"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." -Aldous Huxley

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wTuesday, April 30, 2002

SLATED FOR DESTRUCTION: In a hurry today but I thought I should spend a few moments pouring cold water on Bill Gates' lame, lame, lame, lame, lame - did I mention it was lame? - decision to pick Jacob Weisberg over Jack Shafer to be the new editor of Slate. Wlady Pleszczynski's column this morning (if you're not interested in the Brock stuff, scroll down) got it exactly right by calling Weisberg "a good conventional corporate liberal" with "about as much sparkle and unpredictability as a year-old open can of Coke."

He judges Shafer, by contrast, to be "brilliant, original, independent, and probably more than a little impossible at times -- but the results, the results! Left to his own devices he'd shake up the gray-flannel suited journalistic world. Microsoft-owned Slate obviously couldn't dare make an interesting choice."

This decision will be Slate's death rattle. Bill Gates should divest himself of his media holdings until he figures out what he thought he had to add to the press in the first place.

posted by Jeremy at 10:21 AM


WWJTOTA?: My latest book review for Christianity Today has just been posted to the website. It's on a couple of books on the fracas surrounding the historical Jesus. My favorite paragraph:

"Middlebrow magazines that cover religion (like Time) often report on the [Jesus] Seminar's findings either uncritically or nonjudgmentally, as they would cover a political story (e.g., scholar A says that Jesus wore dresses; conservative scholar B feels threatened by this new idea)."

posted by Jeremy at 10:11 AM


APROPOS OF NOTHING: Hey, a big rousing round of applause is due to Glenn Reynolds for... being Glenn Reynolds. He sifts through mountains of email and dozens (if not hundreds) of articles everyday and yet still manages to keep from going crazy and keep us entertained. His sick days are more productive than the average writer's week; and he often has to juggle teaching, writing journal articles and watching first graders. Wow.

posted by Jeremy at 12:49 AM


THE POPE "GETS IT": Kathy Shaidle says of the Monday piece on The American Prowler that my "pithy take" on the pope's legacy "reads like a tiny, perfect entry in some future editon of The Catholic Encyclopedia. One for the obit file."

Not sure what to say about the fact the both she and WorldNetDaily beat me to linking to my own piece.

posted by Jeremy at 12:26 AM


BAGGED: Spintech has reprinted my piece on Peter Bagge's final Hate collection and the two Annuals. This version reinstates a shot that I took at Seattle that was dropped from the Stranger review for space considerations: "It's as if Buddy, having escaped Seattle in a previous volume, managed to drag the clouds and rain with him."

posted by Jeremy at 12:07 AM

wSunday, April 28, 2002

KILL AND ENSLAVE THE JEWS: I know everybody and his aunt has been blogging about this, but it has to be seen to be believed. A high ranking Saudi cleric recently delivered a "sermon" at a mosque in Riyadh. Shaikh Saad Al-Buraik expressed "hopes that the situation in Palestine will explode" and held forth on the virtues of martyrdom:

"Which is a better choice, to de on your bed, or to die perseverant, fighting, not retreating. Which is better to suffer long before death many days, or taste death quickly? Which is better to suffer a slow death, or die as a martyr in your way to heaven? A death that you will be forgiven on the first drop of your blood?" he asked rhetorically.

On America:

"I am against America until this life ends, until the Day of Judgment; I am against America even if the stone liquefies. My hatred of America, if part of it was contained in the universe, it would collapse. She is the root of all evils, and wickedness on earth."

On enslaving Jewish women:

"Their women are yours to take, legitimately. God made them yours. Why don't you enslave their women? Why don't you wage jihad? Why don't you pillage them?"

I'm assuming that he didn't use the term "rape" because nothing that Allah smiles on could be so derisively (or honestly) described.

I hadn't bought into that ironic "our friends, the Saudis" dig that has been expressed by so many warbloggers. Until I read this, that is. Now I think that the U.S. might be better off making a pitstop in the Kingdom of Saud before it rolls into Iraq.

posted by Jeremy at 1:40 PM


LABELS GAME: While working on a piece for The American Prowler on the recent summit at the Vatican, I noticed the following sin of omission in the coverage by America's real newspaper of record, USA Today: Several times when Richard John Neuhaus or his journal First Things were mentioned, the label "conservative" was affixed. This was fine except that when rival publication America or Notre Dame's Richard McBrien were quoted, the label "liberal" was not employed. America is the mouthpiece of the American Jesuits, who aren't exactly known for rigorous orthodoxy; McBrien is an avowed liberal who wants the Church to go the Protestant Lite route. If we were to place this on a spectrum, America and McBrien would be much more "liberal" than Neuhaus is "conservative."

