November 29, 2010

Drip, Drip, Drip ...

WELL. NOW THAT our brilliant Government has been horribly embarrassed thanks to WikiLeaks' disclosure of myriad correspondence from our diplomats abroad, one wonders what to make of it all.

One would certainly hope this will prompt the Government, which once seemed very good about keeping secrets, to take pains in creating new security measures that would at least prove moderately difficult to breach. It is worth noting the likely source for these cables is an Army ex-Specialist, who despite being barely old enough to drink, apparently had access to our classified data networks. That such junior personnel had such access is absolutely amazing, and that allowance can only be described as incompetence in the extreme. Even small private companies take pains to conceal their important data, and even a medium-sized firm does better at it.

Keeping secret information secret, of course, is the key -- once it is out, one might as well try stopping a volcano from erupting. We now find ourselves in the ridiculous position of having our political leaders scrounge around for ways to punish those connected with the leaks. Witness U.S. Rep. Peter King asking the Attorney General to declare WikiLeaks a terror group -- one can hear the laughter already in Brussels over that one.

About the only saving grace here is that the ex-Specialist in question remains under the Army's thumb, and will almost certainly be court-martialed. Yet even that outcome would be sub-optimal, for if found guilty, the maximum penalty he could face would be 52 years in prison. One would think being guilty of such offenses, which have undoubtedly compromised our nation's intelligence operations, would merit being shot at dawn.

Still, the cables' release may not prove entirely a bad thing in the long run -- at least if it leads to a re-emergence of realpolitik among our political leadership, which in public has too long appeared soft and weak.

We live in a hard world, and too often circumstance requires that we deal with men who only recognize power when it is applied with all due force. Previous Governments recognized this. After all, it was Colson who said, "When you've got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow."

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September 11, 2008

(I Can't Drive) 75

Rapid motion through space elates one. -- Joyce

THE RANT NOTES WITH disapproval the latest bright idea to come from the establishment, which is that cars ought have speed governors on them. This is because when people drive cars really fast, they sometimes get into accidents. As a result, a prominent doctor -- it would be, wouldn't it? -- has suggested in The New York Times that cars should be prevented from traveling at speeds greater than 75 miles per hour. Ever. Because.

Alarmingly, this idea -- which in a sane and just society would be dismissed out of hand -- has received some acclaim. Ezra Klein, for instance, suggests the idea might be workable if applied to reckless drivers. And Ryan Avent, in responding to a critic who suggests the doctor in question must not drive all that much, writes:

So our blogger recognizes that it is dangerous to drive at very high speeds. And that in fact, some proportion of highway fatalities–less than 30% but likely appreciable–can be attributed to driving at high speed. And yet it was deemed necessary to get in a dig at those crazy eastern elites, who don’t understand the charming, speedy ways of real America? Who will stand up for the right of rural and suburban teenagers to wrap their cars around trees? Who will defend the VERY IMPORTANT commuter riding the tailgates of people driving ten miles over the speed limit, because don’t you know that car can go faster.

Well, Mr Avent, allow me to explain how Flyover Country works.

You see, I'm originally from Michigan -- you may have seen pictures -- and in Michigan, one must often drive long distances to get where one needs to go. Sadly, in Michigan, the population density is insufficient to warrant an excellent public transport system such as exists in Washington, D.C., which according to your blog is where you currently reside. Indeed, I can assure you that in Michigan, there are instances when driving at Very High Speeds is not only perfectly appropriate but an accepted part of the social fabric. Driving at a mere 75 miles per hour on the freeway does not cut it in the Great Lakes State.*

I realize the idea of driving at a speed greater than 75 miles per hour may seem alarming and dangerous -- especially when one considers that in New York and Washington, it is difficult to get anywhere close to 75 miles per hour in heavy traffic. I know this because I used to live in Washington and have driven through New York too many times for my own liking. However, there are places in this country where driving at speeds of 80 miles per hour, 90 miles per hour, or even higher is perfectly reasonable. I know this because I have driven there.

Now, there are times when such speeds are clearly inappropriate -- for instance, during inclement weather. When one is driving through the Cajon Pass in heavy fog, and one must navigate the road through following the tail lights of the car in front of one's vehicle, one must drive at 30 or 40 miles per hour. When one is driving through white-out conditions in northern Indiana, or through a downpour in Cleveland, prudence may even require one pull off the road. But when weather conditions are fine, and it is daylight out, and there is little traffic, and there is great music on the radio, there is no reason not to drive as fast as one wants provided one is capable of handling it.

For instance, on US-23 between Toledo, Ohio, and Ann Arbor, Mich., a straight stretch of freeway, I can assure Mr Avent that I have driven 85 miles per hour with no ill effects. In fact, this may have been too slow for conditions, as I have frequently been passed on the right while doing so. When traveling I-15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, I have driven 85 miles per hour and hummed along with the rest of traffic on that glorious desert road. When traveling on certain desert freeways in California, I have found that no speed is inherently unreasonable, although in my age I have held the needle about 80 miles per hour.

Of course, a key element of this is being able to handle driving at high speeds, something which not everyone is capable of doing -- or wants to do. These people should, then, drive at lower speeds, in the lanes set aside for driving at lower speeds. In fact, in my old age, I have found myself traveling much closer to the speed limit on the freeway, in an attempt to save money and take it easier while driving. Driving fast is more expensive, due to greater gasoline consumption, and it also requires more mental energy. One must keep acute concentration on the road and traffic, as opposed to simply keeping an eye on things. These days, I have found the joy in driving slower. (Memo to Mom and Dad: I haven't driven faster than 80 in a long time, so stop worrying).

Furthermore, I readily admit that traveling at extremely high speeds -- say, over 100 mph -- is inherently dangerous. Although my preferred cruising speed is about 80 miles per hour, and there are times when I would like to push it about 90, there are almost no circumstances when I would drive 90 miles per hour these days. Under absolutely no circumstances would I travel faster than 95 miles per hour. When one gets close to (or into) triple digits, you deal not only with greatly reduced reaction times to road obstacles and other concerns, but also physical limitations -- namely, the limitations of most passenger car tires, which generally can't take much more than 100 miles per hour. It is a poor decision to risk a blowout when driving like Mad Max.

However, there's no reason why one must drive achingly slow either -- unless, of course, one wants to. As it happens, there are some insurers who are testing out this concept, and giving their slower-driving members discounts for doing so. That's a much better solution than forcing the vast majority of the populace to slow down via speed governors.

* For those readers who do not believe me when I speak of driving in Michigan, I would invite them to travel along I-94 between Kalamazoo and Detroit, especially during rush hour. Try traveling 75 mph. Really. Go ahead. When you get sick of the semi trucks and sport-utility vehicles determined to test how well your rear bumper reacts to high-speed collisions, pull off at the nearest exit, find a quality family restaurant, and relax with a refreshing Vernors ginger soda. It's deliciously different! Also, the bite of the stuff might put you in a scratchy mood, mentally preparing you for getting back on the freeway.

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September 10, 2008

Classless, Yes. Dirty, Yes. But Still --

SO PARTISANS OF the University of Miami are upset with the University of Florida, due to how the football game between the two schools ended last week. It seems that Florida, which has overtaken the ne'er-do-wells of Miami over the past few years, crushed the Hurricanes something fierce. The score was 23-3 heading into the final minute. Then, Florida head coach Urban Meyer sent in his field-goal unit to kick a chip shot field goal with 40-something seconds to go.

This kick in the teeth, delivered when Miami was on the ground pleading for mercy, has prompted outrage and derision from Hurricanes fans. Retired professional football player Warren Sapp, the one-time Miami star, declared that Mr Meyer was a "classless dirtbag" for having the field goal kicked, while Miami coach Randy Shannon obliquely lit into Florida's program. That prompted a response from Florida quarterback Tim Tebow defending his coach.

Well, I for one am not going to disagree with Mr Sapp's sentiments. Kicking that field goal was classless and gauche. On the other hand, Mr Meyer had the field goal kicked against Miami. It's a tough equation to balance, it really is.

I mean, let's face it. If there's one football program that deserves getting trampled on and then having a field goal added to the score, solely for the purpose of adding to the team's misery and kicking them when they're down, it's USC. I mean, Miami. So can we really criticize Mr Meyer all that much? I don't think so. Sure, he shouldn't have done it, but in the grand scheme of things, it's not like he had the field goal kicked against Notre Dame or Elon or Murray State or Minnesota. It was Miami. So I think, when one looks at it all under the Rule of General Principle, Mr Meyer can be given a pass.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 30, 2008

Touch and Go

LAST NIGHT, I GOT A CALL from Mr Kepple back in Ohio. It was a short call, but one with an important message: the game between Appalachian State and LSU had been pushed back to 11 a.m., due to the approach of Hurricane Gustav. Stupid hurricane, I thought to myself. It did, however, mean that football started an hour early on a day when I had Saturday off, so there was that.

Unfortunately, the game had been switched to ESPN Classic. This posed a problem. My cable provider, in a fit of Comcastic pique, decided some months ago it would switch ESPN Classic one "tier" up from my present channel lineup. However, it apparently forgot to mention this to everyone, leaving me somewhat annoyed. While ESPN Classic is not a channel I would normally want, it is starting to show more live events, and as a result it has turned from a novelty into a quasi-necessity.

As a result, after I went out and got breakfast this morning, I came back and steeled myself for the call to my cable provider, which went Comcastic. Well, actually, it went fine. The young man on the other end of the line was polite and friendly, and flipped on ESPN Classic for me. True, it did cost me $10.95 per month extra, but the annoyance associated with this faded once I realized I got Bloomberg, BBC America, and ESPNews. Oh, and I got a bunch of channels just for women.


I'm not saying, I'm just saying. Besides, I have the NFL Network.

Unfortunately, as it happened, there would not be a repeat of Aintgonnawin State's shock victory over Michigan. After 45 minutes, it was LSU 17 and ASU nil. Ugh. That didn't work, I thought. So I switched over to the Big Ten Network -- sweet -- and watched plucky Youngstown State take on the (evil) Ohio State Buckeyes. Then that game went badly. I switched that off when that hit 17-0.

I had hoped the Big Ten Network would have shown the Coastal Carolina - Penn State game, because my first cousin once removed, Brian P. Kepple, was an offensive guard for Coastal Carolina a few years ago. Then again, the game didn't really go all that well -- Penn State was ahead 45-7, last time I checked -- so I was again adrift. The other big games were also blowouts.

Except for East Carolina v. Virginia Tech. I detest Virginia Tech, so the fact East Carolina is giving them hell is wonderful. If you're reading this as of now -- it's 2:10 p.m. -- we're close to the end of the third quarter, and East Carolina is only down a field goal. Oops. Big pass play. They're about to be down two scores. But it's good to have at least one good early game to kick off college football season.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 02:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 09, 2008

Helpful Romantic Do's and Don'ts

IN THE FOLLOWING VIDEO, Loyal Rant Readers will notice two dramatically different situations played out on screen. The first instance is the classic "wrong" video, in which foolish and decadent lifestyle choices are re-enacted so viewers can witness the horrors wrought as a result. The second instance is the classic "right" video, in which proper etiquette and manners are displayed:

My apologies to those readers who were sickened at the first video. It is truly disturbing to see such an unthinkable lifestyle choice played out on screen, but it is necessary to show so that future students and graduates of the schools may be instructed accordingly. I realize some readers may not have picked up on all the troubling aspects of the first video, but let's review them so we're all clear.

One. The Michigan girl is kissing the Ohio State guy -- even though he clearly has venereal disease.
Two. The Michigan girl and the Ohio State guy are starting their make-out session in a room that was last decorated during the first Nixon Administration. We can thus deduce they are making out either a) in the lout's sketchy apartment or b) the basement of his parents' home. In both cases, they suggest the Michigan girl is dating below her station, as further evidenced by her earrings, which may be diamond -- unless the Ohio State guy gave her the earrings, in which case they are cubic zirconia.
Three. The Michigan girl is kissing the Ohio State guy despite the fact he has not bathed in three days and has worn that same sweatshirt to class for the past four weeks.
Four. The Michigan girl has her leg crossed over the Ohio State guy's leg, yet she does not use the opportunity to deliver a well-aimed, debilitating shot to the guy's meat and two veg.
Five. The Michigan girl appears dazed and confused, while the Ohio State guy is clearly planning to make his move. It may be they met at a bar, and he spiked her drink with a chemical agent.
Six. Should the relationship continue, it has the potential to end badly for the Michigan girl, particularly if she is in Columbus when the Wolverines defeat the Buckeyes, which will result in rioting and general disorder throughout Ohio's capital. She thus could find her quest for "true love" and a "soulmate" ends when unruly Ohio State students tip over her car.

Now let's review the second video, in which responsible adults both do the right things, which are as follows:

One. The Ohio State alumnus, despite being an awkward and nebbish sort, and a man who clearly is dating out of his league, jumps out of a moving automobile to flee the hot Michigan alumna. This brave and meritorious action must be commended, as any true Michigan man would do the same if he found himself on a blind date with a hot Ohio State alumna.
Two. The hot Michigan alumna does her duty under the law by stopping to see if the Ohio State wretch was hurt after his desperate leap, but consequently flees in disgust upon realizing the fool was unhurt. This was clearly the proper and correct course of action.
Three. The Michigan alumna is kind and considerate to the schmoe she has picked up on a blind date, even though the yutz is clearly a sad failure. Not only did he not pick her up in his car, he is dressed like a complete schlub while she is wearing classy and appropriate attire for dinner.
Four. Upon observation and belief, the Michigan alumna is driving an American-made sport utility vehicle.

As we can see, both the Ohio State alumnus and Michigan alumna acted appropriately given the situation. This goes especially because both parties knew that if they continued seeing each other, got into a relationship, consummated it, and then later got married, their children would be forced to make difficult and painful choices down the line. Or, even worse, end up attending Wisconsin or Purdue.

God, I can't wait for college football season.

Speaking of college football, Every Day Should Be Saturday has a helpful point chart determining the college football team with the most legal troubles. As The Rant has been accused of anti-Southern bias in the past, I would note that Penn State is tied for fifth on the list, while the Illinois Fighting Zooks are tied for tenth place. That said, The Rant is not at all surprised Alabama -- home of evil Coach Saban -- is far and away in first place. The SEC also has four teams on the list*, no small consideration when one considers the site's writer is an SEC partisan.

* surprisingly, this includes Georgia, which I actually somewhat like.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 11, 2008

Basketball is Not a Sport, Plus It's Crooked

LOYAL RANT READERS may recall the -- ah, enthusiastic -- response I received when I declared that basketball was not a real sport. Well, news today reveals that not only is basketball not a real sport, it's crooked too. At least that's the reasonable conclusion I drew from the explosive allegations just released in the Tim Donaghy matter.

First, some background. Mr Donaghy was a referee for the National Basketball Association until it emerged Mr Donaghy was a scoundrel and a cad. Mr Donaghy had not only bet on the games he was refereeing, but had passed on inside information to bookmakers, and these activities caused a great hue and cry when they were discovered. However, when Mr Donaghy pleaded guilty to related charges back in August, the scandal eventually died down. The public largely accepted that Mr Donaghy had been a rogue agent.

Unfortunately, the NBA -- committing one of the classic blunders -- did not see fit to let sleeping dogs lie. The league claimed, in a letter to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, that Donaghy owed it $1 million in restitution over the whole affair. As Mr Donaghy is due to be sentenced next month on the matter, and potentially faces a rather long spell in the yank, this did not go over well. So, Mr Donaghy's counsel, John F. Lauro of John F. Lauro PA, did some beautiful lawyering.

Not only did Counselor Lauro smack down the NBA something fierce related to the restitution demand, he also innocently included details of all the secrets Mr Donaghy revealed to the prosecutors, in a letter to the court showing how cooperative Mr Donaghy had been with the Government. This tactic was so beautifully executed -- and in the middle of the NBA Finals, no less! -- that The Rant believes Counselor Lauro can now, under the General Principle Rule, shout in court at the NBA's lawyers, "You wanna know what happened? We just whooped your ass!"

The allegations are particularly serious too. They include charges that referees favored a team to cause a playoff series to reach seven games; that referees were told to avoid calling fouls on certain players; and that referees, despite policy, were socializing with coaches, accepting free meals, and so on. So much for your Lakers-Celtics rivalry -- now, people are asking whether you can trust the NBA.

I am not a basketball fan, so I don't know the answer to that one. Although I do think basketball -- due to its fast pace, innumerable rule violations and petty emphasis on fouls -- is uniquely open to these types of issues. With football and baseball, the pace of the game is slower and the fouls are concrete: one either held a player or did not; the player is safe or he is out. Plus, with instant replay and video closeups, everyone can see whether a call was made correctly or not. But with basketball, where fouls routinely are called for no discernable reason, or completely ignored if convenient, that "cut and dried" aspect of the game doesn't seem to exist.

I don't know how one would go about fixing this, but something needs to be done -- if only to assure the fans they're watching an honest game.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 01:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 19, 2008

You've Gotta Fight For Your Right to Party

THERE'S SOME INTERESTING NEWS out of Colorado today. Apparently, the oldest son of Governor and Mrs Bill Ritter, August Ritter III, held a rather enjoyable party at the Governor's Mansion a few weeks ago in occasion of the boy's 22nd birthday. Unfortunately for the Governor, someone among the partygoers was a bit indiscreet and stupidly posted pictures of the bash on-line, which show that part of the party took place on the mansion's historic first floor, where art and antiquities are located. Oh dear. The Governor's son -- although properly attired given his surroundings -- is shown dispensing beer to a friend from the mouth of a beer keg and marching around with the Colorado flag which flies outside the mansion.

I must say I feel rather bad for Gov Ritter -- although only to a point. Since the party was apparently held with the approval of Gov and Mrs Ritter, it suggests the family is a bit cavalier about the lodgings which the people of Colorado have provided them. This is quite poor form and the people of Colorado should expect better from their chief executive. However, this does not mean I do not feel for the man: he has found himself brought into disrepute because of the actions of his son, and that must be highly embarrassing.

The Denver Post, which reported on the story, reports that the Governor has "talked" with his son about the matter. I know if I was in Gov Ritter's position, the word "talked" would have been replaced with the phrase "exploded with incandescent rage." It is one thing if one's son screws up -- all sons disappoint their families, and do so with alarming frequency -- but another thing entirely when those mistakes have a direct impact on the family's position. I know when I was growing up, the worst punishments I ever received were a direct result of embarrassing my parents, and I can bet the Governor's son found himself in the hot seat over this one. I mean, how stupid could the kid be not to tell his friends, "For the love of God, don't take any pictures, and don't post them on the Internet."

However, the Governor may have tempered his anger if he saw how people were reacting to the news before he spoke with his boy. Apparently, the people of Colorado don't think much of the story, and a full 42 pc see no problems with having kickass parties at the Governor's mansion -- they see this as proof the Ritters are regular folks.

For the record, I happen to like kickass parties, even debauched ones, but do think they should be held in places that can reasonably handle a bit of wear and tear. History has shown us That It's Really a Bad Idea to hold raucous parties in places where priceless items can get damaged as a result of the partygoers' inability to conduct themselves properly.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:39 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Senior General Than Shwe Will Be Reincarnated As a Dung Beetle

IN THE UNITED STATES, Burma has long been a forgotten country. Unlike so many other countries in East Asia, our nations have not become interconnected through the ravages of war, the benefits of trade, or the movement of people seeking a better life. There are few Burmese in America -- only 16,000 or so as of the 2000 census, making their numbers a drop in the bucket even compared to Asian-Americans as a whole. As a result, even relatively learned people know little about Burma compared to their knowledge of -- well, pretty much everywhere else in Asia. (Nor did I see the latest Rambo movie.)

I must admit I fell into this camp. Although aware of the basics -- paranoid generals, military dictatorship, no freedom for its impoverished people -- I had no idea just how screwed up the country was until Cyclone Nargis hit it. The cyclone's destruction, you see, prompted me to do some reading up about the history and governance of the place. After reading that, along with increasingly desperate news accounts of the Burmese people's suffering, I feel confident in saying that Burma's present leader, Senior General Than Shwe, will be reincarnated as a dung beetle for the next 78 of his future lives, whilst in between suffering the torments of the damned in a very hot Naraka -- the Buddhist version of Hell.

Snr Gen Than Shwe will also undoubtedly have company, as his predecessors in the job were even worse than he is: particularly General Ne Win, who in 1962 started the process of running his country into the ground. The brutality with which Gen Ne Win ran things was not simply political in nature -- it was also economic, and the suffering those policies brought to the Burmese shouldn't be ignored. When you not only stifle people's hopes for political freedom, but also impoverish them through malicious economic controls -- such as demonetizing banknotes without any prior warning, thus making the little money your people have worthless -- you deserve nothing less than the worst punishment Hell can mete out.

It almost defies belief that any ruler -- even the head of a military dictatorship -- could be so monstrously cruel as to do nothing to help his suffering subjects, but Snr Gen Than Shwe's actions clearly are worse than that. Not only is the Burmese junta stopping aid from getting into the country, they're stealing the aid they have let in, and handing out rotten rice and spoiled food to cyclone victims while keeping the best stuff for themselves. That is so unbelievably wrong it makes me sputter with rage. I mean, they're making North Korea -- which is no slouch at wrecking the lives of its people -- look humane and competent. (China, in comparison, is smelling like roses for its excellent response to the devastating earthquake in Sichuan).

I do realize this situation is fraught with politics, and as a matter of course it is impolite at best for nations to act without regard for a country's sovereignty. That said, this is ridiculous.

The Burmese junta has had plenty of time to show it knows what it's doing in terms of rescue efforts. So we -- that is, the United States, and anyone with us -- should give the junta a reasonable deadline, say 24 or 48 hours, to start stepping up its relief efforts. I am sure we can track these via satellite. Then, if we're not happy, we start air-dropping survival packages to the people. After that, we park our ships in Rangoon's harbor and start off-loading aid. This presents the junta with two choices. They can a) accept the fact we're there and deal with it, or b) try to fight us off. Option B should be met with lethal and overwhelming force -- our air power should be more than a match for anything the Burmese military can put forward.

One would hope, of course, that the junta would not actively try to stop our efforts. But their callous indifference to the suffering of their people has cost them the Mandate of Heaven, and it is up to the rest of the world to do something. With hundreds of thousands of lives hanging in the balance, it would be nice if we didn't just sit around and wash our hands of the whole thing.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 14, 2008

It's Almost As If They're Organized

HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM -- billions of evil marauding ants are rampaging around the metropolitan Houston area, infesting homes, destroying computers and other electronics, ravaging plants and even going so far as to bite people. Even worse, the ants -- who apparently landed in the Texas area via cargo ship -- are apparently impervious to our traditional ant-killing methods. The AP reports:

Exterminators say calls from frustrated homeowners and businesses are increasing because the ants—which are starting to emerge by the billions with the onset of the warm, humid season—appear to be resistant to over-the-counter ant killers.

"The population built up so high that typical ant controls simply did no good," said Jason Meyers, an A&M doctoral student who is writing his dissertation on the one-eighth-inch-long ant.

It's not enough just to kill the queen. Experts say each colony has multiple queens that have to be taken out.

At the same time, the ants aren't taking the bait usually left out in traps, according to exterminators, who want the Environmental Protection Agency to loosen restrictions on the use of more powerful pesticides.

And when you do kill these ants, the survivors turn it to their advantage: They pile up the dead, sometimes using them as a bridge to cross safely over surfaces treated with pesticide.

"It looked like someone had come along and poured coffee granules all around the perimeter of the rooms," said Lisa Calhoun, who paid exterminators $1,200 to treat an infestation of her parents' home in the Houston suburb of Pearland.

The Texas Department of Agriculture is working with A&M researchers and the EPA on how to stop the ants.

"This one seems to be like lava flowing and filling an entire area, getting bigger and bigger," said Ron Harrison, director of training for the big pest-control company Orkin Inc.

OK, let's review. Our enemy has established colonies -- let's call them by their proper name, terror cells -- with multiple autonomous leaders. Our enemy uses irregular and novel tactics to defeat our counter-measures, going so far as to mercilessly use its own dead as a survival mechanism. Our enemy attacks in mass waves without regard for human life, common decency or private property.

Clearly, the solution to this involves flamethrowers.

True, flamethrowers won't work indoors, where we'll need to use brutal poisoning agents to destroy the ant menace, but flamethrowers should work wonders against their secret outdoor bases, where they store their supplies and plan their supplies. In the event conditions don't allow for the use of flamethrowers, there are plenty of other things we could do, like use caustic acids, industrial solvents, grenades and our neighbors' garden hoses to kill the wretched vermin in their own nests. If things got really serious, we could even import thousands of anteaters from South America and let them destroy the pestilential scourge.

However we fight the ants, one thing is clear: we must stop them before they threaten to spread beyond the greater Houston area. We must not waver. We must not tire. We must not falter -- and we must not fail.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 06, 2008

"Like a Dog!"

APPARENTLY IN CONNECTION with the impending execution of a Georgia man who murdered his girlfriend in 1987, ABC News published a story on the last words of prisoners before they are dispatched to face the ultimate Judge.

The story found the last words of the condemned varied widely in tone. Some expressed anger and hatred, others asked for forgiveness, still others expressed sentiments that can only be described as odd. Then there were those few who, according to the news agency, had the audacity to maintain they didn't actually commit the crime for which they were being executed:

Some, in their last moments, defy reason or compassion.

Granville Riddle, for example, was the 295th person put to death in Texas and until his very last breath argued his good character.

"I would like to say to the world, I have always been a nice person," said Riddle, who was 19 when he was convicted of murdering an Amarillo, Texas, resident with a tire tool during a break-in. "I have never been mean-hearted or cruel."

And a few, either from a perverse taunting of society or a plea for a posthumous exoneration, insist on their innocence.

"There have been those who have said that they're innocent, but in the last 40 (executions) or so that's generally been a small percentage," said (Virginia Dept. of Corrections spokesman Larry) Traylor. "The larger percentage say nothing or ask God for forgiveness."

