY: office dress code short skirt

ANSWER: Do NOT wear a short skirt to the office. You are a professional, and as such, should endeavor to pursue your work without causing any distractions to your coworkers.

QUERY: The Rant’s Standards Department thanks you for your adherence to Subject Matter Memoranda 14 through 16.

ANSWER: You’re quite welcome. (Stupid corporate governance regulations – we’d fire these impertinent dullards if we had the chance, but NO, the Board – the Board! – said we needed them. But Bennnnnnnnn, we need internal controls, blah blah blah. Gad.)

QUERY: american life too hard

ANSWER: Of course it’s hard. You don’t want to end up like the Europeans, do you, with their economic stagnation and pension-system troubles? No, you do not. That would be bad.

QUERY: paris hilton starve

ANSWER: This sounds more like a request. Be nice!

QUERY: affair=moral turpitude?

ANSWER: Of COURSE it is, you pox-ridden layabout!

QUERY: americans are going to the polls on guy fawkes day

ANSWER: Yeah, but nobody in America remembers who Guy Fawkes was, so that’s not much of an issue, is it? Which reminds us – why is the day named after the guy who tried to destroy Parliament? Why not name the day after the guy who discovered the plot?

Well, that’s it for this edition of Your Search Engine Queries Answered! Tune in next month when we examine … well, more of the same, except we expect the queries will be even more outlandish and silly than ever before. It’s happened every month since we’ve had this thing, and we see no reason why it won’t continue. Until then, good luck and Godspeed. Or something.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:04 PM | TrackBack

50 Facts, of Dubious Import, About Us

WE HAVE NOTICED that plenty of folks are taking part in a quiz called "50 Things You Probably Don’t Want to Know About Me." It is a badly-named quiz, as we only found perhaps four questions on the questionnaire which would prompt an immediate and visceral response from readers, this indicating that we had provided Too Much Information. However, the quiz exists, and it looks kinda fun, so we’ll have at it.

(quiz via Sheila)

1. Your name spelled backwards. You figure it out.

2. Where were your parents born? Ask them, and maybe you’ll get an answer.

3. What is the last thing you downloaded onto your computer? Internal Revenue Service Publication 15 (Circular E, Employer’s Tax Guide).

What? Look, we recently had to check our withholding to see the impact of the Government’s fiscal policies upon our personal economy. So we did – and we were right too, as it turned out.

4. What’s your favorite restaurant? La Diva, 139 Rue de Hollande, Marigot, St. Martin. Wonderful and small Italian place run by a Frenchman – few tables, low lights, excellent food. We haven’t been there in more than a decade -- but we can assure you the place served up THE best Caesar salads and veal parmigiana we’ve had in our lives. In fact, it was so good that on our family vacations, we routinely went to La Diva twice – which is no joke when you consider you’re on an island noted for excellent restaurants.

Interesting side note: one thing we noticed on the wall was a small portrait of an Indian mystic who was proclaimed to be "a silent listener in every conversation, and unseen guest at every meal." Do not ask us how we remember this – we just do. That said, given the quality of the several dinners we have eaten there, this would be one very lucky mystic indeed.

5. What’s the last time you swam in a pool? Oh, Gad. Ah. Gee. Oh! Now we remember. It was in Scottsdale, Ariz. We were there for a business trip back in … 1998 or 1999, we think it was.

6. Have you ever been in a school play? Yes. In fourth grade, we were forced to take part in a school play as part of a class project. The play was one of those badly-written drama exercises for young children; an unpleasant affair in which our poor mother was forced to make a costume for us and we as a class had to put on the project for the whole school. The play was a complete disaster as the kid playing the lead role – the poor girl – got awful stage fright and forgot her lines entirely. The whole episode convinced us that we were not actors at heart.

7. How many kids do you want? This number varies from zero to seventeen based on a complex series of variables which change without notice.

8. Type of music you dislike most? Rap music with stupid lyrics. The stupid lyrics are the trouble, not the rap music itself. We are sorry, but we do not particularly care if the singer is spending a great deal of his newly-found wealth on quickly-depreciating goods and believes, because of this, that Government seeks to put a damper on his activities. This combination of delusion and fecklessness amazes us. After all, these singers rail against the established order as a matter of course, yet through their example encourage their listeners to support that establishment through conspicuous consumption.

To be fair, we should admit that we like this, as more spending equals greater corporate profits, which means greater returns for our own small investments. However, as these songs are a potent societal force, we do think a greater good would be achieved if the singers placed more emphasis on savings, investment and other forms of wealth-creation. Accordingly, we look forward to hearing these singers proclaim their portfolios make the financial-services industry look weak and contemptible in comparison.

9. Are you registered to vote? Yes.

10. Do you have cable? Yes. A better question: do we watch it?

11. Have you ever ridden on a moped? No. We like our legs, so we’d like to ensure they are kept intact.

12. Ever prank call somebody? No. However, back when we were a boy, we do recall a friend of ours prank-calling the answering service for a personal-injury lawyer repeatedly over the course of one night.

13. Ever get a parking ticket? OK, folks, this is why this quiz was badly-named. None of our readers care whether we have ever received a parking ticket. Not only that, the quiz’s title gives the impression that we’re going to be discussing matters at a level a bit more personal than whether we received parking tickets – which we most certainly did. We lived in Los Angeles, for Pete’s sake. That said, back when we were in Los Angeles, we routinely took part in a parking-ticket alert system at our office.

We worked on the twelfth floor of an office building on W. Pico Blvd., which conveniently enough had a branch of the city’s Parking Violations Bureau on its lowest level. The street itself was supposed to be free of all parked traffic after 4 p.m. so commuters could have an easier ride home. Therefore, when we saw anti-social malcontents blatantly park their expensive foreign automobiles on the street after 4 p.m., we and our coworkers would sometimes alert the bureau to dispatch a tow truck. We realize many people may be shocked we would engage in such an activity, but hey: if people were potentially going to screw up the drive because of their refusal to follow clearly-marked street signs, they deserved whatever they got. Plus, there was a parking garage in our building as well as plenty of side-street parking, so it’s not like we were truly being malicious.

It was also common practice in the office to stop work whenever a freeway chase was on television. We even made popcorn.

14. Would you go bungee jumping or sky diving? No, we would most certainly not.

15. Farthest place you ever traveled? Maui, Hawaii.

16. Do you have a garden? Oh, please.

17. What’s your favorite comic strip? Dilbert. Definitely Dilbert.

18. Do you really know all the words to your national anthem? Of course. Rockets' red glare ... ah ... dah dah dah -- oh, right, bombs bursting in air, and so on.

19. Bath or shower, morning or night? Shower, morning, although maybe a second one at night if we actually got some exercise.

20. Best movie you’ve seen in the past month? Donnie, shut the hell up, OK? These questions are starting to really get on our nerves, they’re all so bloody random. Has the whole world gone crazy? Are we the only ones here who give a shit about the rules? MARK IT ZERO! Shut the hell up, Donnie—Smokey, my friend, you are entering a world of pain. MARK IT ZERO!

