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More Lott v. Levitt Developments:

Yesterday a federal district court judge in Illinois rejected John Lott's motion for reconsideration of its dismissal of portions of his defamation suit against Steven Levitt, the Chronicle of Higher Eduction reports. But the litigation is not over. As the Chronicle further reports Lott's lawyers have fired yet another salvo, asking the court for permission to file an amended complaint" based upon "new facts" that have come to Lott's attention since first filing the suit. Stay tuned . . .

Steve Sailer (mail) (www):
Here's the 2005 exchange of emails between an economist named John McCall and Steven D. Levitt, along with Levitt's "doozy of a concession" about his email pasted in below:

From: John McCall

Subject: Freakonomics note yesterday to you

To: steve levitt

Hi Steve,

I went to the website you recommended -- have not gone after the round table proceedings yet -- I also found the following citations -- have not read any of them yet, but it appears they all replicate Lott's research. The Journal of Law and Economics is not chopped liver.

Have you read through any of these?

http://johnrlott.tripod.com/postsbyday/RTCResearch.html


Cordially,


John McCall PhD

__________________

From: slevitt@[deleted for anti-spam purposes]

Date: Wed May 25, 2005 9:18:28 PM US/Central

To: John McCall

Subject: Re: Freakonomics note yesterday to you

John,

It was not a peer refereed edition of the Journal. For $15,000 he was able to buy an issue and put in only work that supported him. My best friend was the editor and was outraged the press let Lott do this.

Steve


The Chronicle of Higher Education now writes:

"Mr. Levitt's letter of clarification, which was included in Friday's filing, offers a doozy of a concession. In his 2005 message, Mr. Levitt told Mr. McCall that "it was not a peer-refereed edition of the Journal." But in his letter of clarification, Mr. Levitt writes: "I acknowledge that the articles that were published in the conference issue were reviewed by referees engaged by the editors of the JLE. In fact, I was one of the peer referees."

"Mr. Levitt's letter also concedes that he had been invited to present a paper at the 1999 conference. (He did not do so.) That admission undermines his e-mail message's statement that Mr. Lott had "put in only work that supported him."

"In his letter of clarification to Mr. McCall, Mr. Levitt said, "At the time of my May 2005 e-mails to you, I knew that scholars with varying opinions had been invited to participate in the 1999 conference and had been informed that their papers would be considered for publication in what became the conference issue."


http://chronicle.com/daily/2007/07/2007073003n.htm?=attn
8.2.2007 1:12am
TerrencePhilip:
The docket entry notice says the motion for reconsideration is denied "for the reasons stated in open court." This, surely, is waiver-- the plaintiff never claimed that the Virginia law of defamation should apply until he filed his motion for reconsideration.

The judge gave the defendants until Aug. 14 to respond to plaintiff's motion to amend his complaint.

The motion to amend seeks to revive the dismissed Count I (the Freakonomics complaint). It says it is based on "new information learned through discovery"-- why then, should this not have been brought up at the time of the original motion to dismiss Count I? That is, if it's even particularly helpful.

Lott's proposed amended complaint seems to rehash his allegation of per se defamation. Really, I don't know if a new complaint can add much to a per se charge; either the words of the book defamed him per se, or they didn't. I don't see how any "new evidence" of Levitt's alleged malice makes a whole lot of difference (either he really disliked him or he really, really, really disliked him).

The new "count" to be added, basically amounts to a specific allegation of various forms of harm Lott allegedly suffered. Again, this doesn't really seem like any new or newly discovered allegation of defamation; it sounds more like evidence of damage, which was known or should have been known to the plaintiff without any sort of discovery being done to the defendant.

I think Lott's new lawyers are being aggressive, but there just doesn't seem to be anything new here. I hope for their sake they are being paid by the hour- I doubt their motion has any chance at success. It seems like an attempt at reheating a lawsuit that's gone cold, without anything really new.

