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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Well, perhaps "screwed up" is a bit harsh. In fact, I think they were pretty smart about the whole thing. According to the Washington Post, the Administration rewarded people who showed up for all the briefings -- Fox News Channel, Bloomberg News, etc. -- and demoted people who didn't show up for everything (Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report). This has caused much rejoicing among the guys moved up, while those forced back are wailing and gnashing their teeth. From the Post:
But U.S. News Managing Editor Brian Kelly predicted that the new arrangement would result in a decline in briefing room civility. "Fleischer will regret this," he warned. "It will mean more grandstanding and less civil discourse -- more yapping from the TV guys."
Now that sums up everything about How Journalists Think. Note the disdain for broadcast journalists and their hyper ways. Note the implied support for what I call conference-room journalism. Note the pride in the venerable media we call print. Finally, note the thinly-veiled yet apparent lust for revenge. We journalists remember slights; we remember who the nice guys are and the folks who act like they're the world's greatest ball-breakers; we remember who took time to interview us, even if the questions were annoying at the time. Mr Kelly will remember this.
One point that may seem really petty, but in a way isn't, is the griping over position. It may not seem to matter who gets to sit where -- but it does. Position determines who gets called on in a briefing; it determines who gets his question answered, and when.
There are some journalists that like asking that first question; it means exposure and it means prestige. Not me. Personally, I prefer the last question, especially if I'm in a "press gaggle" (where we swarm around the person speaking and shout questions at him). I'm more than happy to let the broadcast guys go first. When the cameras are off, I'll ask my good question -- and leave them in the dust when all's said and done. But there's always the danger that you can get left out, and not have your question answered at all. And when the answers to those questions often change stories, that's a chance you don't want to take.
Report: Debauched University Programme to Sell Sex Aids I must thank a good friend of mine for sending this particularly odd story along. True, my decent and God-fearing friend did not intend for it to be posted on-line, as he said it was "too darn distasteful for public consumption." Still, as he said, "I thought you'd appreciate the outrage of it all."
Well, I did. I also think my 70 or so readers might appreciate the outrage of it all too. A few of them may actually have attended Cornell University, at which this programme is based, and might actually rethink their donation policies because of it. "It," in this context, is the fact that Cornell's student health programme is debating whether to sell sex aids on-site. Well, one particular kind of sex aid. Um. Just read the story.
Now that that's out of the way, let's look at this truly pathetic story, which comes to us courtesy of the Cornell Daily Sin, a paper famous for putting meaningless photographs near important stories and its generally milque-toast reporting. Oh wait. Daily Sin? I mean Daily Sun. These old collegiate habits are hard to break sometimes.
As a former collegiate newspaper editor, I also believe that I can say with authority that the Sun's reporter blew it in writing this. Were I the editor in charge, I would have hyped this story like you wouldn't believe. Then, I would have assigned a prominent editorial condemning the practice. Not only that, I would have faxed a copy of the story to every conservative group and columnist in the nation after writing it. Gee, what fun it all would have been. But, if you read the story, you can see it starts to get a bit glowing somewhere about Graf Two and goes downhill from there.
Graf Two, as you can see, sets a particularly nauseating tone for this story. It is a cheery and affirming tone that not for one second gives the reader the impression that Tough Questions Were Asked. Questions such as, "Should a college health service really be doing this?" -- "Some people won't think this is a good idea, what would you say to them?" -- "Is this something other colleges are doing, or is this just Cornell's dumb idea?" -- and finally, "What do the bosses at the University think?" Heh. Now that's a way to ruin a university president's day -- drop THIS bombshell on them.
Did I mention "Should a college health service really be doing this?" as a Tough Question?
Instead of these questions, the reporter went around and asked students what they thought about the whole idea, which is an easy yet lazy way to wrap up a story. Of course, it's important to see what the folks on the street think, but not as the basis for the entire story. Gad. Meanwhile, she found students who think that one of the most important things in life is to know how to ... um ... well ... you know. That, added to comments from doltish health services staff who seem to really believe that they're performing a valuable public service, was quite disheartening.
So, what I want to know is: what in the devil are the top dogs at Cornell thinking? I mean, after all, these are theoretically people who know what the outside world feels about something like this.
Of course, I don't think it's exactly a good thing for Cornell to sanction this. For one thing, it's going to be a public-relations disaster. For another, a responsible school would discourage sexual activities among its students, rightfully pointing out that unmarried partners having at it can lead to a) social disease b) unpleasant consequences under the student code and c) pregnancy -- just for starters.
Item C, of course, should be enough to scare any student. I don't know about the rest of you, but when I was in school I felt like I was free to do whatever I wanted in this life. Children, which are often overlooked as a potential side effect from having at it, are a limiting factor to that freedom. They force you to act like an adult. Not only are you stuck raising them and paying for them, you can't go out at all hours of night or do any of the fun things that you used to do. And for those who say that certain acts could only result, perhaps, in Items A and B -- or even none of the above -- that's disingenuous.
No matter how many singles and doubles and triples you hit, you'll cross home plate eventually.
Still, I will admit that this episode bothers me much less than it would if the school in question was financed through taxpayer-funds. If a private school wants to waste its money helping students do that, that's its business. It only becomes really outrageous if my hard-earned goes to subsidize the naughtiness of spoilt young people -- can't they fool around on their own time?
Joining the Chevy Chase Club Liza Minnelli's reality TV show has been scrubbed, AP reports. It seems that Mrs Minnelli's new husband, someone who doesn't appear to be worth mentioning, was such an incredible pain in the neck during filming that VH1 said the hell with it.
Actually, that's not really fair to Fletch, now is it? I mean, at least his show aired.
Disagreeable French Woman + Alleged Airport Incident = Potentially Three Years in Prison A 56-year-old French woman who allegedly stripped to the waist at an airport burst into tears upon learning she could go to prison for three years, the AP reports.
If she is found guilty, I say throw the book at her. For one thing, people who cause scenes at airports are annoying. For another, they cost a lot of people a lot of time, money, and aggravation because of their silly antics. Hence, they deserve to be hauled off and imprisoned just on general principle. Add in what I would call aggravating circumstances -- bad relations with the French Government, for instance -- and a harsh punishment seems appropriate.
The Ethics of Greed The Washington Times has a great article today about what I suppose one could describe as morality in the market. It's not a discussion about Enron or Global Crossing, nor a discussion about executive pay. Rather, it's a story about investing in companies which produce morally ambiguous products or services.
The Times reports that some Texas-based stock analysts have created what they call the Vice Fund, a mutual fund that invests in four heavily sin-laden sectors: alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and defense. Three of those four sectors -- you can guess which one is not like the others -- have wildly outperformed the benchmark Standard & Poors 500 Index over the past five years. And if that isn't enough for greedy investors, this might sway you, the Times reports:
The fund, believed to be the first of its kind, bills itself as "socially irresponsible." Its managers say it will appeal to investors not because it is politically incorrect but because investors can easily understand the target industries.
Now, in a way that's very true. For example, the fund invests in Anheuser-Busch, a beer maker. They make beer, a commodity that is not subject to whimsy and impulse buying. Still, I think that explanation is a not-too-bright corporate spin. Better to pump up the obvious: if one can rationalize investing in such firms, it's because they're generally pretty recession-proof. After all, people will keep drinking whether the country is flush or strapped. Heck, if the country is strapped, it might drive more people to drink. The same goes for gambling and tobacco, and we know the Government will keep spending money on defense.
But those are low-order questions, things an investor would ask only after he has rationalized away the spiritual questions that he should ask himself about such investments. As I see it, the fund's very existence suggests three ethical and sociological questions for an investor:
1) How particularly vice-ridden is the Vice Fund?
2) Is it a sin to invest in such a fund, or is it merely value-neutral?
3) Does vice outperform virtue in the free market, that most temporal of human constructs?
Let's examine these in more depth.
1. How particularly vice-ridden is the Vice Fund?
The Vice Fund, as we've noted, specializes in the following sin-prone industries: alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and defense.
Interestingly, it's the last category which should cause one the most spiritual concern. This sector -- and its related sector in the civilian market, firearms manufacturers* -- comprises the third most-deadly of the Seven Deadly Sins, that of Fear, or Anger. Gun manufacturers and defense contractors rightfully say that they merely produce the tools, and that people make the decisions on how those tools are used; but there is no denying that such firms profit from acts of evil as well as acts of good. The gun that serves as a homeowner's last line of defense can also serve as a murder weapon. The cruise missile that can smite evil in Afghanistan can be used to blow up a Sudanese aspirin factory.