Stories like this, which delve into the psyche of the most desperate and wretched, are admittedly interesting but in a rather disturbing way. After all, these are hardened criminals; people who committed crimes so horrific they were ordered to face the ultimate penalty as a result. In that regard, taking interest in what they believe seems unseemly at best and callous at worst. What, after all, of their victims, who did not have the luxury of giving a final statement or receiving a final meal?

However, if there is any benefit to this story and those like it, it is that they reaffirm the humanity of those being executed. That's something I think is incredibly important for everyone involved -- the prisoner, the family and friends of the prisoner's victim, and society as a whole.

For the prisoner, of course, it is his last chance to not only make what little amends he can, but also to save himself as he stands at the precipice between hellfire and salvation. At this last hour, when all is lost, the consequences and gravity of this final spiritual act must not be written off as a meaningless gesture. For if Christ on the Cross could grant Dismas salvation, could not He do the same for the prisoner truly seeking absolution for his sins? Along those lines, would not the guilty who react to their impending doom with unrepentant and seething hatred -- or alternatively, the preening arrogance of Capaneus -- accordingly seal their fate in the final moments of their existence?

I recognize there are those who would consider my argument poor form: why should one give a damn about the prisoners, when they have done so much wrong and caused so much pain? It is a fair point, and I do not suggest that one ought feel sorry or charitable to the men in this position. They have done what they have done, and now they must answer for it. But even as one prepares the final accounting, one must not lose sight of the prisoners' humanity, no matter how twisted and evil they may have become.

For if we lose sight of that, then we consequently diminish the wickedness of their acts. Occasionally, we read stories about animals who attack people for whatever reason -- a circus lion who attacks its handler, or a dog that mauls some innocent in the wrong place at the wrong time. Although these incidents often result in tragedy, we do not blame the animals for what they have done. That's for good reason. Animals do not have the intellect nor the moral compass to realize the implications of their actions. They have instincts, but they do not have souls.

But men, even the most wicked and evil among us, do have souls. If their last words and last deeds provide some window into their psyches before they are extinguished, I can only think that will bring some closure to the family and friends of their victims. If a prisoner is repentant, perhaps his victim's loved ones will be able to credit that towards a final settling of the account between them and the wretch, and perhaps it will help them cope with the immense losses they have suffered. If the prisoner is not, perhaps his immediate demise will help them begin to heal.

As for the rest of us, well, perhaps we will look at these situations with the gravity they deserve -- for the prisoner and for the victim and their loved ones. They are matters I think get dealt with rather cavalierly in this day and age: the crime and punishment becomes almost ancillary to what people really want to talk about, which is moral panic. One can see this in any on-line discussion about crime and punishment, where outrage about the crime in question quickly devolves into a griping session about myriad societal problems, ranging from parental ineptitude to immigration policy and the workings of the judiciary. I do think it would behoove us to stick to the matter at hand when discussing these things, for it is unseemly for matters of grave import to devolve into debating competitions, as if one was arguing about whether to approve a municipal bond issue.

This is, as it happens, one reason why I am not particularly a fan of lethal injection as a means of execution: the manner of execution diminishes the import of the act. Readers who read Kafka in their college days may recall the outrage which Joseph K expressed as he was himself dispatched -- his fury at being put down "like a dog!" Of course, we euthanize house pets through lethal injection. To do the same thing to a human being is degrading: not only to the prisoner himself, but just as important, the acts the prisoner committed to warrant facing the ultimate penalty. It would be far better if we returned to using means of execution that not only treated prisoners like human beings, but also their victims.

There are, of course, many ways to die; some worse than others -- some much worse than others. I do not think we need return to the era of the electric chair and gas chamber. But I can't see why a firing squad or hanging is somehow cruel or unusual, for they are acts in which men face justice at the hands of other men, and with them comes a reckoning as clear as the new day's dawn.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 26, 2008

Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

OK, COUNT ME AS A LITTLE ANNOYED. If this story (and this story) in The Times of London are actually true, then America's precious nuclear secrets have been sold to Turkey -- Turkey, for God's sake -- for a mere pittance by corrupt officials. Yet our Government does nothing -- and in fact denies everything.

As a taxpaying American, this aggravates me to no end. Now look. I have no idea if this actually happened. But if it did, let me just say: I am not paying thousands of dollars each year to create, store and protect these secrets just so some lame-o bureaucrats can get money from their foreign paymasters. Thus, it would be nice if our Government would, you know, stop this and punish those responsible. Either that, or it could drop all the pretenses of having secrets in the first place.

That actually not might be a bad idea, now that I think of it. Instead of having secrets, we could invite our friends and allies -- oh, and France and China too -- to a giant auction each year. There, we would auction off our latest and greatest research to a select pool of approved buyers.

Just think of the billions of dollars we could reap from this, particularly if we got rich countries to bid against each other. Then, we could plow some of the proceeds back into research, thus coming up with even deadlier and more dangerous devices, and auction the new secrets created as a result. A few of these auctions, and we'd have all our Treasuries back from the Chinese before you could say Jack Robinson. Plus, we'd have plenty of work available for all our hard-working nuclear scientists, because they'd have to come up with counter-devices to guard against the secrets we'd sold. We could pay down our debts AND have a new cottage industry right here in America!

If we wanted to have some fun with the whole thing, we could sometimes auction off "secrets" that weren't really secrets, but were carefully designed misinformation. That would cause the buyers to waste years of effort and money on projects that had absolutely no chance of coming to fruition. If I recall rightly, we actually did that back during the Cold War, and it might not be a bad idea today. I would love to think that's what actually went on here, except that would mean our Government is brilliant and Machiavellian.

Anyway, I'm not saying, I'm just saying. It is, of course, a good idea for the Government to keep secrets when the secrets involve fissionable material. However, it doesn't do anyone -- much less hardworking, taxpaying citizens like me -- if the secrets are going out the door as fast as they come in. If this happened, maybe it might be a good idea for the Government to publicly do something about it.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 01, 2008

I Have Been Called Out As a "Serious Misogynist"

READERS MAY WONDER – as I first did – just what exactly I said to justify someone calling me a “serious misogynist.” Last time I checked, I hadn’t called for the repeal of the Nineteenth Amendment, hadn’t called for ending the WIC Nutrition Program, and hadn’t called for women to be restricted in terms of their employment. So as you can imagine, I was a bit confused at why I was suddenly being derided as someone who hates women.

However, I soon discovered the reason. Apparently, my July 31 post in defense of “ladies night” promotions was so shocking and beyond the pale that it puts me in the same league as men who beat their wives, who want women’s jobs restricted to teaching and nursing, and who consider the idea of women voting anathema. At least that’s the conclusion one blogger drew upon reading my defense of the institution, viz:

One writer – who is a serious misogynist in “gentleman’s” clothing – says that men are not men if they can’t saddle up to a bar ready to pay. He goes on to say any man who presses such charges should lose their “status” as a man, and should no longer have the privilege of sleeping with any women. Wow. One can’t be a man if they feel that one way to stop perpetuating sexism is through the abolishment of such women-luring tactics?

What would be interesting, perhaps, is to do undercover work on what the bar considers a man to be – does it matter if they are straight or gay? What do these bars consider a lady? Are they only those who will catch the male gaze, maybe donning a skirt and cleavage-revealing top? Are they only feminine females? Are they heterosexual females? What happens if a masculine-identified lesbian woman walks up to the bar…does she get treated the same?

Important questions.

Just for the record, I would like to say how much I enjoy being in arguments that I really can’t win. You see, if I defend myself too fiercely, I’ll be condemned as a misogynist because my response would be seen as an overly harsh attack. Yet if I’m overly polite in my response – following the old dites vous quand vous parlez une dame principle – I’ll be condemned for supposedly not taking the argument seriously enough and thus belittling my opponent. But as I do consider my position right and just – and I am somewhat annoyed at being unfairly maligned as a misogynist – I have no choice but to respond.

First things first: I really don’t understand how I became the bad guy here.

I mean, my God. The guy who filed the lawsuit in New York, and thus sparked this whole debate, clearly has issues with women -- and Issues with a capital I. That’s made perfectly clear in my opponent’s post, in which she notes his anti-female ranting. But somehow I end up being the “serious misoygnist.” How’d that happen? Is it because I’m wearing a necktie in all the pictures on my blog’s front page, and thus representative of the male privilege-supporting Establishment?

Anyway, I daresay this argument reminds me of Kissinger’s old dictum that in academia, the infighting is so fierce because the stakes are so small. We are, after all, discussing “ladies night” promotions. We are not talking about the matters of equal pay for equal work, career advancement or leave policies – things some might consider marginally more important in terms of the battle against sexism in American life. We’re talking about whether men should complain about women getting into bars for a slightly cheaper price when the practice is clearly to the benefit of men. The answer is clearly No – as I explained here.

Now, our complaintant says I argue “men are not men if they can’t saddle up to a bar ready to pay.” Let’s be clear in that this not a question of can’t, but rather a question of won’t. To me, not offering to buy a girl a drink is gauche and unclassy. It is one thing if the recipient of the man’s largesse decides to pay for her own drink, but another entirely if the man does not first make the offer. As counterintuitive as it might seem, though, sexism doesn’t enter into this situation. To suggest that it does is confusing the real issue – which is the standards and behavior expected of men in this day and age.

Indeed, to paint the issue as solely a matter of sexism obfuscates a fundamental truth behind the matter: that men and women are different. Men are not simply women with different plumbing and vice versa. Arguing otherwise ignores the clear reality that men and women approach many things differently in life, ranging from conflict resolution to how much time should be spent getting ready to go out. That’s how things are. Now, those differences shouldn’t be used to disqualify a man from being a nurse or a woman from being a fighter pilot; that, as one can see, is sexism at its very core. But those differences do mean there are some basic standards for men and women that go along with their draw from the gene pool.

As it happens, we men have our own set of standards for each other that we’ve developed over the years, and it is in those that my argument is founded. That’s what this is about when one gets down to brass tacks. It’s not about whether men and women are being treated differently; indeed, at the core of this, women don’t enter into the equation at all. It’s about the fact men really shouldn’t complain about penny-ante “injustices” where they suffer no harm, should be willing to at least pay lip service to the provider ethic – which is hugely important to any man, whether or not he’ll admit it – and should deal with their problems coolly and rationally. In this case, that involves going to another bar, not making a federal case out of the deal.

Thus, our writer errs when she accuses me of suggesting, in her words, that “one can’t be a man if they feel that one way to stop perpetuating sexism is through the abolishment of such women-luring tactics.” This isn’t about stopping the perpetuation of sexism; this is about soft and weak men with chips on their shoulders. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the men who oppose "ladies' nights" probably aren't all that keen on other practices that help women, such as initiatives to boost female participation in the sciences.

As an aside, I don’t follow our writer’s complaint about “women-luring tactics.” Either the practice hurts men or it hurts women; it can’t be both when one has put forward a zero-sum argument.

As for the second half of our writer’s critique, I have not heard of any complaints where homosexuals are treated differently than their straight counterparts during these promotions, so that’s kind of a red herring. I would also suggest that any establishment that did so would find itself in a world of pain rather quickly, considering our society’s public intolerance for intolerance when it comes to those types of things.

One final point before I close. It seems to me that women who are frustrated with the supposed unfairness of “ladies night” promotions can help rectify the situation on the ground when they’re out partying. All they have to do is buy a man a drink, which should repair the supposed economic injury the man sustained while paying the higher cover charge. Then, if he offers to buy the next round, you’ll have at least one indication he might be a keeper.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 28, 2007

An Open Letter to the Toyota Motor Corp.

TO: The Toyota Motor Corp.

FR: Benjamin Kepple

RE: These annoying pop-up ads of yours



Recently, while browsing various sites on the Internet, I have found a most annoying advertisement from your company has disturbed my reading experience. This advertisement consists of some T-shirt wearing hipster telling me to click the advertisement in question so that all my dreams may come true -- provided my dreams in question involve Toyota automobiles. However, I can assure you after being forced to view this advertisement repeatedly, my dreams do not involve Toyota automobiles -- unless I can use one to repeatedly back over the whiny, metrosexual fuckwit actor who continually pops up and harangues me about the supposed coolness of Toyota automobiles.

Which reminds me: Toyotas are most certainly not cool automobiles. Well made, yes; get the job done, yes; cool, no. I'm sorry, but when you get down to brass tacks, a Toyota Camry sedan does not throw off an aura of: "behold my coolness despite being part of the bridge-and-tunnel crowd." No. A Toyota Camry sedan offers to others an image of: "behold my middle-aged suburbanite lifestyle and my newly-acquired tendency to obsess over the quality of local school systems. Watch as I change lanes without using my turn signal, for I am in a rush to get to Whole Foods." While I do not have any problems with this -- I myself drive a Ford Taurus, with the affectionate nickname of the Family Truckster IV -- you don't see me going around proclaiming my supposed automotive coolness, now do you? So neither should you.

Don't get me started about your hybrids, either. I'm from Michigan. I don't care. All I want in my car is a reasonably powered V6 engine. You may have convinced others that spending more money on a hybrid, in an uneconomical transaction that costs more than the potential savings in gasoline expenditures, may be "cool" and "with it" and "a way to show you care," but your Jedi mind tricks won't work on me. If I really want to save money on gas, I'll buy a subcompact or -- wait for it -- even drive less. Gee, there's an idea.

I don't know, maybe I'm a bit frustrated because these ads seem to a) crash Firefox; b) never close, despite me clicking the close button; c) launch with sound when I really don't want sound playing; and d) show up far too often for them to be anything but annoying. In any event, I would ask you, the Toyota Motor Corp., to stop running these advertisements. Also, please fire your ad agency, browbeat your marketing personnel, and use the savings generated from these activities to find a new announcer for your Lexus commercials, because he's getting about as annoying as metrosexual freakout guy. That would really make my dreams come true. I mean, I'm sorry, but if I hear that scoundrel drone on -- in that faux upper-class accent -- about the December to Remember event one more time, I'm going to vomit.

Thank you for your time and attention in this matter. Oh, you wouldn't hurt matters either if you put a plant in Michigan, which has a large corps of automobile-industry personnel eager and ready to do something other than watch daytime television.

-- BJK

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 26, 2007

Gott im Himmel -- ein Kommunistischer Schurke!

THOSE WACKY GERMAN COMMUNISTS are at it again! This time around, as we understand it, a hue and cry has arisen after one Sahra Wagenknecht, a German communist -- you'd think they'd have learned -- was photographed eating a most unproletarian dish: lobster. Or, as they say over there, haaaaaammer, as in, Die haaaaammer est ist wie Butter.

As a dedicated German communist, Miss Wagenknecht does not actually work for a living. Instead, she sits in the European Parliament at Strasbourg (known in Germany as Diesenettestadtdiewireindrangen) and Brussels. Apparently, MEP Wagenknecht was out having dinner with friends when she made the mistake of ordering the €22* lobster dinner.

Realizing her mistake -- that the poor German lumpenproletariat suffering under the HARTZ IV reforms might not appreciate her choice of meal -- MEP Wagenknecht did what any good communist would do in such a situation. Namely, she used a crafty subterfuge to obtain the camera with the photo from a fellow legislator, and thence deleted the offending images.

Unfortunately, this annoyed the other legislator. Missing a particularly good chance to shut up, the other legislator filed a complaint about the matter, and now everyone is twittering about it, especially the insufferable English. Witness The Guardian's report on the matter:

Germany is appalled that its favourite communist has taken to adopting "tactics at which Stalin was a dab hand," as one newspaper commentator said.

Her cover-up methods have been compared to those of the Siemens boss who had his luxury Rolex watch airbrushed out of a promotion picture because he thought it might upset the public and open him to accusations of fat-cat tendencies.

A clearly embarrassed Wagenknecht - who was brought up on the works of Marx and Engels, joined the East German communists in 1989, and allegedly mourned the fall of the Berlin Wall - has admitted both to eating the lobster, and erasing the pictures.

But she defended her actions.

"I don't do anything that I say others shouldn't do," she told the daily (Die Tageszeitung). "On the contrary, I'm fighting for a society in which everyone can afford to eat lobster."

As to why she erased the pictures? "I didn't like them," she said.

Quite frankly, I don't see why Germans should be surprised at this -- this is, on a very small scale, what the Communists did for roughly 45 years running East Germany. One doubts that Erich Honecker wanted for anything during his time running the wretched place. One also doubts that if the German Reds were to somehow gain power, they would eschew having a bonny old time dining on lobster and caviar and petit-fours, whilst the people scrounged around for any mold-free potato they could find.

But since that will likely never happen, we find ourselves settling for what passes for scandal in Germany these days: Kommunistischerverfangeneressenhummerinderphantastischengaststätte.

Sad little place, isn't it?

* €22 = approx. US$450.

** Actually, MEP Wagenknecht is kinda foxy -- in that frosty postmodern German way.

*** MEP Wagenknecht is affiliated with something called the "Confederal Group of the European United Left - Nordic Green Left" in the Europarliament. I don't know about you, but shouldn't Germans kinda shy away from the whole Nordic thing? I'm not saying, I'm just saying.

**** She was a philosophy major in college. Christ. Could this get any more like a caricature?

***** Yes, it can -- to the point where it requires a fifth post-script! Apparently MEP Wagenknecht is a spokeswoman for something called the Venezuela Avanza solidarity association, which essentially supports evil Hugo Chavez's plans to wreck Venezuela. So, I ask: why is MEP Wagenknecht involved in a group working to deprive Venezuelans of sweet, succulent lobster in all its forms? Well? Oh, and isn't openly interfering in another nation's political workings a bit -- I don't know -- Amerikanisch? Eh?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:09 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 27, 2007

Attention K-Mart Shopp -- AAAAAAAAAAAAA!

OH BOY! OUR FIRST GOOD Christmas-season shopping fight! This story comes from the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa, in which angry shoppers got into a fist-fight over a credit card promotion deal. This soon turned into a giant brawl after several men intervened in the initial fight between two women. Among the injured was a poor store employee, who got smacked in the face and went flying through a glass display case. The man suffered a broken nose and the lacerations one would expect from flying through a glass display case.

Now the fun part of the story, as I see it, is that it shows the suburb of Wauwatosa, Wisc., has a lot of stupid people or attracts them like a flame attracts moths. Apparently, the fight started after a rush on credit-card applications, as a computer glitch approved everyone applying for the card -- even if they shouldn't have qualified. This somehow turned into the idea that K-Mart was giving away free money, as WISN-TV reports:

Nearly a dozen Wauwatosa squad cars responded to the call just before 11 a.m. Saturday for what was called a large fight in progress.

"It was a nice brawl. It came from inside to outside. If you go up there, you'll see hair, earrings, all pulled out on the ground," Wilson said.

What started as a fight between two women in the crowded store evolved when several men intervened.

A store employee got punched in the nose and crashed through a glass display case. He was treated for a broken nose and various cuts.

Two suspects, a 22-year-old man and a 16-year-old boy, were arrested, accused of battery.

Meantime, Kmart is still trying to clear up the credit card mess.

Two employees confirmed for police that anyone who applied was being given instant credit -- from $850 up to $4,000. They also told police that people started calling other people to the store for so-called free money. The store ran out of credit applications.

Really, now. What kind of moron equates a credit card offering with free money? While the K-Mart folks were giving away $10 to anyone who applied for the card, it seems clear from the story that the "free money" designation referred to the credit offering. If that's the case, this level of financial illiteracy is shocking. However, I am glad to see that at least one enterprising soul cleverly figured out a way to profit from the situation -- and it wasn't the folks at K-Mart:

One witness told police someone went to another Kmart, got some applications there and was selling them in the Wauwatosa Kmart parking lot for $20 apiece.

Kmart would not comment on how many people got the credit cards who shouldn't have or how much merchandise they were able to buy with them.

Now that's clever -- selling credit applications for $20 each! I hope this smart individual -- who was clearly the most intelligent of the entire bunch at the Wauwatosa K-Mart -- took him- or herself out to a very nice steak dinner afterwards. Let's just hope the credit-card companies don't figure this one out, or we could see yet another fee show up on our bills.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 06:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 18, 2007

Dia Tarde, Bolivar Corto

WE HAVE LEARNED from The Associated Press that Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, has demanded an apology from His Majesty, King Juan Carlos I of Spain, following His Majesty’s very public rebuke of Col Chavez at last week’s Ibero-American summit in Chile.

For those who don’t immediately recall the diplomatic donnybrook, Col Chavez was in the midst of delivering one of his rhetoric-fueled harangues when the rather annoyed king intervened. Col Chavez had declared the former prime minister of Spain, Mr Jose Maria Aznar, a fascist, a move which understandably prompted protest from Spain’s current premier, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. As Col Chavez held his ground and insisted upon the rightness of his position, His Majesty entered into the fray, asking Col Chavez, “Why don’t you shut up?” and emphasizing his point with a finger directed at the colonel.

This was an especially damning comment because of the way His Majesty delivered his rebuke, which the American press missed but other journalists did not. The king’s exact words were, “Por que no te callas?” – “Why don’t you shut up?” However, in doing so, it is worth noting he addressed a fellow head of state with the tuform, which added a whole ‘nother dimension to his remark. Now, I suppose if one is the King of Spain, one can tutear anyone one wishes. Still, it was an added little dig -- and perhaps the best way to thus translate His Majesty’s remark is, “Son, why don’t you shut up?”

For in Spanish – just as in French and many other tongues descended from Latin – there are different ways to say the same thing.* The usted form is formal whilst the tu form is informal. Thus, one would use the formal term when talking with one’s supervisor at work, while using the informal term when talking to the six-year-old child of one’s supervisor at a company picnic. It’s similar to how in English, one calls one’s boss at work “sir” or “Mister” until he is given permission otherwise.

Of course, in the United States, it’s understandable how such a distinction would get lost in translation. Such formalities have long gone by the wayside, to the point where with many people, they get annoyed with being called “sir” or “Mister.” Why this is, I don’t know, although I suspect it has to do with the fact it serves as an unpleasant reminder of the recipient’s own age. I mean, it certainly depresses me when I hear it from someone, even though it automatically earns bunches of style points in my book.

His Majesty’s rebuke of Col Chavez, as Loyal Rant Readers also might expect, earned bunches of style points in my book. Col Chavez’s continued involvement in politics became tiresome long ago. It is one thing if he continues to wreck his own country but another thing entirely if he goes about spouting his backward ideas within earshot of rational leaders elsewhere. This goes especially when one considers Col Chavez called a democratically elected leader of Spain a fascist, which is particularly rich given that up until the Seventies, Spain was sadly rather familiar with that ilk.

This makes Col Chavez’s demand now for an apology from His Majesty a bit much. He has apparently claimed he never heard nor saw the king deliver his rebuke. However, since the incident was captured on camera, and the king made a point of jumping in during Mr Zapatero’s more measured response to the colonel, and the king was all of twenty feet away, this seems difficult to believe. On the other hand, it may be possible the colonel did not hear the king’s remark. After all, Col Chavez did not launch into an hour-long harangue condemning Spain for everything under the sun, which one would have expected from this third-rate disciple of the Maximum Leader. But on the whole I would think that Col Chavez’s demand for an apology is a day late and a dollar short. Or, if you like, 2,147 bolivars short.

* Also, do remember: ditez vous quand vous parlez une dame.

RELATED: Dude! We don't want your crappy sour crude.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 31, 2007

No Mere Mortal Can Resist the Evil of the Search-Engine Queries

Oh No!
It's Time for Yet Another Installment of ...

An occasional Rant feature

LOYAL RANT READERS know I am not much of a Halloween enthusiast, although I certainly enjoyed it as a child. In a world where science and reason have triumphed over the centuries-old stories of things that go bump in the night, I have succumbed and joined up with Bradbury's legions of joyless functionaries. Gone are the ghosts and terrors and the cold winds of a late autumn night; they are obsolete and have been filed away, replaced with account ledgers and news feeds and all the trappings of modern capitalism.

Still, there are things out there which fill me with fear, and worry, and dread. For instance, I don't know about you, but the spectre of a really nasty inflationary spiral causes me to break out into a cold sweat, as does the horrible multi-tentacled wraith of long-term fiscal instability. Oh, and let's not forget the hideous plague of wage and price controls -- just because they died back in the Seventies doesn't mean they won't return someday. Given the holiday, I won't poke fun at those folks who actually believe in vampirism or lycanthropy, nor will I chuckle mirthfully at people who spell magic with a 'k.' I'm just saying, I'm a hell of a lot more scared of gasoline rationing.

Fortunately, all these modern terrors are being held at bay. But one terror is very much front and center -- two entire months' worth of search-engine queries here at The Rant. Their stupidity and wretchedness are enough to make even the most hardened observer despair at the state of the world. For if people are really this stupid, can there be any hope for a better and brighter future, a future in which the virtues of work and thrift are rewarded and the vice of indolence scorned?

What's that, you say? Don't be so negative? Ha! Friends, I have seen these terrors up close -- and I have closed my eyes and hoped it was just imagination. But all the while, I've heard the creature creeping up behind -- and we're out of time. So let's get to it -- 'cause this is Thriller -- Thriller -- Night.


QUERY: headache nausea constipation or diarrhea falling heart rate and blood pressure fatigue drowsiness and insomnia irritability difficulty concentrating anxiety depression increased hunger and caloric intake increased pleasantness of the taste of sweets

ANSWER: Funny, that's exactly how I feel when I watch reality television. Oh, and since the entertainment-industrial complex is going to screw over the television writers in their contract talks, we'll get EVEN MORE reality television when the writers go on strike soon. Swell.

QUERY: madonna s indian phase

ANSWER: Well, that's kind of a natural after the faux-English accent phase, innit?

QUERY: wearing tinted glasses indoors

ANSWER: That, along with a mullet and a fondness for "American-style light pilsners," constitute the Three Key Warning Signs your date may have just gotten out of the hoosegow.

QUERY: where is tommy maddox

ANSWER: As long as he ain't on the Pittsburgh Steelers' roster, I -- don't -- care.

QUERY: what does the exclamation point mean on the dashboard of a mitsubishi endeavor?

ANSWER: Your tires are about to fall off and cause an auto accident so amazing it will go down in the annals of local history. Also, the company's president will be forced to apologize at a press conference and spend the rest of his days looking out of a window at the campus below.

