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October 03, 2006

Fiddly Bits, 10/3/06

Various things I'm kicking about my head today:

* Oh, dear. You know it's a bad scandal for the Republicans when the Washington Times is calling for Denny Hastert's resignation. It also suggests that Hastert's Colonel Clink Sergeant Schultz defense of clasping his hands to his head and declaiming "I know nothink!" isn't going to be as effective as he may have hoped it was going to be.

Along the same line, however, this tantalizing line from Brian Ross about how other former pages are coming forward with dirt on other congressional folks has some lefties just about exploding with joy; I think it's sweet how these folks seem to be under the impression that only conservatives can get hopped up on thoughts of young and tender teenage flesh. Got news for you, folks: If indeed there are more congresscritters mashing out lust notes in IM form to their teenage pages, the chances that all of them are going to be on the same side of the aisle quickly approaches zero. Creeps come in all political orientations.

What's relevant in this particular case, to my mind, is how long leadership knew Foley was crushing on teen pages, and why he was allowed to continue co-chairing a caucus charged with protecting kids and teens when it was clear his interest in teens was not entirely one of compassion.

* Charlie Stross is talking about book covers, and how much input an author has, by noting his own involvement in his various book covers with various publishers. My experience on this is close to Charlie's: With my Tor books I was basically presented with artwork and allowed to comment and make suggestions, whereas with my Subterranean Books I had considerable more leeway (as, interestingly enough, I did with my Rough Guide to the Universe book, in which the picture I suggested for the cover ended up there).

I feel fortunate that I've been pleased with nearly all the covers of all my books, and those ones I wasn't thrilled about are an object example of why author's shouldn't necessarily drive the art design: I don't think the covers of the Book of the Dumb books are brilliant, personally, but as those books are my bestsellers so far, clearly the covers speak to their market segment. So there is that. I don't mind being wrong in this case, incidentally, because it's worked out well for me. But I am glad my input does seem to matter to my other publishers.

* The auction for The Last Colony seems to be coming along swimmingly; at the moment I'm writing this, it's up to $350, which thrills me to no end. Thanks to everyone who has bid so far.

You'll notice that I put a line about the auction at the top of this entry; I'll probably cut and paste that line into each new entry (taking it off the old entries as I do so) until the auction has run its course. I want to keep the auctino top of mind, but I'm going to try not to be obnoxious about it, especially as the bids are already at a level I consider a success.

* Do bloggers write better than high school students? Chad Orzel and Dave Munger asked bloggers to take the same writing test teenagers take on the newly updated SATs, and see how they fared. The results are fairly gruesome. I didn't take up the challenge myself; after presuming to give teenagers writing advice, I would dread discovering I hosed the SAT essay challenge. I'd have to go back to high school and start all over. And that's just wrong.

Posted by john at October 3, 2006 11:19 AM

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Robert | October 3, 2006 12:19 PM

Technically, it would have been Sergeant Schultz claiming he knew nothing. And it was Colonel Klink with a K.

And yes, I am a big nerd. ;)

Steve Buchheit | October 3, 2006 12:21 PM

John, that wasn't Colonel Clink, that was Sergeant Schultz.

John Scalzi | October 3, 2006 12:21 PM

I'll fix. Thanks guys!

Steve Buchheit | October 3, 2006 12:25 PM

Damn my slow typing!

I'm sure that once this Foley Scandal washes through there's going to be enough shame to go around all corners.

As for cover designers, it's like going to successful direct mail marketers. They know their business so well, and you pay them for their advice, let them do their work. Give direction of what you want or need, and then step back. As long as it doesn't totally violate what you stand for or were going for, you're (or really the publisher) is giving them money because they know what they're doing.

Bearpaw | October 3, 2006 12:32 PM

... this tantalizing line from Brian Ross about how other former pages are coming forward with dirt on other congressional folks has some lefties just about exploding with joy; I think it's sweet how these folks seem to be under the impression that only conservatives can get hopped up on thoughts of young and tender teenage flesh.