(By the way I take no position on Lott's scholarship- I am not familiar with it. Nor do I take a position on whether Levitt defamed him. I just think that any chance Lott has in this suit, comes from an appeal of the previous ruling to dismiss Count I, based on Illinois law; his attempts to use Va. law, or to amend his lawsuit, are going nowhere.)
8.2.2007 1:19am
ipsedixitier:
What a bunch of babies! As the saying goes: Academia: nowhere is the infighting so intense over something so unimportant. I think we can all see this is about egos of two men who think they're very important but really aren't.
8.2.2007 9:32am
uh clem (mail):
From TFA:

"And for the first time in the litigation, Mr. Lott directly tackles the question of a national telephone survey that he allegedly conducted in 1997...In Freakonomics, Mr. Levitt obliquely refers to the dispute over the telephone survey. In the new motion, for the first time, Mr. Lott says that that passage's innuendo is false and defamatory."

Note, however, that Lott is not offering any evidence that he actually conducted the survey - at least not yet. Will his legal team will offer any more evidence than baldface claims of "Levitt is spreading innuendo"? So far, the evidence that the survey ever took place is mighty thin...

Bellesiles at least had the decency to slink off quietly when he got caught making stuff up. Not so for John Lott.
8.2.2007 1:21pm
John Lott (mail) (www):
Dear uh clem:

Your claims are inaccurate and not investigated at the very least. Please see here and here. Thank you.
8.2.2007 3:10pm
uh clem (mail):
Your claims are inaccurate and not investigated at the very least.

I read your side of the story when this brewed over a couple of years ago. I do not find it any more persuasive today than I did at the time. Unless you have something new to add, neither should anyone else.

I stand by my statement that the evidence of the survey is very thin. We have hard evidence of a computer crash, but no evidence of what data was lost. We have a guy who came out of the woodwork 5 years later who claims to have taken the survey, but he's not exactly a disinterested party. Other than that? Not much. In particular, there's no contemporaneous supporting documentation at all. Did it get lost when the computer crashed, or did you lose it in a flood? And when asked for names of the research assistants who collected the data, the best you can do is a Gonzalesesque "I don't recall."

Anyway, you're probably better off targeting your arguments to the judge rather than random guys on the internets. Unless you're planning to sue me too.
8.2.2007 4:21pm
John Lott (mail) (www):
Dear uh clem:

Well, at first you wrote "Lott is not offering any evidence" (emphasis added). Now you write "I stand by my statement that the evidence of the survey is very thin." However, you don't even correctly state what evidence is provided for on the site that you say that you looked at.
8.2.2007 4:40pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Bellesiles at least had the decency to slink off quietly when he got caught making stuff up.
This is not accurate. Bellesiles fought up a storm. From the time I first pointed out that some of his quotes were false, it was a couple of years before he "resigned." And he still hasn't admitted that he did anything wrong.

Also, if Lott's 1997 survey could not be replicated, you might wonder. But it was replicated in 2002, with similar results. Lott at least can demonstrate that the 1997 survey results could be replicated, that a lot of other people have contemporaneous memories of a hard disk crash that Lott suffered, and at least one person who seems to have been one of those surveyed in 1997. At this point, all you have is suspicion and doubt.
8.2.2007 4:46pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

What a bunch of babies! As the saying goes: Academia: nowhere is the infighting so intense over something so unimportant. I think we can all see this is about egos of two men who think they're very important but really aren't.
The reason that it matters at all is that Lott's work had considerable significance with respect to gun control law--and Levitt's email was one example of the provable dishonesty of those who sought to discredit Lott's work because the results didn't fit their emotional needs.

People like "Uh Clem" are reduced to saying, "You can't prove the 1997 survey happened." Not beyond a reasonable doubt--but put the evidence that it did happen on the balance against the evidence that it didn't happen--and it seems more plausible that it did happen. Of course, that's because the evidence that it didn't happen is zero.
8.2.2007 4:50pm
uh clem (mail):
Well, at first you wrote "Lott is not offering any evidence" (emphasis added).

