Reviewing Ann Coulter's Critics

In this post, I review criticisms and fact checks of Ann Coulter. Teal quotes are Coulter, yellow quotes are from critics, red is other stuff.

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2013/oct/16/ann-coulter/ann-coulter-says-no-doctors-who-went-american-medi/
"No doctors who went to an American medical school will be accepting Obamacare."
lol. I remember reading that. This site considers that "pants on fire" lying, and says:
Our experts say: "outrageous," "ridiculous," "ludicrous"
They are appealing to the authority of people who suck at reading comprehension. Sigh. It wasn't meant at a factual-literal statement. This criticism is stupid. They try to defend it:
We are sure the claim wasn't intended as a joke, because it's included in a bullet-point list of straightforward criticisms of the law.
I don't think these people are familiar with Coulter's style. Also on that list was
-- Merely to be eligible for millions of dollars in grants from the federal government under Obamacare, programs are required to meet racial, ethnic, gender, linguistic and sexual orientation quotas. (That's going to make health care MUCH better!)
Using sarcasm isn't what I consider a list of "straightforward criticisms" which couldn't include a joke. Ann (who is not alone in this) has often mixed serious points and humor. Just assuming she wasn't joking about this isn't a reasonable way to interpret her.

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/12/12/lie-of-the-year-goes-to/

in a "lie of the year" contest, Coulter is given a runner up award because:
Conservative author Ann Coulter’s claim that “no doctors who went to an American medical school will be accepting Obamacare.” It received the “pants on fire” rating, the most extreme type of lie by PolitiFact’s rating.
Same issue again. I'm including this because I just clicked everything I saw on Google, I wanted to be thorough. Coulter was not making a literal-factual claim. she was making a correct point about how Obamacare screws up market incentives. BTW she explained in a column how she herself couldn't get any medical care she valued above $0 from any obamacare plan, so the half-joking quote doesn't even seem like much of an exaggeration.

http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2014/jan/27/ann-coulter/coulter-fox-news-broke-bush-drunk-driving-story-20/
Coulter said Fox News broke the story of George W. Bush’s 1976 drunk driving arrest. In terms of being the first to broadcast the story, that is correct.

...

We rate Coulter’s statement Half True.
So Coulter was correct, but they rate it "Half True". I don't get it. (They make some excuses about Fox News only broadcasting it first, but one of Fox's affiliates having done the research.)

http://www.factcheck.org/2009/08/when-philosophy-meets-politics/

This guy complains that Coulter dislikes Ezekiel Emanuel. Emanuel is an Obama health care advisor and a would-be philosopher. What is wrong with Coulter's position? He says Emanuel has been misunderstood and links to http://www.factcheck.org/2009/08/deadly-doctor/ Unfortunately the Youtube video with Coulter's comments is no longer available and he only quoted Coulter as saying, "Zeke Emanuel is on my death list."
McCaughey, a former New York lieutenant governor, claimed that Ezekiel Emanuel advocated that "medical care should be reserved for the non-disabled, not given to those ‘who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens.’ "
What did Emanuel actually say?
Emanuel, Hastings Center Report, 1996: Communitarians endorse civic republicanism and a growing number of liberals endorse some version of deliberative democracy. … This civic republican or deliberative democratic conception of the good provides both procedural and substantive insights for developing a just allocation of health care resources. … Substantively, it suggests services that promote the continuation of the polity – those that ensure healthy future generations, ensure development of practical reasoning skills, and ensure full and active participation by citizens in public deliberations – are to be socially guaranteed as basic. Conversely, services provided to individuals who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens are not basic and should not be guaranteed. An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia. A less obvious example is guaranteeing neuropsychological services to ensure children with learning disabilities can read and learn to reason.
Sounds awful. For those who missed the meaning, he basically wants the government authorities to be in charge of healthcare and decide who gets what by deciding which healthcare services are "basic" (government provided at taxpayer expense) or not. So like, death panels. Emanuel's defense is:
Emanuel conceded that the article is "pretty abstract" and may be difficult to follow for those who are not academics, but he said that one should not then "take two sentences out of context."

"This is clearly not written in my own voice," he said. "I am not advocating this."

We’ll leave it to you to determine the merits of Emanuel’s philosophical observations. But the context makes it clear that Emanuel is describing the implications of a particular philosophical trend, not offering a policy prescription.
So his defense is that he was just writing about bad stuff, not advocating it? And also he's smarter than us, so we shouldn't try to use our own judgment. I'm not sold. Oh and the link to the report doesn't actually work. And I don't trust this site because it screws up the next issue really badly:
McCaughey also pushes the idea that Emanuel would want to ration care for seniors by quoting from a January 2009 article that Emanuel coauthored in The Lancet journal. Here, McCaughey says, he "explicitly defends discrimination against older patients."

What Emanuel and his two coauthors were actually writing about was how to decide which patients are to receive organ transplants, vaccines or other "very scarce medical interventions" when there are not enough to go around. The three authors advocated favoring younger patients over older patients as part of a "complete lives" decision-making system aimed at saving the most years of life using the available resources. Age would be only one factor, however. Also weighing in the "complete lives" system would be such factors as a patient’s likelihood of full recovery (prognosis) and the use of a lottery when deciding between two "roughly equal" patients.

The authors disputed the idea that this system discriminates against older people in the way that favoring one race or one sex over another would discriminate. "Treating 65-year-olds differently because of stereotypes or falsehoods would be ageist; treating them differently because they have already had more life-years is not." The authors stated that the complete lives system "empowers us to decide fairly whom to save when genuine scarcity makes saving everyone impossible."
So it's not OK to accuse him of explicitly discriminating against older patients because he has the excuse that he's doing it rationally instead of due to bigotry? Umm. No. Discrimination for any reason is discrimination. That doesn't necessarily make it bad, but it does make it discrimination. He did explicitly advocate treating old people differently due to their age. And, no, also considering other factors does not change that. If I discriminate against homosexuals unless they're white, thus considering multiple factors, that does not make it stop being discrimination.

If you want to do credible fact checking you can't attack factually accurate statements like this. I'm done with this guy.

Despite this guy being dumb, I found another copy of the report he brought up anyway, and took a look. It begins:

http://www.ncpa.org/pdfs/Where_Civic_Republicanism_and_Deliberative_Democracy_Meet.pdf
Is there a relationship between defects in our medical ethics and the reason the United States has repeatedly failed to enact universal health coverage?
This is politics disguised as academics. Read it if you can stomach it. He's a power-hungry statist authoritarian.

Oh and I found a copy of the video of what Coulter said.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/13/ann-coulter-ezekiel-emanu_n_258365.html

She was joking. Here's the quote:
"Totally ironically, Zeke Emanuel is on my death list. Hold the applause. I'm going to be on the death panel."
The assholes at factcheck.org didn't bother mentioning that Coulter was making a joke about personally being on Obama death panels, prefaced with "Totally ironically".

Again, factcheck.org quoted "Totally ironically, Zeke Emanuel is on my death list. Hold the applause. I'm going to be on the death panel." as "Zeke Emanuel is on my death list."

I guess misquoting was the only way they could come up with to attack Coulter.

http://www.anncoulter.blogspot.com

This site does not have permalinks for some stupid reason. Anyway in a section called "The Lies" we read:
Regarding the War On Terror, on page 5 and 6, Coulter makes the accusations that “[i]n lieu of a military response against terrorists abroad and security precautions at home, liberals wanted to get the whole thing over with and just throw conservatives in jail” and “[l]iberals hate America, they hate ‘flag-wavers,’ they hate abortion opponents, they hate all religions except Islam (post 9/11). Even Islamic terrorists don’t hate America like liberals do.”
Coulter having different political opinions than you does not make her a liar.
Two of the sources Coulter uses to arrive at these scurrilous conclusions are New York Times columns by Frank Rich and Bruce Ackerman. On page 5, Coulter writes, “New York Times columnist Frank Rich demanded that [Attorney General] Ashcroft stop monkeying around with Muslim terrorists and concentrate on anti-abortion extremists.”

