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Richard Henry Morgan - 1/2/2004

Josh, I'm sorry I missed your post, and am only now getting around to addressing it. I agree they reserved impeachment for "high crimes and misdemeanors", what they didn't do was restrict "high crimes and misdemeanors" to official acts, or acts against the state. As you'll note from the Constitution, the convention later dropped the phrase "against the state", before approving the final document.

The historians' (the ad was written and signed by Wilentz, Schlesinger, and Woodward) mistake goes beyond the fact that you can't attribute the specific intent of one or more of the delegates, to all the delegates -- "high crimes and misdemeanors" is not an empty vessel filled solely by those concerns explicitly addressed in convention, it has a meaning of its own.

One might think, by looking at the convention sequence above, that "high crimes and misdemeanors" did not include "maladministration". Not so. Madison opposed trial by the Senate for "high crimes and misdemeanors" for the same reason he opposed trial by the Senate for "maladministration". In fact, at the Virginia ratification convention, Madison claimed that "high crimes and misdemeanors" included "maladministation". If one is to read the scope of "high crimes and misdemeanors" from the comments of the Framers, then Madison's comment that it would include any misdemeanor ("misdemeanor", by the usage of the times, not being restricted to a crime, but including mere "misbehaviour") would seem to run against the historians' interpretation (hoist by their own petard). That the scope was broader than the historians would suggest is reinforced by the comment by James Iredell, counsel in the landmark case of Singleton v. Baird (which established the principle of judicial review at the state level -- Marshall in Marbury v. Madison stated that the Marbury case merely recognized what had already been established) and later a justice of the US Supreme Court; Iredell stated at the NC ratification that the President could be impeached for merely associating with the wrong people.

The three historians and their 400-odd co-signers have offered us not even an interpretation of original intent, but an interpretation of original specific intent of a subset of the Framers. Try applying such a principle to, say, the commerce clause, or (later, with different framers) the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, and see what kind of world you would be living in.

In a later letter in Salon, they address the House Managers' response. Reference is made to Federalist 65. But Hamilton, technically, wasn't even a Framer -- his anti-Federalist comrades from NY abandoned the convention, and NY (and Hamilton) lost their votes -- he had no say in the final vote. Hamilton was, interestingly, the strongest supporter of the imperial presidency -- his ideas on Presidential power were rejected. It seems a stretch to say his Federalist opinion on impeachment (which embodied his imperial presidency concept) was reflective of the convention. In fact, there is no asterix at the end of the constitution saying "for all future disputes, please refer to the Federalist Papers". Moreover, in the South, the Federalist Papers were much less frequently printed, suggesting therefore that Hamilton's ideas could not be the basis for the ratifier understanding in that region.

Even Madison's Notes are problematic. They are unofficial, never having been endorsed by the Convention. They were incomplete. In fact, Madison admitted that they were later amended by memory. When the Constitution was ratified, and Congress was debating the applicability to a particlar question, Madison, at one point tried to refer back to comments made in Convention as a means of interpretation -- Gerry objected, and Madison conceded the point.

The theoretical problems of an interpretation of original intent aren't addressed by the three authors of the ad, or those who signed it. You see, most of the delegates, and most of the delegations, did not have plenary power. That's why they had to submit the document back to the state conventions for ratification. Original intent is profoundly undemocratic. The only originalism consistent with the political theory at work here is the originalism of original understanding of the ratifiers (also hard to determine).

The fact is the authors have not the foggiest idea of how to proceed with a constitutional interpretation -- or at least how to deal with the bogeyman of original specific intent.

Josh Greenland - 12/19/2003

You said the Framers didn't reserve impeachment for High Crimes and Misdemeanors. But it looks to me like they did, from what you quoted.

Here's what I mean:

"Col. MASON withdrew "maladministration" & substitutes "other high crimes & misdemesnors agst. the State"

"On the question thus altered

"N. H. ay. Mas. ay. Ct. ay. N. J. no. Pa. no. Del. no. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. ay. *13 Geo. ay. 14"

What am I missing?

- Josh

ps, I'm no legal or constitutional scholar, but "high crimes and misdemeanors" seems to take in almost all crimes, serious or petty. It doesn't seem like a restrictive phrase to me.

John G. Fought - 12/4/2003

And as we have learned, there is seldom a penalty for invoking nonexistent expertise even WITHIN a peer-reviewed journal.

Richard Henry Morgan - 12/4/2003

Ralph, I too have respect for Pauline Maier and Stanley Katz (and some others who signed), but not even their expertise in Revolutionary or Federal Era history amounts to an expertise in constitutional interpretation. All the more so for those like Skip Gates (a literary historian), and the University of Chicago historian of American homosexuality -- but perhaps I'm being too narrow-minded, and neglecting a unique gay perspective on the Constitution. I'm just amazed that so many (some don't amaze me at all) would put their signatures to such a false claim. I'm amazed until I realize that there is no penalty in academia for invoking one's academic expertise in service of a false claim when that claim does not appear in a peer-reviewed journal. In fact, given the liberal tilt of academia, I suspect one actually gets stud points (invitations to speak, honoraria) for propounding false views if they dovetail with the liberal mindset.

As for impeachment, I don't believe he should have been impeached and convicted by Congress. I do believe that he should have been impeached by public opinion on the grounds of poor taste alone. I feel we are all diminished as Americans when foreigners are invited to conclude that our president is such a loser that he has to resort to poaching hummers from interns. I attribute it all to Clinton's upbringing -- he never grew up around hired help, and so he never had the opportunity to learn the first rule -- you don't screw the help.

Ralph Luker - 12/3/2003

Richard, Thanks for this. I've looked over the list of historians who co-signed the Clinton petition, however, and they are not just "the usual suspects." Stanley Katz, Pauline Meier, ... there are some very heavy hitters there. Surely you no longer believe, as you once may have, that a President should be impeached over the placement of his cigar.

Richard Henry Morgan - 12/3/2003

Knock me over with a feather!! Art Schlesinger and Sean Wilentz are at it again!! Perhaps somewhere there is a petition these two haven't signed. Goodwin is the beneficiary of their current campaign, Clinton the beneficiary of their previous one. In that previous one, as part of the 412 historians and as co-sponsors, they offered that "The Framers explicitly reserved that step [impeachment] for high crimes and misdemeanors in the exercise of executive power." The bracketed insert is mine. The claim is available at

Of course, the best way to put forward a claim about something said or written "explicitly" is simply to quote the words -- which would add great power, rhetorically, to the claim. There are no words quoted because, well, the Framers never "explicitly reserved" impeachment as Schlesinger and Wilentz claim.

The record of the Convention (to the extent that one can trust Madison's unofficial Notes) is clear, and is available at

The clause referring to the Senate, the trial of impeachments agst. the President, for Treason & bribery, was taken up. Col. MASON. Why is the provision restrained to Treason & bribery only? Treason as defined in the Constitution will not reach many great and dangerous offences. Hastings is not guilty of Treason. Attempts to subvert the Constitution may not be Treason as above defined. As bills of attainder which have saved the British Constitution are forbidden, it is the more necessary to extend: the power of impeachments. He movd. to add after "bribery" "or maladministration."

Mr. GERRY seconded him.

Mr. MADISON So vague a term will be equivalent to a tenure during pleasure of the Senate.

Mr. GOVr. MORRIS, it will not be put in force & can do no harm. An election of every four years will prevent maladministration.

Col. MASON withdrew "maladministration" & substitutes "other high crimes & misdemesnors agst. the State"

On the question thus altered

N. H. ay. Mas. ay. Ct. ay. N. J. no. Pa. no. Del. no. Md. ay. Va. ay. N. C. ay. S. C. ay. *13 Geo. ay. 14

Mr. MADISON, objected to a trial of the President by the Senate, especially as he was to be impeached by the other branch of the Legislature, and for any act which might be called a misdemesnor. The President under these circumstances was made improperly dependent. He would prefer the Supreme Court for the trial of impeachments, or rather a tribunal of which that should form a part.

Mr. GOVr. MORRIS thought no other tribunal than the Senate could be trusted. The supreme Court were too few in number and might be warped or corrupted. He was agst. a dependence of the Executive on the Legislature, considering the Legislative tyranny the great danger to be apprehended; but there could be no danger that the Senate would say untruly on their oaths that the President was guilty of crimes or facts, especially as in four years he can be turned out.

Mr. PINKNEY disapproved of making the Senate the Court of Impeachments, as rendering the President too dependent on the Legislature. If he opposes a favorite law, the two Houses will combine agst. him, and under the influence of heat and faction throw him out of office.

Mr. WILLIAMSON thought there was more danger of too much lenity than 15 too much rigour towards the President, considering the number of cases in which the Senate was associated with the President.

