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

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wSunday, August 31, 2003

VIRGINIA: Got into town Friday morning. Through a series of events that I'd rather not explain, I ended up sitting in on a law and economics seminar on tort reform at George Mason U and then cooling my jets for a bit, in the Darth Vader building, while I (literally) waited for paint to dry. Slept most of the day Saturday, and finally managed to bring my computer online last night. This morning, one of my outgoing roommates took me to the New Hope Presbyterian Church, where I got to listen to a sermon by -- I am not making this up -- Rev. David Coffin. Good times.

posted by Jeremy at 12:24 PM

wThursday, August 28, 2003

OUT OF HERE: OK, that is it for me from this coast. I was up into the wee hours of the morning packing and now my hands are throbbing. Off to my Post Office substitute to ship stuff, then I'm going to dawdle about in Seattle for most of the day. Taking the redeye out tonight and should touch down before noon tomorrow in D.C. Probably won't post until next Tuesday, but you never know.

posted by Jeremy at 10:22 AM


MACHINE IN THE COG: I thought the Canada-bans-smiling-on-passport-photos story was just funny and stupid, but Kevin Steel actually found an interesting twist. Turns out, the reason for the ban is that smiling can throw off facial recognition devices, so, well, take it away Steel:

Before you think I'm about to go on some civil liberties rant, let me say I don't necessarily object to the idea of face scanners. I mean, isn't that what airport security people do? Scan faces with their eyes? What I do find sort of kooky is the notion, implied by this story, that if you smile, your face suddenly is so altered, so changed that you become unrecognizable to the machine or, by extension, to even airport security officers; like the Cheshire Cat, the "real you" just disappears behind your beaming grin. ...

But don't smile too much. Our computers and our security officers just can't handle it. Suddenly I understand why the authorities are having such a devil of a time capturing the likes of Osama bin Laden.

He probably just smiles when he goes out shopping and gosh! who the heck would recognize him then?

Uh, I think you people working on that fancy-assed face recognition software had better do a little recall and polish up your product before you go flogging it to obviously overly-enthusiastic airport security mandarins.

For some reason or other, I don't think they will. Instead, the bureaucrats are asking us to conform to the machine.

As I wrote last April, civil libertarians who objected to facial recognition technology (FRT) on purely pragmatic grounds were standing on a very shaky foundation. It was one thing to dismiss FRT, as it existed then, as "science fiction," as ACLU attorney Jay Stanley did when I questioned him via e-mail. But technology almost never works when it's unveiled (think of an early version of virtually any Microsoft product). It's the many failures and corrections over time that turn wacky ideas into practical realities. And it looks like the Canadians may have found a way to make it work: ban smiling.

What will the pragmatic guardians of our liberties do now, object to the dour photos because they limit freedom of expression? Somehow, I very much doubt any judge or jury would swallow that argument.

posted by Jeremy at 1:53 AM


'WE ARE SCREWED!': Back from vacation, tech columnist Kevin Maney delivers this warning:

In 1962, Ideal Toys came out with Odd Ogg — "half turtle and half frog," as the TV jingle said. It had a motor inside, and when you rolled a ball into its mouth, it lurched toward you.

Odd Ogg was the latest in toy technology. I got one for Christmas.

I was terrified of it.

It might be the only time I hated technology as much as I do now. [more]

posted by Jeremy at 1:16 AM

wWednesday, August 27, 2003

TURN THAT DOWN UPSIDE FROWN: Canada has decided to prohibit smiles on passport photos:

posted by Jeremy at 1:44 PM

wTuesday, August 26, 2003

THE LYNDEN LAMENT: Here's my latest column, about where I'm from and where I'm going:

[W]hen my family moved north to Lynden at the tail end of my high school years, I was more than happy to tag along. For the last five years, I've moved around quite a lot (Langley, Edmonton, Santa Monica, San Fran, etc.), but nowhere permanent. I always landed back in this quiet little town, well off of I-5 and just shy of the Canadian border.