REALITY: I checked the column Coulter cited and found that nowhere in the column does Rich even remotely suggest that Ashcroft curtail efforts against Islamic terrorists. In fact, I checked every post-9/11 Times column by Rich and found that Rich has not made any such demands of Ashcroft. This is one of Coulter’s lies that I e-mailed to Alan Colmes who interviewed Coulter last night (6/25/02) on Fox News’s Hannity & Colmes show. Colmes confronted Coulter with this. Coulter’s response: “that is an accurate paraphrase...” (For a transcript of Coulter and Colmes’s exchange, check the addendum at the bottom of this post).
ok let's see the addendum
Addendum: Partial transcript of Hannity & Colmes, June 25, 2002. Interview with Ann Coulter

Colmes : [ Quoting from Slander, pg. 5] ‘New York Times columnist Frank Rich demanded that [Attorney General] Ashcroft stop monkeying around with Muslim terrorists and concentrate on anti-abortion extremists.’ You referred to a particular column that Frank Rich wrote. He never said that in the column. He never said that Ashcroft should stop monkeying around. I can’t show you what he didn’t say because he didn’t say it. It wasn’t in the column.

Coulter: Yes, he did. I mean, I do know what the column says. No, I wasn’t quoting him precisely—

Colmes: I read it today.

Coulter: That is an accurate paraphrase—unlike his quotes of me, I might add, which are, I can show you how they are deceptive. But, no, he was specifically saying, here just so the viewers don’t have to go to the trouble of looking it up. He was specifically complaining that Ashcroft was not meeting with the head of Planned Parenthood when he was purporting to investigate terrorism. That is true and you can’t deny it.

Colmes: That’s not what you said—

[Hannity interrupts and begins to interview Coulter]
ok and what's the article say? "Planned Parenthood, which has been on the front lines of anthrax scares for years and has by grim necessity marshaled the medical and security expertise to combat them, has sought a meeting with the attorney general since he took office but has never been granted one."

so, Coulter was right? what's the problem? the article was complaining that Ashcroft didn't meet with planned parenthood when he was supposed to be dealing with terrorism. the article also said, "A close friend of George W. Bush, [Mr. Ridge] should have been in the administration from the get-go, and was widely rumored to be a candidate for various jobs, including the vice presidency. But after being pilloried by the right because he supports abortion rights, he got zilch. Instead of Mr. Ridge, the administration signed on the pro-life John Ashcroft". so the article really did focus on the abortion issue. and for those who don't know, Ashcroft was busy working on stuff like the patriot act. his resignation letter stated, "The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved."

These people seem to consider anything an error if they don't like it and it involves any interpretation they disagree with. They ought to learn the difference between false factual statements and disagreeable (to them) opinion statements.

moving on to another website by the same guy

http://godlessanncoulter.blogspot.com
Now that it's been thoroughly established that Coulter engaged in plagiarism, not only in the book Godless but for her syndicated column
the link to the plagiarism info doesn't work. (there was also a second link but it went to a blog mainpage with no mention of plagiarism to be found)
I can only speculate but here's my hypothesis: Coulter is a mendacious and venal cynic who has no heart. As an educated person, she hardly believes her own bullshit
OK I guess this guy is just a political opponent of Coulter's who isn't doing objective analysis. done with him. let's google for plagiarism though, that sounds interesting.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/07/07/225305/-Ann-Coulter-plagiarism-charges-overblown

i laughed out loud when i saw Daily Kos defending Ann Coulter from the plagiarism charges. the Kos article says all Coulter did is use some arguments she didn't come up with herself, which it considers "lazy" but recognizes isn't plagiarism. so it's like when I use arguments that Ayn Rand thought of – does studying Objectivism make me lazy? Kos links to details but the link doesn't work.

http://newsbusters.org/node/6307

the plagiarism accusation was made using software plagiarism checking. this kind of thing needs manual checking. also apparently the accuser didn't release his detailed evidence initially. An executive at Coulter's book publisher said, "The number of words used by our author in these snippets is so minimal that there is no requirement for attribution."

things get more fun as Coulter herself addresses the issue. Coulter says:

http://www.newshounds.us/2006/07/12/ann_coulter_responds_to_the_plagiarism_charges_and_neil_cavuto_helps_her_with_the_spin.php
You can't plagiarize the name 'George Bush.'
See? Fun issue. I laughed. and even more fun:
And if I'm plagiarizing I want to know who's saying all those awful thing about the Jersey Girls. Liberals can't really get it straight. Either I'm writing vile horrible books or I'm not writing vile horrible books.
lol
...[E]ven liberal lunatic Daily Kos says it's not plagiarism.
lol, similar to my reaction (except the "lunatic" psychiatry part).

discussing libel, Coulter says she won't sue, she's a public figure, people can and do say whatever they want about her. then:
Cavuto, interrupting:

Do you find that a touch ironic? You've blasted public figures all your life. They turn around and blast you and you can't do a lick about it.

Coulter:

I don't lie about them. I mean, we ought to have the same libel law, and I've always believed this, that Britain does and that is pure truth or falsity. Fine, put a cap on damages. Have a pure truth or falsity here but that is not what libel law is. You can say anything about a public figure.
Truth or falsity sounds like a good criterion for libel to me.

And, indeed, Ann does not lie about the people she criticizes. I've fact checked her, plus I did this big post you're reading right now. i've looked through her stuff and what her critics say. (let me spoil the ending for you: her critics are incompetent).

ok let's get back to wading through the less fun stuff.

http://www.spinsanity.org/columns/20030630.html
Misleading quotation and sourcing of claims

Coulter engages in a series of deceptive practices in quoting people and sourcing her claims. Most commonly, she distorts the authorship of articles she's citing. Throughout the book, she attributes outside book reviews, magazine profiles and op-eds to media outlets as if they were staff-written news reports, feeding the perception of bias on the part of these institutions. These include a New York Times Week in Review article by historian Richard Gid Powers cited as "According to the Times..." (p. 6); a Washington Post book review by Patricia Aufderheide described as "the Washington Post said..." (p. 97) and "The Washington Post called..." (p. 98); and a New York Times Magazine article by reporter Leslie Gelb cited as "the New York Times reported..." (p. 171). At one point, she cites a single Washington Post magazine article by journalist Orville Schell four separate ways (implying multiple stories to the casual reader), in one case calling it "a two-part, four-billion-column-inch Washington Post story" in which "the Post said..." (p. 92).
if you want the exact details of a cite, look it up. if someone is lazy, that is their own fault, not Coulter's. you can't expect Coulter to provide every detail about something you might be interested in, upfront. people who don't check cites are going to make mistakes no matter what Coulter does.

and why doesn't Spinsanity, so concerned about cites, give us links to the articles it's talking about?

in general, organizations are responsible for what they publish, so I don't see what's wrong with referring to it that way. Unless it's something like a letter to the editor.

when something like the Times' Week in Review or Magazine shares the website (same domain) and logo (their name in that iconic font) with the Times, they are choosing not to be a clearly separate entity. they should clearly separate their own stuff before demanding Coulter add words to her book about the separation.
Coulter also repeatedly cites quotations out of context from the original source material, implying that reporters reached conclusions that were actually presented by sources quoted in the piece. In one particularly dishonest case, she claims that the New York Times "reminded readers that Reagan was a 'cowboy, ready to shoot at the drop of a hat'" after the invasion of Grenada (p. 179). However, the "cowboy" quote is actually from a Reagan administration official quoted in a Week in Review story who said, ''I suppose our biggest minus from the operation is that there now is a resurgence of the caricature of Ronald Reagan, the cowboy, ready to shoot at the drop of a hat.''
Bringing something up (which the NYT did) does remind people about it. ok two strikes and we'll move on to the next article by the same website.

