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.
PROUDLY SERVING THE BLOGOSPHERE SINCE SEPT. 2001
Patior ut potiar
"It's people like you who I would not hesitate to hit with my car
if I saw crossing the street, thinking I would benefit society."
-- J. Artz, Mar. 11, '98
"Right now, your problems are the last thing on my mind."
-- Dr. Progressive, Mar. 26, '01
"It's like a blog on steroids."
-- Matt Rubush, Nov. '01
"Benjamin Kepple runs a fine Web log. . ."
-- Ken Layne, Dec. 2, '01
"Ben, you remind me of my mother in law."
-- Jason Hirschman, Dec. 26, '01
"Give him five years and we'll be able to find him eating Thai cuisine as he hosts his very
own Tuesday night TBS movie show."
-- Jesse Kepple, Jan. 10, '02
"You're going to be the Steve Jobs of blogs!"
-- Matt Rubush, Jan. 24, '02
"Truth be told, I see very little that's French in Ben, save for the fact that he works 35 hours and smokes 16 packs of cigarettes a week." .
-- Chris Weinkopf, Mar. 22, '02
"Ben Kepple is so witty. Thank God somebody is."
-- Allison Barnes, Mar. 28, '02
"We all know you're witty, Ben. That's why we talk to you."
-- Matthew S. Schwartz, Mar. 30, '02
"The most convincing anti-smoking editorial I've ever read."
-- Clay Waters, June 1, '02
"As usual, Brother Kepple, I disagree with almost every word you type. But damn! I sure am glad you're there."
-- Brian Linse, Jul. 31, '02
"Not as succinct as Phil, but side-splittingly funny."
-- Sasha Castel, Oct. 23, '02
"Actually, you're WRONG!"
-- Oliver Willis, Dec. 5, '02
"Permanently aghast and agog."
-- Oliver Willis, Feb. 25, '03
"Ben Kepple is a festering sore on my buttocks."
-- Dean Esmay, May 15, '03
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
Mr. Kepple. However, favourable quotes praising my work are welcomed and appreciated, especially if you are
a working journalist.
New York. New York ... The Bloomberg Administration has banned fun and merriment in America's greatest city, Brian Linse reports:
I did manage to walk around a bit, and I found that the mood on the south end of the island is very different from my last, pre-9/11 trip to the city. At 11pm on a Saturday night there were 6 beat cops at the intersection of Bleeker and McDougal. Three of them were standing in the street, and my business partner and I watched in amazement as they pulled people over and wrote tickets for not wearing seat belts! Seat belts!
Later, my partner and I were told that we would have to move our drinks inside from the sidewalk table we had claimed earlier, because the cops were also writing tickets to the bar managers if any patrons were outside with alcohol after 1am. The crowds were thin on the street, and not a lot of fun was being had.
This does not bode well for the city's fortunes. Part of what makes New York great as a city is that one can travel there and have a great time -- nay, even engage in reckless abandon -- yet do so with relative safety and convenience. For instance, there is nothing in New York that prevents one from getting blitzed. There are plenty of safe and warm establishments with plenty of liquor available, and one can easily hail a taxi or stumble back on the subway to one's lodgings.
On the other hand, it's a heck of a lot less fun when you can't hang out with everyone you've gone with to the bar. It's also a lot less fun when you're forced to move from outside to inside, as Mr Linse described. It is extremely un-fun if average citizens, minding their own business, are forced to help contribute to erasing the city's budget deficit because they were not wearing restraining belts. Gad. (Here in New Hampshire, we don't even have laws regulating adult seat-belt usage. That's because we do not see the need to regulate that aspect of folks' lives. Also, we rule).
And if it's not fun to go to New York anymore, than the occasional tourists like me -- and even worse, those from surrounding areas -- will find other places where we can spend our money and our time. That's not good for the city or its residents, so many of which rely on tourism dollars. So while it is certainly up to New York to decide how to regulate its own affairs, I would suggest that it focus its efforts on keeping crime to a minimum and its public-services working at their best, as opposed to micromanaging the lives of those who work and play there.
ON-LINE EXAM ACCURATELY DEPICTS SINS, PUNISHMENT
KEPPLE'S SOUL TO SUFFER "ONLY RELATIVELY BAD" TORMENT
IN AFTERLIFE, TOP THEOLOGIANS CONFIRM
"I don't think anyone here was surprised at this," says Kepple ------
MANCHESTER, NH -- Benjamin Kepple, who heads the city-based purveyors of Benjamin Kepple's Daily Rant(TM), will spend eternity at the Fourth Level of Hell, according to an on-line survey. The result, which is in line with Kepple's own determinations, will mean Kepple shall spend eternity rolling forth heavy weights back and forth against countless other avaricious or greedy souls.
"Really, I don't think anyone here was surprised at this," said Kepple as he plotted his latest scheme at The Rant's lavishly-decorated headquarters. "Clearly, I know best of all my sinful history, and I certainly can't disagree with the test's results. I can only hope that I can somehow change my ways before it's too late, although at this point I'd say I'm relying on grace to see me through."
"Hey, wait a minute," added Kepple, whining. "Wasn't it just yesterday that I told people I thought a dishwasher was a luxury item? And I've been really good lately with my budget, even if I did spend a bit more than I ought've on my vacation. Shouldn't I get kicked up to Level Three, at least?"
Level Three, which represents Gluttony, was one of three areas where Kepple has a high probability of ending up, according to the quiz:
The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Fourth Level of Hell! Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Kepple did take heart, however, from the reaction of some leading theologians.
"Kepple should consider himself lucky," said Catholic University of America professor Paul Christopher Charybdis IV. "He has a *high* rating in the all-important Purgatory category, which would mean he *could* find himself eventually redeemable for salvation if he shapes up. Also they have a nice beach there. He could also improve his eventual place in the afterlife if he would stop eating rich foods with dinner and ordering the soup when he really doesn't need to. In addition, he has not repented for having that really good glass of wine when Bocky took him out to eat in Washington last December. That's gonna stand out like a sore thumb."
"I mean, $15 for a glass? Sure, it was Morton's; sure, it was a special event to celebrate great things; sure, his friend was very generous and gave him carte blanche. But Gad. No wonder he's headed for the fourth level," Charybdis said.
