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

You've stumbled upon the website of Jeremy Lott. (To learn more about me, go here.) I can be reached at JEREMYAL123 -- AT -- YAHOO.COM.


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wMonday, June 12, 2006

AND BY 'BACK' I MEANT...: OK, so now I have a new book out and I've set up a site to promote it. The title of the book is In Defense of Hypocrisy and the title of the site is JeremyLott.net.

posted by Jeremy at 2:21 PM

wSunday, February 12, 2006

NEW SITE: I'll be back here, I think, before too long. But right now I'm spending most of my energy blogging at 4pundits and looking for a way to salvage my New York Press column.

posted by Jeremy at 11:44 PM

wWednesday, February 01, 2006

GUNS, HOLD THE BUTTER: So it looks like my writing for the New York Press is turning into a regular gig. This week, I believe I did the impossible. I wrote a story about Canadian politics that Americans may be willing to read:

On Saturday the 21st, reports of gunfire drew police to an apartment containing a dying cabdriver named Ashok Malhotra. Witnesses saw two men, Jose Antonio Barajas and Ishtiaq Hussain, flee the scene. This homicide was Richmond, California’s first of the year and a new chief of police had just been sworn in, so the hunt was on.

It ended last Tuesday 900 miles from the scene of the crime, at the Peace Arch border crossing near Blaine, Washington, with the perps just a yard shy of home free. Barajas and Hussain had pulled into a rest stop along I-5 when a police officer matched them with the APB and tried to collar them. They gave him the slip, sped toward the Canadian border at over 100 mph, and plowed into several American police cars before a strategically aimed van brought them up short. They then tried to hoof it, but cops shot Hussain in the leg and tackled Barajas.

Here’s the kicker: When the Americans turned around to ask their Canadian counterparts, “How do you like that, eh?” they could hear the crickets chirping. More that 40 Canadian customs officers had abandoned their posts to avoid the conflict. Which made good sense, given that the Americans (cops and crooks both) were the only ones who had guns.

The story made slight impress south of the 49th parallel, but for many Canadians it captured everything that is wrong with their government’s approach to public order. The border officials weren’t cowards, just sane men. A spokesman for their union asked: What were they supposed to do? Throw their flashlights at the invaders?

posted by Jeremy at 2:01 PM

wSaturday, January 28, 2006

EVIDENCE THAT I HAVEN'T BEEN DRINKING NEARLY ENOUGH: So tonight the bartender at the Nuthouse, my regular bar/restaurant/office/haunt while in Lynden sees me getting ready to leave and says, "You're not walking home again, are you?"

posted by Jeremy at 11:12 PM

wFriday, January 27, 2006


To call that an understatement is an understatement.

posted by Jeremy at 8:13 PM

wWednesday, January 25, 2006


A is B

posted by Jeremy at 1:53 PM


OFF TO THE RACES: So my latest New York Press column is a survey of the field of candidates for House majority leader:

Before we wade into the race for new House majority leader, please, a moment of silence for the awesome sophistry of Tom DeLay. In the midst of a spending binge that makes those Roman emperors more prone to bread and circuses look like tightwads, he declared an “ongoing victory” in the war on pork and said that “after 11 years of Republican majority we pared [the budget] down pretty good.”

DeLay lasted as long as he did in House leadership because of his shamelessness and his understanding of the absolute necessity of spin. He forced out Newt Gingrich as speaker and then, rather than pick up that lightning rod himself, handed it over to the well-insulated Denny Hastert. He worked to marginalize Democrats through redistricting, pork-barreling and requiring that lobbyists hire more Republicans if they wanted to buy into the federal poker game. Even his mug shot was calculated to infuriate Democratic consultants. It’s hard to use a picture in negative campaign spots when the indicted is well coiffed and grinning from ear to ear.

The House Republicans might have brazened this one out, and thought very hard about doing so. They first changed the rules to allow DeLay to stay on if indicted, but then changed them back. With reason: Odds are, he’ll beat the rap. The alleged violations of campaign finance laws are Byzantine, it took two grand juries to produce an indictment, and DeLay’s lawyers have already got several of the charges dismissed. But Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s plea bargain pushed D.C.’s moral panic button in an election year, which finally finished him off.