21. Favorite pizza topping? Anchovies. Yes, really. We like anchovies.

22. Chips or popcorn? Neither. Some of us have to keep our effin’ blood sugar under control and neither of these things are exactly helpful in that regard. Being diabetic just sucks.

23. What color lipstick do you wear? That’d be a bit kinky, wouldn’t it?

24. Have you ever smoked peanut shells? Dear God – don’t tell us that’s among the ingredients in the damned cigarettes.

25. Have you ever been in a beauty pageant? What is this, some kind of joke? What kind of quiz writer writes a quiz and then makes half the questions only applicable to half the population?

26. Orange juice or apple? Neither. See Item 22.

27. Who was the last person you went out to dinner with and where did you dine? Boy, that’s a badly-phrased question. Anyway, it was … God, we’ve been so busy … ah … you know, it was with Dean Esmay and Rosemary, his wife, and Geoff Brown and Amy Premo and Moe at Occam's Toothbrush and Dean and Rosemary's son, at the Red Hawk Bar & Grill on State Street in Ann Arbor, Mich. Busy but good place serving reasonable American food.

28. Favorite type chocolate bar? Oh, shut up.

29. When was the last time you voted at the polls? Our last municipal election, so that would be November of 2003.

30. Last time you ate a homegrown tomato? Years ago. You know, it was probably one of our late grandfather’s tomatoes: he was a fabulous gardener.

31. Have you ever won a trophy? We were runner-up in the sixth grade Civic Oration Contest at Woodward Elementary School in Kalamazoo, Mich.

32. Are you a good cook? We are a passable cook, but perhaps best noted for our dual ability to a) make something out of various non-related ingredients and b) eat said dish.

33. Do you know how to pump your own gas? We’re starting to think this quiz was taken from an edition of Good Housekeeping magazine – circa 1958.

34. Ever order an article from an infomercial? Um, no.

35. Sprite or 7-Up? Diet Sprite, but only – and we mean only – when we are sick.

36. Have you ever had to wear a uniform to work? For roughly 18 months, during periods in high school and college, we worked in the kitchen at various McDonald’s restaurants. Our experience there led us to realize that fast food restaurants are similar to cemeteries: one goes there between sunset and sunrise at one’s peril.

37. Last thing you bought at a pharmacy? Pharmaceuticals.

38. Ever thrown up in public? No – although we’ve certainly felt like doing so at times.

39. Would you prefer being a millionaire or find true love? True love. Besides, economists have proven that being married carries with it a proven happiness quotient that’s roughly the equivalent of doubling one’s income. So, with that, we must say we’d prefer to have true love, as we sure as hell feel like a million bucks when we’re in a relationship.

40. Do you believe in love at first sight? Yes and no. By this we mean that we do, except we force ourselves to think otherwise for our own good.

41. Ever call a 1-900 number? If we wanted to be told unconvincing lies, we’d call our cable company.

42. Can ex’s be friends? Sure – but it’s generally a tough go of things.

43. Who was the last person you visited in a hospital? This question is more applicable to our own situation if we ask who was the last person to visit us in hospital – and that would be Mr Kepple.

44. Did you have a lot of hair when you were a baby? How should we know?

45. What message is on your answering machine? It’s the standard boring message.

46. What’s your all-time favorite Saturday Night Live character? The samurai whom John Belushi portrayed. Really, we mean, how can you go wrong with a skit entitled, “Samurai Delicatessen?”

47. Name of your first pet? Maddie. Golden retriever. Good dog!

48. What’s in your wallet? This question originally read “purse,” but we changed it so we could given an accurate answer. We carry in our wallet … let’s see here … debit cards … a credit card … health-insurance cards … identification … and our collection of weird business cards that we’ve accumulated over the years. This last item, we have no doubt, will somehow prove to give us more trouble than having it is worth.

49. Favorite thing to do before bedtime? Reading. Well, OK, making out – but in the absence of that, reading.

50. What is one thing you are grateful for today? Well, we finished this quiz, so we’re grateful for having finished all that up. Oh, and we have air conditoning in our apartment, because the weather outside seems somewhat Miami-ish. Plus we have a good stock of Diet Cherry Coke in the fridge, and dinner lined up, and … you know, this is a pretty good life we have going here.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:33 PM | TrackBack

August 25, 2004

Hay Fever Lands Haymaker

UGH. We have hay fever something fierce. This is why we have not blogged much of anything since this Sunday. It is also why we will not blog much of anything until this coming Sunday too.

According to the various sources of information we have found on the Internet, the best treatment for allergic reactions such as ours is to identify the allergic substance and avoid it. Unfortunately for us, this would mean moving to the Southwest or other dry climate where the wretched pollens are not present. So that's out, and we are forced to resort to the only other reasonable course of action -- namely, staying indoors with the air conditioner running. With its vent to the outside closed, we can ensure a steady stream of cool, dry air into our humble abode.

We are hopeful that, after our visit to the doctor on Friday, we can get a hold of a stronger medication to combat the symptoms. For us, these include blinding headaches, itchy and watery eyes, sneezing and sniffling, and other generally unpleasant things. As we would very much like to, oh, ENJOY LIFE AGAIN, we are hopeful these ailments will soon be brought under control.

Thank you *cough**hack**wheeze* for your patience during this *dry, hacking cough* difficult time.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:46 PM | TrackBack

August 22, 2004

The Horrible Relevancy of Pop Culture

WE READ with interest James Lileks' recent commentary on the state of American popular culture, in which he largely condemns said culture as useless and gauche. His thoughts mirrored our own in many respects, except on one point. Mr Lileks argues the Internet represents true American popular culture, and says the democratic aspects of the Internet will eventually cause the present "celebrity paradigm" to become irrelevant.

How we wish we could agree with Mr Lileks' analysis; we would like for it to happen as much as he would. Yet we cannot. Instead, we fear the opposite reaction will eventually take place -- that popular culture, already horribly relevant and meaningful to a significant portion of the populace, will become an even more entrenched and powerful force. Even now, those uninterested in it cannot escape its influence, and we see no reason why this state of affairs should suddenly change for the better.

Now, readers should know that in his essay, Mr Lileks takes the most recent issue of People magazine and deals with it masterfully. The cover of this magazine, a publication which we have never read except when waiting for a dentistry appointment, features the singer Britney Spears, her fiance Kevin Federline, and a little girl who looks a bit confused at the whole spectacle. We learn from Mr Lileks the girl in question is Mr Federline's daughter with a woman he did not marry, and Mr Lileks rightly proclaims immense contempt and powerful disgust at Mr Federline's behavior:

Plus, look at that guy. These are our celebs. Not exactly a Hurrell portrait of Cary Grant, eh? He knocked up one woman, produced the little girl you see here, and now he’s sauntering off to bed another doxy. Men like this make me ill.

Now, earlier in his essay, Mr Lileks defines popular culture as follows: "I mean the stuff some people think we care about – Paris Hilton’s dog, reality shows designed to humiliate Amish youth, etc." It is this definition, we would argue, that is the crux of the matter.