Kepple's friend, whose full name could not be ascertained as of press time, is thought to be destined for the Heaven of the Sun.
"But there is a bright side to all this," said Loyola Marymount University religion professor Erich Maria Bruckner. "It could be a hell -- pardon the pun -- of a lot worse for Kepple. He has a moderate rating down near Level Eight -- the Malebolge. You do not want to go there. Criminy. I mean, it's not like swimming in the Serchio! He's going to need to have an attitude adjustment though, just to make sure he doesn't really screw things up. Of course, it would be better if he figured things out while he's still around topside."
However, the terrible wolf-daemon Plutus said that if Kepple were to enter his domain, it would not be pleasant.
"Now look. When you come here, you're in for a world of hurt. I mean, that's my job," said the cruel spirit, who oversees the Fourth Level and was temporarily restored to sentience for this interview. "And I can assure this wretched person -- whomever he is -- that we're making the weights doubly heavy just for him. We'll see how he likes living the high life when his rib cage is continually crushed with massive boulders."
"His day of reckoning will come due, don't you worry," Plutus added, as he crashed back down to his eternal posting.
Like many people who are facing such things, Andrew is quite calm about the whole matter, although he has said that those close to him are in shock over the news. I was also shocked and saddened to hear it. For writers -- as Andrew and I both are -- the sense of sight is one of the most important things that we have.
So while he has not asked outright for support, I would appreciate it very much if readers of The Rant would follow the above link and drop him a line to let him know we're keeping him in our thoughts and hearts. This is something that can be beat, and there are few things more useful in doing so than a strong support network.
Getting a Grippe I hate it when Irony decides that it must make an entrance into my life.
Now you should know that the title for this entry is not original. Rather, it was the headline to a well-done article about the SARS pandemic in the most recent issue of The Economist. As I read the story on Friday evening, I found the headline to be extremely witty and resolved then that I would find a way to use it -- somehow -- on The Rant. Surely, I reasoned, there was some way that I could fit it in.
The irony was this. As I was reading, I was enjoying a particularly rich and satisfying meal at a local restaurant. The name of the restaurant isn't important -- it was one of those mediocre chain restaurants which seems to drown all of its food in horrible whiskey-baced sauces, and whose business model bets a diner will be too focused on the startlingly-large intoxicant he has also ordered to notice. But little did I know that as I chuckled over The Economist's headline, the chicken-and-pasta dish I was eating was infecting me with the Grippe in a particularly nasty way.
Oh, readers, I say to you that Sancho Panza did not suffer such horrors when he took Don Quixote's curative elixir. Talk about a weekend killer. Not four hours after I had finished my meal, I found myself genuflecting before the porcelain altar within my apartment, groaning in agony as that chicken-and-pasta dish came back up with a force rarely seen in nature. And after expelling the toxins from my system, I crawled back to bed, praying that I would not find my Saturday -- my precious Saturday, the greatest of all days in my week -- shot to hell.
Well, the good news is that it wasn't, although it was a close shave.
The odd thing about food poisoning is that one's system generally picks up steam from the moment it hits; it is a rapid yet annoyingly steady recovery. As I write on Sunday morning, I feel surprisingly refreshed. But yesterday, however, I was still feeling quite drained. In the morning, I made sure to drink plenty of water, and sipped some Diet Coke to calm the raging beast within. Then I went back to bed, hoping I would feel better later in the day. That was when I was planning to travel to Massachusetts to see Chris and Mary Kate Weinkopf, my good friends from California, and their baby daughter.
I woke up at 3:30 in the afternoon, feeling tired but generally all right. After taking a strange cocktail of medication, I called Chris and informed him I would in fact be heading down to Massachusetts, albeit an hour later than I had planned. Drove through a blinding rainstorm down to Concord, Mass., where I met all three.
Now all babies are cute, but the Weinkopfs' daughter, Monica, is especially so. Of course, she cried whenever I held her, but I fully expected this to happen. After all, you can imagine what she was thinking -- Mommy! Who is this strange guy with the beard?! He's not holding me right! I don't like this one bit! That and I'm hungry, and tired, and want a nap!. So it was natural that she would express herself in the only way she knew how. Besides, Mary Kate informed me that babies generally don't begin talking until they are two, which is when they learn the vital skill of screaming in the grocery when Mommy does not buy them the sugar-coated breakfast cereal they demand.
But Monica did perk up mightily when she was in -- I want to call it her bassinet, but I don't know its proper name -- cooing and gurgling as happily as one might expect. This allowed Monica and her Uncle Ben to have Important, Bonding Conversation:
ME: Aw, you're so sweet.
ME: And did you hear your Dad? You're going back to California tomorrow, away from all this horrible New England weather!
MONICA: (cooing happily)
ME: And you won't have to stay in over-regulated Massachusetts any more.
CHRIS: Hey! California's pretty over-regulated!
ME: Yeah, but she doesn't know that yet.
Monica soon fell asleep on our drive to the restaurant, which it took us approximately one hour and twenty minutes to reach, despite being a mere four miles away. It also was the fifth restaurant on our list. Due to my infirm nature, Chris and Mary Kate wisely decided not to take me out for Chinese. But we could not find the other restaurant where we had hoped to go on our ensuing drive, and decided to pass on the two restaurants we later came across.
Apparently, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has decided that it can no longer afford road signs properly marking certain streets. Instead -- and I blame this entirely on its recent austerity drive -- it has forced certain municipalities to mark only ONE street at key intersections. Combine this with roads designed when the major form of transport was the horse and a few badly-placed traffic rotaries, and much hilarity results. There's nothing like driving through a blinding rain when one's only navigational tools are one's internal compass and a set of MapQuest instructions -- instructions that themselves require that one know minor things like the name of the street on which one is driving.
But despite this predicament, Chis, Mary Kate and I had a wonderful Italian dinner at Papa Razzi. It's on Route 2 in Concord; provided you can find it. Perhaps it was because the meal was the only solid food I had eaten in about 36 hours, but it truly was phenomenal. I had a nice simple lettuce salad with an olive-oil and lemon dressing and a nice, simple meal of ziti with tomato sauce. Perfect. I only had about half of each, but it was exactly the type of food I could eat after feeling so particularly awful just 18 hours before. Afterwards, I drove back to Manchester, feeling drained but well; and woke up this morning feeling much better.
