URLs du Jour - 2014-12-04

  • income quintile net transfers One would hope that the people who prattle on about the continuing need for "the rich" to pay their "fair share" of taxes would read Mark J. Perry's post with the lengthy title: "New CBO study shows that ‘the rich’ don’t just pay their ‘fair share,’ they pay almost everybody’s share". But, alas, they probably won't.

    Key graphic at your right. I would like to ask (say) President Obama: how tall does that blue bar have to be in order for you to pronounce it "fair"?

  • And one would hope MSM bigwigs might read Mollie Hemingway's "Dear Media: This Elizabeth Lauten Nonsense Is Why Everybody Hates You". But (again), alas, they probably won't.

    If you don't know what the "Elizabeth Lauten nonsense" is: (a) good for you, it's stupid; (b) Mollie will provide you background. But it's only the latest instance of the MSM's blatant double-standards, bias, and hypocrisy in deciding what is to be considered "news".

    Disclaimer: I'm not a hater myself, but I'm a disrespecter.

  • And one would hope that anyone who believed a word of what Lena Dunham claimed about getting raped by "a Republican" at Oberlin College would read John Nolte's article "Investigation: Lena Dunham ‘Raped By a Republican’ Story in Bestseller Collapses Under Scrutiny". But (once again), alas they almost certainly won't.

    Ms. Dunham claimed that her assailant was the host of a show "Real Talk with Jimbo" on a local radio station, almost certainly the campus radio station. Nolte's efforts to check whether such a show existed were stonewalled down the line, but not before the current station manager deemed Nolte's efforts to check Dunham's story were "irrelevant" and "could create a conflict of interest on campus regarding sexual assault."

    I'm thinking that if Dunham's story could have been verified on this detail, Oberlin would have been a lot more cooperative.

    And John Nolte should be widely commended for doing actual investigative journalism. But he won't be.

  • A little astronomical geekery: a gentleman named Michael Zeiler is looking forward to the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse and after visiting his blog, perhaps you will be too.

    The highlight is an eight-inch by ten-foot (!) graphic (if you printed it full size), that shows the path of the moon's shadow as it will travel across the country from Oregon to South Carolina. It is an amazingly fact-packed, beautiful visualization. (You'll learn, for example, that "Hotels in Oregon in the center of the eclipse path between Salem and Albany are scarce or already reserved.")

    The April 8, 2024 eclipse will be closer to us here in New Hampshire, but, um, who knows how mobile we'll be then?

  • Pun Salad's public service notice du jour: Taylor Swift is not singing about "all the lonely Starbucks lovers."

For Us, The Living

[Amazon Link]

Three-word review: it's not good.

This was Robert A. Heinlein's "first novel", written around 1939. He and his wife Ginny burned their copies of the manuscript shortly before his death. But one copy he loaned out to a would-be biographer was unearthed, and it made its way into publication in 2004.

Based on reviews, I was (obviously) in no hurry to read it. But it nagged at me: to have read every Heinlein novel except this one was too much of an imperfection to bear. So I picked up the paperback a few years ago, and it eventually got to the top of the to-be-read queue, and… well, it took a long time to read because I kept finding better things to do. As I said, it's not good.

There isn't much of a plot, but here's the idea: in 1939, Navy pilot Perry Nelson accidentally drives his car off a California seaside cliff, getting pretty smashed up on the rocky beach below. But (somehow) his conciousness gets transported to a different body the year 2086. He's rescued by the lovely Diana, who introduces him to this strange future world. After a few missteps, he finds a good niche and lives happily on from there.

There are seeds of Heinlein's future stories here: moving express sidewalks ("The Roads Must Roll"); Coventry, where incorrigable anti-social types are exiled; ubiquitous flying cars; the threat of Nehemiah Scudder's theocracy (he was victorious in Beyond This Horizon, defeated here); and so on.

It comes complete with an alternate history, one where FDR was beaten by Arthur H. Vandenberg in the 1940 Presidential election. (In actual fact, FDR stomped all over Wendell Willkie that year.) No World War II for the US, but Europe went dark for awhile. Gradually, the US transformed itself into (essentially) Utopia, a free, prosperous, socially liberated land where a lot of people are naked all the time, cheerfully inhaling vast clouds of tobacco smoke.

The details of the brave new world are tediously laid out in endless pedantic lectures that Perry endures cheerfully. (Me, not so much.) Everybody remarks on the backwardness of 1939 compared to the glorious present. After a while I heard these lectures in my head as being delivered in a high-pitched irritating nasality from bad 1930s movies. The key concept is a wacky socialist sub-ideology called Social Credit, which … well, I kind of skimmed over that part, but Heinlein's lecturers go on and on and on and on describing it, demonstrating its obvious superiority via a simulation game involving chess pieces, playing cards, and… yes, I skimmed over that too, muttering "When. Will. You. Shut. Up. About. This."

I shouldn't be too hard on Heinlein's technological predictions, of course. But: in his 2086, there's no Internet. Or computers. Or even lousy calculators: at one point Perry whips out a slide rule. (Kids who don't know what those were: click here.) If you need to get information from one place to another, you put it in a capsule and (shades of ex-Senator Ted Stevens) send it through a series of pneumatic tubes. And, although rocket ships are used for long-distance air travel, space exploration is just getting started.

And then there's sex, which is uninhibited and free from all those 1939-style taboos. The 2086 people just don't get Perry's hangups, especially when he falls in love with Diana, but can't abide it when her ex-flame shows up.

So, bottom line: a painful read, but at least I can say I've read 'em all. And I'm glad he kept at it.


Last Modified 2014-12-07 5:40 PM EST