Right. I was commenting on the article. I didn't see any evidence in today's article. Did you?

And as for the "dog ate my homework" tall tale on your website, well, I'll let others read it and make their own conclusions. All I can say is that I've heard similar excuses from students and it makes me sad to hear a grown man doing it.
8.2.2007 5:11pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I think this is big regarding Levitt.

He claimed, publicly, that a piece of Lott's work had not been peer-reviewed, when, in fact, he had been one of the reviewers.

In academia, is this sort of thing important?

Seems to me, with a record like that, normal people wouldn't ask him the time of day without having a newly re-set watch on each wrist.

What, honestly, is any assertion of his going to be worth in the future?
8.2.2007 8:35pm
Boris A.Kupershmidt (mail):
"Richard Aubrey (mail):
I think this is big regarding Levitt.

He claimed, publicly, that a piece of Lott's work had not been peer-reviewed, when, in fact, he had been one of the reviewers.

In academia, is this sort of thing important?

Seems to me, with a record like that, normal people wouldn't ask him the time of day without having a newly re-set watch on each wrist.

What, honestly, is any assertion of his going to be worth in the future?"
========================
I don't know what the standards are in the humanities,
but in the natural sciences he would have been judged,
by the editors, referees, and readers of the refereed journals, a dim-witted crook to be ignored in the future.
And should he ever decide to submit a paper to a
reputed journal, that paper would be politely returned
as no referee will agree to review it.
I've this happen for far less outrageous conduct,
simply for an extremely crazy paper (and, by implication,
the crazy author.)
8.2.2007 11:45pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Thanks for the reply, Boris. I am comforted regarding the natural sciences, or "Nat Sci" as we used to call it when it was a required class.

The proof of the pudding would be where Levitt ends up in the next couple of years. If he's still somebody, the field is thus--further--discredited.

It is nice to know the Belleisles is nobody. Still, you can check your local libraries to see how many copies of his book they have (several, is the average).
8.3.2007 9:16am
uh_clem (mail):
He claimed, publicly, that a piece of Lott's work had not been peer-reviewed, when, in fact, he had been one of the reviewers.

Publicly? It was in a private email to a single person. It was later made public by the recipient.

That doesn't excuse the fibbing, of course. However, it appears Levitt is more careful with his public pronouncements than he is in private correspondence. If it turns out that his published work is untruthful, (for instance, if he cites a survey that doesn't exist) he should be a nobody. I'll support that as a standard - will you?
8.3.2007 10:04am
TDPerkins (mail):
uh clem wrote

Unless you have something new to add, neither should anyone else.


Except there is evidence the hard drive crash occurred, other researchers lost data, and there is evidence the survey happened, and the survey was replicated at a later time.

It was later made public by the recipient.


Which makes public the false allegations which damaged Mr. Lott.

uh clem, I don't know whether your head is buried in the sand or someplace anatomically improbable, but you need to extract it and smell the coffee--Lott is solely "guilty" of the Mary Rosh sock-puppetry, and his work is as capable and honest as any other statisticians'.

No matter how much you dislike the conclusions it leads to.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
8.3.2007 10:57am
uh clem (mail):
TDPerkins,

My conclusions on Lott's alleged 1997 survey are based primarily on Jim Lindgrin's report here.

They are not based on my "not liking the results" any more than my opinions of Belleisles is based on "not liking the results".

Academic dishonesty is academic dishonesty. Period.

And suing someone for pointing it out is beyond reprehensible.
8.3.2007 11:16am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
uh. clem.

The hard-drive thing. I guess the survey as an event happened and cannot be made to unhappen by the loss of data. What's lost is the data. The first survey's conclusions were, as has been noted, replicated by a later survey.

So I'm not particularly interested in biting on the non-existent survey bit.
8.3.2007 11:53am
TDPerkins (mail):
My conclusions on Lott's alleged 1997 survey are based primarily on Jim Lindgrin's report here.


Which is out of date.

Academic dishonesty is academic dishonesty.