So I'm glad to see that I was able to salvage my weekend. My lesson, if I learned one, was simple -- if one orders chicken out, one should make sure it is fully cooked.
Well, At Least I'm Doing My Part Everyone's been talking about this "Earth Day Footprint Quiz" lately, so I thought I would give it a go. Now, the idea behind this quiz is that it takes a hard look at one's personal consumption patterns, calculates how much effect one has on the environment as a whole, and informs one how many Earth-like planets humanity would need if everyone lived as the quiz-taker did.
Well, I must report that if everyone lived like Benjamin Kepple, mankind would need a full ten Earth-like planets to sustain itself. It seems that not only do I live a life that's twice as consumption-oriented as the average Yankee, I live one that's a full ten times more so than the average.
Clearly, this result means that we must step up our globalisation efforts immediately. After all, one of the reasons why I am able to live this wonderfully luxuriant life of mine is because of the economic benefits which globalisation has brought. Further, as an American and a capitalist, I see no reason why I shouldn't take advantage of American economic might to procure a shockingly excessive amount of personal goods and services.
And just imagine what the result would have been if I owned my own home!
California is Broke You know, if I didn't know people unfortunate enough to still live in California, I would really, really, really take a perverse glee in this news.
My friend Chris Weinkopf, who writes for the Daily News of Los Angeles, noted in a recent column that Sacto has thought up a full 117 different tax measures in its attempts to solve the state's budget crisis. The proposed or new tax measures affect gasoline, automobiles, light bulbs, general sales taxes, Internet commerce, credit unions, telephone lines, and myriad other goods and services.
Even all those levies might not be enough. Things are so bad, in fact, that the state is considering issuing IOUs to pay vendors who do business with it. At that rate, Los Angeles will have bread lines and striking coal miners within a year.
Britain is Lost Oliver Willis has informed us that a particularly, um, naughty play was performed on-stage in London recently. The dispatch comes courtesy of The Sun, a news outlet we can regularly count on to provide us with tales of such public decadence, and reports in part:
FURY erupted yesterday over a perverted play featuring shock hardcore sex scenes. During the show — called XXX — an actress dragged a man from the audience and performed a lurid act on him. Spectators watched stunned as close-ups were projected on to a huge screen. They were even urged to phone-text filthy messages which were also shown. Naked gay and group sex scenes and portrayals of torture and mutilation were among some of the most explicit ever performed on a British stage.
Perhaps the most shocking part of the story is the next sentence: "Most were too graphic for The Sun to show here." Now that's telling. But then one would expect that from a play which The Sun informs us is based on an 18th-century novel by the mad Marquis de Sade.
Now, Mr Willis lets this story pass almost without comment, except to say that "the Brits are getting in on the mainstreaming of sex." This is not entirely accurate. Britain, like the rest of degraded Europe, is far more accepting of such filth than the United States*. Indeed, despite the supposed fury that has erupted in the United Kingdom, I can't imagine that anyone over there is all that shocked. I would be quite surprised were, say, Peter Hitchens or some Daily Telegraph scribe were to opine on it; and would be even more surprised if any civil action was taken to suppress this so-called art.
I would add one note of protest, as well: Oliver, you can't think this is a good thing? Can you? I mean, Gad.
And no, I am not giving you a link to the story. You can go to Mr Willis' site and access it there, if you really must.
* Kindly do not e-mail me with protests that Britain is not part of Europe. It's not that I don't see your point and even agree with you nine times out of ten; it's simply that in this particular area, Britain -- for all intents and purposes -- has fallen as low as France or Germany in terms of what is acceptable in popular culture. Besides, it's only a matter of time before you're all stuck using Euroroubles anyway.
My, Aren't We Defensive? Gad! I go on a particularly pleasant vacation and while I'm gone, I missed out on a denunciation of my person. I really need to check my referral logs more often.
As my readers might well expect, I have learned that The Raving Atheist was behind this slap directed my way. Of course, I have come to expect and even enjoy such condemnations from this individual -- let's not forget the infamous Kepple's-head-on-a-pig image -- as I take it as proof that the ages-old tradition of theism remains strong. After all, if it's the best he can come up with ...
Interestingly enough, though, I warranted a mention on The Raving Atheist's site during his condemnation of Prof Eugene Volokh, the noted legal scholar and blogger extraordinaire.
It seems that Prof Volokh took issue with certain atheists' attitudes towards the religious. According to our atheist, Prof Volokh believes that the " 'mockery of religious faith is inexcusable' -- not to mention ineffective." This displeases our atheist much, for our atheist enjoys mocking the religious. As readers of his site may know, that mockery is often expressed in language that would impress a 16th-century English sailor for its pure saltiness. Indeed, he refers to the esteemed Prof Volokh as, and I quote, a "stupid and evil evangelical agnostic fucktard."
This is not exactly how one wins friends and influences people. But perhaps our atheist was merely bitter that Prof Volokh thought so little of him that, as our atheist says, Prof Volokh neglected to provide a link to -- or even a mention of -- our atheist's newly-redesigned Web page in his pronouncement.
Gee. It seems our atheist is a bit -- what's the word? -- ah, yes: defensive. That, and thin-skinned. Oh, and wrong-headed, too.
Of course you don't win any arguments if your conduct is nasty and spiteful. You especially don't win them if you are discussing religious matters. As I mentioned here, being nasty and spiteful is perhaps the worst thing that a religious believer can do if he is attempting to reach out to others about his faith. It's true that such tactics may make you look witty and sophisticated to your fellow believers in a certain cause, and may find favour from the friends in your set. But I like to think that's not why people discuss such matters in the first place.