Mr Lileks, in our view, is correct -- but only if one clarifies the meaning of "we." It is true there are many people who care little about such things, and instead focus on other interests. But here's the thing. We are like that, and all our friends are like that, and pretty much all the people we know are like that. But the fact there are several magazines and television shows devoted to celebrity matters, all of which are extraordinarily profitable, is prima facie evidence that a large contingent of Americans find the trials and tribulations of Paris, Nicole, Britney, Brittany, Lindsey, Kevin, Nick, Justin, Ryan Seacrest, That Guy Who Played A.C. Slater, Dave Coulier, Susan Sarandon and Roseanne Barr, et al., extraordinarily interesting.

Hence, we do not see any reason to believe these magazines and television shows will eventually wither and die, especially since the content being vomited forth grows ever stronger in its intensity. And despite the complaints and hand-wringing over it, the popularity of that content has not waned; instead, it has increased. Therefore, we can only think things will get worse -- perhaps even far worse -- as time goes on.

It is a troubling situation, and not because we particularly care what people watch, or what they do in their spare time, and so on. That is their own business. Yet it does concern us a little that a lot of folks might be more concerned with the travails of Paris Hilton than the far crueler and more pressing issues of the day. We would hope, if any of those folks read this essay, they would consider rebalancing their portfolios in this regard. Certainly issues like famine and war and slavery deserve as much consideration as a lost chihuahua?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:34 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

August 19, 2004

The Lucky Ones

WE WERE QUITE ANNOYED to read an article recently appearing on the “Reuters” newswire regarding premature birth. It would appear that certain doctors are forgetting the oath they took when they entered into the medical profession.

Specifically, we note the comments from one Dr. Jonathan Muraskas of Loyola University Medical Center, whom the wire service notes is “worried by a growing trend to try to save babies that are born far, far too early.” He says:

"We are not miracle workers," Muraskas said. "The survival rate has about peaked." He said parents and hospital workers need to think about the odds.

"A baby today born at 23 weeks, that's about the lowest limit of viability, that translates to about a one-pound baby. The survival rate is about 5 percent to 10 percent," Muraskas said. "The chances of a developmental handicap like blindness, deafness, cerebral palsy, is at least 90 percent."

Even older premature babies can have severe health problems. "We put band aids on these babies' little problems but we have to step back and ask what is the quality of life for little babies?"

The report continues:

Dr. Jerold Lucey, the editor of the journal Pediatrics, agreed in a recent commentary.

Tiny babies are born and given drugs, are resuscitated violently and stuck onto ventilators. "Does this make sense?" Lucey asked.

"We should admit how little we know, explain the present bleak outlook for intact survival..." he added. Now, he said, parents are becoming attached to babies doomed to die simply because they can be kept alive for a while in the neonatal intensive care ward.

Now, we admit we take this topic a bit personally, as we happened to once be one of those premature babies about which the doctors speak. Back in the Seventies, we can assure you we were born three and one-half months premature and weighed just one pound, fifteen ounces at birth. We also had those troubling quality-of-life issues over which the doctors are wringing their hands. We still carry the scars from our tracheotomy and our paten ductus operations. We were fed via a tube and we had several blood transfusions. We can further assure you the situation was so bleak that we were baptized just two minutes after our birth, and when the nurses gave us to our father so he could hold us, it was so he could do so before we died. Also, like the baby mentioned in the story, we spent four months in hospital.

To sum it all up, we were among the lucky ones.

Twenty eight years later, we’re still here. Furthermore, we have no memory of all those unfortunate treatments. So it gives us great pleasure to inform Drs. Muraskas and Lucey that we rather enjoy living – period. The quality-of-life concerns can come later, gentlemen, if you don’t mind.

Good God. What sort of callous human being can ask, without any shred of embarrassment or moral concern, whether it makes sense to treat a deathly sick baby with every available device and tool? What miserable wretch can consider living blind or living deaf a worse option than not living at all? Not someone, perhaps, who has found himself in such a position.

Well, we have. So it sickens us that these doctors – who really ought to know better – would even suggest such a thing. It is the same miserable logic once used to justify eugenics and so many other evils which man has introduced into this world. It reeks of the same miserable self-conceit which pushes so many people to assume a role only fit for their Creator. It is not a question which physicians ought debate, not even for a moment. It would be better if they spent their time focusing on new ways to save the lives of these unfortunate infants, and preparing their parents for the probable and worst outcome.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:40 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 17, 2004

Spamming Mistake of the Year

WE QUOTE VERBATIM from a spam e-mail we received in our inbox today. It is the typical drill: great sum of tainted wealth can be yours if only you send us your account numbers, &c. &c. Anyway, it would appear that one spammer is not as clever as he might think:

"Dear Friend,

Your first reaction to this mail will be total rejection, scare and may be unbelief, owing largely to the atrocities people commit these days.

You're right so far, pal.

But this mail comes from a devastated, sorrowful and emotional laden soul that needs compassion from a kind and good spirited person to wipe away my tears, perhaps when I am gone beyond this sinful world.

A kind and good-spirited person, eh? Gee, you're just batting zero, aren't you?

As an international subject, therefore, with due respect and apology, I want you to handle it very discreetly, confidentially and with utmost secret.

We can do that.

As you read this, I don't want you to feel sorry for me, because, I believe everyone will die someday. My name is Bob Dole a merchant in Dubai,in the U.A.E. ... "

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:02 PM | TrackBack

Once Bitten ...

ONE WOULD THINK, given the unfortunate scandal which plagued Paris Hilton some while back, she would have realized the importance of caution in matters relating to her personal life. Yet one would be mistaken.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:40 PM | TrackBack

Not the Brightest Bulb in the Lamp Store Dept.

WE WERE DISMAYED to read The Washington Post Magazine's Jessica Cutler profile which appeared this weekend. The ex-Capitol Hill staffer, as most people know, was struck off for using her office computer to write a blog detailing her sex life with other employees of the Federal Government.

We suppose our dismay stems from incomprehension. You see, we just don't understand the attention paid to Ms Cutler. We mean, not at all.

For one thing, we do not understand why the Post's writer holds up Ms Cutler as a symbol of modern womanhood. We think this would be insulting to women. For another, we do not understand why Ms Cutler's publishers have offered her a significant advance on her forthcoming tome about the scandal. Everyone already knows the details, and Ms Cutler is not a sympathetic character. As for Ms Cutler's involvement with Playboy magazine, we would only note that Playboy Enterprises Inc. is now trading at a mere $8 per share, and today it hit a 52-week low. As such, we would leave it to readers to ponder the ramifications of their decision.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:35 PM | TrackBack

August 15, 2004

What a Trip

LAST MONDAY, we can assure you it took us twelve hours to travel from Manchester, N.H., to New Stanton, Pa. As a result, we would like to thank the New York State Thruway Authority for their efficient and productive use of taxpayer resources. Yes, thanks to the New York State Thruway Authority, we spent more than an hour last week in a traffic jam near the Tappan Zee Bridge -- and all for no apparent reason.

So we salute the New York State Thruway Authority for its Strategic Traffic Cone Placement Decisions and its Well Thought Out Plan to Put Construction Vehicles in Inconvenient Places. It appeared to us that a full six construction workers were on duty at the time these plans were implemented. Five of them were standing around watching the sixth simultaneously dance on the pavement and smoke a cigarette. No, that's not a joke.

