Discussions on politics, foreign affairs, religion, and the state of American culture...oh, heck with it. It's an electronic soapbox where I get to spout off about all the idiocy that manifests itself in this day and age.
WHO IS THIS GUY?
Benjamin Kepple is a journalist in New Hampshire. He is a former reporter/writer for Investor's Business Daily,
Heterodoxy, and FrontPage Magazine. He has also been published in the Daily News of Los Angeles,
the Ottawa Citizen, AlbertaViews, and other publications. He was also a contributing editor for the 2nd edition of "Choosing the Right College," published by ISI Books.
Throughout his reporting career, Kepple has thrown questions at everyone from former presidential candidates and
major Washington lobbyists to ex-leftist militants and defenders of domestic terror groups. First as a magazine writer
and then as a hard-news reporter, Kepple has written on education, economics, cultural affairs, and politics --
as well as car accidents, police shootings, and school board meetings.
As a student at the University of Michigan, Kepple was prominently mentioned in a 1998 Detroit Free Press
article on race relations at the school's Ann Arbor campus. Also that year, Kepple briefly appeared as a student
panelist on "NewsHour" with Jim Lehrer. In 1999, he was a guest on The Mike Rosen Show (KOA, 850-AM, Denver)
regarding Boston College's Mary Daly controversy.
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Patior ut potiar
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All work published on this site, excluding external links and citations, as well as some imagery, is (C) 2001, 2002, by Benjamin Kepple.
All rights are reserved. Said work may not be republished in any medium or form without the prior consent of
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On Reporting I recently saw a link to The Rant from the site of one Mark Butterworth, a Sacramento-based writer and rather devout fellow, so I went on over and checked it out. I was reading along, minding my own business, when I saw that my profession was maligned and slandered in his entry, "Whose Story Is It, Anyway?" Mr Butterworth argues that his scant encounters with my fellow newsmen were enough to clue him into the profession, yet what he writes wasn't convincing. Either that or he had a really bad interview with some crusty embittered hack over at the Bee, and the copy desk misidentified him as a brand of processed maple syrup.
The one maxim reporters have, when hearing someone is upset with their coverage or otherwise annoyed with them, is: They Knew What They Were Getting Into. And it's true. What's that? You didn't mean what you said? Well, you should have thought of that earlier, no? What? You had no idea you were going to look so bad? Maybe you shouldn't have said so-and-so got what was coming to him. All we're doing, as reporters, is relating what you said to the public, commissioner/secretary/governor/senator.
But enough of that. Let's turn to the audio tape.
Mr Butterworth writes:
Reporters are basically disingenuous which is a fancy way of calling them liars. I don't mean that they lie about not being reporters (although they do that sometimes, too), but they do their best to create a false sense of reality.
First, if any reporter doesn't identify himself as such, that's dirty pool and would seem to be a real violation of any code of conduct I can imagine. And creating a false sense of reality is the last thing a reporter wants to do. Our currency is trust: the reader expects that what we wrote was right.
Reporters exist to do one thing really, and that is to collect good quotes from any situation. A good quote is an emotional outburst, remark, conclusion, or statement of prejudice, hatred, anger, rage, despair, or attack. A good quote is brief, provocative, sarcastic, mean, or inflammatory. A good quote simplifies an issue into black and white which the reporter can then accuse the speakers of such as being what? - why simplistic, of course.
We exist to get the story. If we happen to get a provocative quote along the way, that's all well and good -- but we can't make such things up, otherwise we would a) get drummed out of the profession faster than you could say "copy" and b) get sued for millions upon millions of dollars. Neither of those things are conducive to getting a steady paycheck, which reporters don't only want, they need. We're not the lowest-paying profession right out of college for nothing, now.
What is it about quotations that are so important? For some reason, we love what talking reveals about others and might it tell us about ourselves. Novelists have been trained for many decades now to try and base their stories entirely on dialog. Dialog conveys meaning in a way that's shorthand. We pick up cues and clues about character through dialog. The famous phrase in a writing class now is, "Don't tell, show!" That is, don't explain or narrate a great deal. Show a lot of talk and action. In a sense, Shakespeare is king because a playwrite, after all, is all show - talk and action. The great critic, Samuel Johnson, complained of the Bard's set pieces of soliloquy as the worst part of Shakespeare as the poet brought everything to a halt for the sake of his ruminations.
No, quotations are important because they bring whatever story someone is reading to the reader's level. If I write a story about, say, a police shooting, it's going to be dull without quotes. If I talk to someone who was holding his baby as the police and a criminal were firing rounds left and right, that's a story -- and why should I not tell that man's story? It's interesting reading and it helps the reader understand what was going on.
A reporter pretends to be a regular human being just wanting to talk to you about something.
We are regular human beings. Besides, when we say we're reporters, people realize they're on the record and they speak accordingly.
He wants to come across as sympathetic yet a tad quizzical - "Explain to me how it was you thought..." And people, God love ‘em, have this God-awful compulsion when in a jam to want to explain their way out of it. Police count on the fact that wrong doers invariably want to explain much more than they want a lawyer present to protect their rights and advise them to shut up. It's like the child caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He swears it wasn't his fault and if you just give him enough time he can explain Everything.
People do have a right to defend themselves, of course. If I am writing an article about An Important Municipal Issue, then I need to talk with both sides of it. It's as simple as that. If one party doesn't want to talk with me, then that is their business; but I have to give them the chance to speak their piece.
Reporters prey on that impulse in people just like the police, but the police have some justification for doing so; reporters have none. Oh, they talk about the public's right to know, but no one appointed them guardian of the public and their own self-interest undermines such rationalizations. The press primarily exists to exploit others and human weakness for a "story".
Well, if we don't protect the public from their overlords in Government, who will? Would you go down to district court and see how the criminals are dealt with, and would you study budgets, and would you wade through vast reams of reports, and would you investigate shady financial dealings on the part of corporations? No. You don't have the time for that. And self-interest: come on. What self-interest? Do you honestly think a reporter, who either a) makes next to nothing, and/or b) makes far less than his superiors in the organization, gives a damn whether his story will sell papers? No. That's not his job. His job is to report the news. When he is done, he can go to the bar and drink.
So, reporters are users and like agent provocateurs, will instigate controversy whenever they can. The press depends on conflict to sell newspapers. When people don't provide enough of it in the course of events, the media has to try and manufacture it. It's like all those entertainment shows that wave a bunch of money in front of people just to see how far they'll go; and the damage they'll do to others or themselves for it. The media waves a banner of attention to your cause or situation.
News flash: everyone else in America does a much better job at instigating controversy than we ever could. We don't need to instigate it because you do it for us. Besides, even with those entertainment shows, no one is forcing these people to go on National Television and make fools of themselves. They knew what they were getting into.
I have a book. Wouldn't it be nice if everybody got to hear about it? It might make me rich if they did. So what am I willing to do to get that attention? Same with others. So now we compete to be the most interesting, provocative, and controversial in order to win attention. We start cynically feeding each other's worst impulses. But who's the buyer and who's the whore. Each becomes both.
Again, don't blame us for people's failings. If people are overly drawn to the media because of their own greed or some other failing ... that should be their concern, not ours.
After awhile good or bad doesn't matter in the least because the line has been blurred by the constant proclamation of goods which aren't that good and bads which aren't so bad. All that remains most true is that there is a giant maw which never ceases to say, "Feed me!" That maw is not simply the media, but us. We are that monster which demands constant distraction or stimulation of some kind. We used to be people who could sit on the front porch, watch the grass grow, finding that pleasant and peaceful, but not anymore.
Exactly! So why are you blaming us? Newsmen respond to one thing: the Market. If readers stop buying the paper because they are disgusted with the coverage ... the coverage will change. This is because reporters are subservient to their editors, who are subservient to the Publisher, who is in charge of making sure the whole bloody enterprise stays afloat somehow. I don't know how Publishers manage to do this, but they do.
I have no absolute idea of what heaven is like, but I expect we won't be bored or disappointed. Nevertheless, I'm sure our entertainments will not be as unsatisfying as we now find them, for conflict and stimulations are rather artificial and inhuman, just as reporters are most often unreal and working an angle for their own benefit and no one else's.
I'm biting my lip at this one, and will only make one outraged comment: Would St Mark of Sacramento kindly come down from his raised platform and realize that in order to change this Godless, secular world, one must engage it instead of withdraw from it? But perhaps I am too harsh. After I am gone, I look forward to arriving in a Place where my particular skills in this life will no longer be needed.
"We need you, Scott," said Kepple upon learning of Rubush's imminent departure. "Without your presence on the Internet, political and social conservatives with like-minded views will face tough going against the liberal hordes that currently dominate the Blogosphere. Your voice is an essential part of the Right's eternal vigil to promote freedom, equality, and the God-given right to enjoy life without nasty hordes of atheist bureaucrats mucking it all up."