That's why I'm amazed our atheist believes his nastily-written commentaries help convert people to his position. Now, I do not know him personally, so I can't say for certain whether that is the case. It could be that he merely wants to appear witty and sophisticated to his fellow atheists, and receive praise and hosannas from them. Or, we could take our atheist's writing on the matter at face value:
Volokh himself begins with the usual cutesy and ironic references to “evangelical” atheists with “religious fervor” -- he had a friend who, presumably like me, was the “atheistic equivalent of the religious proselytizers that give religious proselytizing a bad name.” Now, I do advocate the truth of my position and there are plenty of Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim blogs that do exactly the same thing. And to the extent Professor Volokh espouses agnosticism, he also does the same thing. But why is it that what I do, as opposed to what the other religious blogs do, “proselytizing”-- and the “bad” kind of proselytizing at that? Because it attempts to actually convert people, and does so by calling their beliefs stupid and false instead of taking the more “tolerant” position that all belief systems are equally true, and that everybody should stay precisely where they are?
I'll admit that I'm surprised to see such a forceful statement against such moral relativism coming from our atheist.
Of course, not all belief systems are equally true. That said, why would a committed atheist care whether they were? I mean, really. Why should he care, on a spiritual or intellectual level, what his fellow men believe in? Why shouldn't he be happy simply to live his own life according to his own moral principles, and be happy to let other people live their own lives with their own belief systems? After all, to our atheist, the soul dies when the body dies, so converting others to atheism shouldn't matter one jot. Thus making his proselytizing pointless and futile.
And I'm not talking about whether religion should be part of the public sphere. That's an entirely separate debate. What I want to know is why The Raving Atheist believes that converting others to his position is important, when his own position dictates that arguing the matter is pointless. I will await his explanation for how his contradiction is allowable.
To save space -- plus, I've got to get dinner -- I've taken out quite a bit of our atheist's post which covers his argument with Prof Volokh, but I did want to address his last paragraph, which I find particularly stunning for its logical stretches.
Which brings me to his last point, the one about which he’s “pretty sure” he’s right: that “[r]egardless of the merit (or lack of merit) of the argument, publicly calling non-atheists stupid will win atheists about the same number of converts (and the same level of alienation even among their sympathizers) as publicly calling people who don't believe in religion X stupid wins for members of religion.”
Never mind pretty sure, Volokh's dead on right. This is not even a matter of religion, it's a matter of public relations. If an atheist constantly attacks religious believers for being stupid, then many people -- being people -- will bring up a lot of rather uncomfortable questions. Such as, "Why does the atheist have to be so hostile about the whole thing? Aren't his opinions strong enough to stand on their own merits? Is he just unwilling or merely incapable of referring to people in terms other than, and I quote, 'stupid and evil evangelical agnostic fucktards?' "
First, as a preliminary matter, the Professor lacks standing to discuss conversion strategies if he’s against proselytizing in the first place.
That's only if one considers proselytizing the only conversion strategy out there. And it ain't. There are differences to advocating one's position and beating someone over the head with it.
Second, suggesting that’s it’s bad strategy to publicly call non-atheists stupid is itself a bad strategy, if the strategy is revealed in a public blog.
It's not bad strategy at all. For one thing, it shows that because certain parties couldn't figure this out on their own, they had to be instructed from on high. This makes them appear foolish. For another, it serves as a salve, so to speak. It makes Prof Volokh appear as a reasonable champion of his position, and thus makes his position more palatable to others. Not that I agree with him, but he at least shows respect for those who do not agree with him.
Third, I call people stupid because they are stupid and because calling them smart would only make them think they were right. Finally, by calling them stupid I have not alienated any of the Godidiots on my list, particularly not Benjamin Kepple, Minute Particulars, The Secularist Critique or Veritas, and I suspect that all of them has secretly converted to atheism because deep down they know I am right, oh so fucking right.
I cannot speak for the others on this list, but I can say that The Raving Atheist has not alienated me. I expect these type of shenanigans from him, and actually find it pretty amusing. But he is wrong in his supposition that I have converted to atheism or otherwise jettisoned my faith. It's not merely that I'm right and he's wrong -- it's that I would lose all the great benefits that come with it. Like happiness, for instance.
Lord Haw-Haw of Glasgow Kelvin Exposed The Daily Telegraph in London has published an incredible report about the activities of Labour Party MP George Galloway, who has led the charge in Britain against his nation's anti-Iraq policies for the past decade.
According to captured Iraqi documents, Galloway received over 375,000 pounds per year from Saddam Hussein's regime for his work. The documents also said that he met with Iraqi spies; received payments via a complex commercial structure which used the oil-for-food program and other aid schemes as a cover; and wanted even more money as time went on. Nor did Saddam's money go to waste, either. The Telegraph helpfully notes that Galloway -- who will henceforth be known here on The Rant as Lord Haw-Haw of Glasgow Kelvin -- called on UK soldiers not to fight against Saddam's regimeeven as the war was being fought. That was not the first time he'd lent support to Saddam's regime, either.
Given all this, I would hope that Her Majesty's Government will soon put Lord Haw-Haw through a particularly nasty public trial charging him with treason. If he is then found guilty, I would also hope they'd find some way to reinstitute capital punishment, and send him off to the hangman.
The Horror of Natural Foods Andrew Castel-Dodge reports that he was subjected to visiting not one, but two so-called natural-food stores in a day's time recently. We here at The Rant wish to express our sincere condolences to Mr Castel-Dodge for his unfortunate and harrowing experience, as we try to avoid so-called natural foods as much as possible.
Really, it's amazing that such an odd fad has gone on for so long. I mean, it's one thing to stick to a vegetarian diet, or insist on free-range chicken. It's another thing entirely to start eating soya, or wheat germ, or insist that your kids eat organic breakfast cereals. The first item has a particularly horrid nutty taste and a bitter after-effect, the second has been proven to make men grow ponytails and goatees, and the third is about twice as expensive as a good bowl of Special K. Besides, aside from the fact that natural foods can cause haughtiness and arrogance among their most-fanatic devotees -- as Andrew's wife, Sasha, reports -- the occasional case of botulism crops up. Or so they say in the movies.
Coffee Conundrum So The Washington Post reports today that the beatnik-types over in Seattle are upset because Starbucks has bought their favourite trendy coffee chain. Actually, in its dispatch, we learn that "upset" does not go far enough: certain parties in that gloomy city are practically wailing and gnashing their teeth over the news. The local NPR affiliate convened an hour-long panel discussion; young, trendy urbanites are encouraging others not to consume "corporate swill," and coffee experts warn that with Starbucks, you don't know when the coffee beans are roasted. They say that's important.
