Various & Sundry, 9/4/09

Things and Stuff:

* This study suggests that (presumably, straight) men get so flummoxed in the presence of a pretty woman that they actually get appreciably stupider around them. Having watched men walk into walls craning their heads trying to get a look at my wife, this does not come as news to me. Nor am I immune to it; I think it partially explains why to date I have not won an argument with my wife (the other part is that she’s both smarter and more logical than I am, and we generally only have an argument of any sort after I have done something manifestly stupid. It’s really frustrating, it is). More generally, I’m aware that when I meet a pretty woman for the first time, my “showoff” gene expresses itself more than it usually does, and sometimes not to my advantage (the advantage specifically being “trying to show that I can interact with this woman in a rational manner”). I try to work on that.

* The New York Times uncovers the fact that people read on the subways. That’s some nice work there, Gray Lady. Less snarkily, one can either find it mildly depressing that the Times finds reading while commuting news-worthy, or can find it a vindication for one’s own bibliophilic lifestyle. Or alternately, just say, yeah, people read, that’s nice.

* If you are a reader (and if you’re reading here that’s a good guess), prepare to squee yourself with this photo montage of Neil Gaiman’s library shelves, in which it’s revealed that he probably has many more books than you, my friend. I don’t know that he has more books than me, but his aren’t splayed all over his office floor like mine are, and that I suppose that’s the major difference between me and him, other than, you know, numbers of awards and books sold and movies made and rock stars dated and hair. Which are minor things, really.

* Apparently many of the same people on the right who are losing their minds over health care are also currently losing their minds over the idea that Obama’s giving a speech aimed at school kids, because clearly the man is going to indoctrinate the children into his crazy socialist ways, and they’ll come home expecting the government to start providing communal services, and everyone knows that’s just the sort of thing we shouldn’t be teaching in our public schools.

Three things here. First, we’re definitely well past the point where anyone brandishing the word “socialist” for anything relating to Obama might as well have a blinking neon sign over their head that reads “tool.” Please, just stop. Second, anyone who thinks that school children would watch this upcoming speech with anything more than dutiful, glassy-eyed boredom has forgotten what it’s like to be a schoolkid being forced by adults to do things for incomprehensible reasons. I would be no more concerned about Obama indoctrinating kids with a televised speech aimed at them than I was when Bush did the same thing when he was in office; the kids will find it equally lame regardless of who is president.

Third, as it happens, I don’t want my kid watching the Obama speech in school either, not because our president will infect her with socialism, but because it’s going to be a bland, pointless time-waster and I’d rather have my kid spending time learning something.

* My pal Mary Robinette Kowal has a new short story up on Tor.com. Reading it will make you a better human being, I’m sure of it.

140 thoughts on “Various & Sundry, 9/4/09

  1. I dunno, a lot of kids would be a-squee about THE PRESIDENT!!!!!!, but really, we’re talking about people who think “stay in school and work hard” is a Sekrit Socialist Message.

  2. Skar wins the award for the Kneejerk “Nyah! The Democrats did it too!” Comment. Because as we all know, other people being stupid and lame excuses us being stupid and lame.

    Now that that’s out of the way, let’s never speak of it again.

  3. John,

    The President co-opted the financial services industry, took over 2 of the 3 big auto companies, and is trying to take control of the health care sector. You don’t have to be a “tool” to consider that a form of socialism although the correct term is probably fascism.

    Furthermore, consider that when the unemployment rate in this country finally tops 10% at the end of this year, there will be more Americans recieving a paycheck from the government ( unemployment, military, government workers, teachers, etc…) then those being paid by the private sector.

    Label that what you want, but its not capitalism.

    Finally, Obama brought the “s” label on himself with all of his talk about redistributing wealth and his class warfare on the “evil” rich.

  4. I figure that since the average public school can’t teach little Johnny to read, write and do simple math in twelve years, so I’m not particularly worried about him being politically indoctrinated in an hour, one way or the other.

  5. I’m green with envy over Gaiman’s library shelves. As an apartment dweller, I don’t have that kind of room, although my books are still slowly taking over the place.

    I don’t know if I get stupider around a pretty woman, but I will admit to sometimes acting stupider. This has improved as I’ve aged/matured.

  6. But John he’s a Socialist, and they want everyone to be nice to one another and Jeezus wouldn’t want my kid acting like that!

    Sarcasm aside I don’t think he’s going to be brainwashing my 1st & 3rd graders with his speech. They’re exposed to enough differing view points (dinner with the inlaws is fun during election years) to realize that there is more than one way to view the world. In retrospect that might be what the conservatives are trying to avoid.

  7. On the subjects of schools and books and sundry, here’s a private academy in Massachusetts that’s replacing its 20,000+ volume library with 18 Kindles, three TVs and a coffee shop.

    The headmaster says he looks at books and sees outdated technology.

    The headmaster says this.

    I say, I hope when the headmaster is replaced with a holographic AI, that they totally use David Warner’s voice, because that’s a guy that doesn’t get enough work in my opinion.

  8. My problem with the president speaking to the children at school is that it is being forced on the children. there is no choice in the matter. AND, parents were not given advanced notice about it, until such time as it was leaked to the press and an issue was made of it. AND, not even the principles of the schools have been given permission to pre-screen the speech.

    I had to sign permission for my middle-school age child to watch anything in school: “R” rated movie for history, the space shuttle launch and sex-ed in science. I’ve had to sign permission for my daughter to go see the play ‘Beauty and the beast’ as a drama club event.

    All of these events were pre-screened (minus the space shuttle launch) prior to the event taking place. Why should this be any different?

    My middle school child will be allowed to see it, and we will have a long discussion that night at the table with dinner. I am still wondering, if my eight year old daughter and my six year old son (3rd and 1st grades respectively) should have a need to see it. I agree that their eyes will be glazed over for most of it.

    Here in Colorado Springs, the school district board had to hold a special session yesterday, because so many parents threatened to keep their children out of school. The reason is that there is no alternative allowed for the speech. All children will have to watch it.

    And, that was the overwhelming concensus for the parents at the school board meeting. Where is the choice? All of the permission slips I’ve had to sigh stated that there were alternatives available if I, as a parent, did not wish to have my child participate in.

  9. Paul:

    “The President co-opted the financial services industry”

    You know, I find it amusing how many people apparently forget TARP and the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act were Bush Administration programs. Until and unless I hear equally voluminous vituperation of George Bush as a socialist, I feel I’m not obliged to treat such labeling of Obama with anything approaching seriousness, or those declaiming his socialism as being particularly credible.

    As for the confusing a bailout of car companies with genuine socialism, well. It’s funny, as anyone with more than a “I learned everything I know about socialism from Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin” level of understanding of socialism can tell you.

    So: No, Paul.

  10. I’ve read on the train for 15 years, and I think if I didn’t have that morning and afternoon quiet reading time, I’d kill someone.

  11. As to your first thought about pretty women I have to say of myself “Guilty”. I have almost driven off the road looking at pretty women. As to Neil Gahmen’s Library, his puts mine to shame!! I could fit mine in his right hand corner!! I am going to use the Labor Day weekend to try to get mine in some sort of order. I need to seperate my fiction from my non-fiction, and both from my school textbooks and referanc books.
    As a high school social studies teacher, the district (Jeffeson Parish) has not said if we are going to view the President’s address to students or not.
    When you were signing your book “Zoe’s Tale” at worldcon this year, I had left my copy at the hotel (Delta Centerville) and did not feel like walking back to get it, so I bought another copy in the dealers room and you signed it for me. I have donated my other non-signed copy of Zoe’s Tale to my schools (West Jefferson High) Library!!! I will check every so oftenn to see how may students have checked it out. I think I will give them an extra-credit assignment of a book report on it!! What do you think John?

