Pixel Scroll 1/17/18 You’re A Little Short For A Pixel Scroll, Aren’t You?

(1) STRACZYNSKI MEMOIR COMING. Harper Voyager US has acquired the imprint’s first memoir, written by J. Michael Straczynski. The book will be published in 2019.

Straczynski is one of the most successful writers of comics, TV, graphic novels, and movies in modern pop culture, and has emerged as one of the most respected voices in science fiction today, selling millions of comics, winning dozens of awards and working with such luminaries as Clint Eastwood, Angelina Jolie and Kenneth Branagh. He is famed for his work on the recent Netflix hit Sense8, his work on Babylon 5, Changeling, World War Z, Thor, and a seven-year stint on The Amazing Spider-Man. But despite forty years of twelve-hour writing days, there’s one story Straczynski could never tell: his own. This memoir chronicles the author’s struggle growing up surrounded by poverty, violence, alcoholism and domestic abuse. The result is an inspiring account of how he wrote his way out of some of the most harrowing conditions.

(2) COINCIDENTAL PROPHET. Henry Farrell takes the measure of the author and this age in “Philip K. Dick and the Fake Humans” at Boston Review.

Standard utopias and standard dystopias are each perfect after their own particular fashion. We live somewhere queasier—a world in which technology is developing in ways that make it increasingly hard to distinguish human beings from artificial things. The world that the Internet and social media have created is less a system than an ecology, a proliferation of unexpected niches, and entities created and adapted to exploit them in deceptive ways. Vast commercial architectures are being colonized by quasi-autonomous parasites. Scammers have built algorithms to write fake books from scratch to sell on Amazon, compiling and modifying text from other books and online sources such as Wikipedia, to fool buyers or to take advantage of loopholes in Amazon’s compensation structure. Much of the world’s financial system is made out of bots—automated systems designed to continually probe markets for fleeting arbitrage opportunities. Less sophisticated programs plague online commerce systems such as eBay and Amazon, occasionally with extraordinary consequences, as when two warring bots bid the price of a biology book up to $23,698,655.93 (plus $3.99 shipping).

In other words, we live in Philip K. Dick’s future, not George Orwell’s or Aldous Huxley’s. Dick was no better a prophet of technology than any science fiction writer, and was arguably worse than most. His imagined worlds jam together odd bits of fifties’ and sixties’ California with rocket ships, drugs, and social speculation. Dick usually wrote in a hurry and for money, and sometimes under the influence of drugs or a recent and urgent personal religious revelation.

Still, what he captured with genius was the ontological unease of a world in which the human and the abhuman, the real and the fake, blur together.

(3) BLACK LIGHTNING. The Hollywood Reporter’s Daniel Flenberg praised the new series: “‘Black Lightning’: TV Review”.

It could be argued that what The CW needs least is another superhero show, much less another murky superhero show.

The pleasant surprise, then, is that Black Lightning, based on yet another DC Comics property, is smart and relevant and full of an attitude that’s all its own. It takes its characters and their world seriously, but thus far doesn’t take itself too seriously. And, best of all, it’s ostensibly entirely separate from Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Arrow and Supergirl, so the risk of time-consuming crossovers or key plot points delivered on a different show is currently nil.

(4) NINE IS TEN. This month io9 is celebrating its 10th anniversary, too. io9 and the File 770 blog started the same month and it’s easy to see which got the most mileage out of that decade. Congratulations io9! Here’s a video made by the founding alumni —  

(5) STARVING IN THE CITY OF THE FUTURE. Slate has published Charlie Jane Anders’ story of future hunger: “The Minnesota Diet”. The future isn’t that far away.

This short story was commissioned and edited jointly by Future Tense and ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination. Each month in 2018, Future Tense Fiction—a series of short stories from Future Tense and CSI about how technology and science will change our lives—will publish a story on a new theme. The theme for January–March 2018: Home.

North American Transit Route No. 7 carves a path between tree silhouettes like wraiths, through blanched fields that yawn with the furrows of long-ago crops. Weaving in and out of the ancient routes of Interstates 29 and 35, this new highway has no need for rest stops or attempts to beautify the roadside, because none of the vehicles have a driver or any passengers. The trucks race from north to south, at speeds that would cause any human driver to fly off the road at the first curve. The sun goes down and they keep racing, with only a few thin beams to watch for obstacles. They don’t need to see the road to stay on the road. The trucks seem to hum to one another, tiny variations in their engine sounds making a kind of atonal music. Seen from above, they might look like the herds of mustangs that used to run across this same land, long ago….

(6) POLL. Uncanny Magazine has opened voting for readers to pick their three favorite original short stories from the works they published last year — “Uncanny Celebrates Reader Favorites of 2017”.

We’ve set up a poll for Uncanny readers to vote for their top three favorite original short stories from 2017. (You can find links to all of the stories here.)

The poll will be open from January 17 to February 7, after which we’ll announce the results. We’re excited for you to share which Uncanny stories made you feel!

snazzy certificate will be given to the creator whose work comes out on top of  the poll!