Maybe the hellish experience in Tacoma predisposed me to like Lynden. It's the churchiest town you've ever seen, and it's Dutch. There are 14 Reformed churches of one stripe or another, which cynics interpret to mean that the First Reformed church split 13 times. The town of about 10,000 has very few large public spaces because the churches serve as meeting areas and engines of change. Lynden Christian schools (K through 12) are so large that they rival the public school system and make the job of passing levies hell on the local superintendent. The local industries are raspberries, dairy, and taking care of retirees (often non-Lyndeners move here because of the reputation the town has with the Van, Vander, and Boven set).

I love Lynden for a thousand little reasons, but perhaps a recent story should suffice.

posted by Jeremy at 11:15 PM


DID I HAVE TO BE SO RIGHT?: Regarding defrocked pedophile priest John Geoghan's recent death, in prison, at the hands of an inmate, I said the following in March of 2002:

Pardon a poor hayseed American boy for wondering if the last line of this John O'Sullivan column isn?t just dripping with that famous British irony. The context would seem to contradict this conclusion but, well, you be the judge. O'Sullivan avers that...Geoghan "can only hope to find in prison the stern but loving Christ whom he evaded all too easily in the Boston Archdiocese."

Um - how to put this? - no. If he's lucky Geoghan can hope to find his way into the stern but loving hands of a guy named Bubba. More likely he and his fellow (alleged) child molester priests are on their knees saying many a rosary hoping for solitary confinement. Prisoners are startlingly intolerant of child molesters, the starched collars notwithstanding.

I'm not as giddy as Kathy Shaidle about this one ("Millstone. Neck. Repeat as necessary"), but it remains true that Geoghan was a serious piece of work. Unlike most of the "pedophile priests" who have been sacked or investigated for having sex with teens (which, I should repeat, is very, very bad) Geoghan was the genuine article. He molested upwards of 150 young boys.

One should hope, along with O'Sullivan, that Geoghan had some kind of come to Jesus moment in prison. But in this case, I'm afraid that any expression of such a hope on my part would be strictly pro forma.

posted by Jeremy at 11:06 PM


KARL MARX, MEET AYN RAND: People who frequent Chinese restaurants have probably experienced the double fortune fortune cookie -- that is, a single cookie has two fortunes on two slips of paper. Usually, because of the vagueness that is part of fortune telling, this isn't a thing. But when I was out for lunch a few weeks back, well, the first one read:

"Union gives strength. Work collaboratively."

The second:

"It is impossible to please everybody. Please yourself first."

I think that's called "getting your stars crossed."

posted by Jeremy at 10:32 PM


JESUS SELLS OUT: Or at least I hope it will. My Reason essay on the Christian Culture Industry will be collected in The Best Christian Writing 2004 along with the work of several noted authors, including Philip Jenkins and Kathleen Norris. In the U.S. you can order it direct from Jossey-Bass or from Amazon (or put in an order at your local bookstore). In the rest of the world, try Wiley Europe.

posted by Jeremy at 3:45 AM


BTW: Moving sucks.

posted by Jeremy at 2:19 AM


WHY I WON'T ADD GOOGLE ADS: Google has this really nifty AdSense Program where you put a strip of adds on the left or right side of your blog and then get paid for every clickthrough. I'm pro-money but I likely won't add the ads to this humble piece of e-real estate.

The problem is, the ad people apparently stay up late at night worrying that the content of one of the blogs might...offend someone. Kathy Shaidle put ads on her website only to have them yanked when she started talking aboot gay marriage. Now she has ads back but they're all lame public service ads (e.g., Peace Corps, Habitat for Humanity) that noone in their right mind would want to click on, except to send a few cents her way. She's asking readers to ask Google to reinstate the old ads for all things Catholic and religious ("But please," she says, "keep your sticks on the ice" Heh.).

Meanwhile, Mark Shea entered the game a bit late. He recently sent a letter to the Googleistas asking to be part of the program, and was brushed off with this mealy mouthed form letter. Mark's reply: "Evidently my readers don't buy things, so advertising to them would be a waste of time." He accused Google of "corporate cowardice" and insinuated anti-Catholic bigotry.