I don't want to get into the labels game on a regular basis because, among other things, it bores me. But it is also true that how we label people affects the outcome of a debate (remember the constant Democrat mantra in 1995-1996 that Republicans wanted to destroy "Medicare, Medicaid, Education and the Environment"?), so I thought it worth pointing out this once.

posted by Jeremy at 1:22 PM

wFriday, April 26, 2002

JEREMY LOTT BOOK CLUB: The following is condensed from God's Debris, chapter seven. It came in very handy for a paper on ideas this semester. The conversation is between a UPS driver Scott Adams stand-in and Avatar, a mysterious "man" who knows everything (my review of the book can be found here):

ADAMS: Look, four billion people believe in some sort of God and free will. They can’t all be wrong.

AVATAR: Very few people believe in God.

ADAMS: Of course they do. Billions of people believe in God.

AVATAR: If people believed in God, they would spend every minute of their lives in support of that belief. Rich people would give their wealth to the needy. Everybody would be frantic to determine which religion was the true one. The majority believes in the usefulness of their beliefs – an earthly and practical utility – but they do not believe in the underlying reality.

ADAMS: If you asked them, they’d say they believed.

AVATAR: If you believe a truck is coming toward you, you will jump out of the way. That is belief in the reality of the truck. If you tell people you fear the truck but do nothing to get out of the way, that is not belief in the truck.

ADAMS: So according to you no one believes anything they say they believe?

AVATAR: The best any human can do is pick an illusion that helps them get through the day.

And people call me cynical.

posted by Jeremy at 3:43 PM


AND SPEAKING OF VOMIT: I haven't had the, uh, pleasure of watching MTV's The Osbournes, but I intend to rectify that after reading Thomas Hibbs' piece on it in today's National Review Online. My favorite line from the review involves Ozzy's wife Sharon asking him why he doesn't incorporate bubbles into his stage act. Answer: "I won't have f***ing bubbles! I'm the Prince of f***ing Darkness, Sharon!''

posted by Jeremy at 3:31 PM


PROJECTILE VOMITING AND A FEVER: That, if you must know, is what accounts for the dearth of posts over these last few days.

posted by Jeremy at 2:49 PM

wWednesday, April 24, 2002

PORNUCOPIA: I wasn't going to write about the Supreme Court decision in the recent case of Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition (talk about a title framing the debate!) but then I received some rancid Jew baiting e-mails on the subject, blaming Marxian child-molesting justices of the Hebraic persuasion for unleashing a torrent of kiddie porn upon us all.

This, as Mike Lynch makes clear in his most recent column, is about as far removed from reality as you can get. Lynch begins the piece with a sterling, clarifying quotation: "What the Supreme Court has said here is that ‘child pornography’ has to involve children.’"

posted by Jeremy at 1:36 PM


CORRECTION/THAT'S NOT FUNNY!: Jesse Walker sent a note to set me straight on the origin of the Reason "Who Am I?" Lenin item, referred to below. Jesse's e-mail, with the subject "Vlad stole my line," denied that he wrote it, thus dashing my speculations against the rocks. I'll let him take it from here:

"I'm afraid I didn't write that Lenin item on the Reason site. I did, however, coin the phrase 'Let's choke and strangle those blood-sucking kulaks.'"

posted by Jeremy at 1:12 PM


CATHOLIC STUFF: Looking through Paul Hein's Strike the Root archive, I ran across this incendiary column in defense of the Catholic Church, warts and all. The nut:

"[T]he Church, despite its relentless attempts at suicide, is still taken seriously enough to be considered a threat to the Establishment. Nobody, frankly, gives a damn about the Unitarians, or Presbyterians, Seventh-Day Adventists, etc. The thrust of the attacks upon the Church is to reduce it to another Protestant denomination, singing hymns and sipping grape juice, and utterly without effect in the world."

The piece is far from persuasive, but, as usual, you've got to hand it to Paul for putting up one hell of a ruckus. The guy does not write things by halves.

Meanwhile, Deal Hudson, on the 20th anniversary of Crisis Magazine reflects on the state of Catholic journalism today. He sees a real need for, as the column title proclaims, "More Stories, Fewer Lectures." When he took over Crisis six years ago, "[l]ike many Catholics concerned with the direction of the Church, I assumed that the independent Catholic press existed primarily to argue in favor of the doctrines being ignored or sidestepped by the clergy."

Well, now that that void has been filled "to the point of near exhaustion. You can hardly pick up a Catholic magazine that doesn’t tell you that we live in a culture of death that must be overcome by a culture of life...":

"No doubt these articles must be written. The only trouble is that too many of them only tell us what we already know. For Catholic journalism to flourish, what we need—desperately, I might add—are writers willing to investigate the concrete circumstances of the Church and culture today, and write about these in imaginative, accessible prose.


posted by Jeremy at 1:10 AM


SO CLOSE: Uber actress and Harvard student Natalie Portman wrote a letter to the Harvard Crimson objecting to a previous column on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It's a bit too compassion laden for my taste, but it doesn't suffer from the touchy-feely sloppiness that I've come to associate with most Ivy Leaguers.