QUERY: tenant landlord harrassment iowa

ANSWER: My God! They have apartments in Iowa!

QUERY: haunted houses texarkana

ANSWER: Look for the rusting 1981 Pontiac Ambassador up on the blocks.

QUERY: beating a calif ticket for not having a front license plate

ANSWER: You can't. The good news is that it will only cost you $10 or so to have a deputy inspect your car and give it an OK once you've replaced the tag. The bad news is that it will take you practically an entire day because California's courts are hopelessly clogged. And no, the policeman who pulled you over does NOT have murders to solve.

QUERY: effects of taco bell on mexican americans

ANSWER: The same as on any American -- which is to say, and I quote, "headache nausea constipation or diarrhea falling heart rate and blood pressure fatigue drowsiness and insomnia irritability difficulty concentrating anxiety depression increased hunger and caloric intake increased pleasantness of the taste of sweets."

QUERY: what happens if you don't pay child support in illlinois

ANSWER: Governor Rod! comes to your house and waves a big sign in front of all your neighbors proclaiming you're a deadbeat and a scoundrel. Now write the check.

QUERY: bad tasting kraft deluxe macaroni and cheese

ANSWER: And you're surprised why? I mean, come on, what do you expect for $1.99? Or $1.59? Or whatever macaroni and "cheese" goes for these days?

QUERY: age of brent musburger

ANSWER: 106.

QUERY: places to see in the southwestern plains of minnesota

ANSWER: Oh, I'm sure there's something, like the world's largest ball of twine. I know that whenever I get a chance to go on vacation, I always want to go to the southwestern plains of Minnesota, especially in winter.

QUERY: repeal daylight savings time

ANSWER: This is a fabulous and well-reasoned idea, and as such the chance of it actually happening is something very close to zero.

QUERY: man wearing skirt in kalamazoo

ANSWER: Well, as long as he wasn't yodeling on the street. If I recall correctly, singing to one's beloved is strictly forbidden in the Paper City.

QUERY: monster chiller horror theater

ANSWER: Heh heh heh. Count Floyd.

QUERY: anti religion car magnet

ANSWER: There are plenty of these out there; however, one should weigh important considerations when deciding to put one of these on one's car, such as: "Will my anti-religion car magnet actually make me look like a nasty, unpleasant louse of a human being whose presence at parties is about as welcome as the Ebola virus?"

QUERY: pinky is the american nickname for which part of the human body

ANSWER: The spleen.

QUERY: saskatchewan roughriders plaza dinner dress code

ANSWER: Wear your nice tuque!

QUERY: dogs eat in restaurant boston

ANSWER: God! What an idea! I can't for the life of me believe that any self-respecting restaurateur would allow dogs to eat in his establishment. For that matter, I can't for the life of me believe any self-respecting diner would bring along their mangy, flea-ridden slobbering mutt priceless companion animal to a fancy restaurant. So I suppose it must be in vogue.

QUERY: is britney spears a good role model for teens

ANSWER: Well, I guess that depends on your aspirations for your teenager, doesn't it?

QUERY: the beast is the modern world that we live in. the material world. the physical world. the world of illusion that we think is real. we live for it. we re enslaved by it. and it will ultimately be our undoing. revelations

ANSWER: Perhaps. That said, I still want whatever John of Patmos was smoking, because he was clearly pretty high and far out.

QUERY: does sex help heal after pleurisy?

ANSWER: Well, it'll certainly take your mind off the rasping death-rattle emanating from your ruined lungs, won't it?

QUERY: stockbroker using math

ANSWER: Front load + recommendation = commission

QUERY: did madonna attend university of michigan

ANSWER: Yes -- but only for one year. Thus, any public pronouncement she makes on issues is automatically less important than similar pronouncements from Michigan graduates *cough* but far more important than pronouncements from graduates of Ohio State.

QUERY: how to put your (deleted) in a vacuum cleaner


QUERY: smart comebacks to confuse imbeciles

ANSWER: My three favorite comebacks are, as follows:

1. "I love you too." That will always confuse an imbecile.
2. "I don't care if you're Christ! I'm not (doing what was requested of you)." That will cause an imbecile to pause.
3. "I'm sorry; were you saying something?" That will give you enough time to grab something handy, like a broken beer bottle.

QUERY: golddiggers to avoid

ANSWER: All of them.

QUERY: does crohn's disease disqualify me from serving in the military?

ANSWER: I don't know. I bet it would increase the chances you'd get sent on "routine patrol" far away from your assigned unit.

QUERY: does net worth it have anything to do with wealth?


QUERY: americans how many have taken out insurance policies against turning into werewolves or vampires?

ANSWER: 37 million.

QUERY: anthony morelli sucks

ANSWER: You'll get no argument from me on THAT!

QUERY: blue pill red pill dating pick up line

ANSWER: Do you WANT to get arrested?

QUERY: help i need to make fun of the new england patriots

ANSWER: Welcome aboard, new Loyal Rant Reader!

QUERY: what does it mean when an arena football team releases a player?

ANSWER: Remember those NCAA commercials about how there are roughly 93 million NCAA student-athletes, and all of them will go on to do something other than sports? Well, that's kind of what's going to happen here. But the player will be fine as long as he didn't go to Florida State.

QUERY: carolina panthers team players not packers not tickets not cheerleaders not schedule not cheerleader scandall

ANSWER: Boy, and I thought the Browns fans had it bad.

QUERY: waorld price of silicon water is $1000 and japanese equilibrium price with no international trade is $2500 japan imposed tax $1000per water what would happen to the equilibrium price and quantity of solicon waters used in japan answer with graph

ANSWER: It'd go up to $3,500 because there's no international trade, so never mind the world price. Thus, demand would fall accordingly.

QUERY: can t afford a mcmansion

ANSWER: That's not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, why would you want one? You'd have this huge house and people would be snickering at you because you couldn't decorate it properly, and the taxes would be oppressive, and you'd be living in some soulless subdivision and reduced to talking about your children's schools and complaining about your homeowners' association.

QUERY: what world needs is love oh sweet love

ANSWER: Actually, what the world needs is a stable system of property rights in all countries.

QUERY: how often do guys disappear then reappear in dating

ANSWER: Well, you can bet he's reappearing for one thing.

QUERY: now you know knowing is half the battle show

ANSWER: That would be "Ellen."

QUERY: michigan speed limit change to 70 detroit

ANSWER: Yeah, but you still get to go like 90, especially if there's light traffic. You know the drill. It's Michigan. All the drivers have lead foots and the freeways are dragways.

QUERY: i need a similar sentence to this that has all the 26 alphabets example the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog this sentence has all the alphabets e.g a b c to z are there

ANSWER: You also need a life.

QUERY: how long does worcestershire sauce last

ANSWER: Approximately two decades.

QUERY: pain makes you strong

ANSWER: No, it doesn't. Pain sucks.

QUERY: nfl coors light commercial is not funny

ANSWER: They are what we thought they were!

QUERY: they are who you thought they were

ANSWER: They are what we thought they were!

QUERY: has the use of i-pods and/or mobile phones created impolite and antisocial teenagers

ANSWER: Teenagers have always been impolite and anti-social. However, mobile phones and other electronic gadgets simply add to the level of insufferableness one must put up with from them.

QUERY: man who does not want to buy engagement ring

ANSWER: He's a loser and you should be glad you have the chance to get out of the relationship NOW before you get hooked into a lifetime of misery and despair, to say nothing of not going out like you used to do.

QUERY: you re pretty high and far out. what kind of kick are you on son?

ANSWER: I'm high on LIFE! Really! Honest!


Well, that's it for this spooky and scary edition of "Your Search Engine Queries Answered!" Tune in next time, when we'll undoubtedly have plenty of stupid search-engine queries about deep-frying turkeys, auto racing, the latest "must-have" toys for children and brokerage houses who hold untold amounts of collateralized debt obligations. Now THAT's scary. Until then, have a good week and remember: there ain't no second chance against the thing with forty eyes. Which, as we all know, is an allegorical reference to the loss-prevention system at Wal-Mart.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 28, 2007

Guinea Worm Officially Surpassed as Worst Pestilence

LOYAL RANT READERS may recall my impassioned "what the hell?" response when I discovered the hideous parasite known as the Guinea worm. Well, even though I am glad to report our efforts to wipe out this nightmarish creature are well underway, I have some bad news: the Guinea worm has officially been surpassed as the worst menace facing mankind.

You know, because no one ever said anything about the ghastly brain-eating amoeba which festers in the lakes of our great nation. What the hell is this all about? I mean, I'm sorry, but we're not supposed to live in an era when some tiny, one-celled parasites can just go up a swimmer's nose and start feasting on tissue without so much as a by-your-leave. Clearly, our wildlife and public health officials must take all appropriate actions -- up to and including the mass poisoning of all water-borne life in affected areas -- to protect God-fearing people from this wretched, evil menace.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 17, 2007

Now Let Them Enforce It Dept.

A NEBRASKA STATE SENATOR angry over frivolous lawsuits has filed suit against God -- yes, Him -- in an attempt to show, well, I guess it's a variation on the "you can indict a ham sandwich" principle.

You can read the complaint here, although it's only moderately funny. You would think that Sen. Ernie Chambers, the long-serving legislator who filed the suit, would have gone to town with the thing, but hey.

Still, I am surprised that Sen Chambers, as an atheist, would go so far as to admit -- even in court papers -- the possibility that God is real. I mean, the man could have sued the Easter Bunny instead (you know, for recklessly promoting tooth decay among America's most vulnerable) and it would have made the same point, without having to go into those difficult questions about God's existence.

Anyway, Sen Chambers wants God to stop with all the disasters and the smiting and the locusts and what not, and cut out all the promises to cause such things (e.g. Deut. 6:14-16: Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the LORD your God, Who is among you, is a jealous God and His anger will burn against you, and He will destroy you from the face of the land.).

The Rant wishes Sen Chambers luck in having the Nebraska courts enforce any decision handed down.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 10, 2007

My Alma Mater is Downright Shameless Sometimes

THIS EVENING, I got a nice call from the University of Michigan, which is apparently still laboring under the delusion that I want to give it money. I tend to avoid these calls through the judicious use of Caller ID, although on days when I'm feeling particularly clever I pick up the phone and immediately hang up. Yet these efforts of mine, although somewhat satisfying, have not deterred my alma mater from trying desperately to get its hands on my cash.

So when the phone rang just now, I looked again at my Caller ID and initially decided that I would again not answer the phone. Then I thought about Saturday and the Saturday before that and I grinned as I hit the talk button.

The girl on the other end of the line was a polite student who started off the conversation through confirming my address and asking some polite questions about what I did for work. Despite my great desire to tell the student that I sold methamphetamine for a living and, on the side, stole copper from utility lines, I actually answered these questions succintly and honestly, and demonstrated I was in fact gainfully employed.

This, in retrospect, was Mistake Number One. For our student then informed me that she was raising money for scholarships, and after a bit of babble about how my donation would help needy students without the wherewithal to otherwise attend Michigan, asked me if I would be interested in donating $250 for the cause.

I about choked.

However, after regaining my train of thought, I said this was out of the question. Well, actually, I said, "$250?! I'm a journalist -- I don't have that kind of money!" (Left unsaid was the phrase: "at least, not that I'd give to my bloody college.") Besides, I said, I sure wasn't inclined to give money to the University of Michigan while Lloyd Carr continued to coach the football program.

This garnered sympathy from my inquisitor to a point. However, she then went into a spiel about how the University was truly needy and suffering from budget cuts -- and who the hell isn't? -- and how there were just 572 scholarships available to 18,000+ undergraduate students, and would I be interested in donating just $100?

ME: "No! I'm not interested in donating anything."
SOLICITOR: "Would you be interested if we were 2-0 right now?"
ME: "I'd certainly be more *open* to it!"

It was about this point, if I remember rightly, that my solicitor suggested that, surely, withholding my donations from the school's scholarship program was unfairly taking things out on the unfortunate students and not the athletic department. I had to bite my tongue at this argument. So now it's my fault the University is so damned stupid in how it allocates its endowment proceeds? It's my fault my alma mater can't manage its football program?

Although, given the source, this blame-the-prospective-donor argument isn't all that surprising. Let's say, for instance, that a couple was getting their heat shut off because the gas company wasn't giving them a break. At the University of Michigan, neither the couple nor the gas company would be held to account, but rather the cruel and uncaring society that did not recognize the universal human right to gas heat and did not allocate billions to ensuring everyone had adequate gas heat, even during the Bitter Memphis Winter.

But anyway. I held firm and so my solicitor ratcheted down again. Apparently, ineffective Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman -- "who is not firing Lloyd Carr" -- has embarked on a program to match the scholarships or somehow stretch the money, I don't know what, and could I give just $50? Hmmmm. Let me think about that. Oh, that's right, the answer is always No!

Well, how about $35?

No! Non! Nein! Nyet!

At this point, the poor girl gave up and half-heartedly said something about understanding that "not everyone can give" -- can had nothing to do with it -- but thanked me for my time and assured me the University would check back in future, to make sure its contact information was up to date and what not. This news was almost enough to make me look into moving someplace where I could avoid the University's solicitations, like rural Guatemala. Trouble is, I don't think I could watch football there.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 20, 2007

Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead!

Death of Leona Helmsley Prompts Minor Furore
As Hell Has Trouble Finding Appropriate Punishment

Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, Ninth Circles All Make Claim
on Departed Hotelier

Demonic Hordes, Little People "Reacted With Glee"
at News of Helmsley's Impending Arrival


SECOND CIRCLE, UPPER HELL -- Recently deceased hotelier Leona Helmsley's arrival through the Gates of Hell prompted a minor bureaucratic crisis here on Monday, as authorities struggled to decide just what the appropriate punishment for Helmsley, 87, would be.

Helmsley, a one-time model known for terrorizing her domestic staff and other employees, fighting with her family and her insatiable greed and miserliness, among other myriad sins, arrived to the home of eternal pain with great fanfare. After initially refusing to board Charon's "dingy, dusty rattletrap of a boat," Helmsley received a "tremendous blow to the head" from the ferryman's oar. She was then dumped in a heap before Minos, the terrible demonic judge of the evil dead, who dispatched her to the Eighth Circle's thieving fire. But even after that, Minos said Helmsley "was still managing to cause trouble."

"Oh, not her again," grumbled Minos upon being asked about Helmsley's status. "After long and careful consideration, I dumped her off to the Chasms of Fraud, as it seemed the most appropriate place for her to suffer eternal torment. But just a few hours after I did that, I starting getting e-mails from the Department of Inmate Control and Persecution telling me the demons were so enthused at being able to sink their pitchforks into her that dozens of other souls were escaping the boiling pitch and fleeing for more hospitable climes."

"It's not my fault DICP can't control the savage impulses of its rank-and-file personnel," Minos added. "But now I'm getting bombarded with demands from DICP to send her down to Caina. Meanwhile, the Department of Inmate Processing and Location is demanding she get moved up to the fourth circle to suffer the tortures of the misers and wasters, and the Department of Savage Retribution wants her down on Level Five, where the wretched souls she disdained in life can claw out of the muck and tear her to shreds. It's a complete disaster."

"Meanwhile, the Operations Directorate is fighting with everyone, and -- oh, dammit, hold on, I have to take this," said Minos, as he consulted his BlackBerry.

It's not clear just how many souls managed to escape the Chasms of Fraud when Helmsley arrived; official statements from four separate departments put the numbers at 13, 23, 89 and 4, respectively. According to those on scene when Helmsley arrived, the demonic hordes welcomed Helmsley with "a downright alarming display of savage glee."

"I remember one of the demons said, "Oh! Well! Leona Helmsley! We'll make sure to make your stay here as comfortable as we can!'" said escapee Irving Jones, a former Buffalo resident who was sentenced to the eighth circle for barratry upon his death in 1973. "Then they all started jabbing her with their pitchforks."

"You've got to help me," Jones added. "This has all been some sort of mistake."

"I didn't have any idea who this person was," said fellow escapee Manuel Rodrigues, a 19th century grafter whose greed indirectly contributed to the death of 27 miners in Brazil's Minas Gerais in an 1847 accident. "But some of the other men here told me she had great disdain for the -- how you do say it -- "little people." The demons were so happy to see her. Apparently they had been expecting her for some time. Anyway, when they all started going after her, that's when we all took our chance."

"And never mind this scoundrel here!" Rodrigues said. "So the supports were substandard. It wasn't my fault. Surely you can see I deserve to be on the third circle."

Attempts to contact Hell's higher-level officials were unsuccessful. Hell's corporate policies, which make a point of treating the underworld's human souls with utter contempt and complete disdain, discourage supervisory personnel and forbid executive personnel from discussing the status of inmates in the eternal prison. Only a few of Hell's personnel, such as Minos, are directly authorized to speak with the press.

However, depending on how Helmsley holds up through the tortures, observers believe Helmsley may soon be temporarily relieved from suffering the torments of the damned and work her way up to an entry-level job as a torturer and overseer. That could take place in as few as five thousand years, according to Hell's Personnel Department.

"While the loathesome, horrible witch would still suffer through indescribable pain in such a position, Hell has always taken a utilitarian view of these situations," said Malsueno, a demon who works in the department's processing office. "If she can make the torments meted out to the damned even more horrible, she may well be in line for a position in our demonic-training program for particularly evil souls. Since the third century, we've had a good 100 to 200 souls go through the program and so far, we've had great success with it."

The demon said Helmsley could be considered for the program "as soon as 7380, or maybe 9621" and that much would depend on her competency at filling out the reams of paperwork, forms, liability releases and other documents that are part of the application, believed to be thousands of pages long. She will also have to find a working ink pen, which Malsueno warned are "almost always out of stock" in his department.

When asked if taking part in this program would actually deepen Helmsley's torments once the Final Judgment was at hand, Malsueno just chuckled.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 16, 2007

I've Seen Stranger Things Than This in My Day

-- BUT NOT BY MUCH. The key quote in this story? That would be this: "(Accused robber Kasey) Kazee also had a T-shirt pulled up around his head during the robbery attempt. (Store employee Craig) Miller says it reminded him of the "Cornholio" character from the "Beavis and Butthead" cartoon."

Well, that and the bit about the duct tape police charge Kazee wrapped around his head in what apparently was an ultimately futile attempt to obscure his identity.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 31, 2007

Alleged Men Allege "Ladies Night" Discrimination

LOYAL RANT READERS know that when it comes to matters of romance, I am a staunch traditionalist. I refuse to allow my dates to pay for dinner, I like sending flowers and I am polite and respectful to my dates. In short, I try to conduct myself in a manner befitting an educated and modern man, while still adhering to the old standards that call for men to act, well, like men.

Apparently, these old standards are not holding up the way they once did. This was made perfectly clear to me a while back when I was out at a local watering hole with friends and colleagues from work, and discovered that at this particular establishment, the male clientele were largely mouth-breathing vermin lacking both in manners and self-control. Their behavior was so appalling, in fact, that I spent much of the evening in a sort of shocked silence, watching as the drunken louts wandered about and vainly attempted to remedy the fact they would be going home alone that night.

However, my utter and complete contempt for such wretchedness does not stop there. The way I see it, men -- simply because they're men -- need to hold themselves to pretty high standards. At the very least, they ought hold up to the Basic Commandments of Manliness as Expressed in Major Motion Pictures, viz. and to wit:

1. When faced with adversity, shoulder your burden appropriately. Acting like Johnny Fontaine is discouraged.

2. A man ought contribute his fair financial share to a relationship. Not doing so is a failure that must be corrected. Purposely failing to do so, and overly taking advantage of your partner's money for your own gain, is an extremely grievous sin. This principle is perhaps most succinctly summed up in Ace Rothstein's famous take down of ne'er-do-well Lester Diamond in the coffee shop. However, this principle has been established among men for millenia, as one sees in the Inferno, Canto XVIII, 64-66:

While he was speaking one of the devils struck him
With his long whip, and said to him: "Go on,
Pimp, you'll make no money from women here."

3. Complaining about things you ought not complain about will put you in a bad light. This is perhaps best shown in that scene from "Ghostbusters" when Venkman and the EPA guy square off in the Mayor's office. But we'll get back to this in a bit.

For, speaking of complaining about things one ought not complain about, I note with displeasure that various men -- or, rather, the weak, soulless, excuses for men these people are -- have launched a campaign against the practice of bars and other establishments offering "ladies nights." Ladies nights, of course, are promotional events in which women are offered free or discounted admission as an incentive to hang around said establishments, thus giving men more of an incentive to show up and spend their money on overpriced, watered-down liquor, in the largely vain hope they'll get lucky that evening.

Perhaps the most noteworthy example of this untouchable caste is Mr Roy Den Hollander, a lawyer in New York, who recently whined to ABC News about the brutal injustice he has suffered as a result of this practice:

Roy Den Hollander is a New York lawyer who says Ladies' Night drinks and admission specials are unconstitutional, and he says he's suffered personally. Hollander is also a graduate of Columbia Business School and seems like a guy who should be able to get into a decent bar and afford the drinks. So what irks him?

"I'm tired of having my rights violated and being treated as a second-class citizen," said Hollander, who is seeking class-action status for his suit in federal court. ...

Hollander seeks to be the lead plaintiff and the representing attorney in a class-action suit against several Manhattan venues including the China Club, Copacabana Nightclub, A.E.R. Nightclub and Sol. As a patron of these venues, he alleges that Ladies' Night discounts violate the 14th Amendment that guarantees equal protection to "similarly situated" persons.

If this thing actually DOES go to court, you can imagine the defense would have a field day.

DEFENSE ATTORNEY: And therefore, ISN'T IT TRUE that ---
PLAINTIFF: Objection! Your Honor, the defense is badgering the witness, who happens to be, well, me.
JUDGE: Oh? Counselor, what do you say to that?
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It's true, Your Honor. This man has no dick.
JUDGE: Overruled! Continue, counselor.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, that's what I heard!

So help me out here: what kind of man not only whines about Ladies Nights, but also seems to honestly believe that he is having his rights violated and being treated like a second-class citizen? Did I miss something? I mean, the charge here is that the man essentially has to pay a few bucks more for his night out. Not that he was given a literacy test when he went to register for the vote, not that he is being forced to use separate water fountains, and not that he was failing to receive equal protection from the state, but that he has to pay a few dollars more for his night out -- money, one ought note, that he would probably spend ANYWAY on drinks for the ladies whom he charges get an unfair advantage. (Unless the guy is really a jackass, which given the suit I suppose is within the realm of possibility).

What goes on in a man's head to get him to such a wretched, puerile, miserable state? I mean, did he just get turned down one too many times and decided to take it out on all the nightclubs where he got shot down? And for those readers who might, in the back of their minds, wonder whether under the present application of the law that Mr Hollander might have a case, dismiss that thought immediately, because that ain't the point. The point is that no real man would ever consider a Ladies Night promotion somehow undesirable, much less actually try to make a federal case out of it.

After all, Ladies Night promotions are perfectly in tune with the immutable laws of economics. As such, they should be unequivocably supported without fail. A typical nightclub can attract plenty of male customers, who have a high demand (D) for female customers. To meet this demand, the nightclub must ensure that it has a high supply (S) of female customers to hit equilibrium. There are plenty of ways a nightclub can push the supply curve upward and outward, as we can see here:

Clever readers will note this analysis does not conform to traditional supply-demand models. However, the given parameters do not conform to traditional supply-demand economics, but rather reflect societal norms, pressures and other factors. You know, because men like to be around women. Also, our model is based on an open society where the numbers of men and women are roughly equal and for all intents and purposes infinite.

Anyway, the point is that Ladies Night promotions tend to -- wait for it -- attract women to nightclubs, particularly nightclubs they might not have otherwise attended. As such, they can only be good things for men. Mr Hollander and his ilk's rash attack against this cherished institution is thus an attack against all men, and accordingly, he must be cruelly mocked and ridiculed until he drops his suit accordingly. If that doesn't work, we must call upon the day's Leading Arbiters of Manliness -- I refer to the Men of the Square Table -- to perform an inquest on Mr Hollander's Membership in the Male Gender.

Oh, wait. The ad series got canceled. Well, in that case, this calls for drastic action.

Thus, I, Benjamin Kepple, DO hereby issue a temporary injunction REVOKING Mr Hollander's Man Status and all the rights and benefits deriving from and associated with it. Further, I DEMAND that Mr Hollander SURRENDER to an established Court his superior pay, superior benefits and his football-watching privileges, and SUBMIT to any other remedy the Court deems just and proper, until a recognized authority on these matters can issue its own superseding judgment. SO ORDERED at Manchester, New Hampshire, on July 31, 2007.

Also, since Mr Hollander's action would almost certainly cause American women economic injury, The Rant would politely request that women abstain from sleeping with Mr Hollander until he changes his mind about things. Hey, if that tactic could end a war, it should cause Mr Hollander to fold like a cheap tent.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:38 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 17, 2007

The (Allegedly) Losing Ways of Michael Vick and Friends

ACCORDING TO THE SMOKING GUN, a federal grand jury has indicted Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick and three other men on one count each of "conspiracy to travel in interstate commerce in aid of unlawful activities and to sponsor a dog in an animal fighting venture."

It should be noted upfront that Mr Vick has said previously that he was rarely at the Smithfield, Va., residence where authorities charge the dogfighting operation was run. He also has said he had no idea it might have been used in a criminal enterprise, and blamed family members for taking advantage of his generosity, according to the Associated Press.

However, if all the allegations contained in the grand jury's indictment are in fact true, it paints a very disturbing picture of Mr Vick's morality and that of his associates. For instance, in Paragraph 53 of the indictment, the grand jury charges that "in or about March of 2003, (Purnell) Peace, after consulting with Vick about the losing pit bull's condition, executed the losing dog by wetting the dog down with water and electrocuting the animal." The pit bull's loss in a recent fight, the indictment charged, cost Vick & Co. some $13,000.

As if that wasn't fucked up enough, the indictment charges the dog-fighting operation routinely did away with animals it thought would not fight well or had lost bouts in which a large amount of money was at stake.