I don't know about the bigotry part but I did a story on Google in my waning days at the Report. I was shocked -- genuinely shocked; not shocked, shocked! -- to learn that the world's biggest search engine doesn't have a policy on free speech. They're not wildly censorious but everything is decided on a case by case basis. If a local government, for instance, says "Yo, take that down," they do so without too much protest. Not sure that adds that much to the debate but there it is.

posted by Jeremy at 1:18 AM



From Matt Welch:

The L.A. Times editorial board has been the King Tut-Tutter on the recall, saying something dismissive and nasty about it every other day. Sunday's effort, however, started out on a different note:

"[T]he recall also represents something larger: a people's uprising against business as usual in Sacramento. […] It is important that this political force be used for real solutions."

Well now! So what kind of anger-channelling solutions does the L.A. Times have in mind?

1) Repeal term limits.
3) Amend Proposition 13 to allow for more taxation.
4) Make it harder to exercise direct-democracy instruments such as recalls and ballot initiatives.
6) Reduce the two-thirds voting requirement that prevents Democrats from unilaterally raising taxes.

I'm not making these up. Finger on the pulse, Spring Street has...


From Luke Ford:

Matt Drudge linked an article saying that Arnold S. thought Richard Riordan lacked focus, and that's why Arnold ran. Riordan lacks similar focus with his LA Examiner baby. The man loves to give interviews and talk grand. All his clippings on this should burn up because Riordan's doing nothing to get this paper off the ground. His assistant Tim DeRoche was at tonight's party. He says there are no new developments on the most hyped newspaper in the history of the planet that never published a real issue. Shame on Riordan for flirting and dilly dallying and just being one big tease. I've dated women like Dick.

posted by Jeremy at 12:43 AM

wThursday, August 21, 2003

OH DEAR: In the last few weeks, most of the people I've spoken with have asked, in re: The Move:

(a) Are you nervous?
(b) Are you excited?

The answer to both questions has been no. This has drawn plenty of you-must-be-joshing-me looks, and a few nosy follow-up questions (Q: "Oh, come on, What do you really feel like?" A: "Like telling you to shut up."). Yes, it's a great job -- maybe the best job I've ever had -- and, yes, it will be nice to move out of my bedroom/office and into a real office with live people, but it's not like I haven't done this before. As for the small-town-boy-moves-to-the-big-city angle, I grew up in Tacoma, I've lived in L.A., and I already know a whole bunch of people in D.C. Why, I wondered, should I work myself up over any of this?

Well, last night I got the answer. I was about to purchase my nonrefundable one-way ticket to D.C. and my hand unexpectedly froze up. It took a few minutes to calm down and confirm that, yes, I will be flying out the evening of the 28th into the morning of the 29th. (BTW, if you don't use Expedia.com to book your travel, you really should check it out.) I'm not exactly sure why this happened but it probably had something to do with the size of the change. For the last few years, I've traveled to, and lived in, a whole lotta places, but I always came back to my adopted hometown of Lynden, Washington. I'll use my next column to explore what it is that I love about this place, and why I'll miss it so much.

posted by Jeremy at 2:20 AM


SHAMELESS PLUG: From the letters page of the American Spectator Online:

Lott is the Jim Rome of pundits. Loud, cynical, negative and often stupid. With this column, I guess one could add crybaby and quitter. Lott's idea of an effort is a few puerile observations followed by abject surrender and constant whining from atop the moral high ground.

posted by Jeremy at 12:26 AM


BEST EXCUSE EVER: I'd been trying to reach my friend M. (the ladyfriend in this column) for a couple of days and she finally answered, via e-mail, that she was sorry about the lack of contact, but she was "slammed" with work, she was moving in a week or so and, oh yeah, a tree fell on her car.

posted by Jeremy at 12:22 AM

wWednesday, August 20, 2003

REMEMBER HIM?: It must be one of those iron laws of getting ready to move: People who you've lost touch with start popping out of the woodwork. The most recent example is Nikum Pon (pictured below standing up), an old friend from high school and community college. The unfortuate cause of his reappearance was a broadcast on the local news. On Monday, 14-year-old David Chhin became the fourth in a spate of recent so far unconnected shootings in Seattle. Chhin was a regular at the SafeFutures Youth Center, where Nikum volunteers as a tutor and counselor.