Well John, the lefties that I know are damn well aware that this could nail some Dems and if so, good. I know it's hard to believe after so many years of IOKIYAR rule, but there are lots of folks who don't think that someone gets a get-out-of-jail-free-card if they have the "correct" politics.

John Scalzi | October 3, 2006 12:41 PM


"Well John, the lefties that I know are damn well aware that this could nail some Dems and if so, good."

Yeah, that's where I am, too. Less of a creep factor is generally a good thing.

Nathan | October 3, 2006 12:55 PM

I've often wondered, myself how much input the author had in cover art. I can't tell you how many times I've wondered if the artist even read a synopsis, much less the whole book (Dude, the main character's skin is supposed to be blue not green)

Or maybe it was the chick with the impossible body on the cover that sold me.


JimK | October 3, 2006 12:58 PM

Someone was asking over at EW's blog why no one in COngress, not even the Dems, are talking to the press. Well...this is why. There are buttlaods of scandals in those hallowed halls, and exactly half of them are of a donkey flavor. Every single person that serves in Congress is a corrupt, soulless jackal that feeds on the offal of the American corpse. We're lucky enough to be witnessing the end of the great American experiment. Sure, it'll be a generation or three before it truly collapses, but this is where it begins.

Seriously, I am going to start stocking up on water and ammo, and buy myself a big tract of land in the mddle of nowhere. I'm going to totally Koresh myself, except without the teen brides and death cult angle. Just the heavily armed get-off-my-land stuff for me.

Maybe one or two teen brides. 19 is still a teen. ;)

John H | October 3, 2006 01:03 PM

Of course it's obvious that if there are enough people involved there are bound to be some Democrats too. And I would expect anyone exposed by this scandal to receive the appropriate condemnation and punishment.

We'll have to see how many get caught up in this. I just hope this doesn't lead to a larger witch-hunt in order to make it a 'bipartisan' scandal...

Jon Marcus | October 3, 2006 01:08 PM

The auctino? Isn't that the elementary particle discovered by that joint Fermilab-eBay project?

Re party-line "paging." Sure, creepiness is non-partisan. But it seems much less likely that Hastert et al would've covered up Democratic creepiness. So maybe there's good reason for the exploding lefties.

Kevin Q | October 3, 2006 01:22 PM

I'm slightly concerned that you titled a post discussing pederasty "Fiddly Bits."



Annalee Flower Horne | October 3, 2006 01:27 PM

The SAT essay is a total crock. Judges are instructed to spend less than a minute on each essay, scan for keywords, and assign a score based on how many keywords are present. You could write a page-long run-on sentence, and they probably wouldn't even notice, let alone mark you off for it.

I took the last SAT before they switched over to the new system (I was already in college at the time. Since I dropped out of high school, I didn't take the SAT with the rest of my class, and my first college didn't require it), and even though my score was heinous because they denied me my Section 504 accomodations, I didn't consider retaking it for a second. Being a bad writer is an advantage on the new SAT. People who think for themselves instead of puking up keywords get scored down.

Chris Smith | October 3, 2006 01:35 PM

I don't doubt that there are more sex scandals coming down the pike, but I think what's giving the Foley scandal legs isn't just the ephebophilia, but a combination of the rank hypocrisy from those involved with that. You've got people who are anti-homosexual and are endorsed by all of the most extreme pro-family values groups, and within their ranks they took active measures to shield a gay man who was preying on adolescents. Throw the cover-up into the mix, plus the way that all of the parties involved turned on each other as the scandal started picking up, the election, and general building anger among the Small Government wing of the GOP, and I think that's why the Foley scandal is so huge.

As a friend of mine commented to me, the Dems have 45% of the seats in congress and wield 3% of the power. Will there be Democratic sex scandals here? Almost assuredly. The big questions are whether the news breaks before the election (remember that the Foley/page thing has been known for at least 5 years, since they were warning pages to be wary of him as far back as 2001) and whether the Democrats were actually competent enough to perform a coverup. Ethics being what they are in Washington these days, I'm not sure that even the Republicans would hit back at the Democrats unless one of their own was under attack and they needed something to get the news networks off of their case.

