Various and Sundry, 5/7/12

Things and stuff:

* Been asked asked whether I think Joe Biden’s sudden declaration about being peachy-fine with same sex marriage is politics or an actual declaration of Biden’s feelings on the matter. Well, why either/or? I think Biden may very well not have a single problem with men marrying men and women marrying women, and also that the Obama Administration is doing one of its messaging things to gays and lesbians (and those who have no problem with gays and lesbians marrying their own respective sexes), to wit: “Hey, Obama’s gotta do that fence-sitting thing on the topic until at least after the election, but remember which party it is that’s actually going to evolve in the direction you want. Hey, did you see how the Romney campaign hung that gay spokesman of theirs out to dry? Yeah. Anyway, keep it in mind, okay?”

Is that cynical of Obama to thread the needle like that? You bet. Welcome to the 2012 presidential election.

* Entirely unrelated, I’ve also been asked for further thoughts on the tenor guitar, which I’ve now been playing with for about a week. The short answer is that I’m still quite liking the thing: it really is substantially easier for me to play than a standard guitar, and because I’ve enjoyed playing it, and find it less frustrating than other guitars I’ve owned, I’ve been playing with it quite a lot. My strumming is still crap, but it’s less crap than it was a week ago.

It’s also a nice guitar, or at least this is what independent outside observers have told me. I took it to my local music store to get restrung (since I have it tuned like a uke, I needed to switch around the top and second strings), and the folks there seemed quite taken with it. They were also sort of curious about it; I think it might have been the first tenor guitar they had seen in the flesh. Which I can certainly understand, since I didn’t know such things even existed until three weeks ago.

The one drawback I’m having with the guitar is that I keep bumping it into things. Even though it’s smaller than the average guitar, it’s substantially larger than a uke, which is the thing I’m used to playing. So I’ve got to wrap my brain about that.

But overall: One of the better purchases I’ve made lately.

* Additional Redshirts news: There’s a review of the book on Tor.com today, which is nicely positive, which makes me happy. The review has some mild spoilers, so be warned. If you don’t want the book spoiled minorly, here’s the pull quote:

Redshirts is a light, fast read, but it’s also a book whose questions about storytelling and agency stay with you long after you have put it down.

Yup, that sounds about right.

I am trying not to overdo Redshirts stuff around here, but as a fair warning, we’re almost exactly a month away from the release date and between now and then news and reviews are going to roll in, plus there will be some very awesome surprises and probably a few more giveaways. So you will hear about it a lot. This is what happens in the month before a book drops.

The good news is, immediately afterward I’ll be on tour, which means I’ll be so busy I will hardly update at all! Lucky you.

62 thoughts on “Various and Sundry, 5/7/12

  1. Notwithstanding the above, I think this also responds to the declassified documents seized during the shooting of Osama Bin Laden, in which the Al Qaeda leader instructs his thugs NOT to assassinate Vice President Biden, as he claims that Biden would lead America into crisis. Then Osama Bin Laden went back to watching an old analog TV in his bathrobe.

    To quote “The bin Laden plot to kill President Obama” from Washington Post, March 16, 2012:
    Before his death, Osama bin Laden boldly commanded his network to organize special cells in Afghanistan and Pakistan to attack the aircraft of President Obama and Gen. David H. Petraeus.
    “The reason for concentrating on them,” the al-Qaeda leader explained to his top lieutenant, “is that Obama is the head of infidelity and killing him automatically will make [Vice President] Biden take over the presidency. . . . Biden is totally unprepared for that post, which will lead the U.S. into a crisis. As for Petraeus, he is the man of the hour . . . and killing him would alter the war’s path” in Afghanistan.

    I wish that I were a good enough novelist to have made that up.

  2. It might be a good idea for Obama to remain (publicly) on the fence about same-sex marriage. For whatever reason, there are a number of people who not only dislike the president, but automatically oppose anything he comes out in favor of, regardless of their previous feeling. I suspect that were he to come out in favor of same-sex marriage, it might harm the momentum in favor of it.

  3. At this point, I don’t know if it is just Obama wanting to wait until after the election. I suppose time will tell. Who is he trying to please. If I had to guess, the people that are anti-gay aren’t going to vote for Obama anyway. There was a recent article that asserts that, out of any president from Nixon on, Obama has been the most hostile towards medical marijuana. This seems like a no brainer. Public support for medical marijuana is fairly high except among social conservatives that were not likely to vote for him anyway.