http://www.spinsanity.org/columns/20020713.html
Yet if readers can leave aside all of these problems (admittedly not an easy task), Coulter is actually driving at something important about the state of political debate in the media. She's right, for example, that left-leaning politicians and editorial pages sometimes mount sophisticated and unfair rhetorical campaigns against their political enemies. The example she chooses -- attacks against former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and his policies -- is exactly on point. She also chooses other examples to good effect, such as Rep. Charlie Rangel's equation of Gingrich's policies with those of Nazi Germany. Absurdly, though, she steadfastly refuses to admit that conservatives can be guilty of exactly the same thing -- an asymmetry so glaring that only the most partisan readers can accept it at face value.
Coulter is certainly not shy about criticizing conservatives. Anyway, what problems? apparently she wrote "sweeping judgements":
"Even Islamic terrorists don't hate America like liberals do."
"[T]he left is itching to silence conservatives once and for all."
"[I]f Americans knew what they [liberals] really believed, the public would boil them in oil."
""Principle is nothing to liberals. Winning is everything."
So basically the "problems" are Coulter's political ideas.
Another problem plaguing Slander is the deceptive way Coulter uses footnotes to lend a false sense of legitimacy to questionable points. To take one example, in her discussion of media treatment of former Sen. Bob Packwood, R-Ore., she provides a list of 10 quotes alternating between positive coverage prior to his political demise following allegations of sexual harassment, and negative coverage afterward. Coulter introduces the list with the claim that "What happened to Packwood is a stunning example of the media's power both to destroy and protect ... In the case of Packwood, the media's good dog/bad dog descriptions were applied to the exact same human being."

To the casual reader, the list must seem fairly damning. Yet if one flips to the back of the book and checks her sources, it turns out that her claim about "the media" rests on a very small sample. Rather than the 10 different articles the casual reader would assume Coulter is quoting, she relies on one article for four of the five negative quotes, a second for three of the five positive quotes, and a third for the other two positive quotes. In all, the list comes down to four articles -- thin evidence at best for the broad suggestion that coverage of Packwood proves "[t]here is no intellectual honesty whatsoever in media descriptions of politicians," which she makes two paragraphs later.
OK let me check the book. Coulter writes, "There are literally hundreds of news items using these words in connection with Bob Packwood." What words? "Maverick", "gadfly", "courage" and "political savvy". so why is spinsanity claiming Coulter cherrypicked a couple quotes and misled people about there being more, when she actually explicitly said there were hundreds? Why didn't they quote and investigate the much bigger claim?

I think because it's not an issue they can win, and they are scum. Google for "Bob Packwood" and each of the 4 terms. I got 10k hits for maverick, 6k hits for gadfly, 30k hits for courage, and 300 hits for "political savvy". they aren't all news items, but at a glance i can see some are. there's far more news sources for this than the four articles spinsanity dishonestly pretends is the whole story after dishonestly selectively quoting Coulter.

http://mediamatters.org/research/2009/01/07/coulter-compounds-falsehoods-in-point-by-point/146726

these guys are mad that Coulter described liberals defending evil with the word "praise". Coulter answered the issue, saying in part, "among the praise for the perpetrators of the hoax hate crime was a statement by the president of Duke in a baccalaureate address reprinted in the Duke magazine". the media matters folks screwed up the link Coulter provided, but i managed to find the article

https://web.archive.org/web/20030513015105/http://dukemagazine.duke.edu/dukemag/issues/070801/depgar.html
At your opening convocation in August 1997, I spoke on the theme of freedom -- the kind of freedom you might expect at Duke, and my advice on how to use it wisely. I also told you about some of the things you would need to grapple with, freely and responsibly, during your Duke years. One of those predictions was that race would surely matter in your lives. During your first semester, students hung a black doll in effigy on the quad to protest what they saw as our inhospitable environment for African Americans.
The issue is the black doll in effigy. Media Matters thinks this distorted picture of events (no mention that it was hung by a noose by lying scumbags) isn't praise because it was just saying race was relevant when it whitewashed a very nasty hoax. Media Matters refusing to understand what this kind of statement means does not make Coulter a poor scholar.

Next up, a little variety. I ran into a fact check of an attack on Coulter's scholarship. Read it if you want: http://lyingliar.com/?p=46

Moving on, this is amusing:

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Ann_Coulter
If you can find every single problem with American society and put them into one person, it's [Ann Coulter].
That's from "Rational Wiki". I'm not seeing how opening with this kind of hateful flaming is a rational approach. They don't bother trying to present a serious critical case against Coulter or fact checking her. Mostly they quote a bunch of things she said without comment, as if "rational" thinking means assuming your political views are too obvious to need explaining.

http://rudepundit.blogspot.com/2005/07/why-ann-coulter-is-cunt-part-1856.html
Why Ann Coulter Is a Cunt, Part 1856 - The Plagiarism Edition
You might have expected left-wing Coulter haters to be more sensitive to feminist issues, gender respect, or that kind of stuff. If you did, you were wrong. The left likes to lie about having such values far more than it wants to bother having them. And I already covered the plagiarism issue earlier.

also, speaking of obamacare, some people are mad about this:

http://www.anncoulter.com/columns/doug-graham.html

http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2014/feb/05/ann-coulter/ann-coulter-says-friends-sister-died/

first of all, dying from obamacare is different than dying of cancer. umm, sure, i know. also there's a blue shield issue.
But the claim that someone "died from Obamacare" because Blue Shield "completely just pulled out of California" is something we can fact-check.
ok and they do check it:
Like other insurers across California and the country, Blue Shield of California could no longer offer some health insurance plans because they did not include "essential health benefits" required by the Affordable Care Act.

These plans could not be grandfathered in under the new law. Blue Shield of California sent letters to 119,000 customers in September notifying them their current plans would end "but we can still have you covered in 2014." PunditFact obtained a sample cancellation letter from the company.
Sounds complaint-worthy to me.
The letters went to 57 percent of the insurer’s individual market customers, she said. For two-thirds of the people who lost their plan, the recommended option was more expensive, the Los Angeles Times reported.
hmm. since the complaints don't provide enough details about the Blue Shield, let's look up what their organization is like:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Shield_of_California
In 2006, Blue Shield agreed to a $6.5 million settlement relating to its alleged modifying of the risk tier structure of its individual and family health care plans. In 2008, the organization agreed to a settlement with the California Department of Managed Health Care to resolve allegations of improper rescission of individual health plan coverage. Blue Shield agreed to pay $3 million as a penalty. The organization reinstated coverage to 450 members whose plans had been cancelled and agreed to provide compensation for any medical debts incurred by these policyholders due to the rescission.
wikipedia's source link may be dead, but you can still find the source here: https://web.archive.org/web/20080721053636/http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5gDBLyPh2QHiIO7azoVYF9Q2TVRSwD9203RSG2
Two of California's biggest health insurers have agreed to collectively pay $13 million and reinstate more than 2,000 insurance policies to settle claims with the state that they illegally dropped policyholders from coverage.
so Blue Shield has a history of illegally dropping people's insurance. given that history, i think critics need to present a little research about the current events before we should trust Blue Shield.

But politifact basically says no one lost their insurance (but lots of people had their rates raised. but they all had spare money to pay higher rates?) so, ok, at this point do i know what happened? no not really. do Coulter's critics know what happened? i don't think so. if they do, why couldn't they write more convincing material with detailed factual information with good sources? and all this is because maybe Coulter exaggerated a bit when speaking on TV, not in writing? at worst she said Blue Shield pulled out of California over Obamacare when actually they just changed a bunch of stuff around and made things worse for more than a hundred thousand people? if this vague stuff is the best criticism of Coulter that anyone has, i'm not impressed.

finally there's this book, Soulless: Ann Coulter and the Right-Wing Church of Hate by Susan Estrich. ok i can respect that parody title, but let's see what it says. (In these quotes, bolding names of speakers in interviews and italics are from the book, bolding other stuff is my emphasis.)

It says if you want to see all of Coulter's errors documented, go to www.mediamatters.org [p10] but i'd already been there above, and i don't see anything about Coulter on their homepage, and when I do a search on the site for "Ann Coulter" it doesn't come up with some organized documentation of her errors as promised. This book is from 2006, but it's Estrich's own fault for linking a homepage and pretending it was a source of something specific.