That, however, is not the point of this post. As many know, "Portman" is not Natalie's real last name. It's her acting name, employed, to great effect, to shield her family from unwanted attention. Maybe it's the evil journalist in me, but I've always wanted to know her real last name. According to Enter Stage Right's Isabel Lyman, yesterday, the letter on the Crimson website included her correct name. This has since been changed back to the infuriating stage name.

So close and yet...

posted by Jeremy at 12:51 AM


LENIN REDIVIVUS: The latest anonymous Reason "Who Am I?" column - I'm guessing the author was Jesse Walker but there are a few Gillespian touches - takes a few shots at Mother Jones magazine for using the old tyrant to sell bowling shirts.

Um, Roger, Jay, are you sure you want to use a guy who said the following to hawk bowling shirts?

"We have now before us our final decisive battle 'with the kulaks.' We need to set an example. 1) You need to hang (hang without fail, so that the public sees) at least 100 notorious kulaks, the rich, and the bloodsuckers. 2) Publish their names. 3) Take away all of their grain....This needs to be accomplished in such a way, that people for hundreds of miles around will see, tremble, know and scream out: let's choke and strangle those blood-sucking kulaks."

posted by Jeremy at 12:37 AM


THAT'S NOT FUNNY!: From Florence King's With Charity Toward None: A Fond Look at Misanthropy:

Watching Richard Simmons
As he flaps his little hands,
And kicks his hairless legs up high
And sings along with bands,
A fervent picture leaps to mind
And wishful thought enfolds me
As I visualize him sweatin' to
A quintessential oldie.
It's awfully hard to rhyme it -
After all, I'm not a Horace -
But I'd love to see hi buggered
By a Rex Tyrannosaurus.

(If this amuses you, proceed directly to my old piece on America the Fat. If not, never mind.)

posted by Jeremy at 12:23 AM

wMonday, April 22, 2002

TAP'ED OUT: Enter Stage Right's W. James Antle III emailed me over the weekend to point out that I claimed to be working on an essay for "The American Partisan Online," which is... somewhat axiomatic: "[A]s a former editor, you know The American Partisan is exclusively on-line."

He generously allowed that "[t]his is understandable, since you have written for a lot of TAPs."

True enough. A guide for new readers:

The American Prowler is a) exclusively online, b) right wing, c) edited by Wlady Pleszczynski and d) the reincarnation of the old American Spectator website, since George Gilder decided to purchase the old print magazine and website and run them into the ground (though, technically, neither are dead yet). I wrote for the old Spectator website in its waning days and have continued to write for the Prowler on such diverse topics as Amazon.com and Catholicism. My name has just been added to the masthead as a "contributor."

The American Prospect is a) available on dead tree or online (but so far I've only written for the online version), b) left wing and c) edited by Chris Mooney (the online version). My work for the Prospect so far can loosely be grouped under the genre "media criticism." Personalities examined include National Review's Rich Lowry, former National Post columnist David Frum and Phil Donahue.

The American Partisan is a website that I created, co-founded and served as the managing editor of in the fall of 1999. I edited its original 20 odd columnists from my dorm room for several months and became the de facto PR guy - getting links from such venues as Arts & Letters Daily (which went so far as to add the Partisan to the list of permalinks) - before moving on to work for WorldNetDaily, Inc., in early 2000. The Partisan's shell still exists, under new management, but - and this may be the sour grapes acting up - I no longer find it interesting.

So there you have it.

posted by Jeremy at 3:34 AM

wFriday, April 19, 2002

GOOD QUESTION: A reader asks the following of my review of Jeffrey Simpson's The Friendly Dictatorship, in the current (May; not online yet) issue of Reason Magazine: "What I want to ask is whether you actually do or don't recommend the book you were reviewing..."

That's the problem with review essays; you get carried away with one facet of a book and people are left scratching their heads over whether or not you think they should buy or read the book. On balance, I'd have to say "no" on this one. Simpson is a decent writer but this was not his finest effort.

posted by Jeremy at 2:37 AM


MOVIE NOTES: I had great expectations for The Ice Age (0), but they were not bourne out. The pace was slow, the action was not terribly exciting and the humor was uneven. Better luck next time, Ray. Bandits (!!!) is one of the funniest movies that I have seen in a great while, and my companions shared that opinion. Bruce Willis' comic parts of late (e.g. this and The Whole Nine Yards) have blown away most of his action roles (e.g. Hart's War). True Lies ($) is a hokefest but it's somewhat enjoyable and has held up quite well after September 11. The Rookie ($$) was the role that Dennis Quaid was born to play, and it's quite the subtly Catholic movie/parable. Finally, Ghost World ($$) is a haunting little film that I am going to have to watch a few more times in order to absorb.