It's kind of amusing that Foley's part in this whole scandal is pretty well over. The questions being asked now are who knew what and when, and why didn't anyone do anything about it. I don't think the Dems have the party strength to cover something like this up on their side of the aisle, which may in fact be their saving grace if/when something like this comes out against them.

Steve Brady | October 3, 2006 01:41 PM

If Foley had been a Democrat, it still would have been the same Republicans responsible for dealing with him.

I tend to think they would have acted differently in that case, of course, but they would still be the responsible parties.

MikeB | October 3, 2006 01:52 PM

I think that if "creep factor" was a major consideration at election time most of the seats in Congress would be empty...

JC | October 3, 2006 02:00 PM

What little I've heard and read about the written section of the SAT is that the graders are looking to see how well the test-taker can reproduce the form of the 5 paragraph essay. The NPR story I heard talked about encouraging students to make up facts to support their point, if necessary. If what they are testing for is adherence to the form and content isn't important, I guess whether supporting evidence is actually fact or not is not relevant. However, what's the point of writing if the content isn't important?

Along those lines, has anyone ever seen a 5 paragraph essay in the wild? I've only seen them in academic captivity. They tend to be pretty boring, docile and predictable creatures. I haven't read any sample high-scoring essays, but if they were 5 paragraph essays, I'm not surprised that they did not overwhelm the readers.

The crux, of course, is to ask what the point of the written section is. I have no idea. Frankly, I don't know what the point of the SAT is.

D. | October 3, 2006 02:18 PM

I imagine that the ghost of Roy Cohn (Wikipedia article, which does not list references, but libraries, uses of. Because I suspect that even if you saw Good Night and Good Luck, you have no idea who that was) is totally cracking up with the irony right now.

Tripp | October 3, 2006 02:27 PM


If you want doom and gloom read "American Theocracy."

I tend to think sexual harrasment and coverups have been around since about the beginning of humanity, which is a sad assessment of humanity, I know.

The IM (with the instant log) is new, so maybe this stuff gets caught more often. I really don't think human nature has changed much over the years, we are hearing more about it.

Tripp | October 3, 2006 02:34 PM

Speaking of Hogan's Heroes, I had a big moment of cognitive dissonance once when I was in England and caught an episode of Hogan's Heroes on satelite TV - on a German channel, dubbed in German.

Watching Klink and Schultz speak German with a German accent was very weird. The whole idea of Germans watching the show was strange to say the least.

NJSoldier | October 3, 2006 02:47 PM

“Why did the Republicans let this guy go for so long?” Catch 22.

Although Foley never went public, everyone knew he was gay long before this news. We will probably never learn exactly who knew what and when about this guy.

If the horrible hateful Republicans had persecuted their obviously gay Congressman on the basis of rumors, they would have been crucified by the Left for being intolerant. Instead, they committed the crime of omission (don’t ask, don’t tell) and turn a blind eye. So, the Left crucifies them for not “outing” a gay Congressman.

Kevin Q | October 3, 2006 02:55 PM

NJ Soldier,
There were plenty of steps which could have been taken without the Republicans turning it into a gay witch-hunt. Even if all they were interested in was damage control, they could have had Foley swap caucas heads with somebody else. Leaving this guy in charge of the caucus on missing and exploited children, when he sent emails to underage pages which made those pages feel uncomfortable, demonstrates that they were turning a blind eye to what might turn into a big problem.


Tripp | October 3, 2006 03:00 PM


Howsabout they go after him for sexual harrassment and pedophilia? Your insinuations that we Leftys automatically give gays a pass is insulting and, frankly, rather cowardly coming from a self-proclaimed soldier.

Or did you think you were being clever?

JimK | October 3, 2006 03:27 PM

Why are some of you saying that Hastert wouldn't have covered for Dems? Duh. Way to state the obvious. The real point here is that had Dems been in charge of Dems, they would have covered for their own. No one has the moral high ground, and it's high time we stopped acting like either party has *anything* of value over the other when it comes to pure scumbaggery. They all suck and are all corrupt.