So please spread the word! And don’t forget, EVERY VOTE COUNTS!

(7) GENRE DESTRUCTION. Also, Uncanny is taking submissions to a special issue through February 15 — “Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction Guidelines”

We welcome submission from writers who identify themselves as disabled. Identity is what matters for this issue. What kinds of disabilities? All of them. Invisible and visible. Physical disabilities, learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, mental health disabilities, and neurodiversity.

Yes, even if your disability is a recently acquired one.

Yes, even if your disability is static, or if it isn’t.

Yes, even if you’ve had your disability since birth.

Yes, even if you use adaptive devices only SOME of the time.

Yes, you.

Reading Elsa’s essay “Disabled Enough” from our Kickstarter may help if you have any doubts.

So, if you identify as disabled across any of these definitions or others, we want to hear from you!

(8) LONELINESS OF THE LONG-DISTANCE WORDSMITH. L. Ron Hubbard couldn’t do it. andrew j. offutt couldn’t do it. So it’s up to Matthew Plunkett to tell you “How to Write 100,000 Words Per Day, Every Day” (from McSweeney’s.)


My first blog post appeared online in 2008 when I explained how I attained my top ranking on a popular worldwide online game. Since then, I haven’t stopped writing. If you’re wondering whether this level of output will hinder your relationships with friends and lovers, let me set you straight. Life is about decisions. Either you write 100,000 words a day or you meet people and develop ties of affection. You can’t do both.

(9) GENTLER PACE. Concatenation has posted its “Newscast for the Spring 2018” – an aggregation of sff and pop cuture news issued at a not-quite-quarterly rate.


  • January 17, 1982 – The Ray Bradbury-penned The Electric Grandmother premiered on television.


  • Born January 17, 1931 – James Earl Jones

(12) BIAS AT WORK. Sarah Hollowell, who calls her blog “Sarah Hollowell, Fat Writer Girl and Her Fat Words”, was not added to the Midwest Writers Workshop’s organizational committee after her appearance was made an issue.

A week ago The Guardian covered the initial stages of the story in “Roxane Gay calls out writing group for ‘fatphobic’ treatment of Sarah Hollowell”.

An American writers’ workshop that has counted Joyce Carol Oates, Jeffrey Deaver and Clive Cussler among its faculty has been called out by Roxane Gay for “fatphobia”, after a writer’s appearance was criticised during a vote to give her a public-facing role.

Gay, who has herself been on the faculty for the Midwest Writers Workshop (MWW), turned to Twitter on Tuesday to lay out how the workshop’s organisers treated the writer Sarah Hollowell. According to Gay, Hollowell has worked for MWW for five years, and was voted to be on its organisational committee. But when her appointment was being discussed, “someone said ‘do we really want someone like her representing us?’ That person elaborated ‘someone so fat. It’s disgusting’,” claimed Gay.

Gay, the author of essay collection Bad Feminist and the memoir Hunger, said that only two people in the room defended Hollowell, and that the author was not then brought on to the committee. “This is unacceptable. And cruel. And cowardly, Midwest Writers Workshop. And you thought you could get away with it. You very nearly did,” wrote Gay, calling on the workshop to issue a “public and genuine” apology to Hollowell, and forbidding it to use her name as a past faculty member in its promotional materials again. “I’m too fat and disgusting to be associated with you,” she wrote.

Hollowell herself said that “there are a lot of good people” at the MWW, but that “I have been hurt in a very real way and I don’t think it should be hidden”.

The workshop subsequently issued an apology to Hollowell on Wednesday, in which its director Jama Kehoe Bigger said: “We screwed up.”

The apology and offers to attempt to “make it right” have not panned out. Instead, here’s what’s happening —

Hollowell responded with a full thread, which includes these tweets —

(13) NOW YOU SEE IT. Nothing magical about this disappearing act — “Rare first edition Harry Potter worth £40,000 stolen”.

A hardback first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone worth about £40,000 was one of a number of rare books stolen during a burglary.

The book, J.K Rowling’s maiden novel of the globally successful series, was stolen from SN Books in Thetford, Norfolk, between 8 and 9 January….

The Harry Potter book was made even more “unique” by being in a custom red box, the force added.

(14) TRAIN TRICKS. The BBC reports a “Japanese train barks like a dog to prevent accidents” — it scares away deer who lick the tracks to get iron.

Tokyo’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper reports that the combination of sounds is designed to scare deer away from the tracks in a bid to reduce the number of animal deaths on the railway.

Officials from the Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI) say that a three-second blast of the sound of a deer snorting attracts the animals’ attention, and 20 seconds of dog barking is enough to make them take flight.

(15) EVEN IF YOU DO EVERYTHING RIGHT. An interesting thread by Alex Acks who argues that maybe it’s not a conspiracy….

(16) WHAT DOESN’T PAY. And Shaun Duke has his own argument against the conspiracy theory.

(17) FILL ‘ER UP. This sounds like the beginning of a nice 1950s sf story —  “UK firm contracts to service satellites”.