As depraved and immoral as these allegations are, however, what also amazes me is the stupidity of all the alleged partners in the scheme. If Mr Vick was in fact involved, he surely deserves the harshest glare from the spotlight, for he will have thrown away his multi-million dollar football career on a wretched and barbaric blood sport. Furthermore, if what the indictment says is true, Mr Vick is clearly an idiot of the highest degree. Consider the following charges:

1. Mr Vick's nickname, according to the indictment, is "Ookie."

Yes, that's right, "Ookie." What the hell kind of nickname is that? All the other losers mentioned in the court papers had at least understandable, if not imaginative, nicknames. But Ookie? I mean, I'm sorry, but when I think about badass nicknames that suggest a man can kick tail and take names, Ookie does not spring to the top of the list. Ookie sounds like the nickname of a guy you send to get sandwiches from the corner deli.

2. Mr Vick is alarmingly well-paid in his other work.

In 2004, Mr Vick signed a 10-year contract with the Atlanta Falcons. This contract was worth $130 million with a $37 million signing bonus. I'll repeat that again: $130 million with a $37 million signing bonus.

We can discuss another day why the Atlanta Falcons' management has the collective brainpower of an addled egg. For now, though, let's look at the fact Mr Vick has finished just two years of his contract, and if convicted will lose out on a huge portion of that $130 million. Certainly he would never work again as a major-league football player. To throw that type of money away in pursuit of anything is madness, much less engaging in a vile and foul activity like dogfighting, as Mr Vick has been charged with so doing.

3. The alleged dogfighting operation may well have lost money.

It stands to reason the indictment would not cover the entire universe of fights Mr Vick and his cohorts are charged with conspiring to bring about. Nor would it cover the entire universe of expenditures laid out for the operation. However, if you look at the fights in question, you can discern that of the 15 fights mentioned in the indictment, the operation lost some $17,900 on the bouts. Here's an accounting:

Fight 1 (See Paragraph 18) ($500)
Fight 2 (See Paragraph 24) $1,000
Fight 3 (See Paragraph 29) $1,000
Fight 4 (See Paragraph 32) $1,500
Fight 5 (See Paragraph 35) $5,000
Fight 6 (See Paragraph 38) $1,000
Fight 7 (See Paragraph 41) $3,600
Fight 8 (See Paragraph 44) $1,500
Fight 9 (See Paragraph 50) ($13,000)
Fight 10 (See Paragraph 54) ($10,000)
Fight 11 (See Paragraph 58) ($3,000)
Fight 12 (See Paragraph 63) ($1,500)
Fight 13 (See Paragraph 66) $3,500
Fight 14 (See Paragraph 71) (11,000)
Fight 15 (See Paragraph 77) 3,000

Subtotal of fight gains (losses) ($17,900)

This last item, I would submit, would show that Mr Vick and his associates -- if convicted of the charges brought against them -- are not the brightest bulbs in the lamp store.

One could argue this analysis is meaningless; after all, with the money Mr Vick was making, what would he care if he lost comparatively miniscule amounts here and there? But I would suggest that to Mr Vick's associates, and to those in the underground world of dog-fighting, they were large sums of money indeed.

Thus, it seems rational to conclude those in the dog-fighting world may well have looked hungrily upon the money Mr Vick and his cohorts allegedly put up for fight purses, and saw the whole operation as an easy mark. That goes especially when one looks at the big ticket losses allegedly racked up. If they did what the indictment charges they did, the indictment's accounting would show Mr Vick and his companions might have been able to handle the small fish, but when they came up against larger and smarter players, they were out of their league and paid dearly for it.

Speaking of being out of their league, the Falcons have issued a statement regarding Mr Vick's indictment. One could perhaps describe it as a bit tepid. However, on behalf of everyone here at The Rant, I would offer my sincere condolences to the team and its long-suffering fans, who have only seen their team in one Super Bowl and have yet to win the Big Game despite 40 years of trying.

OK, now that that's out of the way -- you guys thought 7-9 was bad last year? Hah! Have fun with Joey Harrington as your starting quarterback, you scoundrels!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 07, 2007

Quit While You're Ahead Dept.

THE LAWYER WHO FILED a $52 million lawsuit against a Washington dry-cleaning establishment over a lost pair of pants -- a suit that saw the trial judge rule the man was "entitled to no relief whatsoever" -- is appealing the verdict in the case, ABC News reports.

I don't know about you folks, but this seems to me like the legal equivalent of holding up a sign on a crowded street that says, "Please! Please hit me over the head repeatedly with a hammer!" This is especially the case given the court is now considering whether to force the attorney to pay the dry-cleaners' legal costs, which now top $83,000. As such, appealing the judgment sounds about as smart as waving a red flag in front of a charging bull.

But hey. Considering the man rejected a settlement offer of some $12,000 before the case went to court, we're clearly not dealing with the brightest bulb in the lamp store.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 01:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 05, 2007

Copa America -- The Hottest Spot South of Havana

TALK ABOUT ADDING INSULT TO INJURY. It was bad enough the United States turned in the worst performance among the twelve teams taking part in this year's Copa America tourney, but now we learn the Venezuelan Government harrassed the American security officials guarding the team. The charge comes from no less a personage than the outgoing U.S. ambassador to the wretched socialist state:

Ambassador William Brownfield told Reuters two State Department diplomatic security agents were detained for two hours at Maracaibo airport when they arrived to provide security for US players at this month's Copa America hosted by Venezuela.

"They jacked us around at the airport and then revoked the weapons permits," Brownfield said on his last day as ambassador in a country whose President Hugo Chavez is openly hostile to Washington.

"It is an unusual way of doing business," he added.

The US team, which has suffered heavy defeats in its opening games, has generally received good cooperation from Venezuelan authorities during the tournament, the ambassador said.

But the detentions and a formal note from the foreign ministry withdrawing permission for any of the 10 agents at the tournament to have guns is symptomatic of the increasingly sour ties between the United States and its No. 4 oil supplier.

Well, ties between Venezuela and the United States have always been sour, if you get my drift. Heh. That's an oil joke!

In all seriousness, though, I have to say Venezuela's Government is getting more annoying with each passing day. It's bad enough the Government is slowly destroying what had been a somewhat prosperous nation, but the Minimum Leader's extraterritorial ambitions are starting to prove somewhat troublesome. This latest stunt is just another indication Col Chavez is a most irresponsible leader, and the potential threat his Government poses to regional stability should not be ignored.

(via Val Prieto & Co.)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 11, 2007

You Stay Classy, Tyler, Texas!

FOR THE COMMITTED CRITIC, examples of wretchedness in local television news broadcasts are legion. There's the relentless hook-and-hold format that hypes stories that inevitably fail to live up to their billing, the blatant promotion of shows affiliated with the station's network, and the awful cutesy soft-news stories that wrap up with cute banter between the news presenters. Yet one television station in Tyler, Texas, is really pushing the envelope. According to The Hollywood Reporter, CBS affiliated KTYX-TV will have a swimsuit model anchor their daily 5 p.m. news broadcast, and the model will star in a reality television show focused on her experiences working for the station. This reality show, as one might well expect, will be broadcast on the Fox network.

There's plenty of outrage to express here. But before that, let's examine the Web site of the swimsuit model in question, Ms Lauren Jones. Go ahead and click on the link -- there are racy pictures! Hooray racy pictures! OK, now that my blatant attempt to drive up my Web traffic is over, let's get back to the whole outrage part.

It would be one thing if Ms Jones was brought in solely as a presenter. After all, a presenter simply reads the news, and when one gets down to brass tacks there is really no difference as to who does the reading. Others generally write the copy and report the stories and so on, so it really doesn't matter who does the presenting as long as they have a bit of gravitas. But to bring Ms Jones in as a reporter is another matter entirely.

After all, the simple fact that Ms Jones is playing as a reporter will likely prompt at least some sources out there to question whether they should take part in interviews with her, or others at the station. After all, people generally take the news seriously, and sources might well think twice about doing interviews if they feel like they're bait for some cheap reality television program. Broadcast reporters have it tough enough already without having their work turned into blatant infotainment -- and Fox has claimed KTYX-TV's newsroom believes taking part in the show was a giant mistake.

It will be interesting to see how Ms Jones is received at KTYX-TV and among her journalist peers in Tyler. Generally speaking, reporters don't like it when outsiders intrude on their territory for a lark. I should make clear I'm not talking about bloggers, whom any journalist will (or should) freely admit are useful, but rather celebrity-types. Look at what happened to Drew Barrymore when she interviewed Wesley Clark a while back on Clark's campaign bus. All the pool reporters on the bus, who were actually trying to do real work, were infuriated that an actress was soaking up their interview time, goddammit.

Plus, there's also the concern that broadcast news is already in enough trouble and this show won't help matters among a skeptical public. As the Hollywood Reporter reported:

Barbara Cochran, executive director of the Radio-TV News Directors Assn., said that among her concerns is viewers will get a distorted picture of what goes on in a newsroom.

"At a time when journalists are getting a lot of criticism, it's going to present a picture that doesn't show the hard work and deep thought that goes on in every newsroom," Cochran said.

Deep thought? In local broadcast? Oh, I shouldn't kid, I know -- but it's hard to imagine a lot of deep thought goes into all those human-interest stories about three-legged dogs named Lucky and minor health scares and the Continuing Exploits of the Consumer Affairs Team. It will, though, be interesting to see how this all works out -- even if it makes one pine for the good old days of broadcast news:

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 02:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 07, 2007

They're All Going to Jail! (Perhaps, Anyway)

WELL NOW. This is interesting. Clearly Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael T. Sauer, as I have said before, should be considered for higher judicial office and held up as a shining example of what the judiciary does right.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

An Open Letter to the Authorities in Los Angeles

DEAR SIRS: It has recently come to my attention that the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which operates the Century Regional Detention Center, has released drink-driving convict Paris Hilton from jail and ordered her to instead serve 40-some days of house arrest. This was, for all intents and purposes, a roughly 90 percent decrease in the severity of her sentence, which had originally called for 45 days incarceration.

As I understand it, this decision was made on medical grounds, even though the Department surely has adequate resources at hand for treating physical and psychological ailments in its jail infirmaries. To me, this effective commutation of Ms Hilton's sentence represents an unseemly miscarriage of justice. After all, when the authorities in Los Angeles issued me several speeding tickets and other moving violations, I did not get a 90 percent reduction in my sentences, but was forced to pay the fines in full on pain of really nasty penalties.

As such, I am writing to see if I can get a refund on the roughly 90 percent of the estimated $1,000 I paid over the years for various moving violations, including but not limited to: throwing a cigarette out of my car window ($300), speeding along the San Bernardino Freeway (roughly $200), speeding along the I-15 (ditto), making an illegal right turn during rush hour, when such turn was forbidden (a whole bunch of money), and not having my front license plate properly displayed ($10). I believe that given the treatment merited to Ms Hilton, this request is perfectly reasonable and just.

Many citizens have complained that Ms Hilton's treatment is indicative of a double standard that exists between the prosperous, well-connected elite and the hoi polloi. Sadly, I must agree with these complaints. It's not fair that a hardworking, taxpaying citizen such as myself should be forced to pay my speeding fines in full, while this classless, indolent, wretched parvenu is allowed to run amok despite having committed far more serious offenses. True justice may only be served when these idle miscreants are forced to serve the same tough sentences as their counterparts in the professional realm.

Knowing your commitment to equal justice for all men, I would thus beseech you to speedily cut me a check as soon as you may possibly do so. You may send it to the following address:

Benjamin Kepple
Chief Executive
Benjamin Kepple's Daily Rant Inc.
Attn: Executive Accounts Receivable
952-B Front St.
Hamilton, BERMUDA HM 12

I thank you for your time and attention in this matter.


Benjamin Kepple
(formerly of Los Angeles, Calif.)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 06, 2007

Britain is Lost

IN 1912, THE SUN NEVER SET on the British Empire, which had achieved such economic and military power that even the least of its citizens could go abroad and potentially make their fortunes. In 2012, London will host the Olympic Games, which have the potential to spotlight the modern nation's significant cultural charms. Clearly the best way to do so was with this logo:

What's that? No, I didn't try my hand at the Windows paint program. That's the real, honest-to-God logo. The organizers paid £400,000 to have it created. What's that? Yes, I know I could have done better for roughly £40, which by my calculations would have secured my skills for roughly three hours of work in front of a computer screen. But there you have it: the official logo for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The organizers say it's bold! It's edgy! It's flexible!

It's so bold and edgy and flexible, in fact, that a film version caused seizures in epileptics. This might have troubled the average man on the street but the organizers, despite having been warned about the matter, apparently took Walter Duranty's view that one can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.

How these Olympic organizers, and their consultants, ever got in charge of anything is downright incredible. Any rational adult can plainly see the logo is godawfully wretched and hideous, the type of decoration that human-rights experts would scream about were it displayed in Guantanamo Bay. That £400,000 was spent on designing the pathetic thing only adds insult to injury. True, it was paid for with private donations, but can you imagine if you had thrown in a few quid for the project and found out this was the result? You'd be furious, and rightfully so. Here you have the potential for a glorious, traditional symbol showcasing all that is good about London, and you get a logo that reminds visitors of the "artwork" drunken yobs spray-paint on private property in the wee small hours of the morning.

If there is any good news about this, it is that the complaints have come fast and furious. Many people have complained the logo looks like a swastika. Others have said it looks like collapsing buildings. Others have taken a more light-hearted view of the matter, remarking that it looks like a collapsing house of cards -- or, in an assessment I must unfortunately agree with, that it looks like ... uh ... well, that is to say ... er ... like the performance of a particular indecent act.

You know, I don't know what type of message London is hoping to send regarding the 2012 Olympics, but I have a feeling this wasn't the one organizers had hoped to get across.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:50 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 09, 2007

A Modest Proposal

An Open Letter to The Hon. Arnold Schwarzenegger:

The Hon. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Office of the Governor
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger:

RECENTLY, IT HAS COME to my attention that clever individuals have worked up a petition asking you to grant Ms Paris Hilton, recently sentenced to spend 45 days in a Los Angeles County jail, clemency. Many people have responded in favor of this missive. Many others have responded with calls that Ms Hilton spend her entire sentence within the confines of the jail. With such division, I know any decision you may make in this matter will be a difficult one.

However, as a former California resident, I do believe I have come up with a modest and reasonable proposal to satsify both sides in the matter. Thus, I would request that you commute Ms Hilton's sentence, and replace it with a 30 day term sentencing Ms Hilton to the ancient Roman punishment of aquae et ignis. As you will see in this helpful guide, the sentence of fire and water would grant Ms Hilton the freedom she wishes, while still placing her under interdiction from receiving certain necessities of life. Based on media reports of Ms Hilton's lifestyle, such necessities would include, but not be limited to, the following:

* Designer clothing in which Ms Hilton could parade around like a strumpet;
* The companionship of animals described as "tiny and annoying yappy dogs" under the California Civil Code;
* Access to nightclubs, parties, afterparties, or related gatherings;
* An on-call publicist or publicity team;
* Being photographed, filmed or videotaped;
* Uttering vapid catchphrases (e.g., "That's hot!") or other inanities;
* Transportation other than public means, i.e. the sidewalk or the Los Angeles city bus system;
* Engaging in commercial activity;
* and otherwise annoying honest, God-fearing, right-thinking citizens or permanent residents.

I would suggest this sentence be applied to Ms Hilton throughout the United States, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands of the United States and myriad other territories, dependencies and states with which the federal Government has a Compact of Free Association. True, California technically only has jurisdiction within California, but let's face it -- California has a way of making sure the rest of the country follows its legal lead. If you can push around the automakers on environmental issues, you sure as hell can get the rest of the country on board with this. Besides, they'll all be good with it anyway, because they're even more sick of her than you are.

This sentence would be relatively easy for the authorities to enforce, due to the Government's power to hand down even harsher measures, such as being repeatedly subjected to those agricultural inspections at the border or being audited by the Franchise Tax Board. It would also mollify those who -- rather unreasonably, I might add -- have called for Ms Hilton to be proscribed and paraded through the streets of Sacramento, subjected to the vitriol and scorn of an angry citizenry.

I do hope you will find my suggestions meritorious and that you will give them consideration. I hope this letter finds you well, and I thank you for your time and attention in this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Benjamin Kepple
(formerly of Los Angeles)
Manchester, N.H.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 05, 2007

The Simple(ton) Life

IN THE CLASSIC Eighties movie "License to Drive," there's a nice scene in which the protagonist believes he is about to get his driver's license, despite failing the computerized portion of the exam. However, the bureaucracy discovers its mistake at the last second, and is furious at what it sees as the lad's dishonesty. "You mustn't fuck with the Department of Motor Vehicles," the licensing chief says triumphantly. "We can make your life a living hell."

Based on my observations of several DMVs, I consider this very sound advice. It also is very sound advice when it comes to dealing with the judiciary, which very much frowns upon those who don't do what it tells them to do. The court system is also generally not happy when its initial prescription, made with a light touch, is utterly ignored.

As such, it amazes me that Paris Hilton, the ghastly celebrity who is famous for being famous, so blatantly ignored the judiciary's earlier instructions regarding her probation on a drunk-driving charge. To be perfectly blunt, it boggles the mind one could be so stupidly cavalier when one's case was handled with such a light touch.

However, I was quite pleased to see that today, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael T. Sauer essentially told Ms Hilton: don't fuck with the L.A. County Superior Court. Judge Sauer sentenced Ms Hilton to 45 days in jail. No furloughs, no work release, no private jail, no electronic monitoring. 45 days in the hoosegow.

As the full story reveals, Judge Sauer is not a man who takes any crap. Clearly, he should be considered for higher judicial office and held up as a shining example of what the judiciary does right.

It's not just Ms Hilton's behavior that proved worthy of condemnation, though. According to media reports, Ms Hilton's mother, Kathy Hilton, acted in a most appalling and gauche fashion during the court hearing. Laughing during the prosecutor's statement and castigating the judge while court is in session is just not cricket. Furthermore, her comments condemning the whole process afterward were also not grounded in reality. It is understandable Ms Hilton's parents would be horrified at the idea their daughter would be sentenced to jail time, but Mrs Hilton's comments showed an unwillingness to admit that her daughter had done anything wrong and, more tellingly, an utter lack of respect for a process that until today proved very lenient for Ms Hilton.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 10, 2007

And Heaven Sent Hell Away ...

OVER THE PAST FEW DAYS, I've read with half-hearted interest the stories about a proposed "Blogging Code of Conduct," in which bloggers would tone down their most abrasive statements and prohibit readers from leaving comments deemed offensive, in bad taste, and so on. The voluntary code, according to its first draft, would also require adherents to not write online what they would not say in person, and resolve differences in private before doing so in public.

As a blogger, I find this idea completely and utterly lame.

I also find it tired and old -- and reeking of that nauseating, wretched stench of soggy institutional goo, the slop that so often passes for honest discourse these days. Naturally, The New York Times thought it was an amazing idea and devoted plenty of space to it. Why, I can't fathom. After all, a "voluntary" code is meaningless -- and arguably a solution in search of a problem.

Now, in saying that, I don't mean to downplay the fact that people on the Internet do, to use the technical term, plenty of crazy shit. Nor do I mean to make light of the very unpleasant conduct in which many people apparently feel free to engage -- up to and including posting personal information on-line, making threats, and otherwise going over the line. This is especially problematic for female bloggers, who God knows have to deal with various creepy situations every other day. However, I do think these things can be dealt with through existing means, whether banning IP addresses or removing unmoderated comments or calling the police if one receives creepy threats.

That said, there are a few more things amaze me about this entire debate. The first is this idea that bloggers need toning down, and the second is the idea differences ought be resolved privately if possible.

One of the reasons people like blogs is because they're opinionated and witty and they don't pull punches. Well, that's arguably three reasons, but never mind. The point is that being overly polite can also make one overly boring, and that's no fun for anyone. Basically, those who write on line have to take it as well as they give it, a skill which admittedly takes a while to master. Plus, if bloggers act juvenile on their blogs and write juvenile things, that's exactly how they'll appear to their audience.

As for the second item, I don't see why people ought remain private about disagreements if the matter in question is a public one. If Blogger A misrepresents Blogger B in one of his posts, Blogger B is not only within his rights to publicly call Blogger A out on this, he should publicly rebuke Blogger A for it. After all, why should Blogger B have to take the high road?

Lastly, I find it amazing that supposedly educated people would confuse the long-time tradition of editorial judgment with out-and-out censorship. This bone of contention is not aimed at the "blogging code" people but others out there, and it's a point The Times mentions in its story:

"A subtext of both sets of rules is that bloggers are responsible for everything that appears on their own pages, including comments left by visitors. They say that bloggers should also have the right to delete such comments if they find them profane or abusive. That may sound obvious, but many Internet veterans believe that blogs are part of a larger public sphere, and that deleting a visitor’s comment amounts to an assault on their right to free speech."

Well, that's a new one. Last time I checked, The Rant was produced solely through my generosity and goodwill, as well as my large and secret stash of Eurodollars in a certain friendly part of central Europe. As such, I get to run the show. While the comments don't work now -- and haven't for a while -- I definitely would delete someone's comment if it was truly awful. Heck, I deleted spam comments, so what's the difference? Since this state of affairs is pretty much constant throughout the blogosphere, I don't really see how anyone could suggest anything but it. If people don't like a particular blog, they can always start their own. These days, the only barrier to entry is typing proficiency.

Anyway, that's it for now. Must run -- tonight, I'm listening to Soundgarden before bed. No, really. Black hole sun, won't you come, and wash the pain away ---?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 09, 2007

Stones the Builders Rejected

IN AN EXCLUSIVE STORY, the Associated Press revealed this weekend that 1.4 million outstanding arrest warrants are currently active in Pennsylvania, a calculation made possible due to the Keystone State's new statewide court computer system.

Like many readers, I was astonished at just how many active warrants were outstanding. After all, that's like 1 warrant for every 10 Pennsylvanians. However, after doing some digging, I was able to learn more about the problem. Here, then, is a handy graph showing the proximate causes for why arrest warrants were issued to all those Pennsylvanians:


NEWS ITEM: The AP recently revealed
1.4 million outstanding arrest warrants were
active in Pennsylvania. What kicked off the
chains of events that led to these warrants
being issued?


:-D :-D :-D

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 03, 2007

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet

GOD-FEARING PEOPLE across America ought take a moment to reflect on the glory of life's majesties. For in a wonderful decision issued earlier today, the Federal Communications Commission said it would continue to ban the use of mobile phones during airline flights. Oh, joy and rapture.

Apparently, some technical considerations prompted the agency to maintain the ban, but I don't care about those. The important thing here is that today, the Government struck a powerful blow for silence, order and common decency.

I mean, my God. Could you imagine how horrible airline travel would be with people talking on cell phones? It's bad enough now as is, with the wretched service, cramped quarters and the poor manners of some fellow travelers. Why, a man is lucky if he manages to get just one segment of his journey free from the distractions of cretin seatmates, boorish imbeciles or obnoxious, sugar-crazed (or sugar-deprived) minors. And don't get me started on those people who reportedly bring their pets on board in those little pet hamper things and suddenly decide, without so much as a by-your-leave, to let their little furballs roam loose around the cabin. Keep the pet in its cage like the rules say.

Of course, even these indignities notwithstanding, air travel remains a tolerable experience provided one primes the pump beforehand with a bit of gin. But allowing people to use their cell phones would clearly be intolerable.

I mean, you know how you're in a restaurant and you start overhearing other people's conversations and then, no matter how much you try, you can't help but listen, even though the conversation is entirely idiotic and it makes you want to gouge your eyes out with the butter knife? Yes, of course you do. Now, imagine that feeling when you're trapped in a middle seat heading from Detroit to Newark. I submit, dear readers, that any airline passenger subjected to this would end up like Bill Shatner in that one episode of The Twilight Zone.

As such, airline passengers must remain vigilant to ensure that air travel remains a mobile phone-free zone. That's because the moment mobile-phone service becomes available, air travel will be ruined forever for all decent, right-thinking people. Not even re-regulating the air travel industry would fix things. That's because the people who could still afford to fly in such an environment would almost certainly have mobile phones, as well as offices which they had to call immediately and speak to in an obnoxiously loud voice.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 27, 2007

I'll Take a Table Around Eight O'Clock

IN NEW YORK, WCBS-TV recently aired a mildly disapproving story about a Long Island restaurant with the audacity not to serve parties with children. It's not exactly clear from the story why exactly the restaurant in question, the upscale Luigi Q in Hicksville (!), doesn't serve children, other than that it's "not a children type of place." However, it is clear the station doesn't like the practice much.

This was made eminently clear through the presentation of the story, which is actually billed as an "exclusive" to the newscast. No, really. Oh, and it gets better. The station actually used a hidden camera in its reporting, because restaurants that don't serve kids are as nefarious as three-card Monte dealers and corrupt politicians.

I mean, for Christ's sake, they actually put up the "CBS 2 INVESTIGATES" graphic. What, was the storm center down for maintenance? The traffic report not exciting enough?

But anyway -- to bolster their case that Luigi Q's is supposedly doing something wrong, they turn to a Cornell University professor who goes on about how society is becoming less kid-friendly:


"I've been kicked out of stores, seminars and restaurants,” said Cornell University Professor and author, Meredith Small.

Small says it’s all part of a growing anti-children trend. "When they make a policy that no children are allowed, it's a little Draconian, why not say if there is a screaming child and the parents don't get up to leave the waiter can come over over and say take your child outside, I think everybody would be happy with that," said Small.


No, everybody would not be happy with that, particularly those of us who would like a nice evening out without screaming toddlers within earshot, or worse, screaming toddlers within earshot whose parents are mouth-breathing, inconsiderate, churlish buffoons.

That, in reality, is the true problem these days. People can deal with children crying a little, but they can't deal with the increasing number of parents who lack all manner of social graces and let their children ruin everyone else's evening out. Besides, it seems hard to believe that a parent clueless enough not to take their crying child for a walk would do so because the waiter told them to take a hike. It's far better to leave the kids at home and prevent problems rather than wait for things to get out of hand at the restaurant. Hire a babysitter, for God's sake.