  4. Spoilers always welcome. At bookstores, I always scan the last 75 pages or so of a novel before I commit to a purchase. I will make no time to read a novel that I will hate how it ends when I get there. So, does the ebook world prevent this? I mean they provide sample excerpts to entice you to purchase the ebook. Are not all those excerpt from the beginning of the text, not the end. Any chance, I can select my excerpts to be the first 5 pages and the last 25 pages before deciding to purchase the whole ebook. Just asking.

    I think CLP above hits the nail on the head. Obama coming out strongly in favor of the gay rights agenda would send a bunch of folk who are not now particularly anti-gay into the anti-gay rights camp. Just to oppose Obama and anything he favors.

  5. I want autographed copies of Redshirts – how can I get them without having to drive (literally) thousands of miles to a book signing?

  6. He resigned after he was told to keep quiet in a conference call about foreign policy that he had set up. Anyone with an ounce of self-respect would have resigned as soon as possible.

  7. Scorpius:

    “That’s just a straight-up lie, Scalzi, and you know it.”

    I’m sad for you, Scorpius, that you don’t recognize the difference between the message I am suggesting the Obama administration is offering up, and what I am actually saying myself. There’s a reason I had those words between quotation marks; it’s because they were rather obviously intended to show they were meant to be from someone else.

    However, even if I took direct ownership of the words “hung out to dry,” I am sad for you that you seem to believe that the only way for one to be hung out to dry in politics (or, you know, life) is to be baldly fired. There are lots of other ways, rather more subtle than that.

    Next time you accuse me of lying, Scorpius, be a little more smart about it, please. As it is, you look like you neither understand attribution nor actual politics.

  8. To play devil’s advocate, John was speaking in character in that line. As he has frequently reminded us, his characters do not necessarily reflect his views.

  9. scorpius says:
    “I was actually starting to expect better from you than narrow-minded partisan propaganda.”

    This is the funniest bit of unintentional humor I’ve seen since Sarah Palin claimed that Obama wasn’t qualified to be President.

  10. Politically motivated? Of course. Also very good example of administrations in the closet support of the subject. Should this be a campaign issue? Absolutely not, we have more serious problems with that have yet to be resolved.

  11. I think Obama should come out strongly against gay marriage. If he did that, the Repubs would then have to favor it, right?? ;-)

  12. There’s a bit of memery going round that says Obama should warn against eating yellow snow so that we can be treated to Fox News telling people to eat it.

  13. whatever indeed says:
    “Should this be a campaign issue? Absolutely not, we have more serious problems with that have yet to be resolved.”

    Yes, absolutely, anything having to do with equal rights is definitely a trivial side issue.

  14. Bearpaw: you are entitled to your opinion and I to mine. Meanwhile, you incorrectly assume I feel it a trivial issue, I said no such thing. Please read it again.

  15. whatever indeed: So, equal civil rights is a less serious issue? I request a hierarchical listing of issues by “degree of seriousness”. Should one assume that this correlates directly to the order in which issues shall be addressed? How many issues may be addressed at a time? Please also include the cutoff point for issues “not serious enough” to be considered in a Presidential election.

  16. To add to what Steve S. said: A relatively small number of voters are seriously preoccupied with the same-sex marriage issue. And all of them–whether for it or against it—are strongly partisan. For most voters, this is a relatively narrow issue.

    Out in the real world, the primary issue is going to be the economy, and the closely related issue of the national debt. A report last week indicated that we have the lowest participation rate in the employment market since 1982, and the debt continues to grow as the Obama Administration maintains its fondness for make-work government “stimulus” projects.

    My friends and coworkers are worried that Obama will turn the U.S. into the next Greece. I haven’t heard any of them express concern over his position on same-sex marriage.

  17. to quote a past prime minister: “an election campaign is no time to talk about policy.” (she lost, badly)

  18. It’s all misdirection… Focus on the trivial so we don’t dwell on the real problems in America.

  19. I quite like that Romney failed to defend the resignation (hung out to dry) of yet another staff member that did not meet with the approval of the far right wingnuts! If he continues to pander soon he will only have his family, Faux and Wingnuts to assist in his pursuit of purchasing D.C prime real estate.