Effective Space says its two servicing “Space Drones” will be built using manufacturing expertise in the UK and from across the rest of Europe.

The pair, which will each be sized about the same as a washing machine and weigh less than 400kg, are expected to launch on the same rocket sometime in 2020.

Once in orbit, they will separate and attach themselves to the two different geostationary telecommunications satellites that are almost out of fuel.


(18) HIRSUTE. Chip Hitchcock says, “As the proud possessor of a handle bar mustache, I’m pleased to see ’Moustached monkey is separate species’.”

A monkey from Ethiopia and Sudan with a “handlebar moustache” has been identified as a distinct species.

Scientists took a fresh look at the distribution and physical appearance of patas monkeys in Ethiopia, confirming there were two species rather than one.

It was originally described as a separate species in 1862, but was later folded in – incorrectly – with other patas monkeys to form a single species.

(19) WHEN THE BOOKS WERE WRITTEN. Brenton Dickieson has published an epic tool for scholars – “My Cheat Sheet of C.S. Lewis’ Writing Schedule” — at A Pilgrim in Narnia.

For those who study authors of the past, you will soon discover that the publication lists and bibliography of an author are not always terribly helpful. After all, writing, editing, and publishing a book are stages that can each take years. Knowing something is published in 1822 or 1946 tells us little about the writing process. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien each had books that took nearly two decades to write….

Over the last five years, then, I have developed a habit of speaking about when C.S. Lewis or one of the Inklings wrote a book, rather than when they published it. I haven’t been perfectly consistent with this on the blog, but have generally put the writing period in brackets rather than the publication date.

To do this, I discovered that I was slowly building myself a cheat sheet to help me remember when Lewis was writing a book so that I can connect it with what was going on at the time. The cheat sheet includes completed books and incomplete fragments of what would have been a book. I’ve decided to share this cheat sheet with those of you who are interested. This might save you time or inspire you to make connections between Lewis’ work and his life patterns. And, perversely, I’m hoping to draw more people into the project of reading Lewis chronologically, and have provided resources here, here, and here.

(20) HYPERBOREAN AGE. Black Gate’s Doug Ellis says it’s “Time to Revise Your Lin Carter Biography”, though “bibliography” may be the intended word. Either way — Ellis tells about a 1967 fanzine, The Brythunian Prints, published by some Toledo fans.

The most interesting content is two pages of poetry by Lin Carter, under the general heading “War Songs and Battle Cries,” apparently reprinted with Carter’s permission from The Wizard of Lemuria and Thongor of Lemuria. The remaining content is taken up with editorials, limericks by John Boardman (four of which were reprinted from Amra) and a book review of The Fantastic Swordsmen edited by de Camp. The back cover is Tolkien related, as it pictures “Baggins and Trinket” (the Ring).

(21) MORE PAST FUTURES. Let MovieWeb tell you “10 Back to the Future Facts You Never Knew”.


Christopher Lloyd, part of the ensemble of the TV series Taxi which ran from 1978 till 1983, seems irreplaceable as Doctor Emmett Brown in the minds and hearts of fans around the world. But before he landed the role, some other big names were considered for the part, including John Lithgow, Dudley Moore, and Jeff Goldblum. Imagine those memes!

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Will R., Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

124 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 1/17/18 You’re A Little Short For A Pixel Scroll, Aren’t You?

  1. @Aaron Groseclose is an economics professor, currently at George Mason University, who works for the Mercatus Center, a think tank funded by the Koch brothers. I’m not really convinced of his objectivity.

    Regardless of who he currently receives funding from, his original research was published in The Quarterly Journal of Economics, which is as well-respected an academic journal as you can find. The vast majority of recent Nobel winners for Economics have published in the journal. One of the editors of the journal in which it was published was himself a Nobel winner (Robert Barro); another (Lawrence Katz) was the chief economist in the Department of Labor under Bill Clinton and Robert Reich. Presumably, they were satisfied by the rigor of Groseclose’s research, despite what ever sources funded the work.

    If there’s something wrong with his conclusions, read the article and tell us what that problem is. But to simply dismiss the work because of whom the author currently gets funding from shows your bias more than the author’s.

  2. Why is an article on media bias in The Quarterly Journal of Economics?\

    For that matter, since he cites Fox News and The Drudge Report as the most centerist news organizations, yeah, I call bullshit on THAT.

  3. @rochrist Why is an article on media bias in The Quarterly Journal of Economics?

    Per the front cover, “This issue of the QJE contains ten papers on political economy.” Presumably the authors submitted there because of the journal’s prestige (it has a very high impact factor), and the editors accepted it because it was consistent with the theme of that issue, and the research was consistent with their standards.

  4. @IanP: TFTI. The quote may have been used far enough back that it can’t be attributed to Hanlon (and certainly not to the 1990 version of the Jargon File), but the link provides many past versions — which shouldn’t surprise me.

    @Jack Lint: people seem not to get tired of phone tones — although that may involve linking tones to callers so that a number of different tones are heard. (One friend of a historical bent has my number connected to Gounod’s “Funeral March of a Marionette“) Also, even if an auto noise isn’t rotated, it will be outside the car, so it might be less annoying inside. (OTGH, it could be heard for much longer periods than a ring tone. Oh well.)