" 'Sides, Scotty, it's a hell of a read," Kepple said about Rubush's blog. "And there's always a bit of tough going in this field, but I know you can make it."
Kepple, three years Rubush's senior, also noted that he has had tough going in his days: failing to find the woman of his dreams, write a best-selling novel, or have much influence on anyone or anything. Still, he begged Rubush to reconsider his decision to move to the Salton Sea, a brackish lake notable for its uninhabitable surroundings and miserable summer heat.
"Please don't do it, man!" Kepple said. "Look what happened to me. I left Los Angeles and I ended up in Manchester, New Hampshire! New Hampshire, for God's sake! These people think authentic Mexican food is the crap you get down at Taco Bell! They're all miserable and unhappy and it snows eight months out of the year here. And you have to buy booze from the state liquor authority!"
Kepple then went and uncorked a bottle of the wine, unavailable in New Hampshire, that Rubush had so nicely sent him this past week.
Slap Hand to Forehead. Repeat. I just got a New Type of spam in my e-mail INBOX just now. A purported financial newsletter, STOCK BUYERS ALERT, has informed me and God knows how many other people that I can make large sums of money through investing in penny stocks. Further, this newsletter informs us that it has a STRONG BUY RECOMMENDATION for a worthless -- I mean "undervalued" -- security, which is currently trading for 75 cents per share. Interestingly, the same people who are recommending this as a STRONG BUY also OWN 45,000 SHARES OF THE BLOODY STOCK. There's also some piffle about "not investing unless one can afford a complete loss of investment."
Crikey. What's that old saying about a fool and his money?
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"Spreading alarm and despondency among Americans SINCE 1996!"
I Read Lileks All This Morning, And I've Been Thinking ... Sweet mercy, is Lileks good. It's an easy conclusion to draw whenever you read "The Bleat," but when you read "The Bleat" for two hours straight it really hits home.
Truly there are few, if any, men in America who have a better reading on the pulse of American life than he does. Perhaps the closest is Peggy Noonan at the Wall Street Journal, who when she is inclined can write columns that make you weep, but she is not nearly as prolific as Lileks is. Every day the man pours out his heart, and it is incredible. There's just one caveat to it, though. You'll think when you're done reading, and what you read might just change you.
The best example of that in Today's Lesson is Lileks' Bleat about visiting a relative in a nursing home. It was a sad and depressing story, the type that makes you shout Christ Jesus, I don't want to think about this in your mind, but I read it all the same. I don't want to deal with sickness and death and sadness; I don't want to deal with people ending life in hospital with tubes running in and out of them. Perhaps most of all, though, I can't stand the thought of living life only to deal with a sea of term-life insurance offers and Important Information About My Social Security Death Benefit and the paperwork, endless paperwork, that my eventual passing will generate. I don't want to deal with that either.
And I've never wanted to deal with it. I hate hospitals and I hate visiting the doctor. I hate the fact others get so emotional about health care, because I'm afraid to let myself get so emotional about it.
Case in point. This week I was covering Important Municipal Issues at work ("They want to tax people's garbage?! They're mad!") and due to a shortage of desks in the newsroom, I found myself next to a reporter doing a follow-up on one health-care mess or another. It seems that a major health insurer -- my health insurer -- is refusing to pay doctors what they consider to be a fair rate for their services, so a number of doctors have told the firm where they can stick their reimbursements. The calamity here, as some see it, is that thousands of patients in my home town will be left to find new physicians.
My fellow reporter was running hot: after all, here was a Textbook Case of the Evil and Greedy Corporation at work. How dare they increase their profits! How dare they maximize returns for their shareholders! The very nerve!
When I gleefully brought up the other side of this issue (they're not a charity, for God's sake, they're a public corporation), this happened:
REPORTER: "You're such a right-winger!"
ME: "I suppose it's because I look at health care the same way I look at auto repair."
And it's true. Car breaks, you take it to be fixed; Person breaks, you take him to be fixed. Sometimes they can put all the pieces back together again and sometimes they can't. It seems the most sanity-inducing way to look at the issue, since we long ago factored out patients' dignity in our battle over the Most Pressing Question in Health Care: "Who the hell's going to pay for all this?"
Now, you can't blame health insurers for trying to keep reimbursements low because they have a fiduciary responsibility to their policy-holders and shareholders to do so, and you can't blame doctors for wanting reimbursements high because they have a right to earn a living. So I don't think I should be blamed for, quite frankly, not caring all that much. The doctors can claim they really do care about their patients, but ninety percent of them don't. They either don't have the time or they just can't, to keep their own sanity intact. And when it comes to me, they can save their show-empathy for someone who might believe it. I trust my insurer more, if only because I know they don't care about me as a person and a patient. They care about me as Policy Holder 134127, with $1,999,883.45 remaining in lifetime benefits on his policy, who will call them 5.1 times per year to complain about 3.2 annual instances of bureaucratic incompetence. In short, every group involved has a tendency to treat patients as a burden rather than people in every aspect of the Health Care Industry.
This is most acutely felt on the front lines of a patient's experience in hospital: dealing with orderlies and nurses and other folk who have to do all the dirty work. Save your protests. When I was hospitalized for my diabetic shock a few years ago in Los Angeles -- be warned, this is pretty unpleasant -- the treatment I got from my nurses was sometimes just downright malicious. On the day I was hospitalized, Dad flew out from Ohio immediately to stay by me, and before he was shown into the room, I was pushed and pulled and prodded and yelled at -- get yourself presentable, boy, we can't show you to your father lying in your own waste. The next day, as I regained my lucidity, the day staff dripped with scorn at my incontinence and the night staff mocked me for my delirium the evening before. As if it was my own fault I was suffering the equivalent of not having a drop of water for four days straight!
So I'd rather not think about the fact that millions of people are undoubtedly going through the same thing day in and day out, for years on end, simply because they are aged. It's an uncaring and cold and calculating position -- but by God, I'll be ready for that when it happens to me again.
Go Lee, Go Lee, Go! Lee Bockhorn does not have a Web log, which bothers me. However, he does have a great article on The Weekly Standard's web site today about the possibility of Bush-Condi 2004. Everyone else, including Instantman's readers, is reading it: shouldn't you?
How the Other Half Lives Charles Dodgson has a piqued post from Tuesday on how the rich are treated differently than the poor. In a story which proves the necessity of a good attorney and a better pre-nuptial agreement for anyone with at least a little cash, Mr Dodgson passes on the latest story about the child-support agreement between MGM tycoon Kirk Kerkorian and his Former Tennis Pro Ex-Wife. Now, the rub here is that Mr Dodgson is piqued to find that the four-year-old offspring -- or perhaps not -- of the Kerkorians' matrimony could receive between $50,000 and $320,000 a month in support from her 84-year-old father (if in fact he is). The Ex-Wife in this case now wants Mr Kerkorian to pay for attorney's fees in this case. It seems her bills are now at $500,000 and climbing in her struggle. But don't worry -- she's worth a cool $12m herself.
Mr Dodgson is also displeased that Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York wants incinerators in impoverished areas of the City. Hizzoner points out these things have a tendency to go there. The whole shebang, Mr Dodgson argues, "is a gut check on the glories of American egalitarianism."
Why this is, I can't see it. So the rich have more than the poor do; this takes nothing away from the fact that even now in American life, a poor man can still become rich through hard work and living a virtuous life. Mr Kerkorian did not suddenly inherit his wealth; and even though his children will likely inherit some or all of it, it takes nothing away from the fact that money was earned, no matter who has it or where it comes from. One can start out poor in this life, be poor as he leaves high school or college, or lose his money and become poor. Whichever category a man falls into, nobody is going to get him out of it until he himself makes the effort to do so.
Still, if this troubles Mr Dodgson, he can rest easy on one point. When it comes to men of great wealth, History praises he who acts with good will towards his fellow men, and condemns the man who acts in a heavy-handed and malicious way. Men remember Andrew Carnegie even today for his charity and his compassion; but who, may I ask, remembers Judge Gary? Not one man in ten thousand remembers him, not even in that miserable and polluted and ruined steel town that bears his name.
That's the Last Time I Blog After a Double Shift Ye Gods. I work 15 hours for My Employer and what do I do? Blog when I get home. I shan't do that again. Did you see that badly-edited lump below, before I fixed it? Crikey!
Where's Our Colour Coding?! A couple of quick points here on The War on Terrorism.