0 Doesn't the laundry need to be done?
$ Matinee only
$$ Worth watching
!!! What are you waiting for?

posted by Jeremy at 2:29 AM


ROPE A POPE: The Friday edition of The American Prowler has an article by yours truly on the pope's response to the Boston sex scandal.

posted by Jeremy at 2:13 AM

wThursday, April 18, 2002

BAGGE IT AND TAG IT: Also posted today is a review that I did for The Stranger of the last collected installment of the Hate comic book series, along with the two "Hate Annuals" that have followed. It may be the only subtly pro-life article that that weekly has ever (or will ever) run.

An excerpt:

"Sifting through the pages, I was reminded of an unpleasant truth about creators. They may harbor good feelings for their characters, but if they want to keep an audience interested, they must act like angry, unreasonable deities--putting them through sheer hell for our entertainment. In a nut, if there's no misery there's no story. Bliss has to wait until the very end: in this case, marriage and children."

posted by Jeremy at 10:58 AM


MY LATEST AMERICAN PROSPECT ESSAY: Is up. It's about MSNBC's decision to hire Phil Donahue to run opposite Bill O'Reilly.

Fun story on this one: TAP Online Editor Chris Mooney rejiggered the piece a bit and added the following final sentence: "MSNBC may be attempting a true rarity in this media age: letting a thousand flowers bloom."

I sent a note to Mooney approving the changes (this is a much better piece than the one I turned in) and admitting that "I love how you have me quoting Chairman Mao at the end." I've used a variation on that theme in the past ("let a million stinkweeds bloom") but I never would have thought to cap the piece with such an inspired, ironic quotation.

posted by Jeremy at 10:45 AM

wTuesday, April 16, 2002

A TEASER: From the piece I'm working on tonight. I wrote a letter to Kathy Shaidle over the weekend in response to the incredible story that the Vatican rejected Cardinal Law's resignation. She published it, sans my name (which was fine by me) and I reproduce it here:

"Tell me that that article you linked to [Saturday] about the Vatican rejecting Law's resignation was somebody's sick idea of a joke.

"It's interesting: The fundamental pillar of the case that conservative Catholics were clinging to was that this is about corrupt liberal local bishops versus the true faith and the Pope. Oops."

posted by Jeremy at 7:05 PM


MORE DELAYS, OF COURSE: Over the weekend, I did a review for the Stranger. Last night and this morning were devoted to a piece for The American Partisan Online. This evening, I'm working on a piece for The American Prowler. Try back tomorrow.

posted by Jeremy at 6:59 PM


BY THE BOOK: I wasn't sure what Evan McElravy was getting at last week when he congratulated me on the Reason internship and said something about Sara Rimensnyder and stealing scripts. Attempts to download the story he linked to were unsuccessful, so I had to wait until today to figure it out.

For the record, I am not going to be stealing any scripts this summer, no matter how bad they are.

posted by Jeremy at 6:53 PM

wSaturday, April 13, 2002

WHAT A WEEK: Four papers due last Wednesday, this Monday, Wednesday and today - including two presentations - made life quite a bit more frantic than normal. But that fog lifted at about 3 this afternoon, when I sent off the last paper. Now I have time to write stuff that people don't have to be paid to read.

The presentation on Monday was interesting. For most of the semester, students had been presenting on such topics as multiculturalism (for), euthanasia (mixed but mildly against) and nudity in art (sexist), to barely stifled yawns. Then I went and upset that apple cart by defending globalization. Specifically, I asked the question that I posed in an earlier article, Is globalization Christian?

The question was posed in two senses: 1) Has the increased role of markets had an overall beneficial effect?; 2) Is it possible that the missionary impulse of the West bred habbits that paved the way for globalization? I answered "yes" to both questions.

On the first, I cited United Nations statistics comparing incomes and other important statistics for 1992 and 2000, the years of Bill Clinton's presidency. The nut is that abject poverty declined by something like a hundred million people even as the population spiked, infant mortality fell, wars became less frequent and the number of refugees fell by about a third. That, I argued, is a startling success story.

Then the question period commenced and the "what abouts" started: What about inequality? What about evil multinational corporations? What about... one gets the idea. When I responded by pointing to the data, one student actually had the balls to declare that all statistics are lies. Yes, I replied, but they're lies that contain truth. It took him a minute to digest that one.