In my pre-car days, Nikum frequently drove me around the vast wasteland that is Tacoma. It was because of his generosity that I was able to intern at then-Representative Randy Tate's office way back in the fall of 1996. Nikum came from a well off Cambodian family that was pushed out by Pol Pot's bloody purges. I'm a little rusty on the details but I do know that his father was a doctor and that he didn't make it out of the country. At one point, the family also thought that Nikum himself -- less than a year old during their exodus -- had died. They emigrated to the U.S., got hooked in with the Cambodian and Vietnamese communities in Tacoma, worked their asses off, and bought a local gas station/convenience store.

Nikum became an evangelical Christian shortly before we got to know each other but, as of the mid '90s, his family were still Buddhists. This made for some interesting cultural contrasts whenever I came to visit. I tutored his sister Selah (pronounced 'say luh') for quite some time and even ended up, uh, ghosting a short paper or two when she was pregnant with her first child. Whenever something annoyed her, she would exclaim "Jesus!", which annoyed me. I countered by shouting "Buhhda!" every time something rubbed me wrong. She took the hint. I also think I played an entirely accidental role in the conversion of one of Nikum's brothers. We were at a Wendy's and we got to talking about what it's all about. I teased that I couldn't become a Buhhdist because what would be the point? "If all the tumblers line up when I die, and I 'make it', what do I have to look forward to? A rippleless pond? Why would anybody want that?" I thought he'd laugh it off but, hey, sometimes people surprise you.

Which is a long way of saying I was glad to learn of Nikum's current whereabouts, even under these ghastly circumstances. I'll have to drop him a line one of these days, for old time's sake.

posted by Jeremy at 2:04 AM


CONSIDER THAT A DIVORCE: My latest column is on the fracas in California. Doesn't look good for the elephants:

Who says Arnold Schwarzenegger's strategy of not talking to reporters and not announcing policy positions isn't paying off? Why, he's already won the support of Rob Lowe and M.C. Hammer. In fact, his chief financial adviser, Warren Buffett, made all kinds of headlines last week when he argued to the Wall Street Journal that the property-tax-limiting Proposition 13 should be revisited and rejiggered. The prospect of another exodus of rich Californians had a salutary effect on tax officials in surrounding states, struggling to balance their own budgets, who could be heard chanting, "Go Arnold go!"

Republicans hopefully point to Governor Gray Davis's low poll numbers and the loss of control that has descended on the old pol, like a tornado taking Dorothy's house for a spin. According to this interpretation, the gov is being tossed about by events and wailing against the wind to no discernible effect. The more he tries to be relevant, the more incompetent he looks, the more comfortable voters get with booting him. Sacramento Bee columnist Daniel Weintraub, whose coverage of the recall effort has been unrivaled, now thinks it "possible" that Davis will resign to avoid a 70 to 30 drubbing come October 7.

Anything's possible but I doubt it and, to be fair, so does Weintraub: We've now reached the dreaded Bengal Tiger phase of the election. The Democrat dominated legislature convened in Sacramento on Monday with one and only one goal in mind: Keep our party in power. For the next four weeks, they will try to do this through a combination of payoffs to liberal constituencies, feel good legislation, and bills aimed at splitting the Republicans down the middle. And it's likely to work. [more]

posted by Jeremy at 12:07 AM

wTuesday, August 19, 2003

THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOOT: Kevin Steel is back from vacation. About #$%& time.

posted by Jeremy at 2:17 AM

wSunday, August 17, 2003

ON THE ONE HAND, THIS IS SACRILEGE: On the other, it's funny as hell. (Or perhaps I should say it's damned hilarious.)

posted by Jeremy at 10:06 AM


ANOTHER GLOWING ENDORSEMENT: Remember the nuking Mecca incident? This guy does:

Mr Lowry and Ms Coulter have got my vote any day.

Mr Lowry is only partly right, we should destroy the rag head threat right now, not after another attack! You liberal scum make me want to vomit!

Jeremy Lott, you are a pussy. I'll bet you're best buddies with all those hollyweirdo, fag loving perverts too! Come on up here to Montana (God's Country) and try to spew your swill and, believe me, you wont last long!