  12. I found that the switch from bus commuting to carpooling made it harder to get my daily paper (yes, I still read an actual newspaper- made of trees!) read.

  13. “My problem with the president speaking to the children at school is that it is being forced on the children.”

    Everything in school is forced on the children.
    That’s why they’re in school, because they need to learn enough to be able to make rational decisions (and do matrix multiplication!).

    What you should be complaining about is not that the kids are going to hear a speech that they can’t get out of, but that they probably haven’t ever had a critical thinking course before being trotted into an auditorium to hear alot of grown-up and boring points made about this or that from on high, from whomever.

  14. Rob @11 – sorry, no. You know as well as I do that the schools do not make every parent sign a permission slip every single time an audiovisual presentation happens in class on any subject – do you really think that before the teacher put up the “Food Pyramid” poster, she had to get written permission from all the vegan parents, since some might not want their children to see meat listed as an acceptable food?

    Obama is not speaking to schoolchildren about his health-care plan or about his Iraq timetable. He is giving them an utterly uncontroversial message about Work Hard And Stay In School.

    Bluntly? Drop the disingenuous hand-waving about consent. Your real objection is that you don’t want Obama getting his liberal cooties on your children, and you wouldn’t even if his agenda involved reading “Dr. Seuss’s ABCs” to a room full of kindergartners.

  15. I left the post a little bit ago, and I just received an email from the school district:

    “District 11 will not require nor prohibit schools to broadcast the president’s address on Tuesday, September 8th. School principals will decide when or whether to air the address and to which students. As with every other classroom subject or lesson, parents will have the option of having their child excused from participation. Alternative school work will be provided. Parents who do not want their child to participate should contact the school principal and make the request.”

    I guess that my issue was addressed.

  16. Good thing you were all concerned about “consent” before you bothered to find out if it was Mandatory Obama Day or not.

  17. If I recall correctly, on September 11, GWB was in a school in Florida reading to kids. I wonder if those parents had to send in a permission slip, or if any parents freaked about him coming in to indoctrinate their poor innocent kiddies?

  18. Skar wins the award for the Kneejerk “Nyah! The Democrats did it too!” Comment. Because as we all know, other people being stupid and lame excuses us being stupid and lame.

    Actually, the principle, if you can call it that, is this: “it’s okay for us to do something stupid and lame because we once heard that sometime, somewhere, one of those other guys did something stupid and lame…but the stupid and lame thing they did is still not okay and was, in fact, The Worst Thing Ever!”

  19. I really don’t have a problem with the president addressing American’s in public institutions. I was always under the impression that the president was responsible for addressing citizens of all ages.

    I would hope that teachers would encourage constructive discussions based on the content of any speeches/PSAs presented in class.

    When did we adopt this mentality that our children are programmable little robots? Isn’t it the responsibility of parents to inform their kids on how to spot bullshit and what to do with the bullshit once it has been identified (either blog about it or ridicule it into oblivion)?

    Truthfully I don’t share John’s optimism in the schools to provide a suitable alternate activity but that opens up a much larger conversation on the failings of public and private schools systems.

    Rabid

  20. Mythago: For the record, no one really knows what he is going to talk about. There is no agenda. There are no talking points.

    I’m not concerned about the “socialist” aspect of his agenda as president. My children actually support the president and whould have voted for him, if given the chance.

    As a parent, I’ve been preached to by the department of education that we are all in this together. I have a job just as important, if not more so than the teachers. I have to reinforce the education that my children receive. It is my job to help them understand the knowledge that they learn and put it to practical use ever day of their lives.

    As soon as you take the parents out of the education decision is where the process becomes broken.

  21. Re: Study on how attractive women make men dumber – as the saying goes, God gave men two heads, but only enough blood to use one at a time.

    Re: Obama’s speech – The buzz today is that Bush the Elder made a similar speech in 1991, and the Democrats complained about it. (I was in 5th grade then, I don’t remember watching it. It is likely our teachers opted us out of it.)

    I don’t think Presidents should be making speeches directly to schoolkids, both for the reasons you said, and because schoolkids are captive audiences and this gets a little too close to Orwell-land.

  22. Meh, you can’t counter a life time of parental programing with an hour of presidential programing.
    Something I find more disturbing is the number of left leaning vs right leaning in the teaching professions.
    I don’t think even that will counter what you get from your parents.

  23. Pretty women: big duh, and I’m certainly one of those dummies.

    Gaiman’s library; Holy guacamole! Talk about organization!

    Obama’s talk: oh brother. Get over yourselves, people.

    Socialism: my vote for word that needs to be retired this year and am oft-reminded of the line from The Princess Bride: “Are you sure you’re using that word correctly? Because I’m not sure it means what you think it means.”

  24. I thinik the president delivering a poltical adress directly to schoolchildren is creepy. It would have been creepy is Bush did it, so it’s equally bad if Obaba does it.

  25. Mark Horning:

    There’s no indication, however, that the president is delivering a political address, unless the themes of “stay in school, work hard” are somehow now deemed politically contentious (or was the content of George Bush’s speech political at the time, either).

    It’s not a bad thing to have the president address the nation’s schoolchildren. The question is whether it’s worth stopping school for.

  26. Oh John, don’t you get it? Prior restraint on political messages is much easier for Conservative parents than watching the speech themselves and engaging in dialogue with their children.

  27. @ Scalzi @ 12:

    I’ll take you up on that. Bush was a socialist for political advantage. (It’s a bit like being “gay-for-pay,” except you’re whoring yourself and your principles for votes instead of money.) Examples: No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, the Department of Homeland Security, every single Agriculture and Transportation bill left unvetoed from 2000-2008…

  28. John,

    I’m sorry, I thought the “other people were stupid” argument was off the table, but for the record, yes Tarp was “socialism” ( and I have no idea how that is being defined by others here anymore) and yes Bush was massively wrong to sign it, and his pathetic poll ratings among republicans show that most people on his side were against it then just as much as they are now. However Obama was also in the Senate at the time and he also supported the Tarp fiasco as did the rest of the democrats who controlled both chambers as you may recall, so yes he does own that. He also used it to attack the AIG employees for taking bonuses in an act of class warfare that in my opinion sounded a lot like classic socialism.

    As for the car companies, he did not “bail them out” he took them over. The US government took a majority stake in the companies, fired the president and board of directors, dictated details such as how much they could spend on marketing and advertising, forced them into bankruptcy, and gave defacto control to the workers ( unions). So let’s recap, the Government forcibly takes control of the means of production from the private sector and gives it to the workers. If that’s not socialism then what is it? communism… theft….

    seriously, what is your definition of “Socialism”.

  29. I guess I am just kind of shocked that there is any uproar over the President addressing anyone. Have we sunk so far into the La Brea Tarpit of partisan vitriol that we begrudge the President, i.e. the duly elected head of the executive branch of our government and de facto quasi-ceremonial leader of the country, the right to give a speech wherever he damn well pleases?

    Don’t like his speech? Boehner et al. should give a rebuttal speech in front of their own audience of initially-psyched-but-now-probably-stupified-with-boredom school kids.