That's right, scumbaggery. I get three points for that one. :)

John H | October 3, 2006 03:29 PM

If the horrible hateful Republicans had persecuted their obviously gay Congressman on the basis of rumors, they would have been crucified by the Left for being intolerant. Instead, they committed the crime of omission (don’t ask, don’t tell) and turn a blind eye. So, the Left crucifies them for not “outing” a gay Congressman.

This is not about whether or not he is gay. It would be the exact same issue had he targeted girls, in that he was preying on underage kids working at the Capitol and the Republican leadership did nothing to stop him.

Are you a nimwit, or just a troll?

John Scalzi | October 3, 2006 03:31 PM

Now, now, John H. Try to not to make it personal.

John H | October 3, 2006 03:36 PM

JimK: They all suck and are all corrupt.

I'm not as cynical as you. Plus, I don't have the money to buy a big piece of property and lots of ammo.

I'd like to think that this is just a failing of a handful of people. In particular, Mark Foley for being a scumball and Dennis Hastert for not taking action a year ago. You may be right that the Democrats would have protected their own in such a case, but I like to think they wouldn't.

Petter Hesselberg | October 3, 2006 04:09 PM

Bloggers vs. high school students:

I know nothing about how SAT scores are graded; nor do I have particular reason to care. I've had a browse through some of the responses, though, and the majority of them make the adjective "abysmal" seem, well, abysmally inadequate. El Señor Scalzi would, it seems, have little to fear.

Now, if anyone could point me to a set of honest-to-supreme-being-of-your-choice high school responses...

Annalee Flower Horne | October 3, 2006 04:10 PM

NJ, this is so not about homosexuality. I'm not even sure this guy *is* gay-- many adult men who prey on teenage boys actually prefer the company of women in their 'normal' relations-- but I haven't been following the case closely enough to speculate on that. Wasn't there something about schoolgirl outfits in their AIM exchange?

If someone had hit on me while I was working on the hill this summer, I wouldn't have given a damn what their gender or political affiliation was. Creepy is creepy. Allowing creepy people to sexually harass employees is wrong. Allowing them to sexually harass employees who are ill-disposed to protect themselves or excercize good judgement on their own behalf is very wrong.

JimK | October 3, 2006 04:52 PM

You may be right that the Democrats would have protected their own in such a case, but I like to think they wouldn't.

Wow. I have no way to respond to that which does not personally disparage your intelligence.

So I'll just say 'Wow." :)

Steve Buchheit | October 3, 2006 05:04 PM

With all the hand-waving about "dems would have done it too" you'd think somebody was hailing a cab, make that a fleet of cabs.

Tripp | October 3, 2006 05:13 PM


I looked up 'disillusionment' in the dictionary and they had your picture there.

It hurts bad when your heroes fall off the pedestle but you need to get through this. Open your eyes a little more. Get to know a wider circle of people.

There are plenty of jerks in this world, yes, but there are plenty of real good people too. No race or party or country has a monopoly on good people.

So open your eyes and see how people may be different from what you expect or what you were told. You might be surprised by what you see.

Nathan | October 3, 2006 05:35 PM


In defense of John H sayinig

"but I like to think they wouldn't."

He may have meant exactly what he wrote, and that's fine. I suspect he may have meant he "hoped" they wouldn't.

And also......What Tripp Said!

JimK | October 3, 2006 05:57 PM

Get to know a wider circle of people.

WTF? How are you extrapolating my feelings on corrupt politicians to my feeling about all of humanity and the people I know?

Seriously. You go too far here to try to score a point. It's preposterous and ignorant. Never did I refer to anyone other than politicians.

Nathan | October 3, 2006 06:34 PM

to John H

I meant to acknowlege, up front, that it was presumptuous of me to suggest what you "might have meant", but the word had temporarilly deleted itself from my vocabulary. I was too lazy to go find it.

Please consider the presumtion acknowleged.

Tragador | October 3, 2006 06:48 PM

Well, the last time a Democrat in Congress came under investigation -- not even conviction, but merely investigation -- for corruption, his fellow Democrats stripped him of his committee seats on the spot. Google for "William J. Jefferson".