The questions continued well into the break, and arms continued to fly into the air (I wouldn't acknowledge anybody unless they raised their hands). I eventually had to declare the class over and thank everybody for the interest, but it was just bizarre to listen to that many people trying their very best to deny even the possibility of good news.

posted by Jeremy at 1:52 AM


THAT'S NOT FUNNY!: Glenn Reynolds on the, uh, compassionate way to deal with Arafat:

"WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY says that Ariel Sharon is simultaneously too brutal and not brutal enough. Instead of rummaging through Palestinian villages, he should have sent in a hundred soldiers, dragged out Arafat and his lieutenants, and shot them.

"Being more twisted than the straight-arrow WFB, I think Sharon should have arrested Arafat, tried him for war crimes using an indictment made as near as possible to word-for-word identical with the one Slobodan Milosevic is being tried under, and then shot him."

posted by Jeremy at 1:11 AM

wFriday, April 12, 2002

REVIEW: Of Calvin Trillin's Tepper Isn't Going Out. The two things I liked best about the review were the title ("Atlas Parked") and the following anecdote. Telling of an interview with a television station about a ridiculous conflict between a law abiding eccentric and the crazy mayor of New York City, one of the characters says to the eccentric:

"I hope they use the part where I say that you're a symbol of alienation in our times."

"I am?" Tepper said.

"Well, it's more like a metaphor," Mittgin said. "It doesn't mean you personally. I heard a lecture about it. It turns out that almost everything is a symbol of the alienation of our times…."

posted by Jeremy at 9:14 PM


NEW BLOG: Former American Partisan columnist (and current CATO guy) Radley Balko has started his own blog, called The Agitator, which is a spot on self description if ever there was one. A sample from today:

"CYNTHIA MCKINNEY is a United States Congresswoman. She's also a tactless, clueless, contemptible moron. She is walking evidence that racial gerrymandering yields inferior lawmakers (Texas' Sheila Jackson Lee is another). Her latest boneheaded comment -- that President Bush knew about September 11 in advance and did nothing to stop it -- is grounds for disciplinary action by the House."

Of course, I prefer my soon-to-be boss' comments on the subject.

posted by Jeremy at 8:51 PM


L.A. DREAMING: Of course I mention the Reason review for a reason (Reason for a... oh, never mind). I will be this summer's Burton Gray Memorial Intern, operating out of Reason's L.A. office.

posted by Jeremy at 8:39 PM


OH, CANADA: I normally do not mention pieces of mine that are in print but not yet online, but it might be worth the reader's time to snag a copy off the newsstand of the current (May) issue of Reason Magazine. In addition to a long review by yours truly with the subtitle "Does Canada matter?" it also has a current photo in the front that might someday pay great dividends as blackmail.

posted by Jeremy at 8:28 PM


CORRECTION: Fellow Americanadian blogger Evan McElravy, who attends McGill University in Québec, informs me that the reprehensible Dan Cere is not a professor there. Rather, Cere is a "lecturer," which is more along the lines of a glorified grad student.

posted by Jeremy at 8:18 PM


YES!: Done with papers for the semester.

posted by Jeremy at 8:03 PM

wThursday, April 11, 2002

LINE IN THE SAND: Poor Philip Jenkins - and I say that without the slightest hint of sarcasm, irony, innuendo or what have you - is having to defend himself against charges of pedophilia, or at least crypto-pedophilia.

His crime? The Pennsylvania State U prof, who is an expert on clergy sex scandals, and a very careful scholar, explained the positions of organizations such as the North American Man Boy Love Association and quoted their literature in previous books... on sex scandals and pedophilia. A professor from McGill named Dan Cere appears to have very selectively quoted his books to ascribe to Jenkins positions that he never, in fact, indorsed - or even flirted with - to make Jenkins appear some kind of amoral maniac. The end of Jenkins uncharacteristically emotive reply is worth quoting in full:

"If he believes I am a pedophile, a crypto-pedophile, an advocate of pedophilia, or a pedophile fellow traveler, let him say so, so that I can seek whatever remedies are available to me. Otherwise, he should immediately withdraw this vicious tract that bears his name. Let him pick one."

posted by Jeremy at 2:15 PM


COLUMNY AT ITS BEST: Mike Lynch has a great opener in this column on gas price hikes that reminds me of a quote from a U.S. Secretary of Agriculture during World War II: "How in the name of God do they expect to win a war without cabbage?"

posted by Jeremy at 1:32 PM


THAT'S NOT FUNNY!: From Christopher Moore's new book, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's childhood Pal. Biff attempts to sum up the message of Jesus, as he sees it, from the recorded preaching in the four Gospels:

You should be nice to people, even creeps.
And if you:

a) believed that Joshua was the Son of God (and)
b) he had come to save you from sin (and)
c) acknowledged the Holy Spirit within you (became like a little child, he would say) (and)
d) didn’t blaspheme the Holy Ghost (see c),

then you would:

e) live forever
f) someplace nice
g) probably heaven.