That said, I do think restaurants which forbid children (or minors in general) should make a point of mentioning this up front, so you don't have the type of disagreements and squabbles which undoubtedly prompted the WCBS story. After all, that's just good management. Furthermore, it seems reasonable to think restaurants could do also promote family-friendly dining hours (say between 5 pm and 7:30 pm) while not seating minors at a later hour. This would let families enjoy an evening out without worrying their children would cause a ruckus, and ensure the adults eating later had a bit of peace.

You see, I don't want to sound entirely unsympathetic to parents who may just want an evening out. After all, let's say it's been years since you've gone out to eat, and you go to a great little Italian place, and instead of eating his french fries, your young toddler son picks up each one and drops them from his high chair to the floor below. While not disruptive or alarming to other diners, that's an uncomfortable situation; somewhat embarrassing, and there's not much one can do about it. But it does show that many children, no matter how wonderful and nice, sometimes need to do a little more growing up before going out again. It also shows that children can, if properly trained and educated over the years, eventually become fine companions with whom to dine, even when still teenagers.

Still, as an adult who prefers to dine out with friends or with a copy of The Wall Street Journal, the idea of a child-free/minors-free restaurant seems really appealing at times. The trouble is that the places available now, at least around southern New Hampshire, tend to focus more on drinks than the food. But were any restaurant to declare itself off-limits to children, I'd definitely put in for a table, say around eight o'clock.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 11, 2007

Well, Here's an Alarmingly Clever Idea

CLEVERLY-NAMED KOAT-TV in Albuquerque reports New Mexico authorities have come up with a clever way to deter drunken drivers. Namely, they're installing talking urinal cakes -- yes, you read that right -- which will deliver an anti-drunk-driving message when, uh, you know.

I don't know about you, but I think this will prove effective. I mean, if I was out at the bar and I went into the men's room and the urinal suddenly started castigating me about the idea of driving, not only would I not drive home, I'd give up the bottle completely.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 01, 2007

As Romantic as a New Iron

THERE ARE FEW THINGS in life more certain to bring doom upon a man than screwing up what should be a romantic occasion. The botched Christmas gift, the ill-conceived birthday dinner, the cheap anniversary celebration -- all will result in disaster for the unthinking man who didn't properly plan ahead. Furthermore, the consequences he will suffer shall prove severe and long-lasting. At the least, the man's ineptitude will end up becoming a frequent inside joke for the rest of his natural days. At the worst, the man will wake up alone the next morning.

Folks, the White Castle Management Co. has perhaps come up with the most surefire way yet to ensure that on Feb. 15, men across America will wake up suddenly unloved and alone. Consider the scheme the company is about to unleash upon the unsuspecting American people:


Make your Valentine’s day STEAMY! Take your Valentine to White Castle on Wednesday, February 14 between 5 and 8 p.m. and enjoy hostess seating, candlelit dining and your own server. Reservations are required, so check the list below for participating Castles near you!

Special this year, you can also treat your honey to a romantic White Castle dinner in your home! Cupid’s Crave Kits include eight cheeseburgers, one sack of fries, two regular soft drinks, coupons and keepsake items to heat up your homespun romance. Now, ain’t that sweet?

For more information or to make a Cupid’s Crave Kit reservation, call the phone number listed for the your city of choice below.*

* Cupid’s Crave Kits are not available at all locations. Reservations are required.


(blink)(blink) k wtf?

Oops! Did I actually type that? Sorry. Anyway, words simply can't express the shock and horror which entered my mind upon seeing this. I mean, my God. There are so many things fundamentally wrong with this promotion I almost don't know where to begin.

We can start, though, with the premise a Valentine's Day meal at White Castle will lead to "STEAMY!" behavior at some point afterwards. Dear readers, I don't know about you, but the last thing I feel after eating at White Castle is amorous. Bloated, yes; tired out, yes; nauseous; sometimes; passionate, no. After a full meal at White Castle, it's hard enough to move from those plastic chairs and booths, so it would seem impossible for any human being to then embark on a good bit of naughtiness.

Also, while I suppose "hostess seating," "candlelit dining" and "your own server" could allegedly be considered improvements over the typical White Castle dining experience, I suspect these things won't work out as well as one might hope. Consider this reasonable scenario:


FEMALE SERVER: Hi, and welcome to White Castle -- ma'am, I am so sorry.
UNLUCKY WOMAN: (sniffling)
SERVER: May I take your order?
MAN: Yes! I'll have ... let's see ... a crave case of cheeseburgers, three orders of chicken rings, and a diet soda.
UNLUCKY WOMAN: (sniffling) I'm not hungry.
MAN: But you always order a fish sandwich when we come here.
SERVER: Ma'am, there are extra napkins to your left there, and I'll be right back with some wetnaps.
MAN: Oh! That reminds me! Throw some chicken sandwiches on there too!


It's also worth noting the order size for the "Cupid's Crave Kit" White Castle is offering on the "special day." Those who have eaten at White Castle, and are familiar with the tiny size of their "slyders," will know eight cheeseburgers isn't the giant order it might seem. In fact, I daresay some readers looked at that list of eight burgers, one sack of fries and two drinks and thought, "Well, yeah, but what is she going to have?"

Of course, I write as one who only eats at White Castle perhaps once a year, which is perhaps about as much as one ought. That said, I would suggest if a man had to choose a day of the year to visit White Castle, Feb. 14 would not be it. Further, I would suggest those men considering a White Castle trip that day might want to reconsider the benefits of other foods -- like wine and oysters and chocolate.

(via Jess @ Blind Cavefish)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 08, 2006

Wholly Guacamole

Alien: “What’s that?”
Scotty (holding up bottle): “It’s … it’s green.”

-- Star Trek

RESIDENTS OF CALIFORNIA, as any former or current Golden Stater will tell you, take their guacamole quite seriously. It’s understandable why, too. Avocados are so plentiful in California that it’s not all that unusual for people to have avocado trees in their backyards. Combine that with an abundance of restaurants serving Mexican and Californian cuisine, and you’ve got a discerning populace used to extremely fresh and extremely well-prepared guacamole.

This helps explain my interest in a lawsuit filed against Kraft Foods Inc., which makes a product called “Kraft Dips Guacamole.” According to the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles resident Brenda Lifsey has filed suit against the food company, charging it with fraud related to their guacamole product.

Last year, Mrs Lifsey bought the product and made some dip with it, only to discover to her horror that “Kraft Dips Guacamole” had practically no avocado in it. Naturally, the most reasonable course of action available to Mrs Lifsey was to file a civil suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court. According to the Times, she seeks to prevent Kraft from marketing the product as guacamole, as well as attorney’s fees and punitive damages. The lawsuit seeks class-action status – and understandably so, considering the sought-after compensatory and punitive damages here would otherwise amount to roughly $12.

Now, some folks have asked whether Mrs Lifsey could have actually read the label before buying the product, or asked for her money back, or written a nastygram to the company, or complained to the store, rather than sue. Some people have also argued that Mrs Lifsey knowingly purchased a product from Kraft Foods Inc., and as such knew or should have known it would taste like crap.

There’s definitely something to that last point, if you ask me. I mean, for God’s sake, this is a company which sells a macaroni-and-cheese product in which the “cheese” is a powdery orange substance. Not only that, but Kraft’s deluxe macaroni-and-cheese product is made with Velveeta, a substance which can detarnish silver and unclog one’s kitchen drains. Thus, one could feasibly argue Mrs Lifsey knew, or should have known, what the devil she was getting into when she bought the package of “Kraft Dips Guacamole.”

That said, though, it’s fundamentally wrong to pass off a chemical stew as honest-to-God guacamole. According to the Times, Kraft’s product is “a whipped paste made from partially hydrogenated soybean and coconut oils, corn syrup, whey and food starch.” They even use yellow and blue dyes to make it green.

And that, my friends, is just so wrong on so many levels. It would be one thing if it was called an avocado-influenced dip or something like that, but if you’re calling it guacamole, it should by rights have enough avocado in it so that you don’t have to artificially color it green.

The good news for consumers, however, is that actual guacamole can be bought ready-made at the store. For instance, Calavo Growers Inc. – based in the friendly small city of Santa Paula, Calif. – produces a guacamole with avocado, onion, salt, cilantro, garlic, and that’s all. It runs about $4 for a package, and I’ve found it does the trick when I’ve had a guacamole jones but haven’t wanted to spend an hour making the stuff.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 06:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 03, 2006

Great Moments in International Diplomacy

A UNITED NATIONS AGENCY hosting a conference on how the Internet should be managed couldn't provide conference-goers with a working Internet connection, CNET News said.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 18, 2006

Yet Another Reason Not to Mess with the Federal Government

UNFORTUNATELY, Wesley Snipes is learning the hard way that one messes with the U.S. Government at one's peril. Recently, federal prosecutors charged the veteran actor with not filing his taxes for several years, as well as charging he took part in an, um, interesting tax avoidance scheme.

According to the Government's allegations, Mr Snipes disregarded his long-time tax counsel and instead relied on advice from tax-scheme promoters, who claimed that under U.S. tax law, Mr Snipes owed no taxes on his domestic income.


Regardless of how the criminal case turns out, though, it's fair to say that reliance may have been Mr Snipes' worst decision since agreeing to star in "Boiling Point," a wretched 1993 detective movie that -- some thirteen years later -- I'm still angry about seeing.

Christ, everyone with whom I went to see "Boiling Point" was angry at the end of it. I mean, it was so bad that I half wished I had gone to class that afternoon, even though by that time in life I was approaching high school with a combination of nausea and ennui.

Anyway, the indictment -- which appears on The Smoking Gun's Web site -- is rather interesting to read. I must say that, given the allegations, I was surprised at how long it took for the Government to bring the action. Based on the Government's recounting of events in the document, it certainly seems like they gave Mr Snipes every possible opportunity to accede to the Government's demands, and it would appear they finally ran out of patience with his alleged refusal to follow the nation's tax laws.

As for Mr Snipes, his side of the story isn't known yet. That's because he is nowhere to be found, and a warrant has been issued for his arrest. But for now, let's consider that an in absentia plea of not guilty.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 14, 2006

A Big Bite from the Cheesesteak of Suffering

RECENTLY, in the Philadelphia suburb of Narberth, Pa., the premiere for a movie called "Invincible" was held. The movie is based on the true story of a Philadelphia bartender, who made the Philadelphia Eagles football squad through an open tryout and went on to play wide receiver for three years. As I understand it, the movie should be quite popular in Philly.

That said, it appears at least part of the premiere was conducted with the class, decorum and dignity one generally associates with fans of the Philadelphia Eagles, and the competence one generally associates with the team itself. This seems like as good a time as any to again note the Eagles haven't managed to win a league championship since 1960.

(via Minnesota Vikings fan Steve Silver)

P.S. For those of my readers who may actually root for the Philadelphia Eagles -- God help you -- I'm sorry my comments remain broken. Feel free to e-mail me if you'd like -- or, just download the Cheesesteak of Suffering from these guys! You're welcome!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 06:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 03, 2006

I Am Now Even with the Bandwidth-Stealing Scoundrels

Oh No!
It’s Time for Yet Another Installment of …

An occasional Rant feature

BLOGGERS ARE A naturally generous group of people. Each day, millions of people spend time and money to provide their readership with enjoyable content, and ask for nothing in return. Yet some unscrupulous scoundrels take advantage of bloggers’ good will, and hotlink images hosted on said bloggers’ Web sites.

Some may wonder, “What’s the acceptable way to deal with these bandwidth thieves, particularly since many of them are undoubtedly teenagers, and as such are sullen and hostile to established authority?”

Well, this is my take on it. I figure I can’t stop people from hotlinking images hosted here at The Rant. However, I can “accidentally” change the coding for the image in question, turning it into this:

What’s that? Yes, I do rule. It is the perfectly appropriate response. Since most of the people doing the hotlinking haven’t yet realized the late Fifties and early Sixties’ inherent coolness and nostalgia value, this image can only serve to remind them of their parents. As such, it will embarrass them in front of all their friends. Yet, it will not prove so embarrassing that it will result in any lifelong emotional trauma.

That’s pretty much what I plan to do this month with the latest edition of Your Search Engine Queries Answered!, in which I provide personal responses to the many hundreds of people who arrived here via various search engines. Even though many of the queries are strange. So without further ado, here we go!

QUERY: you can t hide your briann eyes. and your smile is a thin disguise. Lyrics

ANSWER: Please, for the love of God, don’t ever agree to sing the national anthem before a major sporting event.

QUERY: eating one minute oates without cooking

ANSWER: Jesus Christ, it only takes a minute or so to cook the one-minute oats. Must you have no patience?

QUERY: what does no whammies mean?

ANSWER: The ancient cry of “No whammies!” goes part and parcel with the home-selling Sale Inoculation Process. It’s something like feng shui in reverse, except feng shui is more rational.

Basically, one hires a listing agent to package one’s home for sale, and prior to the listing being published, the agent wanders around the home screaming, “No whammies! No whammies! Stop!” If no “whammies” are detected, you’re more likely to get your asking price. However, if one’s agent finds “whammies” during the process, you’ll undoubtedly be forced to accept some cheapskate’s low-ball offer, particularly if you signed up for an adjustable-rate mortgage.

QUERY: nudist beekeepers

ANSWER: Oh dear.

QUERY: michigan state flag notre dame 2005

ANSWER: This query refers to the gauche and classless act which the Michigan State University football squad performed following its victory over the University of Notre Dame last year. The Spartans, having won the game in overtime in South Bend, Ind., proceeded to take their school’s flag and plant it in the Fighting Irish’s field.

This pathetic and miserable action came back to haunt the Spartans, as they proceeded to go 2-6 in Big Ten conference play – and as their two wins were against Illinois and Indiana, they may as well have gone 0-6. Hell, they would’ve had trouble beating the Tri-Lambs.

QUERY: ad vitam paramus

ANSWER: Say, we’re heading to New Jersey!

QUERY: the seventies sucked

ANSWER: You’ll find no argument from me on that one.

QUERY: oregon weird

ANSWER: You’ll find no argument from me on that one, either.

QUERY: californians weird

ANSWER: Um, not south of Fresno, they ain’t. OK, most of them ain't.

QUERY: dislike of californians

ANSWER: Hey, you shouldn’t dislike Californians. Californians are people just like you and me, except they often have bunches of money from stock options or the real-estate boom. Furthermore, they often can’t stand their fellow Californians, which prompts them to leave California and drive up the prices everywhere else, thus making their new home just like California. Hey, you’re from Oregon, aren’t you?

QUERY: i was a nerd in high school

ANSWER: Yeah, but I bet you did well in the Internet boom and are now dating a swimsuit model. One of the cool things about early middle age is that all the things that made you unattractive back in the day now make you attractive. Well, except for acne. And a paunch. Still, though, you get the idea.

QUERY: is king uzziah influencing christians today?

ANSWER: I think we can safely say the answer is No.

QUERY: buying vernors in nh

ANSWER: Dude, you can’t buy Vernors in New Hampshire. It’s Vernors! You have to special order it from back home. As it happens, though, you can do that here.

QUERY: why do we like reality television?

ANSWER: Beats the hell out of me! However, I have to admit I’m a bit more open to the idea of reality television than I was previously. That’s because the shows have apparently started hiring writers out of desperation to turn out product that doesn’t suck. I approve of shows hiring writers.

QUERY: men who get nauseous

ANSWER: You have so arrived at the right place.

QUERY: smoking cessation insomnia

ANSWER: Quitting smoking lessens one’s need for sleep (no, really!), so this is perfectly natural. Cut down on caffeinated beverages at night.

QUERY: is soy milk ok for sinus

ANSWER: Knock yourself out.

QUERY: moral of malaysian youth has gone from bad to worse

ANSWER: Next they’ll be wearing short-sleeved shirts!

QUERY: paris rome american cockroaches hate americans

ANSWER: I love you too, Jacques.

QUERY: hate the steelers

ANSWER: I love you too, Carson.

QUERY: how much do manchester wolfs make a year?

ANSWER: Players for the Manchester Wolves minor-league arena football team make $200 per game, with a $50 win bonus. Thus, they receive cash compensation which can range from $3,200 to $4,000 during the 16-game regular season (plus extra for playoff games, I would guess). League rules allow players to receive subsidized housing and food, but I’m not sure how much they receive.

Anyway, I’ve a post in the works about this: the economics of the league, and much about the league, are fascinating. Everyone, and I mean everyone, works like the devil.

QUERY: roth ira uk equivalent

ANSWER: As I understand it, the closest UK equivalent to the Roth IRA is an ISA (Individual Savings Account) scheme. Apparently, Chancellor Brown has not yet figured out how to tax the income, capital gains or dividends associated with this product. Thus, take advantage.

QUERY: retire without investing

ANSWER: It will be difficult to maintain the standard of life you’ve come to expect without investing. However, there may be ways you can passively invest, such as through a 401(k) plan, and let the experts handle things (for a fee). Talk with your advisor.

QUERY: when people owe me money

ANSWER: Ensure they pay.

QUERY: value of 1969 $20 bill

ANSWER: I’m guessing it would be around $20, but hey. Take it into your local coin dealer and check.

QUERY: you have just noticed in the financial pages of the local newspaper that you can buy a $1 000 par value bond for $800.

ANSWER: I have just noticed that my questioner is asking a basic finance question, undoubtedly put to him as part of a homework assignment. Go read the excellent wiki finance page on bonds, in which you can learn about the basics of bond pricing, plus nifty things like consols and Bermuda callables.

QUERY: americans negative net worth percentage

ANSWER: 15 pc or so at any given time.

QUERY: when-is-war-bad-for-the-economy

ANSWER: When-you-lose.

QUERY: what is the economic impact on consumers when people shoplift from stores

ANSWER: Simply put, it raises the price for everyone else. As such, people who shoplift from honest merchants are godless and wretched, particularly because it gives certain electronics firms an excuse to post proto-fascist goon squads at the entrances to their establishments, demanding to look inside paying customers’ bags as if said customers were felons.

QUERY: asking for the engagement ring back

ANSWER: It might be wise, before engaging on this course of action, to ensure your medical and life insurance policies are up-to-date and active.

QUERY: how to write a cease and desist letter to stop harrassment by a neighbor

ANSWER: First, you should start with a friendly greeting, such as, “Ernest, you rotten bastard.” Then, address your complaint accordingly: “If I ever catch you and your goddam German shepherd anywhere near my property again, I’ll personally cut off your reproductive organs and compost them.” Close with a proper salutation: “Also, stop trying to borrow my lawn mower, you scoundrel.”

QUERY: naughty conversation starters!

ANSWER: I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find “Let’s make out!” a perfectly fine conversation starter in the right circumstance.

QUERY: art of talking to waitress

ANSWER: Well, it’s like how things are in “The Art of Conversation,” an old short released as part of Nick-at-Nite’s “How to be Swell” public-service announcements: “First, you say something. Then, someone will say something back. Nod your head from time to time and try to look interested!”

Oh, just write your number on the receipt like everyone else. She’s busy and has 18 angry customers and Shelly called in sick and she just doesn’t have time to talk with you.

QUERY: i bring not peace but the sword source

ANSWER: Matthew 10:34

QUERY: nicotine withdrawal tingly

ANSWER: That’s your circulation improving! Or a sign your feet are falling asleep. Take precautions accordingly.

QUERY: i was discovered along santa monica s 3rd street promenade then launched april fool s day 1995. starbucks coffee company

ANSWER: As a former area resident, I’m suspicious of anything discovered along the 3rd Street Promenade. I’m doubly suspicious if it involves the Starbucks Coffee Co. Any company that can successfully convince people they should be happy to pay $4 for coffee-flavored beverages is far too powerful for its (and our) own good.

Anyway, that’s it for this edition of Your Search Engine Queries Answered! Tune in next time, when I address many more pressing issues of the day, such as why Peyton Manning is a candyass. See you then!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 31, 2006

Socialismo, Muerto?

REPORTS OUT OF Miami say that Fidel Castro, ailing after intestinal surgery, has for the moment turned over power to his brother Raul. Val Prieto is providing regular updates.

UPDATE, 11:40 p.m.: Well, it certainly would appear something big is happening, based on the comments and updates at Mr Prieto's site. Apparently, it's being reported Castro could be out of commission for months following the surgery. Of course, it's always possible he could be out permanently.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 03, 2006

So I Just Paid $20 for Eight Bottles of Beer

THIS HAS NOT been a day for restraint here in Manchester. Not only did I start my day eating breakfast out, I stopped before work at Dunkin' Donuts and actually paid $3.55 for an orange-flavored Tropicana (TM) Coolatta (R). This beverage, which can best be described as orange juice reduced to a slush-like consistency and served in a plastic cup, is so over-priced that one can easily see why retirement experts warn daily purchases of it will mean working until the age of 80.

But God Almighty -- how good did the thing taste! The broiling sun and the wretched humidity were what made the difference this morning, and what justified the purchase. The day started out hot and it stayed hot and it remains hot even now: 81 degrees, as of about 8:45 p.m. It is the perfect time to sit back, relax, and celebrate the Fourth of July -- particularly with one of the eight bottles of beer that I purchased a few hours earlier. I bought the beer at a "select specialty beer store," by which I mean my local supermarket.

Specifically, I bought two special packages of the Boston Beer Co.'s Samuel Adams Brewer Patriot Collection. These four-bottle packages of specialty beer, as one learns from the company, were brewed in homage to our nation's beer-loving founders. As such, they stand as a testament to the many great virtues -- hard work, Yankee ingenuity, free markets and an abiding hatred of insane tyrannical autocrats -- which help make the United States the last, best hope of mankind. Yeah.

If you ask me, they seem like good beverages with which to celebrate the Fourth of July. So, I would invite my readers to raise a glass along with me and toast the United States of America as it turns 230 years old, and toast the principles which have truly made it a shining city on the hill for all mankind. May God bless and keep this great nation of ours.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 24, 2006

Then Again, Maybe Purgatory Has its Merits

A NEW YORK TRAFFIC WARDEN has been charged with writing dozens of fake parking tickets, the Associated Press has reported. If convicted on charges of official misconduct and falsifying business records, the warden could face up to four years in prison:

Nivea Cloud was accused of writing 27 tickets in three hours in seven locations on May 12, inventing infractions just one to four minutes apart in the same place, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

She was seen sitting in her police car, parked in a handicapped spot, more than a mile away from where the vehicles cited on her tickets supposedly were illegally parked, Brown said.

"As a municipal worker entrusted with such enormous financial powers over motorists and a duty and responsibility to uphold the law, the defendant's alleged conduct is outrageous," Brown said in a news release announcing the charges.


Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Next, They'll Tell the Kids to Buy Foreign Cars

THERE ARE DAYS when I look at life and see things which make me wonder if our grandchildren will describe our time, a la Butthead from the old cartoon, as "back when people were stupid."

Recently, The Detroit News published an op-ed which reported that Michigan's educational establishment decided the words "American" and "Americans" were right out when describing, well, American history. Here's the gist of Judge Michael Warren's essay:

In perhaps a well-intentioned, but pernicious example of political correctness, the Michigan Department of Education is attempting to ban the "America" and "American" from our public schools. Even though the word "America" appears in the department's own civics and government benchmarks, the department's style protocol for the Michigan Education Assessment Program requires that "America" and "Americans" be expunged from our testing and grade level expectations. Last week, the department ordered that our hard-working teachers not utter the words.

The Department of Education asserts that "Americans" includes Mexicans, Canadians and others in the Western Hemisphere, so referring to U.S. residents as Americans is inappropriate. In the department's view, "America" happens to include South, Central and North America. Accordingly, when referring to the colonial period, the state bureaucracy requires teachers to refer to "the colonies of North America" or "North Americans." After the American Revolution, the nation is called the United States (not of America).

The News also notes part of an educational consultant's thoughts on the matter: "It is ethnocentric for the United States to claim the entire hemisphere."

Actually, to be precise about it, claiming the entire hemisphere is "the Monroe Doctrine." That said, as a proud Michigander at heart, I must admit being surprised that Michigan's educational authorities are going down this route. The Great Lakes State, you see, has an unemployment rate of some 7.2 percent, well above the national rate of 4.7 percent. Good local schools, of course, tend to matter when companies look at creating jobs.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 03, 2006

Wedded Bliss

NEW YORK is the greatest city on Earth, yet to me the idea of living there has always seemed on par with the idea of living on Mars. You see, as a Midwesterner at heart, I’d never fully adjust to the idea that moving on up means exchanging one overly-cramped apartment for another some blocks away. I’d also never fully adjust to the idea that certain little extras in life, such as “a second bedroom,” would warrant paying four figures each month for an apartment. Plus, there’s congestion and pollution and the Yankees and hipsters and high taxes. Oh, and those people who ride bicycles through traffic to make social statements.

Oh, sure, I know the old saying about New York: if one can make it there, one can make it anywhere. But would one really want to make it in New York? After all, to paraphrase another old saying, the trouble with being rich is that you have to hang out with rich people. This conundrum is best exemplified in the wedding and celebrations section of The New York Times, where wretched people with money openly draw attention to their disgusting vapidity and appalling decadence.

Fortunately, though, the Tri-State Area has produced Zach and his Veiled Conceit blog, which has once again started to mercilessly skewer those portrayed in the Times’ weddings section -- and not a moment too soon! As such, I challenge Rant readers to read Zach’s entry on Mr and Mrs Austin Stark without laughing hysterically. If you can do so, you may have a future as one of the Queen's guards.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 06:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 02, 2006

Malthus Was Wrong, and So is This Guy

IF THERE IS NOT already a hue and cry over the weird remarks of University of Texas-Austin ecologist Eric Pianka, there soon will be, so let's just get the criticism out of the way quickly.

As this article from The Seguin Gazette-Enterprise shows, Dr Pianka reportedly thinks the following: a) that the Earth is overpopulated; b) that nature or man will cause a massive reduction in the human population; and c) that this is a good thing. The Gazette-Enterprise reports Dr Pianka said, "[Disease] will control the scourge of humanity ... were looking forward to a huge collapse."

It boggles the mind that with such ideas, the Texas Academy of Science would name Dr Pianka the Distinguished Texas Scientist for 2006. It's not simply because the ideas are abhorrent, it's because they're wrong, and have been wrong since they were dreamed up two centuries ago. Simply put, we haven't seen a Malthusian catastrophe yet, and we never will.