Estrich isn't big on specifics:
[Coulter] makes you so angry sometimes that you become a mirror of her. That is her power. That's why people throw pies and nitpick footnotes. [p11]
When I fact checked Coulter footnotes, was I nitpicking? Was it because I hate Coulter? No. Scholarship matters! Well to me at least, not to Estrich.

Estrich is an angry person. It's a pattern:
I had to erase everything I wrote here, I got so mad. Better write nothing, my mother would have said. What can you say to hate? [p9]
And that's just in the first 11 pages. I tried to look for more anger in the index, but there isn't an index.

Estrich's book isn't about fact checking Coulter. It's about arguing with principles. That would be OK but the method is awful:
Social scientists argue, using polling data, that there is no culture war. Ann needs to create one in order to destroy the possibility that a decent progressive majority might triumph over the forces of hate. [p6]
The book has footnotes, but not for that factual claim about polling data. And note the appeal to the authority of "scientists" as an arguing method.

But the important thing is Estrich thinks there's no disagreement, no debate, Coulter is just inventing one. If Coulter would just shut up and stop spreading divisive hate, then America could be a calm, progressive (left-wing) country. Estrich wants to win by a method other than winning the debate.

"progressive" really does mean left-wing to Estrich, btw
[Coulter] asks: What does liberalism believe? (We're supposed to call ourselves progressives, by the way; it polls much better.) [p12]
now back to denying there are significant political disagreements:
What's clear to everyone except Ann is that the president [George W. Bush] has failed. The war in Iraq has failed. [p6]
Estrich claims everyone except Coulter agrees with "decent progressive" politics like that George W. Bush and the Iraq war were failures.

Coulter recognizes that people disagree and argues her case, strongly. I respect that.

Estrich denies that people disagree (except a few extremists like Coulter). Then instead of arguing for her political views, Estrich writes a book attacking an extremist for not having the "decent progressive" views Estrich is sure all the Americans who count would agree with her about.

You think Estrich doesn't really mean it? That she isn't trying to smooth over political debate so everyone can just agree with her? That she isn't trying to be the reasonable moderate most Americans already agree with, to Coulter's divisive extremism?
You look at every poll and what you find is a decent, moderate, tolerant nation, being torn apart by the divisive, polarizing, mean-spirited politics of a selfish few. You find that on the fundamental issues that are supposed to be tearing us apart, we're far more united than you think, and we're being divided for sport. [p2]
Estrich tries to frame things so everyone already agrees with her and there's no need to debate. Instead of debate, she'll just flame Coulter and anyone else who disagrees as a tiny mean-spirited divisive minority. Polarizing people and being divisive is bad – Estrich claims – unless you're attacking people like Coulter (or, I suppose, me).

Coulter is the intellectual here who argues her points. Estrich is the venom-spewing hater. Ironically Estrich keeps talking about Coulter with phrases like "venom [p5]", "rants [p6]", "forces of hate [p6]", "polarizing [p6]", "trades on hate for the fun of it [p2]", "mean-spirited [p2]", "selfish [p2]". Other than that last one, they all apply to Estrich more than to Coulter. (I'm not sure if Estrich has a self. If you don't understand this comment but want to, read The Fountainhead.)

Look at this attack:
... Ann uses God as a gimmick. [...] She admits this. ... [p7]
This is a flame which Estrich doesn't argue. It's just the sort of wordplay Coulter is frequently accused of doing (but actually Coulter has integrity and standards. She does something kind of similar but better). Coulter did not and would not admit to using God as a "gimmick". Coulter would never say that in her own words or agree with it, and didn't. Estrich has no evidence or argument to the contrary. But Estrich is twisting Coulter's position and paraphrasing to create something mean. Then the big problem comes when Estrich attributes her twist to Coulter. If Estrich wants to claim Coulter uses God as a gimmick, whatever, but claiming that Coulter agrees is over the line.

Bigger picture, Estrich hasn't written a serious fact-checking book and wouldn't claim she did. ("What's wrong with Ann, in my judgment, is not that she is sloppier than anybody else in the political world, but that she's meaner... [p11]").

Estrich has written a book of political rhetoric, but her methods begin by claiming she doesn't need to argue her point. She just assumes her reader already agrees with her, and if not then he must be a tiny minority of non-decent non-progressive people like Coulter. Because of this method, I don't have much to say about the book.

I disagree. If you (Estrich) want a rational debate, I'm open to that. Coulter and I accept that you disagree with us and are willing to argue about politics. When you are willing to analyze the issues instead of putting all your effort into saying that's unnecessary, get back to me.

You doubt Estrich means it this way? "... And why drop the last line, if not to fool us progressives? [p13]", "Since we think the Earth is actually precious, we have to protect it. [p13]", "She is turning us into cartoons [p14]". It's all about "the rest of us [p11]" against "Ann". And immediately preceding this assumption that all of her readers agree with her, Estrich accuses Coulter of "talking to her base [p13]".

So we're pretty much done here. I just wanted to show you one more thing about the book.
[From an interview] Lauer: Do you believe everything in this book—do you believe everything in the book, or do you put some things in there just to cater to your base?

[Estrich commenting] She really does believe them. This is the amazing but true part. Scary, but true.

Coulter: No, of course I believe everything. [p62]
When I saw this I thought maybe I could respect something about Estrich. Estrich admits Coulter means what she says. Except it turned out it was just a tactic to call Coulter "scary". A little later Estrich contradicts herself:
[This is another interview, and the question is whether the 9/11 widows would give up their celebrity, notoriety and money to have their husbands back. Colmes and Shwartz think it's obvious that the widows would make that trade. Coulter isn't sure and says:]

Coulter: I don't know. I can't read into their hearts. But it isn't as obvious to me as it apparently is to you.

[Estrich comments] How can you say this, Ann? How can anyone say it? Even if it's just for effect, how can you say it? [p76]
Part of Colmes' reply is "You've got to be kidding me. [p76]".

But it's not just for effect, Coulter is not kidding, she believes it. And I for one agree with her about the 9/11 widows.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Fact Checking Ann Coulter

I've encountered a lot of scholarship errors in books (and elsewhere) and learned to watch out for false claims. Even if a book gives a lot of footnotes, it can easily still be wrong. I often check the sources for claims, rather than trusting footnotes, and I've caught problems. I've written about the bad scholarship of the Cato Institute, the Ayn Rand Institute, the New York Times, Thomas Sowell, Robert Zubrin, Alex Epstein, Steven Mosher, Isaac Kramnick, Fred Pearce, Matthew Connelly, Robert McGee, and Ari Armstrong.

I didn't have to look for scholarship errors to find any of those. I just read things normally and investigated issues that stood out to me. With Coulter, I did the same thing when reading her books. I investigated several of her claims. The difference is, with everyone else I found an error within the first few issues I investigated. With Coulter, I never found an error, so I decided she was a good scholar.

But Coulter's weekly column rarely gives sources for its many factual claims. I find that uncomfortable. I was concerned I was being too trusting by reading her column and generally believing its facts. Plus, I disagree with Coulter on some important issues (like psychiatry). When you have substantial disagreements with someone, that indicates you think about the world in some different ways, so it's good to tread carefully. Perhaps she treats factual accuracy differently than I do (I know many people take it less seriously than me). So I decided to fact check Ann Coulter more thoroughly.

To be objective, I used a random method. I'd already tried checking things that stood out to me. This time I investigated 10 random footnotes from her books. For each one, I picked a book, then I selected a chapter with a random number generator, then I went to the footnotes for that chapter and selected one with a random number generator. Whatever was randomly chosen, I committed to investigate it and reach a conclusion, even if it was hard; reselecting any footnotes would compromise objectivity.

This is not a perfect approach. If 1% of Coulter's footnotes are mistaken, I could miss it. Maybe she approaches her columns with a different respect for scholarship than the books I'm checking (why?). Maybe she has mistakes with no footnote. If I missed something, please tell me (with specifics!). Leave a comment below or email me [email protected]

In my experience, I often find scholarship errors within the first three things I check for an author. Because errors are so common, I think a spot check like this is valuable. If you doubt how common errors are, I recommend you fact check some other authors. Plus, I've already read Coulter's books and checked a few claims I found suspicious, so adding random checking provides good variety and objectivity. And, while reading, I already had the opportunity to spot claims in her books that should have a footnote but don't, or notice other issues.

