Contrast

“Climategate”: not scientific fraud.
Claim that stimulus money went overwhelmingly to Democratic districts: scientific fraud.

“Climategate”: not scientific fraud.

Claim that stimulus money went disproportionately to districts represented by Democrats: scientific fraud. [More here.] (Nate Silver shows that most of the districts that got huge payouts were … state capitals, which means that money attributed to those districts was mostly going elsewhere in the state.

Nate’s analysis shows that the underlying study was ludicrously wrong, but not that it was dishonest. But the response by Veronique de Rugy of George Mason is inconsistent with any attempt to do honest work. When someone points out that the result you’ve trumpeted is actually a data artifact, the correct response is “Ooops!” not “The dataset made me do it!”

If Ward Churchill deserved to be fired for scholarly misconduct (as opposed to his obnoxious opinions) so does de Rugy. No one even vaguely competent would have made such a blunder, and no one even approximately honest would have done anything but make a forthright retraction once it had been revealed.

Of course there’s a big overlap between the wingnuts who have been trumpeting “climategate” and the wingnuts who claimed that de Rugy had found the smoking gun proving that the stimulus bill was just Democratic pork. You can count on them not to correct either of their false assertions.

Glenn Reynolds, whose descent into self-parody is virtually complete, linked to de Rugy’s fraudulent original claim with “‘Stimulus’ money turns out to be political pork.” (De Rugy never actually made that claim, but Reynolds specializes not only in selecting his sources but in twisting what they say.) And he links to Silver’s takedown with an ironic “Shockingly, Nate Silver disagrees,” rather than an honest “Nate Silver shreds de Rugy’s claims.” This is the post-modernism of the Right: there’s no actual truth, just various claims about it, so you might as well pick the claims that flatter your prejudices.

Look, Reynolds doesn’t mind being full of sh*t: he gets money and fame he could never have dreamed of as a bush-league law professor, and gets to act out his pet hatreds in a politically effective way. What’s disgusting is the number of people who seem to like being lied to.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

14 thoughts on “Contrast”

  1. Mark,

    Three very nice snapshots of the era of ire we live in:

    1) This is the post-modernism of the Right: there’s no actual truth, just various claims about it, so you might as well pick the claims that flatter your prejudices.

    2) You get to act out your pet hatreds in a politically effective way.

    3) What’s disgusting is the number of people who seem to like being lied to.

    What might we call this era?

    Some say the world will end in fire. Some say ice…

    From what I've seen from global warming deniers,

    I'd say ire.

  2. "Glenn Reynolds, whose descent into self-parody is virtually complete,…"

    It was complete years ago. The only thing preventing people from saying that was that they were foolish enough to figure that he'd 'snap out of it' after several years of doing it, and gaining fame for doing it.

  3. I love her claim that she used recovery.gov's data, so it's all Obama's fault.

    If George Mason doesn't like being embarrassed by partisan hacks, I hear the AEI recently freed up a "scholar" position.

  4. "If George Mason doesn’t like being embarrassed by partisan hacks…"

    Well, she'll have more to worry about from the flying pigs.

  5. "Reynolds doesn’t mind being full of sh*t: he gets money and fame he could never have dreamed of as a bush-league law professor, and gets to act out his pet hatreds in a politically effective way" – you should think about what you are doing, here: implicitly, you are saying, 'I teach at UCLA, so I should be taken more seriously than someone who teaches at a 3rd-tier law school.' Is that a message you want to be behind? That professors at schools whose students' academic qualifications are lower need not be taken seriously?

    Couple of ways to unpack this: academic hierarchy, where the teacher gets the reflected glory of his institution. Reasonable match to reality, maybe, when my dad got his PhD at Berkeley in 1952: the market was not saturated, there was a job for everyone plausible, and there was a sort on originality/scholar quality between the guys Harvard hired and the guys hired by Directional State College. Today, not so much, the new hires at Directional State are Really Good.

    You yourself have been known do some spleen-venting, right here at RBC. You have dislikes, you do, you do. Gander, goose.