Mr. SHERMAN regarded the Supreme Court as improper to try the President, because the Judges would be appointed by him.

On motion by Mr. MADISON to strike out the words — "by the Senate" after the word "conviction"

N. H. no. Mas. no. Ct. no. N. J. no. Pa. ay. Del. no. Md. no. Va. ay. N. C. no. S. C. no. Geo. no. 16


Several points are clear. Madison tried to have the "high crimes and misdemeanors" standard abandoned because it would put the Executive at the mercy of the Senate ('misdemeanors' not being restricted to offical misconduct). Williamson disagreed, saying it was better that way. The Convention sided with Williamson, either because they thought Madison's interpretation strained, or his proffered consequences unlikely.

Granted, earlier in the convention they had toyed with impeachment solely on the explicitly listed grounds of several modes of official misconduct. And granted, Mason's preoccupation was with serious offenses against the Constitution. It is a strange principle of constitutional interpretation that would elevate the preoccupation of one speaker (even the proposer) into a limitation on the scope of the provision. It is even stranger still to claim that those offenses listed before an explicit listing was abandoned, constitute an explicit reservation on the meaning of the text. In short, the historians' ad is just so much BS -- which is not surprising as its' signatories are nearly devoid of constitutional expertise.

Back to the present case. What evidence or arguments are offered by Schlesinger, Wilentz, and others? None. It is simply a vouching, an appeal to their authority as historians, which can't be debated.

Ralph E. Luker - 11/14/2003

Thanks for this reference, Oscar. As you say, readers will reach different conclusions from it, but it is helpful to know this. I continue to wonder if our policy planners did not think that we simply had to open up Iraqi oil fields to greater access by the West. It was certainly not an explanation for the war which the administration was prepared to acknowledge. If the planners anticipated that Saudi Arabia would increasingly be a less reliable ally in the middle east, that would be another reason why the administration felt obliged to put a regime in place in Iraq with which it could deal.

Oscar Chamberlain - 11/14/2003

Check out this article on the Saudi oil reserves. It suggests that even if their supplies continue, the price will rise more than many people have been estimating.

Of course, this knowledge does not solve policy issues. Some--like myself--will take it as another reason to move ahead of the market in beginning to wean the US from oil.

Others will see it as more evidence that a new Arctic source would be prudent (and profitable).

Ralph E. Luker - 11/11/2003

Didn't mean to misidentify you, Richard. But of course you are correct. Nonetheless, your targets do return. The collectivists are not yet driven from the field. Wills still produces at a prodigious rate; and I'll bet you even money that even MB reappears, even on HNN, as if nothing happened.

Richard Henry Morgan - 11/10/2003

I qualify as a persistent critic of Bellesiles' Arming America? Ouch!! My amour propre is wounded. Rather I would hope to be seen more as a critic of bogus attempts to defend Bellesiles, and bad scholarship by the collectivists. In fact, I can't think of a single piece of original criticism I've provided on Arming America. I just find the whole mess a little ludicrous: the Great Emory Flood of 2 inches, that just happened to catch Bellesiles' "data"; the fact that such data were not turned into the recovery specialists at Emory; the quasi-repudiation of e-mails; the "secret copy" of LDS microfilm that seems generally available in research libraries; the probate records of East Point that don't exist; the probate records of San Francisco records that don't exist; the partial records at Contra Costa that weren't even available to Bellesiles during his research for AA; the data that were dropped because the state was distributing arms to militia, without an explanation of how the state arms would show up in probate records; etc.

In fact, I happen to think there is a coherent, defensible, though not necessarily winning collectivist argument. Madison, during the ratification debates, offered under criticism by Henry, that the states had a concurrent right to arm the militias. Henry quite properly answered that if that were so, the states similarly had a concurrent right organize and officer the militia (a reductio ad absurdum). It seems to me that the Second Amendment can be seen as addressing these criticisms in particular. It could be seen as giving the people, acting through their legislature, the express right to arm the militia, and to use it for state purposes. This would follow a model from the Massachusetts Constitution, which said the people had a right to demand that the preferred church be given state support (leaving to the legislature the exact means and extent) -- this would act as a check on interpretations of religious freedom that would preclude an established church. In the case of the Second Amendment, it places the militia power in the people, the seat of sovereignty, acting through their legislatures, as Madison was anxious to strip the states of the marks of sovereignty.

The only problems as I see it with this view are the interlineation problem, and that fact that the only two contemporary commentators on the nature of the right in the Second (whether it be collective or individual) both agree that it is individual, and they hail from opposing camps!! The two were tench Coxe and Sen. Grayson of Virginia.

My greatest beef is not with Bellesiles, or with the collectivist interpretation, but with the truly bad arguments put forward for the collectivist view -- the arguments ring of advocacy, not analysis (a sin not unknown to both sides of the issue). I offer an example from Wills' A Necessary Evil (p.30):

"The famed American rifle was not of much use in war, and its wielders, according to historians George Scheer and Hugh Rankin, were 'more noisy than useful.'"

Wills then quotes, in support of his claim, Scheer and Rankin on the disadvantages of the rifle for "line firing". The suppressed premiss, apparently, is that all or most war was conducted in "line firing" mode. From the disadvantages to line firing, Wills leaps to the conclusion that rifles were not of much use, tout court. That hardly explains why Congress' first order of business was to raise companies of ... you guessed it ... riflemen. Nor does it explain why the Militia Act of 1792 gave militia men the option of owning rifles to satisfy the act.

I have other problems with Wills. The right "to keep" arms is somehow transmogrified into a right to demand that Congress provide them (apparently, a positive right). The logical gap between "keep" and "provide" seems to present no barrier to the leaps of Wills. Moreover, the so-called right to be provided with arms is somehow, without argument, then devolved into a mere pledge to provide -- a right being enforceable, a pledge not being legally enforceable. This is all based on the original Constitutional language that gives Congress the power to "provide for ... arming ...". Wills apparently thinks that "provide for" is synonymous with "provide", yet "provide for" means simply "to make legal provision for", such as when, during the run-up to the War of 1812, Congress authorized the states to arm the militias.

Similarly bad arguments abound in the writings of other collectivists. I don't have a complete critique of Bellesiles AA locked in my brain. My main beef is with Wills, Bernstein, Bogus, Rakove, and company, who either so enthusiatically embraced Bellesiles, or continue to defend him on less than complete grounds, or who have done their best to add to the world's store of bad arguments in defense of a collectivist view.

Ralph E. Luker - 11/9/2003

Richard, I always appreciate your efforts to help me think legally, which isn't to admit a tendency to think illegally. Undoubtedly, some sins have been committed under cover of the commerce clause, as they have under cover of the equal protection clause. Legilation to "protect" those who are, by definition, unrepresented in the legislature surely always bears careful scrutiny.

Richard Henry Morgan - 11/9/2003

I have several problems with Sullivan's obit. First, it fails to explain the roots of Teller's cold-warrior attitude. It fails to mention that in native Hungary, Nazi-style anti-semitic regulations were put into effect even before they were law in Germany. For instance, limitations on Jews to university admission predated german laws.

Secondly, it fails to point out that it was really david Lilienthat that sunk Oppenheimer's boat, not Teller. The child-like physicists couldn't take out their anger on Lilienthal, so they made Teller the bete-noire. By stipulative definition, Oppenheimer was a "security risk" -- he had failed to report pitches made to him by Communists to pass classified material. This was explained to him, ehrn granted his original clearance, that failure to do so would result in revocation of his clearance. He was pitched by fellow Berkeley instructor and Communist, Haakon Chevalier (and others), and was even recorded by the FBI in such conversations. Oppie wasn't into putting himself under the same legal obligations as lesser mortals, and his loyalty to his Communist friends who made such pitches trumped his loyalty to the US. Plain fact.

PBS, some time back, had a dramatic series on Oppie, painting him as some kind of pacifist secular saint. In fact, after losing his clearance, Oppie submitted suggestions to the Pentagon promoting the development of chemical and biological weapons. Obviously, this is not a fact that PBS choise to bring to light -- nor the propaganda wing of the friends of Oppie.

Richard Henry Morgan - 11/9/2003

I can't tell you how shocked I was to see you referencing Sally Satel -- there may be hope yet for the ascendancy of tough-minded, anti-PC, Bobby Kennedy-Style liberalism. Then you make a good point about how bad it is to subject children to onerous labour -- hardly a point of constitutional law, though. It would seem that the solution was simply to recognize that children don't have a right of contract under the 14th, just as they don't have so many other rights (such as certain procedural rights in criminal cases, etc.). The Supreme Court, as usual, has only served to obscure this fact in an ad hoc manner. In Tinker v. Des Moines, the court ascends to ringing rhetoric -- a minor doesn't surrender his rights at the schoolhouse door -- without stating just what rights a minor has. Apparently whatever rights a minor might have, it doesn't extend to freedom from imprisonment in a school without due process.