Alcohol, in my eyes, leads to Sloth, the fourth most-deadly sin. Drunkenness not only leads a man to idleness, it leads a man to put his own self-interest above that of his family, his employment, and his God. He puts off living for the sake of the next shot of gin.
Gambling, of course, is related to the fifth most-deadly sin, Avarice. One could say that this category is less or more bad than that, but the true lure of gambling is that it offers the potential of making vast sums of money without having to put in any work. When taken to excess, gambling corrodes the work ethic, promotes idleness, and -- worst of all -- can lead the unwary to far more grave sins.
Tobacco is the least of these sins. Some might disagree with me, but I categorize Tobacco as the sixth-most deadly sin, that of Gluttony. Its addictive properties cause one to over-indulge in a toxic and downright dangerous substance. Now, I do believe that one can smoke and do so without committing a sin -- provided that one limits his cigarette intake to between one and five cigarettes a day. It is far better to abstain, of course, just for health reasons; but I see no spiritual problems with a smoke when one arises in the morning; a smoke after each of the three meals of the day, and a smoke when one retires at night. If one could limit oneself to one cigarette after dinner, that would be ideal.
Yet we know that this doesn't happen. I myself smoke a good 20 cigarettes a day, and on particularly stressful days can hit 30. I do this because I'm addicted to the damned things, not because I particularly enjoy it. The only cigarettes I truly enjoy are the ones I smoke when I get up every morning; the rest are sinful. I say that because I know in my heart that my smoking not only impacts my health, it makes me a slightly less productive worker. And this is just me I'm talking about; for smoking, too, can lead to greater sins.
We know that many smokers do so with children in the house, which is a far graver sin. It's not merely the health impact that smoking causes on the unwilling; it's that it wastes household income on a useless vice. A smoker who spends $3 a day on his habit would be far better served if he took that $3 per day -- or $1,100 per annum --and invested it for his children's future. Indeed, a man who gave up tobacco could put pay for two years of his son's college education at a decent public institution.
But wait, you say. That's only four sins. Where's the least of the Seven Deadly Sins -- namely, Lust?
Well, when it comes to investing, Lust is a funny thing. It doesn't provide decent returns on a large scale. Look at Playboy Enterprises, trading at an anemic $7.83. General Media Inc., which publishes Penthouse, is on the ropes. The racier Private Media Group recently hit a 52-week-low. It's trading at an abysmal $2.18. In short, the publicly-traded Lust providers don't do well; it's the smaller, leaner, raunchier privately-held firms which make the money.
So, unless people stop eagerly opening all that spam e-mail, Lust won't be able to get it up the way investors need it to.
I was surprised to see, though, that the Vice Fund did not openly invest in the two worst areas of sinfulness -- namely, Pride (the worst possible sin one can indulge in) and its cousin, Envy (numero dos). It is true, though, that it's difficult, if not impossible, to find companies that openly promote their wares as feeding or causing either of these two spiritual diseases.
Further, it would be a stretch to say that any one firm caters to such vices in people. For example, it would certainly not be a sin to own an automobile which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, provided that the only reason someone bought the car was because he or she truly loved driving it or being driven in it. The same idea goes for a million-dollar house, a vacation condominium in Mexico, or expensive jewelry. Wealth is a virtue; it is a good; it is desirable to have because of the peace of mind and good things it can provide.
However! A man or woman who buys such an automobile for its status, on the other hand, commits a sin. If he or she buys such an automobile because it is solely a way for that person to proclaim to the hoi polloi that they have a great deal of disposable income, then that sin is very grave indeed. After all, one's Pride can lead others to engage in Pride and Envy. Not, not, not good! And again, that sin can manifest itself in the purchase of anything, down to a pair or shoes, or a purse, or a television set.
I'll engage in a bit of prideful behaviour myself, and say such acts are also an appalling character flaw. There's something to be said for quiet confidence, even in this decadent day and age. But now that we've dealt with all that, let's turn to the next question at hand.
2. Is it a sin to invest in such a fund, or is it merely value-neutral?
Ah! Now we come to the heart of the matter for an investor. After all, are these firms not merely providing goods and services to willing buyers?
I think that depends on each individual firm.
For example, a tobacco company may produce advertising that has the effect of promoting smoking among youth, its executives may lie about the addictive properties of their firm's products, and they may heavily promote their product to those who can least afford it. Such conduct, I would say, is morally reprehensible, and as such, an investor should avoid such companies. On the other hand, a firearms manufacturer could operate entirely above and beyond the call of duty, taking steps to include "trigger locks" and ensuring its products are only sold to federally-licensed firearms dealers. The products may still cause misery and grief in some situations, and that might cause folks to want to avoid it. However, I don't think you can't entirely fault the company for that if it operates in a honourable manner. Again: while I do not myself own a gun, nor will I own one, I do believe a firearm can be used both as a murder weapon or as a way for a homeowner to protect his or her family against a violent intruder. It just depends on whose finger is on the trigger.
That said, I think we can determine that it is sinful to invest in such a fund. That's not because of the fund's managers, but simply because a mutual fund must invest in all sorts of different companies. And because one knows that the fund in question is promoting unhealthy activity -- as opposed to a huge large-cap fund, in which no investor can know all the holdings -- I think that pushes it over the line from respectable profiteering to sin.
3. Does vice outperform virtue in the free market, that most temporal of human constructs?
Now to put my money where my mouth is!
The Times story also makes note of the long-standing tradition of so-called "socially responsible" funds, which avoid firms promoting sin-prone products. Rather, they invest in companies which promote values they like. From the Times:
For example, the Ave Maria Catholic Values Fund avoids investing in companies like AOL Time Warner Inc., owner of the HBO cable network, which it says carries risque programming such as "The Sopranos" and "Sex and the City." Instead, the fund invests in companies like discount-retail chain Ross Stores and H&R Block, the nation's largest tax preparer.
Well! Now that's nice to see. The Number One Virtue -- Humility -- and Virtue Number Four -- Zeal.
But wait, one asks. How can we tell if the newly-established Evil Fund will outperform the long-standing Good Fund?
We could certainly track the funds in question over time. However, that would be boring and dull. So I am going to perform a rather strange and untoward financial experiment, using my own wallet as the incubator for this idea. I should note that, in my judgment, I have enough cash on hand and enough income potential so that this will not affect my own normal investing strategy. But on January 1st, 2003, I will commit $1,000 of my own savings to purchase equivalent amounts of the Ave Maria Catholic Values Fund and the Vice Fund, or similar funds if one or both of the funds are closed to further investment.
Throwing caution to the wind, yet sticking to tried-and-true investment strategy, I will plan to hold these funds until my retirement in 2037. These funds will also be held in a taxable account, leaving my Roth IRA and 401(k) contributions to Sounder but Less Fun investment strategies. That's not only for my own financial health, but so my family won't think I've gone mad. I'm funding this initiative through cost-cutting, not savings diversion. If I don't buy useless stuff or eat out from now until Jan. 1, I'll have the grand right there.
You'll receive monthly status reports -- perhaps more frequent ones -- on how the funds are doing. Along the way, we'll bloody well find out the answers to questions asked for years. Questions such as: Will Evil triumph over Good, because Good is Dumb? Will Good be able to outperform Evil, because Evil turns upon itself and makes deals with state attorneys-general? Will Kepple rue taking on the insane record-keeping challenges that this idea requires for tax purposes?
We'll find out. Hey, if you got this far, you deserve to have me do something that seems crazy.
* The Times reports that the fund does not invest in gun-makers, but has not ruled it out.
Special thanks to William E. Rushman, whose Seven Deadly Sins site proved invaluable in researching this article.
Yet Another Swell Idea In proof that the Internet has created a truly unfillable "news hole," Reuters reports today that scientists in the United States and Britain have come up with a way to "shake hands" over the Internet. They use devices which, through some strange scientific principles, let the other person touch and feel what's on the other end of the connection.