As for the idea that disease will somehow wipe out 90 percent of mankind, that's also a bit much. After all, the Black Death in the 14th century only killed about a third of the European population, even though people then were working on bad assumptions about what caused the plague, how it spread, and how to treat it. Even if some sort of superbug were to develop, modern medical science and public health methods would undoubtedly prove up to the task of controlling it -- as was shown during the SARS outbreak in 2003.

So there.

I will leave it to my readers to ponder Dr Pianka's idea, mentioned in the Gazette-Enterprise story, that human life is no more valuable than other life on Earth, and that human life is not the central element of life on Earth. I would get upset about it, except it's late and I'm tired and my sinuses are acting up and I'm feeling the effects of Daylight Saving Time, so I'll just say that it's a bit backward, and leave it at that.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 01, 2006

Daylight Saving Time is the Handiwork of Beelzebub

SOMETIME IN THE dead of night on Apr. 2, millions of Americans will have a precious hour of their time involuntarily taken from them, without so much as a by-your-leave. Many won't discover the theft until long past sunrise, when television shows start appearing at the wrong hour, or church services come to an end when they ought have just started.

All this, of course, is due to Daylight Saving Time, that wretched and foul device which stands as an affront to both God-fearing citizens and natural law. Every year, Americans "spring forward and fall back," and every year, bad things happen as a result. For instance, there are more auto accidents, and people at work are grumpy and irritable. And don't get me started on what happens in Indiana.

Yet even though there's no good reason to make the Daylight Saving Time switch, we keep doing it. It's absolute madness and I hate it.

This is not to say that I'm entirely opposed to the idea of Daylight Saving Time. In times of national emergency, I can see that Daylight Saving Time might prove useful. However, the only emergency most Americans are facing right now involves a shortage of potato chips and not finding the remote control prior to the big game. Thus, having DST, and turning me into EVEN MORE of an irritable grouch for the next week or so, sucks something fierce.

I suppose I can look at the bright side: in October, I'll get my stolen hour back, although without any interest or compensation for it. Besides, next year, it'll be even worse: back in 2005, Congress voted to extend the DST period starting in 2007.

Gee, that's just swell.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:44 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 20, 2005

Zut -- Frickin' -- Alors

WELL, THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT just lost any and all general-principle grounds it may have had to argue against American policy. Why, you ask? Well, as this article in the Israeli daily Haaretz shows, the French foreign minister is as dumb as a bag of rocks, and as such has no standing to ever criticize anyone else ever again.

Go read it. You'll agree.

It's appalling to think the French Government managed to find a less capable foreign minister than now-Prime Minister Villepin, but they somehow did. I mean, come on.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:29 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

June 15, 2005

The Little Shop of Horrors

IN THE OLD James Bond movie "Diamonds Are Forever," evil Ernst Stavro Blofeld famously remarked that "if we blew up Kansas, nobody would hear about it for years."

I don't know why it took two years for us to learn about this news story out of Kansas. However, I will say this: if this account is factually correct in its entirety, it is one of the most horrific, revolting and barbaric things I have read about in years. The story starts as follows, with my emphasis added:

A Kansas City (Kan.) abortionist is out of business after investigators discovered a grisly house of horrors at his clinic with fetuses kept in Styrofoam cups in his refrigerator and one employee accusing him of microwaving one and stirring it into his lunch.

The abortionist in question has denied the allegation of cannibalism. But why it took more than 18 months for Kansas authorities to close the man's clinic and revoke his medical license, I have no idea.

Here's the story in its entirety.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:28 AM | TrackBack

May 28, 2005

Your Brain on ...

NATALIE SOLENT said it best: "They called it Operation Overlord?"

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:02 AM | TrackBack

December 02, 2004

The Horror Next Door

IN CATCHING UP on our blog reading, we were shocked to learn that one of Perry de Havilland's neighbors in Chelsea, London, was recently murdered in a home-invasion burglary. John Monckton's wife, Homeyra, was badly injured in the attack as well.

Mr de Havilland is understandably infuriated with the British authorities, given the United Kingdom's unjust policies for dealing with crime. He writes:

Of course the state forbids people like the Moncktons from owning the means to defend themselves. And the CCTV cameras on our street? I cannot tell you how much better they must make everyone around here feel. The police who have closed off my street are festooned with all manner of weapons and body armour but given that their actual role in modern Britain is little more than clearing up the mess after another disarmed householder has been butchered, perhaps waterproof coveralls and mops would be more suitable equipment for our tax funded 'guardians.'

Bitter? You bet. The world is full of predators and we are required to face them disarmed and as much in fear of the law as the criminal who attack us.

We would ask readers to keep the Monckton family in their thoughts and prayers, and we are deeply sorry for the pain they and their friends are going through.

One truly horrible aspect of this story, from our viewpoint here in New Hampshire, is that this is not the first instance of gruesome criminality which has affected bloggers or those close to them.

A few months back, Chavezista thugs in Caracas shot the mother of an acquaintance, with whom we once worked. And just last month, Wayne Wides in South Africa wrote about a newly-married friend of his who, along with his wife, was shot during a home invasion. (We will keep them in our thoughts and prayers as well, and wish them a speedy recovery).

Mr Wides writes:

One of the implications of having one's friend shot at home is that it does make you more aware of the crime locally. But while it's saddening to hear him say ''it's his own fault' and that it was 'because he's been too casual in the garden in the past' (for goodness sake man, you have barbed wire on seven foot walls, a motion sensor security system and it's your garden), it's a reminder of the need for a rethink on the strategy of crime and how we've come to accept it as normal.

We have to admit we think of crime as "normal," by which we mean to say we have a preventive mindset towards it. For instance, we always -- always -- lock our car, and we don't answer the door if we don't know who it is, and we keep an eye to being well aware of our surroundings. But these are lessons we learned in rougher places than our current city of residence, which has crime rates that are nothing compared to our hometown of Kalamazoo, Mich.

Here in Manchester, N.H., we have roughly 20 pc of the violent crime and half the property crime which old K'zoo experiences. Some of the differences are downright shocking: for instance, Manchester's rate for aggravated assaults is roughly 10 pc that of the Celery City. This despite the fact that Manchester is practically a suburb of Boston.

There are undoubtedly many reasons why Manchester is a safe city, but we suspect one big reason is that the authorities here do not consider crime "normal." For once that happens, and the broken windows start appearing and minor crimes go ignored, that's when the slippery slope to chaos begins.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:14 PM | TrackBack

October 16, 2004

Traveling Abroad

AS LONG-TIME Rant readers know well, we had been considering taking our major vacation next year in London. However, things have changed, and it looks like we shall instead spend that week in the highlands of central Mexico. There were several reasons for the switch: we would spend time with family, and it was cheaper, more laid-back, and so on.

However, we recently came across an article which made us downright grateful Mr and Mrs Kepple invited us to spend the week in Mexico. Namely, this rather disturbing tale of anti-Americanism in Britain. Even though we knew from Americans who have lived in Britain that such sentiment was prevalent there, it still came as a shock; for these events were on par with the type of anger one would expect to find only in France or Germany. It makes us glad to know we will be spending our dollars in a country which, even though its people and Government may not always agree with the gringos, continues to be friendly and welcoming.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:47 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 10, 2004

Oil for Food, and Oil Vis-a-Vis Food

WE HAVE SPENT much of this evening poring over the lengthy report recently issued by Mr Charles Duelfer, the Special Advisor to the Director of Central Intelligence on Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction. It is a fascinating document, and while we do not expect anyone to read all 918 pages in it, we do encourage people to look over Volume I's Regime Finance and Procurement section. Specifically Annex B, which has the nasty alleged corruption information. Read it closely if you get a free hour or so; it's fascinating stuff.

Our main thoughts this evening, however, deal with oil in a different way. We note with concern that the price of New York crude is now over $53 per barrel. To be exact, it is at $53.31/bbl, which at 42 gallons to the barrel, equates to roughly $1.27 per unrefined gallon.

This is rather expensive, and we are mildly annoyed about this. We liked things much better when there was an oil glut on the market and we could buy unleaded for next to nothing. We also liked things much better when hedge funds and speculators were not artificially boosting oil's price. But we recognize the market at work, and therefore we shan't complain about it. Besides, these high prices give us something to which we can look forward: namely, a really spectacular price crash in which the speculators get blitzed something fierce. Heh heh heh.

Still, despite the higher price of gasoline at the pump (we recently paid $1.94 per gallon, which bit), we have not really changed our driving habits. This is because fuel costs are a small percentage of our monthly outlays, and even if the price shot up above $2 per gallon, we would continue as normal. But there would be a point at when we would certainly cut back, and we hit upon that tonight.

We have decided that we will change our driving habits when the price of gasoline at the pump becomes more expensive than a commodity which we prize even more than gasoline: namely, Diet Cherry Coke. In our life, you see, Diet Cherry Coke is as much a necessity as gasoline, and it is surprisingly similar to petrol in other ways.

For Diet Cherry Coke is a "boutique" soda, in that it is a different formulation than regular Coke. There are supply concerns about Diet Cherry Coke, in that the few stores which carry it here in New Hampshire could run out at any time. And lastly, Diet Cherry Coke is a commodity which costs virtually nothing to produce, yet is sold for far more than its inherent value.

We can assure you that we pay between $2.50 and $3.79 for twelve 12-oz. cans of Diet Cherry Coke, which are delivered in Half-Case Fridge Packs. (There are no two-liter bottles of the stuff). This is an average cost of $3.15 per half-case. A half-case contains 144 oz. of Diet Cherry Coke, or 1.125 gallons, bringing the per-gallon price of Diet Cherry Coke to $2.80.

Now, the way we see it, Diet Cherry Coke is far more important to us than oil. It is far easier for us to get oil than it is to get Diet Cherry Coke, and while we could deal with shortages of oil, we can't really deal with shortages of Diet Cherry Coke. And lastly, oil isn't something which a monopoly produces; but our stock of Diet Cherry Coke is directly subject to the whims of the Good People at Coca-Cola. Should they decide to stop selling it, we are doomed.

So should the price of gasoline hit $2.80 per gallon, we would warn the oil firms that we're going to have to cut back something fierce on our driving. We are not going to pay through the nose for a commodity whose utility to us is outstripped by its cost. We'll apply our savings to buying Diet Cherry Coke in bulk. And who knows -- if we buy enough and we're lucky, perhaps we could even sign up for some kind of Diet Cherry Coke voucher program!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 05, 2004

Paging MI-5

WE DO HOPE that Her Majesty's Government has taken note of this article in The Telegraph of London, in which an extremist Islamic cleric says he would have no problem with militants pulling off a Beslan-style terror attack in the United Kingdom. We also note that Omar Bakri Mohammed believes it fine and dandy if women and children are killed in such an attack. Furthermore, it would appear that Bakri will host a convention celebrating the Sept. 11 attacks against New York and Washington.

Bakri's argument is so grotesque, so beyond the bounds of human decency and so beneath contempt that we will not address it. However, we would say this.

It seems to us this Saturday's convention could attract lots of people who share Bakri's views. It also seems to us that some of the attendees may have records that immigration authorities might want to re-examine. Further, it seems to us that such a gathering could create opportunity for Her Majesty's civil servants to test out new ideas vis-a-vis the deportation of troublesome aliens.

At the very least, this might be a good time to test the limits of those Anti-Social Behaviour Orders we keep hearing so much about.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:23 PM | Comments (2) | 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, were 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 dont 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 07, 2004

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

August 02, 2004

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

June 08, 2004

Not a Good Omen

THE OLD SAW the statisticians like to trot out is that half of all American marriages end in divorce. We have long thought this to be a bit of a canard, for it doesn't take into account second marriages and similar circumstances which may arise in life. Besides, if Jennifer Lopez keeps at it, it's going to skew the results something awful.

As we understand it, Mrs Lopez -- who was once a popular entertainer -- has tied the knot with one Marc Anthony, who we understand was once a popular singer. Mr Anthony, if that is his real name, tied the knot after getting a divorce from his wife, a former Miss Universe.

We do not understand why Mr Anthony decided to do this. For one thing, he was married to a former Miss Universe, and for another, he did have young children. This makes him seem like a cad. We only hope the former Mrs Anthony made full use of her rights under the laws of the Dominican Republic, where the divorce was finalized.

Furthermore, while we know we are fond of saying that past performance is not indicative of future results, Mrs Lopez's past performance when it comes to marriage would make even the most bullish hedge-fund manager think twice about such a union. It is true that Mr Anthony does have one advantage over Mrs Lopez's two prior husbands, in that he presumably went to the altar an equal partner. Still, we do not know if this will be enough to counteract Mrs Lopez's divorce habit.

Interestingly enough, neither do several British bookmaking firms who specialize in making good sums of money off suckers. We note with amusement those firms are offering three to one that Mr Anthony and Mrs Lopez will call it quits by the end of this year.

Now, one can easily deduce that the true odds of such a happening are higher than three-to-one; otherwise, the risk-reward scheme becomes unprofitable for the house. Still, we would submit it is Not a Good Omen for Mrs Lopez and Mr Anthony's marriage if the listed odds are but three-to-one. For somewhere, the decision to offer that proposition was met with a serious question: "And what happens if we have to pay off?"

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:08 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 29, 2004

It Gives One Indigestion Just Thinking About It

IT IS NOT OFTEN we read an argument which causes us physical pain, but then it is not often we read something which goes so strongly against certain bedrock principles we hold very dear. You see, we were following various links about this morning, looking for interesting things, and we noticed a British blogger who has called for a ban on junk-food advertisements in that nation. They're inconvenient, you see.

Yes, that is the rationale offered. The blogger advancing this argument, who goes by the sobriquet of "Harry," explains as follows. We've made a few changes, in parentheses, just for clarity's sake:

Then there are the burger chains particular(ly) McDonalds who use the oldest trick in the book for bribing kids - they offer them a free toy. My daughter once confessed she doesn't actually like hamburgers or chicken nuggets but still when she sees the golden arches she demands we stop.

So on the one hand we as parents are getting all this information and encouragement to choose the healthy options and yet we allow the enemies of a nutritious diet to beam their propaganda into our homes, through children's television channels ...

... These (Government-run) educational campaigns are only a waste of money if we allow them to be outflanked by those who spend millions on encouraging kids away from a healthy lifestyle.

Is it not now time for the junk food dealers to be given the same treatment as those who trade in alcohol and tobacco?

It is high time we had a blanket ban on advertising unhealthy products to kids.

What do you think?

Now, we cannot generally complain with Harry's tone here, as he lays out his argument in a straightforward and modest manner; so modest, in fact, that one might even call it milquetoast. Well, OK, not milquetoast. The "enemies of a nutritious diet" bit sounds like war propaganda. Our point is merely that we do not agree with his position -- but we couldn't really argue with the tenor of the post, you know? It was polite.

But then we saw Harry's response to those commenting on his stand, and we felt rather apoplectic all of a sudden. Awful feeling, that; it wears on the nerves and leaves a bad taste in the mouth. And so, with the fires of Hades at our backs, we decided we would have to offer a public condemnation of the offending response, along with rebutting the substance of the argument itself.

For when one reasonable respondent pointed out that Harry could tell his daughter No when she asked for various unhealthy food items, Harry's response was this:

I do. But why should I have to?

Oh, well, because you're a man, that's why. Why should I have to indeed. Good Lord, why should we have to pay our bills and get our car's oil changed and clean the bath? It's part of life.

Now we were not alone in feeling this way; not fifteen minutes after Harry wrote his response, the same respondent made a similar point, noting that Harry was indeed a father and implying that such things were his job. At this, Harry parried, writing as follows:

Ok, forget the parenting angle for a moment and look at this way Emily. We spend millions on educating kids to eat healthy food. Yet we let those who undermine these efforts to push their products in the face of our kids.

Why? What harm would it do to ban them?

Well, we're not going to forget the parenting angle, not a bit; for it is that which is central to the discussion.

Now, back when we were growing up -- that would be the Eighties -- we grew up in a home where our parents did their very best to ensure we ate properly. A key proviso of this regime was that, in our youth, fast food was a relatively rare thing and sugary sodas were difficult to obtain. Indeed, we were alloted but one (1) can of Coca-Cola per week -- on Sundays -- and even then it was caffeine-free so it was No Fun. But even then we enjoyed it!

While our memories of that time are of course a bit hazy, we can also say that an important part of this regime was the fact our parents said No rather frequently. They did so even though we were undoubtedly horrible about the whole thing, and caused rather a fuss, but hey.

We will admit that times have changed now, and that when we eventually find a girl and get married and have children, we may eat out more frequently than we did when we were growing up. Still, we have figured out plans to ensure the kids turn out all right. The first linchpin of our scheme is that we won't take them to any fast-food restaurant unless we are in truly dire straits. The second linchpin is that we plan to hammer home Important Life Lessons While The Kids Are Younger. That way they'll actually listen to us. And the third and final linchpin is that we shall endeavor to make every moment a teachable moment, as such:

KIDS: Daddy! Daddy! We want hamburgers!

US: Hamburgers? Well, we can do that, but we'll have to go to Ted's House of Ribs. Mmmmm. Ribs.

KIDS: NOOOOOOO. We want toys!

US: Kids, remember what I said a few nights ago, when you saw the commercials on television and you wanted the toys? Remember how we talked about the way they were made?

WIFE: Oh, God, Ben. Not the Chinese sweatshop lecture again.

US: Sweetie, it's better they learn it now. They'll learn it sometime, and what if they learned about the new economic realities on the playground?

WIFE: I'll remember that in a few years.

US: Cute -- anyway, kids, it's not only that, though. Remember how we talked about how the food wasn't as healthy as a meal at home? Remember how we talked about how Daddy ate that food all the time and he didn't exercise at all and all that combined together made him unhealthy?

SON: Yeah! You were fat and had diabetes!

US: Right! (Mind your tone when you speak to your father). Now, what's another important reason to have a good sit-down meal?

DAUGHTER: You get -- yech -- vegetables.

US: Exactly! And you want to be healthy when you grow up, right?

KIDS: Yeah.

US: Bravo. Now -- for an extra quarter in your allowance -- tell me another reason why it's important for us to dine out at Ted's.

KIDS: You bought their zero-coupon bonds!

US: Yes! And I bought them at 36 cents on the dollar, and they're going to mature in just three years! And we want to make sure they mature because they're part of the aggressive portion of your Section 529 plans! Good job!

KIDS: Can we have the quarters now?

US: Sure thing. Here you go.

WIFE: Oh, Ben! Honestly.

KIDS: Hey! You only gave us fifteen cents each!

US: Did you think they'd be treated any different than your regular allowance?

KIDS: Yeah, but ...

US: Sorry, guys. Even the raises get taxed and socked away in the retirement accounts.


Now, we realize that such plans could pose potential problems: after all, what if our wife was having a bad day, and the last thing she wanted was for the kids to get upset because we had introduced them yet again to the vicious realities of the modern world of work? Then we might end up spending the night on the sofabed in the guest bedroom. But no sacrifice, of course, would be too great for our children.

As for the advertisements, we think there's a simple way to counteract their pull: namely, tone down the amount of television the kids watch and making sure they watch good television.

Back when we were very young, our parents did this by monopolizing (as was their right) the nice television set in the family room for their shows. This meant we spent more than one late afternoon watching that one channel which showed a combination of community-news announcements and stock tickers, and looking for various equity prices and reporting on their changes in valuation to Mr Kepple. Then, after a television-free dinner, it was on to the Nightly Business Report and, if it was Friday, that one talking-heads show followed by Wall $treet Week with Louis Rukeyser. Gawd, we even memorized the frickin' Wall $treet Week theme; we still know it by heart. Hence, we are living proof that such schemes work, although we don't think our parents had actually planned for such a thing to happen.

Of course, a few years later we started watching Nickelodeon and everything went to hell with adolescence.

But the point holds: we never felt any real draw to fast-food when we were young, and we still try to avoid it today. What really did us in was the lack of physical exercise; and if we had done more of it over the years, we'd be in much better shape. We don't fault our folks for this one bit -- there comes a time when one can't force a kid to do ANYTHING, and this was one thing we just didn't want to do. For that matter, we still don't. But we'll get it eventually. So will most of the kids these days, if they're pointed in the right direction.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 04:36 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 25, 2004

We Noticed the Ring

BECAUSE WE HERE at The Rant concern ourselves with Important Ethical Issues on a daily basis, we were wondering: should women keep their engagement rings if they decide not to get married to the men who gave them the rings?

Now, obviously, we haven't any experience in purchasing a ring. But as we would not have access to any heirloom gems we could use in lieu of doing that, we shall have to buy a ring somewhere down the line. And we know that buying a decent diamond ring for a lady is no joke.

For long ago, out of curiosity, we did some research into how much a quality ring would cost; and to our great shock, we found that a one-carat diamond ring will run roughly five thousand dollars. But while the diamond cartel's suggestion that spending two months' pay on a ring seems a bit silly to us, our research also suggested that buying anything less than a half-carat these days brands one as a cad, a bad provider and a general ne'er-do-well.

Hence the conundrum. Obviously, a respectable man wants to provide his fiancee with a proper ring; and as it shows his commitment to a lady, he does not want to be cheap about it. We're not experts when it comes to dating or relationships; but even we know that having to say "it looks just like a diamond," "I thought you wouldn't notice," and "but it was on sale" are effective and quick ways to buy one a months-long stay on the Living Room Sofa.

On the other hand, spending five thousand on a ring only to have one's beloved spurn one is not exactly a winning proposition. After all, that's two years of car payments on a reasonable vehicle, or 20 months' worth of contributions to one's Roth IRA; and the loss of such capital would represent quite a blow to a young man's savings account.

True, if one is rich, the economics of it all likely matter much less. Then it becomes mostly a matter of pride. As such, we would submit that when Mr Andrew Firestone found out his television-arranged fiancee was keeping the ring on which he spent many thousands of dollars, his ego may have been rather bruised by the whole affair:

Jen Schefft says she and Andrew Firestone of "The Bachelor" have a bond despite their split and she's got the engagement ring.

"Obviously, it's a beautiful ring and Andrew said that he bought that for me and that it was mine to keep, so I'm gonna keep it," Schefft says on "The Bachelor: After the Final Rose."

Last May, Firestone proposed to Schefft on the season finale of "The Bachelor." Their breakup was announced in December.

Now the above quotes are from an Associated Press article on the matter; and if Mr Firestone has a response, it was not recorded there. However, we do wonder greatly how strong the bonds between the two are if Ms Schefft is crowing on national television about keeping the rock. That was unseemly and gauche. It is enough, we would suggest, to make a man think Mr Firestone may have escaped from the whole ordeal rather lightly.

However, we certainly do not wish to deliver a one-size-fits-all pronouncement on the issue; and we do think there are circumstances in which it is right and proper for a lady to keep the ring which a man has given her.

For instance, if a man does not hold to the commitment which the diamond ring signifies, we think it perfectly reasonable for a woman to keep the ring. In fact, we think women ought do that in such cases. At the very least, don't do anything rash and throw it back at him in anger, or subject it to the garbage disposal, or what not; that gets chalked up as a "win" in a man's mind, and you don't want that to happen if your man turns out to be a louse.

As a quite-pertinent example, we cite the unfortunate case of Ms Ali Landry and her now ex-husband. The gossip sheets say that Ms Landry's ex-husband was quite a cad, and was most unfaithful to her, even in the days leading up to their wedding. This was made even more amazing by the fact that Ms Landry's ex-husband was That Guy Who Played Slater on "Saved by the Bell."

Really, now. We're sorry, but if you're A-C-Freaking-Slater and you, through luck or craft, somehow manage to convince Ali Landry -- the very foxy Doritos girl -- to marry you, you ought act like a man should. And so, given our reasoning stated above, we hope Ms Landry kept his ring, and decided to auction it on eBay at the first possible moment.

However, it might not be a bad idea were she to have it appraised first. We're just saying.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:13 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 10, 2004

Rant Endorses Call v. Oversexed Imbecility

HAMILTON, Bermuda -- Benjamin Kepple Inc., a privately-held corporation which produces Internet commentary, has today issued an endorsement for an Internet-led boycott of the Music Television (MTV) network:

"The Company strongly encourages all honest and hard-working people to join this good and just action," chief executive Benjamin Kepple said during a conference call at the firm's headquarters. "We mean, really. We are sick and tired of being sick and tired of not finding anything to watch on the damned channel, and as such we refuse to watch it any further."

"Apparently, it's too much to ask for the shows aired on this miserable outlet to reflect any shred of intelligence, decency, or artistic merit," Kepple said. "Gad. Look, we're not asking for 'Masterpiece Theatre' here -- we'd just like a show that caters somewhat to thinking human beings."

"All we have now are shows that feature the spoilt offspring of classless nouveaux riches, spendthrift musicians who waste their money on depreciable assets, oversexed newly-weds who act as if they're intellectually enfeebled, and worst of all, shows that highlight the antics of sub-literate young people given the chance to live rent-free in a 'pimped-out crib.' We think this is appalling and gauche," Kepple continued. "As key members of the 18-34 male demographic, The Company's executive staff would ask that MTV set aside 30 minutes of its daily programming to feature persons, either real or portrayed by actors, who are of average or above-average education and/or intelligence."

"Music would be nice too," Kepple added.

Among the other requests made by Benjamin Kepple Inc.'s executive staff:

* "The Real World" should have at least one character who has a background as an accountant or certified financial planner.
* Arguments on shows over popular-culture, sex, or other taboo issues should be replaced with arguments on the future of America's retirement system, the state of the nation's current account-deficit, or tort law.
* Images of wealth should be countered with informational statements from young professionals informing viewers about the usual ways one builds wealth. Barring this, the stars should be forced to read Jacob Riis' "How the Other Half Lives."

The move by Benjamin Kepple Inc., a firm which turned private when its formerly high-flying stock was delisted after the collapse of the "tech bubble," is expected to cause tiny ripples of agreement and discontent in the extremely-competitive personal-content publishing sector.

However, analysts were cautious as to the impact which the move would have on the firm's customers -- or the firm itself.