I find this incredibly amusing, so much so that it has brought me out of my funk from yesterday. This is because when it comes to coffee, I am not merely old-fashioned, I'm practically retrograde. For one thing, unless I am in truly dire straits when I am out and about, I refuse to pay more than a buck for the stuff. For another, the coffee I usually consume comes from pre-sealed, vacuum-sealed containers. Then it gets parboiled and spat out of a coffee machine that saw its best days in 1973. Throw in a styrofoam cup and I'm all set. There's something great about knowing that the cup I drank from today will be there tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that ...
That's not to say, of course, that I don't enjoy good coffee. Jamaican blue is worth the $100 per kilo you'll pay for it, and I especially like a good cup of Kona. However, I'm not going to ruin my palate by drinking the good stuff all bloody day long like these hippie-trippie types. The way I see it, if I deprive myself and generally subsist drinking bad coffee, I can really enjoy good coffee when it comes along. Conversely, were I always to drink good coffee like these spoilt brats, I would someday find myself unable to cope with any bad cups of coffee I was served.
Well, mister, let me tell you: I'm not going to fall into that trap. I'm sticking with God-fearing True American Coffee: the stuff you get at diners, the stuff you get at Denny's, the stuff you get when you're flat broke busted and stuck on the outskirts of Reno. For despite its banal mediocrity and often-bitter aftertaste, such coffee is in reality a spiritual boost. It reminds a man to be humble; it reminds him that he's got a long way to go; it reminds him that he can someday do better, provided he gives the other fella hell. And in this day and age, we as people need as many reminders of that as we can get.
So the next time you're in some place like Needles, Calif., or Gallup, N.M., or Enid, Okla., remember well: those bitter draughts you take from your cuppajoe at seven on a Tuesday morning ain't meant to serve as punishment. Just think of them as inspiration, in a mug.
Gad! What Happened? Well, there's no time like the present to deal with the pile of Administrative Tasks and Updates on my desk, so I suppose we'll get to them.
The first thing I should do is apologize for my dearth of posting lately. Yes, I know that I still have two full travelogue entries to write, a plethora of societal outrages to comment upon, and a host of people that I have to fully recognize or write back from my trip. I've just been beat, that's all. I came back from my vacation to find myself working three overtime shifts at the office and dealing with a virtual maelstrom of e-mail, bills, and chores around the house. It's been awfully tiring, and at the end of the day I haven't had the energy to blog. That's not to say that I couldn't blog, of course, but it's just that I don't like it when I write something that isn't up to the Standards of Quality and Purity which You, My Readers, Expect. Further, the way I see it, if it gets on my nerves all that much, it must really grate on yours. So when I don't feel up to it, I take a break.
See. Now I'm rambling. Gad.
Although, as I write now, I am finding to my horror that it is officially the Close of My Weekend. Good heavens, where the deuce did this weekend go? Where did this week go, for that matter? It flew by like a Stealth bomber. And it's not like I can get this week back, either. I suppose it's a irritating feeling because I don't feel like I've accomplished anything at all. Sure, I did a lot of work, and that's always a good thing; but boy! I wish I had worked more on The Great American Novel, or discovered some new restaurant here in town, or even filed my bills. I did none of these things. Instead, I was feckless and indolent. Even worse, the last thing I want to do right now is sleep, despite the fact I have to be at work ... ah ... nine hours and thirteen minutes from now.
No, wait, nine hours and twelve minutes. Shit.
Perhaps part of my lethargy is related to the neoisolationist feelings I've been having lately. Perhaps neoisolationist isn't the right word, but I certainly do feel a bit withdrawn. For instance, I am finding, much to my surprise, that I really don't give a damn about the bleating of Hollywood actors who claim they've been subjected to the dark forces of the New McCarthyism. Nor, at present, am I giving a damn about U.S.-European relations, the Stanley Cup playoffs, or how much my sinus medication costs. All of these things can usually get me in an excitable state, if not downright hysterical one. Instead, I feel blahed.
What to do about the situation? Right now, at any rate, the answer is simple: get some sleep, and lots of it. Perhaps in the morning I shall feel better and find myself out of this particularly dismal funk. Or, then again, maybe not. But hey, it's worth a shot.
I Hate Hospitals So I went to my tiny mailbox tonight to empty a week's worth of mail, and I found two rather interesting notices therein. The first was from my insurance provider, informing me that I was only responsible for a tiny portion of the obscenely large hospital bill I had racked up back in January. You know, when I had the appendix put down. The second was from the hospital itself.
Of course, the two didn't match up. They never match up. But this is actually fine with me.
You see, this means I can delay paying the tiny portion that I rightfully owe the hospital for months on end. Even better, I can also probably take advantage of the confusion to escape some of those legitimate obligations. The way I see it, there's no way that I can be held spiritually or temporily liable for either paperwork delays or someone else's human error. And, if I'm going to be stuck in a bureaucratic nightmare for months on end, then I have a duty and obligation to myself to come out a winner via any means necessary.
But this isn't my real complaint, for it's clear even to me that the errata on these forms was created due to a one-week time-lapse between hospital and insurance provider. My complaint has to do with the bill from the hospital itself, which is reasonable in some areas but not in others.
Now, the total bill itself was for $10,109.36. Room and Care was $1,252.00, which seems reasonable even to me. I did get to stay for three days and two nights in the hospital's care. Besides, the nursing care alone probably makes up a considerable chunk of this line item; and a reasonable room charge also makes sense. The $3,307.90 Surgical Services charge also seems a reasonable dent for saving my life on very short notice.
I just want to know how I racked up $1,807.30 in pharmaceutical charges.
Oh, I'm sorry, this must have been a misprint. Surely the hospital meant $807.30, which seems a reasonable charge for the Clicker-Thingy full of Demerol and various other medications. No, wait. They do want $1,807.30. Now that seems a bit high. What did the extra grand go for? I mean, come on. I know I used a lot of that Demerol, but I can't think that I really abused it all that much. Nor could the Percoset --- mmmmm, Percoset --- cost all that much. So where's the extra grand going? Jesus.
But the $3,356.01 for "Supplies" clearly isn't a misprint, and that really bothers me. What, did they have to burn the hospital bed and everything else with which I came in contact after I left? Are the hospital gown companies colluding to drive up the costs of their wares? Do these hospitals buy new supplies for each patient? Good God. It's not like all those hypodermic needles were gold-plated, after all.