    @Dann: you justify your conservative distortions by referring to work by someone who moved to a reactionary university because his feelings were hurt working with a broader spectrum? That reference goes beyond mere gall into chutzpah. And the story about the political sympathies of reporters does not impeach their testimony, because one of their goals is facts; the goal of Faux News is (at best) facts that support their slant. Another question is how many editors call themselves journalists, and how many editors’ editors (e.g., owners)? I think you’ll find that liberal journalists are kept on a fairly short leash in many cases.

    @Hampus: There are no scientists explaining phenomena, neither in the natural or in the political science. How little US media do you follow?

  5. Bill:

    “To compute our measure, we count the times that a media outlet cites various think tanks. We compare this with the times that members of Congress cite the same think tanks in their speeches on the floor of the House and Senate. By comparing the citation patterns we can construct an ADA score for each media outlet. “

    This is ridiculous. A list mixing pure anti-science corporate lobbying groups like Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation with human rights groups such as Amnesty or Childrens Defense Fund. And listing Joe Liebermann as a “Well-known Moderate”!?

    Nope, if anything, this was a biased study.

  6. @Dann

    UCLA political-science professor Tim Groseclose has spent years evaluating news reporting and journalist voting patterns. He makes a pretty solid case for asserting that the US media, on average, is left of the average American voter.

    Fascinating. Let’s see what your article actually says, shall we?

    Groseclose gauges how liberal or conservative an individual is by using what he calls a political quotient (PQ). Simply put, a person’s PQ is a number on a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being the most conservative and 100 being the most liberal.

    Ok, we’ve got numbers and methodology, I’m liking this so far.

    “I estimate that the average voter in the U.S. has a PQ of about 50, the views of Arlen Specter when he was a Republican,” he notes.

    Well, I had no idea who Arlen Spectre is until I googled him, but apparently he switched parties a bit which means he’s a rough middle. Although I raise an eyebrow at making the middle mildly Republican,

    He finds that media bias has a significant effect on this score, and concludes that “the slant of the media has moved the average voter about 20 or 25 PQ points to the left.”

    Hmmm, something’s a bit funny here. If he’s decided that the average is, well, average (or a little bit right) then why are we looking for bias?

    So what would the average PQ of a voter look like if all media bias could be somehow magically removed? Groseclose’s answer: something close to Ben Stein… Ben Stein has a PQ of about 25, and that’s what I estimate would be the average voter’s views if there were no media bias…Ben Stein would vote on the conservative side about 75 percent of the time, and 25 percent of the time on the liberal side”

    So wait, the problem isn’t that everyone’s being liberal, the problem is that things are really even when the conservatives ought to be winning by a country mile? Surely that can’t be his argument.
    Oh, wait:

    Without liberal media bias, “the average American voter would start thinking and voting about like the average Texan voter.”

    So, there you have it. His proof that the media is biased is that if they weren’t, “his side” would win a lot more. His figure for the average American voter appears to be arrived at by making an arbitrary adjustment for liberal media bias to the actual figure, and then using that to prove his case.
    As presented in the article it’s a classic circular argument, and a magnificent demonstration of the conspiracy effect that started this whole thread.


    You hadn’t posted when I started writing that, but I hope that qualifies as someone reading the article and telling you what the problem is.

  7. Chip Hitchcock:

    “How little US media do you follow?”

    More than you, I bet. But I was actually thinking of cable news when I wrote that.

  8. Having finally read @2, I think the idea of living in a Philip K. Dick future is much more frightening than mere randomness. I’m not sure whether it’s more frightening than Seastead, but it’s up there.

  9. @ Dann
    I don’t care about the politics of journalists. I can tell you the owners of US media aren’t leftists, and they determine what gets published or said. Murdoch’s effect on the Wall Street Journal, which was right-wing to start with, is a case in point.

  10. @Hampus Eckermann–

    If the name of Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn’t ring any bells, you might be overestimating the percentage of US media you consume. He’s hardly the only scientist regularly on US cable channels, or called on by the news media, or with best-selling books, but he is currently the one it should be nearly impossible to overlook.

  11. Lis Carey:

    I do know of deGrasse Tyson.

    But let me make myself a bit clearer. When there is a discussion of climate change in Sweden, it is led by scientists who will explain it and how it works. That is not the work of politicians. In US, you have pundits duking it out about if there even is a climate change. Not scientists.

    It is not only with regards to climate change. When we have a union conflict, there’s a political scientist on TV describing the swedish model and how employers and unions are supposed to act to resolve conflicts. There’s not only the two parts shouting at each other. On the whole, there’s a lot more shouting in US TV.

    Yes, it is hyperbole to say that there are never any scientists in US TV. That is exaggeration. But there are lots, lots less scientists and neutral experts than in european TV. There is a huge difference.

  12. @Hampus Eckermann–

    If you’d said there isn’t nearly enough use of scientists and other genuine experts in US media, you’d have gotten heartfelt and enthusiastic agreement.

