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November 16, 2012
Obvious nonsense about SF sales history
Posted by Patrick at 07:20 AM *

The Publishers Weekly Twitter account links to a “Book Patrol Infographic” purporting to show “The Bestselling Sci-Fi Books of All Time.” A better title for it would have been “Some Miscellaneous Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels, Decorated With a Bunch of Numbers We Pulled Out of Our Hat.”

It notes that Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is “by far PKD’s bestseller” (which is probably true) and then asserts that it has sold 32,500 copies, which is absurd. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was initially a Doubleday hardcover in 1968, and was reprinted as Signet mass-market paperback in 1969. Based on what we know about the distribution of midlist SF paperbacks then, it almost certainly sold more copies than that in its first year alone, quite possibly by thousands of copies. Thirteen years later, of course, it was the basis for the movie Blade Runner, and was reissued all over the world in a variety of tie-in editions, some with the original title and some retitled with the name of the movie. It has quite possibly sold over a million copies. If it’s sold less than half a million, I will—to quote Princeton Election Consortium poll-aggregator Sam Wang—eat a bug.

It says that Robert A. Heinlein’s Hugo-winning 1966 novel The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress has sold “well over 1,500 copies…to date.” In other news, the Empire State Building is “well over” ten feet tall. We’ve sold way more copies than that, and we’re not even its first publisher.

It notes that Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand League Under the Sea has been “translated into 147 languages” and that it has sold “over 10,000 copies”. Ten thousand copies would be about 68 per language. Do you suppose it might actually have sold a few more than that? Did they put this “infographic” together in their sleep?

Book Patrol subtitles itself “a haven for book culture.” Call me pedantic, but it seems to me that people who care about “havens” for any kind of “culture” ought to also care about facts, and getting them right. The most cursory knowledge of the history of book publishing—for instance, knowledge of the quantities in which mass-market paperbacks were distributed in the 1960s—would tell you that some of these figures are absurd. Shame on Book Patrol for polluting the world with ahistorical baloney, and shame on Publishers Weekly for promoting it.

UPDATE: Shame on the New Yorker’s blog for doing the same thing.

November 13, 2012
Posted by Teresa at 08:05 PM * 71 comments

Via Xeni Jardin, EXCLUSIVE PETRAEUS AFFAIR PHOTOS. Everything you need to know about the CIA Director David Petraeus sex scandal. All photos and headlines are real.

November 12, 2012
Rolling Jubilee
Posted by Patrick at 07:25 PM * 106 comments

Like a lot of people, I find myself impressed by the basic idea of the Rolling Jubilee (linked by Abi from her sidebar a few days ago). Taking advantage of the fact that one really can buy up the “distressed debt” of unfortunate individuals for pennies on the dollar, this Occupy-affiliated group is raising funds to do so—and then forgiving the debt. As they point out, functional societies throughout human history have had some kind of “jubilee”—a moment in which the system gets reset. I mean, it’s in the Bible for cry eye.

Writing on his “Moneybox” blog on Slate, Matthew Yglesias says “it’s a pretty great idea” but then goes on to quibble:

The question you have to ask yourself here is “why is this a better idea than just giving money to poor people”? And I think it’s hard to answer the question. Given two struggling families, one of which is indebted and one of which isn’t, it’s not clear why you’d think that the family that’s borrowed heavily in the past is more worthy of assistance.
What I think Yglesias doesn’t understand is that this isn’t just an attempt to render charity to the needy; it’s an attempt to undermine a specific kind of power relationship. As understood and practiced today, debt is a kind of servitude. If you have to take on unsustainable debts—or if you have the misfortune to live in a country that took on unsustainable debts—you’re just supposed to quietly accept that your life is permanently fucked, and that your creditors get to dictate its terms. The odd thing, though, is that people regularly figure out that this is monstrous.
ATHENS — As the head of Greece’s largest oncology department, Dr. Kostas Syrigos thought he had seen everything. But nothing prepared him for Elena, an unemployed woman whose breast cancer had been diagnosed a year before she came to him.