* We have read with interest the news reports detailing instances of alleged corruption in certain Northeastern states. Having recently passed through Connecticut and New Jersey on our trip back to western Pennsylvania, though, we can assure readers that not one dollar in kickbacks came from the managers of road-construction or driving-instruction companies.

* We submit the tourism people in Hartford weren't thinking when they came up with the Nutmeg State's tourism slogan: "Connecticut. We're full of surprises." That said, they weren't just whistling Dixie, either. Boy.

* In an unfortunate error, the good people at the car hire firm from which we rented gave us an automobile with Massachusetts plates. The car, we can assure you, was fine: it was a Chrysler Sebring sedan which handled quite well, even if we found the engine slightly underpowered for our tastes. Still, it had Massachusetts plates.

This proved to be both horribly embarrassing and strangely liberating at the same time. It was embarrassing in that our relatives Back Home, who already consider New England one amorphous morass, made plenty of jokes and couldn't remember where in New England we were from:

UNCLE BILL: So how're things going up in Massachusetts, or wherever it is?
US: I'm not from Massachusetts.
UNCLE BILL: Connecticut?
US: No!

However, the experience was strangely liberating in that we could drive our automobile however we wanted, and without fear or guilt. Therefore, we were able to just glide all over the roadway without using our turn signals, and merge aggressively, and generally act like crazy people. Yes, we knew full well that no matter how much that angry lady from Pennsylvania wanted to ram us with her sport-utility vehicle because she thought we "cut her off" on the Mass Pike, she could not hope to do so, because we were from Massachusetts, and such. Yeah. Move. Get out the way.

* We are proud to note that we had dinner again at Trainer's "Midway" Diner in Bethel, Pa. Also we had shoofly pie for the first time. We consider this a good diner pie for diabetics such as ourselves. True, diabetics ought not eat pie in the first place, but no annoying infirmity is going to stop us from having pie at a diner once in a great while. Besides, it has brown sugar and molasses as its key ingredients, and we have to think those have less sugar than refined cane sugar and commercial pie filling.

* We had one particularly different experience on this twelve-hour trip, which took place at the North Somerset rest area on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

OK, so dig this. Here we are, stretching our legs and relaxing after spending a few hours in our rental chariot in the rest area's parking lot, and we notice this guy sitting in the driver's seat of a car a few spaces distant from us. Said guy is sitting in a car which had its back bumper torn clean off in an accident. Said car is a rental.

Dude. Now you know that just had to suck -- being stuck like that out in the middle of frickin' nowhere, with a bumper-less car and very much wishing one had signed up for the Collision Damage Waiver Insurance. We have no idea how this guy's journey ended up, but we can imagine that somewhere, a battle royale between claims adjusters is going on.

* One last point before we close. We would like someone to explain to us how exactly we were able to get from Manchester, N.H. to New Stanton, Pa., without once looking at a map. You see, on the morning of Grandma's funeral, we got lost on the way to a Bob Evans restaurant in New Stanton -- a restaurant that was within sight of our hotel.

Hey, we still can't understand how it happened.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 14, 2004

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil.

-- Psalm 23

REAGANTOWN, Pa. – It turned out to be the last visit after all.

Two months ago, on a week’s vacation from work, I stopped in western Pennsylvania to visit my grandmother. On Wednesday, her family laid her to rest in that same small cemetery where a year ago we buried my grandfather. The suddenness of her death was a shock to everyone, and while I am thankful she was spared the agony that so often accompanies the end of life, the pain the news caused me is hard to bear.

However, the operative word in that last clause is me. For that, I would care to venture, is the trouble with death – it is hardest on those left behind, those who suffer the loss and who pick up the pieces when all is said and done. As my grandmother lived a virtuous life, one marked at every turn by her faith in God, I can’t see why she would have ever feared it. Such are the ways of the world: you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

In the eighty years she lived, I know my grandmother touched the hearts of many people. It was evident from all the people who attended her funeral, folks from her church and her friends from over the years. It was evident in the list of all the jobs which she had done at that church over a lifetime. It was evident from the stories people shared during the wake and the eulogy which my great-aunt Judy delivered at the funeral. Truly my grandmother served God in the ways she could, and under the circumstances which life had ordained.

Grandma was also, I might add, a crack shot with a rifle.

Heh. I have to give Aunt Judy credit for including this in her eulogy.

I can assure you that, long before your correspondent was a gleam in his father’s eye, outside my mother’s family’s home one day appeared a nasty black snake. As I understand it, such snakes are poisonous, so this was quite a concern. (I later learned they're not poisonous, but they're really, really big and not something one would want in the kids' play area). Anyway, according to various retellings of this story over the years, Grandma’s first reaction was to make sure Mom and Aunt Carol were indoors and safely away from the treacherous reptile. Then she armed herself with a .22 caliber rifle. When the snake made the tactical error of trying to scout out the landscape, Grandma shot its head clean off from the porch from some insane distance.

But as Aunt Judy pointed out, Grandma was a country girl at heart all her life, and this hit home to me as she listed all the things which Grandma did over the years – things like canning vegetables and making clothes and managing a home. As a sedentary citified type myself, some of these things seem downright amazing – not only because this modern age has removed any chance of my doing these things, but because much of what she did involved amazing sacrifice. Grandma was quite a bright woman – both my grandparents were – and she worked hard enough at her studies to become valedictorian of her high school class. Yet despite clearly having the aptitude to go to college, she instead worked to help my great-uncle Earl – her younger brother and also a high-school valedictorian – get his degree.

That to me speaks volumes about what kind of woman my grandmother was: a hard worker and someone who helped others before herself. But one thing I especially remember was just what a caring person she was. Even after I left home, she was always interested in how I was doing and what was new in my life – it was just unconditional support. My parents were always great about this too, don’t get me wrong; but it was always neat how Grandma would want to read some of the things I had written and so on.

But that was the type of person she was, a fundamentally good person.

After I left Pennsylvania on that trip two months ago, I had lunch with a friend of mine and we got into one of those great long discussions, about the illness from which my grandmother was suffering. Midway through the conversation, my friend made the quite astute observation that no matter what one suffers when one’s body gives out, one’s soul remains intact throughout the ordeal. It was a comforting thought as I drove back home to New Hampshire from Pennsylvania after Grandma’s funeral – knowing that even though Grandma had not been well for a long time, the fundamentally good person I knew was still there. She now exists in a place beyond time and space and matter, but I have no doubt that in that Heaven, she is experiencing great joy; joy which her wearied and worldly grandson could not hope to comprehend.

Aug. 7 – Aug. 14

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 02:09 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 07, 2004

The Rant is Away ...

... UNTIL SATURDAY, August 14. Until then, have a look at the archives and visit all the excellent sites on our blogroll, etc. etc. We'll give folks an update when we return then.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Communism with a Human Face

IN "1984," readers will recall, George Orwell uses the character of O'Brien to show in horrible detail the bruality of Communism: "If you want a picture of the future," O'Brien tells Winston as he tortures him, "imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- for ever."