And, as if to add insult to injury, they didn't even include a business reply envelope. Do they really think I'm going to have 37 cents left to pay for a stamp after I'm done dealing with them?
Devil's Highway to Get Name Change Boy! The war and my vacation have really left me out of the loop. But since my vacation was a road trip of semi-epic proportions, I think I'm uniquely qualified to hold forth on whether U.S. Highway 666 -- yes, US 666 -- should be renamed. Some folks -- alarmed that the road's connotation with Beelzebub has caused economic loss, life-altering accidents, and general suffering -- are pushing for the move.
Now, this subject has garnered much attention from The Raving Atheist. Our atheist is appalled that the Governors of New Mexico, Colorado and Utah, have petitioned for US 666 to be changed to the proposed US 393. He writes:
You should care that the Governors of three states are going to institutionalize the stupidity of people like you who think it’s possible that The Beast stalks U.S. 666 by changing the highway’s name. You should be embarrassed that the Federal Highway Administration finds it necessary to post a lengthy explanation on its website that the numbering was coincidental rather than part of some Satanic conspiracy.
Actually, it's really an interesting summary, or at least I think so. But I will admit I don't see his point. I mean, if the number is changed, then the Federal Highway Administration will save valuable tax dollars, because it won't have to continually update or revise that Web page, to say nothing about paying the bandwidth costs of hosting it. Besides, if the change brings more economic activity to the area, then that's a good thing for all concerned. So there are reasonable, non-religious, public-policy considerations for making the move.
The only reason for keeping the US 666 designation is that US 666 is a hell of a road. For one thing, it starts out in Gallup, N.M., which is practically God-forsaken; and ends in Monticello, Utah, which is about as barren. And just read this 1991 description from The Washington Post, quoted in the FHA summary:
No structural evidence of Coronado's passing remains, but the verdant countryside, abloom in summer wildflowers, is largely untouched, and it must look now as it did when he struggled through. The route was a struggle for me, too. An almost empty highway to nowhere, U.S. 666 climbs to above 9,000 feet along the Coronado Trail in a cliff-hanging series of twists and turns so sharp the speed limit often drops to only 10 miles per hour. The reward for this little test of nerves is a picture-postcard panorama of pine-draped ridges leap-frogging across the horizon.
Now that's a drive. I am so there.
But anyway. When you get right down to it, a sort-of cachet isn't enough reason to keep that number. Consider that US 66 -- of which US 666 was kind of an off-shoot -- doesn't really exist any more, so the US 666 designation is archaic. Furthermore, US 393 is a perfectly innocuous number, with no connotations of which I can think. So I'm again mystified why the atheist cares so much. I mean, it's not as if the number was changed to 777 -- a traditionally Christian number, and a lucky one for some folks -- or 515, Dante's designation (the "DXV") for the future champion of Christendom. The highway number will not contain an 8, a traditional lucky number for the Chinese (signaling prosperity), nor will it contain 4, which is quite unlucky (signaling death). So what's all the fuss about?
In the meantime, I've got to put this on my itinerary for Kepple's 2006 Road Trip.
Baghdad Bob Comes Into His Own You know, I can't help but think that the Iraqi Information Minister was a right bastard before the invasion. That said, there's a really cool site featuring a selection of the best quotes from Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf. Yes, unfortunate pronouncements such as "Our initial assessment is that they will all die" and "We will kill them all........most of them" have been saved for posterity. You can get them emblazoned on T-shirts and mugs, too!
Oh No! It's a Dispatch From ...
KEPPLE'S SPRING 2003 ROAD TRIP
(Or, "The Shock and Awe Tour")
DAYS SEVEN, EIGHT, NINE: YOU CAN'T GO HOME AGAIN, BUT ...
ANN ARBOR, Mich., April 10-12 -- I left Ann Arbor for the last time about five years ago. When I returned on Thursday I couldn't figure out why I had left.
Oh sure, there were little matters like "gainful employment" and "needing a roof over my head." But despite my subsequent moves to Los Angeles and Manchester, I suppose I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Ann Arbor. On the face of things, that might seem an odd thing for me to say. The weather was awful for six months out of the year, and it was expensive to live there, and the majority of inhabitants seemed to live in some kind of strange parallel universe where Marxism remained a viable economic and political force. But when you get past all that, you're left with a place that is remarkably and strangely alive with human activity. You can get seemingly any book you want from a shelf, not a computer; you can see an old movie at midnight; you can get great food and have smart conversation at four in the morning.
It was quite nice, all things considered; and for a short while I wondered why I had ever left. It was silly to do so, of course. Opportunities present themselves elsewhere, and for all the things to its credit, Ann Arbor is still not one of those places where the Hard Work of the Nation is Done. But there were plenty of things that set me smack on a nostalgia rush for days gone by.
Key among those was the 20th Anniversary celebration of The Michigan Review, my old college newspaper. Back in the day, I somehow stumbled into the editorship of this fine institution, and five years later, it remains a strong force on campus. Actually, to be fair, it's a stronger force than it was when I had run it. Its frequency has picked up, and they've got a strong core of committed folks running the thing. Proof of that commitment was seen in how well the anniversary celebration turned out.
Now, anyone who has ever spent time in Ann Arbor can tell you that this particular Cottage Inn restaurant -- there are delivery outlets too, which are good but not comparable -- has the best pizza in the city, if not all of Southeastern Michigan. It's that good. As students, we'd probably go about once a month to this fine institution as kind of a splurge. Great pizza, great beer, great friends -- I mean, it really was a hell of a night out. As such, you can imagine the anniversary celebration was as well.
What was really amazing, though, was the fact the students now in charge of the paper put it all together on their own. This wasn't anything that I could have done back when I was editor, and the other folks I knew from back in the day agreed. Indeed, I can't recall if the 10th anniversary was even noted, and the 15th was celebrated only with a front-page tribute-cartoon and Inspiring Words from the Then-Editor (namely, me).
