The Lichtman Factors — The winds favor Biden, but it’s a long way to shore

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

April 30th 2024

There is a list of election factors, compiled by American University’s Distinguished Professor of History Allan Lichtman clear back in 1984, that he used to forecast the results of presidential elections.

He predicts the results of the popular vote, and thus has accurately forecast all ten of the last elections. In 2000 Bush wound up President through a corrupt decision by the Supreme Court, and in 2016 the Electoral College robbed both Lichtman and the American people.

I’m going to go down Lichtman’s list now (the factors are pretty self-explanatory) and give an overview of where we stand in relation to each factor. Since the election is a good six months away, I plan to revisit the list in October when most of the various bugger factors have sorted themselves out. For example, while Biden will almost certainly be the Democratic nominee, I think the odds are less than even that Trump will be the Republican nominee. It’s too early to tell how well the National Association of Zealots and Ideologues will do at corrupting and possibly ending democracy. (They are underwriting a group calling itself “We The People” which opposes Democracy. Think about that for a moment). And of course, a lot of unexpected but far-from-unlikely events could take place between now an then: a war, a economic crash, one or both candidates dies, etc.

Forecasting an election now is every bit as accurate as forecasting the weather for six months from now. In other words, utterly useless. But using Lichtman’s list, we can get a sense of the current trend, and that trend favors Biden. He is favored by keys 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, and 13 right now. If he enjoys that same trend six months from now, I would say he has the election all but wrapped up.

So, let’s look over that list:

1. Party mandate: After the midterm elections, the incumbent party holds more seats in the US House of Representatives than after the previous midterm elections.

Obviously, the Dems lost ground in the last midterm and the GOP took the House. That’s a common thing in American politics, but this year the GOP are so inept and in such disarray that it’s possible that they could lose control of the House before the election. In some ways, they already have. The only reason Mike Johnson is still Speaker (or that we even HAVE a Speaker) is because the Dems are propping him up to avoid chaos. Which means the Dems expect support for some of Biden’s policies over the next few months.

2. Contest: There is no serious contest for the incumbent party nomination.

Obviously this is the case for Biden. And if you want to argue that Trump is ALSO an incumbent, albeit one term removed, keep in mind that while the last of his in-party opposition has formally left the race, the “anyone-but-Trump” Republican vote is surprisingly strong, ranging from 25% to 33%.

3. Incumbency: The incumbent party candidate is the sitting president.


4. Third party: There is no significant third party or independent campaign.

“No Labels” is dead in the water, and RFK’s quixotic campaign is in real trouble now that Republicans realize that his reactionary and conspiracy-laden campaign is going to impact Trump’s base far more than it would Biden’s. One major bugger factor here is that if Trump is in prison or clearly mentally incapable, a conservative consensus for a third-party GOP alternative might emerge. Such would be a mainstream Republican such as Liz Cheney or Mitt Romney. No guesses at this time how such a shit show might play out.

5. Short term economy: The economy is not in recession during the election campaign.

There are a few clouds on the horizon (last month’s GDP slow-down) but that’s always the case. This strongly favors Biden.

6. Long term economy: Real per capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the previous two terms.

If the Republicans keep running on the “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” chestnut, Biden should end up with 400 electoral votes. But he needs to beware the power of right wing propaganda.

7. Policy change: The incumbent administration effects major changes in national policy.

Strongly in Biden’s favor, and he has a slew of new policy changes coming over the next few weeks. And with Mike Johnson pinned, he may be able to get some of them through the House.

8. Social unrest: There is no sustained social unrest during the term.

This one could make or break Biden. Campuses are erupting over the slaughter in Gaza, and right wingers are anxious to exploit the unrest and create a “generation gap.” It could, in many ways, be a replay of 1968. Chances are Biden knows the costs of supporting Netanyahu, just as Lyndon Johnson knew continuing to escalate in Vietnam would cost him the presidency. Biden supporters, upset over the war, won’t vote for Trump. But they might not vote at all, which is just as bad. Biden has to navigate the choppy waters of defying Netanyahu without appearing to abandon Israel. Meanwhile, Trump is actively trying to foment social unrest and failing miserably.