You have no evidence such dishonesty occurred, the sock puppetry conceded. The numerical validity of his work in not impeached.

And suing someone for pointing it out is beyond reprehensible.


Levitt did lie, and it is that act for which he was sued.

And yes, given the facts currently available, your statements show an untoward bias against Mr. Lott--that bias may well not be ideological, it may could easily merely be illogical.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
8.3.2007 11:56am
uh clem (mail):
Levitt did lie, and it is that act for which he was sued.

Levitt was sued on two counts:

1) Lying in an email.

and

2) Publishing the following paragraph in Freakonomics:
"Then there was the troubling allegation that Lott actually invented some of the survey data that supports his more-guns/less-crime theory. Regardless of whether or not the data was faked, Lott's admittedly intriguing hypothesis doesn't seem to be true. When other scholars have tried to replicate his results, they found that right-to-carry laws simply don't bring down crime."


Count one has been settled, Levitt issued a correction Lott has been vindicated.

Count 2 is absurd. A frivilous lawsuit, whether you believe the survey took place or not. The accusation that Lott made up the 1997 survey is credible, if unproven. Since there's little evidence either way, which side you come down on depends on whether you believe Lott. I don't believe him. Credible people don't use sockpuppetry, file frivilous lawsuits, or change their story a half-dozen times when called on something. You are welcome to believe otherwise.

BTW, you say that Lindgrin's report is out of date. Is there some new evidence you'd like to point out?
8.3.2007 12:18pm
Tim Lambert (mail) (www):
I have commented on Lott's claims to have evidence for a survey here. The short version is that because he doesn't have any evidence to speak of that he conducted a survey, he keeps proving that he had a disk crash. Look at how many people who know that he had a disk crash. How come he can't provide anything from colleagues or students that he did a survey? Surveying thousands of people is a major operation. As well as the students that did the survey, there should also have been friends and family of those students that were told about the weeks spent conducting this survey. Yet despite wide publicity in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and in Freakonomics none of them can come forward.

Add to this the fact that Lott claimed that the survey took three months in 1997 to conduct and yet he was somehow in possesion of the result in early February 1997 (though he didn't say that it was from this survey until much later.) And the fact that it is mathematically impossible for him to get a 98% brandishing number from the survey he claimed to conduct.

Nor is true that he replicated the result in a 2002 survey. He did another survey in 2002 which got a different result. So he just asserted that the result was 95% brandishing. You don't have to take my word for this -- it's in a peer reviewed journal article.
8.3.2007 12:20pm
TDPerkins (mail):
Heh, Lambert.

Nay speak, but think of the devil..and he appears.

There is hard evidence the hard drive crash happened, there is no evidence it did not. The study was later validated by an independent data set.

Your case is evaporating as time permits the accumulation of actual evidence, as opposed to your unsupported innuendo.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp

PS. You never did address my email to you of last month, I think it was, about how the British gov. had been reporting deliberately faked crime data as a matter of policy for years, this particular policy only coming to light in this year.
8.3.2007 12:34pm
TDPerkins (mail):
So he just asserted that the result was 95% brandishing. You don't have to take my word for this -- it's in a peer reviewed journal article.


You have no credibility with me sir.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
8.3.2007 12:37pm
Agricola (mail):
I was under the impression that the part of the suit that dealt with the claim in Freakonomics had been thrown out?
8.3.2007 12:42pm
Tim Lambert (mail) (www):
Proving that Lott had a disk crash does not prove that he did a survey. It isn't even evidence that he did a survey.
8.3.2007 12:49pm
TDPerkins (mail):
Lambert, you have no evidence he did not do the survey, you have evidence that he did.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
8.3.2007 12:50pm
Tim Lambert (mail) (www):
Lott has a new lawyer and he's trying to revive the bit that got thrown out.
8.3.2007 12:51pm
uh clem (mail):
I was under the impression that the part of the suit that dealt with the claim in Freakonomics had been thrown out?

