Sunday, July 06, 2008


It is easy enough to make fun of the lack of intellectual integrity of buffoons such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. They are nothing more than wind-up toys, symbolizing the principle GIGO (Garbage In Garbage Out). More worrisome are those like Michelle Malkin who pretend intellectual integrity, yet are little more than racist creeps, given a veneer of respectability by appearing on TV. It is easy enough to dismiss Malkin and others such as her - Katherine Lopez, Debbie Schussel, Pam "Atlas" - once one gets past the fact they offer little more than do such radio blabbers as Limbaugh and Hannity.

No, what follows concerns the attempt by the right to put a serious, academic legitimacy to what is, in fact, crap. This particular post was actually going to reach far in to the distant past, The Bell Curve. Lucky for me, though, I found this post as Daily Kos that details the career of John Lott, Jr. Lott was a University of Chicago economist who made his bones on the right with an argument that crime reduction correlated with carry-to-conceal laws and. He was bolstered with his internet campaign to get his message out by one of his former students, Mary Rosh.

Except, there was no such person. She was a creation of Lott's fervent imagination, used by him to create the impression that he actually had support.

Now, this little bit of fakery does not mean his thesis is wrong. That needs to considered on the merits of the evidence. Right?
Other people were unable to find the results he cited when looking at the same numbers, leaving many people to believe that he had gotten to his conclusions through the application of a great deal of fudge.

When someone publishes something, in Lott's case in a book, it becomes fodder for other researchers. That's the way theories are tested; unfortunately for Lott, other researchers looked at the same data and did not come to the same conclusions as Lott. Had one or two done so, one might argue the data is inconclusive. Yet, it seems clear that Lott was a fabulist, a fancy way of saying he was pulling this stuff out of his ass. Among the arguments in his Freedomnomics, which was released a year ago, and detailed by the Kos diarist:
* The expansion of the federal and state governments, along with increases in both taxes and regulation, can be traced, not to war or economic turmoil, but to giving women the right to vote.

* Abortion caused an increase in crime -- including a rise in murder as much as 7% (the real culprit is sexual freedom).

* Problems of corruption, such as Enron, occur because there is too much government regulation.

* Another factor in the rise of crime is affirmative action, which has ruined our nation's police forces.

* Price gouging during a disaster is good for the economy.

For years, conservatives have been waging a battle against higher education, claiming it is infiltrated by traitorous liberals poisoning the minds of our impressionable young people. At the same time, they have featured various academics who attempt to use sophisticated language to make a silk purse out of the sow's ear of contemporary American conservative ideology. The worse aspect of the Lott story is not that he is an intellectual fraud given props because he has a Ph. D. The worst part of this whole story is that he was unmasked as a fraud years ago, yet is still given a platform from which to perpetuate this fraud.

Is it any wonder some young Americans wonder why we have a holiday on the fourth of July when conservative "intellectuals" are given free rein to lie like this?

Virtual Tin Cup

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