"We think most 'readers,' as they are known in the industry, will already agree with Kepple's stance, and they're probably not watching MTV either," said Charles Wapnard, an analyst with Closet Indexer Investments, a New York-based mutual fund company. "However, I do think some could heed the call, and certainly growth for Kepple's operations cannot be ruled out in its wake."

Others held dissenting views.

"Don't tell me they're going on about that Super Bowl stuff again," said Tad O. Payne, an analyst with Covered, Calls and Praying, a Chicago-based hedge fund operator. "It's -- been -- done. It's a disaster in the works, I'm telling you. This could have a heavy negative impact on the firm's underlying performance."

However, company officials rebutted such criticism.

"Ohhhhhhhhhhh," Kepple said in a high-pitched, mocking tone. "Tad O. Payne says it's a disaster in the making."

"Well, listen up, chump," Kepple growled, "We're confident in our strategies, and sure they'll succeed when all is said and done. Furthermore, we have plenty of new product lines to trot out in the event MTV turns into American Bandstand, don't you worry. In the meantime, we're confident this is an extreme, and folks like Tad O. Payne of fancy-schmancy Covered Calls always get it when there's extremes."

Benjamin Kepple Inc., a Bermuda-based corporation, is the parent company of Benjamin Kepple's Daily Rant, an Internet personal-content publishing concern. It has offices in New Hampshire, Grand Cayman, and Chennai, India.

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February 01, 2004

Why We Quit Watching the Halftime Show

WELL. APPARENTLY there's some SHOCK FURY HORROR over this year's Super Bowl half-time show, in which musician Justin Timberlake ripped off part of musician Janet Jackson's dress at the end of their performance. CBS has already apologized for the incident, which prompted a bunch of angry calls to their New York headquarters.

We did not see the incident in question, as we have long avoided watching the Super Bowl's half-time show. We think it an over-hyped, over-produced performance lacking any redeeming value, entertainment or otherwise; and this year's stunts have confirmed that things have not changed. We would further submit that given the advance play for the show, this little incident was likely planned. For aside from the photo showing the tassle -- why a tassle if it wasn't thought out? -- Matt Drudge reports the OK for the stunt was given at CBS' highest echelons.

Our question does not so much have to deal with the incident itself, although we find it quite disappointing that millions of young football fans have likely asked their parents some troublesome questions following it. That said, we do wonder what kind of idiots are in charge of the Columbia Broadcasting Service and its sister Music Television network.

Really, now. Even those involved in American television should have the brains to know it's not smart to broadcast apparent or actual partial-nudity during the year's most-watched broadcast. Especially since the broadcast is mostly being watched by Middle America, which does not put up with such things when children are present. And that goes double if the half-time show was being broadcast to the developing world -- we hope it wasn't -- because many there already consider America decadent due to our sex-drenched popular culture.

However, we are pleased to note that fallout is already taking place; and we look forward to seeing continued consequences for this particularly stupid stunt. Therefore, we would call on the management of Viacom, the parent corporation of both CBS and MTV, to begin sacking those responsible forthwith -- or at least one or two of them. Sometimes, that's all it takes to send the message.

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January 31, 2004

A Newer Look at the Oldest Profession

NOTICE: Due to the sensitive nature of this topic, we have placed our reaction to Dean Esmay's essay on the oldest profession* in the "continue reading" box, or whatever one calls it. As regular Rant readers know, we very rarely do this, but we feel we have an obligation to at least try and keep the kids out of the loop on this one.

Hence, we would ask our young readers to either A) skip this entry or B) depart the site presently, and go read something suitable for youngsters. That includes you too, Jimmy. Run along, son! Yes, we are quite serious ... now look, just trust us for once, will you?! Amscray!

All right then.


WE SUPPOSE WE SHOULD start off by saying our interest in this topic is purely academic. This declaration will come as no surprise to regular Rant readers, who can guess that among our reasons for avoiding this vice is the fact that it just wouldn't do. That's not to trivialize our other reasons, which are religious and hygenic in nature, but certainly the social stigma attached to the oldest profession is enough to keep us very, very far away from it. These reasons also explain why we have only visited -- ah -- a burlesque house a few times in our life, and only then at the instigation of our friends.

We can honestly say that few of Mr Esmay's essays have prompted such mixed emotions in us. Usually, we either agree or disagree with him flat out. In this case, though, we are all over the map. We found we agree with him on some points, sharply disagree on others, and waver at a third set. So to fully explain our own thinking on the matter, we will excerpt from Mr Esmay's work accordingly (the italics) and respond (in plain text).

Mr Esmay, who leads off with a fitting quote from a character in a Robert Heinlein novel, writes as follows:

But I believe that, whatever superficial truth there may be to those words, on the most fundamental levels they are utterly wrong. For, while prostitution may be an inevitability, there is very little in this world that is more sick or awful.

I suppose my Libertarian-minded correspondants will be scandalized for my having said so. Ditto my atheist friends. Yet, as a non-theistic naturalist, I stand by it: there is very little more degrading to the human soul than prostitution. To refer to it as "a profession" demeans humanity even more ...

The gender-feminists (or, as Tanya would call them, the "feminists") are, as usual, utterly full of it. Prostitution is not about "exploitation of women." Indeed, in most ways, that is the exact opposite of the truth. Leaving aside the role of the pimp or madam, we should be adult enough to acknowledge a fundamental truth:

If anyone is being exploited in the whore/john relationship, it is the john.

A whore is a predator. She feeds upon her john's loneliness, insecurity, and need. Meanwhile, by paying her, he trivializes her humanity.

I do not condemn women who fall into prostitution. At all. Nor do I hold in contempt men who use their services. In all the years of my life, I have done many things I am shamed by, and I do not consider myself above other human beings. In fact, the whole notion that I am "better" than most other people is rather repulsive to me.

But prostitution is a sick, and sickening, relationship. No matter how you look at it, and no matter what veneer that you may put upon it, it cannot do anything but degrade those who take part in it.

Yes, even for the high-class, highly-paid variants. Or the watered-down versions of it that you find in strip clubs.

We should say that we agree wholeheartedly with Mr Esmay's main point, in regards to the deleterious effects which prostitution has on all concerned. It may have existed since time immemorial, but there is no denying that it is both a particularly base corruption of the conjugal act and a mockery of how relationships between men and women are supposed to work. While we have no personal knowledge of such things, we would submit that the practice breeds unhealthy tendencies in men and an undesirable hardness and callousness in women. Add in those whom Dante memorably described as "pimps, troublemakers and all such-like scum" to the equation, and the situation gets even more dire. Hence, we consider quite valid the authorities' efforts to suppress this vice.

However, we should make clear the vice of which we are speaking; and even in the oldest profession, there are degrees of difference. If we are discussing what was once called whiteslavery, then we would fully agree with Mr Esmay that there are few things more sick or awful in this world. If we are discussing simple prostitution, then the moral turpitude of the act is lessened. How much turpitude exists is an argument for debate; but depending on the circumstances, it could range from relatively heavy (e.g., when a prostitute takes extreme advantage of her mark) to moderate or light (e.g. the act is done, and that's that).

That said, we do disagree with Mr Esmay's contention that the oldest profession has nothing to do with exploitation of women. That may be the case for a small percentage of the streetwalkers out there, but we would suggest that by and large, there is rather a lot of exploitation going on. For instance, if a woman heroin addict turns to selling herself so that she can get a fix, that's exploitation -- on the part of her supplier and her customer. If a woman sells herself to support her shiftless husband or boyfriend, that's exploitation -- on the idler's and the customer's part. That's just the facts as we see them.

We do see Mr Esmay's point in referring to a streetwalker as a predator. Such relationships -- in which the woman adeptly cleans out her hapless mark -- do exist, and occasionally see light in the press. Still, we don't think that these can be construed as indicative of the overall situation. We would submit that for the most part, the relationships are quite exploitative -- and it is not the woman who is doing the exploiting.

Now for some points where we do agree with Mr Esmay.

We must say we were pleased to see that he referred to "fall(ing) into" prostitution; we think this an accurate reflection of the act's moral consequences, despite our popular culture's attempts to make it seem fine, dandy and wonderful. We can assure you it is a constant source of amazement for us that people involved in the "sex industry" openly proclaim there is nothing wrong with what they're doing. True, they actually believe that; but one would think they would find it smarter to keep quiet, and let things continue without any public scrutiny.

That said, we also agree with his non-judgmental tenor; he has done better than we have in this regard. In terms of the women, we agree whole-heartedly with Mr Esmay; we could not condemn a woman who had taken this route. Try to convince her that other pursuits would be healthier, yes; condemn and vilify, no. We recall what Dr Lewis had to say on this:

Finally, though I have had to speak at some length about sex, I want to make it as clear as I possibly can that the centre of Christian morality is not here. If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronising and spoiling sport, and back-biting: the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.**

But you see, where we fall into the trap is dealing with the men. While we -- like everyone -- have plenty of jokers to hide, we still find ourselves a bit contemptuous of these pathetic souls. We do not use the word as a pejorative: we think that most folks who patronize streetwalkers generally have pretty sad lives. There may be those for whom it is merely about lust, or a power trip -- "I want that and I shall have it" -- but for the rest, we think one would be on target in saying they don't have much going for them. For us, the challenge is being focused on the sad angle, to get them help if they need it; as opposed to our reflexive action, which is to deride them for their weakness. That, you see, is our Diabolic self rising to the forefront.

In any event, after a short discussion of the entirely male side to all this, Mr Esmay continues on:

But still, ultimately, you are dealing with a profession where one preys upon another person's loneliness. It is not, and never will be, a simple matter of a biological rubbing together of moving parts in exchange for pay.

And what is the life of your average whore? A cluster of venereal diseases that eventually end your life. If you're female, perhaps a half-dozen or more abortions, unless you decide not to have one--in which case your career ends a few months before the baby arrives. Or you raise the child in the most dyfunctional of environments.

In any case, if you are a whore, you prey upon other people's most deeply-felt needs and insecurities--and you do it for money. If you hire a prostitute, you are paying for something you wish you didn't have to pay for at all.

While there may be a tiny percentage of women who are cut out for such a life, I suspect that, in the vast scheme of things, it can only end in misery and regret.

In terms of reasons as to why the oldest profession should continue to be suppressed, the two in that second paragraph are the most important.

First, we'll deal with the social disease aspect.

In our day, we have known a couple of acquaintances who have had the misfortune to contract one of these nasty things -- and that was just due to the normal promiscuous environment one finds at a university these days. We can assure you this sucked something fierce for these unfortunates. However, there was no direct societal burden, as these people had private health insurance to assume the costs of their indiscretion. (Although, we must say, we'd be annoyed if they were in the same risk pool as we were).

In many of these cases, however, there is a direct societal burden -- not only in terms of the human cost to these unfortunates and those close to them; but also the economic cost to Government, and hence, society as a whole. And since these things are easily spread, one infected person can spread their ailment to dozens, if not more, people. As such, the problem multiplies.

The potential impact on children -- the natural end result of the procreative act -- is also particularly alarming. Our sociologists have done a good job at pinpointing the risk factors for delinquency and criminality among youth, and certainly the aberrant home life that such children would experience would put them at risk of falling into that pit. That's unfortunate not only because such children could end up burdening the rest of society, but because of the incredible reservoir of human potential going for naught. Of course, if the child's life is ended in the womb, then that potential has gone for naught; but long-time Rant readers know our thoughts on that.

One final point: we have read with interest the responses of the many, many commenters who have let Mr Esmay know what they think. Several of them are quite thoughtful; and interestingly, one even comes from a self-professed former prostitute. That latter writer was not alone in arguing that it was simply a fee-for-service arrangement; and another writer even went so far as to defend the institution.

However, such a rationale only works if one lives in a world where the conjugal act is morally and temporally equivalent to buying a widget. When cast in the cold light of how things actually work, it falls apart like a vampire caught outdoors at noontime.

For as much as one might want, one can't separate out the moral side, or nonchalantly apply simplistic economics to this aspect of human existence. We have quipped before that the oldest profession represents the one aspect of human life where the "zero-sum game" theory actually holds sway. But in all seriousness, whether one looks at things on a moral, spiritual or economic level, we can say without reservation that all the players in this game will always suffer loss.

* We have no doubt that Mr Esmay will be annoyed with us for using the term "the oldest profession" throughout, as he makes the right-thinking point that it is not a profession. However, as a euphemism, it works.

** See Dr Lewis's "Mere Christianity" (Ch. 5, Sexual Morality, p. 87)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 01:53 AM | TrackBack

January 18, 2004

Shock Fury over Carey Concert

MALAYSIAN POLITICIANS are demanding that Mariah Carey not be allowed to perform in that nation, the BBC reports.

Officials with the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party warn that Carey's concert would have a bad influence on young Malaysians, even though Carey has agreed to dress restrictions, the BBC says Indeed, party youth-wing leader Ahmad Sabki Yusof gave this justification for banning a concert: "Everyone knows Mariah Carey presents herself in a sexy, unacceptable and almost vulgar manner."

Well, yes. What was the trouble again?

Oh, all right. So that was an unacceptable, gauche and chauvinistic cheap shot. We admit it. That said, we would have found this story even more amusing had Mr Ahmad Sabki complained about the quality of the music.

We still wouldn't have agreed with the idea, but perhaps in our heart of stone, we would have had the slightest bit of sympathy.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:23 PM | TrackBack

December 23, 2003

And So, the Fur Flies

WE NOTE WITH DISPLEASURE that an animal-welfare pressure group has again stooped to abhorrent lows in preaching its hatred of furred clothing. It seems this particular group has decided to stake out performances of "The Nutcracker" and give innocent children leaflets that condemn their mothers for wearing fur. Indeed, as the leaflets have a drawing of a housewife repeatedly stabbing Peter Rabbit and the legend, "YOUR MOMMY KILLS ANIMALS!" upon them, we would submit that perhaps condemn is too polite a term. Vilify might be more accurate.

Consider the goal of this tactic:

"Kids will see the bloody truth behind their moms pretentious pelts. Accompanied by graphic photographs of skinned carcasses and animals languishing on fur farms, children will read: "Lots of wonderful foxes, raccoons, and other animals are kept by mean farmers who squish them into cages so small that they can hardly move. They never get to play or swim or have fun. All they can do is cry-just so your greedy mommy can have that fur coat to show off in when she walks the streets."

We find this particularly unfortunate.

While we do admit that a fur coat may be seen as an unnecessary extravagance, it does have two redeeming features: its utility and its value as an asset. By that, we mean it keeps people warm, and in the event of societal collapse, it can be put up for hock. A fur coat also has great intangible value. By that, we mean it will look rather stunning on our (eventual) Foxy Wife, and we will earn credits in our marriage ledger for weeks following the purchase. These intangibles thus make the purchase of a mink coat a reasonable and prudent investment, and we can assure Rant readers that we will someday buy our (eventual) Foxy Wife a fur coat for those very reasons. Unless she happens not to like fur for some reason, in which case we'll opt for the diamond tennis bracelet.

Now, we can see why the activists would be dismayed if the targets of their disdain owned several fur coats. We would not personally approve of such a thing. That would be foolish and wasteful, and the money would be better spent on appreciable assets or charitable giving.

However, to openly condemn people for spending their money as they see fit is churlish and wretched. If people spend money wastefully, it is almost always their own business -- and good does come out of that for others.

This is because such spending leads to A) greater social equality, as the wasters burn through their store of cash and begin a slow economic descent; B) greater economic opportunities for society as a whole, as the impact of that spending is magnified throughout; and C) quiet self-satisfaction for those Americans who are smart enough to live slightly beneath their means, and will eventually live out their years in blissful happiness.

But we digress. For our complaint is not merely limited to the envy and class hatred we see in this loathesome screed. It extends to the puerile idea that animals are on the same level as Man.

Now, we here at The Rant rather like animals, provided they're domesticated. We further agree that animals bring joy into many people's lives, and that it is important to recognize the bonds people have with animals.

However, while it is clearly preferable to not treat animals cruelly if it can be helped, we have no compunction about the ideas of eating animals for food, killing them for food (although we don't hunt) or putting them to other uses. And if they're wild animals, we do not see them as "wonderful." We do not see them as playing or swimming or having fun -- we see them as attacking livestock, spreading pestilence, and causing untold nuisances.

Of course, there is no telling the folks handing out the fliers about this state of affairs. We do note, however, that the flier distributors will be dressed up as foxes and raccoons during their stunt. They had best hope no bystander accuses them of being the raccoons which tipped over the garbage cans the previous night, or there could be trouble!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:58 PM | TrackBack

November 24, 2003

Pax Americana

CLEARLY WE'RE HAVING ONE of those fundamental cultural disconnects this morning. You see, we can't understand why James Lileks' retort against Iraqi blogger/Guardian writer Salam Pax has created such a fuss, as it seems entirely reasonable to us.

Now, you likely know what Mr Lileks wrote about the whole situation. Today, he apologized for using a popular if crude two-word rejoinder in response to Mr Pax's argument, in which Mr Pax complains that things are not getting back to normal as quickly as one might have hoped.

Still, Mr Lileks' initial words have created much discord. For instance, Brian Linse writes: "Fuck You, Lileks, you coward. Stay in MN where your wannabe bullshit will still impress someone enough to cut you a check."

Meanwhile, Arthur Silber writes: "Please note that Lileks writes this from the great comfort of his affluent life in Minnesota, where he is undoubtedly tortured by the earth-shattering question as to just how much he ought to spend on Gnat's Christmas presents this year.

Has Lileks ever lived under a vicious totalitarian regime? If he admits that Salam Pax knows more about the situation than Lileks himself does, how exactly does Lileks know that it is "precisely" because of "people like" Salam Pax that the Saddam regime "would have prospered into the next generation"? Have four of Lileks' relatives gone missing? Has one of Lileks' friends been summarily executed? Has one of Lileks' close friends "never returned"?

I suspect, indeed I am certain, that the answers to all these questions are a resounding: No. In which case, Mr. Lileks, the only proper response to you is the one you make to Salam Pax: Fuck you. How dare you? How dare anyone?

Mr Lileks, of course, can defend himself very well in this matter, so we will leave that to him. What we do not understand is why his words created such a stir in the first place. Here's our thinking.

Let's say that, in 2023, some home-grown Communists have somehow taken over the United States, and we were unable to flee to Bermuda with our secret stash of gold and negotiable bearer instruments. Let us further say that said Communists have made it clear that anyone stepping out of line will be dealt with in an extreme and final manner. In addition, let us say that the Communists have an eye to liquidating any troublesome writers that formerly supported the old order of democratic capitalism. But wait! A short while, after a particularly short but effective conflict, the French come to our aid and liberate us from our bondage.

The last thing we'd do six months down the line is complain -- in our bad French -- that the electricity is only on eleven hours out of the day, particularly if many of our fellow Americans were doing all they could to gum up the works. We are sorry, but we don't see how such griping would particularly help matters. Firstly, it would be particularly unseemly and gauche to gripe in such a smarmy way -- that complaint, perhaps, might wound the upper-class Mr Pax more than anything -- and secondly, it does nothing to address the situation at hand.

We dare say that if the above situation were ever to come about, we would -- we don't know -- actually help our liberators in bringing about peace and order, as it would a) speed along the process of having us manage our own affairs and b) assist in getting things back to normal. Both of these things, we think, are what we would want, and probably pretty close to what Iraqis would like now.

We agree that is oversimplifying matters, but even still, that is how we see it. As such, we approve of Mr Lileks' rhetorical slap against Mr Pax. In our mind, it was both needed and well-deserved.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:27 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 20, 2003

Calif. Officials Allege: Wacko Jacko Sicko Pedo

WE ATTEMPTED TO FIND REAL NEWS about which to comment upon today, but all the television news channels are going on about a has-been musician whom California officials allege molested a twelve-year-old boy. The shock fury horror of it all may be found here, along with details of the allegations which the musician in question faces. We should also note that attorneys for the singer have very much denied the charges, calling them "outrageous" and "false."

Now, this is not to say we think the news stories about this musician should not be run -- clearly they ought to be, given the nature of celebrity and the alleged criminal conduct in question. However, we are very much having trouble with the fact, that at present, said stories are deemed more worthy of note than the President's speech in London, the al-Qaeda terror attacks in Istanbul, and the penalty phase in one of the two Washington-area sniper cases. It is one thing to make note of what's happening; it is another thing entirely to focus on that exclusively.

It was so over the top today that at least one major television news channel exhaustively covered the landing of a private plane in Santa Barbara, Calif., and the subsequent disembarkation of that plane's passengers. Unfortunately, it was not the plane containing the musician in question, and there was much egg on the faces of all concerned. Yet the coverage continued, and we daresay that nothing short of a hydrogen bomb explosion would have deterred the network from its committed course.

We can't be the only ones who find all this disturbing in every possible way.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 06:39 PM | TrackBack

November 05, 2003

Vanitas Vanitatem!

Meet to perfume our burying;
These have but their growing prime,
And man does flourish but his time:
Survey our progress from our birth;
We are set, we grow, we turn to earth.
Courts adieu, and all delights,
All bewitching appetites!
Sweetest breath and clearest eye,
Like perfumes, go out and die;
And consequently this is done
As shadows wait upon the sun.
Vain ambition of kings
Who seek by trophies and dead things
To leave a living name behind,
And weave but nets to catch the wind

-- John Webster, in The Devil's Law-Case, 1623.

AH, VANITY -- the classic lesser vice.

It is interesting how this particular fault has recently grown so prominent in American life. Not nearly as dangerous to one's soul as cruel self-conceit, gnawing envy or even a relaxed state of acedia, vanity is a comparatively lighter sin. That is not to say vanity is harmless, of course -- it can certainly steer one down the easy path to ruin. Still, one often finds vanity is a consequence of minor things, such as the quality of a person's wardrobe or a person's automobile. As such, it is often a minor person who succumbs to the vice.

Really, now. Is there anything of lesser consequence in life than a person who can't get over how great he or she is -- especially if he or she acts that way because of the clothes or the looks or the car he or she has? Is there anything more annoying, more nauseating, more wretched? Perhaps, but we are hard-pressed to think of any examples.

For in one year, of course, the designer clothes will have faded and torn, and gone out-of-style; while in ten years, the fancy car once thought so great shall rust on the same junk pile as an economy sedan. Looks will fade with time as well. Yet the vain person never entertains such thoughts. Rather, he or she giddily bounces along in life, not caring one whit about anything or anyone other than me-me-me-ME!. The end result is that they are neither good, but they are not really bad either; they just are, then are forgotten. And, as our Lord said, they are the type He would spit out of His mouth.

But while God knows the flaws and faults we each have, discerning such things in others is far more difficult for people. However, the job has recently gotten much easier, thanks to a new dating site for people who are vain and insipid!

We are bemused, horrified, and appreciative of this all at the same time.

First, we find it exceedingly funny that a Web site aimed at vain people has any members at all. After all, would not the vain feel themselves above dealing with what they'd conceivably see as a scandalous enterprise?

Secondly, we think it's pretty bloody grim when people are putting such stock in transient things. It is one thing to have high standards, of course, and we think it understandable for people to have reasonable "base requirements" in relation to the opposite sex. But it is another thing entirely to put such stock in, for instance, looks or money. 'Cause looks certainly don't last, and fortunes are subject to Fortune.

That said, we come to our last point -- namely, that we find it most helpful that these folks are self-segregating themselves into a community of future unfortunates. We would submit that those who still hold long-term views on life, and consequently have little patience for such foolishness, will hence be less likely to run across or deal with these people. In short, it could very well just make things a wee bit easier for single folks who have their heads on straight.

One final note before we move on. We do not wish to be seen as saying we don't think the idea is a brilliant concept. It is, and clearly the people behind the project had a good idea. They may be partially evil, but from a business perspective, we can't see how such a site wouldn't have legs.

Proof of this intelligence is displayed in one line on a page in which the company describes its offerings. The firm's spokesman, Mr Vanity, writes as follows: "Our current members consist of published writers, MIT grads, Harvard MBAs ..." (emphasis added)

As Shirer might have put it: "Clever man!"

(link via Moxie)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:10 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 28, 2003

Reality Television and Social Trauma

FOX NEWS AND OTHER MEDIA have informed us that a plethora of reality-television shows are in the works about those whom one might call folks with money. Indeed, some of them are even airing now. We do not fully understand why anyone would voluntarily watch such things, but as we realize an awful lot of time and expense has been taken to convince people to do so, we feel this phenomenon is worth writing about.

We dont think theyre all bad. No, really. We dont. After all, this show about a semi-popular entertainer shows that every person in American society can do very well, even if he or she is an idiot. Gad.

We are sorry for being so blunt, but we cannot understand how a person of sound mind can truly not tell the difference between chicken and tuna. As the writer Linda Holmes has noted, this was not an isolated incident with Mrs Jessica Simpson, the semi-popular entertainer in question:

She once declined an order of Buffalo wings with the fairly grave statement that she doesnt eat buffalo. As a friend of hers pointed out, it had apparently never occurred to her to wonder, given her understanding of the etymology, where on a buffalo you would find the wings to begin with.

Of course, we cant understand why eating buffalo is all that big a deal either. We can certainly respect not eating red meat for religious or digestive reasons, but we see no reason why bison should be singled out within that category as unworthy of consumption. After all, it tastes better than regular beef and is healthier to boot. But, as we learn in Ms Holmes article, we should not expect Mrs Simpson to think along such lines, as we are informed she is apparently hopeless in quite a few other regards as well.

Now, to be objective, we should note that Mrs Simpson has her defenders, such as Illinigirl, who writes as follows:

Yes she says stupid things and is a bit spoiled, but at least she has her head on straight. She's come through teen stardom fairly well and seemingly stood by her morals and remained close to her family.

Well, that is certainly a fair point, and we will admit that we are not all that familiar with Mrs Simpsons career, so we will take Illinigirls word as gospel. What we dont understand, though, is why anyone would watch this particular show with Mrs Simpson on it. As evidence of our inability to comprehend such things, we harken back to the five-minute period some years ago in which our brother inadvertently exposed us to a reality-television show starring Anna Nicole Smith. We were so shaken at watching this train-wreck of a program polysyllabic words were high points that we dont think even a stiff dose of gin could have lifted our spirits. What, in the name of God, would cause such people to voluntarily make fools of themselves before a national television audience?