As the Reuters report says, "The implications of the experiment could be vast, said UCL, which describes the event as the world's 'first transatlantic handshake over the Internet.' If successful, it could allow people to touch and feel each other over the Internet. "
Lileks, on Sen. Wellstone When I heard about Sen. Wellstone's death on Friday, one of the first things I did was head straight over to The Bleat. The way I figured it, there was no better source for information on the Minnesota senator than James Lileks, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune political columnist who happens to be The Bleat's author. Barring life-long friends and family, there's no one better than a hometown newspaper man in such cases. Ever.
Because of the Bleat's publishing schedule, not to mention the fact he was probably rather busy at the time, we had to wait until Monday for his thoughts.
Halloween, A Few Days Early I had a particularly heart-warming day Sunday. Late last week, my boss had informed me that I would be out taking photographs of our yearly trick-or-treating here in Manchester, an assignment I always tend to enjoy. Not the least of the reasons for which I enjoy it is that it's easy work. One goes out with camera, one takes photos of cute kids in costume, one goes back to the newsroom having spent an hour outside in the beautiful New England fall.
But this day was particularly enjoyable. It wasn't just that people saw me with my camera and notebook and begged to have their kids' pictures taken for the paper; it wasn't just that the folks handing out candy were polite and friendly. It was that the children themselves were just so, I don't know, full of life.
About 2:30 I had, as is my usual practice, stationed myself next to a friendly home and took photos of children receiving candy from friendly neighbors. Now, you should know that this neighborhood in particular is a cordial, middle-class place; not soulless like a modern tract subdivision, or spread out like a wealthy suburb. It had the aura and the charm and the feeling of being lived in. There was a bite to the air, but not too harsh of one; the leaves were changing, but had not yet fallen; and occasionally one could smell smoke from a chimney. It looked and smelled and tasted like autumn.
But what struck me the most about this was not the scenery itself, but rather, the people.
Before I had gone out, I had mocked Manchester's parochial habit of having trick-or-treating in the afternoon. "Oooooh. It's SPOOKY," I had complained mightily to one of my colleagues as I walked to my car. "It's two in the afternoon! ------ morons." And to me, it did seem a bit silly. For when I was a boy, thousands of miles and many years distant, Halloween was celebrated as I felt it should have been, at night.
From when I was four to some indeterminate age later, the ritual was the same. I would dress in some particularly silly costume -- the first was Woodstock, the bird from the Peanuts cartoon. Despite his labors of the day, my father would escort me -- later, me and my brother -- around our neighborhood. I can't recall whether he stopped and talked with the neighbors or not, but of course that wasn't on my mind. What was on my mind was filling the woefully inadequate plastic pumpkin I had been given for my candy.
I doubt that I ever grasped why my father felt the need to escort me, or the need for my parents to make sure each bit of candy was individually wrapped and sealed and vacuum-packed. Children like me, who were lucky, never had to worry about those things.
The children out in Manchester weren't worried about those things either, and that struck me. After all, this is the age when men fly jetliners into skyscrapers and shoot people from cars. Their parents undoubtedly were, though, and before I explained myself, I don't doubt a couple of them wondered what the hell the guy in the trench coat was doing with the notebook and camera. But for the most part, it amazed me just what a good scene it was, if that makes any sense. It was peaceful, and pleasant, and calm. The kids joyfully went from door to door with their pillow-sacks and their parents dutifully walked the streets, talking and laughing.
The kids also figured out that The Man in the Coat was a newspaper reporter. They all wanted their pictures taken, and I complied if I could. True, they needed some prompting -- "Don't look at the camera! Don't look at the camera!" -- but all in all they were savvy and pleasant. After I had spoken with one young lad, dressed in a Winnie-the-Pooh outfit, he looked at me very serious and asked:
"Are you really a newspaper reporter?"
Yes, son, that's what my editor tells me when I screw up on a story.
No, I didn't say that. I laughed and showed him my paper-issued ID, and then I reached into my wallet and showed him my government-issued press ID.
"Well, it is Halloween," he said, as I laughed -- really laughed -- again.
The older kids were a bit more personal, though. Some teenagers, about 13 years old or so, were very excited when they learned that an actual reporter was on scene, and they asked if I could take their picture. Of course, I said, but let's take it when you're actually getting some candy. So as they walked towards a house, and I walked beside them, one of them asked:
"Do you like your job?"
Boy. What do you say to that?
Do you tell them the truth, that you love it but that it's hard work, gruesomely hard at times? That you can't drive by certain buildings and certain streets without remembering what you saw there? That there are entire towns whose names are burned into your memory only because you remember the stories you wrote? That you remember every unfortunate soul whose life you had to summarize into 300 words, every person who had their existence snuffed out, every person whose life was changing for the worse before your eyes?
Do you tell them of the sadness you feel when you see everything a family worked for submit to a greedy, all-consuming fire? The sick feeling you get when you tell someone his or her friend, or relative, was no longer among the living? The dread you feel when you see someone's hopes and dreams spilled out across some remote highway?
Of course not.
You tell them that you just love it. And when you say that, you truly mean it.
Because during that one hour, everything became clear to me. All the pleasures of work were secondary to this. The excitement of politics, the adrenalin rush of a crime story, the satisfaction of analysis, the thrill of a job well done after hours upon hours of work; all of this paled in comparison and importance to this scene: where children could laugh and spend time with their friends, where parents could quietly walk a few steps behind, all their cares and worries forgotten. Here, there was no talk of war, or tax rates, or public policy; no talk of irrational exuberance, or consumer confidence, or the M2 money supply.
Here, there was simply life, under a clear blue sky.
Death Toll Keeps Climbing in Moscow Hostage Incident Boy -- first 67 people dead, then 90, now 150, according to the latest report in The Telegraph. The Russians are also looking into whether al-Qaeda had anything to do with the attack on a Moscow theatre, in which Chechen rebels took 750 people hostage for days.
If they did, this would be quite convenient for Russia. For one thing, President Putin could, as they say other there, liquidate the Chechen rebellion just as we leveled Afghanistan. While the Russian version of making the world safe for democracy is not generally as nice as the American version, one could expect that after this, Mr Putin will have the green-light to do anything he bloody well wants in Chechnya.
There's also an interesting report from UPI on how the Russians handled the situation. It seems they used nerve gas.
Fleet Street Scores Good story on one of the alleged sniper's attempts to escape from FBI clutches, from the News of the World. Also, the Nation of Islam tells us that yes, the other alleged sniper was, in fact, a member of that group.
Gee. It Seems Some Folks Have Gone Quiet All of a Sudden While I haven't seen any reports confirming whether alleged sniper John Allen Muhammad (nee Williams) is a member of the Nation of Islam or not, I find it quite interesting that The Final Call has stopped its coverage of the sniper case, at least as of 7 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time today. Whether this is because of their publishing schedule, or whether it's because they'd prefer not to talk about it, I don't know, nor do I claim to know. But it makes one wonder.
Goodbye, Bellesiles Emory University has released a report on its investigation into the work of Prof. Michael Bellesiles, specifically in relation to his research on guns in early American life. Dr Bellesiles, of course, had made the silly claim that guns were not at all an important part of that society, a finding at which other academics snickered. They then proceeded to tear it into tiny rhetorical bits. Still, Bellesiles managed to hold on to some bit of respectability, until today -- when he conveniently resigned from Emory. The 40-page report in PDF format, which may be read here is particularly damning in its review of Bellesiles' "scholarship."
In a seven-page statement, Bellesiles complains that he was attacked by "extremists" and that thanks to the controversy surrounding his work, could not continue working in "what I feel is a hostile environment."
One could write at length as to the contents of his statement at length, but a single sentence will suffice:
Horrible Wintry Mix Descends on New Hampshire Whoa. Wait a minute. It's not even Halloween yet. It's not supposed to freaking snow . There's not supposed to be a horrible wintry mix forecast for the rest of the day. Not on October-bloody-23, at any rate.
Now if you'll excuse me, somebody has to go warm up his car.
A Minor Suggestion on North Korea Great. Well, now that we've learned that the crazed North Korean Government has somehow managed to secure two nuclear weapons for itself, there's a lot of talk about what the United States should do about this situation. Many folks will say we should keep up our current policy of paying tribute to the autocrats in Pyongyang, although I don't think that's going to work. Here's why (link to JoongAng Ilbo):
Prime Minister of Japan, Junichiro Koizumi: "Stop using economic assistance to prepare for war and concentrate on improving the livelihood of the people."