  30. Rob @24: “No one knows” what Obama is talking about? Better tell the Secretary of Education, who posted an open letter last week explaining what Obama is going to talk about. I realize I’m putting myself at risk for execution by the Obama Liberal Ninja Strike Squad by revealing this direct quote from the letter, but I love you guys, so I’ll risk it:

    During this special address, the president will speak directly to the nation’s children and youth about persisting and succeeding in school. The president will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning.

    I’m sure you’ll be relieved to know that the President’s address is not going to be beamed into every schoolroom in America, but is broadcast on C-Span and the White House Web Site. So schools can, you know, choose to let their students watch it, or not.

    Seriously, Rob, there are many blogs where you can throw out nonfacts and dark speculation and everybody will lap it up. This isn’t one of them.

  31. Rob: Actually, anyone who has any honest curiosity can easily find out what Obama’s message to schoolchildren will be about.

    On the other hand, I suspect that the exact wording hasn’t been officially approved by each of the subset of Texas school committees who mangage to keep most textbooks watered down and inoffensive to cultural dinosaurs, so I suppose you may have a point. Such as it is.

  32. Regarding the Times: Never poo-poo a slow news day. Slow news days are generally good news days.

    Regarding Neil Gaiman’s books, yeah, wow, but I’m actually more envious of his book shelves, as we also have piles of books on the floor that we just can’t seem to find a home for.

  33. Yes he took over two automakers. What you’re failing to realize is the magnitude of what would happen to the US economy if they failed (look at us in Michigan we have 15 percent unemployment without one of the big three failing). I think he looked at the situation and made the decision that would cause the least short term harm to the economy. The jury is still out on the long term effects.

  34. Good God, people. Take a pill.

    I’m a pretty hard core Democrat, but it would not even occur to me to freak out about a Republican president (even Bush) addressing my children in school.

    He’s the president. One of his jobs is being figure heady, and this is part of that. I think it’s safe to say that even if he was all propaganda-y, it would go over the heads of the young kids, and the kids who did pick it up are old enough to talk to their parents about it.

    Parents: When it comes to important political issues, YOU have more sway over them than the president. If you want dibs on their indoctrination rights, go for it.

    Furthermore, I think it’s safe to assume that if he wasn’t addressing school children, people would be carping about how he doesn’t even make time to read My Pet Goat, and WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN, froth froth froth.

  35. “men get so flummoxed in the presence of a pretty woman that they actually get appreciably stupider around them”

    Ah, any excuse for men to discuss curves, and how much they like them, eh? It’s amazing that a topic so old is still so fascinating.

  36. Won’t someone please stop all the learning???

    The Party of No includes education under their umbrella I guess.

  37. Just for the record, this definition at dictionary.com is close enough to my personal definition of Socialism:

    so⋅cial⋅ism  –noun

    1. a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.

    2. procedure or practice in accordance with this theory

    3. (in Marxist theory) the stage following capitalism in the transition of a society to communism, characterized by the imperfect implementation of collectivist principles.

    Thanks

  38. Paul:

    “I’m sorry, I thought the ‘other people were stupid’ argument was off the table”

    Being accurate with one rhetoric is always correct, Paul; one shouldn’t blame the current president for a policy formulated and enacted by the former president. Likewise, your bit about “the rest of the Democrats” is inaccurate, as both Republicans and Democrats voted for and against the bill; it was a bipartisan effort. You can check the roll calls if you doubt that.

    However, again, it’s only Democrats getting branded with the “Socialist” marker. If voting for this bill means that Obama owns it and is a socialist, then so is and do Tom Coburn, John Cornyn, Saxby Cambliss and any other number of Republicans who would be, well, shocked to be labeled socialists.

    I also notice that while you call TARP socialism and say that Bush was massively wrong to sign it, you don’t actually call him a socialist. Well, naturally, I call bullshit on that. Either Bush is a socialist for suggesting and enacting socialist legislation (not to mention Coburn, Cornyn, Chambliss et al) or he’s not. And for my money, a president acting to take over the entire financial sector is performing far more of a socialist act than taking over something relatively piddly, like two auto companies. Mind you, I note in each case the capitalist captains of industry were begging the government to intervene, so it’s also worth explaining, if you will, why such rock-ribbed capitalists so willingly surrendered their companies to the ravages of the socialist machine.

    But that’s an aside. The real question, Paul: George W. Bush: Socialist, or not? Be aware that your answer will predicate how seriously I take your claim that Obama is a socialist.

  39. “The president will challange students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning.”

    Aha, the secret plot is REVEALED. Every TRUE American knows that the responsibility for a child’s learning must be left to their parents, their pastor, and Fox News. Anything that risks encouraging thinking for oneself is incipent SOCIALISM!

  40. Paul,

    The minute you said “You don’t have to be a “tool” to consider that a form of socialism although the correct term is probably fascism.”, you lost any credibility. I hear these terms used interchangeably these days and it only goes to prove that those who use them together do not know the definitions of either words.

    Furthermore, any TARP arguments tend to fall flat when more and more banks are paying off their loans to get their precious executive compensation restrictions lifted. The car “bailouts” do not seem that dissimilar to when Chrysler was aided by the feds back in the 80′s. Memories seem awfully short, it seems. Really, there’s a lot to honestly criticize about the government without resorting to the talking points from the pundits which are often overblown (like the so-called “death panels” from a single line in a 1300 page bill which is just sufficiently vague to induce doubt).

    John, I meant to comment on Neil Gaiman’s bookshelves as being a good excuse to bring up to my wife for my book collection, but y’know how you can get drawn into things.

  41. Paul

    From your point of view, what should have been done about the automakers, and what would it’s effects have been?

    Whether a particular action is “socialist” or “capitalist” seems to me less important than whether or not it was “pragmatic”.

    If the best solution to a problem is both “socialist” and “pragmatic” why is that a problem?

  42. I don’t know that Gaiman has more books than I do, but if he does, it’s not by much. He certainly has a LOT more room to actually easily access them, which I envy a great deal.

    What’s more impressive to me than the number of books he has is that he also has CREATED books and movies, etc, which, of the two, is much more important, IMO. There’s a reason that ‘published science fiction author’ is at the top of the geek hierarchy chart, though he’s not exactly a _science-fiction_ author, he still occupies the same spot. (http://www.brunching.com/geekhierarchy.html)

    Though I still think Doctorow’s “Little Brother” should have won. *shrug*

  43. The last time I counted, which was the early 90s, I had over 3000 volumes.

    My wife and I made a decision not to do floor to ceiling book shelves in this house (except her office, mine is floor to ceiling record – LPs – and bookshelves), so the basement is floor to ceiling bookshelves. That which isn’t floor to ceiling pantry or wood shop. About 1000 square feet to library.

  44. Oh, and unless the researcher was a woman they probably used the study as an excuse to hang around with pretty women.

  45. akeeyu:

    Yup. Obama could flip a coin to decide what to have for lunch, and it wouldn’t matter whether it came up heads or tails. The frothers would be railing at him for wanting to eat grandma’s head or dine on puppy dogs’ tails … and for gambling with America’s future.

    It’s all shit thrown by monkeys … which will prompt certain Very Serious pundits to wonder why he looks so dirty.

    It’s bad enough that this circus slows down badly-needed changes. It also obscures the fact that Obama has done some things that do deserve strong criticism. Those criticisms — generally about continued or glossed-over Bush era security-theatre policies — are mostly drowned out by the misled and their misleaders.