I checked 10 randomly selected footnotes from 5 Ann Coulter books. For each one, I present my analysis below and I score Coulter's scholarship from 0 to 5 points. Her final average score was 5, which is perfect. (I decided on the scoring system before I started.) I found no scholarship errors. Well done!

In addition to fact checking Coulter myself, I also reviewed other people's criticism and fact checking of Coulter. Click through for details; in summary, their own scholarship was terrible. Also, my friend fact checked one random Coulter cite I gave him, which was correct.

Demonic: How the Liberal Mob Is Endangering America

Cite: Chapter 12: 29. Lynn Sweet, “Dems Seek Strategy Against ‘Birthers,’ ” Chicago Sun-Times, August 5, 2009.
The Democratic National Committee called the Tea Party movement “rabid right-wing extremists” and “angry mobs.”29
(Yellow quotes are from Coulter's books, teal quotes are from her sources, red indicates other quotes.)

Here, Coulter has given two quotes. I found the article here. It has the text Coulter quoted:
The Obama-controlled Democratic National Committee is portraying its foes as on the political fringe, accusing "Republicans and their allied groups" of "inciting angry mobs," calling them "a small number of rabid right wing extremists."
The only difference is Coulter added a hyphen in "right-wing". I think that's a reasonable English style change, not a misquote.

The article's source is the author personally speaking with Democratic Senator Dick Durban and providing quotes. Good.

Score: 5/5

Cite: Chapter 15: 25. Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Thomas Nelson, 2010), 170–71.
Reminiscent of France’s “Cult of Reason,” the Nazis planned to replace Christianity with the “Reich Church,” based on a 30-point plan drawn up by Nazi leader Alfred Rosenberg. Crosses were to be stripped from churches, cathedrals, and chapels and replaced by the swastika. Bibles, crucifixes, and saints would be forbidden from the altars, which would instead display a copy of Mein Kampf and a sword.25 (If they had thought of it, they might have put Christ in a jar of urine.)
I got the book. Page 170 says:
Rosenberg was an "outspoken pagan" who, during the war, developed a thirty-point program for the "National Reich Church."
Five of the thirty points are given in the book on page 171. Coulter gets everything right:
18. The National Church will clear away from its altars all crucifixes, Bibles and pictures of Saints.

19. On the altars there must be nothing but Mein Kampf (to the German nation and therefore God the most sacred book) and to the left of the altar a sword.

30. On the day of its foundation, the Christian Cross must be removed from all churches, cathedrals and chapels ... and it must be superseded by the only unconquerable symbol, the swastika.
But what about this book's source? I was worried for a second because there's no footnotes. But it does have endnotes with sources, they just go by page number and brief quotes rather than by footnote number. There are five reasonable-looking sources given for pages 170-171.

And if you search for this material on Google you get lots of hits with these points, some of which give more sources. For example:
(The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William L. Shirer, p. 240 in some editions, p. 332 in others. Chapter headed "Triumph and Consolidation", subsection "The Persecution of the Christian Churches")
He even checked the page numbers for different editions! That Shirer book is actually one of Bonhoeffer's sources. Let's see if there are any Amazon reviews criticizing Shirer's scholarship. There are 16 1 star reviews out of 930 reviews. Looking through them:
This review is not of the excellent scholarly work of William Shirer but of the Kindle version of this book
The serious flaw in this book is the extremely poor editing by the publisher [for the Kindle version]
The book is excellent..a classic. There is a problem with the new audiobook service and the Kindle Fire HD.
Lots of 1 star reviews are either about problems with the e-book or the audio book. One guy wants to defend Nietzsche from charges of anti-semitism, but I didn't find his comments persuasive. Someone says Shirer's book is outdated and there is new information available, but doesn't point out specific mistakes. Someone even says:
The simple fact is if I want an anti Nazi soapbox filled with opinion and no facts, I will read a political blog or something along those lines.
Shirer's book is anti-Nazi? Fine with me. These Amazon reviews look like what you would expect for an accurate book that offends a few people. I'm giving Coulter full credit.

Score: 5/5

High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton

Cite: Chapter 4: 9 John M. Broder, “Testing of a President: The Investigation,” New York Times, March 7, 1998.
Jordan told the grand jury that he personally gave the president regular progress reports on his efforts to get Lewinsky a job. He partially confirmed Clinton’s statement that Betty Currie was the one who referred Lewinsky to him. Yet he also explained that he assumed the referral was made at the president’s request.9
Here's the article.
Mr. Clinton, in his deposition, acknowledged talking to Mr. Jordan about finding a job for Ms. Lewinsky. And Mr. Jordan has told his lawyers and the grand jury that he personally kept the President up to date on his job search efforts.

...

Mr. Jordan has said that it was Mrs. Currie who referred Ms. Lewinsky to him. But his attorney, William G. Hundley, said this week that Mr. Jordan assumed that Mrs. Currie was acting at the President's behest.
The footnote does have the material for all three of Coulter's sentences, and she presented it accurately. A problem I've seen before is a section of text makes multiple claims and then gives a footnote for one of the claims. Then the other claims have no source. But Coulter did it right.

Score: 5/5

Cite: Chapter 12: 6 Investigators for the Senate Judiciary Committee, which held hearings on “Filegate” in 1996, discovered this.
This was not the sort of thing that tended to promote the appearance of innocent bungling. In addition, a six-month gap in the log used to sign out the sensitive files from the White House Security Office was never explained. One page of the looseleaf log ends on March 29, 1994, and the next page picks up again with September 21, 1994.6
I'm not very happy with this cite because it doesn't give any source to look up. But there is information online:
(e) Secret Service entry logs indicate Craig Livingstone's access to the White House residence when he had no logical reason for being there, other than perhaps to share FBI files with its occupants. Indeed, a "check out" log of FBI files from his office shows a six (6) month "gap" -- from March 29, 1994 to September 21, 1994 -- where there are no entries, reminiscent of the eighteen (18) minute gap in the Nixon tapes during Watergate. See Secret Service Entry Logs, attached as Exhibit 9.
Looks like Coulter had it right. I'm still not happy about the lack of a source I could directly check, but I'm hesitant to subtract any points when she was factually correct. To resolve this, I searched for newspaper articles from the time. If it was common knowledge, then I'll give her full credit.

LA Times:
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, called the gap troubling and asked former White House aide D. Craig Livingstone to explain missing entries in the log between March 29, 1994, and Sept. 21, 1994.

...

"There was a period of time evidently that the log wasn't kept," Livingstone testified.
Well, OK, Livingstone admitted it himself, in Senate testimony, and it was in a major newspaper. And it's not that hard to find, even 18 years later.

Score: 5/5

Mugged: Racial Demagoguery from the Seventies to Obama

Cite: Chapter 14: 62. Mark Hosenball, “The Death-Threat Debate,” Newsweek, October 27, 2008. Available at http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2008/10/18/the-death-threat-debate.html.
The Obama campaign responded to Newsweek’s inquiries about the candidate’s lie by saying that even if the report wasn’t true, “what is true is that the tone of the rhetoric at McCain–Palin campaign events has gotten out of hand.”62
I like cites with URLs! Coulter's quote exactly matches the webpage. The source is, "An Obama campaign spokesman told NEWSWEEK". Looks good.

Score: 5/5

Cite: Chapter 15: 18. Mark Mooney, “Obama Aide Concedes ‘Dollar Bill’ Remark Referred to His Race,” ABC News, August 1, 2008. Available at http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Politics/story?id=5495348&page=1#.T_bYV45Sbao
Maybe he’d be the first Hawaiian on a dollar bill. Apparently, there were limits to the press’s credulity and eventually, the Obama campaign admitted that, yes, the dollar bill line was about race.18
Another URL, and another correct cite. Easy one.
But Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, acknowledged on "Good Morning America" Friday that the candidate was referring, at least in part, to his ethnic background.