    Instead, you chose to use absolutist and plainly false language, and then when challenged on it, claimed it was likely you consumed more US media than then person who challenged you. Maybe this wasn’t the most effective approach.

  13. @Jack Lint

    A few years back they were suggesting electric cars and/or electric motorcycles might be too quiet and people might be hit because they wouldn’t hear them coming. (Yes, look both ways before you cross, but some people don’t or may be visually impaired or the whole phone zombie phenomenon.) So they suggested that they might have some sort of artificial engine noise.

    I have a Mitubishi plug-in hybrid and makes warning sounds when people come too close when it’s in electrical mode. It sounds a bit like spherical music, not unpleasant, but not what you’d normally associate with a car. Though I find that after nine months, I do associate those sounds with my car.

    Once, when I was parking the car at the curb, a little boy and his father walked past on the sidewalk. And the kid stopped and pointed, because the car made music, not engine sounds.

    @Dann, Hampus et al
    From a European POV, the entire US news media is rightwing, ranging from conservative to far right fringe. I find the shoutiness irritating as well, though sadly some of our own political talkshows and the like have started to imitate the general shoutiness of US media, which I hate. Though we usually have shouty leftwing people as well.

    Coincidentally, when Fox New briefly showed up via satellite on European TV screens approx. 15 years ago, a lot of people thought it was a brilliant parody of US news channels like CNN with the shoutiness and the rightward slant dialed up to eleven. It took some time until people realised that Fox News was dead serious. It disappeared from the satellite not long thereafter.

  14. @rochrist: “Why is an article on media bias in The Quarterly Journal of Economics?”

    These things depend on the cycle of the American Trinity. Moloch was ascendant for some time. Under his reign, the dealers of fire and brimstone–the physicists–were the Universal Experts. Now Moloch is dimmed somewhat in the light of Mammon, whose priest, the economist, who kills with compound interest, is the new Universal Expert.

    Once Moloch and Mammon’s lovely child Corporatnu–who really does have the best features of both–either eats their parents or takes their first trip atop the Trin-O-Cycle or both, I expect the Universal Experts will be management consultants, who already are expert on almost everything, as any major wall street dude will tell you.

    I hope that helps explain this odd phenomenon!

  15. Apologies if I missed an earlier comment, but quite a number of the tor.com novellas are on sale, mostly half off, at US etailers right now. Here’s the one-page current listing: http://macmillanedeals.com/ (scroll down for SFF).

    If you haven’t already picked up All Systems Red, here’s your chance, and a number of their other 2017 titles are included.

    Off to blow the budget and the TBR in one fell swoop.

  16. Lis Carey:

    “Instead, you chose to use absolutist and plainly false language, and then when challenged on it, claimed it was likely you consumed more US media than then person who challenged you. Maybe this wasn’t the most effective approach.”

    Yes, I know that I can use categorical language and it is a fault I’m trying to work on and have for around 25 years. Still not succeeding, but at least not failing as much as when I was younger.

    But I do not think it is the most effective approach from you to misrepresent when I said how much media I consumed. That was a direct answer to the insinuation that I consumed little US media. Which is incorrect.

  17. @Hampus Eckermann–

    But I do not think it is the most effective approach from you to misrepresent when I said how much media I consumed. That was a direct answer to the insinuation that I consumed little US media. Which is incorrect.

    From your exchange with Chip:

    Hampus Eckerman on January 18, 2018 at 2:53 pm said:
    Chip Hitchcock:

    “How little US media do you follow?”

    More than you, I bet. But I was actually thinking of cable news when I wrote that.

    Tell me how what I said is a “misrepresentation” of that. You said, in response to Chip asking how much, okay, let’s be picky, how little US media you follow, you replied, “More than you, I bet.”

    Tell me how what I said is a misrepresentation of what you said. Of the meaning of what you said, since I do concede I didn’t reply by quoting your words, originally.

  18. Lis Carey:

    You misrepresent when you say that my answer was about the challenge to one of my statements. It was not. It was an answer to the insinuation that I consumed little US media.

  19. @Hampus Eckermann —

    You misrepresent when you say that my answer was about the challenge to one of my statements. It was not. It was an answer to the insinuation that I consumed little US media.

    You are making no sense, since my comment was in response to your comment challenging Chip’s comment, or “insinuation,” if you prefer, about how little US media you’d have to consume to believe what you actually said about scientists in US media.

    Now, how did what I actually said misrepresent what you actually said in response to Chip’s actual comment about your US media consumption. Other than, you know, “not at all.”

  20. Again: My answer was refering only to the direct insinuation that I consumed little US media. That is what he said. He might have said it with regards to something, but that is not what was important to me. I challenged that statement because it was incorrect. Not because of what Clip might have thought about my previous statements.

    You say that it is not an effective approach of me to challenge incorrect statements. That is your opinion. I do not think it is an effective approach of you to say that I shouldn’t challenge incorrect statements.