DPRK Dear Leader Kim Jong-il: "I know."
The man sounds almost petulant.
Anyway. I think it's clear that we need to do whatever it takes to rid North Korea of Kim Jong-il, if only so we can replace him with a leader who knows how to get a decent haircut. I mean, he's like a walking monument to the country's backwardness. "Look, honey! They don't have COMBS!"
In fact, let's take it a step further. You remember that episode of The Twilight Zone where Billy Mumy plays the kid who can create or destroy things at will? The one where every adult walks around in fear, always saying, "That's a good thing you did?" Even when the good thing means that the nice guy in the seersucker suit gets turned into a horrible jack-in-the-box type monstrosity? This is North Korea now -- an entire country where no one is willing to take a bottle, or a knife, or the urn containing the Great Leader's ashes, and finish his little brat off.
Fortunately, however, Kim Jong-il's reach stops at the Demilitarized Zone. Since the Koreans suffering under his rule aren't able to free themselves from his despotic rule -- except by somehow fleeing to China (!) -- we need to take steps to help them. The first and most important thing we can do is completely end our donations of food to Pyongyang. Don't think this will hurt the common people. It won't, because the food aid goes entirely to the North Korean Army.
However, we must keep in mind that the North Korean regime is paranoid, almost fearful, of an American sneak attack. Hence, we shouldn't officially end the food aid. It should merely get held up in the West Coast's ports, or accidentally shipped to Eritrea, or conveniently delayed. Meanwhile, we can send North Korea some aid boxes mislabeled as food, but actually containing devious propaganda items. Some North Koreans, due to their isolation, might not get the jokes, but the educated ones will get the hint. And thus, the seeds of discord will be sown:
Here's what I think should be sent in those boxes:
* COMBS. A lot of combs. Those big plastic puffy combs that were so popular back in the Eighties. We can get a whole bunch of them -- in Red, if need be -- and to be doubly devious, we can imprint the Dear Leader's image upon them. That way, the DPRK Government will be forced to accept them, in the same way they accept fruit baskets on a daily basis from groups with names like the Valiant Juche Self-Independence Society of Ann Arbor. We can even present a package to the Dear Leader himself. I don't think he would get the joke.
Told you he needs one. But that's not all we could send in place of food aid. We could send ...
* TRANSLATORS. Something has to be done about the Korean Central News Agency. Now, I realize that an autocracy is limited in the news stories it publishes, although such articles as "Kim Jong-il visited newly built furnace No. 6 of the Hwanghae Iron and Steel Works" and "Panoramic, semi-panoramic pictures win popularity" can be very gripping if one tokes up before reading them. So, instead of sending grain one month, we should volunteer some lefty graduate students to spend some time in North Korea working for the KCNA. This could prevent such laughable sentences such as "The U.S. will stand further isolated due to its anachronistic hardline policy to stifle the DPRK" from masquerading as foreign policy. It would also lead to further understanding between the U.S. and North Korea, primarily because we could figure out what the devil they're trying to say.
* COMPACT DISCS. Even patriotic songs such as "Thunder On Jong Il Peak" and "We Have Won Victory With the Party" can see their effectiveness lessen with time. Therefore, we should regularly send some of America's leftover compact discs to help the North Korean Government see that we're not really bad people. I suggest the following items to start:
--- Anything by Mannheim Steamroller. If we can ensure its broadcast loudly enough around the DMZ, we can cause the North Korean soldiers based there to either fall asleep or submit to madness, hence making a pre-emptive invasion relatively painless. This process could be sped along if only we repackaged the CDs so they have titles like "Wonsan No. 12 Glorious Peoples Revolutionary Machine Plant Gets Funky."
---- The remake of that Biz Markie song ("You! You got what I neeeeeed."). This will do wonders in helping the North snap out of its inferiority complex vis-a-vis the United States. That means friendlier talks between our countries.
----- Pink Floyd's "The Wall." Not only is the album's title fitting, it contains secret messages that can be used to indoctrinate the country's bureaucracy. Repeated listening to 'Another Brick in the Wall, Part Two" could do wonders in helping the North understand how the outside world works. ("If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding! How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your MEAT?!")
I understand that humor-impaired persons may find these suggestions callous and insensitive. That's fine. But instead of arguing about it, I would rather you spent some time reading the collection of articles and testimonies about North Korea at this site. Spend an hour or two, if you have it. Then you can see why this is so important -- and why you're right that it's not a subject, when all is said and done, that should be joked about.
It's Not a Good Thing Uh oh. Looks like the pesky folks over at the Securities and Exchange Commission have thrown some curdled beets into Martha Stewart's watercress salad. Yes, as of 4:30 p.m., just as Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO) had seen an uptick for the day (up 75 cents, to $7.50 per), news came over the wires that it's very likely the SEC will press for fraud charges against Ms Stewart.
The end result? Shares down to six and a quarter in after-hours trading.
Well, if you ask me, I think it's time for Ms Stewart to start learning about the virtues of Chinet, the quality paper-'n'-plastic tableware. As she happens to own 63 percent of her firm (down from its IPO high of about $40 [!!!]), her net worth has dropped an incredible $41 million in the last eight hours. Now, that's admittedly not much when you compare that to the fluid wealth positions of a Gates or an Ellison, but it's still a hell of a lot of cash. By my calculations, estimating a total 49.37 million shares outstanding, her stake was once worth approximately $1.25 billion when the company went public. Now, it's a mere $190 million.
That's not a good thing. If she's convicted on these charges -- and we should note she hasn't, yet -- I think the company's going to evaporate. Ms Stewart is, for better or for worse, the company. This was great when she was going on about thread counts and table decorations, but it's not great when she's got to deal with accusations of financial skullduggery. They can put someone else at the helm, they can change its name, they can do whatever they want, but this will only serve to hurt Ms Stewart's public image further. That's also not a good thing.
Now, as for the question to which everyone wants to know the answer:
Will Ms Stewart be hurting any time soon? Perhaps, perhaps not. However, I would note that Ms Stewart's rapidly dwindling fortune may not be enough to sustain a jet-set devil-may-care lifestyle any further. As the shares in her firm fall, so does her capacity to generate personal cash flow. Of course, at $190 million, she'll still have more than enough cash to keep things going without denting the principal. But let's say shares in the firm really tank.
While talking with a friend once, we came to the conclusion that a person would have to acquire a fortune of $20 million to provide one with a limitless capacity to spend money. Such a fortune could provide one with a cash flow of between $1 million and $2 million per year, depending on how it was invested. Unless one takes an enjoyment in purchasing fleets of Italian luxury cars or engaging in other wasteful activities, we reasoned that this would provide one with more money than they could possibly spend in living a normal life. No matter what they did, barring extraordinary events, such a person would find it impossible to not accumulate wealth.
If MSO hits 65 cents, Ms Stewart will find herself at that $20 million mark. If MSO gets delisted, and goes to the pink sheets* ... well, forget it. Stick a fork in it. Call the headline writers.
Now, Ms Stewart undoubtedly has -- I would hope -- other assets in her portfolio, but one should question whether these too are safe. For this is America, the land of the angry shareholder lawsuit. Further, this is America after Enron and Global Crossing. Let's add that this is America, where investors and juries are even less sympathetic towards corporados than they were before said scandals. Finally, let's throw in the spectre of personal liability, for I think that some folks may be considering that route. You can see where this is headed.
And if that's not enough to tell you about the company's future, just look at the insider trading reports. Like rats from the freaking Titanic.
NOTICE: Mr Kepple is not a professional financial advisor, has had little practical success at picking investment winners, and has a high-fat, high-starch diet. He is a champion of honest success and the American Dream, yet still revels in watching the destruction of people who were just too bloody cute for their own good. Call for a prospectus, and read it carefully before investing or sending money. He will never own stock options because he chose a badly-paying career, yet still finds the cash to have salmon and bagels for breakfast on Sunday. On the other hand, this guy does do this financial stuff for a living. So if you're going to take any advice from someone you don't know, go listen to him. Not Benjamin Kepple. But don't hold me liable for anything. It's your decision, OK? Got that? Your decision. You're responsible, Mr Gee-I'll-Sink-The-401(k)-Into-Tech-Stocks.