But, of course, these people are entertainers, and we will allow for the tiniest possibility that they realize exactly what they are doing, and are in fact laughing all the way to the bank. (We do not really believe that, of course; there is no reason to act stupid when, as in these shows, one draws his or her pay regardless of how he or she comes across). We further will allow that while one can criticize entertainers for being vapid or appallingly ignorant of world affairs, one can not criticize them for being foolish in terms of their marketing savvy. They have not only extended their earning potential, they have diversified their revenues through these shows; and we extend a tip of the hat to them (or the people behind them) for making all that happen.

That said, we would very much like to throw our hat in disgust at the people starring in a related but different type of reality show. Apparently, a plague of programs are taking a look at the lives not of the wealthy, but of the wealthys indolent and feckless progeny. We were and are thoroughly appalled at this development.

For, you see, we have every intent of someday becoming wealthy through lots of hard work and prudent investing of the cash we will earn through our labors. We have run the calculations and found that even on our middle-class income, we can do quite well for ourselves as long as we are dedicated and smart about things. Indeed, by the time we are sixty years of age, we expect to have reached what a certain very wise man calls the land of critical mass.

Hence, we were not at all pleased to learn that there were shows being produced in which the decadent, spoilt, whinging larvae of the nouveau riche are prancing about and spending more money on clothing in one shopping trip than most average folks earn in a good quarter.

This is not because we dont want them to spend so foolishly. We approve mightily of that, because it helps the economy. We just dont want them to do it in front of millions of people who dont have the same resources. Its not just that its unseemly to do so its that we know what sometimes happens when moneyed folks have gone publicly overboard in doing that

CHICAGO, 2074: Revolutionary Leader Ernest B.B. Sinclair delivers a speech to Party faithful after seizing power. INSET: P. Martin Kepple (2018-2075), the famed writer, contemplates a chess-board as he is being denounced as a blood-sucking fascist insect capitalist in a May Day speech. During the turbulent years of 2072-2074, Kepple was one of many Americans prevented from escaping to exile in Bermuda. (PHOTO CREDIT: The Newspeak Dictionary).

We do not, obviously, hold the kids entirely responsible for their indiscretion. We do, however, hold their feckless and irresponsible parents entirely to account. Therefore, we would kindly ask them to prevail upon their children and have them stop -- or at the very least, grow up a bit.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:56 PM | TrackBack

October 17, 2003

Shock Fury Horror!

WOODY ALLEN FAMOUSLY SAID that you can't tell folks that you stole and robbed banks for a living, because people would hold it against you. However, thanks to the most disturbing site we've seen in a long time, you CAN tell folks about that -- and so much more!

Yes, thanks to these good people, humanity's fallen nature and general spiritual rot is made public. It's all anonymous, but Gad! it has to be one of the most disturbing things we've seen in years.

Consider the following things to which otherwise normal people admitted. We have left their entries' spelling and grammatical errors intact:

I once made conterfeit money from my computer and spent at least $200 at various places. Im not suprised i did it as much as i was surpised how easy it was

When my boss was away in meetings, I would go into his office, put my feet up on his desk and play around with his palmpilot. I would also install games on his computer and play them over the internet.

I'm a man in his 20s. Recently I found a girl's make up bag on the floor in a nightclub. I took it home, and tried putting the make up on.

Sickness! depravity! corruption! And these are just the entries we felt we could print!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:31 AM | TrackBack

October 07, 2003

An Ode to File-Sharers

WE RECENTLY REALIZED that while the Recording Industry Association of America has filed lawsuits against hundreds upon hundreds of people accused of illegal file-sharing, all the news reports we've seen have been in reference to those folks who have settled with the recording companies. As we figure it's only a matter of time before one of the brave (read: crazy) souls on the receiving end of those lawsuits actually tries to fight it, we offer the following ode*:

(with apologies to Otis Redding)

Sittin' here under the gun
I'll be sittin' when the day is done
Watchin' the jury roll in
Then I'll watch 'em go away again

I'm sittin' in the dock, at bay
Hoping the tide turns my way
Ooh, I'm just sittin' in the dock, at bay
Wastin' time ...

I left my home in Georgia
Got served by the RIAA
It's 'cause they're a bunch of morons
asking eighteen for some J-Lo -- no way!

So, I'm just sittin' in the dock, at bay
Hoping the tide turns my way
Ooh, I'm just sittin' in the dock, at bay
Wastin' time ...

Look like nothing's gonna change
Every CD still gonna sound the same
I can't do what their people tell me to do
Which is settle up -- and pay

Just sittin' here, wanting to groan
And this press corps just won't leave me alone
Two thousand miles I roamed
'Cause their lawyers forgot to file near home

Now, I'm just gonna sit in the dock, at bay
Hoping the tide turns my way
Ooh, I'm just sittin' in the dock, at bay
Wastin' time ...



* Note to humorless recording-industry people: This is parody. This means that we can't be sued, even if you really don't like it.

* Note to humorless recording-industry attorneys: No, really. See Hustler v. Falwell, 485 US 46.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:46 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 06, 2003

This Cannot Be Borne

WE HAVE LEARNED that The Raving Atheist has devised a "Blog Code" to ascertain meaning from a series of blogs authored by people whom our atheist calls "Godidiots." As it turns out, The Rant is among these seven or so blogs which attracted The Raving Atheist's attention.

Using these supposed code-breaking skills, The Raving Atheist has claimed to deduce the inherent meaning of The Rant, based on the full title of our blog. This supposed meaning is as follows:

An inane, blasted, pimply jerk.
Limp and nasty plebian jerk.
Jerky, pliant, damnable penis.

The Raving Atheist writes, as sort of an afterthought to somehow lessen the indignity he has heaped upon us, "I never thought he was that much of a jerk."

We do appreciate that. But quite frankly, we could also care less. That is not what has our hackles up. Nor do the comments about being "limp and nasty," or being "pliant" and a "damnable penis." We can deal with these baseless and crude attacks against our character.

But plebian ?


To respond to this insult against our good name, we turn to one of our illustrious ancestors, Hans Peter Koeppel (1644-1719), the noted Gerichtschoffe; one-time Mayor of Dehlingen, Alsace; landlord; and fourth of his line. We have translated from the original German transcript:


Ye Raving Epicurean, who writeth in a most Unseemly and Gauche manner so that he may better Castigate the God-fearing Christian men and women of ye civil society, doth Overreach himself most precariously. Was it not similar Incivility which led to the cruel treatment of my beloved Wife, whom the Uncouth people notoriously Tried in Diemeringen in 1673? Yea; I would argue thusly; and I Reject his scurrilious Non-sense accordingly.

For while Fortune decreed that an Aristocratic birth was not our lot, Providence and human Labor saw to it that our fortunes improved over time. These Labors did not go for Naught, and I can only thank Almighty God for his generosity and Blessing upon our house, and the generations upon generations which came after my Time upon this mortal coil. With His assent, these works shall ever Increase.

I do Understand that a particular great-great-grandson of my great-grandson has sometimes been a bit rash in his Judgments, but I must attribute this to Youth and Inexperience. With time, he shall cast away such Tomfoolery, and begin undertaking the pursuits of a true gentleman.

Also, as one learned man of Yr. time might say, "Ye Raving Epicurean knows nothing of my work. He means my whole fallacy is wrong. How he ever got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing."


And to quote another learned man: "Boy, don't you wish life was like this?"

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 01:16 AM | TrackBack

September 24, 2003

That's. Just. Wrong.

HOW DO YOU KNOW it's a European advertisement? Well, if you're not offended by advertisements that are rather suggestive, just look closely at this poster involving the euro and the dollar.

All right, mister. You can have your little joke and your little overvalued foofy currency with no discernible national symbols. But just wait!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:22 PM | TrackBack

August 24, 2003

A Point of Order

In response to my brazen challenge of his position on the issue, Oliver Willis has expanded his comments on the controversy surrounding a Ten Commandments display in an Alabama courthouse.

It is a reasonable and thoughtful response, and one that I am glad Mr Willis has given. Mr Willis does note the following:

Ben Kepple takes me to task for my comments about the Ten Commandments controversy. The problem is, Ben appears to have recast my defense of the first amendment as anti-religion bigotry. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I still stand by my previous comments on the matter. I did not argue that Mr Willis is an anti-religious zealot -- at least that's not how I intended it -- but I did take issue with his implied charge that the monument's display was evidence of religious browbeating.

That said, I would invite readers of The Rant to read Mr Willis' entry in full. It is a more reasoned look at the Constitutional issue surrounding the monument's display. That's a topic I have not discussed, but one that I know is of interest to many.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:29 PM | TrackBack

August 16, 2003

President Amin? Welcome to Hell

Former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin has finally shuffled off this mortal coil, the Reuters news agency writes from Kampala. He will not be missed.

The report informs us that Amin had suffered for weeks before finally walking into Hell's embrace; an end which we find only somewhat just. Far better for him to have paid for his crimes against humanity in this life as well as the next.

Those crimes, we might add, include killing about 100,000 Ugandans, forcing 40,000 Indians and other Asians into exile, and other barbaric acts including cannibalism.

However, while we are glad that Amin is no longer on this Earth, we are quite troubled at one particular point expressed in the Reuters article:

(Amin) himself was driven from Uganda in 1979 by forces from neighboring Tanzania and Ugandan exiles. Saudi Arabia gave him sanctuary in the name of Islamic charity. Amin had lived quietly in exile in Jeddah with four wives on a government stipend.

If the Saudis were willing to give this butcher sanctuary for more than two decades, who else are they willing to harbor from justice?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:58 PM | TrackBack

August 05, 2003

Hideous New Show Signifies Cultural Rot

OK, so I watched the first half-hour of "The O.C"'s inaugural episode tonight, and I am thoroughly appalled. Given the advertisements that have appeared during the commercial breaks, however, I am sure that the people over at Fox are having a fete for the fellow who greenlighted this monstrous program. That appalls me even more.

Quite frankly, this show was so bad I couldn't watch. For one thing, it's so incredibly implausible that I just couldn't suspend my disbelief long enough to stay with it. Basically, the primary driver behind the whole silly affair is this:

1. Decent Kid from Bad Home Gets into Trouble with the Law.
2. Kindly Public Defense Attorney Lets Boy into His Life.
3. Kindly Public Defense Attorney Lives in Newport Beach Mansion the Size of the Staples Center.

And really, things go downhill from there. Oh, sure, the guy could be doing pro bono work, except for the fact that defense attorneys would certainly not do pro bono work for some punk-ass white kid who looks like he has trouble shaving in the mornings. No. That is not how such things work. And certainly not for some kid who has merely stolen a car, the crime of which the poor lad is accused of committing.

But that is merely one of the great improbable occurrences in Chi-Chi Fou-Fou land. There are plenty of others, of course, and I won't go into them here, although I will say I find the idea of Orange County being cool to be a bit silly. As a former resident of Los Angeles' Venice district, I can assure you that Orange County is not cool. Furthermore, I can assure you that most denizens of Los Angeles still hold to what one could call the "Swingers" mantra. Allow me to paraphrase:

GUY: "What in hell are you doing with a gun?"
OTHER GUY: "Hey, man! Step off! I grew up here!"
GUY: "You grew up in Anaheim."

That's right. Anaheim. Like an Anaheim chile -- mild, milquetoast, no fire and certainly not the real thing. This is how one could describe "The O.C." Yes, there are many scenes involving drinking and partying and obscene displays of wealth. If there are any kids out there reading this, please let me assure you that these things are not cool. Drinking and partying make your face break out and your eyes go bloodshot and your personality turn to mush. Foolish spending is not compatible with sound retirement planning, which you ought to start doing now.

Anyway, "The O.C." is a show that deserves to get The Kibosh. A pity, though, that the good people over at Fox did not take the ideas therein and repackaged them. Far better had the producers decided to do something really cool with the script, and have the kids' $70,000 sport-utility vehicle break down on Century Blvd. At night.

Now I would have paid money to have seen that.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:14 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 28, 2003

Illinois Has Officially Gone to Hell

What happens when word gets out that two young children are earning pocket money at their grandmother's small business? Well, in Illinois, the state Government sends in a labor inspector to read Grandma the riot act!

Christ. Go read the story in the Chicago Sun-Times. It's freaking pitiful.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:46 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 19, 2003

Taking Things a BIT Too Far

Eight dogs have died after eating poisoned sausages left at a popular dog-walking park in Portland, Ore., the Associated Press has reported. The poisonings come as Portland authorities move to enforce the city's leash laws, which many dog owners apparently ignore.

We here at The Rant are not surprised that this type of thing happened in Oregon, a state which long-time readers know we have often considered a bit different.

On the other hand, though, this is probably the type of thing that could happen in any modern city. Many Americans, we realize, get far too worked up about issues that really aren't all that important in the grand scheme of things. As such, it does not surprise us that at least one American has gone off the freaking deep end due to this issue of leash-law enforcement.

Look. It ought not matter whether people keep their dogs on or off a leash provided a) folks clean up after their canine companions and b) the dogs are trained to behave with as much decorum as one can drill into them. Even then, it might make sense to set aside one or two of the city's parks for dog owners who would prefer to let their canines roam free, just so people who do not care for dogs don't have to deal with them.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:04 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 12, 2003

More Fun with Wealth and Class

Fascinating story in The Scotsman today about an interesting problem facing the luxury-goods industry: namely, that the hoi polloi are purchasing their products in bulk.

Of course, as The Scotsman's Edward Black notes, there are other problems facing the industry: war, recession and currency fluctuations. But he makes a pretty interesting point: that the fashion industry has diluted its brands to the point where they are no longer exclusive. One can hence infer -- although Mr Black does not give this as much space as I would have liked -- that this dilution is leading to decreased sales, losses, and general economic woes.

It really is fascinating stuff, at least to me. That's not only because it deals with the issue of economics, it deals with the issue of materialism in Western society.

Now the economics issue is pretty cut-and-dried. To me, the fashion houses should have either raised their prices significantly, thus kneeling to the immutable laws of supply and demand; or introduced even more exclusive goods to protect their brands. Rather, as Mr Black's story notes, they increased supply to meet the increased demand, with immediate profit as the result. They are now reaping the whirlwind of that policy.

What's more interesting to me, though, is this issue of materialism and its acute effects on modern society. Certainly materialism has always been a force in life; but it has never taken hold of us as people like it has now.

It makes sense when you think about it, in a way, for at no time in human history has mankind enjoyed such prosperity. Further, during the Sixties and Seventies, society saw fit to devalue time-honored institutions: the traditional family, respect for God, civic activities, and so on. So it is no surprise that we now live in a world where it is quite acceptable for a man's fidiuciary self-interest to reign paramount over his duties and obligations to his family, his church, and his nation.

I will admit that we can't squarely put the blame on the disasterous social policies of the Sixties and Seventies, even if they did do so much to exacerbate things. In the Fifties, when American society first became prosperous as a whole, there was certainly a new emphasis placed on materialism. Indeed, one could probably go back to 1848 and find its roots. Still, I think, there is no denying that the excessive pursuit of status, possessions and wealth is a pox on our national house -- now more than ever. How else can one explain the all-inclusive veneration of wealth in all facets of our society, whether in pop music or sales brochures or in executive-compensation packages? This was not something you saw in the Forties and Fifties.

I should note, though, that the key word there is excessive. "Money is the root of all evil," goes the old saying, but that's crap. Evil is the root of all evil.*

Money, if used wisely and properly, is a good thing. Goods and services can certainly be good things: it all depends on why you want them. If you resolve tomorrow morning that you really want a BMW 7 Series automobile, and you want it because you would love driving it, there's nothing wrong with that. If you really want that BMW 7 Series because it means you can show it off at the club and enrage Simmons in the cubicle three down from yours, that's when you enter a real hornet's nest spiritually and temporally.

Temporally -- Gad. Where can one begin?

Material things don't make people happy, but too many people think they will. Lusting after said material things, and not getting them, makes people unhappy and resentful.

Lusting after said material things and getting them makes one happy for the moment, but makes others quite unhappy if one is arrogant or a show-off. When the happiness wears off, one is not only unhappy again, but one finds it more difficult to get a raise at the office because the boss sees the new BMW one is driving.

Then, in three years you trade the car in anyway and you have nothing to show for it because you bought a highly-depreciable asset. This leads you on a quest for more wealth, because you not only need a new car, there are now looming college tuition payments for the kids and the retirement you haven't adequately saved for and so on. The lessons here? Spend less, save more, income is not wealth, the only good debt is house- and education-related: all things that any financial planner can tell you.

But there are greater dangers. Spiritually, of course, there is the matter of one's own soul. Avarice, as Dante noted, was the appetite that can never be satiated and grows as you feed it. That cycle continues until it consumes one's being. As if that wasn't bad enough, avarice sparks deeper sins: envy, for one. And envy, at least in the world-view of we here at The Rant, leads to pride, the worst sin of all. It gets worse, too, because you're not just ruining yourself; you're helping corrupt others who aren't as blessed in this life as you are. I would submit that this matter is the gravest of all.

Related: Lileks on Anthony Burgess, and Burgess' views about the teachings of St. Augustine and Pelagius. If you haven't read this Bleat installment, you must. It will not only give you a new appreciation for Mr Burgess' writing, but a right-thinking perspective on the human dynamic.

* Full disclosure: I have to think someone figured that out long before I did; so if you've seen it and know a citation, let me know.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 06:59 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 09, 2003

Say, Jerry, This Tastes a Bit Off ...

A German zoo owner is being investigated for allegedly eating his own wild animals, Sky News reports in its famed one-sentence paragraph style:

It is suspected Joerg Schlechte may have used the zoo as his personal larder.

He has already been fined for roasting pot-bellied pigs during a drunken barbeque.

But now police in Germany are looking into the fate of a host of missing animals.

They include a small buffalo, rabbits, donkeys, goats, racoons, parrots, a wild boar and even three Shetland ponies.

The animals were found missing when the zoo in Meissen, eastern Germany, was taken over by new owners.

Part of me wonders what all the fuss is about: so he had some friends over and they had a pig roast. On the other hand, if this fellow did some of these other things, it's pretty gross. I mean, what kind of man would willingly eat a raccoon? Since when did eastern Germany turn into West Virginia?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 05:54 PM | TrackBack

June 28, 2003

This is Gettin' Ugly

Just when you thought California politics couldn't get any more screwed up, here's an article from the San Francisco Chronicle which shows they can.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:54 PM | TrackBack

June 22, 2003

The Story That Keeps Getting Weirder

One of the nice things about blogging (and, also, reading blogs) is that it's generally a very intellectual pursuit. You can usually find great discussions about theology, public policy, and other important issues that Truly Matter. Furthermore, no matter what one's own beliefs are, one can always find grist for one's mental mill with just a bit of reading.

Well, for the moment, screw that. I came across a bloody great story that keeps getting weirder as time goes on. And since hardly anyone else is talking about it, I will.

You should know that Andrew Luster, a perfectly loathesome trustafarian and a fugitive from justice to boot, has been captured down in Mexico after a few months on the run. Apparently, Luster -- who was convicted in absentia of drugging and then raping three women -- didn't like the prospect that he'd receive similar treatment from the inmates at Folsom or Cocoran.

Anyway: Luster ran, he got caught, lot of wire copy resulted. Yet how much play did this get from bloggers? This afternoon, a Google search for Luster's name and the word "blog" received a mere 456 hits. Gad! I mean, given the other aspects to the story, you'd expect a bit more reaction. Oh, sure, TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime had a practical exclusive back on Wednesday -- but that's because the guy gal running it knows the bounty hunter who captured Luster.

This is where the story begins to get interesting.

After Luster's capture, Mexican authorities arrested the bounty hunter in question, Duane "Dog" Chapman of Hawaii. As Fox News put it so well, Mr Chapman, two of his sons, a TV producer and an actor will face "charges for leaving Mexican police out of the dramatic capture." As if that wasn't enough, news of Mr Chapman's activities got a lot of bounty hunters and bail-bondsmen in California rather upset.

WOULD MAX CHERRY have gone to Mexico to bring back a fugitive from justice? We think he would, but he'd have been a bit more discreet about things. (More Info)

All this is interesting stuff, but it's the other things about this story which really amaze me. By "other things," I refer to the Cosmic Levels of Decadence and Stupidity present.

To me, at any rate, Andrew Luster is proof positive that decadence can ruin a perfectly good family in just two or three generations, if that family isn't careful about things. For instead of learning a profession or engaging in academics, Luster wasted the 39 years of freedom he had surfing, drinking, and playing Casanova. I mean, from all the news accounts, the guy has done nothing with his life. That's just pathetic.

Now, the moral offensiveness of such idleness could have been lessened if the guy was at least a likable fellow or had a bit of wit about him. (As Jimmy Foster said, when asked if he had ever made a dollar on his own, "No, but I have plans!") But Luster couldn't even manage that -- the journal he kept in Mexico shows the man has the social IQ of a senior in high school.

Of course, Luster is also apparently dumb as a bag of rocks, if you look at his escape plan. First, instead of going to a locale where a) he wouldn't be noticed and b) there wasn't an extradition treaty with the United States, he went to Puerto Vallarta. He stayed at a hotel next to a police station. He never turned off his mobile phone. He even went to parties, according to other news accounts.

Luster's family doesn't exactly seem all that classy either, if you ask me. According to Mr Chapman, Luster's mother wished her fugitive son good luck while on the lam. Let's make clear that she allegedly did so during a television interview.

If that is true, that's disgusting.

Now, it's one thing for Luster's mother to not actively assist the authorities in their search for her son -- but it's another thing entirely if she publicly insulted the victims of the crimes her son committed. To me, openly hoping for your son to evade the authorities is such an insult. She ought to have kept silent about the whole matter -- or, at the very least, asked her son to turn himself in. That would have been the smart move from a legal point of view anyway.

But then, this family doesn't seem to have a lot of smarts. Who knows? Perhaps Luster himself will get some as he serves out his 124-year-sentence.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 02:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 18, 2003

Now I'm REALLY Shocked and Appalled

The American Association of Nude Recreation is expanding a network of camps which let teenagers parade around naked on camp grounds, The New York Times has reported. According to the Times report, the camps are aimed at children ranging from the ages of eleven to eighteen.

Yes, that's disgusting; and no, I'm not kidding around. This is from an Actual News Article published in one of the nation's largest daily broadsheets:

Naked summer camp might strike non-nudists as illegal or prurient, or like striking a match to the gasoline of adolescent hormones.

Anti-nudity statutes in Florida and other states, however, say that nudity on private property is perfectly legal, even among minors, as long as there is no lewdness. And camp rules, drawn up by campers themselves a few years ago, guard against that. "Do not allow nudity and lust to mingle," they state. "No improper touch. Nudity must not be humiliating, degrading or promote ridicule." Even the occasional clothing, worn in the camp's shuttle van, must not be "sexually alluring."

"Might strike?" What's all this "might strike" talk about? How about "DOES strike?" I mean, after all, if these teenagers are raised in homes where the parents consider open nudity to be "fine" and "with it," one can infer that they probably haven't received the traditional moral or social teaching about modesty in other respects. Add in the fact that they're teenagers, and we find it quite unlikely they would have any qualms at all about having at it behind the canteen.

But wait, some might say. There are Camp Rules in place to prevent any of that! Oh, yes. Thank God we have the Camp Rules. They'll be sure to stop any licentiousness and other depraved goings-on. Look! The campgoers are hormone-crazed teenagers! At least some will pay no attention to the Camp Rules. Heck, they wouldn't pay attention if the Camp Rules dealt with things like curfew and visitation, much less a prohibition on sexual activity.

What really gets me, though, are the parents who send their kids to these types of places. Now that's thinking I really can't understand. I mean, it's one thing if the parents decide to take a week once a year and go in secret to frolic in the buff. It's another thing entirely for said parents to introduce their kids to such things, and the consequent dangers that might come along with them.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:37 PM | TrackBack

June 09, 2003

Irate Help at Calif. Sizzler Trashes Customer's Home

A God-fearing and virtuous California family found their home vandalized just hours after a dispute with a waiter at a Norco Sizzler, the Associated Press reports today.

Police have withheld the identity of the waiter, but say the man got into a dispute with Wayne and Darlene Keller after Mrs Keller asked for vegetables with her meal. The waiter, his girlfriend, and the waiter's two younger brothers were arrested about 1 a.m. after the Kellers found their house doused with a gallon of maple syrup and raw eggs. Also, their house was TP'ed.

Say it with me, folks: "That's -- just -- wrong." However, there is good news: the waiter has been sacked.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 08, 2003

Artist Cajoles 7,000 Into Public Nudity Stunt

A New York artist somehow convinced seven thousand otherwise law-abiding people to strip nude in public for one of his photographs, the Associated Press reports.

The mass demonstration took place in Barcelona on Sunday morning. The AP's report makes clear that Spencer Tunick, the artist in question, is a modest and unassuming figure:

"I want people to feel uncomfortable that they've demonized the body," Tunick said in an interview with The Associated Press shortly before staging his Barcelona installation. "I want them to feel uncomfortable at first and then realize it's just skin. Yes, the body can be a shape."

He called the Barcelona installation a great visual success. "I created a river of bodies like I've never made before. It was an amazing pink and tan carpet."

Okay! I'm officially creeped out. Well, that and nonplussed.

Sure, maybe Mr Tunick has reason to be snarky. It is no joke to get 7,000 people to do anything, much less convince them to take leave of their senses and parade around Barcelona without wearing clothing. But I don't see why this qualifies as a work of art, unless we can refer to public-relations stunts as such.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:20 PM | TrackBack

June 06, 2003

Whoa. SAUCY.

This post over at OxBlog will undoubtedly be of interest to young men enrolled in undergraduate or graduate-level studies. It seems that Josh Chafetz, OxBlog's owner, sallied forth and requested that readers take part in a contest to come up with philosophy-oriented pick-up lines.

Sasha Castel thought up the best of them, I thought. I mean, how could you go wrong on a college campus with a line like, "Wanna see my means of production?"

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:52 AM