    If I do not make sense to you, then I’m sorry, but I do not think I can make myself clearer.

  21. rochrist: he cites Fox News and The Drudge Report as the most centrist news organizations


    OMG, I think I broke something laughing at that.

    Credibility: Groseclose haz none.

  22. @Hampus: you made a claim appropriate to someone who consumes little US media; no insinuation was required to point this out. You then demonstrated that you consume some amount of US media by backing down on your claim. Tell you what: I won’t make indefensible claims about Sweden if you avoid making them about the US.

  23. @ Hampus A list mixing pure anti-science corporate lobbying groups like Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation with human rights groups such as Amnesty or Childrens Defense Fund.
    The actual positions of the various think tanks are irrelevant. From the QJE article:

    A feature of our method is that it does not require us to make a subjective assessment of how liberal or conservative a think tank is. That is, for instance, we do we need to read policy reports of the think tank or analyze its position on various issues to determine its ideology. Instead, we simply observe the ADA scores of the members of Congress who cite the think tank. This feature is important, since an active controversy exists whether, e.g., the Brookings Institution or the RAND Corporation is moderate, leftwing, or right-wing.

    That is, the only interesting feature about a particular think tank is how often it is cited by liberal senators, and by conservative senators. (and it just happens that Amnesty International is cited more by liberals, and Heritage is cited more by conservatives).

    And listing Joe Liebermann as a “Well-known Moderate”!?
    Do you think he isn’t moderate? He’s a Democrat who is pro-life and for a strong defense. He was for gun control and free trade. He was on the Democratic ticket in 2000, and supported the Republican nominee in 2008.
    Al Gore picked him as a running mate because he was seen as centrist, to “balance” Gore’s liberalness.

    @Mark Although I raise an eyebrow at making the middle mildly Republican, ??? “Making the middle” sounds like you think he picked Specter as his definition of “The Middle”, with Republicanism as a key element, and then used Specter’s score to define “middle”.
    But that’s not what he did — he picked “50” as a middle score on his PQ scale. The senator closest to that was Specter (score 50.6), who happened to be Republican.

    Hmmm, something’s a bit funny here. If he’s decided that the average is, well, average (or a little bit right) then why are we looking for bias?
    The argument is that people, uninfluenced by biased media, have an average that is more conservative than either the Senate or the media. After they are influenced by media, their average moves in a liberal direction.

    His proof that the media is biased is that if they weren’t, “his side” would win a lot more.
    You are getting the cart before the horse. This is not his proof, it is his conclusion.

  24. @ Bill
    Lieberman is about as centrist as his buddy John McCain, who wanted him to take the VP spot in his campaign. And McCain was a deep-red conservative, before the Rs lurched so far to the right that the measuring tape ran out.

  25. @Bill
    “Making the middle” – well, “making” may not have been the right word, however I found it interesting that having created a system where 50 was meant to be the space between the Democrats and Republicans, he picked a Republican as his exemplar. I think it’s an interesting demonstration of his bias that runs through his quotes in that article, but it was the mildest of my criticisms so I’m not going to harp on in.

    The argument is that people, uninfluenced by biased media, have an average that is more conservative than either the Senate or the media. After they are influenced by media, their average moves in a liberal direction.

    I’m well aware that was his argument, that’s why I’m mocking it for the lack of supporting evidence.
    I could also mock it as being self-evidently absurd. For example, if the media shift Americans by 25% on his arbitrary scale, does that mean that Wyoming (less than 25% votes for Clinton) or Texas (at 25% on his scale) would actually contain negative liberals if it were not for the media?

    You are getting the cart before the horse. This is not his proof, it is his conclusion.

    Yes, it is his conclusion. It’s also his proof. That’s why I say it’s a circular argument – because he uses his conclusion to fuel his argument prior to reaching that conclusion. There’s nothing in his actual paper to support what he asserts in the article.

    These are by no means the only issues. The methodology of looking at the top 20 think tanks is highly suspect. For example, there are well-known differences in the amount and pattern of money fueling each side of the political divide. Republicans get more money from a smaller base of larger donors, while Democrats get less money from smaller donors. Think Tanks are generally fueled by bigger donors, so are more likely to be Republican. This is borne out by his table 1 – a slant he curiously doesn’t cover. If the media are doing their actual job of choosing think tanks to quote based on credibility rather than where their money comes from, then they would naturally choose think tanks in a different pattern – and they do.
    tl;dr – the paper could just as easily be used to demonstrate that think tanks and the politicians who are beholden to them are biased to the right as it could to show the media is biased to the left.

  26. Into what skiffy subgenre does “Lieberman as moderate” fit? Dystopia? MilSF? Alternate-Fact History? Post-Hitlerian Utopia? Hard Fantasy? Some economics-oriented journal must have published an article about this.

  27. @Chip —

    “a long-ago friend used to say “Do not attribute to malice what can be explained by [simple?] incompetence”. (I’m sure this wasn’t original, but it was especially amusing because their SCA-derived nickname was “Malice”.)”

    That’s called Hanlon’s Razor, though the idea behind it goes back a couple hundred years through various writers, including Heinlein.