Steve Buchheit | October 3, 2006 06:53 PM

JimK, I think you completely missed the point of Tripp's post.

JimK | October 3, 2006 07:49 PM

JimK, I think you completely missed the point of Tripp's post.

Really? So it was something other than arrogant, condescending and ignorant?

Sigh | October 3, 2006 09:02 PM

Sometimes my heart just breaks. . .


Andrew Wade | October 3, 2006 09:26 PM


If you were engaging in hyperbole now's the time to say so. Because it's starting to look like you actually believe that "Every single person that serves in Congress is a corrupt, soulless jackal". And that sure smells like a hasty generalization.

JimK | October 3, 2006 10:11 PM

I actually think that because of the way the system has been corrupted over the last 100 years, you cannot win unless you are corrupt to some degree.

The soulless jackal part might be a bit of hyperbole, albeit somewhat accurate hyperbole. If there is such a thing.

Steve Buchheit | October 3, 2006 10:23 PM

JimK, I think Tripp is saying that you need to start looking at a wider view than the one you are taking because it sure appears, given your posts (both here and your blog), that you have a narrow view of things and are quick to judge. If you think that's "arrogant, condescending and ignorant" that's your own little red wagon.

Also, to your statements about "everybody is corrupt, they're all scumbags" comments, it's a lot of hand waving. While there have been some corruption scandals on the Democrats side of the aisle in the past six years, they have paled in comparison in both number, scope, and the monetary amounts involved on the Republican side of the aisle. Given that Democrats are still 45% of the House, you think it would be more equal than it is.

Be careful whom you paint with that big brush you're wielding.

mythago | October 4, 2006 12:44 AM

Guys, what you're missing is that to NJ Soldier, there's really no difference between being gay and being a pedophile. So saying "Hey, nobody cares what gender the 16-year-old was" is not going to make a dent.

NJSoldier | October 4, 2006 09:40 AM

1. I'm not a "self-proclaimed" soldier.

2. You Leftys gave giant passes to Gary Studds (who had sex with a 17 year-old page) and Barney Frank (whose townhouse was turned into a gay bordello). Even Jim McGreevey appears to be able to rehabilitate his image by writing a book about his gayness and ignoring the corruption that cost him his career. Seems to be a trend.

Uh, wrong. I’m not sure what post you read but mine did not even contain the word “pedophile.” Since 16 is apparently the age of consent in DC and Foley didn’t actually have sex with the boy, he may not be a pedophile in the eyes of the law.

My point was that if the Republicans moved against Foley before they had conclusive evidence he was harassing pages, it would have been viewed by many as gay-bashing – and would certainly been portrayed as such by Dems.

I hope Foley is prosecuted for harassment. He may also be vulnerable to civil lawsuits. He desires whatever he gets legally.

John H | October 4, 2006 09:46 AM

No offense to Nathan, but I meant what I said - I like to believe that most people who rise to positions of authority take their responsibility seriously, and would generally do what's right rather than what's politically expedient. I realize that my optimism may be misplaced, and I don't blame anyone for feeling suspicious given the current crop of asshats in charge. I choose to believe in people until they prove me wrong.

This story has become so big, not because of Foley's weakness for underage boys, but because of the failure of the House leadership to do the right thing when they found out what Foley was doing. One could point out that there really isn't much surprise in seeing the House Republicans making yet another bad decision. With all the serious issues our nation is facing here and abroad, this one was rather trivial. The reason this story has become so big is because the proper course of action seems so obvious that it's mind-boggling that the man second in line to the presidency would get it so wrong.

John H | October 4, 2006 09:51 AM

Gerry Studds was censured - I wouldn't call that nothing. He then was reelected several more times.

Barney Frank was investigated and exonerated.


Andrew Wade | October 4, 2006 10:09 AM


I actually think that because of the way the system has been corrupted over the last 100 years, you cannot win unless you are corrupt to some degree.