First: The Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning citizens to keep top eye out for the Forces of International Terrorism, as they may be plotting to explode a truck bomb in their next attack. To me, this seems quite serious: after all, Timothy McVeigh destroyed an entire federal building with a truck-based device. It also seems to me this is a perfect time to put in the colour schematic Our Government designed to warn us about these types of things. Should we be relaxed and care-free and worrying about the Oscars? (Threat Level Green). Should we act guarded and keep an eye out for various ne'er-do'wells? (Threat Level Yellow)? Or should we really expect a hit? (Threat Level Red).
Blast it all, Mr Ashcroft! Americans need their colour-coded anti-terror warning system. Give us a fighting chance, will you?
Secondly, the Feds have produced a handy list of things for citizens to look for that could be considered suspicious. Many of them make a lot of sense, such as chemical thievery and hearing explosions in the woods that are more than a buck getting sawed in two. Others are a bit, shall we say, more obvious. Specifically, I refer to none other than this handy tip: "Chemical burns or severed hands that remain untreated."
Maybe it's just me, but if I see anyone with a untreated, bloody, pus-filled stump at the end of their arm, I might find it a bit disconcerting. I'd know to report authorities without my handy FBI tip sheet. Can you imagine it?
CASHIER: Well, that'll be $13.40 for the map, $1 for the pen, and $0.65 for the lighter. And ... SWEET MERCY! What happened to you?
MAN: Oh! This! Nothing! Nothing at all! It was an industrial accident, OK!"
CASHIER: OK, Hell. I'm getting a tourniquet.
MAN: It'll only take a minute or so. Just check me out.
CASHIER Well, as long as it isn't important then!
MAN: Oh, stop it. Only a scratch.
Say, Allison, That Reminds Me ... Allison Barnes, whose blog everyone should read, says some very complimentary things about my alleged wit in her latest post. Apparently my recent comments on Rev Jesse Jackson scored a style point, which I found quite pleasing. Here's the funny part: I've actually met the Rev Jackson, and ya know ... he's got the schtick down, what can I say?
It may be even funnier for readers to know that I met the Rev Jackson in jail. Neither one of us were incarcerated in the jail at the time, though, let's make that clear. Rather, the Rev was there during America's latest bout with misapplied mercy towards the criminal class, and I was there to cover it.
("GASP!" the crowd says, "He's dragging out old clips! Run! RUN!")
Now, the true object of my wrath at the time was Ruben Carter, the ex-boxer and ex-prisoner, but the Rev Jackson was also in for a bit of it. Go read the story -- but if you won't, well, here's the deal. The Rev and Mr Carter were on hand to denounce America's prison-industrial complex, i.e. the supposedly out-of-control system which is preying upon poor felons, making them traffic in narcotics and robbing banks and such. At this event, I got to meet the Rev, actually see him in person, and was forced to listen to rhythmic demagoguery for far too long of a time.
Oh, go read the story and see what I'm talking about.
The whole affair happened a long time ago, but my memory's still pretty sharp, and I recall what happened that day. And the whole experience led me to form a few first-hand observations about the Rev Jackson.
First observation: the man didn't shake my hand. He shook everyone else's, but not mine. Now, yes, I was the only male reporter on scene at the time of his mass introduction to the press -- the broadcast boys and the other guys came later -- but I am not going to go so far as to say that had anything to do with it. I am sure it was just an oversight and had nothing to do with the fact I was writing for a conservative New Media publication at the time. I am also sure it had nothing to do with the fact the Rev has since been found, shall we say, to have fathered children outside the sacrament of his marriage. Lastly, I can assure you that my coverage was in no way changed or altered because of this slight. I pretty much knew what he was going to say, and I pretty much knew what Mr Carter was going to say, and besides, I wasn't bound by Those Pesky Rules of Objectivity at The Time.
Second: yes, the man really does talk in slogans. I wish I still had the tape of the press conference; maybe it's tucked away someplace; but boy! it sure seemed like one Trademark Jacksonian Saying right after another. The one I had in my story was, "They leave jail sicker, slicker, and return quicker." There were a few more of them that I was biting my lip at, such as when the Rev was listing off discount motel-chains as beneficiaries of the octopus-like Prison Trust. Something to the effect of, "They stay at Comfort Inn, Days Inn..."
Third: I think we've seen very little of Rev Jackson since the revelations about his out-of-wedlock child because he works best when he can control and define the debate. If he is really pressed, things start to come apart a wee bit in his polished delivery. Case in point: the "press conference" at this event I was at. The Fourth Estate got a total of five questions, two of which were softballs the local broadcast boys pitched (are they incapable of asking a tough question?). The last question was from the Associated Press, whose man gave Mr Carter a hard time over the factual inaccuracies present in "The Hurricane," the movie about Carter's life and incarceration. (Go read the story, will you?)
Now, you would think such questions would be easily deflected or at least answered, even if the reporter was in the right and the source was in the wrong. This is what public figures do. Yet suddenly we were short of time. It seemed the prisoners to whom the Rev Jackson and Mr Carter had come to speak were waiting, and they had to have done with that. As it was my impression this was closed to the press, I immediately did what Real Reporters Do and tried to think of creative ways to pad my expense voucher for the outing. Unfortunately, my conscience always gets the best of me in these cases, and I ended up sulkily returning to HQ to apply for a cheque that only barely covered my expenditure on gasoline.
But don't worry. Those AP queries aside, Messrs Jackson and Carter were as treated as well as a Governor or mid-level Federal Official would be during their little trip out to California.
New Look, No Pop-Ups National Review has a new look to its site. I like it. I especially like not having pop-up ads. The only down side is that the search function looks out of place ... but it's pretty nice.
The White-Collar Types Strike Again The Copley News Service reports the Government has collared yet another white-collar criminal: Reed Slatkin, 53, of Santa Barbara, Calif. Mr Slatkin, who as one of Earthlink's co-founders apparently should have quit while he is ahead, will reportedly plead guilty to biling investors out of -- get ready -- $593 million in what authorities have described as an old-fashioned Ponzi scheme. It is understood that Mr Slatkin may serve up to 15 years in prison for his misdeeds.
We've seen a lot of these reports lately, and it never fails to amaze me. What kind of pathological greed would drive otherwise-successful people to throw everything away in pursuit of more money than they need?
Keep Hope Alive! ... Oh, Never Mind. It's Finished. FOX NEWS reports that Jesse Jackson has offered to act as a mediator between the Israelis and the Palestinians to work for peace. Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but I think this is the clearest sign yet that there is absolutely no chance Israel and the Palestinians will ever agree to a lasting peace. When will we give the green-light for Mr Sharon to do what must be done?
The World Has Gone Mad, I Say I don't think this is an exaggeration either, based on some very disturbing cultural phenomena I have taken acute notice of within the past few days. Hence, I present some key findings taking a look at why exactly our Nation -- nay, all of Western civilization -- has gone mad.
* The existence of e-mail spam. Since everyone knows that the Free Market dictates all human behavior except in the sphere of religion, one can reasonably state that someone, somewhere, is making vast sums of money by promising the gullible that they can earn vast sums of money. And from home, no less. Someone is also undoubtedly making vast sums of money through advertising hard-core pornography, low-interest home mortgages, badly-designed vacation packages, and ways men can artificially increase the endowment their Creator gave them. The trouble here is that for every seller of these schemes, there must be a buyer. For if no one responded to e-mail spam, and recipients of such e-mail advertisements persecuted the senders to the ends of the Earth, spam would no longer exist.
Well, it does exist. Since tracking down the senders of these annoying messages is impossible, we must track down the buyers and deal with them in a harsh and unforgiving manner. Surely the engineers this fine country has produced could trace such things and identify those fools stupid enough to take part in these things. They should then be punished under some unforgiving and mediaeval legal code -- sharia comes to mind -- where they would be subjected to various trials and the ordeal of fire and water and watching unfunny Canadian television programmes. If this failed to have any effect, they should be stripped of their suffrage and citizenship rights and sent to a place where intelligent life does not exist. By this I mean Berkeley.
* Celebrity worship. Tens of millions of Americans watched the Oscars this year, despite the fact there was only one well-made film in 2001. The ostensible reason said Americans watched the awards programme was so they could see what outfits actors and actresses solidly on the left side of the Bell Curve were wearing. Further, these Americans were exposed to a dangerous and unhealthy amount -- hundreds of rads of stupidity, here -- of opinions from people who have little understanding of the subject matter they are expounding on. It should also be noted that some of these people truly believe in a religion which, from what I can tell, argues an evil galactic ruler is responsible for all of humanity's woes. Further, adherents of this religion often dress up in Navy uniforms.
My fellow Americans, it is clear millions of our countrymen are suffering in silence, living wretched and miserable lives. Why else would they use the freaking Oscars as an escape? Why else would they spend four bloody hours watching an awards show where irate entertainment-industry types determine the outcome? I call on all patriotic citizens to check in on their families, friends and loved ones to ensure they are not in such grave pain that they are forced to watch the Oscars as a salve for their pitiful existences.