* Pink sheets? Martha Stewart? Get it? I'm so clever!
Administrative Stuff Ah, so much to do, so little time in which to do it. Anyway, some notes:
* Matt Schwartz has moved from Sandusky, Ohio to Detroit, Mich. Mr Schwartz has made a nice link button for me too, which I will post when I finally figure out how to upload it to my feeble FTP site, size it just so, and then post it without screwing up the rest of The Rant's template. I will also update a link to his blog when he finally figures out what to post on it, the address at which it will be located, and other pertinent details.
* Sgt Stryker's Daily Briefing has gone from winter-to-summer uniforms. Since it's October, this is kind of odd, but hey. I'll also be updating the link soon to reflect that the page is now a group effort, although still done under the Sarge's watchful eye. Also, the mascot in question has changed from Sgt. Styker to Ted Stryker. Sweet.
Midnight in the Cafeteria of Good and Evil Over at former employer FrontPage, J.P. Zmirak has what I consider a mildly-amusing story on the politics of food. If he had stuck to that topic, as opposed to deviating on a long political discourse, I do think it would have made for a better article. But that's just me, I suppose.
In any event, Mr Zmirak rightfully puts French cuisine -- one of that land's few saving graces -- as the epitome of Rightist cuisine, while unfairly condemning Japanese cuisine to the extreme Left of the food/political spectrum. Faugh! Japanese food, with its rigid conformity, respect for tradition, and its often-obscene expense should be over with French as an elitist cuisine. It is truly a cuisine which says of its diners, "Let the masses eat their horrible Taco Bell and their White Castle burgers. We shall dine on shabu-shabu and salmon roe sushi simply because we can. We shall eat secure in the knowledge that the shabu-shabu meat goes in the soy sauce, while the vegetables are for the vaguely peanut-tasting sauce. And we shall eat flavourless udon noodles because it looks cool."
Besides. Everyone knows that the truly most leftist cuisine out there is Swiss, simply because of fondue. Now look. It doesn't take a sociologist to realize that fondue, with its emphasis on cheapness, bad cheese, alcohol, and sitting around at home, eventually leads to outbreaks of social disease, drunkenness, laviscious behaviour, and nostalgia for the Seventies.
I am ashamed to report, however, that fondue remains popular among some American households. So, I encourage all right-thinking citizens to enjoy a nice ideologically sound Italian or French meal, while reporting fondue-loving citizens to the proper authorities.
OK, Everybody. Time to Go Home. It's official: blogs have officially jumped the shark, reports Oliver Willis. Now, I rarely agree with Mr Willis on anything, but he has pretty damning proof of the matter. Either Garry Trudeau is simply trying to appear with it, or he's come to the long-overdue conclusion that he should reach out to folks who aren't whiny liberal Baby Boomers.
I also give myself five style demerits for using what American journalists have long considered the Lamest Lede Ever in the above paragraph.
It's Getting Hot in Here,
So Stab Some Guy to Death The AP reports that two men and one juvenile are being held in connection with the stabbing of two other men at a Nelly (nee Cornell Haynes Jr.) concert in Chula Vista, Calif. One of the men has since shuffled off this mortal coil.
There are a few interesting wrinkles to this story, however. One of the men allegedly involved is the tribal chairman of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians, a group which the story says operates a casino in Alpine, Calif. Now that's just weird. Although, if that DOES turn out to be the case, it wouldn't surprise me. People who actually like Mr Haynes' music, which I find devoid of any intelligent thought or other redeeming qualities, don't strike me as the brightest bulbs in the light store.
Whose Blog Will Reign Supreme? Oh no. It had to happen. A bunch of bloggers get together in New York and proceed to get blitzed, while in the background an episode of Iron Chef apparently plays on television. The result was inevitable: Iron Blogger. While still in its infancy, we can also see that rules for this new spectator sport have already been drawn up.
However, as a devoted viewer of the Iron Chef, I would suggest (with tongue-in-cheek) the addition of two rules to refine the idea:
The first is that an impartial panel of four bloggers should be chosen to make snippy comments and generally make fun of both the Iron Blogger and the Challenger in a contest.
On the Iron Chef television show, three of the four food tasters/judges are famous and extraordinarily critical people drawn from the Japanese entertainment world. The fourth and least important judge is a dry yet sophisticated fellow who always injects a bit of rationality into the debate. We turn to my Japanese counterpart, Bentaro Kepishima, a member of the lower house of the Japanese Diet, to act in that role:
Mr KEPISHIMA (dubbed): Well, Ms Galt's argument is well-prepared, but lacking in style and punctuation. The run-on sentences, while undoubtedly due to the tequila infusion, are confusing and detract from the overall presentation. Still, the discussion has merit, and I find it reasonable given the geo-political base in which she sets up the main points. As for Ms Speirs' argument, I find it has a much better style overall, yet lacking in an agreeable conclusion, and ...
YOUNG, TIPSY ACTRESS NEXT TO Mr KEPISHIMA: Oh, this is wonderful! Ha, hahahahaha! (falls off chair)
Mr KEPISHIMA: Boy! This beats that conference over the banking crisis any day!
The second is that a Secret Ingredient must be given in every match, which both contestants must use throughout their blog. In keeping with the show, the ingredient must be completely at odds with the topic or task at hand. This forces contestants to improvise. Consider the following, and remember that all the voices are dubbed:
ANNOUNCER (in hushed tones): And today's secret ingredient is ... Washington apples!
ANNOUNCER: Washington apples. You heard me. Now get to it, keyboard boy.
CHALLENGER: But we're talking about national missile defense! How am I supposed to work Washington appl...
ANNOUNCER: Don't forget the cool, crisp TASTE of Washington apples! Yes, there's nothing like a Washington apple to calm one's fears about a rogue state launching a nuclear weapon at Indianapolis. Buy some today! Now, let's go over to the Iron Blogger!
IRON BLOGGER: Yes! Fortunately I secretly prepared a similar strategy secretly before the exhibition. Now, I shall reign supreme using my ancient debating tactics. Even better, little does Speed know that Racer X is actually his older brother Rex, who ran away from home years ago!
A Note on Comments I was over at Jack Cluth's site when I happened across this post of his on user comments. Now Mr Cluth, being from Texas, is more polite than most Americans, so I can see why he would say this:
What I will not countenance is name-calling, insults, or other disparaging remarks directed at the beliefs of another person. If you disagree with me, make your case. My only requirement is that you do it with respect.
Fair enough. However, he also says this:
None of us are perfect, and I must admit to not being 100% in compliance myself, but I do have a problem when I see something like this in the comments: "Lets just say that Liberals are the Eddie Haskell of "Leave it to Beaver" characters."
Heh, heh, heh. Eddie Haskell. That was a good one. Wait a minute, let's get back on track here. Anyway, my point is not to criticize Mr Cluth for his policy, but rather to emphasize mine.
Insults, ad hominem attacks, annoying non sequiturs, stupid yet lengthy responses, snippy retorts, and harsh rebuttals to apologies are encouraged, especially if the harsh rebuttal in question contains the line, "Well, you can stuff your sorry's in a SOCK, Mister!" I also welcome well-thought out commentary and reasoned opinions on the affairs of the day, just as I would expect from regular readers. Even positive comments are nice, although my previous stint as a commentary writer still makes me a bit dazed when I see them.
So, in short, you're responsible for whatever you write, whether it's anonymous or not, and of course you know we can track everything. So deal with that, but don't be afraid to take the gloves off. I'm an embittered part-Scottish Northerner, and I can assure you that whatever you throw at me, I've heard worse. All I need to do now is write something that will encourage people to comment.
Did We Mention Britain is Lost? Attention, citizens of the United Kingdom! Just out of curiosity, have you considered fleeing to the USA, or Canada, or New Zealand? You might want to have a plane ticket ready after you read this. It mentions something about English citizens, and the EU, and deportation to the Continent. Give it a look.
Ms Solent points out, with all the due caustic wit such a story requires, that such acts are taken for the "sake of the Children(TM)." It's funny, though. For some reason, I do believe I remember reading about something similar, which took place about sixteen, maybe even eighteen years ago.
'Have you got a spanner? -said Winston, fiddling with the nut on the angle-joint.