  46. skipjim @50

    In some laboratory, researchers are shredding files, and spreading gasoline over the offices shouting “We’ve been made!”

  47. Doesn’t everyone know that Obama wasn’t born here? That’s why he’s a socialist!

    I do agree with the previous poster, we as parents have far more input in forming our children’s minds and beliefs than the school, church, or a 15 speech by a politician ever could.

    Do you suppose the objections stem more from a lack of confidence in their relationships with their children or a genuine fear of exposing them to alternate viewpoints?

  48. I think it was Martha Soukup who told a story about visiting the Gaiman house during a particular cold Midwestern winter. During the worst of it, the furnace decided to give out and no one could come out immediately to fix it. So for warmth, everyone had to crowd into the library which had its own separate underfloor heating system.

    When your library saves your life, you tend to be nicer to it.

  49. I can’t believe that anyone seriously thinks they can’t trust the President of the United States to talk to their children. What are we, Italy?

  50. skipjim @54:
    don’t forget the contact information.

    Maybe some robin-hood minded hacker will find the experiment materials on some server and better the world be exposing the… ahem “methodologies” of such a ground breaking study.

  51. Can uncircumcised foreign-born Muslims even be socialists? ‘Cuz, ya know….I thought there was some exclusionary clause in the socialist handbook about uncircumcised non-American citizen Muslims.

    I’m sure we all eagerly await Paul’s non-response reply to Scalzi’s direct question, but one it tempted to ask: why are we feeding the troll again?

    “…forcibly takes control of the means of production….”

    Funniest thing I’ve read all day, especially in relation to the auto industry bailout. Hilarious, actually…..

  52. It is hard to tell, even from the detailed pictures, exactly how many of those shelves Neil Gaiman has. However, I am going to guess that I probably have as much or more, though Mr. Gaiman probably has not got into debt acquiring them either. He also has a nicer set of bookcases and a nicer reading area. I have seen pictures of libraries like Harlan Ellison’s or George Martin’s that truly do dwarf mine. Neal Asher was running a set of guest libary photos way back when he was still keeping his blog up to date, both his own collections and those of fans. It was a pretty cool idea.

  53. It’s not a bad idea for the president to address schoolchildren, but it’s not a bad idea either for parents to consider and possibly limit what kind of political messages their own children are getting at school.

    So it’s good that there’s a little pressure on, because it means that the text will be released in advance, and that parents may sit up, pay attention, and think about asking the teacher what the lesson plan is going to be like.

    Should parents be this involved in everything their kids learn? Hell yes, as much as they can. Politics, however, being more likely to involve the discussion of core values than, say, math or English composition, no one should be surprised if parents get more interested in the transmission of political information than in the transmission of mathematical information.

  54. I love Neil’s library. Did you notice some of the shelves are two-books deep, and even he has a few stacks, so maybe his library is still too small.
    Where’s his card catalogues?

    What I find interesting is the diversity of the kinds of books he has; not only fiction, but also lots of language books, history, travel, art, mythologies and religions.

    So John, did you do a little ego-browsing through his shelves; hunting for books in the SC section? Also notice his cat sleeps in the big comfy chair, rather than on top of leaning stacks of books or computer monitors like John’s cats.

    As for the school thing. I don’t have a problem with the President speaking to school children, in general (other than the waste of time). But we’ll have to wait to hear what he actually says to make a rational comment. I do though have a huge problem with the “Pledge Allegiance to Obama” propaganda that liberal Hollywood has produced targeted at kids.

  55. OK, I am officially jealous of Neil Gaiman’s personal library. I am not worthy.

    Being an apartment dweller, I’ve had little opportunity to properly display all my books. I’m desperately in need of shelf-stretchers at the moment. Every time I move more books end up relegated to storage in boxes in the back of closets or donated to one of the local charitable book sales. Oh, believe me, movers hate me…what are all these boxes in the living room…my books…that many boxes? Yep, in there…

    I come by it honestly though, last Christmas I helped my dad assemble additional shelving for their den, which has floor to ceiling shelves on two walls already and a 3-shelf unit by a chair. We added a heavy duty 6 foot unit to a dead corner of the room. This so they could try to clear the overflow on floors and at least one other desk in two rooms.

    I’d love to read on public transportation, but don’t always have enough time on my commute or don’t want to tote the weight from whatever tome I’m reading at the time. Stick to magazines or papers. But the train is full of readers every day, reading just about everything you can think of.

    Even got surveyed last week by an enterprising young lady who wanted to know what readers wanted in the way of bookmarks. What kind did we like, where did we get them, how many did we have, what type we prefered – on a neatly printed a survey I happily filled out for her. Eventually she wants to be in publishing, and is starting with the reading public. Having wisely positioned herself on one of the peak-time trains caught many of us reading something and knew who to ask!

  56. hm, just guestimating 15 books per linear foot, 8 shelves that are about 20 feet long, that looks like about 2400 books in the first picture. At 5 hours to read each book, that’s 12,000 hours of reading time. 500 days of nonstop reading.

  57. speaking of “various and sundry”, did we lose the byline at the top of the page? Is it coming back?

  58. John,

    If I based my entire argument on that one vote you would be right, however I don’t and I haven’t.

    Much of what Bush did fiscally was “socialist”, however there were also a number of things that he did that were decidedly not socialist (tax cuts) and on foreign policy he was solidly on the right. The mixed record makes it hard to label him as anything but a pragmatist ( politician), certainly not a conservative. Which is where I would also place Clinton.

    Obama on the other hand has a very clear and consistent record and his senate vote for Tarp is relevant because it is consistent with and part of that record. A record which was to the left of Ted Kennedy.

    The tarp vote, the stimulus bill, the tax and cap bill, card check, and the health care bill are all clearly on the same side of the ledger and show a consistent political philosophy. In addition to that his foreign policy moves are also consistent. The fact that he is standing solidly with Castro and Chavez against the democratic government of Honduras is instructive but not surprising.

    Look at his choice of advisors, do you consider Emanuel and Axelrod to be moderate?

    If Obama has ever voted for or championed something that could be considered moderate or conservative I am not aware of it. Has he ever crossed the aisle and voted against his party? If you can point to even one vote or initiative where Obama voted for or supported something moderate I will happily concede your point.

    On a scale of 1-10 with libertarian being a 1 and socialist being 10, I would put Bush somewhere around 5 and I would place Obama somewhere around 8 or 9.

  59. Guess that answers your question, John Scalzi: will Paul, the phony “conservative” Bush-apologista, call Bush a socialist?

    Nope.

    Doing that requires intellectual honesty and integrity, something that the modern conservative “movement” is sadly bereft of…..

  60. Paul @69

    Sin of omission. You forgot all the things Bush failed to do. About gas prices, about healthcare, about katrina. Alot of being a conservative is just letting things run themselves. The more he did that, the more conservative he is. That’s the POINT. Not doing anything about serious problems places him firmly at 1, or -2 or something.

    Then there’s all the stuff he DID do that was super conservative: privatize social security(Read: eliminate), no child left behind (thinly veiled ploy to reduce funding for public school and get people into private schools)

  61. Paul:

    “If I based my entire argument on that one vote you would be right, however I don’t and I haven’t.”