In 2004, the Communists in China have gone far beyond just using boots, as this report from the English version of The Epoch Times reveals.

(N.B. We consider ourselves a pretty hard-boiled type, but the photos in the report are extremely disturbing -- to the point where we felt a bit sick).

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 01:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Good Stuff Dept.

SAY, EVERYBODY! Ken Layne's blogging again! This means that in addition to all the music stuff that Mr Layne has been doing, we now again get to read his commentary on the issues of the day. We are quite pleased. Also -- a Secret Tip -- make sure to hold your mouse over the photos to get the tag-lines.

Heh heh heh.

Also, we have learned that two old colleagues of ours -- Win Myers and Brent Tantillo -- have started a think-tank devoted to supporting freedom and democracy both at home and abroad. They also happen to have a pretty slick blog. Therefore, all Loyal Rant Readers are directed to visit the Democracy Project's Web site. We can assure you that you will find their blog both interesting and informative.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:41 PM | TrackBack

Celebrate! Celebrate!

WE HAVE RECENTLY learned that many bloggers are shocked and appalled at seeing one of their colleagues wear a T-shirt they found offensive and gauche. Apparently, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit fame has modeled a shirt which has pictures of various firearms on it, along with the tagline "Celebrate Diversity." This has prompted great scorn from certain other bloggers. In the aggregate, these bloggers claim Prof Reynolds' promotion of the shirt stands as prima facie evidence that he is a) clueless, b) racist, or c) both.

The first criticism which we saw of the matter came from one Duncan Black. Dr Black, whom we understand is an economist, wrote the following upon seeing Prof Reynolds in the shirt:

oy. I've been trying to figure out how to write this post for a couple of hours. I want to make clear that this isn't a shot at instapundit, cheap or otherwise, but something I think it's necessary to point out. I'm no fan of the guy, and think he's quite frequently been the transmitter of some truly hateful ideas (blaming the victims of genocide, for one), but in this case I think he's just clueless ...

... There's a serious subtext here which is totally obvious to me that I think should be pointed out. Now, I don't think everyone who has purchased a shirt like this has purchased it with the subtext in mind, but nonetheless the message is clear.

The caption is "celebrate diversity." The colors of the caption are commonly used pan-African colors: red, yellow, and green. While, for many, the "joke" (though, I'm not sure why it's funny) is that here diversity is a diversity of guns. Ha ha. But, look, the clear message here is that the way to celebrate diversity, particularly that pan-African diversity, is to buy a bunch of fucking guns. In other words, celebrate diversity by arming yourself ...

Perhaps it's just us, but we have never much cared for this trend in which people who criticize others feel the need to slap some sort of veneer over their criticism. It sounds like a great party trick an old friend of ours once told us about in the event we needed to detach ourselves from a conversation. All one needed to do, our friend advised, was to loudly say something like this: "But, Ted, I'M NOT SAYING YOU'RE CLUELESS."

Well, Dr Black is loudly saying this to Prof Reynolds. Therefore it is a shot, no matter how much he might want to paper over it. Had he merely been concerned, he would have simply sent Prof Reynolds a private e-mail to that effect. Instead, he decided to write about it in a blog entry, an act which he could reasonably assume would cause great controversy.

Now, we admit we do not fully understand the thrust of Dr Black's complaint. For one thing, as he admits later in his post, Prof Reynolds is wearing a different version of the shirt without the pan-African colors. Oops. Gee, that would seem to discredit his entire argument, wouldn't it?

But that is not the only counter-argument one could make. Another would be that this shirt is similar to those posters, popular among undergraduates, which proudly note the opportunities one has in college to drink. Further, since the shirt itself has the firearms as its main focal point, one cannot find anything suspect in that. Lastly, we would submit that the T-shirt vendor almost certainly did not intend to use these colors in the way Dr Black seems to think the vendor is using them. Such a move would represent the type of cleverness or stupidity one usually only finds in devotees of Keynesianism.

Dr Black, however, is far more restrained in his words than other bloggers, particularly one Steve Gilliard. Mr Gilliard writes as follows:

I think Glenn Reynolds is either the most clueless law professor at the University of Tennessee or the kind of sick racist who doesn't have the balls to wear a Klan robe or burn a cross. There are thousands of gun shirts. You want to walk around with an MP-5K shirt, you can find one. AK-47, no problem. But that noxious shirt is one no decent person would wear, because there is no joke in it. A number of handguns and "celebrate diversity" on it implies something pretty dark and evil. Especially with the colors used on the white shirt, red, yellow and green. You would have to be a moron not to see the pan-African connotation with. I mean, you have easily made that shirt with the tag line "variety is the spice of life", the joke made, and not even the most hypersensitive liberal could say a word. Reynolds even jokes about wearing it to a faculty meeting, something he doesn't have the balls to do because he would be called on it ...

... Reynolds has said any number of biased, unfair and truly repellent things on his site. Which is his right. But this crosses a rather broad line. I mean, where does he keep this shirt, next to his Wehrmacht World Tour and Hitler: No More Mister Nice Guy shirts.

I think it's time we start asking people, like his boss, how his views and public statements coincide with the education provided by the University of Tennessee.

Oh dear.

Now, one can see from Mr Gilliard's words that he is a very sober person, the type who probably finds no room for humor in things he considers important, the type who probably gets frustrated when people don't see things the way he does. So we can deduce he means what he says here, even though one would have to be a moron to equate wearing this T-shirt with support for a regime which exterminated ten million people in concentration camps.

In any event, Mr Gilliard does not stop there. With a broadside that will undoubtedly depress political staff and newspaper letters-editors, he encourages his readers to write Tennessee-area newspapers as well as that state's Congressional delegation. He writes:

What to say?

Just ask them if they agree that a professor at the state's public university should be advertising a shirt which opposes diversity. Do they find the message on the shirt representative of both the school and the state's policy of allowing access for all citizens to it's law school, especially after the state's regretable history of racial bias and segregation.

I don't think anyone should call for him getting fired or shutting down his website or anything draconian like that. Just inquire as to whether they share his beliefs, if he is a fitting representative of the University of Tennessee's College of Law, and if that shirt and his public association as a professor at that school represents the values and ethos of his employer, the state of Tennessee.

After all public employees across the United States have been sanctioned for expressing racially hostile opinions...

Again we have this paper-thin veneer of civility, that curse of our modern age. One would have to be a -- well, charitably inclined person -- not to suspect Mr Gilliard's intent with his raving about. It is unfortunate that Mr Gilliard, unknown and unrecognized, sees fit to attack the learned Prof Reynolds in such a manner.

However, while Mr Gilliard and Dr Black both miss the target completely with their work, we do feel Mr Gilliard has noticed one thing which Dr Black missed. Namely, Mr Gilliard recognizes the shirt could be construed to poke fun at the whole modern way we promote diversity. The shirt obviously does not oppose diversity in itself, which all recognize as a good thing -- but it could, were one looking for such a message, be construed to criticize the way that message has been disseminated.