By that time, her cancer had grown to the size of an orange and broken through the skin, leaving a wound that she was draining with paper napkins. “When we saw her we were speechless,” said Dr. Syrigos, the chief of oncology at Sotiria General Hospital in central Athens. “Everyone was crying. Things like that are described in textbooks, but you never see them because until now, anybody who got sick in this country could always get help.”

If you believe that the idea that “debts must be paid” is more important than the above, you’re monstrous. I don’t know for sure that Rolling Jubilee will ultimately do a lot of good in the world. I don’t know what gotchas lie in wait. But I know what moves them. It’s more than charity, it’s justice. It moves me too.

Giving Wall Street types more credit than they deserve
Posted by Patrick at 11:51 AM *

In a post I find myself wishing everyone would read immediately, actually-numerate scientist-blogger Chad Orzel gets exasperated over how frequently journalists credit finance people—like Mitt Romney, or the speculators who caused the housing collapse—with being “numbers guys.”

You would think that the 2008 economic meltdown, in which the financial industry broke the entire world when they were blindsided by the fact that housing prices can go down as well as up, might have cut into the idea of Wall Street bankers as geniuses, but evidently not. […] It’s not hard to see where it originates—Wall Street types can’t go twenty minutes without telling everybody how smart they are—but it’s hard to see why so many people accept such blatant propaganda without question.

Look, Romney was an investment banker and corporate raider at Bain Capital. This is admittedly vastly more quantitative work than, say, being a journalist, but it doesn’t make him a “numbers guy.” The work that they do relies almost as much on luck and personal connections as it does on math—they’re closer to being professional gamblers than mathematical scientists. This is especially true of Bain and Romney, as was documented earlier this year—Bain made some bad bets before Romney got there, and was deep in the hole, and he got them out in large part by exploiting government connections and a sort of hostage-taking brinksmanship, creating a situation in which their well-deserved bankruptcy would’ve created a nightmare for the people they owed money, which bought them enough time for some other bets to pay off.

Yes, there are some genuinely data-driven traders, but as Orzel points out, they’re very much a minority in the actually-existing finance industry. The idea that Finance Guys (and they are, very much, mostly guys) have some kind of super-numerate insight into money and economics is, basically, a big con perpetrated by a privileged class that wants the rest of us to believe it’s far more essential than it actually is.

Orzel’s ultimate point is to those of us who’ve been boggled over the many reports that Romney and his team weren’t just faking last-minute confidence but, rather, genuinely expected to win—despite the fact that every single credible poll said that they probably wouldn’t. As Orzel says, no, this is precisely the common failure mode of guys like this:

They make “gut” decisions all the time, and slant their projections in a way that justifies what they want to do. When one of their bets come through, they rake in huge amounts of money; when it doesn’t, they chop up the company and sell the pieces to cut their losses. And when a disaster that thousands of other people see coming a mile off blows up in their faces (the housing crash, or last Tuesday’s election), they’re left utterly flabbergasted.
I’m not sure how many more disasters it’s going to take before journalists get out of the habit of treating Wall Street types like they’re the super-geniuses they claim to be, but the sooner the better.

November 08, 2012
Election 2012: the morning after the morning after
Posted by Patrick at 01:42 PM * 463 comments

It didn’t take long for the more excitable corners of Rightwingia to start spitting up internal body parts.

Of course, it’s never a surprise to see neo-Confederate boob Robert Stacy McCain having several cows at once: “Unmitigated political disaster…we are permanently and irretrievably screwed…the disease may well be terminal…America is doomed beyond all hope of redemption.” He takes a couple of halfhearted swipes at Todd Akin and spends a bit more time knocking Chris Christie: “Good luck with the remainder of your political future, governor. It is unlikely Republicans shall soon forget your perfidious betrayal.” But really, the best part is the paragraph that begins “Alas, as always, the duty of the Right is to manfully endure, to survive the defeat and stubbornly oppose the vaunting foe, and so this brutal shock, this electoral catastrophe, must be absorbed and digested.” Manfully endure! Stubbornly oppose! Yes, you are the modern Cicero, there’s a nice whackjob. Time for your meds.