    Well, if memory serves, when you first trotted out the government intervention in the financial services as an example of socialism, you attributed it to Obama, not to Bush, and offered it as a clear example of incipient socialism in action so you will forgive me if I am, shall we say, skeptical regarding your comprehensive knowledge of Bush policies and programs, or your objectivity as to what reveals one to be a socialist and what does not.

    For example, you seem to be missing the Prescription Benefit Plan, which was the largest single benefit expansion of the Medicare program in its history (and proposed by a Republican congressman at that), and one which I have no doubt you would label “socialist” if proposed by a Democrat or signed by Obama. So, so much for the “it was just one time” argument. Two points make a line, Paul. And I’ll note the Prescription Benefit act was signed long before any economic emergency raised its head. I could argue that socialistic tendencies lurked in Bush’s heart all along, just waiting for the right moment to surface.

    Back to cases: We see a clear pattern of Bush expanding the government’s role in the economic life of the country — very much like the pattern you contend Obama has followed. I’m still waiting for you to admit George Bush was a socialist.

    Also, as an aside, I’m interested in hearing why Clinton, who proposed a massive expansion of the government’s role in health care during his first term, is a “pragmatist,” while Obama, doing close to the same thing, is a “socialist.”

  62. When I was a little girl (a phrase I promised myself I’d never use — shoot me now), I would’ve been truly amazed at a speech by the president addressed to kids. Eisenhower just never did stuff like that. Politics was all about grownups. And my parents would’ve probably been sure I saw it, whether they agreed with him or not, which, as I remember, they often didn’t.

    I once figured out that, if I buy, say, 6+ books/month , both hardbacks and paper, then I need around 6-10 inches of additional shelf space monthly, which is over 6 feet/year. And there are months in which I accrue at a somewhat higher rate…actually I think at least 10 feet/year. It’s a puzzle, as my apartment doesn’t seem to be getting bigger.

  63. It’s inaccurate to state that the Unions were given control of the companies. It would be more accurate to state that as one of the car companies largest debtees they were compensated by a minority control of the company.

    Please note I’m not saying that if the unions pushed too hard for benefits, or if the car companies made bad deals and/or raided funds they should not have.

    At the end of it all the unions contractually were owed a lot of money. The government choose to favor them over some some of the other creditors.

  64. I think I could catch up to Gaiman, if only in ARCs, but his house is awesome and large. It’s unlikely I’ll get a place that big any time soon. I like his shelf setup. It’s a lot more like a bookstore than a personal library. Nice atmosphere.

    As for the Obama speech thing, I have nothing to say about it except that the irony of a huge nationwide protest from a predominantly white conservative crowd over a black President addressing the nation’s kids to tell them to stay in school and contribute to society is bleakly satisfying.

  65. per my name, I live in a hotbed of anti-Obama and pro-Glen Beck “-ism”. Including by and large my family. My personal politics are decidedly “use original sources for your data and form your own opinion” which, I have been sad to learn, means in the current environment I am a shreiking gay-baby-burning liberal.

    I am freaked right the hell out by the level of discourse that qualifies for political debate today. Whatever happened to “I disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it?” Everyone who disagrees with you is EVIL? Has a secret plot (if they’re on the left)? Is a moron (if they’re on the right)? Really?!?!

    One reason I enjoy our esteemed Mr. Scalzi is he tends to be well-reasoned even when I disagree with him. Usually. :) I am tired of people who can’t seem to distinguish between principles that frighten them and people that frighten them (hi, Paul).

    Seems you’re either with Rush Limbaugh or with Keith Olbermann. Is there any room for someone who thinks they’re both out of their freakin minds?

  66. Whatever happened to “I disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it?”

    If anyone is seriously threatening the rights of anyone I disagree with to actual free speech, I’d certainly risk life and limb to defend it. The ACLU protects the free speech rights of Neo-Nazis on a regular basis.

  67. As I mentioned before, I certainly champion the rights of those who oppose me to say whatever they like, because I like to have such folks clearly marked for my convenience.

  68. But I thought the Conservatives were already going to be marked for our convenience in 2010 when the Census gets done?

  69. Science is amazing. I am hoping some day they find out why a ball of fire appears in the eastern sky each morning. Thanks for keeping on top of breaking news, John! ;-)

  70. 85 Josh – death panels are in the bill for a reason.

    “Sorry sir, it looks like you have a case of Conservativism”.

    “Is it bad Doc?”

    “According to Obamacare I’m afraid its terminal son” *BANG*

  71. I think you are missing a point which occurred to me early on in this brou-ha-ha: Obama is the first black POTUS, and what he has to say will mean about what Scalzi surmises to most kids.

    But possibly this is not true for black kids or even, to a lesser degree, other kids of color. Here is a man whose very face can be an inspiration to some children.

    And, though I hate to suggest it, I believe that this may have something to do with this otherwise pointless objection.

  72. Re: The President speaking to school children.
    Is he just too black? I mean, no one EVER mentions that he is black, which has got to be an issue for many white conservatives. But they sure do throw around that “socialist” word a lot. Is it code for ‘not like me’? My conservative friends know not to say anything that smacks of race, but they always mention an uncomfortable feeling because they just don’t know what he is thinking………that is he is an unknown. He is so well spoken that I assume they either have a hearing problem or they sense his essential difference from them.

  73. Those bookshelves. The scariest part is that I think I need to become a famous author just so I will have enough money to do that when I need it, which I will. My partner and I are in our early twenties, and we already have a full library room in our apartment. Like, so full there are now piles in front of the floor to ceiling shelves. Which are on every wall. And in the closet.

    Give us thirty more years. We’ll see.

  74. Love Neil Gaiman’s basement library. Especially love the fact that he has another huge library upstairs, with “all of the good reference stuff…” (via neilgaiman.com)

  75. Oh…. sooooo want those bookshelves. Am now sufffering serious bookshelf (and book quantity) envy!

    Re: reading on public transportation, wish I could, but I get motion sickness if I try reading on busses or trains. Not pretty….

  76. I am also insanely jealous of Neil’s library. And perusing all levels of the call-and-response on Obama/Bush/Stalin/Lenin with immense amusement. This blog rarely fails to both amuse and educate.

  77. My opinion regarding the speech:

    1) I was an impressionable, knee-high-to-a-grasshopper lad in the Reagan years. I grew up into a left-of-center kind of guy.

    2) Kids are citizens, too. If listening to the man in charge of their country is bad, why don’t all presidental addresses have parental advisory notices broadcast in front of them?

    3) I believe that the complainers about this are just screamingly stupid enough to oppose ANYTHING Obama says. He could say the sun rises in the east, and they’d say it was a socialist plot and should rise in the west. What is Obama going to say in this speech? Stay in school, work hard, work for what you believe in. Do these contrarians really want kids to drop out, and be stupid sheep without goals that are corporate wage-slaves? (…wait, hang on…)

  78. My two cents: I voted for the guy. But I don’t like the speech. I know he won’t indoctrinate or brainwash the kids in one speech. But I don’t like my kids being used as stage dressing in a political theatre-piece. Either it’s going to be inappropriately partisan, or it’s going to be hopelessly substance-free and banal. It’s certain to be inappropriate for most kids, as it’s aimed at the wide swath of K-12. (What other talks would you aim at that range?) The real intended audience is the media (both for the substance, and for the awwwww-look-the-Prez-cares-about-kids) and voters.

    It was bogus when Reagan did it (and his speech was overtly look-how-nifty-my-administration-is), it was bogus when Bush #1 did it, it was bogus when Bush #2 read My Pet Goat, and it’s bogus now.