It was. Lott's appealing it. The man has no sense of shame.
8.3.2007 12:51pm
uh clem (mail):
TDP,

BTW, you say that Lindgrin's report is out of date. Is there some new evidence you'd like to point out?
8.3.2007 12:53pm
TDPerkins (mail):
If this is not new evidence, it is evidence you are ignoring.

http://johnrlott.tripod.com/surveysupport.html\

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
8.3.2007 1:11pm
uh clem (mail):
If this is not new evidence, it is evidence you are ignoring.

I've read it. Lott proves beyond a reasonable doubt that he had a hard drive crash. Other than that, it's pretty thin.

Hard drive crashes don't make people and paperwork disappear into thin air. Other than two people who claim to have taken a similar survey around the time, there's nobody other than Lott with a recollection, and no contemporaneous paperwork. That's more than just suspicious.

I'm still at a loss to understand your "out of date" dismissal of Lindgrin. What evidence has surfaced since?
8.3.2007 1:22pm
TDPerkins (mail):

Hard drive crashes don't make people and paperwork disappear into thin air.


BS. For example, as my employer's IT dept. is loathe to backup hard drives, were I to have a crash, I'd lose every email since 2005--a treasure trove of information. I have a private bkup of course.

I'm still at a loss to understand your "out of date" dismissal of Lindgrin.


To the best of my knowledge, this collated info was not avail. when Lindgren made his pronouncement WRT this affair which I am aware of.

What do you not seem to understand is that you need evidence he lied, and you have none, and there is corroborating evidence he did not lie--your insistence that Lott is dishonest WRT the survey is idiosyncratic at best.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
8.3.2007 2:04pm
uh_clem (mail):
ME: Hard drive crashes don't make people and paperwork disappear into thin air.

TDP: BS. For example, as my employer's IT dept. is loathe to backup hard drives, were I to have a crash, I'd lose every email since 2005--a treasure trove of information. I have a private bkup of course.


????? Since a crash would destroy your emails, people and paperwork would disappear too? ????

To the best of my knowledge, this collated info was not avail. when Lindgren made his pronouncement WRT this affair which I am aware of.

Huh? "this collated info" Could you be specific?

Or am I being too "idiosyncratic" (whatever you mean by that)
8.3.2007 2:47pm
TDPerkins (mail):

????? Since a crash would destroy your emails, people and paperwork would disappear too? ????


99.9% of it, I'm sure, would not be recalled by me or anyone else with enough clarity or certainty, that I could feel good about testifying about it in court--and yes several of those people are gone from this earth, and those who are not may well not have their emails or a memory better than mine.

Huh? "this collated info" Could you be specific?


Collated? You're not familiar witht is use of the word?

Corroborating events ranked in succession?

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
8.3.2007 7:14pm
Kamron (mail):
Bellesiles at least had the decency to slink off quietly when he got caught making stuff up.
This is not accurate. Bellesiles fought up a storm.


True. It'd be much more accurate to say that the anti-gun folks were willing to abandon this guy when he turned out to be a liar, but the pro-gun crowd has no such scruples about Lott.

????? Since a crash would destroy your emails, people and paperwork would disappear too? ????
99.9% of it, I'm sure, would not be recalled by me or anyone else with enough clarity or certainty...


Perhaps this is being lost in translation. Would your hard drive crash destroy 1)things written on paper (eg pay stubs) or 2)people who had (albeit vague) recollection of events?

Finally, your repeated insistence that someone prove a negative is amusingly stupid.

Yours, CW, KMA &FOAD
8.3.2007 7:41pm
TDPerkins (mail):
It'd be much more accurate to say that the anti-gun folks were willing to abandon this guy when he turned out to be a liar, but the pro-gun crowd has no such scruples about Lott.


Since Lott is not a liar WRT to the survey--or any other aspect of his professional work--why should he abandoned.

1)things written on paper (eg pay stubs)or 2)people who had (albeit vague) recollection of events?