The craziness of the Supreme Court in rubber-stamping each power grab by the national legislature via the commerce clause has finally reached its endpoint. The Lopez decision and the striking down of the Violence Against Women Act (predicated on -- get this -- the commerce clause) makes clear that this Supreme Court finally takes the notion of limited powers seriously. The real test of sincerity will come when it strikes down Bush's anti-abortion act as beyond the limited powers of the federal governemnt.

The commerce clause had become so elaticized that the Violence Against Women Act was predicated not on regulation of commerce, but the claim that fear of violence had an economic impact. By that logic (the same bogus logic used to support the law that convicted Lopez), the federal government can outlaw shoes with shoelaces, if it has time-motion and economic evidence suggesting that use of shoelaces has an adverse economic impact. Attempts by the federal government to outlaw interstate trade in child-labor produced products is simply a rather transparent attempt to bootstrap social legislation to the commerce clause, and so get around the limitations on federal power. I continue to believe that we can effect good social legislation at the state levels, and where necessary, make the required federal constitutional changes necessary to have federal laws to the same effect. This is certainly not the quickest way to improve society, but it has the advantage of being constitutional.

Ralph E. Luker - 11/4/2003

Oh, and by the way, I really appreciate the close reading you give us on HNN. Nothing wrong with keeping us honest! In fact, why don't you write something for HNN. I'm sure that Rick would be glad to have something from you.

Ralph E. Luker - 11/4/2003

David, I think your point about the department at Michigan is well taken. You've read KC's response to the discussion on the HNN boards, I take it. He notes places in which he would have preferred to give a more nuanced testimony had time allowed. Having said that, his point about certain traditional fields of American history having been shoved to the margins by the race/ class/gender agenda is hard to dispute. Nor is he arguing that those ways of interpreting our past should not be represented -- even in the tradition. They are very important to our constitutional, diplomatic, military, and political history, but they shouldn't be taught to the exclusion of the latter.

David Salmanson - 11/4/2003

I hate to knock down an idol but it seems that KC is just as capable of shoddy research, misrepresentation, etc. as the rest of us. I sent him this e-mail tonight after reading his Senate testimony.
Dear Professor Johnson,
I recently came across your Senate testimony. Like other academics, I followed your case closely, rooting for you all the way. However, you undermine yourself when you misstate things like "the University of Michigan has only one historian who publishes in political history." As a U of M alum, it didn't sit quite right with me ( I TAed for Sindey Fine 4 times!) Anyway, a quick check of the web site led me to three historians who clearly publish in political history. Mills Thornton (whose dissertation was part of the basis for the Holt's Political Crisis of the 1850s), Terry McDonald, and Matt Lassiter. Terry and Mills chair many of the employed PHDs committees. We could add some other folks who did not list politics as an area but still work in it (like Mills). That might include David Hancock (whose work also fits broadly under Foreign Relations), Maris Vinovskis and Maria Montoya (who listed her specialty as West but her work covers the legal and political issues surrounding the Maxwell Land Grant). We could also through in John Dann (main area Revolutionary War) and the emeriti who still maintain a high profile like John Shy and Sid Fine. Perhaps you could correct your testimony?

What are the odds that he will?

Josh Greenland - 10/18/2003

Thanks for posting the URL to the CDC report. I've bookmarked it and hope to read it soon.
- Josh

Ralph E. Luker - 10/18/2003

John, I haven't read the CDC report, so I can't comment on it. My post responded to your points as fully as I could and you don't respond to anything I said. My caps can't be more emphatic than Thomas's bold italics.

John G. Fought - 10/18/2003

Unfortunately, Ralph, that's not quite how things developed. Nor does it have much to do with what I posted. Raising your voice is not much of a response to the questions I raised, but it is what I expected. I'll let it go at that. Bye.

Ralph E. Luker - 10/18/2003

Nice to see that John's lost none of his vinegar lately and that his weapons are loaded and ready for hire. Of course, people who favor gun control are the only ones who "want to believe" anything, but it was the editor of SCIENCE, not me, who put the judgment about Mary/John most strongly: this would ordinarily be understood as FRAUD, John Fought. If you didn't want to believe otherwise, you'd have the guts to acknowledge that.
If I argue from data I arrived at in a survey I claimed to have done and my data varied dramatically (not just a touch) from every previous survey ever conducted and, when asked, I couldn't produce any evidence that I had conducted the survey I argued from, John Fought, Thomas Gunn, John Lott, Josh Greenland, and most folks I know would know that I was in professional difficulty -- and you know it about Lott.
Melt your bloody guns down, John. You're liable to hurt yourself.

John G. Fought - 10/18/2003

The reasons for repeated lip-smacking from Ralph and others about the Mary Rosh messages seem clear enough: these people want to believe that such a masquerade must somehow affect the validity of Lott's actual research. OK, explain just how that works. Is vanity and deceptive self-promotion (if that is what really happened)a conclusive disqualification for professionals? Are you SURE you want to answer yes? Anyway, I thought right away of a quite different and plausible explanation for the Mary Rosh messages, but I'm keeping it to myself. As for the 1997 survey, I know of no conclusive evidence either way. Do you? Do any of you have anything you'd take to court in a libel suit? My basic position on such telephone surveys is that the primary data are useless anyhow, for many reasons, so they're a waste of time. In the end, Lott's work stands or falls on the adequacy of his statistical model of the relationship between reported crime rates and access to concealed carry permits. I can't dissect the model and understand the technical issues in Lott's work, and I gather that none of you here can either, but I'm damned sure that Mary Rosh has nothing to do with statistics. She sure can elicit some embarrassing behavior from gun-haters, though.
The preliminary CDC report on pro- and anti-gun 'studies' is bad news for Lambert & Co. as well as Lott, it seems. But where is the recognition of this? Why are there no comments on the papers by Maltz & Targonski that show significant gaps in county reports of crime in more than a dozen states? These gaps would affect both sides of the present argument over the possible effects of concealed carry laws. The only position they conclusively falsify is the 'common sense' notion that gun regulation obviously and definitely reduces crime, in porportion to its strictness. This of course leaves undecided the important questions concerning the appropriate statistical model to be used if there is ever enough trustworthy data to process.
And before any of you raises his hand, I treated Bellesiles the same way as Lott: as an author. The nature of the factual and methodological errors was much more transparent and easily verifiable in Bellesiles' work than in what Lott and his critics have done.
Now, I ask Ralph to review his recent postings about the Lott matter and to compare them with his earlier postings about the almighty process in the Bellesiles case. I find an unbecoming difference in the tone and content of his recent statements. NOBODY has information that permits a safe conclusion on the relation between access to concealed carry permits and crime. Finally, I'd just like to remind you all, including Mr. Lambert, that none of this nit-picking about models matters in the end anyhow, since the Second Amendment affirms an individual right to keep and bear arms at least until the Supreme Court rules to the contrary.

Ralph E. Luker - 10/17/2003

Thomas, Oh, I do understand assuming a false identity on the net and in that guise lying and praising yourself. That's easy enough for any of us to understand. No one, including Lott, denies that he did that. You swallow that pretty readily. Might be because you want to believe what Lott says. Don't you feel betrayed by him? Where's the outrage?
Get a grip, Thomas. Stop going to desperate lengths to defend the indefensible. You, Josh, and Clayton begin to sound like Lott's Benny Smith.
You think Josh is right to declare his unwillingness ahead of time to accept the already appointed panel's judgment about Lott? You must then think it's o.k. if I reserve judgment about a recommendation by any panel appointed by AEI.

Thomas Gunn - 10/17/2003


"Try not to let your biases read the story for you. You want to argue with experts, take on the editor of Science or those who understand higher mathematics. I don't."

I'm happy to see that you are willing to wait on the process before you convict Lott.

BTW, I didn't ask you to summarize the charges against Lott, I asked for your specific thoughts. IIRC you demanded for over a year that the pro gun side await the process re Michael all the while refusing to discuss the specific charges. You refuse now to debate the Lott charges even as you characterize him as guilty of that which you admit you don't understand.

Re an independant investigation of the Lott charges, I'm sure you won't mind the Enterprize Institute appointing the investigators ala Emory and Michael.


Ralph E. Luker - 10/17/2003

Thomas, Bold + italics also gives me a headache. I really am not going to summarize for you a long history of criticism of John Lott's work. There are the lies and self-praise as Mary Rosh, the shifting calculations, the disappearing survey ... you know the field of questions as well as I do. Try not to let your biases read the story for you. You want to argue with experts, take on the editor of Science or those who understand higher mathematics. I don't.