DeLay called it quits in early January, and three congressmen stepped forward to run for his job. When members come back from recess, they’ll be forced to choose from three distinct types of leader that I’ve decided to call the Tortoise, the Hare and the Square

posted by Jeremy at 1:08 PM

wSaturday, January 14, 2006

GOT A LIGHT?: So I had a column in the New York Press this week on smoking bans, in D.C. and, well, everywhere, really. Give it a read and please drop the Press a line to ask what the hell they were thinking publishing this Jeremy Lott fella:

It was one of those rare moments that make following politics so rewarding. Earlier this month, the D.C. City Council passed on an 11 to 1 vote a fairly sweeping smoking ban. Mayor Anthony Williams decided to continue his Hamlet routine by announcing that he couldn’t decide whether or not to veto the law "on principle." [more]

posted by Jeremy at 11:19 AM

wMonday, January 02, 2006

SAD NEW YEAR: One of the things that I've learned through painful experience is that my sense of things is completely, utterly, massively, and a bunch of other ly's different from the intuitions of most people.

Case in point: the Douglas Coupland quote below. Everyone who has read it and remarked upon it has called it "depressing."


The things I like about it is the honesty. The character has come to a place where he truly knows himself. And he isn't wild about what he sees. He realizes that the important thing to know about the self is that you're not that all important in the larger scheme of things.

And he sees that there is some higher purpose to all this because, well, there must be. Otherwise what's the point?

That seems right to me. So my New Year's resolution is to do a better job of remembering that I qua I do not matter all that much.

posted by Jeremy at 2:35 PM


THE COG IN DOUTHAT'S MACHINE: While he was filling in for Andrew Sullivan as the wonderblogger finished his latest book, Ross Douthat (whose dayjob is at The Atlantic) linked to my long-ago Reason feature story on the Christian Culture Industry. I tell you, it's the piece that just won't go away. People continue to bring it up at parties, years later. Now if somebody would only give me a book contract to do the subject up proper...

posted by Jeremy at 2:33 PM

wThursday, December 22, 2005

IF IT'S BROKE: I know your eyes probably glaze over when you see most long quotes but give this one a go. From Douglas Coupland's Life After God:

... This is not to say my life is bad. I know it isn't...but my life is not what I expected it might have been when I was younger. Maybe you yourself deal with this issue better than me. Maybe you have been lucky enough to never have inner voices question you about your own path -- or maybe you answered the questioning and came out on the other side. I don't feel sorry for myself in any way. I am merely coming to grips with what I know the world is truly like.

Sometimes I want to go to sleep and merge with the foggy world of dreams and not return to this, our real world. Sometimes I look back on my life and am surprised at the lack of kind things I have done. Sometimes I just feel that there must be another road that can be walked -- away from this became -- either against my will or by default.

Now -- here is my secret:

I tell it to you with the openness of heart that I doubt I shall ever achieve again, so I pray that you are in a quiet room as you hear these words. My secret is that I need God -- that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem to be capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.

posted by Jeremy at 6:43 PM

wTuesday, December 20, 2005

SPIKE THIS: The American Spectator today has my review of Robert Pinsky's The Life of David. As a whole, the book is so-so, but then there's this bit:

The scene is both comical and deadly serious. Israel's first great king is fleeing from Jerusalem -- David has left the City of David -- along with his armies and scores of loyal able-bodied followers, to avoid giving his son Absalom an easy target. The hot-headed prince has declared himself the new sovereign and aims to do to his father what he had already done to the king's eldest son and likely heir: to kill him and take his place and rank.

When David's procession comes to the settlement of Bahurim, they encounter an energetic heckler. Shimei is a member of the house of the late King Saul, and he is none too happy about the sometimes brutal way that David has dealt with the family of his predecessor. The man "came forth and cursed still as he came. And he cast stones at David and at all the servants of King David: and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left." Shimei called the fleeing king a "man of Belial" and said that David was only reaping the fruit of his own actions. God was now turning his favor from the king, "because thou art a bloody man."

In The Life of David, former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky sees David's reaction to Shimei as a turning point in the attempted coup. One of David's soldiers asks his liege why he allows the half-mad rock-thrower to chatter on and requests permission to "go over" and "take off his head." The unpredictable king stays his soldier's sword. He orders, "[L]et him alone and let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him. It may be that the Lord will look on mine affliction, and that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day."