When pressed to explain the comment, Axelrod told "GMA" it meant, "He's not from central casting when it comes to candidates for president of the United States. He's new to Washington. Yes, he's African-American."
Score: 5/5

Cite: Chapter 4: 33. Jim Dwyer, “Race Victim’s Mom: I Wanted a Better Life for My Kids,” (New York) Newsday, January 8, 1992.
The only definitive proof that the paint attacks were hoaxes was that the police, the mayor and the New York Times suddenly dropped the subject, never mentioning the white-paint attacks again. Needless to say, there would be no investigation into whether the alleged victims had wasted police resources by falsely reporting a crime.

The shoe-polish hate crime had made the front page of the New York Times and the cover of New York Newsday in massive in-depth interviews with the “victims.” The Times’s story, titled “Victim of Bias Attack, 14, Wrestles with His Anger,” was 1,228 words long.32 Newsday’s account, written by the most easily fooled journalist in America, Jim Dwyer, clocked in at 1,016 words and was titled “Race Victim’s Mom: I Wanted a Better Life for My Kids.”33 The racist attack was talked about in France, Toronto, Seattle, Chicago, on the MacNeil Lehrer NewsHour, in endless stories on National Public Radio and still today, in Anna Quindlen’s living room.
I quoted a lot in this case to make the context and issue clear. This article is tough to find. The only thing Google found was from Coulter's book. Archive.org found nothing. Newsday's website search is broken. Searching for the author "Dwyer" brings up a bunch of sports articles that give an error when clicked on. Jim Dwyer may have won a Pulitzer Prize while at Newsday, but their link to his articles is broken.

But I eventually managed to find it. Coulter's cite is correct except for two punctuation changes. The version I found online has the apostrophe moved to the wrong place and has quotes around the dialog from the mother:
Race Victims' Mom: `I Wanted A Better Life For My Kids'
I don't see a meaningful problem. And the visible text of the article fits what Coulter was talking about.

Score: 5/5

Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right

Cite: Chapter 2: 3. Editorial, Las Vegas Review-Journal, January 14, 2002.
The California Coastal Commission was forced to intervene to demand that the Hollywood left stop blocking access to the beach. Steve Hoye, former head of the Malibu Democratic Club, expressed shock at the arrogance of what he called "some of the best, most liberal people in Malibu."3
The issue here is the Hoye quote. Although the Las Vegas Review-Journal deleted the article from their website, the Internet Archive still has a copy:
"Some of the best, most liberal people in Malibu turned their backs on me over this issue," said Steve Hoye, former head of the Malibu Democratic Club and now a champion of open beaches, to the Los Angeles Times.
I think their source is this L.A. Times article. Coulter's quote is correct.

Score: 5/5

Cite: Chapter 8: 12. Jo Mannies, "Bradley Touts New Book, Ideologies; Public Trust Tops Priorities in New Appeal," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 9, 1996, p. 1C.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch described Bradley's run-of-the-mill, tax-and-spend liberalism as "his cerebral approach to politics."12
The article is behind a paywall. I paid.
His personal disclosures, in the book and in interviews, are a departure for Bradley, a private man known for his prowess in basketball and his cerebral approach to politics.
Coulter's quote is correct.

Score: 5/5

Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism

Cite: Chapter 6: 78. Lawrence Van Gelder, "Harold Cammer, 86, Champion of Labor and Rights Lawyer," New York Times, October 25, 1995; William Glaberson, "F.B.I. Admits Bid to Disrupt Lawyers Guild," New York Times.
The New York Times has variously referred to the Guild as "a nation-wide organization noted for its concern with liberal causes and civil rights" and "a national lawyers organization that has long been associated with the labor movement and liberal causes."78
These articles were easy to find and the quotes are correct. Harold Cammer, 86, Champion of Labor and Rights Lawyer:
Mr. Cammer was also a founder and active member of the National Lawyers Guild, a nationwide organization noted for its concern with liberal causes and civil rights, as well as a volunteer lawyer in the civil rights movement in the South in the 1960's.
F.B.I. Admits Bid to Disrupt Lawyers Guild:
The Guild, a national lawyers organization that has long been associated with the labor movement and liberal causes, was tarred for years with charges that it was a "Communist front" organization.
Ann added a hyphen in "nation-wide". That's fine. Otherwise the quotes are exact.

Score: 5/5

Congratulations to Ann Coulter for her perfect score. It's great – and too rare – to see high quality scholarship.

EDIT: I want to be extra clear about a misconception some readers have had. Of course checking random cites is not comprehensive. First, I checked anything that stood out to me as suspicious or interesting, like I do with everyone. Other people never pass that phase 1 checking. Then for phase 2, I checked random cites for Ann Coulter as a supplement. I wanted to be extra hard on Coulter, rather than treat phase 1 checking as adequate. Coulter passed both phases, her rivals all failed in phase 1.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Bad Scholarship by Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) doesn't care about scholarship like accurate quoting. They write:
According to an abstract of the study, "for people who had positive content reduced in their News Feed, a larger percentage of words in people's status updates were negative and a smaller percentage were positive. When negativity was reduced, the opposite pattern occurred."
They link the study and the abstract doesn't say that. They made that quote up. It's a paraphrase, not a quote, but it's in quote marks. And more confusing, the ending words, "... reduced, the opposite pattern occurred.", are a quote.

It's cool that they are linking a source, but they need to learn to actually take quotes from the source, instead of fabricating them.

Instead of misquoting the study, the WSJ should have tried thinking about the study. For example:
Data from a large real-world social network, collected over a 20-y period suggests that longer-lasting moods (e.g., depression, happiness) can be transferred through networks [Fowler JH, Christakis NA (2008) BMJ 337:a2338], although the results are controversial.
The WSJ could have questioned the wisdom of letting these researchers toy with hundreds of thousands of users in order to produce a paper with a grammar error in the abstract. There should be a comma after "period". This isn't a minor point. The sentence would be confusing enough with the comma, and is harder to understand without it.

On the one hand, I wouldn't expect a publication that misquotes papers (which they could trivially copy/paste from correctly) to notice this. But on the other hand, I don't think they should report on things they don't understand.

Or here is a part of the study that maybe the WSJ would understand:
As such, it was consistent with Facebook’s Data Use Policy, to which all users agree prior to creating an account on Facebook, constituting informed consent for this research.
Instead of misquoting, the WSJ could have accurately quoted this part (it's not very hard, I used copy/paste) and questioned whether it's really "informed consent" when most of Facebook's users have never read Facebook’s Data Use Policy.

How can people give informed consent to something they haven't read? That's the sort of issue newspapers are often better at discussing.

Or maybe the WSJ could put their efforts towards useful commentary on this part, instead of lying about what the study says:
First, because News Feed content is not “directed” toward anyone, contagion could not be just the result of some specific interaction with a happy or sad partner.
The WSJ could have pointed out something interesting and useful here. They missed the opportunity to mention that this is completely false – some News Feed posts are directed at specific individuals. I rarely read Facebook, but I've seen people post stuff directed at a specific individual (this shouldn't be particularly surprising). (How many? I don't know. The study doesn't know either, they just stupidly assumed none are. Apparently Facebook is too far away from their ivory tower to ever read anyone's News Feed.)

There's so much great stuff to discuss here, but the WSJ would rather destroy their own credibility than provide useful commentary.

The WSJ did try to say something worthwhile, but they messed it up. They wrote:
The emotional changes in the research subjects was small. For instance, people who saw fewer positive posts only reduced the number of their own positive posts by a tenth of a percent.
Looking at how big an effect we're talking about is important, and helps put the study findings in context for readers. However, this is factually incorrect and not what the study says. It's bad scholarship again. The study actually said:
When positive posts were reduced in the News Feed, the percentage of positive words in people’s status updates decreased by B = −0.1% compared with control [...]
People who saw fewer positive posts reduced their own positive posting by 0.1% more than the control subjects did.

The WSJ should try hiring people who know how to read and understand studies – and who don't fabricate false quotations – if they want to report on studies.

Note: The article provides a contact email. On 2014-07-02, I explained the two clear factual errors (fabricated quote and misunderstanding of what paper said) and asked about fixing them. No reply. (I'll update my post if I receive a late reply.)