Thomas Gunn - 10/17/2003


"It really is hard for me to see how you cannot by now have serious doubts about Lott's work."

What SPECIFIC doubts do you have about Lott's work?


Ralph E. Luker - 10/17/2003

Josh, Of course I was characterizing your position in a way that you would not have put it. It did seem to me to be consistent with your position, however. We haven't rounded the report's bend yet, so we'll see what you think when the report is in. It really is hard for me to see how you cannot by now have serious doubts about Lott's work.

Josh Greenland - 10/17/2003

I made a mistake in the previous post. Its second to last sentence should read:

It's even within the realm of possibility that they could discredit the core of Lott's work in a way I'd find credible.

Josh Greenland - 10/17/2003

"Josh --
"Heh, you must be talking about me! Do you refer to my "O.K." post? Doesn't it just restate a position which you have taken? Haven't you said in advance that you will respect the report of the inquiry only if it endorses Lott's scholarship?"

Feel free to quote me to demonstrate that that's what I said. I don't think you'll find anything you can use to support your mischaracterization of my position in anything I've written.

I am highly skeptical of the NAS panel, but one thing I've learned is that investigative bodies can come up with unexpected results, even when they look for all the world like they've been stacked to obtain a preordained conclusion. It's even within the realm of possibility that they could discredit the core of Bellesiles work in a way I'd find credible. I'd have to see the NAS panel's final report before I decided what I thought of their work.

Ralph E. Luker - 10/17/2003

Josh --
Heh, you must be talking about me! Do you refer to my "O.K." post? Doesn't it just restate a position which you have taken? Haven't you said in advance that you will respect the report of the inquiry only if it endorses Lott's scholarship? The effect would have been the same if Bellesiles had impugned the motives of the Emory panel by attacking its sources of support and its panel members, as Lott has done. No one has quite the same leverage on Lott as Emory had on Bellesiles -- no one is able to require Lott to accept a panel of peer authorities as capable of authoritative judgment. So -- you and Lott seem to be telegraphing an unwillingness to accept the panel's judgment if it doesn't confirm your own. How would you put that?

Josh Greenland - 10/16/2003

It's sad when bloggers go 'round the bend, start talking to themselves, addressing strange, accusatory posts to no one in particular. Yes, it's a sad thing....

John G. Fought - 10/16/2003

Any comments on the CDC report's finding no warranted conclusion
either way, based on analysis of more than 50 published studies?

Ralph E. Luker - 10/16/2003

You know better than this. As you do know, I don't enjoy seeing _anyone_ self destruct.

Don Williams - 10/16/2003

Just curious --I had the impression you thought otherwise. At least occasionally.

Tim Lambert - 10/16/2003

It's a closed system. Josh isn't going to accept the NAS panel's verdict on Lott's work because Kopel claims that it is biased. Kopel says the panel is biased because it includes "rabidly antigun" Steve Levitt. How does Kopel know that Levitt is "rabidly antigun"? He can't offer any evidence -- it's just the word of an anonymous source. Who's the anonymous source who smeared Levitt? Levitt says it's Lott.

So that's how it's done. Lott accuses his critics of bias and Josh laps it up, deciding that the criticism must be unfair.

Ralph E. Luker - 10/16/2003

O. K., so you've told me in advance that if the NAS reports a verdict favorable to Lott then you are prepared to accept that and that if it returns a verdict unfavorable to Lott that you aren't. Sounds fair enough to me.

Thomas Gunn - 10/16/2003

Josh this may work.

Or you could cut an paste from character map. [ ≠ ]

The command if the above worked in the title is " Ampersand ne semi colon ". A total of 4 keystrokes.

Not all characters are supported.


Josh Greenland - 10/16/2003

The title to my previous message didn't come out right because I tried to use two opposed greater than and lesser than signs to make a "does not equal" sign. The above title to this message doesn't have the look I wanted but gets the point across.

Josh Greenland - 10/16/2003

"Josh and Thomas,
"Whatever is necessary to continue propping up John Lott. When do you give it up? I suspect that you guys will support Lott to the bitter end. Do the jurors have to go armed into the jury room to reach a verdict you can accept?"

Ralph, when are you going to be able to look objectively at the NAS study and see that due to its sponsorship, founding documents and membership, it already has a severe credibility problem as relates to its fairness?

If you want to just be angry and vent, fine, I won't bother much past this point.

But if you are going to look at this dispassionately, you'll have to admit that the reason the criticisms of the Emory external committee members and the William and Mary Quarterly writers were effective against Bellesiles was crucially because they could not be accused of having a partisan animus that ran against the theses of Arming America.

Funding by a foundation that paid for the anti-gun rights Chicago-Kent law review conference and many other anti-gun activities, and by another that gave $3.6M to the Million March March in a single year, looks incredibly sleazy from the point of view of anyone who supports gun rights, and I'm sure would look questionable to anyone who is relatively neutral on gun issues. The NAS study's conclusions will inevitably be looked at with great suspicion because of the skew of its funding sources, leaving aside any other factor. But the other problems Kopel and Reynolds describe make the study look even more like an anti-gun ownership hack job than the funding would suggest.

I'm sure that, one way or the other, the truth about Lott's work will come out. I'm less confident that this study will contribute in a worthwhile manner to the process.

Ralph E. Luker - 10/16/2003

Thomas, You didn't offend me. In fact, we've been talking for over a year now and I think you'd have to stretch it pretty far to really offend me. There's a, ahem, person over on the HNN comment boards, however, who has been really offensive to me, both there and in e-mail, so I may have had a chip on my shoulder.
Of course, Josh's post below is correct. The only solution is to have a dispassionate inquiry by experts and make the results known to us all. The issues have become so polarized, however, that we are all extremely skeptical about the qualifications of dispassionate scholars. Josh seemed to think that Joyce Foundation funding for the inquiry tainted it -- if so, how do you ever arrive at a means of having a balanced, dispassionate inquiry? And if gun-advocates announce in advance that they don't trust the panel then there cannot be a resolution of the matter. There was very little if any expression of distrust into the inquiry of the Emory panel of experts.

Josh Greenland - 10/16/2003

I want to see an FAIR panel judge Lott's work. I'm sure more than you do from the sound of your last post.

My attitude is that if Lott's work is basically good, I'd like to see that decisively concluded by a reputable body. But if he is the flim flam man that you and some others claim he is, I would like to see his fakery described IN DETAIL by a TRUSTWORTHY body and his reputation completely demolished. If he is as bad as you and others say he is, then my attitude toward him is screw him and the horse he road in on, and let's get him out of the debate as soon as possible. IF he is as much of a fraud as you and some others say he is.

It doesn't have to be either/or, because Lott has a body of work related to gun issues. Some of it may be flawed and some not. A competent investigative body should be able to distinguish good work from bad if that is warranted.

Thomas Gunn - 10/15/2003


White lie? Tsk!

Guns don't kill anybody Ralph, people with guns (and other tools) kill people.

There aren't too many guns, there are too many criminals with guns. Including rogue governments who massacre their own people. There are too many accidents with guns which can be corrected through education.

Honest gun banning scholars would ignore suicide by gun unless the evidence shows the suicide would not have happened by any other means. What is Japan's per capita suicide rate? (BTW without guns)

Depressed people can recover from suicidal thoughts IF they are recognized and intervention takes place. IIRC a successfull suicide by any means is preceded by 5 unsuccessful attempt.

I feel like I've angered you. If I have I apologize, it was not my intention.

I do have a life BTW I'm on days off right now suffering the effects of a terrible cold.


Ralph E. Luker - 10/15/2003

Thomas, I'm feeling great and I hope you are, too. I wasn't _misled_ by Michael. I was in favor of gun control long before Michael told his first little white lie. Guns have killed and injured too many people -- we've got too many of them. Why do pro-gun scholars always want to exclude suicides from the data? Depressed people can recover from depression; there's no recovery from death. Get a life, Thomas. Melt your gun.

Thomas Gunn - 10/15/2003


"tell me when I was suckered by Bellesiles ..."

That's easy Ralph: It happened just before I was misled by Lott.

The difference of course is that Bellesiles has been found guilty by nearly everyone including his U, excepting Benny, and Lott has been charged but so far nothing of substance is sticking.

I am sorry you felt compelled to don the mantle of the anti rights crowd. What were you feeling when you put it on?


Ralph E. Luker - 10/15/2003

Look you old gun-hugger, you, (that, since you've reverted to your "anti-rights" rant) tell me when I was suckered by Bellesiles ...

Thomas Gunn - 10/15/2003


As much as you are heartened that I'm not being misled by John Lott (I'm reserving judgment), I'm saddened that you were suckered by Michael Bellesiles and the anti rights crowd.