    My Bad, sorry.

    How are your fingers doing with your Tenor? Calloused yet?

    (I truly want to know how you got the Preview button, it rocks)

  20. John Pula:

    I took it somewhere to be restrung because I would have to go somewhere to get new strings anyway, and as long as I was there why not have someone else do all the work?

    Valentine Logar:

    The fingers are fine and the callouses are coming along nicely.

  21. What Other Bill said.

    Todd: For someone supposedly concerned with supposed “real world” issues over trivialities like equal rights, your grasp of actual government spending and economics in general is crap.

  22. Obama’s fence sitting on gay marriage had me puzzled for the same reasons mentioned above, especially since he’s moved to the left so much lately to bolster his base. I think I’ve got it figured out, though. I believe he has every intention of making a bold statement later in the race in support of gay marriage, he’s just waiting until he really needs it. Look for it when he has a significant drop in the polls, or when he has to make another policy decision that will hurt him with the base.

  23. Billy wrote: “Look for it when he has a significant drop in the polls, or when he has to make another policy decision that will hurt him with the base.”

    Oh noes! ::small whimper:: you mean he’s a crass politician ?! I feel so used! ;-> (And for the record, I wasn’t mocking Billy, I actually agree with him. His comment just struck my funny-bone) Of course he’s a politician – they all are. The choice is between the smart politician with his heart mostly in the right place who’s currently the President, and the other politician with his partial base of batsh*t crazy Tea Partiers and tendencies to support the 1% at the expense of everyone else…

  24. “It’s been in fact mentioned a number of times before in other threads.”

    Well now I feel stupid.

  25. Just like they say about the lottery “you gotta play to win”. Of course Obama is playing the game or he won’t stand a chance. Don’t forget, he’s a lawyer, so a strategist by training. He needs people to interpret his stance as POSSIBLY aligning with their own, so he has to be vague. Too bad it has to be that way, but you do if you want to actually win in November. Obama did end “DADT” and his administration has dropped enforcement of DOMA, so you can guess you stand a fighting chance with him on gay marriage rights. With Romney you kiss it goodbye before the election begins. Don’t forget – Obama always says his stance is evolving – I take that as moving forward from one point (not supporting) to another (supporting), not moving backward. Biden is a strong enough politician and man to take the criticism for saying what he thinks. He’s been doing it for his whole career and I like him for that. Obama could learn a bit from him on that score.

  26. Joe Biden may be a crazy son of a bitch who doesn’t always think before he speaks. Joe Biden, however, is the only elected official who I have ever had cause to directly solicit help from, when I was a member of his constituency some years back…and he delivered a needed and necessary service. For that alone, I have always thought he was a decent guy.

    Really, Obama needs to tend to the fences and keep that issue in some minds, while simultaneously NOT actually supporting or standing against it. That’s what the Veep does…gives distance to a position while maintaining plausible deniability. I would assume homosexual voters would generally see a Mormon candidate as an automatic non-starter, so Obama merely needs to get that topic in the conversation for those voters…and keep it out of the immediate conversation for others.

    Obama has always been the master of the rope-a-dope. I expect he is already starting that now.

  27. “whatever indeed: So, equal civil rights is a less serious issue?” – Everything is in degrees, in so much as what is left unequal then YES it is a less serious issue than the stability of the country. My opinion, you may not like it but too bad.
    Someone mentioned US being turned into Greece. While I do not fear that exactly happening it is worth mentioning that letting something like that happen because our #1 focus is gay marriage would be foolish. Having said that, Obama clearly continues to try to ride the fence and not fully stand out for the gay community.

  28. In the 2008 election, California voted for Obama and passed Prop 8, a state constitutional amendment that banned gay marriage. This means that there is a statistically significant number of people who voted for Obama and voted against gay marriage. That is why Obama is on the fence.

  29. Bearpaw@ So you *don’t* believe that the debt will increase under Obama? Other than tell me that “my grasp of economics is crap” you really haven’t added anything.