Sigh. I don't know that it's strictly impossible to win without a modern political ad campaign (funded by influence peddling), but it would certainly be hard. Likewise, it may not be strictly impossible for an "unelectable" politician to become one of their parties candidates, but I suspect it is hard. This is not a problem at all unique to the United States, and I don't know of a fix.

The soulless jackal part might be a bit of hyperbole, albeit somewhat accurate hyperbole.

Oh, okay. I'm glad that got cleared up.

John H | October 4, 2006 10:25 AM

A bit more elaboration on my last post...

Gerry Studds was censured in 1983 for having consensual sex with a 17-year-old male page in 1973. He didn't actually break any laws, but the relationship was seen as inappropriate, and so he apologized for his lapse in judgment and was censured. In the 33 years since we have become less tolerant of sexual harrassment in the workplace, and have created laws (such as the one Mark Foley sponsored) against the kind of predatory acts Foley engaged in.

As for Barney Frank, all indications are that he didn't know what his 'friend' was doing from his apartment, but that as soon as he found out he kicked the guy out. He did receive a reprimand, but it was for fixing the guy's parking tickets.

Bram | October 4, 2006 10:27 AM

It's worse than nothing. They know what he did, slapped his wrist and let him serve another decade in Congress.

Steve Buchheit | October 4, 2006 10:49 AM

Well, hell, if we're going back that far I'll just say Ollie North. Not only did he willingly commit what was at the time a crime, consort with the enemy (arms to Iran), and to put the cherry on top he disgraced his uniform (even after the Marine Commander reminded him he wasn't allowed to appear wearing it). Now he a huge celebrity among all you "Righties". And shall I start naming people from just that scandal, or should we keep it all current and pull out Jack Abramoff's check book and see who shows up?

Steve Buchheit | October 4, 2006 11:02 AM

That should have been "Marine Commandant", was typing to fast during a short break.

Todd Stull | October 4, 2006 11:47 AM

I would love it if we would stop slinging around labels like "Lefty" and "Rightie". That's a poor heuristic that oversimplifies debates. We can do better on the Whatever.

Laurie Mann | October 4, 2006 11:58 AM

The other issue with Gerry Studds was that while his activities with the 17-year-old male page were inappropriate, they were also consensual. I heard an interview with the page in question in the early '80s, and he made that quite clear. Not so clear that all of Foley's contacts (virtual and probably real) with male pages were.

So far, I haven't seen the Foley scandal used as a gay bashing technique in the mass media. So far. It may come to that.

Tripp | October 4, 2006 12:20 PM


I'll admit to arrogant and condescending. Sometimes I no longer take the effort to appear otherwise to immature and naive people such as yourself. I suppose it is the laziness of age.

Your words speak for themselves. You have a limited world view that relies heavily on the demonization of other groups. Now that some in your own group have failed you've turned this demonization onto everyone. This is normal for a naive immature person who has had his world view rocked.

You've got a choice. You can retreat further into your 'everybody sucks' shell or you can use this opportunity to grow and develop a more accurate and nuanced view of the world.

Oh, and if you don't want your views to be challenged then why don't you keep them off public places? Seriously. Don't try to play with the big boys.

Tripp | October 4, 2006 12:21 PM


I'm not a "self-proclaimed" soldier.

Really. Am I parsing your name incorrectly?

Steve Buchheit | October 4, 2006 01:04 PM

Todd, I would love it as well. Too bad the other side keeps painting the scene in these terms. I just am trying to keep in context to their comments.

Bram | October 4, 2006 01:07 PM

Earned the title from the US Army.

Steve Buchheit | October 4, 2006 01:39 PM

So, Bram or NJSoldier, how many are we?

Jon Marcus | October 5, 2006 02:59 PM

JimK, you're guessing that Dems would've done the same thing if they'd been in power. But you don't have to guess. You can go back and look at what they did with Gerry Studds.

Guess what, they didn't do the same thing! They didn't cover it up, they publicly censured the guy. They opened it up and left it to the judgement of the legal system and the voters. If the Republicans had done the same with Foley, they'd be home free now.

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