And no Festival of Stupid is truly complete without John Hinderaker of Powerline (Time’s 2004 Blog of the Year, never forget): “Decades ago my father, the least cynical of men, quoted a political scientist who wrote that democracy will survive until people figure out that they can vote themselves money. That appears to be the point at which we have arrived. Put bluntly, the takers outnumber the makers…These are dark days, indeed.” Meanwhile, Melanie Phillips upholds the crazy flag overseas: “With four more years of Obama in the White House, Iran can now be sure that it will be able to complete its infernal construction of a genocide bomb to use against the Jews and the west. World War Three has now come a lot closer…Romney lost because, like Britain’s Conservative Party, the Republicans just don’t understand that America and the west are being consumed by a culture war. In their cowardice and moral confusion, they all attempt to appease the enemies within. And from without, the Islamic enemies of civilisation stand poised to occupy the void. With the re-election of Obama, America now threatens to lead the west into a terrifying darkness.” That’s not just piffle, it’s quality upmarket piffle. Nice typography, too.

But none of these tribunes are a patch on Eric Dondero of, who’s really unhappy with the election results, which he calls “the end of liberty in America.”

I’m choosing another rather unique path; a personal boycott, if you will. Starting early this morning, I am going to un-friend every single individual on Facebook who voted for Obama, or I even suspect may have Democrat leanings. I will do the same in person. All family and friends, even close family and friends, who I know to be Democrats are hereby dead to me. I vow never to speak to them again for the rest of my life, or have any communications with them. They are in short, the enemies of liberty. They deserve nothing less than hatred and utter contempt.

I strongly urge all other libertarians to do the same. Are you married to someone who voted for Obama, have a girlfriend who voted ‘O’. Divorce them. Break up with them without haste. Vow not to attend family functions, Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas for example, if there will be any family members in attendance who are Democrats.

Unfriending on Facebook! Shunning liberal relatives! Heady stuff. But that’s not all:
I believe we all need to express disgust with Obama and Democrats in public places. To some extent I already do this. Example:

When I’m at the Wal-mart or grocery story I typically pay with my debit card. On the pad it comes up, “EBT, Debit, Credit, Cash.” I make it a point to say loudly to the check-out clerk, “EBT, what is that for?” She inevitably says, “it’s government assistance.” I respond, “Oh, you mean welfare? Great. I work for a living. I’m paying for my food with my own hard-earned dollars. And other people get their food for free.” And I look around with disgust, making sure others in line have heard me.

I am going to step this up. I am going to do far more of this in my life. It’s going to be my personal crusade. I hope other libertarians and conservatives will eventually join me.

I hope so too. Please, angry right-wingers, do pursue this “shouting at strangers in supermarket lines” plan. Repeatedly, all over America. Let us know how it works out.
If I meet a Democrat in my life from here on out, I will shun them immediately. I will spit on the ground in front of them, being careful not to spit in their general direction so that they can’t charge me with some stupid little nuisance law. Then I’ll tell them in no un-certain terms: “I do not associate with Democrats. You all are communist pigs, and I have nothing but utter disgust for you. Sir/Madam, you are scum of the earth.” Then I’ll turn and walk the other way.
Altogether? It may be the greatest flounce of all time.