The author of these remarks is one Dennis F. Corbitt, a retired marine who currently resides in the Big Sky State and frequently posts on message boards. His Free Republic name is ILuvRonnieRaygun. He likes to threaten violence, and call for holy wars ("Death to Islam!"), but other than that I'm sure he's a really, really great guy. And look, he left his own private e-mail address on one of the posts.

How sweet.

Please don't spam him -- that would be wrong.

posted by Jeremy at 2:18 AM

wFriday, August 15, 2003

FRIDAY LINKS: SPECIAL BLACKOUT EDITION: Steve Martinovich gives us a choose your own adventure dispatch from Fort Sinatra (scroll down into the comments; Kathy Shaidle weighs in). Barton Wong has more tales of his uncle. Nick Gillespie asks "Where were the riots?" Kerry Howley took to blogging by candlelight.

posted by Jeremy at 7:28 PM

wWednesday, August 13, 2003

posted by Jeremy at 1:59 PM


JEB FOR ARNOLD: I was going to write this yesterday but I got distracted and that bastard Steve Sailer beat me to it:

A reason for President Bush to back Arnold -- The Governor of California is the second most plausible plank of potential Presidential Timber out there, following only the Vice President. Any Republican who wins in October and gets re-elected in 2006 would be well positioned to run for the GOP Presidential nomination in 2008 against, oh, say, the Governor of Florida. Unless he was born in Austria and is Constitutionally ineligible and thus not a threat to the Bush Dynastic Plan.

posted by Jeremy at 12:09 PM


WITH THE FISHES: Rick Hiebert writes about my new gig at the Spectator: "Former Report-nik acquires power to decide who lives and who dies."

posted by Jeremy at 2:13 AM


PARADISE TOSSED: My column this week is another downer, I'm afraid. On Friday, I found out that the best bookstore in the whole wide world is no more. My tear filled, ink stained tribute:

Located for years in northeast Portland, on the intersection of 33rd and Killingsworth, [Fritzler's Books] was never easy on the eyes or the olfactory sense. The dust mingled with the must of old books to send people with allergies away in coughing and sneezing fits. It was in a rough enough part of town (near my home from years one to six) that most literate Portlanders gave it a pass.

But the books! Granted, there were the normal shelves of literature and sci fi and such, just as in any other bookstore. The aisles, the back room, and the hallways were also packed with new shipments that arrived throughout the week. Owner Ken Fritzler would heap more and more boxes, attempt to process them on the weekends, and usually fail.

So: Customers were always awash in a sea of books. This discouraged many but inspired an odd cast, including yours truly, to wade right in. Occasionally, from the recesses of the store, someone would unleash a tidal wave of print and we would all stop digging until we heard the usual yell: "I'm OK!" When our arms tired of treading, we would stop to smoke or bicker about local goings on or tell stories or argue about whatever came to mind.

Fritzler would often get a phone call and take off for half an hour, with the final words "nobody take anything," and, the hell of it is, while I was in the shop nobody ever did. It's conceivable that somebody snuck out with a book under his shirt, but if the shoplifter had been obvious about it, he would not have made it out the door on two legs. The regulars would have tackled and hogtied him, and called the cops. [more]

posted by Jeremy at 12:09 AM

wTuesday, August 12, 2003

CORRECTION: PRO CIRCUS, ANTI BREAD: Jesse Walker, writing on his own blog, says:

Someone's got to squash this Reason-loves-Arnold meme before it spreads too far. I can't speak for the whole staff, but if there's a shared position here I don't think it's pro-strongman so much as it's pro-circus. I'm happy to have Schwarzenegger in the race, but my own sympathies are torn between the guy from TSOL and Father Guido Sarducci.

posted by Jeremy at 2:36 PM

wMonday, August 11, 2003

ANNOUNCEMENT: I'm moving to D.C. (actually Virginia, but close enough) in September to take the assistant managing editor job at The American Spectator. More details to follow, I'm sure.

posted by Jeremy at 9:25 PM

wSunday, August 10, 2003

HEY ARNOLD: I don't get the love that Reasonoids are evincing for Arnold. Nick Gillespie argues (I think) that he's got so many skeletons in his closet that his election would take a set of lifestyle issues (abortion, gay rights, adultery) out of the public discussion, but that is not likely to happen. Arnold has been trumpeting his family man credentials quite a lot lately -- saying that he wouldn't run for gov if his wife wouldn't let him and such. Jacob Sullum takes a more serious, if silly, tack (he immigrated, he likes the U.S. and Milton Friedman, and he attended a Reason dinner!) but ultimately falls back on the fact that the Terminator's candidacy would be entertaining and encourage us to take the pols less seriously.