  79. Also:

    There’s no indication, however, that the president is delivering a political address, unless the themes of “stay in school, work hard” are somehow now deemed politically contentious (or was the content of George Bush’s speech political at the time, either).

    John, George Bush’s speech was much, much less overtly political than Reagan’s. But it did contain a paragraph touting his administration’s education initiative, which I see as inappropriate pimping.
    Too early to say what Obama’s will contain. But I expect at least some “. . . and that’s why we have tried to [policy xyz].”

  80. I would of liked more comments on how dumb us men get around women. Was it proportional to the looks of the particular woman and did the homelyness of the man have any impact? What about the initial inteligence of the man? Any effect?
    And what about the advantages disadvantages of dating rock stars vs having your very own queen forever and ever to be worshipped as she deserves? Is her going on tour with the band an advantage or disadvantage? Then there’s the whole prancing around in her undies and garter is that a plus no body hangups or a minus she’s dancing around in her undies in front of 10,000 people!
    As for Neils books, mmmmmmm boooooookssss. Oh and a kitty to scratch on a big comfy chair. Throw in a cell phone for delivered food and I could stay in that room for a year no problem and not even miss the sunshine.

  81. I’m kind of horrified by the link Jeff Hentozs put up. How many students do they have? What happens when you want to check a book out but all the ereaders are taken? How impossible is it going to be to compare illustrations from book to book?

    I mean, I understand the urge to consolidate the library–I’m moving and there’s so many books that could stand to be on one little ereader. But not my favourites. Not anything I want as visual reference.

    And seriously, FINDING the right book? With current ereader technology that’s going to be pretty damn hard. The Kindle and the sony ereader take a few minutes to load all their pages. Page turns cost power. With ye olde actual book, I can flip it open and see if it’s the book I want. If it’s not, I check the next book on the shelf. Meanwhile my ereader is STILL LOADING.

    (Of course, I’m going off my personal tactile habits. And I study a lot of art history and like visual reference when doing research.)

    Okay, I’m done wibbling now. Move on into the future. But seriously consider keeping the actual books around.

  82. “this photo montage of Neil Gaiman’s library shelves, in which it’s revealed that he probably has many more books than you, my friend.”

    Probably— though our library has only increased in the eight or nine years since we mailed 600 pounds of books to Denver. (Seriously— media rate, and we pretty much loaded the flat ourselves— a little over $200.)

    Haven’t seen it all out at one time, though. Now that we have a house we can do custom bookshelves.

    (As for Mr. Gaiman’s library— WANT. More specifically, want visiting rights.)

  83. Hey,

    I loved this part:

    “On a scale of 1-10 with libertarian being a 1 and socialist being 10, I would put Bush somewhere around 5 and I would place Obama somewhere around 8 or 9.”

    Based on this evaluation, that means Bush is in the middle, so he is a Liberal!!!!!! Awesome, and here all this time I just thought Bush was dim. I stand corrected. It makes more sense now.

    There I managed to offend both sides of the argument.

    Thanks John and Paul.

    Cheers
    Michael

  84. Maybe this is just a clever ploy by Obama to show just how idiotic some arch-conversatives can be. Like we haven’t seen enough evidence. I mean, seriously. It’s amazing how a presidential address of one hour, no different than many other addresses, is suddenly scary indoctrination. I’m waiting for the adrenal glands of these people to shoot out of their ears protest from the overwork. Eventually they’ve got to run out of norepinephrine, right?

    Anger sure is addictive.

  85. John! You made reference to liberalism being an infection. I couldn’t agree more. What ointment would be recommended? Oh, wait….I’m derailing. At least I waited until there was already more than a hundred posts.

  86. I look forward to President Obama reading to the joint session of Congress. I would suggest he keep it simple. Say, Dr. Suess’s version of how to spend your way out of debt….

  87. Paul:

    1) The car companies begged the government to bail them out. The government said no, we can’t afford it after all the money we gave the banks. The car companies said if you don’t bail us out, we’ll have to fire all these workers and it will further destroy the economy because we are also too big to fail. The government said okay, but we got burned by the banks who fired employees while giving executives bonuses when we gave them money, so if we give you money, we’ll do it in a way that protects the workers you say you need the money for. So instead of corporate welfare (socialism,) the government made a business investment in two car companies (capitalism.)

    2) For the hundredth time, you can’t be a socialist and a fascist at the same time because they are at the opposite ends of the political spectrum.

    3) Obama is a centerist Democrat slightly to the right of Hilary Clinton. His advisers and staff are also largely centerist Democrats, with some progressive Democrats and some Republicans as well.

    4) You don’t have to vote with the other party to be considered a moderate.

    5) Left of moderate is not socialist. You have to go quite a long way left before you get to socialist.

    All of which you’d know if you knew anything about actual political systems and philosophies. Instead, you’re just repeating what you’ve been told, which means you’re a tool. The reason you are declaring it socialist, is that the strategists who told mouthpieces to disseminate buzz words realized that communist would sound too hokey, like the McCarthy witch hunts, although Soviet Union was okay. But most people think socialism is the same thing as communism, so socialism became the buzz word. Which you are using without knowing what it means, also not knowing what the words fascism, capitalism, or apparently any of the other isms mean. A government having programs in which they give out benefits is not socialist. A government bailing out some companies is not socialist.

    Had to say it, even though it accomplishes nothing. From this point forward, I’ll just watch Scalzi have his fun.

    I am disappointed with the smallness of Gaiman’s shelves. Where is the giant library room with 20 foot walls of book shelves and a giant ladder? I’m guessing these are just his extra storage space.

  88. Greg@66:speaking of “various and sundry”, did we lose the byline at the top of the page? Is it coming back?

    John Scalzi@68: Who said you lost it?

    hurm… so, i see it’s white text on a white background now. Well, I suppose if that’s how you’re gonna do it…

    in other news, anyone hear about the supreme court case about the “Hillary” movie that might very well give corporations unlimited political advertising dollars? I’m a little cheesed off about the idea.

  89. It’s funny how Democrats and Republicans go about indoctrinating the young and pliable in totally different ways.

    To make more Democrats, give speeches at schools.

    To make more Republicans, cut education funding.

    ;)

  90. Re; Neil Gaiman’s Shelves. What is the bibliophile equivalent of penis envy? :)

    Meanwhile, down here in New Zealand our Prime Ministers talk to school children all the time, despite their horrible disability of not being able to vote. Mass outbreaks of commie cooties or right-wing rabies have not followed. Grip, get a, folks.

  91. As for the latest Obama controversy, I don’t think the point that the rabid right is biting is germane to their problem. I think Obama’s team is literally blind outside their message. It’s like they have no Red Force to actually think how about how things *MIGHT*(okay, will) be misconstrued. This is not the first incident and you always see them late to correct usually after the media (msnbc) has already tried to defuse the latest contrived gaffe.

    /re: Shelves- I only get seven rows on my shelves. and paperbacks at that. Who need to paint the walls, just cover them in shelves!

  92. “I am freaked right the hell out by the level of discourse that qualifies for political debate today. Whatever happened to “I disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it?” Everyone who disagrees with you is EVIL? Has a secret plot (if they’re on the left)? Is a moron (if they’re on the right)? Really?!?!”