*Our Legal System. Maybe it's just me, but when I became an adult, I was expected to act like one. I was not expected to be treated like a three-year-old incapable of making decisions for himself. However, I am reasonably informed that if I operate my auto in an unsafe manner, smoke cartons of Lucky Strike cigarettes, slip on a patch of ice, or are offended in a break-room conversation, I can file a lawsuit and make vast sums of money. From home, no less. You see, I'll undoubtedly be in such pain and suffering that I'll be unable to work or do dishes or much anything else of use. Even if that does have a vaguely appealing quality to it.
The Roots of Crime Natalie Solent was rolling on the floor laughing after reading this article in The Telegraph. Entitled "No One Listens to Me When I Talk About Crime," the piece is -- oops -- written without any by-line or biographical summary of the author. Well, it turns out to be Home Secretary David Blunkett. Of course, lost in the obvious snickering over the Hon Mr Blunkett's lost identification is the fact that the measures he is proposing will do nothing to solve the crime wave sweeping Britain.
First up for execution is Mr Blunkett's claim that locking more and more prisoners away Simply Isn't Working. He writes:
But we have to face the facts: simply locking up more and more criminals just isn't working. An expansion of 75 per cent in prison numbers over seven years has not protected us from the epidemic of street crime which we are now being asked to address. Reconviction rates are too high, with 56 per cent of all ex-prisoners committing more crime upon release. The figures tell an even more depressing story for young criminals, with 76 per cent being put back behind bars.
I have news for you, Mr Blunkett: we used to think this way in the United States, and we paid dearly for that mindset. Back in the Seventies, the State of Illinois issued a moratorium on prison construction -- hence effectively placing a cap on the number of people who could be incarcerated at any one time. The result was a disaster: murderers being released after five years in prison, rapists in as short as three. These people went on to reoffend in grave numbers, and caused widespread social disorder. However, in the Nineties, as America Struck Hard against the criminal element, we saw crime decrease because we were locking up the criminals in record numbers. It makes perfect sense, really; if you lock up the people who are committing crimes, they shan't have the opportunity to commit more crimes in future.
Mr Blunkett also writes:
There will be longer sentences for sexual and violent offenders and longer, tighter community supervision once they are released from prison. If someone has been convicted of a dangerous, violent or sexual crime they must be given a long prison sentence - including, in some cases, life - and made to serve it in full. They should not be free until they are no longer considered a threat to the public. If there is a recognised risk that they may offend again after the end of their prison term, then we need to make sure that they are kept under close supervision in the community. There must be no more cases like that of Roy Whiting, a man sentenced to four years for a terrible kidnap and sexual assault of a child who went on to commit an even more horrendous crime. The police and probation service must have the powers they need to monitor such people for as long as necessary.
Mmmm, yes, no more cases. We've heard that before. Why didn't you lock the bastard up for life then, eh? It's a concept that's started to work well here on this side of the pond: now, when we say life, we mean it. But you can't be strict just with the dangerous types; you must be strict with all of them. Dr Wilson said it best with his broken-window theory: stop the petty crime and you stop large crime.
Finally, Mr Blunkett writes this little gem:
For short-term prisoners, gaols are colleges of crime where they quickly pick up the tricks of the trade, make more criminal contacts and emerge from their apprenticeship as experts in law-breaking. Justice, and society, can often be better served by a tough community-based and supervised sentence.
Sir. You are in charge of Her Majesty's Prisons. Is there nothing you can do to reform them? Of course we know from the newspapers that the conditions in many of them are perfectly appalling. That said, this is no excuse. If you must go in there and sack a few precious civil servants, do so. If you must go in there and take away the prisoners' canteen and telly rights, do so. If that move means the prisoners become agitated, and it means you must go in there and force them into submission, do so. The law-abiding people of England expect no less.
Finally, sir, it might do you well to actually consider the law-abiding citizenry in your schemes to cut crime in the United Kingdom (which is getting so bad it's even making we Yanks raise an eyebrow). Maybe if you let your constituents, I don't know, defend themselves from the criminal element when they are attacked in their own homes and their own property is plundered, crime might fall. Maybe if you let your constituents carry weapons to defend themselves from the muggers and thieves and yobs who prey upon them like a cancer, crime might fall. Whatever you do, do something quickly: before what's left of the social fabric in your country collapses entirely.
KEPPLE TO RECEIVE AID BASKET Much Needed Cabernet Sauvignon to Aid Digestion, Production of Bon Mots $6 Goods Transfer From California Writer "Much Needed, Highly Appreciated" EU Upset
MANCHESTER, NH -- City journalist Benjamin Kepple announced today he will be receiving two bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon wine from Scott Rubush, a Los Angeles-based writer and commentator, in time for Easter Sunday. The donation of the wine, valued at $6, will enable Kepple to drink high-quality spirits while evading state liquor controls.
"This donation of fine wine, from the vineyards of Australia and Chile, is much needed and highly appreciated," said Kepple from his lonely two-bedroom apartment in a desirable ward of the city. "No longer will I have to subsist on wine produced from fruits other than grapes, and I can actually have something decent to go with my veal parmigiana and pasta."
"Thank you, Scott Rubush. You are a gentleman and a scholar, and I look forward to drinking copious amounts of wine in a display of conspicuous consumption that would do any American proud," he continued. "It might even raise my own spirits -- ha, ha -- a wee bit."
Rubush has conducted a fund-raising effort on behalf of the Manchester-based journalist for some time now. While it has so far failed to raise any donations, Kepple noted that a need for assistance was still present, and he asked for any help possible.
"Rubush's assistance has temporarily staunched the need for red wines," Kepple said. "Unfortunately, I find myself in great need of white wine to go with various foods, including my weekly Sunday breakfast of smoked salmon and bagels, my Friday suppers based on seafood, and general snacking purposes. The brie and grapes and baguette just aren't the same without a good Chardonnay or Pinot Blanc."
"Only you can save me, Scott Rubush," Kepple pleaded with his benefactor. "Your access to high-quality Trader Joe's wine could mean the difference between eating decently and eating obscenely well."
A good Riesling would also be nice, Kepple said.
Members of the European Parliament immediately attacked Rubush for his reliance on non-French wines, saying his purchases threatened an entire industry known for its time-honored wine-making techniques.
"This Rubush person, such simplisme," said Jean-Marie Bove, an MEP from Bordeaux. "He should purchase some of our wine instead of these inferior vintages from backward nations. Yes, it is true that we don't sell any similarly-priced wine -- we turn that stuff into verjuice and cooking vinegar. This is beside the point. Rubush must forsake his free-market tendencies and immediately fork over 40 euros for this nice bottle of Sauvingnon Blanc I have here with me. Vive le France!"
Buy Ken Layne's Book -- Today!!! I am going to make a strange request to Rant readers, but one I am sure that you will all understand. It's very simple, really. First, stop reading this site for about five minutes. Take that five minutes worth of time and visit Ken Layne's site. After doing so, purchase a copy of Dot.Con, his first novel. It's a thriller with lots of action and skullduggery and "chin music" and comedy. I encourage everyone to order a copy today.
For this isn't just about purchasing a fine work of art from one of America's best writers. It's about making sure a hard-working journalist can eat three meals a day, even if those three meals consist entirely of carnitas. It's about making sure a man willing to Question Authority can have a roof over his head that isn't in danger of being destroyed in an electrical fire. Finally, it's about making sure that we can keep convincing Ken to keep posting all that cool stuff on his site -- free of charge, to You, the Reader.
So stop reading this and go see how you can order. Go! Now! Run! RUN!
Much Ado About Nothing? Richard Bennetthas placed a link to a group called StopPoliceWare.org. It is rallying support against a bill which would force computer manufacturers to put anti-piracy software on any new machines they produce. Said software would restrict a user's capability to use copyrighted materials. The penalty for disabling said software, or otherwise violating the proposed act, would be five years in prison or a fine not exceeding $500,000. The folks at StopPoliceWare argue that this could mean any citizen could go to jail if he didn't play along.
Perhaps it's just me, but this really reminds me of those FBI warnings placed at the beginning of video cassette tapes, in which viewers are warned redistributing said material for use outside that of private home viewing is punishable by a fine and/or prison time. This has never stopped anyone from making copies of a tape for friends, or for their own personal use. It wasn't all that helpful combating fraud either. An old movie skit -- I forget where it was from -- once featured "video pirates" discussing this very issue ("Arrrrrr! Captain! If we purloin these videos, we'll face a $250,000 fine or five years in prison!" "HA HA HA HA HA HA!")
