Political Animal


MAYBE I COULD PICK UP A COUPLE OF THOSE SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS FOR HIM?….Wow, Paul Krugman got paid $50,000 for overseas speaking engagements? And he says he used to do this “a lot.” So figure, what? Ten gigs a year? Twenty? That’s pretty good money either way!

But now he doesn’t do it anymore because the New York Times won’t let him. His income from the Times is “very nice,” but it does involve a “substantial income cut” since he had to give up the speaking. I’ll bet.

You know, I think it might be fun to write a New York Times column, death threats and all, but would I give up a million dollars a year for it? We’re never likely to find out, but I have a feeling I might turn out to be not quite as good a little liberal as Paul Krugman….

MORE ON GUNS….As long as

MORE ON GUNS….As long as we’re on the subject of guns, Glenn Reynolds complained a few days ago about a Washington Monthly article by Brent Kendall that criticizes Republicans for weakening the enforcement of gun laws. After spending an entire post complaining that the headline writer called John Allen Muhammad’s gun a “sniper rifle” instead of an “assault rifle,” the next day we get to the meat of his complaint: he says the article writer thinks the gun shot those folks in D.C. all by itself without any help from Muhammad!

Yeah, yeah. Of course, the article says nothing of the sort, it simply uses the D.C. sniper case as an anecdotal lead-in to a story about how the power of the BATF to enforce existing gun laws has been systematically gutted over the past couple of decades. “I don’t know if this is true,” Glenn says, but then quotes a long letter from Dave Kopel saying, well, it is true, but for good reason:

The important thing that the Wash. Monthly leaves out from its description of why Congress limited BATF’s enforcement powers was BATF’s egregious abuse of civil liberties under FOPA.

….The fundamental thing wrong with the article is that he complains that the sniper shootings were caused by the Republicans/NRA because BATF didn’t shut down [the] Bulls Eye [gun shop]. (Of course there’s the absurd presumption that the killers would not have been able to obtain a gun from another store, or from somewhere else.) But if Bulls Eye is in fact guilty of everything that the author charges, then BATF had full power to have Bulls Eye’s FFL revoked.

But that’s exactly what the article said: BATF doesn’t have the funding, authority, or (apparently) the competence to enforce the law. Unfortunately, Glenn seems to think that’s OK. With a trademark “Indeed,” Glenn then excerpts this comment from a reader:

Maybe Mr. Kendall ought to consider the possibility that an awful lot of us find the idea of more “felony record-keeping charges” a lot scarier than the occasional armed nut.

Usually conservatives feel that if people are getting away with criminal activity, the answer is stronger law enforcement. But not when it comes to guns. In this one case, apparently, the occasional armed gun nut is just the price we pay.

Gun enthusiasts keep telling us that what we really need to do is enforce existing laws, not create new ones. Then shouldn’t we reform the BATF and give them the power and funding they need to enforce the law? Or do we only do that for laws that we like?


GUN SCHOLARSHIP….THE ENTIRE FIELD SEEMS TO HAVE A CREDIBILITY PROBLEM….Megan McArdle points to a post at Extra Ordinary Ideas with more gun scholarship news: apparently John Lott, author of More Guns, Less Crime, fabricated a survey that he used in his book.

Lott wrote in his book, ?If national surveys are correct, 98 percent of the time that people use guns defensively, they merely have to brandish a weapon to break off an attack.? But it turns out that the 98% figure includes warning shots and missed shot. Oops.

But, really, no big deal, right? It didn’t ruin his thesis, it just made him look slightly sloppy. Apologize, correct the error, and move on.

But no. Apparently he is now claiming that the 98% figure comes from his own survey. Who did the survey? Students. Which students? He doesn’t remember. Any phone records? No, the students called from their home phones. Funding? He paid for it out of his own pocket. Computer records? Lost in a hard drive crash. Handwritten data? Lost when he moved out of his office at Yale University.

Megan comes to the proper conclusion, of course, which is that this kind of thing can’t be tolerated regardless of who does it, but she also states:

Of course, the left will jump on it and say it’s just as bad as Bellesiles. I’ve no doubt that many will have some interesting reason why it’s actually worse.

Well, hell, I’ll take her up on that! One thing that makes it worse is that Lott’s book is cited specifically as proof that certain types of gun laws are bad. The Bellesiles fraud, conversely, was in a work of history about American “gun culture” and was not overtly advocating any particular policy.

But the real lesson here is the lengths that people will go to just to keep from admitting to a mistake, even a fairly small one. Honestly, is it really that soul wrenching to confess that you misread a statistic in someone else’s study?

UPDATE: I long ago decided that there was probably not one single evenhanded study in the entire literature on gun control, so I decided to simply stay agnostic on the whole empirical question of whether guns cause crime, prevent crime, or have no relation at all to crime. However, for those interested in a rebuttal to Lott’s work, you can find one here.

TAXING SPAM….Marie Gryphon says:Every market

TAXING SPAM….Marie Gryphon says:

Every market liberal should be allowed one heterodoxy. Mine is telemarketers. I absolutely hate them. Telemarketers should be rounded up, denied their procedural due process rights, and shipped to Guantanamo Bay to room with Al-Qaeda.

OK, I’ll go along with that. But how about some market orthodoxy to deal with a very similar problem: spam.

Here’s my plan: in order to make up for George Bush’s $600 billion Martha Stewart Bailout Plan, how about if we implement a tax of 1 cent per email for all email sent to U.S. destinations? I figure this will either (a) wipe out the federal deficit and fund Social Security through the 23rd century or (b) put spammers out of business. I’m OK with either result.

I don’t imagine that this is even technically feasible (“technical” in the usual geek sense, not “technical” in the tax wonk sense), but it would be nice if it were.