But credit has to go out to the Review's editor -- James (Justin) Wilson, and the whole staff for putting on a great show. I don't think I've ever felt as confident that the paper will remain a strong and vibrant force on campus for years to come, and I look forward to seeing it progress over the years. It feels good to have been a part of such a great institution. Perhaps that's what fueled a lot of my old nostalgia; that, and being welcomed not just as an elder statesman, but as a friend.
Speaking of friends, I had dinner on Thursday night with my good friend Geoff Brown, who is now well on his way out of Michigan Law and into the real world. We ate at Good Time Charley's (1140 South University, Ann Arbor), a good place for a really cheap burger and cheap drinks. He's doing well for himself, even though he doesn't update his Web page as often as he should (Geoff! I'm not working in L.A. anymore!).
As for the rest of the trip to Ann Arbor ... well, let's just say it was a fun time out with Justin, Jacob, Jim, and Schwartz. I will say, this, though. Manchester needs a coffee shop and deli that lets you sit on the roof. On Thursday afternoon, I sat out on the second-floor roof patio of the Rendevous Cafe on South University and had some iced chai, and watched the traffic and the people below. Even though it had been five years since I had really last been in Ann Arbor, I felt like I had been away for about a week.
Sure, I was probably looking at things through rose-coloured glasses; but perhaps there's something to be said for that in this day and age.
Do note: Yes, you'll learn about the rest of the trip. I just wanted to get this posted.
Oh No! It's a Dispatch From ...
KEPPLE'S SPRING 2003 ROAD TRIP
(Or, "The Shock 'n' Awe Tour")
DAY ONE: ROAD FROM PERDITION
HAMILTON, N.J., April 4 -- I am the logistics king.
Yes, that's right. Today's (Friday's) trip has certified me completely as the frickin' special master of logistics. For was it not I who -- being more clever than most -- rose at a hideously early hour to beat the ice storm heading to New Hampshire? Was it not I who charted out his course with machine-like precision? And, finally, was it not I who traversed five states, to arrive here in New Jersey a good 45 minutes early?
Yes, it was. Not that it was easy, mind you. Dear God.
Now you should know that despite my decision to wake up early on Friday, that New Hampshire was a bear of which to get out. A fast-moving winter storm was moving in, rush-hour traffic was quite busy, and my goal was to get out as soon as I could. The further south I could travel, I reasoned, the wintry mix moving into the area would eventually turn into rain, and hence I would have few driving problems.
Yeah, right. For, you see, I had failed utterly to take into account the behavior of "commuters on the 495-South," (homo sapiens massholiae) which as you may know is a road that sort-of circles around Boston.
I mean, is it really that hard to let the guy from New Hampshire merge into your lane when there are minor troubles ahead? Troubles like a three-car accident that have drawn rescue crews from all over? Apparently it is for these people. Ignorant of the finer points of driving courteously -- which everyone from New Hampshire does -- these people seem compelled to drive along, willy-nilly, at speeds approaching Mach 3. Then, when their lane inevitably comes to a dead halt, they refuse to give people stuck in other lanes a hand.
What's even worse is when these commuters pretend you're not even there. Like that lady in the red VW. Yes, you. I mean, you didn't even look at me when you cut me off. You could've at least given me some acknowledgement; or said you were sorry but you were late for your big morning meeting with the clients from Secaucus, but noooooo. You just blithely zoomed on by, uncaring and unknowing about the world around you. It must be nice for you just to not give a flying two cents about anyone else. Isn't it?!
But that's not to say everything was particularly bad driving down from New Hampshire. For one thing, another nice commuter driving a truck did let me merge into the lane in which I needed to be shortly after the VW passed on. The rest of the drive was a breeze too, except for one part around the New York area. For a prelude on what happened, let's examine some reaction to this story, from friends you'll meet later:
SIMON FROM JERSEY: HAHAHAHAHAHA!
GREG T. "Eeesh. That sounds like fun."
'Kay, so I'm driving the impressive speed of about 30 mph on the Cross-Bronx Expressway, when all of a sudden traffic comes to a dead halt. No reason for it -- it just did. Everyone's driving quite antsy, like they're riding on eggshells, and suddenly what had been a slow crawl turns into the dreaded start-stop-start-stop-start bit. A little ways up, I see why.
There's glass all over the g----d'd road. I mean, Gad. Tiny little shards just looking for tires to puncture. You see, instead of sweeping it off the road, the clean-up crews pushed it all into the approximate side boundaries of each driving lane -- and not very well at that. So everyone's moving forward, all thinking the same thing -- Don't let me get four flat tires in the middle of the g----d'd Bronx, don't let me get four flat tires in the middle of the g-----d'd Bronx -- and in general, getting through with their prayers answered. Still, it wasn't clear what happened at that point.
Well it turns out that a truck from something like Bob's Convenient Great American Discount Plate Glass Emporium has dumped its load all over the bloody highway. That makes me feel even better. Because I drive a relatively older car, I'm still always a bit antsy when I hear odd noises, even if they're just the result of the tires hitting the road. I swear, I was a wreck all the way out to Paterson. The last thing I needed was to get a flat tire which would grind up the axles and cost me two grand to fix and ruin my trip.
But I made it. After getting past the George Washington Bridge, Jersey was a breeze. Of course it started with me going into horrible, miserable, industrial North Jersey, with its endless sea of refineries and chemical plants. Newark and Paterson and E Rutherford flew on by and finally I got towards the greater Trenton area. It's a comfortable part of the country -- green, pleasant, relatively moneyed -- but in a way, it also seems sanitized. It's almost as if you can feel the unswavering embrace of corporate life -- that idyllic place where everyone is paid well, and no one has any problems which are out in the open, and the big questions of life are of secondary importance compared to how Bobby and Teddy's team did in the high school lacrosse tournament. But that is a story for another day; perhaps when I have kids I'll be able to offer a better criticism. In the meantime, though, I had made it to Trenton; and went on to have a lovely Friday night.
Oh No! It's Time For ...
KEPPLE'S SPRING 2003 ROAD TRIP
(Or, "The Shock 'n' Awe Tour")
MANCHESTER, NH -- So I'm over at Moxie's site tonight and I notice that she's updated her blogroll. I scroll down the list of names, looking to see where my humble site has found itself, and I see that I've found myself under the "Wilshire Blvd." Now, as a former Angeleno, I can assure you that this is not a bad listing to find oneself under. I was never all that partial to Wilshire when I was in the city -- I lived on Venice Blvd., after all -- but hey, it's just a link list, and I suppose Mox could have thrown me under a heading like "La Tijera" or "Century." Oh, God. Century.