9. Scandal: The incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal.

Gosh, where to begin? Why, that horrible Mister Biden didn’t even shoot his dog! Meanwhile, the Republicans may have a felon candidate running from a jail cell.

10. Foreign/military failure: The incumbent administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs.

Of course the known bugger factor here is Gaza. The pretend ‘border crisis’ will be flogged by every fascist in the GOP, but Biden just needs to remind voters, over and over, that the GOP themselves sabotaged their own solution to the border problems.

11. Foreign/military success: The incumbent administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs.

Critical for Biden at this time. He must solve the Netanyahu/Gaza mess.

12. Incumbent charisma: The incumbent party candidate is charismatic or a national hero.

Biden has both, but is leaning into the strong headwinds of fascist propaganda. He simply doesn’t get the credit he has earned.

13. Challenger charisma: The challenging party candidate is not charismatic or a national hero.

OK, give me a minute to stop laughing. There are many MAGAts who still believe Trump is Jesus, Jefferson and Reagan all rolled up into one, and really does shoot 18-under-par. But strongman popularity is pretty brittle, and Trump’s bubble is in the process of popping.

So there you have it. Right now, the election is Biden’s to lose.

But it’s still an eternity off. We’ll revisit this in October.

Doggedly Wrong — Kristi Noem licks the third rail

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

April 28th, 2024

There’s a time in a child’s life known as “the terrible twos” when a child is constantly overamped, rebellious, and defiant. “No!” becomes their favorite word, and poking out their tongues at anything they are mad about—dinner, the cat, parents—becomes a nearly obsessive behavior. Most kids start to tone it down about the age of five or so. Gentle but firm discipline smooths those rough edges, and what the parents don’t address their peers certainly will. Most boys that age come home at least once with a puffy cheek and scruffed clothes, wailing, “But all I did was stick my tongue out at him!”

As they approach their tweens, many find themselves on the receiving end of that sort of behavior, usually from younger siblings or a face pull from a kid from the safety of a passing auto. If they haven’t outgrown it by age 14 or so, they end up diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder and end up on meds.

However, there is one segment of the population where that sort of behavior in adults is encouraged. That would be the American right. Going back to the days of Rush Limbaugh and hate radio back in the 80s, “owning the libs” made ignorant and disgusting behavior not only acceptable, but praiseworthy. He would pop off with remarks like “When WOMEN got the right to vote is when it all went downhill,” or “Holocaust? Ninety million Indians? Only four million left? They all have casinos – what’s to complain about?” He encouraged destructive things like rigging trucks to emit immense clouds of thick black smoke to annoy the libs, or to be rude and condescending to women (“Ideal women: 36-24-36, five foot seven, flat spot on top of the head, deaf mute. The flat spot on the top of the head is for your drink.”)

He also made a big thing of the fact that he smoked cigars, and encouraged kids to take up cigar smoking because it annoyed the grown ups. He ended up dead from lung cancer, perhaps the most positive lesson he ever offered the public.

That attitude took over the GOP, and its companion movements, the chauvinists and the conspiracy mongers. They exploded on the web, trolling everyone and everything. (They’re amazingly easy to troll BACK, by the way, and you don’t even have to sink to their level. Just respond politely and sincerely, using provable fact and sweet reason. Burning coals on their heads. Call it being passively-aggressively nice, but it works.)

Hillary knew exactly what she was talking about when she deemed these offspring of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy “deplorables.” That they reacted like scalded cats to that only proved her point.

They got into Congress, of course. Some of them are seriously emotionally disturbed, but most of them are just engaging in a kind of little-boy-nasty performance art, sticking out their tongues at the grown-ups. Maggie Armpits and Bo-Bo don’t exist in a vacuum.

That brings us to Kristi Noem, governor of South Dakota. She wants very badly to be on the ticket if Trump makes it to the convention (and especially if he doesn’t) and so she wrote a book meant to establish her cred amongst the deplorables. As she put it, she wanted “to illustrate her willingness, in politics as well as in South Dakota life, to do anything ‘difficult, messy and ugly’ if it simply needs to be done.”

