Last year blogger Xrlq
rel="nofollow">dismissed my criticism of
Lott as “paranoid rantings” and
“gratuitous attacks on Lott personally”, calling me “Dim”, “Timwit”,
“Timbecile”, “a jerk” and “Dim Lambert”.
This year I noted that
Lott had signed his name to a review of Freakonomics
using the same Amazon account that he used for a five-star review his
own book. Over the years the account name had changed from JL to washingtonian2 to
economist123. Xrlq href="http://xrlq.com/2005/05/11/lottsa-personalities/"
rel="nofollow">leaped to Lott’s defence, calling me a moron and
asserting that I was “either a dupe or a fraud”. He argued that
washingtonian2’s review of Lott’s book could not have been written by
Lott because it contained spelling and grammatical errors and because
it “betrays a shallow understanding of the substance of More Guns,
Less Crime.” Here is the paragraph that he based this on (“sic”s added
This is by far the most comprehensive study ever done on
guns. It provides extensive evidence on waiting periods, the Brady
Act, one-gun-a-month rules, [sic] concealed handgun laws. For some gun
laws this is the only study available and it is important to note how
many academics have tired [sic] to challenge his work on concealed
handgun laws and failed and that no one has even bothered to try and
challenge his work on one-gun-a-month laws and other gun control laws.
Xrlq claimed that
As one who has met Lott in person, I can assure you that he has a much better command of the English language than Economist123 does.
One-gun-a-month laws are not a major focus of the book; in fact,
to the best of my recollection Lott’s book doesn’t mention them at
If you look at the posts that Lott
made as Mary Rosh
you can see that just like economist123 he made frequent
spelling and grammatical errors. And while most people aren’t aware
of it, Lott’s book includes an analysis of one-gun-a-month laws. Only
a reviewer who was very familiar with Lott’s work, like, uh, Lott
would mention this. In fact, none of the other reviewers mention
one-gun-a-month laws. But Mary Rosh did so
example, in this post:
As to the list of people you put down, notice that none of them one [sic] result that contradicted Lott’s work on the Brady act, waiting periods, or safe storage laws,[sic] one-gun-a-month rules.
So the two arguments that Xrlq raised (spelling/grammar and
familiarity with Lott’s work) ended up confirming that Lott was the
author of the review. Other evidence that Lott is washingtonian2
comes from the locations given at Amazon for the reviews. The
location given for each review at Amazon.com is the location given for
the last review posted from that account. That means that if a new
review from a different location is posted, all the previous reviews
posted from that account simultaneously change to the new location.
We can use this feature to work out which reviews were posted from the
same account. The location shown for washingtonian2’s
More Guns, Less Crime changed from Washington to
Swarthmore and back to Washington. At the same times, a
Guns and Violence: The English Experience also changed
from Washington to Swarthmore and back to Washington, so it was posted
from washingtonian2’s account. And we know that this review was
written and posted by Lott, because he signed his name to it. Note
also that Swarthmore only has about 6,000
many economists with intials “JL” are likely to be living there?
Undaunted by all of this, Xrlq came up with
some more arguments as to why washingtonian2 totally was not John Lott.
First, that Lott would not have used the pseudonym “washingtonian2″
for his review because:
I don’t find it plausible that anyone who neither hails from
Washington nor lives there would call himself “Washingtonian” solely
because he recently took a job there.
I pointed out that Lott had called himself “Washingtonian” at
Freerepublic.com. Xrlq said that it was “much more plausible” that
these postings had been made by some prankster who knew that I had
accused Lott of posting washingtonian2’s review. This was after I
had carefully explained that those postings were written before I made
the accusation. If I was a prankster and I had a time machine, I can
think of better pranks to pull.
Second, that because Lott had another Amazon account in his own
name, it was (and
I quote) “impossible” for him to have used a different account for his
review of Freakonomics. He hadn’t used that account for
over three years and had been using the washingtonian2 account for all
the reviews since then, including the review of Guns and
Violence: The English
that he also signed his name to. Impossible for him to continue using
the same account? I don’t think so.
Next, Xrlq disputed my findings in The Case of the Vanishing Wish
List. Within minutes of
my posting that washingtonian2/economist123’s Amazon wish
titled “JL’s wish list”, the wish list was mysteriously
deleted. During those few minutes, one of the IPs that Lott was using
visited that page. Xrlq demanded proof that Lott was using that IP.
Here it is: From September to December 2004, one of Lott’s sock
puppets, Tom H, was
posting from a Speakeasy DSL IP (184.108.40.206), which according to
Geobytes is located in
Washington DC. Also posting from that IP were another sock, Bob
H, and Maxim Lott
(Lott’s son). During that time there were frequent visits from that IP
to the Lott posts (and just the Lott posts) on my blog. After
December, there was not a single visit from that IP. It seems that
Lott switched ISPs because instead there were visits from a Comcast IP
(220.127.116.11) (located in Arlington VA, right next to Washington DC)
and posts from that IP by Tom H, Bob and yet another sock,
Gregg. The first visit
of a day was not to the front page but to this
post about Lott where Tom H
and Bob had commented extensively. Clearly Lott had bookmarked that
page and used it as an entry to my blog. The browser used for all of
these visits was Safari under MacOS X 10.3. Oddly enough, one of the
reviews that washingtonian2 posted was for MacOS X 10.3.
All visits from this IP stopped on April 15. On April 17 frequent
visits started from 18.104.22.168, another Comcast IP also located in
Arlington VA. The very first visit from this IP was to Lott’s
bookmarked post. It looks like the lease on the previous IP expired
while he was upgrading the OS, because now the visits used Safari
under MacOS X 10.4. There were frequent visits from that IP after that
— he visited the post about
economist123 about a
dozen times on the day I posted it. 22.214.171.124 visited my
page in the short interval between when I linked to JL’s wish list and
when it was deleted. Note also that Comcast provides one IP per
so all these visits came from the same house.
Faced with this evidence, Xrlq just made up his own facts about
cable providers do not change any part of your IP address except the
final segment when you disconnect and reconnect.
This is untrue. It easy to find Comcast customers who have had their
Now I know what some of you are thinking—Xlrq uses a pseudonym, is a
fanatical Lott defender, claims to have met Lott and been impressed,
calls me names, and even has a five-star
of More Guns, Less Crime. Is Xrlq another one of Lott’s
Well, he isn’t. The writing style on his review is different from
Lott’s. He is not very familiar with Lott’s research. He blogs about
things other than the wonderfulness of John Lott. His IP number is
from California. His Amazon wish
shows that his real name is Jeff Bishop. (No it’s not a secret.)
Notice how that for genuine Lott sock puppets all the evidence points
to Lott, but for those that are merely Lott fans, there is plenty of
evidence to show that they are not Lott.
Update: Just as “JL’s wish list” was replaced by “Economist123’s wish list” when I pointed it out, in another one of those uncanny coincidences that Xrlq insists means nothing, “Jeff bishop’s wish list” has been replaced by “Xrlq’s wish list”. And they say history never repeats.