I can see where folks might get upset about this, but really, even the impending imposition of True Campaign Finance Reform(TM) is much more worrying and worthy of action. Still, if you're hot about it, go ahead and call your legislators. You'll get stuck talking with some college-kid intern who couldn't care less about what you think -- but they do pay very close attention to people who write or call about any issue. So have at it and Make Yourself Heard.
On Progress Sgt. Stryker has a thought-provoking post on America's Future and the various movements attempting to stop it from moving into the 21st Century. Of course, as a proud member of one of those movements, the Sarge's fatalism somewhat bothers me, even if I think he's right.
After all, I want to return the world to 1957. As everyone knows, that was when America Stood Triumphant over its enemies, Communists were rightfully reviled as the Enemy, God-fearing people could raise their families and live their lives without Interference From The State, the Economy was Booming, and Taxes were Low. In short, Things Were Swell. Then the Soviets launched Sputnik, and we had the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Kennedy Was Shot, and Johnson put the Great Society into effect. Then our parents all went to college. No wonder everything was such a mess by 1970.
(I also want my fellow bloggers not to ruin my carefully constructed world-view. Please do not point out the Civil Rights struggle, the lack of opportunities for women, the existence of beatnik poetry, or the fact turtlenecks were seen as subversive. Please. I beg you. Just give me this, will you?)
Anyway, as I was saying, Everything Was Swell, and it seems to me it's a real shame My Parents' Generation threw out so many good things, along with the few bad things, that existed during that time in our nation's cultural history. While we have come a long way since the late Seventies, when the true effects of the Baby Boomers' misguided activism were most felt, it will take us decades to repair the damage they caused. That's if it's possible to repair it at all. Those of us who still carry the forgotten standards of the old ways seem outnumbered and outgunned, and while we have come a long way in reversing what happened, we have a long way to go still before we have truly fused What Was Good Then with What Is Good Now.
For the Sarge is right in comparing us to our forebears of 100 years ago, those men who feared the changes sweeping American life. Some embraced it and tried to control the tide; others tried to stem it and were swept away. He is right in arguing that we will have little inkling of what life will be like down the road; perhaps even less than a man of 1902 could fathom the world of today.
Indeed, let's shift back to 1980. If you had told a 30-year-old man in 1980 that in 22 years, millions of people around the world would be using computers -- of their very own -- to talk to each other, and these computers had more processing power than mainframes which filled entire rooms, and further, that investors had sunk trillions into firms seeking to capitalize on this, you would have been laughed at. If you had told someone that taxes were lower and people had more freedom and that wide lapels were no longer in fashion, you might have received a smirk. If you had told someone that crazed Arab militants had flown airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon ... well, he might buy that one, although he'd probably think it had something to do with the Oil Crisis.
Oh, we have projections about what it will be like. We can say, pretty much with accuracy, the populace will be older and Red China will be rising (or collapsing) and Social Security really will be in trouble and we'll have budget deficits. Those types of things are obvious. But what about the less obvious things? Will we have developed cars which run on hydrogen, or new innovations in health-care that will keep us alive to 120, or a president who isn't a white guy? Will we have every home in America wired for broadband? Will Hollywood start making better films? Will we return to the old morality or wallow in our materialism?
That all remains to be seen. I hope, though, that we can merge what was good with the past with what is good in the future. Our survival as a nation and a culture depends on it.
Southern Virtue, Southern Vice Mark Byron, a doctor in the art of business administration, writes recently that The South Saved Civilisation as we know it. It is a worthy defense of that culture, and perhaps surprising to some, since Dr Byron hails from my home state of Michigan. It's not the only similarity between us. He is also an ex-Methodist, as am I, but we went in different directions spiritually. While I abandoned my Protestantism to join the Church of Rome, Dr Byron became a Baptist with strong Pentecostal leanings.
So it is understandable that Dr Byron would include in his post the assertion that Biblical Values are one key virtue the South has brought to America, and the rest of the world. Combined with the pro-military bent of Southern culture, the South's political conservatism, and what he terms the South's struggle for equality, Dr Byron says it fuses into a culture that has strengthened American society as a whole. He's right on much of that. But like many Southern apologists, he aims too high with his assertions.
That the pro-military bent of Southern culture is an asset can't be denied, especially when we look at the current state of our Armed Forces. And political conservatives everywhere must admit that we owe a debt of thanks to Southern politicians who have held the line against encroaching liberalism. After all, the South is perhaps the only region in America where the derisive term RINO -- Republican In Name Only -- is rarely used as an epithet against milksop moderates. Meanwhile, here in the Northeast -- which no longer deserves the title "New England" -- RINOs abound. Indeed, only in New Hampshire, the last state which holds true to the values of Old New England, can one regularly find Republicans worthy of the name.
It's in the religious and race relations arenas where Dr Byron's thesis falls short, I think.
First, to say main-line Southern culture is responsible for the good found in the old Civil Rights struggle is stretching it, to say the least. The fight for racial equality would have been far less productive without the support of Northern politicians and Northern activists of all races, who frequently made great sacrifices to ensure their fellow men were made equal in the eyes of the Law. Indeed, had Northerners such as President Kennedy not supported the civil rights leaders of that era, one can imagine the struggle would have been far less peaceful, and might have resulted in a far more radical political shift than the one which took place. After all, without outside help, who knows how long Rev King's message of non-violence would have lasted? How long before those disgusted with seeing blacks as second-class citizens in the South turned en masse to socialism? This is not idle thinking, either. The historian Harry Turtledove, whom one could call a Southern sympathiser, has put forth a similar hypothesis in his "alternative history" books.
Secondly, whatever the theological faults found in various Christian sects, Dr Byron certainly overlooks the contributions of the Catholic Church in reinforcing both American values and the teachings inherent to living a good and wise life. Now, the good doctor is a fundamentalist Christian, which may explain his leanings. Still, a Catholic who holds true to the teachings of the Vatican and truly believes in the mysterium fidei is as outwardly virtuous as any Baptist or Pentecostal. Of course, outward virtue -- charitable giving, sexual modesty, and the like -- is only part of the puzzle. The inward virtues, most notably Humility, are far more important.
Move of Democrat Willis Prompts Swift to Close Up Shop SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Sources close to Acting Governor Jane Swift said yesterday that Swift withdrew from the upcoming gubernatorial contest after learning Oliver Willis, a self-described Centrist and Democratic Party supporter, was moving to Massachusetts. The sources, which demanded anonymity, said that Willis's move "pretty much wiped out any chance the GOP had for ever winning state-wide office again."
"That was it. I mean, you look at the numbers -- the Democrats outnumber us seven to one," said one top source. "Willis's move, especially considering he is from California, only pushes the Democratic Party further to the left in the Bay State. There's no way we can compete, so we're all moving to a more hospitable place. We're thinking Connecticut."
The source went on to denounce rumors that Swift had decided to resign after polls showed she would be beat by a margin of over 60 percentage points in the upcoming Republican primary against Mitt Romney.
"That had nothing to do with it. Nothing at all!" the source said. "Please hire me."
The move means Massachusetts will continue to be stuck with high taxes, a second-rate education system, never-ending road construction, outright political corruption, and a Legislature that could not box its way out of a paper bag.
Meanwhile, Manchester, NH, resident Benjamin Kepple warned the departing gubernatorial staff from attempting to flee to New Hampshire. Kepple said the staff would undoubtedly suffer from what he called "The New Hampshire Effect." This syndrome, first documented in the Seventies, results when Massachusetts natives move to New Hampshire because they dislike their home state. Then, through bad political decision-making, they try to make New Hampshire more like Massachusetts.
"We have enough problems up here without folks from Massachusetts coming up here," said Kepple. "Coming up here to shop in our lovely, tax-free, gloriously un-backward state is one thing. Actually relocating up here is something else."
Welcome to the Real World, Sweetheart Thanks to Jim Romenesko over at The Obscure Store for posting this Atlanta Journal-Constitution story about a spoiled Yalie who emerged from that institution without any job prospects. The Yalie in question, one Miss Shawna Gale of Atlanta, whines that she was had by the University: after all, as a Yalie, she was supposed to have a cushy job right out of the gate! Wasn't she?
Aggrieved readers to Mr Romenesko's site have roundly criticized Miss Gale for her impetuousness, but no one has truly taken Miss Gale to task. Not in a Kepple-style, line-by-line project beating, at any rate. So I shall. First, I encourage everyone to click on the above link and read the AJC's posted link. That will let you acclimate yourself to the sheer stupidity of Miss Gale's screed.
Now let's have at it.
Miss Gale writes:
I worked hard in junior high. I worked harder in high school. I took home more straight A report cards than any kid in my class. I scored just shy of 1400 on my SATs. I rode horses. I played tennis and basketball. I taught English as a second language.