    As for the “civil rights issue” nature of this: I personally don’t care if they allow same-sex marriage tomorrow, but this is no more of a “civil rights” issue than any other redefinition of marriage that various groups are advocating (such as polygamy). Gays are not being denied the right to eat at lunch counters, vote, or ride public buses. You want to marry a man? Well, fine–I’d like to marry two women (perhaps the entire women’s Swedish volleyball team while we’re at it.) We are both subject to the constraints of marriage as it has traditionally been defined. And while I don’t mind entertaining the notion of allowing same-sex marriage, this is *not* the most important issue facing the country. In fact, it is way, way down on the list.

  30. whatever indeed: You’re using the phrase “stability of the country”. That’s a bit squishy. Is this, as seems implicit in your statement, strictly an economic concern? If so, what about where civil rights for LGBT and employment intersect? What about where civil rights and health insurance coverage intersect? These are economic stability concerns.

    You say the stability of the country should be number one. Does this imply that those for LGBT equal rights for marriage somehow would not agree with the importance of the stability of the country? You seem to imply that people who want to talk about this issue in the public space do not understand that this conversation could possibly annihilate the country economically.

    Your example for why civil rights cannot be considered is that “Some say we could end up like Greece” and you appear to say “so we shouldn’t do anything other than avoid that.” This is an argument against actual work towards equal civil rights. You started by indicating only that it did not merit inclusion in the election debate because it was not serious enough. Given this, it’s hard to see a time where you think we could possibly address, or even talk about, inequality in terms of LGBT marriage rights. The bar appears to be: “Bad things are happening elsewhere; we don’t want that to happen here. Therefore, your issue – and understand we do think it’s serious – shall be tabled indefinitely until we can prove that what is happening in elsewhere cannot happen here.”

    TL;DR: you seem to be arguing that, while LGBT marriage equality is a serious issue (and I’m somewhat dubious that you actually think this), there are Tier 1 Grown-Up Problems that must be addressed Priority Status URGENTURGENTURGENT before we get to someone else’s serious Tier Other/Priority Status Important, You Know, When There’s Time issue. Which comes across as a dismissive trivialization of a human rights issue.

  31. @Other Bill:

    To be clear, here is exactly what I think:

    – The number one issue at present is to end the profligate spending of the Obama Administration, by electing a more realty-focused, business-oriented candidate in November.

    – Yes, I think that the economy is far more important than modifying the definition of marriage to suit the interests of a special-interest group. (And I would tell the polygamists the same thing if they were demanding that their bid for “marriage equality” be moved to the top of the public agenda.) And no, I don’t regard same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue.

    – I am not “against” same-sex marriage. Nor am I especially “for” it. I really don’t care one way or the other. I think it has its place in the public debate; but not the place of priority that it currently occupies. I do believe that it will eventually be legalized, and I am fine with that.

    (Now it is about the time for John to delete my comments, since no one on Whatever is permitted to contradict the orthodoxy that “same-sex-marriage-is-the-most-important-issue-facing-civilization.”)

  32. (rolls eyes)

    Oh, Todd. You don’t get deleted when you express an opinion I disagree with. You get deleted when I think you’re being an asshole. You’re not quite there yet.

    But if you’d like a special award for that drama queen aspect of that last paragraph of yours, you just let me know.

  33. Todd: of course the debt will increase under a second Obama Administration. It would go up under a Romney Administration as well, and under any other administration unless and until revenues increase dramatically. Let’s get real, dude: Medicare, Social Security, and the Pentagon aren’t going anywhere any time soon. And don’t start in with any “belt tightening” malarkey, either. Not only is government neither a business nor a household, but nobody pays off debts while they’re broke.

  34. other bill: it they pass gay marriage for all at the federal level tomorrow it will in no way improve the financial stability of this country, cure the unemployment rate, slow the increase of our mounting debt. Is it a problem that needs resolving, sure. Is it high on MY priority list and an item that will be considered in who I vote for? Absolutely not.

  35. Todd (who I’m reading as the same as “whatever indeed” – please clarify if this is not true):

    “Gays are not being denied the right to eat at lunch counters, vote, or ride public buses.”

    But LGBT are being denied rights. For exmample, rights to death benefits and health insurance coverage are two that come to mind. Marriage, in the government’s eyes, bestows a number of benefits and rights-of-access. LGBT do not receive these rights, even though they have made the same committment to each other. These two examples have a lot of real world serious impact. You’re being willfully blind if you don’t see that this directly leads to denial of access.