However, if you:

h) sinned (and/or)
i) were a hypocrite (and/or)
j) valued things over people (and)
k) didn’t do a, b, c, and d,

then you were:

l) fucked.

posted by Jeremy at 1:26 PM

wTuesday, April 09, 2002

BUSY, BUSY, BUSY: Deadlines for school are going to prohibit anything more than sporadic posting for the rest of the week. Unless y'all want to know all about the different varieties and historical development of baptism, or other such obscure subjects, that is.

posted by Jeremy at 8:27 PM


JEREMY LOTT BOOK CLUB: Andrew Sullivan picked Robert Kaplan's new book for the first installment of his book club and gave it a generally favorable review. I did not share that opinion. Though I've enjoyed much of Kaplan's past journalism, I found Warrior Politics to be sloppy, badly thought out and a bit of a rip off (and, since reviewers get copies for free, that is saying something).

As I wrote in this month's Chronicles review, "[Kaplan's book comes to] an anemic 155 pages. In fact ... the table of contents contains executive summaries of each of the chapters, allowing the gist of the book to be absorbed in just under two minutes. My late grandfather, a union man, would have called that not bad work, if you can get it." That said, I end this plug with a request for flagellation. If I ever use the phrase “mandarin class” again, readers are invited to dive bomb me with angry letters.

posted by Jeremy at 8:16 PM


CORRECTION: In an earlier post, I implied that Larry King and Bill O'Reilly are in the same time slot. They are not.

posted by Jeremy at 7:57 PM

wSaturday, April 06, 2002

BLOGGER NOTES AND CO: Jeremiads is now, at this very moment, back in Google. It has been in and out and in and out again in these past few weeks. I'm curious, is this common for weblogs? Also, two more large deadlines are giving me the evil eye, so I won't be back until Tuesday.

posted by Jeremy at 10:44 PM


MCTOAST: The rap on McDonald's of late has been that its corporate culture is too conservative. Thus, new foods have been introduced at regular intervals and the new commercials have tried to present a more "hip" image. The former is probably a good idea, but whoever came up with the latter ought to be horsewhipped.

Case in point: McDonald's has introduced bona fide chicken strips into the lineup. This is a good idea because the McChicken nuggets (how to put this politely?) blow chunks. The shoddy quality of the unedible dippers has been a constant fact for the duration of this aged polemicists life. The chicken strips/nuggets at Burger King, Jack in the Box and any number of other drive thru heart attack joints were far, far superior. So how did the marketing whiz kids at McD's choose to publicize this quantum leap in the quality of processed chicken?

With a Spice Girls song.

Oh, yeah, daddy oh, that's hip. Or at least it was three years ago. The ad campaign is so inept that it borders on malpractice. McDonald's could have done better by pulling ten kids off of the fry rack and telling them to fire out any old idea that occurred to them. So I'll tell you what I want, what I really really want. I wanna watch, I wanna watch, I wanna wanna wanna watch those dimwit ad execs empty their desks and search for more gainful employment, flipping burgers.

posted by Jeremy at 10:37 PM


LINKS: WorldNetDaily today links to my review of Jesse Walker's Rebels on the Air, which was also... let's just call it "borrowed" by Alex Cockburn's CounterPunch. First The Progressive, now CounterPunch; next thing you know, The Nation is going to be asking me to hammer out a few pieces.

posted by Jeremy at 10:10 PM


PITHY PENNSYLVANIAN: Sometime fellow Reason contributor Evan McElravy has a decent blog that I just ran across called Redneck with Books. He's a pithy young libertarianish writer with an acute olfactory sense, so take a look.

posted by Jeremy at 9:53 PM


A ROCK SO HEAVY: Q: What is a universalist postmodernist? A: Somebody who believes in an ultimate truth, but doesn't care.

posted by Jeremy at 12:45 AM


JEWS IN ROME: Had dinner last night with a few lady friends who just returned from a two-week long trip to Rome, Italy. Great conversation, awesome pictures and one sad story to pass along. Apparently, Rome had its own mini Intifada. I'll let the redhead take it away:

"The first day, when we walked by the synagogue, we knew that it was a synagogue because the people going into it were wearing skullcaps on their heads. The second day, we knew it was a synagogue because it was flanked with armed guards."

posted by Jeremy at 12:34 AM

wFriday, April 05, 2002

MOVIES: I'm going to try to spice things up by doing brief movie notes ("reviews" would be an overstatment) every week or so. These will be less substantial criticism than a Steve Forbes-like go-to (and rent-to) guide. My scale:

0 Doesn't the laundry need to be done?
$ Matinee only
$$ Worth watching
!!! What are you waiting for?

posted by Jeremy at 2:17 PM


TWO RIGHT WING DUST UPS: The first fracas is between Weyrichite William Lind and the Discovery Institute's Philip Gold. Gold notes, correctly, that cultural conservatives are losing traction in the area of collective morality because, frankly, nobody likes a scold anymore. But he also says something much more substantial.