Please do explain, Miss Gale, how riding horses, playing tennis, and throwing balls into a hoop is hard work. This is not work at all. Two of those three past-times are things that only the well-off may indulge in. As for the basketball bit, it may be good exercise, but it is not work. Work implies that one is compensated for goods and services which he supplies to a firm or another person. This is called "fair exchange." You, on the other hand, took dear advantage of the fact your father worked very hard to make his living. I certainly do not think that is something to be embarrassed about -- nay, one should be proud of his family's accomplishments. Still, it is appalling for a beneficiary of great wealth to pass off such idle pursuits as equivalent to those of a student who had to work 30 hours a week slinging hash. As the old war poster put it: "You talk of sacrifice ... he knew the meaning of sacrifice!"
I had no social life until I was 17. But I got into Yale. Then I worked harder than I ever had.
But what about the pony rides?
I was sure the payoff would be a multitude of attractive, not to mention lucrative, job offers upon graduation. Then the bottom dropped out of the economy. So far, my Yale degree has secured me an e-mail forwarding address and a lifetime of alumni dues notices. Not exactly what I expected.
Well. I went to the University of Michigan. Now, Yale is no University of Michigan, I know. But even given my excellent education at Michigan, I knew that the only thing my diploma meant was a lifetime of cheerful solicitations from the University's fundraisers. Actually, those even stopped. It seemed they got the message after I started attacking them publicly for it. But most of the learning I took away from Michigan -- and what has since gotten me high-paying work -- happened outside the classroom. I don't know what Miss Gale did in the way of extracurricular activities, but I always found those far more enjoyable than listening to my professors whinge on about the Fashoda Incident.
I was an English major which, for most people, roughly translates into "I have no marketable skills." But that's not so. I have many valuable skills honed during my days with Dickens, my nights with Nabokov, those wee hours with Woolf.
Good! How are these skills valuable, Miss Gale? Explain. Include an analysis of how white-male imperialism and patriarchy contributed to your lack of gainful employment.
First of all, you know I can read. And I don't mean read like "Hooked on Phonics" read.
Don't be too sure of that. You did attend Yale.
I can read long, wordy, small printed works with relative speed and what's more, I can remember what I have read and write long, wordy, papers about it without any trouble. I have developed impressive analytical skills. I am trained to think -- really think -- about everything I read. And I am accomplished at putting those thoughts on paper. So where does that all leave me? Unemployed.
I wouldn't hire you either, darling. I'll be more impressed if you can fast-read a 300-page GAO report and summarize it in 250 words. I do not want wordy, I want clarity. Wordiness is evil. Further, if you have developed impressive analytical skills, why did you write this essay? Clearly someone with your thinking skills would realize such whinging about would act as a virtual post-it note on your resume screaming, "DON'T HIRE ME" for every employment agency in the metropolitan Atlanta area.
I have taken that Yale degree to marketing firms, publishing companies, advertising agencies, and it has not worked any magic.
That's because they know better. Also, they might not like you all that much. Have you ever analysed that possibility?
If I leave the degree behind, I am hired on the spot to wait tables for $10 to $20 an hour depending on tips (and since I have well-developed public relations skills from that internship with the Commission on Human Rights, I will get closer to $20 an hour).
Don't count on that either, Miss Gale. Waiting tables is actually real work, and it might prove unhealthy for your delicate, high-class constitution. Further, since you would undoubtedly be waiting on the hoi polloi, who are notoriously unwilling to put up with second-rate service, I'd say clearing the sub-minimum wage scale which restaurants currently employ would be a major accomplishment for you.
Erase Yale from my past and with little trouble I land a retail position helping rich ladies whose most prized degree is their "Mrs." find handbags to match the only type of investment they know how to make: shoes
Don't joke, Miss Gale. At this rate, you might find yourself in the same spot.
Take that degree off my wall and I easily obtain a position at a local Starbucks, serving up nonfat lattes to busy professionals and harried college kids who don't know that the degree they are currently working their butts off for will be worth less than their stainless steel coffee mugs.
Stop providing us with these silly examples and get yourself a job.
Will someone please tell me where I went wrong?
It sounds like someone should have told your parents a long time ago.
Great Idea, Meg Megan McArdle had the really neat idea of putting propaganda posters on her Web site (which, by the way, you should read nearly as much as you read The Rant). So I am blatantly copying her -- although the posters I chose aren't just for decoration. Look in the left-hand column.
I'm Getting Depressed Again That's the only thing that can explain the down mood I'm finding myself in at present; either that, or I'm jaded. But whatever the reason for my current state, whether it's the weather or because the neurotransmitters aren't firing on all cylinders, it's beginning to wear at me. Almost like George Hadley in Bradbury's "The Veldt," I smoke a little more each morning and drink a little more each night and I'm beginning to dread each day as it comes. It's not something I like, not in the least. The worst part about it is that I'm able to see this depression bearing down on me, but I have absolutely no desire or will to do anything that might get me out of it.
For example, I find myself even less excited than normal about things other people find exciting and thrilling and gee-whiz nifty. Or so I've been told, at any rate. Try as I might, I can't get excited about refinancing loans, or low home mortgage rates, or expensive automobiles, or highway construction, or new restaurants, or the new movie from the producers of a slightly less-new movie which was slightly less-awful than their current offering. I can't get excited about buying a condominium, buying a new suit, buying a new CD containing Forgettable Hits A, B, and C. I Just Don't Get It.
Still, I find that I'm no longer excited about the things I do enjoy in this world. No interest in reading, no interest in finding a decent Thai restaurant in the Northeast; no interest in Mass or work or travel or reading the National Post. I exist but I no longer live; I am going through the motions of living as Time slips through my fingers. All the things and people that matter most to me in this world are hundreds and thousands of miles away, and it is a gulf so wide and so deep that crossing it is an impossibility. But such is life: one cruel circumstance after another, promising happiness at every turn but always putting it just ever so slightly out of reach time, after time, after time.
The Dark Side of Google Everyone knows how helpful Google, the Greatest Search Engine of All Time, is in terms of providing links to Web sites. Except, as ZDNet reports, when people claiming copyright infringement force Google to remove links to certain sites. Like this site, for example.
Why the PRI Lost, Example I From UThant.com: Agence France-Presse reported a while back that the mayor of a Mexican town erroneously believed Our President had told U.S. forces to attack his town in retaliation for the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington. Problem: President Bush had given the green-light to attack Afghanistan, not Apatzingan.
Can't Escape the Headline Writer Department A school system in Pennsylvania is sending home notices to the parents of overweight children to inform them about their kids' weight problems. Officials at the district, sensing a public health problem, spent months making sure the notices were carefully written as so not to hurt anyone's feelings. The Washington Postgives the story this headline:
Lemon Curry? This just in from Richard Bennett: Curry keeps minds sharp. It may also reduce risk of Alzheimer's disease. I haven't felt this happy since I realized menudo was a great cure for a hangover.
My God! Rukeyser's Gone? I was wondering why Matt Rubush wasn't on AIM tonight, and I think I know why. He's probably in mourning, as ... Wall $treet Week With Louis Rukeyser will end in June after 32 years on the air, Reuters is reporting. An alternate show, "Wall $treet Week With Fortune," will begin airing in fall on Maryland Public Television to replace Mr Rukeyser. The filler show would be produced in conjunction with Fortune, America's leading also-ran financial publication.
This is bad on so many levels.
First, the market will crash because the Market Elves will disappear and no one will know whether to buy or sell anymore. Second, Mr Rukeyser will undoubtedly end up being replaced with some cheap imitation stock market analyst, who will mostly talk about all sorts of Internet-related crap. Third, it's Rukeyser we're talking about here. The man's an icon. I watched this show with my father every night for years. I still have the theme music memorised. Even now, I hear the roar of the tickertape in my thoughts.
Nothing, of course, can be done ... but we hope that Mr Rukeyser is back on the air soon. Meanwhile, every American with an interest in the market and finance should do as Paul Kangas does every night: wish Mr Rukeyser "the best of goodbyes."*
* or some other sort of nice send-off. I never knew where Mr Kangas got that particular saying from, but hey -- he's a Michigan graduate. OK in my book.
Manchester At Night Thursday was Payday in the old mill towns, and even though the mills are dead and gone in Manchester it remains Payday all the same for yours truly. So I've got deng in my pocket and a spring in my step, and at 9 p.m. I leave the confines of my Seventies-era apartment building and head into the city. The initial goal in mind is simple: acquire a copy of DJ Encore's "Intuition," a particularly fine and moving techno CD. It is such a good CD that I resolve to scour the city for it, as its chords and melodies rival cocaine in terms of the pleasure the stuff sends to my brain. So off I go into the cold and dark night to find Good Music.