I said it earlier, you're suppose to be able to trust the honesty of Drs. Isn't the jury still out on Lott's scholarship? Or do you know something you'd like to share?


Ralph E. Luker - 10/15/2003

I think that it is terrific that you were able to see fraud in Michael's book, just on the face of things. You must have a much better critical faculty than any of the distinguished reviewers who praised it when it was published. As much as I've written about the Bellesiles and the Lott controversies, I've done so because of concern for the integrity of scholarship. The particular issue doesn't interest me very much and I have no particular expertise in the fields related to it. I am heartened to know that you are not among the masses being misled by John Lott's scholarship.

Thomas Gunn - 10/15/2003


The right is looking at the scholarship of Lott and most have condemned the use of Mary Rosh. How much blood do you want? ;-)


Thomas Gunn - 10/15/2003


"I am shocked and disappointed."

I'd bet the house, not as profoundly as I.

Heck, I hate(d) history, but it was easy for me to read the original sources and that 'quoted' by Michael and see the discrepancies. I even knew that Frisco records prior 1908 were detroyed, and couldn't be used as a source. There was enough evidence that even a simple mind such as mine could grasp the truth.

For months I tried to get you to engage re the truth about Michael and ARMING AMERICA, an engagement you steadfastly refused.

Now comes Lott and Mary Rosh. I have no particular distaste for aliases, I felt and have said Mary went too far. Lott's scholarship is well beyond my simple understanding and apparently most others. There appears to be differences of expert opinion in what it all means. If you understand it I'm open to education.

Drs. are suppose to be above reproach and tell the truth. That they are human, susectible to their own foibles is continuously confirmed. That they hold to them in the face of contrary evidence is troubling. Worse yet some would have the masses blindly follow an emotional appeal.

Until all is revealed I'll keep my guns and continue to support individual freedoms and personal responsibility.


Ralph E. Luker - 10/15/2003

John, Of course, no case is simply like another case and I suspect that you are right that I am as vain as most academic people are. Nonetheless, Lott's assuming an on-line identity as "Mary Rosh," heaping praise on himself as a teacher, attributing distinctions to himself which were not his, and his constant shifting of the statistical apparatus, suggesting that he did it to achieve the result he was determined to find, have all put his whole credibility in doubt. Only people who are determined to salvage his result, however much shifting is necessary, are likely to doubt that.

John G. Fought - 10/15/2003

Is there something about YOUR judgment that makes you sure that you wall off your politics from your scholarship and anything else, while at the same time being so confident that OTHERS don't and can't?
That's a rhetorical question. The answer is yes: it's vanity, and though it doesn't apply only to you, it does apply. Have a look at the recent CDC report at
and you'll see good reasons for suspending judgment on this altogether until expert and dispassionate statistical expert opinions are applied and the primary data gets better. Note especially the paper referenced in note 29 on problems with county-level crime data. I'm not the first to point out that the Bellesiles problem was much easier to solve, since it required only the simplest scholarly tools. The complexities of statistical analysis make this case different.

Ralph E. Luker - 10/15/2003

Thomas, What is that emboldened MY about? You wouldn't be insinuating that _I_ allow my politics to influence my judgment about scholarship, would you? I am shocked and disappointed.

Thomas Gunn - 10/15/2003


What propping up of Lott do you see from anyone here? I'm unable to debate his scholarship as it is beyond my expertice. I do believe that we all must wait on the process. Give Lott a fair shake so to speak. His employer will decide if further investigation is warranted. You must recognize by now that MY politics doesn't enter into this.


Ralph E. Luker - 10/15/2003

Josh and Thomas,
Whatever is necessary to continue propping up John Lott. When do you give it up? I suspect that you guys will support Lott to the bitter end. Do the jurors have to go armed into the jury room to reach a verdict you can accept?

Thomas Gunn - 10/15/2003

". . . and we will see if the American Enterprise Institute is prepared to bite this bullet.

Emory bit the bullet after THEY appointed a panel of experts.

If the Enterprise Institute determines a need, you'll accept their choice of expert panel?

I wonder did you avoid the point on purpose? What bullet does the institute need to bite in your opinion?

I'm willing to wait on the experts just as I did in Michael's case. Is there any reasonable speculation that the anti gun crowd is stacking the panel?


Josh Greenland - 10/15/2003

Ralph, you wrote:
"[Randy Barnett's] call for an even-handed inquiry into John Lott's scholarship may be met by a National Academy of Sciences report from an expert panel which will examine Lott's work and is due for release in the late fall. It may be the equivalent of the report by Emory University's panel of experts in the case of Michael Bellesiles and we will see if the American Enterprise Institute is prepared to bite this bullet."

I looked at the link provided in the Mother Jones article, ,
thought the description of the study was somewhat pro-gun control, but my eyes bugged out when I saw the list of sponsors on that page:

"This study is being sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Joyce Foundation, the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation."

The middle three organizations are notoriously pro-gun control. CDCP cranked out all those anti-gun ownership studies and got in trouble with Congress for that, the Joyce Foundation funded the Chicago-Kent Law Review anti-gun rights conference and the Packard Foundation funded the Million Mom March with millions. Pro-gun people aren't going to believe anything that comes from these people.

But what about the other two organizations? The Casey Foundation works on children's issues, and while doesn't generally focus on gun control, advocacy for it has been included in some studies and publications that Casey has funded.

The National Institute of Justice is an arm of the Justice Department, and some might see that as a neutral or even a pro-gun rights party now that it's under John Ashcroft, but according to David Kopel, this study was put together during the Clinton administration, and was intended to achieve typically Clintonian anti-gun results:

When I read your blog entry, I was hoping this study would settle l'affaire Lott once and for all. A web check into it dashed that hope.

Ralph E. Luker - 10/15/2003

I'm willing to wait upon qualified authorities to reach their judgment. I'm sure you'll want to be as vigilant in defense of accuracy and truth in this case as you were in another that I can think of.
Oh, and speaking of Rush, isn't he in detox?

Thomas Gunn - 10/14/2003


"It may be the equivalent of the report by Emory University's panel of experts in the case of Michael Bellesiles and we will see if the American Enterprise Institute is prepared to bite this bullet."

I'm sure you didn't mean this the way it sounds. You were loathe to judge Michael because you lacked the expertice.

I am amazed at the "legs" gun control and the Second seem to have. Though it appears factual debate has given way to emotionalism.


Ralph E. Luker - 10/9/2003

Brother Lowery (I assume) -- I'm a preachin' type, but I think I'm not your grandfather. If I am, don't tell my wife just yet. I have to get her ready for that. Seriously, your mom comes from good stock, I'm sure. I did run into a minister by the name of Ralph Luker on the net. Must be the same fellow because it's a fairly rare name combination. The Lukers I'm most directly related to settled in Louisville, Kentucky, after arriving from Germany in the mid- to late 19th century. Some of 'em even amounted to something!

ALowery - 10/8/2003

My grandfather's name was Ralph Luker! Only he was a pastor. My mom loves books, especially Mark Twain.

Ralph E. Luker - 9/26/2003

Gad, David, what would we historians do without each other helping us out? I really got a great laugh at myself when I read your "expose'" of my folly. I'm trying to help Christine. Tim's trying to help me. It's a jolly great community of scholarship. I really do think that the key is to figure out how to be, at once, utterly serious about important issues, but with a sense of humor that recognizes that "we-all-make-mistakes-but-it-sure-is-easier-for-me-to-see-yours-than-for-me-to-see-mine."

David Salmanson - 9/26/2003

One of the things I love about your blog and Tim's is that you can both laugh at yoruselves. I supppose I should disclose that I was briefly a colleague of Tim's at Swarthmore (although he was on leave that year I believe) but I still drop in on him once and while for help with the Africa portion of my 9th grade world history class.

Ralph E. Luker - 9/25/2003

Thanks, David, for the correction. I'd seen Tim's blog occasionally in the past but failed to make the connection. I'll correct my post and have added Tim's blog to my blog roll.

David Salmanson - 9/25/2003

Ralph, you are linking to an out of date UPENN site for Rim's credentials. It is, perhaps, an unintended irony in this discussion which is about evidence and its uses, that we get this kind of error. Tim was promoted to Associate Professor when he got tenure. Incidentally, his and yours are the only two blogs I read regularly.

