Political Animal


DID JOHN LOTT FABRICATE A GUN USE SURVEY?….Here’s the latest on the John Lott gun-use survey controversy:

  • Julian Sanchez reports that someone wrote to Lott to say that he had been one of the respondents in Lott’s 1997 survey:

    In my responses to the survey question concerning the defensive use of a firearm I related that I had had two occasions to do so, once in my home in March of 1980 and once in a public place.

  • Tim Lambert reports that James Lindgren has spoken to this person and finds him credible.

This is helpful to Lott’s argument, although it would be nice to hear from one of the students who performed the survey, rather than a respondent. I’d also like to hear a better explanation of the “technical problems” that Lindgren discusses here. Lindgren concludes that about 25 people reported defensive gun use in Lott’s survey, and then remarks that if only 2% actually fired the weapon this works out to half a person. Lott actually breaks this down further, saying that three-fourths of the shooters fired warning shots and only one-fourth fired at a person. That’s one-eighth of a person.

This kind of thing certainly smells like cooked data, so it’s reasonable for suspicions to be raised. We’ll just have to wait and see if more evidence or better explanations are forthcoming.


NO MISSION TO MARS?….Last Friday I commented on an LA Times article that said NASA was accelerating plans to build nuclear powered spacecraft, with the intention of using the technology for a manned mission to Mars.

Today in SpaceDaily Bruce Moomaw says the Times got the story wrong:

Brian Berger reports in “Space News” that an official who has seen NASA’s Fiscal Year 2004 budget request confirms that there will be a considerable expansion of the [nuclear propulsion] program: “There is significant money in the budget for Prometheus….more than I expected to see.”

However, this ? to put it mildly ? is not the same thing as saying that NASA plans to try to develop a very large nuclear rocket engine capable of launching a manned ship to Mars within a decade.

….[NASA Administrator Sean] O’Keefe has spent the past year talking constantly about his hopes for a deep space mission using nuclear-powered propulsion within a decade or so ? while making it clear that he is talking about an unmanned, relatively small probe. NASA’s Nuclear Electric Propulsion program ? for which it included $46.5 million in its FY 2003 budget request ? would have been just such a system.

He’s got more on other developments at NASA too. Just click on the link.

VIRGINIA HEINLEIN….Robert Heinlein’s wife, Virginia,

VIRGINIA HEINLEIN….Robert Heinlein’s wife, Virginia, died quietly in her sleep Sunday morning, aged 86. She had been in the hospital since Thanksgiving, when she fell and broke her hip.

Originally Virginia Gerstenfeld (and generally known as Ginny), she married Heinlein in 1948, a year after he divorced his first wife. She has often been credited as a significant influence on Heinlein’s political views, not least by Isaac Asimov, who wrote in I. Asimov:

Furthermore, although a flaming liberal during the war, Heinlein became a rock-ribbed far-right conservative immediately afterward. This happened at just the time he changed wives from a liberal woman, Leslyn, to a rock-ribbed far-right conservative woman, Virginia.

….I can’t explain Heinlein [as someone who simply echoes another person’s views], for I cannot believe he would follow his wives’ opinions blindly. I used to brood about it in puzzlement (of course, I never would have dreamed of asking Heinlein ? I’m sure he would have refused to answer, and would have done so with the uttermost hostility), and I did come to one conclusion. I would never marry anyone who did not generally agree with my political, social, and philosophical view of life.

After Robert’s death in 1988 Virginia moved from their home in California to Florida, where she lived with her cat Snowy. She occasionally visited fan newsgroups, where she was reportedly gracious and informal.

The best portrait of Virginia Heinlein I’ve read is Robert Heinlein’s own in Tramp Royale, a memoir of a round-the-world trip they took in 1954. Here are the opening paragraphs:

My wife Ticky is an anarchist-individualist….When she was in the Navy during the early ‘forties she showed up one morning in proper uniform but with her red hair held down by a simple navy-blue band ? a hair ribbon. It was neat (Ticky is always neat) and it suited the rest of her outfit esthetically, but it was undeniably a hair ribbon and her division officer had fits.

“If you can show me,” Ticky answered with simple diginity, “where it says one word in the Navy Uniform Regulations on the subject of hair ribbons, I’ll take it off. Otherwise not.”

See what I mean? She doesn’t have the right attitude.

Tramp Royale makes it pretty clear that his relationship with Virginia was a model for many of the relationships in his later books, especially those written after 1980. In fact, the conversational style of Tramp Royale appears to be transplanted almost whole in books like The Cat Who Walks Through Walls and The Number of the Beast.

Virginia Doris Gerstenfeld was born in 1916 to George and Jeanne Gerstenfeld and raised in Brooklyn. During World War II she entered the navy as a WAVE ? eventually advancing to the rank of lieutenant ? and met Heinlein while both were working at the Naval Air Experimental Station in Philadelphia. After the war Heinlein moved back to Los Angeles, and in 1946 Virginia followed him there, enrolling in an advanced degree program at UCLA.

In 1947 Heinlein’s first marriage ended in divorce, and after California’s mandatory waiting period was over Robert and Ginny were married in New Mexico on October 21, 1948. According to Catherine Crook de Camp, “Ginny was just the sort of companion Robert needed, as I realized the first time I met her. A well-balanced, hard-working, gracious young woman, she was totally dedicated to Robert’s welfare. Her love and care, without a doubt, added many years to his life.”

In 1949 Heinlein described his wife as an “organic chemist and bio-chemist by trade ? and superlative kitchen chemist now that she is out of the lab. She is red headed and quite much of an athlete ? four letters in college ? and could probably lick me in a fair fight.”

Shortly after their marriage the Heinleins moved to Colorado Springs, where they lived for 17 years. In 1965, after Virginia’s health problems relating to altitude sickness had gone from intermittent to chronic, they moved to the Bonny Doon area of the mountains near Santa Cruz, California. In 1988, after Robert’s death, Virginia moved to Atlantic Beach, Florida.

Virginia Heinlein had one brother, Leon, who died in 1984. Robert and Virginia Heinlein had no children.

Lowest-scoring 1st halvesPts.TeamsDate57 New York vs.

Lowest-scoring 1st halves
Pts. Teams Date
57  New York vs. Miami  Jan. 20, 2003 
57  Detroit vs. Denver  Nov. 16, 2003 
58  Dallas vs. Indiana  Feb. 13. 1998 
58  Ft. Wayne vs. Syracuse  Jan. 25, 1955 
59  Dallas vs. New York  Dec. 22, 1997 
59  Miami vs. Orlando  Apr. 22, 1999 

BACK TO THE FUTURE….The Knicks and the Heat scored a combined 57 points in the first half in their game tonight. That’s just piss poor basketball.

But the cool thing is that according to the table that accompanies the CNN story, they tied a record that will be set later this year in a game between Detroit and Denver!

Place your bets, gentlemen!