    The economy is an important issue. The war in Afghanistan is an important issue. Debt is an important issue. Drone attacks in countries not-Afghanistan is an important issue. LGBT marriage equality is an important issue. There are many important issues. We’ve got a big, active coutnry. The supposition that discussing one important issue precludes the ability to discuss another important issue is silly. The argument that some issues shall not be discussed because doing so would necessarily degrade our ability to discuss or resolve other issues is silly.

    The argument that anyone who thinks an important issue should be discussed necessarily has no ability to accurately guage the impact of other serious issues is a bit condescending. Like, you’re saying that because I think LGBT should be able to enjoy the same marriage benefits and rights that I do – and that this should be openly and actively discussed – it means I don’t understand that 20% unemployed/underemployed isn’t a serious issue – that should also be openly and actively discussed. That orthodoxy?

  36. Well, scratch my first line. (sorry for the double post to deconflict John)

    whatever indeed: I think much of my above works for much of your comment. What I would add is that establishing equal civil rights for LGBT is meant to fix a lack of civil rights for LGBT. It is not meant as a primary solution to unemployment.

    But, as I said above, we can do more than one thing.

  37. Not only is government neither a business nor a household, but nobody pays off debts while they’re broke.

    This is so accurate it bears repeating.

    The corollary to this is, when the private sector has no money i.e. households are carrying too much debt and have to pay it down and private companies can’t borrow money to invest in their business (don’t believe me, go and get a small business loan…) then if you want your economy to do something other than crater, badly, you need to spend money.

    The villain of the piece is George W Bush who, rather than paying down the debt during a time of economy growth, ran up the family credit card so that when the household needed savings and more money, they had to borrow. The surplus wasn’t available to give away in tax cuts in 2000 because the US was already in debt.

    What still annoys me is that the stimulus, as was, only barely stopped the decline in the US economy in 2008… it wasn’t remotely enough to deal with it. You can grow your way out of debt, you can’t save your way out of debt if you have no income.

  38. The number one issue at present is to end the profligate spending of the Obama Administration, by electing a more realty-focused, business-oriented candidate in November.

    You mean the guy whose only executive experience in government led to being 47th in job creation and who refuses to acknowledge that drops in unemployment while he was governor were almost entirely due to so many people giving up on employment that only post-Katrina Louisiana lost more of it’s non-retirement workforce? That guy?

    If you’ve got a single statistic where Mitt Romney improved his state’s economy, I’d love to see it.

  39. The problem with running the government as a business is that it’s impossible to do so. The first order of business for USA Inc. would be to fire some of the less productive states (sorry New Mexico, you get $2 in federal money for every $1 you pay in taxes), outsource national defense (so, China, let’s talk turkey), and “fire” some of our less productive citizens (you have 90 days to find a new country).

    Leaving aside the snark, a country’s economy is almost completely unlike a company’s economy. Despite all the international trade, the US is still the primary consumer of US goods and services. That’s not the case for any company. Austerity can work for companies, but for a country it’s a completely different matter.

  40. Yeah, running a country like a business is one of those things that sounds good until you think about it for a few seconds.

    Unfortunately, most Americans don’t think for a TOTAL of a few seconds in any given day.

  41. AlanM: austerity can work, just not right now. It’s a great policy when the economy is going gangbusters and the problem is excess demand leading to inflation. That is exactly when the government should step back and reduce its demand. By, say, cutting welfare, putting military spending on hold and focus on paying down debt (by, say, increasing taxation or at least not reducing it).

    Loosely, that’s what Australia did during the decade leading up to 2008 (modulo a bunch of pork-barreling, or as we in Oztraya like to call it, middle-class welfare). But we did manage to reduce national debt to trivial levels despite that. So come the GFC the government was both politically and financially able to open the national wallet and provide enough extra demand to get us through the worst of it. Of course, also thanks to China for doing the same, which kept the cash rolling in to our economy.