"Cultural conservatives," Gold says "have never really understood diversity..." They look at all the bad aspects of it and diagnose it as rot, through and through; a perception that is "not wrong, just grievously incomplete." The project that most label diversity attempts "to create a civilization in which there exists no normative center, no matter how tolerant and benign, from which all else is deviation, no matter how accepted or acceptable."

This isn't a vision that Gold completely buys into, but he sees its appeal and understands that its effects have not all been disastrous. He sees the future cultural skirmishes - called Culture War II - as a battle between centrifugal and centripetal forces, in which cultural conservatives are fighting for limited victories, trying to persuade rather than scold their fellow men into seeing that they at least have a point. And, through persuasion, they may be able to affect the country for the better.

Enter Lind, who argues, a la Paul Weyrich’s famous Moses-like call, for the cultural conservatives to come out and separate themselves from their fellow pagans. Lind uses homeschoolers as an example of people who are “freeing themselves and their families from the deadly conditioning mechanisms of Brave New World - television, video games, public schools, pop music, etc.” Gold’s problem, says Lind, is that he is “in Washington” and thus cannot see a giant grass roots movement being mobilized in "fly-over land" to take back the masses from the blanking amoral elites.

Yes, Gold is in Washington. Washington State. Methinks that Gold, whose new book I'm reviewing for a future issue of The Stranger, is the more persuasive of the two. But maybe I'm unclean for even suggesting that.

Second, sometimes NRnik Ben Domenech has a meditation on Christian libertarianism. Such analyses are usually badly written, abstract, boring, overly dogmatic and have the net effect of making me want to either change the channel or strangle myself with my shoelaces, but this one was lucid and almost enjoyable.

posted by Jeremy at 2:07 PM


VERY FUNNY: Kathy Shaidle , while linking to a recent piece, nicknamed me Jeremy "Very Nearly Catholic, Just Needs a Little Push, Heh-Heh" Lott.

posted by Jeremy at 1:11 PM


CORRECTION: In an earlier post based on an e-mail sent by a fellow Trinity Western student, I speculated that L.A. Marzulli must have absolutely hated my review of his new novel. Specifically, I said that my piece "must have left him spitting nails." A letter earlier this week from someone who I take to be Marzulli's agent quickly disabused me of that notion:

"On behalf of the Author, Lynn Marzulli, I wanted to thank you for your kind review. ... On a second note, Zondervan is publishing Neph 2 this summer and has purchased Neph 3 which is being written now. We are quite excited that Zondervan has chosen to continue the series considering the subject matter."

posted by Jeremy at 3:17 AM

wThursday, April 04, 2002

WHAT, GERALDO'S GRANDFATHER WAS BUSY?: This story about the giant killer that MSNBC has picked to go up against Fox Goliath Bill O'Reilly unleashed a fit of nearly debilitating laughter.


I'm trying to understand the thinking here: Bill O'Reilly mops the floor with that ancient uninteresting liberal icon Larry King, so MSNBC responds to the current market by putting... another ancient uninteresting liberal icon into the same timeslot. Donahue may succeed in poaching a few viewers from CNN but, even in his soon-to-be-weakened state, O'Reilly should make quick work of this throwback to the 1970s.

posted by Jeremy at 2:43 PM


ACLUSERS: While researching my most recent Reason squib on facial recognition technology, I had to interact with Jay Stanley, an expert from the American Civil Liberties Union. The thesis of his and Barry Steinhardt's report on street cameras that match random faces against databases of known criminals/suspects/whatever was that, since the technology at present doesn't work, the tradeoff is not between privacy and security but between privacy with no added security and no privacy and no added security. This was, said Messrs. Stanley and Steinhardt, a bum deal.

The problem that immediately presents itself, however, is the fact of technology. Technology has to go through failures and false starts in order to be made workable; it's just the nature of the beast (think of the light bulb or the personal computer). Therefore, what now might count as a bum deal can be made "better" over time, with cameras eventually randomly picking perps out of crowds. In theory, it's only a matter of refining the technology through trial and error. Knowing this, I tried to push Stanley - who appears to be a nice guy - to endorse a moral principle along the lines of "It is bad to have the government watching us everywhere we go."

Nothing doing. Stanley dismissed the question by saying that "right now discussion of a reliable face-recognition package is science fiction, which is not our line of work." True enough, but, to quote science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Science tends to make things possible that we do not want to think about. How we react to uses of said technology is deeply rooted in our values, which, on this issue as with so many others, the ACLU dearly wants to avoid talking about by employing static bogus utilitarian calculations.