'A spanner,' said Mrs Parsons, immediately becoming invertebrate. 'I don't know, I'm sure. Perhaps the children -'
There was a trampling of boots and another blast on the comb as the children charged into the living-room. Mrs Parsons brought the spanner. Winston let out the water and disgustedly removed the clot of human hair that had blocked up the pipe. He cleaned his fingers as best he could in the cold water from the tap and went back into the other room.
'Up with your hands!' yelled a savage voice.
A handsome, tough-looking boy of nine had popped up from behind the table and was menacing him with a toy automatic pistol, while his small sister, about two years younger, made the same gesture with a fragment of wood. Both of them were dressed in the blue shorts, grey shirts, and red neckerchiefs which were the uniform of the Spies. Winston raised his hands above his head, but with an uneasy feeling, so vicious was the boy's demeanour, that it was not altogether a game.
'You're a traitor!' yelled the boy. 'You're a thought-criminal! You're a Eurasian spy! I'll shoot you, I'll vaporize you, I'll send you to the salt mines!'
Nah. That must just be my wild imagination at work, or remembering some half-forgotten novel.
Anyway, Ms Solent also reports that her work has caught the eye of the "Korean Friendship Association BBS," a rather unpleasant group of North Korean sympathisers who haven't yet realised the war is lost. Ms Solent politely informs us that she is just interested in their world view, and finds it odd she can't find any discussion about the Japanese abductees forcibly taken behind the North Korean wall. But it matters not; these fellows have that story, and much, much, more.
It is not a stretch, I believe, to compare this to Sept. 11. In the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the U.S. lost about 3,500 people. They were of all races and nationalities, but they made their homes here and believed in the things that make America great. In Bali, at least 181 people, of all races and nationalities, were lost in that attack. Some were at work, others were at play; but they were peaceful, they were innocent, and they were free.
Of course, despite what happened on Sept. 11, there were those in America who opposed liberating Afghanistan from its Talib masters, and there are now those who oppose liberating Iraq from Hussein's tyranny. In Australia, we shall undoubtedly see those same forces rise up after Oct. 13, bleating for tolerance and understanding and patience. Indeed, it would appear that they already have. Mr Blair, in his coverage, notes a particularly distressing column by Sydney Morning Herald columnist Margo Kingston on the matter. Ms Kingston, you see, throws together all the usual compassionate phrases, and then proceeds to blame tourism, a lack of Government services, and other social ills for the attacks.
That, naturally, is silly. Al-Qaeda did not strike America because of social ills; and it did not strike as it did against Australia because of them either. It struck, and it will try to strike again, because it hates what we've done. It hates what we've built. It hates, as Nelson Ascher put it so well, that we are "happy, open, democratic, successful, (and) peaceful."
When it comes to Sept. 11 and Oct. 13, those who think time cures all ills will find themselves sorely mistaken. We must and shall grieve for those lost; but let us not forget the acts which cut their lives short. Let us not stand idle. Let us have the strength to do what needs done, not only for the dead, but for the living. Let us root out this scourge upon civilisation, and crush it beneath our heel -- so that when it is our time to pass on, we can look our fallen brethren in the eye, and tell them we did our duty.
Long ago, centuries before America and its cousin Australia were to arise, Robert Bruce led the free armies of Scotland against their oppressor, King Edward II, at Bannockburn. In America's and Australia's infancy, the Scottish poet Robert Burns put to verse Bruce's legendary speech to his men. The times have changed, but the truths contained within that message still hold today. September 11 and October 13 have shown us, that in the war against terrorism, there are only two outcomes for the civilised world. We can either go down to our gory bed, or on to victory.
Hello, Cottage Inn? You Deliver to New Hampshire? Hail to the Conquering Heroes, people. The University of Michigan -- America's greatest university; the university which has its flag on the Moon; the university that stands above all others -- defeated Penn State at the Big House today, 27-24, in the first-ever OT matchup at Michigan Stadium.
As for those Penn State people -- whose Nittany Lions have lost, oh, six in a row against the mighty Wolverines -- you have my sincere condolences. Now clean up, and get back on the bus. Go home to Happy Valley and hang your heads in shame, for you failed -- again -- to defeat the Champions of the West.
Now all I need to make this day perfect is a Cottage Inn pizza -- from the restaurant on E. Williams St. back in Ann Arbor, not the cheap satellite delivery/take-out places they had around my old college town. That, and a good Greek salad, would do the trick.
Who's No. 757? Who Da Man? Awwwwwwwww yeah. I have been informed that The Rant is ranked 757 out of 10,629 blogs currently in existence, according to BlogStreet.
This is actually quite cool. Sure, it's not the most popular Web log out there and by no means the most-read Web log. However, given the amount of posting that I do, the topics which I cover, and my less-than-exciting personal dossier, it's pretty cool. It also establishes The Rant as a niche blog, a blog that intelligent, sophisticated, and with-it people read.
I will be floating on Cloud Nine for the rest of the day. Meanwhile, I am pleased to hint at something very cool which will probably go on-line shortly. This time, I swear it.
Margo Has Gone Away, Blair Reports Oh, shoot. Margo Kingston, the silly commentator for the Sydney Morning Herald, has taken off for the week. This despite the fact she promised -- really! -- to actually do some work, according to Tim Blair.
Sadly, the hiatus will not be enough time for Australia's national image to recover from the damage Ms Kingston has inflicted upon it.
What are my thoughts on the above two posts? Well, three things in particular. The first is that discretion is the better part of valor. The second is that one should hesitate to discuss that issue in a forum where's one's family members can read it. However, if one is single and male, it is permissible to put up a photo of a soccer match's post-goal celebration without further comment. The third is that everyone dies.
Look. Bickering over such things is pointless. To put it in terms that leftists can understand, you don't need a Weatherman to tell you which way the wind's blowing. Of course collegiate commencement speakers are biased towards the left. That's because the people choosing the speakers largely hold left-of-center views. Quod est demonstradum. Furthermore, given my experience in covering higher education -- I did so for two years at Mr Horowitz's publications -- I think 83 percent is actually a low-ball estimate. It's probably somewhere in the nineties.
FUN LOOK INTO HISTORY: You can read a smidgen about my horrible commencement speaker in this 1998 article of mine, in which I also gripe about being solicited for money by my alma mater.
Horrible Municipal Employees Refuse to Pick Up Jay's Garbage Kepple the Younger is back, and no City of Akron refuse collector is safe from his rage.
Then again, Jay isn't apparently safe from the garbage out front, either. Read his entry. Then come back here and post comments on what YOU think it is in the garbage can even refuse collectors won't touch.
Montana's Senate Race Gets Weirder and Weirder Geez. First, Republican Mike Taylor drops out after a video surfaces of him wearing a wide-lapeled shirt. Then, who emerges as a candidate against Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.? Why, it's Dorque, the blue-skinned alien from the libertarian planet Ork!
The New York v. Washington Question Scott Rubush has enlighted us as to a raging debate going on in the blogosphere as to which is the better city: New York, or Washington. In his wisdom, Mr Rubush has derided the discussion in question as crap. He prefers the environs of Los Angeles to either of those eastern cities, and detects a bit of the dreaded East Coast bias in the question itself.
The question itself seems reasonable to me: constrasting nation's financial capital with the nation's political capital, and seeing which comes on top. Reasonable people, of course, would choose Washington as the more desirable place in which to live. New York, with its horribly high taxes, miserable congestion, awful weather, general expense, and legions of unpleasant inhabitants, is not a place in which I could ever live. It is a wonderful place to visit, there is no denying, and everyone should spend a few days in Gotham to get the feel for the place and see what cannot be seen elsewhere. But a few days at a time is enough.
Contrast this with the nation's capital. It too has high taxes, miserable congestion, and bad weather. However, in contrast, it is less expensive and the people are friendlier than in New York. Aesthetically, Washington is far more beautiful, and there is a charm to it that I believe one would be hard-pressed to find in New York. Culturally, the District is only slightly-less so than in New York, and surpasses it in a few key areas (history buffs, I think, would agree). Lastly, the summer I spent in Washington ranks among the most wonderful in my life, and while I have never summered in New York City, Mayor John Lindsay is on record as saying that there were times he would even leave during its infamous summers and winters.