Apparently, this included shooting puppies. Or at least, a puppy, a 14-month old wire-hair terrier. She portrayed it as having to put down a dog that was utterly incorrigible, and somewhat vicious and destructive. She portrayed it as being a part of farm life, and of course, that does routinely include putting down sick or elderly animals, and slaughtering same for food. In these days of bird flu, swine flu and so on, it sometimes involves mass culls.

She might have even gotten away with it if she had left it at that, but she went on to say that the dog was a family pet named “Cricket.” (Douglas Adams to the white discourtesy phone, please), and added, “I hated that dog.”

Yes, this annoyed liberals. And pretty much everyone else, down to and including Rush Limbaugh fans.

There is a Netflix documentary series named “Don’t F–k with Cats.” Some guy posted anonymous videos of torturing kittens to death. This lead to a mass campaign online to find and out the culprit. In so doing, they unmasked and stopped a serial killer. True story, and worth watching.

Same goes for dogs. Richard Nixon saved his political career in 1952 by staunchly defending his dog, Checkers. LBJ’s popularity began to erode in earnest when he picked up his beagle by the ears. Mitt Romney’s campaign faltered when it came to light he drove 200 miles in his SUV with his dog in a crate strapped to the top of the vehicle. I believe him when he said the dog wasn’t in danger, but it was still a mean thing to do to the family pet. Mistreating family pets is the true third rail of American politics.

True to form, Noem tried to turn this political catastrophe into a cause celebre with deplorables by ‘owning the libs’ and do a little marketing, posting on Twatter, “We love animals, but tough decisions like this happen all the time on a farm. Sadly, we just had to put down 3 horses a few weeks ago that had been in our family for 25 years. If you want more real, honest, and politically INcorrect stories that’ll have the media gasping, preorder ‘No Going Back.’”

Even deplorables have their limits. Few are trying to defend her.

And she has lost supporters in droves. According to Raw Story, “@colin_fendley said, ‘I have been a farm owner, I have been a K9 Handler, and I have trained thousands of dogs; you can not justify this, my dear. I’m a conservative, and you lost my support.’” Multiply that by millions.

Kristi Noem’s political career is now deader than Cricket, but unlike Cricket, she had it coming.

The Supine Court Strikes — What is this silly ‘law’ stuff, anyway?

The Supine Court Strikes

What is this silly ‘law’ stuff, anyway?

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

April 26th, 2024

The Heritage Foundation, or as I like to call them, the National Association of Zealots and Ideologues, represents a broken and twisted philosophy, a sick combination of fascism and Christian reconstructionalism. So it’s no surprise that their hirelings are also broken and twisted creatures.

Take the six “justices” that the Foundation lied, cheated and stole in order to infiltrate the Supreme Court. That suborned court is presently pretending to “deliberate” over whether a President or former president has absolute legal immunity for any actions taken while holding office.

They spent this week, after weeks of absurd delay, quibbling with lawyers over whether a president could be held accountable for “official acts” versus personal misdeeds. It’s a distinction without a difference; if it is an illegal act, then by definition it is not an official act. Presidents are required to “faithfully execute the laws of the United States.” Their own constitutional job description deems illegal acts to be outside the duties and responsibilities of the office. Were he not so hopelessly corrupt, even the befuddled and pampered pet of billionaires, Clarence Thomas, would be able to discern that. (Slappy made one real contribution to the proceedings, wanting to know if the appointment of Jack Smith as special prosecutor was legal. It didn’t have anything to do with this case, and I’m sure his wife, Gin Soaked, put him up to it. I doubt he has the wit to think of it for himself.)

The court will doubtlessly remand this case to the lower courts, who already made their decision loud and clear. Stripped of the legal niceties, they perceived the claim of absolute right of presidents to be a huge load of utter rubbish and about as unAmerican as it gets. But remanding it means the court gets to pretend to ‘consider’ it again no sooner than October, and can wait until five months after the election to decide if Trump can be held liable for his many crimes or not.