Many people do have a vague or better recollection of the events described by Lott, and few if any pay stubs would be involved in this--in any case they may not be enumerated in such a way to help his case.

Finally, your repeated insistence that someone prove a negative is amusingly stupid.


What is genuinely amusing is that you claim a negative is proved--that the study was faked and the excuse of lost data owing to a hard drive crash is a lie.

What is spectacularly amusing is that you have not the wit to realize that yet.

There is no evidence the study was faked, or that the hard drive involved did not crash.

There is evidence each happened.

The conclusion best drawn from this is that the study happened, is valid, and is as well supported as most like studies.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
8.3.2007 10:21pm
Tom Myers (www):
I'm a little confused by the judgments on the "peer-refereed" / "peer-reviewed" item. (I've been on both sides of that process, although in computer science rather than economics; I haven't heard that it works differently in other subjects, but perhaps it does.) If you ask people why peer review matters, you'll hear that it tends to certify quality — not well, but better than not having peer review. If you ask them why it certifies quality, I believe you'll hear that the main item is rejection: at a good journal such as the one in question, the main function of a review panel is to reject a large majority of the papers (or grant applications, or whatever) as not good enough. It does have a secondary function of suggesting improvements.

The final lead editor of the issue in question says that
The acceptance rate for papers at The Journal of Law and Economics is something like 8 to 10 percent. This issue had something like ten papers and like most conference articles, none [I believe] were rejected.
Goolsbee's viewpoint would carry over into the sciences as I understand them (I'm always a bit dubious about economics as a science, but this does not make me think less of any of the parties involved, even Lott.) In other words, there were evidently people called "peer reviewers" and it seems that they did serve their editorial-suggestions function, but not their primary function. If any of the authors were tenure-track people, they should make sure that their eventual tenure committees understood that these papers should be counted as non-peer-reviewed, even though they had been published in a reputable journal which, as Levitt's correspondent had said, is "not chopped liver." As a casual response to that casual criterion-usage, Levitt's "not peer refereed" seems appropriate to me; he might just as truly (and falsely, when we come to literal truth) have said "but that issue _was_ chopped liver." I'm a vegetarian; I'll stay away from it.

Perhaps I should mention my own bias; I started as a gun-control advocate, or at least contributor to HCI, then was really annoyed by their misuse of data; got interested for a while, read various things, decided that their case was ludicrously weak; saw a summary of Lott's More Guns, Less Crime and thought "At last, something solid!" and ordered two copies, one to give a friend. But then I felt, umm, squeamish. The two copies are still in my basement, not worthless but not solid, and I'm now in the camp saying "there's no strong evidence of any strong effect either way, so we should not ban guns."
8.4.2007 8:15am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Tom Myers.
Many of Lott's critics seem to have taken the same journey, in a fashion.
First it was blood in the streets.
At the end, it was, yeah, crime is down but you can't prove it was guns.
8.4.2007 1:15pm
Agricola (mail):
Tom Myers,


Perhaps I should mention my own bias; I started as a gun-control advocate, or at least contributor to HCI, then was really annoyed by their misuse of data; got interested for a while, read various things, decided that their case was ludicrously weak; saw a summary of Lott's More Guns, Less Crime and thought "At last, something solid!" and ordered two copies, one to give a friend. But then I felt, umm, squeamish. The two copies are still in my basement, not worthless but not solid, and I'm now in the camp saying "there's no strong evidence of any strong effect either way, so we should not ban guns."


Which is fair enough, and probably correct.

I do think a lot of pro-Lott people assume that the reason people attack him is because he is pro-gun (and by implication they are anti), rather than the other reasons discussed above and elsewhere.

TDPerk,

As many have said, there is evidence of a hard disk crash. There is a great deal less evidence for the survey having been done, and indeed the varied sources from Lott of where the he obtained the 98% figure tend to suggest that it wasnt done, as does the fact that, despite this being (to a degree) nationally reported and resulting in legal action, none of those students who allegedly carried out the survey have come forward.
8.5.2007 2:21pm