Mr Rubush, however, dismisses both cities as unlivable, and even lists their ten worst faults. Some of these I question -- Washington's street grid is exceptionally easy to understand, and I doubt that Mr Rubush has ever been in Anacostia. (Neither have I, as it is most notable for open-air drug markets and a general sense of decay, but every city has similarly horrible parts to it). Still, I think he's on to something, as he has fun skeweing both cities' unpleasant and insufferable parochialism.
This is particularly true in New York, where too many people are rude, insulting, unpleasant, hard-charging, and infused with a strange sense that New York is the best thing mankind has developed since we figured out how to make beer. This, of course, is silly -- Chicago makes a better pizza, the culture is about as developed, and you can actually understand what people there are saying. Mr Rubush makes his case for Los Angeles, but I don't agree with it; Los Angeles has its share of trouble as well.
Perhaps you might think that I would submit Manchester, N.H. as superior to all of these places, as it's where I live now. I wouldn't. Manchester is the polar opposite to a large city, in that taxes are low-to-nonexistent, congestion is mild at worst, the fall weather makes up for the other three seasons, and the cost of living is moderate. That said, it is almost impossible to find truly-citified culture here. The restaurants are moderate at best; to get anything decent, you have to go to Portsmouth. It's impossible to get a decent bottle of wine. The city lacks selection in everything from food to cinema, and it's frustrating.
So, after I've given it some thought, I've decided that what I need to find is a conservative college town. Having given it a lot of thought, I find that I had the most fun living in Ann Arbor, Mich., a city of about 100,000 people. It's close enough to Detroit so you can take in the symphony if you want, but it's far enough way so it hasn't any big-city problems. It's got great restaurants, a vibrant if sometimes-misguided political and intellectual scene, and I actually really like the weather. I like the people. And I like the Midwestern culture; not so much in terms of museums or art or what have you, but just how people think and act and treat each other. In short, I need to find a place like Ann Arbor, except that it has right-wing views.
Sock it TO Me! Lily Tomlin will begin appearing on The West Wing, the AP reports. To be honest, I couldn't care less about this, but I thought some of you might be interested. Just let me again reiterate that the show SO gets New Hampshire wrong.
In an attempt to do justice to how hideously awful this alleged film is, I am going to quote directly from the ad copy on the back of the DVD case in which it came. We start out with a quote from Variety Radio, which reads: "Hilarious! The Most Original Comedy Of The Year!" Then, we go onto a long promotional cutline. It follows, verbatim:
Outrageous MTV star Tom Green blows away the boundaries of good taste once again in the movie critics call "Inspired Insanity!" KMAX-TV. When 28-year-old Gord Brody (Green) leaves the safety of his parent's home to make it big in Hollywood, all hell breaks loose in hospital rooms, with parapalegic nymphos, in a cheese factory, with farm animals and much more!! Just when you've thought you've seen it all! "You Won't Believe Your Eyes! Tom Green Doesn't Cross the Line -- He Stomps on It!" (The Movie Guys). This must-see 'Hannibal of Comedies' (KMAX-TV) is so over-the-top, no wonder people can't stop talking about it!"
Look. When Twentieth Century Fox, the movie firm behind this monstrosity, doesn't shell out enough cash so that it hires copy writers and copy editors who actually have a grasp of the English tongue, it tells you something about Freddy Got Fingered. It tells you that the executive producers are so horrified their names are forever attached to it that they want to scare off any potential viewers out there. It tells you that everyone involved in the production of the film, from the executive who gave it the green light down to the humblest production assistant, has the IQ of a radish loaf. It tells you: stay away.
But I did not stay away. No, readers, because one of you begged and pleaded with me to waste a full 87 minutes of my time watching this hideous, awful, miserable, disgusting, foul, wretched film, I watched it.
To that particular reader, I would like to say: I hope you rot in hell.
That's how bad this movie is. But I'm repeating myself, so let's cut to the chase.
Anyway, here's the plot. Tom Green plays Gord Brody, a crazed 28-year-old wanna-be animator from Portland, Ore., who wants to actually get paid for his badly-done scribblings. Hence, he decides that he must move to Los Angeles, Calif., to pursue his dream. This turns out badly, however, and he is forced to make ends meet through working at a cheese factory (no, not the Twentieth Century Fox lot, an actual cheese factory). After assaulting a particularly lame-brained animator enjoying lunch, he decides to return to the savagery of his native Portland. Much strangeness ensues.
To list the strangeness would be futile. The film is so offensive and guttural and appalling that it deserves to be treated like one of the horrible eldritch antiquities in a H.P. Lovecraft story: in short, it "should not permit itself to be watched." I will say, however, that the remaining scenes do actually explain the title of the film, which I'm sure was a creation of the marketing people. After all, We Are Committing a Cultural Crime Against Humanity with This Godawful Schlock would be too wordy for the box cover, so I applaud the Fox marketing team for their efforts in trying to disguise this movie's true nature.
The cast is almost as sad as the movie. For one thing, it has Tom Green in it. Not good. It also has Drew Barrymore in it, which is also not good. In fact, the presence of both players in this film made me wonder if it was the reason behind the breakup of their marriage. The rest of the cast isn't much better off. Rip Torn, who used to be a respectable actor, plays Tom's embittered and abusive father. Julie Hagerty plays Rip Torn's wife, in which she plays a character who acts like Elaine Dickinson, her character in the Airplane! series. The difference is that the Airplane! series was funny.
The sole bright spot in the film is Marisa Coughlin as Betty, the hospital worker. This is because she is quite a dish. Yet even her star is diminished in this film due to the horrible script, which makes her very cute character shrewish and annoying. Indeed, Betty soon reveals herself to be as shallow, thoughtless, and stupid as the rest of the characters, which is a true pity. For in one of the scenes, Miss Coughlin is charged with faking -- ah, well, you know -- and let me tell you: the girl can act!
But wait! I never got to the rest of the box cover.
I forgot to mention that the back cover of this DVD makes reference to a "family-friendly" version of the movie, which is rated PG. Thanks to MPAA restrictions, however, this particular section is only three minutes long. Instead of sitting through the full 87 minutes of a particularly terrible movie, I realize now that I should have saved myself the trouble and watched the boiled-down version. I could have fully appreciated the true horror of this motion picture, and used the 84 minutes to do something more enjoyable, such as clean the bathroom.
BEST THING ABOUT 'FREDDY GOT FINGERED': Marisa Coughlan, from 29 minutes, 50 seconds to 30 minutes, 14 seconds; and 38 minutes, 6 seconds, to 38 minutes, 18 seconds.
WORST THING ABOUT FGF: Everything else.
UNEXPECTED UPSIDE: Miss Coughlan. Good God in Heaven, she's a cutie. Also, the citizens of Portland could file a suit seeking damages thanks to the emotional trauma the city suffered thanks to this movie.
UNEXPECTED DOWNSIDE: This movie was so bad I wanted to hold a prayer service for the careers of Mr Torn and Ms Hagerty.
This Sniper Shooting Bit is Now Officially Too Close to Home While police have not made a conclusive link between the wave of sniper-shootings in Maryland and last night's fatal shooting of Victim No. 9 in north Prince William County, I have now declared the Sniper-Shooting Incident to be too close to home for yours truly. It's not just that my good friend Greg and fellow-blogger Allison live within spitting distance of prior incidents. It's that not two weeks ago, I was staying in a hotel not too far away (U.S. Rte. 50) from this incident -- and, in fact, due to a foul-up, had made a reservation at the Best Western described in the Post story. This could have been me pumping gas out there, traveling alone, minding my own business, and -- blam! Good night.
The idea of dying has never so much scared me as it has pissed me off. I fully intend, through sheer force of will, to live until 110 years of age, come hell or high water. Hence, the idea that my life -- my work -- could be interrupted thanks to a demented and fiendish madman, and a madman with delusions of grandeur at that, has always proved to be singularly appalling. Of course, no one can tell the future, but the thought that six -- perhaps seven -- productive lives have been expended for the purpose of providing a homicidal maniac is just disgusting.
Also, one of the three lead reporters on the Post story was the editor of a rival college publication back when I was editor of The Michigan Review. Gee, it's a small world, isn't it? When this story is all said and done, I will have to drop him a note and see if I can use my shared-status as a reporter to get all the juicy details that didn't make it into print (you'd be surprised).