    Yes—totally agree. I have several friends in Texas who are very active in Democratic politics, and the number of invectives and insults (not to mention outright threats) they endure is astounding. It’s not just that the level of discourse has lowered—we could have said that during the Tea Party rallies; it’s that the hysteria truly is at a fever pitch in some parts of the country. I really worry about their safety sometimes.

  93. Greg @107 & 66, John@68: When John said he was changing some things in the design, the first thing I noticed was the background was gone. I didn’t notice the “missing” “Whatever” + tagline at the top till Greg pointed it out…then found it (yay, select-all, for your revealing powers)–white-on-white, like Greg says.

    John: Is this on purpose, or are we supposed to see a non-white background and be able to read the “Whatever” and tagline at the top? Sorry if this is a stupid Q.

  94. Oh, and I forgot to point out that Obama’s State Department has put all foreign aid to Honduras on hold, pending the strong possibility that such aid will be permanently cut off because of the coup there. http://www.voanews.com/english/archive/2009-07/2009-07-02-voa60.cfm?CFID=282304097&CFTOKEN=77212246&jsessionid=88309a60b4f74f40031e76407d573e5f3393

    Meanwhile, Chavez continues to rail against the U.S. as seeking to destroy his government. I guess he didn’t get the memo that he and Obama are socialist buddies now, did he?

    Vulture TV — it’s not a matter of trying to guess whether an action will set off far right alarms. Any action they take will be used to set off alarms. This has been the right’s procedure since the 1990′s and Clinton. (Some may argue even before then but it was the development of 24-hour news cable that really kicked into gear.) The strategy is attack, attack, attack. It doesn’t matter if it’s nonsensical or not. If you attack, you force them to deal with the attack rather than focus on what they’re trying to do, the repetition may convince some people that it’s true, and you get news coverage. Everything Obama does, no matter how innocuous most Americans might find it, will be treated as the approach of apocalypse. It’s just the way it’s going to be, especially with the nation’s first black president.

    Now, that strategy cost the Republicans the election, and many Republican strategists are very concerned by the far right hysteria. But others aren’t — right now the Republican party is kind of split and arguing about the issue. Which is of course driving more moderates out of the Republican party. But the attack, attack approach may or may not be effective during Obama’s administration.

  95. KatG@106, you are using an invalid political spectrum. There is no fundamental distinction between socialism and facism — both are forms of statism, under which individual rights are curtailed. The correct political spectrum along which governments, politicians, and policies should be judged has freedom and totalitarianism at its endpoints. Both Bush and Obama’s policies place them towards the totalitarianism end of the spectrum, Obama more consistently so. And government policies that hand out benefits and use the power of the government to economically favor one group over another are most definitely not policies that would be classified as free-market capitalism. They are only consistent with the socialism/fascism/communism end of the spectrum.

  96. @ Steve in Philly #106: There is no fundamental distinction between socialism and facism — both are forms of statism

    There is something in what you say, but it’s way too simple. In fact, all accounts of a linear, one-dimentional political specter (either from “left” to “right”, or from “liberty” to “totalitarian state”) are misleading oversimplifications. Better use the political compass, which uses two axis to plot the various real-world political systems and opinions:

    1) A vertical axis, “Libertarian” to “Authoritarian”, is a function of individual freedom provided by the system.

    2) A horizontal axis, “Left” to “Right” is a function of how much state regulation the system promotes.

    See for instance the analysis of the US presidential election in 2008:

    http://www.politicalcompass.org/uselection2008

    On that compass, the Obama-Biden ticket is a lot closer to a centrist position on both the individual freedom and the state regulation axis than the McCain-Palin ticket.

    Food for thought, I think.

  97. The fact that people keep calling Obama a socialist or fascist is a clear indicator of the decline of education standards in the USA.

    Everyone knows that socialists and fascists have totally bogus uniforms (http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/2WWmussolinP2.JPG) and special hand gestures to show allegiance to the commander (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1200368/Pictured-The-little-14-inch-golden-gnome-causing-lot-offence-Germany.html).

    Gasp! (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6c/George_W_Bush_on_the_deck_of_the_USS_Abraham_Lincoln.jpg)

  98. KatG@106, you are using an invalid political spectrum. There is no fundamental distinction between socialism and facism — both are forms of statism, under which individual rights are curtailed.

    Which is lie saying that there’s no fundamental difference between apples and oranges – they’re both fruit, and they both grow form trees.

    The correct political spectrum along which governments, politicians, and policies should be judged has freedom and totalitarianism at its endpoints.

    Dictated by your parents, God and Ayn Rand, no doubt. Horsecrap and goalpost moving.

    What you mean is “All right thinking (by which I mean, agreeing with me) people should do it this way”. But you’re not a respected political theorist.

    And even if you were one, you’re not elected as the one who makes decisions for them, nor have you collected the scared relics form the tombs of Locke, Hobbes, Malthus and Machiavelli that would allow you to challenge the current Undying Lich King to mortal combat, and (un)lifetime tenure at Oxford.

    So, as you can see, there’s not even a consensus among political theorists on on how the political spectrum “should” be judged. Until the Lich King issues a statement, you’re just making stuff up, buddy.

  99. “There is no fundamental distinction between socialism and facism.”

    People who assert this don’t seem to have a particularly solid understanding of either system, in my experience.

  100. I do agree that we don’t need to have another general discussion on how socialism isn’t in fact anything like fascism at all. It’s a bit derail-y for the thread.

  101. Steve in Philly: “And government policies that hand out benefits and use the power of the government to economically favor one group over another are most definitely not policies that would be classified as free-market capitalism.”

    Why I’ve been looking at things all wrong! When Bush gave tax cuts to the rich, it was socialism! The favoring of heterosexuals over homosexuals in the ability to enter a secular marriage contract is socialism! This makes everything so simple and clear now.

    Liberty is not a political system. Authoritarianism is, and again, you don’t know what the word actually means. What we have is democracy and what’s been going on is completely democracy, and has the added bonus of actually being Constitutional, unlike many of the policies of our last president.

    What we also have is a duly elected Congress in which the majority elected are Democrats and a duly elected Democratic president. Those who don’t like that development keep trying to claim that all those Democrats are secretly socialists, fascists, totalitarianists and any other word they can get fed that sounds scary. I’m figuring Satanist is next, or has Beck already done that one?

    Criticism of Obama’s policies or Congress’ votes on legislation are legitimate. (As long as it’s not based on made up statistics.) Calling people who disagree with you socialists is schoolyard histrionics. Especially when you don’t know what the word means.

  102. mythago@123: I don’t exactly want it either. I think what I want is to be friends with someone who has it, and who would invite me to come over and enjoy it regularly.

    And on that note, I’m off to return a pile of library books.

  103. Mythago@123: “Stuff” does equal maintenance. But I quite enjoy spring cleaning my own (much more modest and less stylish) library — even if it tends to happen in the middle of summer. :)

    And, really, is pulling out a feather duster occasionally such a tremendous hardship?

  104. John@119, as you said in the thread to which Jaq linked,

    ““can’t it be fairly said that fascism is socialism on steroids?”
    Not sure about that. Your could argue that both are forms of authoritarianism, however. Authoritarianism isn’t necessarily of one wing or the other.”

    Exactly.

    KatG, letting people keep their own money, i.e. tax cuts, and having the right to form a contractual relationship with the partner of your choice, are good things. It’s a matter of individual rights. And we don’t live in a Democracy, we live in a Constitutional Republic. They are two quite different things.