Alas, Good Music is not to be had in the Queen City this evening. My frantic search results in naught but blank stares from the teenaged clerks who really should know what a fine CD this is. Blasted meddling kids, I grumble to myself, as I am forced to admit defeat. It's all their fault, of course, that I can't get the CD. Their fault and the fault of my parents' generation. After all, the Baby Boomers spoiled them -- as they did me -- but failed to instill in the kiddies a sense of what is truly quality music. Hence, the children have gone on to idolise Justin McLean and AJ Timberlake and Britney Aguilera and all the rest of the manufactured, soulless, bland pop artists who infest the payola-dominated airwaves. No one has yet proven my theory that they are all manufactured in a secret factory in Van Nuys, but then no one has disproven it either.
So, dispirited, frustrated, cursing my decision to leave Los Angeles, I got back into the car and started driving. I drove through the deserted streets and past the old dark mill buildings; across the Merrimack River and back again, for what seemed like an eternity. I saw a line one hundred persons deep at the only nightclub that caters to young people who haven't a fondness for industrial music. I saw many wonderful restaurants during that drive, all of which were closed. I saw dozens of Dunkin Donuts stores, all of which were open.
Christ Jesus, what is wrong with this place? What moron decided that there needs to be a Dunkin' Donuts every 500 yards upon a major city thoroughfare? Or maybe it's something else. Maybe the middle-management in charge of franchising and licensing started putting heroin in the Manager's Specials.
But in all seriousness, something is wrong here. There are 17 Dunkin' Donuts in the city of Manchester. Seventeen. No. Wait. Eighteen. They opened a new Dunkin Donuts downtown, just in case people were too bloody lazy to drive all of a half mile to visit the one over on Second Street. What eludes me is why we now have an eighteenth Dunkin' Donuts. It's not like this one is going to be any better. The donuts will still have the consistency of lead. The same semi-literate dimwits will still man the registers. And they'll still be out of the maple frosted!
I should also note that the opening of The People's Glorious Donut Factory No. 18 was also considered Worthy of Official Attention from the Municipal Government.
Anyway, still in high dudgeon over my inability to get any decent food other than a stale chocolate donut with sprinkles, I made the mistake of driving past Channel Nine, New Hampshire's Only TV Station of Consequence. That banished what little appetite I had, but I tried to see if Channel Nine's weatherman was out reporting "live from Manchester." The joke here is that this reporting involves the weatherman -- who reminds me eerily of Bob Saget -- dragging a cameraman out in front of Channel Nine and filming with the Millyard as a backdrop. It's even funnier when you see the anchor and the weatherman acting as if much hardship and drama is involved in arranging the whole shebang.
So after two hours had passed, I headed for home, and on the way I realized some ... ah ... beverages would be a nice way to cap off the evening. Problem: state-run liquor authorities closed at eight. So I was forced -- YET AGAIN -- to head to a convenience store in an attempt to purchase alcohol. Now, this is dangerous anyway, but I thought if I avoided the $3 bottles of wine and Champale and St. Ives and all that stuff, I would be OK. Ha ha ha. For after selecting a White Guy's Malted Beverage of Choice (that would be "Mike's Hard Lemonade"), I proceeded to the cashier, who informed me she could not sell me said malt beverage because it was after 11:30. I asked if I could purchase some of the wine that was nearby. No.
No, no, a thousand times no -- that is what the City of Manchester has decreed its message will be after 11 p.m. You will not eat, you will not drink, you will not be merry. You can, however, have all the donuts you could ever possibly want.
Second Estate v. Fourth Estate, Again Matt Drudge reports that federal police have seized tape a FOX NEWS cameraman filmed while he was on public property. The cameraman, who was not exactly impressed when the authorities demanded he surrender his footage, was forced to cough it up under duress. This has not pleased FOX NEWS one bit.
It's a Nuke, Lads! Chins Up! Be Manly! The Telegraph reports that Geoff Hoon, the British Defence Minister, has warned Enemy Number One on the axis of evil the United Kingdom will ... get ready ... not hesitate to use nuclear weapons if it gets hit first with them. That's right, everyone. The English have rediscovered their backbone!
Or perhaps not. While Mr Hoon's statement seems so logical it could go without comment, The Telegraph goes on to say many of his Labour Party colleagues hate and fear the very idea of England retaliating against a nuclear or chemical-weapons strike. In fact, many want to do away with the country's nuclear stockpile altogether. Naturally, no one says how a nuclear-free England would face its challenges in this brave new world, but common sense has never trumped ideology when it comes to Labour's ideas about defence policy.
One point does seem worth mentioning, though. For years during the last Presidential Administration, the Rt Hon Mr Blair was compared quite favourably to Mr Clinton. I think this is inaccurate. He reminds me more of California Governor Gray Davis -- staking out muddled positions in the Center, whilst fending off incredibly stupid proposals from his left-wing allies. Perhaps there are times when the old saying holds true: that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Uh Oh! It's Time for ... BAD CINEMA WITH BEN Today's Film: Scary Movie 2.
You know, I'm starting to feel a bit like Count Floyd here. I tried to rent a decent, semi-quality film today and I failed miserably. For I made the mistake of renting "Scary Movie 2," a film so stupid they couldn't even put the "2" in Roman numerals. And yes, that was a particularly bad joke, but hey. This movie reduced me to finding even the tiniest bit of humor in unfunny scene after unfunny scene. Oh, how I wish it had half the humor or one-tenth the wit or one-hundredth of the potential that existed in the original. Unfortunately, it did not.
The damnable thing was that it started off so well. You had a lovely cocktail party straight out of -- I guess -- "The Exorcist" with a genial group of socialites standing around listening to piano music. They all start singing along to "Shake That Ass" by Mystikal. The comedy value inherent in seeing a bunch of white people sing that particular song is incredible. I know because when I was in Los Angeles, Scott Rubush started going off on it after ... well, we were playing Super Pan 9 in a veritable den of thieves and I shan't relate the story, but imagine Scott Rubush crying out, "Shake that ass! Show me whatchu workin' with!" and multiply it by a factor of about ten. This, as I saw it, was very funny.
It was the only time I laughed during the entire movie.
I want to know who, in America, still considers humor involving bodily functions amusing. I want a list of these adults. I want their names forwarded to the Department of Homeland Security. I want their assets seized, their careers wrecked, their homes plundered, and the keys to their cars taken. For these people are Clear and Present Dangers to the security of American Culture. These people also undoubtedly found the incessant, foul, vile, disgusting array of bodily-function jokes incredibly funny during the focus-group testing, so I'm blaming them for their inclusion in the film. I mean, my God, it never let up. Over and over and over again. Maybe if I was six or something I would find this funny, but please.
Anyway, fast forward a bit. Here's the plot, since you shouldn't have to waste your time meandering through this hideous movie. An evil professor, played by Tim Curry, whom I like, is trying to prove the existence of paranormal activity. He does so with the aid of his nerdy, wheelchair-bound assistant. To accomplish this, he selects as guinea pigs six pleasantly vapid and banal actors, two of whom are Wayans brothers. Shawn and Marlon. All six gullible souls are lured to a haunted house where lots of spooky and scary things occur. None of it is scary, none of it is surprising, none of it is funny. And no one, for that matter, dies. Yawn.
Right about now, you can fast-forward to the end of the movie, because you won't be missing much at all. Not even the scenes with the really beautiful girl are all that wonderful or funny or sexy or exciting. For watching those instances, you just think about what it would be like to be alone with said beautiful girl for five minutes. You realize you would be clawing your eyes out, screaming for mercy: shut up, shut up, shut UP!
So on the Ben Kepple Scale of Cinema, this definitely gets a 1 out of 10. Avoid it. Shun it. Hope its distributors send out "Scary Movie 2" tapes with "Heidi" on it by accident. And God help us all.
Moulin Rouge Allison Barnes had this link up to a Washington Post article about people with red hair. I read it. I tried to understand why it was important. I tried my very best. I failed. I saw the headline referring to redheads as an "oft-misunderstood minority," and I thought, ah! in that case, I must be part of a misunderstood minority too: cranky white guy conservative blogistas. Then again, perhaps not.
Ah well. There are a lot of things about American life these days that don't fundamentally make sense to me. Chalk an article like this up as one of them.
O-Dub: On the Road Ooooh. O-Dub is in Texas. Oliver! Man! Before it's too late! Stop at the place which offers the 72 oz. porterhouse! It's somewhere near Amarillo! You've got to do it! I never did on my trips through there and I have regretted it ever since!