Uh, OK, but what about policy? How would Arnold be better than Davis? Sullum admits that "Schwarzenegger's libertarian tendencies have been exaggerated," which is definitely one way of putting it. His Proposition 49 balooned state spending by something like half a billion -- with a 'B' -- dollars per year to pay for after school programs (which he benefited from financially). I fail to see how an election of a big spending compassionate "conservative" would be a big step up for the Tarnished State.

posted by Jeremy at 4:03 PM

wTuesday, August 05, 2003

MONDAY MADNESS: Looks like Wlady Pleszczynski decided to post my column on Monday this week rather than Wednesday. Cool. It begins on a rather depressing note:

The Washington Post carried a dispatch from Iraq last Friday that is not for the faint of heart. Anthony Shadid told the macabre story of the death of Sabah Kerbul in the northern village of Thuluya. In the pre-dawn hours, his executioners led him out "behind a house girded with fig trees, vineyards and orange groves." The first man aimed an AK-47 and shot him in the leg and torso. The second fired three shots; at least one struck Kerbul in the head, killing him.

The kicker: The triggermen were Kerbul's father and brother, and the story was largely sympathetic. Had they not killed him, villagers threatened to tear the whole family limb from limb. Kerbul was suspected of being the informant who ratted out rocket-toting saboteurs of a U.S. tank patrol. The Americans responded by killing some 27 Iraqis and temporarily rounding up several hundred suspects.

U.S. spokesmen were admirably frank -- perhaps too frank -- about the death of Iraqi informants. While the military will pay good money for vital intelligence, it has neither the manpower nor the will to protect the tipsters. That is, inform at your own risk. [more]

posted by Jeremy at 12:27 AM

wSunday, August 03, 2003

TWO MORE PARTING SHOTS: Mark Cameron says pretty much everything I would have said aboot the flap over Mel Gibson's new flick, except using slightly bigger words ("amanuensis," honestly Mark...) and a more measured tone of authorial voice. Read "Mad Max Meets the Historical Jesus." Now.

Will Self (aka, Evelyn Waugh without God) reviews the second volume of Lord Archer's prison diary (near as I can tell, the first has just been released in the U.S.). He, uh, doesn't like it much:

The title says it all: Purgatory. If Archer seriously thinks a couple of months banged up in a medium-security British prison represents a limbo within which a soul can gain the necessary merit to enter Heaven, or even the remotest analogue of such, then he's an even more ignorant and venal man than I suspected. [more]

And that really is it for me for a bit. I may post a link to the column at midweek, along with something else, no doubt. Then again, I may not.

posted by Jeremy at 10:17 AM

wSaturday, August 02, 2003

OOT AND ABOOT: Well, what excuse should I use for the paucity of posts this time? Certainly, deadlines pressed in, but then they always do. The temp settled back down to normal Lynden levels, so I can't use that. I wasn't on vacation. Unlike a few prominent bloggers, I haven't lost interest in the medium or anything. And it wasn't a matter of not finding stuff to write up. Aw, let's just get the items and forget about it:

And the "Make up your bloody mind" award goes to Matthew Yglesias who, on the one hand, thought the terrorism futures market was abandoned. On the other: "No tears will be shed for Admiral Poindexter [the man who oversaw the program], who's closer to belonging in prison than in federal office." Closer to belonging in prison than in federal office?? Oh please. Say something already.

On California, I still think Gray Davis is gonna win it. If that's so, says Nicole Topham, then the California GOP will offer a new meaning for the word "toast." Matt Welch looks at his so far successful pander to the left. Nick Gillespie makes the case against Arnold. Daniel Weintraub has the play by play.

And that's it for me for a bit. I'm on vacation in Oregon for a week starting tomorrow. I may udate the site once or twice from there, but don't bank on it.

posted by Jeremy at 12:15 PM