Yes, the true purpose of all this is to delay the various trials of Donald Trump until after the election. If the Heritage Foundation can only steal this coming election the way they stole the last five of six elections that produced a Republican president, then they can grandly declare the Republican President has the divine right of kings and end this democracy nonsense once and for all. But they can’t do that right now. After all, that would be giving BIDEN unlimited power and he might use it to order the Supreme Court (well, two thirds of it) taken out and shot, or Trump assassinated. (Assassinating Trump is pretty much redundant at this point; he’s well topped himself with his ongoing antics and clear lack of power in the court and on his silly vanity social media.)

Trump cannot possibly win a fair election. The primaries show that a full third of Republican voters want anyone other than Trump. He has only 30% support from independents and that’s plummeting in the face of Trump’s weakness and culpability on display in the ongoing trial. But the Heritage Foundation, with the backing of most of America’s 850 billionaires, is working hard to keep Republicans in control of government, or, failing that, to at least have enough votes in the gerrymandered House and corn-and-sagebrush-weighted Senate to keep a second Biden term paralyzed and ineffectual. (Most people still don’t understand how fantastic the accomplishments of the first Biden term—the roaring economy, the explosion of manufacturing jobs, the rise of unions and wages—were, despite the unending efforts of Republicans to subvert and deny such accomplishments.)

Thanks to the power of propaganda, people still blame Democrats for the economy (always better under Democratic administrations), the debt (90% of which came from Republican policies and misadventures) and the border (a non-crisis that is exacerbated by Republican refusal to consider legislation that they themselves introduced to try and codify American policy toward refugees.)

Never mind Trump’s lies and bullshit. The far more dangerous ones are the ones promoted endlessly on the propaganda outlets like Faux News and church pulpits.

How effective is it? The Republicans have taken out the old Reagan chestnut “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” and are running on it, despite the obvious and clear evidence that virtually everyone, including the people asking that question, are in fact better off now than they were four years ago when hundreds of thousands were dying of COVID, unemployment was more than double what it is now, and the president was a psychotic liar.

Stolen elections? They’ll have you think it’s Democrats. But if you look at people indicted and convicted of election or voter fraud, nearly all of them are Republicans. Which party has administration officials facing trial for falsifying election certifications?

Even as Trump disintegrates, expect a blizzard of lies and hate from the National Association of Zealots and Ideologues. To them, the brass ring is nearly in grasp. They only need one final election to seal the deal, and erect the Christian Fascist state they dream of, where workers are powerless and frightened, consumers are captive and utterly at the mercy of merchants, minorities of all kinds dehumanized and cut off from society, and questioning any of this is not only treason, but sacrilege.

They almost have America. They can taste it.

And once they have it, they don’t plan to share it with you.

America won’t be yours.

The Arizona Ruling — Religious fascists cower before the shit storm they have created.