Pinsky puts on his literary critic cap and explains that in the "curving, secret logic of all narrative...this moment of restraint is like an assurance that David will triumph over the rebellion." From the perspective of pure statecraft, "David knows that the spectacle of the unseemly cursing will create his moment of sympathy, a longing for a restoration of the king's dignity" by all of his followers. In a sense, their dignity is bound up in his, and they will now fight harder to win it back.

posted by Jeremy at 9:54 PM

wSunday, December 18, 2005

BANDOW ... BOTHER: A scan of fellow bloggers from a certain free market think tank has so far come up blank in the matter of Doug Bandow. Not that I blame them. The whole thing is just too damn depressing for words. I like Doug and so did nearly everybody else in the building. Here's hoping that he lands on his feet, once his knee has a chance to heal.

posted by Jeremy at 2:01 PM

wSaturday, December 03, 2005

THE SEAGULLS KNOW THE TRUTH OF IT / AND SCREAM IT OVERHEAD: He's been around the block a few times but I don't think I heard a David Gray song until I caught "The One I Love" on a sampler about a month ago. It's a beautiful number about a guy getting shot and dying. Think of "Last Kiss" except a) the Eddie Vedder character is the one slipping away and b) Gray has a better voice.

The tone of the song really cuts agains the subject matter. It took a few casual doing-other-things-type listens until I figured out what "As the tracer glides / In its graceful arc" was talking about.

So I ordered the album, Life in Slow Motion, half expecting that "The One I Love" would be the only good song. Happy to report that my pessimism went unrewarded.

There are quite a few memorable songs and Gray's vocal performances are decent. He manages to pull off things that I would find annoying in other singers. For instance, he occasionally rhymes words that don't rhyme with each other:

A bucketful of Babylon
A belly full of hate
Go to sleep my one true love
And may your dreams be sweet

Overall, the album is memorable not because it plumbs Gray's depths but because he turns the focus outward. On his website, Gray explained that with the last album A New Day At Midnight, "I'd taken the personal as far as I cared to go."

Instead of telling us about his own experience, he tried to get into other people's heads. Every song in this CD is from the perspective of a different character. You have the dying but settled whisperer of "The One I Love" --

Don't see Elysium
Don't see no fiery hell
Just the lights up bright baby
In the bay hotel

-- the apocalyptic chanter of "Nos da Cariad" --

The sun above the cotton grass
Is sinking down like lead
The seagulls know the truth of it
And scream it overhead
Hold on to St. Christopher
The sky is murderous red

-- and the cynical singer of "Ain't No Love," with the honest refrain "This ain't no love that's guiding me."

Lyrics are only one part of music, but the lyrics and the tunes of Life in Slow Motion go well together. It's a haunting album that manages to get at depth through distance.

posted by Jeremy at 2:47 AM


HI THERE: Ugh, Yahoo is down again, and Eve Tushnet doesn't have comments fields (not that I blame her or anything), so this is probably the best place to say something that isn't said often enough: the girl's just brilliant. I'm sorry that in my tenure at the American Spectator, I only managed to get one article out of her.

posted by Jeremy at 2:26 AM

wFriday, December 02, 2005

BOTHER: It looks like I've got myself a stalker (to wit). Well, it's a free country. As long as he keeps his distance, I'll deal. I mean, if Will Wilkinson has to put up with monkyboy, I suppose I should count my blessings.

posted by Jeremy at 10:41 PM

wWednesday, November 30, 2005

ANOTHER SATISFIED CUSTOMER: A show of hands, please. How many writers out there just hate dealing with stupid liberal readers? Every so often, one such will write to call me a hack or an ignoramus or a monster, based on something he's misread in a piece. I find that all attempts at explanation fail, because he doesn't really want to understand. Here's how I ended the most recent exchange:

You wrote to me because you wanted to vent. Now you've done that and you've spectacularly misread my review and my views about a lot of things. I'm not going to
correct you on these things because you reach for absurdist conclusions based upon an inflexible ideology.

I write to try to understand. You write to try to show everybody how smart you are. I'm not convinced. Write to somebody else.

posted by Jeremy at 2:13 PM

wTuesday, November 29, 2005

HERE COMES THE SUN: As I've been writing away on the book it's dawned on me that this is the last gasp of my largely misspent youth. I don't know how it will be received but I think that when some readers work through it they may realize only a young man would attempt such a thing. If I pull it off, the artistic achievement will be due largely to the brashness of youth and the young man's refusal to defer to received wisdom. And once this is over, that's it.