Of course, that modus operandi is an easy target. We note that in present-day America, celebrations of diversity do not generally involve celebrating at all. Instead, they involve dreary employee-training videos informing workers of Basic Professional Etiquette, and boring mandatory seminars in windowless rooms where workers are browbeaten into accepting that they and their organizations are inherently discriminatory. At the extreme, such celebrations may even involve Government inquiries into the conduct of private businesses -- and those despite the fact that nearly all of the businesses being investigated have been celebrating diversity with full force and cheer for years, if not decades.

We do not submit that such celebrations should come to an end, of course. But we do think that if the celebrations were done in a different manner, they might prove more effective, and would improve employee productivity and morale. A cash bar would be nice too.

(via Capitalist Lion)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:07 PM | TrackBack

August 05, 2004

A Cavalcade of Idiocy

IT IS NOT OFTEN we find something so particularly stupid it makes our blood boil any more, but we must thank James Lileks for alerting us to a gross instance of such imbecility. We must also thank the good people at Pfizer Inc. for developing the sedative that we took immediately after reading about it. Without them, our system would have undoubtedly collapsed again and we'd have spent a week in hospital.

Mr Lileks, you should know, has alerted the world to this fun group of people. This fun group of people apparently believes that capitalism oppresses the common people or some such nonsense. Therefore, they came up with the idea of switching bar codes on various store products. They also developed a rant against bar-coding. It may be satire, although it was so unfunny that we wonder if they weren't actually serious. Hell, it was so unfunny we're surprised they left the old saw about bar codes being a satanic plot out. You know, mark of the Beast and all that.

Anyway, Mr Lileks has done the yeoman's job of ripping all this idiocy to shreds, but our main complaint is broader. Quite frankly, we don't understand how people can attack capitalism as a system when they have no demonstrable grasp of how economics works. As Exhibit A in this case, we present the following rant from this fun group of people:

It is our contention that with such gross injustice on the part of these large corporations, that consumer theft is a process that works to radically liberate the stolen capital. Whil Consumer theft is still below the yearly estimated averages of Corporate theft, it is working hard to bring justice where courts have failed. It should also be noted that the risks associated with consumer theft are usually much greater than those associated with consumer theft. This means that an 18 year old girl stealing a set of AA Batteries from Wal Mart faces tougher faces most likely a longer prison sentence than a board of directors member of Enron corporation responsible for villions of dollars in theft. It's a tough job liberating capital, but due to uncontrollable circumstances our heroes are out there in the aisles everyday.

Good God. We mean, they didn't even edit the thing before they posted it, something which Mr Lileks also gleefully notes. It amazes us that such people think they should be taken seriously. (VILLIONS of dollars indeed!)

Now, in the interest of harmony, we certainly do not mean to suggest that everyone who takes a certain economic view of life is lacking in intelligence. This is clearly not the case. Still, why -- HOW -- can people continue to believe, in this day and age, that outright theft is liberating capital? For one thing, it's stealing, and that's wrong. For another, stealing goods in and of itself does not represent any type of capital gain, as the capital is not generally convertible.

If Person A takes a box of cookies from the store, Person A has .... cookies. We sincerely doubt that Person A is going to stand in a back alley trying to unload his illegally-obtained 8.6 oz. package of Pepperidge Farm (R) Soft Baked Chocolate Chunk Dark Chocolate Brownie Cookies. And even if he did, he would not profit much from it, as they are already cheap. Cookies are not a scarce good.

Now, we will cede that if Person B steals a consumer good -- say he absconds with a spatula from the home goods department -- he will not be spending the capital he would have spent on the spatula in the first place. Yet this savings would be so low that Person B cannot help but dissipate said capital on something like his electric bill. Capital is no good if it is wasted. So, clearly, stealing goods is almost always useless -- even on a large scale. Look how often we hear about thieves who abscond with a freezer-trailer of meat.

This leads us to our final point, which is by far the most important. Namely, theft -- no matter how large or small -- destroys capital. It is not merely that theft acts as a disincentive to produce things, either.

Let us say that Shopkeeper C loses $30 in goods every day due to outright theft from the wretches taken in by this fraud of an idea. We can easily see that $30 per day adds up to $10,950 per year. This is enough money to provide some poor high school kid with a job for the summer. It is probably enough to spend on capital goods, such as a sandwich wrapper or something. If that money is pumped into the economy, it creates more money.

If people want to be better off, they can start by helping the authorities crack down on theft of material goods from honest merchants and enterprises. Think about it.

This fun group of people claims that retail losses run $33.21bn per annum. Shoplifting reportedly accounts for $13.28bn at the high end. Now, think about what would happen if that $13.28bn was injected back into the economy.

* It would have the economic impact of lowering gasoline prices 10 cents per gallon, based on a $1.3bn/penny economic impact.
* It could fund New Jersey's Government for about six months.
* If the benefits were distributed equally among every American, it would represent an average cash benefit of roughly $13 to each American household, based on 103m American households.
* If every household in America put that $13 in a banking institution, it would have the effect of increasing the money supply by $117 billion, based on U.S. banks having a reserve requirement of 10 percent. We do not claim this would impact interest rates at the national or international level. We do, however, submit this could make getting a car loan slightly easier -- after all, the banks aren't going to just sit on the money. And that would create MORE money, and so on. That's how capitalism works.

Given all this, we can't see why people smart enough to put together a Web site, no matter how badly-edited, would encourage theft. Oh, they say it's satire in their disclaimer, but they're doing it just the same. Then they have the gall to attack perfectly legitimate forms of commerce as theft -- although that does not hold, apparently, when it comes to giving them donations, donations which by their definition are tainted with workers' blood and the stink of capital. As they say:

Donations are accepted and gifts given in return not as a way to make a profit but only as a way to support the existence of this site which we hope to see become a discussion point for the large gap between corporate and consumer theft.

Oh, come now. Surely such an enlightened group can fund such an endeavor out of the goodness of their hearts!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:55 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

A SPECIAL Your Search Engine Queries Answered!

Oh No!
It's Time for Yet Another Installment of...
YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED

A Recurring Rant Feature

BASED ON AMAZING feedback from readers to our previous installment of "Your Search Engine Queries Answered," we present a special SECOND monthly edition of this popular Rant Feature. Apparently, many of our readers just had to come back for more. So here goes:

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ANSWER: Out of your league.

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QUERY: moral turpitude examples

ANSWER: We happen to have some right here!

QUERY: public nudity

ANSWER: This, along with the search string 'sex actress,' is routinely among the top five searches which lead people to The Rant. Thus, we are the Internet equivalent of a really cold shower.

Ah, schadenfreude. It's such an awful thing -- but so great at the same time.

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ANSWER: Observe the Aeon Flux fan, all grown up.

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ANSWER: OK, now we just spewed an entire Diet Coke with Lime all over our keyboard. Time to move on!



Markets rose sharply yesterday as FOMC Chairman Alan Greenspan
testified before Congress about his weekend on Cialis.

QUERY: why does the automobile industry rely on just-in-time delivery in its manufacturing processes and wholesale/retail operations?