Bryan Zepp Jamieson
April 10th 2024

The Guardian tried to cover Trump’s ever-shifting stance on abortion rights again today, and wound up trying to pretend this was a coherent response:
Asked if Arizona’s ruling went too far, Trump replied: “Yeah, they did. That will be straightened out. As you know, it’s all about state’s rights. It will be straightened out. I’m sure the governor and everybody else are going to bring it back into reason and that it will be taken care of, I think, very quickly.”
The Guardian managed to miss that the ruling that caused this week’s shitstorm was an exact example of what happens when the laws regarding abortion are left to “state’s rights.” Arizona’s supreme court absurdly upheld a law passed by the territorial legislature in 1864, back before Arizona was even a state, that outlawed all abortion other than to save the life of the mother. Other states are considering even disallowing that one life-saving restriction as part of their holy crusade.
But it gets worse. Trump has frequently brayed that he made the overturning of Roe vs. Wade possible. The Guardian failed to mention that.
The Guardian utterly ignored a video Trump made LESS THAN TWO DAYS EARLIER in which he said, “They [Democrats] support abortion up to and even beyond the ninth month. The concept of having an abortion in the later months, and even execution after birth. And that’s exactly what it is. The baby is born, the baby is executed after birth is unacceptable, and almost everyone agrees with that.”
That would be disgraceful coming from a drunken misogynistic wife-beater in a sleazy bar pissed on cheap whiskey. It would even be disgusting coming from an even lower life form, an evangelist drunk on Jesus. This is coming from a thieving, lying sewer rat of a man who wants to be President again.
How much do you have to hate women to even believe that they would cheerfully terminate their pregnancies in the ninth month? Or even the third month? As for women getting abortions “after the baby is born” that’s a lie on the level of “Jews drink the blood of Christian babies.” It’s a disgrace, and no person saying such a thing can lay any claim to decency. Trump certainly cannot. Trump is trash. This proves it.
It misrepresents what Roe vs. Wade stipulated. There’s a reason—and it’s not medical—why people speak of “trimesters” in pregnancies. No sudden change occurs at the end of 90 days, or 120 days. It’s just that Roe vs. Wade laid out restrictions states could impose on the fundamental right to an abortion: In the first trimester, governments could place no restrictions on women’s ability to choose to abort pregnancies other than imposing minimal medical safeguards, such as requiring abortions to be performed by licensed physicians [per Wikipedia, cited]. In the second trimester, increasing risks to the mother’s health gave states a compelling interest that allowed them to enact medical regulations on abortion procedures so long as they were reasonable and “narrowly tailored” to protecting mothers’ health [per Wikipedia, cited]. And finally, in the final trimester, “From the beginning of the third trimester on—the point at which a fetus became viable under the medical technology available in the early 1970s—the Court ruled that a state’s interest in protecting prenatal life became so compelling that it could legally prohibit all abortions except where necessary to protect the mother’s life or health [per Wikipedia, cited].
Do I even have to say that no state has ever allowed the killing of an infant under any circumstances? Women-hating drunks might believe it. Religiously insane zealots might believe it. And Donald J. Trump may believe it. But it is not true.
Even as many Republicans are suddenly realizing that they went too far in trying to appease the zealots and alienated a huge majority of voters, a lot of them who were fulsomely “pro-life” last year are suddenly “pro-choice” or “let the states decide.” The first is hypocritical. The second is disingenuous as well as hypocritical.
At the time Roe vs. Wade was delivered, only five states had it generally legal (and doctors were free to refuse for any or no reason). In 13 states it was legal in cases of risk to woman’s health, rape or incest, or likely damaged fetus. In 31 states it was legal in cases of risk to woman’s life. And in Pennsylvania it was illegal under all circumstances, a draconian and murderous stance that several states are now avidly pursuing.
A lot of Republicans are trying to have their cake and eat it too. They were “pro-life” before, but now they either want states like Arizona or Pennsylvania or Alabama to decide what rights, if any, you can have, or they have pretended to cave entirely and say Arizona went too far. Trump, of course, stands for both sides of that giant back-step.
Republicans are not to be trusted. Zealots are definitely not to be trusted. (Their own bible approves of abortion when infidelity is suspected). And Trump was never trustworthy to begin with.

Republicans versus America — The far right is nowhere near American values

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

April 7th 2024


Even as the NY Times blatted on about Trump leading in tossup states according to their latest “let’s scare the shit out of everyone and boost ratings” poll, another poll from the somewhat more reputable NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist organization painted a vivid picture of just how far out of step Trump, MAGAts, and Republicans in general are with the rest of the population.

The most glaring example is that of abortion. 84% of voters said abortion should not be criminalized. (Support for the right to abortion has strengthened significantly since the Dobbs decision. At that time, about half the population agreed that all first trimester abortions should be legal and on demand. It’s closer to two-thirds now.) However, over 35% of Republicans want abortion to be a crime. Both for the woman and the doctor. It’s clear that outside of the fundamentalist hate bubble, the vast majority (93% of non-Republicans) of people support a woman’s right to choose.