  28. @myself —

    Dangit, I just saw IanP’s post. Nevermind!

    @Dann —

    Take a look at opensecrets.org. There were roughly 3500 donations that listed “journalist” as their profession that also donated to a campaign or a PAC during the 2016 cycle. I went through the first 350 donations and found fewer than ten that went to the GOP candidates or GOP related PACs.

    I remember seeing an article somewhere-or-other that debunked this analysis, but I’m not going to take the time to try to find it again.

    But whether or not there are truly more Democratic donations amongst journalists, I’ll refer you to a fine old (well, maybe not SO old) saying: reality has a liberal bias.

  29. Bill:

    “That is, the only interesting feature about a particular think tank is how often it is cited by liberal senators, and by conservative senators. (and it just happens that Amnesty International is cited more by liberals, and Heritage is cited more by conservatives).”

    Which is exactly the problem, because that is not the only interesting feature.That a conservative senator is uninterested in human rights or in the welfare of children does not make an organization liberal. Also, that news media do not quote lobbying groups with an anti-science agenda do not make the media liberal.

    So the method is flawed from the beginning.

  30. The method of that study definitely sounds circular, and the naïve approach to the scale is just sad. Also, about the study which showed a liberal tendency among reporters? It also showed a conservative tendency among editors. Which one decides what gets covered, what’s printed or aired?

    But Bill makes some valid points along the way.

    Lieberman is a moderate. He’s about on a par with our last two Democratic senators from Arkansas. All had party loyalty as their main virtue, which made them more liberal than their actual positions. People have a hard time remembering that in Lieberman’s case, because he stabbed his party in the back in 2008, losing his primary virtue.

    (This is similar to how McCain’s cravenness in supporting Trump and his foolishness or idiocy or whatever it was in picking Palin obscures his less right-wing past. Unlike the current crop of wreckers, McCain believes in politics. [He still does now, so foolishness fits best.]. He was well to the right but he was willing to negotiate and compromise.)

    The Cato Institute does more than “pure science denial”. Jim Harper’s Identity Crisis: How Identification Is Overused and Misunderstood is getting dated but is still quite good. Harper works (or did–I don’t keep up) at Cato and Cato published his book. It’s solid stuff.

    I wouldn’t compare the Children’s Defense Fund or Amnesty International to Cato or AEI, which are pretty much pure think tanks. The better comparison would be to other advocacy groups with policy arms, like the NRA or National Right to Life. The primary difference is in that comparison which side they’re on. Their operations are similar.

    (That and that one pair is much better funded and much more effective than the other.)

    Don’t take this as support for organizations I oppose or policies I reject. I am trying to see and report as well as possible what the ground we’re on is like.

  31. Clip Hitchcock:

    ” Tell you what: I won’t make indefensible claims about Sweden if you avoid making them about the US.”

    Here’s another idea? Next time you see me writing something you see as possibly true to a lesser degree, but that you find exaggerated and categorical, say:

    – Hampus, you are doing that thing with being to categorical again. I’m sure you didn’t mean to exaggerate in that way.

    Because I will do it. Sometimes on a small and unimportant subject, sometimes on a larger one. It is the way I write when I really care about something. Even if I manage to avoid it most time, I will not be able to do it every time.

    So please, do not come with snide comments on how little I read or watch. Instead, help me out and tell me that I’m doing the thing I want to avoid again.

    Yes, this is me asking for help with this.

  32. John A Arkansawyer:

    I think we can go back and forth on this. I do not agree in Lieberman being a moderate. I think that is a value statement which shows someone has a conservative bias. My guess is that you feel the opposite about those not agreeing with him being a moderate. That kind of statements are just not good fits to place in an article pretending to be scientific.

    Also, I do not think it is fair to take the question of arms – which is a local partisan issue – and liken it to the question of human rights, mostly on a global scale where they might be quoted because of a non-partisan report on Myanmar or India.

  33. kathodus on January 19, 2018 at 12:06 am said:

    Into what skiffy subgenre does “Lieberman as moderate” fit?

    “A Logically Moderate Named Joe”
    “I Am The Very Model of a Moderate Joe General”

  34. @Matt Y

    Thanks for the link to the bleedingcool article. It wasn’t up when I checked there the other day.

    I’m afraid that I cannot give Mr. Galbraith a pass in response to his use of the standard cowardly tactic of retreating to the “it was a joke” position. If he was serious in the first place, then he is lying now. If it was a joke in the first place, then the person with the defective sense of humor is him.

    I do sympathize with him on the abuse that has been pointed his way and with his thoughts on talking with one another more openly:

    “I learned a lot about my fellow Americans. I think dialog is key. We need to talk to each other. In our minds, we need to re-humanize the other side. We shouldn’t paint people with a broad brush.”

    It’s a pity that he elected to de-humanize Mr. Sorbo and painted him with a broad brush in order to score a couple of cheap humor points in the first place.


    I’ve been told that US and European political scales are a bit different on many occasions. I agree on the subject of the shoutiness aspect of TV/radio coverage. Which is why I lean heavily on NPR. And reading.