ANSWER: It worked for Toyota. Plus, it cuts down on unneccessary purchases, and as such keeps inventory costs to a minimum. However, there are also many added benefits for companies using the system, such as a dramatic improvement in product quality. For much more on the just-in-time inventory system, see this page from which we learned rather a lot.

QUERY: what does the acronym amscray mean

ANSWER: There's a little "X" button in the upper-right hand corner of your browser window. Click it, please.

QUERY: why is reality television bad

ANSWER: Have you watched any recently? Good God. We're still traumatized from when our brother exposed us to five minutes of "The Anna Nicole Smith Show." Apparently it's gotten even worse.

QUERY: why do we watch reality television

ANSWER: Beats the hell out of us why you do.

QUERY: amor omnia vincit

ANSWER: It's true. There is no greater civilizing force on earth than love -- power and money and learning pale in comparison to it. You know, it's almost as if love acts like a shield; it protects a man from his wretched earthly desires and keeps him focused on the things that matter. That's to say nothing of the ...

Oh! Sorry. Got lost there for a moment.

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ANSWER: If you find one, do let us know.

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ANSWER: Well, yeah.

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ANSWER: Maybe all those warning labels on electrical products, such as DO NOT USE UNDER RUNNING WATER, were designed for people like this.

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Hedge fund manager Ted Whammy goes to work as a customer watches.

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QUERY: girl all the bad guys want review focus on the family

ANSWER: It's just a guess, but we're betting they didn't much care for it.

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ANSWER: Homer Simpson said it best: "I'm a Spaulding Gray in a Rick Dees world!"

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ANSWER: It's either the weirdest eighth-grade science project America has ever seen, or the European Union is truly out of control.

QUERY: does society put too much emphasis on wealth

ANSWER: Of course it does. Why the devil do you think everyone is so concerned with what other people are making?

QUERY: spells to win the lottery

ANSWER: See what we mean? Here we have a person attempting to harness the evil forces of the spiritual world for shameless personal benefit. He will assuredly fail in this endeavor and get snickered at for owning patchouli.

QUERY: commercials are pornography for capitalism

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QUERY: i broke off my engagement who get the ring

ANSWER: Not you.

QUERY: breaking up chest congestion

ANSWER: A really hot shower does wonders for this. Make sure to breathe in the steam; in fact, if you have a shower where you can blast the hot water without having to get in it, that works best. Spend a few minutes in it, but make sure you don't get overheated. Then hack all the phlegm out.

QUERY: volkswagen bus van nude

ANSWER: Dude. It's not the Seventies any more. Give it up.

QUERY: alderson federal prison photo

ANSWER: Whoa. Gee, and we thought we had problems.

QUERY: mercury sable overheating

ANSWER: It's either the fan or your radiator, although we suppose it could also be a coolant hose problem. Get it checked out before your car blows a gasket or something.

QUERY: gee our old lasalle ran great

ANSWER: ... THOSE ... WERE THE DAYS!

QUERY: kangaroo meat taste like

ANSWER: Chicken.

QUERY: aware of one's heart beat

ANSWER: Yes, actually we are. It bounces around like a racquetball inside our chest, as someone once put it, due to our particularly horrible lifestyle.

QUERY: i want to be featured in ben kepple's next month's your search engine queries answered

ANSWER: Promptly dealing with our readers' concerns -- that's what we're all about here at Benjamin Kepple's Daily Rant Inc. (A Bermuda Corporation)! Tune in next month when we address cable systems in Fond du Lac, Wis., whatever happened to Fiona Apple, and people who want to redecorate paneling.

Oh, God. We almost don't want to know.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:38 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 03, 2004

Why California Taxed Us at 9.3 pc

WE NOTE WITH DISPLEASURE this excerpt, via Meg McArdle, from a story in The Wall Street Journal about Internet crime:

Come September, Mr. Fawrup will be on a new antifraud beat. He's been reassigned to a unit in Commerce, Calif., that investigates people who try to redeem empty cans, bottles and plastic from out of state. The project director of the high-tech crimes task force, Lt. Rick Craigo, says Mr. Fawrup will be replaced. But both men agree their numbers are still too few to catch most Internet evildoers. Says Mr. Fawrup: "I've been able to do so little."

Now, we know readers will think we're upset California treats Beverage Can Fraud as a Public Scourge -- but we're actually not all that mad. We have learned that people have allegedly conducted some significant fraud over the years -- such as this reported $3 million fraud a few years back. Yes, you read that right -- $3 million! Clearly, with potential profits like that, policing is warranted.

What does annoy us, though, is that California had to do things its way -- which is to say it fouled things up immensely -- when it created the law in the first place. A system like Michigan's would have been far smarter. With that system, one takes one's bottles back to any store and redeems them for cash.

The advantages to Michigan's system are clear.

First, all retailers collect the deposits -- we assume they make money on the recyclable material, and we imagine as a whole retailers get to keep any overage that occurs because some folks throw the recyclables out.

Second, it turns the recyclables into a valuable alternative currency. We can assure readers that when we were in school, back at Ann Arbor, empty Coke cans were as good as money.

Finally, though, it cuts down on fraud -- scofflaws are caught when they do stupid things, such as spend three hours at an automatic collection site. Also, retailers can set limits on how much one redeems at any one time (e.g. $10) and an alert shop clerk can keep an eye out for Ohio cans or some such. The end results are that the regular police deal with any lawbreakers, there are no costly special police agencies, and the state does not lose out on revenue. That means in Michigan, folks like Mr Fawrup can deal with the really bad criminals, and people don't get infuriated with their Government's incompetence.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:40 PM | TrackBack

Your Search Engine Queries Answered!

Oh No!
It's Time for Yet Another Installment of ...
YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED

A Recurring Rant Feature

YES, IT'S TIME AGAIN to provide Quick and Easy Enlightenment to those Rant readers who have arrived here via a search engine. Readers unfamiliar with this recurring feature, which we write about once a month, should know we provide this service regularly for these readers. And boy, you would not believe the searches we get -- for we can assure you all of these queries come from our actual search logs.

So let's have at it:

QUERY: dean esmay

ANSWER: He would be over here. That said, on your way out, please pick up a copy of Form 1252, Explanation for Why You Came to The Rant When It Was Much Easier to Go to Someone Else's Site in the First Place.

QUERY: fingernail strengthening

ANSWER: Hoo boy, they're getting weird on us already. Ah, gee -- fingernail strengthening -- Gad. Um. Get one of those mini treadmill things like they have in the Bud Light commercials, and you'll be set.

QUERY: emoticon burglar

ANSWER: Good God! They've taken all the smiley faces! THEY'VE TAKEN ALL THE SMILEY FACES! Jenkins! Sound the alarm! Stone! Man the helicopters! We're facing Threat Level One! We've got to ...

...oh, wait. They fell down behind the desk. Never mind, everybody.

QUERY: magnet therapy for lumber spondylosis

ANSWER: It sounds like it'll take a lot more than some frickin' magnets.

QUERY: what were they thinking stupid names celebrities give their children

ANSWER: We don't know either.

QUERY: i need a woman in london to marry as my life partner with their e mail address name in 2004

ANSWER: You need analysis.