Providing a contact email implies being open to discussion and correction. It implies there is a path forward. If one isn't actually willing to make corrections, it's dishonest.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Bad Correlation Study

Here is a typical example of a bad correlation study. I've pointed out a couple flaws, which are typical.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3039704/
Chocolate Consumption is Inversely Associated with Prevalent Coronary Heart Disease: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Family Heart Study
These data suggest that consumption of chocolate is inversely related with prevalent CHD in a general population.
Of 4,679 individuals contacted, responses were obtained from 3,150 (67%)
So they started with a non-random sample. The two thirds of people who responded were not random.

This non-random sample they studied may have some attribute, X, much more than the general population. It may be chocolate+X interactions which offer health benefits. This is a way the study conclusions could be false.

They used a "food frequency questionnaire". So you get possibilities like: half the people reporting they didn't eat chocolate were lying (but very few of the people admitting to eating chocolate were lying). And liars overeat fat much more than non-liars, and this fat eating differential (not chocolate eating) is the cause of the study results. This is another way the study conclusions could be false.

They say they used "used generalized estimating equations", but do not provide the details. There could be an error there so that their conclusions are false.

They talk about controls:
adjusting for age, sex, family CHD risk group, energy intake, education, non-chocolate candy intake, linolenic acid intake, smoking, alcohol intake, exercise, and fruit and vegetables
As you can see, this is nothing like a complete list of every possible relevant factor. There are many things they did not control for. Some of those may have been important, so this could ruin their results.

And they don't provide details of how they controlled for these things. For example, take "education". Did they lump together high school graduates (with no college) as all having the same amount of education, without factoring in which high school they went to and how good it was? Whatever they did, there will be a level of imprecision in how they controlled for education, which may be problematic (and we don't know, because they don't tell us what they did).


This is just a small sample of the problems with studies like these.


People often reply something like, "Nothing's perfect, but aren't the studies pretty good indications anyway?" The answer is, if it's pretty good anyway, they ought to understand these weaknesses, write them down, and then write down why their results are pretty good indications anyway. Then that reasoning would be exposed to criticism. One shouldn't assume the many weaknesses of the research can be glossed over without actually writing them down, thoroughly, and writing down why it's OK, in full, and then seeing if there are criticisms of that analysis.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Leftist Lying: The Issue Is Never the Issue

From Take No Prisoners: The Battle Plan for Defeating the Left by David Horowitz, on leftist lying:
Dishonesty is endemic to the progressive cause because its radical goals cannot be admitted; the dishonesty is a cultural inheritance, instinctive and indispensable. It is no coincidence that Barack Obama, a born-and-bred leftist, is the most compulsive and brazen liar ever to occupy the White House. His true agenda is radical and unpalatable, and therefore he needs to lie about it. What other presidential candidate could have successfully explained away his close association for twenty years with an anti-American racist, Jeremiah Wright, and an anti-American terrorist, William Ayers? Who but the ignorant and the progressively blind could have believed him?

The radical sixties were something of an aberration in that its activists were uncharacteristically candid about their goals. A generation of “new leftists” was rebelling against its Stalinist parents, who had pretended to be liberals to hide their real beliefs and save their political skins. New leftists despised what they thought was the cowardice behind this camouflage. As a “New Left,” they were determined to say what they thought and blurt out their desires: “We want a revolution, and we want it now.” They were actually rather decent to warn others about what they intended. But when they revealed their goals, they set off alarms and therefore didn’t get very far.

Those who remained committed to leftist goals after the sixties learned from their experience. They learned to lie. The strategy of the lie became the new progressive gospel. It is what Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals is really about. Alinsky understood the mistake sixties radicals had made. His message at the time, and to the generations who came after, is easily summarized: Don’t telegraph your goals; infiltrate the Democratic Party and other liberal institutions and subvert them; treat moral principles as dispensable fictions; and never forget that your political agenda is not the achievement of this or that reform but political power to achieve the socialist goal. The issue is never the issue. The issue is always power—how to wring power out of the democratic process, how to turn the political process into an instrument of control, how to use that control to fundamentally transform the United States of America, which is exactly what Barack Obama, on the eve of his election, warned he would do.
I recommend the book.

Though beware, some of the scholarship is flawed. Justin brought this passage to my attention:
In the fifth year of Obama’s rule, forty-seven million Americans were on food stamps and a hundred million were receiving government handouts, while ninety-three million Americans of working age had given up on finding a job and left the work force.
The ninety-three million statistic is given without a source. I investigated a bit and I don't think it's accurate.

But I still think it's a great book.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

Bad Scholarship About Apple

http://stratechery.com/2015/bad-assumptions/
last quarter Apple’s revenue was downright decimated by the strengthening U.S. dollar; currency fluctuations reduced Apple’s revenue by 5% – a cool $3.73 billion dollars. That, though, is more than Google made in profit last quarter ($2.83 billion). Apple lost more money to currency fluctuations than Google makes in a quarter.
Italics in the original.

The sentence in italics uses the word "money" to refer to, at the same time, Apple's revenue and Google's profit.

I emailed the blog author, as well as John Gruber pointing out the error. If either of them corrects it, I will update this post to give them credit. Will anything be fixed or will they be added to the long list of people with bad scholarship? Let's find out!

Update: Ben Thompson of Stratechery replied to my email. He refused to fix anything and expressed that he was unhappy with me for even bringing it up. He said, "my only reason to use the two numbers is to give a sense of scale", and he thought that was obvious and unobjectionable. This is bullshit. It's not OK to call profit and revenue both "money" at the same time and italicize that misleading sentence. And he's lying to me that his "only reason" for choosing Google to compare Apple with was a sense of scale. I hope you learn a double lesson about 1) how terrible Ben Thompson is personally 2) how terrible many people are, you really have to watch out. Lots of people can seem OK if you never challenge them. But if you do challenge them, their awfulness is revealed. Don't go through life blindly assuming the best about people and leaving them untested.

Just before reading that, I saw this other bad scholarship about Apple:

http://daringfireball.net/linked/2015/01/27/zabitsky

Gruber quotes an interview with market analyist who was very negative on Apple stock. I think it's really great how the Daring Fireball blog follows up on disagreements. It's important to look at ideas in retrospect and see who was right and wrong, and why, and learn from mistakes. When predictions are made made on timescales of a few years or less, it's not that hard to hold people accountable, and yet it isn't done nearly enough.
You have a $270 price target. Is that still too pessimistic?

Zabitsky: It’s formally a one-year target, but in 3 to 6 months we’re going to see that play out. The reason I started to make noise was the rise of Samsung. If you say that now, it’s not challenged.
Apple announced spectacular earnings results yesterday. The most profitable quarter of any company ever. Despite that 5% revenue loss to foreign exchange rates mentioned above. So Zabitsky was badly wrong. That's Gruber's point.

I wanted to add that I don't think it's a coincidence that the same guy who is strongly anti-Apple, and wrong, is also very loose with scholarship. He publishes a one-year price target for Apple, then says, "But I don't really mean what I say when I publish formally. That's really my 3-6 month target, and I published it as a 1-year target because I casually lie in formal predictions."

Apple is good. Many people hate Apple because they hate the good. Their immorality has other consequences than being anti-Apple. Dishonesty is unsurprising. (And note this dishonesty is a lot more severe than the one I criticize above from pro-Apple people. The one above I think is bad but fairly normal. This one about doing formal publications and casually not meaning what you say, I think is really fucking bad.)

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Jihad Watch and Pamela Geller Misquote Obama

Jihad Watch has run this headline:
Obama: Iran has “no aspiration to get a nuclear weapon” because “it would be contrary to their faith”
Pamela Geller has a similar headline:
Obama: Iran Won’t Pursue Nuclear Weapons Because It’s ‘Contrary to Their Faith’
I don't like Obama and don't normally defend him. But this is false, and scholarship comes first. Obama says enough bad things, there's no need to misrepresent what he said and take quotes out of context. It isn't helping anything. It hurts our cause to get things wrong.