I'm sure I'll write more books, maybe even better books. But in terms of ambition and wordplay, you shall not see its like again. I'll get as close to the sun as I dare with this one.

posted by Jeremy at 11:20 PM

wSaturday, November 26, 2005

CONJECTURES AND REFUTATIONS: I'll be quite busy for the next few days. Might post, might not. If you're just dying for new material, I weighed in on a few comment threads of the blog of my pseudo-roommate* Dave Weigel. Here I mount a defense of right wing media critic Tim Graham's non-dumbness and here I say that Iraq may have hurt our ability to wage future wars whether or not Bush lied us into it. Also, I tried to pick a fight over at Gene Healy's blog about economics and religion. So far, no takers. Finally, I disagreed with one small point by Tim Lee but pretty much agreed with the larger point that congressional Republicans are scum. (Though, you know, the lesser scum.)

posted by Jeremy at 2:35 AM

wThursday, November 24, 2005

SOMETHING TO BE THANKFUL FOR: You didn't have to write this. I threw a Thanksgiving number together in an hour or so at the request of the powers-that-be in my extended family to add to the festivities. We'll see how the reading goes:

Thanksgiving, by Fits and Starts

Thanksgiving is something old and something new. Traditionally, the first Thanksgiving has been traced back to the Pilgrims in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in the fall of 1621, but there are earlier recorded large-scale celebrations of collective thanks to God for his blessings in what would become the United States of America.

Spokesmen in Florida, Virginia, and even Texas have all made the claim that people from their locales were really the first to give thanks. Massachusetts has jealously guarded its claim to number one. This year, the state attorney general threatened to bring criminal charges against a supermarket chain if it remained open today.

Anyway, about the Pilgrims' Thanksgiving. Just over 100 colonists arrived from Holland during the winter of 1620, very far north of where they had planned to land, on the western shore of Cape Cod Bay. The climate of Plymouth was not the greatest and at the end of the harsh winter half the Pilgrims were dead from cold, disease, and starvation. If they didn't bring in a bumper crop in 1621, they would have had to disband the colony and look for supplies and a better settlement.

For expertise on what to grow and how to grow it, new leader William Bradford turned to the Wampanoag "Indians" who told colonists what to plant, how to cultivate the ground, that sort of thing. On the advice of natives, the colonists grew ear upon ear of corn.

Farming wasn't the only thing that sustained them. They also learned how to fish for cod and to hunt local game. Wild turkeys, in particular, were then plentiful and easy to hit.

Come fall, the Puritans had one heck of a crop of corn and fish and other foodstuffs. Bradford declared a festival day to give thanks to God and invited several members of the Wampanoag to the three day celebration. They all ate plenty of corn, cod, turkey, and, I'm sure, cranberry salad.*

Pilgrims held other days of thanksgiving but it wasn't an annual occurrence. They held Thanksgiving-type feasts when things had gone well and there was a good crop to be thankful for. When things didn't go so well, they declared fasts, which might not be the worst advice for tomorrow.

President George Washington declared a "national day of Thanksgiving" in 1789 but it took President Lincoln to declare a permanent holiday in 1863, and people have been putting on five pounds in November ever since.

Lincoln decided that Thanksgiving should be celebrated in the final Thursday of November. It continued to be held on that day until President Franklin Roosevelt pushed it back a week in 1939.

Thanksgiving is much more than a nationalistic holiday because its roots predate the American nation. It goes back to our first colonists, and the people who were part of the land before that play more than a bit part. Lincoln issued his Thanksgiving proclamation in the middle of the Civil War but he tried to at least pretend that it wasn't propaganda.

The year that was almost over, Lincoln wrote, had been full of material blessings in the midst of hardship. The fields were "fruitful" and the skies remained "healthful" (i.e. temperate). He said that these "bounties" are so "constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come."

Lincoln expressed gratitude that the war and taxes that fueled the war effort "have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe ha[s] enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle field; and the country ... is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increases of freedom."

He continued:

"No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

"It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens."

To which I can only add, amen, and pass the mashed potatoes.

* Er, the Pilgrims didn't have cranberry salad, but it's an old family recipe and likely to get a laugh.

posted by Jeremy at 5:51 PM


THINGS TO BE BITTER ABOUT: Ah, Thanksgiving. Last year, I was stuck in D.C. for the holiday but back to Lynden in time for Christmas. This year it will be quite the reverse. Bother.

posted by Jeremy at 2:44 PM

wTuesday, November 22, 2005

THE PASSION OF THE ECONOMIST: The recent success of "economics explains everything" books has been a surprise. The most successful example of the genre, Freakonomics, really isn't much of a book, but it sold more copies than you can shake a growth curve at. And similar books (in subject matter, not quality) appear to be doing well. Witness the success of Tim Harford's The Undercover Economist. At this writing, it has climbed to number 164 on Amazon's sales rankings for books.