John G. Fought - 9/21/2003

I'm glad you felt I was making a useful distinction (if that's the way to describe it). I find your reply helpful, too. It localizes a disconnect between us that has come up in one form or another before. I'll discuss it briefly here because I hope others may find either or both of us easier to understand. It's in the part following 'but' in your message. To me it seems quite possible that such evidence as the written decisions in these court cases provide may be incomplete (if only because judges notoriously pick the narrowest available grounds for a decision), but most unlikely that they would be self-contradictory in a way that really supports opposite interpretations of their meaning. I believe, perhaps naively, that judges try to avoid this. Yet it is commonplace to find such directly conflicting uses of the same material in the secondary literature on the Second Amendment. What I think is going on is that one side more often refers to cases without actually displaying for scrutiny the evidence contained in the written opinion that they view as supportive of their interpretation, and then explaining what makes it so. Many references to US v. Miller 1939 are just like that. They are bare references to the case, like the one I just made. Yet when one reads the case, and the more detailed commentaries on the case, it does say something fairly clearly, though it may be exasperatingly narrow. So, at some point, I feel, the indefinite extension of the benefit of a doubt to these skeletal arguments becomes untenable, and eventually, personally compromising. You and I seem to have quite different tolerances on this. That's information I find useful, and I'll try to apply it in ways that save us time as we correspond in the future.
I also strongly suspect that there is something about the stylistic conventions of legal scholarly argumentation that I may need to learn more about, and I would be grateful to any law profs out there for a bit of guidance. Gratis, of course. First visit, you know?

Ralph E. Luker - 9/20/2003

John, Despite the sarcasm, I think your post actually moves the discussion along. a) My name doesn't belong beside McPherson's as a "heavyweight." He holds an endowed chair at Princeton and is president of the AHA. I'm an unemployed historian in Atlanta. The bank could tell you the difference. So much for the sarcasm. b) If you want to distinguish between "revision" and "revisionism" (shades of Daniel Pipes's troubling distinction between Islam and Islamism), "revisionism" might merit a negative connotation as the privileging of revised interpretations of the past. On the face of it, no interpretation merits being privileged. Each should stand and be judged on its own merits or lack of them. There may be a tendency, in some quarters, to privilege an interpretation as "revisionist," simply because it is new and current; just as there is, in other quarters, a tendency to reject an interpretation as "revisionist" simply because you don't agree with it. I don't think either attitude is tenable. Of course, I agree that "Revising one's conclusions on the basis of evidence newly found is not the same as revising one's evidence on the basis of conclusions already reached." The latter is what I mean when I use a term like "thesis driven." It knows the conclusion it wants to reach and selects and shapes evidence to get it there. People who have strong a priori commitments on either side of a controversial issue need to guard against it and those who read what they write must read them critically, with an eye to the possiblity that they are being led down some primrose path. But it really isn't as simple as saying that people who cite the same cases must, if they are being honest with you, necessarily reach the same conclusion. There are many attorneys who read the decision in _Bush v. Gore_ and will assure you that the majority opinion is a very weakly reasoned one. It is, nonetheless, the prevailing one. The latter point we can all agree on. The former one is controversial and allows for a divergence of judgment.

John G. Fought - 9/20/2003

That's a helpful posting, Josh. Reading McPherson's essay, which might have been entitled "It's Morning in the AHA", helped me, inadvertently of course, to clarify the difference between revision and revisionism, the latter being the act or advocacy of revising an accepted doctrine. So, revision is a process; revisionism is an accusation. (I pass this along because an absence of contrary evidence suggests that I may be the only one of us who owns a citation-based dictionary.) McPherson, Luker, and other heavyweights hereabouts have not always been, um, altogether careful in distinguishing the two words. Revising one's conclusions on the basis of evidence newly found is not the same as revising one's evidence on the basis of conclusions already reached. So, for example, when those on opposite sides of the interpretation of the Second Amendment cite the same cases as affirming their opposing views, somebody must be doing the kind of revisionism I disapprove of. They can't both be doing good history. Similarly, I don't see how Lott and Lambert can both be right, though of course they can both be wrong. And just to answer an obvious question, yes, I believed Lott was right and Lambert was wrong on the key issue. I'm not fully convinced of this now, but I can't decide because I am not sophisticated about statistics. I always rely on a friend who is a professional at it, and he's not now in a position to help me out on this one. What would it take to convince either Lott or Lambert that the other was right? I can't imagine. So I'll wait, and keep my powder dry. As for surveys, the problem I have with them is not statistical but cultural: like the police, I don't trust people to answer honestly when asked a consequential question by a stranger. To me, that makes sampling statistics on such surveys irrelevant, and doing the surveys a waste of time. "Ever brandish a gun at someone?" is a consequential question. Remember, mommy and daddy warned you about strangers. If you do trust them, I have a used car for you. But first, let me ask you a few questions about current events.

Josh Greenland - 9/20/2003

Here's an article from the president of the AHA about a recent attack on "revisionist history":

Josh Greenland - 9/17/2003

"Now, Josh, this is what is, in theological terms, called a work of supererogation -- something above and beyond the call of duty -- or, maybe, just overkill."

Not really. It was a memory exercise and an effort to get the facts as I knew them at that moment down in one spot, as well as establishing some idea of the difference in scale between Bellesiles' known transgressions and Lott's. It also had the unintentional bonus effect of making Lambert upset. :)

Josh Greenland - 9/17/2003

"My point is that there is nothing inherently wrong with "revising" or "revisionist" history."

I agree with you completely on this point, while assuming that the revisions in question are based on historical fact.

Tim Lambert - 9/17/2003


1) Fabricated a survey he claimed he conducted in 1997.

2) Falsified the results of a 2002 survey.

3) On three separate occasions coding errors were found in his "more guns less crime" data. Each time, those errors supported his thesis.

4) When correcting the latest set of coding errors made his results go away he changed the way he did his calculations to bring his results back. When I asked him why he had changed his methods, he didn't answer, but quietly changed the file on his website to make it appear that he had not changed his calculation method. He even altered the modification date on the file.

5) Falsely claimed that the NORC's Tom Smith had admitted to being biased against guns.

6) Misquoted his own words at a workshop on Children, Youth, and Gun Violence." to make it appear that the participants were extremely biased.

7) Selectively quoted from a story about the shootings at the
Appalachian School of Law to support his position. When asked why he didn't mention the contradictory information in that story he claimed that he hadn't read that part of the story.

8) Lied in testimony to the Nebraska Committee on Judiciary LB465, claiming to be "a professor at the University of Chicago Law School", when, in fact, he wasn't.

9) Was evasive and unforthcoming when asked to explain the
coding errors in his "More guns, Less Crime" data.

10) Claimed to have received phone threats from Usenet posters even though he never mentioned it at the time and no poster was even impolite towards him.

11) Claimed that his data on his survey was lost in a computer crash. But he also claimed he had paper tally sheets. It would have taken a few hours to re-enter the data. Instead he claims to have thrown out the sheets.

12) Lott lied to the Washington Post, claiming not to have sent emails under the name "Mary Rosh", when, in fact, he had.

13)And there's much much more. I decided to stop when I matched yours.

Ralph E. Luker - 9/17/2003

Josh, I'm no expert on the history of constitutional law or judicial interpretation, so I can't pronounce on the issue. My point is that there is nothing inherently wrong with "revising" or "revisionist" history. As I note elsewhere here, I've done some revisionism myself and, if I do say so myself, the world's a better place for it!

Ralph E. Luker - 9/17/2003

Now, Josh, this is what is, in theological terms, called a work of supererogation -- something above and beyond the call of duty -- or, maybe, just overkill. I'm not going to argue with you or anyone else about problems in Bellesiles's _Arming America_ and I don't know or claim to understand the technical details in debates about Lott's data. I know that he's given some people reason to doubt his word. I know that he's still doing quite well professionally, thank you, and that Michael isn't. Lott is fortunate in some sense that there is apparently no institutional agency which can or will assume responsibility for conducting an inquiry into his professional work. That's about as far as I care to take the discussion.

Josh Greenland - 9/17/2003

Ralph, I'm not sure what you mean by accountability, but the Mary Rosh and concealed carry study controversies have been used to attack and discredit Lott in the anti-gun rights mainstream corporate media. He is paying a price. Paraphrasing you talking at us months ago, how much blood do you want from him?

Do you truly see what's come out about Lott as equivalent to what's been revealed about Bellesiles?

1) pretended to be Mary Rosh and defended Lott. (Sanchez)
2) claims to have done a survey that no one but an NRA ex-board member can corroborate, getting results that seem to be statistically dubious or impossible. His works does not rely on this survey. (publicized by Tim Lambert)

These were discovered years after the research and calculations behind his book More Guns, Less Crime were critically studied and picked at but never decisively rebutted by well-known pro-gun control scholars. Given this hostile scrutiny, it's legitimate to wonder if any other significant problems will be found in his work. Also, his and David Mustard's massive 3000+ county data set is being used by other academics, including pro-gun control ones. I haven't heard that they've decided they can't use these because the two problems above.