  35. Kip W: The problem is saying that Lieberman “is” a moderate, rather than “once was.”

    Exactly. He’s moved too far right in recent years to be considered a moderate now. The fact that Republicans have, as msb says, “lurched so far to the right that the measuring tape ran out” does not make him a moderate.

  36. @Dann

    Which element of that article are you relying on to support your statement? Because I’m looking at #2 which shows significantly higher polarisation on the right.

  37. @Mark

    I’m looking at #1. The median Republican actually shifted a bit to the left before they shifted to the right. Looking at the starting point and the ending point, it looks like the median Republican has moved to the right (net) slightly….emphasis slightly…less than the median Democrat has moved to the left.

    I think it is also interesting to note that the average Democrat has only moved to the left. I think it also possible to read too much into all of their numbers.

    My larger point is that increasing polarization in the US is decidedly a bi-partisan activity.


  38. There was a time when both parties were moving to the left–and then the GOP started actively cultivating the people who thought the civil rights movement, and women’s rights, and greater equality overall, were bad things.

    For a while, they didn’t really give those people anything of substance–until the hard right grass roots started organizing and making real demands.

    And no, wanting health care for all, like in every other advanced, civilized country, is not as far left, not even remotely, as calling Nazis and the KKK “very fine people,” is far right.

  39. @JJ [Joe Lieberman] moved too far right in recent years to be considered a moderate now.

    Hampus — do you (also) consider Lieberman to be on the right? I was assuming your problem with “moderate” was that you believed him to be too far to the left to be called a moderate.

    JJ — Lieberman spent his Senate career on the left side of moderate.
    If you look at his ADA vote ratings, he is consistently more conservative than the average Democratic senator, but still on the liberal side of moderate. Some scores, where the numbers are (Lieberman rating) / (Democrat average) / (Republican average)

    2012 80 / 90 / 12
    2011 85 / 91 / 15
    2010 75 / 88 / 7
    2009 95 / 95 / 14
    2008 85 / 90 / 20
    2007 70 / 87 / 20 (this is the first year he labelled himself Independent, although he still continued to caucus with Democrats)
    2006 75 / 89 / 9
    2005 80 / 94 / 14
    2004 75 / 90 / 20

    The ACU does a similar ranking, but from a conservative perspective, and while I didn’t check every number, the trends were the same: More conservative than the Democratic caucus as a whole, but always still on the liberal side.

  40. Bill:

    “Hampus — do you (also) consider Lieberman to be on the right? I was assuming your problem with “moderate” was that you believed him to be too far to the left to be called a moderate.”

    “Far to the left”! 😀

  41. @Bill: Here’s a different way to look at those ADA numbers (and I bet the ACU numbers as well). I did this fast and rough, pulling from their PDF file, and so I guess from the count I didn’t get everyone, but I didn’t want to wait for an email in reply with spreadsheets. Anyway, here’s a breakdown of the scores:

    184 0%
    42 5%
    10 10%
    6 15%
    5 20%
    1 25%
    2 30%
    2 35%
    1 45%
    1 55%
    4 60%
    2 65%
    8 75%
    4 80%
    14 85%
    35 90%
    58 95%
    58 100%

    See the problem? These scoresheets are instrumental, designed under the bogus claim of providing ‘good government’ information for the goo-goos of the world. Their real purpose is partisan and they are designed to divide. Middling scores are of no value to motivate partisan voters.

    So when you see Joe Lieberman falling into that chasm between right and left and say “left side of moderate”, I don’t exactly disagree, but I don’t think you’ve proved it either. What you are doing is inspecting data designed to highlight and exacerbate division, for a purpose for which it is not, in my opinion, fit for use.

  42. @Bill
    The Democrats were on the brink of setting up single payer health coverage in the US when Lieberman sabotaged it. So, yes, more right-wing than the party he eventually abandoned.

  43. It’s hard to see how a man who consistently voted with and caucused with the Democratic party can be said to have abandoned it.

    @John Arkansawyer — are you aware of a better way to “measure” where on a left-right spectrum a person lies?

  44. @Bill
    He literally did abandon it, though, so I don’t see the point of quibbling about how he can’t be said to have abandoned a party he flat-out left.

  45. @Bill: Not offhand, no, though I can see how it could be done by a non-partisan group. What I do know is that method of measurement is designed to produce clumps at the ends and sparseness in the middle. That’s going to tell you who is on which side of a partisan divide, as it is designed to do. It doesn’t do nuance.

    And I think going to the other party’s convention and endorsing their candidate–which I’d forgotten until I checked my memory Lieberman did in 2007, before the Democrats had picked their candidate, which makes it even worse–against your own qualifies as abandoning one’s party.

    They should have thrown him out, but they didn’t, just like they should’ve forced Bill Clinton to resign once he’d gotten past his impeachment trial, but they didn’t. The Democrats consistently make long-term sacrifices for short-term victories and then wonder why they are losing. A sorry-ass excuse for a peoples’ party.

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