Another huge chasm exists between the far right and normal America. While 51% say all “illegal” immigrants should be subject to immediate deportation (which would cause an economic crash were it to happen), 84% of Republicans subscribe to that hateful lunacy. They also believe such falsehoods as that undocumented workers cost the country money (in reality, the country gains an estimated $8 trillion a year from their labor and taxes) and that they cause crime (crime rate among aliens, both documented and not, is lower than the citizen population, and far lower rates of violent crime). However, with the economy booming, fascist propaganda organs go on endlessly about “the open border” (it isn’t) and “the immigrant problem” which bears a startling resemblance to Hitler’s “Jewish problem.”

Over three out of four Republicans whine that white people are the victims of racism. Only one in four people outside the GOP hold that self-pitying view.

Therefore it’s probably no surprise that over six in ten Republicans believe people should be allowed to have military-style assault weapons. They don’t care how many children get turned into hamburger, even when it’s their own children. They need to be safe from their racist oppressors. It takes a really special type of emotional and psychological cowardice to feel that way.

While only four in ten Republicans believe religion should influence government policy, that puts them well above the 16% of the rest of us who feel that way. And I’ll bet that most of that 16% are going on the assumption that laws against murder or theft have a purely religious basis.

Other findings in the poll, as reported by NPR:

Strong majorities said:

  • Americans should not have to resort to violence in order to get the country back on track (79%)
  • A president should not be immune from crimes committed as president (75%)
  • Religion should not influence government policy (75%)
  • Corporate greed is a major cause of inflation (72%) – a majority of Republicans said so, too
  • Biden won the 2020 election (71%)
  • People should not be allowed to own military-style assault weapons (61%)

There was another poll last week that showed the striking power of GOP propaganda. Only about 1/3 thought the US economy was doing well. That by itself is amazing, given that the US is enjoying the biggest economic boom since the 1960s, spurred in large measure by the economic recovery bills Biden and Pelosi were able to shepherd through Congress in 2021-3. But respondents were then asked how they viewed the economy in their own state. The responses there measured reality a bit better, with majorities—sometimes near 70%—saying that the state economy was doing well. In about half the states where this was asked, the state economy, while doing well, actually lagged behind the national economy. I saw an amazing example of that on Fox News last week. Over 300,000 new jobs were added in February, half again what was forecast. Some propagandistic bimbo posing as a reporter announced that unemployment fell to 3.8%, which she described as “the second highest unemployment rate in two years.” Never mind that was also the lowest two-year rate of unemployment in the country’s economic history. Economists consider 5% “full employment.” Faux has to pretend unemployment is a administration failure, even when it is a glittering success.

Even as the Supreme Court pretends to mull over whether a president should be held unaccountable for any and all crimes he commits as president, 34% of Republicans agree with that lunatic notion. I would imagine that number might drop if they mean Biden has the legal right to order Trump to be taken out and shot. Or that any and all charges against Hunter Biden should be immediately dismissed because he was acting as Biden’s agent. There’s a reason people think Trump supporters are stupid.

No, actually, there are MANY reasons people think Trump supporters are stupid. We only covered a few of them today…



AI in the Trenches — Generative vs Creative

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

April 2nd, 2024

Peter Cawdron is one of the most prolific writers around. Since 2011, he’s written 27 novels with the common theme of First Contact, and with two exceptions, all are stand-alone works, each with its own world, cast of characters, and aliens. Quite often the premise is based on the outline of a science fiction classic (“Ghosts,” the exploration of a seemingly dormant extrastellar object, borrows the premise from Arthur C. Clarke’s “Rendezvous with Rama” but, like all of Cawdron’s novels, is a wholly original take.) He also has at least 12 other novels, plus several compilations of short fiction, and has edited several anthologies. By any metric, it’s an extraordinarily prodigious output. In a review of his next-to-latest offering, “The Artifact” I remarked that he made Stephen King look like George RR Martin.

You might think that with a production load like that, Cawdron is just another by-the-numbers potboiler hack. You couldn’t be more wrong.

His latest is a novel that gives a nod to “Anatomy of Courage: The Classic WWI Study of the Psychological Effects of War” written by Winston S. Churchill’s personal doctor, Sir Charles Watson, Lord Moran. Cawdron’s novel depicts the brutality, ugliness and futility of trench warfare. I’ll be reviewing it on later this week for anyone interested. Like his previous half-dozen books, this one is superior.