Michael Bellesiles:
1) Falsified probate information (James Lindgren, Emory
committee Gloria Main, Randolph Roth)
2) Falsified militia censuses (Emory committee)
3) Made gross errors in use of guns in military conflicts that
unrandomly supported his thesis (Ira Gruber)
4) Made gross errors in colonial and early American homicide
information that unrandomly supported his thesis (Randolph
5) Made many errors in the wording of colonial and early
American statutes and gun inventories, often reversing their
significance, so that they unrandomly supported his thesis
(Clayton Cramer)
6) Grossly undercounted the number of gun smiths and gun makers
in the colonies. (Clayton Cramer)
7) Selectively used information from travelers' accounts to
unrandomly support his thesis while ignoring information from
the accounts he quotes from that rebutted it. (Clayton
Cramer and others)
8) Made gross errors in describing militias and militia
performance in battle that unrandomly supported his thesis.
(Don Williams, Clayton Cramer and others)
9) Was evasive and unforthcoming when asked to explain the
problems with his probate and militia census data (Emory
10) Claimed to have received frightening threats from "gun
advocates," but none of these were ever reported to any
police or security agencies. Claimed that these threats
forced him to leave Atlanta, but the sale of his house had
been arranged before he supposedly received the threats.
11) Claimed that his data on yellow legal pads had been destroyed
in a flood at his Emory offices, but Emory's highly efficient
document recovery organization was never requested by MB to
restore them, and Jerome Sternstein demonstration that data
on legal pads could not have been destroy in the Emory flood.
12) Bellesiles lied to the Emory Wheel (campus newspaper) about
emails related to problems with Arming America.
13) There's more. The above was just off the top of my head.

Ralph, if you want to see John Lott's credibility problems as equivalent to those of Michael Bellesiles, you'll have to greatly distort reality to do so.

Josh Greenland - 9/17/2003

Historically there's a crucial difference between revising history based new facts and falsely reinterpretation the same old facts (or cooking up new false facts). Legally, the original intent of the authors and ratifiers of a law matters, therefore in the law, anti-historical revisionism is considered a bad thing.

Look through the legal-historical part of the ABA debate PDF that Saul Cornell links to in your blog. The best that Robert Spitzer, the anti-gunner with that knowledge, could do was say that the collective rights argument was first pushed in legal decisions as early at 1875. (Robert Cottrell disputes that and says the collective rights interpretation didn't exist in the courts until the 1960s.) Saul Cornell attempted a cleverly-worded argument claiming that the authors and ratifiers of the bill of rights did intend the 2nd Amendment as a collective right, but Joyce Malcolm stuffed it back down his throat, telling him that he can't jive his way past the fact that there are NO collective rights-supporting quotes or arguments from those who made the Second Amendment law.

If a majority of courts that have ruled on the Second Amendment in the twentieth century have ruled counter to original intent and the way the law was interpreted from time of ratification to the late 19th or middle 20th centuries without honestly reversing past decisions, that is indeed revision with the negative connotation.

It is possible to establish how American courts have ruled in the 20th century, since their decisions are recorded. I don't think Cornell is right about courts ruling against the individuals interpretation for MOST of the last century. From what I've read, the majority of courts which ruled on the 2nd have supported the collective rights interpretation. Smarmy propagandist that he is, Cornell falsely implies that therefore the collective rights interpretation is the law of the land. It isn't, because at least one court, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, has ruled that the 2nd guarantees an individual right, and the Supreme Court since 1939 has not ruled on the 2nd, and US vs Miller is not the victory for gun control that Cornell and other celebrity gun rights bashers claim it is. The 5th Circuit's ruling is in conflict with those of other Circuit Courts (including our western one, the 9th), and has set up a constitutional conflict that the Supremes will have to resolve sooner or later with another ruling.

Ralph E. Luker - 9/16/2003

To elaborate further on what may have been too cryptic, Thomas, my book on The Social Gospel in Black and White challenged the received wisdom of 23 historians, some of them quite prominent ones. Challenging what they had written made me a "revisionist." I wasn't waving any Soviet flags, denying anyone's constitutional rights, or otherwise undermining the foundations of the Republic. I was simply doing what historians are supposed to do: write good history!

Josh Greenland - 9/15/2003

I've never found Hitchens to be especially unpredictable. Some of the stuff in his Dallek hack job isn't a surprise. He's been a rabid Warren Report supporter for years.

Ralph E. Luker - 9/15/2003

If inherited knowledge is in some ways wrong, then it needs revision. What's hard to understand about that?

Ralph E. Luker - 9/15/2003

Sorry, Thomas. I don't defend _AA_'s findings and you know it. I defended a process designed to reach a judgment about those findings and I accept the result. Lott isn't being held accountable and that's o.k. by you. Right?

Thomas Gunn - 9/15/2003


[You're older now. You're allowed to know that.]

I'm ready to be enlightened, tell me the difference in the various revisionisms.


Thomas Gunn - 9/15/2003


[It's really as simple as that, isn't it?]

Nice dodge Ralph. It is not a question of want. Michael is unbelievable because it has been proven he lied. Lott has admitted to questionable behaviour re Mary Rosh for which he has been taken to task. There is controversy over some of Lotts scholarship but controversy is not proof. You seem to want to believe Michael because he is anti rights and dismiss John because he is pro rights. (I recognize what I've just done, but it seems the only way to stop you assigning your feeling to me is to reciprocate.)


Ralph E. Luker - 9/15/2003

Your nun was describing Soviet revisionism. All revisionism isn't Soviet revisionism. You're older now. You're allowed to know that.

Ralph E. Luker - 9/15/2003

Thomas, All I said was that Lott lost me when he pursued the Mary Rosh thing and, as Mary, complemented Lott's teaching skill. There is enormous controversy about his data. It is not replicable and not within the range of findings in all previous studies. There is apparently no court of finding to which he can be held accountable, as Bellesiles was. What's your problem with understanding that? You don't want to believe Michael because he's pro-gun control. You want to believe John because he's anti-gun control. It's really as simple as that, isn't it?

Thomas Gunn - 9/15/2003


All is forgiven Ralph, I won't hold your erroneous conclusion against you. (Assuming of course you're truely contrite.)

[But consider the possibility that you could learn something from people with whom you don't agree.]

Excelent advice Ralph, really! Do you follow it?

The reference to Benny may have been a bit oblique. The use of an alias is not uncommon and could be considered a good security practice in internet chat. Though I believe you are actually Ralph Luker, I hope you do not believe I am actually Thomas the Doubter. Benny made it clear that his was an alias and was, IIRC somewhat concerned that HNN might reveal his email. Lott and Michael are entitiled the same consideration to aliases in these forums. The difference I see is John fessed up to his prevarications vis-a-vis Mary Rosh, the world awaits Michael's confession vis-a-vis Arming America.


Ralph E. Luker - 9/15/2003

Pardon me if I was mistaken in thinking that you loved your guns. I think it was "gun-hugger" you objected to. But consider the possibility that you could learn something from people with whom you don't agree. To defend rights even-handedly, you need to believe something like that. Did Benny sign that piece I directed you to? Or is that just your way of dismissing anything that you don't want to learn anything from?

Thomas Gunn - 9/15/2003


"what is true."

Now that is a matter of opinion!

You gave me a link in the other thread, maybe you didn't think I'd see this one immediately following; .

When I was in grade school the Nun explained revisionism thusly. The U.S. and the USSR had a track meet, the U.S. won. In Pravda the results were repoted, "The USSR came in second, the U.S. came in next to last."


Thomas Gunn - 9/15/2003


Years ago you took exception to my characterization of your position as 'anti-rights'. That hasn't stopped you from making erroneous characterisation of me. e.g. "love of guns".

Someone once said, "If, without one shred of evidence, the people already believe what you want them to believe, why tell them the truth?" Do you recall who that was?

I read the link you provided: Do you consider it unbiased? And who is Benny Smith anyway?


Ralph E. Luker - 9/15/2003

John, Saul may disagree with me about this, but I'm not interested in arguing about it. I just hope that the label "revisionist" is not used as some club to beat folk over the head with. To "revise" is a perfectly respectable thing to do if it moves in the direction of what is true.

John G. Fought - 9/15/2003

I feel your pain on this one, Ralph. Your rhetorical question is as reasonable as ever they get. But if you look at the ways the cases (such as Miller (1939)) are used in commentaries, you too will see that the same case is used to support both the individual and collective right positions, and other views as well. It is as if each author sees all the cases as supporting his or her personal view. It is also striking, though less surprising, that each judge seeks the narrowest ground to hold. It is as if each defiantly says to his seniors, "Reverse THIS!" It reminds me of the definition of 'lawyer' offered long ago by Ambrose Bierce. Grant me that if I'm right, then the definition of 'revisionism' becomes very tricky. Or irrelevant.