The truth needs to come first, and attacking the left second. Attack them when they're actually wrong, not just as a universal policy. And pay attention to the truth so you know when they're wrong, instead of just assuming they always are. Please.

What Obama actually said was, paraphrasing: Iran claims to have no nuclear aspirations because it'd be contrary to their faith, and if Iran is telling the truth about this then they'll be happy to accept Obama's political deal.

Obama didn't say it'd be contrary to their faith for Iran to get a nuclear weapon, nor did Obama say Iran won't try to get a nuclear weapon. The Jihad Watch and Pamela Geller headlines make both of those false claims.

Obama saying Iran claims something that may or may not be true, and Obama believing it himself, are completely different.

Obama was actually careful to emphasize that it was just Iran's claim. Obama used the phrases, "And if in fact what they claim is true" and "if that is true" and "But we don’t know if that’s going to happen." Three times in one paragraph, Obama made it clear that he was talking about Iran's claims which may or may not be true. Yet Jihad Watch ignores that and lies about what Obama was saying.

Here is the full paragraph that Jihad Watch is talking about, which Jihad Watch is well aware of (they included this text at the end of their article):
And if in fact what they claim is true, which is they have no aspiration to get a nuclear weapon, that in fact, according to their Supreme Leader, it would be contrary to their faith to obtain a nuclear weapon, if that is true, there should be the possibility of getting a deal. They should be able to get to yes. But we don’t know if that’s going to happen.
As you can see, in an epic scholarship fail, Jihad Watch and Pamela Geller grossly misrepresented what Obama said.

Update: I contacted Spencer and Geller by blog comments, twitter, and email. Except Spencer's email button is broken. My blog comment made it through moderation at Jihad Watch, but at Geller's site it isn't showing up and new comments on the post have been approved after mine, so I may have been censored (to make matters more confusing, her blog software is buggy and sometimes reports a post has different numbers of comments in different places, and my comment showed up on the sidebar as a new comment even when it wasn't visible on the post and the link didn't work). Spencer and Geller were at their computers tweeting and it's been hours, and it hasn't been fixed yet. This kind of thing is urgent because most readers see posts when they are new. So after waiting, I just tweeted David Horowitz too, and let them know with the Front Page Mag contact form. Someone better care. I'm going to lose a lot of respect for them if this isn't fixed. I will update again if anything happens.

Update 2: It's the next day and nothing has improved. I think my comment on Geller's cite was censored. My comment on Jihad Watch was flamed by two people. Nothing has been fixed. This is very sad.

Update 3: I've lost hope. No error correction. Very sad. David Horowitz and associates are now on my Scholarship Watchlist. Someone should fact check them with the same format I used for Ann Coulter (and also the regular way of checking things you find suspicious).

Update 4: When reading a new article, I noticed Geller's site says this above the comments:
Comments at Atlas Shrugs are unmoderated. Posts using foul language, as well as abusive, hateful, libelous and genocidal posts, will be deleted if seen. However, if a comment remains on the site, it in no way constitutes an endorsement by Pamela Geller of the sentiments contained therein.
My blocked post did not have foul language, and it wasn't abusive or hateful, and certainly not genocidal. So what happened to it? The site policy is a lie.

Update 5: 2018-06-20

A few years later I had Robert Spencer's attention on Twitter and had a couple small, positive interactions. He was paying attention to various critics and repeatedly asked them for actual quotes to back up their negative claims about him. So I linked him to this post which explains a genuine error of his with a quote. He responded once to deny there was any error and then ignored me after that:
Sorry, those quotes look like...quotes to me, and represent the news item accurately.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (4)

Proposal to Alter Graph Misleadingly



The graph @asymco tweeted is normal enough. Focus your attention on the reply from @Spiff.

The reason some of the revenue data looks compressed on the current revenue scale is because it is. Trying to change that is trying to mislead viewers.

What @Spiff proposes is an example of How To Lie With Statistics. He's intentionally trying to make the graph look different than it normally would to meet an agenda of his and give the viewer a different impression.

His tweet may seem innocuous but it's really bad. He's a bad scholar wannabe. Stuff like this is not OK. Bar graphs for typical quantities should use a linear scale, starting at 0, unless there's a damn good reason to do otherwise. If you do something else, the bars are no longer proportional to each other in the intuitive way, so it misleads viewers.

For example, suppose the graph started with revenue at $50,000,000 instead of 0. Then all the bars would be shorter. This would make the smaller bars shorter by a large percentage, and make them look even shorter compared to the big bars. That'd be really bad! When someone looked at it and thought "this bar is twice as big as this other bar", that would no longer be a valid way of reasoning due to not starting at 0.

Or suppose the graph used a log scale like @Spiff proposed. A log scale mean the revenue would be labelled like $0, $1, $10 $100, $1000, instead of like $0, $10 million, $20 million, $30 million, etc... See how misleading that could be? What it means is, again, when someone compares the sizes of the bars he gets the wrong idea. When he thinks, "This bar is about 20% higher than the bar before it", he's being played for a fool.

Don't play people for a fool. Don't try to trick them. Don't have an agenda for how you want your graph to look and then adjust things to achieve it. Just make a simple graph that makes sense and then leave it alone and let it speak for itself. Tinkering with your graph as @Spiff proposes is dishonest (or clueless and still harmful).

Scholarship, please.

Update: @asymco says:
Share prices are frequently graphed using log scales by default. I don't condone the practice.
I'm sad to hear how common bad scholarship is. That's terrible. But I'm glad @asymco understands this and does a better job. Thumbs up to him! Here's @asymco's blog which I read regularly.

Update 2: @Spiff now agrees with my point about log scales (I think).

Update 3: Here is an example of a very bad article advocating bad use of log charts. It looks mainstream and has a tone of sharing uncontroversial knowledge.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

Pamela Geller Misreports Amnesty International

So there I was trying to correct Pamela Geller's poor scholarship for the second time. Then this happened:

http://pamelageller.com/2015/03/amnesty-international-palestinians-committed-war-crimes-killed-more-palestinian-civilians-than-israel.html/



If you have difficulty reading the picture, it says I was blocked from commenting on her site. Here is the full text of what I tried to tell her about the article:
Title:
> Amnesty International: Palestinians Committed War Crimes, Killed more Palestinian civilians than Israel

Text:
> Amnesty International said Thursday that Palestinian rocket fire during the 2014 summer war in Gaza had killed more civilians in the Gaza Strip than in Israel.

These do not match. Killing more civilians "than Israel" and "than in Israel" are different things.

The title means: Palestinians killed more Palestinian civilians than the number of Palestinian civilians that Israel killed.

The text about what Amnesty said means: Palestinians killed more Palestinian civilians than the number of Israeli civilians that Palestinians killed.

Please get the story right. These kinds of details are very important.
An important and helpful comment, right? It's a big difference whether Amnesty said anything about how many civilians Israel killed, or didn't discuss that at all. Well, it turns out she blocked me from commenting after I tried to correct a previous error she made... (Which she did not fix.)

Sad.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)

David Deutsch's Mistaken Philosophy and Scholarship

https://twitter.com/DavidDeutschOxf/status/590279039170043904
One should study philosophy only if addressing an originally non-philosophical problem forces one to.
Stay the fuck away from philosophy unless forced.

jfc

Once upon a time, DD promised me he’d write a good book about TCS before he died – I raised the issue because he intentionally left out major important TCS type ideas from FoR and BoI. He lied to me.

also DD misquoted Popper (C&R p95 for me in paper, i checked both paper and ebook, his text does not match popper’s text. it’s chap 2, section III, near start). and dropped italics which isn’t OK either. and DD’d replaced “which arise” with “[from]” just b/c of tweet length limit. (actually just to fit italics he’d have to drop the period on the end, no problem, and the space after the colon, ugh lol. but he still should have done that)

https://twitter.com/curi42/status/590295170651791360

get an ebook and stop inserting typos into what are supposed to be exact quotes. (Popper: “philosophize”. DD supposedly quoting Popper: “philosophise”.)

DD also omitted the quote source. presumably cuz of tweet length limit. it's still his responsibility.

Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (0)