  6. Dave, Mark can defend himself, but it's quite possible to be an undistinguished professor at a good school – although its rural connotations may make "bush league" a poor choice of words.

  7. You can't explain right wing douchebaggery by professional frustration. If we know anything about these people, we know this: they are highly anxious and socially maladept, with no regard for the truth. They believe in concentrated power in the hands of people who look or think like they do, because they believe that will protect them. They don't believe in an open and honest exchange of ideas, because they don't even want to think about those complicated things called "facts," just give them a nice myth that won't scare them.

    So why does Reynolds do it? Probably because he's not that different from his audience. Originally he might have been partly playing them, but after years of immersion in his own bullshit (and negative feedback for any intelligent writings) he's just as untethered from reality as they are.

  8. And in Glenn's case, we have another factor – if he believed half of the sh*t that he slings, he'd have gotten a job with the CPA in Iraq in '03. Can you imagine having the opportunity to help write the constitution and laws of Iraq? It'd have been an academic and commercial step into the major leagues for him. And if he believed the things that he was slinging back then, it would have involved very little risk, and only some discomfort (until Fall '03, say, when the electricity would have been back on, and the last of the 'dead enders' lynched by grateful Iraqis).

  9. I'm not sure why it suddenly feels this way now, as opposed to – I don't know, earlier decades of Limbaugh-mania, but I'm really having trouble taking *anyone* on the right seriously anymore. I used to watch the Sunday shows, and read the occasional interesting conservative. But it's gotten to the point where the crazy is so blatant, it's just not worth my time.

    Is it that the Democrats finally scored a big win? Or that I'm really happy to have someone not just competent but seemingly very smart and *good* in the white house? That it's just the complacency of victory?

    Or is it that the right has long since stopped being serious? This is the attitude we take with batshittery in general. We don't debate with creationists. Or 9-11 conspiracists. Or white supremacists. What would be the point. Objective reality has no effect on them.

    So how different are the endless cries of socialism, global warming denialism, or my personal favorite – "they're taking away our liberty!"? And this isn't some small group of activists with an inflated media presence. This is the top media punditry. This is members of congress shouting slogans from the balcony of congress. This is the former Republican vice presidential running mate *more popular than the head of the ticket* (who by the way faces stiff competition in his own district because he's too moderate).

    One can imagine all sorts of reasons for why the right has gotten here. In fact, this is often what the left is forced to do: instead of debating policy on the merits, which is impossible, we resort to psychology in an attempt to decipher the reasons why otherwise sane individuals might be drawn to such demonstrably wrong and illogical beliefs.

    And I'm no psychologist. It's like one long visit by your neurotic mother-in-law where you realize that the time spent trying to understand her not only prolongs the suffering, but is pointless because no good will ever come of it. And yet your mother-in-law eventually leaves. These people have the power to dramatically alter the country.

    I suppose at this point we're just hoping that the further they burrow into the crazy cave, the less political legitimacy they'll enjoy. But Mencken's insight into the American mind reminds us that we ought not take too much refuge in the capacity for reason of our fellow citizens.

  10. Eli, one factor may be that the Republican party is post-truth and nihilist in a way it never was before. They used to care about policy and to want to get things done, like them or no; not any more.

  11. If I'd meant "professor at a bush-league law school," I would have written it that way. But I meant "bush-league law professor." He doesn't publish in top-ranked journals, and his papers are rarely cited, even by his fellow Second-Amendment enthusiasts, all of whom must know his name. If a reader can name an important and original idea attributable to Reynolds, I'll take it back.

  12. Mark: “Reynolds doesn’t mind being full of sh*t: he gets money and fame he could never have dreamed of as a bush-league law professor, and gets to act out his pet hatreds in a politically effective way”

    dave schutz: "you should think about what you are doing, here: implicitly, you are saying, ‘I teach at UCLA, so I should be taken more seriously than someone who teaches at a 3rd-tier law school.’ Is that a message you want to be behind? That professors at schools whose students’ academic qualifications are lower need not be taken seriously?"

    Adding on to Mark's follow-up, Glenn has fame that very, very few professors at third-tier schools get, regardless of their individual worth. That's not honestly deniable.

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