Cawdron always has an afterword to his novels which is worth reading. He’ll discuss the scientific theory underlying that particular story, explain how it was influenced by a classic work of hard SF, and discuss the political and social elements. He’ll often assert a personal note about his own thoughts and feelings as he wrote the story. They make for engaging sequelae.

In his “Anatomy of Courage,” he noted that based on the quality of his past half dozen novels, all written in a year, some people were gossiping online that he was using AI – artificial intelligence – to write the books, that he couldn’t have possibly done all that quality work by himself.

Well, it’s the internet. People talk shit. But any self-respecting writer would be at the very least irritated by that. Cawdron noted that he had written several really good books in an amazingly short time, and with most people I would take his umbrage as a humblebrag. (“Please don’t hate me because I’m beautiful”). But he HAS done exactly that. He does go on to explain the recent boost in his output, but that’s his story to tell, and if you want to know it, then buy the book. It’s on Amazon and Goodreads.

The allegations are utter crap, and I’ll tell you why I’m convinced of that.

I’ve written a lot in my time. Two novels, a couple of dozen short stories, about 1500 eclectic columns, and about 300 reviews. Writing the novels in particular gives me a certain insight into the writing process of another writer. I’m pretty good, I think, at spotting moments where, usually in the first draft, a writer is struck by a stray thought, leans back, considers, and then with a grin, starts writing or revising. First drafts tend to have a lot of those. (There’s a dictum: write the first draft for yourself, the second for your readers, and hope what remains survives the copy editors.)

I’ll give you an example of how it works. Your character, and let’s risk a lawsuit from Neal Stephenson and call him “Hiro Protagonist,” is standing in a park. What kind of park? Well, a city park. Does it have grass? Trees? A lake? Is there a breeze? Does the sun shine, turning ripples into a disco ball? Are there kids playing? Two old farts playing chess in a pagoda? What else?

Well, pigeons. Don’t most parks have pigeons?

I have a picture my dad took of me when I was seven. I was standing in Trafalgar Square in London, attired in my prep school uniform, and I have my right arm out in front of me, bent at the elbow. On my forearm is a big, well fed pigeon who is eyeing a piece of bread in my left hand with proprietary interest. The expression on my face (“He’s rather … large … isn’t he?”) is a mixture of fascination and intimidation. Presumably I gave the bird the bread without losing any fingers and we both flew away peacefully.

That infuses a vision of what a couple of pigeons are doing in my park. They’re squabbling over a bit of popcorn.

That process leads to a throwaway line in the story. “Near the end of the bench, a pair of pigeons had a lively debate over a kernel of popcorn. The larger one flicked his head lightning fast and flew off with his meal, leaving the other to squall in frustration and give Hiro an appealing, appraising glance.”

That little bit of color is something no AI can manage. Tell an AI to write a scene about a man standing in a park waiting for someone, and the AI might mention the park bench, the trees, the grass, maybe something about the other people. Depends how good at plagiarism it is.

But that bit about the pigeons is something no AI can do. It might mention pigeons if it’s exceptionally well trained, but that little drama about the popcorn, the slight hint of aggression and menace between the birds, that comes from a human mind sharing a human experience.

If you write a lot, you come to be very familiar with that process, and you learn to spot it in the writings of others, especially those whose writing you want to learn from. Cawdron’s books, backed by meticulous research, affinity for solid detail and depending from a vivid imagination, are replete with such.

AI can do a lot, for better or for worse, but the deterministic chaos of the human mind, with its emotion, volition, confusion and empathy, cannot be duplicated in code. AI might be good enough to confuse a casual reader, but it will rarely fool a constant reader, let alone a writer who can guess what went into seemingly unimportant passages that provide color and tone and humanity to a story, making a decent story great.

They may make AIs generative. But they can’t make them mimic human creativity.

It won’t hurt to learn to look for the trade secrets behind the words. You’ll appreciate the works of someone like Cawdron more, and it will make you a bit better, intellectually and in the ability to discern what is human…and what is not.


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