Hello Readers! Whoa. I just figured out how to use my IP log function on my counter, and boy is it cool. So I'd just like to take a minute to say hello to my last twenty readers whose IP address was logged ...
* Hello, Apple Computer employee! I'm glad to see you're Thinking Different by visiting The Rant. Thank you for visiting, even though you can tell I use a really bad PC to compose my work. If you stop by again, feel free to tell me why I should switch to Macintosh, as I'm in the market for a new computer!
* Hello, University of Florida student! Florida State sucks. Kill the Seminoles and break their legs. Figuratively speaking, of course.
* Hello, SatelLife NET-HEALTHNET employee! Can you get me some Provigil?
* Hello, Qwest Communications user! I'm surprised to see you still have Internet access.
* Hello, Comcast Cable user! You're stuck with a conglomerate, heh heh heh. Oh, wait. So am I.
* Hello, Dade County Public School user! You have indeed reached the "Touchscreen Voting Instruction Site." Please remember to follow the instruction guides that come with the machines each costing more than your annual salary. They've got helpful tips like, "How to Plug In the Machine," and "What to Do When the Good People from the Civil Rights Commission Launch an Investigation."
* Hello, UUNET Technologies user! What is UUNET? Should I know? Would I have known before the stock market crashed?
* Hello, ORBIS Internet Services, Inc. user! I'll bet you're paying less than I am for Internet service.
* Hello, PREXAR user! That's actually got a nice ring to it. .
* Hello, Apple Computer user -- again! I think I've got a fan club! See! I'm Thinking Different!
* Hello, Sprint user! Is the customer service better or worse now that Murphy Brown isn't doing the commercials?
* Hello, Kaiser Permanente Medical Program employee in Northern California! It must be nice to have a job in Northern California right now. One of the few, eh?
* Hello, Chicago Tribune employees! Wait a minute. Why are people working for the ChiTrib reading The Rant, and why did they end up here after what appears to be a search for my name on Google? Just don't let your editors catch you, OK?
* Hello, Cox Communications user! Is that you, Uncle Dave?
* Hello, Durham College of Applied Arts and Technology student! How's it going up in Ontario, eh? Have you gotten rid of Mike Harris yet? I hope not.
UPDATE: Oh, as to the fellow wondering what it meant when a stock was delisted ... well, I don't know how to tell you this, but it means that you've pretty much lost all of your money and your stock certificates are being traded over on the OTC markets. In short, your investment is now known as a "pink sheet," which means that the actual stock certificates are being used to wipe up major coffee spills in the trading pits. You have my sincere condolences.
Why the Seventies Sucked Here at The Rant, we've used the Power of the Internet (TM) to discover photographic evidence of why the Seventies sucked. You can see that of which we speak in this horrifying photo of Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates.
BJK: Dear God in Heaven, will you look at this.
Jesse Kepple: He looks like a cokehead. But what's that thing around his neck?
Jesse: Is that a flowered collar?
BJK: That is a flowered collar.
BJK: Dude. How horrible were the Seventies?
Jesse: Hey. You were there, not me! I was born during the Reagan years.
BJK: It's not my fault I was born during the Ford Administration. Thankfully, I hardly remember any of it. God! Just think ... the oil shocks, stagflation, and clothes like THAT.
Jesse: I can imagine.
Jesse: Actually I can't.
BJK: I didn't think you could.
Jesse: But look at our house in Kalamazoo. That was a damned model of the 1970s at the beginning.
BJK: Do you remember that hideous kitchen that Mom and Dad had to re-do?
BJK: It was in orange and yellow?
Jesse: Yes ... and the green basement with red carpet.
BJK: Oh God, I forgot about that!
Jesse: The brown shag carpet.
BJK: In the den?
BJK: (shudder) How did they LIVE back then? It must have been awful.
Jesse: I think waiting in line for gasoline would be the worst -- and paying top dollar for it at the same time.
BJK: No kidding. You could buy enough gas to get back to the end of the rationing line.
I Really Can't Believe This A reader of The Rant has taken issue with my post on Satanism. Actually, perhaps that's a bit of a mild description on my part -- my semi-anonymous correspondent, whose post can be read in full in the comments section below, has actually defended Satanism. I think I'm starting to realize a bit of how Lot felt as he sought out ten good men in Sodom.
However, regular readers of The Rant know that I let no bit of idiocy go unchallenged. Hence, I shall engage in a (patented) Kepple-Style Takedown(TM) against my deluded correspondent, who gives his name only as Joe. Before I begin, however, I must say I wish that he had left his full name, however. It would give his argument more heft, instead of spurring idle snickering on my part. ("Who are ye, who summons fire without flint or tinder?" "You may call me ... Joe.")
Anyway, Joe informs me:
Really Kepple, maybe you should actually read some Church of Satan material before you post fasle (sic) statements such as "Last time I checked, Satanism is not about sharing ideas and exploring alternative points of view. " When and where did you check? (You note Dante, a Christian and Lovecraft a fantasy novelist.)
You know, maybe it's just me, but there are some things in this world to which defenses shouldn't be offered. Belief systems which hold Satan as their spiritual head are among those things. Hence, there is no need for me to read the degenerate works which Joe would have me examine. He and his co-religionists can offer a million defenses of this stupidity, yet it will not change the reality of things one jot.
You go on to say, "Satanism is about doing extremely wicked things on Walpurgis Night and Halloween, and sacrificing cats, and reveling in the baying of dogs, and holding a Black Mass, and spilling blood"
Yes, actually, it is, or at least a good many of its self-described adherents have taken part in one or more of the above acts.
can tell you what Walpurgis night is, since of course you do not know. Its named after a Saint.
It's April 30. Besides, this and the Halloween sentence you toss in do nothing to dispel my points. Now go buy a grade-school English textbook.
Major tenets of Satanism (the popular verisons) include that there is no god nor devil. It would be very difficult for someone to worship what they don't believe in. Your article is not only biased, it illustrates the very problem these 'rile it up'(sic) youths are addressing. And that problem is ignorance, name calling, propoganda based on ignorance, mob mentality and instigation of fear and hatred based on religous orientation.
Somehow, I don't find myself all that concerned about the assertion that I'm biased against Satanism. I would hope I was. Otherwise, I would officially consign myself to the American Association of Witless Citizens and become a diversity consultant.
That said, I do wonder why, if such people do not believe in God or the Devil, that they call themselves Satanist. Wouldn't the name itself seem to imply some sort of allegiance to the Prince of Darkness? If it doesn't, why would these people be so stupid as to make others think that way? Perhaps it's because they are lost and confused people of marginal intelligence who simply want a bit of attention. Therefore, I think we can conclude that people who voluntarily adhere to such beliefs are either deluded idiots or depraved scum, and should be treated accordingly: with scorn, mockery, and general disfavour.
Nice to know there are isolationists still existing.
I'm not an isolationist. If you read the site more, you'd find out I'm a reactionary neo-imperialist. Please note the distinction.
by the by: You might enjoy the company of Jerr Falwell who recently announced that Muhammed was a terrorist and blamed sept11th on homosexuals.
I'd enjoy his company more than I would yours, because both he and I would know where he stands. Naturally, Rev Falwell and I would not see eye-to-eye on a variety of issues, and he would undoubtedly condemn me in private as a statue-loving, Mary-worshipping Papist, or something to that effect. Unlike many people, however, the Rev Falwell isn't afraid to express contrary opinions or offend lily-livered saps. So he gets at least a few style points in my book just for plain-speaking, even if I think that he's in error on a number of things.
Sensationalism or ignorance Mr. Keppler?
That's Kepple. K-E-P-P-L-E. It says it in 18-point type up top, you damned heathen. Get it right, or I'll be forced to taunt you a second time.
The Party is Over Heh, heh, heh. Shares in Salon, the Internet magazine that everyone used to read before it started charging for the good stuff, have closed at $0.01. Folks, if you have an extra $150,000 lying around right now, I calculate that you could very well buy the dang company and take it private.
Go Read Ruffini, Right Now This is why I need to check out Patrick Ruffini's site more often. He's got great posts on The Torch's resignation/concession speech, Frank Lautenberg, and other current political happenings. So go read it, will you? Then come back and read my forthcoming rant on the latest peril facing America: the security wrapping they place around DVDs for sale. Is nothing sacred anymore?