Harold Winter's Trade-Offs: An introduction to Economic Reasoning and Social Issues is of the same genre but hasn't done nearly as well as some other entries. That's a shame because it has a much more entertaining introduction:

Hello. My name is Harold Winter and I am a professor of economics at Ohio University. My main field of interest is economics of law, and my job description involves basically two things -- teaching and research. But as a bonus, I often get the opportunity to use economic reasoning to frighten people.

For example, a couple of years ago my mother was visiting me. I have a nice relationship with my mother, but we don't often talk about social issues. One night, however, she asked me what I had talked about in class that day. Usually I would have little to say about what I teach, especially when I am teaching formal economic theory courses. But that day was special: I was doing an independent reading course with a very bright student. We were reading a book about the American health care system written by an intense free-market-oriented legal scholar. In one of the chapters we discussed that day, the author argued that it may be sensible social policy to allow overworked emergency rooms to refuse care to patients who couldn't pay or who didn't have insurance. As I told my mother about this, I went into "professor mode" and ranted on for about ten minutes, showing her my passion for economic reasoning. When I was finished, she had a scared look in her eyes and then simply said, "You're a monster!"

posted by Jeremy at 5:17 PM

wMonday, November 21, 2005

MORE HYPOCRITICAL THAN EVER: The book is coming along. I have a rough cut of the first four chapters. That gives me two weeks to finish the two chapters before I blast off, and then I'll write the conclusion from D.C. For some reason, that seems like a far better environment to put down my final thoughts about hypocrisy.

posted by Jeremy at 11:26 PM


KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES? PROVE IT: This piece grew out of a false start in one of the chapters for my book. Never got around to placing it anywhere but I though readers might enjoy. So, here it is:

Trending Downward

The trend story has become a staple of modern journalism. Reporters use anecdotes together with the opinions of experts and what data are available to track change across society. The point is to announce a new "trend." These stories tell us about new diets that are sweeping the nation ("Eat Fat, Lose Weight"), the latest drug scares ("Glue Is the New Crack"), employment and investment fads ("Gen-Xers Work Less, Save Less"), political movements ("The Aging Youth Vote"), and shifts in religion or social mores.

Trend stories are often mocked because they lack scientific rigor. To many critics, they seem more like bad creative writing than insightful journalism. Slate media columnist Jack Shafer routinely holds such articles up to ridicule. "Bogus trend stories," he explained, "combine low-budget sociology, cheap thinking, sweeping generalizations, available anecdotes, and audience pandering to fatten readers with idiocy." So: lock and load.

What prompted those particular remarks by Shafer was the publication the other week of an article in the financial section of USA Today. The piece tried to grasp at the expectations and career ambitions of young workers that are part of the demographic group labeled Generation Y. It argued that those expectations are likely to reshape the workplace to allow much greater flexibility in hours, dress, and location.

Now, there were two different ways that one could have read the piece. You could do what Shafer did and complain about the generational clichés and overgeneralizations that author Stephanie Armour employed to fill out a large canvass (USA Today: "[N]early half of employers say that younger employees are dismissive of their older co-workers." Shafer: "What rising generation didn't hate the previous generation?"). Or you could read it as I suspect many people read trend stories, as food for thought, something that is worth pondering but not necessarily authoritative.

Me? I pity the poor trend writers. It isn't easy to interpret the decisions of millions of people in a way that is both timely and not open to serious challenge. On balance, I'd rather live in a world with trend stories than in a world in which us lowly journalists were too afraid to try to wrestle a slippery truth to the ground.

And of course some trends are more open to verification than others. Proving that more parents are successfully feeding their children broccoli these days is difficult, but it could probably be done. You could look at demographics and broccoli sales over a long period, and survey a large but random sampling of parents about their children's eating habits. You'd have pretty good proof of a trend, if one existed.

On the other hand, take adultery. Could you gauge how often it actually occurs? People are not above lying to pollsters or even to fudging answers on survey questionnaires, and the fear and guilt that are built into the topic are incentives to be less than forthcoming. Any counts of the incidence of adultery are likely massive undercounts.

Reporters often have to use some guesswork to fill in the gaps. They string anecdotes together with inconclusive evidence and the testimony of people who know something about the subject, and then they take their best guess (i.e., "Mother's Little Helper," "The New Monogamy") and make the case for why that is plausible. Occasionally, this process yields up valuable new insights. Failing that, trend stories often amuse. They've survived in spite of heavy criticism because readers are interested in how things change.

posted by Jeremy at 7:17 PM

wThursday, November 17, 2005

THE FIRST RULE OF FIGHT PLAYGROUP IS: Do yourself a favor. Go to Brooke Oberwetter's blog and read this post all the way to the end.

posted by Jeremy at 1:34 PM