  42. Amen Daveon. Yet, one of the reasons we are broke is our own fault. We will not elect enough fiscal conservatives (of either party) with the courage to say, we must use Federal tax dollars for Federal spending. Debt is not evil. Our economy can handle, say, 5% GDP in debt forever. But right now and for the Obama and Bush administrations we have not raised taxes to the point to cover our spending. When times were good we cut taxes and upped spending. That was craziness and, yes, George W. Bush is to blame for letting it happen. He could have demanded more fiscal responsibility of the Congress. But Bush was busy being a wartime President, and everyone knows you overspend tax receipts during war time to win the war no matter what. (Did we win?) Now we are in hard economic times when Keynesian theory says over spend tax receipts to stimulate increased economic activity. No argument with that on my part. But I am dismayed that bad times, good times, we overspend tax receipts. That is why we are now broke. When our economy recovers enough to be accurately called good times in the near future, I doubt there will be political will in DC to raise our taxes to try to put tax receipts and spending back into better balance. And we send them there election after election lacking that political will. You can blame the politicians all day long if you like, but we are the ones a fault. We the voters, who in the aggretate will only elect folk who will cut our taxes (good times or bad) no matter the long-term consequences for the fiscal health of our government.

  43. Gary Willis: but the USA has been at war for a very long time. not-at-war is the exception. I wonder if that’s partly because merkins have such a big “get out of sanity free” card on the issue. The whole “balance the budget… unless you’re at war”, “anyone can criticise the gummit… unless you’re at war” etc, means there’s a strong incentive to declare war on some random country to escape those bounds.

    California is actually a great example of the “voters will cut taxes and expand services” problem. But that is also an example of what happens when the rulers are not accountable. Vote for what you like, if all else fails move to another state.

  44. Moz — No need to move. I am in Texas. Our State Constitution demands a balanced budget and we elect our Governor whos signs the legislation separately from our State Comptroller who estimates the revenues the Legislature and Governor must stay within. Our State politicians have been delivering a balanced buget every biennium for as long as I can remember. Last time around they cut Education funding by 4 Billion to stay within estimated tax receipts. I watch this process in Texas every two years. Why we even have a rainy day fund in Texas that runs some $13 billion , I think. The Feds would do well to do things the Texas way, but we all know that they won’t.

  45. Gary Willis:

    “Our economy can handle, say, 5% GDP in debt forever.” Are you sure aren’t being too liberal with that number? Why not just peg gross debt limit for the United States to inflation, as a percentage of GDP? I mean, at that point you might as well.

  46. @Garry Willis: One advantage that Texas has is ass tons of oil money, which makes it a little easier to balance the books (and that Texas is just as capable as any other state of fiddling around and pushing off debt in some creative way). The Federal Government can hardly do this. Of course, when the price of oil drops you have to cut something (raising taxes being a near impossibility in Texas). “Something”, in this case, appears to be education. I do not view this as a good thing.

    Texas, and states in general, are also able to “create” jobs by the neat trick of convincing companies to move to them. This is great for the destination state, but it’s a zero sum game and one that is much, much harder for countries to play. Countries have to create jobs by actually creating them, not moving them from one place to another.

    On balanced budget amendments: My state, California, has a balanced budget amendment. Pretty much every state has some form of this. State budgets are still a chaotic mess all over the country.

  47. Gary…

    Firstly, the US can run a metric tonne lot more than 5% of GDP for pretty much forever, the current net level of debt is pretty manageable too, especially while the economy needs the fiscal stimulus to grow.

    Second, Texas?

    http://www.texastribune.org/texas-taxes/2011-budget-shortfall/

    Apparently even with all that oil money, things are hardly rosy… looks like you were short $27bn last year.

  48. And running things like Texas will mean having other things like Texas too…like an education system that leaves out Thomas Jefferson, a law system (note that I do not call it a “justice” system) so thirsty for blood that it doesn’t really bother getting the right person, and…well, the phrase ‘sinking into barbarism’ isn’t semantically all that distant from ‘becoming like Texas’.

    The US is not a civilized country; Texas is the most obvious example of how uncivilized we are.

  49. Xopher, No one is asking you to move here. Stay where you are and screw up your own state.

  50. What interests me with those two clocks is how little there is in it. Unemployment leaps out, 3% v 5%… the ratio of debt to GDP is almost identical…

    …but the one that struck me was % of population on food stamps. Texas almost 16% of the population v. 10% in CA. So you can have a job but you can’t afford to feed your family?

    If that’s the Texas ‘miracle’ it looks pretty hollow… just looking at the stats.

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