QUERY: reduce man breasts

ANSWER: Jogging! It's the wave of the future! On the other hand, if you actually do have a hormonal imbalance, you'll want to talk with your doctor.

QUERY: utilitarian views of interoffice dating

ANSWER: The utilitarian view regarding dating coworkers is that it would be a bad thing. This is because Party A (the man) and Party B (the woman) could enter into a relationship, and decrease their usefulness to the corporation as a whole. Then, when the relationship eventually collapsed, it would reduce the usefulness of Parties A and B to practically nil, making coworkers C through F angry and frustrated about doing their work. There is also the potential that Party G (the Equal Employment Oppportunity Commission), Party L (a practicing attorney) and Party M (a federal mediator) could get involved, which would have severe consequences for the corporation. Therefore, we can see the utilitarian view of dating coworkers is that it is to be strongly discouraged.

That said, when did strict utilitarians start getting dates?

QUERY: mcdonalds fiesta salad calorie content

ANSWER: Here's a hint. It has taco meat and sour cream. Get the grilled chicken caesar salad instead. And no croutons!

QUERY: who did ali landry marry?

ANSWER: A bum.

QUERY: effects on the american economy when jobs are lost

ANSWER: Well, they're not good.

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ANSWER: We don't want to know.

QUERY: midriff in the office

ANSWER: Cover it.

QUERY: wedding reception boxed wine

ANSWER: Please be advised that under the laws and statutes of certain States, serving boxed wine at a wedding reception does free the brother-in-law from any legal consequences stemming from his subsequent debauchery and violence against the other guests. However, you may wish to also upgrade your umbrella liability-insurance policy as a result.

QUERY: tax implication futures trading

ANSWER: Well, at least you'll have losses to counter-balance any potential gains.

QUERY: scots invention double entry bookkeeping

ANSWER: The Italians invented it. Luca Pacioli, 1494.

QUERY: threaten neighbor with gun

ANSWER: Not a good idea.

QUERY: how to live on $40 000. per year?

ANSWER: You'd be surprised how easy it is. In fact, millions upon millions of American families live on even less per annum. That said, if you live in a city, learn how to cook pasta.

QUERY: dating a journalist

ANSWER: We at The Rant are experts in this field, and we can assure you that all journalists are witty, smart, handsome and potentially wealthy mates. For more information on dating journalists, write us at ben-at-benkepple-dot-com. Heck, to date a journalist, write us at ben-at-benkepple-dot-com. Again, that's ben-at-benkepple-dot-com.

QUERY: is retirement suppose to be fun?

ANSWER: God, we hope so.

QUERY: utilitarian perspective on non smoking laws

ANSWER: The utilitarian view on non-smoking laws is that they are a good thing, as it gives justification for utilitarians to be preachy and annoying towards smokers.

QUERY: smoking cessation vacation

ANSWER: Take at least two weeks. You'll need it just to sweat all the nicotine out of your system. But beware the dreaded side effects, such as being happy, sad and angry all at the same time.

QUERY: kordell stewart s hail mary vs. michigan

ANSWER: Why don't you go to hell?

QUERY: jennifer lopez s foot sexy arches

ANSWER: What the ... how? HOW did you arrive here at The Rant with a search like that?!

QUERY: this quiet earth movie

ANSWER: We liked it! Good good foreign film.

QUERY: nudity in american culture -porn -escorts -hot -racy

ANSWER: Observe the graduate student, and pity him.

QUERY: transubstantiation and carbs

ANSWER: The Body of Christ, as far as we know, is perfectly acceptable under all forms of no- and low-carbohydrate diets.

QUERY: great places to live kalamazoo

ANSWER: We're sorry. You've entered a logical paradox that our system cannot reconcile. Please try again.

QUERY: sale of the beverage champale in the atlanta georgia area

ANSWER: Oh, God. Champale. Folks, if you knew what this stuff is, you'd be as concerned as we are about this entry.

QUERY: christians saying gosh

ANSWER: It's acceptable. Trust us.

QUERY: ben kepple getting his head cut off

ANSWER: Ah .... hooo boy. Uh. Gee. That really is in the log file. Fortunately, however, we know full well there is no way this malcontent can get through The Rant's triple-redundant office security system and our heavily-armed security squads!

Well, that's it for this edition of Your Search Engine Queries Answered. Tune in next time when we look at alpaca pyramid investment frauds, fault lines in Wisconsin, and why anyone would engage in a "rent-to-own" transaction over a popcorn popper in Tennessee. In the meantime, we're going to hide underneath our desk.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 01:35 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 02, 2004

Bestill Our Beating Heart

FROM TODAY'S Hollywood Reporter:

Men's cable channel Spike TV is stepping onto the dance floor with "The Club," a reality series that will chronicle the goings-on at a dance establishment in Las Vegas...

Yep, not gonna watch that one either. God's truth -- can't anyone in la-la land come up with a frickin' original idea any more?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:30 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Halle? Don't Try to Help

WE HAD BEEN inclined to applaud Halle Berry, whom we once saw in a James Bond film, for recently making some strong statements against the practice of women having plastic surgery. Unfortunately, Ms Berry made her remarks in such a clumsy and boorish fashion that we're instead annoyed with her for being so insensitive about the matter.

The AFP reports that Ms Berry, whose outburst on the subject was made during a promotional event for her latest unfortunate film, said as follows:

There is this plastic, copycat look evolving and that's frightening to me," said the 37-year-old actress.

"I see women in their thirties getting plastic surgery. I do think we've become obsessed with beauty and the fountain of youth and frankly, personally, I'm really saddened by the way women mutilate their faces today in search of that."

A beauty contest winner at the age of 17, Berry became an actress after a successful modeling career.

Now, we would hope that Ms Berry was trying to say she was saddened young women would voluntarily undergo a risky elective surgical procedure in hopes it would improve their appearance. However, the quote shows clearly that what Ms Berry said was that female plastic-surgery patients have instead made themselves appear less attractive through that surgery.

This is not very nice, especially considering that Ms Berry is quite beautiful herself. We cannot truly know how women feel about this issue -- but we know, as a man, we would be a bit annoyed if a particularly rich man bemoaned the fact so many people were working hard to afford certain material comforts. Indeed, we would have three words for such a pronouncement -- and we reckon you can deduce those.

Back to our original point, though. It does concern us that some women believe they need plastic surgery to achieve some higher standard of beauty. For one thing, plenty of these women are already perfectly hot, and risking that seems extremely foolish. For another, we suspect the increasing number of surgery cases may in part be because some women are unhappy in other areas of their lives, and the clear fix would be to address those problems first.

Our main concern, however, is that the standard these women are trying to reach is an impossible one. There is simply no way that any woman -- or any man, for that matter -- can compete with beauty artifically enhanced by loads of makeup, specially-designed haute couture dresses or suits, or what have you. We know this because we have met a few famous and beautiful people up close and without makeup, and we really weren't impressed. So, as a result, it gravely concerns us that women would consider plastic surgery as a way to become more beautiful. There are plenty of ways that are both cheaper and less risky to approach the issue.

In short, ladies, you're hot and we love you. Q.E.D.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:22 PM | TrackBack