  105. A democracy is a political system in which power is given to the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through representation, usually determined by free elections, based on the principles of equality and freedom for its citizens. There are several different ways to do a democracy. The U.S. version of democracy is a Constitutional Republic, which has a constitution of law that conscripts the rule of the people to prevent the tyranny of the majority over the minority in its governance.

    The U.S. is also a capitalistic society, in which capital goods are privately owned, but in which the government is constitutionally mandated to regulate commerce, and in which the government provides or contracts for social services such as roads, cops, public schools, emergency services, sewer and garbage, etc., in return for taxes from the populace.

    What you and your buddies want is an oligarchy in which power and wealth are concentrated in a small group of elites — businesses and politicians. A slice of you want to go so far as an authoritarian theocracy, in which the Constitution would be thrown out in favor of Biblical law interpreted by those in power. Spare me the song and dance about individual rights. The only time neo-cons are interested in individual rights is when they aren’t in power. Otherwise, they are happy to trample on those rights as Bush did, and enact un-Constitutional laws such as the Defense of Marriage Act. The only rights you’re interested in are the ones that benefit the group that you belong to.

    The government does not want to own any banks, insurers or the car companies. They were forced to loan money to businesses to keep the economy from collapsing — a decision undertaken by both Democrats and Republicans and a Republican president, followed by a Democratic president, and to do it as an investment in hopes of getting some of the taxpayers’ money of the bailout back. They aren’t going to own them for long, and everyone, including the President, is in agreement that this will be a good thing.

    The government did not seek out this situation and certainly didn’t want it, this year or last. It was an attempt to slow down and soften the greatest economic collapse since the Depression, and it was demanded by the businesses themselves. It is ludicrous to imply that either President Bush or President Obama sought or seeks a socialist regime change out of it. And they certainly have no ability to do so. Hell, the U.S. government doesn’t have the money to do it. But it sounds scary and so you and the other neo-cons and far right libertarians are throwing any mud you can think of up on the wall to see what sticks.

    I’m not the sort of person you’re trying to trick. You really need to take your socialist scale to a tea-baggers’ meeting. That’s the sort of crowd of people — good people — who unfortunately will never check or question whatever you say.

  106. Wow. I won’t bother trying to give a serious response to the slew of ad hominems and misattributions in your post, KatG. All I will say is that you know nothing about me, yet are accusing me and some alleged group of “buddies” you are lumping me in with, who may or may not believe any of the things I do, of a great number of things about which I have written nothing. And my legal husband had a laugh at the idea that his atheist husband (me, if you can’t figure that out), is a neocon seeking to establish a theocracy in the US.

    It would be nice if you would stick to the question at hand rather than resort to personal attacks.

  107. Don’t use neo-con scripts about socialism, and I won’t mistake you for one. But you’re right, I lumped you in with Paul and that wasn’t fair. I apologize. (To be accurate, though, I didn’t say you were a theocrat. I said a wing of the far right is trying to establish a theocracy. And they’ve been perfectly open about it too. It seems to be pissing some of the moderate conservatives off.)

    Obama is a centerist. So much so, that he regularly annoys the progressives, and certainly the far left is not at all happy with him. Every time he actually talks to the Republicans, there are some people who freak out. But the far right is so in charge of the Republicans now that not only has it fractured the party, but it’s making the cross-party talking nearly impossible. And if you think the Democrats are united enough to create a socialist revolution, I’m sorry, but you’re nuts in my view.

    One casualty of Obama being a centerist is that he has put gay rights on the back burner, and is not entirely on board for gay marriage yet. He’s leaving it to the gay rights activists to fight the battle state by state, while his administration tries to stick fingers in the holes of the still leaking economy. Which sucks.

    And his administration really, really doesn’t want to be bailing out any more businesses. I don’t think most of the Congresspeople who voted for the bailout, including Obama, expected it to be the mass spending spree that it turned out to be under Paulson. I also don’t think the banks expected to get any restrictions or threat of such on the money, so now they are rapidly paying it back, which is certainly desirable.

  108. Craig @125: Really, yes, having to store, occasionally pack and unpack, move, maintain, arrange and dust enormous numbers of books is not my cup of tea. Been there, done that, happy to leave that to others whose cup of tea it is. Why do you take that as a personal affront?

  109. “They may just want to insult you.”

    – Or just be really fed up of people using big, scary words incorrectly, obscuring the real problems we actually need to deal with. I’m also real tired of people complaining about raised taxes who are not actually having their taxes raised, and in many cases are having their taxes lowered. I always argue with people who say that Americans are spoiled and clueless, but I’m beginning to have to concede it.

  110. Mythago@131:
    Why do you take that as a personal affront?

    I reply:
    Wasn’t aware that I was, and even if I did I’m not your mother or your wife so who cares? :) I’m still kind of sore that I had to sell over half my books when the Better Half and I moved cross-country for his job, and an equally large house in the new neighbourhood was totally out of the question.

    The funny thing is, I’m not a pack-rat, and even kind of envy people I know who can stuff their lives in a backpack and move on without a backward glance. And spring-cleaning the bookshelves is about the only housework I’ll do without duress.

  111. Did anyone else go read the speech at whitehouse.gov? It seems to me that everyone who’s been complaining about the speech last week is going to look like a complete jackass.

  112. skipjim@134

    “I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.”

    Any conspiracy theorists want to speculate that Rupert Murdoch and Microsoft may be the masterminds behind the outrage?

    And you are 100% correct… I wonder what they will say once the speech has been given and their children exposed to such radical ideals as hard work and responsibility…

    In any event it should be interesting.

    Rabid

  113. [QUOTE] Did anyone else go read the speech at whitehouse.gov? It seems to me that everyone who’s been complaining about the speech last week is going to look like a complete jackass. [/QUOTE]

    Oh no, not a jackass — geniuses who forced the President to “fix” the speech and materials. The Florida politician who promenaded on the media about how Obama was trying to indoctrinate children with his socialist agenda with the speech now says that the speech is fine, what a president should say to kids and he’ll let his kids watch it if their school chooses to show it, and that’s because the administration changed all the (imaginary) bad parts because of pressure from him and others. So he gets the media coverage that has him slurring the President, and then he gets media coverage for him being a reasonable man who made the President knuckle under and change his ways. You have to admire the spin strategy on that one.

  114. Yeah. The original speech went like this:

    Salaam Alaykum, young comrades! Today we prepare for a Jihad against God and capitalism, in the name of Allah the most merciful.

    I call on you have gay sex, and abort any children that result!

    I call on you to death panel some tea bagging grannies under a bus!

    [and so on...]

    Thank you, Allah Bless and Keep the AmeriCaliphate safe from the infidels!

    Good thing he edited it, eh?

  115. I’m actually disappointed that my kids didn’t get a chance to see the speech today, oh well that’s what Youtube is for I guess.

    I liked what a NPR political analyst said today (I’ll paraphrase) of a local school superintendant: “who do you think you are to censor the President of the United States if he wants to talk to the kids?”

  116. Just got done looking at the photos of Mr. Gaiman’s bookshelves and all I can say is…DANG.
    I have to smile too because my boyfriend & I have figured out that between the two of us, we have enough books to start our own small library =)

    Also, the NY Times piece was a interesting read, but I have to chuckle because since college, I’ve always carried a book everywhere I go (w. some minor exceptions) for on-the-go reading time. Doesn’t everyone? XD

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