This is the sort of thing that tends to drive conservatives and some libertarians nuts about civil libertarians: They want to smuggle in value judgments under the cover of science or utility, but don't want to admit it. For a longer discussion of this by yours truly, when I was younger and still a bit more of a conservative ideologue than I've become, check out this old Spintech article.

posted by Jeremy at 2:15 PM


HUGE LINK: From Arts & Letters Daily to this review of Jesse Walker's Rebels on the Air.

posted by Jeremy at 1:31 PM

wTuesday, April 02, 2002

BLOGGER NOTES AND CO: Apologies for not posting more stuff today that wasn't of a self-aggrandizing nature. I tried but Blogger was acting up. As it is, I'm looking down the wrong end of a very nasty deadline so I probably won't be posting anything until Thursday. See you then.

posted by Jeremy at 1:15 AM


UM, THANKS: WorldNetDaily tomorrow links to my Reason squib on facial recognition technology, which I had neglected to link to here.

posted by Jeremy at 1:09 AM

wMonday, April 01, 2002

INTERVIEW: Catch my interview with author Christopher Moore on Books & Culture Online. His new novel, according to Peter Beagle "is the sort of book that Gore Vidal's 'Live From Golgotha' should have been," for whatever that's worth.

posted by Jeremy at 10:49 PM


THE END OF THE WORLD, CONTINUED: I've been linked by the Progressive... I know I've no right to be but I'm stunned.

posted by Jeremy at 11:51 AM


OLD JOKE, EXPLAINED: A few readers have inquired about that "really, really happy" line in an earlier post about comparisons of me to Andrew Sullivan. Specifically, am I outing myself? No. It's an old joke that goes back a few websites, so I should explain.

Last school year, I worked on the staff of the student paper at Trinity Western University, editing the Faculties and Letters pages. During the course of said year, a fracas erupted between some of what I would characterize as the pro-choice elements of the paper and TWU's pro-life club. I won't re-hash all of the sordid details here - at least, not tonight - but, as a ranking editor and the controller of the letters section, I waged a pitched half year long battle to make sure that the pro-life voices could be heard, winning myself very few friends on the paper in the process.

For this effort, the pro-life group awarded me the "Pro-Life Friend of the Year Award" for my "discreet editing" and "courageous 'coming out,'" for speaking up on their, and life's, behalf. I explained this to readers of a long ago web post by saying that I'm "not gay, just really, really happy."

posted by Jeremy at 2:06 AM


LONG WALK, SHORT PIER: A letter to The American Prowler in response to my recent piece on Andrew Sullivan perfectly illustrates why I'm not wild about getting letters from readers. One Pastor James Barker of Bible Baptist Church writes:

"I do not know what kind of Baptist Jeremy Lott is but no born again, Bible-believing Baptist would ever consider joining the Roman Catholic Church. Rather than 'dipping his toes' in the filthy polluted waters of Romanism Mr. Lott should read the Bible more thoroughly. It will show him how to get saved as well as how to locate the right kind of church. Furthermore, it will show him how the doctrines and practices of the idolatrous RCC contradict the Word of God."

Where to start? First, you gotta love that Baptist insistence on calling other people's salvation into question. It reminds me of that old joke about a group of people being welcomed into the gates of heaven. The guide makes them all duck when they come to a low wall and cautions them to be quiet as they creep along. Eventually, they get past it and one of the new entrants, justifiably curious, asks the "What that was all about?" Answer: "Oh, that was the Baptist section. They think they're the only ones who get into heaven."

I am - or was, in Barker's parlance - just about the born-againdest Bible-believingest son of a Baptist minister that you're ever likely to meet. And yet... reading the same Bible that Barker reads (plus a few extra books tacked onto the Old Testament but let's not get into that here), and looking at the history of that book's interpretation, I'm led to different conclusions regarding what Church - sorry "church" - I should belong to. This makes me a soon-to-be member of an idolatrous cult...

The letter neatly points up nearly everything that I can't stand about the Baptist variant of Christianity: 1) An insecure need to be right about every... little... damn... thing... and condemn opponents not only as misguided, but evil; 2) a completely ahistoric approach to the faith, as if the Church fathers, who, after all, helped to determine what went into the Bible, didn't matter; 3) an assumption that your individual reading of the Bible is beyond question and that anyone who would insist otherwise doesn't know that the hell he she or it is talking about.

Perhaps the most troubling thing to me is that Barker and company are supposed to be in the business of extending the Grace and love of God and instead come off sounding like uncharitable assholes. I think he owes Catholics, who after all believe in and pray to the same God that he does, a most heartfelt apology.

posted by Jeremy at 1:38 AM