But then I noticed that there was a section labeled "the 405," which really brought back some memories. For I always liked the 405, that congested beast of a freeway which moved millions each day along its choked arteries. I mean, that was a road, a real challenging stretch that kept you on a knife-edge every second you drove it, that kept you pushing forward at 75 miles per hour come hell or high water. It was a drive.
Starting in about 36 hours, I've got a lot of driving to do, and I am looking forward to every bit of it. There's something about driving that's invigorating. It lets you see the heart of America -- the small towns where the real work of the nation is done, the open spaces that inspired our forefathers to head west, the roar and bustle of our great cities, where industry and commerce plow ahead to make life better. There are an untold number of stories that one can find on that open road: stories of happiness and despair, wealth and poverty, fulfillment and alienation.
Over the course of the next ten days or so, I'll be heading down to the under-rated but surprisingly pleasant central area of New Jersey; to Washington, that proud yet lovely city; to Pennsylvania, the land where my fathers made their claim; to Ohio, where my family now lives; and to Michigan, the great state in which I spent my youth. It is a trip that deserves a month's time, but I will make the best of it where I can, and savor every moment that I can spend on it.
I'll do my best to keep a log of things as I go along, too. Promise. I swear it!
Smart Thinking from North of the Border Canadian MP Monte Solberg (CA-Medicine Hat, Alta.) has written a great commentary which serves as both a rhetorical slap to his anti-American colleagues in Ottawa and Canadian anti-Americans in general.
Why We Fight, and Why We Must Remember Sasha Castel has a phenomenal post up on her site about September 11 and the war in Iraq. It's truly a first-rate piece of writing. As such, I would advise readers to stop reading my site for a moment to read her essay.
But do read it slowly. You'll want to soak in every word.
CENTCOM Briefing The run-up to CENTCOM’s unusual briefing tonight reminded me of a scene in a book. That’s not meant to be any sort of criticism, don’t get me wrong, it just reminded me of this scene. You see, near the end of Orwell’s masterpiece 1984, Winston Smith is sitting in the Chestnut Tree Café when a trumpet-blast comes over the telescreen, warning of impending war news. Half an hour later, the announcement comes through, declaring good news.
Meanwhile, I’ve been waiting for a good hour for war news to come through. Unlike the scene above, though, we already know it’s extremely good news. (Unlike 1984, I should add, the good news we heard is delivered by a free news media to a free nation).
True, it’s not the absolute best news we could have hoped for—Saddam Hussein dead, body dragged through the streets by cheering Iraqi citizens—but it is still very, very good news. Fox News is now reporting that Coalition Forces have recovered a U.S. prisoner of war, which should be a big relief to the soldier’s family and friends. It should also serve as a welcome boost for the American people, and a reminder that we are winning this war, that we will win it, and that’s that.
The news tonight is rather interesting. Evil Saddam Hussein promised to be on live TV today, but instead we had the Iraqi information minister. I haven’t decided whether he is loathsome or despicable yet.
There are plenty of new explosions in the center of Baghdad this evening, and the major ground offensive against Republican Guard forces in Karbala has started. I do hope that those Iraqi divisions will give up. We have softened them up considerably, and their defeat is certain.
Well, here’s Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, commenting on the rescued prisoner of war:
“The soldier has been returned to a coalition-controlled area. More details will be released as soon as possible.”
And that’s that. Still, very good news all around.
Blogwolves Chat Continues Yet Again The nightly Blogwolves chat continued yet again last evening, and as semi-official chronicler of the event, I have been directed to reveal the hidden affiliations which members of this fine and upstanding group have. We in the Blogwolves group feel that, as a friendly club of like-minded individuals, we should disclose these affiliations to provide the American People with the resources to make their own decisions about our well-documented activities. While this is only a partial list of attendees, we provide this summary of last night's talk as a public service.
First, we were graced with the presence of Andrew Castel-Dodge. We were gratified that Andrew took his precious time to join us, as he spends much of his time fighting to save the Cities of Man from the indomitable will of Cthulhu, the horrific god-like daemon-ruler of the ocean depths who lies dreaming in his house at R'lyeh.
We were also joined by Laurence Simon, who has cunningly disguised his Amish roots by providing unhelpful or downright deceptive technical support to "the English," as he calls them. However, we are assured that "the English" does not actually refer to subjects of the United Kingdom.
Ravenwolf was also part of the discussion, having taken out time from her work as a junior member of the Illuminati.
AlexPGP took some time off from (No Such Agency), a super-secret entity that is so secret we can't even reveal its very name here at The Rant. But we are assured that everything is fine with the agency's facilities in Nevada and New Mexico, despite the disciplining of one XF-36 pilot for inadvertently turning off the force shield on his suborbital fighter. Now that caused trouble for weeks!
John Cole, who may or may not be a member of the Masons, was also present. As such, we're not all that sure whether Mr Cole has access to one of those little cars in which the Masons are sometimes seen driving.
Billy of Two-by-Four also joined us. Billy was last seen representing the Blogwolves at Davos in Switzerland.
Quana Jones, who serves as liasion to the Very Tall Grays of Epsilon Edriani IV, was also present. Ms Jones informed us that work on creating a working Tesla coil continues deep in the Nevada desert. However, we have made significant progress in reverse-engineering the Very Tall Grays' "DVD-2" technology.
Tex from Whacking Day -- or as we call him, No. 16 -- also was present. He informs us that the Australian component to our plan is working perfectly. You'll be informed about this on a need-to-know basis.
Noel at Sharp Knife gave us all an update on his work with the Federal Reserve, which we really ought not discuss here. But we appreciate learning about the interest rate moves in the next few months, we really do.
Finally, we were joined by me, Benjamin Kepple. By the by, I would hereby like to dispel any and all rumours that I am actually an agent of The Trilateral Commission. I would further shoot down any and all rumours that claim that I'm supposedly working in secret to insure my own immortality. Like my fellow Blogwolves, I'm just a humble blogger, just like you.