Mon Dieu! Je Suis Un Quart Francois! I should have known something was up just from the tone in my father's voice. We were talking last Friday, on his birthday, and he innocently asked me what knowledge I had of the French Huguenots. Now, as a convert to Catholicism and a student of history, I knew that the Huguenots were French Protestants. Of course, they were Protestants in a Catholic country during the 16th century, which led to things like this happening. The Huguenots had been finally driven from that land back during the reign of, as I so succintly put it, King So-and-So, when he decided it was right and just to persecute them. You know, une foi, un loi, un roi, and all that. Later I learned it was Louis XIV (1643-1715).
However, as I said, I knew my father was up to something thanks to the tone of his voice. Normally he is a pretty grave and serious fellow. This time I could tell there was a hint of -- mirth? cruel mirth? -- behind his words. So naturally, I asked him why he had brought up the subject.
DAD: "I've got news for you. You're one of them!"
(insert three second silence)
ME: "WHADDYA MEAN, I'M PART FRENCH?!"
DAD: "I was laughing so hard when I found out, I almost fell off the davenport."
Yep. As it turns out my mother's father's family is descended from French Huguenots, who came to America in search of a better life. My initial reaction to this was the one might expect an embittered, caustic, extreme right-wing fellow to react. "Oh, God. I'm ruined." The amount of sheer guilt I feel is overwhelming. Was it not me who was one of the chief tormentors of poor Charles Rousseaux, the eminent commentary writer for The Washington Times, because he was all French Huguenot? Oh. The shame.
How to describe my old views on France? Well, in a nutshell, this is what they were:
France was a great and powerful nation, full of wonderful ideas and men of industry. Until 1789. 1815 and 1848 didn't exactly help any. Then in 1870, the French stupidly declared war on Germany, and you end up with les Communards running around Paris. Fast forward a bit and we end up with Petain and Vichy and the collaborationists and the Algerian mess and Genet and Fanon and the ENA and people who can rationalise destroying private property if said property sells badly-prepared foodstuffs, but can't understand why Americans get so upset about corruption in Government because they deal with it all the time and it isn't so bad really.
Phew. I think I pulled a muscle there.
Perhaps it is because I am mellowing out a bit, but I've found myself becoming a lot more agreeable to the way the French see things. And you know, this would explain that odd cultural affinity I have with Canada. It explains why I like eating really good food. It explains why I kind of find Jerry Lewis funny. It explains, in short, a lot of that je ne sais quoi that just makes me.
So I shan't ever bash the French again. Unless I have very good reason to do so.
Besides, a lot of good has come out of this. My brother has seen fit to take a harder look at his relationship with God. After all, if our ancestors were persecuted for their Faith, Jesse is wondering if he shouldn't take his Christianity a bit more seriously.
This Ted Rall Person Again Ken Layne has a good post today about why he hasn't said anything about the latest mess involving cartoonist Ted Rall. Mr Rall, for those of you who do not read badly-drawn left-wing comic strips, got in a bit of trouble after drawing a particularly stupid comic attacking the widows of people killed in the terrorist attacks on New York.
It's a whole bloody mess, so I will let You, The Reader, peruse through the links above and make up your own minds. But I do have one point to make, a la Mr Layne and with apologies to Woody Allen, who came up with this point in the first place.
Oh thank God for Capitalism Why, you ask? Simply put, Capitalism is making the meal I am enjoying right now possible. This morning I had a bagel with smoked salmon and onion and cucumber for breakfast, as is my wont on Sundays. This evening, I am having blini with sour cream and caviare, which is a particularly special treat but one I do think I deserve. It also helps Scott Rubush realize I am not a complete barbarian.
Theory v. Reality Today was a particularly beautiful day here in New Hampshire. I was sitting here at my computer desk, minding my own business, when suddenly I was pelted from above with marshmallows and bread pudding and cabbage and the odd jar of Marmite. Diving for cover underneath the desk, I realized that these projectiles were being launched at my person by none other than Natalie Solent.
It seems Mrs Solent had wished to alert me that she felt I had misrepresented libertarianism in one of my posts, and was letting me know in a rather embarrasing but harmless way. She was even kind enough to inform me of her friendly intentions through a polite e-mail. Which, in retrospect, was wonderful, since we were able to recall the jets and prevent Lancashire from being buried in copies of Burke and C.S. Lewis and The Federalist Papers. Also Peter Hitchens. Especially Hitchens.
But let's turn serious, shall we, and get down to brass tacks.
My complaint in my original post was that libertarians push for their views in the wrong way. In the United States, at any rate, I see little difference between liberals/statists' call for what Will described as "an expanding menu of rights" and libertarians' agitation for more personal freedom. Instead of submitting to the rule of law as conservatives do, and accepting such things as community standards or local control, libertarians push for their views on a national and compulsory level. I find this acceptable in terms of their economic viewpoints, with which I usually agree no questions asked. I do not, however, find it acceptable in terms of their social viewpoints.
This view of mine isn't just due to my own talks with adherents to and officials in the Libertarian Party -- one conversation fell to the point where I and a state-level party man were arguing over whether forbidding "strip clubs" trod on religious freedom -- but through conversations other writers I know have had with top Libertarian officials. Many of their ideas are great in theory, but they just don't work in practice -- and too often, I think, infringe on others' rights even if they don't see them as doing so.
Now, as to Mrs Solent's points. She said Points 2, 3, and 4 did exist, but that they would have to wait until later. When that later date comes, I shall stand ready to respond to them. So I shall deal with Point 1, in which she writes: "There's little I'd like better than to see the planet, and other planets one day, covered with many different societies, each with its own code of law. The one common rule would be, 'you are free to leave.' Certainly I would then expect them all to evolve, stimulated by competition and example, but always retaining diversity because that's how human beings are."
Well, I would very much like that too, even if Einstein's formulae make such a proposition difficult. Still, I think my original point holds water. There are places in the United States, mostly out West, where one can indulge in all manner of vice and iniquity and do so with the Government's blessing. My quibble with libertarians who want the freedom for people (or themselves) to engage in such acts is that they don't do the logical thing and retire to such places. Instead, I would argue, they would overturn the drug laws and the blue laws and all the other such mechanisms we have to preserve the public's morals, in the name of personal freedom. If they wish to do this through honourable means -- i.e. the ballot box -- I have seen precious little sign of it. It seems to me they are more than happy to let the courts, as in Roe v. Wade, do their dirty work for them.
So, that's that. I must say, however, that I am proud to be listed as first among equals -- even if it is only due to the alphabet -- in Mrs Solent's New Model Army of links. Not only is it because I very much admire her work, which is thought-provoking and highly enjoyable, but because of the historical relevance. As David Cody, an English professor at Hartwick College, wrote:
"Cromwell's soldiers, as the early Victorian historian Macaulay explains, were "composed of persons superior in station and education to the multitude. These persons, sober, moral, diligent, and accustomed to reflect, had been induced to take up arms, not by the pressure of want, not by love of novelty and license, not by the arts of the recruiting officer, but by religious and political zeal.' "
First, in re: our latest Church scandal. As a Roman Catholic, I've thought quite a bit about what I'd like to see the Church do in this case -- but I don't have any answers for this. If a man is homosexual, yet he takes a vow of celibacy and keeps to it, he commits no homosexual acts. Surely he has done nothing to contravene his vow -- should he too be punished? It doesn't seem right to throw out a priest who has kept up his end of the bargain he made. Same thing goes with the Army.
On the other hand, Mr Willis draws no conclusion from the fact that all the clergy unmasked as pederasts largely stand charged with molesting teenaged boys. The Vatican has, though, and the chief spokesman for Pope John Paul II has gone so far as to say that homosexuals should not be ordained as priests: From The Boston Globe:
"[Joaquin] Navarro-Valls made his comments in an interview published yesterday in The New York Times. He said ''people with these inclinations just cannot be ordained'' and suggested that just as a marriage can be annulled if the husband turns out to be gay, so the ordination of gay men might also be made invalid.
''That does not imply a final judgment on people with homosexuality,'' Navarro-Valls also said. ''But you cannot be in this field.''
Although scholars have established no connection between homosexuality and pedophilia, the Vatican's comments were apparently provoked by the fact that many of the victims of clergy abuse in Boston, as elsewhere, have been adolescent boys, and not the prepubescent children who are victimized by the standard pedophile."
But back to Mr Willis. I can't help but think that he is guilty of the same sin of which he accuses the Army and state legislators. With that one sentence riposte, he has indicted the Church, its leaders, and those who follow them. That's not only grossly unfair, it is the embodiment of holding an entire group responsible for the criminal acts a few of its members have committed. Is it simply because the Chuch is the object of his wrath? Is that it?
In any event, I look forward to seeing how Mr Willis explains how it is possible for him to engage in such doublethink. However, he is moving across country this week. Since the California-New England move takes about seven days -- and you are driving, right, Oliver? Please say yes. You're missing out if you're not -- the Rant fully understands if it takes him longer than normal to offer up a response.