Ralph E. Luker - 9/15/2003

Thomas, If you think I'm going to give you a summary review of evidence in the cases of Michael Bellesiles and John Lott, you're nuts. As Don Williams said, "It makes my head hurt." It's been gone over ad nauseum. Your love of guns might, conceivably, make you a biased reader of the evidence. Right? Moving on, however, try reading this:

Thomas Gunn - 9/15/2003


[Thomas, I believe that both Michael and John have given us good reason to doubt their word.]

Ok here's your chance Ralph; what are the good reason to doubt Michael's word, and what are the good reason to doubt John's word.

It would be interesting to learn how you conclude I want to beat up on Michael and give John another chance. I can't believe you equate a demand for the truth in scholarship with beating up on Michael.

What do my guns have to do with Michael's scholarship? Or John's for that matter? Forgiveness comes about by accepting responsibility for ones transgressions, and a fervent desire to do better in the future. Who in your opinion meets the qualifications?


Ralph E. Luker - 9/15/2003

Thomas, I believe that both Michael and John have given us good reason to doubt their word. You want to beat up on Michael and give John another chance. Could that be because you like your guns? That's an odd reason to forgive one and not the other.

Thomas Gunn - 9/14/2003

Ralph, It was a great attempt at deflection, however I never asked you for a verdict. What I asked was how you could render a verdict on the one hand but not the other. Especially since you profess to have looked at so much evidence surrounding Arming America.

It is a great dodge too. Mary didn't fess up, Lott did. Did you honestly ever believe Lott or Mary before your verdict as indicated by your "anymore"?


Ralph E. Luker - 9/14/2003

Isn't it possible to establish beyond doubt what the position held in American courts for most of the twentieth century was? If so, then whatever challenges that interpretation gets to be called "revisionist," doesn't it? There really shouldn't be any prejudicial attachment to the word "revisionist." If prevailing interpretation is a crock, then all hail to "revisionism."

Ralph E. Luker - 9/14/2003

Thomas, You are just so wrong-headed that ... well, I don't know what to say. Already, when I started discussing the Bellesiles matter, it was in the hands of a committee asked to render a recommendation. They knew more about the issues than I did and no one had asked me to render a verdict. You keep demanding that I render one. Why? I'm no expert on the issues involved.

Oh, and by the way, I've looked at more evidence on _AA_ than you care to hear me tell about. Lindgren and Williams are over on the Bellesiles page now arguing about more evidence. Before Williams says it, I'll say it for him: it gives me a headache.

Now, Mary has fessed up and I take her fessing at fess value. I don't hold it against her. I just don't trust what she says anymore.

John G. Fought - 9/14/2003

Let me first thank Ralph for linking to my article on Bellesiles 1996, all the more so since he feels that my rhetoric is unseemly.
Here's another specimen of it: Mr. Cornell's comment is everything we could have expected. He writes that he glanced at my article and found some 'errors'. He mentions just one. Revisionism, he writes, is not really revisionism. As I point out in the paper, the same few cases are cited again and again as evidence on all sides of the Second Amendment controversy. Other scholars, Ms. Malcolm, for instance, look at the same history and see revisionism as revisionism. For Mr. Cornell, unsurprisingly, an 'error' is just something he disagrees with. With his penetrating vision, a glance is enough to find it. Having found it, invoking himself lends all the authority we could wish for.

Thomas Gunn - 9/14/2003


No forgiveness in your heart for a righty who fesses up? Lott made a poor choice in his Mary Rosh shenanigans, for which he has suffered, and rightly so.

Odd, however that you can make such snap judgments about Lott and his scholarship and the alledged failings in one study, a controversy you admit you do not follow closely but, for two years you couldn't be persuaded to hazzard an opinion re Bellesiles scholarship in the face of overwhelming evidence. You couldn't even be bothered to look at the evidence against Arming America.


Ralph E. Luker - 9/14/2003

Thomas, He lost me when we learned that he'd been posting compliments of his teaching skills under Mary Rosh's name. That's deception, Thomas, and that deception calls into question what he says about other things -- including all his "data" which are supposed to sustain his thesis. I may say something that is self-serving, but I promise to do it under my own name and you can recognize it for the self-serving statement that it is. I don't follow the Lott controversy nearly as closely as either he or Tim Lambert do. I don't do so because it doesn't interest me a whole lot.

Thomas Gunn - 9/14/2003

Ralph, If your right eye has cleared up maybe you could share what you have been able to know re John Lott.


Ralph E. Luker - 9/12/2003

Thomas, Yep. And when my right eye clears up, we'll finally know about John Lott, too.

Thomas Gunn - 9/12/2003


I don't think John expected everyone or even anyone to see it all but someone there, anyone there in 1996 should have seen a bit of it.


Ralph E. Luker - 9/12/2003

It's enough to make you wretch. Get a load of this:

How do you make these darn things light up?

Ralph E. Luker - 9/12/2003

Thomas, Thomas, Thomas, I am so glad that your fat fingers found my comment button. Yah, I know, I wondered about being quite so candid about the dead, after I had been candid about this particular dead one. It is a long held grudge about what he did to J. Robert Oppenheimer and it's a political judgment rather than a scientific or a strategic one. The brotha was to the right of Ghengis Khan.

Thomas Gunn - 9/11/2003


[a title for his book about his experience: Burning Down My Master's House: My Life and the New York Times.]

Who's gonna ghost it? Any word?


Thomas Gunn - 9/11/2003

Ralph, I've been scandalized!

You may dislike Teller but "s.o.b."?

Since you aren't telling I assume the "A" and "H" Bomb and resultant casulties are the reasons. Would you answer his question, "What if they hadn't?"


Link may expire without warning.


Ralph E. Luker - 9/8/2003

And thanks for the post here. Your cafe talk gave us a sense of how rich the culture is and how difficult it is to do it justice in any brief treatment. Keep up the good work!

Kingsley - 9/8/2003

Thanks for dropping by and linking to my post. American students' alienation from Tamil culture is very understandable, considering that a number of my Tamil friends are not aware of a great deal of their own history and culture. That was the whole point of the post actually - to show people that there is more to Tamil history and culture than the sanitized version in the textbooks.


Ralph E. Luker - 9/2/2003

Ed, I think you're on the money. I've never been a great fan of the Kennedys, myself. I even, sometimes, admit to having voted for Richard Nixon in 1960. Only Robert, in his later years, gives me real pause. (Is it any wonder that I'm in exile from academe?) But it is just amazingly difficult after all these years to get an even-handed assessment of the Kennedy administration or of JFK himself.

Ed Schmitt - 9/2/2003

I agree, Ralph. In the end, I just think the book is one thing and the promotion for it is another. I just think Hitchens is a master knife-wielder, who is fun because he's unpredictable and seemingly independent - a cut and a half above the regular troupe of guests on Hardball or Hannity and Colmes - but not a great judge of historical scholarship. As someone who is writing on a Kennedy topic, perhaps it just struck a nerve as I prepare to face the "which camp does he fall into" questions. I think Dallek is judicious and fair, though if I had to level one critique against the book, it is that not many of his conclusions are unique, even if some of his new sources are.

Ralph E. Luker - 9/1/2003

Great comment, Ed. I've been thinking about it and probably will continue to do so. It does seem to me that Dallek let himself in for this kind of criticism by hyping the medical findings in his biography and, at the same time, seeming to minimize their importance in his assessment of Kennedy's presidency.

Ed Schmitt - 8/27/2003

I don't understand what you find so heartening about Hitchens's "review" of Robert Dallek's JFK bio. It is typical Hitchens bile, a slap here, a thrust there, skating his way through with clever phrase turning and never engaging the book beyond the medical revelations. Dallek is definitely not a "hero worshipper" of Kennedy. I guess it demonstrates that thoughtful people still aren't ready to move beyond the Hegelian dialectic of the Camelot school and bitter revisionism. Apparently, if you even point out any positives, you are still considered a Kennedy lap dog. Sad that analysis has to be so Manichaean.

Ralph E. Luker - 8/14/2003

I'm generally inclined to agree with you, tho as Volokh has pointed out this suit really isn't very good p. r. Good will beats intimidation any day, in my book.

Malloy - 8/13/2003

The purpose of the lawsuit Fox has brought against Al Franken is to intimidate people who might cross Rupert Murdoch by forcing them to spend money on lawyers defending themselves. The suit hasn't got a prayer. If I were Franken, I would counterclaim for abuse of process. The complaint, on its face, is preposterous. It's not trying to state a claim for which relief can be granted, it's trying to score PR points and give some psychological pleasure to the masters of Fox and their pet gasbag, O'Reilly.

If Franken forms a legal defense fund, I'm contributing. I'll certainly buy the book now.

And Murdoch ought to quit trying to bully Americans. He's picking on the wrong kind of people.

... You! - 7/8/2003


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