November 07, 2012
Still to be seen
Posted by Avram Grumer at 03:41 AM * 104 comments

Important issues still left unresolved by yesterday’s election results:

  • The people of Puerto Rico voted (53%) to change their political status to that of statehood (65%). But Congress has to approve the change. In population, Puerto Rico falls between Connecticut and Oklahoma, so figure it’d have five Congressional Representatives. It also trends pretty blue politically, so that’s a few more Democratic seats in the House, two more in the Senate, and a seven more reliable blue votes in the next Presidential election. All of which means the Republican-controlled House isn’t gonna go for it.
  • Will the vindication of Nate Silver’s predictive model over the gut instincts of political pundits translate to a more general shift towards knowledge and expertise and away from empty bloviating and bullshit in political reportage?
  • Has Nate Silver already figured out how the admission of Puerto Rico would alter the size of the Electoral College, and registered the appropriate domain name?
  • Are Hoefler & Frere-Jones going to release that slab-serif version of Gotham they cooked up for the Obama campaign last year?

November 06, 2012
Live From Dixville: Republican Rumpus 2012!
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:03 AM *

It’s time for the national election, and Making Light lifts the curtain with this Live Report from Dixville “First in the Nation” Notch, New Hampshire. Voting this year is at the Balsams Wilderness Ski Area while the main hotel is being refurbished.

For President and Vice-President of the United States
Gary Johnson/James P. Gray - 0
Virgil Goode/James Clymer - 0
Barack Obama/Joe Biden - 5
Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan - 5

[NOTE: This is the first time that Dixville Notch has ever tied.]

For Governor
John J. Babiarz - 0
Maggie Hassan - 3
Ovide Lamontagne - 7

For Representative in Congress
Hardy Macia - 1
Ann McLane Kuster - 3
Charles Bass - 6

For State Senator
Jeff Woodburn - 7
Debi Warner - 3

For State Representatives:
(Vote for any two)
Larry S. Enman - 7
Laurence M. Rappaport - 6
Duffy Daugherty - 3

For Sheriff:
Democratic & Republican:
Gerald Marcou - 10

For County Attorney:
John G. McCormick - 5
Philip J. Beiner - 5

For County Treasurer:
Democratic & Republican:
Frederick W. King - 10

For Register of Probate:
Democratic & Republican
Terri L. Peterson - 10

For County Commissioner:
Democratic & Republican
Rick Samson - 10

2012 Constitutional Amendment Questions
Constitutional Amendments Proposed by the 2012 General Court

1. “Are you in favor of amending the second part of the constitution by inserting after article 5-b a new article to read as follows: [Art.] 5-c. [Income Tax Prohibited.] Notwithstanding any general or special provision of this constitution, the general court shall not have the power or authority to impose and levy any assessment, rate, or tax upon income earned by any natural person; however, nothing in this Article shall be construed to prohibit any tax in effect on January 1, 2012, or adjustment to the rate of such a tax.” (Passed by the N.H. House 256 Yes 110 No; Passed by State Senate 19 Yes 4 No) CACR 13

Yes - 7
No - 1

2. “Are you in favor of amending article 73-a of the second part of the constitution to read as follows: [Art.] 73-a [Supreme Court, Administration.] The chief justice of the supreme court shall be the administrative head of all the courts. The chief justice shall, with the concurrence of a majority of the supreme court justices, make rules governing the administration of all courts in the state and the practice and procedure to be followed in all such courts. The rules so promulgated shall have the force and effect of law. The legislature shall have a concurrent power to regulate the same matters by statute. In the event of a conflict between a statute and a court rule, the statute, if not otherwise contrary to this constitution, shall prevail over the rule.” (Passed by the N.H. House 242 Yes 96 No; Passed by State Senate 19 Yes 5 No) CACR 26

Yes - 6
No - 2

Question Proposed pursuant to Part II, Article 100 of the New Hampshire Constitution:

3. “Shall there be a convention to amend or revise the constitution?”

Yes - 5
No - 3

Remember, you read it here first!

See also:
Making Light: Live from The Balsams, Making Light: Live from The Balsams 2—Electric Boogaloo, and Making Light: Live from Dixville Notch 2012

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